Saturday, July 10, 2010

Socialism, Good Guys, and Bad Guys

Socialism, Good Guys, and Bad Guys
The Universal Bias in Media and Historical Education

by Caleb T. Maupin

U.S. media is very selective about who it calls “socialist.” Not only does the media, especially the right-wing sectors, use “socialist” as a derogatory insult, but extreme efforts are made to keep it as such. Efforts to do this are not limited simply to right-wing, but to nearly every informational outlet deemed “fit for public consumption.”

The question of whether Barack Obama is a socialist, has been subject to a vast media debate. Even before Sarah Palin rediculously called Obama a “socialist”, the right-wing began to ask the question based on people in neighborhood, his mothers politics, and his former Clergyman of all things. When Palin and others began making the accusation that Obama was a “socialist”, the debate spread to the media, leaving the “no sanity zone” of ultra-right FOX news, to enter the so-called “leftist” MSNBC.

“Is Barack Obama a socialist?” While liberals said “no” and conservatives said “yes,” the question was treated as a legitimate point of discussion, with the agreed upon premise that “socialist” is a bad thing by definition.

John Stewart, the liberal host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, had a guest who went even further off the deep end than merely accusing Obama of crypto-leftism. Stewart’s show had as a guest, editor of the National Review, Jonah Goldberg. Goldberg had just written a book called “Liberal Fascism” that was devoted to giving the “socialist” label to such a diverse catalogue of dislikable people as Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini, the Ku Klux Klan, and Woodrow Wilson. It seems, according to Jonah Goldberg, anyone in history who is universally acknowledged to be no good was both a socialist and a liberal, at the same time, despite any historical evidence to the contrary.
Though Goldberg received many harsh criticisms for his foolish book of historical revisionism, the question of whether Fascism was just another school of Marxist thought was a debate the U.S. media was perfectly willing to engage. One would think Hitler would have settled this debate in Mein Kampf where he said “Marxism seeks to deliver the world directly into the hands of the Jews.”

In the popular dialogue of the U.S. media, when mass murderers like Adolph Hitler, extreme racists like Woodrow Wilson and the Ku Klux Klan, or Democratic Presidents are accused of being Socialists, this becomes a legitimate point of concern and discussion.

Good Socialists? Do they exist?

However, the question is never raised with regards to U.S. icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A much better case can be made that King was a socialist than can be made for Wilson, Hitler, or Obama. King famously declared that “There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”

King made clear his feelings that “there is something wrong with capitalism.” King proclaimed his belief in “the right to a job.”

King was slain while helping to defend striking sanitation workers in Memphis Tennessee. King’s close associate was Bayard Rustin, a former leader of the Young Communist League who was openly gay.

King shared the stage at his “I have a dream” speech, with UAW President Walter Reuther, who had been a member of the Socialist Party for many years, running for mayor of Detroit in 1937 on the Socialist Ticket. Reuther famously visited Soviet auto-plants in the 1930s, giving a positive report when he returned to the U.S. about what the industry looked like under worker’s control.

It seems a much better case that King was a socialist can be made than for Obama. King, an icon of U.S. history and the Black Liberation struggle had much more radicalism in his life than serving on a non-profit board with Bill Ayers, or listening to a few Rev. Wright sermons.

But, no one other than open supremacists and just plain fools such as like right-wing pseudo-historian Thomas E. Woods seek to demonize Martin Luther King. King is widely respected for his numerous contributions to civil rights and his never ending militancy for justice and equality. King has a national holiday in his honor. King is held up as an hero in the U.S. educational system. The U.S. citizenship test even requires those seeking citizenship to identify him.

So, naturally, because King is recognized as being a good person, no one dare point out that he was a socialist. Doing so would shatter the image of socialism as barbaric and evil. If it was pointed out that such an honorable and revered figure as Martin Luther King was a socialist, this may lead people to actually think Socialism had at least a few good points. This, however, cannot be tolerated.

U.S. history books also never point out that the Congress of Industrial Organizations was staffed and led by Communists. The CIO’s staff of organizers reads like an encyclopedia of Marxist radicals. Not only were members of the Socialist Party involved, but countless of members of the Communist Party USA, the Socialist Workers Party, and even a small sect ultra-left sect called the Proletarian Party were among its ranks.

Why not accuse the CIO, part of the movement that won unemployment compensation, social security, weekends, and countless other benefits of being socialists?

The National Association of Manufacturers had no problem doing so when they published Join the CIO, Help Build A Soviet America during the late 1930s.

Again, the same rule applies as before. Accusing these figures of being socialists makes socialism look good. So, unlike in the case of Barack Obama, Woodrow Wilson, and Adolph Hitler, accusations of Marxism that are actually correct, are ignored.

Of Endless Code Words…

Even the history of the 1960s is white-washed of any revelation of Socialist or Communist involvement. I recall with a laugh, how an older person once told me in me as a teen, “If you want to be an activist, why bother with this Communist stuff? When I was coming up there was a group called Students for a Democratic Society. They were always protesting things, but I never heard of any Communists doing anything.”

