I wasn't quite sure what to expect when Tucker Carlson approached the podium on the IU Auditorium stage last Tuesday evening. I knew that he was one of the shouting heads on CNN's Crossfire. But since I have come to view post-9/11 cable news as an insidious virus infecting the body politic, I didn't know if he played a liberal or a conservative.
I was fairly certain, however, that I would leave the experience secure in my professional judgment that Carlson, a symbol of the corporate TV news biz, defames the entire journalistic profession when he claims to be a journalist. I didn't expect to exit the Auditorium gratified. But, on balance, I did.
While most of America was patting itself on the back for military "victory" in Iraq last Wednesday, more than 100 Bloomington citizens marched on the local FBI office to protest a true threat to Americans' security in the post-9/11 era - the USA Patriot Act.
The march, which followed the weekly Wednesday night demonstration for peace on the Courthouse lawn, snaked through downtown to the FBI office in the old Johnson Creamery's building. Conveniently, the West Seventh Street building also houses the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, the Bloomington Economic Development Corp., and other "economic development" interests.
A full month before Bush Jr. launched the Iraq War with his first assault on Baghdad last month, Bloomington peace activist Bret Eartheart was thinking about today. Based upon the Iraqi nation's experience with Bush Sr. in the Persian Gulf War, he worried about history repeating itself when American troops entered Baghdad this time.
In an interview with The Bloomington Alternative on Feb. 20, Eartheart worried that Bush Jr. will follow his father's strategy of employing weapons of mass destruction - nuclear weapons of mass destruction - against Iraqi troops. "The most terrifying aspect of any U.S. invasion is the use of depleted uranium again, in Baghdad in particular," he said. "It's a city of six million that will be inundated with nuclear waste. It's really terrifying to think about that."
Citizens who filled last Monday's Boxcar Books Social Justice Lecture Series gained deeper appreciation for Samuel Johnson's observation that "patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels." They learned how the scoundrels have seized control of their First Amendment.
The overflow crowd heard First Amendment scholar Amy Reynolds outline the ways in which Congress, through the USA Patriot Act of 2001, handed the government near carte blanche authority to flout Americans' First Amendment rights to free speech, free association, and free press in the war on terrorism. The Act, she noted, passed both houses on near unanimous votes, with almost no debate.
A convergence of personal and professional forces separated me from the computer and my journalistic routines last week. So, rather than following one of the darkest weeks in human history from my usual array of online sources of news and information, I grabbed what I could stomach from the broadcast media. It was a dark few days intellectually, to say the least.
The screaming meemies on the cable stations and somber-voiced network and PBS-NPR anchors delivered the same message: America's the greatest! This war is good! And those who disagree don't count! The only exceptions were the BBC (thank you thank you thank you WFHB!) and Bill Moyers.
The character-assassination plot unleashed against Scott Wells by local right-wing extremists became so obvious last week that even the Herald-Times editors momentarily pulled their heads out of the sand, whisked a few grains from their eyes, and acknowledged it as fact.
After hearing courtroom testimony last week in the Fascistic proceeding known as the State of Indiana vs. Scott Wells, the editors on Friday declared the case "Tainted by Political Brush." They have such a grasp of the obvious.
Indications are that the feds are poised for a Bloomington "terrorism" bust that has nothing to with Islamic jihad. The more likely explanation - read fear for many - is that they are preparing to drop their newfound Patriot Act powers on Bloomington-area environmental activists.
Word out of Indianapolis journalism circles is that the U.S. attorney's office in Indianapolis on March 7 "was slated to announce a big arrest in (the Bloomington) area .... supposedly related to terrorism." That informed speculation follows increased activity by the FBI and ATF in the area in recent weeks and months.
A conversation with Bret Eartheart - Part II
Bret Eartheart wouldn't presume to predict what the Iraqi people's reaction will be when the U.S. invades their country. It's just impossible to say, the Bloomington peace activist says.
But his recently completed month-long stint in Baghdad with the Voices in the Wilderness peace group suggests that American troops will not be welcomed as the liberators the Bush administration says they are. On the contrary, Eartheart fears the worst.
If the production of The Vagina Monologues that Megan Anderson just finished directing affects even a small part of her audience the way it affected her, she will consider it a success. And that’s no small standard to set, since the “play” may well have changed her life.
But then, that's the whole point. The Vagina Monologues isn't really a play. It's the wellspring of a global, social movement whose mission is to make the world a safer place for women and girls by changing one soul at a time. Sitting in the back room at Soma over coffee the morning after closing night, the 23-year-old Anderson, remnant specks of theatrical glitter twinkling around her eyes, says that is just what happened to her. The experience touched her soul.
A conversation with Bret Eartheart - Part I
Untold thoughts and images will race through Bloomington peace activist Bret Eartheart's mind if a U.S.-led Blitzkrieg into Baghdad begins next month. Sure to be among the most salient will be that of Hassan, a 9-year-old shoeshine boy whose stand sits outside the Baghdad hotel where Eartheart spent the month of January.
While he says the subject never came up, Eartheart suspects that Hassan supports his entire family on his shoeshine income. After an extended silence spent staring into his herbal tea, Eartheart adds: "He was just a sweet, beautiful, very bright young boy."