During the past few weeks I'm hearing many of you worrying that the anti-war movement has lost its focus (i.e. the war.) Some of you are off on brainstorming retreats to come up with replacement issues to recapture the massive concentration of political energy no longer aligned on last February's goal. I have two important things to say to you about that.
1. You are the news.
In the past year, 17% of us have experienced an irreversible change in our relationship to our tv sets. We have turned them off. The networks, public television included, are no longer a source of information about the world. Their reports have become so clearly scripted, so laden with the vocabulary of propaganda, so intent on framing events in language that distorts and rewrites the truth (remember when Reuter's decided to eschew the word "terrorist" because it was nothing but an invective?) that it no longer serves to inform, but merely to indoctrinate. No wonder Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw are being exported to the Middle East.
This leaves us, the news junkies, the liberal, educated, curious, informed 30% of Americans, to proactively seek out the news for ourselves. So here's my point: The internet, until Ashcroft & Co. can find a way to shut it down, is the news (and the opinion poll, and the megaphone.) Common Dreams and MoveOn and True Majority and Win Without War(s) and Electronic Intifada and Guardian Unlimited and a host of others around the world have inherited the daunting task of replacing all of this nation's television networks and most of its newspapers and periodicals as the source of information and critical opinion for a huge chunk of the U.S. population. So for God's sake don't go anywhere now!
2. The focus is the truth.
Apart from whatever events are current, you don't need to concoct any particular content to keep your interactive audience. Issues and focal points for activism will emerge and vanish, just like the war we failed to stop. Mr. Rumsfeld has the initiative in this area, and despite his moral and cognitive shortcomings he is a master at it. What he does not have is the ability to tell the truth. The anti-war people aren't going to blink out of existence if you don't quickly articulate a new goal. As organizers and communication hubs for those millions of outraged, incredulous Americans, your best effectiveness is simply to continue to speak the truth, to give us a way to speak the truth, to debunk the myths, to reveal the lies, to counter the propaganda, to bring in foreign perspectives, to report the facts, to explore the possibilities, and when necessary to probe the congress for vital signs or call for everybody to hit the streets and yell our heads off, at any and every new configuration of the political chessboard. Clear points of opposition are great rallying tools, but beware of making an all-or-nothing, single issue crusade into your sole purpose. We might lose every round between now and the day we begin to prevail, so let's keep a stable energy going. Your people are still here, regrouping like yourselves.
Issue-wise, of course we want our foreign policy reversed. We want the military reigned in. We want the Bush conservatives defeated (or impeached or indicted.) We want corporate accountability and constitutional protections and all the zillions of changes it will take to create an America that inspires legitimate pride at home and regains respect and good will abroad. We want a multicultural world free of power-obsessed ideologues and greedy lunatics. It's going to be a long, messy process with many setbacks, but one of these days, if we just keep speaking the truth, the lies of our adversaries will hit critical mass and they will go down. Until that happens we'll all hang in there because focus or no focus that is what makes us feel like human beings.