Views on politics and current events

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Some Random Thoughts About Internet Message Boards

I will be specific. I'm talking about message boards that espouse liberal/progressive views. I have posted on the following five boards within the past three years:

  1. Randi Rhodes Message Board.
  2. Mike Malloy Message Board.
  3. Liberal Posters Union Message Board.
  4. Air America Radio Message Baord.
  5. Unfiltered News Network Message Board.
Being boards of the progressive/liberal persuasion, it would be a reasonable assumption that these boards would promote open and honest discussion, opinions stated with passion and conviction, acceptance of differing views, and a minimum of personal attack. But the reality is quite to the contrary, to my mind. So much for a reasonable assumption.

The common thread with these five boards has been what is called in internet language 'board meltdowns'. The inevitable conflict that arises between human beings, instead of being managed by posters, moderators and administrators with compassion and calmness, has been allowed to run rampant. And it is the doings of a group of people, a relatively small group of people, that migrate from board to board like a band of vandals. Their only concern is with being right, having the last word, and the verbal abuse of others. So many times when a good discussion is in progress, these vandals invade the topic with their own special 'style' of harrasment, intimidation, spin, closed mindedness, and intolerance.

If these vandals were only topic invaders spouting nasty comments, it would be one thing. But it usually is reduced to personal nastiness. Humans being what they are, often times the drama slops over to otherwise decent posters that have a need to defend the ones being ganged up on, or they just plain get tired of the verbal abuse. Some observations:

  • These vandals are board-hoppers. Not all board-hoppers are vandals to be sure, but every vandal I've noticed has been one. After creating so much chaos, either the vandals are banned outright and can no longer post, or the drama dies down to a level where they no longer are having their 'fun'. On all five message boards mentioned, these vandals have participated. They sow their seeds of destruction, and then move on.
  • These vandals tend to endlessly quote previous messages, sometimes creating a long line of quotes, only to have their actual response being a short, one-line personal jab at someone. The really good ones sometimes have one word responses.
  • These vandals also tend to have tremendously high post counts. Not all high post count people are vandals, but vandals usually do. Their objective must be quantity of responses instead of quality, for seldom does the vandal bother with a post of substance. (See previous bullet point).
  • These vandals are not stupid. On the contrary, many are very intelligent. They also instinctively know which buttons to push. Some take it as a personal challenge to try and push the buttons of an otherwise decent poster. It takes a great deal of willpower to not be suckered in by them, for they are very good at what they do.
  • The vandals are also really good at creating other vandals. Posters go over to the dark side of vandal behavior for many reasons, with self-defense as the most common reason. But for those that go over to the dark side far enough to agree with a vandal, don't be fooled. You can only agree wtih a vandal for a very limited amount of time. Then they will turn on you. A true vandal is a lone parasite that doesn't desire anyone on their side. And the truth be known, they can't have anyone on their side. Each individual vandal already knows it all, and is the one that is always right. There can't be TWO people that know it all.
  • And what if a 'normal' poster calls a vandal on their behavior? You will see righteous indignation like you've never seen before. You will see a spin job that would make Bill O'Reilly green with envy. All of a sudden the vandal becomes the persecuted. The vandal accuses the normal poster of all the things that the vandal does themselves. A classic case of 'NOW who's the vandal?' The vandal's remarks are so hypocritical, fantastically fabricated, so completely over the top, that it can boggle the mind. And that is their purpose. There's nothing anyone can say to a vandal that will convince them of anything pertaining to their behavoir. They lack the ability of self-awareness, thus also lack empathy for anyone else.
  • Not all those who believe in free speech are vandals, but most vandals are. But it is a specific form of free speech. That is, free speech without any responsibility for what is being said. Free speech to a vandal means the right to call anyone anything they so choose. If the person takes offense, then the vandal counters that the offended is a wimp, or that the offended wants to deny them their right of free speech.
  • I am going out on a limb here to make a value judgement: Vandals are in essence cowards. They hide behind the cloak of internet anonymity to spout their malicious words. How would a vandal react in a face to face conversation? Would they be nearly as nasty? Interesting to think about.
Why do vandals act as they do? At the risk of sounding like an outhouse psychologist, perhaps it is an indication of low self-esteem that drives them to prop up their own fragile egos by trying to bring others down. But I do know that the very tactics and actions that the progressive/liberal vandal uses mirror those of their avowed opposition: The ultra-conservatives. And those actions time and time again force the administrators of message boards to act in ways that no one in the progressive/liberal community agrees with.

So whatever motivates a vandal to act as they do, the end results are high levels of conflict, in-house fighting, civil discourse being ground to a halt. Among the boards mentioned, there's only one where there is any kind of 'push' to deal with the vandals besides outright banishment. That is the Unfiltered News Network board. There are enough posters that have seen the vandals in action that want to do something about it. The discussion is happening right now. Of course, the vandals are obstructing this 'push' with their usual tactics. But enough posters have had a belly-full of such behavior that as a community they demand that something be done. What that 'something' is, is not exactly known. But decisions will be made. The dynamic of the board, the true dynamic of progressive/liberal thought and action, in my opinion will at least make an honest attempt at making the message board a place for civil, and yes sometimes quite impassioned, discussion. The parasitic vandals will be shaken off of the 'host'. Where they end ujp is strictly up to them. Enough folks realize that to continue to tolerate the parasites will bring about the ruination of the board itself, and enough folks do not want that to happen.

Gee, sounds like the progressive/liberal struggle against the current ultra-conservative war mongers, doesn't it?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Fascism Doesn't Apply To Our Current Enemies

A great letter in the local newspaper that debunks the term 'Islamo-fascist".


In recent weeks, the cheerleaders who would like us to believe that the occupation of Iraq is part of the greater war on terror have been inaccurately referring to our Islamic fundamentalist enemies as 'Islamo-fascists', a new word in our lexicon.

While it is all too true that we are fighting fanatical Islamic fundamentalists in this 'war on terror', fascism is not really the term that would best apply. Benito Mussolini, the founder of Italy's Fascist Party, defined fascism as "Corporatism, for it is the marriage of government and corporations." We should consider Mussolini an expert on the subject.

Unless al-Qaida has started taking money from Exxon, Nike and McDonald's, fascism would not, therefore, appear to apply to our current enemies.

Maybe we should stick to the old word that referred to religious nuts - theocrats. Personally, I didn't have a problem referring to our foes as Islamic fundamentalists.

We can only assume that those who chose to re-cast our enemies into the shape of yesterdays' enemies are either ignorant of what fascism is, or are purposefully using the word as a distraction -- "we can't be the fascists if they are the fascists."

You see, besides fanaticism, some of the hallmarks of fascism are torture, pre-emptive and perpetual war, and domestic spying -- and of course, a cozy relationship between government and corporations.

That would best describe our current government.

Del Wasso
Freeport, IL

Friday, October 13, 2006

Appearing On National Television? Big Deal!

I was at the local gas station the day after I appeared on ABC 20/20. I go down there most every day, buy a soda pop and shoot the breeze for awhile with folks. A man walked in, looked at me and did a double take. He got what he came in for, and as he checked out he looked at me again and said, "Hey, didn't I see you last night on TV?"
"You got a rotten tomato in your hand?" I replied.
He got a funny look on his face and said, ""
"Then yeah, I'm the guy you saw on TV last night."
He didn't seem to get my attempt at humor. "Wow, that was really something, seeing someone from Rock Falls on national TV," he said. He seemed to be genuinely impressed.
"What did you think of the show?" I asked.
"Oh hell, I was sitting in my chair half asleep when I heard 'Rock Falls'. I woke right up," he said. "I've never seen anyone from Rock Falls on TV before."
"But what did you think of the show?" I asked again.
"Damn, I don't even remember what it was about. Soon as your part was done, I fell back asleep," he said as he chuckled. "But man, I never saw anyone on TV from Rock Falls before. Can I have your autograph?"
I laughed and said, "You must be joking...aren't you?"
The look on his face assured me he was not. "No, I'm serious," he said as he fumbled in his pocket for a piece of paper and a pen.
"Well, I gotta tell you, since I don't know you and I'm such a celebrity, it'll cost ya five bucks. But that's just for my signature. If you want a personal greeting too, it'll be two bucks extra," I said with my tongue planted firmly in cheek.
"Man, everybody's out to make a buck!" he said as he walked out the door. "To hell with that!"

