Reflections on “March for our Lives” by Gary Kohls

There are powerful entities that are natural opponents of any peace movement. These natural enemies of peace and justice movements are very powerful, very wealthy, very well-connected, very secretive and very corporate.

Anti-War Rally at the Duluth Courthouse (March 8, 2003)

Fifteen years ago, on January 25, 2003, 1,500 Duluth-area, anti-war activists participated in a downtown march and rally at the Civic Center, protesting what the George W. Bush administration and his allies in the right-wing, pro-war Project for the New American Century (google it) promised to be the start of an endless series of senseless, illegal, unaffordable and perpetual wars for empire and resource acquisition in the Middle East.

Six weeks later, on March 8, 2003, sensing an increased urgency that was well-understood by the entire peace-loving world, 1,400 Duluth-area altruistic activists participated in another Civic Center rally against the promised war.   Despite what the vast majority of Americans and the world were protesting against, the small minority of mostly unelected, pro-war ruling elites ordered the “Shock and Awe” invasion to proceed on March 19, 2003. Simultaneously, a cunningly well-orchestrated, 24/7 pro-war media blitz began that totally excluded any rational or anti-war voices. Many pro-war retired generals made a lot of money doing their part trying to justify what was unjustifiable and glorifying what was distinctly inglorious.

The pro-war propaganda worked as predicted and the voices trying to point out the horrors of organized, mass homicidal violence that is inherent in war were silenced. And the easily-manipulatable “village idiot” in the White House soon had his favorability rating jump from a partisan 35+% to an astonishing 80+ percent!   Disregarding the intra-war, blindered, “My Country Right or Wrong” pseudo-patriotic flag-waving, Duluth’s peacemakers nevertheless persisted and bravely staged a third protest on April 5, 2003. 350 Duluthians attended the solemn Canal Park event. To my knowledge, none of the TV stations, nor the Duluth News-Tribune covered the last one. That last gathering had been organized not just to protest the start of the war, but also to mourn the victims of war and the illegality of yet another child-killing American Expeditionary Force invasion against yet another third-rate military in yet another sovereign, relatively defenseless third world nation that was full of innocent children and babies who were about to be terrorized, mutilated and/or killed by America’s high tech weaponry There was a palpable sense of shame among many of us for being citizens of a nation whose military was proudly committing war crimes in a senseless war.

I proudly attended all three protests that winter and even played a minor role in the planning and promotion of the events. I recall getting choked up with emotion at times because I was a part of a large, world-wide group of peace-loving humanitarians who were expressing their ethical opposition to homicidal violence of all kinds.

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The Red Lake, Minnesota school shooting wasn’t going to happen for another 2 years (March 21, 2005), so school shootings were not yet on Duluth’s radar. We anti-war protestors were only thinking about what could be done about the mass slaughter of innocent foreigners in a faraway war zone. Domestic gun violence was far from our minds. (Read my column about the Red Lake school shooting.)

The ”March for our Lives” Anti-Gun Violence Movement

Last Saturday, March 24, 2018, I am proud to say that I was in the huge crowd at the Duluth “March for our Lives” march and rally. It looked to me that the crowd was as large or larger than the 1,500 or so that had attended our first two rallies in 2003. I found myself experiencing some of the same emotions I had felt back then. I often teared up from time to time out of a sense of pride and gratitude for the altruistic young leaders who had worked so hard at organizing the march and rally.  I knew that they had felt as outraged as I had felt when we all had witnessed the gross injustice of sociopathic corporate entities blatantly and unapologetically promoting an agenda that resulted in human suffering, homelessness, starvation, mutilation and death. These students were justifiably as “mad as hell” about the injustice that they had seen happening over and over again and they decided that they “weren’t going to take it anymore.” That combination of justified anger and compassionate altruism was enough to induce these courageous students to organize and plan the series of events that could – if there is any justice in this world – result in a long-lasting resistance movement that will eventually change the uniquely American epidemic of domestic homicidal violence.

Of course there are powerful entities that are natural opponents of any peace movement. These natural enemies of peace and justice movements are very powerful, very wealthy, very well-connected, very secretive and very corporate.

The beneficiaries of foreign wars and domestic mass shootings wouldn’t be happy if world peace broke out. The war profiteers and violence profiteers wouldn’t be happy if they were forced to take losses on the weapons sector company stocks that they had purchased years ago for their retirement stock portfolios, Domestic tranquility, with full employment, abundant, well-paying union jobs, safe living conditions, good schools, good access to nourishing food, no racism and no poverty would cause the weapons sector of America’s economy to be bad investments. I suppose most competent financial advisors in American recommend well- iversified portfolios of stocks that includes a healthy percentage of weapons sector stocks.

The guilty corporate or investor types responsible for America being awash in lethal weapons live and thrive on Wall Street. Of course, they aren’t the ones with actual blood on their hands. They aren’t the ones who actually pull the triggers of the weapons that they sell, but they do know that violence of both foreign and domestic varieties represents steady streams of profits for the companies they own, work for or receive dividends from.

