“Going Viral: COVID-19 and the response of the International Media”
Monday, March 16, 2020
Global and national institutions have been ripped asunder as the COVID-19 crisis has expanded beyond a simple medical challenge to become an ideological and systemic uncertainty about institutions. The entire agenda of finance-based internationalization that has held sway since the end of the Cold War has been drawn into question as the fragility of the current order is made visible. In this seminar, we will discuss the media’s response globally and how the nature of journalism has evolved as a result of institutional changes. We will also discuss possible new approaches to solving global crises that will move beyond this media-based narcissistic frenzy to pursue science-based global cooperation,
Discussion led by
The Asia Institute
The Asia Institute, Peace Program
36, Mareunnae-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea Sarrim building Room no 401.
Lifelong Education Center
How to go there:
From exit 6 of Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Subway station, walk straight 20 meters.
There are turns in the river of history so dramatic, even overwhelming, that we must demand more than progressive adaptation, we must demand a fundamental restructuring of every aspect of our society.
This moment is such a moment and I declare my candidacy for president of the United States not because I desire the perks that accompany that position, perks that have grown gaudy as that institution has decayed, but because there will be no hope of stanching the flow of our nation’s lifeblood unless those who have benefited the most from our finest traditions are willing to throw themselves into the battle.
The time has come for a politics founded in truth, and not an appeal to whim or to fleeting emotions. We cannot look away from the profound moral decay that has laid waste to our beloved United States. We must combine a deep empathy for the sufferings of ordinary people with an inspiring vision for what this country could be.
This campaign does not offer you glittering false promises. Until we restore a discourse in politics that is honest and we reestablish a government that holds up an ideal, and implements that ideal, promises made by politicians, whether they call themselves “conservative” or “progressive,” will not mean much.
Today, our government, our journalism, our educational institutions, our communities and our families all teeter on the brink of collapse. Lost in self-deception we cannot even bring ourselves to face the wasteland that lies before us.
All that I contend for is this: We must struggle together to build participatory institutions in every neighborhood that will permit our citizens to establish the ideals, to practice the habits, and to prepare the policies that will form the foundations on which we will rebuild this republic.
If we cannot form communities, if we cannot see each other as anything other than objects to be used, to be exploited for profit, no degree of policy reform at the highest levels can save us.
Citizens today are no longer citizens, but mere consumers who are force fed pre-packaged fantasies cranked out by public relations firms, firms hired by the same corporations that shower money on every politician.
We are taught by the corrupt media that we have only a role as observers and that we have no choice but to send money to politicians who will never meet with us, or represent us, or even answer our phone calls. The media, controlled by a handful of powerful corporations, works hard to convince us that we must seek out magicians to solve our problems for us, and that we must shun leaders who could inspire us to build a better society with our own hands. There is no road to good government until we start to build it, with our own hands.
As Frederick Douglass wrote, “Who would be free themselves must strike the blow.”
This campaign for the presidency is not about exposure. It would be better to create our own citizens’ journalism than to grovel before the fetid media swamp that demands of us that we be its slaves. That media is unanimous in their contempt for me — and I welcome their contempt.
I do not ask you merely to vote in November. I ask you to join us a struggle to transform the United States, and to work with us, every day. Your efforts will create the sinews that bind citizens to a government which is accountable. If our neighborhood organizations are not democratic and participatory, they cannot support a national democracy.
Whether it is the sprawling prisons filled with the innocent, the decaying infrastructure that condemns our children to misery, or the promulgation of a culture of consumption and indulgence that has destroyed the virtues of frugality, modesty and humility, truly, the hour is late.
This republic should function like a delicate clock, responding predictably to the needs of citizens. But what do we do if the clock’s fan fly is gummed up with muck, if its escape wheel is fractured, or its hammer rod is warped?
Do we leave the clock alone, knowing that it will slow down, eventually coming to an irreparable stop? Or do we pause the clock for a moment, and clean the entirety from head to toe, repairing and improving? The later approach runs the risk of tempting tyranny. But the former virtually guarantees it. Better to prepare for a dangerous, but critical, surgery than to watch in idle indulgence the collapse of the republic.
