The Sleeping Giant Stirs
November 7, 2005
By Ernest Partridge, The
will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by
fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and
our doctrine; and remember that we are not descended from fearful
men. Not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and
to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular... We can deny
our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility
for the result." - Edward R. Murrow, May 9, 1954
"The Americans will always do the right thing," Winston
Churchill once remarked, "after they've exhausted all the alternatives."
The American public may be running out of alternatives. If so, the
Bush Administration and the Republicans have reason to be very worried.
It is all too easy to despair over the ignorance and gullibility
of "the American mind." This is a public, after all, a
majority of which rejects the theory of evolution – the central
coordinating concept of the biological sciences. In addition, the
National Science Foundation reports
that more than a third of Americans believe in UFOs and that astrology
And yet, amazingly, at many crucial moments in our history, public
opinion has somehow moved toward a wise and appropriate point of
For example, public support for the Vietnam war eroded until eventually
the war was unsustainable. Richard Nixon's landslide re-election
in 1972 was no use to him when, less than two years later, the full
extent of his "crimes and misdemeanors" became known and
he was forced from office.
Throughout his presidency, Bill Clinton was hounded by a hostile
press, while $70 million of taxpayers' money was expended in search
of a crime to fit the punishment. Eventually he was caught in a
sexual indiscretion. It was then widely assumed that Clinton's public
approval scores would drop into the basement. Instead, "the
hunting of the president" backfired as Clinton's high approval
scores held steady, while those of his tormentor, Kenneth Starr,
And so right now, something remarkable is taking place. At long
last, however belatedly, the public is beginning to appreciate the
shallowness and incompetence of George Bush and the unparalleled
mendacity and corruption of his administration. Moreover, it has
arrived at this realization on its own, despite the determination
of the captive mainstream media to hide these manifest failures
from the public, through distraction, non-reporting, and occasionally
through outright lies.
For five years, the Rovian smoke and mirrors have worked spectacularly
well. A majority of the public was persuaded
that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, was somehow
behind the 9/11 attacks, and was an active agent of al Qaeda. At
the same time, the skeletons of Bush's past – his AWOL from the
Air National Guard, his business failures, his insider trading,
his suspected drug use – were all kept hidden in the closet. A package
of lies about Al Gore was concocted to "prove," ironically,
that Gore was a "serial liar." John Kerry, an authentic
war hero, was successfully portrayed as a coward and a fake.
Thus did the Bush message machine vanquish the Democratic opposition
and reduce it to pathetic impotence. However, there was one adversary
that Bush, Inc. could not defeat: reality. And at long last, reality
is retaliating and the public is taking notice.
The failure of Bush's FEMA to deal with the Katrina catastrophe
can not be hidden from the public. Nor can the loss of manufacturing
jobs and their export overseas. Nor can the rising price of gasoline
and the obscene profits of the oil companies. Nor can the upward
redistribution of national wealth from the producers to the owners
of that wealth. Nor can the corruption and the consequent indictments
or investigations of the malefactors: DeLay, Safavian, Frist, Libby,
Abramoff, and now Tomlinson. Nor can the horrendous tales of torture
from Bush's Gulag. Nor can the shredding of our Constitution and
the loss of our "inalienable rights." Nor can the mounting
casualties from the Iraq war, as they return home in caskets ("transfer
tubes") or with broken minds and bodies. And despite the media
conspiracy of silence, the evidence of election fraud can not be
suppressed. The unthinkable is becoming thinkable.
Moreover, the public has a memory. The weak but growing voice
of the independent progressive media and Internet has recorded and
now broadcasts the lies in the voices of the liars: "Simply
stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of
mass destruction" (Cheney, August 2002). "We know where [the WMDs]
are. They are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad" (Rumsfeld,
May 2003). "We found the weapons of mass destruction" (Bush, May
Despite their self-congratulatory myth of rugged individualism,
Americans are herd animals; they look around, then follow the crowd.
When Bush's approval scores were in the high eighties and the media
were meekly and uncritically passing on the official lies, few dared
to resist. Troublesome news, such as election fraud, foreign opposition,
citizen protests, the looting of the treasury, and the Downing Street
memos, were absent from the print and broadcasts of the mainstream
media. Those in the media who did resist, like MSNBC's Ashleigh
Banfield and Phil Donanue, soon found themselves out of a job. Their
example was not lost on the survivors. But now the beast is wounded
and just a few of the bolder predators are coming out of the woods
to investigate. At last, the hidden issues are beginning to come
And the public? Ever so gradually, public opinion has shifted
and now the critics and skeptics are in the majority. No longer
can dissenters be successfully branded as traitors who "hate
America." More and more of us are remembering that America
was born from resistance to tyranny and has flourished through dissent
and open debate. Protest is once again becoming fashionable, and
there is a whiff of possible success in the air. The message to
the media? "Lead, follow, or step out of the way. You have
made yourselves irrelevant."
