My musings on and criticisms of American culture, media and politics.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
By Jeffrey Chester, AlterNet. Posted December 14, 2004.
As PBS lobbies for a billion-dollar trust fund, it's time to challenge the status quo.
It's fitting that as Bill Moyers formally ends his 30-year journey working at PBS, the noncommercial network itself is about to embark on a new effort to determine its own future. This Friday, Moyers signs-off as the host of his "NOW" program, and also leaves PBS. At the same time, public broadcasting's new "Enhanced Funding Initiative" advisory committee is about to hold their first public meeting. Its goal is to "develop ... sustainable ... funding for public service media in the digital era." At issue is whether public broadcasting will finally succeed in securing what has been an endless Holy Grail-like quest since its founding in the 1960s: to secure ongoing and independent funding for noncommercial radio and TV.
For decades, public TV and radio have been buffeted by political forces of Congress, which controls the key federal contributions to its annual budget. It's always been kept on a very short funding leash, which has helped keep both PBS and NPR from engaging in the kind of programming that would significantly challenge the status quo (both of media and of politics). But PBS President Pat Mitchell believes that there is now a serious opportunity to create a permanent trust fund worth billions of dollars. The new funding initiative will recommend how PBS (and presumably NPR and public TV and radio stations) can gain the revenues made possible from the sale of publicly owned airwaves.
Mitchell is correct that the country's congressionally mandated transition to an all-digital broadcast system provides a unique opportunity to explore permanent funding. There are 20 to 30 billions of dollars worth of public spectrum (airwaves) that will return to the government from commercial and public TV stations. Even a small portion of the proceeds could easily generate sustainable annual revenues for noncommercial TV and radio.
But it is unlikely that either PBS or its elite panel of advisors (the panel is chaired by former Netscape CEO James Barksdale and former FCC Chair Reed Hundt) will ask whether PBS actually deserves such a major gift from the American public. Nor will the process likely examine – in a very open and public way – how noncommercial communications should be restructured in the digital era.
For example, before any discussion of raising new revenues, we should be assured that the spirit of the original mission of public broadcasting is fully honored. Where is the commitment to producing serious news and public affairs (both at the station and national level)? How will significant programming slots be controlled by persons of color (at a time when Tavis Smiley, for example, is quitting NPR for its failure to "meaningfully reach out" to a multi-cultural audience)? How much of the schedule will be controlled by independent producers? Will ad-like underwriting vanish from PBS, especially its news and children's programs? How will the governance of public broadcasting change so it becomes more democratic? What new innovative programming ventures will be created that can harness the more than 2,000 digital channels soon to be available to public TV?
Unless there is public pressure on PBS and the Congress to ask such questions, they won't be on the agenda. We should be engaged in the kind of serious review about the future of public service broadcasting (PSB) now underway in the U.K., where a very public and focused process about how to "redefine PSB for the digital age" has already produced significant recommendations. Given the expanded capabilities of digital TV, broadband, and other new media, there is no reason to rely on any one central institution, such as PBS, to provide the public with quality noncommercial programming. One U.K. proposal to create a "Public Service Publisher" that would use independent producers to create and "distribute content on broadband, mobile networks as well as cable [and] satellite" should be embraced here as well. So should its call for a noncommercial system that is "genuinely open, transparent ... and involves the public adequately in decision making."
The new media landscape of TV and online will likely become even more commercialized, as Big Media and Madison Avenue target consumers with pinpoint digital accuracy. It is vital that we create as far-reaching a noncommercial media landscape as we can. To truly do so would be honoring Bill Moyers. In his roles as journalist and storyteller, he has demonstrated how TV can serve democracy as well as the spirit. We can only hope that the country's noncommercial future reflects the rich legacy that Moyers has given us.
For more on this subject, visit:
The Ofcom Review of Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) Television
BBC Charter Review
Independent Panel's Report "Emerging Themes"
"PBS CEO Pat Mitchell Charts a Course for Robust Public Service Media in America"
In 2004, PBS Focuses on New Platforms while Delivering on Public Service Mission
Jim Romenesko, "Tavis Smiley Decides against Renewing NPR Contract"
"The Public Broadcasting Service: An Overview"
Monday, November 22, 2004
Contact: Dr. Susan Linn (617) 278-4282 email@example.com
For Immediate Release
PARENTS BEWARE: SPONGEBOB MOVIE RIFE WITH
Citing the film’s promotions with Burger King, Kellogg’s, and
Keebler, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood
(CCFC) is warning parents to beware of the excessive and
harmful levels of commercialism in the new SpongeBob
“This movie is essentially a ninety minute commercial for junk
food,” said CCFC’s Dr. Susan Linn, author of Consuming Kids:
The Hostile Takeover of Childhood. “Parents who take their
children to see the film should expect to be besieged with
requests for products from the movie’s promotional partners.”
Burger King is offering exclusive SpongeBob toys and watches
at its restaurants. Kellogg’s and Keebler have launched several
SpongeBob products to coincide with the movie, including
Kellogg’s SpongeBob SquarePants Movie Cereal, Keebler
SpongeBob SquarePants Movie E.L. Fudge Cookies, Kellogg’s
SpongeBob SquarePants Movie Rice Krispie Treats, and
Kellogg’s SpongeBob SquarePants Pop Tarts.
It has become commonplace for media characters popular with
children to adorn the packages of food products of dubious
nutritional value. Ever since rising to superstardom on
Nickelodeon, SpongeBob SquarePants has been ubiquitous in
grocery stores. In 2002, SpongeBob macaroni and cheese was
Kraft’s top-selling pasta brand. SpongeBob also fronts for
products such as SpongeBob SquarePants cereal, Cheez-Its, and
Wild Bubble-Berry Pop Tarts.
Marketing to children is a factor in childhood obesity. A
number of children’s health organizations – including the
American Academy of Pediatrics – have called for restrictions
on food marketing to children. The Institute of Medicine
recently called for a national conference to develop guidelines
for the advertising of foods and beverages directed at children.
Psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint of the Judge Baker Children’s
Center hopes that parents will factor in the film’s commercial
ties when deciding whether or not to let their children see
SpongeBob on the big screen. “The cost of this movie is more
than the price of a ticket. The nagging that marketers
deliberately and effectively cultivate can be extremely stressful
for families. And for those parents who give in, there are the
potential costs of childhood obesity and its attendant health
The Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood (formerly
Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children) is a national
coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy
groups and concerned parents who counter the harmful effects
of marketing to children through action, advocacy, education,
research, and collaboration among organizations and individuals
who care about children. CCFC supports the rights of children
to grow up – and the rights of parents to raise them – without
being undermined by rampant consumerism. For more
information, please visit: www.commercialfreechildhood.org
CCFC: Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood
and Greetings from the Prometheus Radio Project!
We're writing this note to let you know about a great opportunity to
expand Low Power FM -- and to encourage you to act on it now, before
time runs out. We need you to file comments at the FCC before -December
1st-, and tell the Commission how much LPFM means to you.
The FCC is collecting comments from organizations and community members,
trying to find out how their local broadcasters are impacting them.
Some organizations, like the Educational Media Foundation, are filing
comments -against- Low Power FM radio! They want their sattelite-fed,
non-local translators to take precedence over our community-run,
Tell the FCC that your LPFM stations, and thousands more like it around
the country, are the kind of local media that America needs most. Go to
http://www.prometheusradio.org/localism to file a brief comment today!
Thanks for fighting for real community radio,
The Organizers at Prometheus Radio Project
* * * * *
(to be removed from this list, email firstname.lastname@example.org. thanks
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
By Alfred W. McCoy
From ancient Rome's red-hot irons and lacerating hooks to medieval
Europe's thumbscrews, rack, and wheel, for over 2,000 years anyone
interrogated in a court of law could expect to suffer unspeakable
tortures. For the last 200 years, humanist intellectuals from
Voltaire to members of Amnesty International have led a sustained
campaign against the horrors of state-sponsored cruelty, culminating
in the United Nation's 1985 Convention Against Torture, ratified by
the Clinton administration in 1994.
Then came 9/11. When the Twin Towers collapsed killing thousands,
influential "pro-pain pundits" promptly repudiated those
Enlightenment ideals and began publicly discussing whether torture
might be an appropriate, even necessary weapon in George Bush's war
on terror. The most persuasive among them, Harvard academic Alan M.
Dershowitz, advocated giving courts the right to issue "torture
warrants," ensuring that needed information could be prized from
unwilling Arab subjects with steel needles.
