Part 1, Ways of Getting the Message of the Justice Party to the Voters
Our Views are Usually Conditioned by the Media Environment that Surrounds Us
Some scientists once played a cruel trick on a young kitten. The researchers placed the young feline into room with only vertical lines all around it. After a period of time, they moved the kitten into an environment that more closely resembled the real 3-dimensional world. The kitten became confused and disoriented in the new environment and was unable to function.
Although each of us tends to think of ourselves as masters of our own environment, we are very much conditioned by what we see and hear from early birth to the present time. This type of conditioning is especially evident in the process of the forming and changing of a person’s political belief systems. Unless we are able to “stand outside of ourselves” and see that much of what we believe has been determined by the stimuli sent our way over the TV screen, by the printed media such as newspapers and magazines, and now over electronic media, we will be no more free than laboratory rats that are unable to make reasoned choices.
We must also realize that most of what we have learned has been controlled by concentrated wealth held by large corporations such as General Electric, Disney, Viacom, and Comcast and by wealthy individuals and families such as Rupert Murdoch, the Sulzberger family, the Graham family, and the Hearst family who make sure that we only receive information that does not challenge their individual and collective interests.
The concentrated power of corporations and wealthy families and individuals was brought about by the failure to enforce anti-trust laws since at least the advent of the administration of President Richard M. Nixon to the present administration of Barrack Obama. The Telecommunications Act of 1996, passed during the administration of Bill Clinton, accelerated the wealthy elite’s concentration of media ownership, enabling them to control multiple newspapers and TV stations in local markets. Thus, persons living in Houston, Austin, or Dallas, Texas will have very few news choices other than those from sources controlled by media elites.
I grew up in Houston, Texas where there were at that time three local newspapers; now there is only one newspaper. Even then, unpopular news was filtered out. My father ran for the city council in Houston on a Reform ticket with then Mayor Roy Hofheinz. During that campaign, the three local newspapers would not even publish notices of the Reform ticket’s meetings, let alone report on what the ticket’s candidates were saying they would do should they be elected.
The Internet, Our Strength, but Not a Communication Method upon which the Justice Party should Place all its Hopes and its Future Existence
But, “what about the Internet?” you might ask. Much of the content on the Internet is controlled by the big players such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, and online outlets of the major newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, the bastion of the establishment, and the other large media conglomerates mentioned above. Thankfully, there are progressive Websites that aggregate the news and find the stories that progressive voters want to learn about and share with their progressive friends. But, most voters are passive consumers of information, and do not proactively (intentionally) seek out the information they need.
Even the Internet, as popular as it is, has a fragile existence. The “free” network or backbone was originally set up by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and many of that Institution’s controlling institutions such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) that determines the domain name extensions, such as .org, .com, .net, .info, .biz, act as gate keepers for which site names can be used and which new names are allowed. The federal government has been constantly trying to bring the free, if not sometimes chaotic, Internet environment under its control. Some of the additional control mechanisms, which have been proposed or implemented, are:
Internet “kill switch” proposed by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) would authorize the President to close down the Internet or individual Websites in the event of a national emergency.
Currently, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is being debated in Congress. Today, on the day that I am writing this article, over 10,000 Websites nationally are conducting “blackouts” to protest this bill. SOPA would give the federal government the power to close down individual Websites that the government determines to be publishing copyrighted material without first obtaining the permission of the copyright holder. This would, in effect, do away with the Fair Use doctrine that says the portions of copyrighted material could be used for educational purposes or in the case political movements such as the Justice Party, prevent those movements quoting copyrighted reports about what corrupt government officials are doing. SOPA would allow the federal government to shut down Websites without due process of law in violation of the Bill of Rights and to “censor out” voices opposing the policies of the ruling elite.
Already, the Obama administration’s U.S. Department of Justice has arbitrarily shut down many Websites without notice because the department decided on its own, with court oversight, that the content of the site violated a law or policy of the current administration.
The battle for preserving the principle of Net Neutrality has been ongoing during the administrations of George W. Bush and Barrack Obama. The Net Neutrality principle keeps Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as Verizon, ATT, Comcast, and Time Warner from discriminating against content providers or websites by rationing or limiting bandwidth to Websites that are out-of-favor with the large ISPs and who may represent viewpoints that those corporations do not favor. We also know, by the participation of the large communication networks such as ATT and Verizon in the illegal wiretapping scheme by the Bush administration,which is most likely continuing under the Obama administration, that these large companies will seek to curry favor with the government by carrying out illegal acts that violate the law. If Net Neutrality goes away, then we can expect an axis of the large corporations and the government to limit, if not eliminate, dissenting voices and movements such as the Justice party from the public square.
