Oct
01
2009

Lockerbie in the Propaganda System

Release of Al-Megrahi evokes selective history

Pan Am 103 memorial garden--Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

When Abdelbasset Al-Megrahi, after serving 10 years of a life sentence for allegedly blowing up the Pan Am 103 airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, was granted compassionate release due to terminal illness, the ensuing controversy was loud and indignant. Al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer, returned home to what was angrily described in U.S. media as a “hero’s welcome.” Recalling the bombing, which killed 270 people, many U.S. family members, political leaders and journalists felt that the decade in prison was not enough. But the media’s simplistic tale of villainy and impunity requires a very selective reading of history. […]

Oct
01
2009

SoundBites

A Little Help for His Friends Robert Novak was certainly a remarkable journalist; how many other pundits would complain about there being too much diversity at a Republican convention? (“What about white people? Not too many”—Crossfire, 7/31/00.) But the many eulogies for Novak upon his August 18 death generally revealed less about the columnist himself than they did about the standards of corporate journalism. The Washington Post’s David Broder (8/19/09), as usual, expressed the conventional wisdom in its purest form: “The self-mocking parody of himself that Bob created as the Prince [of Darkness], a grumpy right-winger, was sometimes taken more […]

Oct
01
2009

Healthcare Reform Minus the Public Option--or the Public

Waving the white flag and kicking the left

It was probably a given that the corporate press would mangle the debate over this year’s healthcare reform legislation, considering their poor showing in the healthcare debate of the early ’90s (Extra!, 7-8/93). The only questions were when and how. One answer came immediately, as the media shut off discussion of a popular single-payer plan before it even started (Extra!, 6/09). But in the debate the media did allow, the answer came in late summer, when “town hall” protests and the media’s fetish for bipartisanship pushed the discourse well to the right. In some ways the media’s malpractice was typical. […]

Oct
01
2009

Ex-Flak Sees Industry Script in Town Hall Attacks

Interview with Wendell Potter

Wendell Potter--Photo Credit: Center for Media and Democracy

Where has the investigative reporting been on the organizing behind attacks on healthcare reform at the “town halls” members of Congress have been holding? Wendell Potter sees private health insurance industry as involved in the situation—and he should know. Until last year, Potter was head of corporate communications at CIGNA, one of the nation’s largest for-profit health insurance companies. Before that, he headed communications at Humana, another huge for-profit health insurer. Potter started as a reporter for the Memphis Press-Scimitar and worked for the Scripps-Howard bureau in Washington before going into PR. In doing PR for Humana and CIGNA, he […]

Oct
01
2009

Whitewashing the Colombian Army

CBS Evening News takes cues from Washington

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/ValentinaM-

The selling of the Afghanistan War and the whitewashing of the Colombian military came together in a recent CBS Evening News report (7/27/09), a story so faithful to the U.S. propaganda lines that one might have mistaken it for state television. “U.S. forces are about to get some much-needed help as they fight the Taliban in Afghanistan,” Evening News anchor Katie Couric cheerily announced. “Teams of elite foreign commandos will soon be headed there. They’re U.S.-trained and battle-tested, having defeated terrorists in their own country, Colombia.” Even if the American public supported the war in Afghanistan (an August 6 CNN […]

Oct
01
2009

'Law-Abiding' Israelis, 'Unwelcoming' Palestinians

U.S. journalists sympathize with Israeli colonists

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Decode Jerusalem

The Obama administration’s push to freeze Israeli construction of illegal colonies in the West Bank has brought the settlement question back to the fore of media coverage. On July 27, Time published a rather long piece by Nina Burleigh on Israeli settlements under the headline “Two Views of the Land.” The first view was Israeli: The Katzes, very normal, gentle people readers can identify with (they’re even from New York!), “consider themselves law-abiding citizens” and do earnest and upstanding things like “publish a small community magazine and take part in civic projects. Sharon raises money for charity by putting on […]

Oct
01
2009

Institutional Racism Ignored

More feelings than facts in coverage of inequality

After a tour of the country last year, a United Nations special rapporteur (4/28/09) urged Washington to do more to address “the depth of racism [that] still permeates all dimensions of life of American society.” Not “questions of race,” not “past racism,” not “personal biases”—but present-day, institutional racism, as expressed in, for example, “racial bias in conviction rates and length of sentences of both juvenile and criminal courts,” “direct discriminatory practices in housing...as well as in mortgage lending,” and in the educational system, “racial bias in the type of disciplinary action given to white or minority students.” Restrained and conciliatory […]

Oct
01
2009

Alternative Cartoonists Nearing the Punch Line?

As alt weeklies go, so go alt comics

It took years for cartoonist Dan Perkins, aka Tom Tomorrow, to syndicate his comic strip This Modern World in alternative weekly newspapers. But in just one afternoon, his career was knee-capped. Last January, the company Village Voice Media, publisher of 14 alternative weeklies, suspended all syndicated cartoons. This Modern World, a sardonic strip that hammers the political establishment and critiques the media, debuted in the SF Weekly in 1990 (and has frequently graced the pages of Extra!). The comic may be best known for its recurring character Sparky, a sarcastic, sunglasses-wearing penguin. Perkins’ comic was in 12 of the Village […]