Extra! September 2011

    Deficit-Obsessed Media Misinform on Causes

    At a time when the federal budget deficit is so prominently featured in the news, with pundits and “experts” (falsely) touting it as a leading concern of the U.S. public (FAIR Blog, 1/21/11), you might think corporate journalists would be well-practiced in explaining the chief causes of the deficit. Unfortunately, if you rely on network nightly news programs for your information about the economy, you are likely to be misinformed about the main causes of the current deficit—in order of importance, the economic downturn, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Without the recession and these ...


    Gullible Reporters, Sick Responders

    "Not Enough Evidence to Link 9/11 and Cancer, a Federal Report Says." The New York Times headline (7/27/11) delivered a devastating blow to many Ground Zero first responders, as well as to New Yorkers who lived and worked near the long-smoldering wreckage. After years of fighting for federal compensation to cover illnesses resulting from exposure to the toxic dust and fumes released by the destruction of the towers, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was finally passed in 2010 and took effect in 2011 (thanks in no small part to the Daily Show's Jon Stewart, who helped shame ...


    SoundBites

    More Bombs, Less Debate NBC correspondent Richard Engel (Meet the Press, 6/19/11), calling for more bombing in Libya and less democracy in the U.S.: I just came from Libya before I came here, and the fact of the matter is the war in Libya right now is not very serious, that NATO is not doing a terribly good job. The rebels need a lot more help. The bombing campaign in Tripoli barely exists. Every once in a while there's a few bombs on mostly empty compounds, and people go about their lives more or less unaffected. It's not the kind ...


    Debt Ceiling Crisis 'Not Even Close to Being an Important National Priority'

    James Galbraith is a professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin, author most recently of The Predator State and chair of Economists for Peace and Security. Speaking to FAIR's radio show CounterSpin (7/15/11), Galbraith pointed out that there could be real effects from defaulting on our debt, which is why it's unconstitutional. JG: The Constitution states very clearly that once the government makes an obligation that is a firm commitment, that cannot be challenged and should not be challenged in the political process. So the people that have been raising these issues, who are elected officials that ...


    Whistling Past the Wreckage of Civil Liberties

    When the USA Patriot Act* was rushed into law after the September 11 attacks, the erosion of civil liberties the Act represented—the broad powers it gave law enforcement to spy on people, and the creation of the dangerously ill-defined crime of “domestic terrorism”—met with little detailed scrutiny or principled challenge from major media. Typical at the time was a Today show segment (NBC, 10/27/01) in which anchor Soledad O’Brien grilled a concerned legal advocate, “But, certainly, isn’t there a sense in wartime that you have to give up some of your privacies, especially when you’re talking about terrorists who exploited ...


    Economic Ideas, On and Off the Table

    Economics has traditionally been the media's favorite academic discipline. In normal times, the "consensus" of the economics profession (or at least what passes for consensus) tends to weigh heavily in the way reporters and editors cover political subjects--assuming that less-regulated trade is always beneficial, for example. But since the onset of the economic crisis, journalists have increasingly abandoned their habit of deferring to the views of mainstream economics. As economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman often argues (e.g., 5/7/11), the answers to our economic problems that come from ordinary textbook economics have come to be seen as radical ...


    The Forever Wars

    In the era of the "War on Terror," the United States has embarked on two major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a NATO-led "humanitarian" bombing of Libya that almost immediately morphed into a war for regime change, and undeclared drone bombing campaigns in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Launching these wars has been fairly easy for the White House, with or without congressional approval. How any of them ends, though, remains unclear. The shift from the U.S.'s time-limited military adventures since the Vietnam War--in conflicts like Grenada, Panama, Somalia and Kosovo--to today's seemingly interminable and endlessly multiplying military commitments is one ...


    The 'Worst of the Worst'?

    In the wake of the September 11 attacks, George W. Bush deliberately discarded domestic and international laws, creating an experimental facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. There prisoners would be deprived of the protections of the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions, held without rights as “unlawful enemy combatants” in a world-wide program of extraordinary rendition, secret prisons and torture. Corporate media largely failed to hold the government responsible for this authoritarian response. From the beginning, the corporate media generally belittled those who raised concerns about the abuses at Guantánamo. Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s Hardball (1/17/02) told a guest from Human Rights ...


    In Norway, Footnotes to Mass Murder

    After self-described "conservative Christian" Anders Behring Breivik was charged with killing 76 in a July 22 bombing and shooting spree in Norway, writers who shared the accused's virulently Islamophobic ideology heatedly denied that anything in their body of work could possibly lead anyone to violence. But Breivik seems to be one of the most articulate ideologues in the history of mass murder, writing a 1,500-page manifesto with hyperlinked footnotes that point precisely to those writings that allegedly inspired him to violence. Breivik's "total lack of respect for human life is not...something he can have picked up from me, or from ...


    Obama's DOJ Targets Whistleblowers

    If you really believed, as many Americans claimed to after the September 11 attacks, that "they hate us for our freedom" (Extra! Update, 10/01), then it makes a certain kind of sense to protect against future attacks--by reducing our freedom. That would seem to be the only kind of logic that could justify the erosion of freedom of the press manifested by the Obama Justice Department's concerted efforts to prosecute whistleblowers. The first steps toward the criminalization of being a source for investigative journalism were taken by George W. Bush's administration, when those who revealed how the "War on Terror" ...