When it becomes painfully self-evident that a long train of abuses and usurpations are born of the pursuit of absolute despotism, it then becomes our right, and our duty, to provide new guards for the people’s future security.
Let me suggest two fundamental principles that will undergird all future action:
The scientific search for truth
Democracy is the process by which the needs and the wisdom of the people are converted into policy. But if the people are misled, sated with distorted and embellished journalism, if they are taught to be self-indulgent and thus lose interest in governance, then we a democracy without people. If the debate on policy is not grounded in truth, then we have a fantasy democracy. However, and this is the hard part, truth is never democratic. If we are voting to determine what is true, then we have already slipped into an orderly, and all too reasonable, psychosis.
We will seek out the truth about the poverty in our country and its causes, about the motivations behind the foreign wars that we fight, about the decline of education and of communities, and we will encourage you, support you, as you go forward to investigate your neighborhood, and we will help you raise up in yourself the moral courage to formulate, and then to implement, solutions.
The establishment of a government that is, to quote President Abraham Lincoln, “of the people, by the people and for the people” is our purpose. This goal cannot be achieved through the election of a single person, or by the passage of a single bill. It will only come about as a result of a profound shift in our culture and in our habits.
We offer not fool’s gold to distract you from the massive transfer of wealth from the commons to the hands of the super-rich, bloody and deceitful men. We will speak the truth and fear no evil. Only then can we end those endless wars, only then will the ruthless exploitation of ordinary people in the United States be stopped.
A government for the people
The United States Constitution lays out a blueprint for a government that represents the people, and not the powerful. The process of building this republic has been imperfect, tainted by the crimes of slavery and marred by the slaughter of the natives. Nevertheless, we can still glimpse the flame of the Constitution shining from behind the shattered edifice that remains.
Now is the moment to reinvent government, not as a PR gimmick funded by corporations, or as a gateway for contractors in search of profits, but as something that protects the welfare of the people and defends those who oppose the powerful.
The radical concentration of wealth, the catastrophic collapse of our environment, and the foolish drive for militarism as a road to riches, these crimes are not even considered as topics for discussion in polite company today. Those who are supposed to lead us, prefer rather to wrap themselves in a blanket woven of cowardice and hypocrisy, and to ape the honored practice of the four monkeys.
But there is a terrible hidden cost for that choice of silence. Nightmares wrap around our youth, in the stark mountain passes of Afghanistan or in the dank hallways of Walter Reed Medical Center, where they lie in their own urine trying to piece together a fragmented mind, or in the cells of private prisons where they stare all day at blank walls.
Let us bring a ray of hope to those who must work constantly at miserable jobs, day and night, to feed their children. Let them know that a government will be created that places their interests at the center of the national agenda. Let them know that we are not afraid to call slavery, slavery and that we are not afraid to call war, war!
The Truth goes marching on
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering and forbearing, let us go forward together. Our campaign must be confrontational at times, but it will always be rooted and grounded in love. We will demand that the wealthy who gather by vanity shall be diminished and that those who gather by labor shall increase. We will make it clear to all that the most valuable things are precisely those that are invisible: the core values that guide us, as individuals, as groups, and as a nation, to sacrifice ourselves readily, not only for the benefit of the whole, but also for the pursuit of truth.
The damage done to our environment by petroleum and plastic, the trillions of dollars squirreled away off-shore by the rich, the manner in which the internet is used to reduce us to base animals with no self-control, these facts, and more, will be made manifest for all to see as part of this great transformation. Verily, fellow citizens, the truth shall set you free.
Seventeen Point Platform
We will not recognize any election that is not fair
The current election system is so corrupt as to be meaningless. The qualified candidate is not allowed on the ballot, and his or her ideas, and activities, are blocked out by a media that denies citizens access to critical information. Votes are counted using computer systems designed to be hacked, leaving no evidence of the sacred choice of the people. Regions inhabited by the poor are supplied with so few voting machines that tired mothers and fathers must wait for hours in line, shivering as the dusk descends.
