Thursday, December 27, 2007


How much are we going to let Pervez Musharraf get away with? He has used the "fear of terrorism" to bolster his dictatorship, all the while justifying terrorism of which he approves and pampering terrorists in his own western frontiers.

Bhutto's supporters hold dictator Musharraf responsible:
Bhutto's supporters at the hospital wept, smashed the glass doors and started fires around the hospital periphery. Some were heard to shout "dog, Musharraf, dog" and "killer Musharraf".

So does Rehman Malik:

Malik, Bhutto's security adviser, immediately questioned the adequacy of protection for the former PM.

"We repeatedly informed the government to provide her proper security and appropriate equipment including jammers, but they paid no heed to our requests," he said.

So do I. And I also hold US President George W. Bush responsible for allowing a supporter of terrorism, a man who aids and abets terrorists, an anti-democratic dictator to remain in power while at the same time mouthing meaningless shibboleths about "freedom on the march" and "with us or agin' us..."

But, come on, we know that was all bullshit. Musharraf, a dictator who stole power in a coup, who fired his entire supreme judiciary, who imposed martial law, who jailed dissidents, and at the same time released terrorists from jail, is still in power. The Taliban still enjoys safe haven in Pakistan. Osama bin Laden is probably there too. But Saddam's Iraq -- which had nothing to do with 9/11, which was anathema to al Qa'ida, and which, at the very least, was stable -- is "liberated."

How much longer does the world have to put up with this?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Romney is Toast...

...if many more people watch this YouTube video. By the way, more than 600,000 have already seen it.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Thought for the Christmas Season Now Upon Us...

From Joan Chittister, O.S.B.

Everywhere we look
people are in need,
but, as a nation
we prefer more to be feared
than to be found faithful
to what we say we believe
about human dignity and human rights.

maybe Christmas,
maybe Meister Eckhart is the answer.
we left the birth of Jesus up to Mary
and forgot to rebirth him ourselves
in every age thereafter.

Maybe the merriest Christmas
we could ever have
will be the year
we remember again
what Christmas is supposed to be about.
is not about getting.
it's about giving the world
a glimpse
of what the Christ child
would really look like
if we ever allowed him
to be born in us.
Anybody listening?

Monday, December 03, 2007

"I Can't Believe It's Not a Dictatorship!!!"

More Right-Wing RantTM from Howie:

Glad to see the people of Venezuela smartened up, and realized that Chavez is loco..........until Chavez declares that the voting machines were vandalized, and he really won, and declares his dictatorship for life............Seig Heil.......
Yes, Howie, that's exactly what happened. Anyway...
Venezuelans did narrowly reject the referendum that would have eliminated term limits (by the way, that's all the referendum called for, the elimination of term limits -- he would not have been put in power indefinitely, he would still have had to run for re-election at the end of each term, like in the United States for the first 180-plus years of its existence). And that's the end of the story.

"From this moment on, let's be calm," Chavez declared. "There is no dictatorship here."
There is no dictatorship that disrupted the elections, and there would have been no dictatorship had the vote gone the other way. It's a thing right-wingers like Howie don't understand: it's called democracy.

Of course, spinmeisters in the US State Department make the result of this referendum look like the hope of all future democracy in Venezuela:

"Clearly this is a message from the Venezuelan people that they do not want any further erosion in their democracy and their democratic institutions," US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in Washington.
...conveniently forgetting that Chavez has been twice elected, once returned by popular support after surviving a (US supported) coup, and won a recall election. In other words, it has been the triumph of democracy, like it or not, that got Chavez to the place where he could lose even lose a referendum to eliminate term limits and be re-elected as many times as Franklin D. Roosevelt (who we could use right now).

In the meantime, Chavez still enjoys broad powers that the voters gave him in previous referenda (unlike the broad powers that the Bush administration have assumed unconstitutionally and without so much as a "MayI?").

So, Howie, and all your right-wing friends:
UPDATE: Renegade Eye has an excellent analysis of the referendum and its outcome. Even if I were not still working on my book, I couldn't have been more thorough. Check it out.

OOPS!!! My Bad...

Never mind all that stuff I was saying about World War III...

A new assessment by American intelligence agencies concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains frozen, contradicting judgment two years ago that Tehran was working relentlessly toward building a nuclear bomb.

Uh-huh. Some key findings of the National Intelliegnce Estimate on Iran's nukes:
  • We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program...

  • We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.

  • We continue to assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Iran does not currently have a nuclear weapon.

  • We judge with moderate confidence Iran probably would be technically capable of producing enough HEU for a weapon sometime during the 2010-2015 time frame. (INR judges Iran is unlikely to achieve this capability before 2013 because of foreseeable technical and programmatic problems.) All agencies recognize the possibility that this capability may not be attained until after 2015.

  • We judge with high confidence that Iran will not be technically capable of producing and reprocessing enough plutonium for a weapon before about 2015.
No precipitous and unneccessary march to war this time, okay folks? Keep up the pressure.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Eve, 2005: An E-mail Exchange With a Right-Wing Friend in NY

May you and your family have an enjoyable Thanksgiving, and remember to keep the troops in your prayers. -- Howie

Howie--I am sincerely thankful that we have a strong military, and that there are thousands and thousands of Americans, young and not-so-young, who are willing to give their lives for what they believe in. I am sincerely thankful that we are a nation founded on Enlightenment values of liberty, equality, sovereignty vested in the PEOPLE, and religious freedom. I am sincerely thankful that we have a tradition--a very Christian tradition, by the way--of sacrifice for the sake of the "tired, poor, and huddled masses" who yearn to be free. I am thankful for so many things, not just at this time of year, but always, and these things are constantly in my prayers of thanks to God.

I hold in utter contempt, however, "leaders" who abuse the sacred trust given them by the PEOPLE to use military force only when it is necessary to protect American values. I hold in utter contempt "leaders" who distort and in some cases ignore those very values in the name of "security." I hold in utter contempt leaders who put the needs--in reality, in most cases, the wants--of corporations and the wealthy over the overwhelming needs of the PEOPLE. I hold in utter contempt leaders who lie, manipulate, and break laws--yes, even international laws--to further the goals of global capitalism.

I am thankful, though, that I see evidence that my faith in America and my hope for its future is not "mere" naive idealism. I am thankful that my belief that the PEOPLE, fully informed about what is going on in the world, will choose the right course, that they may be persuaded, in contempt of their sacred trust, by lies, but that once in possession of truth, they will not maintain a rigid orthodoxy. I am thankful not so much for being an American (although I am indeed thankful for that), but for being a member of the human race, blessed by God, for no good reason, with human intelligence and critical reasoning abilities, and thankful that more and more human beings are ackowledging and using these gifts.

