Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Blacklist

In the fall, National Public Radio aired an official guide to the U.S. blacklists. It pointed out that nearly 100 years ago, President Woodrow Wilson described embargoes as a “peaceful, silent, deadly remedy.” He was talking about economic sanctions as a foreign policy tool.

Blacklisting is still used by our government as a tool to suppress or make people stop what they are doing.

The government has not only blacklisted individuals, companies and organizations, but selected scientific work and critical studies. It’s tried to take away the voice of unfriendly entities, balking academics, statesmen with differing opinions and the most gutsy of the media.

One agency, our Department of Transportation, has taken that tool to new heights of usefulness.

I believe that most trucking journalists first looked at the rumored scale of this developing blacklist with cynicism, as if it was another conspiracy theory. I know I did at first. After all, being able to disapprove of various government regs or actions openly without punishment is what America is all about. In fact, as the regulators, departments like the DOT can fully expect to be criticized.

But journalists who ask hard questions get booted from press events, erased from call-back lists, and banished from press release lists.

This is because first-rate journalism is good for the citizenry, but isn’t always good for the government, or big business, or a government with a big business ideology. The “truthiness” of thunderous journalism scares government. When good investigative journalism discovers something “rotten in Denmark,” citizens are prompted to demand accountability.

Under a “my way or the highway” government, advocacy journalists suffer for publishing dissenting views. By advocacy journalists, I mean journalists who give voice to a segment of people whose views are mostly ignored by the mainstream media. This, in its own way, is even more frightening, as the right for citizens and their associations to speak out is the fabric of our democracy.

So, to cut to the chase: There’s a price to pay for speaking out these days, no matter if you are journalists, truckers, or famous entertainers like the Dixie Chicks. In January, a couple of New Jersey citizens showed up at a town hall meeting with flyers opposing higher toll hikes. They were arrested. Let that last one soak in a moment.

Since August of 2007, OOIDA media (Land Line Magazine and “Land Line Now” on XM radio) have been on the blacklist. Our honest and passionate criticism of the president’s Mexican cross border pilot program placed us crossways with the administration and had us blackballed by public affairs officials within the U.S. Department of Transportation.

They began by abruptly terminating all communication with us, refusing to talk to any reporters or editors of OOIDA media. As managing editor of Land Line Magazine, I appealed to the Director of Public Affairs for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an administration appointee. She refused to even provide a reply and continued to blow off phone calls and emails. I appealed to her superior, the head of Public Affairs for the Department of Transportation, but he also chose to completely ignore my request.

I have covered this industry for 20 years and have enjoyed excellent professional relationships with the DOT and its agencies, despite the fact that our coverage often involves criticism of their policies. Direct communication with the DOT is an important part of providing the trucking industry with all pertinent news emanating from its regulating agency.

So I went higher. I made an official request to Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters, asking that she restore communications so we could continue to effectively report on important issues – issues such as driver training and hours-of-service rulemakings. Secretary Peters responded to my official request the same as the others, with not even an acknowledgment of that formal request.

We made several members of the U.S. Congress aware of the situation. I was told by at least one that he would help. But Mary Peters’ DOT cares not a fig what lawmakers want. That was clear when our nation’s legislators cut off funding for the Mexican cross border program, and the DOT swiftly made the decision to ignore the intent of the U.S. Congress and continue the program.

The way I remember learning it, James Madison – our fourth president and a man often called “the father of the Constitution” – said more than 200 years ago that the right to levy honest criticism of public characters and measures is at the heart of American freedom.

So, if our forefathers incorporated such freedoms into our rights as citizens, how is it that we have a government whose policy goes back to colonial days? Back to the days where colonial governors controlled newsletters as long as they served as mouthpieces for the king, as long as they did not challenge the rules?

What do you do when your government’s policy is to suppress information from the people? The answer is to work even harder to find answers to hard questions, to report the truth, to shine the light into dark corners.

