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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abillofantasyFantasy indeed! (Photo: bradalmanac)

Brian Williams' mendacious embellishments are starting to look minor compared to the surge of revelations that Bill O'Reilly lied about his experiences in danger zones. 

As The Washington Post reported on February 27,

O’Reilly has spent the past eight days vigorously defending himself on a variety of statements that don’t square with other eyewitness accounts. He has blasted and even threatened those who have called his comments into question, particularly Mother Jones magazine, which touched off the examination of his record with a story about his statements regarding his role in the aftermath of the Falklands conflict....

Fox News has stood by O’Reilly throughout the controversy, which appears to have bolstered his TV ratings. The network released figures Friday showing that his weekly audience grew by 11 percent compared with the same period last year.

A spokesman also reiterated the network’s earlier statement of support for its star: "Bill O’Reilly has already addressed several claims leveled against him. This is nothing more than an orchestrated campaign by far-left advocates Mother Jones and Media Matters. Responding to the unproven accusation du jour has become an exercise in futility. FOX News maintains its staunch support of O’Reilly, who is no stranger to calculated onslaughts."

O'Reilly's indignant, bellicose responses to the proof that he lied about several incidents - so as to enhance the image that he was an intrepid, fearless reporter - only enhances his role as the iconic TV defender of white male entitlement. If Fox is to be believed - which is a big if - his ratings have gone up among his primarily white geriatric male audience.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

akochcarnivalThe cancer of the Koch brothers' ideology is metastasizing through the body politic. (Image: DonkeyHotey)

The Koch brothers' philosophy of the consolidation of wealth by the few is spreading like a cancer. Just look at how their hand-picked governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker - who received massive financial backing from the Kochs - is now being touted in the corporate media as a Republican contender for president in 2016.

Walker, who never graduated from college (leaving Marquette University in Milwaukee for mysterious reasons), has mercilessly attacked education in Wisconsin - starting with the teachers unions and recently extending to the University of Wisconsin. 

On February 22, Kevin O'Marah wrote in a Forbes op-ed:

Gov. Scott Walker plans to cut $300M from the budget of the University of Wisconsin and, if he has his way, will alter its mission from a “search for truth” to “meeting the state’s workforce needs.”  These steps are so fantastically at odds with what the business community, economy and state need from its public university system that no synonym for ‘stupid’ is too strong.

It should be no surprise then that the newly inaugurated governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner - a darling of the 1% - is metastasizing the Koch brothers' attack on an educated public

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aflagterror2The United States has a history of terrorism to atone for. (Photo: Petter Duvander)

The United States has some atoning to do when it comes to terrorism. After all, the history of the US is founded on the terrorizing and near annihilation of Native Americans. 

Professor Edward E. Baptist makes the case in a recent book, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism,that the US relied on slavery - including Northern textile and other industries - to boost the nation into an economic power in the years before the Civil War. Can there be a more sinister form of terrorism than the theft, brutalization and "ownership" of human lives to secure a profit?

One could also argue that bombs, drone killings, endless wars for natural resources and hegemony using advanced lethal technology are forms of contemporary economic terrorism.

Recently, a particularly heinous form of terrorism related to slavery and racism - lynching - has been the subject of a study that indicates that the practice was more widespread than previously thought.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

lethalinjection(Photo: Ken Piorkowski)

CNN trumpeted the news: "Weather threat postpones Georgia's first execution of a woman in 70 years." 

The use of lethal injection as a form of capital punishment was meant to make killing in the name of the state more palatable.After all, the image of someone bound to a gurney sighing before dying makes taking someone's life seem a lot more "humane" - on a visual level - than the image of a dangling body kicking and jerking during a hanging, or smoke and fire coming from a condemned person's head during an electrocution, or blood spurting from a body after death by a firing squad.

Of course, there have been several "botched" lethal injection executions in which the deaths have been prolonged and grueling. One cause of this: Since it is increasingly difficult to procure lethal injection drugs, some eager-to-execute states have been using "untested" combinations of drugs that sometimes have horrific results. According to a 2014 article on the website Cerca, 

After recently running out of supplies of pentobarbital, some states have obtained the lethal injection drug from compound pharmacies or are experimenting with untested drug combos.

Pharmaceutical companies worldwide have boycotted the sale of drugs used for executions to U.S. prison systems in recent years. Alternatives like the gas chamber or electric chair would be problematic for states and could "raise the spectacle" level, according to death penalty expert Richard Dieter. 