Causing the failures of the anti-war movement of the past was just a slight bump in the road for these corporate plotters; and, despite perhaps being a bit sobered by the high energy and success of the “March for our Lives” movement, they are, as we speak, mobilizing secret meetings in their think tank board room deciding on what tools they might bring out of their arsenal in order to defend or strengthen the highly profitable agendas of the NRA. These conscienceless corporate entities have gotten used to profiting handsomely from the unrestricted manufacturing and marketing of unlimited numbers of military-style assault weapons to civilians, and they don’t want to change. These ruling elites are used to getting what they want, and they aren’t about to change their expectations.

Corporations will do whatever is necessary to keep all their gravy trains on track and going full-steam ahead. They are, however, not above derailing any and all competing peace, nonviolence and justice movements that might negatively impact their profits. I’m sure that the current crop of pro-war plotters look back in fondness at what they did to neutralize the anti-war movement of 2003.  Many of us in the anti-war and nonviolence movements thought that we had failed and therefore we tended to feel guilty about our lack of achievment. Actually our peace movement was hi-jacked. It was “made to fail” thanks to the large variety of cunning propagandistic operations that corporations implemented that subtly deceived and disinformed the public, demonized and discredited the activists and diverted attention from our truth. (For more information about many of the commonly used pro-corporate propaganda techniques go to https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/scientific_integrity/how-corporations-corrupt-science.pdf)

Some Similarities Between the Anti-War Movement of 2003 and the March for our Lives Movement of 2018

Duluth’s anti-war resistance efforts of 2003 resembled the anti-gun violence rallies of 2018 in that each of them had been initially envisioned by a group of morally-outraged, pro-peace, anti-violence student groups. Both student groups were sick and tired of watching their nation’s criminally-inclined corporate, political and military leaders’ unwillingness to do what was necessary to prevent the on-going physical and psychological traumatization of innocent children.

Back in 2003, a number of compassionate college students were trying to protect the children of Iraq, many of whom were at high risk of being killed and/or mutilated by America’s soldiers. In the case of today’s movement, compassionate high school students are trying to protect their school mates. Both groups understood the complexities of starting a broad movement and therefore welcomed some help from other more experienced groups that had a history of confronting powerful corporate entities.

In the case of Duluth’s anti-war rallies back in 2003, the initiating group was UMD Students Against the War. That small student group welcomed collaborating with the following planners and sponsors: the Northland Anti-War Coalition, Loaves and Fishes, Grandmothers for Peace, Veterans for Peace Chapter 80, the Green Party, Pax Christi Duluth, Community Action Duluth and UMD Faculty Against the War.

The proponents of the invasion of Iraq consisted of all the components of the NeoConservative Bush administration, which included the Project for the New American Century (google PNAC), the entire NeoConservative Republican Party, most of the NeoLiberal Democratic Party, all of the war-profiteers in the Military/Industrial Complex, the Pentagon, the CIA, almost all American military veterans, most Christian conservatives and assorted pro-war “My Country Right or Wrong Patriots”. These groups prevailed, but perhaps their victory will turn out to be temporary.   I am proud to say that I attended all three of Duluth’s 2003 anti-war marches and rallies. I even had some input into some of the planning and promoting. I must also say that I was extremely disillusioned with my spineless political leaders who were so easily propagandized into supporting the invasion by the war hawks and their bloated Pentagon budgets.   Below are more photo images from the two rallies:

Photo from Duluth, Minnesota’s Anti-War Rally protesting President Bush’s intent to go to war against Iraq. (The sign says: Huskies for Peace: I PEEace on BUSHES) (March 8, 2003)

Photo from Duluth, Minnesota’s Anti-War Rally protesting President Bush’s intent to go to war against Iraq. (The sign says: Huskies for Peace: I PEEace on BUSHES) (March 8, 2003)

Effigies of two prime examples of unindicted War Criminals, both of whom were draft-dodgers during the Vietnam War. President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were typical of many other Bush administration “Chicken Hawk” politicians who were behind the disastrous and illegal invasion of Iraq (Photographed at Duluth, Minnesota’s Anti-War Rally – March 8, 2003)

Effigies of two prime examples of unindicted War Criminals, both of whom were draft-dodgers during the Vietnam War. President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were typical of many other Bush administration “Chicken Hawk” politicians who were behind the disastrous and illegal invasion of Iraq (Photographed at Duluth, Minnesota’s Anti-War Rally – March 8, 2003)

 “The Several Hundred” protestors (according to most local media reports) rallying prior to the march to the Civic Center (March 24, 2018). My estimate was closer to 1,500.

“The Several Hundred” protestors (according to most local media reports) rallying prior to the march to the Civic Center (March 24, 2018). My estimate was closer to 1,500

 300 of the “Several Hundred” protest marchers, in a photo that only pictured about 1/5 of the total length of the march that was easily two city blocks long

300 of the “Several Hundred” protest marchers, in a photo that only pictured about 1/5 of the total length of the march that was easily two city blocks long

Some Lessons for Youthful “March for our Lives” Activists from an Aging Anti-War Activist

So what might be some of the lessons for “March for our Lives” students – whom I hope will remain as “mad as hell” until their demands are met and they have had a chance to vote their obstructionist, corporate-controlled right-wing legislators out of office.