Since then I've had a few more people recognize me, and believe it or not, a couple more requests for my autograph. Granted, most of those requests were from folks that I know. But two were from folks I never saw before. I offered the same deal to all of them that I did to the fellow in the gas station, but to date I have not had anyone accept my offer. So much for fame AND fortune.

I've been on local TV a couple of times, in the Chicago Tribune newspaper, on the Tucker show, and now ABC 20/20. All of these appearances have been about working people in one way or another. It is an issue that I lived through as a steelworker for 30 years, and an issue that is still very close to my heart. The workforce in this country continues to take it on the chin, and if there is anything I can do to bring this before the public, I'll do it. I do it not out of an over-inflated sense of ego, but to attempt to tell the other side. A side that is being ignored and swept under the rug by this administration and the main stream media.

It's seldom that an ordinary citizen like myself gets an opportunity to state their opinion. And like I tell folks, I'm not stuck up, I'll talk to anybody. So when people ask me why I do it, I answer 'why not?' Too bad that others don't speak out about this issue and so many others in this country. I understand to a certain extent why they do not. But without the voice of the public being heard, nothing will change. Not to be too hifalutin about it, but I do consider it a responsibility and duty to be vocal.

So it isn't about me. It is about the issues that need to be talked about. I write letters to the editor of the local newspaper, and I've found out how many folks read them. And my purpose with all of that is to not to try and change anyone's mind, but to perhaps give them a different viewpoint, help them to think the issue through so they can make up their own minds.

So being on television may be a momentary ego booster, but it never lasts with me. I'll never get used to seeing my big old punkin head on television anyway. It is the message that matters, and my two experiences with the main stream media has shown that the message can be edited to suit whoever for whatever purpose. So being on TV? No big deal. I am not impressed.

A Powerful Essay by Charles Sullivan

The Assassins of Truth
By Charles Sullivan

It is evident to me that the United States government believes that any individual or group of people that works to prevent it from implementing its agenda are terrorists. Furthermore, I contend that the government's plan is not the people's agenda; but some of us will be required to sacrifice our lives in order to help them execute their ill, and all of us will be
required to sacrifice our freedoms.

I also contend that the government overwhelmingly represents the interests of wealth and power; that its strength is derived from corporate bribes, rather than from grass roots populist support; that it exists to execute a Plutocratic agenda of world domination, while neglecting the needs of the overwhelming majority of the people.

I charge that the government is engaged in immoral and criminal conduct on a global scale. That it does not conform to the norms of civil society; that it is sociopathic, and flagrantly violates domestic and international law. The form of government that we have does not serve the citizenry -- it preys upon them. It is not a government of the people, for the people. It is
government of the corporations, for the corporations, by the corporations -- a corporate Plutocracy.

The sole purpose of Plutocratic government is to spread the gospel of free market economics and privatized wealth, and to extend the hegemony of capitalism to every corner of the earth. Its god is the almighty dollar. Championed by right wing extremists, it is equally endorsed by cowering neo-liberals in Congress. Its funding is derived from corporate sources and extorted tax contributions from the citizenry.

I contend that the government routinely breaches the Constitution and the
Bill of Rights that it was sworn to uphold; and that it circumvents domestic
law through the frequent use of presidential signing statements that
effectively render civil law null and void. The recent passage of the
Military Commissions Acts that resulted in the suspension of habeas corpus,
passed into law with the aide of fourteen Democrats, is beyond onerous -- it
is morally vacuous and criminal.

The executive branch of the government, in particular, has run amok; it disdains the daily struggles of ordinary citizens, and is engaged in class warfare against its own, and the world's working people. It conducts terrorist attacks on its own citizens, and against civilians abroad.

