Homework, After More Than a Decade

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Today, for the first time in years, I had a homework assignment due.  When I say years, I mean more than a decade.  I have no idea what sort of grade I will receive for my work, but I enjoyed doing it.  This assignment was to attend an event and report on it as if I was writing a piece for a newspaper.  Not an easy thing for me as a blogger who enjoys a lot of freedom to editorialize all I want, and as a novelist who has the power to kill off any character that disagrees with me.  But the challenge is what made it so fun.

I chose an event that I thought would be interesting to me personally, but also worth writing about here at seeking redress.  I chose to ‘report’ on a presentation given in Bend, Oregon, on October 6, 2016, by the Rural Organizing Project.  There is a lot I would like to say about this presentation, about the atmosphere in the room, about the security team present, about this organization, about the responses I heard afterwards…but that was not the purpose of this assignment, so maybe another time.

I really wanted to focus on something positive that I saw during this event.  So, for my homework assignment, this is what I reported:

Community members come together in spite of differences to discuss solutions to common rural problems.

October 7, 2016

By Katie Aguilera

The Rural Organizing Project gave a presentation Thursday night in Bend at the Nativity Lutheran Church as part of their statewide “Beyond Burns: the Growing Patriot Movement” tour.  Following the presentation and a short question and answer session, members of the audience were divided into smaller groups to discuss the issues presented.

This led to a positive exchange between Central Oregon residents concerned about the Patriot and militia movements and leaders of several Oregon Patriot groups.  Both groups agreed they share more common ground than expected after talking with each other.  In spite of their different opinions, all agreed that further dialogue about solutions to local problems was both possible and necessary.

The presentation was given by Jessica Campbell, co-director of the Rural Organizing Project.  The problems she discussed included the lack of funding for basic services like emergency dispatch services, full time law enforcement services, the lack of jobs, and more.  Campbell explained how these often lead to numerous problems, including a growing sense of discontent and disenfranchisement in rural communities.

Campbell explained how Patriot and militia groups seek to fill these voids in order to spread their message and recruit new members.  These groups often organize community service projects to gain support and also work to get politicians supportive of their goals elected to local offices.

A brief introduction of various groups such as the Oath Keepers, Oregon Three Percenters, Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, and the Pacific Patriots Network was given.  Campbell went on to discuss confrontations that have occurred between these groups and law enforcement over the past two years, from Cliven Bundy’s standoff with the Bureau of Land Management in Bunkerville, Nevada in 2014 over cattle grazing fees, to the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon earlier this year.

Another confrontation Campbell discussed occurred near Galice, Oregon, at a mine known as the Sugar Pine Mine, where various militia groups sought to prevent the Bureau of Land Management from shutting down operations at the mine.  This incident, occurring near Campbell’s hometown of Cottage Grove, brought the growing movements to Campbell’s attention, and led to Rural Organizing Project’s partnering with Political Research Associates of Somerville, Massachusetts, to co-produce the report, “Up In Arms: A Guide To Oregon’s Patriot Movement.”

People attended the presentation for various reasons.  Connie (Smith*) of Bend, said she came because she is concerned about the “mainstreaming of the [Patriot] movement,” and explained that while it is easy to recognize a member of a militia visually, it isn’t easy to recognize politicians supportive of the movement who are running for office.

Kathleen Brady, of Redmond, said she came to learn about the Rural Organizing Project.  She said she felt that much of the information presented was factually flawed, and while there was common ground between the Rural Organizing Project members and the Patriot movement, the methods of creating dialogue at the meeting were seriously lacking.

Bj Soper, also of Redmond, and founder of the Central Oregon Constitutional Guard and co-founder of the Pacific Patriots Network, said a lot of information was left out of the presentation, specifically in regards to the Sugar Pine Mine incident and another incident discussed that occurred at a mine in Montana.  However, he agreed the community could work together to solve problems faced by rural areas, stating, “we’re crazy not to try.”

The Rural Organizing Project was formed in 1993 in an effort to promote liberal democracy in what has largely been considered conservative rural areas of the state.  It began as a network of over 40 human dignity groups and formed a permanent staff to facilitate local organizing, communication, and political analysis.

The group will host four more presentations around the state, in Canyon City on October 7, Baker City on October 8, Lostine on October 9, and finally La Grande on October 10.  More information about the group can be found on their website at www.rop.org.

*I neglected to ask Connie her last name while speaking with her.

