A few years ago, I won an award for a piece I’d written for The Moscow Times (and CounterPunch.) By hook, crook and the kindness of others, I flew out to San Francisco, then caught the last night ferry to San Rafael, where the ceremony was being held the next day. I was one of several people being noted by Project Censored for their “Top 25 Censored Stories” volume of that year.
The honorees were supposed to give speeches, so, weary with jet lag, I worked on mine in my motel room, while keeping one eye on the television, where an astonishing spectacle was playing out: an Austrian actor mounting an Enron-sponsored coup to take over one of the largest governments in the world.
But in the end, I didn’t like my speech, so just before the ceremony began, I quickly wrote out something else, and said that instead. Just tonight, I ran across those tattered notes in the back of a desk drawer, and found that they still hold true as an explanation for what I’m trying to do with all this political writing. So I thought I’d set it down here. This is what I told them:
Years ago, during the run-up to the first Gulf War, I wrote a short piece about the sea of propaganda that was flooding the country, and the difficulty of cutting through to the blood-and-iron reality behind it all. This is the whole of that piece:
I think we are living in a world of lies: lies that don’t even know they are lies, because they are the children and grandchildren of lies.
One of the hardest things about doing stories like the ones honored here tonight is that the reality of our world is buried under so many layers of official deception and well-cultivated public ignorance about our history and our political system. Even if you break through somehow, momentarily, and hold up a fragment of the truth, most people have no context for dealing with it. It’s like a bolt from the blue, they can’t process the information. And so the sea of lies closes over us again, and again, and again.
But I don’t know what else we can do, except to keep on telling as much of the truth as we can find, to anyone who will listen: reclaiming reality, fragment by fragment, one person at a time.
It’s an endless task — maybe a hopeless task — but the alternative is a surrender to the worst elements in our society — and in ourselves. Thank you.