March 18, 2003
Janeane Garofalo, Concerned American Citizen and Patriot
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW, Part I of II
Janeane Garofalo is a concerned American citizen and an impassioned opponent of the Iraq war. She represents the views of many American patriots who feel that the war against Iraq is more about the self-serving politics of the Bush administration than it is about fighting terrorism.
Janeane walks the walk; she doesn't just talk the talk. She attends marches, vigils and rallies -- most recently she joined the Code Pink rally in Washington, D.C. -- sometimes as a speaker, but more often just as a concerned American. She told BuzzFlash.com that she has trouble sleeping at night because of frustration and anger over the "perfect" political war that will take thousands of lives.
Janeane talked with BuzzFlash.com on March 13th.
Oh, by the way, Janeane, when she is not speaking out for peace, is an actress and comedian. But she is a concerned American citizen and patriot first.
Here is the BuzzFlash.Com interview with Janeane Garofalo.
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BUZZFLASH: Let me start by asking you -- I reviewed a transcript of you on Crossfire with Tucker Carlson. And you said, "I feel like the American people are being lied to and manipulated. He's trying to force 9/11 and Saddam together," meaning Bush. What did you mean by that?
JANEANE GAROFALO: Prior to that Friday's Crossfire was the press conference that George W. Bush had regarding the incursion into Iraq. And he mentioned Iraq and/or Saddam in the same sentence with 9/11 multiple times. Now there's no evidence linking Saddam and Iraq to 9/11, or if there is evidence, we have not been given it yet. So I feel like what the President was trying to do at that time was force a connection upon the people viewing the broadcast so that you kind of blur the lines between al-Qaeda and their participation in 9/11, the Saudis and their participation in 9/11, or any other people that might have participated in 9/11.
And he's foisting it all on Saddam Hussein and Iraq, so that you assume that Iraq and Saddam are behind 9/11, and, therefore, we must go into Iraq. He was manipulating the American people's opinions. As of right now, there's been no case made for war in Iraq. I don't think that there's been any convincing evidence that makes it believable that Saddam Hussein is an immediate and direct threat to the American people. And I don't think there's any evidence indicating that the Iraqi people had anything to do with the hijacking of the planes that were flown into the buildings on 9/11.
BUZZFLASH: Well, you make a good point. And we pointed this out in BuzzFlash many times -- according to polls, a large number, if not a majority of Americans, believe that Iraqis were actually the hijackers of the planes. And the administration has certainly done nothing to discourage that thought.
Let's say the information was out there that Saddam Hussein was not the person who financed 9/11. It seems, if anything, the Saudis did -- or at least had a role in it -- and that the hijackers were not Iraqi. The anthrax, which at one point the President tried to pin on Saddam Hussein after it first happened, was from America, our own military.
GAROFALO: Right. It was from America, and the British dossier that Colin Powell utilized was bogus. And also, some of the evidence that they say that Hussein Kamal -- who has since gone on to be killed by Saddam Hussein -- has regarding Saddam's arsenal of weapons, they always neglect to say that Kamal, in his testimonials, has said the weapons have been destroyed. They always conveniently cut out his testimony that he gave awhile back. There are many holes in the case that they make for war that are consistently underreported, or kind of cavalierly swept to the side.
You know, I always say that if you want a war, then the case for war has been made. If you don't want a war, it hasn't been made. It's very, very hard to convince hawks otherwise, and it's very, very hard to convince doves otherwise. So I sort of resent personally, as a citizen, being manipulated when the hawks in the administration continually claim that Saddam is the biggest threat we face in the world today, and Saddam threatens the overwhelming military might of America.
I find that hard to believe, especially since Iraq doesn't even seem to be able to defend itself against the bombings they've been sustaining over the last 10 to 12 years in the no-fly zones. There's been an Anglo-American war on Iraq for many, many years. There's been great suffering by the Iraqi people who are caught between Saddam Hussein and the sanctions. They are absolutely the biggest losers in all of this -- I don't mean "loser" like disparaging loser; I'm saying loser in that they are suffering so greatly under the tyranny of Saddam Hussein and the tyranny of the sanctions. They've also suffered from the first war, and they're going to suffer even more in the second war, with the overwhelming "shock and awe" plan put forth by the Pentagon.
