Dissidence: more necessary than ever – LA Progressive
Dissent and critical thinking are especially needed in times of war. Yet this is precisely when people are most driven to silence their doubts, mindlessly conform, wave the flag, and cheer the “good guys” against the “bad guys.”
Dissent is easy to tolerate when it comes to trivial issues that do not challenge or involve existing power structures. Chomsky and Herman wrote of the famous “manufacturing of consent,” which is another way of saying that dissent itself is manufactured and controlled, giving us the illusion that democratic debate is allowed and encouraged in America. But of course, dissent is not tolerated when it threatens power structures, profit margins and dominant discourses.
We see this clearly in the amount of dissident policing and canceled information about the Russian-Ukrainian war. Look at what happened to the RT (Russia Today) network in the United States (RT America). It was dropped by DirecTV and forced to lay off its staff and cease operations. It’s easy to encourage something like this if you think or have been told that all Russian is bad, but the loss is huge for democracy and freedom of speech.
I haven’t watched RT America much, but I’ve appreciated the network’s support of informed critics like Chris Hedges and Jesse Ventura. Hedges and Ventura, both freethinkers, have been shut out by mainstream media in the United States. The case of Ventura is particularly revealing. He had a three-year, multimillion-dollar contract with MSNBC for a talk show in 2003 that was canceled when the network realized he was against the war in Iraq. The network honored the contract, paying him around $6–8 million while keeping him off the air for three years. Millions of money for not working sounds like a good deal, but it’s obviously not in the interests of free speech.
When I started writing for TomDispatch.com in 2007, publishing articles that challenged the official narrative of “progress” in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there were exactly two television stations that asked interview me: Al-Jazeera and RT America. (I turned them down, mostly because I worked in rural Pennsylvania and didn’t have time to travel to New York for studio interviews.) No mainstream media network showed the slightest interest. . I’m not complaining here – I’m just stating facts. Ask yourself how many times you’ve seen and heard anti-war voices and sharp criticism on NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN, MSNBC and similar networks. You won’t see or hear it there because it’s considered bad for business.
Why is this bad for business? Advertisers don’t like that. You know: companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin and similar bastions of the military-industrial complex. These same companies are often part of multinational conglomerates that own the networks. They’re not about to sanction shows or give airtime to knowledgeable critics like Hedges and Ventura. Why would they? Profit and power trump free speech every time.
The dissenting voices are still there, but they are kept on platforms where their reach is often limited by computer algorithms that send people to mainstream sites first. For what it’s worth, I seek alternative perspectives from The Jimmy Dore Show, Useful Idiots, Breaking Points, and journalists like Matt Taibbi, Glenn Greenwald, Chris Hedges, and Caitlin Johnstone, among others.
I also continue to check mainstream sources like The New York Times, NBC News, and PBS, as well as subscribe to old-school print magazines like The Nation, The New Republic, and The Baffler. And I’m not above watching Tucker Carlson when he features prominent voices like former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.
Americans, citizens of what is supposedly a democracy, deserve access to the widest possible range of sources and reviews. Denying the same to us is censorship. It limits thought, it stifles debate, and it makes us far below where we could be as a democracy and as a people.