Bob Koehler is an award-winning, syndicated columnist and editor for Tribune Media Services. He is also a rarity – a member of the mainstream media who has paid attention to the issue of election fraud. He wrote “The Silent Scream of Numbers- The 2004 election was stolen – will someone please tell the media?” after he attended the National Election Reform Conference in Nashville in April, 2005. The article generated a huge response from his readers. We became better acquainted when we drove together to another conference – We Count 2006 in Cleveland – the following year. We spent sixteen hours in the car together without resorting to any of the books on tape that I had taken out from the library before the trip, ‘just in case.’ A few months ago, we shared the podium for a program on activism, the press, and election integrity. I’m delighted that he agreed to be interviewed for OpEdNews.
I just finished watching Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections for the second time. Maybe we could use Earnhardt’s documentary on election fraud as a jumping off point. You say in the movie that once you begin to doubt our elections, it's hard to go back. I liked that quote a lot. Here it is:
Once you get bitten by the truth that the elections are not fair, you’re not going to stop believing that…If what I believe is true, it can’t go away. It just plain can’t go away unless we just give up on the country. That’s, I mean that is what is at stake. I just want to keep doing my part. I’ve never felt closer to the whole cliché, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” That always seemed like bullshit to me. Suddenly, it’s foremost in my heart – eternal vigilance.
What do you advise people who are angry but not sure what to do about it?
Koehler: The key may be to stay angry even when your first spurt of emotion-letting goes nowhere, or just gets people giving you weird looks or responding with mockery. Stay angry, as you read more, get further and more deeply informed, but balance the anger with a calm assessment of what you can do and where you can have the biggest impact. It's going to take both passion and smarts to counter the anti-democracy movement, which has both, plus money.
How do we demand that the press do the job it is supposed to do?
Koehler: Weirdly, the press thinks it is doing its job. My best advice is that people should wherever possible establish personal relationships with reporters and editors. Call, write, keep 'em informed. Become sources. The press hates to be told what to do (except by the Bush administration), but loves to be fed by its sources. Keep the alternative media alive on the Internet by forwarding valuable info far and wide. And of course be the media yourself. We're in the middle of a media revolution and it's fun.
How can this documentary – "Uncounted" – help promote awareness?
Koehler: I like the way it links current vote fraud issues to the civil rights movement. That puts things in perspective for a lot of people. And of course it can only promote awareness among people who see it. Showing it at private gatherings is a great way to spread the word.
How have things changed since 2004? Have things changed?
Koehler: A huge amount of documentation of various kinds of fraud has surfaced. Election disasters involving obvious computer malfunction (or malfeasance) have been big news. Awareness has spread. Many more people do not automatically trust computerized voting. Unfortunately, the F-word, fraud, hasn't been in widespread usage; most people still are uneasy about embracing this possibility. Most people are resistant to believing that elections are being outright manipulated and stolen, and will not come around to such a belief until they begin researching the matter themselves, but the sheer unreliability of equipment is getting harder to ignore and requires less of an emotional leap for people to make. So I do think ordinary voters are savvier and more skeptical than they were four years ago.
Jonathan Simon [of Election Defense Alliance and co author of "Landslide Denied: Exit Polls vs. Vote Count 2006” says that all indications are that 2008 will be worse. We're stuck with these machines for now, at the very least. How do we go forward?
Koehler: Documentation of as much of the BS as possible. That's the only way.
If you could send a message to your colleagues in the corporate media, what would you say?
Koehler: The worst reporting comes from embedded reporters. Reporters are shockingly embedded in the status quo not just in Iraq but in the U.S. as well, from sea to shining sea. Concern about job security and career advancement has created a chicken media. Get down, ladies and gentlemen of the press. Get out into real America. Start assuming you don't know anything. We used to talk about breaking the Iron Triangle: reporter, editor, official source. Most mainstream political reporting is timidly inside that Iron Triangle and I have lost all tolerance for it, and so has most of the country. In the best-case scenario, the media could decide to save democracy.
I have some additional thoughts/reflections. As with so much else the Bush administration is about, there is a bizarre upside. They’re so blatant about the things they do, so contemptuous of the values of most Americans that they keep pushing our democracy, what’s left of it, to a crisis. In so doing, they force more and more people out of their easy chairs and into some sort of activism.
Democracy is always in a state either of growing or contracting. Enough people looking closely at results and demanding transparent vote counts could — and should — create a permanent expansion of what it means to be a citizen. People keep telling me they’ve signed up to be election judges or do poll watching or in some other way participate in the process in an informed way. This is the only hope we have.