A Discussion with Mark Crispin Miller
November 5, 2005
On November 3-4, 2005, Mark Crispin Miller, author of Fooled Again, took part in an online discussion at Democratic Underground, answering questions from members of our message board. This is a lightly edited transcript of that discussion. The original discussion thread can be found here. Mark might even return to continue the discussion.
Skinner: Today we are very excited to host an online discussion with Mark Crispin Miller.
Mark is a professor of media ecology at New York University. Some of you may remember him from our online discussion on Democratic Underground in May of 2002. He is well known for his writings on all aspects of the media and for his activism on behalf of democratic media reform. He has written a number of books, including Boxed in: The Culture of TV, The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder, and Cruel and Unusual: Bush/Cheney's New World Order. He writes regularly on his blog, News From Underground.
Mark has a brand new book about the 2004 election, Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election, and Why They'll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them).
This discussion is going to be pretty informal. Mark has some book signings and other events today, so he might be checking in a few different times throughout the day, and he is not going to be able to answer every question that is posted here. He will pick the questions that he considers most relevant and answer those. All DU members are welcome to participate. If you have a question or topic that you would like to discuss with Mark, just click "Reply" on this message to post it.
Mark, thank you so much for being with us. The first question is an easy one. Please tell us about your book.
Mark Crispin Miller: Hi, everyone. It's a pleasure to be here. Many warm thanks, Stephanie, for making this happen.
Why I wrote Fooled Again: The scandal of last year's election never resonated as it should have done, because the national Democrats AND "the liberal media" refused to face, or even to discuss, the facts. We very badly need electoral reform, but we won't get it if that mammoth scandal doesn't finally resonate. My aim in writing Fooled Again was to lay out the evidence that Bush & Co. stole their so-called "mandate," so that the scandal might at last resound, so that we'll all be motivated to repair the system. If we don't, it seems to me, we're really cooked.
Let me add that I myself am not a Democrat but a proud independent. This is not a partisan endeavor but a crucial civic issue. There's evidence that many a Republican did NOT vote for Bush/Cheney in 2004. Those folks too were disenfranchised, along with countless voters on the other side.
I await your questions/comments.
Bruce McAuley: Hi Mark! Given what has happened so far with the Bush administratio9n, what do you foresee for the future? Will the neo-conservatives have a final triumph, or will liberalism make a resurgence? Or neither of the above? Best guesses, please, and thanks for participating!
Mark Crispin Miller: Bruce, liberalism will make a resurgence; or, rather, it is resurgent already, although many liberals out there don't know they're liberals. It's an odd situation. The word itself is now pejorative, thanks to the far-right propaganda drive that's overwhelmed our politics and culture for last few decades. So folks are often quick to say that they're not liberals覧but their politics, on nearly every score, ARE, by any definition, liberal: economically, environmentally, on foreign policy, on healthcare, abortion rights, you name it.
Because the word has been so badly tarnished, I'd prefer to say that our Enlightenment ideals will re-assert themselves. I deem myself a follower of Jefferson and Paine. The world-view of those framers will prevail, if we promote it and defend it just as zealously as BushCo has attacked it.
underpants: How susceptible to the "first story out there" is MSM? I haven't read your work so excuse me if this has been covered.
It appears that the news media in this country all follow the very first wire report written on an event or an issue. Is it really that cut and dry? and does the right really have packaged ready to go versions of what I just saw ready to go (it would appear that they do)?
Mark Crispin Miller: The right has the propaganda thing down cold. The MSM, moreover, will certainly not follow any story that it's disinclined to follow, however hot it may appear. Every day amazing pieces come from the Associated Press, with no follow-up whatsoever. AP did a good story on the GAO report on electronic touchscreen voting machines. There was no follow-up at all.
mzmolly: What is the first thing we CAN/should do to secure our voting system? Just want some tangible ideas for Democrats and other concerned citizens.
Mark Crispin Miller: The first thing to do is to campaign relentlessly, in every way at hand, to get the scandal of last year's election on the national radar screen. Unless we do that, all our policy suggestions will mean nothing.
