[Paleopsych] SF Area Independent Media Center: Government Accounting Office takes a big bite out of the Bush cliques pretense of legitimacy
checker at panix.com
Sun Dec 4 01:19:15 UTC 2005
Government Accounting Office takes a big bite out of the Bush cliques
pretense of legitimacy
San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center
[This, and the related articles I have appended, are about how the
Republicans stole the 2004 election by manipulating electronic voting
machines, esp. in Ohio. I don't have the full URL for the GAO report
handy, but it's easy to get from http://www.gao.gov. It deals with the
potential for fraud but does not claim actual fraud. The other articles
argue for actual fraud.
[Now, elections do get stolen. I'm convinced that Lyndon Johnson and Mayor
Daley got Kennedy elected. Nixon thought so do but he decided, for the
good of the country, not to contest it. And it's not unlikely that
Tilden's victory was taken from him by fraud. I don't think fraud was
responsible for Bush's victory in Florida in 2000, since the margin was
well below the difference between Algore and Bush fraudulent (illegal)
voters (thousands of them and a 2:1 tilt toward Algore). I'm not so sure
about Ohio, if what the articles below say is plausible.
[Algore's presidency would have made a difference: he's been around
Washington long enough to know when pressure is being brought to bear on
him. Rather than listen to neocon arguments for war in Iraq, he would have
tuned them out. We're less than a year into Bush's second term. Kerry
would have (or rather will have) bowed to political pressure to pull out
of Iraq and the media would turn away from whatever disaster happens as a
result of the pullout.
[What's worth thinking about is why the media are ignoring the GAO report.
(And also why the isolationist right is ignoring it also. Nothing on
LewRockwell.com. Maybe they don't much care and certainly think Kerry
would have been at most a slightly lesser evil than Bush, while the left
at least hopes that Kerry would have been a significantly lesser evil.)
The reason is that the mainstream media is, above all else, Establishment.
Most of them are Democrats, it is true, and some of them make noises about
how awful Bush is. (They say Reagan "ended" welfare, you know, whereas
there was at best a decrease in the rate of increase.) But they believe
mostly in the System. They most definitely do not want there to be a
widespread belief that something as illegitimate as stealing a
Presidential election can happen north of the Rio Grande.
[Nor a President assassinated by any other than a lone nut. During the
40th anniversary of the JFK assassination, talking heads were unanimous in
upholding the lone nut hypothesis, even though only 20% of the citizens
[When you think about elites, ask what beliefs are mandated of its
members. Some must be publicly affirmed. Others may be only privately
doubted. In what sense is Gary Bauer, the evangelist who gets on lots of
talk shows, a member of the elite. Would it hurt him to come out against
the lone-nut theory of the JFK assassination? Is it best for a respectable
dissident to have only a small number of disagreements? Can Bill Gates
come out against modern art? Can anyone besides Tom Wolfe do so?
[How big is the elite? How many different elites are there? They
interlock, like corporate board members serving on art museum boards.
Ponder these questions as you read what seems to me a plausible case of
massive voter fraud yet a studious ignoring by the mainstream media.]
by Joe Baker Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2005 at 12:03 PM
How much will it take before people rise up and force the Repugs in
Congress to impeach this dangerous thief? Secret CIA torture
gulags, now secret Shiite torture chambers in Iraq. At least two
stolen US elections. It boggles the mind.
GAO report upholds Ohio vote fraud claims
By Joe Baker, Senior Editor
As if the indictment of Lewis Scooter Libby wasnt enough to give the
White House some heavy concerns, a report from the Government
Accounting Office takes a big bite out of the Bush cliques pretense of
This powerful and probing report takes a hard look at the election of
2004 and supports the contention that the election was stolen. The
report has received almost no coverage in the national media.
The GAO is the governments lead investigative agency, and is known for
rock-solid integrity and its penetrating and thorough analysis. The
agencys agreement with what have been brushed aside as conspiracy
theories adds even more weight to the conclusion that the Bush regime
has no business in the White House whatever.
Almost a year ago, Rep. John Conyers, senior Democrat on the House
Judiciary Committee, asked the GAO to investigate the use of
electronic voting machines in the Nov. 2, 2004, presidential election.
That request was made as a flood of protests from Ohio and elsewhere
deluged Washington with claims that shocking irregularities were
common in that vote and were linked to the machines.
CNN said the Judiciary Committee got more than 57,000 complaints after
Bushs claimed re-election. Many were made under oath in a series of
statements and affidavits in public hearings and investigations
carried out in Ohio by the Free Press and other groups seeking to
maintain transparent elections.
Online Journal.com reported that the GAO report stated that some of
[the] concerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and
have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and
miscount of votes.
This is the only democratic nation that permits private partisan
companies to count and tabulate the vote in secret, using
privately-held software. The public is excluded from the process. Rev.
Jesse Jackson and others have declared that public elections must not
be conducted on privately-owned machines. The makers of nearly all
electronic voting machines are owned by conservative Republicans.
The chief executive of Diebold, one of the major suppliers of
electronic voting machines, Warren Wally ODell, went on record in the
2004 campaign vowing to deliver Ohio and the presidency to George W.
In Ohio, Bush won by only 118,775 votes out of more than 5.6 million
cast. Honest election advocates contend that ODells statement to hand
Ohios vote to Bush still stands as a clear indictment of an apparently
successful effort to steal the White House.
Some of the GAOs findings are: 1. Some electronic voting machines did
not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, and it was possible to
alter both without being detected. In short, the machines; provided a
way to manipulate the outcome of the election. In Ohio, more than
800,000 votes were cast on electronic voting machines, some registered
seven times Bushs official margin of victory.
2: the report further stated that: it was possible to alter the files
that define how a ballot looks and works, so that the votes for one
candidate could be recorded for a different candidate. Very many sworn
statements and affidavits claim that did happen in Ohio in 2004.
Next, the report says, Vendors installed uncertified versions of
voting system software at the local level. The GAO found that
falsifying election results without leaving evidence of doing so by
using altered memory cards could easily be done.
The GAO additionally found that access to the voting network was very
easy to compromise because not all electronic voting systems had
supervisory functions protected by password. That meant access to one
machine gave access to the whole network. That critical finding showed
that rigging the election did not take a widespread conspiracy but
simply the cooperation of a small number of operators with the power
to tap into the networked machines. They could thus alter the vote
totals at will. It therefore was no big task for a single programmer
to flip vote numbers to give Bush the 118,775 votes.
Another factor in the Ohio election was that access to the voting
network was also compromised by repeated use of the same user ID,
coupled with easy-to-guess passwords. Even amateur hackers could have
gotten into the network and changed the vote.
System locks were easily picked, and keys were easy to copy, so
gaining access to the system was a snap.
One digital machine model was shown to have been networked in such a
rudimentary manner that if one machine experienced a power failure,
the entire network would go down. That is too fragile a system to
decide the presidency of the United States.
Problems obviously exist with security protocols and screening methods
for vendor personnel.
The GAO study clearly shows that no responsible business would operate
with a computer system as flimsy, fragile and easily manipulated as
the one used in the 2004 election.
These findings are even more damning when we understand the election
in Ohio was run by a secretary of state who also was co-chairman of
Bushs Ohio campaign. Far from the conclusion of anti-fraud skeptics,
the GAOs findings confirm that the network, which handled 800,000 Ohio
votes, was vulnerable enough to permit a handful of purposeful
operatives to turn the entire election by means of personal computers
using comparatively simple software.
One Ohio campaign operative, Tom Noe, a coin dealer, was indicted Oct.
27 for illegally funneling $45,400 to Bush by writing checks to
others, who then wrote checks to Bushs re-election campaign, allegedly
dodging the $2,000 limit on contributions by an individual.
Its one of the most blatant and excessive finance schemes we have
encountered, said Noel Hillman, section chief of the U.S. Department
of Justices public integrity section, as quoted in the Kansas City
In the 2000 election, Florida was the key; in the 2004 election, Ohio
was the key.