Despite torture's appeal as a "lesser evil," a necessary expedient in
dangerous times, those who favor it ignore its recent, problematic
history in America. They also seem ignorant of a perverse pathology
that allows the practice of torture, once begun, to spread
uncontrollably in crisis situations, destroying the legitimacy of the
perpetrator nation. As past perpetrators could have told today's
pundits, torture plumbs the recesses of human consciousness,
unleashing an unfathomable capacity for cruelty as well as seductive
illusions of potency. Even as pundits and professors fantasized about
"limited, surgical torture," the Bush administration, following the
President's orders to "kick some ass," was testing and disproving
their theories by secretly sanctioning brutal interrogation that
spread quickly from use against a few "high target value" Al Qaeda
suspects to scores of ordinary Afghans and then hundreds of innocent
As we learned from France's battle for Algiers in the 1950s,
Argentina's dirty war in the 1970s, and Britain's Northern Ireland
conflict in the 1970s, a nation that harbors torture in defiance of
its democratic principles pays a terrible price. Its officials must
spin an ever more complex web of lies that, in the end, weakens the
bonds of trust that are the sine qua non of any modern society. Most
surprisingly, our own pro-pain pundits seemed, in those heady early
days of the war on terror, unaware of a fifty-year history of torture
by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), nor were they aware that
their enthusiastic proposals gave cover to those in the Bush
Administration intent on reactivating a ruthless apparatus.
Torture's Perverse Pathology
In April 2004, the American public was stunned by televised
photographs from Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison showing hooded Iraqis
stripped naked, posed in contorted positions, and visibly suffering
humiliating abuse while U.S. soldiers stood by smiling. As the
scandal grabbed headlines around the globe, Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld quickly assured Congress that the abuses were
"perpetrated by a small number of U.S. military," whom New York Times
columnist William Safire soon branded "creeps."
These photos, however, are snapshots not of simple brutality or even
evidence of a breakdown in "military discipline." What they record
are CIA torture techniques that have metastasized like an undetected
cancer inside the U.S. intelligence community over the past half
century. A survey of this history shows that the CIA was, in fact,
the lead agency at Abu Ghraib, enlisting Army intelligence to support
its mission. These photographs from Iraq also illustrate standard
interrogation procedures inside the gulag of secret CIA prisons that
have operated globally, on executive authority, since the start of
the President's war on terror.
Looked at historically, the Abu Ghraib scandal is the product of a
deeply contradictory U.S. policy toward torture since the start of
the Cold War. At the UN and other international forums, Washington
has long officially opposed torture and advocated a universal
standard for human rights. Simultaneously, the CIA has propagated
ingenious new torture techniques in contravention of these same
international conventions, a number of which the U.S has ratified. In
battling communism, the United States adopted some of its most
objectionable practices -- subversion abroad, repression at home, and
most significantly torture itself.
From 1950 to 1962, the CIA conducted massive, secret research into
coercion and the malleability of human consciousness which, by the
late fifties, was costing a billion dollars a year. Many Americans
have heard about the most outlandish and least successful aspect of
this research -- the testing of LSD on unsuspecting subjects. While
these CIA drug experiments led nowhere and the testing of electric
shock as a technique led only to lawsuits, research into sensory
deprivation proved fruitful indeed. In fact, this research produced a
new psychological rather than physical method of torture, perhaps
best described as "no-touch" torture.
The Agency's discovery was a counterintuitive breakthrough, the first
real revolution in this cruel science since the seventeenth century
-- and thanks to recent revelations from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo,
we are now all too familiar with these methods, even if many
Americans still have no idea of their history. Upon careful
examination, those photographs of nude bodies expose the CIA's most
basic torture techniques -- stress positions, sensory deprivation,
and sexual humiliation.
For over 2,000 years, from ancient Athens through the Inquisition,
interrogators found that the infliction of physical pain often
produced heightened resistance or unreliable information -- the
strong defied pain while the weak blurted out whatever was necessary
to stop it. By contrast, the CIA's psychological torture paradigm
used two new methods, sensory disorientation and "self-inflicted
pain," both of which were aimed at causing victims to feel
responsible for their own suffering and so to capitulate more readily
to their torturers. A week after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke,
General Geoffrey Miller, U.S. prison commander in Iraq (and formerly
in Guantanamo), offered an unwitting summary of this two-phase
torture. "We will no longer, in any circumstances, hood any of the
detainees," the general said. "We will no longer use stress positions
in any of our interrogations. And we will no longer use sleep
deprivation in any of our interrogations."
Under field conditions since the start of the Afghan War, Agency and
allied interrogators have often added to their no-touch repertoire
physical methods reminiscent of the Inquisition's trademark tortures
-- strappado, question de l'eau, "crippling stork," and "masks of
mockery." At the CIA's center near Kabul in 2002, for instance,
American interrogators forced prisoners "to stand with their hands
chained to the ceiling and their feet shackled," an effect similar to
the strappado. Instead of the Inquisition's iron-framed "crippling
stork" to contort the victim's body, CIA interrogators made their
victims assume similar "stress positions" without any external
mechanism, aiming again for the psychological effect of self-induced
Although seemingly less brutal than physical methods, the CIA's "no
touch" torture actually leaves deep, searing psychological scars on
both victims and -- something seldom noted -- their interrogators.
Victims often need long treatment to recover from a trauma many
experts consider more crippling than physical pain. Perpetrators can
suffer a dangerous expansion of ego, leading to escalating acts of
cruelty and lasting emotional disorders. When applied in actual
operations, the CIA's psychological procedures have frequently led to
unimaginable cruelties, physical and sexual, by individual
perpetrators whose improvisations are often horrific and only
Just as interrogators are often seduced by a dark, empowering sense
of dominance over victims, so their superiors, even at the highest
level, can succumb to fantasies of torture as an all-powerful weapon.
Our contemporary view of torture as aberrant and its perpetrators as
abhorrent ignores both its pervasiveness as a Western practice for
two millennia and its perverse appeal. Once torture begins, its
perpetrators, plunging into uncharted recesses of consciousness, are
often swept away by dark reveries, by frenzies of power and potency,
mastery and control -- particularly in times of crisis. "When
feelings of insecurity develop within those holding power," reads one
CIA analysis of the Soviet state applicable to post-9/11 America,
"they become increasingly suspicious and put great pressures on the
secret police to obtain arrests and confessions. At such times police
officials are inclined to condone anything which produces a speedy
'confession' and brutality may become widespread."
Enraptured by this illusory power, modern states that sanction
torture usually allow it to spread uncontrollably. By 1967, just four
years after compiling a torture manual for use against a few top
Soviet targets, the CIA was operating forty interrogation centers in
South Vietnam as part of its Phoenix Program that killed over 20,000
Viet Cong suspects. In the centers themselves, countless thousands
were tortured for information that led to these assassinations.
Similarly, just a few months after CIA interrogators first tortured
top Al Qaeda suspects at Kabul in 2002, its agents were involved in
the brutal interrogation of hundreds of Iraqi prisoners. As its most
troubling legacy, the CIA's psychological method, with its
legitimating scientific patina and its avoidance of obvious physical
brutality, has provided a pretext for the preservation of torture as
an acceptable practice within the U.S. intelligence community.
Once adopted, torture offers such a powerful illusion of efficient
information extraction that its perpetrators, high and low, remain
wedded to its use. They regularly refuse to recognize its limited
utility and high political cost. At least twice during the Cold War,
the CIA's torture training contributed to the destabilization of two
key American allies, Iran's Shah and the Philippines' Ferdinand
Marcos. Yet even after their spectacular falls, the Agency remained
blind to the way its torture training was destroying the allies it
was designed to defend.
CIA Torture Research
The CIA's torture experimentation of the 1950s and early 1960s was
codified in 1963 in a succinct, secret instructional booklet on
torture -- the "KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation" manual,
which would become the basis for a new method of torture disseminated
globally over the next three decades. These techniques were first
spread through the U.S. Agency for International Development's Public
Safety program to train police forces in Asia and Latin America as
the front line of defense against communists and other
revolutionaries. After an angry Congress abolished the Public Safety
program in 1975, the CIA worked through U.S. Army Mobile Training
Teams to instruct military interrogators, mainly in Central America.
