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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/12/15

The Tragedies in the Middle East and Ukraine: Who will bell the cat?

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As Marge Baker wrote recently, "Until we fix our democracy, it is hard to fix any problem." [1] At present, our efforts to "fix our democracy" seem to be failing. Some of the tragic consequences of this failure are afflicting both us at home and ordinary people in small countries far from home.


Lynx de Sib%C3%A9rie Thoiry 1982
Lynx de Sib%C3%A9rie Thoiry 1982
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A first step back toward democracy

As a first step toward fixing our democracy, someone must "bell the cat." At first blush, it seems obvious that the "someone" who must "bell the cat" is (collectively) made up of our investigative journalists. It is a function of investigative journalism to "bell cats." However, our mainstream journalists are subservient to their plutocratic employers and are, like T S Eliot's Prufrock, "deferential" and "glad to be of use." [2] They are leaving it to alternative journalists to bell the cat. However, this is not happening. Most alternative journalists (both professionals and amateurs like me) are focusing on the outrages perpetrated by the "assistant cat" (our government) while the "chief cat" (our small group of plutocrats) goes quietly about its work. As Robb Kall writes "It's a matter of recognizing their" (the plutocrats') "nature and reining it in,"

Recognizing our plutocrats' nature

This is not to say that alternative journalists should ignore the tragedies that are resulting from our plutocratic policies. By reporting these tragedies, they are doing a necessary, admirable (and sometimes heroic) service for us and our country. The impact of this service would be intensified if they would make it clear, somewhere in every report of outrage, that the culprit is our plutocracy and that our federal government is simply its instrument.

We cannot reverse our decline by pleading with our present civil officers or by electing new ones. It is our political system that is at fault; not its cast of characters. Our political leaders have neither the power nor the inclination to change our political system. The blame for our distress belongs to our plutocrats and should be placed squarely on their shoulders. It is no excuse to note that our plutocracy sometimes carries out the will of the people. This ignores its ability to shape the will of the people through its ownership of key media.

The Middle East and Ukraine as illustrative consequences

The tragedies in the Middle East and Ukraine, however horrifying, are not the only consequences of our plutocracy. Closer to home, it is shaping our domestic policies to favor the wealthy. Events abroad are shocking and outrageous. We should keep in mind, however, that they are consequences of a larger problem at home. This larger problem is that we have lost control of our government. Regaining control could both help prevent future outrages abroad and shape domestic policies io be more favorable to ordinary Americans at home. To regain control, we must make fundamental changes in our Constitution. The excellent work of our alternative journalists in reporting our outrages abroad and at home could help lay the groundwork for these fundamental changes.

Pointing out the root cause would "bell the chief cat"

Our alternative journalists could perform an additional public service by identifying our plutocracy, in their reports, as the root cause of our government's outrages. A widespread understanding that our elected and appointed civil officers are only instruments of a few very wealthy Americans is a prerequisite for genuine political reform. This point could be made by alternative journalists as they report on our government's interventions abroad and abuses at home. .

[1] Marge Baker, Executive vice president of People for the American Way Foundation, First Things First, Jan 24, 2014.

[2] From TS Eliot's Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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Neal Herrick is author of the award-wining After Patrick Henry (2009). His most recent book is (2014) Reversing America’s Decline. He is a former sailor, soldier, auto worker, railroad worker, assistant college football coach, (more...)

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