Monday, July 29, 1996

Week of 07/29/1996

Editor's note: The following article was submitted immediately after the Centennial Olympic Park Bombing.
Gone in a Flash
- by David Matthews 2

It was supposed to be a center for celebration. A place where people from around the world could meet, enjoy some free music, and have fun. Centennial Park in Atlanta was supposed to be the ideal location for such an event. No hassles, no complex security arrangements. Perfect for the international visitors and local guests.

All of that came to a crashing halt early Saturday morning with an explosion that took two lives and injured over 100 other people.

The specter of terror in the Olympics has remained with us since 1972, when armed terrorists took Israeli athletes hostage in Munich, Germany. And indeed, many of the security measures used by Olympic officials and federal, state, and local law enforcement seemed to reflect their concern that they did not want a repeat of Munich.

Yet, despite the effort placed on protecting the athletes and dignitaries from around the world, a single bomb still managed to strike a serious blow to the festive spirit gathered for this event- in a place few would even suspect.

Those who read my articles here know of the somewhat skeptical nature concerning the Olympics and the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, especially with all the security measures and the general attitude that the residents are considered more of an unwanted intruder than proud host. But I for one would never advocate the carnage that resulted by detonating a bomb in the middle of Centennial Park, no matter what reason. That action is a mark of sheer cowardice and stupidity.

For all the disagreements I and many others may have with how ACOG has been treating the residents here, I’m sure I can speak for many people that I hope the perpetrators of this foul act be captured and duly prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Likewise, my heart goes out to those who have been victimized by this tragedy.

For certain, this sad event will not only cast a shadow on the rest of the Olympic events, but for future Olympic games as well.

Monday, July 22, 1996

Week of 07/22/1996

Welcome to.. uh… HERE!
My greetings to the World for the "games."
- by David Matthews 2

"Greetings Y'all! And welcome all ye foreigners from different countries. Dear Lord look over these people and prepare them for the butt-whooping they are about to receive." - from Jeff Foxworthy, "Games Rednecks Play"
When I initially decided to write an article welcoming the world to Georgia, I was visited by a couple of men in dark suits. Since they were carrying briefcases and not rifles I knew they weren't federal agents or mobsters. Once they opened their mouths I instantly knew they had to be something worse- lawyers.

It seems that somehow they sensed I would be mentioning a certain international event in my article and that they wanted to remind me I didn't pay my prerequisite $40 million, so I was not permitted to use anything considered the "intellectual property" of that international event.

Of course I explained to them that all I wanted to do was to write an article expressing my greetings to the international visitors to be here for this event. A nice, warm, friendly article. They said they had no problem with that, but they warned me not to mention certain words that they considered to be "intellectual property." To which they shoved in front of my face a congressional shopping list of words and phrases that they said they own the copyrights to.

I told them that I wasn't going to mention the computer-generated mascot for this international event. Nor was I going to use their symbols, such as a torch, or those strategically placed five colored rings. All I wanted to do was to convey my warm greetings to the international guests coming to the city for this event.

Which, they say, they own the rights to as well.

"What?" I said in surprise. "You mean I can't even mention the host city without forking over forty million dollars to become a sponsor??"

Apparently so, they told me.

I told them that the name of the city was a common word, and as such they had no right to claim "intellectual property" over it. They said they can. Of course I could challenge it in court, but as anyone knows $40 million can by a LOT of legal clout. By the time a court even hears the case the games would be long over, and my article would be moot.

So to all those international guests coming to.. uh… this city in Georgia.. for.. uh.. this four year international sporting event.. WELCOME! Sit back, enjoy, and have fun.

Just watch what you say..

Monday, July 15, 1996

Week of 07/15/1996

Moralism and the Politics of Image
- By David Matthews 2

On January 19 1995, I learned that the Marietta City Council was planning to enact an ordinance that would seriously hamper adult entertainment clubs that served alcohol. The special meeting on that ordinance was that night, and I felt compelled to be there. There were dozens of reasons why, but one stood out- I wanted to see moralism in action.

Moralism may be a new term for many people, but you've probably seen it at work. Moralism is the enforcement of morals onto other individuals as either a law, an ordinance, or other means by which punitive damages would be rendered if such morals were not observed. Some may say that such a definition could also apply to child-rearing, since the same measures happen when we teach children how to behave. But moralism involves enacting such measures onto adults, people who are already considered to be mature enough to make such decisions on their own.