It is widely known abroad that the U.S. government is practicing extraordinary rendition in order to torture, maim, and kill its suspected enemies; it imprisons innocent people all over the world indefinitely, without due process and without charging them with any crime.

We bear witness to the crimes of a rogue government that invades sovereign nations, bombs their cities into piles of rubble, murders with impunity, imposes harsh economic sanctions, denies women and children life saving medical treatment, and steals their oil and mineral wealth. Hypocritically, it calls those who resist occupation, terrorists.

I further contend that the government is engaged in a campaign of unlawfully monitoring the communications of its citizens, including the infiltration of Quaker religious orders that preach doctrines of peace over those of war, and is increasingly stifling free speech and the right of peaceful assembly. Our hard won civil liberties are giving way to an emerging police state. The
prying eyes of paranoid government are everywhere.

Thus we are left with an illicit government that routinely commits crimes against humanity under the pretense of executing a war on terror. To its eternal shame, it has unleashed the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Pentagon upon its own citizens without just cause. These agencies are monitoring our
computers, tapping our phones, and tracking our movements not to protect America from terrorists, but to protect the Plutocracy from those who would expose it.

What does it say about a government when those who uphold the Constitution and the rule of law are targeted as enemies of the state or as terrorists? Is this what Thomas Jefferson and the framers of the constitution intended?

The assassins of truth have the audacity to feign faith in god while daily committing unholy acts of terror against peace loving people at home and abroad. With the deftness of a public relations firm, they are using religion as a weapon against a guileless flock that blithely follows its every command, even as it leads them to the slaughter of an Armageddon of its own creation.

By these acts and worse, the U.S. government defines Democracy. It has been empowered to do so by Republicans and Democrats alike.

I hereby assert that the hidden purpose of the U.S. government is not to serve the needs of the people or to make the world free and democratic, as it so boldly claims; it is to accrue ever more wealth to the obscenely rich, the global elite. Its intent is to do to the U.S. what it has done to Iraq; to revoke the Constitution and the rule of law; to bankrupt the federaltreasury and to privatize everything that is publicly owned. Ultimately, its objective is to pursue the religion of unregulated free market capitalism, and to establish global corporate rule.

It seems to me that any government that does not serve the people and treats those who uphold the Constitution as terrorists is not a Democracy; and we should refrain from calling it by that name. Governmental power that is not derived from, and subservient to the people, is illegitimate -- a form of authoritarian dictatorship as vile as Communism.

When an institution that was purportedly created to serve the needs of the people is no longer accountable to the people, and operates in secrecy, we can be sure that sinister powers are in motion. Those responsible are not only obscuring truth and revising history; they are knowingly and willfully assassinating truth, and mocking the very idea of Democracy.

Government that is controlled by capital, rather than a moral imperative to serve the public good, is a danger to the world. Such government is not only misguided and inherently unjust; it is hostile to Democracy and opposed to peace.

A government of the people would have a very different agenda than a Plutocratic regime. It would provide no cost health care to its citizens, free higher education to anyone who wants it; and it would not squander the federal treasury on unprovoked war that will not end in our lifetimes. Such a government would not overthrow democratically elected governments abroad.
Nor would it throw its support behind terrorist states like Israel, and it would not finance brutal dictatorships like Saddam Hussein and Augusto Pinochet, as has been the history of the American government.

Democracies do not betray its citizens by outsourcing jobs to sweat shops in other parts of the world in order to maximize corporate profits and to drive down wages. They do not wage war on sovereign nations based upon lies and innuendo; they do not occupy other countries, and they do not plan additional wars and occupations at the behest of corporate lobbyists against
nations that pose no threat to them.

Democracies do not sentence their youth to fight and die under false pretenses in order to open sovereign nations to corporate plunder and capitalism.

Plutocracy, I contend, is the outgrowth of the capitalist system that values private profits above all else. Under this sickly paradigm people are dehumanized; reduced to mere commodities on a par with a lump of coal or a pool of oil. It is a system that knows the price of everything but the value of nothing; and it is driven by insatiable greed.

