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Paranoia is usually the reserve of conspiracy theorists of every political stripe, fans of science fiction, and Black people. We are given a pass because of the horrific treatment meted out to us throughout American history. Slavery, lynching, the Tuskegee experiment and COINTELPRO give us paranoia rights while others are mocked and dismissed for expressing their suspicions of malfeasance by the powerful. But other Americans would be better served if they acknowledged their own need to question authority and to doubt the benevolence of their leaders.

It is a fact that the State of the Union address was moved up one week to keep the Democratic presidential campaign from pushing the President off the front page of American newspapers. The administration owns up to the switch and is grudgingly admired for its ability to spin where none have spun before. However, changing the date of a speech is child’s play for the Republicans.  There are more serious instances of chicanery and lies for Americans to acknowledge.

Presidential adviser Karl Rove is definitely an astute man and a shrewd operator. Unfortunately for the American people, Mr. Rove and other Republicans believe that democracy is a gross inconvenience in the political process. He is truly in a class by himself when it comes to playing political dirty tricks. In 1986 Rove worked on Mark Clements' Texas gubernatorial campaign. On the eve of a pivotal debate Rove announced that his office had been bugged, presumably by the opposing camp. The FBI investigated but concluded that Rove had planted the device himself in an attempt to discredit the opposition.

All Americans should keep this story in mind when we are told that the poisonous substance ricin was found in the Senate or that another security alert is in order. We should be particularly mindful if these fear inducing stories appear when polls show Bush losing to a Democrat or when the weapons of mass destruction hoax is so untenable that the CIA disassociates itself from the administration. If a few brave souls in the media finally ask, four years too late, if Bush was AWOL from National Guard service, then suspicion is a must when we are told to believe that the sky is falling.

Sometimes the subterfuge is so blatant that every eyebrow must rise. Republican Senator Charles Grassley predicted that U.S. forces will capture Osama Bin Laden before Election Day. While shocking, this prediction is actually a conspiracy non-starter. Bin Laden will probably be in custody on or around October 31st to give us all a trick or treat.

Lest anyone sneer at the paranoid, a quick history lesson is in order. In 2000 an estimated 57,000 Floridians were removed from the voter rolls under the ruse of preventing felons from voting. The Governor of Florida just happened to be the brother of a presidential candidate. The brother wins the state and in the process becomes President. Political corruption via nepotism is a scenario usually reserved for third world nations. If it becomes a reality for an American presidential election should paranoia be a negative word? Perhaps all thinking people should be paranoid and the non-paranoid should be disregarded.

Because the times are ripe for all thoughtful men and women to be suspicious it might be helpful for democracy if all Americans tried to think like Black people. Everyone should start slowly. It isn’t necessary to dwell on the increased likelihood of a mortgage denial or police brutality. Just ask, “If I were Black, would I believe that terror threats always take place when Bush’s poll numbers drop?” Of course the down side must not be ignored either. Anyone who takes this too far would conclude that President Bush advised Janet Jackson to briefly bare her breast. That event certainly took Democrats out of the news.

All humor aside, anyone with common sense should realize that naïve beliefs about equal opportunity and level playing fields make all Americans easy prey for corporate interests and their political allies. White Americans would benefit if they were willing to accept that the system often does not work in their favor any more than it does for Black Americans. The Republican dominated Congress recently enacted legislation that could eliminate overtime pay for as many as 8 million workers.

It is simply obscene for the President and Congress to give corporations permission to take money from working people’s pockets. The obscenity is worsened by a corporate media that gives more attention to a breast exposed for a millisecond than to the theft of Americans' wages. The paranoia possibilities are endless. Corporations take money from working people, take over the media, and then refuse to adequately report the story.

In 2004 we have seen the media give a lying administration a pass on everything from the reasons for waging war to the need for terror alerts. A Democratic presidential front runner is made and unmade with the tacit consent of even liberal pundits. You can call it cynicism, paranoia or just paying close attention, but it is now unacceptable to trust who and what we are told to trust.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in .  Ms. Kimberley is a freelance writer living in New York City.  She can be reached via e-Mail at [email protected]. You can read more of Ms. Kimberley's writings at



February 12, 2004
Issue 77

is published every Thursday.

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