The Record Bee’s Salute To Stupidity (April 24, 2002)

Every year at about this time the Lake County Record-Bee puts out its “Progress” issue, though unlike past years this year's issue was devoted primarily to events outside of the borders of Lake County. The 2002 “Progress” edition was all about the “war on terror,” and the unabashed pandering to the widely-held belief that we can ensure our nation’s safety by conducting a never-ending world-wide war on anyone who questions our ability or authority to control the world's economic or political dynamics. Twenty-four pages are used to further the propaganda effort being conducted in the name of fascism and tyranny, with only the slightest traces of any opposing views being squeezed into the corners of the edition.

One of the lucid interludes is penned by R-B entertainment writer Gary Peterson, who interviews a number of Lake County residents who have their doubts about the “war” effort, with the only other sign of intelligent discourse coming from Ron Jones, the R-B food and wine writer. Jones writes about how the WOT (war on terror) has become a cash-cow for profiteers and pork-barrel politicos, and makes some good points before he goes off on some religious tangents involving the Boy Scouts vs. the gays and the abortion issue, along with a pitch for people to sign up for the local food stamp program that he runs.

But after that it's all downhill, with truth, balance and common sense being the first victims. Starting things off is the headline quote of Wendell Phillips “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” which apparently is supposed to justify robotic flag-waving and nationalism, omni-directional paranoia, military and “security” profiteering, plus the end of both our Constitutional rights and intellectual honesty. Managing editor Elizabeth Larson gets the first shot in at winning the silliness prize with her waste of several hundred words describing what she did on September 11th, along with mindless babbling about us witnessing a rebirth of “pride and patriotism,” and the claim that “the majority of us have reacted to 9-11 with candor, courage and a hope for a rebirth of our best.” The “candor” referred to is non-existent, “courage” is the new term for counter-productive vengeance, “pride” is used to describe lack of objectivity, and the catch-all “patriotism” is a misguided and phony means of justifying the whole “WOT” scam.

Next we get the real doses of fascism, with two stories by writers from the ultra-right-wing National Review, along with another piece by fascist front-man and disgraced ex-Attorney General Ed Meese. Meese is now working for the neo-nazi Heritage Foundation, which has overlooked his criminal background involving his cover-up of the Iran-Contra affair and his own VERY shady business dealings, and has made him the chairman of legal and judicial studies at the foundation. Big Ed tells us we must “downgrade functions of government not related to defense,” and makes a strong pitch for the mostly pork-barrel oriented “defense” spending spree the Bush administration has embarked on while the nation and media's attention has been diverted by current events.

Following Meese's unpersuasive shilling for America's death and destruction cartel, from National Review writer James S. Robbins we get a story about the fuzzy-headedness of the liberals speaking out against the “WOT,” who gets back-up from ANOTHER piece from ANOTHER National Review writer (Victor Davis Hanson). Victor Davis Hanson (do we really need to know these pinheads’ middle name or initial?) also tells us the lefty doubters are wrong, and claims that “Exalted income, status and the coasts seem to be breeding grounds for hypercriticism and self doubt,” in spite of the fact that most of the opposition has come from the liberal underclass, with little support from Hollywood's liberal elite. This is the new format for public debate about foreign policy matters, unrelenting right-wing propaganda gets to go unchallenged by any capable members of the opposition, since as our undemocratically elected leader reminds us, you are either for the “WOT,” or you are for the terrorists.

On a more local note, even Clearlake's city manager David Lane (who might as well be the city's mayor/king), gushes “have you ever seen such patriotism?,” and goes on to claim that the city is “on the rebound.” Apparently David's idea of patriotism consists of putting an American flag on your car's antenna and not asking questions, since that is about as far the current “patriotism” fad goes, as was evidenced by the pathetic turnout at the last election. As far as the City of Clearlake being on the “rebound,” that's news to lots of people who live there who didn't just get huge pay raises like David did.

