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The Game-Changer List

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Posted on Dec 27, 2010

By Richard Reeves

The Associated Press, as usual, released last week its editors’ poll of the 10 top stories of the year. No. 1, with 54 first-place votes, was the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The congressional passage of health care reform was second with 30 votes.

The list by the men and women who actually edit our news continued: (3) midterm elections; (4) U.S. economy; (5) Haiti earthquake; (6) tea party movement; (7) Chile mine rescue; (8) Iraq; (9) WikiLeaks; (10) Afghanistan.

All of those were obviously big stories. But hold the presses! It is not a list I would vote for. This year was a game-changer, and what we need is a game-changer list. On that kind of list, I would drop one-off sensations, beginning with the oil spill, the Haitian earthquake and the mine rescue. There will always be stories like those, and they are always illuminating of something, particularly the courage and stupidity of people in positions high and low. The world will continue to mine and drill for the resources that make life more secure and comfortable, even if the jobs that make that possible are tragedies waiting to happen. And Haiti? More proof that the rich honor the poor and endangered only until the next disaster makes headlines.

No. 1 on the game-changer list would be WikiLeaks. If we need final proof that the new information technologies change everything, WikiLeaks is that proof. The engine of democratic power—and totalitarian rule as well—is control of the flow of information to the people. For better or worse, leaders have been losing that power for at least the last three decades, beginning probably with the development of CNN in 1980.

That power, the power to shape public opinion and reaction to specific events, is gone. If there were another Pearl Harbor or another Holocaust, we would all learn about it at the same time, details to follow in minutes. We might not do anything about it, but we would know.

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A subhead in this, the biggest story, would be that it takes only one person, unknown, a nobody, to bring down the old order. I’m not thinking of Julian Assange as much as I am Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private who had access to the internal communications of governments around the world and showed us all. In the current New Republic, Noam Scheiber goes further than I would, writing that WikiLeaks means the end of large organizations (including governments) for the simple reason that only small groups, with cell-like structures, can communicate, negotiate and innovate without fear of broadcasting their data and intentions.

My second choice would end with a question mark: America rules? Or worse for us: America declines. From China to Pakistan, from Germany to Israel and Saudi Arabia politicians and military leaders, spies and merchants, are losing all compunction about defying what was briefly called the world’s only superpower. Part of that is that we hardly look super in Iraq and Afghanistan; we just look different.

For the rest of the list, I would link health care reform, the rise of the tea party and immigration. All fall under the umbrella of new demographics. Older people have something like a national medical care system, and they want to make sure they keep it—and, frankly, they’d prefer it if no one else got it, particularly people who speak with accents as many of their own parents and grandparents did. Ironically too these stories have another side we prefer to ignore: As our population grows older and our birthrates are low, we need these people, immigrants with the energy and skills of the young, to keep the country running at uniform first-world speeds.

Finally, I know it’s as boring as unwinnable wars, but climate change is happening. And the story is not being told well enough to make people believe. We are, of course, suffering from information overload, and we could keep talking about the weather and doing nothing about it until our eagle is cooked.

© 2010 UNIVERSAL UCLICK


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By ardee, December 31, 2010 at 8:55 am Link to this comment

LIBERALS STINK, December 29 at 8:51 am

Thank you for your learned, literate and fact based commentary here. Have you found an acne medicine that works ?

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By LIBERALS STINK, December 29, 2010 at 3:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Global wrming is the biggest swindle since WWF or the SWINE FLU EPIDEMIC. Keep
spinning your fear mongering. HAH LIBERALS

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By Al Bacore, December 28, 2010 at 12:12 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“We are, of course, suffering from information overload”
Or are we overloaded with non-fact checked opinion, spin, and infotainment?
Honest investigative journalism is an ever smaller proportion of what we can access
to understand the changes happening around us.

