Jake Highton

Jake Highton
Reno, USA
January 01
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor at the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, Nevada.


Jake Highton's Links

DECEMBER 28, 2012 9:34AM

Lefty cruise with The Nation staff fails to impress

Rate: 1 Flag

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.--The Nation cruise recently to the Caribbean, like many long anticipated trips, was disappointing. Some panelists were wordy, others enamored of their celebrity, others ego-tripped and several acted like standup comics rather than giving topics the seriousness they deserved.
A discussion with Nation editor Katrina Heuvel confirmed what I have long felt: America has no Left of any political significance.
The Establishment media use the phony balance of  “the Right says, the Left says.” But the terrible truth is that while the Right is strong, the Left does not exist except for a few voices crying in the wilderness like The Nation magazine.
Speakers at this cruise-conference kept talking about changing American culture. But when it comes to the media, it will never change. The media are corporate and Establishment. Ownership is ever narrowing so media change is impossible.
Participants at these liberal-left conferences are overly optimistic. One cruise attendee said she was buoyed by the re-election of President Obama. The truth is that his re-election simply means more of the same.
Another woman remarked that 2012 was the most important presidential election in more than a century. Even anyone with the most casual knowledge of U.S. history cannot overlook FDR.
Nevertheless, brief biographies of the participants make it clear that so many have fought the good fight: early voting legislation, motor-voter law, teacher strikes, civil disobedience during the Vietnam War, battle to rout South African apartheid, a moving visit by an Air Force veteran to the Peace Park in Nagasaki and an activist who returned his Eagle Scout medal because the Boy Scouts are intolerant of gays and atheists.
While I dwell in the lofty ivory tower of intellectual pursuit of leftism, socialism and atheism, so many of the folks on the cruise have done far more than just theorizing. They have been active with their deeds.
The Nation gatherings for dinner each night were uneven. One evening I happily sat at the same table with Gary Younge, immediately likeable Guardian columnist, and Al Dorfman, a New Yorker and one of the few genuine leftist among the 430 Nation cruisers. Most of the diners at my table were pleasant, Nation readers, but hardly leftists.
Another criticism of these progressive meetings is that the questions from the audience so often turn into speeches. The hobbyhorses make you cry out: please creep up on your question mark.
Pro-Palestinian Medea Benjamin was the best panelist. She provided one of the highlights of the cruise, skewering the pompous Eric Alterman for his pro-Israel views.
Indeed, the Nation cruise organizers should leave Alterman home next time. At one dinner he arrogantly proclaimed that he didn’t really want to be there. To prove it, he wore music plugs in his ears. Discourteous plus gall equal zero.
Stephen Cohen, Russian history specialist, proved to be another discourteous Nation star.
I asked him a serious question: is there something in the Russian psyche that demands an authoritarian state as it had under the czars and Soviets and now under President Putin? He dismissed the question with a snide reply: “Oh, you’re just another Russian basher.”
Hardly. Cohen, with an immense ego, is another who should not be invited again.
However, someone who ought to be invited back again and again is John Nichols. He describes the media to perfection.
“A horrible media system,” he says. “The worst in the world. Dysfunctional. Even North Korea has a better media system.
“Americans believe what they see and hear on the media. They are entertained not informed by serious news. The media are led by ignorance and lies. They lead the public into unending wars. America slaughters its young people in the military.”
One speaker noted the prevailing military-industrial complex but failed to add the powerful congressional influence to the complex. Members of Congress want bases, munitions depots and military facilities built in their districts or states.
Indeed, the will-o’-the-wisp fiscal cliff would vanish overnight if the military-industrial-congressional complex were greatly reduced.

During one dinner someone asked if any media outlet could be trusted. I replied confidently that he could rely on the New York Times.
But someone quickly reminded me of the Iraq war caused by Judy Miller of the Times. And that reminded me of the pro-war corporate press and its skimpy coverage of anti-Iraq War demonstrations.
And that reminded me of the speaker who rightly ridiculed the notion of American exceptionalism. This “exceptional” nation has been waging permanent war for 70 years.

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
[r] I remember listening to Air America before the Bush regime ended or was it had just ended and I had hope that there was a strong left that supported morality. That was against torture and war and for universal health care, etc. HAH!

I did not realize the horrifying selling out of faux progressives as pro-Obama pragmatists and apologists squawking incrementalism on issues of basic morality and character.

This was when the radio ads for the "cruise" came on and I was still a fan of Maddow's (and I forget the other names whose stars have dropped out of the sky as far as I am concerned) and she was to be on the upcoming one then. I honestly wished I had the money to participate.

Even then the Team Dem MSNBC cherry-pickers were beginning to rally to uphold the corruption of the Dem Party and the REAL left were being cold-shouldered out. And the faux progressive leadership was more ego-driven than morality driven.

I appreciate and am not surprised hearing your take, and would not have considered going in a heartbeat now with the heartbreak of said amoral apologists though I appreciate hearing of it. I probably would have jumped off the deck in exasperation.

I differ from you in that I think the NYT is NOT trustworthy, has not been and continues not to be, in fact it is the tool for selling wars now by Obama the same way it helped the Cheney cabal, the same as I recognize the propaganda leaking out from the NewsHour more and more especially re Libya and Syria. I withheld a donation this year, writing them that their entire blackout of Green Party Jill Stein and her platform was uber corporate manipulative. They could have communicated a platform of citizen sanity but refused to give it one molecule of air time pre election.

There are few but strong stand-out journalists and bloggers who are swimming upstream telling the truth about the grotesque amorality of this government AND citizenry. I am glad Greenwald is at the Guardian now and not Tomasky for example.

I caught up with relatives and friends this holiday and was horrified to the degree I was patronized as being naive because I was talking morality and using that to illuminate the absolute HORROR of the Obama regime. I was advised to trust Obama and give him MORE time to set things right. Open salon should have prepared me for that, I suppose, but I still feel like I am at Alice's Mad Tea Party trying to communicate evil and corruption and exploitation of the peoples of the world and this citizenry by the one percent ruling class sociopathic elite enabled by the deniers and minimizers and media-seduced. Talking to the willfully deaf, the morally retarded is a crazymaking experience.

To listen and talk to those with actual megaphones to be heard but preaching amoral pragmatism would make me all the more disappointed and crazy.

best, libby