Cover Commotion

It finally arrived Monday! I was starting to wonder.

Truth be told, I had been eagerly awaiting it since dismissing as inadequate the homogenized news reports I had read, watched and listened to following that sad day in April when two curb-side pressure cookers exploded, killing three and permanently impacting the lives of far too many innocent victims. By Saturday, aware that it had been due on newsstand shelves the previous day, I speculated that perhaps the United States Postal Service had joined the loudmouthed reactionary chorus and decided not to deliver it to subscribers’ homes, including my own, where I quite proudly hold “lifetime” status.

If you haven’t already figured it out, I’m talking about “Rolling Stone” Issue 1188 with presumed Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (let’s use his Cambridge nickname “Jahar” going forward) on the cover. All I can say is that, as suspected after tuning into uninformed, knee-jerk, shock-jock bores Dennis and Callahan last week, it was big ado over nothing.

Honestly, I often wonder how D&C remains viable in liberal New England airwaves — spewing the daily dose of right-wing crap they deliver, especially Callahan, a poster boy for those who have read little, repeat what they hear, listen to the wrong people, and accept their hateful, racist rants as gospel? A few weeks ago, my father and a local farmer I later heard about were quite entertained by a northern New England caller who phoned D&C to tell Callahan he was a punk, and that he’d like nothing better than to visit his studio and give him a good beating; that, although 65 years old, he was a former Green Beret and could do it. Although my father and the local agronomist probably wear slightly different political stripes, neither of them view Callahan’s storm-trooper, tough-guy act favorably, so they were humored by the threatening call and, I might add, so was I.

The day news of that controversial Rolling Stone cover spread like wildfire in dry, blustery winds, I first heard mention of it at dawn on WHMP and got right out of bed to turn on D&C, who I knew would not disappoint. Indeed they were pontificating vociferously, demanding that merchants refuse to sell a magazine with the audacity to put a flattering, sleepy-eyed photo of Jahar on a cover, especially a liberal pop-culture rag that has transformed many a rock star from bronze to platinum. But let’s be honest. The fact is that the likes of D&C hate RS to begin with, dislike its literary reporting style and progressive slant on social issues like global warming, politics and social issues. You name it, RS is on the other side of D&C on virtually everything, thus the fiery, aneurism-bursting outcry when they get a chance to whip up chauvinistic clamor reminiscent of European fascist chants. Which is not to say that RS reporter Janet Reitman in any way defends Jahar or justifies radical Islam in her piece, or for that matter criticizes America. She doesn’t. Perhaps D&C and all the other pre-release hysterical indicters — followed by a lock-step flock of timid sheeple vowing to keep the magazine off their shelves — should have read the article before harpooning it as un-American, always a curious accusation in a nation extolled as the land of liberty and justice, where freedom of the press is sacred doctrine. Well, that is, unless the publication differs in opinion from the rabid, law-and-order right, I guess. Yeah, that’s entirely different; just like it was in Germany and Italy and Spain, also Stalin’s stifling Soviet Union; not unlike the way it is in vicious U.S.-supported banana-republic dictatorships around the globe, anywhere rich in exploitable natural resources, especially oil. But that foreign domination and political intrigue is quite all right, thank you, in the world of right-wing demagoguery, where capitalism and profit is god, ecosystem be damned. And don’t even think of putting the picture of a terrorist on the cover of Rolling Stone and writing an informative piece explaining how such a monster can hatch in Athens on the Charles, the city of Cambridge, home of Harvard and MIT, Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky. No sir, that’s treason. I suppose in right-wing ideology, only the FBI and state police should write crime stories for readers in this cradle of democracy, land of liberty and justice. How does that work, anyway? Is everyone OK with that bitter freedom-of-the-press flavor?

All I can say is praise Jesus for the likes of Rolling Stone, a truth-telling magazine similar to “Ramparts” of the Sixties; both dared to dig for the real story, maybe even the squirmy truth that mainstream media refuse to report. The Jahar profile isn’t even the best piece in RS 1188; the story about Arctic ice melt is much better. And I must say I’m disappointed how quickly RS rolled into submission on the Michael Hastings conspiracy theories. Personally, I want more than his military brother’s weak dismissal of any possibility that the car crash killing his investigative-journalist sibling wasn’t an accident. The press and Hastings’ friends are terrified of the story — way too hot, maybe even perilous — and apparently so are the editors of the magazine where Hastings made his hard-hitting reputation. Go ahead, Google “Hastings crash” if you doubt me, and dig in with an open mind. If you come away without suspicions, your salt is diluted and quite irrelevant.