I am thankful, too, to God for the awesome gift of your friendship, and you and Maria and your family will be in my prayers of thanksgiving this year, as always.

But my prayers of thanksgiving this year, as always, will be tempered not by false patriotism, but by a clear view of reality. There is no free lunch--EVER. If we have inordinate gifts in America--and we do--it cannot be without the sacrificies of others, voluntary or involuntary. If Americans hold and control a disproportionate share of the world's wealth--and we do--this is an injustice that we should not be thankful for, and for which, if we leave the situation untouched, we will have to answer for to that same God we will thank tomorrow. It is sacrilegious, I think, to thank God for gifts won unjustly. Read John Paul II's 1987 encyclical Solicitudo Rei Socialis. Please read it. I also urge you to buy and read Jacques Ellul's The Presence of the Kingdom. I have used this text in classes many times. The students, after four weeks of reading, discussing, and arguing over this book, are always exhausted and down-hearted. They enter a state of utter denial. They are threatened, and feel the effects of disrupted and subverted cultural assumptions. This is the first step to real learning.

And I will say once again this Thanksgiving a prayer I say every day--many times every day--which comes from the Gospel of Luke (chapter 18, verses 9-14). Here is the passage. See if you can find the prayer:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men -- robbers, evildoers, adulterers -- or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

I pray that you will be as good as your word (for you believe that America is a "Christian" nation) and take Jesus's words to heart. Read it. Think about it. Really think about it. We have a long way to go before we can ever legitimately call ourselves a "Christian nation."

I love you, Howie. Happy Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Welcome to the New Medieval Era

The late Neil Postman, in his 1999 book, Building a Bridge to the Eighteenth Century, stood with us at the threshold of a new millennium and advised us what ideas and institutions that arose during the age of the Enlightenment we might want to consider taking with us into the 21st century. Not a decade later, we find ourselves approaching not a new Enlightenment, but a new medieval era.

Consider the following propositions:

  • Democracy, based on the free and uninhibited flow of information, liberty of thought, and freedom of speech, is quietly being replaced by “Mediacracy,” a system whereby an elite group of people either control the media, or control enough wealth to make the media an instrument to achieve their goals. Like kings, princes, and their counselors, Presidents come and Presidents go, as do Senators, Congressional Representatives, and Governors; but the ruling Mediacracy of corporations and their stockholders remains. Without enough wealth to buy a stout bullhorn, anyone of the peasantry who clings to the notion of “freedom of speech” is just mouthing empty rhetoric.

  • Information is the province of the elite, not the masses. In the middle ages, only the elite were educated to be leaders; only aristocrats and nobility were taught the classics of philosophy – Plato’s “Republic,” Aristotle’s “Poetics,” “Politics,” “Ethics,” and “de Anima,” the works of Augustine, Boethius, and Aquinas. The (narrow but constantly squeezed) “middle class” of bureaucrats and administrators were taught to read and write, but only in order to do their jobs – genuine critical thought was neither required not desired. The peasantry was entirely illiterate. What they don’t know, the elite mused, won’t hurt us.

  • Warfare is rampant and irrational. Medieval wars were fought over expansion of “turf,” over control of resources, or over religious differences. There were no wars fought, like the American Revolution, like the US Civil War, like World War II, on the basis of transcendent ideas, like “liberty,” “justice,” “equality,” or “popular sovereignty.”

  • One pledged one’s allegiance to no particular flag, constitution, or transcendent value, but to whoever kept you alive. In an age of constant fear and existential uncertainty, security was valued far beyond transcendent principles, because there were none. Torture and public executions were the norm (see medieval woodcut of waterboarding, above), and widely supported by the people. Who cares about the essential liberty of the human person when you fear for your life?

  • Armies belonged not to nations, but to aristocracies. There were no constitutions that demanded civilian control that was ultimately answerable to THE PEOPLE. No soldiers held allegiance to a nation or idea; all instead swore fealty to their overlord. That is to say, they were essentially “independent contractors.”

  • The nobility led lives of profligacy and hedonism, but made sure they were crowned and anointed by the Church. They thwarted true spirituality at every turn for the benefit of military and political advantage and, to be fair, the Church played along with the game in order to keep the protection of the sovereign.

  • Science floundered. The world was flat.

We seem, in the last seven years, to have built a bridge to neither the 21st nor the 18th centuries, but to the twelfth.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Postmodern President

Postmodernism is a peculiar thing.

There is no reality in the postmodern mindset other than my reality (or yours, or yours, or yours). All perception is subjective; all opinions are personal. Truth is not only impossible; it is counterproductive, oppressive, and intolerant. Who, after all, is to say what is true and what is not true? If something is true for me, it is true for me; your truth is your truth. As long as no one gets hurt, “it’s all good.”

Words, postmodernism tells us, are illusory and cannot express the truth. To expect that is to expect the impossible. The value of a word (or a phrase, or a sentence, or a text) cannot reside in its ability to embody truth; rather we measure the value of words by what they can accomplish, who they help and who they hurt.

Absolute values are an illusion. There can’t be absolute, universal values because objectivity is an oppressive social construct; otherwise, I might have to admit I’m wrong or take responsibility for my error.

“Grand narratives,” those mythic stories cultures tell themselves to explain who they are and why they believe the things they believe, are hurtful. They define us, and thereby limit us. They infringe on our fundamental freedom to grow, to change, to be who we want to be.

In the postmodern world – in the postmodern mind – everything is “real” and nothing is real.

And so it is in this context that we have encountered the Presidency of George W. Bush, our first postmodern President. Examples:

Science? Well, postmodernism says that scientific knowledge is nothing more than a function of the symbol system used to understand it, and therefore rejects the notion of a scientifically knowable reality. The Bush administration has been right on top of this, rejecting Kyoto, hiring industry-sponsored “scientists” to challenge global warming, championing creation “science.”

Truth? Well, being entirely personal and subjective, truth is whatever you say it is, right? For something to be “true,” it only has to make sense to me, to have meaning for me, to be useful to me. The Bush administration’s got subjectivity covered. Saddam had WMDs. Forget what the International Atomic Energy Agency, former US Weapons Inspectors, and US intelligence Agencies said. He had them. Links to al Qa’ida? They were there. Yellowcake uranium from Niger? Bingo. Nuclear program? You betcha.

