Extra! September/ October 2007

    SoundBites

    Good News and No News Amid ongoing violence in Iraq, the Associated Press reported (7/31/07) the "U.S. Death Toll in Iraq for July Hit 8-Month Low." The newsworthiness of this statistic is debatable; the 79 U.S. troops who were killed in July were only two less than had been killed in both March and February, making it a fairly unremarkable month for U.S. casualties. In fact, there have been 34 months in the first four years of war when the U.S. death toll was lower than July 2007's. A more unusual, and therefore more newsworthy, statistic about U.S. deaths in ...


    City of Terror

    When we arrived in Ciudad del Este, we were petrified. After all, we were in the Paraguayan city known in the American press as a "Jungle Hub for World’s Outlaws" (L.A. Times, 8/24/98), and a "hotbed" "teeming with Islamic extremists and their sympathizers" (New York Times, 12/15/02). The U.S. media's portrayal of this city, the center of a zone on the frontiers of Argentina and Brazil known as the Tri-Border Area, left us expecting to see cars bombs exploding, terrorists training and American flags burning. We soon realized that picture painted by U.S. media was inaccurate. In the Cold War, ...


    Rachel Carson, Mass Murderer?

    Sometimes you find mass murderers in the most unlikely places. Take Rachel Carson. She was, by all accounts, a mild-mannered writer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—hardly a sociopath’s breeding ground. And yet, according to many in the media, Carson has more blood on her hands than Hitler. The problems started in the 1940s, when Carson left the Service to begin writing full-time. In 1962, she published a series of articles in the New Yorker, resulting in the book Silent Spring—widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The book discussed how pesticides and pollutants moved up the food ...


    SoundBites

    Good News and No News Amid ongoing violence in Iraq, the Associated Press reported (7/31/07) the "U.S. Death Toll in Iraq for July Hit 8-Month Low." The newsworthiness of this statistic is debatable; the 79 U.S. troops who were killed in July were only two less than had been killed in both March and February, making it a fairly unremarkable month for U.S. casualties. In fact, there have been 34 months in the first four years of war when the U.S. death toll was lower than July 2007's. A more unusual, and therefore more newsworthy, statistic about U.S. deaths in ...


    Letters to the Editor

    Violence & Worker Control I always appreciate—and enjoy—reading Extra!, and the July/August 2007 issue was no exception. I was surprised, though, to read that Noam Chomsky believes that in democratic societies, “the state has lost the capacity to control the population by violence.” Rather, it seems to me, violence is the last resort of the ruling class, when the working class has become too powerful to control by other means. Weak and disorganized working classes require little effort to control. In the United States, for instance, the working class is so thoroughly disorganized and powerless that it has little ability ...


    A Poverty of Coverage

    During the 20 years of FAIR’s existence, there have been two periods when mainstream journalists made promises about dedicating themselves to greater coverage of poverty, racism and inequality. The first followed the Los Angeles riots of 1992 (Extra!, 7-8/92); the second was after Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of New Orleans (Extra!, 7-8/06). Both promises went largely unfulfilled. Following Katrina, national news coverage of poverty increased before returning to a normal, almost undetectable baseline. According to the Tyndall Report, a newsletter that tracks what’s covered on the nightly network news, poverty reporting increased in the eight months following Katrina from two-and-a-half ...


    Millionaires Working for Billionaires

    When you’re exposed to network TV news, it’s always good to bear in mind that you’re watching millionaires working for billionaires, telling stories whose main purpose (from an economic perspective) is to get you to hold still long enough for corporate advertisements to rearrange your value system. It’s not surprising that such an institution does a poor job of informing viewers about poverty, as a new FAIR study by Neil deMause and Steve Rendall documents. How could it do a good job? It’s impossible to explain why some people are poor without explaining why other people are rich. And that’s ...


    Cheerleading for Inequality

    At this point, it is no longer possible to contest the fact that there has been an enormous upward redistribution of income since 1980. Dozens of economists have reached the same conclusion, using different methodologies and different data sets (e.g., The State of Working America, 2006-07, Lawrence Mishel et al.; “Where Did the Productivity Growth Go? Inflation Dynamics and the Distribution of Income,” Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon, 2005; “The Evolution of Top Incomes: A Historical and International Perspective,” Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, National Bureau of Economic Research, 1/06). Income has risen far more rapidly for the top 5 ...


    'I Like This Violence'

    The big story from the Middle East last June was the factional fighting in Gaza that ended in a victory for the Hamas party and the routing of forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement. The violence made the front pages of the major papers—the New York Times (6/14/07), Washington Post (6/14/07), the Los Angeles Times (6/15/07)—and the cover of Newsweek (6/25/07). The overall message was simple: As the Washington Post’s Scott Wilson described it (6/15/07), the episode represented “a sharp escalation in intensity, brutality and ambition on the part of Hamas forces.” As for the events that ...


    The Return of Elliott Abrams

    A key Bush administration architect of the policy of arming elements of Fatah to attack Hamas was Elliott Abrams, whose current White House title is deputy national security advisor for global democracy strategy. Abrams has a long history of such operations, and seems to be pursuing them today in areas far beyond Palestine. As a State Department official for Latin America in the Reagan administration, Abrams promoted the strategy of “low-intensity warfare”—that is, arming death squads and guerrillas—against the Nicaraguan Sandinistas and the Salvadoran insurgents, ultimately pleading guilty to withholding information about these efforts from Congress in the Iran/Contra affair. ...


    Swift-Boating 'America's Mayor'?

    When the International Association of Fire Fighters, the nation’s largest firefighters union, released a video challenging the portrayal of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani as a hero of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, there were scattered media references to a possible re-run of the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry during the 2004 campaign. But while media seemed eager to provide a platform for the Swift Boat vets’ false claims (Extra!, 11-12/05), the media reaction to the firefighters was nearly the opposite—particularly at the New York Times, where reporter Marc Santora hurried to put out the anti-Giuliani ...


    Checking the FactCheckers

    FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, bills itself as a “nonpartisan, nonprofit, ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.” But in its July 18 response to the International Association of Fire Fighters’ video critical of Rudolph Giuliani’s September 11 performance, which it accused of taking “liberties with the truth,” FactCheck continued a pattern of partisan double standards (Extra!, 11-12/05) that does more to confuse than to undeceive the U.S. electorate. FactCheck took issue with several points in the firefighters’ video, including the ...


    Fencing Off the Immigration Debate

    Upon the proposed omnibus immigration bill’s final defeat in the Senate, the Washington Post (6/29/07) published an editorial titled “An Immigrant’s Lament,” which told the sad story of Ernesto, “a 31-year old Salvadoran handyman” who “watched ruefully as the senators dealt their lethal blow to his prospects for a normal life on the right side of the law”: He does better here as a painter, carpenter, landscaper and electrician than he ever could in Cabañas, his hardscrabble native region of northern El Salvador, which is rich in beans and sugar cane but bereft of jobs. The Post scolded politicians for ...


    The Poor Will Always Be With Us--Just Not on the TV News

    The PDF version of the study is available here. According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, 37 million Americans—one in eight—lived below the federal poverty line in 2005, defined as an annual income of $19,971 for a family of four. Yet poverty touches a far greater share of the population over the course of their lives: A 1997 study by University of Michigan economist Rebecca Blank found that one-third of all U.S. residents will experience government-defined poverty within a 13-year period. The poorest age group is children, with more than one in six living in official poverty at ...