From the Nov. 2-8, 2005, issue
The Free Press -- Independent News Media - Election Issues
The Free Press: Speaking Truth to Power Thu Dec 01 2005
What John Kerry definitely said about 2004s stolen election and why
it's killing American democracy
by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
November 10, 2005
The net is abuzz about what John Kerry may or may not be saying now
about the stolen election of 2004.
But we can definitively report what he has said about New Mexico and
electronic voting machines soon after his abrupt "abandon ship" with
250,000 Ohio votes still uncounted.
And we must also report that what he's not saying is having a
catastrophic effect on what's left of American democracy, including
what has just happened (again) in Ohio 2005.
In recent days Mark Crispin Miller has reported that he heard from
Kerry personally that Kerry believes the election was stolen. The
dialog has been widely reported on the internet. Kerry has since
seemed to deny it.
We have every reason to believe Miller. His recent book FOOLED AGAIN,
has been making headlines along with our own HOW THE GOP STOLE
AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008.
As in his campaign for president, Kerry has been ambivalent and
inconsistent about Ohio's stolen vote count. Soon after the
presidential election, Kerry was involved in a conference call with
Rev. Jesse Jackson and a number of attorneys, including co-author Bob
Fitrakis. In the course of the conversation, Kerry said "You know,
wherever they used those [e-voting] machines, I lost, regardless if
the precinct was Democratic or Republican."
Kerry was referring to New Mexico. But he might just as well have been
talking about Ohio, where the election was decided, as well as about
Iowa and Nevada. All four of those "purple" states switched from
Democratic "blue" in the exit polls as late as 12:20am to Republican
"red" a few hours later, giving Bush the White House.
A scant few hours after that, Kerry left tens of thousands of
volunteers and millions of voters hanging. With Bush apparently
leading by some 130,000 votes in Ohio, but with a quarter-million
votes still uncounted here, Kerry abruptly conceded. He was then heard
from primarily through attorneys from Republican law firms attacking
grassroots election protection activists who dared question the Ohio
In the year since that abrupt surrender, Theresa Heinz Kerry has made
insinuations that she thought the election might have been stolen. But
there has been no follow-up.
Now we have this report from M. C. Miller that Kerry said he knew the
election was stolen, and then denied saying it. Coming from Kerry, the
inconsistency would be entirely consistent.
But those committed to democracy and horrified by the on-going carnage
of the Bush catastrophe still have no credible explanation as to why
Kerry abandoned ship so abruptly. He had raised many millions
specifically dedicated to "counting every vote," which clearly never
happened in Ohio. More than a year after the election, more than
100,000 votes are STILL uncounted in the Buckeye state.
And now, tragically, we have had another set of stolen elections. Four
statewide referenda aimed at reforming Ohio's electoral process have
been defeated in a manner that is (again) totally inconsistent with
polling data, One statewide referendum, aimed at handing the corrupt
Taft Administration a $2 billion windfall, has allegedly passed, again
in a manner totally inconsistent with polling data, or even a
rudimentary assessment of Ohio politics.
We will write more about this tomorrow. But suffice it to say these
latest "official" vote counts make sense only in the context of a
powerful recent report issued by the Government Accounting Office
confirming that electronic voting machines like those used in Ohio can
be easily hacked by a very few players to deliver a vote count totally
at odds with the will of the electorate.
We have seen it in the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, in at
least three Senatorial races in 2002, and now in the referenda in Ohio
2005, and possibly elsewhere.
How could this have happened?
By and large, the nation is in denial, including much of the left.
Miller recently debated Mark Hertsgaard over a Mother Jones review of
both our books. The idea that the 2004 election could have been stolen
has also been attacked by others on the left.
Some reporters have briefly visited here or made calls from the coasts
and then taken as gospel anything that mainstream Democratic regulars
utter, even if its totally implausible and counter-factual.
For example, they would have you believe that, in direct contradiction
to how elections have gone in Ohio for decades, its now routine for
boards of elections to record that 100% of the precincts are
reporting, and then suddenly add 18,615 more votes at 1:43 a.m. after
the polls have been closed since 7:30 p.m. and 100% of the precincts
had been reporting since approximately 9 p.m.
Or that 18,615 Miami County votes could come in late with an
impossibly consistent 33.92% for Kerry, as if somebody had pushed a
button on a computer with a pre-set percentage---just as the GAO says
it can be done.
Or that it's ok for a Democratic county election official, with a
lucrative contract from the Republican-controlled Board of Elections
(BOE), to admit he doesn't really know whether the vote count had been
Or it's fine for BOE officials take election data home to report on
from their personal PCs. Or for central tabulators to run on
corporate-owned proprietary software with no public access. Or for BOE
officials to hold up vote counts late into the night that time and
again miraculously provide sufficient margins for GOP victories, as
with Paul Hackett's recent failed Congressional race in southwestern
Or for one precinct to claim a 97.55% turnout when a Free
Press/Pacifica canvass quickly found far too many people who didn't
vote to make that possible.
There is clearly no end to this story, and there is no indication the
dialog on the net will diminish, even though the mainstream
media---like the mainstream Democratic Party---absolutely refuses to
touch this issue.
But ultimately, whatever John Kerry or the bloviators or even the left
press say about these stolen elections, America is very close to
crossing the line that permanently defines the loss of our democracy.
As we will show tomorrow, this week's theft of five referendum issues
in Ohio is yet another tragic by-product of the unwillingness of John
Kerry and so many others to stand up for a fair and reliable electoral
process in this country.
Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE
AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available at
www.freepress.org, and, with Steve Rosenfeld, of WHAT HAPPENED IN
OHIO, to be published this spring by The New Press.
A Discussion with Mark Crispin Miller - Democratic Underground
November 5, 2005
[05_mcm.jpg] On November 3-4, 2005, Mark Crispin Miller, author of
Fooled Again, took part in an online discussion at Democratic
Underground, answering questions from members of our message board.
This is a lightly edited transcript of that discussion. The original
discussion thread can be found here. Mark might even return to
continue the discussion.
Skinner: Today we are very excited to host an online discussion with
Mark Crispin Miller.
Mark is a professor of media ecology at New York University. Some of
you may remember him from our online discussion on Democratic
Underground in May of 2002. He is well known for his writings on all
aspects of the media and for his activism on behalf of democratic
media reform. He has written a number of books, including Boxed in:
The Culture of TV, The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on a National
Disorder, and Cruel and Unusual: Bush/Cheney's New World Order. He
writes regularly on his blog, News From Underground.
[05_fooledagain.gif] Mark has a brand new book about the 2004
election, Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election, and
Why They'll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them).
This discussion is going to be pretty informal. Mark has some book
signings and other events today, so he might be checking in a few
different times throughout the day, and he is not going to be able to
answer every question that is posted here. He will pick the questions
that he considers most relevant and answer those. All DU members are
welcome to participate. If you have a question or topic that you would
like to discuss with Mark, just click "Reply" on this message to post
Mark, thank you so much for being with us. The first question is an
easy one. Please tell us about your book.
Mark Crispin Miller: Hi, everyone. It's a pleasure to be here. Many
warm thanks, Stephanie, for making this happen.
Why I wrote Fooled Again: The scandal of last year's election never
resonated as it should have done, because the national Democrats AND
"the liberal media" refused to face, or even to discuss, the facts. We
very badly need electoral reform, but we won't get it if that mammoth
scandal doesn't finally resonate. My aim in writing Fooled Again was
to lay out the evidence that Bush & Co. stole their so-called
"mandate," so that the scandal might at last resound, so that we'll
all be motivated to repair the system. If we don't, it seems to me,
we're really cooked.
Let me add that I myself am not a Democrat but a proud independent.
This is not a partisan endeavor but a crucial civic issue. There's
evidence that many a Republican did NOT vote for Bush/Cheney in 2004.
