How many religions may a US president prescribe?
January 31, 2001
Frankfurter Neue Presse
by Carsten Wieland
Washington. The model prison near Houston resembles an Islamic Koran school. Singing, praying, reciting the Holy Scriptures. 16 hours of religious instruction, hardly any television or recreational time, seven days a week. But instead of suras the inmates read Christian Bible verses. The "Inner Change" program goes back to the time when US President George W. Bush was still governor of Texas. It was supposed to make good Christians out of criminals. Liberal American are concerned that the pilot program will be taken up all over the USA and that the separation of church and state, and thereby the Constitution, are at risk.
In his plans the President is going far beyond the prisons. Establishments for the poor and drug-dependent or high schools are also supposed to be directed by religious groups. Just like in Texas. State agencies would then have to compete nationwide for subsidies. A new "Office for Actions in the Name of Faith" is supposed to distribute billions of US dollars over the next ten years
Bush's plans have put the secularists in the USA into a rage. "He thinks he was elected to national pastor at the same time he was elected president," complained Barry Lynn of the interest group for separation of church and state. "A church which performs a service for the community absolutely has religious goals, and that gives us a huge problem with the Constitution."
The secularists' fear also has another name: John Ashcroft. The attorney, gospel singer and declared opponent of abortion is supposed to be the new secretary of justice. He is Bush's most controversial cabinet candidate. Ashcroft's opponents see him as the incarnation of a religious fanatic who will be taking the stage for his own convictions rather than for the law. They accuse him of racism and prejudice against women and homosexuals.
Right after he was sworn in, Bush pulled the plug on money for international organizations which oppose a ban on abortion. But it's not just liberals and women's groups who will be in for hard times. Scientists fear restrictions in genetic research. Bush indicated he will do away with money for research in embryonic stem cells.
In his inaugural speech on January 20 the Methodist was already handing down new marching instructions. "Some needs and hurts are so deep that only consolation or the prayer of a minister can help a person," said Bush. "But what about all the millions of Americans who do not believe in Jesus Christ?" asks Laura Murphy of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Bush is trying to mollify the critics. He assures that everybody must have access to state assistance organizations. Besides that he has repeatedly included all religious currents. "Church and welfare, synagogue and mosque all lend humanity to our communities, and they will assume a respectable place in our plans and laws," he said after his swearing in.
Religious writings and good intentions will soon not just be decorating the prison walls of Texas, Iowa and Kansas. Christians say their statistics prove what they are doing: in Texas usually 40 percent of inmates are behind bars again after their release. In contrast only 2 of 73 prisoners in the Bible establishment in Houston returned.
Flat-out praise in the USA for 45-year-old Gwen Shamblin and her sect
November 24, 2000
Washington. The self-proclaimed diet expert who starved herself down from 220 to 120 lbs. wrote a book about it. "The Weigh Down Diet" has sold more than a million copies. "Greed is a mortal sin," is part of what she preaches in her book. "God created our bodies thin. That is the only way he likes us." Gwen has no question about one thing, "God does not like fat people. Those who are fat will not enter heaven."
Her abstruse ideas have won her thousands of adherents who would like to buy their ticket to the kingdom of heaven in her "Weigh Down Workshops." Gwen does not worry about some of her adherents starving themselves until they get sick or severely depressed. According to her own belief they are suffering from a lack of discipline. "And God doesn't like that any more than obesity."
Batavia (dpa) - After weeks of preparation, the asylum court proceedings have begun in the USA for Hendrik Moebus, rightwing extremist and "Satan's Killer" from Thueringen. The first hearing took place on Thursday, as verified by an INS spokesman (Immigration and Naturalization Service). The 24-year-old man from Sondershauser will not be extradited to Germany, where he faces up to three years in prison, until the hearings are finalized.
Moebus is in custody at an INS detention center in Batavia, New York. In early September he applied for political asylum in the USA. As a basis he stated that the Federal Republic of Germany would stop his freedom of opinion. One example he gave was that the Hitler salute is not forbidden in the USA. Moebus was taken into custody in August in a West Virginia racist refuge after months of evading authorities. He made his living partly by selling radical, rightwing CDs.
Seven years ago in high school he and two friends murdered a 15-year-old female fellow student who had made fun of his group, "Children of Satan." Moebus was sentenced to eight years youth detention and released on probation after two-thirds of his term. Shortly thereafter he attracted attention by distributing rightwing propaganda. He took advantage of the long legal procedure to retract probation to visit the USA. He has two years eight months remaining, just for the murder.
[In her book "It takes a Village" Hillary Clinton argued against all known scientific findings on IQ in favor of Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence (EI). Specifically, she made a point of mentioning the part of EI which is remarkably similar to Scientology's Dianetic theory. That is the part which preaches that there is a little almond-shaped part of our brain, called the "amygdala" which hijacks us in moments of embarrassment without our knowing it and makes us do strange things. As an example that EI actually works, Clinton referred to the free prison help she got in the kitchen when her husband was governor of Arkansas.]