At the Cold War's end, Washington resumed its advocacy of universal
principles, denouncing regimes for torture, participating in the
World Conference on Human Rights at Vienna in 1993 and, a year later,
ratifying the UN Convention Against Torture. On the surface, the
United States had resolved the tension between its anti-torture
principles and its torture practices. Yet even when Congress finally
ratified this UN convention it did so with intricately-constructed
reservations that cleverly exempted the CIA's psychological torture
method. While other covert agencies synonymous with Cold War
repression such as Romania's Securitate, East Germany's Stasi, and
the Soviet Union's KGB have disappeared, the CIA survives -- its
archives sealed, its officers decorated, and its Cold War crimes
forgotten. By failing to repudiate the Agency's propagation of
torture, while adopting a UN convention that condemned its practice,
the United States left this contradiction buried like a political
land mine ready to detonate with such phenomenal force in the Abu
Memory and Forgetting
Today the American public has only a vague understanding of these CIA
excesses and the scale of its massive mind-control project. Yet
almost every adult American carries fragmentary memories of this past
-- of LSD experiments, the CIA's Phoenix program in Vietnam, the
murder of a kidnapped American police adviser in Montevideo who was
teaching CIA techniques to the Uruguayan police, and of course the
Abu Ghraib photographs. But few are able to fit these fragments
together and so grasp the larger picture. There is, in sum, an
ignorance, a studied avoidance of a deeply troubling topic, akin to
that which shrouds this subject in post-authoritarian societies.
With the controversy over Abu Ghraib, incidents that once seemed but
fragments should now be coming together to form a mosaic of a
clandestine agency manipulating its government and deceiving its
citizens to probe the cruel underside of human consciousness, and
then propagating its discoveries throughout the Third World.
Strong democracies have difficulty dealing with torture. In the
months following the release of the Abu Ghraib photos, the United
States moved quickly through the same stages (as defined by author
John Conroy) that the United Kingdom experienced after revelations of
British army torture in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s -- first,
minimizing the torture with euphemisms such as "interrogation in
depth"; next, justifying it on grounds that it was necessary or
effective; and finally, attempting to bury the issue by blaming "a
few bad apples."
Indeed, since last April, the Bush administration and much of the
media have studiously avoided the word "torture" and instead blamed
our own bad apples, those seven Military Police. In July, the Army's
Inspector General Paul T. Mikolashek delivered his report blaming 94
incidents of "abuse" on "an individual failure to uphold Army
Values." Although the New York Times called his conclusions
"comical," the general's views seem to resonate with an emerging
conservative consensus. "Interrogation is not a Sunday-school class,"
said Republican Senator Trent Lott. "You don't get information that
will save American lives by withholding pancakes." In June, an ABC
News/Washington Post poll found that 35% of Americans felt torture
was acceptable in some circumstances.
In August, Major General George R. Fay released his report on the
role of Military Intelligence at Abu Ghraib. Its stunning revelations
about the reasons for this torture were, however, obscured in opaque
military prose. After interviewing 170 personnel and reviewing 9,000
documents, the general intimated that this abuse was the product of
an interrogation policy shaped, in both design and application, by
Significantly, General Fay blamed not the "seven bad apples," but the
Abu Ghraib interrogation procedures themselves. Of the 44 verifiable
incidents of abuse, one-third occurred during actual interrogation.
Moreover, these "routine" interrogation procedures "contributed to an
escalating 'de-humanization' of the detainees and set the stage for
additional and severe abuses to occur."
After finding standard Army interrogation doctrine sound, General Fay
was forced to confront a single, central, uncomfortable question:
what was the source of the aberrant, "non-doctrinal" practices that
led to torture during interrogation at Abu Ghraib? Scattered
throughout his report are the dots, politely unconnected, that lead
from the White House to the Iraqi prison cell block: President Bush
gave his defense secretary broad powers over prisoners in November
2001; Secretary Rumsfeld authorized harsh "Counter-Resistance
Techniques" for Afghanistan and Guantanamo in December 2002; hardened
Military Intelligence units brought these methods to Iraq in July
2003; and General Ricardo Sanchez in Baghdad authorized these extreme
measures for Abu Ghraib in September 2003.
In its short answer to this uncomfortable question, General Fay's
report, when read closely, traced the source of these harsh
"non-doctrinal methods" at Abu Ghraib to the CIA. He charged that a
flouting of military procedures by CIA interrogators "eroded the
necessity in the minds of soldiers and civilians for them to follow
Army rules." Specifically, the Army "allowed CIA to house 'Ghost
Detainees' who were unidentified and unaccounted for in Abu Ghraib,"
thus encouraging violations of "reporting requirements under the
Geneva Conventions." Moreover, the interrogation of CIA detainees
"occurred under different practices and procedures which were absent
any DoD visibility, control, or oversight and created a perception
that OGA [CIA] techniques and practices were suitable and authorized
for DoD operations." With their exemption from military regulations,
CIA interrogators moved about Abu Ghraib with a corrupting "mystique"
and extreme methods that "fascinated" some Army interrogators. In
sum, General Fay seems to say that the CIA has compromised the
integrity and effectiveness of the U.S. military.
Had he gone further, General Fay might have mentioned that the 519th
Military Intelligence, the Army unit that set interrogation
guidelines for Abu Ghraib, had just come from Kabul where it worked
closely with the CIA, learning torture techniques that left at least
one Afghani prisoner dead. Had he gone further still, the general
could have added that the sensory deprivation techniques, stress
positions, and cultural shock of dogs and nudity that we saw in those
photos from Abu Ghraib were plucked from the pages of past CIA
This is not, of course, the first American debate over torture in
recent memory. From 1970 to 1988, the Congress tried unsuccessfully,
in four major investigations, to expose elements of this CIA torture
paradigm. But on each occasion the public showed little concern, and
the practice, never fully acknowledged, persisted inside the
Now, in these photographs from Abu Ghraib, ordinary Americans have
seen the reality and the results of interrogation techniques the CIA
has propagated and practiced for nearly half a century. The American
public can join the international community in repudiating a practice
that, more than any other, represents a denial of democracy; or in
its desperate search for security, the United States can continue its
clandestine torture of terror suspects in the hope of gaining good
intelligence without negative publicity.
In the likely event that Washington adopts the latter strategy, it
will be a decision posited on two false assumptions: that torturers
can be controlled and that news of their work can be contained. Once
torture begins, its use seems to spread uncontrollably in a downward
spiral of fear and empowerment. With the proliferation of digital
imaging we can anticipate, in five or ten years, yet more chilling
images and devastating blows to America's international standing.
Next time, however, the American public's moral concern and
Washington's apologies will ring even more hollowly, producing even
greater damage to U.S. prestige.
Alfred W. McCoy is professor of History at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of The Politics of Heroin, CIA
Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, an examination of the CIA's
alliances with drug lords, and Closer Than Brothers, a study of the
impact of the CIA's psychological torture method upon the Philippine
military. He will publish a fuller version of this essay in The New
England Journal of Public Policy (Volume 19, No. 2, 2004).
Saturday, September 04, 2004
September 3, 2004
Media Democracy in Action
Sonoma State University's student run media research group Project Censored announces the release of its annual publication, Censored 2005, a compilation of the year's 25 most significant news stories that were overlooked or under-reported by the country's major national news media, as well as chapters on the grass roots media democracy, media ownership maps, real news about US involvement in Palestine, Haiti, Iraq, and more.
With introduction by Greg Palast and the political cartoon commentary of Tom Tomorrow throughout, this year's book covers critical issues facing the American public this election year. In Chapter 1's list of top 25 stories focus on politics, economics, foreign policy, food and health, the environment, energy, domestic policy, and the military.
"We define censorship as interference with the free flow of information," states Peter Phillips, Director of the Project, "Corporate media in the United States is interested primarily in entertainment news to feed their bottom-line priorities. Very important news stories that should reach the American public often fall on the cutting room floor to be replaced by sex-scandals and celebrity updates."
The Sonoma State University research group is composed of nearly 200 faculty, students and community experts who review about 1000 story submissions for coverage, content, reliability of sources and national significance. The top 25 stories are submitted to a panel of judges who then rank them in order of importance. Current judges include, Norman Solomon, Michael Parenti, Cynthia McKinney, Howard Zinn, and 20 other national journalists, scholars and writers.
Censored 2005, now available in bookstores nationwide, can also be purchased on the project's website at www.projectcensored.org.