We cannot recognize as legitimate any election for president, or for any other office, until the nation holds an internationally-supervised election in which every citizen is guaranteed the right to vote in a manner easily verified, and every qualified candidate can present his or her policies directly to the people. The entire election must be handled in a transparent manner and commercial advertising must be banned.
We do not have legitimate elections, but we do have a moral obligation to reject this entire process. I do not worry that, running for president, no rich men will fund me, no political parties will back me. We know that the election of 2020 will be so fraudulent that we cannot accept the results, or recognize those who claim to have won. Moreover, those who are “elected” will soon prove that they do not represent “we the people” in any sense of the word. We the people will wait until a legitimate election is held, one in which candidates, like myself, are allowed to participate.
Climate change is the overwhelming security threat;
The response must involve every aspect of domestic and foreign policy
A full commitment to a hundred-year plan for the mitigation of, and the adaptation to, climate change must be at the center of all security, economic and educational policy for the United States. We must devote all resources, committing ourselves to the equivalent of a war economy, in order to reduce the use of petroleum and coal to zero within two to three years.
The government will set forth directives that require the rapid reduction in the use of fossil fuels, that end the use of private automobiles and that restrict the use of airplanes. We will finance the installation of solar power and wind power generators in every neighborhood. All intellectual property rights for these technologies will be taken over by the government for this purpose. Upgrades for all buildings to near zero carbon emissions will be undertaken immediately, including maximum insulation for all homes within two months. The government will do so, employing 50-year loans that will make renewable energy cheaper than fossil fuels.
We will end all subsidies for petroleum, coal and uranium. Those fuels will be designated as controlled substances that cannot be sold for profit.
The military will convert to 100% renewable energy more quickly than the rest of the country and it will be transformed thereby from the greatest enemy of the environment to its most powerful defender. Polluting fighter planes and outdated aircraft carriers will be scrapped immediately without concern for the profits that they might generate for corporations. Those who stand to lose their jobs will be guaranteed employment in renewable energy projects.
Oil and gas corporations have made trillions of dollars pushing dangerous substances on citizens that they knew full well were destroying the environment. Such actions are criminal by law. The assets of these corporations, and of their owners, will be seized by the government and used to finance the transformation of our economy.
Wasting energy, food and natural resources will be recognized for the abomination that it is and will never be promoted as a symbol of a better life.
The government will supervise the creation of truly sustainable urban and suburban communities and undertake the restoration of wild areas to assure biodiversity. That will mean tearing up the malls, the parking lots, the factories and the freeways that have defiled our sacred forests and our precious wetlands.
Eliminate nuclear weapons by any means necessary
Humanity faces an unprecedented risk of nuclear war, made even more dire by the promotion of “usable” mini nuclear devices. We will commit ourselves to the elimination of these dangerous weapons from the Earth, painful as that process will be. For the sake of our children, we will forcibly confiscate, and destroy, all nuclear weapons, starting in the United States, and then in all the other nations of the world. We will work with committed groups of citizens at home and abroad, inside government and outside. The development of nuclear weapons must be stopped.
Launch international scientific investigations into the past that so many refuse to confront
We cannot come to grips with the threat of climate change and of nuclear war until we shake off the culture of denial that has gripped us for the last twenty years. We must conduct a fearless investigation into the actions taken by a small group of powerful men after the 2000 election, including the so-called “9/11” incident.
The power of the scientific method must be employed by international “truth and reconciliation” teams to reveal the honest story for our citizens, and for the world, to see. There should be no limits on how far the investigation goes. Granted the seriousness of the case, all related materials must be declassified. Nor should we be satisfied with simplistic tales that blame just one group or another. Murder on the Orient Express was a solvable crime.
Bring the US military home and upgrade the United Nations
The United States must bring back the troops deployed around the world, troops often exploited in mercenary enterprises to serve the interests of the wealthy. We must be ready to fight, and to die, for true international security, but to do so only in the strictest sense as defined by the charter of the United Nations. It would be better to risk our lives in the noble battle against the forces of greed to protect the soil beneath our feet, to assure that the pure waters of our oceans are not poisoned, and to preserve forests in perpetuity than to fight these pointless wars.