My High School and College History text agreed with this sadly misinformed statement. The students who protested in the 1960s and early 1970s, and opposed the unjust war in Vietnam, were not “socialists” according to popular dialogue. Rather they were for “civil rights”, they were advocates of “participatory democracy” and “equality.” They were “non-violent organizers” and “pacifists.”

One wonders why these supposed “radical civil libertarians” marched with Mao Zedong’s “Little Red Book” and waved the flag of National Liberation Front of Vietnam. One also wonders why these “pacifists” fought the police in the streets and loudly called for “Revolution.”

Even the more moderate 1960s activists such at the National Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam (MOBE) was staffed by members of the Socialist Workers Party. The national Moratorium march to end the war, based on a very minimal and pacifistic set of demands was built by the Communist Party USA and the Democratic Socialists of America.

But, history clearly shows that the 1960s Anti-War Movement was right. The activists who protested the war probably saved thousands more young men from being sent to die, as 58,000 did anyhow. So, why accuse someone of being a socialist, if doing so makes socialism look good?

Of course, the right-wing was happy to red-bait and denounce the Vietnam War Protestors at the time. But, once they were proven correct, history must be altered so no one comes to understand which side of history Marxist-Leninists are generally on.

It also seems that Albert Einstein, often called the smartest man in history was a “idealistic pacifist” and “advocate of social equality.” The fact that he wrote the cover story of Monthly Review Magazine's first issue, titled "Why Socialism? or that he publicly lectured about the need to overthrow capitalism is largely unknown.
Perhaps this is why I have been told so many times that I am “stupid” for being a socialist. It is very unknown that this well known 20th century genius shared my economic philosophy.

Helen Keller must have died at the thirteen, because every narrative of her life presented in popular discourse ends at the same in her life, as the plot of The Miracle Worker. Are we to believe that Helen Keller was a hero simply for learning to speak? Is she the only person with her disability to accomplish such a feat?

Her years of activism on behalf of the disabled is just barely touched on textbooks and Media reports. It is also never mentioned that she was a member of Socialist Party and called the Soviet Union a “shining star in the east.”

A list of code words for “Communist” or “Socialist” could be made. The list would include “social reformer”, “activist”, “organizer”, “democratic forces”, “participatory democrat”, “egalitarian”, “idealistic”, and nearly every other word the media uses when doing all it can to ignore that whomever the highly admired figure they speak of was a socialist or communist.

It is as if a new language has been written to make sure that Socialist, Communist, Marxist, and other words for one of the most large and heroic wings of political thought in history remain synonymous with “demon spawn.”

The resistance forces in China, who fought the Japanese invaders in World War II and were widely respected for their acts of selfless anti-fascist courage, were called “agrarian reformers” by the U.S. media. It wasn’t until these same peasants armies, led by Mao Zedong became enemies of the U.S. and won control of the country that it was acknowledged that they were Communists. While such forces were heroically smashing the forces of Japanese Fascism, they had to be given another name because “communists” must only be demonized.

If a peasant army is heroically fighting the forces of Imperial Japan, it must be an army “agrarian reformers”, according to the media, because “communists” only do bad things.

I almost expect the next World War Two movie to feature Czar Nicholas II liberating Berlin and winning the war. Or perhaps the Red Army of the Soviet Union will simply be referred to in the script as the “happy fun capitalist democratic reformers movement against Bolshevism.”

Perhaps the next Made for TV movie about John Lennon will attempt to portray the hit song Working Class Hero as being about the plight of impoverished East Germans. Perhaps they will pretend that the original lyrics of the leftist anthem Imagine were: “Imagine no state intervention, its easy if you try, no EPA regulations of pollution in the skies. Imagine all the people, in the market to compete.”

The U.S. media has a simple rule of thumb.

If you are despicable, controversial, or extremely far from socialism in ideology, then it is a fair question to ask whether you bent on establishing a socialist utopia and have a secret Marxist agenda.

However, if you are respected, loved, admired, or historically in the right, you can be many things. Perhaps you are a “civil rights leader”, or an “agrarian reformer”, or a “pacifist”, or an advocate of “participatory democracy.” But you’re not a Communist or a Socialist.

The unquestioning law of the U.S. media is this:

“Socialists = bad. Capitalists = good.”

Both the right-wingers at FOX, and the left-wingers at MSNBC agree on this point. No questions it. No one debates it, except reality, that is.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is good and is pretty accurate. I think there are so many more figures in art and some more scientists too you could have mentioned. Like Pablo Picasso. It is usually ignored that he was a member of the Communist Party. The famous 'Guernica' is portrayed only like it is anti-fascist, which of course it was too, but Picasso was also actively supporting the leftist forces on the Republican side. Or John Steinbeck wrote a lot of novels about poor people, and at least 'Of Mice and Men' and 'The Grapes of Wrath' are read by many people high school. But how often is it mentioned how involved he was in the Socialist Party? And I actually could go on and on. Some odd social force pulls artsy types to the left.

-Nick Rushin