Throughout the remaining months, OOIDA will continue to use all of its sources to get the best information we can, print it, broadcast it, and share it with others. We hope that the next administration, whatever and whoever it is, does not adopt the now-established policy where dissenters should not have a voice. This policy cannot be a template for a democratic future.

There’s more at stake here than a blacklist.

21 comments:

  1. Yes it surely is a sad state of affairs when the Government we "elect" ignores the wishes of the people who put them there. I normally vote Republican, but these men whom were given the "privilege" to lead this country, have made me take a good hard look at the party. Quite honestly they frighten me, they way they continue to run things is more like the dictatorships they so often say are our enemies...who is the enemy now???

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  2. We are Republicans (my husband, myself, and trucking family members) but we do not agree with this DOT administration. What can we do?

    (And I don't think it really matters which party is in office. The DOT does what they want, when they want, no matter what.)

    RD, Holland, MI

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  3. It has been coming for years. Welcome to Fascism.

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  4. You know you're doing your job as a journalist if you're escorted off property, have public documents snatched from your hands or are non-personed, as OOIDA seems to be. Too often, the prevailing sentiment about the media is that it should simply accept what is shoveled at it and be grateful - actually asking and probing and raising uncomfortable questions is overstepping the bounds - some have even called it treason.

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  5. We will continue to loose more and more of our rights dictated in the Constitution until the masses become so fed up with gov't control that there is an internal uprising. Why do you think the people in Washington are working so hard to take guns, ammunition, etc. from the average "Joe Blow" in America?
    As American citizens we have taken for granted our freedom in the past, and even though things weren't going just like we thought they ought to, we continued to mumble quietly on a local level. So now we find ourselves faced with a dictatorship which tells us we have to wear seat belts, or have to wear helmets on a motorcycle. If you agreed that discrimination against smokers was okay, then you must be prepared for the next round which may include people that over-weight, people who have too many vehicles, people born with disabilities,etc. You see, when you allow discrimination against one group of people, it will spread like cancer . . . all done in the name of protection for the greater good. And it all starts with not being involved in your government, not keeping on top of what our representatives in Washington are doing, and letting them know if they don't represent us as promised, they can and will be replaced. But in order to do this, one must get off one's duff, get involved, and go to the polls and vote. Unquestioned power is NOT a good thing - I used to joke that the difference between American citizens and the citizens of Russia was that we just think we are free and they definitely know they are not. And now I believe I may have been right.

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  6. Welcome to new realworld. Cox Communications will seldom allow me to forward controversial articles by you guys. Pees me off in the worst way especially when one has no idea to whom or how to complain.

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  7. I suggest you read "1984" and "The Animal Farm" by George Orwell. These books were written many years ago,but he knew what was coming!

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  8. And just where did ya'll get the mistaken impression that any interaction with autonomous government agencies might even remotely relate to the first amendment? They don't need to respond to anyone but their Congressional overseers.

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  9. As an independant voter, I try to vote for the candidate who most reflects my views. I have not heard anything from either Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama nor Mr.McCain as to their views on important trucking issues. If our representatives aren't aware of, or else don't care about trucking issues, how can we expect anything to be done about them. However, not only does DOT blacklist responsible journalists, but they also don't listen to the people they affect. Someone should forward the original blog to every Congressman and Senator.

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  10. I think OOIDA would be well served by making friends, now, with all the potential Presidential candidates. Better to open doors now, then after they have been locked shut by the blindness of political power.

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  11. Like the song sez: "Gonna change my way of thinking,
    Make myself a different set of rules.
    Gonna put my good foot forward,
    And stop being influenced by fools." EMPHASIS ON THE LAST LINE ... Carry on, folks, committing to the truth is never easy and there's no commercial potential.

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  12. excerpt;
    The way I remember learning it, James Madison – our fourth president and a man often called “the father of the Constitution” – said more than 200 years ago that the right to levy honest criticism of public characters and measures is at the heart of American freedom.

    I wonder if the arrogance of this presidency is exposing the fragility of or the absence of freedom in America?

    If it is absence, will American roll over and play dead while the government becomes imperial? If is the fragility, after the elections, will we see a difference!

