Sunday, March 10, 2013

50. WBAI -- again!

     Last July in post #16 I communicated my love/hate affair with listener-sponsored WBAI.  This is a further communication, a reaction to their latest and seemingly interminable fund drive, where they they ask, beg, implore listeners to donate money, so they can remain a truly independent radio station unbeholden to any corporate sponsors.  (Are these drives longer and more numerous than ever, or am I just imagining it?)  What's different about this drive is the note of desperation: if they don't raise a hefty sum immediately, they will lose their transmitter on top of the Empire State Building, in which case they will go off the air.  As a result, they are appealing above all to prospective "angels" able to give a thousand dollars or more.  (In this regard I don't even rate as a cherub.)  The crisis is for real; I encourage all who listen to the station to donate in whatever amount they can; the station's continuing existence is in question.

     To sweeten the pain of parting with one's bucks, WBAI offers premiums, and it is one of these that provokes this post.  The premium is entitled "Great Lies in History" and comprises five DVDs available to anyone donating $250 to the station.  (The DVDs were also available individually for pledges of $100.)  The five DVDs:
  1. The True History of Marijuana.
  2. Cancer: the Forbidden Cure.
  3. Who Killed RFK?  
  4. UFOs and the Military  (not the exact title, but close)
  5. The New American Century.
     Having already contributed to the cause, I didn't get any of these DVDs, but their claims -- highly controversial, and in the provocative tradition of the station -- prompted me to appraise my reaction to them.  What follows is a poll of one, an effort to determine my rating on the Gullibility Index (an index that I just invented).  I have allowed myself one of four reactions: YES (I agree heartily), NO (I disagree), YES/NO (a mixed reaction), and ??? (too uninformed to have an opinion).  I'm simply recording here my gut reaction to these assertions, about which I have little or no special information; I am not trying to convert others to my opinion, or to "deconvert" them either.  Here goes.

File:Male hemp flowers.jpg
Friend or enemy?  Boon or threat?
1.  The True History of Marijuana.  The DVD insists that the hemp plant is beneficial for many reasons, but condemned as a dangerous drug because the medical establishment -- M.D.s and Big Pharma -- want no competition that might threaten their profits.  I have little doubt that this last is true, but am mindful of the opinion of another WBAI host, Gary Null, whose pronouncements on health and nutrition I take seriously.  Null has stated more than once that marijuana, if smoked regularly, is even more detrimental to health than nicotine.  (Incidentally, I have never smoked pot.  Ah, what I have surely missed!)  So opinion about marijuana varies, and varies widely.  My reaction to the DVD: NO.

2.  Cancer: the Forbidden Cure.  The DVD asserts that there are natural cures for cancer that the cancer industry does its best to suppress, so as to protect its vast profits.  I don't know what specific natural cures the DVD espouses, but do know that there is indeed a huge cancer industry that derives immense profits from the current standard treatments, even though they can do harm and don't effect a definitive cure.  A personal note: years ago I had surgery to remove a malignant tumor in my colon that was on the verge of metastasizing -- that is, spreading throughout my body.  The doctors then urged chemotherapy to lessen the risk of recurrence, but, since I knew that chemo might involve nasty side effects and wouldn't cure me, I opted for a health and nutrition approach instead.  I still follow that approach, including in my daily diet soy products, garlic, and cruciferous vegetables (kale, collards, cabbage) that are known to have anticancer properties.  A good decision?  Well, here I am today, years later, free of cancer.  So my reaction to this DVD is YES.

This ...

... or this?                      SaletteAndrews

3.  Who Killed RFK?  As I said in my earlier post on WBAI, the station has never encountered a conspiracy theory that it didn't embrace with fervor and verve.  This DVD announces that it can and does name Robert Kennedy's true killer, who isn't the convicted and long imprisoned Sirhan Sirhan.  These theories provoke my inner skeptic.  There have been so many over the years (we'll meet some more in the fifth DVD), so elaborate, so vehement, so convinced, with an array of impressive spokesmen (and women), but somehow for me they have never quite sounded convincing.  If solid facts emerge regarding Kennedy, I might change my opinion, but for now my response is NO.

4.  UFOs and the Military.  The DVD insists that our military has for years covered up substantiated UFO sightings.  Here I simply plead ignorance, so my reaction is ???

5.  The New American Century.  Here I may be crossing wires, confusing the content of this DVD with other information offered by the station in this fund drive.  But WBAI has certainly presented the claim that our government, to get us into wars, has lied repeatedly, inventing or provoking incidents so that it can claim self-defense, as required by the Constitution.   Let's have a look at the lengthy historical record and see my response to each claim.  I'll mention only the wars where I recall clearly what the DVD asserts.  Our history being chockfull of wars, there are plenty to consider.  (Was there ever a time when peace-loving Americans weren't at war?  If you include wars against the native peoples, never!)

     The Mexican War.  The DVD asserts that the Polk administration wanted the war and therefore provoked a Mexican attack by sending U.S. troops to what it claimed was the border, the Rio Grande.  No argument; this is a matter of historical fact.  And did the provocation pay off?  You bet!   We grabbed a third of Mexico.  YES.