Compounding pharmacies aren't subject to FDA regulation, raising concerns about drug contamination. Lawyers for inmates allege pentobarbital can cause a possibly painful and prolonged death. Several states, including Georgia, have enacted secrecy laws around the origins of their lethal drugs.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

agiulballoonsRudy G.: The Man Who Loved Himself Too Much (Photo: VictoryNH)

At BuzzFlash, we have long been critical of many of the key neoliberal policies of the Obama administration. The white House's positions on foreign policy and Wall Street, for example, have always embodied the consensus conventional wisdom of the duopoly - and that is not an expression of praise.

There are, of course, some relative differences between Obama and the GOP on several issues, such as the environment, the social safety net, job creation and a few social justice issues - but in large part, the gap is more of an intra-party dispute rather than an inter-party conflict. However, during the two terms of the Obama administration, the white Republican leaders, media and base have biliously attacked Obama and relentlessly impugned his "love of country." This has occurred despite Obama's aggressive support of the military-industrial-surveillance complex and the current financial system.

Of course, most readers of this commentary are aware that just a short while ago, Rudy Giuliani - a man inexorably in love with himself - told an audience of one-percenters in New York that, in essence, Obama is a traitor to the United States. Of all people, Fox's Megan Kelly's challenged Giuliani on air - and Giuliani responded by launching even more lacerating attacks on Obama's loyalty to the US (stating that he and his ancestors were associated with communists). Here is Giuliani's original statement at an NYC dinner honoring Wisconsin Governor Scott (Koch Brothers) Walker, as posted on FOX:

I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn't love you and he doesn't love me. He wasn't brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.

Kelly repeatedly pressed Giuliani if he stood by the accusation, which he did at that time. At one point Giuliani cut to the heart of the matter:

I don't hear from him [Obama] what I heard from Harry Truman, what I heard from Bill Clinton, what I heard from Jimmy Carter, which is these wonderful words about what a great country we are, what an exceptional country we are.

Giuliani is praising three white Democratic presidents, while lacerating Obama over the mythical notion of "American exceptionalism." At the heart of the notion of "American exceptionalism," of course, is the idea that the US was divinely chosen to be led by white Christians and to extend its empire of ruling elite values throughout the world.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aplutoberman(Photo: Jon Fowler)

The Citizens United decision opened up the floodgates, providing the plutocracy with even more financial leverage to influence election outcomes. However, even before Citizens United, there were many toolsin which vast sums of money were legally used to ensure that legislative and regulatory bodies - from small towns to Congress - served the interests of corporations and the wealthy. Those tools are now multiplying.

On Monday, February 23, The Guardian reported on one of these oligarchical strategies: the use of disguised front groups (backed by secret big money) to ensure profits at the expense of the public good. The report focuses on an individual lobbyist, Richard Berman, and his firm, which specializes in setting up "false front" studies and organizations. (Of corse, this is just one tool of many that are funded by the uber-rich, to undermine the interests of the majority.)

The Guardian article is entitled, "Lobbyist dubbed Dr Evil behind front groups attacking Obama power rules: Richard Berman routed funding for at least 16 studies and five front groups attacking Environmental Protection Agency rules on power plant emissions." Berman, according to The Guardian, is

the hidden orchestrator of industry campaigns against the Humane Society, Mothers against Drunk Driving, and other seemingly uncontroversial groups....

Over the last year, Berman has secretly routed funding...attacking Environmental Protection Agency rules cutting carbon dioxide from power plants, the Guardian has learned.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anexfinityComcast and other internet monopolizers will continue to make an "xfinity" of profits, even if net neutrality is preserved. (Photo: Mike Mozart)

Comcast, the most dreaded customer service and internet cable provider in the nation, will soon control more than half the US cable and internet market - if the FCC approves its merger with Time Warner Cable, which it is likely to do. According to The Guardian:

And in the meantime cable cutters [persons who are no longer subscribing to cable TV] bemoaning their lack of choice face an even more consolidated market. If the Comcast/Time Warner deals goes through, according to the FCC’s measures some 63% of US consumers will only have one choice of broadband provider.

Proponents of net neutrality like Neil Hunt, chief product officer at Netflix, have previously bemoaned the lack of competition among internet service providers.

“The reality in this country is that we don’t really have competition for which cable provider you really get your broadband from,” Hunt told the Guardian last year. And as such, if companies like Netflix want to reach consumers in all parts of the US, they have to find a way to work with the particular providers servicing those individual areas.

