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Eleanor J. Bader
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The Media, Gulf War II, & The FCC
A new poll tells us that—by a two-to-one margin—Americans “use clearly positive words in their descriptions of the president.” The Pew Research Center, releasing a nationwide survey on May 7, declared “there is little doubt...that the war in Iraq has improved the president’s image” in the United States.
Such assessments stand in sharp contrast to views of George W. Bush overseas. In mid-March, the Pew center put out survey results showing, “U.S. favorability ratings have plummeted in the past six months”—not only in “countries actively opposing war,” but also in “countries that are part of the ‘coalition of the willing’.”
So, why do most people in the U.S. seem somewhat positive about Bush, while the figures indicating a “favorable view of the U.S.” are low in one country after another —only 48 percent in Britain, 31 percent in France, 28 percent in Russia, 25 percent in Germany, 14 percent in Spain, and 12 percent in Turkey? In large measure, the answer can be summed up with one word: media.
Overall, the U.S. news media do a great job of telling us how wonderful top U.S. leaders are as they direct our stride across the planet. The contrast with evil-doers —especially on our TV sets—could hardly be more plain.
Researchers at the media watch group FAIR recently pointed out, U.S. news outlets “have been quick to declare the U.S. war against Iraq a success, but in-depth investigative reporting about the war’s likely health and environmental consequences has been scarce.”
During the war, the London- based Guardian reported, the Pentagon dropped 1,500 cluster bombs —weaponry that fires small pieces of metal, which slice through human bodies. Unexploded cluster bombs are now detonating, sometimes in the hands of Iraqi children. As it did during Gulf War I, this spring the U.S. government fortified some munitions with depleted uranium, which leaves fine-particle radioactive dust that has been linked to cancer and birth defects.
Those are important stories, known to many news watchers on several continents, but not in the United States. Searching the comprehensive Nexis media database through May 5, the FAIR researchers found, “there have been no in- depth reports about cluster bombs on ABC, CBS or NBC’s nightly news programs since the start of the war.” Those news shows provided just “a few passing mentions of cluster bombs.”
The network evening news programs did even worse on DU reportage. “Since the beginning of the year,” FAIR discovered, “the words ‘depleted uranium’ have not been uttered once on ABC ‘World News Tonight,’ ‘CBS Evening News’ or ‘NBC Nightly News,’ according to Nexis.” Meanwhile, the deck of cards featuring 52 Iraqi villains—with Saddam Hussein as Ace of Spades —became one of the great PR innovations of the war on Iraq. By coincidence, on the same day that FAIR completed its research, five “Army intelligence specialists”—who designed the cards—stepped forward to take a bow in Washington.
A spokesperson for Central Command said that there was “no word on the cards helping find anyone.” But the Pentagon’s deck has tapped into the U.S. public’s appetite for fun ways to identify bad guys who’ll be hunted down.
News media keep encouraging us to believe that leaders in the United States are cut from entirely different cloth than the Iraqi thugs on the most-wanted cards. But in some respects, the terrible choices made by those men and women are more explainable than ones that are routine in U.S. politics.
Many of the Ba’ath Party operatives had good reason to fear for their lives—and the lives of their loved ones—if they ran afoul of Saddam. In contrast, many politicians and appointed officials in Washington have gone along with lethal policies merely because of fear that dissent might cost them prestige or power. Why take a moral position against a war and risk losing the next election?
A deck of cards might be printed someday featuring the faces of certain high officials in the Republican and Democratic parties of the United States. Of course, in the absence of independent-minded news media, the cards would need extensive annotations on the back to explain the human costs of decisions made by those officials.
The FCC’s Rules Matter
I n early June, the FCC is scheduled to vote on a revision of media ownership rules. Around the country, grassroots activists have been challenging the move to further loosen regulations. But clearly the interests of huge media conglomerates are getting a big boost from the FCC chair, Michael Powell, son of the secretary of state.
For a long time, the situation has been grim. Two decades ago, former Washington Post assistant managing editor Ben Bagdikian sketch- ed out the nation’s terrain of media ownership. In 1983, when his book The Media Monopoly first appeared, “50 corporations dominated most of every mass medium.” With each new edition of the book, that number kept dropping—to 29 media firms in 1987, 23 in 1990, 14 in 1992, and 10 in 1997.
Published in 2000, the sixth edition of The Media Monopoly documented that just a half-dozen corporations were supplying most of the U.S.’s media fare.
Overall, the news coverage of the latest FCC proposal has been badly skewed, with radio and TV networks opting to tread lightly on the matter. That’s not surprising. Billions of dollars in revenues are at stake for mega-media owners.
A few prominent journalists, such as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, have raised an alarm this spring. Some newspaper stories have laid out basic facts. But—as part of a classic pattern —news coverage of the FCC controversy has been largely relegated to business sections, as though the FCC decision was just a financial matter. “Most people in this country have no idea what’s about to happen to them,” says dissenting FCC commissioner Jonathan Adel- stein, “even though their very democracy is at stake.”
One of the impending rule changes would allow a single company to own TV stations reaching 45 percent of the nationwide audience (instead of the current on-paper limit of 35 percent). But that understates the impact, as Andrew Schwartzman of the Media Access Project points out: “The 45 percent number that has been floated is a fake number. It will realistically be much much higher.”
Another FCC change would end the ban on a single firm’s cross- ownership of daily newspapers and TV stations in four-fifths of the country’s media markets. The limits on ownership of television stations in large metropolitan areas would also be eased, so that one company could own three TV stations.
A ppearing on Bill Moyers’s program “Now” on PBS in early May, FCC commissioner Michael Copps warned: “This is not just some little mechanical thing about numbers or a little decision about numbers of stations. This is something that has very widespread and profound implications.”
Said Copps: “I understand they [broadcasters] live in a commercial culture and a business culture. But this is a special industry with a special charge—administering the public airwaves. Nobody owns these airwaves. There’s no TV company or radio company that owns the airwaves. The people of the United States of America own the airwaves.”
All the signs indicate that early June will bring another triumph for the corporate forces that have hijacked the public airwaves for private gain; and they call it democracy.
Norman Solomon is co-author of Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.