Today Farrell, Tomorrow Obama: A Proposal for Nonviolent Action Across the Country

Special note: The veracity of the bookstore scenario below is not important whatsoever. The thrust of the piece, its message, its argument, that should be embraced… and acted upon. — ROx.


“I don’t always agree with Chomsky either, but this isn’t about his opinion. You, on the other hand, have never taken a word of Chomsky seriously, that’s why you couldn’t possibly agree, Mike. More importantly, you’re not about to ‘debate’ anyone. You’ve got the lecturn, and it’s a fitting scenario for you and your purposes, your being able to cut off anything disturbring at the knees when you want, make a lone dissenter in the crowd appear like a crackpot… with a few safe, choice words at a distance. Well, not tonight Mr. Human Rights Farrell. No, this evening our well-calculated solidarity will prevent you from isolating me as a nutcase in your audience, a rogue drop-in who is to be used as the butt of humor, or silly comic relief… like something out of your overrated M*A*S*H.” — A few thoughts which ran through the author’s mind on June 15th as Mike Farrell said, “I don’t always agree with Chomsky.” (See below.)

Mike Farrell (from the ever popular TV series M*A*S*H*) presents himself as an advocate of Human Rights, and as a spokesperson for Death Penalty in Focus. See He’s also a huge supporter of Obama, somehow reconciling the use of torture, predator drones and the like with his activist profile.

He was recently chosen as the LA Times “Person of the Year,” and he does a lot of damage as he speaks across the country, compounding ignorance with ignorance… doing his very best to keep Obama’s hypnotic effect on citizens going.

At a recent speaking appearance (while on tour to plug his latest book Of Mule and Man) at the Capitola Book Cafe in Santa Cruz, California, my friends and I showed up to… show up the liberal-in-excellent-standing. And I delineate part of the evening here for the purposes of suggesting what the reader and less than a handful of locals anywhere (at any bookstore*) can do to counteract The Obama Effect, the perpetuation of American Empire. Without money, with very little effort… helping people to self-educate.

We were fortunate that Farrell didn’t plan to drone on and on about his new book, but instead invited members of the audience to participate in a Q&A immediately… asking everyone to chime in with anything that was on their minds about activism, etc.

It was an ideal setting for our purposes. There was a huge turnout… of brainwashed liberals, and we were going to be able to undermine Farrell’s preaching to the choir, a choir which has been singing the praises of American abominations, keeping them afloat. Our group of six spread ourselves out to four corners of the audience and the middle… so that we didn’t appear to be together.

After his first verbal stroke on behalf of Obama, I chimed in:

“Hi, Mike. How can you reconcile what Obama is doing vis-a-vis torture these days with your human rights work?”

“You’re saying that Obama’s administration is torturing people?”

“Yes, Mike, according to an article this month by Noam Chomsky.”

“Oh, I don’t always agree with Noam Chomsky. And I’m not going to debate Chomsky… with a proxy. I’m still glad I cast my vote for him.

“Your vote is not in question here, Mike. Obama’s actions and sins of omission are, and your embracing them.”

Giggles from the audience mixed with a couple of claps. And a feeble “Yes, we can.”

Then one of my buddies got called on:

“Hey, Mike… William Blum, Paul Street and Jeremy Scahill… and a lot of others… have also documented the fact that Obama has upped the ante with torture.”

“I’d have to see that documentation.”

“Well, you… or anyone here… are welcome to see me after your presentation… for a copy of my sources.”

The audience was beginning to become a bit uncomfortable. As was Mike.

When he invoked the name of Richard Holbrooke in the context of providing some possible “hope” in the Middle East, another one of our group was able to chip in:

“Jeez, Mike… don’t you know about Holbrooke’s support of atrocities in Indonesia and elsewhere? His relationship to Neo-Con Paul Wolfowitz?

The exchange which ensued between Mike and my buddy was quite embarrassing for Mr. M*A*S*H, my buddy making hash out of feeble responses. And at this juncture the room was restless, beginning to take on the feeling of a crowded elevator filling with farts.

Other questions we asked:

“How do you reconcile Obama’s praise of Reagan with your comments about being horrified — on your visits there — at what he did in Central America, Mike?”

“What was your reaction to Obama coming out for the death penalty and supporting limited compensation for Exxon Valdez victims as per a Supreme Court Decision during his campaign?”

“How can you support Obama’s appointment of the psychopath General McChrystal on the battlefield?”

“You read Thomas L. Friedman regularly… and actually take him seriously?”

After one of our group brought up the inconsistency of Obama waxing and waning poetic in Cairo on human rights and omitting any criticism of Hosni Mubarak, Mr. Farrell chose not to call on any of us for the duration of his — to put it mildly — stressful evening

However, someone not in our group — possibly emboldened by our dialogue — did manage to question Farrell about his love of Jimmy Carter before the doors closed. “How can you talk glowingly of the Peanut Farmer, Mike, considering his support of Savak and his treatment of Archbishop Romero? And that — that bringing someone out of the woodwork — was quite a lift for all of us.

I won’t go on because my little group is preparing to confront another speaker who’s slated to come to town, and they need me to help recruit some new faces… so that the bookstore* doesn’t turn us all away at the doors tomorrow night.

*Why do “independent” bookstores invite such speakers? It begs the question “What are they independent of?”. Not the bottom line, certainly.

I trust that the reader will get the main point here.

That is, this kind of modest effort to disrupt the flow of liberal reinforcement of the status quo is valuable. It creates solidarity, unmasks influential figures (who use “activism” for self-serving purposes), offers sources for self-education to the public, and inspires the growth of other creative approaches to pushing change, I believe. Oh yes, and it’s better entertainment than M*A*S*H.

There are a lot of people like Mike Farrell out there making the rounds, and Obama can’t continue as easily with his Imperial Agenda without them.

You can confront them. We can make a difference.

Five audience members out of an assembled group of fifty+ sought out one or another of our group before leaving the bookstore. To inquire about our sources.

Imagine, if you will, about 10% of the (remaining) unenlightened public doing the same.

At one point, Mike acknowledged that he was “preaching to the choir,” but that such encounters were worthwhile. I disagree wholeheartedly. For preaching to what Farrell labels as the choir produces no music whatsoever. Not to my ear. Rather, it leads to communal mental masturbation, spilling precious fluids… so that it is impossible to give birth to what is now needed.

Richard Oxman can be reached at He asks the reader to consider that the above only focuses on a small aspect of Obama’s Human Rights atrocities. See Joshua Frank’s and/or Anthony Arnove’s for a decent general introduction to why Obama should be opposed, his enablers deconstructed. See …and explain to me how you can not act in solidarity with me, not at least (minimally?) try to confront the likes of Mike Farrell and all that he props up.
P.S. Just noticed that even mainstream publications like Harper’s are featuring articles like Luke Mitchell’s We Still Torture: The new evidence from Guantanamo. One doesn’t have to embrace this particular proposal (or me), but surely you can try something you… aren’t… doing… at… present.