From the August 2003 Idaho Observer:
Free Press for Peace -- The Idaho Observer
The following paper was submitted by IO editor Don Harkins in support of the presentation he will deliver at the 11th annual Mut zur Ethik conference in Feldkirch, Austria (Sept. 4-6, 2003).
Mut zur Ethik, 2003
Give Peace a Chance
Thomas Paine, author of the pamphlet Common Sense, published in 1776, was perhaps more responsible for the American colonies' successful separation from King George of England than any other one man. Why? Because he figured out how to write exactly the words necessary to rally popular support for the cause of independence.
The result of Paine's Common Sense pamphleteering? The birth of a free nation.
My experiences as an independent journalist in America, my successes and my failures, have helped bring into focus a perfectly relevant and timely question: If Tom Paine, armed only with ink and a printing press, could write a free nation into existence in the latter part of the 18th century, can a loosely affiliated, international cadre of Tom Paines, armed with ink, printing presses and modern electronic communications technologies, write the free world into existence at the dawn of the 21st?
I believe the answer to the question above is, Yes.
In June, 1995, I read three pamphlets back-to-back. They were: The Citizens' Rule Book(also called the Pocket Constitution), Why a Bankrupt America? by Devvy Kidd and Economic Solutions, by Peter Kershaw. If I were to credit any three things as being directly responsible for my being here today, it would be those three powerful pieces of print media. I have since met Peter Kershaw and, in San Jose, California, at the Free Enterprise Society Conference in 1999, I sewed a button on Devvy Kidd's blouse -- while she was wearing it (One of the highlights of my career, I can assure you).
Since those three pamphlets placed me on the path of an independent journalist in 1995, my life has been dedicated to undoing what has happened to America and, by logical extension, the rest of the world, since Tom Paine's death in 1809.
It saddens me to say that my country, which is supposed to be a model of freedom, decency and the world's leading protector of the dignity of the common man, has come under the control of the most vile, oppressive and destructive regime in world history. I am, of course, speaking of the U.S. government, the multinational corporations it represents and the military might that enforces its will at gunpoint.
When trees and Goliaths begin to fall
There is an old Chinese proverb that asks, If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? What would it matter to the world if we solved its problems here today and only the handful of people in this room knew about it?
What would it matter to the world if Zeit Fragen or The Idaho Observer broke a story of such global importance it would change the course of human history -- but only a few thousand of our readers had access to the information?
In both cases it wouldn't matter -- except to those in this room and our readers who, by themselves, do not have enough political influence to implement problem-solving solutions that would change the destructive path upon which world leaders insist we travel.
It isn't enough that a handful of journalists all over the world have dedicated their lives to bringing an alternative viewpoint home for a small international audience; it isn't enough that a few thousand people scattered all over the world can see through the lies, deceptions and distortions of history as they are being carried into the future by the dominant media's style of reporting of current events. Though it is an excellent starting point and I am honored to be here with you today, it also isn't enough that a few hundred good people meet here every year to discuss the world's problems amongst themselves.
Corporately-owned dominant daily presses, radio and TV networks are reporting how the four corners of our contemporary world are mired in social, political, economic, environmental and spiritual turmoil. The bulk of humanity accepts such chaos as partner to the human condition. Quite to the contrary, we are here today because we believe the dignity and decency of the common man can overcome our differences to orchestrate a cooperative coexistence called peace; we believe that armed conflict and chaos are byproducts of decisions made by powerful forces that profit immensely from human misery; we believe that the future of mankind depends upon replacing destructive forces representing the interests of the state with a more polite, productive and compassionate culture of humanity; we believe the culture of humanity reveres the dignity of the common man and holds sacred concepts of truth and justice not held in high esteem by the discompassionate state.
Humanity is quickly arriving at a crossroads: Will we stay our present course until we have so choked our world with toxic technologies we can no longer breathe? Will we continue to revere contemporary leaders who arm us against ourselves so that we can continue killing each other in defense of thousands of years of animosities?
In the absence of the Free Press, everyone in this room knows the answer is, Yes. The present course of world events cannot change, will not change -- unless we change it.