Grand narratives, like the Enlightenment narrative upon which the US is founded, and which is enshrined – precariously – in our Constitution? Sovereignty vested in the people? Sure – but let’s make it difficult for some of the people to vote, or even to register. Privacy? Absolutely. Except right now, and for the next few generations, while we fight this “long war.” Due process of law? Yep. Except right now, and for the next few generations while we fight this “long war.” Protection from illegal search and seizure? Oh, yes! Except right now, while we fight…but you get the picture.

You say you don’t agree with the Bush administration? You’re intolerant. You object to wars that are based on forgeries, cherry-picked intelligence, and fabricated conspiracies? You hate America. You think that there ought to be a clear boundary between science and faith? You’re an elitist trying to maintain a privileged position of power by oppressing the weaker masses. You believe in liberty, justice, equality, truth, and the rule of law? You’re a mindless “Bush hater.”

Postmodernists, beware: as you sow, so shall you reap...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Clinton vs. Romney on the Issues (silently)

Smartest damned debate I've seen yet. Priceless postmodernism. And not one lie told!!! How refreshing.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dad.

I know I'm supposed to be writing my book, but today is kind of special. So without regard to whether anyone or no one reads this, I thought I'd just take a few moments to remember my Dad on what would have been his 96th birthday.

My Dad was -- and remains -- my hero, even though he was oh, so human. He was far from perfect. He could be argumentative, stubborn, opinionated, and occasionally prejudiced. He probably drank more than he should have (although in almost 47 years, I saw him "drunk" only once--at my oldest brother's wedding rehearsal dinner--and his personal habits surely didn't shorten his life significantly). He could be mean, though rarely (if ever) was he mean to me.

But he came to the US from Ireland in 1922 at the age of eleven (that's his passport picture on the right), and worked for the next 74 years. He worked two, sometimes three jobs at a time. He loved my mother, to whom he was married 56 years when she died in 1998. And he gave his children everything he didn't have when he was growing up--including a father.

He was the hardest working, most self-sacrificing man I've ever known. He died June 28, 2001, just a few weeks short of his 90th birthday. I miss you, Dad. And I love you still.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Taking Some Time Off...

I look at my numbers every night and I see that there are still a thousand people reading IN THE DARK every month, even though I've not been keeping up with the blog much this summer.

It's been a very busy summer, what with the McLuhan Award, my step-son's wedding, and all, and now I'm back to teaching in the second summer session at Roosevelt University. I am also working on my second book, a book I've been working on since about 1999, tentatively called "The Metaphysics of Media." I hope to finish it this year, perhaps before Christmas. I realized that, in order to do so, I have to cut back on my blogging. Believe it or not, since I began this blog in November of 2004, I have posted the equivalent of a 1,500 page book (don't believe me? Go through the archives and look).

I'll still be posting from time to time, when the spirit of a story really moves me, and I suppose I'll have to blog regularly when I teach my RU course, "The Alternative Media."

But, please, dear reader, don't forget about me; I'll be back from time to time, and it is my full and complete intention to blog regularly once again when this second book is finished and accepted by a publisher (by the way, any publishers out there that would like to read a manuscript written by a writer whose first book won the Marshall McLuhan Award for Outstanding Book in the Field of Media Ecology, please contact me).

To all,
PS: my e-mail address is Drop me a line -- I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

James Patrick Fallon, Sr., 1911-2001

James Patrick Fallon, Sr.

My Dad was my hero, even though he was oh, so human. He was far from perfect. He could be argumentative, stubborn, opinionated, and occasionally prejudiced. He probably drank more than he should have (although in almost 47 years, I saw him "drunk" only once--at my oldest brother's wedding rehearsal dinner--and his personal habits surely didn't shorten his life significantly). He could be mean, though rarely (if ever) was he mean to me.

But he came to the US from Ireland in 1922 at the age of eleven (that's his passport picture on the right), and worked for the next 74 years. He worked two, sometimes three jobs at a time. He loved my mother, to whom he was married 56 years when she died in 1998. And he gave his children everything he didn't have when he was growing up--including a father.

He was the hardest working, most self-sacrificing man I've ever known. He died six years ago today, June 28, 2001, just a few weeks short of his 90th birthday. I miss you, Dad.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Afghan Heroin Soon to be Flooding European Market

An Update on the "So-called War on Terror"TM
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This year will see a record crop of opium poppies coming out of Afghanistan, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Surprise, surprise.

Before the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, opium was the country's biggest export. But the Taliban banned the cultivation of opium poppies in 1997. The initial ban seems to have been fairly ineffectual. Afghanistan is, after all, an extremely poor country, and farmers had a steady and significant source of income in poppies. However, the Taliban instituted yet another ban in 2000, one with "teeth," and the New York Times, and other news sources, reported on the success of that ban six years ago. In the February 7, 2001 edition of the Times, Barbara Crossette reported that
Initial results from a survey of opium-growing areas of Afghanistan in recent days indicate that the Taliban may have succeeded in sharply reducing the annual poppy crop, astonished United Nations narcotics-control officials say.
On May 20, 2001 the same correspondent reported that US officials had termed the Taliban's poppy ban a "success":
The first American narcotics experts to go to Afghanistan under Taliban rule have concluded that the movement's ban on opium-poppy cultivation appears to have wiped out the world's largest crop in less than a year, officials said today.
But by October of 2001, after the events of 9/11 and immediately preceding the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, it was clear that poppy cultivation was still going on in Afghanistan, but NOT in areas controlled by the Taliban. Barry Meier, writing in the October 5, 2001 edition of the New York Times reported that

New data collected by the United Nations indicates that most opium grown in Afghanistan this year was in areas controlled by the Northern Alliance, a rebel group now being courted by the United States and its Western allies as a means to destabilizing and even toppling the ruling Taliban.

The United Nations study confirmed earlier findings by United Nations officials and United States narcotics experts that opium harvests in areas controlled by the Taliban -- said by the United Nations to be about 90 percent of Afghanistan -- have plummeted after a recent Taliban ban on the growing of opium poppies. Opium is used to produce heroin and other narcotics.

The invasion of Afghanistan at the beginning of the so-called "war on terror" probably spelled the end of the Taliban's opium poppy ban. Tim Golden in the New York Times, October 22, 2001, reported:

A highly successful government ban on the growing of opium poppies in Afghanistan, which had been by far the biggest source of opium in the world, has begun to unravel as the United States presses its war against the ruling Taliban, American and United Nations officials say.