Comcast, which owns NBC and Universal pictures, is a juggernaut. According to Philadelphia Magazine, Comcast generated $68 billion in 2014. It, like the other few major players in cable and the internet (including AT&T), has consolidated internet, cable television and phone services, through investing in fiber optic cables and then reaping windfall profits by acquiring smaller providers and increasing monthly charges to consumers. Although cable subscribers in the US are reportedly decreasing due to the increased diversity of entertainment and news offerings on the internet - as well as frequently shoddy service and high "packaged" pricing for cable - providers such as Comcast are making up for it by charging high fees for fast broadband. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anoreillycar(Image: DonkeyHotey)

Fox News and Bill O'Reilly certainly epitomize the confluence of "sustaining a self-serving narrative" with using flashy news sets and good-looking anchors to attract advertising dollars. Corporate television news is structured so as to reflect a government and business perspective - that is to convey "news" to reflect the outlook of the neoliberal oligarchical status quo. Fox, however, goes one step beyond and maintains a focus on emotionally charged "framing" of so-called news to reinforce and inflame racist, Christian fundamentalist and ALEC-style political biases. 

War and violence are a mainstay of corporate news coverage, in part, because there is a voyeuristic, sordid viewer interest in "war porn" and everyday violence in the US. In short, death and destruction are good for ratings. Perhaps the apogee of war and violence as spectacles that attract television watchers - and increase ad dollars to the networks - was the breathless promotion of the "shock and awe" opening night invasion of Iraq. It was the carnage of war repackaged as a Disneyland fireworks display. 

This context explains why Brian Williams was probably not a rare exception, when it comes to corporate news celebrities burnishing their resumes with embellished tales of heroism. This type of dramatic embellishment meets the dramatic needs of contemporary television reporting. 

As a result, it should be no surprise that Bill O'Reilly - who once was a TV reporter and is now a bloviating television pundit espousing a caricature of jingoistic, alleged Christian virtues - is being accused of enhancing his war reporting record to make himself appear daring and fearless.  

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

awarter(Photo: spanaut)

It has been clear for years that the US government and mass media's application of the word "terrorism" is highly subjective. If the US kills civilians in drone attacks it is, according to the White House, not terrorism; it's self-defense. If a white male gun enthusiast kills three Muslim students, it's not terrorism; it's a dispute over parking.

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The examples of how violent acts committed by nation-states or white males are not terrorism are virtually endless. That doesn't just apply to the United States, of course. It is the prerogative of white eurocentric culture to attribute violent acts - even on a large scale - of members of the dominant classes to individual pathology rather than "terrorism." BuzzFlash at Truthout is hardly the first site to point out that Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 children and adults in Norway in 2011, is generally described as an extremist, radical or mass murderer, but not a terrorist. On the other hand, the term is often used automatically when a Muslim commits an act of violence.

Breivik's acts, however, actually mirror those of the killers in Paris and Copenhagen, who were immediately branded as terrorists because of their Islamic association. According to an article on the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) website, "At the time of the massacre, Breivik said his actions were 'cruel but necessary' to save Europe from Islam and multiculturalism." In short, he had an agenda to "terrorize" Norway and Europe based on his notions of Aryan supremacy. Yet, no government, to our knowledge, warned its citizens of the terrorist threat of Aryan supremacists after Breivik's carnage, even though he slaughtered nearly 80 people - mostly children at a camp on an island.

This double standard about who is labeled a terrorist and who is not is indicative of the malleable use of the term by Western nations in order to manipulate public opinion.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

afearphoto(Photo: Loretta Prencipe)

Fear is a primary, primordial emotion.

It can easily be manipulated so that reason and logic are bypassed, as people cower in support of anything that will allegedly save them from what they perceive as a threat to their lives.

Since 9/11, the US government has been masterful at using fear to manipulate voters into supporting large-scale military intervention and intrusive surveillance policies. Fear is the fuel for the expansion of a military-industrial-surveillance state.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has long used fear as the basis for justifying unrestricted gun availability. However, just scratch the surface of much of the NRA's inflammatory rhetoric and you will find racism. Indeed, the subtext of the NRA's alarmist appeal on behalf of gun ownership primarily appeals to white males. White people need guns, the NRA says with a coded nod and a wink, because "the other" - males of color - are, in this racist sub-narrative, a daily threat to the lives of "law-abiding" white males and their families. You can draw a straight line from the institution of slavery - justified by disputing the humanity of Africans - to the NRA's appeal to white males.

This practice of creating a stereotyped class of people to fear - let us call them "the other" - is as prevalent in US government and corporate media today as it is in the NRA. These days, "the other" label is categorically applied to Muslims. 

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