And I think there's a lot of skepticism worldwide about the motives of this incursion into Iraq. I don't think people are buying the fact that it's for human rights and it's for democracy, because the American government is traditionally very inconsistent on who it chooses to cite for violations of human rights. And it picks and chooses, you know, when it wants to get tough with people.
And what also bothers me is when people keep saying: He's had 12 years -- Resolution 1441. Now, a lot of these people who keep complaining about that don't even know about Resolution 687, and won't even admit to the fact that they haven't even been thinking about Saddam Hussein for the last 10 years. Like on these radio shows that I do -- you have people calling in and saying: He's had all this time, and he's playing cat and mouse -- and all this kind of stuff.
And then if you say to them: So, you've been on pins and needles for the last 12 years about this threat that Saddam Hussein poses to your life? You've been on the edge of your seat for the last 12 years, worrying about Saddam Hussein and his violations of 687 and 1441? And of course, they have not. And during Operation Desert Fox under Bill Clinton -- which I protested, by the way -- very few people were even talking about that at the time. I don't think anybody has felt a threat from Saddam Hussein for many, many years, and there's a reason for that.
BUZZFLASH: Well, let's back up a second. We've talked about, and you've
emphasized, that the Bush administration is giving misinformation to
the public and promoting an idea that the Iraqis were much more involved
in 9/11 than they were, among other falsehoods that have been peddled.
Polls have shown that Americans would support a war if the U.N. supported
it. In Britain, there's less than 20 percent support for the war. Is
it safe to assume that you think if Americans were given accurate information,
that perhaps in America, we would have less than 20 or 30 percent who
would be supporting the war?
You have a lot of people out there who are just straight-up bullies and thugs, no matter what. But if they can hide behind the flag and pretend to have the moral high ground, they are in hog heaven. They are absolutely thrilled that they can take their misguided anger, and their xenophobia, and their aggressiveness, and their belligerence, and hide behind the flag and Jesus, that is fantastic. You have a lot of right-wingers out there, and just a lot of nuts out there anyway, regardless of party affiliation or right or left affiliation, who are always eager to swing their fists and wave the flag at the same time. So that's always going to be there. That's not going to shift.
BUZZFLASH: Well, you bring up a point that we've harped upon, which is that often people who are opposed to this war or were opposed to the Vietnam War are accused by the right of not being patriotic and undercutting the troops. And our point on BuzzFlash has been, well, quite to the contrary: We're trying to save the lives of the troops, and we do support them.
GAROFALO: Right. We're trying to keep them alive.
BUZZFLASH: Why is it that people who are on our side get defensive about this? And we tend to shy away from that argument. It seems that it is the right wing who wrap themselves in the flag and say "You're against our troops" -- that's not true at all.
GAROFALO: Well, the intellectuals on the right know that it's not true; they're not stupid. There are certainly a lot of intellectuals on the right. I'm not taking that away from them, and there are certainly a lot of hawks that are intellectual people, intelligent people -- I'm not talking about them. And the intellectuals on the right who have reasoning for going to war -- that makes sense to a lot of people. I don't totally disagree with everything some people on the right say, especially if they give you a well-reasoned and adult argument about it. That's fine. The intellectuals who make that accusation, they don't even believe it. But it's a great way to shut people up.
BUZZFLASH: Why do we shut up? Why does the left tend to shut up?
GAROFALO: Well, it doesn't shut me up anymore. It's a bully tactic, a tactic that thugs use, and it shows a hostility to debate and an unwillingness to have an intellectual discussion. So it's just a great way to shut things down. It's a tried-and-true tactic. Like, "You must love Saddam." And that's just a person who is incapable of sustaining more than one idea at the same time. It shows the paucity of brainpower, it's ridiculous.
Like I said, a lot of people who like to wrap themselves in the flag, hide behind Jesus, and be aggressive -- some of those people are not intellectual powerhouses. So that's why they cleave into very us-vs.-them, black-and-white visions of the world. They have an almost pridefully parochial worldview and a Darwinian philosophy that these times of war serve them very well.
And then there's also the type of person -- this happens all the time, in all the hate mail that I get -- who make the false claim of, "I am the wife of a military man. And my daughter or son is on the ground in Iraq right now." First of all, eight times out of 10, I don't buy it. How they shoot themselves in the foot is when you get further into it with them, or you read on, they know very little about the military, American foreign policy, and all kinds of information that anybody in a military family would probably know. They sometimes even say "Iran" instead of "Iraq."
