"The mainstream media should bolster their independent reporting of the Iraq war," wrote Wayne Madsen in the San Diego Union-Tribune.
"They should reject the lies consistently fed to journalists in Baghdad and at the Pentagon, State Department, and White House. And editors must encourage journalists to publish 'off-the-record' interviews with U.S. military members," advised Madsen. "This is contrary to the Pentagon's media policy, but the military is not the final arbiter of First Amendment freedom of the press rights. The military is responsible for defending those rights."
In July 2009, the PEN American Center, an eighty- seven-year-old organization dedicated to defending the freedom of writers around the world, joined the American Civil Liberties Union in court to challenge the FISA Amendments Act (FAA). Both PEN and the ACLU said the FAA greatly expanded the ability of the U.S. government to spy on Americans without a warrant and granted retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies who aided in government spying on citizens.
"We are plaintiffs in this lawsuit first and foremost because we believe our own communications, which include sensitive phone calls and emails with writers facing persecution in countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, are vulnerable under the program," wrote Larry Siems, director of the PEN American Center's Freedom to Write program, in the Huffington Post. "We know from the experiences of our colleagues in countries where governments had unchecked surveillance powers (including the United States as recently as the 1970s) that programs that allow governments to spy on their own citizens are often directed against writers and intellectuals, and that surveillance in general poses a serious threat to the intellectual and creative freedoms of all citizens."
But there are organizations other than PEN and the ACLU fighting back. The World Press Freedom Committee is an international group composed of members from forty- five news organizations that have fought for more than thirty years against the licensing of journalists, mandatory codes of conduct, mandatory tasks for journalists, and other news controls. The World Press Freedom Committee created a Charter for a Free Press that lists ten principles to guarantee the "unfettered flow of news and information both within and across national borders." The committee said such a charter deserves the support of "all those pledged to advance and protect democratic institutions." The principles are as follows:
1. Censorship, direct or indirect, is unacceptable; thus laws and practices restricting the right of the news media freely to gather and distribute information must be abolished, and government authorities,
national or local, must not interfere with the content of print or broadcast news, or restrict access to any news source.
Independent news media, both print and broadcast, must be allowed to emerge and operate freely in all countries.
There must be no discrimination by governments in their treatment, economic or otherwise, of the news media within a country. In those countries where government media also exist, the independent media must have the same free access as the official media have to all material and facilities necessary to their publishing or broadcasting operations.
States must not restrict access to newsprint, printing facilities and distribution systems, operation of news agencies, and availability of broadcast frequencies and facilities.
Legal, technical and tariff practices by communications authorities which inhibit the distribution of news and restrict the flow of information are condemned.
Government media must enjoy editorial independence and be open to a diversity of viewpoints. This should be affirmed in both law and practice.
There should be unrestricted access by the print and broadcast media within a country to outside news and information services, and
the public should enjoy similar freedom to receive foreign publications and foreign broadcasts without interference.
National frontiers must be open to foreign journalists. Quotas must not apply, and applications for visas, press credentials and other documentation requisite for their work should be approved promptly. Foreign journalists should be allowed to travel freely within a country and have access to both official and unofficial news sources, and be allowed to import and export freely all necessary professional materials and equipment.
Restrictions on the free entry to the field of journalism or over its practice, through licensing or other certification procedures, must be eliminated.
10. Journalists, like all citizens, must be secure in their persons and be given full protection of law. Journalists working in war zones are recognized as civilians enjoying all rights and immunities accorded to other civilians.
Organizations other than the World Press Freedom Committee also have contributed to the establishment of a free and unfettered media. Phil Donahue, the talk-show host who lost his job shortly after questioning the official story of 9/11, urged the public to support "the Los Angeles
Times, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Press Club, and other organizations (not to mention the Framers of our Constitution) and help keep journalists free to be pushy, unpopular and inelegant—sticking a nose under the tent to learn what the righteous have decided is good for us." Donohue rightly proclaims that "There is no substitute for free and unfettered news gathering. Journalists are not cops nor are they public relations people. They are reporters and there is no substitute for them."