Moralism comes by many names. The most commonly used- especially in recent years- is "family values." We see this term used so many times, but who really knows what it means? Or the implications of enacting family values as some form of legislation? However, moralism is not strictly limited to the 90's version of conservatism (since the original conservatives were against any form of government intrusion), and you've probably seen the liberal version under the guise of "political correctness." Political correctness is another form of moralism, where the trend is not to offend. But even there, it's the imposition of someone else's morals onto others.

Attending this city council meeting, I was able to see how the conservative moralists managed to enact their views into law. Representatives to the adult entertainment industry in the form of lawyers, owners, and employees were there. Some complained that they were not given enough time to show up and prepare for the proposed ordinance that would effect their livelihood. If anything, most of the council members were indifferent to the complaints, believing that they were fortunate to even be given the minimum 24 hours notice. Personally, I wondered if they would be as dispassionate if it was their business, their job, or their property on the line. But those who supported the ordinance were there, and they were well organized and prepared for the special session.

In seeing who spoke out for and against the ordinance, one might assume this was a class struggle. Those supporting the ordinance were professionals; traditionally established individuals of the old guard. They spoke eloquently and effectively, with speeches that were no doubt well prepared. Most sounded like they were preaching in church. Their arguments concentrated more towards family values than the subject matter- which was the separation of adult entertainment and liquor licensees. By stark contrast, those in opposition to the ordinance were somewhat disorganized. They were either business lawyers, or single mothers, or those few individuals who were on their side. They represented a slice of humanity that the moralists would prefer to be rarely seen and certainly not heard. Their speeches were neither as well written nor as eloquent as their adversaries. Although, in hindsight, even if they were well prepared I'm certain even their best arguments would have fallen on deaf ears.

Halfway though the special session, it became obvious where the council members stood. Even if they said nothing, their eye contact often betrayed their partisanship. Glances towards the smiling moralists, especially when presented with information in opposition to their beliefs, indicated that even a burning bush wouldn't have swayed their opinions. Their minds were made up. Their positions were clear. The decision would be for the ordinance. And the moralists gained another foothold.

Moralism is spread more by emotion than intellect. It appeals to our base desires to be safe and secure. Moralists use icons such as children, infants, women, minorities. Symbols of things that are seen as weak, defenseless, and helpless. These, according to moralists, are things that need protection, to be rescued, to be saved from the "evils" of the world.

For moralists, these "evils" are considered to be threats to their very way of life. Equal rights for homosexuals, for example, is transformed into "special rights," or the "imposition of the gay agenda." Nude dance clubs become "dens of crime, drugs, prostitution, and drunk driving." Television programs like "NYPD Blue" become "thinly veiled pieces of pornographic trash." Traditional business standards become "racist and sexist measures to keep the good old boy system in power."

And such evils are considered personal threats. It's not just a threat to their way of life, it becomes a threat to society in general. It becomes a threat to YOUR way of life. A threat to YOUR spouse, YOUR children, YOUR family, and everything that YOU value most in the world.

For moralists, the only solution to these supposed problems is the eradication of these threats. Not just regulation. Not just limiting them from the reach or context of children. But to outlaw them. To ban, shut down, defund, rezone, and otherwise ensure that these items are totally removed from existence.

A perfect example of this can be seen in the attempts by citizens of Gainesville, Ga. to remove the book "Women on Top" from the local library. The book- which graphically described the fantasies of women- was placed in the Reference desk after the complains were made, which meant someone had to ask to see it and could only read it in front of that desk. But even that did not quell the complaints of people who would settle with nothing less than the total abolition of that single book from the entire library system. The measure failed in a tie vote, but those citizens eventually won when the book was "accidentally" destroyed.

Moralism is nothing new. In fact, extreme cases of moralism can be traced through some of the darkest periods of human history. During the Spanish Inquisition, people were tortured or killed on the basis of how devout their religious beliefs were. In colonial Massachusetts, dozens of people were imprisoned, tortured, their land seized, and were executed on the accusations of witchcraft. In some instances, their sole crime was being different from the "mainstream standards" in the town of Salem. People who told "dark tales," who lived life a little different from the highly conservative puritans, or even for simply questioning the decisions of those in authority, were placed on trial for their life.

