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“Orwell Rolls in His Grave“

(Image: Sag Harbor-Basement Pictures)

As a member in good standing of the media, I watched “Orwell Rolls in His Grave” with a wince and a feeling of intense deja vu.

The essence of this documentary is that our media doesn't tell us the entire story when that story doesn't work to the benefit of the folks in power. And it's true. As Michael Moore points out in the movie, the old Soviet Politburo had more turnover than our Congress does with our bought-and-paid “elections.”

I remember back in 1972 or thereabouts

when I was a news reporter for WITL in Lansing, Michigan. It was a bright, summery afternoon, sun washing through the window into the studio. I was in the newsroom with Bob, the news director and a part-timer whose name is lost in time, when two guys in suits and shiny, black shoes came in. They showed us their badges. Then they made a great show of writing down our drivers' license numbers and our Social Security numbers and addresses and all. And then one of them told us why they were there.

There was going to be a major bust in a small town near Lansing. They were going to take down a dozen or more people who were “tax resisters” for “tax fraud.” And they'd appreciate it if the story didn't get into the news in a big way, or even at all, because “we don't want to be encouraging that sort of thing, you know …”

I was 21 or thereabouts, Bob just a few years older and we were totally intimidated. We never went to air with the story.

When I write in this review about how the media is controlled by the American oligarchy, you may think it works like it did in that newsroom almost 40 years ago. But things have changed a lot in 40 years – back then, every station in Lansing was locally and independently owned, as was the Lansing State Journal newspaper – but today, the reality is actually far more sinister.

Watch the corporate media all day long, for years at a time and see if you ever see or hear any reference to how the Supreme Court helped George W. Bush steal the 2000 election. Or how William Casey was in Paris negotiating with the Iranians in 1980 to hang onto the hostages – Casey was Reagan's campaign manager – until after the election was over (they were released the moment Reagan took the oath of office, to the minute). Or how “free trade” is a fraud that has devastated our middle class. Or how the banksters and the Chamber of Commerce not only own our politicians, but also own our media, in part, because of the billions they spend on TV advertisements in political campaigns. Or how the big media companies are so big as to destroy even the possibility of serious competition – and that they shape news to protect their own profits.

You'll never hear a peep.

Like Toto did in “The Wizard of Oz,” this incredible documentary pulls back the curtain and reveals the men and women standing behind the facade of the media, pulling the levers. They're not IRS or state police guys with badges; they're “business” people who are out to make a buck.

And make a buck they do. By subverting our democracy, twisting it into a cruel caricature of itself.

And the only thing that can cure it is – as Jefferson warned more than two centuries ago – an “informed and educated citizenry.”

We just learned that about a quarter of Americans can't tell you what country we separated from on July 4, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed. While some of the blame for that goes to Reagan's Education Secretary Bill Bennett's distaste for the Education Department he headed and the later “No Child Left Behind” Act that caused Sen. Jim Jeffords to leave the Republican Party, far more blame goes to our media. We have infotainment instead of news. Our media tells us war is peace, perpetual war is just fine (it helps ratings, after all) and don't bother with all those black people who Jeb Bush wouldn't let vote in Florida in 2000. (Or, presumably, that the same thing is about to happen again, only this time in 30-plus states.)

Get this documentary, watch it and share it with a dozen friends. Have a house party, some popcorn and good wine. Spread it far and wide.

Our democracy just may depend on it.