     The Spanish-American War.  Certainly the Hearst papers decried Spanish atrocities in Cuba and beat the drums for war, and Teddy Roosevelt announced, "What this country needs is a splendid little war."  He got what he wanted when the battleship Maine, sent to Cuba to protect our interests there, was blown up in Havana harbor.  It has long been admitted that the cause of the explosion was unclear, probably not the work of the Spaniards, possibly the result of an internal explosion, or the work of Cuban rebels eager to bring us into their struggle.  Cuba today asserts that the U.S. itself blew the vessel up, so as to have a reason for going to war, but I'm not convinced.  Instead, I see a heedless rush to war before all the facts were known.  And what was the Maine doing down there anyway?  So I'll say YES/NO.  But did it all pay off?  Well, we got Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines and so became a colonial power.  The beginnings of empire, one might say, and world power status.  If one wants to be an empire, a great big leap ahead.  But a leap to what?  We'll talk about that another time.

     World War II.  This is the lollapalooza of conspiracy theories.  Because we had cracked the Japanese diplomatic and naval codes (which is true), the theory asserts, President Roosevelt knew in advance that the Japanese were going to attack Pearl Harbor and deliberately withheld this information from our commanders there, so as to get us into the war.  It's true that those commanders were never told that war with Japan was likely or imminent, and that they became scapegoats and were summarily removed from command.  But I don't buy the conspiracy theory.  Why not?  Because the war with Japan was going to be above all a naval war, and you can't fight a naval war if your fleet is on the bottom of the harbor.  And so: NO.

Did he ...

... do this?

     The Vietnam War.  Yes, it's a known fact, and now not the least bit controversial, that Lyndon Johnson's administration invented an attack on our ships by the North Vietnamese, so as to have a pretext for going to war with them.  A resounding YES.

     9/11.  Here began our war on terrorism.  The DVD insists that the neocons planned the attack so as to provoke a war that would let them initiate policies that only such a crisis could make possible.  Yes, they did take advantage of the attack to initiate those policies, but I'm not at all convinced that they planned the whole shebang.  Another lollapalooza.  NO.

     Iraq.  Again, I think it's clear that the Bush administration lied about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction so as to get us into war.  Also, it was suggested that he had a hand in 9/11, which he did not.  Another resounding YES.

     So there you have the claims and my response.  My tally: YES: 3, NO: 2, YES/NO: 1.  A balanced viewpoint, I hope, and not too high on the Gullibility Index.  But these answers aren't writ in stone.  If more solid facts -- as opposed to intriguing theories -- emerge, I might change my mind.  I agree that we've been lied to a lot, and with fearful consequences, but my inner skeptic persists, a stubborn little character who, shunning Cloud Cuckoo Land, refuses to swallow everything that conspiracy buffs put out.  History is a very mixed bag; its events are complex, often ugly and depressing, but not easily reduced to simple formulae.

     A sobering aside:  During the current fund drive WBAI has mentioned Operation Norwood, a proposed CIA operation drafted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1962, when Cuba had gone Communist under the leadership of Fidel Castro.  The plan was to create an incident that could be blamed on Cuban terrorists and so justify a war with Cuba.  Many incidents were suggested: fake terrorists could hijack a U.S. passenger plane, which would then be replaced by a pilotless plane that would crash, supposedly killing all aboard.  (So what would become of the hijacked passengers?  Indefinite detention?)  Or a U.S. ship could be blown up in Guantanamo Bay, for which Cuba could be blamed.  (Remember the Maine!)  And so on.  President Kennedy rejected the plan, which was never put into operation.  But the fact that our military would propose such a project possibly involving loss of U.S. lives is disturbing enough.  Score one for the conspiracy theorists!  Only on WBAI have I heard about this proposal, which can be confirmed by googling it on the Internet.  Need I say more?

     So here I am, still a listener and -- modestly -- a financial supporter of WBAI, which I feel free to criticize roundly.  WNYC can  entertain and inform me, or repel me with its silly games and audience-participation shows, but it can never shock me.  Other stations offend, annoy, or bore me with their blatant babble and trivia (WQXR is the exception), so that I avoid them like the plague.  But WBAI is uniquely provocative and outrageous; it irks me, teases me, gladdens me.  And it's the only station that on occasion makes me think.

     Bank note:  My love affair with J.P. Morgan Chase continues.  How could it not, when they offer me free candy and pens, and a hand sanitizer as well?  Given these amenities and the nicest staff at my branch, who are so helpful in explaining the little fees that the bank has been charging me lately, how could I not overlook their recent $8 billion loss in trading, and now, so the press informs me, their policy of advising clients to make investments more to the bank's advantage than their own?  I'm sure it's all a mistake that will be cleared up promptly.  Still, I can't help wondering what old J.P. himself would have thought of these shenanigans.  He was a tough old guy, impatient of incompetence and failure.  But maybe that's irrelevant.  After all, free candy and pens ...

File:CAB 1918 Morgan John Pierpont.jpg
Would he have tolerated an $8 billion loss?
Or given away free candy?

     Final note:  I don't mean to use this blog for advocacy, but this is a special case.  WBAI is desperately in need of funds; its survival is at stake.  I urge anyone who listens frequently to make a donation of whatever size now.  It is unique; its loss would be irreparable.
                                               SAVE  WBAI!

(c)  2013  Clifford Browder

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