As we do that, though, we should also be resisting the proliferation of touch-screen voting machines sold by private vendors覧Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia覧and agitating on behalf of paper ballots, unless and until we learn about a tamper-proof computer-based system (if such is possible). That would be a local matter, by and large. We also should be working very hard to get the Voting Rights Act renewed completely. (The Busheviks want to remove certain provisions from it, so that it can then be junked by the Scalito Court.) And we must support Rep. Jesse Jackson III's call for a constitutional amendment formally confirming every adult American's right to vote, and establishing a uniform federal voting system. We should also enable same-day registration, extend the voting period to, say, a week, advocate for Instant Run-off Voting (IRV), and do whatever else it take to make the system truly democratic.
sfexpat2000: I'd like to ask Mark, was there a moment, or an event, that you can identify as the one that spurred you to write on this topic? Thanks.
Mark Crispin Miller: That moment was Election Day, and the huge screaming gap between the propaganda ("It's all gone really well!") and what was really happening coast to coast.
IndyOp: Praise: Loved the Harpers' article! Thank you!
My Question: Do we have the votes? Are you convinced that all of the fraudulent actions stole the election from Kerry? Do you estimate numbers of votes stolen in your book?
Also, MCM - Stephanie said that you wanted the link for the Petition to keep Marc Maron on Morning Sedition: Petition to Keep Marc Maron on Morning Sedition More Contact Information for Danny Goldberg at AAR - A call from Mark Crispin Miller might get Goldberg's attention.
Mark Crispin Miller: It's very hard to come up with precise figures. That's the problem. But consider, for example, that the Census Bureau came out in late May with an astounding revelation. According to their survey, 3.4 million more Americans claimed to have cast ballots in 2004 than the official toll of those who voted. So maybe some of them were lying. OK, let's say half were lying. That still leaves some 1.7 million votes that somehow never got recorded.
And that number does not include those (countless) voters who knew very wll that they could not vote, or even register. And neither of those sums include those US citizens abroad who tried and failed to vote. (The last chapter of Fooled Again is all about Bush/Cheney's interference with the expatriate vote, which includes up to 7 million ballots.)
Put it all together, and what does it spell? "IT CAN HAPPEN HERE, AND DID."
And EVERYONE out there, PLEASE contact Air America, and urge the board NOT to allow the cancellation of Marc Maron's show!!!
wrathofkahn: Now I'm confused...
"And that number does not include those (countless) voters who knew very well that they could not vote, or even register."
Umm... If they knew that they could not vote or register (vs. simply choosing not to do so), then I must assume that they were ineligible to vote. How is it that someone who couldn't have voted anyway could have affected the outcome of the election (other than campaigning, etc.)?
Mark Crispin Miller: Those who tried to register and/or vote and couldn't. Not because they were ineligible. They were eligible, and yet could not register or vote.
Arkana: Mr. Miller, I read "The Bush Dyslexicon" and loved it, BTW. I wanted to ask you: What is your proposal to deal with companies such as Diebold, ES&S, Triad, and others that "hack the vote"?
Mark Crispin Miller: All private vendors should be outlawed.
nashville_brook: Can you please speak to the importance of EXIT POLLS in our case for ELECTION FRAUD. what's the appropriate weight to give exit poll discrepancies in the on-going debate?
And (follow-up) Do you have a response to EXIT POLL DISCREPANCY deniers; those who claim we either don't have all the information yet, or that we don't understand the numbers.
Thank you -- and I just have to say... everyone we've loaned your Patriot Act video to has compared you to the late Spaulding Gray. We look forward to more monologues.
Mark Crispin Miller: The exit poll/"official" count discrepancies are certainly significant although the issue is extremely complicated. Let me recommend the writings of Steve Freeman at the University of Pennsylvania. He has a book, co-written with Joel Bleifuss, coming out from Seven Stories in a month or so. A must-read. Steve is expert on the subject of those polls. He's debated Warren Mitofsky, who came off the worse for it.
Just Me: Numerous states have enacted "paper trail" laws. Will such laws be sufficient to protect our votes? If not, what other actions do you suggest should be taken?