Those folks too were disenfranchised, along with countless voters on
the other side.
I await your questions/comments.
Bruce McAuley: Hi Mark! Given what has happened so far with the Bush
administratio9n, what do you foresee for the future? Will the
neo-conservatives have a final triumph, or will liberalism make a
resurgence? Or neither of the above? Best guesses, please, and thanks
Mark Crispin Miller: Bruce, liberalism will make a resurgence; or,
rather, it is resurgent already, although many liberals out there
don't know they're liberals. It's an odd situation. The word itself is
now pejorative, thanks to the far-right propaganda drive that's
overwhelmed our politics and culture for last few decades. So folks
are often quick to say that they're not liberalsbut their politics, on
nearly every score, ARE, by any definition, liberal: economically,
environmentally, on foreign policy, on healthcare, abortion rights,
you name it.
Because the word has been so badly tarnished, I'd prefer to say that
our Enlightenment ideals will re-assert themselves. I deem myself a
follower of Jefferson and Paine. The world-view of those framers will
prevail, if we promote it and defend it just as zealously as BushCo
has attacked it.
underpants: How susceptible to the "first story out there" is MSM? I
haven't read your work so excuse me if this has been covered.
It appears that the news media in this country all follow the very
first wire report written on an event or an issue. Is it really that
cut and dry? and does the right really have packaged ready to go
versions of what I just saw ready to go (it would appear that they
Mark Crispin Miller: The right has the propaganda thing down cold. The
MSM, moreover, will certainly not follow any story that it's
disinclined to follow, however hot it may appear. Every day amazing
pieces come from the Associated Press, with no follow-up whatsoever.
AP did a good story on the GAO report on electronic touchscreen voting
machines. There was no follow-up at all.
mzmolly: What is the first thing we CAN/should do to secure our voting
system? Just want some tangible ideas for Democrats and other
Mark Crispin Miller: The first thing to do is to campaign
relentlessly, in every way at hand, to get the scandal of last year's
election on the national radar screen. Unless we do that, all our
policy suggestions will mean nothing.
As we do that, though, we should also be resisting the proliferation
of touch-screen voting machines sold by private vendorsDiebold, ES&S,
Sequoiaand agitating on behalf of paper ballots, unless and until we
learn about a tamper-proof computer-based system (if such is
possible). That would be a local matter, by and large. We also should
be working very hard to get the Voting Rights Act renewed completely.
(The Busheviks want to remove certain provisions from it, so that it
can then be junked by the Scalito Court.) And we must support Rep.
Jesse Jackson III's call for a constitutional amendment formally
confirming every adult American's right to vote, and establishing a
uniform federal voting system. We should also enable same-day
registration, extend the voting period to, say, a week, advocate for
Instant Run-off Voting (IRV), and do whatever else it take to make the
system truly democratic.
sfexpat2000: I'd like to ask Mark, was there a moment, or an event,
that you can identify as the one that spurred you to write on this
Mark Crispin Miller: That moment was Election Day, and the huge
screaming gap between the propaganda ("It's all gone really well!")
and what was really happening coast to coast.
IndyOp: Praise: Loved the Harpers' article! Thank you!
My Question: Do we have the votes? Are you convinced that all of the
fraudulent actions stole the election from Kerry? Do you estimate
numbers of votes stolen in your book?
Also, MCM - Stephanie said that you wanted the link for the Petition
to keep Marc Maron on Morning Sedition: Petition to Keep Marc
Maron on Morning Sedition More Contact Information for Danny
Goldberg at AAR - A call from Mark Crispin Miller might get Goldberg's
Mark Crispin Miller: It's very hard to come up with precise figures.
That's the problem. But consider, for example, that the Census Bureau
came out in late May with an astounding revelation. According to their
survey, 3.4 million more Americans claimed to have cast ballots in
2004 than the official toll of those who voted. So maybe some of them
were lying. OK, let's say half were lying. That still leaves some 1.7
million votes that somehow never got recorded.
And that number does not include those (countless) voters who knew
very wll that they could not vote, or even register. And neither of
those sums include those US citizens abroad who tried and failed to
vote. (The last chapter of Fooled Again is all about Bush/Cheney's
interference with the expatriate vote, which includes up to 7 million
Put it all together, and what does it spell? "IT CAN HAPPEN HERE, AND
And EVERYONE out there, PLEASE contact Air America, and urge the board
NOT to allow the cancellation of Marc Maron's show!!!
wrathofkahn: Now I'm confused...
"And that number does not include those (countless) voters who knew
very well that they could not vote, or even register."
Umm... If they knew that they could not vote or register (vs. simply
choosing not to do so), then I must assume that they were ineligible
to vote. How is it that someone who couldn't have voted anyway could
have affected the outcome of the election (other than campaigning,
Mark Crispin Miller: Those who tried to register and/or vote and
couldn't. Not because they were ineligible. They were eligible, and
yet could not register or vote.
Arkana: Mr. Miller, I read "The Bush Dyslexicon" and loved it, BTW. I
wanted to ask you: What is your proposal to deal with companies such
as Diebold, ES&S, Triad, and others that "hack the vote"?
Mark Crispin Miller: All private vendors should be outlawed.
nashville_brook: Can you please speak to the importance of EXIT POLLS
in our case for ELECTION FRAUD. what's the appropriate weight to give
exit poll discrepancies in the on-going debate?
And (follow-up) Do you have a response to EXIT POLL DISCREPANCY
deniers; those who claim we either don't have all the information yet,
or that we don't understand the numbers.
Thank you -- and I just have to say... everyone we've loaned your
Patriot Act video to has compared you to the late Spaulding Gray. We
look forward to more monologues.
Mark Crispin Miller: The exit poll/"official" count discrepancies are
certainly significant although the issue is extremely complicated. Let
me recommend the writings of Steve Freeman at the University of
Pennsylvania. He has a book, co-written with Joel Bleifuss, coming out
from Seven Stories in a month or so. A must-read. Steve is expert on
the subject of those polls. He's debated Warren Mitofsky, who came off
the worse for it.
Just Me: Numerous states have enacted "paper trail" laws. Will such
laws be sufficient to protect our votes? If not, what other actions do
you suggest should be taken?
Mark Crispin Miller: Paper trails per se are not enough. Certainly
it's better to have paper trails than none, but the mere existence of
such disparate slips of paper is no panacea. I think that thre should
be a paper BALLOT, so that the ballots can be stored indefinitely and
counted or recounted as required. The TruVote machine looks like a
very good idea. (That's the company whose CEO was evidently Silkwooded
ignatzmouse: Many Threads Into an Unmistakable Case: I'm sorry that I
can't stay long, but I wanted to at least give a high recommendation
to "Fooled Again." As with all of Mark's books, it is exhaustively
researched, insightful, and has teeth. Mark does cite a couple of my
studies including the "Unofficial Audit of the NC Election" that
initially appeared here at DU. I'm deeply honored to be included, but
it makes it even better for I have read and respected Mark for years.
To paraphrase Van Morrison (the way I like to hear it), "If you pull
your punches, you don't push the river." Mark pushes the river.
"Cruel and Unusual" is the benchmark for me in getting at who these
people are and what partially concealed agenda they seek. It's an
important book. Likewise, "Fooled Again" pulls together the
many-pronged RNC attack on the election process and exposes it in a
way that is hard to marginalize. That is critically important because
the culprits utilize marginalization of facts to elude media focus and
cover their trail. They'll say... "but there were reported electronic
discrepancies that favored Kerry too. See, it all amounts to much ado
about a few electronic glitches." But, in fact, if you look at the
EIRS data, the electronic vote switching favors Bush by a ridiculously
large percentage. It is also interesting to see how often these
reports are centered in minority districts. To have someone of Mark
Cripsin Miller's credentials to not be fooled by the marginalizations
and not carry the comfortable disdain for populism that seems embedded
in most of the national media is necessary and validating if the story
of what happened in the 2004 election is to reach out and enable
reform in the future.