Reports from Afghanistan received last week by the United Nations show that farmers are planting or preparing to plant opium poppies in at least two important growing areas. Recent American intelligence reports also suggest that the year-old ban may be eroding as the military assault continues, United States officials said.

None of this is to defend or excuse the Taliban for its role in the attacks of September 11, 2001, or for its extremist ideology, or for its overall influence in global terrorism. It is just to point something out that I have seen, so that you might see it and think about it too, and that is this: Wherever the US extends its influence in the developing world, drugs seem to follow.

Look at Colombia, our only real "ally" in Latin America. Despite a twenty year, US funded "war on drugs," Colombia (one of the few remaining US allies in Latin America) remains one of the biggest producers of cocaine and traffickers of heroin in the world. Some think the drug war is a facade, a reason to aid the right-wing Colombian government in its on-going guerilla war against the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a communist group who have been blamed for the drug trafficking), because "the notion of a war against drug production is eminently more marketable to U.S. politicians and voters than a post-Cold War crusade against South American Communist guerrillas."

Look at Nicaragua in the 1980s. A CIA inspector general's report, released in January, 1998, confirmed that unnamed CIA authorities had effectively blocked federal investigations of Contra drug trafficking. It also gave evidence of the complicity of William Casey and the Reagan administration by frustrating independent investigations for political reasons (this was also the era of the Iran/Contra "arms for hostages" scandal). The US under Reagan was willing to do just about everything--including tacitly allowing international drug-trafficking and giving support to terrorist insurgencies--to fight communism.

Look at Iraq, which since the US invasion has become a major distribution point for narcotics all over the world.

Now Afghanistan is once again the world's biggest supplier of heroin, and the profits from the sales of opium may be going to a right-wing terror group, the Jundullah, to fund their efforts to kidnap and kill Iranians.

Am I the only one who thinks this is wrong?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Business Week : Chavez Not So Bad For Business

An update on the "New Axis of Evil"TM
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Okay. You could hardly expect Business Week to give a ringing endorsement to a man NewsMax calls "a threat to freedom" and a "Castro wannabe," and who Pat Robertson suggested we might think about assassinating, but in this week's issue the magazine puts forward what is at worst something less than a stinging condemnation and at best an objective appraisal of Hugo Chavez and his program of investing in the poor via "21st Century Socialism."
No doubt, Venezuela is a pretty scary place to invest these days. But in some respects business is better than ever. Thanks to soaring oil revenues, Chávez is spending heavily--some $13.3 billion last year alone--to win support for his "Bolivarian Revolution." For the past three years the economy has grown at an 11%-to-12% clip, while consumption has expanded by 18% annually. The poor, 58% of all Venezuelans, have seen their meager household incomes more than double since 2004 thanks to cash stipends, subsidized food, and scholarships from the government's social-development programs. The result: Sales of everything from basics such as Coca-Cola (KO ) and Crest toothpaste to big-ticket items like Ford (F )SUVs and Mercedes-Benz (DCX ) sedans have taken off.
While the Venezuelan government has maintained modest spending on defense (Venezuela's defense spending as a percentage of gross domestic product was 1.17% in 2004, compared with our Latin American "ally" Colombia's 4.34% and the US's 3.98% of its much, much larger GDP -- source: Global Security), much of their spending goes to social welfare and edcation for the poor. Sending on the poor can nourish an economy too.
Other industries are not only putting up with Chávez but also benefiting directly from his programs. Take Intel Corp.: Sales of its microprocessors in Venezuela jumped by 15% in 2006 and look set to grow at the same pace this year as the government equips schools and public offices with new computers. In December, Caracas started a joint venture with China's Lanchao Group to manufacture low-cost machines called "Bolivarian PCs." The venture, 60% owned by Lanchao, will produce 80,000 computers in Venezuela the first year and 150,000 in 2008, including a stripped-down desktop model that will cost $450. Intel says the government alone could buy as many as 300,000 computers. "There's a lot of money in the Venezuelan market now, and it's important to take advantage of that," says Guillermo Deffit, Intel's business-development manager in Venezuela.
Look. No one says creating the conditions for true equality, shared prosperity, and global peace will be easy. And it will demand sacrifices from many. But isn't it worth trying?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Eighth Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association in Mexico City : Video of Eric Mcluhan, Awards Ceremony

MEA 8th Convention Friday Night from Robert K. Blechman on Vimeo

Unfortunately, this is long and unedited. The Awards ceremony begins about one-half hour into this clip, which is Dr. Eric McLuhan (the great media guru's son) presenting some of his own recent work. The McLuhan Award itself comes about ten or fifteen minutes into the Awards ceremony. But anyone patient enough to sit through this can hear my acceptance speech (my wife didn't feel like sitting through it all, but after all, she was there). And if not, that's cool. But here it is.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day Reality Check

An Update on the "Worst President in US History"TM
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The two latest polls show President George W. Bush's approval ratings in the gutter. A Quinnipiac University poll (June 7-11) gives the President a pathetic 28% approval, with 65% disapproving of his Presidency. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll (June 8-11) indicates about the same, with 29% approving and 66% (a full two-thirds) disapproving. In each poll, a handful of apparently comatose Americans had no opinion.

As regards the war in Iraq, a whopping 68% of Americans disapprove of the President's handling of the war, with barely more than a quarter (26%) approving. 54% believe that, since the surge, things have only gotten worse in Iraq, and 59% believe that the US should begin to reduce its troop levels there.

While Congress continues to get pretty poor approval ratings, Americans by a very wide margin (56%-32%) would like to see greater Democratic control of Congress. This is very likely a reaction to Congress's inability -- or unwillingness -- to push the Bush administation back against the wall and demand an immediate start to the redeployment of US troops from Iraq. A similar trend is evident in a Los Angeles Times poll and article that indicates that while a majority of Americans want to see a Democrat in the White House in 2008, head-to-head matchups of potential candidates show Hillary Clinton lagging behind potential GOP candidates.

And as of the moment of this writing, 3,521 US GIs have died in Iraq, not including 111 who died of self-inflicted wounds.

Happy Father's Day.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Happy 65th Anniversary, Mom and Dad

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Mom, Mary Kate Reilly from Gubadoorish, Co. Leitrim, Ireland, was the "downstairs help" in the home of some very wealthy people in Cedarhurst, NY.

Dad, James Patrick Fallon from Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo, Ireland, delivered groceries from Roulston's market in Hempstead, NY.

