Sep
01
2007

Letters to the Editor

Violence & Worker Control I always appreciate—and enjoy—reading Extra!, and the July/August 2007 issue was no exception. I was surprised, though, to read that Noam Chomsky believes that in democratic societies, “the state has lost the capacity to control the population by violence.” Rather, it seems to me, violence is the last resort of the ruling class, when the working class has become too powerful to control by other means. Weak and disorganized working classes require little effort to control. In the United States, for instance, the working class is so thoroughly disorganized and powerless that it has little ability […]

Sep
01
2007

A Poverty of Coverage

Why aren’t the poor on the media agenda?

During the 20 years of FAIR’s existence, there have been two periods when mainstream journalists made promises about dedicating themselves to greater coverage of poverty, racism and inequality. The first followed the Los Angeles riots of 1992 (Extra!, 7-8/92); the second was after Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of New Orleans (Extra!, 7-8/06). Both promises went largely unfulfilled. Following Katrina, national news coverage of poverty increased before returning to a normal, almost undetectable baseline. According to the Tyndall Report, a newsletter that tracks what’s covered on the nightly network news, poverty reporting increased in the eight months following Katrina from two-and-a-half […]

Sep
01
2007

Millionaires Working for Billionaires

When you’re exposed to network TV news, it’s always good to bear in mind that you’re watching millionaires working for billionaires, telling stories whose main purpose (from an economic perspective) is to get you to hold still long enough for corporate advertisements to rearrange your value system. It’s not surprising that such an institution does a poor job of informing viewers about poverty, as a new FAIR study by Neil deMause and Steve Rendall documents. How could it do a good job? It’s impossible to explain why some people are poor without explaining why other people are rich. And that’s […]

Sep
01
2007

Cheerleading for Inequality

Rich getting richer is all for the better, pundits say

At this point, it is no longer possible to contest the fact that there has been an enormous upward redistribution of income since 1980. Dozens of economists have reached the same conclusion, using different methodologies and different data sets (e.g., The State of Working America, 2006-07, Lawrence Mishel et al.; “Where Did the Productivity Growth Go? Inflation Dynamics and the Distribution of Income,” Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon, 2005; “The Evolution of Top Incomes: A Historical and International Perspective,” Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, National Bureau of Economic Research, 1/06). Income has risen far more rapidly for the top 5 […]

Sep
01
2007

'I Like This Violence'

Censoring the U.S. role in Gaza’s civil war

The big story from the Middle East last June was the factional fighting in Gaza that ended in a victory for the Hamas party and the routing of forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement. The violence made the front pages of the major papers—the New York Times (6/14/07), Washington Post (6/14/07), the Los Angeles Times (6/15/07)—and the cover of Newsweek (6/25/07). The overall message was simple: As the Washington Post’s Scott Wilson described it (6/15/07), the episode represented “a sharp escalation in intensity, brutality and ambition on the part of Hamas forces.” As for the events that […]

Sep
01
2007

The Return of Elliott Abrams

A key Bush administration architect of the policy of arming elements of Fatah to attack Hamas was Elliott Abrams, whose current White House title is deputy national security advisor for global democracy strategy. Abrams has a long history of such operations, and seems to be pursuing them today in areas far beyond Palestine. As a State Department official for Latin America in the Reagan administration, Abrams promoted the strategy of “low-intensity warfare”—that is, arming death squads and guerrillas—against the Nicaraguan Sandinistas and the Salvadoran insurgents, ultimately pleading guilty to withholding information about these efforts from Congress in the Iran/Contra affair. […]