ZNet is “Harmful to a Young Public”: Notes From Madison

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the Orwellian absurdity of daily political life in the United States.  I am spending a few days in my old home away from home – Madison, WI.  This morning I went ino my hotel's complimentary Internet room to have a look at my e-mail, the online New York Times, Common Dreams, and ZNet.  I was curious among other things to see if my latest Empire and Inequality Report had gone up yet (it has – read it here). 

Something strange happened when I tried to pull up ZNet.  A message came across my screen saying that "Access is Denied" because of "content deemed harmful to children."  This is at the Madison Concourse Hotel, a couple of blocks away from the scenic Wisconsin State Capitol and less than a mile from one my favorite left bookstores – the Rainbow Bookstore (cooperative) on Gillman Street.

"Boy, that's strange," I said to myself; "guess I can just go around the corner to that new coffee shop on State Street and use the WIFI there." I went back to my room to clean up a little and I turned on the television.  The first station I saw was CNN, where a black male news broadcaster was acting happy and excited about Queen Elizabeth's current trip to the U.S. The Queen, it appears, is going to Jamestown, Virginia, to mark the glorious 400th anniversary of the first permanent British settlement in colonial North America. “It’s a great moment,” CNN reported.

No, it isn't.  It’s pathetic (apologies to any children reading).

This is what happened at Jamestown.  The original settlers thought they were going to get rich quick by discovering gold and enslaving Indians on the model of the Spanish conquistadors.  When these lovely imperial ambitions proved unrealistic, they engaged in a fair bit of Indian food-stealing and Indian-killing and a lot of internecine conflict. A bunch of them died off – big tragedy. 

The first thing that rescued Jamestown was tobacco – the illicit weed of the 17th century and a perfect match for Tidewater soils.  The second thing was the vicious exploitation of indentured servants and later of course black chattel slaves. 

The lovely Jamestown and Virginia experiment rested on the savage underlying material foundation of black slavery by the end of the 17th century, laying the essential economic and related ideological basis for centuries of racial oppression that continue through the present, when black America is afflicted by a black-white wealth ratio of 1 to 11.

So sorry kids, but let's tone down the excitement over the glorious Jamestown experience, along with Kings and Queens and the whole revolting culture of aristocracy that Tom Paine so eloquently rejected in January 1776.

The Queen is going to fulfill her lifelong dream to attend the aristocratic Kentucky Derby. She is quite a “horse-woman,” CNN reports.  She joined CNN, NBC, ESPN and the rest of the corporate news and entertainment empire in mourning the recent tragic and untimely death of the American thoroughbred Barbaro, whose terrible demise elicited more media attention than the officially invisible death of more than 700,000 Iraqis at the hands of United States and UK barbaro/petro-imperialism since March 19 2003.

Speaking of derbies, the Queen has flown a large number of spectacular hats across the ocean to the New World. CNN showed footage of royal aides carefully carrying gigantic hat boxes across an airport tarmac.  Each hat is worth thousands of dollars – an interesting fact in a time when more than 2 billion people try to live on less than a single dollar a day.

The Queen is having some late-life fun after recently seeing Prince Harry off on his quest to be directly involved in the subordination and, if necessary, slaughter of Iraqis resisting the illegal Anglo-American oil-imperialist occupation of their country.  He may get to shoot up a few noncombatants along the way.

In a brief story right after the Jamestown item, CNN noted that a recent Pentagon survey of U.S. combat troops in Iraq contains disturbing findings. The survey reports that more than half of those troops think “torture is justified” if it will save the life of a fellow imperial occupier.  Less than half of "our men and women in Iraq" think that Iraqi noncombatants “deserve to be treated with respect.”  

The CNN newscaster said that this showed that "our troops are under a lot of stress” in Iraq.

I turned to a different news station where a laughing entertainment reporter observed that noted U.S. cultural icon Paris Hilton faces some possible jail time for driving drunk on a suspended license and at 70 miles an hour.

In other news, Paris’ friend Brittany Spears is resurrecting her career with a new package of obscene gyrations that people are paying to see onstage.  Her new lascivious thrusts and turns are made to the background of lip-synced music right now, but she’s aiming to return to live “singing” soon.  A FOX News reporter commended Ms. Spears for “getting herself back in really good shape.”

I flipped to another station – the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN).  A sad CBN reporter was decrying a recent Congressional bill that dares to protect gay Americans from violence motivated by hatred of their sexual orientation. The bill is an attempt by a “Left Wing” Congress to “prosecute thought crimes,” the CBN reporter said. He looked sad and hurt by the determination of liberal politicians to subject the nation to Orwellian rule.  

On a happier note, CBN showed a clip of George W. Bush telling a faith-based White House audience that “it is the duty of all nations to recognize and honor the providence of God." Evangelical Television also commented at gushing length about the Queen’s visit – “just a wonderful thing.” 

I left my room and headed down to the University of Wisconsin campus, down by Lake Mendota.  Along the way I went into a New Age book and spirits store called “Shakti.”  On its front window, this store has a sticker quoting Gandhi on the need for peace.  It also has a clever item showing the “Q” at the end of “IRAQ” being replaced by an “N.”  The point is that Iran is the next target for U.S. imperial assault.  And right above that the store window displays a sticker reading “Obama ’08.”  I went in to look at some of the books, which included a number of recent works by Noam Chomsky.  I asked the proprietor if he really thinks Obama is a Gandhi-esque “peace candidate” and if he knew that Obama refuses to take U.S. nuclear attack off the table of U.S. options regarding Iran.  He looked hurt. 

As I bought some incense I suggested he google up my name along with “Obama” and “ZNet” for a different perspective.  He said he would.

“Yeah it’s pretty sad” – that’s the comment of somebody I briefly discussed “progressives'” Obama confusion with at the new coffee place I mentioned above.

I have asked the Madison Concourse Hotel to tell me why ZNet is banned from their Internet room. 

I am thinking about complaining about the content of the television stations they pipe into their rooms.  I think CNN, Fox News and the rest may be harmful to children.


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