They met at the back door.

I miss you guys. I would love to give each of you a hug right now.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Marshall McLuhan Award for Outstanding Book in the Field of Media Ecology 2007 -- Some Pictures From the Awards Ceremony

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Thanking the MEA for the Award, I was really in something of a state of shock, even though I knew I had won the award for a month. To have one's book put in the same category as books by Neil Postman, Francis Fukuyama, and Thomas De Zengotitta was a truly surrealistic experience.

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Accepting the Award from MEA Vice President Thom Gencarelli (Iona College, New Rochelle, NY), with MEA President Lance Strate (Fordham University, NY) looking on.

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Janet Sternberg, Thom Gencarelli, and Lance Strate -- all alumni of NYU's Media Ecology program and students of Neil Postman, Terrence Moran, Christine Nystrom, and Henry Perkinson -- listen as I give NYU, the Media Ecology program, and its 1980s-1990s faculty their due props.

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The award winners who were present on Friday night included (from left) Anne Pym (top 2007 convention paper), Adriana Braga (Harold A. Innis Award for Outstanding Thesis or Dissertation), Octavio Islas (Louis Forsdale Award for Outstanding Educator in Media Ecology), Donna Flayhan (Jacques Ellul Award for Outstanding Activism in Media Ecology), Philip Marchand (James W. Carey Award for Outstanding Media Ecology Journalism), Corey Anton (Walter Benjamin Award for Outstanding Article in Media Ecology), Dr. Fallon, Jay David Bolter (Walter J. Ong Award for Career Achievement in Scholarship), and Eric McLuhan (Neil Postman Award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity).

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After the conference, I got a chance to tell Dr. Eric McLuhan how much it meant to me for my book to win an award named in his father's honor.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Marshall McLuhan Award for Outstanding Book in the Field of Media Ecology 2007

I am very excited to announce that my book Printing, Literacy, and Education in Eighteenth Century Ireland : Why the Irish Speak English (Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2006) has won the Marshall McLuhan Award for Outstanding Book in the Field of Media Ecology for 2007.

I've actually known about this for about a month, but the award wasn't made public until this past weekend at the Eighth Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association in Mexico City, where I was invited to present a paper based on my book.

This is, as you might be able to imagine, a thrill for me. McLuhan's Understanding Media was one of the first books on mass media -- probably the first book -- I ever read when I was discovering my fascination with mediated communication as a young college freshman in 1972. I never got to meet McLuhan, but his son -- and a media scholar in his own right -- Eric McLuhan was on hand at the award ceremony, and I got the opportunity to express to him what a humbling experience it was to win an award honoring his father.

I studied in NYU's Media Ecology program under one of McLuhan's proteges, Neil Postman, who died in 2003. Neil was not my mentor, I was not his protege. In fact, we didn't see eye to eye on a lot of things (He was not crazy about my writing -- he found it "florid" and verbose -- and he was right. I'm still working on it...), but he was a friend, and he encouraged me, and when I first presented my raw research for this book at a conference at Trinity College, Dublin in 1990, he paid me the ultimate compliment. "Peter," he said, "now you are a scholar." I wish he had been there on Friday evening.

My wife Mary Pat encouraged me to take this dusty old manuscript (I actually completed it in 1996, but life has a way of interfering with your plans) and get it published, and I am grateful to her for her support and her love.

But I really want to acknowledge the guidance, support, and wisdom of Prof. Christine Nystrom, formerly of NYU's Media Ecology program. In so many ways she was the inspiration for this book. When I really want to flatter myself, I tell myself that this would be the type of book Chris would write if she were writing a book about printing, literacy, and education in eighteenth century Ireland. Chris was and is a far better writer than I am -- and a far better thinker -- but I like to think that I learned something about the grace of language from Chris, and I hope that this is true.

The roll of recipients of the Marshall McLuhan Award include:

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Watch for Dr. Fallon on a Webcast Friday Evening

I'm off to Mexico City for the weekend to attend the eighth annual conference of the Media Ecology Association. I've been invited to present a paper based on my book, Printing, Literacy, and Education in Eighteenth Century Ireland : Why the Irish Speak English. The book has been nominated for a number of awards, and I'm feeling pretty good about its chances.

If you're interested, Friday evening at 7:00 pm (CDT -- 1:00 am Saturday Greenwich mean time) there is an awards ceremony being webcast from the conference (actually, the entire conference has been webcast). You can find it by clicking this link. You'll need Windows Media Player to view the webcast.

Well, even if my book doesn't win anything, I'll be there. But, as I said, I'm feeling pretty confident about its chances. So tune in and see if I get to make an acceptance speech. Hey, I know, it's not the Oscars....

And I'll be back Monday with a full report.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

After Blocking Transmissions of 3 TV Stations, Musharraf Puts Hundreds of Political Activists in Prison

An Update on "The Good Guys"TM, America's Asian Allies in the (so-called) "War on Terror"
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After blocking the transmissions of the three major television stations in Pakistan, unelected coup-leader and dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf has had hundreds of political activists of opposition parties thrown in jail in Punjab province.

Siddiqul Farooq, a spokesman for the Pakistan Muslim League of former prime minister Sharif Nawaz said that authorities have been raiding homes of activists since last night and have arrested many people. He said that he are trying to ascertain how many exactly, but information available points out that it could be nearly a thousand.

The arrests were aimed at preventing party workers from turning out for the suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary's planned June 16 visit to Faisalabad, Farooq said adding "The Government is feeling threatened by the public response to the Chief Justice."

Are you following this? The arrests were not at some protest that turned violent. The arrests took place before any protest or rally even began. These are the "good guys," shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States of America, standing up for democracy and freedom.

What has happened to us?

The Difference Between Musharraf and Chavez

An Update on the "New Axis of Evil"TM
An Update on the "So-called War on Terror"TM
An Update on the "Worst President in US History"TM
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I don't know if this is funny or sad. I know I'm disturbed by it.

In case you haven't heard, the "liberal" mainstream US media are having a field day with the Venezuelan government's refusal to renew the license of a broadcast network -- RCTV -- whose owner, Marcel Granier, was implicated in the economic sabotage of 2003 as well as the 2003 coup against President Hugo Chavez. When the coup failed due to overwhelming democratic opposition and Chavez was returned to power, Granier's RCTV and the other commercial stations ran old Hollywood movies and cartoons.

