Jun 07 2013

Michael Ratner on Bradley Manning, Neil deMause on Disability Fraud Hoax


As Bradley Manning’s court martial trial gets underway, journalists face real obstacles in trying to report on it, and they should be facing the constitutional issues the case raises. We’ll be joined by Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights and U.S. attorney for WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

Also on the show: Are parents keeping their kids from learning how to read, so they can get a disability check from the state? The claim has come from some high places in elite media, which you won’t be surprised to learn, doesn’t make it true. We’ll speak with author and journalist Neil deMause about this not-so-new media canard.

Jun 01 2013

Disabled Are New Target for Charges of Cheating

NYT, NPR lead campaign to cut SSI

Nicholas Kristof at Davos (cc photo: WEF/Monika Flueckiger)

Nicholas Kristof’s column was almost entirely wrong or unsupported. Yet it turned out to be just the opening salvo of a series of high-profile news reports exposing America’s alleged plague of skyrocketing disability benefits.

Nov 01 2012

‘Inspiration’ or Invisible

Media offer limited roles for people with disabilities

2012 Paralympics Torch Relay--Photo Credit: James Mitchell/Wikimedia Commons

U.S. media had a soft spot for the 2012 Paralympic Games, featuring some 4,000 athletes with disabilities from around the world. Not that they thought people wanted to see much of them―NBC only aired a few hours’ worth, and no live coverage (AP, 8/23/12)―but the events “proved once again that whatever your obstacles, you really can accomplish almost anything with hard work and dedication” (Sacramento Bee, 9/14/12). Seeing people with, as NPR’s Melissa Block (8/28/12) put it, “all sorts of impairments” competing in events from archery to swimming was “inspiring a lot of people” (NBC, 9/4/12); these were “performances that […]

Dec 01 2011

Lives Worth Reporting in the Disability Rights Movement

A history still unfolding—and largely unheeded

Lives Worth Living, an independent documentary on the U.S. disability rights movement that aired recently on PBS, traces the emergence and growth of activism through the 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act—a fact noted in a respectful New York Times review (10/26/11) that was all the notice big media appeared to take of the film, billed as the first such treatment of this crucial social justice movement. The Times’ Neil Genzlinger noted in closing that the “impact” of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications, is […]

Jul 01 2011

Getting Arrested Without Getting Attention

Media ignore disability rights protest on Capitol Hill

While it’s true elite media show no principled interest in citizen activism, you’d think some things would garner a word or two. Like 300 people, 200 or so in wheelchairs, occupying the rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C., to protest Republican budget plans for Medicaid. Dozens of protesters, organized by the disability rights group ADAPT, were arrested and carted off by Capitol police on May 2; the next day, another 300 gathered outside the Longworth House Office Building, many getting inside to Rep. Paul Ryan’s second floor office, where 10 were arrested—all to the profound disinterest […]

Aug 01 2005

Does Size Really Matter?

Analyzing the press’s protest coverage

On March 19, the two-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, tens of thousands of people across the country, and still more worldwide, turned out to protest the ongoing war. The protests had multiple goals, but given the general numbing of the population to the war, one objective was undoubtedly to keep the fact that human beings are being killed on a daily basis in the forefront of the average American’s brain. Unfortunately, if coverage in leading newspaper and television outlets is any gauge, this goal remains largely unmet. The New York Times (3/20/05) teased its coverage on the front […]

Mar 04 2005

John Hockenberry on Million Dollar Baby, Dahr Jamail on Iraq

Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Sure, Million Dollar Baby is just a movie, but given how rarely the media spotlight ever makes it around to people with disabilities, the movie is bound to shape public opinion and understanding. So the questions provoked by the film would seem to deserve more thoughtful, and inclusive, journalistic treatment than they’ve thus far received. We’ll talk about media coverage of the controversial Oscar winning film and its ostensible message with NBC correspondent John Hockenberry, author also of “Moving Violations: War Zones, Wheelchairs, and Declarations of Independence.” Also on the show: The average US […]

Nov 01 2000

A Right, Not a Favor

Coverage of Disability Act misses historical shift

Despite some limitations, the 10-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is an historic call for an end to barriers facing this country’s 50 million disabled people in nearly every arena of life. But major news outlets present the ADA as mainly a regulatory issue affecting private businesses, rather than a human rights issue facing society as a whole. There are articles celebrating advances like curb cuts and wheelchair-accessible buildings. But the Act’s “costs” to business are a constant in news coverage, along with a pronounced subcurrent of concerns about purported “abuse” of the law and out-of-control litigiousness: Driving up insurance […]