I have read the hundreds of passionate emails since the election and have
held back from responding, largely because I was overwhelmed with deadlines. I
am a media activist and see the theft of our elections and the loss of our
free press as inextricably interrelated. I was in Philly with Steve Freeman,
Jonathan Simon, Bruce O'Dell and Sally Castleman during the election. I
appreciate the virtues of pursuing all means to regain control over our
that have been stolen from us (the debate over whether to support or not
support the Holt bill, that being the question). However, I think all of us
a tendency to become myopic when we're passionately in the center of the
debate. The issue of permitting our elections to be taken over by private
companies and private machines involves a much larger issue and to my mind, the
one that must be preserved and fought for.
The absolute necessity to resist domination of government by corporate power
has been a struggle which has marked our history since its inception. That
admonition is nowhere to be found in the national debate. I blame corporate
media. There's plenty of blame to go around, but for the purposes of my response
here, corporate control of the media -- which was supposed to be regulated
by the government in the public interest and was done somewhat for much of our
history-- now contributes to the people's ignorance as the government has
granted the media corporations monopoly status.
The greatest threat to our democracy is corporate power. As is often
attributed to Mussolini, "fascism should more appropriately be called
because it is the merger of state and corporate power." See also the 1983
American Heritage Dictionary definition of Fascism: "A system of government that
exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging
of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."
As Vice President Henry Wallace predicted in an article he wrote for the NY
Times in 1944 -- echoing the wisdom of James Madison," A popular Government
without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to
a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern
ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must are themselves
the power knowledge gives." -- Americans wouldn't have to seriously concern
themselves with American fascism until the media became part of the corporate
monopoly structure, "American fascism will not be really dangerous...until
there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate
poisoners of public information...".
Some of this discussion regarding the relationship of media reform and
election reform is for another day, but it is important to recognize that
excessive corporate power of the media is corroding our democracy. The media
movement is fighting back, but we are of course behind many eight balls. It
is necessary to quash further advances of corporatism in its infancy.
Corporate control of our elections is a few years old if you start with HAVA.
Like our free press, which has been privatized (albeit once regulated) for our
history, it is the private aspect which will always seek to predominate at the
expense of we the people.
There will be no way to put the Diebold et al genie back in the bottle if we
don't stop it now. Any compromise, while seemingly a realistic attempt to
gain some control at a dark moment, will only come back to bite us. Any
concession to electronic voting now will be paid for later as black box voting
becomes legitimized with each passing year.
I had a wonderfully eye opening conversation the other night with my 16 year
old and some of his friends-all of whom have a far more sophisticated
appreciation of what a computer is then most adults. I think it is because of
their natural understanding of computers that when I presented the election
to them, the very first response was-- but aren't elections supposed to be
public? They inherently understood that computers would always be privately
controlled- only as good as the last guy who got in there. They hadn't read
your emails or anything else on the subject. They just understood two basic
fundamental concepts: that elections belong to the public and that computers
are antithetical to public control.
In considering the question of how to approach this issue then, for the sake
of future generations (not to mention all who have given their lives to this
cause) we don't have the right to concede that which our children
understand; that which is embodied in their Constitution too: that a
people cannot be such without the information they need to elect or evict those
chosen to represent their interests (hence the First Amendment's Free Press)
and that the possibility of democracy under a condition of private control of
elections is non existent.
I believe it is the fear, the feeling of what we're up against, that causes
some of us to fight for what they believe is realistic. They have won once
we grant them that. In the words of Edward R. Murrow, "No one can terrorize
a whole nation, unless we are all its accomplices." Even an unwitting
and well meaning accomplice is an accomplice.
Northeast Citizens for Responsible Media