One of the largest problems affecting freedom of the press is the corporatization of the media, which dilutes news content in order to make it more appealing to larger audiences. Yet one organization, named the StopBigMedia.com Coalition, is attempting to halt this corporate takeover of an American tradition. The organization is composed of a number of politically diverse groups that have banded together without government or corporate funding to "stop the FCC from allowing a handful of giant corporations to dominate America's media system." According to information on its website, "Corporate media giants are silencing diverse voices, abandoning quality journalism and eliminating local content (we've got the evidence). Our democracy needs better media. Bad policies made in Washington could have a big impact on the news in your community." Elsewhere, they state, "We believe that a free and vibrant media, full of diverse and competing voices, is the lifeblood of America's democracy. We're working together to see that our media system remains, in the words of the Supreme Court, 'an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will prevail.'"
And as with any profession, laziness largely contributes to the recent flux of poor media content. As the British novelist and critic Kingsley Amis once put it, "Laziness has become the chief characteristic of journalism, displacing incompetence."
This laziness is partially due to the prevalence of public relations press releases in the last half century. It has always been easier to rewrite a government or corporate news release than conduct the legwork necessary for documenting a good story. Good stories require a reporter to go out into his community, not sit around at a desk. Yet when a reporter is not at his desk all day, his editor usually becomes upset, as businesses (after all, media companies are businesses) like employees on the premises, at their desks. But sitting behind a desk all day does not promote good daily news or investigations.
University of Illinois communications professor and media reformer Robert McChesney and many others believe journalism may be one of the greatest issues facing the American public, because if the public is not informed about current events, then it is almost impossible for the public to make electoral decisions. Thus, democracy becomes impossible in a journalism-free society.
In the future, journalists may be private citizens who, making use of cell-phone cameras and the Internet, take it upon themselves to find and report the news. It's happened before (albeit without cell phones and the Internet). According to McChesney, perhaps the greatest of such journalists was I. F. Stone, the iconoclastic and once- blacklisted editor of I. F. Stone's Weekly, a self-published newsletter in the 1950s and 1960s with far-reaching influence. In 1999, ten years after his death, Stone's newsletter was named among "The Top 100 Works of Journalism in the United States in the 20th Century." "Stone is currently celebrated by professional American journalism schools as a great hero. But for most of his life, Stone was an anathema to those that relied on official sources," explained McChesney. "Stone refused to have any relationship with people in power because he knew that relationship would corrupt his ability to be a real journalist. He knew that this would limit his capacity to get at the truth of what the government does and whose interests it serves."
"I want a thousand I. F. Stones, combing Washington and Wall Street, investigating power," said McChesney. "To do this well, [the journalists] would need a decent salary, professional training, and a newsroom to protect them from the powerful. They would need much more time. If I work at an office or a factory all day, go home, feed my kids and make their lunch for the next day, clean the house and do the laundry, and then sit down to blog at 11 p.m., it is going to suck.
"What people can do, though, let's say if they've studied some economics and become really interested in economic issues, is this. They can actively search for, collect and read numerous pieces by journalists on the economy. They can compare different points of view, fact- check, and scrutinize sources. Then they can blog on all of this. They can actively participate in the media debate. But this does not mean trained journalists are no longer important. I view the blogosphere (the part-time or volunteer citizen-journalist) as a number of musicians improvising on a melody written by journalists. Bloggers may contribute to the melody in interesting ways. But without journalism, there is just a lot of noise. Journalism should be there to make sure that blogging is not just a lot of noise, but a beautiful song."
It may perhaps be the case that the media's blandness is only a mere reflection of the blandness and conformity that public school systems instill in the nation's citizens. Mark Taylor, currently a teacher at Olathe South High School, in Olathe, Kansas, believes that "In order to win the struggle in the classrooms of America, teachers must first realize that today's public education system was designed by powerful economic elites, whose true intention was for students to think of themselves as employees in a system designed to dumb them down to be good little consumers of the goals that the purveyors of that system have arbitrarily chosen. This system has been sold to educators all across America as the values of a Democratic Republic. These teachers, whether they are university professors, or secondary and elementary school teachers, should begin by addressing that lie and begin to use the elite cover story of a Democratic Republic as a weapon to defeat the imbedded design of subservience."