The United Nations must be the primary space wherein we plan the future for our fragile planet, and then implement it. But that can only be done if that institution undergoes a complete reform that empowers it to represent the citizens of the Earth without the interference of corporations or of wealthy individuals.
Corporations are not people;
The rich get only one vote
Corporations are not people and they have no role to play in the formulation of policy. The same is true for the super-rich and for the investment banks through which they exert their will. The information required by policy makers must be supplied by life-long civil servants, professors and other experts who can engage in an objective evaluation of the current state of our country without pressure to derive profit.
The rich are just people. They have no more rights than anyone else. They should not have a special role in the determination of policy. Those who use money, directly or indirectly, to influence policy are engaged in corruption and bribery; do not hide such criminality by using the innocuous terms “consulting” and “lobbying.”
We must empower the civil service so that the government regains independence from corporations and can produce strict regulatory systems to protect the people. We have done it before and we can do it again. In that process, many corporations, such as banks, or communications and energy companies, will be nationalized, and run by a competent staff of civil servants who have the common good as their sacred mission. Such ethical governance has precedents dating back to ancient times and does not require ideological decorations.
An economy of the people and for the people
Without economic equality and the strict regulation of finance, democracy is not possible. While we slept, an elite faction generated great wealth by illegal and immoral means for decades and then hoarded it overseas. Most of our citizens cannot even conceive of the corruption that has spread everywhere behind the sparkling facades of industry and government.
All this will stop. We empower thousands of professional auditors at the Internal Revenue Service, and other government bureaus, who, supported by the FBI, will go forward and fearlessly conduct complete audits of all branches of government, including the Department of Defense. We will demand a full financial audit of the Congress and of all its members. So also will the entire Executive branch and all the major members of the Judiciary, be audited. We will not be afraid to fire, fine and imprison thousands of people, or more, if necessary.
Once the government is focused once again on the concerns of our honorable citizens, we will do the same for corporations and for the super-rich.
Remember that those who roll in obscene wealth obtained it through unfair access to capital combined with illegal business practices. Their assets must be cut down to size so that they can no longer use these funds to undermine journalism, politics or education. Finance from now on will be a highly regulated field, primarily overseen by government organizations accountable to the people. Regional banks will be transformed into cooperatives that are run by the citizens for the sake of the local economy.
Support true education and investigative journalism
Politics cannot be legitimate if our citizens are denied access to the quality education they need in order to think critically about the state of our society and to make full use of the infinite potential locked away in their imaginations. They need to learn history and literature, philosophy and science, from a young age in order to be able to comprehend the complex issues of our generation.
We will create a new education system in which all citizens are treated equally. The funds for schools will never be tied to local real estate taxes. Teachers will be as well rewarded as any member of society. Everyone will be entitled to a quality education because we expect everyone to be an active citizen.
Journalism is an extension of education. Journalism should inform our citizens about real issues, not sensationalist happenings, and it should teach them how to think critically about the economic and cultural realities behind the surface of things. Sadly, journalism has degenerated into a disgraceful sludge that fills newspapers, TV broadcasts and internet postings with grotesque images and meretricious phrases, content that appeals to our worst angels.
Whereas citizens should be learning to think objectively and to work together to create a better society, they are bombarded instead with refuse that stimulates sexual desire or promotes mindless consumption.
The government must support an independent media at the local and national level that is dedicated to the pursuit of truth and that encourages citizens to think for themselves. Investigative journalism about the serious issues of our time, brave journalism, must once again become a viable career.
Art, whether painting, sculpture, design, drama, music or literature, must be part of our citizens’ lives. The government will support such activities because they give citizens the confidence to express themselves, and to articulate a vision for our future on their own, without relying on shiny images or glib phrases produced by the corporate media.
Fostering artistic expression will free youth from the banal and manipulative culture they face today, one which directs them towards short-term pleasures and robs them of the ability to contribute to their society. Giving them the opportunity to make their own films, their own newspapers and their own paintings and photographs, while being paid a decent wage for that work, will give them confidence they can change society. We will replace banal and demeaning commercial art with the redeeming and inspiring art of our citizens.