RCTV was not "shut down" by Chavez -- the twice-democratically elected and legitimate President of Venezuela. The Venezuelan government refused to renew their license because, well, they simply weren't serving the public interest. If Bob Wright and NBC's parent company, General Electric, conspired to overthrow a US President, would it be wrong to refuse to renew licenses?

So Condoleezza Rice wagged her finger at Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro today over Venezuela's refusal to renew RCTV's license. She told a meeting of the Organization of American States in Panama that

Freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of conscience are not a thorn in the side of government. Disagreeing with your government is not unpatriotic and most certainly should not be a crime in any country, especially a democracy.
The irony is delicious. Freedom of speech is GREAT if it is pro-global, unregulated, laissez faire, (so-called) "free-market" capitalist speech. If it is anti-global, unregulated, laissez faire, (so-called) "free-market" capitalist speech, then, well, whatever. Maybe it's okay. Whatever. Maybe it's un-American. I don't know. Whatever. And disagreeing with your government is GREAT if your government is trying to regulate the effects of capitalism within society. If you happen to think that an invasion of a sovereign state who had not threatened you and posed no threat -- immediate or otherwise -- to you, and which invasion was based on lies and probably illegal according to international law is a bad thing, well, whatever. You're probably a communist or something.

So I find it interesting that the "liberal" mainstream US media are not jumping all over the fact that our "ally" in Pakistan, the anti-democratic dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has updated an ordinance that gives him the power to have any building shut down if HE believes an illegal transmission is being aired, and gives him the power to cancel the license of any TV channel he chooses. Oh, and did I mention that the government was already blocking the transmission of the three leading TV stations in Pakistan, because they have been covering the civil unrest surrounding Musharraf's firing of the Chief Justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court?
Why are we supporting this guy? And this is not a Republican/Democrat thing, either. Even the Democrats in the US support Musharraf. No, this is another conflict between global, unregulated, laissez faire, (so-called) "free-market" capitalism, and anything else. It might be directed against Socialism, sure. But it is just as much directed against the kind of capitalism that was practiced in the United States from the time of the New Deal until the trickle-down, supply-side, de-regulated Reagan years.

This is why the late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II called Soviet Communism and unregulated Capitalism morally equivalent evils.

Meanwhile, the man that George W. Bush said was America's most wanted, the man Bush said we'd get "dead or alive" before he flip-flopped and decided he wasn't really very much interested in him, the man who was behind the most brutal attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor, Osama bin Laden, is alive and well and living in Pakistan, according to the Taliban. Under the protection, no doubt, of Pervez Musharraf.

What has happened to this country I love so much? Why are we not clamoring in the streets to

Monday, June 04, 2007

Retired US Army Gen. Ricardo Sanchez : Forget About "Victory" in Iraq

An Update on the "Worst President in US History"TM
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Ricardo Sanchez, the man who led US and coalition forces during the first year of the occupation of Iraq says that the very idea of "victory" in this war is impossible. Like the Iraq Study Group report, Sanchez called the situation there "bleak" and blamed it on “the abysmal performance in the early stages and the transition of sovereignty.”
I think if we do the right things politically and economically with the right Iraqi leadership we could still salvage at least a stalemate, if you will — not a stalemate but at least stave off defeat.
In an interview with the French news agency AFP -- his first interview since retiring last year -- Sanchez took a dim view of American political and military leadership.

I am absolutely convinced that America has a crisis in leadership at this time. We’ve got to do whatever we can to help the next generation of leaders do better than we have done over the past five years, better than what this cohort of political and military leaders have done.
What is interesting about this story -- aside from its overt content -- is the fact that the first and one of the dominant military commanders during our occupation of Iraq is interviewed in San Antonio, Texas, by a major global news agency (an agency that US media use all the time), that he makes a statement like this, and no US media outlets are publishing it. As of this writing, I have found this story on only the following websites:

The Khaleej Times (United Arab Emirates)
Middle-East On-line (United Kingdom)
Focus News (Bulgaria)
Dispatch Online (South Africa)
News 24 (South Africa)
Independent On-Line (South Africa)
Daily Times (Pakistan)
Alsumaria (Iraq)
Gulf Times (Qatar)
Alalam (Iran)

I guess that the "liberal" media are trying to hide this story for some nefariously "liberal" reason.

Meanwhile, following the first two-month period of our occupation during which more than 100 Americans died in each month (104 in April and 127 in May -- the third highest number of US deaths in the 52 months since the invasion), another 14 Americans were killed in Iraq today, bringing the total for the first four days of June to 31.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Pentagon Chief : To Fight Terrorism, Fight Poverty

For some time now, right-winger have been telling me (here and here) that it is nonsense to think that terrorism has anything to do with poverty or social/economic injustice. And the only way to fight terrorism, they say, is with military force. Do I have that right, Howie?
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Well, the United States Department of Defense, also known as the Pentagon, disagrees with you, right-wingers. Speaking at an Asian security conference in Singapore today, Robert Gates said that military action alone is not sufficient to end terrorism.

Gates declined to say who was winning the U.S.-led war on terror when asked during a question-and-answer session at an Asian security conference in Singapore.

But he said it was crucial to do more to address the root causes of terrorism, such as poverty and the rule by despotic regimes, which often leads those affected to turn to extremist groups.

Is reality finally seeping into Pentagon thinking? Will the Bush administration be moved by the force of logic? Will Dick Cheney's heart be thawed by his daughter and daughter-in-law's new baby?


It is, perhaps, Bob Gates's "momentary lapse of reason."

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

No Surprise, Right Wing Lies : Documents Show Valerie Plame was Covert CIA Operative at the Time of White House Leak

The right-wing has been insisting that Valerie Plame was not a covert operative since someone in the White House leaked her name to Robert Novak almost four years ago. Of course, to knowingly identify a covert CIA operative would be a felony under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, passed as a result of the assassination of CIA operative Richard Welch in Athens in 1975, who himself had been outed by Counterspy, a renegade magazine that called for the "neutralization" of spies by taking away their cloak of secrecy. So, of course, the last thing the right-wing in the US would want to admit is that Plame was, in fact, covert.

Guess what? Valerie Plame was, in fact, covert. A covert CIA operative. At the time of the leak. Translation: someone in the White House committed a felony. To read the three-page document for yourself, see it here, at Salon's "Primary Sources."
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In Federal Court on Tuesday, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald filed a summary of declassified CIA information that proves that Plame was an active spy, and not, as many on the right have disparagingly remarked, a mere "desk jockey." So, all the defensive posturing, the name-calling, and the disparaging was another example of (surprise!!!) the right-wing LYING TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE!!!