Taylor has spent his teaching career trying to instill critical thinking skills in his students. "The essence of education is not what we learn, but questioning what we learn. The first step to questioning what we learn is to realize that in order to think outside the box, we must first know we are in it. In order to know we are in it, we must learn how to think, and in order to learn how to think, we must learn primarily from the four horsemen of intellectual enlightenment: philosophy, economics, political science, and history. From philosophy we must learn about what is real, what is true and what is good. From economics we must learn that wealth creation is an illusion created by powerful economic elites. From political science, we must learn that the pursuit of politics is the pursuit of power and it is tied to the secrets of economic wealth creation. Finally, we must learn that today's news is tomorrow's history and since most of today's news is based on lies and deceit, most of history is a lie," he added.
There are teachers across America who teach their students to question the system through the pursuit of philosophy, economics, political science, and history. "Every teacher who uses this formula will contribute to a moment in time when the critical mass of history will implode the designs of those who seek to enslave us all," Taylor said.
Unfortunately, such teachers illuminate their charges in spite of the system, not because of it. To produce literate and functioning members of society, education must first offer all students a basic grounding in the three R's— reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic. Past this, they also should be grounded in the history and philosophy of American freedom. Not in simply memorizing names and dates but, more important, understanding why revolutions and wars were fought and what results came of them. And, over all, students must be shown how to think and reason critically, how to research and examine issues on their own, and, last, how to speak out for what is right and just. Only with a truly educated and responsible citizenry can American regain its place as a leader among nations. With an increasing number of parents beginning to understand the worth of real education, not simply passing tests or fulfilling state-required curricula, they are turning to an alternative.
To ENSURE A BETTER education, some parents remove their children entirely from the public education system. Once considered highly controversial, homeschooling seems to gradually be gaining favor across America. In the past, homeschooling was thought to be only for xenophobes and religious fanatics. Now, by some estimates, two million American kids are getting their education at home. And there is a growing belief, backed by studies and statistics, that the education of homeschooled children often outstrips those in the public system.
Even well-respected collegiate institutions are recognizing homeschooling as a legitimate educational practice. According to a study by the Virginia-based advocacy group National Center for Home Education (NCHE), 68 percent of colleges were accepting parent- prepared transcripts or portfolios in place of an accredited diploma. Those universities accepting homeschoolers included Stanford, Yale, and Harvard. The NCHE said such colleges "generally require SAT I (one) and/or ACT scores, a high school transcript, letters of recommendation, and writing samples."
"Homeschoolers bring certain skills—motivation, curiosity, the capacity to be responsible for their education —that high schools don't induce very well," said Jon Reider, the director of college counseling at San Francisco University High School who at one time was Stanford's senior associate director of admissions.
Isabel Shaw, a writer and homeschooling researcher, wrote: "On average, homeschooled kids score one year ahead of their schooled peers on standardized tests. The longer the student homeschools, the wider this gap becomes. By the time homeschooled children are in the eighth grade, they test four years ahead of their schooled peers." Isabel and her husband, Ray, homeschooled their two daughters for fifteen years. "Of course, these results translate into better American College Test (ACT) scores.
Research shows that high achievement on the ACT strongly indicates a greater likelihood of success in college. According to official ACT reports, homeschooled students repeatedly outperform publicly and privately educated students in the ACT assessment test." Kelley Hayden, a spokesman for ACT, said, "What you can say about the homeschoolers is that homeschooled kids are well- prepared for college."
Those leery of homeschooling say that the very absence of "real world" experiences may put homeschoolers at a disadvantage in later life. "Public school students learn how to deal with a system, no matter how capricious it may be," said one Texas public school teacher. "They learn how to put up with the incompetents (including administrators) they will have to deal with in the real world."
According to Hal Young, a past education vice president for North Carolinians for Home Education, "One of the most common objections levied against home education is that homeschool students lack exposure to different social settings." But Young said that "graduates integrate well into the campus environment. Homeschooling is individual, but it's not isolated. Most homeschoolers that we hear from are pretty well networked in support groups, church activities, Scouting programs, and sports programs.. .so when they get to the college campuses where there are other groups around, that's just another day in life." Young noted that, as a result, "A lot of colleges are saying that [homeschoolers] are a good population to pursue. They've had positive results dealing with home-educated students, and so they actively go out and look for them...."