Right now, trees are falling in the forests of progressive thinking and only a few of us are there to hear them. Meanwhile, back on the dominant media-constructed world stage, the G-7 meets under international headlines to discuss who will wage what war on whom to more efficiently exploit what natural resources and where.
The power, influence and resources dedicated to maintaining the preeminence of government in the minds of the masses through a multidirectional array of newspapers, magazines, books, TV programming and movies represents the most awesome coalition of collective force on Earth today. The Free Press is David in this scenario and the dominant media is Goliath.
The people said to David, Goliath is so big, you cannot defeat him. David, however, said, Goliath is so big, I cannot miss him.
In 2001, The Idaho Observer circulated two different four-page, special edition publications intended to defeat a tax measure being promoted by Kootenai county, Idaho, to finance a completely unnecessary and expensive jail expansion project. Though the publications themselves were very well done and on-point, our distribution was poorly planned. The tax passed and the jail expansion project went ahead as planned.
The first major example of bringing Goliath down with our print version of a slingshot was Smallpox Alert! Between January and March, 2003, 75,000 hardcopies were purchased in bundles of 100 for $25 each and distributed throughout North America. Our distribution was extremely successful this time. People who believed in our message became a highly-motivated Smallpox Alert! sales force because their belief was now coupled with a financial interest in the project. They also made sure that local government, local law enforcement and local health officials received copies of Smallpox Alert! Phenomenal amounts of the electronic version of Smallpox Alert! were downloaded for free at the www.vaclib.org website by lay people and members of the public health community.
The result of our modern adaptation of Common Sense pamphleteering? Our new-improved, superbly accurate slingshot? The elaborate, $mult-billion plan to deliver some 300 million doses of vaccine to every man, woman and child in America fell apart because enough people -- including the public health community -- were informed and refused to unquestioningly roll up their sleeves to take the poison needle. News that a few health workers died from the vaccine also helped our efforts to scuttle the plan.
Modern evolution of an old idea
I turned 40 this year. Since May, 1995, there have only been seven months that did not see the product of my investigative efforts memorialized in a 24-page publication. Six of them were the transition from The Oregon Observer to The Idaho Observer in 1996; the other was in November, 2001, when we were taken down by a massive cyber attack.
For one-fourth of my life and fully one-half of my adult life, I have been an independent journalist. When my independent career first began in 1995 I was like most everyone else: I believed 20th century wars were fought to make the world safe for democracy, that vaccines prevented disease, that the dominant media accurately reported world events and that representative governments, particularly the U.S. government because I am an American, enforced policies for the sole purpose of protecting the interests of their people.
I began to see that my worldview, which started evolving shortly after my birth in 1963, was carefully being molded by the world around me until I began thinking for myself. Almost overnight, it became painfully apparent that historical and contemporary events, as taught in public school and reinforced daily by TV and radio news, books, newspapers, magazines and government policies, did not necessarily enjoy a foundation of fact.
My social and intellectual unraveling began in earnest in June, 1995. What had taken me 32 years to learn was quickly being unlearned. The process was both devastating and invigorating. For months I could not write effectively because points of reference that had always grounded me to my system of beliefs had been obliterated. However, my new perceptions were so exciting that I felt motivated to share them with friends, family and anyone who was unfortunate enough to be standing in line with me at the grocery store.
By 1996, I began to notice that even those who had known me my whole life were not prepared to accept the fact that their worldview was built on what my investigations were proving to be mountains of lies. It was at this point that I became a heretic in the minds of those who refused to look deeper into the issues that shape our world. As it turns out, however, I am not a heretic; just a sincere man helping to pioneer a revolutionary form of journalism in an effort to make the world a better place.
The strangely charmed life of the independent journalist has placed me on a fascinating path of discovery. Having the fruits of my investigations rejected by those who were once closest to me has been devastating personally. But it has also filled me with an almost obsessive desire to find a way to change the minds of those who still believe in the benevolence of government, in the accuracy of the history they were taught in school and that current events are being truthfully reported in the dominant media.
