Open the paper this Saturday (7/31) and you might see Sandra Bullock holding up a finger, as if she is telling us we need to stop, or we’ve been naughty. This sounds promising, perhaps even prurient (yes, the picture is just an excuse for me to put Meryl Streep kissing a woman on here).
But the NYTimes assures us the matter is more mundane: “Bullock Wants to Be Removed From Oil-Spill Video.” Why, you might ask? Anything to do with Jesse James and an adopted New Orleans baby? No; her Indian giving spirit springs from a problem of disclosure.
Ms. Bullock, a New Orleans resident, is among the celebrities who appear in “Be the One,” a video that describes the oil spill’s national implications. A credit at the end of the video says it is presented by Women of the Storm, and among the partners listed at the campaign’s Web site, restorethegulf.com, is the America’s Wetland Foundation.
All well and good except that WotS and the Wetland Foundation, according to The Huffington Post, are “financed by oil companies, including BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Citgo and Chevron.” Nobody wants to be the secret prop of Big Oil. A prop, maybe, but not a secret one. Let me know when I’m signing up, please, just what I’m signing up for.
Or is she being unreasonable? Officials for the Wetland Foundation said oil company “contributions” are “for scientific and ecological research.” That doesn’t sound very diabolical. So what’s the big deal?
The Latin prefix dis- means “apart,” but the prefix can be used in may ways, according to M-Webs. Consider the differences between disestablish (doing the opposite of) and disbar (excluding from) and disagreeable (plain old not) and disannul (which means the same thing as annul, but perhaps just means it more completely). Closure, which originally referred to fences and other enclosing devices (and is thus related to cloister), is a word we’re all familiar with, though it too has different definitions – it could be the closure of one’s teeth, but it could also be the closure one has after a few months of being broken up with. M-W calls this “an often comforting or satisfying sense of finality.” Indeed.
You can twist around these pieces to read disclosure as “complete” or “excluding from” emotional closure – as in, last night’s perusal of facebook photo albums brought me some serious disclosure, but we generally agree that the word means the opposite of closing; to throw light upon. I leave it to your further linguistic amusement to ponder whether disclosure generally brings closure or disturbs it.
Closure is also the etymological cousin of cloture (60 votes to end a filibuster), which is what the Democrats cannot muster in order to bring their DISCLOSE Act to pass. Aha! There’s a piece of verbal legerdemain for you (“sleight of hand,” don’t be that guy who writes it “slight”). It’s also a great segue (please also note this spelling, or pat self on back if already aware).
DISCLOSE stands for, and I love this, Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections. I just get tickled when legislation wears its heart on its sleeve. The bill, passed in the House of Reps, is a direct reaction to the Supreme Court ruling referred to as Citizens United.
I will let Citizens United define themselves/itself: Citizens United is an organization dedicated to restoring our government to citizens’ control. Through a combination of education, advocacy, and grass roots organization, Citizens United seeks to reassert the traditional American values of limited government, freedom of enterprise, strong families, and national sovereignty and security. Citizens United’s goal is to restore the founding fathers’ vision of a free nation, guided by the honesty, common sense, and good will of its citizens.
That smells okay, although the word sovereignty always sets of alarm bells in my head, as does “founding fathers’ vision,” which we all know would include black people hobbling around at 66%, and women speaking when spoken to.
On their website currently, you can browse their documentaries, including “viewer favorites” such as the following:
“ACLU: At War With America”
“Celsius 41.11: The Truth Behind the Lies of Fahrenheit 9/11”
“Gingrich: Rediscovering God in America”
“Border War: The Battle Over Illegal Immigration” (which hopefully at least has some good action in it)
And also the more curiously titled “Blocking: The Path to 9/11”
As of this typing, if you stayed on the CU mainpage for a few seconds, a video would automatically start playing. It runs thirty seconds, has www.StopIranNow.com pasted in the top right corner, and features documentary footage of Neville Chamberlain – you know, the guy who appeased Hitler – dissolving into footage of President Obama. The end features a couple of explosions and the words, “Mr. President, STOP Iran, NOW.”