Unfortunately, freaks come out on both sides, on the left and the right. But unfortunately the "bullies" from the right sometimes are actually dangerous individuals. They are so filled with a combination of hate and lack of information that it makes them dangerous. And then, unfortunately, you have certain media outlets who sort of tacitly encourage that kind of nonsense -- things like the New York Post, which is a great paper if you love erroneous gossip and sports. Okay, it's fantastic if you like both those things. They tend to do things like the "Axis of Weasels" front cover, which is embarrassing. But the type of person who likes to swing their fist, run their mouth, and hide behind the flag loves it.
Now there's some good reporting that goes on in the New York Post. But it's the same thing with Fox News. And now MSNBC hiring Mike Savage: What is the point of some of the really aggressive rhetoric, and the really disparaging rhetoric, saying the U.N. is irrelevant, the French are weasels. Where does that get us? How are they serving the public? How is it that they are informing the public, being custodians of fact, and watch dogging the government?
They're doing none of those three things. But what they are doing is inflaming a certain element in our culture that likes their news sort of devoid of nuanced perspective and authentic discussion about a topic. It's a problem, but I would assume that people who are serious about their news seek their news elsewhere.
BUZZFLASH: Are you able to make comedy out of this? You're so impassioned about the horror of what's going on.
GAROFALO: Yes and no. As a stand-up comic, I'm able to do it in certain areas. But lately, this has become so serious to me, and this is so alarming and important to me, that it's very hard to find the humor in it anymore. Now that we are possibly 10 to 15 days from war, I find nothing funny, you know what I mean? Almost nothing.
BUZZFLASH: Not even "freedom fries"?
GAROFALO: Freedom fries is so alarming to me and so despicable. Again, that's the same thing like "Axis of Weasels" on the cover of the New York Post. It's as embarrassing as that to me. The freedom fries -- what's the guy's name here from the freedom fries? I have it here [rattling newspaper] ‘cause you don't want to miss an opportunity to get this guy's name.
BUZZFLASH: Is he going to be in your act?
GAROFALO: I don't know. Like I said, I don't really enjoy doing stand-up at the moment because of it. But who's the Republican representative who came up with freedom fries?
BUZZFLASH: Oh, Bob Ney, is it?
GAROFALO: Yes, Ney. Again, for thinking individuals, this is embarrassing. This is no time for that kind of nonsense. We really can't be catering to the bullies, the thugs and the childlike mentality that can come to fore at these times.
And then, if you want to get into the news spending an inordinate amount of time bashing celebrities: Again, what is the point? First of all, don't book them; that's the first step. What happened is it's a real problem for my participation as a person who has chosen entertainment as a career -- and the word "celebrity" is so off-putting and hateful -- nobody in the entertainment business refers themselves as celebrity, first of all, but --
BUZZFLASH: Well, Roger Ebert, I recall, defined a celebrity as someone who is known for being famous.
GAROFALO: I guess. But you know, there's so many millions of people in the anti-war movement. A handful of them have chosen entertainment for a career. And the reason that Win Without War -- the group that I'm affiliated with -- put forth like the five or six actors that are in there is because the anti-war movement was huge, and vast, and widespread, and mainstream right after 9/11, in a way, and then it really ramped up after all the civilian casualties in Afghanistan that went unreported, and after it was clear that the War on Terrorism has been hijacked, and is becoming the war on Saddam Hussein.
The movement was growing and getting almost no media attention. So then Tom Andrews, who founded Win Without War, said, "Look, regrettably, it looks like we're going to have to call in the actor chip here." And then he contacted some of the actors that are in Win Without War and said, "Would you be willing to have a press conference and go on the news and discuss the anti-war movement?" knowing full well it would marginalized, mocked and all that. But we figured: Can we open the debate? So a handful of us said yes, we'll do it. And we did it. And, of course, the media did what you would expect they would do -- marginalize the anti-war movement and make fun of celebrities. But then again, holding celebrities who are pro-war as heroes -- i.e., Bruce Willis, or country and western acts with --
BUZZFLASH: Charlie Daniels?
GAROFALO: -- with those horribly unexamined, pseudo-patriotic songs. They are heroes, right? Nobody ever says: Why should we listen to Bruce Willis? Why should we listen to Charlie Daniels? Nobody ever says that. They only hold the feet to the fire of those that are opposed to the war. And they ask questions of people opposed to the war that they wouldn't even ask the President.