For more information, contact:
Top Most Censored News Stories
#1 Wealth Inequity in 21st Century Threatens Economy and Democracy
Multinational Monitor, May 2003, Vol. 24, No. 5
Title: "The Wealth Divide" (An interview with Edward Wolff)
Author: Robert Weissman
Buzzflash, March 26 and 19, 2004
Title: "A Buzzflash Interview, Parts I and II" (with David Cay Johnston)
Author: Mark Karlin
London Guardian, October 4, 2004
Title: "Every third person will be a slum dweller within 30 years, UN agency warns"
Author: John Vidal
Multinational Monitor, July/August, 2003
Title: "Grotesque Inequality"
Author: Robert Weissman
Wealth inequality increased dramatically in the United States in the late1990s. The top 5% is now capturing an increasingly greater portion of the pie while the bottom 95% is clearly losing ground, resulting in the rapidly vanishing middle class. This trend is the product of legislative policies carefully crafted and lobbied for by corporations and the ultra-wealthy over the past 25 years. America's economic trends have a global footprint, and today, the top 400 income earners in the U.S. make as much in a year as the entire population of the 20 poorest countries in Africa. A series of reports released in 2003 by the UN warn that further increases in the imbalance in wealth throughout the world will have catastrophic effects if left unchecked, such as the collapse of the entire global economy.
#2 Ashcroft vs. the Human Rights Law that Holds Corporations Accountable
One World.Net and Asheville Global Report, May 19, 2003
Title: "Ashcroft goes after 200-year-old Human Rights Law"
Author: Jim Lobe
Attorney General John Ashcroft is seeking to strike down one of the world's oldest human rights laws, the Alien Torts Claim Act (ATCA) which holds government leaders, corporations, and senior military officials liable for human rights abuses taking place in foreign countries. Organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) vehemently oppose the removal of this law, as it is one of the few legal defenses victims of human rights violations can claim against powerful organizations such as governments or multinational corporations. By attempting to throw out this law, the Bush Administration is effectively opening the door for human rights abuses to continue under the veil of foreign relations diplomacy.
#3 Bush Administration Manipulates Science and Censors Scientists
The Nation, March 8, 2004
Title: "The Junk Science of George W. Bush"
Author: Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Censorship News: The National Coalition Against Censorship Newsletter, Fall 2003, #91
Title: "Censoring Scientific Information"
Author: The National Coalition Against Censorship staff
Environment News Service and OneWorld.Net, February 20, 2004
Title: "Ranking Scientists Warn Bush Science Policy Lacks Integrity"
Author: Sunny Lewis
Office of U.S. Representative Henry A. Waxman, August 2003
Title: "Politics and Science in the Bush Administration"
Prepared by: Committee on Government Reform - Minority Staff
(Updated November 13, 2003
In Washington D.C. more than 60 of the nation's top scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, medical experts, and former federal agency directors, issued a statement February 18, 2004 accusing the Bush Administration of deliberately distorting scientific results for political ends. They are calling for regulatory and legislative action to restore scientific integrity to federal policymaking. Under the current administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has blacklisted scientists who pose a threat to pro-business ideology, and many unqualified scientists with close industry ties have been appointed to advisory boards.
# 4 High Uranium Levels Found in Troops and Civilians
Uranium Medical Research Center, January 2003
Title: "UMRC's Preliminary Findings from Afghanistan and Operation Enduring Freedom" and "Afghan Field Trip #2 Report: Precision Destruction - Indiscriminate Effects"
Awakened Woman, January 2004
Title: "Scientists Uncover Radioactive Trail in Afghanistan"
Author: Stephanie Hiller
Dissident Voice, March 2004
Title: "There Are No WordsŠ Radiation in Iraq equals 250,000 Nagasaki Bombs"
Author: Bob Nichols
New York Daily News, April 5, 2004
Author: Juan Gonzales
Information Clearing House, March 2004
Title: "International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan At Tokyo, The People Vs. George Bush"
Author: Professor Ms. Niloufer Bhagwat J.
Civilian populations in Afghanistan and Iraq and occupying troops have been contaminated with astounding levels of radioactive uranium as a result of post-9/11 United States' use of tons of uranium munitions. Four million pounds of radioactive uranium were dropped on Iraq in 2003 alone.
Most American weapons (missiles, smart bombs, bullets, tank shells, cruise missiles, etc.) contain high amounts of uranium that on detonation, release a radioactive dust. Once ingested, these subatomic particles slice through DNA. With a half-life of 4.5 billion years, it is a permanent contaminant distributed throughout the environment.
Scientists from around the world testify to the huge increase in birth deformities and cancers wherever uranium munitions have been used. The effects of the U.S. deployment will be felt in all the neighboring countries in the Middle East and Asia, as well as in our returning troops.
#5 The Wholesale Giveaway of Our Natural Resources
In These Times, November 23, 2003
Title: "Liquidation of the Commons"
Author: Adam Werbach
High Country News, Vol. 35, No. 11, June 9, 2003
Title: "Giant Sequoias Could Get the Ax"
Author: Matt Weiser
The Bush Administration's environmental policies are destroying much of the environmental progress made over the past 30 years. Between the "Clean Skies Initiative," a recent policy that allows power plants to emit more than five times more mercury and twice as much sulfur dioxide, and the "Healthy Forests Initiative," which allows the wholesale liquidation of ancient forests by corporate timber interests under the guise of fire prevention, resource extraction and pollution is occurring at unprecedented rates.
#6 The Sale of Electoral Politics
In These Times, December 2003
Title: "Voting Machines Gone Wild"
Author: Mark Lewellen-Biddle
Independet/UK, October 13, 2003
Title: "All The President's Votes?"
Author: Andrew Gumbel
Democracy Now!, September 4, 2003
Title: "Will Bush Backers Manipulate Votes to Deliver GW Another Election?"
Reporter: Amy Goodman and the staff of Democracy Now!
Conflicts of interest exist between the largest suppliers of electronic voting machines in the United States and key leaders in the Republican Party. While the voting machines themselves present some technical issues, the political affiliations within the voting machine industry pose even more serious questions. The three major companies involved in implementing the new, often faulty, technology at voting stations throughout the country have strong ties to the Bush Administration, Republican leaders, and major defense contractors.
#7 Conservative Organization Drives Judicial Appointments
The American Prospect, Vol. 14, Issue 3, March 1, 2003
Title: " A Hostile Takeover: How the Federalist Society is Capturing the Federal Courts"
Author: Martin Garbus
Title: "Courts vs. Citizents"
Author: Jamin Raskin
In 2001 George W. Bush eliminated the longstanding influence of the American Bar Association (ABA) in the evaluation of the prospective federal judges. ABA's judicial ratings had long kept extremists from the right and left off the bench. In its place, Bush has been using the Federal Society for Law and Public Policy Studies-a national organization whose mission is to advance a conservative agenda by moving the country's legal system to the right.
#8 Secrets of Cheney's Energy Task Force Come to Light
Judicial Watch, July 17, 2003
Title: "Cheney Energy Task Force Documents Feature Map of Iraqi Oilfields"
Author: Judicial Watch Staff
Foreign Policy in Focus, January 2004
Title: "Bush-Cheney Energy Strategy: Procuring the Rest of the World's Oil"
Author: Michael Klare
Cheney Energy Task Force documents turned over in the summer of 2003 by the Commerce Department as a result of the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by Sierra Club and Judicial Watch contain maps of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals. The documents, dated March 2001, also contain plans of occupation and exploitation that predate September 11, confirming suspicions that the Bush Administration energy policy is driving U.S. military strategy.
#9 Widow Brings RICO Case Against U.S. Government for 9/11
Scoop.co.nz, November 2003 and December 2003
Title: "911 Victim's Wife Files RICO Case Against GW Bush"
Author: Philip J. Berg
Title: "Widow's Bush Treason Suit Vanishes"
Author: W. David Kubiak
Ellen Mariani became widowed when her husband Louis Neil Mariani perished in the collision between United Airlines flight 175 and the South Tower of the World Trade Center. In addition to her refusal of the government's million-dollar settlement offer, Mrs. Mariani has filed a 62 page complaint in federal district court charging that President Bush and officials: (1) had adequate foreknowledge of 911, yet failed to warn the country or attempt to prevent it; (2) have since been covering up the truth of that day; (3) have therefore abetted the murder of plaintiff's husband and violated the Constitution and multiple laws of the United States; and (4) are thus being sued under the Civil Racketeering, Influences, and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act for Malfeasant conspiracy, obstruction of justice and wrongful death.