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  13. So, you blame the party for the sins of the present administration and are considering switching to the party that will take us into socialism; where we will all be dependent on the government and they will further own us? Speaking of getting blacklisted; there is a candidate running who’s ethics exceed that of any of the frontrunners but you haven’t heard of him unless you search the web. He’s blacklisted by the media so badly that their only submissions of him anywhere make him seem like a fool, but he is extremely wise. His issues are not specific to any group, and have not been changed over the years to please or appease anyone; his issues are based solely on the constitution. His vision for America is what we would have been had we not strayed so far from it, and there is a growing grass roots movement in support of him and the return to the constitution. Check him out; http://www.ronpaul2008.com/issues/.

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  14. as we get ready to vote for a new President take a moment to think about what else or who else do you vote for. We have a term limit on our President but not on our congressman or senators, yet some of those leaders have been in there for 10 20 30 years. Look at what has happened to our country in those same years, yet how many Presidents have we had? I do not agree with all the things the President has done, but he has had help from the same men and women, both sides, that have been there before him and will be ther after him. What we need to do to elect change is do a whole sale cleaning form top to bottom. Maybe than the folks the next President appoints may listen to the voice of the people that put him or her and the rest of them there. Michal Fox in the movie American President said to Michal Douglas who was playing the President, it is not only my right but my duty to question my President when I feel he may be wrong. think about it when you vote, does the President really hold all the power, do the congress hold the power or is it us that has given them all the power.

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  15. Unfortunately, this is a representative democracy and our representatives have decided to silence criticism, disarm, and add layer after layer of "controls" ie; regulations with the force of law imposed without represenative voting. Tain't what i signed up for!

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  16. Tired of the same old s...? Vote Ron Paul, even if you have to write him. A vote for any of the "big three" Obama, Clinton or McCain is a vote for business as usual.

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  17. All that stuff about "of the people, by the people, and for the people" is just not important anymore... the press is trying to find out who had sex with who, and did they leave any stains that would contain DNA anywhere....your just not in focus with the important stuff!!

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  18. I don't believe DOT ever returns calls to anyone. I've tried and tried. Every once in awhile when you do get through to someone, they're so rude and still don't answer your questions. No gov. official understands because they've never been in our shoes. They shouldn't be allowed to pass laws unless they've ridden with one of us for a month. Everything they touch was brought by a truck, so perhaps they will only start to listen and return phone calls when we quit delivering their food, gas, newspapers, construction supplies, pet food, clothes, etc. If it wasn't for Swift and the other undercutters, someone might just listen to us!

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  19. It is well said,
    "If you aren't outraged, then you aren't paying attention."

    I will do what I can to get my legislators to answer me on this issue, and send the reply to LL.

    The pen is mightier than the sword; the blacklist should scare us all.

    Our best plan is to cast an informed vote!

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  20. Just to add my two cents to the sirus segment:
    First off, it seems that our 'officials' have forgotten whom they work for and serve.

    Second:
    I believe that a grass roots work slow down should be planned. One of the ideas that was offered on Sirus was mailing in a log sheet. In retaliation for these folks not listening to our questions, needs and request. To further that idea perhaps we should pick a day and let the FMCA/DOT that we intend to work together in an effort to voice our feelings of their ignoring our only 'activist mag'

    A bit off topic:
    We have little representation or
    Assistance but are taxed and regulated very much.. items such as safety breaks and overtime pay are forced in other industries but completely forgotten for drivers.

    one more thought: The O/O would appear to be taking the same path as the small family farmer. Large industry such as ConAgra’s have taken the world ag by obtaining cheapest labor and raping the natural recourses of other nations. I believe that we will in the future find that Bush’s Administration has plans to push out all small industries trucking and otherwise.

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  21. ARE WE GOING ON STRIKE APR. 1ST THAT SEEMS TO BE THE WORD AROUND THE CAMPFIRE I SURE HOPE WE DO HELL I'LL WALK BACK TO TAMPA

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