I want you to imagine. It is December 2nd, 1964 in Berkley at the advent of the Free Speech Movement. A young man steps forward to speak with his prepared speech called “Gears of the Machine.” He is filled with anger and passion. He takes a deep breath. Suddenly the microphone is taken out of his hands. He hears a voice “Hey, you can’t say that. It will make things difficult for president Johnson, man.” The world never gets to hear the now iconic “Gears Of The Machine” speech.
It is my own studied opinion, based upon over ten years of activism that we face that kind of broad based censorship today. I will speak of my experience but with the understanding that it mirrors the experience of countless others.
|Free Speech Zone
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In this article I intend to name names and organizations. Now this will make some people angry. Some people will claim that this is just some chronic malcontent or an egoist. Those who do so are in fact attempting to deny the message by attacking the messenger. Others will claim that this is just whining. Let me assure you nothing could be farther from the truth. It is instead a cold hard look at the facts. Which is the only way to deal with the political realities we face today. I contend that information and casting the sunlight of the Spirit of Truth can fix all.
I have a political resume which I believe is impressive and one that I am very proud of. I became reactivated in politics in 1999. Largely due to the influence of the Ralph Nader campaign. Wars, Social Justice and especially Media Reform became my chosen specialties.
The Bush Years came upon us and of course the Iraq War. By this time I was already starting to get a troubled sense of attempts to squelch voices of dissent. It was like that for almost all Nader supporters.
I went with nine others from Minnesota to Ohio 2004 as part of the Official Green Party and Libertarian Party Re-Count. I was horrified, not just at what I witnessed there but also the deafening silence that surrounded it. A silence which exists to this day. The big dirty secret was not just that George Bush had stolen the election, destroying the entire integrity of the electoral process. It also was that John Kerry and the Democratic Party allowed it to happen. Something for which I will never forgive him or them.
During this time I also joined a number of “progressive” or liberal blogs. After a while I started to notice a pattern developing. In an off election year, it was all good. People debated in the comments section. A healthy thing for an open democratic process. However in 2006 it was an election year. I started to notice people disappear, stopping their comments. Invariably it was people who gave fact filled critiques of the Democratic Party. The election came and went.
2007 came and debate started up again and yet again healthy debate ensued. Then it was 2008. At Common Dreams I started to notice another pattern. Approximately nine out of ten of the articles were of the Democratic Party friendly mode. We started to discuss this, in the comments section. Then myself and a young lady started going back and forth. She wondered aloud if Common Dreams had a what she called “An Invisible Donor Problem.” I did as well. I asked if it could be George Soros, who was said to be a big contributor of Barack Obama.
Within twenty minutes of that comment, I was banned from any further comments at Common Dreams. Worse yet, the entire conversation between myself and the young lady were scrubbed. I never saw her post there again. We had both been quite frankly disappeared.
I had the almost exact same experience at Truth Out. Asking questions, wondering about the “Invisible Donor Problem” and suddenly gone, banned without any word of warning or explanation.
The COTO Years
It was to get worse I found out. There is a news blog site which advertises itself as “Tough-Liberal-Progressive.” It is called Op Ed News and its Editor is a gentleman called Rob Kall. I had joined them and in the beginning it was wonderful. People were commenting and they even allowed ordinary people to contribute articles which were published. I myself published articles there. Most of them about my experience in the 2004 Ohio Re-Count, my involvement in the attempts to Impeach George Bush and again, my experiences in the 2008 RNC in St Paul.
During that time a group of us developed a warm and trusting relationship with a very similar political outlook. We called ourselves COTO or Coalition Of The Obvious. As in it is obvious that the Democrats and Republicans are on the same team. It is obvious that there are a series of unanswered questions about the September 11 attacks. It is obvious that corporate money has corrupted everything. Included in our merry little group was Op Ed News Co-Editor Rady Ananda.
However as the election got closer and Barack Obama received the nomination, things changed. More of our articles were not accepted. Then Rob Kall stated that we had to stop our “doom and gloom.” His words not mine. It was at this time that we dubbed ourselves COTO.
On the day that president Obama was selected (I refuse call him elected) we were were told by the Editor that we could not cast our “doom and gloom” amongst the celebrations on Obama winning. We were to be assigned our own article space and warned that if we stepped outside of it, we would be banned. We called it the Free Speech Space.
A week later we were all banned anyway. No warning, no explanation, nothing. Including Rady Ananda who had helped build up the site in the first place.
Media Reform and the Free Press
In June 5-7th 2008 the Free Press organized a Media Reform conference in Minneapolis. At it various people spoke, including Senator Dornan (Democrat) who signed the 1996 Telecommunications Acts, Congressman Keith Ellison (Democrat) and Minneapolis Mayor RT Ryback (Democrat)
Also speaking was famed activist Naomi Kline. In her speech she spoke of how Hillary Clinton had just lost the nomination for presidency. She spoke of how finally someone had paid a price for the war in Iraq. She then went further and spoke of soon to be president Obama. She spoke of how we needed to push him. That he was no to be completely trusted. It was a great speech. It was placed on the Free Press Conference website. Only to be removed a few days later.