Anyone who follows certain controversial issues, that is, issues that the ruling political parties and the major news outlooks don’t like, will tend to screen those issues from the eyes and ears of the passive consumers of information. I won’t list all the issues that have been filtered by the media outlets, but here are a few examples:
Illegal Wiretapping by the Bush administration – The New York Times learned about the Bush administration’s illegal wiretapping, but withheld that information from the American people until after the 2004 general election.
The major media outlets, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, refused to vet the Bush Administration’s false claims about Saddam Hussein’s having weapons of mass destruction, which served as a justification for invading Iraq. Instead, their reporters, such as Judith Miller with the New York Times, became advocates for war and the policies of the Neoconservatives who controlled the Bush Administration.
Except for Bloomberg News, the news media refused to report on the more than 12 trillion dollars that the Federal Reserve loaned the big banks. Finally, an Amendment by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) forced the Federal Reserve to come clean.
During the Health Care debate, the news media amplified the voices of the big pharmaceutical companies and health care providers and the opponents to universal access to health care, while eliminating the voices of support for the Public Option (Medicare for everyone) or any other single-payer system of delivering health care to the American People.
The Congress and the Courts have not fully brought the Internet under the protections of the First Amendment. Until that happens, we must have alternative systems of communications in place should a blackout of our activities occur or if the governmental/industry plans to control the Internet are legalized or implemented in contravention of current laws, either openly or secretly.
Alternative Methods of Communication
At the time of the American Revolution, opponents of British colonial rule recognized that they were operating in a hostile political environment. The colonists set up Committees of Correspondence to get around British censorship of the newspapers in Colonial America. They also used private letters and published anonymous broadsides or pamphlets that were published under pen names or other flyers posted on walls in public places.
Today, of course, we have cell and landline phones, email, Web Pages, Social Media, comment facilities on online outlets, Letters to the Editor, word processing and publishing software that allows individuals and groups such as the Justice Party to create and self-publish books, e-books, brochures, flyers, petitions, and other decentralized communications that are not easily filtered by the news media or the government for that matter.
But, there is another, little-appreciated method of communication that is an ancient one:word-of-mouth or person-to-person / face-to-face systems of communication.
Word-of-Mouth, the Best Method of Communication
Most political opinions are formed by individuals talking together over coffee, at civic club meetings, at family gatherings, at their favorite pub, at their places of worship, at book clubs, at service club meetings like the Rotary or Lions club, social cause meetings in the cities where they live, at their places of work, or any other places where people meet and talk.
Although individuals do obtain information from the traditional media outlets and from the newer online media sources, these individuals are most influenced by what social scientists called “opinion leaders” with whom they frequently interact in their extended communication network. They are especially influenced by close friends or trusted persons whom each individual regards as “informed,” “honest,” “authentic, ” and who are not paid to promote an issue or point of view. If you are such a trusted individual to some other person or persons, you will have more impact on the people you talk to than others whom they only know more informally.
For example, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are good venues for passing information quickly, but they are not useful in persuading people to change their beliefs or behavior such as when one tries to convince someone that they ought to change their political party preference from the Democratic or Republican parties and vote for Rocky Anderson or some other Justice Party candidate. In addition, those types of “conversions” usually only occur after many conversations with that person.
In face-to-face communications, individuals have been trained to recognize certain types of body language such as looking the person you are talking to in the eyes, being a good listener, who not only talks “at” but listens “to” someone, in order to understand where that person is coming from and how that relates to their previous experience with “politicians” or activists’ or persons who are trying to convince them of something. People are especially suspicious of the “hard sell” or manipulative tricks usually employed by persons such as used car sales persons.
Persons who are empathetic with the problems or experiences of others will usually be more persuasive than those who show concern only for those problems or experiences that are peculiar to them. For example, persons who are rich and are speaking to a working class or poor person, will have a harder time convincing that person that the rich should receive favorable treatment over poor or working class persons. This is why the wealthy and the powerful elite need to co-opt or manipulate a poor person to convince other poor persons to vote against their own interests.
In Part 2 of “The Justice Party: The Way Forward, not Backwards”, I will try to convince you that in order to counter the influences of concentrated wealth over both traditional and current-day electronic communications, the Justice Party will need to resurrect, modify, and modernize the person-to-person institutional system of the political party and build a new kind of political party, the New Justice Party that will provide a way for our voices to be heard and a way to hold our elected officials accountable.
Ben B. Shaw, acting State Chairperson of the Justice Party of Texas
P.O. Box 112
Staples, Texas 78670