Extra! May 2009

    When the White House Says Hush

    When Barack Obama’s Justice Department announced that it was taking the exact same position as the George W. Bush administration on the state secrets privilege (New York Times, 2/10/09), many civil liberties experts were alarmed. Many avid news consumers, on the other hand, were asking themselves: What’s the state secrets privilege? Even on the rare occasions when corporate media mention this legal gambit, they don’t always get it right. A USA Today op-ed (7/5/06) described it like this: “The military and state secret privilege requires a court to dismiss a lawsuit just because the president says it involves important secrets.” ...


    Getting Online for a Better Off-Line Life

    Tekle Gebremedhin, an Eritrean immigrant and veteran cab driver in Philadelphia, might not seem like the most obvious activist for broadband policy, a field long dominated by technology wonks. But in the course of a battle for the drivers’ right to form a union, Gebremedhin and his fellow organizers at the Unified Taxi Workers Alliance (UTWA) recognized the vital role of video and the Web in telling their story. As Gebremedhin explains: “We have 3,000 drivers. It’s not easy to communicate with one another.” Internet access in places where drivers congregate, like the train station or the airport, would mean ...


    FAIR & Media Justice

    Back in the mid-1980s, when Jeff Cohen founded FAIR, large-scale progressive media activism was still more than a decade away, and the media justice movement lay in the even more distant future. But FAIR set out to focus attention on race/ethnicity, class and gender bias in the media from the beginning, and to draw connections between corporate control of media outlets and the persistent underrepresentation of socially disadvantaged groups. One of FAIR’s most effective approaches was to study the demographic and institutional profiles of the sources used in mainstream news reports—who gets to speak. FAIR research revealed not only the ...


    A Dishonest Villain's Worst Garbage

    Fox News' O'Reilly Factor has become notorious for its ambinterviews of those who cross host Bill O'Reilly. The best-known recent example was Factor producer Jesse Waters' trailing Amanda Terkel, managing editor at Think Progress, for two hours across Virginia to badger her about a blog post she had written. Terkel's post (3/1/09) had noted that the Fox host was speaking at a fundraiser for a foundation for rape survivors, then quoted O'Reilly's suggestion (Radio Factor, 8/2/06) that a "moronic" rape/murder victim had invited assault by drinking and dressing provocatively. Terkel let the quote speak for itself; the most critical thing ...


    Media Justice: Out of the Margins

    Most people in the United States don’t interact with Congress or the Federal Communications Commission on a daily basis. Most know little about who owns our media system, or the array of laws and rules that regulate media ownership and public access. What some do know, however, is that accessing these media is harder when you’re poor, a person of color, a woman or queer; it’s harder when you’re living in an isolated rural community or a segregated and policed urban neighborhood. These communities also know that misrepresentation in news and entertainment shapes the contours of their public and private ...


    Salvador Votes, Media Yawn

    El Salvador just had a historic election —but it was hardly noted by the same U.S. newspapers and TV organizations that gave Salvadoran elections saturation coverage back in the 1980s. On March 15, Salvadoran journalist Mauricio Funes won the presidency for the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), which had already won a plurality in the legislature in a January vote. The FMLN was once a guerrilla movement that fought a 12-year war until 1992 against a right-wing Salvadoran military government backed by the United States with nearly $4 billion in military and other aid (New York Times, 10/21/88). ...


    Letters to the Editor

    Palestine’s Right to Exist I was drawn to the headline of the article “The ‘Right to Exist’ as an Arab Israeli” in your March 2009 issue. But a much larger issue is Palestine’s right to exist. Look on any map and try to find a country of Palestine. It doesn’t exist in any contemporary atlas or land map I have found. Not only is it being physically cut up and destroyed, it is already conceptually destroyed. The Israel lobby has successfully managed the media to believe that Israel, a nuclear-armed nation with lots of power and resources, is somehow threatened ...


    SoundBites

    The Establishment Persuasion “If you are of the establishment persuasion (and I am), reading [Paul] Krugman makes you uneasy... By definition, establishments believe in propping up the existing order. Members of the ruling class have a vested interest in keeping things pretty much the way they are. Safeguarding the status quo, protecting traditional institutions, can be healthy and useful, stabilizing and reassuring. But sometimes, beneath the pleasant murmur and tinkle of cocktails, the old guard cannot hear the sound of ice cracking.” —Newsweek assistant managing editor Evan Thomas (4/6/09) Champions of the Little Guy? Jim Cramer, CNBC: “I think Goldman ...


    Congo Ignored, Not Forgotten

    The wars that have wracked the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1996, killing well over 5 million people (International Rescue Committee, 1/08) in what may be the deadliest conflict since World War II, are officially over. A peace agreement was signed in 2002, and general elections were held in 2006. But conflict and the humanitarian crisis continue. The most recent survey (IRC, 1/08) estimated that 45,000 people are dying each month from conflict-related causes (primarily hunger and disease), nearly the same shocking rate as during the war itself. And with the recent flare-up of violence in Congo’s volatile east, ...


    Hate Speech, Media Activism and the First Amendment

    In just over a month last winter, two Latino men were beaten to death in New York state while their attackers shouted racial slurs and epithets (Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/25/09). Such hate crimes, motivated by anti-immigrant prejudice and other bigotries, have spurred a media justice campaign to reveal the potential human costs of hate speech. When the FBI reported that hate crimes against Hispanics had increased by an astonishing 40 percent between 2003 and 2007 (FBI: Hate Crime Statistics, 2003 and 2007), UCLA professor Chon Noriega began to ask “whether the media plays a role in the persistence of hate speech ...


    Digital Justice for All

    On June 12, all analog television signals will go dark, and many people will be cut off from an important information source. The cause: the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act, signed into law by George W. Bush in February 2006. This act gave the Federal Communications Commission the authority to terminate analog licenses for full-power television stations and reclaim the spectrum for public safety and commercial wireless broadband services. By the end of the transition, digital television transmissions will be in the spectrum currently occupied by TV channels 2 through 51—the “core” TV spectrum—while television channels 52-69 will ...