Absentees and aborting votes: I've read the accounts of the missing
absentee ballots in Florida (which you also nicely document) and have
likewise noted in several states the unlawful collection of absentee
ballots by mysterious persons and groups. In Georgia, we've just had
the Republican legislature attempt to restrict minority voting by
creating a voter ID requirement where no documented fraud has
occurred. Interestingly, however, the voter ID restrictions would not
apply to absentee ballots. To me, that's a tip that one method of
rigging is to either create phantom absentee voters or revote for
"captured" absentee ballots. Something very fishy is going on with
absentees. I noted this particularly in Nevada where they have
verified voting. Absentee fraud could be a way to circumvent all other
measures of safeguarding the vote. Did you get a sense of rank in the
types and methods of vote fraud -- electronic, vote switching DRE's,
absentee, various types of disenfranchisement, etc.?
And finally, at the old Kerry-Edwards forum on election day, one of
the regulars posted an odd firsthand account that I have not seen
since. While on the phone to Blackwell's Secretary of State
headquarters, she was put on hold and could hear a phone bank of
numerous people in the SoS's office making phone calls to voters
stating that they were calling from Planned Parenthood and asking that
they vote for John Kerry in order to keep abortion legal. My take was
that they were calling identified Catholic voters in order to anger
them to the polls to vote for Bush. That sort of illegal and
underhanded tactic is Rovian by nature (or Mehlman-esque as the case
may be) and I would guess prosecution worthy. The old Kerry-Edwards
forum is long gone, and I have no way of researching it further. Have
you heard of similar Ohio accounts, or is that state so awash in
corruption that it almost gets lost in the mix?
Mark Crispin Miller: I salute you, ignatzmouse. A thousand thanks for
your kind words. I think your work is indispensable, and was delighted
to be able to include it in my book, which seems all the stronger for
I had not heard anything about that phone bank. If you find it, could
you send it to me?
cry baby: Thank you for coming online with us! Do you think that the
states will actually entertain the idea of replacing the voting
machines that they just purchased to be in compliance with HAVA? Can
those machines be retrofitted with a "proof of vote" certificate and
would that keep our elections from being stolen? How likely do you
believe it is that states will actually go to a voter verified paper
ballot (which is what I'd like to see)?
Mark Crispin Miller: The states will do what their residents demand
they do. if the demand is long and loud enough. HAVA, furthermore,
should be repealed ASAP.
SteppingRazor: I haven't read the book -- yet -- but from what I
understand... you rely fairly heavily on anecdotal evidence, which --
while certain to stir the proper response -- doesn't carry much weight
in scientific or (more importantly) legal analysis.
I ran into the same problem while looking into the 2000 election here
in Florida -- plenty of people willing to talk, but little direct
evidence of willful manipulation.
My question is, do you believe that, if given to a prosecutor with
subpoena power, real evidence not relying on circumstance or anecdote
could be found, such that either this administration and/or the
leaders of the Republican Party could be held criminally liable? If
so, what would it mean for both parties in the long term (the short
term conclusions being fairly obvious)?
In other words, if taken into the ostensibly objective realm of the
courtroom, could this dog hunt?
Mark Crispin Miller: I have far more than anecdotal evidence, which,
as you note, works better in a narrative composed for broad
consumption than it would in court. If you'd like a good example of
non-anecdotal evidence, please let me recommend the section of the
book that deals with Sproul and Associates. There is solid evidence of
fraud committed by the GOPand also evidence of a bald effort by the
party to conceal all trace of that wrongdoing.
Fly by night: A few more questions. But first, thanks kindly for all
you do. I would like to know your impressions of how your piece has
been received, both among other journalists and among the general
public. Any feel for the impact on sales of Harper's at the newsstand,
LTTEs or hits on Harper's and your web-sites. (I'm trying to gauge the
legs of this story.)
What evidence from other states besides Ohio (or the behavior of the
Rethugs in Congress and elsewhere) during and after the election
confirms your suspicions that the election was stolen.
What are your reactions to the recent piece o' shit article in Mother
Jones or the older piece o' shit article in TomPaine which dismissed
the election fraud evidence.
Why do you believe there is still such resistance (even among
progressives) to acknowledging that our elections are being stolen
Any responses to any of these questions would be appreciated. Thanks
again from Tennessee. We're not a red state or a blue state -- we're
an Orange State.
Mark Crispin Miller: That issue of Harper's broke a lot of records for
newsstand sales. It sold more than any prior issue since the one that
published Norman Mailer's Prisoner of Sex in 1972, and may well have
outsold that one too. (We don't know yet.) In any case, the response
The evidence of nationwide vote theft is vast. It's in the book. (In
large part, it IS the book.)
I was disappointed in Mark Hertsgaard's pieceespecially as he's a
friend of mine, and generally a very good reporter. He really blew it
there. For one thing, my book is not based largely on the Conyers
Report: a characterization that implies that my focus is Ohio. In
fact, I devote only ten pages to the Conyers Report, and another five
to scandals in Ohio NOT discussed by Conyers et al. The book is nearly
300 pages long, with copious evidence from many states. And more
generally, Mark's piece badly distorted not just my book but the
Conyers Report (WHAT WENT WRONG IN OHIO?) and the excellent
compilation of documents put together by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey
Wasserman (DID GEORGE W. BUSH STEAL THE ELECTION IN 2004?). The
evidence speaks for itself. I wish that Mark had worked a little
harder on that piece.
The resistance is based partly on corruption, in some cases, and
careerism, and very largely on denial. The implications of the theft
last year are very grave. Better to deny them categorically.
The whole red state/blue state dichotomy is pure crapola.
ms liberty: Hi Mark! Thanks for chatting with us... The GAO report on
miselection 04 came out last week to virtual silence from the main
stream media, but BushCo is (finally) getting a more critical look
from them, thanks to Mr. Fitzgerald. Isn't this the perfect time to
push this issue, with this corrupt regime already vulnerable? How can
we get this issue more attention from the MSM?
Are you going to be on The Daily Show, or do you have any MSM
interviews scheduled? What I would really enjoy is to see you on
Loved the Dyslexicon, and Cruel and Unusual. I'm looking forward to
reading your new one!
Anything you can do to help us save Marc Maron is REALLY appreciated!
Mark Crispin Miller: These questions are terrific I wish I had the
time to answer all of them in detail!
The GAO report is an important document. The press's silence on it is
appalling, and, I'm afraid, revealing.
The Daily Show said they would have me on if a relevant "big story"
should break sometime soon. I'm not sure what that means. The GAO
report is such a story, except that, as you noticed, it was not a
story. So what would such a story be, I wonder? Anyway, I'd love to be
invited on. (Feel free to pester them on my behalf!) I think the MSM
will be a tough sell for this book, although not as tough as it was a
few months ago. The Florida Sun-Sentinel gave me a pretty good review,
and I got good reviews as well in Publishers Weekly and Kirkus
Reviews. The peoples at Basic Books are working overtime to get the
word out, so we'll see.
readmoreoften: Professor Miller, There are SO MANY wildly outrageous
events occuring simultaneously-- the death of our democracy through
stolen elections, the prospect of never-ending war, an unprotected and
abused labor force (yes, I will be striking next week), the
normalization of torture and rape, the loss of civil liberties, the
suspicion surrounding the Bush Adminstration's culpability in 9-11--
why is the public so RESOUNDINGLY SILENT? I believe this resounding
silence would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.
I went to the World Can't Wait rally at Union Square yesterday and I
was perplexed at that so few New Yorkers were willing to take to the
streets to protest this regime. As undergrads in the late 80s/early
90s, we occupied the administration building because of a slight
increase in tuition for low-income students. At this point, I swear I
can't imagine undergraduates taking action to stop a college
administration from forcing low income students to sell their organs
to pay for tuition.