 

Questioning the News

 

The reporting on the Malheur refuge occupation in Harney County has, for me, been a perfect example of how corporate news networks manipulate the narrative of events to fit their own position on the issues and people involved. Admittedly, I have questioned corporate media for a very long time, for many reasons.  Perhaps it started for me with the way events were covered between September 2001 and March of 2003.  Confusion, lies and omissions, controlling (and co-opting) the narrative, and what do you know, endless war resulted.  There have been so many big events since (and before) then that show the same patterns in the media as the narrative is spun to portray a story a certain way.  So, the way the narrative in Harney County has been spun hasn’t surprised me, but it has been an up close view of the process.

With this situation taking place so close to home, I have had the opportunity to communicate with some of the people involved.  I have had the opportunity to learn about the underlying issues, to try and get a genuine understanding of why the protests and occupation happened.  Now, I certainly don’t expect everyone to come away from this story changing everything about their own opinions on the matter.  I don’t expect people to agree on every aspect of the issues involved.  It is, after all, a tangled combination of complicated and sensitive matters.  But, what I do expect, or rather, what I would like to be able to expect, is some honest reporting.

It has been sadly lacking, both in the mainstream media and the alternative media.  There have been some honest and unbiased stories here and there, scattered throughout a wide range of sources.  I’ll specifically shout out to Oregon Public Broadcasting here who’s reporters have followed the story closely.  But the good coverage was often buried in avalanches of speculation, distortion, name-calling, and outright hatred.  Social media has played an increasing role in this as well.  On one hand, social media has given us a platform to communicate with people involved in these stories and to share what we learn.  On the other hand, in what appears to me to be a desperate attempt to keep their stranglehold on the narrative by the media, it has become a place to whip the hateful and divisive rhetoric into a frenzy.

What is perhaps even more notable to me as I’ve followed the story obsessively, is the meticulous avoidance by the mainstream media of any perspectives that challenge the narrative the federal government has an interest in maintaining.  After all, if it isn’t in the news on TV, we Americans won’t bother to look at or think about it.  On the flip side, what has stood out to me in the alternative media is the sensationalizing and manipulations of the facts, and the constant repetitions of false information.  Again, social media, with all of its clever algorithms, plays a powerful role in this.

How many have taken the time to look beyond our own assumptions about the Malheur refuge occupation and the shooting of Robert Lavoy Finicum?  How many have bothered to challenge the media’s presentation, whether mainstream or alternative, of the story rather than simply allowing it to shape or reinforce our own perspectives?

Can we not see that an inability, or unwillingness to question the distorted narrative handed to us will only lead to more excessive police force, more ambushes conveniently hidden from public view?  More lies about safe drinking water?  More invasions of foreign lands, more slaughtering of countless civilians?  More division, more laws, more repression?  Have we become so hopelessly detached from reality that we can’t see that every American is losing rights?  The front line is different for all of us, but the enemy is the same.

You may not see or feel it yet.  It may not have touched your life yet, and your news might not be telling you about it yet.  I wonder at what point the citizens of Germany woke up to the tyranny of the Nazi regime?  I doubt the media in Germany in the 1930’s and 1940’s was doing much reporting on all the atrocities being committed by the Nazis.  And the same can be said for our own media today when it comes to the atrocities being committed by the US government.

I’m sickened by that fact.  Rather than bowing to the government’s narrative, or acting as advertising for mega-corporations, the press is supposed to report the truth.  The press is supposed to investigate all angles and ask the hard questions.  The press is supposed to be a weapon for the people to wield to maintain transparency and accountability within our government.

The press isn’t supposed to be info-tainment to benefit corporate or political interests.

We can do better.  We need to do better.  And we can’t wait any longer.  Let’s start asking the hard questions in order to get to the truth in any story.  Let’s push our lawmakers to confront the hard questions in order to make positive changes.  Let’s make the Tamir Rices, Eric Garners, Lavoy Finicums, lead-poisoned Flint families, PTSD suffering Veterans, homeless, under-educated children, victims of wars of aggression, victims of excessive prison sentences…WE THE PEOPLE relevant again.

 

Author’s Note:  this post has been edited from its original version to remove content that promoted Newsbud, as well as to reflect changes in my own perspectives.  If you want to read the original version, contact me.