I must admit I usually hesitate to publish my views on this kind of stuff. Times have changed. The press I as a boy watched take down Johnson, Nixon and the KKK has now been neutered. Some news organizations even strike terror into counter-culture, anti-establishment professors, who, for expressing opinions Fox-News’ legion of lemmings find “dangerous” and un-American (whatever that means), face the threat of visits from Bill O’Reilly lackeys calling for their dismissal and haranguing them on campus with camera crews, bright lights and microphones. Thus it seems my most revered, profound and enlightening political/philosophical conversations nowadays are with European travelers who pass through my old-tavern doors. They understand right-wing law-and-order regimes that lean heavily on frothy, easily-incited rabbles. Just this summer a young pregnant German woman, a social-psychologist from a New York college, stayed overnight with her husband on their way to a Maine vacation. She had been through my blog linked to the tavern website and wanted to chat.  And talk we did, far into the night, then again in the morning, both fascinating discussions about government, corporatocracy, media and post-9/11 international travel difficulties. This brilliant young woman said she loved America for its wild, open country and forests, but was troubled by its arrogant claims of “exceptionalism” and being the best, and by corporate control of government and the press.

“You must remember,” she warned, “I am German, and I know what can happen because it did happen to my country. We were taught what to look for and I see it here.”

That was an eerie comment coming on the heels of a similar assertion made last fall during casual conversation with a Welsh couple accompanied by two lovely young daughters. In a lively, rambling conversation bouncing from subject to subject, we got into a discussion about propaganda and the role of “spinmeisters” shaping public opinion by disseminating their message through the “news.” I told the wife that I believed elements of fascism have existed in this country for decades, basing my opinion on reading of Orwell and much European literature written between 1900 and 1940, plus lots of material about the rise of reactionary McCarthyism in response to four terms of FDR’s New Deal, also much about strong-arm CIA and U.S. military support for U.S. corporations exploiting the globe since WWII. I told her I feared that the rabble screaming loudest at Tea Party and anti-immigration rallies (now supporting Zimmerman with red-faced zeal) could be easily drawn into a nationalistic movement fueled by hatred of carefully constructed demons sketched by professional manipulators and inspirational orators.

“Oh my God,” gasped the woman, a reserved, erudite librarian, sitting comfortably on a rose-colored dining-room settee. “We talk about this all the time at home. We think Americans don’t know it’s happening.”

Some do, I told her, but not nearly enough; and those who do and are worth listening to are being shouted off the stage.

This weekend, I’m expecting an extended visit from the Windy City, home of the Haymaket and that 1968 Democratic Convention that will live in infamy. Though not expecting political conversations, you never know. I do know I won’t initiate such a conversation. Instead, I’ll probably keep my thoughts to myself and at some point go outside to sit at a metal table on the stone terrace. There I’ll stare up at that powerful, waning Full Buck Moon and let my playful mind wander off into the midnight sky. I’ll see that film of Mitt Romney’s Florida  fundraiser, where he got caught on camera preaching to the choir about the young Chinese girls enjoying a life of servitude, sleeping in barracks and toiling as slave laborers for Walmart goods; then I’ll likely wander to the great philanthropic Koch brothers, banks that are too big to fail, Big Pharma, Big Oil, nuclear disaster, oil-spill apologists, global-warming deniers, and Big Brother surveillance cameras, drones, satellites and email snoops. Then I may just spin back to our brave Founding Fathers, revolutionaries who put their lives and necks on the line to shed the yoke of oppression, and I’ll try to imagine what they’d think of the mess we’ve been sucked into, what they’d think of Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange.

Those patriots are probably thrashing around in their humble graves, struggling to escape for a furious rematch with Federalists, Franco-phobes and their ruthless right-wing descendants destroying the world.

As for Orwell, well, he’d just say he saw it coming.

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