“Beyond a reasonable doubt” is engrained in the American psyche. This is a bedrock of our constitutional law (the right to a speedy trial, by one’s peers, bail, “Innocent until proven guilty”, etc.). It is woven into the fabric of American jurisprudence. To say it is part of our culture is a redundancy. We all have our pet “show” trials where the jury was hung, the defendant acquitted, or the prosecution really stretched to convict someone “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Mention of these cases inflames great passions on either side, so examples are not worth listing here. Besides, that’s not the point. The emphasis here is on the “beyond a reasonable doubt” as a basis for maintenance of the status quo, good or bad, beneficial or destructive.


            The July 4, 2013 Advocate has run an op/ed entitled Food Prize Goes Too Far In Honoring Monsanto by Rekha Basu (Des Moines Register 7-3-13). In it Rekha says a lot of things to bolster the case as to why Monsanto should not have been given the World Food Prize.  These reasons are as scientifically grounded and referenced as any provided by Monsanto itself with regard to the marketing of the wonderfulness of their technology. However, along with the scientific discourse Monsanto and other such businesses play the American culture card, the “beyond a reasonable doubt” one (although completely outside any court of law). This culture card allows the status quo of business as usual to be maintained. Monsanto is not the first business to make use of this cultural weapon to continue its practices, and profit from our self-governing malaise. The makers of DDT, the nuclear energy industry, lead and asbestos product manufacturers, and the tobacco industry (and others) pioneered playing this card quite effectively over 50 years ago. Today, Monsanto is just one of many to do so. For late night horror to rival any story by Steven King, research the history of Meth, its relation to ephedrine and the pharmaceutical industry that produces it. But is this narrative “beyond a reasonable doubt”?


            Harrison Ford is coming out with a narrative of his own, a new “infomercial” documentary on global warming (with penguins!). We will all be soothed by Mr. Ford’s familiar authoritative voice (hey, he played Indiana Jones, who better would know?). It will be interesting, and tragic. Nothing will be done. Along with Al Gore, Harrison will cash in on our concern. While watching and listening, we will all be more than well aware that those with the most chips also hold the “beyond a reasonable doubt” card, and will waste no time in playing it (“Do you own an oil well? Of course you do.”). In the bowels of Basu’s well written piece is the line, “The very fact that Monsanto money has flowed to the World Food Prize Foundation should make one of its own ineligible for the prize.” Gandhi is said to have taught that freedom can be reclaimed only by refusing to cooperate with unjust, immoral laws (something Dr. King also emphasized).   This is something Newark community organizers should bear in mind when promoting programs of change, that promise change, change for the better. Monsanto promises just such change, and uses their enormous financial muscle and the “beyond reasonable doubt” culture card to ensure cooperation and compliance with its unjust and immoral policies. For this it was awarded the World Food Prize, reinforcing its ownership of this valuable token of cultural capital.  


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