Who'd have thought it???

UPDATE : 116 US Dead -- So Far -- in Iraq in May

An Update on the "Worst President in US History"TM
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With a day yet to go, US deaths in Iraq in May have reached 116, exceeding the 104 in the 30 days of April, 2007. That brings the total US Death toll to 3,467. Add to that an estimated 398 American mercenaries (or, as they're euphemistically called, "contractors"), and you've got a total of 3,865. Three months into the so-called "surge," this is the third deadliest month for US troops in the fifty-one months since the US invasion, and the first time in the four years of the war that US deaths have exceeded 100 two months in a row.

Call, write, e-mail your Congressional representatives today and

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Media Ecology Makes Its Way into Mass Consciousness Via Pop Culture

This was sent to me by someone who has seen my YouTube page and liked the media ecology-related videos. It turns out he is a McLuhan/Postman fan (by interest, not be training). He has a pretty good idea of what is wrong with post-modern culture -- as does Al Gore (see also here), and Roger Waters. I think it is worth looking at. Take a look, too, at The Spectacle's website, and drop them a note to tell them what you think. Tell 'em Dr. Fallon sent you.

By the way, Eric Goodman is the creative genius behind The Spectacle, having written the music and lyrics, and editing this video.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Commencement Round-up: Former Bush Chief-of-Staff Andrew Card Booed Off Stage at UMass; Cheney at West Point Says "Screw Geneva Conventions"

Both grads and faculty wore signs protesting Card's presence. One banner read "Criminals go home." The theme of the day was "Honor grads; Dis-Card."


Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney told graduating Cadets at West Point that the Geneva conventions should not apply to the (so-called) "war on terror." This comes at a time, bizarre and surreal, that West Point instructors are having difficulty persuading cadets that US soldiers ought to be better than terrorists.

Recently, West Point instructors have complained of the difficulty of persuading Army cadets to adhere to the principles of the Geneva Conventions in the war on terrorism. A February article in the New Yorker highlighted a dialog on the problem between West Point's dean and Joel Surnow, producer of the hit Fox television program '24.'

"This past November, U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, flew to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind '24,'" wrote Jane Mayer in the magazine. "Finnegan, who is a lawyer, has for a number of years taught a course on the laws of war to West Point seniors - cadets who would soon be commanders in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. He always tries, he said, to get his students to sort out not just what is legal but what is right. However, it had become increasingly hard to convince some cadets that America had to respect the rule of law and human rights, even when terrorists did not. One reason for the growing resistance, he suggested, was misperceptions spread by '24,' which was exceptionally popular with his students. As he told me, 'The kids see it, and say, ''If torture is wrong, what about '24?''"

Saturday, May 26, 2007

More Than 100 US Dead -- So Far -- in Iraq in May

For the second month in a row, US deaths in Iraq have exceeded 100, with 117 in the 30 days of April, 2007, and 106 in the 26 days so far of May, 2007. That brings the total US Death toll to 3,452. Add to that an estimated 398 American mercenaries (or, as they're euphemistically called, "contractors"), and you've got a total of 3,850. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
This is the first time in the four years of the war that US deaths have exceeded 100 two months in a row. Just like the war itself, the "surge" is working nicely. Don't you think?

Senate Report : CIA Told White House Before US Invasion That Iraq War Would Go Bad, Create a Haven for Al Qa'ida, and Embolden Iran

An Update on the "So-called War on Terror"TM
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According to a report released Friday (that hole-in-the-newscycle when no one is paying any attention) by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the CIA warned the White House as early as January 2003 that a US invasion would ignite sectarian violence, give al Qa'ida an opportunity to gain a foothold in Iraq, and embolden Iran to assert its influence further in the middle east.

Are you listening, Howie?

So let me get this straight: the White House knew beforehand, according to the Pentagon, that there was no evidence of WMDs, no evidence that al Qa'ida was operating in Iraq, and that there was no evidence of Iraqi complicity in 9/11; we also knew that an invasion would break Iraq into pieces, spread terrorism, and widen Iran's influence. Do I have that correctly?

So I have two questions:

1] What are we doing there?
2] When are we going to have the courage to IMPEACH BUSH???

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Poll : Lugo Ahead in Paraguay

An update on the "New Axis of Evil"TM
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Fernando Lugo, a former Roman Catholic Bishop of a poverty-stricken Paraguayan Diocese, yet still strongly influenced by the "liberation theology" of the Latin American Catholic Church of the 1980s, maintains the lead in the race for Paraguay's 2008 Presidential election.

Lugo, "the Bishop of the poor," is leading all other candidates -- including that of the ruling Colorado party, likely to be current President Nicanor Duarte Frutos. The Colorado Party is the party of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, the right-wing autocrat who ruled Paraguay as a dictatorship for 35 years, from 1954 through 1989.

Lugo is supported by nearly forty-one percent of the respondents in a poll taken by COIN/Ultima Hora. The candidate of the ruling "Colorado Party" (National Republican Association -- ANR), Luis Castiglioni, was preferred by 16.3%.

The View From Pakistan : US Harbors Terror

How ironic.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Venezuela : Extradite Terrorist Posada to the OAS

An update on the "New Axis of Evil"TM
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Well, as you are probably aware, a Federal Court released terror mastermind Luis Posada Carilles on bail this month pending his trial on illegally entering the country. I'm sure you've been following the story closely in the mainstream media, right? Astounding.

President Bush in a speech to the United Nations some months after the US invasion of Iraq (9/23/03), reminded nations of their responsibilities in bringing terrorists to justice. To shirk those responsibilities in a post-9/11 world, he said, was tantamount to aiding and abetting terrorism.
All governments that support terror are complicit in a war against civilization.

Well, Venezuela says they are serious about those obligations, and since the US won't extradite Posada to either Venezuela or Cuba (ironically because the Bush adminitrsation says the 79 year old may be tortured), then extradite him to the Organization of Amercan States, all of whom have made committments to cooperate with the United States to fight terror.
Fulfillment of the commitments made by the states concerning anti-terrorist efforts, including trial or, as appropriate, extradition of the masterminds of terrorist acts, is an ethical duty and a golden rule in hemispheric cooperation.
Unfortunately, Bush can ignore this suggestion and there will be no public outcry, because the "liberal" media are doing their best to ignore this entire story. But whenever he holds up a picture of some other terror mastermind, the "left-wing" media will be all over it.

