Jun 14, 2005

Axing Big Bird, the Mercedes Gap & the Internets Connection

When the rules of the game are increasingly being fixed in favor of the elites, and while it is getting harder to move up the socio-economic scale in the US, there is another phenomenon that's creating another gap, that is, between those who have access to information and technology, and those who don't. What was a luxury maybe ten years ago, it's a necessity today in the cyberspace age. Information is empowering. Access to services and the use of all available tools of the internet is a must-have especially for those who don't have a panoply of means.
I don't know when, in the face of such technological marvels at our disposal, there had been such an effort for dumbing down of our society. When other advanced countries have settled on modernity and for a greater distribution of their national wealth, we are still arguing whether to teach science in our schools! We are not producing enough engineers, scientists, and we don't want to fund programs in the creative arts and sciences. International talent, once drawn to our shores, is looking for more hospitable venues elsewhere today.

We may have chuckled when Bush spoke of "the internets" but I guess it's been a joke in the conservative circles about the "Mercedes gap"--as the Bush-appointed chairman of the FCC described the technological divide. Michael Powell (son of former US Secretary of State Colin Powell) allowed the media consolidation to take place despite a public outcry. He and his neo-cons peddled the public airwaves to fat corporations. It's no wonder that the mainstream media is full of fat-asses, non-journalists, and celebrity-driven entertainment. By the way, I wonder what happened to that person who decided to air the British parliament debates on C-SPAN when his bosses weren't looking. You know, in Britain they have actual debates, and the chieftains have to face tough if not savage questioning, unlike here in the US where legislation is passed by proxy, in secret and with no debate. Never mind that our leader can't be subjected to serious questioning. He avoids press conferences, pays for infotainment disguising it as objective news, talks to carefully screened conservatives at "town-hall meetings," while the national press has abdicated its duty to seeking the truth and to the nation.

Last year the US Supreme Court ruled that the states can bar cities from offering high-speed internet services, so the oligopolies have been pouring money into the politicians' pockets to pass such laws. In Pennsylvania they passed such a law, with Philadelphia as the only exception (it had invested heavily in giving broadband internet service to its residents). A former Southwestern Bell employee, now a congressman, Pete Sessions (R-TX) wants to pass a federal law to prohibit every city in the country from opening up the internet to the people! For more
info on the issue and to take action click on the links.

A few days ago, the Republicans in the House grabbed an axe and went chasing
Big Bird. Their intent is to chop $200 million from funding public broadcasting, including $24 million from "Read to Learn"--a children's educational program. As they want to do with public education, the Repubs want to eliminate all funding for PBS and National Public Radio. It's no wonder, they want dumb citizens, not an educated public with access to information. I've written about the conservative attacks on public broadcasting on an earlier post, so I want to close by quoting Bill Moyers who recently said, "The more compelling our journalism, the angrier the radical right of the Republican Party gets... that's because the one thing they loathe more than liberals is the truth. And the quickest way to be damned by them as liberal is to tell the truth."

The quality of our life, the quality of our education, our ability to gather and access information, and the quality of our democracy are all closely related. If we collectively remain passive and allow the dumbing down of our society to continue, then we would deserve to be called stupid. Com'on, at least let's give our children a good fighting chance to be smart and have a great life. They deserve all the chances we didn't have. Now, let's get to work and make our voices heard!

8 comments:

Andros said...

The link "info" in the post opens up a PDF file (you need the free Adobe Acrobat reader from www.adobe.com).
The article "Telco Lies and the Truth About Municipal Broadband Networks" is a good read. Access to the internet today is like accessing the street & the highways.

There were cases in PA, IN, OH, and practically all over the country whereas the telcos weren't interested in providing broadband to the people there as it were small markets. The localities trying to keep & attract businesses did their own work and offered the service only to be sued by the telcos.
The battles now are in the state houses with tons of money being poured by the telco lobbyists into the coffers of the politicians. Public action and involvement is necessary to prevent such efforts by the telcos.

Anonymous said...

With all the talk about Americans being so independently-minded, why is there such a passive approach to politics, especially when it comes to questioning our leaders.... It's rather pathetic.

Jason, WI

Anonymous said...

I like the quote from Eleanor Roosevelt about democracy and the educated public.

Anonymous said...

Oh, no, not Big Bird! Though, I think Big Bird seems a bit gay to me...

Anonymous said...

The conservatives gave the public airwaves to fat corporations without requiring them to provide a public service. Most people don't know that the airwaves (through which radio, tv are broadcasted) belong to all of us. We're turning into a country of politically illiterate people.

Anonymous said...

Certain things are not supposed to be profit makers, like public education, although producing educated citizens obviously is profitable for the country as a whole. But, the conservatives don't really care about public education, because they don't care about helping those who are less well-off. The see education as a form of welfare! On the other hand, like you said, it helps them having alot of ignorant people....

Anonymous said...

WiFi should be free and everywhere. It helps the business so the Republicans should be for it, right?

Anonymous said...

..unless they prefer the money in their pockets from the telcos!