This (near) obsession to change enough minds to create a critical mass of public opinion in key areas that affect our everyday lives has lead to the development of a persuasive and psychologically-appealing method for countering the dominant paradigm. With a bare production cost of about 10 cents each on a press run of at least 20,000, we can compete with the dominant media for influence over how people think about specific subject matters critical to our political, social, spiritual and economic well-being.
Expanding the choir
Preaching to the choir is an Americanism that describes what progressive thinkers do most of the time -- and is what we are doing right now. While we are extremely effective in supporting and even constructively criticizing each other's alternative views, we are miserably ineffective in our ability to influence the thinking of those outside our choir. Millennia of cradle-to-grave, culture-of-government conditioning has solidly imprinted (sometimes phenomenally illogical, even idiotic) religious, ethnic, political and economic beliefs in the common man's brain. The Free Presses have repeatedly failed in their attempts to change enough minds in these critical areas to significantly alter the course of human events.
Monthly or weekly publications such as Zeit Fragen and The Idaho Observer appeal primarily to our subscribers -- those who already agree with us. We simply do not generate the critical mass of public opinion necessary to create positive change in our communities.
We have found, however, that by producing four or eight-page, single subject matter publications -- independent of our periodic publications -- we can reach beyond our ordinary circles of readers to engage most anyone's interest about an important issue. We can, in just a few cleverly formatted pages, give people enough real information to form an educated opinion on a specific subject. And, as we learned from the jail expansion project failure, we must provide our choir of supporters and local activists with the incentive to carry our well-crafted messages outside our ordinary circles and into the minds of the bodies public.
The key to unlocking peoples' preconceived notions about an issue is understanding how people receive information. Our intention is to open minds, not close them.
An overview of the process that opens peoples' minds to thinking differently is as follows: Page 1: Objectively illustrate the issues defining the problem. Page 2: Provide a historical overview of the problem. Pages 3 and 4: Describe at least two schools of thought regarding the problem that make it an item of controversy. Page 5: Provide the science that supports the most intelligent manner in which the problem ought to be addressed. Page 6: Give the human side of the problem by publishing some case histories; offer solutions to the problem. Page 7: Ask several pointed questions that arise after reading the previous six pages; describe the goals of the publication and a plan of action; list contact information for other activists and other educational materials for further research. Page 8: Miscellaneous anecdotes and graphic images to make any points not covered in the previous pages.
By objectively illustrating the problem on page one, the reader is not being sold something. He is allowed to feel comfortable with the publication and is compelled to go to page 2. We further disarm the reader by going back into the history of the problem where decisions were made long before he was in any way responsible. This puts the reader at ease and does not prompt him to become defensive or angry -- just interested. Our objectivity remains intact by next publishing the side of the controversy we oppose editorially, then, on the next page, publishing the side of the argument we support. The following page then gives an overview of the science that makes our position believable and casts doubt on claims made on the previous page. At this point, we have overcome years of conditioning and are appealing directly to peoples' sense of logic, reasoning and self-preservation. The case histories that follow have a tendency to indelibly etch into peoples' brains how real people have been affected by the problem. Page seven asks the questions they can now answer for others, gives them resources for further study and an activistic outlet for their new perspective on the topic.
What I have just described is extremely powerful societal medicine. With it, we bypass the fears, insecurities and defense mechanisms people use to maintain their opinion of a given issue and provide them with the knowledge that leads to the courage needed to stand up for what is right.
Hmmm. Courage to take a moral stance? We can give thousands, perhaps millions of people the courage to take a moral stance by delivering to them in a few pages an abbreviated version of the lines of logic, field experience and anecdotal evidence that proves such things as poison is not medicine, slavery is not freedom, occupation is not liberation and lies are not truth -- issues of fact to which most people are curiously slow to understand or accept. And even slower yet to act upon.
The Artificially Sweetened Times
With each passing month, we have been implementing the trial-and-error method of finding the most effective way of getting past peoples' defense mechanisms to change the way they think about important issues. Circulated within the pages of our regular publications, the material has only a limited effect outside the subscriber base. However, circulating special editions independently of our regular publications, with the help of those who believe in and support our work, reaches completely different audiences.
