Jul 1 2009

Letters to the Editor

The Hannity Prescription

I enjoyed your coverage of the media quarantine of single-payer health plans (6/09). I was particularly tickled by the quote of this right-wing fanatic Sean Hannity. His is idea was that if we look at France, England or Canada, we would see that single-payer is the worst thing. I then checked the life expectancy in these three countries. It seems that their citizens all live longer than we Americans. I guess the slogan should be, “Listen to Hannity and live a shorter life!”

Donald Kahn

Minneapolis, Minn.

Unfair to Chris Matthews

I am a donor to FAIR and a subscriber to Extra!. I am grateful to your organization for performing a valuable service. However, I do have a comment about your most recent edition of Extra!. The back cover features a picture of Chris Matthews below the slogan “With Media This Bad….”

I think this is unfair to Chris Matthews. He is a center-right political commentator. I have watched his show often, and it is intended as political commentary and not news. While he is more conservative than myself and, I’m sure, most of the readers of Extra!, the opinions he expresses are generally reasonable, if sometimes naive. Of course, as with all commentators in the mainstream media, he does make some dubious statements. But Chris Matthews hardly compares with offenders such as Bill O’Reilly. It is a stretch to regard Matthews as an example of “bad media.”

MSNBC also features a show by Keith Olbermann, who is quite explicitly partisan and biased towards moderate progressives and Democrats. It is hard to make the argument that Chris Matthews is a less fair commentator than Olbermann, even though readers of Extra! may be more inclined to side with the views of Olbermann. I am concerned that attacking commentators such as Matthews for their views undermines the legitimacy of the FAIR organization.

Ben Weinkove

La Jolla, Calif.

Fuck the Converter Box

Amalia Deloney’s article in the May 2009 issue of Extra!, “Digital Justice for All,” is based on the unquestioned assumption that television provides a crucial means of access to important information that we cannot do without. Deloney argues, “At stake is the ability of the nation’s most vulnerable populations to maintain their fundamental right of access to a key affordable source of news and information.” It then follows from this that compromised access constitutes an injustice that should be contested.

However, over the course of the last 50 years in America and abroad, studies have consistently shown that increased TV watching corresponds to higher rates of illiteracy, lower standardized-test scores among children, knowledge of fewer words among babies, diminished tolerance for the perspectives of others and a loss of the sense of doubt generally. Accordingly, why would anyone fight the DTV blackout? It’s a cause for celebration and radical reorganization.

Fuck a $45-$80 converter box. You can get a subscription to Extra! for $19! But with such a mainstream perspective, perhaps your best bet is to save the money and support the free library system, which is in fact crumbling.

Andrew Lopez

Philadelphia, Pa.

Enough With the Media Criticism

I do enjoy your publication and find news that I don’t find anywhere else. However, I was disappointed in your article on the Congo (5/09). You have a full two-and-a-half pages (out of only 11 article pages) devoted to this topic. After reading a couple of paragraphs bashing other media sources for not talking about the Congo, I thought you were going to talk about the Congo, especially after you bashed them for only mentioning how little coverage there was. So you turn around and make your longest article in this issue entirely about how other media aren’t talking about it. It seemed a bit hypocritical.

I will, however, give you props for the “Digital Justice for All” and “Hate Speech, Media Activism and the First Amendment” articles. In particular, I appreciate the hate speech one, because so much of white America has no idea how bad the racism still is. If I hadn’t married an Asian man, I still wouldn’t know.

Katharine Ung

Pottstown, Pa.

Covering Socialism

Let’s give credit where credit is due. There has been a lot of talk from the right charging Obama with being a socialist, but few if any mainstream business publications have bothered to ask any socialists about this. Finally, in the May 22 Business Week, beneath a headline reading “Socialism? Hardly, Say Socialists,” the astute Moira Herbst actually asks some.

After quoting Limbaugh saying Obama wants to destroy capitalism and establish a socia-list government, she says, “But real socialists would vigorously disagree.” She goes on to quote two members of Democratic Socialists of America to the effect that socialists, despite their many disagreements, have always agreed on the need to extend democracy from politics to the economy.

She then actually quotes Karl Marx, who called socialism the

revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat,” the working class seizing power and replacing a political, economic and social system controlled by the bourgeoisie, or the propertied class. Such a reordering denotes “an association where the development of each is the basis of the free development of all,” Marx wrote in 1848 in The Communist Manifesto.

“Socialists,” Herbst concludes, “say that far from creating a state in which workers rule, the Obama team is instead scrambling to rescue and preserve capitalism.” Kudos to Herbst for telling it like it is (and BW for running her story).

Martin Oppenheimer

Eugene V. Debs Society of Central N.J.

Franklin Township, N.J.