Tackling the Lies With Newsbud

Author’s Note:  I am no longer affiliated with Newsbud and I no longer endorse the website.  I have thought long and hard about deleting this post.  And, in fact, I have deleted other posts here at Seeking Redress that promoted Newsbud.*  I still stand by much of what I wrote in this post concerning the major cable news networks, and that has only added to the difficulty in whether or not to delete this post.  In the end, I’ve decided to keep it posted, with this note as a prologue, for several reasons.  One of the most important of those reasons is that this post still gets views, and because of that, hopefully it can be a useful starting point for the viewers to begin questioning the sources of their information.  We all get it wrong sometimes, but there are far too many sites out there getting it wrong nearly all the time because wrong information is sensational, and therefore profitable.  Please read my post, When You Don’t Make The Cult for more on why I no longer support Newsbud.

*If it bothers you that I’ve deleted these posts and you want to know what they contained, just ask.  I’ve deleted them because I don’t want to maintain any other Newsbud promoting content here beyond this post.

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I recently had a conversation with an acquaintance about school curriculum that somehow came around to the news.  She mentioned that she doesn’t really pay any attention to news, and with an apologetic look, she said she doesn’t even listen to NPR.  As if I would think less of her for that.  I wanted to laugh.  I wanted to say, “don’t bother.”  Why?  Because the big network news outlets are owned by a very few and controlled by their advertisers’ and owners’ interests.  And because the so-called public NPR has a long list of corporate sponsors who have strong financial interests in suppressing information.

With Dow Chemical on that list, I don’t expect to see a whole lot of investigative reporting on the effects of pesticide use in agriculture is having on our health, and our planet.  With GlaxoSmithKline on that list, I don’t expect to see a lot of investigative reports on pharmaceuticals, vaccines, or alternative medicine.  With General Dynamics on the list, I don’t expect too much questioning of drone warfare.  You get the idea.

I used to be a dedicated NPR listener.  I never bothered to look into their funding, and like many people I know, I thought NPR was the definition of alternative media.  I respected the reporters and commentators, I trusted the information.  But as my questions grew, and theirs did not, I began to realize that, no matter how one feels about the political bias that exists in the mainstream media outlets, it is often the lack of reporting that is most ominous.  Amidst all the left/right squabbling and loud corporate advertising, there is a deafening silence on crimes the US government and its mega and military corporation cronies are committing here and around the world.  There is no accountability as the media carefully avoids biting the hands that feed it.

Margaret Kimberly says it well while discussing the media’s treatment of the situation in Syria.

The degree to which the American corporate media will cover up for American foreign policy atrocities knows no bounds. The country’s leading newspapers and broadcasters have supported every official lie from Lyndon Johnson’s Gulf of Tonkin resolution in Vietnam to George W. Bush’s claim of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

A good example is how we were led to believe Iraq was involved in the attacks of 9/11, and subsequently led into the Iraq war. I found the media’s all-to-successful selling of the Iraq invasion disturbing in 2003.  As this truthout.org article describes:

In the days and weeks leading up to the invasion of Iraq, corporate media – and even NPR and PBS – were abuzz with the talking points of the Bush Administration, echoing claims that Iraq had its hands on “yellow cake uranium” and that it had a massive arsenal of “weapons of mass destruction.”

Thanks to the media’s repeated claims that Iraq and Saddam Hussein were immediate threats to our nation, in the weeks leading up to the invasion, nearly three-quarters of Americans believed the lie promoted by Donald Rumsfeld that Saddam Hussein was somehow involved in the attacks of 9/11.

Even more disturbing to me is the lack of accountability for those lies, lies that have led to years of war and the loss of countless lives since 2003.  They peddle the lies, and maybe sometimes they have to say, “oops,” but they are never held responsible for the results.  They just distract us with gossip and move on to the next lie.  And unfortunately, the lies and distractions work to manipulate the masses.  In an article about the writings of Thomas Paine and how the media suppresses such ideas today, Stephen Lendman has this to say:

Today in the US, the major media are nothing short of a national thought-control police. They’re owned or controlled by dominant large corporations (the kind Noam Chomsky calls “private tyrannies”) grown increasingly concentrated over time and having a stranglehold over the kinds of information reaching the public. It’s given them and the interests they represent the power to destroy the free marketplace of ideas essential to a healthy democracy now on life support in large measure because of how effective they are.

and

Uruguayan author and historian Eduardo Galeano cites a large part of the problem saying: “I am astonished….by the ignorance of the (US) population, which knows almost nothing about….the world. It’s quite blind and deaf to anything….outside the frontiers of the US.” They know little inside it as well, and of course, that’s the whole idea to maintaining control. Misinform, distract, and control all ideas and thoughts reaching the public – it’s the key to “keeping the rabble in line.” If done well, it works better than all the might of the most powerful nation on earth.

