Extra! November/December 2007

    Vietnam's Lessons?

    The disastrous end to the Vietnam War served as a historical reference point for many pundits urging Democrats to forget pulling out of Iraq. But the history lesson was shaky. Presenting the congressional fight over war funding as indicative of “what will likely become post-Iraq politics in America,” ABC World News (4/26/07) reported that Republicans were standing tough with an unpopular White House, while Democrats were more or less following majority opinion against the war. This, the report noted, was a problem—for Democrats. “Democrats know they must be careful,” explained reporter Terry Moran. “The shadow of the Vietnam War looms ...


    No Way Out

    Historians analyzing the phases of the Iraq War might find one period particularly striking. The midterm elections of 2006 removed the Republican Party's grip on Congress, and exit polls and political analysts agreed that the Iraq War was the principal cause for their defeat. And yet the public's dissatisfaction produced, oddly enough, an escalation of the war in Iraq. While much blamed can be pinned on compliant Democrats, the mainstream media played its role by reframing the discussion of the war to exclude the possibility of ending it by withdrawing U.S. forces. Whatever the White House might be able to ...


    Terror Talk Crowds Out Thoughtful Discussion

    A potential attack by Al-Qaeda, accompanied by red and orange shockwaves of terror, provided an urgent lead for Fox Special Report on July 26, 2007. The news? A claimed glitch in the program of electronic surveillance established for collecting foreign intelligence. The law needed an immediate "fix," host Brit Hume said. "The nation's intelligence chief urgently pleads with Congress to fix the laws which he says are roadblocks to listening in on two-way communications between foreign terror suspects overseas," said Hume. "And he points to the recent National Intelligence Estimate about al Qaeda's rebuilding as part of his argument." "Terrorists" ...


    Rudy Giuliani, Teflon Candidate

    Does Republican presidential hopeful Rudolph Giuliani have some dirt on the press corps? How else to explain the free pass journalists have repeatedly granted him on stories that would threaten to sink less-favored candidates, particularly of the Democratic variety? (See sidebar.) If Ronald Reagan was the “Teflon president” to whom no bad news would stick, then Giuliani would seem to be the Teflon candidate. Consider Giuliani’s campaign in South Carolina, perhaps the most important primary in the GOP schedule, and the state on which Giuliani has pinned his hopes for the nomination. In June, Giuliani state campaign chair and South ...


    SoundBites

    Demonstrators Not Our Kind On NBC Nightly News (9/15/07), reporter Patty Culhane dismissed the September 15 anti-war protests, saying, "Some say demonstrations like this will have little effect." "Some" turns out to be pollster Stuart Rothenberg, who said, "The kind of people who have impact are middle-class Americans, many of whom are inclined to support the president." Rothenberg doesn’t specify whether protesters have too much money to matter or not enough. But what polls is he reading that find "many" Americans of whatever economic class supporting Bush or his Iraq policy? We know that the middle class is shrinking, but ...


    Letters to the Editor

    The DDT Debate The quality of the science in Aaron Swartz’s article on DDT (Extra!, 9-10/07) is exceptionally poor. It suggests a lack of understanding of the issue. The inaccuracies are numerous; in fact, virtually every statement is at best slanted. For instance, “there is no global ban on DDT” is at best deliberately misleading. It is banned in all U.S. programs, which means programs funded by the U.S., and until September 14, 2006, it was also banned in U.N. programs. In other words, virtually all programs that could possibly impact Third World malaria rates had to be done without ...


    Democrats, Double Standards and the 'Anti-Giuliani'

    Imagine how the press corps would react if an important member of Hillary Clinton’s campaign team were indicted for selling crack. If the story were true, it would be bannered by major papers and network newscasts. If merely a rumor, it would likely begin life as a garish headline on, say, the Drudge Report before filtering up through cable news to major newspaper pages and network newscasts. That’s largely what happened in the 2004 campaign, when false rumors of a John Kerry affair made a minor media splash in February, and again with the Swift Boat Veterans fraud which dominated ...


    Journalists 'Humbled' but Unrepentant

    George W. Bush's success in manipulating information would not have been possible without the collaboration and/or incompetence of the major U.S. news media. However, that cozy relationship began to shift in spring 2006 as the bloody war in Iraq dragged on and the U.S. public grew restless over the steady rise in the death toll. Even some of the Iraq War's early cheerleaders, like Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, admitted to second thoughts. "Those of us who once advocated this war are humbled," Cohen wrote (4/4/06). "It's not just that we grossly underestimated the enemy. We vastly overestimated the Bush ...


    Transforming Coverage

    Transgender is hardly a new concept, but until recently it’s been considered by the media to be a topic for tabloid talkshows, not serious news programs. The tide is turning, though; as more and more public figures are coming out as having a gender identity different from their birth-assigned sex, and transgender characters are finding their way into more mainstream entertainment media (on TV shows like All My Children and movies like Transamerica), transgender stories are likewise moving from Jerry Springer to CNN at a remarkable pace. As of this writing, the major network and cable news programs had nearly ...


    Enabling False Convictions

    "The science of DNA on Monday cleared the 200th person wrongfully convicted of a crime in the United States, a record that demands that the criminal justice system fix its serious flaws," editorialized the Philadelphia Inquirer (4/25/07), after Jerry Miller of Illinois became an American exoneration milestone. As milestones often do, Miller's exoneration gave the press an easy “news peg” to report on DNA testing and the troubled U.S. criminal justice system. And report they did. Most major news organizations filed at least one piece on Miller's exoneration, with some editorializing for significant reform and others raising specific questions about ...


    Miseducation

    The June 2007 Supreme Court decision sharply limiting the use of race in public school admissions was viewed with dismay by many educators, civil rights activists and others who support diversity in our nation’s public schools. As Ted Shaw, the director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, explained, “In the context of segregated public schools in this country, our experience, almost without exception, is that segregation has always been a prelude to other forms of deprivation, educational and otherwise, for black [people]” (Black Enterprise, 9/07). While segregated public schools mean unequal resources and opportunities, education researchers and social ...


    Turning 'Won't' Into 'Can't'

    In addition to explaining why the U.S. shouldn’t end the war in Iraq, corporate media frequently tell Democrats that they can’t end the war—citing the Republicans’ ability to filibuster in the Senate and George W. Bush’s power to veto any anti-war legislation (FAIR Media Advisory, 6/1/07, 9/13/07). “As long as [Bush] can keep most of the Republicans in the Senate, in the House with him, there’s no way to overturn the policy because of the way the Constitution reads,” Newsweek’s Howard Fineman told the Chris Matthews Show (NBC, 9/2/07). “I hate to keep coming back to the Constitution. Sixty votes ...