The late Chris Klicka, as senior counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association, also addressed the idea that homeschooled kids are poorly socialized:
[P]ublic school children are confined to a classroom for at least 180 days each year with little opportunity to be exposed to the workplace or to go on field trips. The children are trapped with a group of children their own age with little chance to relate to children of other ages or adults. They learn in a vacuum where there are no absolute standards. They are given little to no responsibility, and everything is provided for them. The opportunity to pursue their interests and to apply their unique talents is stifled. Actions by public students rarely have consequences, as discipline is lax and passing from grade to grade is automatic. The students are not really prepared to operate in the home (family) or the workplace, which comprise a major part of the "real world" after graduation.
Homeschoolers, on the other hand, do not have the above problems. They are completely prepared for the "real world" of the workplace and the home. They relate regularly with adults and followtheir examples rather than the examples of foolish peers. They learn based on "hands on"experiences and early apprenticeship training. In fact, the only "socialization" or aspect of the "real world" which they miss out on by not attending the public school is unhealthy peer pressure, crime, and immorality. Of course, the average homeschooler wisely learns about these things from afar instead of being personally involved in crime or immorality or perhaps from being a victim.
With the advances in information technology, online education has also grown popular. According to the Wall Street Journal, "Roughly 100,000 of the 12 million high- school-age students in the U.S. attend 438 online schools full-time [in 2009], up from 30,000 five years ago, according to the International Association for K-12 Learning Online, a Washington nonprofit representing online schools. Many more students take some classes online, while attending traditional schools. The National Center for Education Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Education, says 1.5 million K-12 students were home-schooled in 2007, a figure that includes some who attended online schools. That is a 36% increase from the 1.1 million in 2003."
As with regular homeschooling, one major concern about online schooling has been that strictly sitting at a computer will stunt a student's social skills. Raymond Ravaglia, deputy director of Stanford's Educational Program for Gifted Youth, pointed out, "For online high schools, the biggest obstacle is addressing the social interaction for the students. At that age, people really crave social interaction."
Others believe that online students, with their access to multimedia Internet content, will gain an advantage in our increasingly digital world. "What they learn while in the online high school will make them more adaptable thinkers," said Rand Spiro, a professor in education psychology at Michigan State University.
On the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs website, Matthew Ladner, vice president of research at the Goldwater Institute, offered a possible alternative to traditional public education that could be applied nationwide: "John Stuart Mill once observed that if government would simply require an education, they might save themselves the trouble of providing it (or in this case, unsuccessfully trying to provide it).. State lawmakers could make the passing of a civic knowledge exam a precondition for receiving a driver's license, and simply make the necessary study materials available online and at public libraries."
The costs of such a system would be a fraction of what taxpayers are currently spending, and it would likely prove much more effective. Ultimately, the American public must see to it that children learn civics, for as Thomas Jefferson said, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."
CARING FOR HEALTH
Aside from dishing out the usual bland media content full of stories about celebrities, political scandals, and petty crimes, the mass media gives the public the false impression that only experts and medical doctors can determine what constitutes good health and how to achieve it. Every talk show and newscast turns to an expert from the globalist-controlled government agencies or corporations to present their version of health news. Their advice is constantly validated by ubiquitous drug advertising, emanating from the same corporations.
Yet change is in the air. Many people are taking charge of their own health and seeking alternative means of ensuring a satisfying and productive life. Even some medical professionals are turning away from profit-driven corporate medicine and finding new ways to improve public health.
Dr. Len Saputo, a practicing physician for more than forty years, encourages a paradigm shift in how medicine should be practiced. Over the years, Saputo saw the quality of health care in the United States sink to new lows as the medical community shifted from concern for the patient to a concern for profit. In 1994, Saputo founded the Health Medicine Forum, which changed the outlook and practices of many health-care practitioners in the San Francisco Bay Area.
"I entered the profession aspiring to be a healer, as did most of my colleagues," wrote Saputo in his 2009 book A Return to Healing. "We wanted to attend to the health and medical needs of whole persons; we were inspired to serve our patients through our aspiration to provide genuine healing and to promote healthy living based on science and common sense. Sadly, this ideal has been replaced by the corporate bottom line, resulting in a dysfunctional system focused almost entirely on what I prefer to call disease care [original emphasis].