The 13th amendment and the end of slavery
The 13th amendment of our Constitution explicitly prohibits slavery. Yet we have citizens, many forced into debt by contemptible practices, who work in factories and stores as effective slaves. We have citizens in prisons, often on trumped-up charges, forced to work for no pay, forced to pay for the right to see their loved ones. All these crimes are for the profit of corporations. These despicable practices will be ended, without exception, by the rigorous application of the 13th amendment.
Trade must be ecological and truly free
Trade can be helpful on occasion, but as it is practiced today it is deeply damaging to our precious ecosystem and to our people. Trade has become another word for massive container ships, controlled by investment banks, spewing horrid smoke as they carry goods across oceans in the interests of the few, not of those who make the goods, nor of those who use them.
It is not a positive, and it is certainly is not internationalization, for local industries and farms to be destroyed by “trade” and for citizens to be rendered dependent on imported goods against their will.
We must, together, completely rethink what trade means and create a 100% fossil-fuel free trade system that is accessible to everyone and that respects the needs of local communities.
Moral decadence lies at the core of this political crisis
The current crisis is above all a spiritual crisis. We have fallen deep into decadence and narcissism. They taint even those with the best of intentions. Modesty, frugality and integrity have vanished from our vocabulary. The invisible inner world of values and character has been replaced by a spectacle that renders the citizen a passive consumer of filth.
Until we can control our own actions and, only then, form communities that can demand justice and righteousness, until we can trust our neighbors, talk frankly with our children and uphold common values, we will be incapable of standing up to the powers that have seized control of our country.
Moral corruption means that many of those who speak of “freedom” and “justice” are happy to take covert payments that they avoid speaking too much truth. This also must end.
Transform the military-intelligence complex
The out-of-control military allows corporations to take our tax dollars and transfer them directly to their bank accounts through the sales of overpriced weapons, not subject to outside review or to scientific tests.
We need men and women willing to give their lives for their country. Those noble sentiments have been cynically misdirected. The military, and the intelligence “community” that surrounds it as a penumbra, must be transformed and dedicated, above all, to the mitigation of, and the adaptation to, climate change, and to other real security threats.
The bravery of soldiers must be redirected to the dangerous duty of ending the rule of our country by fossil fuel giants, and their lackeys, and to the task of transforming our economy. Soldiers! If you cannot stand up to the energy czars, how can you call yourselves brave?
In violation of George Washington’s warning of the dangers of “entangling our peace and prosperity” with the intentions of foreign countries, we have launched into numerous secret treaties, casually termed “intelligence sharing” and “security cooperation,” that are leading us to a catastrophe like that of 1914. Back then, a horrific domino effect was set off by such secret treaties that dragged the world into a catastrophic war.
All of you who work at underpaid contract jobs for the NSA, all of you who must read through our endless emails, all of you required to harass simple folk over foolish things for wanton corporations, listen to me! Verily, I say unto thee, “Come with us! Thou hast nothing to lose but thy chains.”
Stop the dangerous influence of technology on our citizens
The corporate media presents the exponential evolution of technology as an unmitigated positive. Yet, in most cases, exposure to such new technologies robs us of the ability to focus, deprives us of the power to think for ourselves, and strips us of the awareness necessary to function as citizens in society. Technology is used increasingly as a means of inducing in us addiction to short-term stimulation. Such products generate profits, but they render citizens incapable of understanding the seriousness of the crisis we face.
We want to interact with others, and we need jobs that let us cooperate with others. But all we encounter is recorded messages, automated checkouts and long rows of supercomputers coldly calculating corporate profits. We find ourselves entirely alone in a digital desert. This is no accident but rather a premeditated crime.
We must critically review how technology impacts society before we employ it. Technology can be immensely helpful, but only if it is applied to solve the real challenges of our age, and not used to manipulate us.
Scientific understanding of the state of our Earth, and of our society, must be our goal always. We confuse science with technology at our peril. As Paul Goodman wrote, “Whether or not it draws on new scientific research, technology is a branch of moral philosophy, not of science.”
