Oct
01
2010

'Saving' Social Security From Its Previous Rescue

The multi-trillion surplus that must never, ever be used

Way back in 1983, corporate media helped sell the dubious notion that Social Security needed saving by a blue-ribbon commission (Extra!, 1-2/88). The panel—headed by future Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan—raised payroll taxes and the retirement age for the ostensible purpose of accumulating a large surplus to help finance the retirement of the baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964. That this surplus, loaned to the general federal budget in exchange for Treasury bonds, would also help to finance the Reagan-era tax cuts for affluent taxpayers was treated as a complete coincidence. Twenty-seven years later, the baby boomers are retiring […]

Oct
01
2010

Media Continue Bank Bailout Advocacy

Shunning progressive critics while hailing success of TARP

For corporate media, the verdict is already in: The Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), the unpopular program that redistributed some $700 billion of U.S. taxpayer funds upwards, to the very financial institutions that contributed to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, is an unabashed success. It is hardly stunning that corporate media would react favorably to one of the biggest boons for big corporations in U.S. history. When the bailout initially failed to make it through Congress in 2008 due to House opposition, journalists quickly accepted and reinforced the narrative that the unpopular legislation—which gave unprecedented power to […]

Oct
01
2010

The Media's Construction of the 'Ground Zero Mosque'

How Islamophobic blogs manufactured a controversy

How did a local story about a proposal to build an Islamic cultural center in Lower Manhattan turn into a national controversy about whether a “Ground Zero Mosque” would be a slap in the face to 9/11 victims? It started with a small group of anti-Muslim activists who suggested the proposal was a scheme by anti-American Muslims to “conquer” the hallowed site of the September 11 attacks (Big Government, 5/18/10). Some even suggested that the Imam behind the proposal was an Al-Qaeda supporter (Fox News, 5/13/10). The project was named “Cordoba House,” opponents argued, in honor of the Islamic conquest […]

Oct
01
2010

Brian Williams Rehashes Katrina Violence Myth

Remembering media fantasy as reality

For the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, NBC anchor Brian Williams (Dateline NBC, 8/22/10) recalled the experience as his own boy’s adventure tale: You know, I’ve been around a lot of guns and a lot of dead bodies, and a lot of people shooting at people to make dead bodies. But you put them all together and you put it in the United States of America, and boy, it gets your attention.... It was clear already there weren’t going to be enough cops.... Everywhere we went, every satellite shot, every camera shot, we were at the height of the violence […]

Oct
01
2010

Open Access Has Corporate Journals on the Run

Researchers create alternatives to for-profit academic publishing

Photo Credit: Open Access

It’s not often that a small group of determined colleagues take on corporate power and win, but in academic publishing exactly that is happening. The colleagues are the scientists, researchers, and professors of the Open Access Publishing movement. The corporate powers are the well-monied and politically savvy publishers like Reed Elsevier, whose thousands of journals have provided a vital nervous system to the worldwide research community. But the proponents of Open Access didn’t win by standing up to the publishers, or pushing a legislative fix. Instead of fighting, they decided to leave the publishing system and reconvene the party elsewhere. […]

Oct
01
2010

Exposés Just Excuses to Boost Afghan War

Missing the point of Rolling Stone, WikiLeaks revelations

Over the course of two months, the war in Afghanistan lost its commanding general over an embarrassing article in Rolling Stone magazine (6/22/10), and the website WikiLeaks (7/25/10) posted tens of thousands of classified documents that offered a stark reminder—if one were needed—of the brutal, futile nature of the U.S.-led war. But while both revelations were heavily covered in corporate media, they were mostly seen as opportunities to shore up support for the current Afghanistan policy rather than to debate it. Michael Hastings' Rolling Stone profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal revealed a striking pessimism in the U.S. military about the […]

Jan
01
2010

Letters to the Editor

Extra! Let NYT Off the Hook on Books I would like to take issue with Steve Rendall and Zachary Tomanelli’s handling of book reviews in the latest Extra! (“Who Gets to Review and Be Reviewed?,” 8/10). First, I question giving primacy to ethnicity and gender as opposed to political ideology. The former two are easier to handle, but aren’t they important mainly because of their effects on political outcomes? At the same time, aren’t political outcomes somewhat obscured by focusing on ethnicity and gender by themselves? Wouldn’t it be important to study closely which specific ethnic group and gender representatives […]

Jan
01
2010

Soundbites

Wasteful Stimulus—or Simulated Waste? ABC’s Good Morning America (8/3/10) aired a so-called “exclusive” that unveiled a list of supposedly wasteful stimulus projects compiled by two Republican senators. Correspondent Jonathan Karl led off his segment by telling viewers that half a million dollars went to fix up a visitors center near Mount St. Helens that was permanently closed. Gotcha! Except that Karl then acknowledges that the government is fixing up the center so it can sell it. That’s a crucial bit of context that makes the spending sound actually pretty reasonable. But Karl went on to name other examples without any […]