Jan 1 2008

Are People a ‘Special Interest’?

Media language equates citizens and money

We are raised on the notion that people are paramount in democracy–that it’s all about citizens who, through public discussion, campaigns and elections, decide who will lead and which policies will be pursued. But that notion is often undermined by political reporting and commentary, which often seems designed to get people out of the process and into a spectator role. One way this happens is when media use labels that disparage popular political involvement, while often giving corporate and moneyed political players a pass. In the media’s lexicon of political pejoratives, “pander” and “special interests” are in common usage. Examining […]

Jan 1 2008

Hollywood’s Media–and Washington’s

Rendition highlights the limits of torture discussion

“Guantánamo, a prison in no way ready to close, is at the heart of a conversation that almost no one seems willing to open.” Since September 27, 2007, when Karen Greenberg closed an article on TomDispatch.com with that observation, a media conversation about torture has unexpectedly taken off. The New York Times (10/4/07) published a lengthy exposé about the long turmoil at the Department of Justice caused by the Bush White House’s insistence that “enhanced interrogation” was key to fighting its “war on terror.” PBS’s Frontline (10/16/07) explored how Dick Cheney’s office secretly pushed the idea that the president could […]

Jan 1 2008

How to Lose Friends and Influence No One

A Wall Street Journal news analysis on November 13 had a familiar refrain: The Democrats are in trouble because Congress is unpopular, and the solution is to be nicer to the Republicans. After quoting Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) saying, “if you try to be too political there’s a backlash,” reporter David Rogers wrote, “That backlash is evident: Congress’s approval rating has fallen from 31 percent in March to 19 percent this month in the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.” Rogers went on to offer advice on how the Democrats can “soften the tone” and “overcome . . . the […]

Jan 1 2008


Crying Wolf A Washington Post op-ed column by Naomi Wolf (11/25/07) complaining that young people are woefully ignorant of the workings of democracy displayed some remarkable historical lapses of its own. “When New Left activists of the 1960s started the antiwar and free speech student movements,” Wolf wrote, “they didn’t get their intellectual framework from Montesquieu or Thomas Paine: They looked to Marx, Lenin and Mao.” Actually, the free speech movement did not draw inspiration from Communist philosophers, who tend not to be particular fans of free speech. And the antiwar movement owed much more to Thoreau, via Gandhi and […]

Jan 1 2008

Letters to the Editor

‘Transforming Coverage’ I want to thank you for your superb recent article in Extra!, “Transforming Coverage” (11-12/07). I can’t imagine improving on your coverage of the current state of media coverage of transgender issues. I was particularly glad to see you remind us all how media coverage has focused almost exclusively on highly successful, white male-to-female individuals undergoing transition. Even though I am a white MTF, and more or less professional, I am not terribly successful for my years, but rather I have watched my career erode mostly because of my gender identity issues. I am just beginning my transition. […]