Mark Crispin Miller: Paper trails per se are not enough. Certainly it's better to have paper trails than none, but the mere existence of such disparate slips of paper is no panacea. I think that thre should be a paper BALLOT, so that the ballots can be stored indefinitely and counted or recounted as required. The TruVote machine looks like a very good idea. (That's the company whose CEO was evidently Silkwooded last year.)
ignatzmouse: Many Threads Into an Unmistakable Case: I'm sorry that I can't stay long, but I wanted to at least give a high recommendation to "Fooled Again." As with all of Mark's books, it is exhaustively researched, insightful, and has teeth. Mark does cite a couple of my studies including the "Unofficial Audit of the NC Election" that initially appeared here at DU. I'm deeply honored to be included, but it makes it even better for I have read and respected Mark for years. To paraphrase Van Morrison (the way I like to hear it), "If you pull your punches, you don't push the river." Mark pushes the river.
"Cruel and Unusual" is the benchmark for me in getting at who these people are and what partially concealed agenda they seek. It's an important book. Likewise, "Fooled Again" pulls together the many-pronged RNC attack on the election process and exposes it in a way that is hard to marginalize. That is critically important because the culprits utilize marginalization of facts to elude media focus and cover their trail. They'll say... "but there were reported electronic discrepancies that favored Kerry too. See, it all amounts to much ado about a few electronic glitches." But, in fact, if you look at the EIRS data, the electronic vote switching favors Bush by a ridiculously large percentage. It is also interesting to see how often these reports are centered in minority districts. To have someone of Mark Cripsin Miller's credentials to not be fooled by the marginalizations and not carry the comfortable disdain for populism that seems embedded in most of the national media is necessary and validating if the story of what happened in the 2004 election is to reach out and enable reform in the future.
Absentees and aborting votes: I've read the accounts of the missing absentee ballots in Florida (which you also nicely document) and have likewise noted in several states the unlawful collection of absentee ballots by mysterious persons and groups. In Georgia, we've just had the Republican legislature attempt to restrict minority voting by creating a voter ID requirement where no documented fraud has occurred. Interestingly, however, the voter ID restrictions would not apply to absentee ballots. To me, that's a tip that one method of rigging is to either create phantom absentee voters or revote for "captured" absentee ballots. Something very fishy is going on with absentees. I noted this particularly in Nevada where they have verified voting. Absentee fraud could be a way to circumvent all other measures of safeguarding the vote. Did you get a sense of rank in the types and methods of vote fraud -- electronic, vote switching DRE's, absentee, various types of disenfranchisement, etc.?
And finally, at the old Kerry-Edwards forum on election day, one of the regulars posted an odd firsthand account that I have not seen since. While on the phone to Blackwell's Secretary of State headquarters, she was put on hold and could hear a phone bank of numerous people in the SoS's office making phone calls to voters stating that they were calling from Planned Parenthood and asking that they vote for John Kerry in order to keep abortion legal. My take was that they were calling identified Catholic voters in order to anger them to the polls to vote for Bush. That sort of illegal and underhanded tactic is Rovian by nature (or Mehlman-esque as the case may be) and I would guess prosecution worthy. The old Kerry-Edwards forum is long gone, and I have no way of researching it further. Have you heard of similar Ohio accounts, or is that state so awash in corruption that it almost gets lost in the mix?
Mark Crispin Miller: I salute you, ignatzmouse. A thousand thanks for your kind words. I think your work is indispensable, and was delighted to be able to include it in my book, which seems all the stronger for your research.
I had not heard anything about that phone bank. If you find it, could you send it to me?
cry baby: Thank you for coming online with us! Do you think that the states will actually entertain the idea of replacing the voting machines that they just purchased to be in compliance with HAVA? Can those machines be retrofitted with a "proof of vote" certificate and would that keep our elections from being stolen? How likely do you believe it is that states will actually go to a voter verified paper ballot (which is what I'd like to see)?
Mark Crispin Miller: The states will do what their residents demand they do. if the demand is long and loud enough. HAVA, furthermore, should be repealed ASAP.
SteppingRazor: I haven't read the book -- yet -- but from what I understand... you rely fairly heavily on anecdotal evidence, which -- while certain to stir the proper response -- doesn't carry much weight in scientific or (more importantly) legal analysis.
I ran into the same problem while looking into the 2000 election here in Florida -- plenty of people willing to talk, but little direct evidence of willful manipulation.
My question is, do you believe that, if given to a prosecutor with subpoena power, real evidence not relying on circumstance or anecdote could be found, such that either this administration and/or the leaders of the Republican Party could be held criminally liable? If so, what would it mean for both parties in the long term (the short term conclusions being fairly obvious)?