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By FRTothus, December 28, 2010 at 9:27 am Link to this comment

>>“That power, the power to shape public opinion and
reaction to specific events, is gone. If there were
another Pearl Harbor or another Holocaust, we would
all learn about it at the same time, details to
follow in minutes. We might not do anything about it,
but we would know.<<

What utter nonsense!  We would hardly “know” anything
more than the spin we would be subjected to, the
official lies and strategic leaks that exist to mold
and shape public opinion.  Americans are as they ever
were, largely mis-informed and ignorant, fed an
endless stream of fear and trivia and mythology,
dumbed down by an education system that exists to
produce obedient workers, schooled to be, as George
Carlin said, “just smart enough to read the
instructions and follow the orders, but still stupid
enough to not to comprehend the big red, white, and
blue dick that is being shoved up their ass while
they work longer hours for less pay and fewer
benefits and a pension that disappears as soon as you
go to collect it.  That’s why it’s called “The
American Dream” because you have to be asleep to
believe it.”

Observe how many people are still convinced that 19
Arabs with box cutters pulled off 9/11, and you will
see how easily, internet or no internet, the people
can be duped to believe whatever their TV tells them
they believe.

“The United States is a society in which people not
only can get by without knowing much about the wider
world but are systematically encouraged not to think
independently or critically and instead to accept the
mythology of the United States as a benevolent,
misunderstood giant as it lumbers around the world
trying to do good.”
(Robert Jensen)

“The man who never looks into a newspaper is better
informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who
knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind
is filled with falsehoods and errors.”
(Thomas Jefferson)

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By ardee, December 28, 2010 at 6:47 am Link to this comment

I find this article filled with unfortunate comments.

On that kind of list, I would drop one-off sensations, beginning with the oil spill, the Haitian earthquake and the mine rescue. There will always be stories like those, and they are always illuminating of something, particularly the courage and stupidity of people in positions high and low. The world will continue to mine and drill for the resources that make life more secure and comfortable, even if the jobs that make that possible are tragedies waiting to happen.

Yes, by all means let us minimize the greed that may have caused irreversible damage to the Gulf of Mexico because, heaven knows, we just cannot do without that oil, and BP really needs more profits. Haiti, whats a few thousand dead poor people, just another New Orleans sort of thing anyway!

My second choice would end with a question mark: America rules? Or worse for us: America declines.

Like this is a bad thing? I wish this author would have taken the time to really study how much American Imperialism has damaged this planet, slaughtered millions, wreaked havoc upon economies everywhere including our own, and, in general, is a very bad thing.

Older people have something like a national medical care system, and they want to make sure they keep it—and, frankly, they’d prefer it if no one else got it, particularly people who speak with accents as many of their own parents and grandparents did. Ironically too these stories have another side we prefer to ignore: As our population grows older and our birthrates are low, we need these people, immigrants with the energy and skills of the young, to keep the country running at uniform first-world speeds.

Oh by all means let us single out the old folks as the real culprits in this health care debacle. The Insurance Industry to blame? Of course not, only the oldest of its executives! HMO’s, the Legislature enslaved to the campaign contributions of Big Pharma? Heck no its those old folks!

Who is this guy and why does TD publish an article from someone obviously in his first year of journalism school?

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By gerard, December 27, 2010 at 11:58 pm Link to this comment

What goes on here?  Reeves is talking about big stories of the year—game changers, no less—and speaks of Bradley Manning thuswise:—” the biggest story, would be that it takes only one person, unknown, a nobody, to bring down the old order. I’m not thinking of Julian Assange as much as I am Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private who had access to the internal communications of governments around the world and showed us all. In the current New Republic, Noam Scheiber goes further than I would, writing that WikiLeaks means the end of large organizations (including governments) for the simple reason that only small groups, with cell-like structures, can communicate, negotiate and innovate without fear of broadcasting their data and intentions.” A nobody?  And not one blinkin’ word about his 7 months in solitary on an Army base under very cruel conditions, and he hasn’t been charged with any crime.  In fact, he may have saved democracy from the maw of the oligarchs of money and power.  I call that kind of treatment prejudicial and ungrateful!  How about a few words directed to his suffering and the dangers he is enduring, closeted alone with the military?  Come on, Reeves. Don’t just exploit the story.  Be fair!

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By Michael Murry, December 27, 2010 at 8:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Instead of saying “our eagle is cooked,” I would suggest substituting for “eagle” the true national bird of America: the ostrich.

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