Do justice a favor: write a letter to the editor of your local paper and urge them to follow this story and to report on it regularly. Don't let America remain IN THE DARK.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Al Gore : Media Ecologist

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This comes from former Vice President Al Gore's new book, The Assault on Reason, excerpted in this week's TIME magazine. I post these excerpts here for a number of reasons: 1] it is inherently newsworthy; 2] it makes use -- deliberately or not -- of principles of the field of Media Ecology (and I have reason to believe that this use was deliberate); 3] he makes many of the same points as I do here in this blog, noting that people of good will will "do the right thing" when they are in possession of good information; and 4] Gore demonstrates once again that he is, beyond question, one of the most intelligent people in the public sphere today. The man ought to be president!!!

He begins by lamenting the nature of politics in the post-modern United States (all emphases throughout these excerpts are mine):

..."Why do reason, logic and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important decisions?" The persistent and sustained reliance on falsehoods as the basis of policy, even in the face of massive and well-understood evidence to the contrary, seems to many Americans to have reached levels that were previously unimaginable....

American democracy is now in danger—not from any one set of ideas, but from unprecedented changes in the environment within which ideas either live and spread, or wither and die. I do not mean the physical environment; I mean what is called the public sphere, or the marketplace of ideas....

While American television watchers were collectively devoting 100 million hours of their lives each week to these and other similar stories (O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, Laci Peterson, Robert Blake, Paris Hilton, etc.), our nation was in the process of more quietly making what future historians will certainly describe as a series of catastrophically mistaken decisions on issues of war and peace, the global climate and human survival, freedom and barbarity, justice and fairness. For example, hardly anyone now disagrees that the choice to invade Iraq was a grievous mistake. Yet, incredibly, all of the evidence and arguments necessary to have made the right decision were available at the time and in hindsight are glaringly obvious....

Gore comes perilously close to writing the book I've been writing for the last several years, and it is certainly on my reading list. I look forward to its publication, even if (or, perhaps, especially if) it replicates my own ideas. His book will certainly get a far wider reading than anything I might ever write could, and his message (and mine) is too important to be left IN THE DARK.

Our Founders' faith in the viability of representative democracy rested on their trust in the wisdom of a well-informed citizenry, their ingenious design for checks and balances, and their belief that the rule of reason is the natural sovereign of a free people. The Founders took great care to protect the openness of the marketplace of ideas so that knowledge could flow freely. Thus they not only protected freedom of assembly, they made a special point—in the First Amendment—of protecting the freedom of the printing press. And yet today, almost 45 years have passed since the majority of Americans received their news and information from the printed word. Newspapers are hemorrhaging readers. Reading itself is in decline. The Republic of Letters has been invaded and occupied by the empire of television....
Gore makes it pretty clear that not only is he familiar with the works of Neil Postman, founder of the NYU's Media Ecology program, but he is also familiar with the principles regarding the operation of media and their consequences for the user:

In the world of television, the massive flows of information are largely in only one direction, which makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part in what passes for a national conversation. Individuals receive, but they cannot send. They hear, but they do not speak. The "well-informed citizenry" is in danger of becoming the "well-amused audience." Moreover, the high capital investment required for the ownership and operation of a television station and the centralized nature of broadcast, cable and satellite networks have led to the increasing concentration of ownership by an ever smaller number of larger corporations that now effectively control the majority of television programming in America.

In practice, what television's dominance has come to mean is that the inherent value of political propositions put forward by candidates is now largely irrelevant compared with the image-based ad campaigns they use to shape the perceptions of voters....

As a result, our democracy is in danger of being hollowed out. In order to reclaim our birthright, we Americans must resolve to repair the systemic decay of the public forum. We must create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future. We must stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science. We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo-studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public's ability to discern the truth. Americans in both parties should insist on the re-establishment of respect for the rule of reason....

Gore then invokes the name of one of the founding fathers -- certainly the best known of the founding fathers -- of the entire field of media studies:

To understand the final reason why the news marketplace of ideas dominated by television is so different from the one that emerged in the world dominated by the printing press, it is important to distinguish the quality of vividness experienced by television viewers from the "vividness" experienced by readers. Marshall McLuhan's description of television as a "cool" medium—as opposed to the "hot" medium of print—was hard for me to understand when I read it 40 years ago, because the source of "heat" in his metaphor is the mental work required in the alchemy of reading. But McLuhan was almost alone in recognizing that the passivity associated with watching television is at the expense of activity in parts of the brain associated with abstract thought, logic, and the reasoning process. Any new dominant communications medium leads to a new information ecology in society that inevitably changes the way ideas, feelings, wealth, power and influence are distributed and the way collective decisions are made....
Or, as McLuhan put it, "the medium is the message." And the consequences (the "message") of the social change brought about by television on a democratic polity have been dire:

Many young Americans now seem to feel that the jury is out on whether American democracy actually works or not. We have created a wealthy society with tens of millions of talented, resourceful individuals who play virtually no role whatsoever as citizens.
I would go a step further here and suggest that one of the consequences of the commoditization of information and the increasing commercialization of what is actually and ought to be seen as the uniquely human activity -- communication -- is that we have ceased to even see ourselves as citizens. We are now nothing more than consumers -- consumers not in a marketplace of ideas, but of impressions.

Bringing these people in—with their networks of influence, their knowledge, and their resources—is the key to creating the capacity for shared intelligence that we need to solve our problems....

Fortunately, the Internet has the potential to revitalize the role played by the people in our constitutional framework. It has extremely low entry barriers for individuals. It is the most interactive medium in history and the one with the greatest potential for connecting individuals to one another and to a universe of knowledge. It's a platform for pursuing the truth, and the decentralized creation and distribution of ideas, in the same way that markets are a decentralized mechanism for the creation and distribution of goods and services. It's a platform, in other words, for reason....

The democratization of knowledge by the print medium brought the Enlightenment. Now, broadband interconnection is supporting decentralized processes that reinvigorate democracy. We can see it happening before our eyes: As a society, we are getting smarter. Networked democracy is taking hold. You can feel it. We the people—as Lincoln put it, "even we here"—are collectively still the key to the survival of America's democracy.

Why isn't this man President?

The next time you hear someone taking a shot at Gore because he is "wooden," or "stiff," or "boring," the next time you hear them parroting claims that are just not true, but have been repeated so many times -- on television -- that lazy-minded people believe them, rest assured in the knowledge that you are dealing with one of those very same lazy-minded people -- TV people. And then learn about your world, and vote for candidates that will make it better.

Democracy pointless? Only if you believe it to be.