It seems to be more than just a chilling effect. We are living in a
media bubble-- a bubble of disinformation. As a people under
undemocratic rule, who currently have no ability to manage or confront
our mediated environment... how can we cut through the apathy? how do
we debrief our fellow Americans? how do we address the fact that even
those who are critical of the Bush administration will not confront
the gravity of the situation?
Do you have any ideas on how to burst the media bubble?
Can you share with us any particular strategies you have used to cut
through normally thoughtful people's overwhelming desire to pull the
covers over heads and go back to bed?
And thank you for signing the faculty democracy statement in support
of TA's freedom to strike!
Mark Crispin Miller: It isn't necessarily apathy. Discontent is more
widespread than we are generally led to think. BushCo's popularity
among the military, for example, and among military families, is not
at all impressive; and he has lost a lot of ground even among his own
erstwhile constituents. His current "STRONG approval" rating is now
around 22%, with a four-point margin of error, which means that it
could be as low as 18%the same percentage of Americans who did not
disapprove of how Bush/Cheney and their Congress tried to meddle in
the Terri Schiavo case.
We tend to think of many of our fellow-citizens as apathetic because,
let's face it, we too live inside "the media bubble," which represents
us to ourselves (and to the whole wide world) as far less discontented
than we really are.
Now, it is surely true that people should be more than discontented.
They should be actively protesting and resisting. (Although there too
the media tunes out what protest and resistance HAS welled up.) On the
other hand, the system has radically depoliticized us, training us to
watch and, if we can afford it, shop, and little else. We've therefore
long since lost our civic virtue, and the necessary habit of saying NO
when things become oppressive.
Just remember that the situation is a lot more fluid, and potentially
explosive, than it appears to be on CNN and in the New York Times. The
elites have fallen out with one anothera clash that now provides us
with a most important opportunity to say things that have been
verboten for too long. The iron is hot. It's therefore crucial that we
not despair, or paralyze ourselves with undue worries vis-a-vis the
seeming or alleged indifference of "the masses."
DUBYASCREWEDUS: I live in Cleveland, Ohio - Land of Blackwell the
Evil. I know he stole the 2004 election. How can we - as ordinary
citizens - stop them from doing it again? Are you familiar with State
Issues 2, 3, 4 and 5? We have been receiving conflicting views on
whether or not to vote for them. Do you know of them, and if so, do
you have an opinion?
Mark Crispin Miller: I don't know about those issues. What do Bob
Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman say? Free Press is terrific. I trust
them all implicitly re: all electoral issues in Ohio.
Bill Bored: Why do you favor Early Voting? You say we should "extend
the voting period to, say, a week." If we are concerned about
security, early voting is not advisable. The longer the machines are
available to accept votes, the greater the temptation and opportunity
to screw around with them. Also, early voting gives any potential
fraudster the knowledge of how the election is going so that vote
rigging can be targeted to areas on election day in which the early
results were "disappointing" and in need of reversal. Wouldn't it be
safer/better to have an Election Day holiday to allow everyone to get
to the polls?
Mark Crispin Miller: I don't think we should be using those machines.
althecat: Hi Mark.... Alastair from Scoop NZ here.... I will have to
buy your book ASAP. And am delighted you have decided to come and chat
here in DU.
Is Volusia County in the book?
I was always very disappointed after we followed up your story
(Diebold Memos Disclose Florida 2000 E-Voting Fraud) that Dana
Millbank didn't go back and dig a bit deeper into this. For me I
thought this discovery was a bit of a breakthrough in terms of
indicating that fraud had quite probably occurred at a fairly high
level in the 2000 election.
P.S. I will have a scout around the thread to figure out the best
place to buy the book.
Mark Crispin Miller: Alastair, I'm honored by your praise. Scoop.co.nz
is indispensable! 1,000 thanks.
Yes, in Fooled Again I do deal with Volusia Countyespecially with the
fact that Fox News called the race for Bush just at that moment when
those 16,000+ Democratic votes had temporarily zipped down the rabbit
You can get the book from my own blog, at markcrispinmiller.com,
or from Buzzflash.
Mark Crispin Miller interview
Mark Crispin Miller on conspiracies, media, and mad scientists
Interview by Carrie McLaren | Issue #19
After years of dropping Mark Crispin Miller's name in Stay Free!, I
figured it was time to interview him. Miller is, after all, one of the
sharpest thinkers around. His writings on television predicted the
cult of irony-or whatever you call it when actual Presidential
candidates mock themselves on Saturday Night Live, when sitcoms
ridicule sitcoms, and when advertisements attack advertising. More
recently, he has authored The Bush Dyslexicon, aided by his humble and
ever-devoted assistant (me).
[mcm2.gif] Miller works at New York University in the Department of
Media Ecology. Though he bristles at being called an academic, Miller
is exactly the sort of person that should be leading classrooms. He's
an excellent speaker, with a genius for taking cultural products-be
they Jell-O commercials or George W. Bush press conferences-and
teasing out hidden meanings. (He's also funny, articulate, and knows
how to swear.)
I talked to Mark at his home in November, between NPR appearances and
babysitting duty. He is currently writing about the Marlboro Man for
American Icons, a Yale University Press series that he also happens to
be editing. His book Mad Scientists: Paranoid Delusion and the Craft
of Propaganda (W. Norton) is due out in 2004.-CM
STAY FREE: Let's start with a simple one: Why are conspiracy theories
MCM: People are fascinated by the fundamental evil that seems to
explain everything. Lately, this is why we've had the anomaly of, say,
Rupert Murdoch's Twentieth Century Fox releasing films that feature
media moguls as villains out to rule the world-villains much like
Rupert Murdoch. Who's a bigger conspirator than he is? And yet he's
given us The X-Files. Another example: Time Warner released Oliver
Stone's JFK, that crackpot-classic statement of the case that American
history was hijacked by a great cabal of devious manipulators. It just
so happens that Stone himself, with Time Warner behind him, was
instrumental in suppressing two rival projects on the Kennedy
assassination. These are trivial examples of a genuine danger, which
is that those most convinced that there is an evil world conspiracy
tend to be the most evil world conspirators.
STAY FREE: Because they know what's inside their own heads?
MCM: Yes and no. The evil that they imagine is inside their heads-but
they can't be said to know it, at least not consciously. What we're
discussing is the tendency to paranoid projection. Out of your own
deep hostility you envision a conspiracy so deep and hostile that
you're justified in using any tactics to shatter it.
If you look at those who have propagated the most noxious doctrines of
the twentieth century, you will find that they've been motivated by
the fierce conviction that they have been the targets of a grand
conspiracy against them. Hitler believed he was fighting back,
righteously, against "the Jewish world conspiracy." [See pp. 30-31]
Lenin and Stalin both believed they were fighting back against the
capitalist powers-a view that had some basis in reality, of course,
but that those Bolsheviks embraced to an insane degree. (In 1941, for
example, Stalin actually believed that England posed a greater danger
to the Soviet Union than the Nazis did.)
We see the same sort of paranoid projection among many of the leading
lights of our Cold War-the first U.S. Secretary of Defense, James
Forrestal, who was in fact clinically insane; the CIA's James
Angleton; Richard Nixon; J. Edgar Hoover; Frank Wisner, who was in
charge of the CIA's propaganda operations worldwide. Forrestal and
Wisner both committed suicide because they were convinced the
Communists were after them. Now, there was a grain of truth to this
since the Soviet Union did exist and it was a hostile power. But it
wasn't on the rise, and it wasn't trying to take over the world, and
it certainly wasn't trying to destroy James Forrestal personally. We
have to understand that there was just as much insanity in our own
government as there was with the Nazis and the Bolsheviks.