He’s right.  The power of persuasion through disinformation, misinformation, manipulation, distraction, is remarkably effective at keeping us in line.  Here is an educational read about how media is used to ‘divide and conquer’ activist groups in which Steve Horn describes a long established method by governments and corporations to silence dissent:

[It is a]…three-step strategy to “deal with” these four activist subtypes. First, isolate the radicals. Second, “cultivate” the idealists and “educate” them into becoming realists. And finally, co-opt the realists into agreeing with industry.

Or, co-opt them into agreeing with the next war, the next miracle cure, the next great federal policy that will help us all… (That article is a two-part series, and both are worth the read.)

There are so many examples of lies, distortions, omissions, in the history of our media, I don’t have time to get into them all.  Just do some reading, Wikipedia’s page on Operation Mockingbird is a good place to start, if you’ve never heard of that before.  And check out this video of a speech by Sharyl Attkisson.  The truth is, we the people no longer matter to the media, like our corrupt government, they no longer listen to us.  As Sibel Edmonds says in this video:

The mainstream media, they have made people, us, we the people, irrelevant, we are not even in the equation…”

Even the highly regarded, trusted, ‘public’ media is not as public as we have long believed.  Just take a look at the pie chart showing NPR’s funding.  Sure, ‘Individuals’ make up the largest slice, but if you combine the other slices, slices that have more power than individuals, they far outnumber and overpower the voices of the individuals.  And what of NPR’s public sources for its reporting?  This article about a 1993 study of just how ‘public’ public radio is points out:

Journalists by themselves accounted for 7 percent of all NPR sources. For a public radio service intended to provide an independent alternative to corporate-owned and commercially driven mainstream media, NPR is surprisingly reliant on mainstream journalists. At least 83 percent of journalists appearing on NPR in June 2003 were employed by commercial U.S. media outlets, many at outlets famous for influencing newsroom agendas throughout the country (16 from the New York Times alone, and another seven from the Washington Post). Only five sources came from independent news outlets like the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and the National Catholic Reporter.

So, what are we to do?  How can we regain our voices, and take back the control of our news and information?  Well, I mentioned at the beginning of the year a new media project that I am excited about, and I’m happy to introduce it properly now.  Its called Newsbud, a brand new, exciting alternative to the corporate sponsored lies and propaganda.

Solely people-funded media means no corporate advertisement gunk. It means no marketing gimmicks imbedded in the information presented. It means no strings attached to billionaire sugar daddies– be it Soros, Koch, Rockefellers or Carnegies. It means a media outlet only accountable to you-to we the people.  This means integrity. It means ethical and agenda-free journalism. It means making we the people relevant, and taking the 0.0001% out of the equation, thus making them irrelevant. And most importantly, it means that it is up to you and me, up to us the people, to do what it takes to create NEWSBUD-Where Media Integrity Matters.
Newsbud founder, Sibel Edmonds at Boiling Frogs Post
Pepe Escobar, an investigative journalist, formerly with Asia Times Online, says:
It’s financed by the viewers, and readers, supported by the viewers and readers, so it is basically YOU, all of you, who are going to decide if we live or if we die.”
Now, I realize that public television and radio of today was founded with the same idea in mind.  But they failed in that mission, as is so obvious with a look at their sponsors, and biased coverage of events.  Newsbud is not accepting corporate sponsorship, it is not going to allow the voice of the many be co-opted by the power, and money, of a few.  It will do so with a return to integrity in journalism, and a return to accountability.  It will do so with the only funding source that media should ever be held accountable to, the people.
What does Newsbud mean to me?  It is an opportunity to address all the topics the mainstream media remains silent on or skirts carefully around, to avoid losing their funding.  As Peter B. Collins says about Newsbud:
We are going to focus on things that really matter, we are going to continue to honor whistleblowers, and expose government corruption, and conflicts of interest, and outright fraud.

It is an opportunity to talk about how those corruptions and conflicts of interest effect us, the people of this country, and the world, on the ground, in our daily lives.  War, poverty, education, medicine, equality, our food, all of these things effect us every day, and we need the true facts about them.

