Mar
01
2006

Letters to the Editor

Anniversary Wishes

Kudos on your 20th anniversary issue of Extra!, and thanks for all I have learned and benefited from.

Best wishes for the next 20 years or until there is a free press doing its job in the USA.

(If there was one thing missing in the issue, it might have been mention of Fred J. Cook, one of my favorite muckrakers.)

Bob Goldberg

Jericho, N.Y.

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Thank you for the wonderful review of those 20 very important stories and how the media handled them. We need to have such reminders.

Leonore Johnson

Toledo, OH

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I wish you had included the Dr. Wen Ho Lee story, another case of shoddy reporting by the New York Times, which destroyed an innocent person's career and inflicted much pain on his family.

Ben O. Jone

New York, N.Y.

Miffed at MEF

I appreciated Robert McChesney’s praise of FAIR’s "first-rate media criticism," featuring rigorous fact-checking, critical analysis and intellectual consistency in holding media across the political spectrum accountable (Extra!, 1=2/06).

However, I can’t agree with his praise for the Media Education Foundation (MEF) he and FAIR’s Jeff Cohen serve as advisors to. MEF may do fine work in many areas, but its uncritical parroting of destructive myths about young people (as many progressive media, Extra! excepted, increasingly do) is deeply discouraging.

In reviewing six popular MEF videos, from Reviving Ophelia to Spin the Bottle, I was shocked to find dozens of gross misrepresentations (often recycled stereotypes from corporate media, self-interested alarmists, even the reactionary Parents’ Television Council) of violence, crime and public health surveys and statistics to manufacture the impression that cultural and advertising images are corrupting young people en masse.

It’s one thing for MEF to critique genuinely repulsive media imagery; it is another to concoct false images that today’s youth are suffering and perpetrating unprecedented crises of drunkenness, smoking, rape, brutality and pathology. This media-created "mean teen" myth (like the "mean world" syndrome MEF elsewhere rightly deplores) is a major force driving public fears and reactionary repressions.

MEF bills itself as America’s largest educational video producer and a cutting-edge media critic. One would think accuracy and accountability would be its prime concern. Yet, MEF’s staff steadfastly refuse to discuss or even acknowledge meticulously documented criticisms. (Email me, mmales@earthlink.net, for a copy.) The left-wing media should be a model of rigorously accurate, honest information, especially concerning groups that are vilified in the mainstream and right-wing media.

Mike Males

University of California

Santa Cruz, Calif.

Demonizing the Reporters of Katrina?

With regard to this statement from Jaime Omar Yassin's article (Extra!, 11=12/05):

Smoke billowing from a pair of buildings behind him while a split screen showed a convoy of military vehicles rolling across a bridge, Fox News correspondent Steve Harrigan (9/2/05) reported that New Orleans looked like the “Wild West”: “We’ve got guys riding around in pick-ups with automatics drawn.” Harrigan was apparently referring to the police, the only such “guys” visible in the footage. Harrigan, noting the fire in the background, did not attribute it to an act of arson, but this did not stop Fox’s Phil Keating (9/3/05), back in Fox’s New York studio, from characterizing it in exactly that way, and asserting that it was set “perhaps for no other reason but just for the joy of arson. . . . Clearly it’s a sick joy.

Mr. Yassin would do well to check his facts before he looks to slander a journalist. At no time during Hurricane Katrina did Fox News's Phil Keating report from the New York studio. On Saturday, September 3, 2005, Phil was standing on the I-10 overpass where he had been reporting since he escaped the rising flood waters in New Orleans. Whoever may have made such a statement, I can't say, but I know for certain it was not Phil Keating.

I believe you should print a retraction and Mr. Yassin should personally apologize to Phil Keating for this slanderous and completely false attack.

Sandy Lamparello

Washington, D.C.

Extra! replies:

Keating was accurately quoted, but an editing error placed him in Fox's New York studio rather than in New Orleans, where he actually was. We regret the error.

Venezuela in Light of History

On page 25 in your November/December 2005 edition, Steve Rendall acknowledges that part of Venezuela's private media directly supported the coup against the elected government. Indeed, he quotes another writer as saying that their unlawful support was more than any other in Latin America history. In view of that history, that is saying plenty. Therefore, it seems to me that a law permitting the government to suspend or close stations that “promote, defend or incite breaches of public order” is quite a reasoned response.

The clear history of Chávez's Bolivarian movement has been democratic. The clear history of the Venezuelan private media has been anti-democratic. “Potential for abuse” needs to be evaluated in light of that history.

Bill Risner

He Speaks for the Trees

Congratulations on the move to (30 percent) post-consumer recycled paper and soy ink. I hope that this good start can continued with further increases in the content of post-consumer recycled paper. Keep up the good work!

Steve Corin

Wellington, N.Z.