• Sunday Essay #6: Government as Source of Fake News

    • Posted on Jan 07, 2018

    Here's today's (1-7) Courier column, which also serves this week as Sunday Essay, #6.  Spielberg's latest film THE POST is due out this Friday, and it ties into the Vietnam War film, as well as our ongoing need for a free press, able to expose government lies.  

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                Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's recent “The Vietnam War” documentary deserves a careful viewing for anyone interested in American culture and history.  Granted, that’s no small feat—it’s over seventeen grueling hours of America’s Vietnam war history.     

                 I’ll be helping discuss the film in a March public forum as well as an April adult ed course, so I’ve been re-watching it and reading the accompanying book.   Also I’m researching other sources, including Robert McNamara’s mea culpa book: “In Retrospect—the Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam.”  And pondering the film “The Most Dangerous Man in America,” about Daniel Ellsberg’s role in getting Vietnam war facts to the media.    

                I can hardly wait for “The Post,” Steven Spielberg’s new film, about the sharp conflict between the Washington Post and the Nixon administration over the publication of the classified Pentagon Vietnam study, dubbed “The Pentagon Papers.”

                It’s all been depressing and heartening in equal measure.  

                Consider:  The “Pentagon Papers” study was nothing more than an accurate, detailed history of the Vietnam war from the beginning, commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and researched by 36 analysts.  McNamara asked for an “encyclopedic” history of the war up to 1967, and he got it. 

                It should have been required reading for Americans earlier in the war. Its knowledge might have saved thousands of American and Vietnamese lives. 

                Yet it was classified “Top Secret,” and in 1971 the Nixon administration desperately and unsuccessfully tried to prevent its publication.  Daniel Ellsberg, the New York Times, and the Washington Post were threatened with severe legal penalties if they published it. In fact, the New York Times had already printed some of it before an injunction halted further publication. 

                The “Pentagon Papers” revealed that four presidents repeatedly lied about the war and America’s involvement in it.  They worried that factual truth would have made America and its leaders lose face. Their fear of Russian and Chinese communism kept driving them deeper into what was basically a Vietnamese civil war. We now know that the U.S. created a country--South Vietnam--in order to fight communism. 

                Our Defense Secretary at the time, Robert McNamara, played a major role, and he confesses that he got it wrong, as did Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson.          

                In effect, our leaders fed the public fake news, which newspapers dutifully reported, thereby creating a country full of deceived believers.  Fake stories from the government inevitably led to false beliefs among the American public. 

                Sound familiar? 

                The only American institution that stood up against government lying was the mainstream media—large newspapers printing facts that might have saved us from a worse catastrophe. That’s the heartening part. 

                As Justice Hugo Black wrote for the Supreme Court, “Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people. . .”

                Put another way, the media is only fake when it prints government lies.  

                           

               

                

    Go comment!
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    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
  • Tale of Three Billionaires

    • Posted on Oct 16, 2016
    Sunday, October 16th Courier column--showing how being really rich reveals your real character.  

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    Much of what we think and do depends on how much money we have.   

     Imagine you control billions.  

     A whole new world opens up, and stays open.  Everyone around you is on your staff, and you only hire the best.  You don’t really need friends, since everyone’s your friend when you have unlimited resources.  In fact, you can never be sure who really likes you, since all that money attracts toadies and opportunists by the hundred.   

    Having thousands of millions becomes a major reveal for one’s truest self.  Are you generous and connected to mankind’s ongoing needs?   Or are you a piker, only concerning about amassing more millions?  

     Consider three billionaires and how they handle their money mountains: Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, and Donald Trump.   

    Gates made his massive fortune, now estimated at 81.8 billion, as CEO of Microsoft. We’re now digital thanks partly to Gates and his software. Truth be told, he probably used a few monopolistic business practices that remain questionable.  

     But his philanthropic role model is not questionable.  When Gates resigned as Chair of Microsoft in 2000, he and his wife formed the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private foundation in the world.  It funds dozens of humanitarian causes from disease control to K-12 education.  

    Gates became a “venture philanthropist,” funding fledgling humanitarian causes to
    help them grow.  Along with Warren Buffet and Mark Zuckerberg, Gates has signed a pledge to donate half of his billions to charitable causes. 

     Without question, philanthropist Bill Gates and his multiple million-dollar contributions has made the world a better place.  

    Steven Spielberg’s worth has been estimated at around 3.7 billion, most of it made from directing/writing/producing memorable films, from Jaws to Amistad to Empire of the Sun to Schindler’s List to Saving Private Ryan to Lincoln.  All made by a billionaire director/writer/producer whose first love remains films and filmmaking.

     Spielberg’s model:  Keep working, keep learning, keep contributing, keep making a positive difference in the culture, billions or no billions.   All profits from Schindler’s List went to promote understanding of the Holocaust, and he generously funds dozens of charities worldwide.   

    Last and least, there’s Donald Trump. Born into wealth, he created the Trump brand, which helped turned his inheritance into billions.  Until we see his tax returns we can’t know how many billions, nor can we know about his charitable contributions, though he certainly brags about his generosity.  

     However, we do know that he has not made a personal contribution to his own charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, since 2008, and his other contributions amount to “crumbs from his well-filled plate,” as one article puts it. 

    In fact, he’s the “least charitable billionaire in the world,” and Google that phrase for evidence.  Trump really doesn’t have a philanthropic bone is his body, and does no work that contributes to the betterment of anyone except Donald Trump. 

    Billionaires have no real obligation to contribute to anything. What they do with their money shows who they are.  

    Gates and Spielberg: generous and positive givers.   Trump:  miserly taker.    
    Go comment!
    Posted in
    • Personalities
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    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
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