Also, Newsbud presents an opportunity to high light positive changes people are making.  Large or small.  And to find ways to help support those positive changes.  This is something that is truly important to me as I seek ways to make changes within my own community and the world.

Newsbud will give the audience a voice too, to have some say in what is covered.  Just think about the possibilities!  Together, we can nullify the corporate media, we can make them of no value or consequence.  We can make ourselves, we the people, relevant again in the media.

Newsbud will be launching a crowd-funding operation on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2016, in order to generate the funds needed to get started. [Update!  New Kickstarter campaign is launching on Sunday, May 8th, 2016!]  It will be an all-or-nothing campaign, either the money is raised and Newsbud will become a reality, or, if it falls short of the goal, the money that is raised will be returned in full to those who contribute.  Its an ambitious plan, and we need help.  Please join in the conversation, spread the word, lets make this a reality!

If you want to learn more about Newsbud, please go to this information page about it on Boiling Frogs Post, and please sign up for the email list.  Your personal information will not be shared, at all, and you will receive updates and more information as the crowd funding campaign approaches.  Click the link below to go directly to the email sign up page.

NEWSBUD

Bom-Bom, rock the nation
Take over television and radio station

Bom-Bom the truth shall come
Give the corporation some complication!

-Michael Franti, “Rock The Nation.”

Author’s Note:  I am no longer affiliated with Newsbud and I no longer endorse the website.  You can read why here.

 

It’s 2016, And It’s Time To Get Serious

Author’s note:  I am no longer affiliated with and no longer support or endorse Sibel Edmonds’ Newsbud, the media project that I wrote about in this post.  Please see my explanation why for more information.

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I can’t believe its a new year again already.  Well, not quite, as I write this while listening to impatient neighbors setting off fireworks a few hours before midnight here in the Pacific Northwest.  Perhaps they didn’t want to stay up till midnight.  I don’t think I will either, but it isn’t for a lack of excitement.  On the contrary, I am very excited for the new year.

2016 is shaping up to be a big year.  Of course, in terms of World events, there’s so much to pay attention to, but tonight, I’m focusing on more personal things.  Here on my young little blog, there is a rapidly growing list of things I hope to write about in the coming year, and I’m looking forward to that.  I do hope you will all keep checking in, and feel free to leave comments.

I’ve got another big ambition for the new year.  I’m really trying hard to have my first novel ready for publishing.  I’ve been working on it for what sometimes seems like forever, and I’m anxious to have it done, so I can move on to the next fictional distraction.  More details about that when the time gets closer.

Even more importantly, I am really excited about a new project that I believe can have far-reaching impacts in the world.  I have become so fed up with the media, at least here in the US as I can’t really speak to media outside this country.  I spend hours each week searching countless sites on the internet, just trying to find out what is really happening in the world, because I can’t get the facts from the big network news stations here.  Its time-consuming, and frustrating.  And I don’t think a lot of people have the sort of time to spend searching the internet for news that I do.  I suppose many Americans don’t have the desire to either.  This means that we are largely uninformed, unaware, ignorant.

What if we can change that?  What if we can create something big enough to challenge the tight hold the big networks have over the information reaching the people?  What if we can create our own news source, truly independent of corporate and government control?  A platform where world news can be presented without fear of being censored by military industrial and mega-corporation sponsors who are unwilling to let the truth of their greed and destruction reach the masses.  Well, 2016 can be the year we make just such a media source a reality.

We are going to form and operate a participatory news and multimedia network created to redefine content-driven publishing through a publicly-funded platform. Our new media platform will provide original investigative news and stories, daily analyses and commentaries, and audio and video podcast productions on significant issues ignored and/or censored by existing media sources.

Unlike many existing online media models, we will abide by a strict code of journalistic integrity, made possible by being independent, advertisement-free, and by being solely publicly funded. Our investigative reports and multimedia productions will be completely nonpartisan, agenda-free, with content free to all subscribers.

Sibel Edmonds,  Boiling Frogs Post

Please take a look here to learn more and sign up for email updates.  This is big, and exciting, and 2016 needs to be the year we take control of the information we have access to.  After all, I don’t think it will be long before we lose even more access to the information we are already struggling to find here on the internet.
I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and do whatever I can to help make this project a success.  Please check it out, and share this information widely!  And stay tuned for more updates, especially at Boiling Frogs Post.
Here’s to a very successful new year!  I hope 2016 brings us all blessings, compassion for one another, and peace throughout the world.