Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Source to Rely On

Jay Taber on the Real News.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Social Tinderbox

With the present Wall Street fiasco, my concern is that too much attention will be paid to financial confusion, and too little to social disintegration. While public trust is perhaps at an all-time low, political panic and religious hysteria are on the rise. Last time these phenomena converged we had Aryan Nations, Waco and Oklahoma City.

With the Republicans running an openly apocalyptic ticket, and the Democrats running a black man, the violent right-wing underground must be frothing at the mouth. It wouldn't take much for Far Right social movement entrepreneurs to ignite this tinderbox.

Sad to say, reform groups and law enforcement are almost wholly unprepared for dealing with this type of social pathology, and due to their ignorance (and arrogance) almost always make things worse through inappropriate responses.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Constructing Reality

In The Changing Context of News Work, Mark Deuze examines journalism as a social institution. As Deuze observes, in the era of the Internet, journalism has turned to interpreting rather than reporting, reflecting an "arrogant occupational ideology out of touch with the lived reality of its constituencies". Within this new media ecosystem, Deuze notes, "media makers and users coexist, collaborate, and compete in the mutual construction of reality"--a reality corporate media no longer controls despite its best editorial efforts to manage our understanding of the world.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Preventing Elitism

It is perfectly natural that elites -- those with special gifts and achievements -- will rise to prominence. When these gifted people exercise noblesse oblige, they should be celebrated and rewarded with appropriate leadership responsibilities. Elitism, however -- that phenomenon whereby elites use their gifts and achievements to deprive others of a decent life -- should accordingly be confronted with loss of privileges and honors.

Conspiracies between elitists to consolidate their power and position of malign rule certainly exist, but conspiracism (often indulged in by those deprived) -- whereby all acts of violence are assumed to be controlled and manipulated by secret societies -- serves to mobilize resentment against elitism into a fruitless pursuit of delusionary trivia. Preventing elitism through research, education, organizing and action is only effective when based on exposing real crimes using evidentiary methods and documents admissible in court, not when based on unfounded rumor, hearsay or group hysteria.

Gathering and analyzing such evidence requires exercising judgment and self-discipline, keeping an open mind and avoiding the temptation of demonizing. After all, elitism endures thanks in large part to a willingness to go along to get along; unfortunately, going along with elitism (or conspiracism) means that we will no longer be able to get along.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Looking Back

I first encountered the Public Good Project network when Paul de Armond phoned to invite me to dinner. At the time, in Fall 1994, I was executive director of an environmental litigation consortium, and was up to my neck managing lawsuits against Wise Use.

Paul had been investigating Wise Use operatives throughout Puget Sound, especially their covert money-laundering for electoral purposes, but increasingly their recruiting of violent Christian Patriots to intimidate political opponents of the building and real estate industries. Some of these vigilantes had already threatened my associate Sherilyn Wells (president of Washington Environmental Council), and Paul wanted to share with me the research he'd gathered in fourteen counties across the state.

From that point on, my perspective on politics changed forever; I never again assumed that things were what they seemed, and habitually sought out what was going on behind the scenes. It's a habit I've continued to find useful.

Since that dinner in 1994, I've joined with Paul and other network volunteers -- like Dan Junas, Devin Burghart, Tarso Ramos, Eric Ward and Sheila O'Donnell – in sharing research and analysis, as well as presenting at conferences and workshops sponsored by Public Good. More recently, I've been looking into establishing a national research learning center in San Francisco.

One of the things that struck me at one of those conferences in 2005, was the mentoring structure and process of the Public Good network—something I had personally benefited from, and later sought to continue. Since then, I have experimented with various means and mediums for that purpose, and even described the history of research activism since the early 1960s in an essay titled Continuity.

The concepts and frameworks exposed in that essay form the basis of a communication strategy for social conflict—something I elaborate on in my 2008 book Fighting for Our Lives.

Our colleague Chip Berlet once said that a real democracy requires the type of informed consent that emerges as many competing ideas struggle for acceptance in the public square. For fifteen years now, Public Good correspondents and operatives have attempted to do something about that—more often than not with good results.
--Jay Taber

Monday, September 01, 2008

It's the Process...

Looking over search engine links to public good, it seems there is an endless array of wonks espousing philosophy or debating policy, but a glaring dearth of proponents of process. All this wonking might be fundable, but it does little to advance the democratic process so vital to sane policy.

As we at Public Good have long observed, it's the process that counts in making democracy happen. At some point, those who are for democracy and against theft have to actually confront the thieves who are destroying democracy by undermining public process through threats and bribes.

Otherwise, they're just blowing hot air.