The most recent example of modern pamphleteering I have to share with you is The Artificially Sweetened Times. I believe we can use this publication to help force the removal of the artificial sweetener aspartame from the world's food supply in a year. I'll not go into the details of how adversely aspartame is affecting individual health and society or how each article aids in the creation of a full-circle understanding of this issue's dire importance. I want you to read about it critically on your own. First, read The Artificially Sweetened Times for content and determine whether or not it helped you to appreciate the relationship between eating and/or drinking aspartame and the health of those around you. Does it compel you to share it with others who agree, disagree or have no opinion on the subject of aspartame? Does it bring to mind people you know whose health is likely being adversely affected by aspartame? Do you feel motivated to share the information with those people? Do you think those people would read The Artificially Sweetened Times and themselves be motivated to share its contents with others?
Then read it for structure. Does the information unfold in your mind in a manner most likely to overcome years of nonsensical, scientifically-unsubstantiated emotional conditioning to replace with a more fact-based understanding? Or, if it didn't change your mind about the issue, do you suddenly find yourself compelled to do some additional research on your own? Does it have the potential to educate or change the minds of those closest to you? Do you think Zeit Fragen should translate The Artificially-Sweetened Times into German and French to educate others on this subject? Would you be motivated to purchase copies of this publication and distribute it effectively?
Take a close look at The Artificially Sweetened Times. Last April the European Union, acting on the advice of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association, approved the use of aspartame and its labeling requirements on your continent. In order to approve the use of aspartame, EU officials ignored thousands of pages of scientifically-valid documents and stories of human suffering it was provided -- largely by a handful of American physicians, researchers and activists at their own expense -- in an effort to spare Europe from aspartame-induced diseases currently ravaging American brains and bodies.
Now, you tell me: What other issues affecting Europeans could be explained in four or eight pages? Could millions of Europeans be educated about key issues in this modern adaptation of Common Sense -- styled pamphleteering? What if this body, besides meeting every year, could commission the publishing and circulation of four completely different, single-subject matter publications that were powerful enough to change the way common, working Europeans think about the very issues that gave birth to Mut zur Ethik? What if these journalistic slingshots began taking down at least four socio/political Goliaths every year?
Build or destroy
The Idaho Observer recently received a letter from a woman who goes by the pen name Allisone Heartsong of Redding, California. The letter was perfect in its insight and eludes to a deeper human psychosis that the Free Press must recognize to effectively alter the present course of human events.
The letter reads as follows:
Human history is, essentially, a contest between builders of civilization and destroyers of civilization.
Free Press for interpersonal peace
Our contemporary world is run by destroyers who monopolize oil. From oil we get chemicals. From chemicals we get pharmaceuticals. Control of oil still in the ground is behind U.S.-led, multinational corporate aggression in the Caspian Basin and the Middle East right now. But what about the oil after it leaves its well of origin? What about the petrochemical byproducts of oil refinement? What about the pharmaceutical drugs that are largely toxic isolates derived from petrochemicals?
More wars: Wars within ourselves.
The burning of oil and its refined gases shows how we are at war with time: We demand to get where we are going and it doesn't matter how many people die along the way to our getting there. A lot of people died so I could travel halfway across the world to be here today.
The use of petrochemicals shows that we are at war with the natural world around us: We must kill unwanted weeds and pests, dissolve oils and perfume and paint our environments regardless of the toxic residue that is building up in our soil, air, water, bodies and, the bodies of our children; it doesn't matter to us how many animals and plants are collaterally damaged in our war on the natural world. Not one of us in this room, myself included, can claim innocence of this charge.
The ingestion and injection of pharmaceutical drugs shows that we are at war with our own bodies: On the mere belief that synthetic drugs, prescribed to mask or prevent the onset of symptoms, are safe and effective, we willingly accept cocktails of known toxins directly into our bodies.
In the U.S., the federal government has proudly and with much dominant media fanfare and political backslapping, expended billions of dollars after declaring wars on poverty, cancer, AIDS, homelessness, sex and violence on TV, teenage pregnancy, drugs, illiteracy, racial intolerance, domestic abuse and violence and, of course, terrorism (all of which, curiously, seem to worsen with every tax dollar spent to fight them).