This paranoid dynamic did not vanish when the Cold War ended. The U.S.
is now dominated, once again, by rightists who believe themselves
besieged. And the same conviction motivates Osama bin Laden and his
followers. They see themselves as the victims of an expansionist
STAY FREE: Al Qaeda is itself a conspiracy.
MCM: Yes. We have to realize that the wildest notions of a deliberate
plot are themselves tinged with the same dangerous energy that drives
such plots. What we need today, therefore, is not just more alarmism,
but a rational appraisal of the terrorist danger, a clear recognition
of our own contribution to that danger, and a realistic examination of
the weak spots in our system. Unfortunately, George W. Bush is
motivated by an adolescent version of the same fantasy that drives the
terrorists. He divides the whole world into Good and Evil, and has no
doubt that God is on his side-just like bin Laden. So how can Bush
guide the nation through this danger, when he himself sounds
dangerous? How can he oversee the necessary national self-examination,
when he's incapable of looking critically within? In this sense the
media merely echoes him. Amid all the media's fulminations against al
Qaeda, there has been no sober accounting of how the FBI and CIA
screwed up. Those bureaucracies have done a lousy job, but that fact
hasn't been investigated because too many of us are very comfortably
locked into this hypnotic narrative of ourselves as the good victims
and the enemy as purely evil.
STAY FREE: There's so much contradictory information out there. Tommy
Thompson was on 60 Minutes the other night saying that we were
prepared for biological warfare, that there was nothing to worry
about. Yet The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have quoted
experts saying the exact opposite. Do you think this kind of confusion
contributes to conspiratorial thinking? I see some conspiratorial
thinking as a normal function of getting along in the world. When, on
September 11th, the plane in Pennsylvania went down, there was lots of
speculation that the U.S. military shot it down.
MCM: Which I tend to think is true, by the way. I've heard from some
folks in the military that that plane was shot down.
STAY FREE: But we have no real way of knowing, no expertise.
MCM: Yes, conspiratorial thinking is a normal response to a world in
which information is either missing or untrustworthy. I think that
quite a few Americans subscribe to some pretty wild notions of what's
going on. There's nothing new in this, of course. There's always been
a certain demented plurality that's bought just about any explanation
that comes along. That explains the centuries-old mythology of
anti-Semitism. There will always be people who believe that kind of
thing. To a certain extent, religion itself makes people susceptible
to such theorizing.
STAY FREE: How so?
[mcm1.gif] MCM: Because it tends a propagate that Manichean picture of
the universe as split between the good people and "the evil-doers."
Christianity has spread this vision-even though it's considered a
heresy to believe that evil is an active force in God's universe.
According to orthodox Christianity, evil is not a positive force but
the absence of God.
STAY FREE: A lot of religious people believe what they want to
believe, anyway. Christianity is negotiable.
MCM: Absolutely. But when it comes to the paranoid world view, all
ethical and moral tenets are negotiable, just as all facts are easily
disposable. Here we need to make a distinction. On the one hand, there
have been, and there are, conspiracies. Since the Cold War, our
government has been addicted to secrecy and dangerously fixated on
covert action all around the world. So it would be a mistake to
dismiss all conspiracy theory. At the same time, you can't accept
everything-that's just as naïve and dangerous as dismissing
Vincent Bugliosi, who wrote The Betrayal of America, is finishing up a
book on the conspiracy theories of the Kennedy assassination. He has
meticulously gone through the case and has decided that the Warren
Report is right. Now, Bugliosi is no knee-jerk debunker. He recognizes
that a big conspiracy landed George W. Bush in the White House.
STAY FREE: So I take it you don't buy the conspiracy theories about
MCM: I think there's something pathological about the obsession with
JFK's death. Some students of the case have raised legitimate
questions, certainly, but people like Stone are really less concerned
about the facts than with constructing an idealized myth.
STAY FREE: Critics of the war in Afghanistan have called for more
covert action as an alternative to bombing. That's an unusual thing
for the left to be advocating, isn't it?
MCM: It is. On the one hand, any nation would appear to be within its
rights to try to track down and kill these mass murderers. I would
personally prefer to see the whole thing done legally, but that may
not be realistic. So, if it would work as a covert program without
harm to any innocents I wouldn't be against it. But that presumes a
level of right-mindedness and competence that I don't see in our
government right now. I don't think that we can trust Bush/Cheney to
carry out such dirty business. Because they have a paranoid
world-view-just like the terrorists-they must abuse their mandate to
"do what it takes" to keep us safe. By now they have bombed more
innocents than perished in the World Trade Center, and they're also
busily trashing many of our rights.
The "intelligence community" itself, far from being chastened by their
failure, has used the great disaster to empower itself. That
bureaucracy has asked for still more money, but that request is wholly
disingenuous. They didn't blow it because they didn't have enough
money-they blew it because they're inept! They coasted along for years
in a cozy symbiosis with the Soviet Union. The two superpowers needed
one another to justify all this military and intelligence spending,
and it made them complacent. Also, they succumbed to the fatal
tendency to emphasize technological intelligence while de-emphasizing
STAY FREE: Yeah, the Green Berets sent to Afghanistan are equipped
with all sorts of crazy equipment. They each wear gigantic puffy suits
with pockets fit to carry a GPS, various hi-tech gizmos, and arms.
MCM: That's just terrific. Meanwhile, the terrorists used boxcutters!
STAY FREE: Did you see that the U.S. Army has asked Hollywood to come
up with possible terrorist scenarios to help prepare the military for
MCM: Yeah, it sent a chill right through me. If that's what they're
reduced to doing to protect us from the scourge of terrorism, they're
completely clueless. They might as well be hiring psychics-which, for
all we know, they are!
STAY FREE: The Bush administration also asked Al Jazeera, the Arab TV
station, to censor its programming.
MCM: Right. And, you know, every oppressive move we make, from trying
to muzzle that network to dropping bombs all over Afghanistan, is like
a gift to the terrorists. Al Jazeera is the only independent TV
network in the Arab world. It has managed to piss off just about every
powerful interest in the Middle East, which is a sign of genuine
independence. In 1998, the network applied for membership in the Arab
Press Union, and the application was rejected because Al Jazeera
refused to abide by the stricture that it would do everything it can
to champion "Arab brotherhood."
STAY FREE: What do you think our government should have done instead
MCM: I rather wish they had responded with a little more imagination.
Doing nothing was not an option. But bombing the hell out of
Afghanistan was not the only alternative-and it was a very big
mistake, however much it may have gratified a lot of anxious TV
viewers in this country. By bombing, the U.S. quickly squandered its
advantage in the propaganda war. We had attracted quite a lot of
sympathy worldwide, but that lessened markedly once we killed Afghan
civilians by the hundreds, then the thousands. Americans have tended
not to want to know about those foreign victims. But elsewhere in the
world, where 9/11 doesn't resonate as much, the spectacle of all those
people killed by us can only build more sympathy for our opponents.
That is, the bombing only helps the terrorists in the long run. And so
has our government's decision to define the 9/11 crimes as acts of
war. That definition has served only to exalt the perpetrators, who
should be treated as mass murderers, not as soldiers.
But the strongest argument against our policy is this-that it is
exactly what the terrorists were hoping for. Eager to accelerate the
global split between the faithful and the infidels, they wanted to
provoke us into a response that might inflame the faithful to take
arms against us. I think we can agree that, if they wanted it, we
should have done something else.
STAY FREE: You've written that, before the Gulf War, Bush the elder's
administration made the Iraqi army sound a lot more threatening than
it really was. Bush referred to Iraq's scanty, dwindling troops as the
"elite Republican guard." Do you think that kind of exaggeration could
happen with this war?
MCM: No, because the great given in this case is that we are rousing
ourselves from our stupor and dealing an almighty and completely
righteous blow against those who have hurt us. Now we have to seem
invincible, whereas ten years ago, they wanted to make us very scared
that those Iraqi troops might beat us. By terrorizing us ahead of
time, the Pentagon and White House made our rapid, easy victory seem
like a holy miracle.