#10 New Nuke Plants: Taxpayers Support, Industry Profits
Nuclear Information and Resourse Service, November 17, 2003
Title: "Nuclear Energy Would Get $7.5 Billion in Tax Subsides, US Taxpayers Would Fund Nuclear Monitor Relapse If Energy Bill Passes"
Authors: Cindy Folkers and Michael Mariotte
WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor, August 2003
Title: "US Senate Passes Pro-Nuclear Energy Bill"
Authors: Cindy Folkers and Michael Mariotte
Senator Peter Domenici (R-NM), along with the Bush Administration, is looking to give the nuclear power industry a huge boost through the new Energy Policy Act. The Domenici-sponsored bill will give nuclear power plants credits costing taxpayers an estimated 7.5 billion dollars, to build six new privately owned, for-profit reactors across the country. Safety standards will be lowered and liability will be passed on to taxpayers. This is in addition to the $4 billion already provided for other nuclear energy programs.
#11 The Media Can Legally Lie
CMW Report, Spring 2003
Title: "Court Ruled That Media Can Legally Lie"
Author: Liane Casten
Organic Consumer Association, March 7, 2004
Title: "Florida Appeals Court Orders Akre-Wilson Must Pay Trial Costs for $24.3 Billion Fox Television; Couple Warns Journalists of Danger to Free Speech, Whistle Blower Protection"
Author: Al Krebs
In 2003, a Florida Court of Appeals ruled that there are no written rules against distorting news in the media. It agreed with an argument by Fox Television that, under the First Amendment, broadcasters have the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on public airwaves. Under the current ruling, it is up to the public to discover whether or not they are being lied to.
#12 The Destabilization of Haiti
KPFA Radio-Flashpoints, April 1, 2004
Title: "Interview with Aristide's lawyer, Brian Concannon"
globalresearch.ca, February 29, 2004
Title: "The destabilization of Haiti"
Author: Michel Chossudovsky
Dollars and Sense, September/October 2003
Title: "Still Up Against the Death Plan in Haiti"
Author: Tom Reeves
KPFA - Democracy Now!, March 17, 2004
Title: "Aristide talks with Democracy Now! About the leaders of the coup and US funding of the opposition in Haiti"
Reporter: Amy Goodman
Associated Press, March 16, 2004
Title: "Aristide Backers Left Out of Coalition"
Author: Ian James
On February 29, 2004, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced into exile by American military. While U.S. officials were eventially forced to acknowledge the kidnapping allegations, they were quick to discredit them and deny responsibility. Meanwhile, the circumstances that led to the current situation in Haiti, as well as the history of U.S. involvement, are being ignored by U.S. officials and the mainstream media.
#13 Schwarzenegger Met with Enron's Ken Lay Before the California Recall
Common Dreams, August 17, 2003
Title: "Ahnuld, Ken Lay, George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Gray Davis"
Author: Jason Leopold
The London Observer, October 6, 2003
Title: "Arnold Unplugged-It's Hasta la Vista to $9 Billion"
Author: Greg Palast
San Francisco Chronicle and CommonDreams, October 11,2003
Title: "Schwarzenegger Electricity Plan Fuels Fears of Another Debacle"
Author: Zachary Coile
San Francisco Chronicle, May 26, 2001
Title: "Enron's Secret Bid to Save Deregulation: Private Meeting With Prominent Californians"
Authors: Christian Berthelsen, Scott Winokur, Chronicle Staff Writers
In 2002, while the California Governor and his deputy were attempting to re-regulate the energy industry (and get back the $9 billion that was defrauded from California taxpayers by Enron and other energy companies) Arnold Schwarzenegger was being groomed to overthrow Governor Davis in a recall - and cancel plans to re-regulate or to recoup the $9 billion. Back in May of 2001, in the midst of California's energy crisis, Schwarzenegger met with Enron's Ken Lay to discuss "fixing" California's energy crisis.
#14 New Bill Threatens Intellectual Freedom
Yale Daily News, November 6, 2003
Title: "New Bill threatens intellectual freedom in area studies"
Author: Benita Singh
Christian Science Monitor, March 11, 2004
Title: "Speaking in 'Approved' Tongues"
Author: Kimberly Chase
The International Studies in Higher Education Act of 2003 threatens academic freedom and classroom curriculum. Under this act, professors whose ideological principles do not support U.S. practices abroad can have their appointments terminated, any course curriculum containing criticism of U.S. foreign policy can be censored, and any course deemed anti-American can be barred from the classroom.
#15 US Develops Lethal New Bio-weapon Viruses
The New Scientist, October 29, 2003
Title: "US develops lethal new viruses"
Author: Debora MacKenzie
Scientists funded by the US government have developed a way to make pox viruses incredibly deadly. The stated goal of this research is to fight possible bio-terror attacks. The new virus kills all mice even if they have been given antiviral drugs along with a vaccine that would normally protect the victim from death.
# 16 Law Enforcement Agencies Spy on Innocent Citizens
Agenda, July--August 2003
Title: "Big Brother Gets Bigger--Domestic Spying & the Global Intelligence Working Group"
Author: Michelle J. Kinnucan
Community Alliance, April 2003
Title: "Police Infiltrate Local Groups"
Author: Mark Schlosberg
CovertAction Quarterly, Fall 2003
Title: "Denver Police Keeping Files On Peace Groups"
Author: Loring Wirbel
North Bay Progressive, Volume 2 # 8, October 2003
Title: "Fresno Peace group Infiltrated by Government Agent"
Author: Mike Rhodes
World Socialist Web Site, www.wsws.org, 1/10/04
Title: "Bush Administration Expands Police Spying Powers"
Author: Kate Randall
With little media comment, federal, state and local agencies have begun working as partners in the collection, analysis, and dissemination of intelligence information. Under the "Global Intelligence Working Group" (that oversees the new network) police departments receive increased funding for surveillance activity. This has resulted in the recent COINTELPRO-style instances of police infiltration of groups critical of government policies.
#17 U.S. Government Represses Labor Unions in Iraq in Quest for Business Privatization
The Progressive, December 2003
Title: "Saddam's labor laws live on"
Author: David Bacon
Left Turn, March/April 2004, v. 12
Title: "Ambitions of Empire: The Radical Reconstruction of Iraq's Economy"
Author: Antonia Juhasz
According to the Wall Street Journal (alone), the Bush Administration has "sweeping plans to remake Iraq's economy in the US image." The US is calling for the privatization of state-owned industries such as oil and water. But it has chosen not to overturn Sadaam-era edicts that outlaw unions. Every day the economic policies of occupying authorities create more hunger among Iraq's working people, transforming them into a pool of low-wage, semi-employed labor, desperate for jobs at any price.
#18 Media and Government Ignore Dwindling Oil Supplies
New Internationalist, October 31, 2003
Title: "Running on empty; Oil is disappearing fast"
Author: Adam Porter
Guardian Unlimited, December 2, 2003
Title: "Bottom of the Barrel"
Author: George Monbiot
Even industry executives affirm that oil is close to reaching, or may have already reached, its highest levels of production potential. Once the peak is reached, oil prices will start to rise (as they have every year since 2000). As oil decline accelerates, prices will rise even faster, with devastating effects to the US economy. Over the years, U.S. leaders, bowing to oil industry pressure, have not worked to develop viable alternatives (as they have done in Europe).
#19 Global Food Cartel Fast Becoming the World's Supermarket
Left Turn, August/September 2003
Title: "Concentration in the Agri-Food System"
Author: Hilary Mertaugh
Agribusiness and supermarket alliances are transforming the agri-food system into a powerful network of transnational corporations. They now have the power to control the world's food supply at every stage of food production. As fewer corporations control food production, traditional farming is becoming a high-tech form of serfdom. Lack of competition is leading to higher prices, lower choice and quality, and employee abuse.
#20 Extreme Weather Prompts New Warning from UN
UK Independent, July 2003
Title: "Extreme Weather Prompts Unprecedented Global Warming Alert"
In 2003, The UN's World Meteorological Organization reported unprecedented levels of extreme weather and climate occurrences all over the world. The report emphasized an alarming increase in global warming and pointed to the impact of human activity. The significance of this particular report is that the highly respected UN organization is known for its normally conservative predictions and statements.
