Jun 1 2009

Glenn Beck Is No Howard Beale

He’s mad like a Fox, and wants to take us in

Fox News’ latest sensation Glenn Beck has invited comparisons of himself to Howard Beale, the barking-mad TV host in 1976’s black comedy Network, who urged viewers to throw open their windows and shout, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.” Beck recently told the New York Times (3/30/09): “I think that’s the way people feel. That’s the way I feel.” Beck has even played clips of Beale’s scenes on his show (Beck, 3/23/09). Declaring one’s kinship with a fictional TV host famous for undergoing an on-air emotional disintegration would not normally recommend one to […]

Jun 1 2009

Media Quarantine of Single-Payer Continues

Fifteen years later, public health insurance still taboo

As a big healthcare policy debate looms once again in Washington, one thing remains as certain as it was in 1993: A single-payer plan that would provide government health insurance to everyone is off the media agenda. CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen recently explained why healthcare “reform” is more possible now than it was under the Clinton administration (3/5/09): Fifteen years ago you sometimes heard—actually you heard quite a bit—people saying: “Let’s have a single-payer system like in Canada. The government is going to be the health insurer for everybody.” You don’t hear that as much as you used […]

Jun 1 2009

Treating Civilian Deaths as a ‘Sore Point’

The PR war in Afghanistan and Pakistan

The White House decision to send additional ground troops to Afghanistan (see Extra!, 4/09) is only part of the escalation of the war in Central Asia. The increased use of airstrikes and drone-fired missiles in both that country and neighboring Pakistan are likely to increase civilian deaths. Recent coverage, however, suggests that corporate media will present such incidents as aberrations that distract from U.S. strategic interests—or highlight the supposed public relations prowess of official enemies like the Taliban. A Washington Post piece headlined “Tactical Success, Strategic Defeat” (3/2/09) described a house raid in Afghanistan that became the source of controversy […]

May 1 2009

Marketing the Media’s ‘Toughest Sheriff’

Joe Arpaio hyped by cable, exposed by locals

The East Valley Tribune’s Pulitzer-winning series (7/9-13/08) exposing the soaring crime rates that followed from Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s redeployment of law enforcement resources into a campaign against undocumented immigrants (see Extra! 6/1/09) offers a fine example of journalism holding the powerful to account. It’s a model of journalism that has been all too rare in much of the news coverage of the official who—often with the help of cable news outlets—markets himself as “America’s toughest sheriff.” Under Arpaio’s leadership, Maricopa County, which includes the Phoenix metropolitan area, has faced record numbers of lawsuits and has had to […]

May 1 2009


Racism? Not a Problem! Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen (5/5/09) used the recent Frank Ricci Supreme Court case to attack affirmative action: “The justification for affirmative action gets weaker and weaker. Maybe once it was possible to argue that some innocent people had to suffer in the name of progress, but a glance at the White House strongly suggests that things have changed. For most Americans, race has become supremely irrelevant. Everyone knows this. Every poll shows this. Maybe the Supreme Court will recognize this.” Affirmative action was never solely about racism—though corporate media have long talked as though it […]

May 1 2009

Arpaio vs. Immigrants

Those most affected left out of debate

As the country braces for another attempt at immigration reform on Capitol Hill later this year, it’s likely that we’ll see plenty more of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, his supporters and his detractors in the media. But if the past year is any indication, we may not hear from the people that are most affected by the Maricopa County, Ariz. sheriff’s policies—those who have been racially profiled, regardless of their immigration status. Arpaio, who has been in office 16 years, bills himself as “America’s Toughest Sheriff.” (Extra! 6/1/09) Denounced for brutal and unconstitutional practices by human rights advocates for more than […]

May 1 2009

Does Violence ‘Spill Over’ or Come Home to Roost?

The U.S. media and the Mexican drug conflict

Protest against violence caused by the drug war.--Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Fronteras Desk

From the New York Times to Fox News, corporate media interest in Mexico’s drug-related violence has risen recently to an almost fever pitch. Initially this was a welcome sign: U.S. media were finally taking notice of a security and political crisis that had been festering for years, and seemingly worsening by the day, right at “our doorstep.” What has emerged, however, is a portrait of Mexico as an out-of-control orgy of violence at the hands of the narco-trafficking cartels, criminal organizations that annually feed billions of dollars worth of drugs to consumers in the United States. Realities on the ground—and […]

May 1 2009

The Trumped-Up Case Against I.F. Stone

Looking for Izzy in all the wrong places

IF Stone

For years, the right has tried to tar I.F. Stone, one of left journalism’s greatest heroes and an icon of independent reporting, as a spy for the Soviet Union (Nation, 8/31/06). Now two right-wing historians and an ex-KGB officer are back with more assertions that Stone secretly worked for the Soviet intelligence service. Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes and Alexander Vassiliev published an article on Commentary’s website (5/09), adapted from a new book, headlined “I.F. Stone, Soviet Agent—Case Closed.” “Until now,” they wrote, “the evidence was equivocal and subject to different interpretations. No longer.” What is this case-closing, unequivocal evidence? […]