Moralism has been used to suppress reason, as was evident when the Catholic Church forced Galileo Galilei to recant his own works that said the Earth revolved around the sun in 1633. And it has been used to suppress technology, as was evident when Pope Alexander VI ordered the banning of the printing of books in 1501.

Even after the enactment of the United States Constitution and the Bill or Rights, moralism continued to thrive in society through local and state ordinances which prohibit certain behaviors. Several states still have such laws on the books- including laws against adultery, sodomy, and liquor sales. They have continued to exist as laws, partly because people have ignored them. But they also serve as traps to ensnare people who dare to question moralists. The minute someone tries to change those laws, they are barraged by moralists who deem them to be the devil incarnate.

Perhaps the worst case of moralism in this century was during the "red-scare" hunts of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. This committee was established in 1938 to investigate political organizations considered to be communist, fascist, extremist, or subversive. It was designed to halt Axis propaganda during World War II. But once moralists got their hands into the committee they used it to attack liberals, artists, intellectuals, and even labor leaders. In 1947, ten writers and directors refused to answer to charges made by members of that committee and were jailed for contempt. Eventually the committee lost it's public favor, but those whose careers and lives were marred by these witch hunts still carry the accusations on their records. Piousness prevents even an apology or an acknowledgment of any wrongdoing.

At the heart of moralism is one word: CONTROL.

Control is the end result of all moralist actions, be they liberal or conservative. Moralists seek to control their neighborhoods, their community, their world as they see it. By controlling what their neighbor can or cannot do gives moralists the means to control that person. If you doubt this, look at what their arguments have to say. All too often, their arguments are that problem X is around because people don't think or behave a certain way- and that if they only think like them then problem X will simply go away. Conservatives would use watch words like "values" or "virtues," while liberals would prefer the word "awareness" or "conscious." But they mean the same thing- "do as I say," "think my thoughts," "think like me."

Moralists sell their views with what could be called a "devil's deal." That being selling a portion of their constitutional rights in exchange for greater safety or security. The best example of this is the recent moralist attacks against the Internet. Two bills were introduced in Congress that would remove constitutional rights from computer communications- one that would give law enforcement the right to electronically search computer files without a warrant, and another that would hold system operators responsible for the moral standards of their users. If either bill becomes law and are not struck down by the courts, it would seriously hinder the future of electronic communications and stop an ever-growing business. But such a loss would be meaningless for the moralists in exchange for "the greater good of society."

Proof of the danger to moralism in the Internet can be seen in the Prodigy computer network system. Created as a "family-oriented" computer network, Prodigy tried to appeal to adult members by creating a special bulletin board just for adult-oriented issues in 1992. This board required the user to have prior authorization from the "primary member"- usually the head of the household- and the user had to type in their account password before even getting past the warnings of it being an adult-oriented board. But Prodigy failed to notify it's panel of bulletin board censors of the board. Numerous complaints were filed about adult subjects being censored out- even when the postings used strict medical terms and references. The board was eventually removed- in part because most topics on the board could not be discussed thanks to Prodigy's own censors. This helped contribute to the defection of many Prodigy users to the new America Online service- one whose bulletin boards relied more on parental controls than network censorship. America Online is now considered to be the king of the online services- Prodigy meanwhile slid from first to third. However, not too long afterwards, America Online began to enact their own censorship controls.

Perhaps the most powerful weapons moralists have are time and ignorance. Moralists bide their time, slowly gathering support and working behind the scenes until they have enough political power to take control. They play for keeps, not just to win. If a judge rules against a moralist group, the group will find another judge or work behind the scenes to replace that judge with one that will be more supportive to their views.

Most people are ignorant to the reach of many moralist groups. Moralists love it when people laugh at them or their cause and consider them to be out of touch or too far on the fringe to be taken seriously. Moralists see themselves as the tortoise in a race against the societal hare. And in the old story, the tortoise won the race when the hare fell asleep.

Unfortunately, the solutions to fight moralism are not easy. Quite often, moralists strike hard against anyone opposing them. Their tactic is to put their opponents on the defensive, make them defend their positions. Then the moralists make that position unfavorable by use of imagery and symbols. Moralists would wrap themselves in the American flag- even as they desecrate it's very meaning- with no regrets or regards.