BUZZFLASH: Well, they don't ask the President anything meaningful.
GAROFALO: Right, they don't. You know, he didn't pick on Helen Thomas at the last press conference.
BUZZFLASH: No, they put her in the last row.
GAROFALO: Right. They did surgically attach that woman who asked about prayer, which was just absurd. You know, they'll talk to Bob Jones about the war, and ask him harder questions than they'll ask the President of the United States. And then there's also this thing like, well, what do you actors know about foreign policy? Well, actors know, I guess, as much about it as any citizen who takes the time to educate themselves about foreign policy. This is the information age. You can get a lot of information from the Internet, the library, bookstores, massive amounts of newspapers, radio, satellite dish, international news. You can accrue massive amounts of information and form a critical opinion about it. So to say that just because your occupation is not within the Beltway you have no First Amendment rights is absurd. That would be like saying nobody in the plumbing industry can speak out. Nobody in landscaping can speak out.
BUZZFLASH: Well, no one bothered to ask what Ronald Reagan's qualities were to be governor of California when the right wing financed him to run.
GAROFALO: Actually, oddly enough, they did. And that's where the ramping up of the so-called liberal media bashing came from. Back when Reagan was running, and not just for governor, but for president, there were many, many questions about his suitability to the task. And many questions about how can this actor proclaim to know anything.
One of the strategies the Republicans utilized to combat that was a "liberal media conspiracy" out to downplay their candidate. And boy, did it work. And it's been working for a very long time -- this myth that there's a liberal media, which is hilarious. What liberal media are they referring to -- The Nation and Mother Jones?
Ann Coulter and Bernie Goldberg can write all the unsourced and poorly researched books they want to. But I think that everybody knows, whether they want to admit it or not, there is no liberal media.
BUZZFLASH: What has happened in this country when, in terms of media -- and you mentioned Michael Savage -- you have people like Ann Coulter saying we should shoot a liberal to "make an example." Laura Ingraham saying the next time there's a hijacked plane, I'm going to guide ‘em into The New York Times building.
GAROFALO: But see, they're allowed to say that with impunity. You can never say that's all anti-American rhetoric. It's anti-Democratic rhetoric.
BUZZFLASH: Isn't that inciting terrorism?
GAROFALO: It is inciting the bullies and thugs in this country. It's not outright saying go out and beat up an Arab. But what you're sort of doing -- it's like CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Committee. At their recent gathering -- I believe it was in Virginia -- the keynote speakers were Dick Cheney and Katherine Harris, and they sold bumper stickers that said, "No Muslims, no terror." And they get away with this nonsense.
In the ranks of some of these very conservative or right-wing groups, not everybody's a bad person or anti-intellectual -- but what those kind of groups cater toward is people with sociopathic tendencies. There are things that people like Ann Coulter say, and things that people like Rush Limbaugh say, and Mike Savage, that are straight-up sociopathic, straight-up racist, straight-up sexist. And all of this stuff gets wrapped in the flag.
BUZZFLASH: But to say to kill a liberal -- I mean, which Ann Coulter said --shouldn't this be outside of the pale of discourse?
GAROFALO: Well, the level of discourse in this country has been so degraded. But I don't think any thinking person takes Ann Coulter seriously. But the point is it's still dangerous talk, because it reaches the most unsophisticated elements of our culture.
BUZZFLASH: But when she said, after 9/11, that we should go to the Middle East and Christianize it, that's not very far from George Bush's crusade.
GAROFALO: At least he's somewhat more tactful than she is. But, you know, also, she's an entertainer. These people won't really want to admit it, unless, of course, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting holds their feet to the fire, or the NAACP, or the National Organization of Women -- once those people come down on them, then they wink at the camera and say, "I'm an entertainer." But then when they're preaching to their constituents, to their audience, they pretend that they are a reliable source of information.
But the level of discourse is so degraded in this country, as is evidenced by MSNBC's hiring of Mike Savage. And they feel that they fully exercise their First Amendment rights, but they seek to take them away from others. Or if anybody criticizes them, they come out swinging. They cannot stand it when people criticize them, even though they enjoy the full scope of First Amendment rights every day in the work that they do. But they will not tolerate criticism coming from elsewhere against them.
BUZZFLASH: When you're on television, when you're on with Tucker Carlson, for instance, you're poised. You're more restrained than you are in this conversation right now. You understand the television medium.