STAY FREE: Let's get back to conspiracy theories. Do people ever call
you a conspiracy theorist?
MCM: Readers have accused me of paranoia. People who attacked me for
The Bush Dyslexicon seized on the fact that my next book is subtitled
Paranoid Delusion and the Craft of Propaganda, and they said, "He's
writing about himself!" But I don't get that kind of thing often
because most people see that there's a lot of propaganda out there. I
don't write as if people are sitting around with sly smiles plotting
evil-they're just doing their jobs.
The word propaganda has an interesting history, you know. It was
coined by the Vatican. It comes from propagare, which means grafting a
shoot onto a plant to make it grow. It's an apt derivation, because
propaganda only works when there is fertile ground for it. History's
first great propagandist was St. Paul, who saw himself as bringing the
word of God to people who needed to hear it. The word wasn't
pejorative until the first World War, when the Allies used it to refer
to what the Germans did, while casting their own output as
"education," or "information."
There was a promising period after the war when it got out that our
government had done a lot of lying. The word propaganda came to
connote domestic propaganda, and there were a number of progressive
efforts to analyze and debunk it. But with the start of World War II,
propaganda analysis disappeared. Since we were fighting Nazi
propaganda with our own, it wasn't fruitful to be criticizing
STAY FREE: I read that the word "propaganda" fell out of fashion among
academics around that time, so social scientists started referring to
their work as "communications." It was no longer politically safe to
study how to improve propaganda.
MCM: Experts in propaganda started doing "communications" studies
after the war. Since then, "communication" has been the most common
euphemism used for "propaganda," as in "political communication."
There's also "psychological warfare" and, of course, "spin."
The Cold War was when "propaganda" became firmly linked to Communism.
"Communist propaganda" was like "tax-and-spend Democrats" or "elite
Republican guard." The two elements were inseparable. If the
Communists said it, it was considered propaganda; and if it was
propaganda, there were Communists behind it. Only now that the Cold
War is over is it possible to talk about U.S. propaganda without
running the risk of people looking at you funny. The word does still
tend to be used more readily in reference to liberals or Democrats.
The right was always quick to charge Bill Clinton-that leftist!-with
doing propaganda. In fact, his right-wing enemies, whose propaganda
skills were awesome, would routinely fault him for his "propaganda."
You never heard anybody say Ronald Reagan was as a master
propagandist, though. He was "the Great Communicator."
STAY FREE: Talk a bit about how conspiracy is used to delegitimize
someone who's doing critical analysis. I've heard you on TV saying, "I
don't mean to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but . . . " People
even do this in regular conversation. A friend of mine was telling me
about going to Bush's inauguration in D.C. He was stunned that none of
the protests were covered by the media but prefaced his comments by
saying, "I want don't want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but
[the press completely ignored the protests]." It's almost as if people
feel the need to apologize if they don't follow some party line.
MCM: I wouldn't say that, because there are people who are conspiracy
theorists. And I think the emphasis there should not be on the
conspiracy but on the theory. A theorist is a speculator. It's always
much easier to construct a convincing conspiracy theory if you don't
bother looking at reality. The web is filled with stuff like this. So,
if you want cover yourself, you should say something like: "I don't
subscribe to every crackpot notion that comes along, but in this case
there's something funny going on-and here's the evidence." It really
is a rhetorical necessity. Especially when you're on TV.
STAY FREE: Maybe it's more of a necessity, too, when you're talking
MCM: I'll tell you something: it's necessary when you're talking about
real conspiracies. You know who benefited big time from the cavalier
dismissal of certain conspiracies? The Nazis. The Nazis were expert at
countering true reports of their atrocities by recalling the
outrageous lies the Allies had told about the Germans back in World
War I. The Allies had spread insane rumors about Germans bayoneting
Belgian babies, and crucifying Canadian soldiers on barn doors, and on
and on. So, when it first got out that the Nazis were carrying out
this horrible scheme, their flacks would roll their eyes and say, "Oh
yeah-just like the atrocity stories we heard in WWI, right?"
STAY FREE: I once attended a lecture on Channel One [an
advertising-funded, in-school "news" program], where a professor
dissected several broadcasts. He talked about how Channel One stories
always emphasize "oneness" and individuality. Collective efforts or
activism is framed in the negative sense, while business and
governmental sources are portrayed positively and authoritatively.
Now, someone listening to this lecture might say, "That just your
reading into it. You sound conspiratorial." So where do you think this
sort of media analysis or literary analysis and conspiracy-mongering
MCM: That's a very good question. For years I've encountered the same
problem as a professor. You've got to make the point that any critical
interpretation has to abide by the rules of evidence-it must be based
on a credible argument. If you think I'm "reading into it," tell me
where my reading's weak. Otherwise, grant that, since the evidence
that I adduce supports my point, I might be onto something. Where it
gets complicated with propaganda is around the question of intention,
because an intention doesn't have to be entirely conscious. The people
who make ads, for example, are imbedded in a larger system; they've
internalized its imperatives. So they may not be conscious
intellectually of certain moves they make. If you said to somebody at
Channel One, "You're hostile to the collective and you insult the
individual," he'd say, reasonably, "What are you talking about? I'm
just doing the news." So you have to explain what ideology is. I'm
acutely sensitive to this whole problem. When I teach advertising, for
example, I proceed by using as many examples as possible, to show that
there is a trend, whatever any individual art director or photographer
might insist about his or her own deliberate aims.
Take liquor advertising, which appeals to the infant within every
alcoholic by associating drink with mother's milk. This is clearly a
deliberate strategy because we see it in ad after ad-some babe holding
a glass of some brew right at nipple level. She's invariably
small-breasted so that the actual mammary does not upstage the
all-important product. If that's an accident, it's a pretty amazing
accident. Now, does this mean that the ad people sit down and study
the pathology of alcoholics, or is it something they've discovered
through trial and error? My point is that it ultimately makes no
difference. We see it over and over-and if I can show you that,
according to experts, visual association speaks to a desire in
alcoholics, a regressive impulse, then you have to admit I have a
point. Of course, there are going to be people who'll accuse you of
"reading into it" no matter what you say because they don't want to
hear the argument. This is where we come up against the fundamental
importance of anti-intellectualism on the right. They hate any kind of
explanation. They feel affronted by the very act of thinking. I ran
into this when I promoted The Bush Dyslexicon on talk shows-which I
could do before 9/11. Bush's partisans would fault me just for
scrutinizing what he'd said.
STAY FREE: I recently read Richard Hofstadter's famous essay about
political paranoia. He argued that conspiracy is not specific to any
culture or country. Would you agree with that, or do you think there
is something about America that makes it particularly hospitable to
MCM: Well, there's a lot of argument about this. There's a whole
school of thought that holds that England's Civil War brought about a
great explosion of paranoid partisanship. Bernard Baylin's book The
Ideological Origins of the American Revolution includes a chapter on
the peculiar paranoid orientation of the American revolutionaries. But
I think paranoia is universal. It's an eternal, regressive impulse,
and it poses a special danger to democracy.
STAY FREE: Why, specifically, is it dangerous to democracy?
MCM: Because democracies have always been undone by paranoia. You
cannot have a functioning democracy where everyone is ruled by mutual
distrust. A democratic polity requires a certain degree of
rationality, a tolerance of others, and a willingness to listen to
opposing views without assuming people are out to kill you. There's a
guy named Eli Sagan who wrote a book on the destructive effect of
paranoia on Athenian democracy. And I think that the American
experiment may also fail; America has always come closest to betraying
its founding principles at moments of widespread xenophobic paranoia.
In wartime, people want to sink to their knees and feel protected.
They give up thinking for themselves-an impulse fatal to democracy but
quite appropriate for fascism and Stalinism.
The question now is whether paranoia can remain confined to that
thirty-or-so percent of the electorate who are permanently crazy.