#21 Forcing a World Market for GMOs
Title: "Agriculture: Biotech Links to Big Lenders Worry Farm Experts"
Author: Katherine Stapp
Inter Press Service (IPS) News Agency, May 14, 2003
Title: "U.S. WTO Dispute Could Bend Poor Nations to GMOs-Groups"
Author Emad Mekay
CMW Report, Summer 2003
Title: "A Rebuttal to the Tribune"
Author: Liane Casten
SF Weekly, June 2-8, 2004
Title: "Bioscience Warfare"
Author: Alison Pierce
The Bush Administration is trying to force Europe to drop trade barriers against genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Meanwhile, the agricultural biotechnology industry is focusing even more intently on developing countries, where regulations governing their use are generally more lax. At the same time, biotech promoters continue to suppress studies that show GMOs may have adverse effects on health and the environment.
#22 Exporting Censorship to Iraq
The American Prospect, Volume 14, Issue 9, October 1, 2003
Title: "Exporting Censorship to Iraq"
Author: Alex Gourevitch
Asheville Global Report, May 12, 2003
Title: "U.S Army Major Refuses Order to Seize Iraq TV Station"
Author: Charlie Thomas
After the fall of Saddam, Paul Bremer told journalists they were now "free to criticize whoever, or whatever, you want." But when negative critiques of U.S. policies appeared in the Iraqi media, Bremer quickly placed controls on its content. And rather than hiring a media outlet to run the Iraqi media (or simply allowing the news groups already there to continue reporting), the Pentagon chose a defense contractor to define the news.
#23 Brazil Opposes US-style FTAA agreements, But Provides Little Comfort for the Poor of South America
Globalinfo.org, November 15, 2003
Title: "Trade: US Moves to Squeeze FTAA Opponents"
Author: Emad Mekay
Left Turn, Mar/Apr, 2004
Title: "Lula's First Year"
Author: Brian Campbell
The Free Trade Area of the America's (FTAA) could become the biggest trading block in history, expanding NAFTA to 34 countries from Canada to the bottom of South America. This deal is unlikely to meet its January 2005 deadline, now that the second largest player in the negotiations, Brazil, is holding back. However, Brazilian President Lula has begun, of his own volition, to institute his own brand of FTAA austerity policies that are sure to drive the poor of the region deeper into poverty.
#24 Reinstating the Draft
Salon, November 3, 2003
Title: "Oiling up the Draft Machine?"
Author: Dave Lindorff
Buzzflash.com, November 11, 2003
Title: "Would a Second Bush Term Mean a Return to Conscription?'
Author: Maureen Farrell
War Times, October-November, 2003
Title: "Military Targets Latino Youth"
Author: Jorge Mariscal
The Selective Service System (SSS), the Bush Administration, and the Pentagon have been quietly moving to fill draft board vacancies nationwide in order to prepare for a military draft that could start as early as June 15, 2005. Several million dollars have been added to the 2004 SSS budget. Meanwhile, through an on-going militarization of public school systems, the Pentagon has begun efforts to double the number of Latinos in the U.S. military by 2006.
#25 Wal-Mart Brings Inequity and Low Prices to the World
Multinational Monitor, October 2003
Title: "Welcome to Wal-World"
Author: Andy Rowell
The vision of the international division of Wal-Mart is one where Wal-Mart becomes a global brand, just like McDonald's or Coca- Cola, monopolizing the global retail market. The next five or six years could see about 5,000 to 6,000 Wal-Mart stores outside of the United States. Wal-Mart is Americanizing retailing around the world and exercising an inordinate amount of economic power.
Thursday, August 26, 2004
Published on Sunday, August 22, 2004 by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Bush Weds Religion, Politics to Form World View
by David Domke
American presidents beginning with George Washington have included religious language in their public addresses. Claims of the United States as a divinely chosen nation and requests for God to bless U.S. decisions and actions have been commonplace. Scholars have labeled such discourse "civil religion," in which political leaders emphasize religious symbols and transcendent principles to engender a sense of unity and shared national identity.
George W. Bush is doing something altogether different.
Since the attacks of Sept. 11, the president and his administration have converged a religious fundamentalist worldview with a political agenda -- a distinctly partisan one, wrapped in the mantle of national interest but crafted by and for only those who share their outlook. It is a modern form of political fundamentalism -- that is, the adaptation of a self-proclaimed conservative Christian rectitude, by way of strategic language choices and communication approaches designed for a mass-media culture, into political policy.
Motivated by this ideology, the Bush administration has sought to control public discourse and to engender a climate of nationalism in which the public views presidential support as a patriotic duty and Congress (and the United Nations) is compelled to rubber-stamp administration policies.
The goal is a national mood of spiritual superiority under the guise of a just sovereignty. The ultimate irony is that in combating the Islamic extremists responsible for Sept. 11, the administration has crafted, pursued and engendered its own brand of political fundamentalism -- one that, while clearly tailored to a modern democracy, nonetheless functions ideologically in a manner similar to the version offered by the terrorists.
All of this has a facade of merely politics as usual. It is not. Unfortunately, as too often occurs with matters of religion, the mainstream news media have missed the story almost entirely, and thus so has much of the U.S. public.
Bush is the most publicly religious president since at least Woodrow Wilson. Ronald Reagan had great appeal to religious conservatives, but he was far less outspoken about religion -- a point noted in a June eulogy of the late president by Ron Reagan, who said his father did not "(wear) his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage," a comment many interpreted as a critique of the current president. Indeed, Bush speaks often about his "born-again" faith and regularly references a divine power in public statements, a practice that religion scholar Martin E. Marty has termed "God talk."
That the president -- any president -- is a person of religious faith is generally viewed by the U.S. public in favorable terms, the better to be grounded when facing momentous decisions. I share this view because I know how central the Christian faith is to my life and to many others I know and respect. Invocations of a higher power, when emphasizing inclusive and transcendent principles, seem to me to be legitimate and adroit rhetoric for a leader of 290 million people, the overwhelming majority of whom believe in God in some form. What is deeply troubling about Bush's religiosity, however, is that he consistently evinces a certainty that he knows God's will -- and he then acts upon this certainty in ways that affect billions of humans.
For example, in his address before Congress and a national television audience nine days after the terrorist attacks, Bush declared: "The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them." Similarly, in the 2003 State of the Union address, with the conflict in Iraq imminent, he declared: "Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity." These are not requests for divine favor; they are declarations of divine wishes.
From this position, only short theological and rhetorical steps are required to justify U.S. actions. For instance, at a December 2003 news conference, Bush said: "I believe, firmly believe -- and you've heard me say this a lot, and I say it a lot because I truly believe it -- that freedom is the Almighty God's gift to every person, every man and woman who lives in this world. That's what I believe. And the arrest of Saddam Hussein changed the equation in Iraq. Justice was being delivered to a man who defied that gift from the Almighty to the people of Iraq."
Further, this view of divinely ordained policy infuses the public discourse of several administration leaders, irrespective of their particular religious outlook. I systematically examined hundreds of administration public communications -- by the president, John Ashcroft, Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld -- about the "war on terrorism" in the 20 months between Sept. 11, 2001, and the end of "major combat" in Iraq in spring 2003. This research showed that the administration's public communications contained four characteristics simultaneously rooted in religious fundamentalism while offering political capital:
Simplistic, black-and-white conceptions of the political landscape, most notably good vs. evil and security vs. peril.
Calls for immediate action on administration policies as a necessary part of the nation's "calling" and "mission" against terrorism.
Declarations about the will of God for America and for the spread of U.S. conceptions of freedom and liberty.
Claims that dissent from the administration is unpatriotic and a threat to the nation and globe.
In combination, these characteristics have transformed Bush's "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists" policy to "Either you are with us, or you are against God." To the great misfortune of American democracy and the global public, such a view looks, sounds and feels remarkably similar to that of the terrorists it is fighting.
Indeed, one is hard-pressed to see how the perspective of Osama bin Laden, that he and his followers are delivering God's wishes for the United States (and others who share Western customs and policies), is much different from the perspective of George W. Bush, that the United States is delivering God's wishes to the Taliban or Iraq. Clearly, flying airplanes into buildings in order to kill innocent people is an indefensible, immoral activity. So, too, some traditional allies told the Bush administration, is an unprovoked pre-emptive invasion of a sovereign nation. In both instances, the aggression manifested in a form that was available to the leaders. Fundamentalism in the White House is a difference in degree, not kind, from fundamentalism exercised in dark, damp caves. Democracy is always the loser.
