Krayeske Blast From The Past

January 26, 2007

About that old arrest in Groton …
… Thomas Paine revisited …
Comfortable journalists …
… Making the world safe for business …

Cool Justice
Stepping Into The Role Of Activist

By ANDY THIBAULT, Columnist
Law Tribune Newspapers
June 14, 2004

A friend of mine was wondering whether he should be handing out leaflets and blocking the sidewalk in front of The New York Times. After The Old Gray Lady misled us about weapons of mass destruction, he thought there should be more accountability. As he had these thoughts, he was being arrested in Groton on June 5.

I know this fellow, Ken Krayeske, to be a solid reporter with a conscience. Krayeske confronts an issue many of us tend to ignore or just deflect without serious thought: Where does a journalist draw the line between activism and his work? Or, rather, is activism itself a form of journalism? Thomas Paine might have thought so.

“Journalists wear disguises, and one of them is the disguise of objectivity,” say historians Judith and William Serrin, authors of MUCKRAKING. “All good journalists have agendas. They wish to put the crooked sheriff in jail. They wish to unveil the patent medicine fraud. They wish to free the innocent man from jail.”

These goals clearly transcend left or right — for those who take the vocation seriously.

There are also larger issues we barely touch, such as the way the war economy has shaped our state.

Another activist, Joan Cavanagh of New Haven, produced a definitive study on this issue for her doctoral dissertation at Yale, “You Can’t Kill The Golden Goose.” Cavanagh shows how the Electric Boat Corporation avoided diversification during peaceful interludes. There’s just too much profit in the war products. It wouldn’t be good business to diversify. The impact of laying off workers doesn’t factor into the equation.

As Krayeske and others protested the christening of the USS Jimmy Carter, a passage in Cavanagh’s treatise struck me. In the infancy of the submarine mass production business, circa 1898, an inventor tried to persuade Clara Barton of the American Red Cross that if all nations of the world were equipped with submarines, there would be no war. Barton was neither persuaded nor impressed.

Some people see through propaganda and others are comforted by it. We’re really in trouble when the journalists are comfortable.

Cavanagh and Krayeske are on to something. There are some big stories here, and we’re not getting enough about them. As I try to understand the war in Iraq, and the marketing of the war in Iraq, I read more Cavanagh. I find there is not a lot that is new going on here.

Similarly, to understand the military role in our foreign adventures, I have been reading books by and about the highly-decorated Marine Corps General Smedley Butler. Butler was the top grunt on the ground 90-some years ago as we made the Third World safe for business: in Cuba, the Philippines, Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico and Haiti. He spied and bluffed and shot his way through popular-based insurgencies that threatened U.S. business interests.

“I spent 33 years and 4 months in active service as a member of our country’s most agile military force – the Marine Corps,” Butler said upon his retirement. “I served in all commissioned ranks from second lieutenant to Major General. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. I suspected I was just part of a racket all the time. Now I am sure of it.”

Those who step off the track can teach us a lot.

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