That's what Nixon himself said, by the way-that "one third of the
American electorate is nuts." About a third of the German people voted
for the Nazis. I think there's something to that. It's sort of a magic
STAY FREE: Come to think of it, public opinion polls repeatedly show
that 70% of the public are skeptical of advertising claims. I guess
that means about 30% believe anything.
MCM: Wow. I wonder if that lack of skepticism toward advertising
correlates in any way with this collective paranoia. That would be
interesting to know.
STAY FREE: Well, during the Gulf War, a market research firm conducted
a study that found that the more hawkish people were, the more likely
they were to be rampant consumers. Warmongers, in other words,
consumed more than peaceniks. Why do you think these two reactions
might be correlated?
MCM: One could argue that this mild, collective paranoia often finds
expression in promiscuous consumption. Eli Sagan talks about the
"paranoidia of greed" as well as the "paranoidia of domination." Both
arise out of suspicion of the enemy. You either try to take over all
his territory forcibly, or you try to buy everything up and wall
yourself within the fortress of your property.
STAY FREE: Those two reactions also practically dominate American
culture. When people from other countries think of America, they think
of us being materialistic and violent. We buy stuff and kill people.
Do you think there's any positive form of paranoia? Any advantage to
MCM: No, I don't, because paranoids have a fatal tendency to look for
the enemy in the wrong place. James Angleton of the CIA was so very
destructive because he was paranoid. I mean, he should have been in a
hospital-and I'm not being facetious. Just like James Forrestal, our
first defense secretary. These people were unable to protect
themselves, much less serve their country. I think paranoia is only
useful if you're in combat and need to be constantly ready to kill.
Whether it's left-wing or right-wing paranoia, the drive is ultimately
STAY FREE: Our government is weak compared to the corporations that
run our country. What role do you see for corporations in the
MCM: Well, corporations do largely run the country, and yet we can't
trust them with our security. The private sector wants to cut costs,
so you don't trust them with your life. Our welfare is not uppermost
in their minds; our money is. So what role can the corporations play?
STAY FREE: They can make the puffy suits!
MCM: The puffy suits and whatever else the Pentagon claims to need.
Those players have a vested interest in eternal war.
STAY FREE: Did you read that article about Wal-Mart? After September
11, sales shot up for televisions, guns, and canned goods.
MCM: Paranoia can be very good for business.
STAY FREE: Have you ever watched one of those television news shows
that interpret current events in terms of Christian eschatology? They
analyze everyday events as signs of the Second Coming.
MCM: No. I bet they're really excited now, though. I wonder what our
president thinks of that big Happy Ending, since he's a born-again.
You know, Reagan thought it was the end times.
STAY FREE: But those are minority beliefs, even among born-again
[mcm4.gif] MCM: It depends on what you mean by "minority." Why are
books by Tim LaHayes selling millions? He's a far-right
fundamentalist, co-author of a series of novels all about the end
times-the Rapture and so on. And Pat Robertson's best-seller, the New
World Order, sounds the same apocalyptic note.
STAY FREE: He's crazy. He can't really believe all that stuff.
MCM: No, he's crazy and therefore he can believe that stuff. His nurse
told him years ago that he was showing symptoms of paranoid
STAY FREE: I recently read a chapter from Empire of Conspiracy-an
intelligent book about conspiracy theories. But it struck me that the
author considered Vance Packard, who wrote Hidden Persuaders, a
conspiracy theorist. Packard's book was straightforward journalism. He
interviewed advertising psychologists and simply reported their
claims. There was very little that was speculative about it.
MCM: The author should have written about Subliminal Seduction and the
other books by Wilson Brian Key.
STAY FREE: Exactly! That nonsense about subliminal advertising was a
perfect example of paranoid conspiracy. Yet he picked on Vance
Packard, who conducted his research as any good journalist would.
MCM: Again, we must distinguish between idle, lunatic conspiracy
theorizing, and well-informed historical discussion. There have been
quite a few conspiracies in U.S. history-and if you don't know that,
you're either ignorant or in denial. Since 1947, for example, we have
conspiratorially fomented counter-revolutions and repression the world
over. That's not conspiracy theory. That's fact-which is precisely why
it meets the charge of speculation. How better to discredit someone
than to say she's chasing phantoms-or that she has an axe to grind?
When James Loewen's book Lies Across America was reviewed in The New
York Times, for example, the reviewer said it revealed an ideological
bias because it mentions the bombing of civilians in Vietnam. Loewen
wrote back a killer letter to the editor pointing out that he had
learned about those bombings from The New York Times. Simply
mentioning such inconvenient facts is to be dismissed as a wild-eyed
When someone tells me I'm conspiracy-mongering I usually reply, "It
isn't a conspiracy, it's just business as usual."
STAY FREE: That's like what Noam Chomsky says about his work: "This is
not conspiracy theory, it is institutional analysis." Institutions do
what is necessary to assure the survival of the institution. It's
built into the process.
MCM: That's true. There's a problem with Chomsky's position,
though-and I say this with all due respect because I really love
Chomsky. When talking about U.S. press coverage, Chomsky will say that
reporters have internalized the bias of the system. He says this, but
the claim is belied by the moralistic tone of Chomsky's critique-he
charges journalists with telling "lies" and lying "knowingly." There
is an important contradiction here. Either journalists believe they're
reporting truthfully, which is what Chomsky suggests when he talks
about internalizing institutional bias. Or they're lying-and that, I
think, is what Chomsky actually believes because his prose is most
energetic when he's calling people liars.
One of the purposes of my next book, Mad Scientists, will be to
suggest that all the best-known and most edifying works on propaganda
are slightly flawed by their assumption that the propagandist is a
wholly rational, detached, and calculating player. Most critics-not
just Chomsky, but Jacques Ellul and Hannah Arendt, among others-tend
to project their own rationality onto the propagandist. But you can't
study the Nazis or the Bolsheviks or the Republicans without noticing
the crucial strain of mad sincerity that runs throughout their work,
even at its most cynical.
[mcm3.gif] STAY FREE: You have written that even worse than the
possibility that a conspiracy exists may be the possibility that no
conspiracy is needed. What do you mean by that?
MCM: The fantasy of one big, bad cabal out there is terrifying but
also comforting. Not only does it help make sense of a bewildering
reality, but it also suggests a fairly neat solution. If we could just
find all the members of the network and kill them, everything will be
okay. It's more frightening to me that there are no knowing authors.
No one is at the top handling the controls. Rather, the system is on
auto-pilot, with cadres just going about their business, vaguely
assuming that they're doing good and telling truths-when in fact they
are carrying out what could objectively be considered evil. What do
you do, then? Who is there to kill? How do you expose the
perpetrators? Whom do you bring before the bar of justice-and who
believes in "justice"?
And yet I do think that a lot of participants in this enterprise know
they're doing wrong. One reason people who work for the tobacco
companies make so much money, for example, is to still the voice of
conscience, make them feel like they're doing something valuable. But
the voice is very deeply buried.
Ultimately, though, it is the machine itself that's in command, acting
through those workers. They let themselves become the media's own
media-the instruments whereby the system does its thing. I finally
learned this when I studied the Gulf War, or rather, the TV spectacle
that we all watched in early 1991. There was a moment on the war's
first night when Ron Dellums was just about to speak against the war.
He was on the Capitol steps, ready to be interviewed on ABC-and then
he disappeared. They cut to something else. I was certain that
someone, somewhere, had ordered them to pull the plug because the
congressman was threatening to spoil the party. But it wasn't that at
all. We looked into it and found the guy who'd made that decision,
which was a split-second thing based on the gut instinct that Dellums'
comments would make bad TV. So that was that-a quick, unconscious act
of censorship, effected not by any big conspiracy but by one eager
employee. No doubt many of his colleagues would have done the same.
And that, I think, is scarier than any interference from on high.
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