1)    Continue to trust your instincts about gun violence and continue your opposition no matter what;

2)    Pay no attention to the hate speech that will accompany the inevitable, media-promulgated, corporate-derived attacks that will try to demonize your movement and your leaders.

3)    Be aware that there are many right-wing, corporate-funded think tanks that have unlimited amounts of money, power and media-access that will be generating disinformation campaigns against your movement.

4)    Be aware that there will be plenty of propagandistic talking points that will come from counterfeit consumer organizations. Expect the talking points to be reported endlessly by co-opted individuals on radio talk shows, television news shows and in letters to the editor.

5)    Understand the motivations behind the pathetic corporate-generated attacks and ignore them.

6)    Don’t stop promoting truth, peace, justice and nonviolent resistance to evil. Your enthusiasm, compassion and altruism will serve you well, even though you are going up against a group of ruthless Goliaths who have a lot of co-opted legislators in their back pockets. They can be dealt with in November.

7)    And don’t be afraid of picking the brains of any of us aging anti-war activists. I can direct you to hundreds of them.

A friend of mine recently gave me the most recent issue of the journal of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The lead article revealed many of the secrets of corporate propaganda/disinformation campaigns that all corporations use to sell their products or ideology or for a corporate lobbyist to try to convince a naïve, non-scientist legislator to promote legislation that would be economically beneficial to the corporation. The UCS article mainly dealt with the corporate corruption of science, but the article resonated with me because in my 40 year medical career, I have witnessed thousands of outrageous examples of the shameless promotion of dangerous or ineffective drugs and vaccines that were being promoted as wonder drugs, when in fact they have never been proven to be either safe or effective, particularly for long term use.

The pharmaceutical and vaccine industries are notorious for bamboozling medical patients through their seductive commercials so that the patients will try to have us physicians write them a prescription for the relatively untested, unaffordable drug that will rarely provide a cure of any drug-managed disease. Many of the tricks that all pharmaceutical corporations use seem to be standard operating procedure in other industries as well. I mention the UCS article because many of the dirty tricks in the article are also commonly used against peace and justice activists.

The successful pursuit of happiness of persons and nations, which is a goal of peace and justice activists, is a reality in which it is harder for any corporation to make money selling a product. It is the unhappy, the traumatized, the enslaved, the war-torn, the distressed, the discriminated against, the impoverished, the malnourished, the under-employed that makes for a good climate for the profitable marketing of remedies.

The UCS article is titled the “Disinformation Playbook”. The pdf file is available in the archives of the Union of Concerned Scientists. The longer archived article is a thorough discussion of corporate dirty tricks and how to deal with them. I wish those of us in the anti-war movement of 15 years ago had had the benefit of the information. We might not have given up so easily. Please study and internalize the abridged edition that is in the last issue of the Union of Concerned Scientist magazine. (Or access the long article online.

Below is a portion from the long article which is titled, “Countering the Propaganda of a Corporate Bully”. As can be seen, the summary below is mainly directed at real scientists who are often targeted by disinformation campaigns from mercenary pseudoscientists that are commonly employed by sociopathic corporations. I suggest substituting the word “truth-teller” whenever the word science or scientist appears. (I have altered the summary a bit from the archived article above.)  

Corporations that stand to lose from the results of independent scientific inquiry have gone to great lengths to manipulate and control science and scientists by:

Terminating and suppressing research and the truth. Companies have controlled the dissemination of scientific information by ending or withholding results of research that they sponsor that would threaten their bottom line.

Intimidating or coercing scientists and truth-tellers. Corporations bury scientific information by harassing scientists and their institutions into silence. Scientists have been threatened with litigation and the loss of their jobs, have had their research defunded, have been refused promotion or tenure, and have been transferred to non-research positions, leading to self-censorship and changes in research direction. Manipulating study designs and research protocols and the facts. Corporations have employed flawed methodologies in testing and research—such as by changing the questions scientists are asking—that are biased toward predetermined results. 

Ghostwriting scientific articles or exposes. Corporations corrupt the integrity of scientific journals by planting ghostwritten articles about their products. Rather than submitting articles directly, companies recruit scientists or contract with research organizations to publish articles that obscure the sponsors’ involvement. 

Publication bias – emphasizing the negatives of the opposition points of view and minimizing the positives. Corporations selectively publish positive results while underreporting negative results. While not directly corrupting science itself, these publishing and reporting biases skew the body of evidence.  

Dr Kohls is a retired physician from Duluth, MN, USA. He writes a weekly column for the Duluth Reader, the area’s alternative newsweekly magazine. His columns deal with the dangers of American fascism, corporatism, militarism, racism, malnutrition, Big Pharma’s psychiatric drugging and over-vaccination regimens, and other movements that threaten the environment, prosperity, democracy, civility and the health and longevity of the planet and the populace. Many of his columns are archived at http://www.globalresearch.ca/author/gary-g-kohls; http://duluthreader.com/search?search_term=Duty+to+Warn&p=2; or at https://www.transcend.org/tms/search/?q=gary+kohls+articles

 Gary G. Kohls, MD  View more of Gary G. Kohls, MD’s work »


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