Obviously, when you hop on the CU bus, you’re buying in to a certain vision of America, and a cavalier attitude toward historical analogies, which are less than clear from its blandly cheerful mission statement.
The documentary at issue in the SCOTUS case was one called “Hillary: The Movie.” Running ads for this film during the 2008 election was challenged under legislation which “prohibits corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make independent expenditures for speech that is an ‘electioneering communication’ or for speech that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a candidate.”
And you thought electioneering was just a Radiohead song.
In the good old days, corporations could not spend their own money on any kind of pro- or anti-candidate speech in the run-up to an election or primary. First CU tried to assert that “Hillary: The Movie” is not any kind of electioneering, but SCOTUS labeled it “pejorative” (disparaging). You can look at trailers for the film, and make the decision for yourself. It certainly is negative, but on what grounds is harder to say. They try to make Hillary look scary, and have dramatic music, and zoom in on words like “cronies” and “guilty,” and then have a bunch of people armchair-shrinking her.
Perhaps most telling is a 10-second spot featuring dear Ann Coulter. A voiceover says, “First a kind word about Hillary Clinton,” and Coulter says, “Looks good in a pantsuit.”
Fashion criticism, with just a touch of “butch” smear. Ann, the high ground is yours again.
SCOTUS, even though the parties in the lawsuit were no longer asking it to, went ahead and considered the case on some pretty broad First Amendment grounds, ignoring its own precedent, and decided that corporations were being discriminated against. The precedent, Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, was based on the idea that corporations, having more funds at their disposal than the average citizen, could too easily achieve “an unfair advantage in the political marketplace.” SCOTUS’s new reasoning essentially says that there are rich people too, and we don’t handicap their speech. The First Amendment, SCOTUS says, is meant to ensure an “open marketplace of ideas.”
Because the free market is doing just wonders for us in other fields right now.
Some people believe this decision is a win for First Amendment supporters. The naysayers predict that Pandora’s Box has been opened, and upcoming election cycles will feature a veritable flood of negative ads. But we already have those, you say. But just imagine NOW, they say. And we all feel a little bit like Dakota Fanning, clutching Tom Cruise’s shoulder with our impish mittens and looking scared, or, well, kinda stoned.
One of the naysayers is President Obama, who supported the DISCLOSE Act as a response to Citizens United. In a speech given on July 26th, Obama warned that “big corporations – even foreign-controlled ones” (!) can “spend unlimited amounts” on campaign ads. And “worst of all, they don’t even have to reveal who’s actually paying for the ads. Instead, a group can hide behind a name like ‘Citizens for a Better Future,’ even if a more accurate name would be ‘Companies for Weaker Oversight.'” Zing.
“These shadow groups are already forming and building war chests of tens of millions of dollars to influence the fall elections.”
As badass as it would be to have my own shadow group, Obama reminds that “millions of Americans are struggling to get by, and their voices shouldn’t be drowned out by millions of dollars in secret, special interest advertising.” The DISCLOSE Act “would simply require corporate political advertisers to reveal who’s funding their activities.” It would be the equivalent of all those “I’m John McCain and I approve this ad” bits. It’s the kind of thing that maybe could have saved Sandra Bullock a little embarrassment.
The bill even had an exemption for corporations which are big enough, like the NRA (check out an article on how the NRA, with constitutional gun rights practically locked up, is now shopping its $300 million political budget to other causes). Republicans threatened to filibuster, and it died in the Senate.
This is what I sent to Georgia Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson.
I am writing as a concerned Georgia voter to ask what the problem with the DISCLOSE Act could be? Why are Republicans in the Senate intent on not letting this bill be voted on? All I can see is that it helps the democratic process – it does not restrict ads, but requires that the sponsors of ads be listed. Perhaps this is my limited understanding or even a misunderstanding.
