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Monday, November 3, 2008

Fear Campaign on the Eve of US Elections

November 3, 2008, by Michael Fox -

Like most any day over the last two months, my wife and I spent Halloween on the road. We were in Boston on Thursday night showing our new documentary film, “Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas”, and had to drive back to New York City on Friday, one of the last stops on our US tour which had taken us out to California and back.

So, while most of the United States was following the presidential hopefuls through their TV sets, we were relying on our car radio as we drove around the country.

Now, I’m used to covering elections. Over the last five years, I’ve reported on at least as many presidential and local elections in several Latin American countries. The propaganda game plan is familiar across the region. Weeks to months before the election, the conservative party begins to churn out it’s smear and fear campaign in an attempt to demonize it’s challenger and link him or her to things like “communism”, “dictatorships”, “terrorism”, “drugs” or “crime”.

The mainstream media- controlled by a relatively small group of wealthy individuals and corporations -follows suit echoing the sound bites with words like “socialist” and “dictator” and other cold war imagery which they quickly link to the more progressive candidate.

Latin Americans are relatively used to such scare tactics, and even so, the fear campaign can have a pivotal effect on the outcome of an election. However, I never would have imagined this to also be so highly developed here in the United States- as we found over thousands of miles tuned to the AM dial.

This became blatantly clear Halloween afternoon as we drove out of Southeastern Massachusetts towards Rhode Island.

“With McCain, in my opinion, you have substance, with Obama you have style and image, that’s it,” said the host of the first station I turned to. “It’s hard to raise a family these days, why are so many families, average families, struggling to keep their heads above water? Why are so many Americans working harder and longer… three words, the tax trap.” The guest caller tried to respond and was cut off. I switched to the next station, flipped past a couple of commercials and landed on the Monica Crowley show.

“Anybody who disagrees with this guy is going to be plastered and screwed to the wall. These people are living in a dillusionary world. The Obama. Barack Obama, he hates the press…” she cried. “This guy he’s all about leading by a single party and leading by dictatorship. This guy really honestly believes that he’s the chosen one.”

Crowley continued, drawing similarities between Obama and Hitler. “The Obama tyranny that’s already here,” she continued. “This is how the Obama rolls people, this is how he rolls and it’s only gonna get worse when he becomes president. That’s why we have four days left before this election. It’s not to late to stop this.”

I switched the dial again. “I am telling you from this, and from the democrats that I know, that they are frightened.” said Fox radio host, Sean Hannity, “They don’t believe these polls, they know this race has tightened significantly, and they know that the independents are breaking for John McCain.”

“The markets rallied even on Friday,” he continued. “NASDAQ is up 4 days in a row. If Wall Street thought Obama was going to win, why do I doubt this would be happening? As we have seen before, there would be more panic selling. They have their own internal sources. I’m telling you, something is going on here, as it relates to this campaign.”

“Another odd thing here, is that the Associated Press finds that Obama cannot seal the deal… Obama is not having the ability to close, and by the way, I’m told that the Clintons despise him and my guess is when they get inside the voting booth, they’re voting for McCain.”

I switched the station and scanned the AM dial looking for even a slightly objective point of view. I never found it. Not in Southern Massachusetts, nor in Rhode Island, nor Connecticut. In fact, during our drive of more than 10,000 miles across the country, we spent hour after hour listening to AM radio, and during the entire trip, I remember hearing pro-Obama radio talk hosts only a handful of times. I don’t doubt that they are out there, but they are so disproportionately outnumbered by the radical right wing that they are but a whisper on the airwaves. That does not mean that Obama support is waning, but that such alternative voices simply aren't represented in our corporate controlled radio, where a few large corporations decide what they want the American people to listen to.

If AM radio was where I got my information, I’m sure I too would be lulled in to believing that Obama was a “dictator”, a “communist” or losing in the polls. Especially while shock-jocks like Crowley ride “the press” for buddying up to the presidential candidate. If you repeat something enough, they say it becomes true. Not really, but something doesn’t have to be true for millions of people to believe and repeat it.

I turned the station back to Hannity, who was mocking Obama.

“When you spread the wealth around it’s good for everybody.” He said cynically. “Biden says its your patriotic duty. Look this is a direct threat on freedom, liberty and capitalism…”

If freedom, liberty and capitalism are really about choices and competition, then the direct threat is the take-over of our airwaves by a narrow-minded group of individuals that represent a small set of interests. A direct threat, aimed at distorting the facts and scaring the American people in to voting against a political candidate that even speaks of change. This is something most Latin American countries must also contend with, but you probably wouldn’t know that from listening to AM radio.

Michael Fox is a Latin America based journalist, reporter and filmmaker. He is Co-director of the recently released documentary, Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas, which has just been on tour around the U.S., and is now available at PM Press.

