Thursday, September 24, 2009

Obama vs. Ahmadinejad: A Tale of Two UN Speeches

"The engineering of consent is the very essence of the democratic process, the freedom to persuade and suggest."

– Edward L. Bernays, The Engineering of Consent, 1947

We've seen this all before. A popular head-of-state addresses a crowd of diplomats and world leaders, speaking in vagueries and platitudes, expressing a desire to bring about peace and reconciliation, calling for international communication and cooperation. He signals out certain countries and warns of their intransigence and non-compliance, their disregard for international law, their threat to the rest of the world. He says nothing of his own nation's military aggression, its contempt for human rights and the lives of civilians, its support for dictatorships under the guise of promoting democracy. He defends his country's nuclear weapons agenda and encourages a racist solution to the situation in Israel and Palestine.

President Barack Obama, addressing the United Nations General Assembly for the first time yesterday morning, did all this. And no one walked out.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Indoctrination & Education:
Who's Really Brainwashing Our Children?

Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war. - Maria Montessori, physician and educator

I am certainly not in the habit of defending Barack Obama against his detractors, but the controversy drummed up by rabid right-wing hysterics over the President's back-to-school speech on Tuesday is quite simply bizarre and absurd. However, the manufactured uproar and outrage over the President's socialist/fascist/communitarianist (hey, pick an ideology, any ideology!) "brainwashing" of unsuspecting and impressionable students on one of their first days of school brings up very real and very serious concerns over both the potential and realities of aggressive government indoctrination and the abuse of open access to America's youth.

In the days leading up to Obama's fifteen-minute long, syndicated speech, the conservative netherworld was abuzz over what sort of cultish and dangerous hypnotism our Kenyan-born Commie Muslim commander-in-chief would dish out in classrooms all over the country. The paranoia and fear promoted by political and media demagogues and repeated thoughtlessly by their audience of ventriloquist dummies created a sort of dual-McCarthyism, equal parts Joe and Charlie.