U.S. Senate Campaign
Sharp exchange of words between Hillary Clinton and Lazio
New York, USA
October 28, 2000
The last TV duel between New York Senate candidates Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio was the most rigorous. The Republican accused the First Lady of having accepted money from an association connected to the Hamas Islamic terrorist organization.
New York - Rick Lazio, who wants to cut the wife of U.S. President Bill Clinton out of the Senate election on November 7, said in the television debate that campaign donations had gone from an Arabic-American organization to the First Lady. The association was suspected of maintaining contacts to Hamas. Clinton answered she had known nothing about the connections and had since given the money back anyway.
The discussion proceeded in a similarly sharp tone for the cameras. Lazio found himself accused of accepting campaign money from the construction industry in return for less stringent security standards in building construction in New York state. He would not let himself be dragged through the mud by Hillary Clinton, the politician responded.
The moderator tried to even the scales and asked whether the two opponents would also have something nice to say about each other. Hillary gave her approval by saying that Lazio looked nice, had a nice family, worked very hard and was a very attractive man. The Republican got his revenge by saying that Hillary had a nice family, was a good mother and an attractive woman.
According to surveys before the debate, Clinton the woman democrat was ahead in the polls five to seven percent in front of the Republican congressional representative from Long Island. The campaign battle in New York is one of the most expensive in the history of the U.S. Senate. Clinton has expended 26 million dollars and Lazio even more, 32.6 million dollars, to move into Congress.
Farrakhan demands justice for Palestinians
October 16, 2000
Washington - Controversial leader of blacks Louis Farrakhan demanded more justice for Palestinians at a mass rally in Washington. The destruction of sacred sites in Israel was insanity which could be traced to a lack of justice, said the chief of the "Nation of Islam," the best known Black Muslim organization in the USA, on Monday in front of thousands of adherents in Washington. "There can be no peace in that troubled area that is a lasting peace unless that peace is structured on the principle of justice -- justice for the Palestinians, justice for those who suffer in the world, justice for the poor and the weak, justice for the sick and the imprisoned, justice for those who have been locked out of society." The Million Family March was organized by Farrakhan and the South Korean sect leader Sun Myung Moon. It derives from the Million Man March, which almost half million people attended in Washington five years ago. Moslems as well as Buddhists and Catholics and Protestant Christians traveled to the demonstration. The focus of the gathering was the strengthening of family and morals. A mass marriage in the style of sect leader Moon was planned for the afternoon. "This is a memorable day," said a woman from Philadelphia who participated in the rally with her nine grandchildren. She said slavery had destroyed the black families. "Today it is our goal to put them back together again." Farrakhan is controversial for his anti-Semitic statements, among other things.
The UN accommodates Peking's reservations about the Dalai Lama
New York, USA
August 26, 2000
Die Presse (Vienna, Austria)
New York/Peking (ag.). U.N. General Secretary Kofi Annan defended the decision of not inviting the Dalai Lama to the religious U.S. Peace Conference of 28-31 August in New York: the UN is "a building for member states" whose "sensitivities" one had to to accommodate, said Annan.
The spiritual head of the Tibetans may not take part in the meeting of about 1,000 religious leaders because of Peking's opposition.
On Friday three U.S. missionaries who had been taken into custody with 130 Chinese Christians several days ago were released in China, according to the U.S. State Department. In the meantime, a Chinese executive delegation for religious issues has revealed that 151 members of the Falun Gong sect have been convicted of "the most various of crimes." The delegation, which is currently traveling in the USA, also welcomed the U.N. decision not to invite the Dalai Lama.
[Charlemagne is the name of the person whom the alternative award for Bob Minton was named after.]
Affair with Charlemagne the Great?
July 4, 2000
Hollywood diva Shirley MacLaine has often mentioned that she is convinced of transmigration of souls and talked about that in her books ("Dance in Light"). Now she has gotten quite specific in an interview for the "60 Minutes" TV broadcast. She said that about 1,200 years ago in the incarnation she was in at the time, she had an affair with Charlemagne the Great.
But not only that. She has had the pleasure of loving the Frankish emperor in her current lifetime: he in his later incarnation as Olaf Palme, the Swedish Minister President who was murdered in 1986.
US news agency UPI gets new owner
New York, USA
May 16, 2000
New York (dpa) - The American news agency, United Press International (UPI) which has been financially strapped for years, is once again getting a new owner. As announced by UPI on Monday, the 93 year old business is being sold to the News World Communications.
The seller is the Worldwide News Inc., a daughter company of Middle East Broadcasting which, in turn, belongs to Saudi business people. The conditions of the sale were not named.
News World Communications, which includes "The Washington Times" newspaper, is controlled by the Unification Church of Korean preacher Dong Moon Joo.
As News World stated in a press release, it was intended that UPI be continued as an independent news collection agency and that new technologies and operating practices be introduced. UPI's top manager is Arnaud de Borchgrave.
UPI News agency changes hands again
May 16, 2000
The almost one hundred year old news agency, United Press International (UPI), has again changed hands. As a spokesman for the News World Communications company stated on Monday in Washington, the group, which is associated with the Moon sect, has taken over the name and mark rights of the UPI. It was said that UPI will continue to be operated as an independent news agency and will be made more open for new technologies; that would include primarily the providing of news reports for the internet site. According to a UPI announcement, all positions of the agency will be retained. Those employed, however, said they had received their last wage and earnings statement for the United Press International Acquisition Corp (UPIA) on Monday. Part of the media empire of News World is the U.S. daily newspaper, "Washington Times."
After several changes of ownership the UPI, which was once among the most important news agencies of the world, last belonged to the Saudi corporation of Worldwide News. The new owner did not make a statement as to the purchase price. The recent sale hardly caused any surprise in media circles. News World manager Larry Moffit promised that UPI would continue to be independent and maintain its reputation, which it has had for generations, as an honest, fair reporter of news. UPI President Arnaud de Borchgrave will continue at the head of the organization. De Borchgrave was chief of the "Washington Times" from 1985 to 1991; prior to that he had worked for 25 years with "Newsweek" news magazine.
UPI was founded in 1907 by E.W. Scripps as United Press Associations; in 1958 the corporation merged with legendary U.S. media mogul William Randolph Hearst's International News Service. Renowned journalists like Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Helen Thomas and John Chancellor got their start in the agency. Reports from the front during the Second World War made the company world famous. UPI, which also used to be present on the German market, ran into difficulties in the 1980s. Many UPI correspondents since then work from home; the main customers are web sites on the internet. Last August, UPI sold its TV news service to its competitor, Associated Press (AP); about 50 employees lost their jobs.
The "Washington Times" has a reputation as a conservative paper. Five leading writers left the newspaper after, according to what the journalists said, the owner had wanted to make changes to a leading article about the South Korean president and used pressure in doing so. The sect, which is officially called the Unification Church, centers around the 80 year old founder and company chief, Sun Myung Moon, and is headquartered in Korea, but recruits for members primarily in the USA. According to its own statement, the organization has 4.5 million members worldwide. Critics accuse Moon of running a personality cult and portraying himself as a messiah. In the USA, the Moon sect also controls a television channel, a film studio, a travel agency, as well as a university.
May 16, 2000
Helen Thomas, the "grand old Dame" of the journalist corps in the White House, has left the United Press International (UPI) news agency. On Tuesday in Washing, the reason she gave for giving notice was the takeover of UPI by media corporation News World Communications, which is associated with the Moon sect. As doyenne of the Washington journalists, the 79 year old Thomas was always permitted to ask the President the first question. She recently published a book entitled "In the first rows of the White House" [not sure of exact wording of English title ... translator]. The media empire of News World already includes the conservative U.S. daily newspaper, "Washington Times."
Waco Inferno to be re-enacted
February 21, 2000
by Jule Lutteroth
Almost seven years after the FBI stormed into the headquarters of a sect in Waco, Texas - whereby dozens of people died as the compound burst into flame - it will now finally be clarified who was responsible for the inferno. In a re-make.
Washington - Tanks will roll, teargas grenades will explode and special units will fire pistols and machine guns. Helicopters will circle above it all and take video shots. Exactly like it happened on April 19, 1993 in Waco. This operation, which will probably take place only one time - scheduled to take place in mid-March in Ft. Hood, Texas - was agreed upon this past week by representatives of the American Justice Department and the Chairman of the investigating committee, John Danforth. That was concurrently reported by both the Washington Post and the New York Times. The committee is involved in the question of whether the FBI was responsible for the outbreak of flame in the buildings of the Davidian sect - and therefore for the resulting deaths.
For more than six years the federal police asserted the members of the denomination had planned collective suicide and had set the fire in which 76 people lost their lives. After over 51 days of siege, the police forces advanced with tanks on a Monday. Shots were not fired, the FBI reassured. Witnesses had recorded the opposite.
When, this past fall, journalists had discovered small flashes of light which they made out to be arms fire, the officials suddenly changed their testimony. Now they state that in storming the wooden buildings, flammable teargas grenades were used. Upon hearing that, the highest chief of the agency, U.S. Justice Minister Janet Reno, visibly shocked, ordered an investigation; she had supported the FBI's version which is now subject to massive doubt.
Later Reno voiced the fact that the military issue CS filled cannisters were fired six hours before the buildings burst into flame. Experts have concluded that highly inflammatory gas could have been the cause of the inferno. The FBI had had cut off all utilities to the Davidian center early on. The inhabitants were forced to use gasoline which they had stored in their spaces.
The videos to be made of the reenactment which is now budgeted for 1.5 million marks, are to be compared to original reels. In this manner, the investigators hope to explain the flashes of light: were they reflections as the FBI asserts, or muzzle flashes, as survivors of the conflagration have testified? What will the experts think?
"Three Quarters of US citizens believe in extraterrestrials"
Los Angeles, USA
November 13, 1999
Los Angeles (AFP) - More than 70 percent of US citizens believe in extraterrestrials. Besides that, most of them are convinced that alien life is more intelligent than us, as a survey for the cable broadcast of "Dateline: USA" showed.
Almost 80 percent of those questioned reckon that the extraterrestrials land on earth and are technologically superior to humans. Two thirds of the 1,500 surveyed believed that earth would be destroyed, or at least conquered, during a visit by "little green men." There was unanimous agreement that extraterrestrial life does not resemble humans.
Even the most absurd theories have their adherents
Charlotte, North Carolina
September 27, 1999
Fear of the turn of the Millennium has scurrilous results - exhibitions for survival equipment attract the masses
by Francis Temman
The magic number of 2000 is drawing nearer, and along with it the unrest of many people in the USA is growing. Convinced that chaos and anarchy will break out upon the arrival of the year 2000, thousands of US citizens are hoarding groceries, survival gear and weapons. Exhibitions such as the "Preparedness Expo" in Charlotte, North Carolina, have turned into public magnets in this climate. Here paranoia blooms manifoldly. An important buzzword is self-sufficiency. This is how the self-named survival artists wish to counter the consequences of the expected collapse of computers.
The curious, the rightwing radicals, members of civil defense and adherents of messianic sects thronged in the aisles of the "Preparedness Expo." They are all united in their deep mistrust of the state in its taking care of its citizens. Everyday items lie next to the scurrilous on the sales tables. For example, there are power generators, portable one-person security cells, water filters, dehydrated food, seed, coal stoves, animal traps, solar lamps, camouflage uniforms, gas masks, night vision devices and daggers.
Neither was there a lack of reading material. The range of advice went from titles like "The 2000 Problem - It is not yet too late," "101 things which you should do before the Revolution," "Bake your own Bread" and "Herbal Therapy" to "Guidelines to Wilderness Survival." Not even the "Book of Anarchist Recipes" was missing.
On stage, self-proclaimed Millennium specialist John Henderson announced his findings, "Of 69,000 chemical factories in the USA, only 600 have addressed the computer problem. Only about half of all hospitals are prepared, 90 percent of the doctors have taken no measures at all. If I were you, I'd call my doctor." The listeners had long faces. At the Montana civil defense booth, sellers hawked a video-cassette with the title, "Surviving Martial Law." It presents the theory that the U.S. government thought up the year 2000 problem for the purpose of imposing martial law.
Star Wars and the Second Coming
James Flint 17.08.99 Telepolis, Verlag Heinz Heise, Hannover
The most complex puppet show in the world
Visit http://www.heise.de and search their archive for the original article in German. Here are pertinent quotes in English of the Heise article on Star Wars and its relationship to Hubbard:
. . .
Bethlehem California Style
Yes, this is another article about Star Wars, and yes, I knew before I looked at the film that it was an attempt by the "masters of myth" to "rewrite history." What was really to come, though, first became clear to me in the monstrous scene in which Anakin's mother explained that her son was the result of a virgin birth. Suddenly the mud and stone huts in Tatooine took on a different aspect . . .
Christianity and Taoism, Technology and Mysticism - perhaps it is no mistake that all of that sounds rather familiar. It comes to one in the sense in which it has already been heard, the archfraud and false prophet Ron L. Hubbard had written it on his Scientology banner.
American Nazis use the Internet
and misuse the Bible
August 14, 1999
Frankfurter Neue Presse
by Holger Schmale
Washington. When the rightwing extremist American Nationalist Party called for a march on Washington two weeks ago, all of four, confused neo-Nazis appeared in the Capitol city. The many times stronger counter-demonstrators celebrated a victory but were greatly deceived. The shots of rightwing radical Buford Furrow directed at children in a Jewish community center in Los Angeles and at an Asiatic mail carrier showed, a few days later, that racists in the USA could strike hard anywhere at any time.
In doing that Furrow can be regarded as an example of a new, far more dangerous type of perpetrator than earlier generations of neo-Nazis who congregated together in tightly organized groups with martial rites and a strong hierarchy. The extremist "master human" of the late 1990s performs as an individual actor who maintains loose contact with comrades of the same mind over the internet and strikes exactly as it suits him. Classic surveillance and infiltration methods by the security agencies fail on these covert structures.
The followers of the "Phineas Priesthood" are an extreme form of these "lone wolves of Aryan resistance" who invoke an Old Testament legend of murder for the preservation of a pure race. This group of self-named "priests" have neither member lists nor gatherings. "They ordain themselves by committing an act of violence against members of minorities," sect expert Brian Levin described their rites. Their Holy Scripture is called "Guardians of Christianity" penned by rightwing extremist author Richard Hoskins. Another book by Hoskins was found in Buford Furrow's automobile.
It is also regarded as the chief ideology of the "Church of the Aryan Nations," which is organized more traditionally with about 5,000 members. The "church" maintains a strongly guarded camp in the State of Idaho in the northwest USA in which about 100 followers of founder Richard Butler constantly stay. German neo-Nazis also travel regularly to para-military summer camps. Furrow operated in the camp in 1995 as an armed, uniformed guard, as photographs in American newspapers prove.
This group also makes use of a Christian disguise, thereby claiming the guaranteed freedom of religion in the land of countless sects. David Harris of the American Jewish Committee called primarily for the major churches to take decisive action against the misuse of Christian concepts and rituals by rightwing extremist groups. "They need not be allowed this perversion of Christianity."
Swastika, Bible and internet are the tools of the modern neo-Nazis in the USA. "Ten thousand Americans follow this sub-culture," estimates Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. According to a study done by his center, in the USA alone there are 1,400 internet pages with rightwing radical objectives. Some openly call for violence and publish death lists containing the names of prominent Jews, blacks and homosexuals. "Terrorists are trained over the internet," said Rabbi Cooper.
Los Angeles (ag.) The night of August 9, 1969 turned into a nightmare for Hollywood. Sharon Tate, eight months pregnant and married to producer Roman Polanski, and four of her guests were murdered in the most brutal fashion in her villa near Los Angeles. Three months later the perpetrators were arrested: Charles Manson and four members of his sect. Although Manson had not raised a hand in violence himself, in 1971 he was sentenced to death for inciting to murder. The sentence was later commuted to life in prison. 30 years after the murders, Manson still has followers who send letters to the 65 year old in prison at Corcoran, California and keep the Manson cult alive via internet. The pop scene is inspired by him, and for rightwing extremists, Manson is a brother in spirit in their racist ideology. "Today almost every morally reprehensible group in America, from the Satanists to the neo-Nazi skinheads, assimilate Manson and the poison of his philosophy," said Vincent Bugliosi, the state attorney who conducted charges in 1970 against Manson. "He is their spiritual icon, the high priest of anti-establishment hate." Manson, illegitimate child of a 16 year old, spent the major portion of his youth in institutions of rehabilitation and detention. When he went to San Francisco in 1967, he became a leading figure in the drug and hippy scene.
c) Die Presse, Vienna, Austria
Foreplay to Lewinsky
The big expose of "Primary Colors":
Politics uses poison stakes
From: "Die Welt"
September 3, 1998
by HANNS-GEORG RODEK
Seldom has a producer filmed a best-seller with these kind of mixed feelings. The book "Primary Colors" has already found its way across store counters a million times. However, almost all films about the dirty side of politics have turned out to be poison at the box office.
The story is about the publicity around a candidate to the White House who can not leave his zipper alone. Only this time the president whose hormones are at stake is - as the whole world knows - still in the White House.
Without a doubt, John Travolta presents the ideal portrayal of Bill Clinton: he pulls them in at the box office, and matches his model exactly in appearance, gesture and dusky voice. Nevertheless, Travolta comes and goes at the White House, and has even brought his good friend, Bill Clinton, to putting in a good word for his Scientologists with Helmut Kohl.
The circumvention of controversy is a veritable mine field and an undisguised challenge to director Mike Nichols ("The Graduate," "Catch 22," "Silkwood"). That is why "Primary Colors" is a demonstration of brilliant film-making - in paradox to an on-going satire, it is developing into a known expose.
The strength of the movie theater lies in the fact that it fills in the holes of our imagination. We have read about phantom-like figures with the title "presidential advisor" who put their show horse on display, from tie color to "pause for applause" notations in his speech. In "Primary Colors," we are a witness to this display. We see the powerful machinery which is put in motion to white-wash a scandal. In this movie, we see the machinery at work: how the one night stands are made to be forgotten, how the pregnant under-age female is pushed aside, and the downplay of an arrest at a Viet Nam protest rally.
In other words, "Primary Colors" confirms what we always knew: the punji stakes of the political machine have been dipped in poison [defecation]. You only have to look so long before you find that the virtuous Travolta competitor (J.R. - untypically played by Larry Hagman) proves to be a dark spot in the past.
The film does not manage to escape this platitude. Mike Nichols refrains from portraying the elements of the book which could upset us, those which change our attitude of "nothing can change that" - apparently out of fear of coming too close to the reigning man in office. Presidential wives (including Hillary Clinton) must stand stubbornly by the side of their unfaithful husbands, according to the rule. Therefore the scene in which Travolta's Hillary, Emma Thompson, seduced a campaign manager, was cut after the pilot showing.
Above all, Nichols got across the final, really decisive point: have those who have been attracted by power maintained a semblance of honor/morality? Travolta get a hold of the material he needs to force his rival, Hagman, out of the race. However, the woman who got it for him also demands that he not use it. This is a quandary, a test of his literally sworn ideals.
The solution which Nichols comes to appears unmistakable, but we are not to get a closer look at it. When Travolta leaves Hagman's house, he has the same rehearsed smile on his face as he did at the beginning of the film. With that we are left standing in front of the facade which "Primary Colors" really wants us to see.
Read how Hollywood lost respect for the man in the White House - an essay about US presidents on film - Saturday in the "Welt"
(c) DIE WELT, September 3, 1998
Mr. Showbiz on "Primarily Monica" asks John Travolta about the Lewinsky affair:
"I haven't been very interested in [the Lewinsky situation]. I haven't paid much attention to how it's gone down."
-- John Travolta
Interesting choice of words, John.
How Hollywood lost respect for the man in the White House
From: "Die Welt"
Saturday, September 5, 1998
Mr. Lincoln rides into reality
The transformations of American presidents in the mirror of Hollywood
by HANNS-GEORG RODEK
The charge: conspiracy to overthrow of the American presidency by discrediting the office and the man.
The accused: movies and television.
The means: celluloid film, magnetic tape.
The trial: here and now.
The Defense: We would like to go back to the year 1903 . . .
The Prosecution: Objection, your honor.
Judge: Do we need this?
The Defense: Yes, we wish to prove that the high esteem of the US presidents can be traced back in time on film.
Long before Roosevelt began his "Fireside Chats" and Kennedy turned to television in his address "to the nation," there were movies. In 1901, Theodore Roosevelt was the first President on the Silver Screen in "Terrible Teddy." The film career of Abraham Lincoln began in 1903 with "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
Since that time, the winner of the Civil War has been portrayed on camera more than 130 times; only Napoleon (180 times) and Jesus Christ (150 times) have been before the camera more frequently. Of the 41 presidents, four were never portrayed on film, which should be taken as a criticism of the presidencies of John Tyler, Warren Harding, Millard Fillmore and James Buchanan, because Hollywood was able to discover something interesting about each of their 37 colleagues.
Furthermore, for a long time, an appearance on film was a blank check for a halo of glory. It was 76 years and 20 Jefferson portrayals before the schismatic demeanor of the third president was subjected to the question of slavery. Theodore Roosevelt's conquest of Cuba has still not been questioned after 27 films in 84 years. Abraham Lincoln turned into a regular film guest; between 1908 and 1942, a year did not go by without his gaunt figure appearing on screen.
The image of Lincoln was gained by two generations of Americans through the movies - in which neither the emancipation of the slaves nor Gettysburg nor his murder were mentioned. In 1939 John Ford, American legend-smith par excellence, filmed "The Young Mr. Lincoln." Henry Fonda, without beard in the title role, may have been the greatest exception to the Lincoln interpretations, yet his incipient attorney combined all the characteristics of legend.
He craves knowledge (trades food for a lawbook), popular (wins a timber cutting contest), fearless (stops a lynch mob), crafty (convicts a murderer), and above all, honest. His destiny repeatedly beckons him: at the grave of his friend, Ann Rutledge, his choice of career is sealed, and he walks to a distant rise in order to be alone with his meaningful thoughts. Then Ford completes the sanctification by overlaying the words from the statue of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington: from one who will do something great to one who has done great, from person to myth.
The Defense: That may have proved that the film industry has sufficiently contributed to the strengthening of the presidency.
The Prosecution: As long as Hollywood has portrayed real presidents, they have restrained themselves. However, even the first fictional film president did his best to to destroy confidence in the office. Let's go back to the year 1933 . . .
Judge: If we have to.
The production of "Gabriel over the White House" would today border on a miracle. Consider a newly elected president who tries to escape the breakneck speed of his motorcade, and just nods absently when the Secretary of the Interior gives him a summary.
Then: a car accident and, still half hallucinating, the vision of the archangel Gabriel. From then on, the President is concerned about the millions of unemployed who march on Washington. Neither gangsters nor congress can stop him. He sees to getting people bread and work and forces the leaders of the rest of the world, whom he has called to his yacht, to disarm/demobilize.
The president as a reformed scoundrel - this could only work under the cloak of comedy in times of radical unrest on the linen screen. This was written in Fall of 1932 during the last days of the corrupt Harding administration. Newspaper czar William Randolph Hearst was behind "Gabriel". He had decided to put everything he had at the disposal of Franklin D. Roosevelt - and that included the Cosmopolitan film company.
Even though "Gabriel" was presented as a satire, it opened people's eyes to the possibility for misuse of this office. However, it took another 15 years before the movies cast a glance behind the masquerade of the happy first family. In "The Best Man," the marriage between Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, who campaigned for the highest office, headed for the rocks. In the best Hillary Clinton tradition, Hepburn put a good face on an evil game before she led Tracy back to the straight and narrow: he came to the realization that he was not worthy, and he renounced the candidacy.
The Defense: What do you really want? Two films which end up reinforcing the respect of the office . . .
The Prosecution: and which cast doubt upon those who occupy it
Judge: Are you giving it too much significance? I can recall an evening in the Fall of 1960 which seems much more important to me.
That evening, on September 26, two presidential candidates appeared in the CBS studio in Washington for a television duel. Vice President Richard M. Nixon had just spent three weeks in the hospital with an injured knee, and looked hollow cheeked and white as chalk. Senator John F. Kennedy entered the arena like an Adonis. His vice president, Lyndon B. Johnson, heard the debate on the radio, and believed that Nixon had won on basis of points. However, on this evening, the words and the program did not count for the half of it. His entrance and his appearance won Kennedy the election. In Oliver Stone's "Nixon," the President brooded before an image of Kennedy, "When they look at you, they see what they want to be. When they look at me, they see what they are." For him, the picture took precedence over words, and that happened to him again. In his April speech of 1973, Nixon tried to ascribe all the fault to his subordinates. However, the picture gave a different message than his words. Nixon's face mirrored uncertainty, guilty and fear. Before his TV speech, a minority mistrusted him; afterwards it was more than 50 percent.
Another monumental change occurred during Tricky Dick's era. Until Watergate, entrance into the White House assured the occupant of a sort of canonization. Whatever he had done before, he was forgiven - because the man (according to the teaching) grew with the office. The passage from the halls of the political mudslingers to that of the mythological super-father was accomplished with the taking of the oath of office.
The movies had already taken their leave of the super-father image. Inside of twelve months, in 1963/64 the US movie theaters were playing a number of presidential variations. "PT Boat 109" sang praises to Navy Lieutenant John F. Kennedy in the Pacific war. "Prince consort in the White House" undermined the respect for a female president who left the White House (she was pregnant). "The Candidate" described how a Liberal kept up his campaign battle in spite of a failed marriage and a power hungry Philistine. In the "Seven Days of May," a helpless president avoided a military coup at the last moment. "Attack on Moscow" ended with an atom bomb being thrown on New York by a US presidential reject. And in "Dr. Strange, or: how I learned to love the bomb", Peter Sellers, the President, discussed with Peter Sellers, the mad scientist not how to avoid the overthrow of the world, but how the elite could survive it.
The Prosecution: That cleared the way for the film presidents of today: marriage wreckers and traitors, hustlers! Murderers!
The Defense: Quite the contrary. Hollywood stayed quiet when the White House was occupied, in succession, by a notorious liar, a peanut farmer who couldn't make up his mind, and an actor who should have retired.
Judge: I will have to tell you. You are demonstrating the very lack of respect which you are placing in dispute.
As a matter of fact, the more the country's politics are determined by Viet Nam and by students, the further Hollywood has removed itself from politics. The rule is confirmed by the exception, such as the scurrilous "Wild in the Streets" (1968, filmed as the flower children were in full bloom, a rock star gained the highest office, the voting age was lowered to 14, and the injudicious adults were fed with LSD in work camps), and finally by the Watergate balance "The Incorruptibles" [?] (in which Nixon did not appear as a figure and which is a thriller.)
Above all, Hollywood never violated that last taboo, the intimate lives of the state leaders, until 1976. In "Eleanor and Franklin", a television movie began with Eleanor's discovery that her husband's former lover, Lucy Mercer, was at his side at the hour of his death; Eisenhower's playmate, Kay Summersby, played a prominent role in the TV production, "Ike: The War Years" in 1979.
The dam did not break in Hollywood. That happened when a photographer snapped a shot of presidential candidate Gary Hart in the company of model Donna Rice. Since then, nothing more has been sacred. All are of the same mind, with disapproving, wrinkled-up noses: the scandal sheets, the serious anchormen, the Lenos and the Lettermans in their monologues and - how could they keep back - naturally, also Hollywood. Only a few of their latest president creations:
- Oliver Stone's "JFK" (1991), leaves the myth of the president intact, but destroys the institutions, and also his "Nixon" (1995), in which the reverse happens
- "A Woman named Jackie", a TV Drama from 1991, in which Jackie throws a black slip at JFK and says, "Find out who it belongs to. It is not my size."
- "The President's Child" (1992), where the advisor to a presidential candidate wants to put the candidate's illegitimate child along with the mother out of the way.
- "The Cartel" (1993), in which the President does business with the drug mafia.
- "Dave" (1993), in which the real president (during his afternoon quickie) suffers a heart attack is is replaced by a look-alike, who does his job much better.
- "Hello, Mr. President" (1995), where a (widower) President Michael Douglas wants to keep his romance with a lobbyist a secret.
- "Independence Day" (1996), where the President himself sits in a fighter jet in order to blast the space aliens to hell.
- "My Fellow Americans" (1996), in which Ex-Presidents Jack Lemmon und James Garner flee from political killers and Garner emerges as an unbeatable lady's man.
- "Murder at 1600" (1997), where investigators find out that a murder victim was the lover of both the president and his son.
- "Air Force One" (1997), where President Harrison Ford dramatizes a Viet Nam experience and rids his airplane of terrorists guerilla style.
- "Mars Attacks" (1997), in which President Jack Nicholson disintegrates after a pathetic patriotic speech by a Martian.
- "Absolute Power" (1997), in which the bodyguards of President Gene Hackman accidentally shoot his lover, which fact Mr. President tries to cover up at any cost.
- "Wag the Dog" (1998), in which a war is staged with Albania in order to steer the media's attention away from a presidential affair.
- "Primary Colors" (1998), which barely disguises the description of Clinton's pre-Lewinsky escapades.