Democracies derive their power from the people, all people being equal, and the distribution of wealth being equal. Plutocracies derive their power from the private ownership of immense wealth and property that represents a small percentage of the aggregate population. In the capitalist system, only those with wealth and property have legal standing and representation in
government. All others are second-class citizens with second-class rights and subservient to the Plutocracy. It is about time that we learn the difference.

Charles Sullivan is a photographer, freelance writer, and social activist residing in the hinterland of West Virginia.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


The broadcast of ABC's 20/20 on October 6th was part of an ongoing series on the 7 deadly sins. The theme of this program was 'Sloth'.

I was a part of that program. A 4-man camera crew, a producer and an interviewer were at my house for 6 hours. They interviewed me for 2 hours, my wife for 1 hour, took extensive footage of various activities we do. The result? There was none of my wife's interview used, and about 2 minutes of my interview used which was interspersed with a story about a 12-year college student whooping it up. As far as the 12-year college student? We all have our lives to live as we see fit, the 'American Work Ethic' be damned. Most of the segment about him focused on his 'good time Charlie' attitude, with but a very short section that told how he plays guitar in a band for money, and that he has a hollywood agent. The implication was of course that he's a bum. Seems to me he's paying his own way, so who cares if he has a life filled with good times?

I was misled as to the premise of the show itself. As the interview took place two weeks before broadcast, the premise of the show was already set. If I knew that the show was to be about 'Sloth', I would not have agreed to the interview. My understanding was that the interview was to be used to inform people that I have chosen retirement over the current workplace, and what has forced me to make that decision. When the interview questioned me as to why I don't 'flip burgers' at a fast-food restaurant, the only footage used was my comment "I don't want to flip burgers". Whomever edited the footage decided not to use what I said prior to that comment. That because of age discrimination and the fact that I am a former union member, the chances I would be hired are practically nil.

It is not out of ego or any sense of being-on-television-euphoria that I complain. I don't care about any notoriety. It is that I was mis-led, that the program did nothing but reinforce an 'American Work Ethic' that on the surface means that you must work hard, work long hours, live the American dream. But dig into this ethic a little deeper. Here is what I see:

  • If you are of the working class, you must work. Whether the work you find pays your bills or suits your needs doesn't matter. To avoid the 'sin' of sloth, you MUST work.
  • If you are of the working class, realize that you owe the wealthy a debt of gratitude for giving you the opportunity to work. Without them, you are even less than you already are.
  • If you are of the working class and want to improve your lot in life, there will be many barriers. And rightly so. There's nothing more disgusting than someone that does not 'know their place'. It can be done, but it's mighty difficult to improve your lot in life when most of your time is taken up by working at jobs that only provide you with a subsistance existence. But don't complain. Remember, you are the burden of the wealthy, and be grateful.
  • If you are of the working class and lose your job, understand that it is your fault. Entirely. You did not work hard enough, weren't loyal enough.
  • If you are of the working class and can't find a decent paying job, that's your fault too. You aren't smart enough, ambitious enough, worthy enough. Your labor is just another market commodity, and if the market deems your labor not worthy of a decent wage, it must be true. And if you used to work in a decent paying union job, forget it. The unions were the cause of plant closings because they were too powerful and demanded wages and benefits beyond the true value of labor.
  • If you are of the working class and don't work? There is a special place for you in hell. You will be thrown into a pit of snakes, so sayeth the Lord.
The 20/20 interview was an interesting experience. The technical crew was very professional and courteous. They worked non-stop the entire time, and transformed my front porch and most of the house into a television studio. The producer and interviewer were also courteous, but less than honest in their intentions. The bottom line is that whenever you deal with a show such as 20/20, you are at the mercy of the executives of the show, the editors of the footage, and of the actual premise of the show that is not honestly discussed beforehand.

I will give them credit for teaching me some things about the sloth (the animal) that I didn't know. But the rest of the show was a waste of time. As for the plight of labor in this country, ABC 20/20 has shown that all they are interested in is the perpetuation of the 'American Work Ethic' in a futile attempt at improving their ratings. If the show broadcast on October 6th is any indication, their ratings will continue to go in the tank. And deservedly so.

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