The ascendancy of the administration's political fundamentalism after Sept. 11 was facilitated by mainstream U.S. news coverage, which substantially echoed the administration's views. That became apparent when I analyzed how 20 leading and geographically diverse newspapers and the evening newscasts of ABC, CBS and NBC covered each of Bush's national addresses (15 in 20 months, a remarkable pace) and the administration's push for key "war on terrorism" policies and goals in 2001 and 2002, including passage of the USA Patriot Act, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and congressional and U.N. resolutions regarding Iraq.
This analysis revealed that news media consistently amplified the words and ideas of the president and other administration leaders. They did that by echoing throughout their coverage similar claims made by multiple administration members, thereby having the administration's perspectives establish the terms of public discourse. For example, only two of more than 300 editorials that I analyzed in response to the president's national addresses criticized the administration's description of the campaign against terrorism as an epic struggle of good vs. evil. None questioned his explicit declarations of God's will. With so many around the globe expressing a different view during these 20 months, by echoing these fundamentalist messages within these editorials, the press failed its readers.
To be clear, the U.S. news media did not emphasize the administration's messages to the same extent as the White House did during this time. Such an equation would imply that the commercial, independent news media merely served as mouthpieces, and that is not the case. Disagreement with the administration sometimes appeared in news stories--either as a presentation of different factual information or of divergent observations by other sources -- and in newspaper editorials. Coverage also included occasional strong criticisms of government policy, in particular in regard to the administration's diplomatic difficulties in early 2003.
The chief failure of members of the mainstream media, though, is that they did not adequately cover the deeply religious motivations to the administration's actions and, as a result, too rarely questioned the administration's religious-cum-political discourses. Once these fundamentalist discourses became consistently amplified -- but not analyzed -- in leading media outlets, the administration gained the rhetorical high ground, and that went far in determining policy decisions.
While Christian conservatives and hard-line neo-conservatives may see the developments after Sept. 11 in a positive light (after all, one might say that God and the United States have been given a larger piece of the planet with which to work), all Americans should be leery of any government that merges religiosity into political ends. Noble ideals such as freedom and liberty are clearly worth pursuing, but the administration promoted those concepts with its left hand while using its right hand to treat others -- including many U.S. citizens -- in an authoritarian, dismissive manner. Unfortunately, the Bush administration appears to be the latest entry in a historical record that shows that beliefs and claims about divine leading are no guarantee that one will exercise power in a consistently liberating, egalitarian manner.
David Domke, a former journalist, is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Washington. His research focuses on the relationships among political leaders, news coverage and public opinion in the United States. He is the author of "God Willing? Political Fundamentalism in the White House, the 'War on Terror,' and the Echoing Press" (Pluto Press, 2004). The book is available in the United States through the University of Michigan Press.
Monday, August 16, 2004
August 16, 2004
By CONSTANCE L. HAYS , New York Times
Wal-Mart, stung by criticism of its labor practices,
expansion plans and other business tactics, is turning to
public radio, public television and even journalists in
training to try to improve its image.
So far this year, the company has become a sponsor on
National Public Radio, where recorded messages promote its
stores. It has underwritten a popular talk show, "Tavis
Smiley," accompanied by similar promotional messages, on a
public television station in California.
And earlier this month, Wal-Mart announced plans to award
$500,000 in scholarships to minority students at journalism
programs around the country, including Howard University,
University of Southern California and Columbia University.
Wal-Mart has not supported any of those organizations in
the past. But as the company outgrows its rural roots and
moves into suburbs and cities, it is encountering more
resistance from people whose traditions and values may be
different from those of Wal-Mart's historic customers.
The company has been faulted for its selective approach
toward the publications that it sells, which has included
banning three men's magazines and ordering plastic covers
to conceal what it considered "uncomfortable" headlines on
several women's titles, including Glamour and Redbook. It
has refused to sell music albums with what it deems
offensive lyrics, and manufacturers acknowledge producing
sanitized versions of popular CD's in order to maintain a
presence in the giant retailer's stores.
Mona Williams, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, said the
journalism scholarships were "a first of their kind" for
the retailer, and came about because of the recent
publicity around its business practices.
"We've really been in the spotlight and I think that's made
us especially sensitive to the need for balanced coverage,"
Ms. Williams said. "It doesn't matter if the subject is
Wal-Mart or something else. You just aren't going to have
that unless different perspectives are represented."
Without diversity, she added, "the result can be narrower
thinking as news events are presented to the public."
Influencing that presentation may be at the heart of the
effort, although Ms. Williams said there was "no hidden
agenda here" and added that it probably would have been
done even if Wal-Mart had not come under scrutiny.
John Siegenthaler, founder of the First Amendment Center at
Vanderbilt University, said, "Wal-Mart is doing what most
corporations do: when they feel pain, they try to salve the
wound." He predicted that "they may get less out of it than
they expect to," but he added that "if it helps minority
journalism, I hope they salve it with more than half a
As for public radio, Ms. Williams said the company sought
the demographic that National Public Radio listeners
represent. The goal is to "reach community leaders and help
them understand the value that we bring to their areas."
"We want those folks to know that having a Wal-Mart in
their town is a good thing," she said.
A spokeswoman for NPR, Jenny Lawhorn, said its audience
consisted of "intelligent and well-educated people" who
"tend to be business leaders and tend to be engaged in the
civic process." According to a recent survey, about 56
percent of them are Wal-Mart shoppers, she said, compared
with 66 percent of the general population.
Wooing community leaders fits well into Wal-Mart's plans.
The company has stumbled in recent months against
opposition to its stores. In April, its effort to win voter
support for a store in the Inglewood, Calif., suburb of Los
Angeles was defeated after the company took the unusual
step of putting the issue on the ballot. An attempt to
build a store in Chicago was rejected, although a second
store was approved, while plans to open a store in downtown
New Orleans have been slowed by opposition as well.
The company has also been criticized by labor unions, which
say Wal-Mart fights their organizing efforts. In
California, unionized supermarket workers staged a lengthy
strike earlier this year seeking benefits that stores said
they could not afford because they needed to compete with
Neither Wal-Mart nor NPR would reveal what it pays as an
NPR sponsor. The contract began Feb. 16 and extends until
January. Total corporate financing is expected to reach $30
million this year, Ms. Lawhorn said. As part of its NPR
arrangement, Wal-Mart is described several ways when it is
mentioned as an underwriter on the air. The descriptions
include the following: "Wal-Mart. Providing jobs and
opportunities for millions of Americans of all ages and all
walks of life." Another says the company is "bringing
communities job opportunities, goods and services and
support for neighborhood programs."
NPR has received letters and e-mail messages from listeners
since the Wal-Mart underwriting information began to be
broadcast. One listener wrote: "What a disappointment!
Maybe next it will be Halliburton." The role of Wal-Mart
was taken up by NPR's ombudsman, Jeffrey Dvorkin, who wrote
in his NPR.org online column, "Wal-Mart symbolizes values
that some listeners believe to be antithetical to the
values of public radio" and suggested that "one way that
NPR could prove that underwriting has no effect on its
integrity is for NPR to produce more hard-hitting
interviews, more investigative reporting and yes, even more
The company also underwrites "Tavis Smiley," a talk show on
KCET, the public television station in Los Angeles. The
program began in January and Wal-Mart was on board
immediately, a spokesman for the show, Joel Brokaw, said.
In late March, Mr. Smiley interviewed Wal-Mart's chief
executive, H. Lee Scott Jr., who is seldom made available
to reporters. After disclosing twice that Wal-Mart
sponsored the show, Mr. Smiley went on to ask his guest
about Wal-Mart's image problems. Mr. Brokaw said he did not
know how much Wal-Mart paid to be a sponsor.
The journalism plan evolved separately, Ms. Williams said.
Ten journalism schools will receive $50,000 each, which
will be distributed as $2,500 scholarships to four students
at each school. The scholarships will be awarded in each
student's junior year and can be renewed for the senior
year as well.
The recipients chosen include Arizona State University and
Syracuse University. Administrators at the universities
said the selections came as a complete surprise. In most
cases, corporate donations for scholarships are unheard of,
the administrators said, unless the corporation is involved
in the news business or another communications medium like
"It's kind of a reach to expect companies that don't see
themselves as part of the media world to support journalism
education," said Steve Doig, the interim director of the
Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at
Arizona State, where some scholarships have been provided
by newspaper companies like Gannett.
Mr. Doig, a former reporter for the Miami Herald, said that
he was aware of Wal-Mart's practices with magazines but
that did not prevent him from accepting the scholarship
"It's not the American Nazi Party," he said. "I don't see
Wal-Mart as problematic enough to miss the opportunity they
are offering to several of our students."
