Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A "1 percenter" and proud of it

The Occupy Wall Street movement could help the sale of "Philip's Code," enough, I hope, to lift me into the "1 percent" category. One point the book attempts to make is that language is no longer dictated through usage but is imposed by an increasingly powerful mass media. The use of "1 percent" is a perfect example.

A few months ago the term "1 percent" was used by the media to refer to the percentage of people who served in the military or had relatives in the armed forces. Even before that, the Hells Angels thought of themselves as representing "1 percent" of motorcycle riders. That's because in the 1960s the American Motorcycle Association, worried about the "Wild One" image, issued a report saying that 99 percent of bikers were law-abiding citizens. Today the Hells Angels patch proclaims 1 percent. Now, suddenly, the term defines the richest Americans.

I used to think of myself as being in the old one percent, which became even more important when my Marine grandson came home recently from Afghanistan, joining a long list of relatives who served, including two grandfathers and four uncles.

I gave this a good deal of thought today, Pearl Harbor Day, when I realized that World War II veterans will soon all join the final muster. When they are gone, who will be around to fact check the history of a war whose impact can be felt today?

The book also tries to show that the past is alive, or, as Faulkner wrote, it isn't even "past." It makes mention of how the veterans spoke up during the controversy over the Smithsonian Museum's exhibit on Hiroshima. I learned later that they challenged the basic facts of the PBS show, "The Liberators," which the veterans claimed gave credit for liberating Germany's death camps to the wrong Army outfits.

Today the Internet allows even the lower 99 percent of the population to air its opinions. Still, it is the media with the money that counts. Think not? Don't you find it strange that 35,000 people can march in San Francisco and get little notice from the media - which is what happened to anti-abortion protesters.
Internet or no Internet, when the last WWII veteran dies, look for a rewriting of history from a university near you.