Patriotism and the media

The mass media are bombarding Americans with proclamations that the global revulsion to George Bush’s policies is “anti-American.”

In a recent exchange on C-SPAN a French reporter held a copy of Le Monde, one of the world’s leading newspapers, to explain the meeting of the leaders of France, Germany and Russia in opposition to Bush’s war policy. The American commentator said he had his own paper, and pointed to the front page of Rupert Murdoch’s crude right-wing tabloid, the New York Post, showing the graves of Americans who fell at Normandy and proclaiming the French to be ingrates. The French reporter looked at him as if to say, “These are the jerks who think they can rule the world?”

In the 1930s and ’40s, Communists and their allies on the left in the United States, as part of the fight against fascism, campaigned to take the American flag out of the hands of reaction, to define the “American way” as inclusive, democratic, the struggle of the “common man” for social justice in a society based on economic and social equality. Paul Robeson singing “Ballad for Americans” and Woody Guthrie’s full version of “This Land Is Your Land” were expressions of that America, an America evolving toward higher levels of democracy, not isolating itself from the rest of the world and using the flag and the Constitution to sustain robber baron capitalism.

Today, we have got to struggle to take the flag away from the Murdoch media empire, CNN, and the endlessly recycled right-wing “pundits” (the TV word for jerk) who repeat big lies over and over in the assumption that people will passively believe them.

Americans have always understood that social and economic inequality has been the basis of war, so the media deny the increasing inequality, poverty and desperation that “globalization” and the IMF-World Bank policies have produced.

Americans have never supported colonialism or imperialism. That is why the media for half a century used the big lie that communism was no different than fascism and the Soviet Union no different than Nazi Germany. In this way, the media helped maintain support for global imperialist and counter-revolutionary policies. Communists and anti-cold-war progressives were never given any serious access to mass media to challenge such views, even though it was they who were true patriots for peace, by fighting against a World War III and what would have been an inevitable nuclear holocaust.

The American people are deeply progressive and humanistic in their views when they are given a chance to think, despite a political system that discourages popular participation and overwhelmingly favors the right through uncontrolled use of money.

Before the Civil War, the majority knew that slavery was indefensible, but they were led to hate and fear abolitionists and Blacks as enemies of “American freedom.” But abolitionists were the only ones who really wanted to implement the ideals of the American revolution and bring freedom to millions of slaves. Racism was the ideology that sustained the wealth and power of the slaveholders, who didn’t exist in the North and represented only 20 percent of the white people of the South.

Today, the majority knows that deregulated, untaxed monopoly capitalism and a militarist foreign policy are wrong. That is why those who seriously challenge and fight to end that undemocratic system – Communists and the broad left in labor and society, and the broad peace movement – are condemned as enemies of American democracy.

The Feb. 15 demonstrations, the March 5 national student strike, and the events to follow will, if we all work together, carry forward the process of making America what it was in the past, a nation to be admired and revered by the forces of liberty and democracy in the world, instead of being hated and feared as the great colonial empires were.

In this campaign, the People’s Weekly World has a vital role to play, as a real voice of the American people and its national ideals, as William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, was 160 years ago.

Norman Markowitz is a history professor in at Rutgers University. He can be reached at pww@pww.org