When asked the secret of success in show business, George Burns
replied: "sincerity – if you can fake that, you've got it made."
For five years, it worked for Bush and his gang, but now the public
is finally seeing through the fakery. And once the politician loses
his grip on the fakery – once he has lost the trust of the public
- he can never get it back.
And so, Bush's approval and trust ratings are now in the mid-thirties,
and heading south. According to the
latest Washington Post/ABC poll, two-thirds of the public has
a negative opinion of Bush's ethics and believes that the country
is headed in the wrong direction. Sixty percent believes that the
Iraq war was a mistake. A majority doubts Bush's honesty and integrity,
and believes that Bush misled the country prior to the invasion
of Iraq. And amazingly, a majority would want
to see him impeached if it were proved (as is likely the case)
that Bush lied to get the U.S. into the war.
Significantly, many GOP politicians and the media are beginning
to sense that support of Bush and his administration is distinct
liability – a liability that can cost the politicians their offices,
and the media their audiences. Moreover, as the demise of the Miers
nomination attests, the religious right is finally beginning to
realize that they've been had, cynically kept on the GOP reservation
with promises, such as the repeal of Roe v. Wade, that the
GOP dare not fulfill.
Is it over for the Bush Administration? Don't count on it. As
I wrote at the outset: at many crucial moments in our history the
American public gets it right. At many crucial moments, not
all. There are no guarantees. And the Busheviks still have formidable
weapons at their disposal as they struggle to maintain their grip
Accordingly, this is no time for the opposition to sit at the
sidelines, content to be spectators of the self-inflicted decline
and fall of Bush, Inc. This malignant regime may not go over the
precipice unless it is pushed.
What then is the ordinary citizen to do? The question requires
a separate essay – several, in fact. But here are some brief suggestions.
Regarding election fraud: spread the word, person-to-person. Do
your part to make respectable a skepticism of past elections and
the demand for election reform. If the conspiracy of media silence
is sustained and the paperless machines and secret software remain
in place, the GOP won't lose no matter what the voters have to say
about it. If the fraud is exposed, they can't win. It is just possible
that if the polls forecast a Democratic blowout – say, twenty-plus
percent – the GOP won't dare to reverse the outcome. But beware:
faking the polls is not out of the question.
Thankfully, there is one institution that remains independent
of Bushevik control: the criminal justice system. Thus the aforementioned
criminal indictments, present and forthcoming. Herein may be the
best hope for the restoration of honest and verifiable elections.
In the United States, elections are administered at the local and
state level. Surely there must be some prosecutors somewhere in
the realm prepared to investigate this crime with the powerful instruments
of subpoena, discovery and perjury threat. So let us, as concerned
citizens, demand criminal investigation and prosecutions of the
crime of voting fraud.
Put pressure on the media. Boycott the offending corporate media
and their sponsors, and tell them that you are doing so. Demand
that they investigate malfeasance of office and report "all
the news that's fit to print" about issues of public concern.
And if they won't, make them irrelevant. As Sinclair Broadcasting
learned in the last election, if right-wing propaganda results in
a loss of market-share, the management must answer to the stockholders.
Support the alternative independent media and the progressive
Internet – the last, best hope of a free press that the founders
of our republic insisted was indispensable to a republic of free
Encourage progressive candidates to oppose the "GOP-lite"
Democrats in the primaries. Even if the "Democrats in Name
Only" (DINOs) win, they will be given a message: "represent
us, or next time you're done for!"
And write your Senators and Congress members, repeatedly. Send
a constant stream of letters to the editor. Add your feet and voices
to the public protests. Organize!
At the close of the 1970 movie Tora, Tora, Tora Admiral
Isoruko Yamamoto warns his staff: "I fear all we have done is to
awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." The
words are those of the screenwriter, not the Admiral: there is no
evidence that Yamamoto ever said this. No matter, the words fit
Today, the great American public stirs. But will it awake? In
the captive corporate media, there is no Edward R. Murrow or Walter
Cronkite in evidence who will protest the evil issuing from the
White House and the Congress, much less a media management willing
to give them a microphone. There is no John Dean from inside this
malignant regime that will step forward and volunteer to break open
this criminal conspiracy – at least, not yet.
It is up to us, the American public, and it is possible that we
the people are finally beginning to wake up. But there are no guarantees
that we will prevail, restore our Constitution and our rights, and
win back our country.
This is no time for each of us to stand alone, looking after our
own diminishing self-interests, and privately but uselessly lamenting
our fates. Echoing Jesus of Nazareth, Mohandas Gandhi spoke the
truth that transcends political and religious boundaries: "He who
loses his life will gain it; he who will seek to save it shall lose
it. Freedom is not for the coward or the faint-hearted."
Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in
the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He publishes
the website, The
Online Gadfly and co-edits the progressive website, The
Crisis Papers. He is at work on a book, Conscience of a Progressive,
which can be seen in-progress here.
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