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To schedule a screening contact mike(at)

Previous Screenings

Outubro 17, 2009- Novo Hamburgo, Brasil
Sabado, Outubro 17 @ 18hr

Seminário Estadual do Acampamento Intercontinental de Juventude - Forum Social Mundial, 10 Anos (FSM)
Sociedade Gaúcha Lomba Grande
Novo Hamburgo, RS

Outubro 15, 2009- Esteio, Brasil
Quinta-Feira, Outubro 15 @
Casa de Cultura Lufredina Araújo Gaya

Esteio, RS
*Debate com os diretores

September 28, 2009- Tshwane (Pretoria), South Africa
Monday, September 28 @ 4pm
The Institute for Democracy in Africa (IDASA)

357 Visagie Street (corner Prinsloo), Pretoria
**Q&A w/ Directors, Michael Fox & Sílvia Leindecker

September 16, 2009- Austin, Texas
Wednesday, September 16 @ 8pm
MonkeyWrench Books,
110 E. North Loop, Austin, Texas

July 19-21, 2009 - Cape Town, South Africa

The While You Were Sleeping Collective will be hosting screenings of Beyond Elections at the Labia Cinema on Orange Street, Cape Town, on the following dates:
Sun 19 July 6:15pm
Mon 20 July 8:30pm
Tue 21 July 8:30pm

Julho 20, 2009 - Porto Alegre, Brasil
Segunda-feira, 20 de julho, as 19:30
Sala de cinema do SindBancários (CineBancários)
Rua General Câmara 424 - Centro - Porto Alegre.

Julho 21, 2009 - São Leopoldo, Brasil
Terça-feira, 21 de julho, as 10:00 am
São Leopoldo Fest, Espaço Pensamento

La Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala, 6 de Mayo, 2009, 7pm, Blanco y Negro: 7pm, Zona 1, 9a calle entre 6a y 7a Avenida, Pasaje Aycinena.

Atlanta, Georgia, 4th Annual Latin American Caribbean Film Festival 2009

Orlando, Florida,
February 13, 2009, 3:30pm, FL Interactive Entertainment Academy, Orlando Latin American Film Festival

World Social Forum, Belém, Brasil, January 31, 2009, 4:30pm, The Federal University of the Amazon (UFRA) Theater – CASA PAN AMAZÔNICA


Baltimore, Sept. 11, 2008, 6:30 pm, Red Emma's

New York City, Sept. 14, 2008, 7pm
, Bluestockings
Chicago, Sept. 16, TBA

Milwaukee, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008, 7pm,
People's Book Cooperative

Madison, Friday, Sept. 19, 2008, 7 pm,
Electric Earth Coffeehouse (546 W. Washington Ave, Madison, WI)

Minneapolis, Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008, 10 am,
Resource Center of the Americas
Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008, 7pm, Macalester College, 1600 Grand Avenue, St. Paul
(Davis Lecture Hall, Student Center, SW corner of Grand & Snelling) MAP

Bay Area, California, Sept. 27-30
Global Exchange

San Diego, Oct. 1-3
Monte Perdido

Santa Fe, New Mexico, Friday, Oct. 10, 2008, 7pm,
The Santa Fe Complex. Click for directions.

Oklahoma City, Monday, Oct. 13, 2008,
house party, call for directions

New Orleans, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008, 6pm,, 6018 El Dorado Street

Atlanta, Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008, 5:30pm
, Little Five Points Community Center, 1083 Austin Ave, Room 105 (call 404.610.2807 for more information) Presented by the Latin American and Caribbean Community Center

Asheville, North Carolina, Monday, Oct. 20
, 2008, 7:30pm, Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company (77 Coxe Avenue)

Washington DC, Thursday, Oct. 23, 2008, 7:30pm, The People's MEDIA Center, ( 3142 Georgia Ave., NW, Located between Kansas & Taylor, 4 blocks North of Petworth Metro
Green/Yellow Line Metro. Bus #64, 70, 71)

Philadelphia, PA, Friday, Oct. 24, 2008, 7pm, Prometheus Radio Project (Calvary Church, 48th & Baltimore Ave. West Philly)

New York City, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008, 7pm, The IRT Theater (154 Christopher St #3B, btw Washington & Greenwich Streets)

New Paltz, NY, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008, 5pm, SUNY, New Paltz,

(CSB Auditorium, click for directions)
Amherst, Mass., Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008, 7:30pm, Hampshire College (Franklin Paterson Hall in the East lecture Hall)

Boston, Mass., Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008, 8pm, MIT (Building 7, 4th floor, Audio Visual Lab, 77 Mass. Ave)

Washington DC, Saturday, November 1, 2008, 11 pm,
Busboys & Poets (5th & K, 1025 5th St, NW)

Arlington, VA, Sunday, November 2, 2008, 8pm, Busboys & Poets (Busboys @ Shirlington,
4251 South Campbell Ave, Arlington, VA)

Other Beyond Election Presentations
Halifax, Canada,
Thursday, October 9th, 2008, 7 pm, Weldon Law Building, 6061 University Ave, Room 105

Toronto, Canada, Thursday, October 16, 2008, 7:30- 9:30pm, Learning Democracy by Doing Conference, (University of Toronto, 252 Bloor St. West)

Burlington, Vermont, October 16, 2008, 7pm, Burlington College (95 North Avenue, Burlington)

St. Paul, MN, Friday, Dec 5, 2008 • 7 PM, House Party! 464 Dayton Ave #4, St Paul, MN 55102, (Contact Sarah Humpage, 651-592-9693 cell or 651-340-9336) Resource Center of the Americas

Los Angeles, CA, Saturday, Dec 6, 2008 • 7 PM, Eastside Café, 5469 No. Huntington Dr., El Sereno, CA 90032

Oakland, CA, Tuesday, Dec 16, 2008 • 7 PM, Niebyl-Proctor Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave
OAKLAND (Marin Interfaith Task Force on the Americas)