Halt the anti-intellectual campaigns to dumb us down
Our citizens are subject to unending campaigns that encourage anti-intellectual sentiments and that discourage thinking deeply about the world. These changes in our culture are not natural, but are imposed by hidden forces seeking to render us docile.
We must raise the level of intellectual engagement in every corner of our country, and encourage people to think for themselves, and to propose solutions of their own. Reading, writing and debate are critical to that process and must be encouraged. Citizens should never rely on the facile and jejune opinions offered up by celebrities.
We cannot allow the poisonous forest of advertising and public relations firms to dumb down the citizenry, to impose from above a culture of narcissism and to promote the insidious cult of the self. Terrible indeed is the damage they have already done. Our citizens confront banal wasteland that offers nothing, but has taken over every TV channel, occupied every mall and conquered every office.
The advertising and PR industry must be subject to the strictest regulations so that our citizens are exposed to images in the media which encourage intellectual engagement and that support a healthy community. Citizens have the right to read articles, and watch broadcasts, that the describe the reality of our lives in a scientific manner, and the right not to be subject to programs that hold up as a model scenes from the indulgent lives of the rich.
Revive the Iroquois principle of seven generations;
End the cult of growth and consumption
Although the constitution of the Iroquois Nation had a profound influence on the United States Constitution, its focus on sustainability was tragically overlooked by our founding fathers. The traditions of the Iroquois, and of other native nations, must never be forgotten. The “seventh generation” principle of the Iroquois Nation demands that we consider how our decisions today will influence the lives of our descendants seven generations in the future. This principle is scientific and rational, and it stands in marked contrast to the irrational assumption that the oceans, forests and grasslands are commodities that belong to individuals or corporations, and can be destroyed for personal profit.
The “seventh generation” principle must be added to the Constitution as an amendment, serving as the basis for the complete revaluation of our economic and cultural assumptions.
We must stop using deceptive terms like “growth” and “consumption” to assess the well-being of the nation. We must consider together the health of all our citizens, the weal of the environment and the prosperity of wild animals and plants.
Cooperation is essential to our survival. We cannot solve problems through budgets if budgets merely encourage dependency on money. We must create barter systems between citizens so that neighbors can assist each other and set up programs for mutual support that make families and communities self-sufficient.
Health care cannot be provided merely by sloshing government money from one account to another. We must also empower citizens to care for each other, to learn enough of medicine, of herbal remedies and of proper exercise, to cure many illnesses on their own without using money at all.
Farming for the people and a healthy and fair food economy
The rapid rise in temperature brought on by global warming will cause an exponential increase in the cost of food over the next decade and make farming once again the most critical activity for survival. We have not even started to prepare for this catastrophe.
We must leave behind this bankrupt system of industrial farming and return to farming by the people and for the people. The land must be distributed to large numbers of citizens to be used as family farms. There is nothing to lament or decry herein. The soil and the water granted to us by our mother Earth has never been, and never will, the property of corporations.
The entire distribution system for agriculture must be regulated and thereby made fair. It is far more important to produce food in a manner that does not damage our soil and water than it is for the few to make fortunes from agricultural exports. Americans must embrace sustainable organic farming, and do so now.
Neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party are described in the Constitution
The three-ring circus of impeachment revealed to us that the current political system has nothing to do with the Constitution. Governance is dead and politics has been reduced to a brawl between corporate lobbyists, investment bankers, media pundits and the rich whom they serve. The media, having long abandoned any scrap of journalistic integrity, merely eggs on the wrestlers like a drunken mob.
All debate surrounding the formulation and implementation of policy must be handled in a transparent manner within the government offices defined by the Constitution.
Yet today, policy is made by corporations, or debated within opaque and unaccountable political parties, in a blatantly unconstitutional manner. Do not be deceived. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party are not described in the Constitution and they do not represent the vast majority of our citizens.
Leaving decisions on policy to political parties that are not regulated by the Constitution is both criminal and unconstitutional, and the practice must be stopped.
Political parties are an appropriate venue for citizens at the local level to meet and to exchange ideas. The Constitution grants the Democratic and Republican parties no role in governance or in the formulation of policy.