In other words, if taken into the ostensibly objective realm of the courtroom, could this dog hunt?
Mark Crispin Miller: I have far more than anecdotal evidence, which, as you note, works better in a narrative composed for broad consumption than it would in court. If you'd like a good example of non-anecdotal evidence, please let me recommend the section of the book that deals with Sproul and Associates. There is solid evidence of fraud committed by the GOP預nd also evidence of a bald effort by the party to conceal all trace of that wrongdoing.
Fly by night: A few more questions. But first, thanks kindly for all you do. I would like to know your impressions of how your piece has been received, both among other journalists and among the general public. Any feel for the impact on sales of Harper's at the newsstand, LTTEs or hits on Harper's and your web-sites. (I'm trying to gauge the legs of this story.)
What evidence from other states besides Ohio (or the behavior of the Rethugs in Congress and elsewhere) during and after the election confirms your suspicions that the election was stolen.
What are your reactions to the recent piece o' shit article in Mother Jones or the older piece o' shit article in TomPaine which dismissed the election fraud evidence.
Why do you believe there is still such resistance (even among progressives) to acknowledging that our elections are being stolen these days?
Any responses to any of these questions would be appreciated. Thanks again from Tennessee. We're not a red state or a blue state -- we're an Orange State.
Mark Crispin Miller: That issue of Harper's broke a lot of records for newsstand sales. It sold more than any prior issue since the one that published Norman Mailer's Prisoner of Sex in 1972, and may well have outsold that one too. (We don't know yet.) In any case, the response was exhilarating.
The evidence of nationwide vote theft is vast. It's in the book. (In large part, it IS the book.)
I was disappointed in Mark Hertsgaard's piece覧especially as he's a friend of mine, and generally a very good reporter. He really blew it there. For one thing, my book is not based largely on the Conyers Report: a characterization that implies that my focus is Ohio. In fact, I devote only ten pages to the Conyers Report, and another five to scandals in Ohio NOT discussed by Conyers et al. The book is nearly 300 pages long, with copious evidence from many states. And more generally, Mark's piece badly distorted not just my book but the Conyers Report (WHAT WENT WRONG IN OHIO?) and the excellent compilation of documents put together by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman (DID GEORGE W. BUSH STEAL THE ELECTION IN 2004?). The evidence speaks for itself. I wish that Mark had worked a little harder on that piece.
The resistance is based partly on corruption, in some cases, and careerism, and very largely on denial. The implications of the theft last year are very grave. Better to deny them categorically.
The whole red state/blue state dichotomy is pure crapola.
ms liberty: Hi Mark! Thanks for chatting with us... The GAO report on miselection 04 came out last week to virtual silence from the main stream media, but BushCo is (finally) getting a more critical look from them, thanks to Mr. Fitzgerald. Isn't this the perfect time to push this issue, with this corrupt regime already vulnerable? How can we get this issue more attention from the MSM?
Are you going to be on The Daily Show, or do you have any MSM interviews scheduled? What I would really enjoy is to see you on Washington Journal!
Loved the Dyslexicon, and Cruel and Unusual. I'm looking forward to reading your new one!
Anything you can do to help us save Marc Maron is REALLY appreciated!
Mark Crispin Miller: These questions are terrific I wish I had the time to answer all of them in detail!
The GAO report is an important document. The press's silence on it is appalling, and, I'm afraid, revealing.
The Daily Show said they would have me on if a relevant "big story" should break sometime soon. I'm not sure what that means. The GAO report is such a story, except that, as you noticed, it was not a story. So what would such a story be, I wonder? Anyway, I'd love to be invited on. (Feel free to pester them on my behalf!) I think the MSM will be a tough sell for this book, although not as tough as it was a few months ago. The Florida Sun-Sentinel gave me a pretty good review, and I got good reviews as well in Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. The peoples at Basic Books are working overtime to get the word out, so we'll see.
readmoreoften: Professor Miller, There are SO MANY wildly outrageous events occuring simultaneously-- the death of our democracy through stolen elections, the prospect of never-ending war, an unprotected and abused labor force (yes, I will be striking next week), the normalization of torture and rape, the loss of civil liberties, the suspicion surrounding the Bush Adminstration's culpability in 9-11-- why is the public so RESOUNDINGLY SILENT? I believe this resounding silence would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.