GAROFALO: That's not how it's categorized in some of these conservative media outlets. They categorize me as shooting off my mouth, being a conspiracy theorist, being fanciful, and being outrageous and controversial. And, unfortunately, for most of the people who don't watch me on these shows, all they know is what it's been categorized as. And then this myth is perpetuated that I'm some kind of a weirdo loose cannon.
The only time I've ever lost my cool is on Fox and Friends -- this alleged morning news show on Fox. One of the first things one of the morning crew said to me was, "Boy, Saddam must love you." I'm not going to put up with that shit. I don't need to take that on a television program. You booked me, and you have a choice: You can either respect the guests you book, or book a guest you can respect. But I'm not going to come on there and have you make such an inflammatory statement. So I lost my cool. And then, of course, Fox News has run that clip ad nauseum as if it doesn't embarrass them.
BUZZFLASH: Well, they're beyond embarrassment.
GAROFALO: They're under the impression that makes them look good. I love The Onion, and there was this newspiece in last week's Onion; it had a picture of Sean Hannity and then it says: Fox News reporters ask the questions other reporters are too smart to ask, which I thought was so funny. But, you know, not everybody on Fox is reprehensible in that way. I've had some good interviews on Fox. I enjoyed the Bill O'Reilly interview and I enjoyed the Tony Snow interview. But other than that, they keep celebrity bashing, which is a waste of everyone's time. And they keep accusing people in the anti-war movement of being some kind of wing nuts. Now how does that serve their audience? It doesn't. It doesn't get us anywhere.
BUZZFLASH: Well, what has happened? We interviewed Naomi Klein about three months ago, and, of course, she's an expert on branding and marketing. And she's talked very much about how basically war has become a branded product -- on television, CNN has its own logo and image for Iraq. The war is basically another product that's being marketed, particularly by the cable stations, but basically by all of television, with an inevitability and excitement about it.
How does one begin to counteract it? You're on there. You're doing your part. We on BuzzFlash, when we really want the truth, most of the time we go to the Guardian or the Observer or European papers. It's very hard, even with the Washington Post and the New York Times, to get an accurate reflection of what's taking place. For instance, the cable about the U.S. buying in the U.N. votes came through the London, not through the American ...
GAROFALO: Yeah, and the wiretapping. That's amazing how that story's not touched. You know, actually you get it on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now. You get some great news from her. You can listen to other radio news outlets, and then you can read things like The Nation or Progressive, Mother Jones, In These Times, BuzzFlash, Salon.com. You have to go elsewhere to gather information. Now why there wouldn't be coverage of the spying, I have no idea.
BUZZFLASH: Well, probably because it undercuts the message about war.
GAROFALO: You know what else that has been totally ignored is the group Peaceful Tomorrow, which is 9/11 families for peace. I'm not sure how many families are in it, but the media almost never wants to deal with them because it undercuts what the hawks are trying to do, because they want to pretend that they're doing this for the sake of the 9/11 families. They want to make it seem like it's a bunch of left-wing communists in the anti-war movement or whatever silly thing they're saying.
Some of the 9/11 families who've put themselves forward to be on television to be interviewed have not really received much interest. There are plenty of people in the anti-war movement that are credible, respectful sources, but they want to concentrate on the actors because they know people don't respect their opinions. So it's a strange thing.
When you think about the mainstream media, if you're a thinking person, it'll always break your heart. But having been really in the midst of it, and talking to people who work behind the scenes, and trying to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes, it'll really disturb you if you allow yourself to understand what's being kept from you, how the news is presented, and about the news cycles.
Right now, Elizabeth Smart has been found, which is fantastic. Everybody's pleased that that little girl has been found, and everybody's pleased to see that she's home. Now the news will seize on that and they will be concentrating on Elizabeth Smart for a very long time, like they did with Lacey Peterson and things of that nature, or Winona Ryder's shoplifting.
The news will examine the story from every single angle. They will ask every question, bring every expert in, every everything, and figure out every possible aspect of the Lacey Peterson case or the Elizabeth Smart case, or the Winona Ryder case. You will know more about that than you will about what's going on in Iraq. And that's very sad. Even though they spend tons and tons of time on Iraq, you really have a very limited scope of what they will discuss and what they won't.
End of Part I of BuzzFlash's interview with Janeane Garofalo. Click here for Part II.
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
otherwise noted, all original