The civilized world has a war mentality. Armed conflict is merely one of the more overt expressions of a species that is pathologically at war with most everything.
The wars did not start with oil -- we have been warring since long before historians began recording our barbarity -- nor will they end with oil. Forbes magazine recently commented that, Water will be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th century. The World Bank Water Policy Paper from 1993 described water as the last frontier of mineral exploitation.
The injustice, subjugation, environmental degradation and scorched-earth resource exploitation policies of the previous century's destroyers are scheduled to continue well into our present century. This century's destroyers are even more ill-intended than those of the last: They intend to make us beg them for a drink of water.
The stakes are higher now. I explained this scenario to some Canadians I was sharing a hotspring with last February in British Columbia. Western Canada has the world's largest remaining supply of pristine water. Considering this conversation took place as coalition forces were preparing for a massive assault and occupation of the oil producing regions in the Middle East, they got the message.
A higher purpose
Our world may be run by a handful of destroyers who control vital resources and, therefore, the people who depend upon them, but their control is contingent upon the cooperation of duplicitous administrators and ignorant masses. The administrators' cooperation is secured by paychecks and privileges; the masses by a conditioning process that has its roots in public (government) education and is reinforced throughout our lives, as discussed previously, by corporately-controlled newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, books and movies.
Our world is being shaped by the very people, or minions of the very people, who reap immense profits from environmental degradation and human misery resulting from all the little wars we are continually fighting on nearly every front of our lives.
The subject of this talk, Free Press for Peace, suddenly takes on a new meaning and infers a higher purpose, doesn't it? The Free Press must not only provide the world's inhabitants with political truth to silence the guns, it must provide them with economic, spiritual, physical, technological and environmental truth to help people achieve balance in those perpetually war-torn areas as well.
The Free Press must endeavor to change the way the people of the world think about nearly everything.
It is difficult to imagine a body of people more open to this suggestion than the one comprised of those in attendance here today. Last March my wife and I had the honor of having Eva-Maria spend three days with us at our home in Idaho. Aside from showing Eva-Maria my three favorite places in northern Idaho to swim (when it was too cold to actually do it), we discussed at length the structure of this conference and why the first one was held 11 years ago.
She said all Europeans had common problems that needed to be addressed. But before they could begin to solve them, she explained, Europeans had to come together under one roof and leave centuries of traditional hatreds in the past where they belong. So MZE was born. Eva-Maria explained how the most diverse representatives of nations and beliefs from all over your continent were invited to sit on a panel and discuss an issue.
She remembered, sadly I recall, how some of the panelists got extremely angry, stormed out of the room and never came back. Then, with a smile on her face so big and beautiful I can see it right now -- almost six months later -- she then explained how a few panelists stormed out of the room in anger -- but came back.
The global slide into multinational corporation-driven, U.S. military-enforced technotyranny will continue -- until we are able to exceed the dominant media's ability to influence the way people think about international, national, regional and community-level issues critical to our political, spiritual, economic and physical growth and well-being.
Through MZE, Europeans are in the process of overcoming millennia of ethnically and theologically-motivated bloodshed and are inventing the path toward a peaceful coexistence based upon mutual respect. Americans must overcome a couple centuries of prosperity that has conditioned an arrogance in them -- an embarrassingly naive arrogance -- that falsely justifies their ill-informed belief that they must support the U.S. government because, by golly, our troops only fight in foreign nations to make the world safe for democracy.
I hope my presence at the 11th Annual MZE conference will provide present and future insight as to how northern, southern, eastern and western Europeans can effectively work together solving problems that affect all Europeans.
Please also take with you my closing comment because what I am about to express underwrites my hope for the world; that the common man can rise above his self-imposed limitations to remake our war-torn world in the image of decency and compassion: Become your own expert about everything that affects your life and the lives of your children. Do your own research and look at all sides of an issue. Avoid taking advice from those who profit from your confusion or your pain. Take charge, follow your instincts and rely on yourself to make the best decisions for you and those who depend upon you.
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