I went to the World Can't Wait rally at Union Square yesterday and I was perplexed at that so few New Yorkers were willing to take to the streets to protest this regime. As undergrads in the late 80s/early 90s, we occupied the administration building because of a slight increase in tuition for low-income students. At this point, I swear I can't imagine undergraduates taking action to stop a college administration from forcing low income students to sell their organs to pay for tuition.
It seems to be more than just a chilling effect. We are living in a media bubble-- a bubble of disinformation. As a people under undemocratic rule, who currently have no ability to manage or confront our mediated environment... how can we cut through the apathy? how do we debrief our fellow Americans? how do we address the fact that even those who are critical of the Bush administration will not confront the gravity of the situation?
Do you have any ideas on how to burst the media bubble?
Can you share with us any particular strategies you have used to cut through normally thoughtful people's overwhelming desire to pull the covers over heads and go back to bed?
And thank you for signing the faculty democracy statement in support of TA's freedom to strike!
Mark Crispin Miller: It isn't necessarily apathy. Discontent is more widespread than we are generally led to think. BushCo's popularity among the military, for example, and among military families, is not at all impressive; and he has lost a lot of ground even among his own erstwhile constituents. His current "STRONG approval" rating is now around 22%, with a four-point margin of error, which means that it could be as low as 18%覧the same percentage of Americans who did not disapprove of how Bush/Cheney and their Congress tried to meddle in the Terri Schiavo case.
We tend to think of many of our fellow-citizens as apathetic because, let's face it, we too live inside "the media bubble," which represents us to ourselves (and to the whole wide world) as far less discontented than we really are.
Now, it is surely true that people should be more than discontented. They should be actively protesting and resisting. (Although there too the media tunes out what protest and resistance HAS welled up.) On the other hand, the system has radically depoliticized us, training us to watch and, if we can afford it, shop, and little else. We've therefore long since lost our civic virtue, and the necessary habit of saying NO when things become oppressive.
Just remember that the situation is a lot more fluid, and potentially explosive, than it appears to be on CNN and in the New York Times. The elites have fallen out with one another覧a clash that now provides us with a most important opportunity to say things that have been verboten for too long. The iron is hot. It's therefore crucial that we not despair, or paralyze ourselves with undue worries vis-a-vis the seeming or alleged indifference of "the masses."
DUBYASCREWEDUS: I live in Cleveland, Ohio - Land of Blackwell the Evil. I know he stole the 2004 election. How can we - as ordinary citizens - stop them from doing it again? Are you familiar with State Issues 2, 3, 4 and 5? We have been receiving conflicting views on whether or not to vote for them. Do you know of them, and if so, do you have an opinion?
Mark Crispin Miller: I don't know about those issues. What do Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman say? Free Press is terrific. I trust them all implicitly re: all electoral issues in Ohio.
Bill Bored: Why do you favor Early Voting? You say we should "extend the voting period to, say, a week." If we are concerned about security, early voting is not advisable. The longer the machines are available to accept votes, the greater the temptation and opportunity to screw around with them. Also, early voting gives any potential fraudster the knowledge of how the election is going so that vote rigging can be targeted to areas on election day in which the early results were "disappointing" and in need of reversal. Wouldn't it be safer/better to have an Election Day holiday to allow everyone to get to the polls?
Mark Crispin Miller: I don't think we should be using those machines.
althecat: Hi Mark.... Alastair from Scoop NZ here.... I will have to buy your book ASAP. And am delighted you have decided to come and chat here in DU.
Is Volusia County in the book?
I was always very disappointed after we followed up your story (Diebold Memos Disclose Florida 2000 E-Voting Fraud) that Dana Millbank didn't go back and dig a bit deeper into this. For me I thought this discovery was a bit of a breakthrough in terms of indicating that fraud had quite probably occurred at a fairly high level in the 2000 election.
P.S. I will have a scout around the thread to figure out the best place to buy the book.
Mark Crispin Miller: Alastair, I'm honored by your praise. Scoop.co.nz is indispensable! 1,000 thanks.
Yes, in Fooled Again I do deal with Volusia County容specially with the fact that Fox News called the race for Bush just at that moment when those 16,000+ Democratic votes had temporarily zipped down the rabbit hole.
You can get the book from my own blog, at markcrispinmiller.com, or from Buzzflash.