Learning From Cicadas

by Amy Zidell

What can, by all accounts, an ugly bug reveal about cultural differences, propaganda, free speech, and Middle East democracy? In America when faced with an invasion of unwanted pests what happens? Books about Cicadas are written and become best sellers. People make and sell jewelry out of Cicada carcasses. Restaurants figure out how to service patio diners Cicada-free. Special pool filters are developed and sold to deal with the Cicada impact on swimming pools. Street corner Cicada T-Shirt vendors crop up. In short, free enterprise. That's right good 'ole Capitalism finds a way to help people cope and perhaps make a profit along the way. Free enterprise is inextricably connected to freedom.

On the one hand, America's East Coast Cicada coping. On the other hand, misinformation propaganda rich Iraq. Any example will do. How about the one claiming that U.S. forces targeted an innocent wedding party whose members were simply celebrating by firing automatic rifles in the air? Such claims need to be taken with about as much credibility as the partially mass merchandised Baghdad Bob. You remember, the former misinformation minister of Iraq. Whether this gun-firing group was a gang of terrorists posing as a wedding party, or was a wedding party posing as terrorists, the content of this protest is one more example of how different these two cultures are.

At the same time cultural differences may seem to perpetuate a perpetual chasm, there are things that the cultures and, even more so, individual people share. Weddings are celebrated. Logic acknowledges, maybe shooting guns in the air even in celebration is not a great idea especially in a war zone. Imagine if the Cicadas came to Iraq. They would all be shot in short order.

What is worse than the propaganda and misinformation is the constant Cicada-ish hum of repetition of the propaganda and misinformation by the media to the point that claims and statements can be easily confused as verified fact. The conflicts in Israel should have provided sufficient examples to learn from in dealing with and vetting terrorist propaganda. The unfortunate phrase 'occupied territories' is bandied about as an absolute. It is perhaps the most successful example of terrorist propaganda. After all, worldwide sympathy might be hard to garner for a defeated aggressor who lost the battle and some ground. Historically, it's not uncommon for territorial boundaries to be determined by final battle lines, or by the United Nations. Lest we forget that the so-called territories result from a foiled 1967 attack AGAINST Israel by several Arab countries. The true story has somehow been excised from supposedly reputable news outlets.

The race to publish, post, and repeat information or misinformation is done with the same furor of mating Cicadas. There seems to be confusion about the Right to Free Speech. It does not provide for the right to be heard, but rather that one has the right to express freely. There is no right to be published, broadcasted, or distributed. The right to free speech does not guarantee an equal right that someone else will hear, must hear, or agree with what one freely speaks. Unfortunately, the Founding Fathers didn't address issues of accurate or responsible speech. Maybe the community-standard test the Supreme Court applied to offensive material in regards to pornography should be utilized: you know it when you see it. Many communities find biased, partial-picture, anti-American news reporting from home and abroad highly offensive and vulgar.

The whole story is always infinitely more revealing if not more interesting. The major Cicada story is negative, but scientific journals reveal a highly effective species whose evolutionary strategy survives predators, maintains genetic purity, and endures real environmental hazards. The incidental publicity and merchandising craze puts Disney and Nickelodeon to shame. While there have been countless polls and discussions about the negative press about Iraq, it's not just about Iraq. Negative stories by far seem to out number 'good news' stories. Regarding Iraq, it's often said how stabilizing it will be to have a democracy in the region. That is only part of the story. Let's not forget that there is a thriving democracy in the Middle East. It's called Israel.

[ Thanks to my East Coast pals who tell me all about life with Cicadas. ]

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