I am very concerned in the aftermath of the Citizens United ruling that election cycles will become bidding wars between corporations flooding the airwaves with partisan, empty rhetoric.
Please address when you can.
Now, it’s possible that this new unrestricted spending will have some unanticipated results. Check out a Mediaite blog entry on a boycott of Target and Best Buy because of six-figure donations to a potentially anti-gay Minnesota Republican. There is hope, in this day and age of the blogger (that Sherrod business notwithstanding – potential lawsuit), that we have enough media watchdogs out there for a quick internet search to do our disclosing for us. There is hope that big donations coupled with good reporting will make us take a hard look at some strange political bedfellows, and then these corporations will have some explaining to do.
And for people like you, and me, people who probably turn off the TV when those ads come on anyway, or who don’t get our political bread and butter from them, there may be little danger. But the very presence of those ads implies their effectiveness (they’re expensive). And if they’re working, they’re working on somebody. And so education, and watchdoggy-ness, and vigilance, will be more important than ever.
Come on. You know the people I’m talking about. I mean heck I’m one part of the time myself. I don’t do enough of my own homework and every single race, and if I happen to see something on TV, especially if that something already aligns with my personal views, that stuff starts to set in. Will it make a difference (for better or worse) if I find out that the NRA paid for that ad? Or the ACLU? Or Target? Or McDonald’s? Or Starbucks, Apple, etc.?
Would it matter to you if an oil spill commercial was actually paid for by BP?
We need to not be lazy. And we need to help each other out with this stuff.
And we’re not just talking about Target getting their say like everyone else, but about how Target and its ilk can now afford to crowd out the other speakers if they so choose.
I know at least one of you reads The Week, which is like a blog in magazine form – good for us low-attention folk out there to get a lot of news in a short space. Well, The Week had two paragraphs on the failure of the DISCLOSE Act. The headline?
“Boring but important”
I think the Dems really blew it. If they had gotten one of those liberal communist Hollywood corporations to pay for a bunch of ads with Demi Moore taking her clothes off, disclosure would have been sexy again.
It would be negligent to discuss Michael Douglas’s anxious white male poster boy status and not mention Falling Down. This movie came out in 1993, right after the Year of the Woman.
The exploits of Douglas’s “D-Fens” (get it?) include shooting up a McDonald’s clone because it’s no longer serving breakfast, walloping Latin thugs with a baseball bat, and telling a Chinese, I mean Korean, shopowner, you come to my country you can’t learn my language? In a particularly Tea Partyesque moment, he criticizes some construction workers, believing there’s nothing wrong with the street they’re tearing up, and that they’re only doing it to justify their inflated budgets. “I’m not economically viable!” becomes an ironic battle cry of our hero.
You can find this movie on YouTube, and studying the comments would be a lesson in itself. For instance, describing the Latin gang’s drive-by, some webshark wrote this: “[bleeping] lowlife primates killing random people cause some guy kicked their ass… problem is, this happens in real life.” Primates. Or, after D-Fens strolls through a park with alleged homeless vets and AIDS-afflicted in it: “homeless piece of shit got nothing, too bad there wasn’t a bomb inside the briefcase ready to go off as soon as it was opened.” There are others, including some fun ones the unreasonable expectations of the modern woman.
In the climax, D-Fens bemoans that he did everything right and was lied to by The Man. Robert Duvall’s kindly (and complacent) cop explains to him, “They lie to everybody. They lie to the fish.” Even though D-Fens is ultimately depicted as crazy, his many fans illustrate that, as with women, there is no particular year for the Angry Whitey, or Angry Anything Else, probably. He is of perennial vintage. And he is not afraid of public, if anonymous, personal disclosure. And he, and many others like him, including Sandra Bullock, is a big fan of public disclosure as well.
The only question is, do you get your point across through your publicist or your bag of assault weapons? We may scoff at this dichotomy, yet the point remains that they both did something.