But the strengths of moralism are also it's weakness. Moralists believe they stand for tradition, yet they deny their dark pasts. Those facts sullen the image they try to portray. The first step to fighting moralism is knowledge- knowledge of facts, and of history.

The second step is the willingness to attack moralism- and attack them as relentlessly as they would attack all others. Moralists are no different from schoolyard bullies in that they pick on only those they can beat. Forcing them to defend their stances not only prevents them from taking control of the issue, but also exposes their true intentions to the people.

And lastly, there has to be vigilance and education. Moralism persists because they believe the people are weak and stupid. They believe people need to be controlled if anything just to "save themselves." They have little or no faith in people. Vigilance is needed to remind the people they aren't stupid, and they aren't sheep that need herding.

Moralism is a bane on civilization. Irregardless of it's appearance, it's presenters, and the message it tries to convey, moralism destroys society. And as long as it continues to sway people who consider themselves to be mindless sheep, moralism will continue to thrive.

Monday, July 8, 1996

Week of 07/08/1996

What is Tyranny?
It's not what many picture it to be.
- By David Matthews 2

What is tyranny?

To most people, tyranny stirs pictures of armed troops goose-stepping through the streets. Concrete and metal walls lined with razor wire and watched by guards, designed to prevent people from entering or leaving without permission. The media being nothing more than instruments of government propaganda, reporting only what the government allows them to report. People living in fear even within the comfort of their own homes, not knowing if members of their own family will turn them in. Scenes such as those from Nazi Germany, or written by George Orwell in his book "1984."

But what many don't realize is how tyranny really begins. The images that most people associate with a tyrannical government are only seen when tyranny is firmly entrenched in society. That isn't when tyranny really begins.

Tyranny begins when one person says that they have the solution to all, or at least some the ills of society. And the price? Only a portion of your freedom.

Tyrants always justify the sacrifice of freedom. They always say it's for a greater good. That the limitations of freedom and liberty would only affect a small portion of society- often a portion of society that are "benefiting" from the current crisis.

Consider how Germany was before the Nazi takeover. The country was suffering not only from the Great Depression like any other country during that time, but also had to pay huge war reparations to the other European countries from World War I. Morale was low, and the people were poor and hungry. Then a house painter from Austria named Adolph Hitler stood up and said he's got the solution to Germany's problems.

Of course, there's no talk about goose-stepping troops, or the Gestapo, or anything that one would usually associate with Nazi Germany at the time. Just talk about a strong country, deeply rooted in - dare I say it?- traditional family values. And the price to pay for that dream, Hitler told people, would only be paid by a small portion of the population. Those who supposedly prospered while the rest of the country suffered. The Jews, the gypsies, the foreigners, anyone who was considered different from the mainstream German populace.

Had the German people known what Hitler's plan would result into- the concentration camps, the secret police, the death and torment of countless millions- they no doubt would have rejected it. But instead it was sold to them a piece at a time. First to pin the blame on a certain party or group. Then when the people believed that group was guilty, they were inclined to punish them with laws and regulations. They would humble and humiliate these people by forcing them to identify themselves only by their group or belief, and usually in demeaning fashion. Exile them into certain sections of society. Most wouldn’t even know what happened to them after that point. And by then the public would be too far conditioned to even care.

One would think, though, that after Nazi Germany and the horrors of the Holocaust, the people wouldn’t be so willing to go down that same path again. And yet, only a few years after World War II America was doing the same thing to it’s own people- actors, writers, directors, teachers, social activists.. people whose only crimes were having social or political viewpoints different than the "mainstream." Fortunately the people saw the folly of such activities and put a stop to them before they went the way of pre-war Germany.

But now those same arguments have been spoken again, this time to a generation that has yet to know tyranny first-hand. A generation of people who did not learn the lessons of Germany fifty years ago, and certainly not the tyranny of over 200 years ago; which was the tyranny that caused our founding fathers to say "forget England, forget King George, we’re forming a new country, and we’re so pissed off by their tactics and games that we’re going to make sure OUR government can’t do to it’s people what King George and Parliament did to us!"

But the tyrants haven’t learned this, and in fact they want us to forget these things ever happened! All too often they have equated the surrender of our liberties something that is worthwhile and beneficial to society as a whole, when in fact the only people who benefit from such tyranny are the tyrants.

