The following image was shared from Right Wing News on my Facebook timeline by a friend wanting me to debunk it. So I did.
1. “Ask the average school student about slavery and they think that only white people had slaves”
What’s the difference between a school student and a student? Did they mean high school student? Without a source, this claim can be dismissed. I’m not about to conduct a poll to prove it wrong.
2. “In the 16th – 18th century, Africans enslaved 1.5 million white Europeans in the Barbary slave trade.”
Rewritten to be factual and grammatically correct: “Between the 16th and 19th centuries, pirates from coastal cities in North Africa enslaved as many as 1.25 million Europeans during the Barbary slave trade.”
The region of North Africa that we’re referring to, the Barbary Coast, is populated almost entirely by Arab-Berbers (97–99%). Berbers are the indigenous people of North Africa west of the Nile. They are caucasian, not black. Furthermore, not all Europeans are white. The image is promoting a racist agenda by making it sound as if blacks were enslaving whites.
3. “Whites were the first to stop slavery in modern times…”
This is true. It’s also convenient that the time period is restricted to the beginning of the modern era. Even more convenient, of course white-dominated modern societies would be more likely to end slavery. That’s where most of the slaves were! You can’t end slavery in a place that doesn’t have slaves to begin with.
4. “…whereas slavery still continues in Africa to this day.”
The word “whereas” denotes a contradiction or comparison, but there is none. Yes, there is slavery in Africa. There’s slavery on every continent except Antarctica.
I wonder if the people who think that children should blindly recite the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools even know what the important words in the Pledge mean.
Can you answer the following from memory?
• What’s a republic?
• What’s a nation, and how is it different from a country?
• What’s liberty, and how does it differ from freedom?
• What’s justice, and how does it differ from retribution?
I’d be willing to bet that most adults can’t correctly answer all four of these questions. So why are we having children pledge to ideas they and most others don’t even understand?
And if advocates insist on including “God” in the Pledge—despite public institutions’ endorsement of religion blatantly violating the First Amendment—I’d ask that they define that word as well. Which god and why?
We’re in a recession because people aren’t spending enough. People aren’t spending enough because they’re not making enough. They aren’t making enough because working- and middle-class wages have stagnated while executive pay has dramatically increased.1 Corporations are making record profits2, and the money isn’t trickling down.
The gap between the rich and everyone else is wider than ever and increasing.3 It makes sense to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires and redistribute that money to services that help the lower and middle classes. Those services will create jobs. People will spend more money. The economy will improve.
Consider the alternative: spending cuts. What ends up being cut? Public services such as healthcare and education. These kinds of cuts lower the quality of life for the majority of this nation’s citizens.
I’ll take the first option.
When given the choice between cuts to social programs that hurt the lower and middle classes, and tax increases on the upper class and large corporations that inconvenience the rich, Republicans choose to cut social programs. They choose to cut teachers’ salaries. They choose to cut support for the most needy among us, including children, the disabled, and the elderly. Clearly the GOP is putting the interests of the wealthy ahead of the vast majority of Americans.
Add to that Republican politicians like Michelle Bachmann who regularly lie to this country, inventing fictions like “Obama’s trip to India will cost taxpayers $200 million a day.”1 Far more of the GOP is lying to the public when they claim the money will “trickle down” from the millionaires and billionaires. Because it doesn’t. The rich are getting richer. And what I see is a pathetic, deceptive game that is ultimately tearing this country apart. Even John McCain has recognized the folly of his party in present fiscal negotiations, calling the actions of his fellow conservatives “deceiving” and “foolish.”2
This is not a conflict between the left and the right. This is a conflict between the top and the bottom. This is a conflict over money. And for whatever reason, it’s been largely the GOP that has sided with the rich. Surely there are plenty of conservative politicians out there with sane economic agendas. They’re just not the ones in congress.
I’ve taken an interest in economics after struggling financially these past few years. After learning the basics, I turned my attention to the present economy. I found that the organization with the most influence over the US economy is the Federal Reserve. The following is a tentative assessment of the Fed. Feel free to correct me, preferably with citations.
The Federal Reserve functions to set national monetary policy and to supervise and regulate the U.S. banking system by controlling the supply of money and changing interest rates. Specifically, it’s mandated “to promote sustainable growth, high levels of employment, stability of prices to help preserve the purchasing power of the dollar and moderate long-term interest rates.”
How can the Fed make a profit when so much of the money in circulation is its own? I can see two or three ways. The first is by currency that existed prior to its inception. The second is by money gained from foreign trade and borrowing. I also recall hearing that commercial banks have the power to create money by employing something called fractional-reserve banking. That would be a third way the Fed can profit. But I don’t see how being paid back in money that it itself produced can be considered profit. Then again, it makes money without any backing. Perhaps it can make a profit because profit is literally what it makes.
The Fed has little government oversight or regulation. It’s only required interaction with congress is an annual report. Its 12 banks are privately owned and operated, and their shareholders are commercial banks. Overall it lacks transparency.
I think that an organization with this much economic power needs transparency and supervision, otherwise corruption would be easily concealed. Why allow the Fed so much secrecy? Am I supposed to expect them to be acting in the public’s best interest while they operate in private? No person is perfect. No person will always put public interests ahead of their own. That’s why transparency is essential: to keep watch over those in positions of power. The Federal Reserve is a system practically designed to be exploited.
Do you think the media, in general, is too conservative, too liberal, or actually pretty impartial?
(a) Too conservative
(b) Too liberal
The former question—found at the questionnaire-based dating site I frequent, okcupid.com—invites a popular red herring into the argument of media bias. Political influence is not the important issue. The structure of big media is sculpted by capitalist bureaucracy, and the resulting bias is therefore forged by corporate and elitist interests, not political ideology. Impartiality to oligarchical groups and institutions is nearly impossible under these socioeconomic conditions. How can any business cater primarily to the public when their bottom line is influenced more by advertisers and wealthy shareholders than by their consumers?
To the extent that political alignment does affect the media and its consumers, it seems the liberals have an advantage. In a survey released earlier this week from The Pew Research Center, the results found that Americans who watch Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” and who also visit newspaper websites, are the most knowledgeable of current events. At the other end of the political spectrum, regular viewers of Fox News ranked second to last. “Told that Shia was one group of Muslims struggling in Iraq, only 32% of the total sample [of Fox News viewers] could name ‘Sunni’ as the other key group.” (Editor & Publisher, 2007)
But the overall trends revealed by the Pew survey seem to indicate that public awareness of even the most elementary matters in local and global affairs (and across the political spectrum) is not a major press concern. Is our society truly dumb, or is it being dumbed down by our common avenues of information?
Some claim that the news media are simply telling the public what it wants to hear. After all, televised news is subject to the same network concern over ratings as other programs. In short, more customers equals more money no matter the nature of the business. But I wonder how news agencies “know” what the public wants. Unless they’re conducting polls and surveys on a moment to moment basis, there’s no way they can predict exactly which stories are going gain the most favor, especially considering that the stories themselves are unpredictable.
Furthermore, the world is a busy place with megatons of news being created every minute. Surely a significant percentage of it would fall into the categories of public interest. In order to restrict content to fit time slots and page space, the press needs some sort of additional criteria to determine which stories to investigate and which to overlook. Certainly that selective agenda comes down from the top. And who’s at the top? The rich and powerful, of course.
Today I read a bulletin on MySpace containing a petition to remove a group called “Fuck the Troops.” I responded with a bulletin of my own: