Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Press, Obama and the Forgotten Legacy of The Civil Rights Movement: Voting Rights

Author and professor of Media Studies at New York University, Mark Crispin Miller will speak at Vassar College (Main Building, Villard Room) on September 8th at 5:30 sponsored by the college's American Studies Program. Here, in a letter to Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post and Bob Herbert of the New York Times, Professor Miller reminds us of the media's (and indeed the candidate's) glaring neglect to report and fight the present day abuses of the core objective of the Civil Rights Movement: the right of all Americans to vote and to have our vote counted.

- Joanne Lukacher

Democracy Without Tears: An open letter to Eugene Robinson and Bob Herbert

I wrote this in response to Robinson's "So Many Miles from Selma," and Herbert's "Champagne and Tears," which columns ran in the Washington Post and New York Times, respectively...


Messrs. Robinson and Herbert,

Your latest columns are quite moving, and I agree with them, but there's a glaring problem with them, too. I noticed the same defect in Seb. Obama's speech on Thursday night: a speech that also moved me very much, although that problem is a big one--maybe fatal.

Specifically, you both invoke the long, hard fight for civil rights for African-Americans, yet without any reference to that movement's main concern: the right to vote. In your column, Mr. Robinson, you fail to mention that the march on Selma was an effort on behalf of voting rights; and your piece, Mr. Herbert, although powerfully recalling the grim history of racist violence against black citizens, devotes not one word to the major purpose of that violence, which was to keep those people disenfranchised.

Such silence is remarkable--especially since, in his acceptance speech, Obama too invoked the civil rights movement in the same bizarrely expurgated way. In pointing out that he was speaking on the anniversary of King's great speech in Washington, the candidate did not make clear, or even hint, that the ultimate concern behind that speech (and the entire event in 1963) was to secure the right to vote for African-Americans.

Now, while it is surely right to celebrate Obama's nomination--and, indeed, apprioprate to shed some tears of joy at this historic hour--it is a grave mistake to see that win as evidence that we've left Selma far behind. It is a grave and dangerous mistake, because the Bush regime has nullified those victories won decades ago, through an unprecedented program of old-fashioned vote suppression and high-tech election fraud.

Under this regime, the very entities that once worked to enlarge the franchise--the Department of Justice, Congress and the Supreme Court--are working now to narrow it as much as possible; and, in collusion with the GOP (both state and national) and Diebold/Premier, ES&S, Hart InterCivic and a host of other private companies controlled by the Republicans (and often closely linked to the religious right), those three great powers have also made it perilously easy to erase or change those votes that do get cast, or simply to concoct however many votes might be required.

Through such subversive work the Bush Republicans have seized control not only in the White House, but also in the House and Senate, and in several state governments (including those in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia). And now there's every evidence that they intend to do the same thing yet again; and for that, too, "tears are entirely appropriate"--and not just because Obama might well "lose" (despite his popularity). If Rove et al. steal this election, too, it will mean that American democracy is really dead and gone, and no amount of crying will restore it.

What we need more than tears, therefore, is to confront the truth about all this, and let the people know the facts about the Bush regime's election "victories." This is something that the Democrats (or most of them, the party's recent nominees included) will not and/or cannot do. Therefore it is especially important that the media begin to do its job; and so I turn to both of you.

I may be wrong, but I don't think that you, Mr. Robinson, have ever said a word about this issue, either in your column or on television; whereas you, Mr. Herbert, did write an excellent column on it some three years ago. Unfortunately, such long silence is no aberration, since nearly all your colleagues in the US press have likewise kept their eyes closed to this all-important issue, blacking out the topic so completely and consistently that one might think that they'd been ordered not to deal with it. Whatever might explain this silence, you two can help end it at long last; and I promise you that you will be amazed by all the evidence of fraud--staggered by how much of it there is, and by how strong it is--if you will only take a look at some of it.

I would be more than glad to send you a copy of my own new book, Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008--a collection of 14 essays by a range of first-rate scholars, journalists and activists, on many aspects of the Bush regime's ongoing electoral subversion. I also urge you to get hold of Richard Hayes Phillips' Witness to a Crime, which documents decisively the theft of the 2004 election in Ohio. Phillips studied all the paper ballots in 18 counties, and with his team took thousands of digital photographs, which make quite clear that the Bush machine altered thousands of votes in the incumbents' favor. (The book comes with a CD, so that you can see the evidence yourself. It is available via

Above all, however, you should check out the revelations of Stephen Spoonamore--a lifelong Republican, erstwhile member of McCain's campaign, and a prominent expert on computer fraud. Spoonamore has copious hard evidence revealing Bush/Cheney stole a number of key races, starting with Florida eight years ago. He has named names, and has the goods to back up every claim; and he knows quite a lot about the plans to make McCain America's next president (which is the reason why he quit McCain's campaign). You can begin to learn more about him, and his testimony, at

This email is long enough, so let me thank you both for reading through the whole of it. And thanks too for your very moving columns--and for considering how you might help to save this next election, not just for Obama, or the Democrats, but all of us who still believe that We the People ought to rule.

Mark Crispin Miller