Perhaps it is high time for us as a people to tell these tyrants that their days are through. We need to remind them, and ourselves, that bartering off liberties and freedoms on the promises of greater security is a devil’s bargain that leads us to the same path as Nazi Germany.

Whenever the next Adolph starts pointing at some group and suggesting that it’s perfectly fine and dandy to limit their freedoms and liberties "for the greater good" we need to remind ourselves that the freedoms and liberties they have are the same ones WE have, and that to restrict that group gives the tyrants the same authority to restrict US. And whenever the Hitlers of this generation stand up and start pinning the blame on other people we need to stand up and say "HEY, just who the hell appointed you the moral conscious of this country? What have YOU done to fix these problems beside whine and complain and poke fingers at everyone but yourself?"

Quite recently we celebrated Independence Day, but I sometimes wonder if what we’re really celebrating are nothing more than symbols made meaningless by the tyrants who make them so. What good are rights and freedoms if the subsequent generation of tyrants can whittle them down under the guise of "the greater good of society" to where they aren’t even worth the paper they’re printed on? And what does that say about us, the people who have to live under those bastardized freedoms and are being told to accept them? Well that tells us we’re just dumb sheep needing to be herded around by these people because we don’t know any better!

And THAT is what tyranny really is!

Monday, July 1, 1996

Week of 07/01/1996

The New Government Addicts…
Something wrong in the world? PASS A LAW!
- By David Matthews 2

Did you ever hear the term "government addicts?"

No, I’m not talking about some covert drug experiment conducted by the government in the 1960’s. I’m talking about people who are addicted to the government.

For the past few years, people have been hearing about one kind of government addicts- those who addicted to government entitlement programs. Food stamps, welfare, WIC programs, unemployment compensation, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. Those who use such programs, even temporarily, have been branded "social welfare addicts" who are dependent on government to provide for them. It is the rallying cry of conservative Republicans to "cure" these people from their addiction to government money by giving such programs to the states, who can then make them go "cold turkey."

But while the GOP wrecks havoc with these entitlement programs, they are also getting the ear of another breed of government addicts- the social control addicts.

Unlike social welfare addicts, social control addicts feel government can solve all their problems in society. Their government "fix" not coming from programs, but instead from legislation. They feel that everything will be all right if the government would just PASS A LAW.

People driving too fast on the streets for you? PASS A LAW! People driving too slow for you? PASS A LAW! You don’t like a certain book in your library? PASS A LAW! You don’t trust your librarian to do their job? PASS ANOTHER LAW! You concerned about child abuse? PASS A LAW! Drunk Driving? PASS A LAW! Abortion? PASS A LAW! You don’t like what’s on television? PASS A LAW! How about the Internet? PASS A LAW!

Of course, just passing laws does very little to actually SOLVING the problem. But it doesn’t matter to these addicts. It doesn’t matter if there are sound and effective measures that avoid legislation. They don’t want to utilize personal responsibility as individuals or as parents. That requires some work out of THEIR part. Why put up any effort when they can have someone else- namely the government- do their work for them? After all they elected these people, and are paid handsomely through our tax moneys. So these people are only satisfied when government abides to their wishes and PASSES A LAW.

And to do so, they must routinely go to their "dealers," who just so happen to also be the oldest form of addicts- the politicians. After all, these are the ones who got these social addicts hooked onto government in the first place! They first got us addicted to social welfare programs.. and now they’re getting even more people hooked on social control.

But unlike any other form of addiction such as drugs or alcohol, this is not something we can go "cold turkey" on. We just can’t shut ourselves off from government.. we still need it in our society, and our political addict/dealers know this. But what we need is to slowly cut back from it’s grip. We need to come to the realization that government CAN’T solve all our problems. WE have to put in some effort first if we want the problem to truly go away.

Benjamin Franklin once said "Those who would trade a little bit of freedom for little more security deserve neither." And if we want more security in our lives, the answer doesn’t lie with the politicians, but rather with ourselves.

If you don’t like what kind of materials are available in the library and you don’t want you kids exposed to it, then take the effort and WATCH OVER YOUR KIDS! And while you’re at it, TALK to the library about your concerns instead of going to the local government and try to pass a law outlawing such materials! If your kids are having a hard time learning in school, don’t go screaming to the school board about inadequate funding or overpaid teachers. Go to your child, pick up the school book, and ASK them where they have the problem!

There is an old adage that best applies here- In all things, moderation.