Sometimes it is useful to look over our borders to see how things are going in other countries. It can be like looking into a mirror, or it can provide a contrast which illuminates our own defects or foreshadows future developments that might be coming our way.
One country, which has come up more than once in these terms is the Ukraine. Last week, Ukraine’s anti-corruption law, which regulates the electronic declaration of income by officials and politicians, was amended. The amendment, at least officially, sailed under the flag of fighting corruption. It demands that anybody even remotely connected to corruption-watching NGOs will have to declare all their finances.
This may look like a good idea at first sight. However, many people and organizations, including Transparency International, warn that this new law will actually serve to protect, rather than discourage, political corruption. The reason: the law requires such extensive declarations and defines its targets so vaguely that even cleaning companies, which clean the offices of an NGO, must disclose their finances. The same goes for landlords of the NGO’s office space, and even all relatives of everybody who works at these companies will have to do so. Talk about a chilling effect! Under this law, it could happen that NGOs who only slightly glimpse at government actions will stop doing so to avoid falling into the targeted category; and NGOs which truly exist to provide oversight of politicians and public institutions for the people will get such difficulties in getting anything done, that their work would be greatly impeded.
If that’s how this law will work out, an anti-corruption law altered to protect corruption, it will be a great example for how institutions and laws which are meant to serve the public interest (at least officially) become warped into doing the exact opposite.
Looking at warped politics in other countries often helps to remind me of similar things in our own. We have had many laws and law proposals in this century which were written to accomplish the exact opposite of what their title said: the “Clear Skies Act”, the “Patriot Act”, the “Countering Disinformation And Propaganda Act” (more aptly described as Obama’s Ministry of Truth)…
The Ukraine, which these days is mostly in the news because of its armed conflict with Russia, will always stick in my memory because of how its people went to the streets over suspected election fraud back in 2014, and was celebrated for it by our own mass media, even as – around the same time – presidential candidate John Kerry was rolled into the ditch by the Republican election fraud machine installing incumbent G.W. Bush into office when he had really lost the election — for the second time! (and without Kerry standing up for himself, by the way – shame on him!)
Our own prime example of a warped democracy is probably the legalization of political bribery by declaring money to be free speech and corporations to be people whose free speech is protected by the 1st Amendment. Outside observers boggle at this lunacy in our country, as should all of us. In fact, this is an utter perversion of our constitutional protections, a perversion which we must eliminate ASAP. People are people! Speech is speech! Corporations are corporations, money is money, and BRIBES are BRIBES! Our laws need to reflect that, not the sophistries of corrupt or incompetent members on the Supreme Court, some of whom were appointed by a “president” who got into office through election rigging… Wait, have we ever heard of him…? Oh, yes, G.W. Bush! Naturally, he stacked the court against the people.
Our rampant election rigging is definitely another big warping of democracy, competing with the above.
Or how about a two-party tyranny which serves an oligarchy formed by a handful of billionaires and picks most of our political candidates for us, so that our voting amounts to mere rubber-stamping? In our country, voter choice is nothing but a myth!
Last, but not necessarily least, the buying up of the fourth estate (the “free” press, a.k.a. the media) by a handful of corporations is another one of those ways in which our democratic institutions have been warped. They now serve an oligarchy rather than a democracy. How “free” can the press be, when it belongs to a small group of super-rich oligarchs who make sure it never exposes the nefarious doings of them and their fellow billionaires, but rather does everything in its power to misinform us and dumb us down? The latter, by the way, is why more Americans today must wake up out of their slumber and become active and critical in gathering information, rather than relying on the propaganda drizzle from the mainstream media (MSM) or even relying on a single source of alternative media which can be equally warped. Alternative media play an important role in getting well-vetted information today, but only if you look at a range of them, not just a single one which may be – or may become – just as warped as the MSM. We must rely heavily on alternative media today, such as the one you are currently reading, but also be intelligent in our fact checking: digging deeper, checking multiple sources, and considering the plausibility of reports based on what you have already learned about our world. It’s the only way to extract the truth from the wild mix of misinformation, disinformation, false and true narratives, sensationalism, trivial entertainment, valuable witness reports by “ordinary” people in social media, and sites (like this one) designed to report the truth and discuss events, policies, and activism intelligently, honestly, and logically rather than through the propaganda tube of our oligarchs.
And, if all this sounds bad, don’t overlook the fact that the forces of evil keep working on making things worse. The conversion of our country into a modern feudal state is still going on and at a breakneck speed. Take, for instance, Trump’s budget. It cuts or eliminates federal funding for – among other things – Meals on Wheels; energy and heating assistance programs; rural infrastructure and jobs programs; college tuition aid; the Women, Infants, and Children nutritional program; and the Environmental Protection Agency. All this to fund massive tax cuts for millionaires, billionaires, and big corporations, while we – the people – move ever closer to a life of medieval serfs left with nothing but the clothes on our backs. Trump’s budget also kills all federal funding for PBS, one of the last remaining bastions of non-corporate news and commentary (as well as children programming) — every last dime.
Once again, a look across our borders opens perspective: after World War II, the Allies insisted that Germany institute a de-centralised and highly government-independent public broadcasting system to counter the effect of the Nazis’ propaganda network. By and large, this still exists today. In contrast, Trump currently is defunding OUR public broadcasting system. Germany moved up after WW II, and our country has been moving down for decades, every year resembling the fascist Germany of 72-84 years ago more and more.
We have a lot of un-warping to do, you and I. We better wake up a third person.
P.S.: The three of us can sign this petition to help save PBS and much else.