I joined up with the Minnesota Green Party in early 2001, in large part due to the Ralph Nader campaign. I fell in love with the Green Party Ten Key Values. It so closely reflected my own beliefs. As stated, I was active in the 2004 Ohio Re-Count which was made possible by presidential candidate David Cobb. I did many things I did at that time. There was a discussion on some problems with the National Green Party. So I volunteered to become a National Green Party Delegate for Minnesota. I went in bright eyed and filled with enthusiasm. It did not take long for me to see problems developing.
At that time I was a mad supporter for Cynthia McKinney. However, I noticed right away that I held many common political beliefs with the Ralph Nader supporters. I viewed them as allies and still do to this day.
However a very different dynamics was developing in the National Greens. I noticed that those Ralph Nader supporters were bringing up very serious concerns about the process. Concerns which I found to be almost completely founded and correct the more I looked into it.
Worse yet, I witnessed what I can only call a systematic attempt to silence and squelch these critical voices of dissent. I watched as people were thrown off Committees, thrown off of the Green Delegates Discussion groups. In almost every case it was a Ralph Nader supporter. Or someone speaking up for their rights. While those who were, let us say not so supportive of them getting away with so much bad behavior without any consequence. It happened over and over. At one point we “dissidents” called this the “Committee To End Free Speech.” It was horrifying. I was one of the last to be booted off and banned from any discussion. I watched as the people who remained cheered, actually cheered as these fine, noble and honest people were stricken from the organization.
In Minnesota meanwhile I was still a supporter of Cynthia McKinney. There was no-one willing to be the statewide coordinator for her campaign. So, myself and a lovely young and dedicated lady called Heidi volunteered to do so. As an aside Heidi also became a National Delegate for the Greens and she was also horrified at what she witnessed.
Heidi and myself started to organize and call meetings, to build up Cynthia’s campaign. On the second meeting we were interrupted. A gentleman called Mark came in and informed us that we were no longer involved in the campaign. That the National Green Party had decided to appoint someone else. His name was David Strand. David then did virtually nothing. The local Mankato Green Party activists, who also loved Cynthia complained to me about not being able to gain lawn signs or any literature. I told them there was nothing they could do. They eventually got a hold of some people in California themselves who provided them with lawn signs. One of which I own to this day.
The man appointed by the National Greens did organize an event. It was in Minneapolis and was in a horrible, noisy location. We could hardly hear Cynthia speak. On top of which, Mr Strand got on to the local community radio station, KFAI and did an interview as the McKinney spokesperson. During that interview all he did was talk about the Democratic Party and their candidates.
By this time I had just about given up on the Green Party. Along with all those dedicated activists who are vital to build up any organization.
Anti-War in Minneapolis.
I had attended many, many anti-war rallies in Minnesota. I had asked to speak at them many times.. I was always refused with the explanation that “We do not allow candidates to speak at our events.” Although these groups have never had an issue with local Democratic Party elected officials speak. I suppose they are not candidates.
In March 2009 there was another march and rally organized. I showed up again. During the march I met a young man called Adam. He had prepared a speech which pointed out the facts of the bi-partisan complicity in the war machine. They refused to let him speak. So he decided to break out his megaphone and do it during the march itself. It was a great speech. However, as he spoke some of the organizers came behind him and tried to chant his speech away.
After he was done, he handed me the megaphone. At many anti-war rallies in the Bush years there were chants of “Who Is A Terrorist? Bush Is A Terrorist.” So I decided to chant out “Who Is A War Criminal? Obama Is a War Criminal.”
When I did so, some of the organizers came up to me and started to argue. They stated that I should make this about the war. I replied that it was, as this was now Obama’s war. To which they replied that it was not Obama’s war. All of this was caught on tape and you tubed.
We were asked to leave the protest march.
In deepest irony, four months later, the organization that had organized this event were infiltrated by the FBI and have a number of them facing a Grand Jury investigation. Instituted by and authorized by the Obama Administration.
For the record, this behavior of refusal to allow myself to speak at “progressive” groups continues. When David Cobb came to Minneapolis to speak at a Move To Amend event, I attempted to ask a question. However since you had to write your question and have the presenter ask it, I knew it would not be asked. At the event David Cobb, former Green Party presidential candidate stated to a room full of Democrats that “I have been asked and no, I do not believe that we need another political party.” He then thanked the elected Democratic Party officials sitting in the room.
My question, which was not asked, is a central and direct question. It is to the Move To Amend folks. If the political process is completely corrupted by corporate money, how can we expect that system put in place by corporate money, be willing to have an Amendment to remove said corporate money out of the process. That question remains today, even if the Move To Amend folks refuse to allow me to ask it in their stage managed forums.
Now we have today. In “progressive” and “liberal” blog after blog we see stories that focus on the Republican Clown Car Circus. Mirroring the obsession of the corporate media. Likewise we see this with MSNBC and now sadly even Current TV and even worse yet Amy Goodman with Democracy Now. While there may be “allowed” a critique of the presidency, always couched and mild there is something else missing.
Articles, stories about people who do and have been openly challenging the entire corporate corrupted facade. masquerading as democracy in this country. Which mirrors what the corporate media have been doing for decades. I speak of people like Rocky Anderson or Jill Stein or indeed others who run under the Socialist banner.
Censorship is an evil and corrosive thing. Be it overt censorship or self censorship. We progressives and truth seekers should not allow it. After all, to quote Dr Martin Luther King.
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.
Or was that Mario Savio?