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Stateside with Rosalea: Paradigm Gained

Stateside with Rosalea

Paradigm Gained

Here's a thought: if no other administration in the world wants to go into Iraq, why would anyone think a Democratic administration wants to? In other words, did the Democratic National Committee manipulate Kerry's nomination knowing that he would lose the election? Kind of, "Let's get him out of the way now so he doesn't bother us in '08, when we really want to win."

I've just been watching Chris Matthews Hardball, a Sunday morning talking head show I didn't get in pre-cable days because it airs on NBC, which moved to a new affiliate down in the South Bay a couple of years ago, taking decent free-to-air reception with it. Yay! Yet another chance to have my jaw hit the floor in disbelief. This week, Matthews ended his show by defending the mainstream press against the attacks that Zeller and Bush made on it at the Republican convention.

Praising the mainstream press for pointing out all the things that are wrong about the war in Iraq is the equivalent of praising someone who entered into a sprint race for the glamour of it and then realised that the real action was in the marathon and hopped over the fence to be in at the finish of that race instead. And it has been a marathon that the alternative press has run, right from September 2001, to have the truth be told. No disrespect meant for any of the reporters on the ground in war zones, but I have no time whatsoever for the editorial direction given to them by Boardroom Bulletin Inc.

I've been reading a book recently that was required reading for high school kids in California right up into the Sixties. It was written in 1888 and had a massive influence on public opinion and politics at the end of the nineteenth century, including the development of the Populist Party. Looking Backward, 2000-1887 is the story of a man from nineteenth century Boston who is hypnotised to help him sleep and through a particular set of circumstances isn't woken up until the year 2000.

The author, Edward Bellamy, wrote the book at the height of the "labour troubles" that had seen working people pitted against local, state and federal troops as they sought to protect themselves against the railroad and communications monopolies that controlled whether a small business or farm was profitable. Monopolists would quite deliberately drive small employers and farmers out of business by using rate hikes or discontinuing service, and when workers struck and townsfolk and farmers supported them, the monopolists called in the political chits they'd stored up by bankrolling campaigns and got elected officials to call in the troops.

The narrator of Looking Backward, Julian West, wakes up in a utopian world in which the problems of labour vs. employer and rich vs. poor have been solved. Having grown up in a nation that for the most part had a socialist bent to it -"cradle to the grave" welfare - I recognise many of the utopian ideas Bellamy had as having been put into practice by governments around the world.

But one of the things he envisaged that has taken its form - as he predicted - from the people themselves is the Internet. Bellamy doesn't mention such a thing specifically, but when West asks his host, Dr. Leete, how literature gets published in 2000 - "Does the government publish everything that is brought to it as a matter of course, at the public expense, or does it exercise a censorship and print only what it approves?" - his host replies:

"Neither way. The printing department has no censorial powers. It is bound to print all that is offered it, but prints it only on condition that the author defray the first cost out of his credit." "How about periodicals and newspapers?", West asks. Leete: "The people who take the paper pay the expense of its publication, choose its editor, and remove him when unsatisfactory." The Internet has gone beyond that, to the state in which the author is the initiator of material and in many cases isn't mediated by an editor, let alone the editorial policy of a corporate entity.

The consequence is that there is a huge amount of dross available for your reading pleasure (including Stateside, I dare say), but a sufficient amount of good, and some excellent, unmediated writing that would not otherwise have been given a place in people's consciousness, to warrant the Internet's ranking as one of the great paradigm shifts of history.


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