Also on the clueless local politicos list is our very own (well, I guess we have to share him with his corporate sponsors), Mike Thompson, who uses something like 400 words to tell us absolutely nothing that we didn't already know. Mike does a great job of never missing an opportunity to market himself, as was evidenced by the slick full-color flyer he sent out at our expense to remind us how he was toiling away on our behalf to smoke out the evil-doers, albeit in extremely vague terms. Mike also didn't waste any time signing away our Constitutional rights by helping pass the cynically named “Patriot Act,” which has given our loony Attorney General the God-like power he's always dreamed of and known that God wanted him to have.

But the veneer of political bravado doesn't end there, as Lake County supervisor Gary Lewis voices his concerns about security at the four-story county courthouse building which houses three courtrooms along with the BOS chambers and most of the county department offices. Lewis warns us that “We have to be every bit as vigilant as a big city” (though he doesn't explain why), and goes on to state that “Some of our employees are nervous about irate customers,” which they should be, since they frequently do such a fine job of fucking up people's lives. Maybe Lewis should start carrying a gun, since he's done more than anyone else in that building to foster violent impulses, though knowing Gary, he'd be more of a threat to himself than to any berserk constituent if he was self-armed. Lewis seems to be unclear on the fact that the building has so many access points that it's like a sieve, and at any given time there are usually at least a dozen cops in the building, or that the Lakeport Police station is two short blocks away. That doesn't stop Lewis from telling us that he and the Sheriff are putting together a plan to turn the courthouse building into some kind of fortress, even though hard-core Sheriff supporter and county supervisor Rob Brown has already pointed out the goofiness of their concerns.

Speaking of the Sheriff, Mr. Mitchell gets on board the phony patriotism bandwagon with his article about Lake County's own brush with the bio-terrorists, which occurred last October. This was the incident where a couple of middle-eastern tourists got the greeting they'll never forget from the sheriff's department when they popped into Lake County for a little weekday look-see. The middle-easterners (A Saudi and an Indian national), made their first mistake when they arrived by plane at Lakeport's Lampson field, since it's a well known fact that rental Cessna 150's with their 100 mph top speed and two seats are the first choice for evil-doers of the Moslem/Hindu persuasion. Further suspicions were aroused when they told airport personnel they wanted to get something to eat, but didn't find the airport restaurant appealing enough to give it a try, and headed off to town on foot. They were quickly detained by deputies arriving in no less than six squad cars, on the grounds of being Arab — or Arab-like — in appearance. After an intense interrogation it was determined that The Saudi couldn't be charged or held, but the scofflaw Indian had a recently expired visa, so he had to stay in jail until the INS could come to haul him away. That's when the terror began, because as the jail staff searched his wallet they found a tiny plastic bag of beige powder, with Hindu writing on it. Even though the prisoner told them it was ceremonial prayer powder and the jail staff found evidence to support his claim on the internet, the panic button was pushed, and the county's law enforcement system went into crisis mode. First off the jail was put on lockdown, which meant a signal for all four courtrooms to be cleared immediately was sent out with no explanation, causing semi-hysteria in the hub of county affairs.

But it now seemed the whole county was under attack, as it was reported that a bomb had been found next to Highway 20 near the county line, which caused the closure of the main road through the county. Hours later it was determined that the “bomb” was actually a homemade cattle prod that had been tossed or fell off of some rancher's truck, and after the Haz-Mat team shut down the area surrounding the jail with the help of an army of deputies, it was determined that the Hindu’s mystery powder wasn't anthrax after all. 

In short, the cops, courts, Haz-Mat team and highways were all tied in knots thanks to some major bed-wetting on the part of the jail staff, which in his story Mr. Mitchell defended to the hilt. 

Also taking a hit were the civil rights of the two suspected terrorists, who Mitchell admitted were stopped only on the grounds of their suspected Arab-ness, which our Sheriff also claimed was appropriate and would be the on-going policy of his department.

So this is the new “Age of Terrorism” brand of journalism we can continue to expect from the Record-Bee, which fits in rather nicely with the ongoing practice of being a one-sided mouthpiece for right-wing viewpoints. The R-B has a longstanding tradition of featuring conservative columnists who talk about specific issues in detail, while leaving the liberal viewpoint to be presented by the warm-and-fuzzy writers like Diana Griego Erwin and George Plagenz, who talk a lot about “feelings” and end up using lots of ink to do nothing for the liberal cause.

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