By no means have all these films been detrimental to the presidential office. At the end of the comedy, "Dave," the false president campaigned for city council, and his Vice President was named his successor. The action film, "Air Force One" contained a several minutes seminar on who would take over command in case the President were kidnapped. The moral is that the people may fail, but the system still functions in the last resort.
Judge: The people, that would be Bill Clinton. He has dealt the death stroke to the high ideals and moral considerations of the presidency. The holder of the office no longer possesses these qualifications. The title has become an empty shell which we can use to fulfill our fantasies, sometime as those of an armed felon, once as a killer of space aliens. The film industry is cleared of the charges of being solely responsible for the decline of presidential prestige.
P.S. When the Jodie Foster film, "Contact manipulated shots of Clinton as if he were part of the film, he protested lamely more out of pride than from anger. Shortly thereafter, he actually let himself be depicted in a guest role for a television movie in which the President consoled a child who was going to die. Finally, Zeus has descended from Olympia to be among the people. However, the worst is not yet over. Joe Eszterhas, the best paid author of Hollywood since "Basic Instinct," has just written a new script entitled "Sacred Cows." In it, the president is discovered having sodomitical activity with a cow.
© DIE WELT, 5.9.1998
April 8, 1998
The American media draw a picture of the new states as being ruled by neo-nazis and xenophobes
By Friedemann Diederichs
BM Chicago/New York - First it was the "New York Times," then came TV magazines and local newspapers. Now the respected "Chicago Tribune", winner of multiple Pulitzer Prizes, distinguishes itself in the preliminary highlights. "Germany's new Stormtroopers" graces the front page of the Sunday edition - along with a picture of bald neo-nazis from the new German states.
The core of the message occupies the main spot on the page: In numerous cities and communities of "former communist-ruled East Germany", right radicals have begun their "ethnic cleansing." This is a term which the US editors have borrowed from the Balkan War. "They threaten and pursue foreigners, and have killed ten people in the past two years," reports the paper, and reproaches the German officials - as well as the rest of the US media in their reports: "The police solution has not been very effective." The US citizens are served a picture of Germany, the main course of which is that right-wing radicals and xenophobes are able to expand, unhindered, throughout a portion of the German Republic.
Reporters narrowly ascribe Third Reich "Blitzkrieg" tactics to the Nazi offspring: "They rush the foreigners and beat them with baseball bats for exactly four and a half minutes, because they know that the police can be there, at the earliest, in five minutes." The reports from the last few weeks all revolve exclusively around the topic of neo-nazis, and create the impression that foreigners are taking their lives into their own hands in this part of Germany, even if they are on the street for only a few seconds.
As proof of the allegedly escalating situation in the new German states, the "Chicago Tribune" refers to news magazines, for instance to the "Spiegel", in which a survey determined that 65 percent of the east Germans have complained about "too many foreigners", and that there are still 14 percent who would welcome a dictator, because this would solve the problem faster than the German government. "The old demon has returned," reflects the US reporter, and writes a few statements of foreigners from the city of Furstenwalde near Berlin. The message they give is that no foreigner can feel safe in Furstenwalde, the police only protect the Nazis, and the objective of all attacks is to drive the immigrants out of the country. The legal actions which have been taken against radical neo-nazis in east Germany are only mentioned in a half a sentence. That is done in a quote by a Lebanese to show that the measures are hardly worth mentioning.
The articles about right extremist activity in the new German States does not bother the Office of Foreign Affairs in Bonn. A speaker from that office told the "Berliner Morgenpost", "A critical report about Germany is absolutely alright. Journalistic methods, such as provoking headlines, are legitimate." Bonn's representatives in Washington have evaluated all articles about Germany, and have determined that the reports of 1997 were balanced and fair. Only ten percent of the reports had to do with Nazis, compared with 50 percent about business topics. "Even if right-wing extremism were the main topic of discussion, the measures taken by the state would consist, for the most part, of processes and investigative committees.
America's Picture of Germany
Far, far away
by Kirstin Wenk
When US journalists report on Germany, they address only the negative. Above all in the former communist East: neo-Nazis wielding baseball bats chase foreigners as the police stand by, smiling. The government does not know what to do. This picture is embellished with reports about the alleged Scientology persecution. This is how racist, nationalistic Germany has been resurrected for the USA.
Nevertheless, one cannot hold the media solely responsible for these reports. For one thing, they are based on facts. For another, the media is in competition for the best quotes and the highest ratings. And, for Americans, Germany is far, far away. A little land on an old continent, which lost its charm when the wall fell. There is supposedly not much there as far as commerce goes, either. That is why sensational headlines, such as "Germany's New Stormtroopers" attract readers.
Regrettably, and of consequence, this distorted picture of Germany is what remains. It prevents a true understanding of the problems, and leads to fewer and fewer Americans who want to study in Germany, or learn the language. The only recourse is the old public relations motto, "Do good and talk about it." Therefore: combat right-wing extremist abuse in the country, and simultaneously, hold information campaigns in the USA. The proposed student exchange program between Hohenshoenhausen and Beverly Hills would be a good start.