What next? Make some fucking noise.

Some of you may be familiar with A.L. Kennedy’s fiction and journalism, with her unflagging criticism of the Bush administration and its policies. You may recall that I interviewed her this summer. This morning I wrote her this note:

I’m sure you’re very busy, not to mention justifiably pissed off at Americans at the moment, so I understand if you’re unable or disinclined to respond. But I’m wondering if you have any words of advice to the heartbroken among us.

Do we expatriate, or at least relocate for the foreseeable future (a strategy I am very seriously contemplating)? Do we “stay and fight” — and, if so, what concretely does that mean?

She responded:

The only hope in all this is that fact that everything our opponents do is unsustainable, almost willfully unsustainable. They will eventually choke in their own filth and politicise/awaken a generation. The problem is, they are going to kill hundreds of thousands of people (none of them their friends or family members) in the process. We can only do what we have been doing and remember that we will not defeat them by becoming them — lying and violence will not help us.

And you have all our sympathy.

It helps me at least to know that there are people in the rest of the world who’ve looked at the numbers and realized that our country is split down the middle — almost literally, if you look at that map.

Last week I told Isabel Teotonio, an Ottawa Citizen reporter, that I planned to look for work in Canada if Bush triumphed on Election Day.

I figured he would (my sister aside, most of my family voted for him), and I couldn’t stomach the thought of staying four more years in this country with him at the helm. “There comes a point at which a society changes so much and the policies of its leaders become so questionable that it’s rational to think about moving,” I said.

My husband and my friends took me to task for this position. “Stay and fight,” they said. My husband said it from Florida, our home state, where he was canvassing for Kerry.

“What, concretely, does ‘stay and fight’ mean to you?” I asked. “What concrete steps do you propose, short of violence — because I’m unwilling to resort to violence — to change the situation here?”

When Kerry conceded yesterday, I tinkered with my resume. I checked the Canadian job listings for the multinational corporation I work for, and then I looked at Europe. I envisioned the future the U.S. is facing, one in which, in four years, just off the top of my head:

  • the U.S. will have continued, if not expanded, its imperialistic war-mongering;
  • tax and other fiscal policies increasingly will benefit the rich, and the number of people living in poverty will have grown exponentially;
  • health care and prescription drugs will be available to fewer and fewer Americans, at a greater cost;
  • a more conservative Supreme Court will have begun to dismantle fifty or more years of jurisprudence, on everything from civil rights to abortion rights to equal protection under the law; and
  • people will be looking back to this moment in the country’s history as the baseline to which they fervently want to return.

But today, as the day has worn on, I’ve begun to change my mind about leaving.

Many of my ancestors came to this country before the American Revolution. Sure, they were zealots with weird beliefs and customs, but they came here for freedom. I’ll be damned if I’ll leave and let it all go to hell without a fight.

I blame the media most of all for the situation in which we find ourselves. Save Krugman and Herbert and Rich, I hope the people responsible for political reporting and opinion at the so-called liberal newspapers, particularly The New York Times (I’m looking at you, Judith Miller), don’t have the gall to wring their hands over the election results, to profess concern over the direction the country is likely to take in the next four years.

Yesterday the train was quiet as a memorial service. People tried to read or stared at the floor. I looked around at the long faces, and I thought, some of you people work for the media. You are responsible for informing the electorate, and you have failed to follow through. You do not have the right to participate in our sadness.

For Bush’s entire first term, the media have allowed his administration to set the tone of the discourse. They have failed to evaluate any of the claims for themselves and have not taken seriously anyone else’s efforts to do so, even when those efforts are grounded in fact, based on verifiable figures.

The contributions of Seymour Hersh and a few others aside, hard-hitting investigative journalism on important political issues is a thing of the past in the mainstream publications.

Literary types decried the National Book Award nomination of the 9/11 Commission’s report, but for all the report’s failings, as Scott McLemee noted in Newsday:

People have turned to “The 9/11 Commission Report” for a sense “that one knows where one stands,” as Hegel put it. They don’t rely on journalism for that now. And that’s not just because the news is so frightening. . . .

Three decades ago, in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate, investigative reporters became heroic figures in the culture. He or she would revitalize public life by exposing the secrets and the failures of those in authority. Today, journalists take pride in being “embedded,” or otherwise cultivate their “access” to those in power.

It is unfortunate that Seymour Hersh’s “Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib” was not nominated for the National Book Award. But it is much more troubling, over the long run, to realize that no other book of investigative journalism comes to mind as a candidate.

And so, by default, we honor an expose of government failure – prepared by a government commission. If journalists are happy to serve as stenographers to power, then the only people seriously questioning authority will be folks who already have it.

If the media won’t question, the people must, and I don’t mean by leaving outraged comments on lefty political blogs.

Of the thousands of people reading this site daily, there are many writers. Perhaps, as Neal Pollack argues, their contributions are by nature limited.

But some of these writers are also, I am sure, people working at pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies, with knowledge of the way these organizations screw over the little guy. They are attorneys and accountants who know how wealthy and multinational corporations evade taxes. They are soldiers and people in government with information harmful to the Bush administration, information that the media outlets in the past would have ferreted out but that they now eschew in favor of the talking points set by the administration every morning.

And so I urge all of you, everyone with a little writing talent and some specialized knowledge to which the public should be privy, to start weblogs — anonymous ones if necessary, or diaries at Daily Kos, where your anonymity is guaranteed — and tell the stories you know.

Sometimes all it takes is one whistleblower. Consider the one agent after 9/11 who got the FBI in deep shit.

If you’re a journalist and your newspaper won’t let you publish what you want to say, you don’t have to quit your day job. You don’t even have to publicly defy your employer. But start a site — again, anonymous if necessary — and put it out there.

Right now, from my perspective, this is the best, most concrete way to fight.

The media want you to believe that bloggers are hacks shouting in a vacuum. Even some apparent progressives will no doubt tell you that you should, as Mr. Pollack urged us before the war started, “Just Shut Up.” (“Nobody gives a shit what anti-war or pro-war writers think. Really. So shut up. That goes double for poets. Shut the hell up, poets. Everybody just shut up.”)

I’m here to tell you that they aren’t, and you shouldn’t.

I’m here to tell you to make some fucking noise.


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