Subject: ON THE TIES OF FRIENDSHIP AND JUSTICE.
26 October 2007
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
The mercenary armed guards and paid ideologues of the failing neo-liberal system are on the defensive, which means they are more vicious than ever. Predictably they are changing colors, too, looking for new employment opportunities.
This historic moment makes the understanding of despotism an important intellectual exercise. The ideologists of capitalism, including the media, do not control what we think, as Dr. Michael Parenti has effectively pointed out in his writings on this subject, but they do control what we think about. By choosing what public discussions are "legitimate," they are able to frame our thinking so that a great number of social issues which should concern us are excluded from rational public discourse. Despite this, many of us think we are free.
Like the daily life of a despot controlling his concubines and eunuchs in his seraglio, we must assume, the milieu of the corporate owners of society represents a limited satisfaction, compared to that of democratic statesmen representing citizens, who are able and willing to discuss their needs and their desires for a better society. History shows that despotism, based on "voluntary slavery," is a disturbingly stable form of government, but it is not without contradictions. The threat of mass resistance can be ignored by despots only at great risk. The eunuchs and the concubines present a false feeling of stability, and beneath the surface of voluntary obedience to the will of the despot is a necessary violence ready to restore order.
Under the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922) despotism carried the notion that human rights were non-existent. The despot was the legal owner of all individuals and property. The longevity of despotic states can be explained by the methods with which the slave relationships were secured. There were essentially two methods: (a) by the law of nations, military conquerors may grant life to the defeated in exchange for perpetual enslavement, and (b) by the law of nature, people may decide to exchange their human rights for subsistence or security. Nevertheless, the Ottoman Turks had to control the seraglio, as they did the Empire, by armed guards and ideologues so that the repressed needs of their subjects would never find overt expression which might challenge the social order, an order that lasted for centuries. The Grand Seigneur, of course, rarely raised his voice in anger, nor did he get his hands dirty administering punishments. There was no shortage of mercenaries for such unpleasant tasks.
Montesquieu makes this point about despotism:
It would be an error to believe that there has ever existed anywhere in the
world a human authority that is despotic in all its aspects. . . . Even the
greatest power is limited in some way. If the Grand Seigneur . . . were to
attempt to impose some new tax, the resulting outcry would be such as to
make him observe the limits to which he had not known he was subject.
Although the King of Persia may be able to force a son to kill his father . . . ,
the same King cannot force his subjects to drink wine. Every nation is
dominated by a general spirit, on which its very power is founded.
Anything undertaken in defiance of that spirit is a blow against that power,
and as such must necessarily come to a stop. (Considérations, XXII)
Below is a fall semester assignment for the undergraduate students in my U.S. Media course at Stendhal University. It is an exercise to analyze hidden biases in the U.S. media and to describe democratic resistance to restrictions on the freedom of thought and expression in American society and beyond.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble 3
Class Assignment for 5 November 2007
Professor Francis Feeley
Internet Addresses with Information Sources to Describe and Analyze
24 October 2007
Below please find some Internet addresses which I think will be useful for our course on the US media. You should take a look at these materials below, and at our next class, after the holidays, I will ask you what information source you have chosen to describe and analyze. There is a lot of material here, and I suggest that you first get acquainted with these Internet sites before deciding which one you want to focus on for your term paper.
After holidays, you can let me know what you have chosen. In this way we can avoid any duplication of topics before you begin your research, to make sure that each student has a different subject to report on.
If you have trouble choosing a media source to analyze, I of course will be available to help you after the holidays.
The CEIMSA Internest site at The University of California (Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements) http://www.ceimsa.org/, and of particular interest are materials available at the following CEIMSA addresses . . .
(i.) Especially rich in information is the Internet site, Third World Traveler which brings together some of the most critical social science writing available in the English-speaking world:
(ii.) Also for good sources of contemporary social criticism, check out at the bottom of the CEIMSA link page the Video sources on Information Clearing House : http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/index.html and TruthOut: http://www.truthout.org/multimedia.htm
d. For a documentation of the repression CEIMSA has experienced at Stendhal University since 2004, see : http://dimension.ucsd.edu/CEIMSA-IN-EXILE/newsletter/newsletter-22.html
This Internet news broadcast offers a big selection of materials for news analysis of a specific subject.
(be sure to check out the Archives using key words or names like "Africa", "Blackwater", "Pete Seeger", etc...)
Al Jazeera English Live Broadcast
Mosaic: World News from the Middle East
Dahr Jamail website + a 29-minute interview with Dahr Jamail where he discusses how he started his now famous BLOG (and how you can, too!) : http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/10/15/1351251&mode=thread&tid=25
Documentary Film: "Orwell Rolls in His Grave"
Manufacturing Consent: Naom Chomsky and the Media
Capitalism and Other Kids Stuff
Documentary Film: "New Rulers of the World"
"Walmart: The High Cost of Low Prices"
Dr. Michael Parenti: "Terrorism, Globalization and Conspiracy"
Audio: Chomsky on "Propaganda and War"
Howard Zinn: The Myth of American Exceptionalism
"Outfoxed" examines how media empires, led by Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, have been running a "race to the bottom" in television news. This film provides an in-depth look at Fox News and the dangers of ever-enlarging corporations taking control of the public's right to know.
(First one munute in Dutch language.)
"Uncovered: The Whole Truth About The Iraq War"
"My Japan" Anti-Japanese Propaganda film 1945
Documentary Film: "The War on Democracy"
The Century of the Self : How politicians and business learned to create and manipulate mass-consumer society.
"Embracing Humanity: Truth in a Time of War with Howard Zinn"