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April 2007

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Everywhere I went, in each hotel, Fox News was the channel selected by default when the TV was turned on.

Half-Mast Dubya is at it again. The flags all over the country are at half-mast again. Has there ever been a President during whose term the nations flags were at half-mast so much of his tenure in office? Seriously, flying the national flag intentionally at half-mast is a sign of a national tragedy or a national mourning. How come we have so much more mourn during the past six years than we ever had before?

When I was in Atlanta, there were groups of soldiers marching resolutely all over the airport in desert camouflage and tan boots. In the main terminal area there were sporadic sessions of people clapping - in support of said troops, I guess. Me, I wondered whether they were coming home from war or going to war. I'd have been happy to applaud them coming home in one piece. But I'd never applaud them having to go off to get maimed or dead. That is not something I can support. Then men and women don't need this kind of anguish in their lives. It isn't doing our nation any good either at home or abroad.

In the train station in Atlanta there was a big poster with the slogan "If you see something happen, Report what you've seen." Whoever made up this Amtrak poster sure wasn't a student of history. The slogan is almost word for word identical to the Nazi propaganda posters from the mid-1930's, urging people to "Notice and inform." All that was missing from the poster I saw was the swastikas.

I guess that's why Fox News, to pick the worst offender, gets away with so much bad journalism and lies: people lack the critical faculty to compare what is said to what they know is true. I saw snippet of a History channel show about the Vietnam War, which came right out and said that America's first troops in that war landed in the Summer of 1965. Beg to differ with the good folks who are re-writing our national history on TV, but we got embroiled in that little soiree while Eisenhower was President, if you could materiel and advisors. We had an active troop presence directly involved in the conflict during the Kennedy administration. But most folks hear these errors and misrepresentations and just assume that the TV is correct.

So it builds, lie upon lie. People who watch Fox News religiously believe in a world that is manifestly different from the one I know. Their facts differ from the ones I remember because they've been remade into a sort of mythology that supports an ideology. It's just like the religious idiots who don't believe in Evolution because they don't want to.

In Elliot Jaspin's book, Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America, he talks about the process of mythification, where incidents in the recent past were paved over with a nicer, better story, which was subsequently believed implicitly by the general population - on both sides. It's bad enough when things like this happen without an agenda, but they're much worse when they happen deliberately in response to intentionally cooking of the history books by a powerful media organization with an agenda. This was a bad thing when it was Hurst and his "yellow-peril." It is just as bad with Fix and it's "fair and balanced" journalism.

Many Americans are ignorant of many things they really have a responsibility to learn about. But the danger of ignorance is that it grows into an attitude that not taking the time to learn the facts of things is OK, that there are things you don't need to learn, that what harms other people does not affect you, too. The Fox brand of ignorance does not an informed and critical citizenry make. I'm sure today that more people could recognize Bill O'Reilly than Thomas Jefferson. Notoriety does not make the man nor does fame guarantee the merit of a person's ideas.

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