During the nineties, my profession (professor of Philosophy) afforded me the opportunity to visit Russia seven times. Most often, this was at the invitation of Russian academic institutions, and once to supervise a student exchange. The scholarly papers that resulted from these visits may be found here at my website,The Online Gadfly, along with a detailed account of my involvement with Russian scholars during that memorable decade.
Recent events have directed my thoughts and concerns to Russia and my many friends there, which prompts me to write the following letter and to share it with American internet readers.
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
My Dear Friends
It appears, to my great sorrow, that the Cold War is returning. However, this is no time for despair. Rather it is a time for a renewed determination of men and women of good will on both sides to resist this drift toward confrontation, and to strive to restore the brief moment of friendship, respect and mutual cooperation that we experienced scarcely a decade ago.
For our part, we Americans are facing grave difficulties acknowledging the sources of this renewed conflict, and thus finding a remedy. Regrettably, a prominent cause of this difficulty is our corporate media.
The American news media, once the envy of the world, has recently deteriorated to a condition in which it can no longer be trusted as a source of international news, least of all of news and opinion about Russia. This is because the news media, a vast majority of which is owned by just six corporate conglomerates, has in effect become the propaganda arm of the U.S government and of the oligarchs and corporations which, in effect, own that government.
There are, to be sure, independent news media that freely present suppressed news and dissenting opinions, but their audience is small and their influence on official policies is insignificant.
The sorry state of American news media was vividly demonstrated shortly before the outbreak of the Iraq War in March, 2002. Then, with a single voice, the American news media broadcast the Bush/Cheney accusation that Saddam Hussein of Iraq posed an immediate threat to the United States; that, in the words of Vice President Cheney: "there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us." Leading that charge were the most honored and prestigious American newspapers, The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Dissenters were effectively banished from the corporate media. Prominent among these was Phil Donahue, a popular media figure familiar to many Russians from his trans-continental "Spacebridge" in the eighties with Vladimir Pozner of Gostelradio.. Donahue dared to include on his television program critics of the Bush/Cheney policies and of the rush to war with Iraq. And so he was thrown off the air.
And so, a month before the outbreak of the Iraq war, more than four out of five Americans believed that Saddam Hussein's Iraq military either had or was actively developing weapons of mass destruction. Thus, at that time, more than 70% of Americans believed that the war was justified. Now that it is an indisputable fact that there were no such weapons in Iraq, in 2010 belief in Saddam's weapons of mass destruction dropped to 40%, with some 55% believing that the war was a mistake. It was a "mistake" that cost more than four thousand American lives and as many as a half million Iraqi lives.
It was a "mistake" that an aggressive, objective and independent news media might have prevented -- a mistake for which the corporate media has shown little remorse or evidence of reform.