He added: "Both the banning of certain magazines and the
decision to give money to journalism schools are calculated
behaviors and not necessarily contrary. I don't support
banning newspapers or any particular publication, but a
company has the right to decide what it wants to sell."
Wal-Mart also plans to include the scholarship students at
next year's annual shareholder meeting, Ms. Williams said.
"They will be guests in the audience, and we think that
would be a great educational experience for them," she
said. They may also have tours of the company's offices in
Bentonville, Ark., as well as a warehouse nearby.
Tom Bowers, dean of the School of Journalism and Mass
Communication at the University of North Carolina in Chapel
Hill, said the move was "saying to the public, look at the
good thing we're doing." North Carolina was not one of the
journalism schools designated by Wal-Mart for scholarships,
but the university awards about $100,000, some from media
companies, to students every year, Mr. Bowers said.
"The people who win our scholarships typically don't go to
any national meetings and aren't put on display by these
corporate donors," he said. "We certainly make sure there
is no quid pro quo on these. The only obligation is to
write them a letter and thank them for the scholarship. The
student isn't expected to do anything for the company."
Of the programs chosen, only the University of Southern
California's Annenberg School has received corporate
funding from nonmedia companies in the past. A spokesman,
Geoffrey Baum, said the school had gotten money from Nissan
and General Motors, as well as from Raytheon and Home Depot
for public-relations programs. Some journalism programs are
in states where Wal-Mart has opened a large number of
stores. The University of Florida and the University of
Texas made the list; those states have nearly 600 of
Wal-Mart's 3,596 stores, according to Wal-Mart.
Jannette L. Dates, dean of Howard University's John H.
Johnson School of Communications, hopes that Wal-Mart's
scholarship will encourage other nonmedia companies to
"I'm going to go after some of those others and say 'See,
Wal-Mart did this, why don't you?' " she said.
Monday, July 19, 2004
According to a study released today by media watchdog Chicago Media Action, the topics, sources and views aired on Chicago PBS affiliate WTTW's flagship public affairs program, Chicago Tonight, consistently cater to the interests of advertisers and white affluent Chicagoans while ignoring news and perspectives of interest to other constituencies. The study, "Chicago Tonight: Elites, Affluence and Advertising", covers thirty episodes of Chicago Tonight, twenty of which aired in September 2003, and ten episodes that aired in January and February 2004.
"Public television is supposed to provide us with an alternative to commercial broadcasting. Yet CMA's study demonstrates that WTTW's signature news and public affairs program showcases the same white, male, professional voices that already dominate commercial TV news," explained Stephen Macek, Assistant Professor of Speech Communication at North Central College in Naperville and a collaborator on the study.
James Owens, principal author of Chicago Media Action's research effort, said "Over 40% of the Chicago area is made up of people of color - 58% in the City - but 79% of the guests on Chicago Tonight are white. During our study, Chicago Tonight presented only white guests in stories on business and economy. In addition, on stories of business and economy during our study, corporate representatives made up over 47% of the guests, while labor representatives made up less than 5% of the guests and no public interest representatives appeared."
Citizen activists, public interest representatives and labor representatives accounted for only 3.1% of the guests on Chicago Tonight in our study. Average citizens, with extremely rare exception, were permitted to give their opinions only in entertainment segments on Chicago Tonight. Owens further explained, "We live in a time of unprecedented public anger over the media's shortcomings in the performance of its democratic function, with no less than the New York Times apologizing for huge journalistic errors regarding Iraq. It is essential that we take this opportunity to look closely at public broadcasting too. And fix it."
Chicago Media Action co-organizer and study contributor Scott Sanders stated: "We call for the creation of a carefully selected local commission to investigate all the changes necessary to ensure that underrepresented communities are given direct, hands-on control of programming on WTTW that best meets their needs. And we call for the creation by WTTW of programming that provides for the discussion of issues of special interest to African Americans, hosted by African Americans, and programming that provides a live monthly forum for the public to discuss issues of debate and controversy, including discussion of independent documentaries. Lastly, we call for an independent audit of the station's finances due to the theft and gross negligence cited elsewhere."
Sanders continued: "The working people, communities of color and other diverse constituencies in Chicago are getting shut out by the elite class and the commercial interests which set the agenda for Chicago Tonight. Thirty-nine out of WTTW's board of sixty self-elected trustees run or control a corporation. Twenty-six trustees run or control a financial firm. Our study proves in many ways what we have all sensed for some time - that the station's call letters really do stand for 'Winnetka Talks To Wilmette'. We're going to have to fully discuss and rethink the way our public media is managed, funded and structured."
ABOUT CHICAGO MEDIA ACTION
Founded in 2002, Chicago Media Action (CMA) is a membership-run organization that monitors and analyzes media in the Chicago area in order to expose the economic and political interests that control them. We seek to democratically empower and organize the working-class to challenge corporate control of major media, and to create their own media.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT CMA VISIT OUR WEBSITE WWW.CHICAGOMEDIAACTION.ORG TO OBTAIN A COPY OF "Chicago Tonight: Elites, Affluence and Advertisers", PLEASE VISIT:
The Executive Summary
The Full Study (including the Executive Summary)
OR E-MAIL US AT email@example.com, 773-753-0818
Friday, July 16, 2004
By Orville Schell
When, on May 26, 2004, the editors of the New York Times published a mea
culpa for the paper's one-sided reporting on weapons of mass destruction and
the Iraq war, they admitted to "a number of instances of coverage that was
not as rigorous as it should have been." They also commented that they had
since come to "wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining claims" made
by the Bush Administration. But we are still left to wonder why the Times,
like many other major media outlets in this country, was so lacking in
skepticism toward administration rationales for war? How could such a poorly
thought through policy, based on spurious exile intelligence sources, have
been so blithely accepted, even embraced, by so many members of the media?
In short, what happened to the press's vaunted role, so carefully spelled
out by the Founding Fathers, as a skeptical "watchdog" over government?
There's nothing like seeing a well-oiled machine clank to a halt to help you
spot problems. Now that the Bush administration is in full defensive mode
and angry leakers in the Pentagon, the CIA, and elsewhere in the Washington
bureaucracy are slipping documents, secrets, and charges to reporters, our
press looks more recognizably journalistic. But that shouldn't stop us from
asking how an "independent" press in a "free" country could have been so
paralyzed for so long. It not only failed to seriously investigate
administration rationales for war, but little took into account the myriad
voices in the on-line, alternative, and world press that sought to do so. It
was certainly no secret that a number of our Western allies (and other
countries), administrators of various NGOs, and figures like Mohamed
ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Hans Blix,
head of the UN's Monitoring, Verification and Inspections Commission, had
quite different pre-war views of the "Iraqi threat."
Few in our media, it seemed, remembered I. F. Stone's hortatory admonition,
"If you want to know about governments, all you have to know is two words:
Governments lie." Dissenting voices in the mainstream were largely buried on
back pages, ignored on op-ed pages, or confined to the margins of the media,
and so denied the kinds of "respectability" that a major media outlet can
As reporting on the lead-up to war, the war itself, and its aftermath
vividly demonstrated, our country is now divided into a two-tiered media
structure. The lower-tier -- niche publications, alternative media outlets,
and Internet sites -- hosts the broadest spectrum of viewpoints. Until the
war effort began to unravel in spring 2004, the upper-tier -- a relatively
small number of major broadcast outlets, newspapers, and magazines -- had a
far more limited bandwidth of critical views, regularly deferring to the
Bush Administration's vision of the world. Contrarian views below rarely
As Michael Massing pointed out recently in the New York Review of Books,
Bush administration insinuations that critics were unpatriotic -- White
House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer infamously warned reporters as war
approached, "People had better watch what they say" -- had an undeniably
chilling effect on the media. But other forms of pressure also effectively
inhibited the press. The President held few press conferences and rarely
submitted to truly open exchanges. Secretive and disciplined to begin with,
the administration adeptly used the threat of denied access as a way to
intimidate reporters who showed evidence of independence. For reporters,
this meant no one-on-one interviews, special tips, or leaks, being passed
over in press conference question-and-answer periods, and exclusion from
select events as well as important trips.
After the war began, for instance, Jim Wilkinson, a 32 year-old Texan who
ran Centcom's Coalition Media Center in Qatar, was, according to Massing,
known to rebuke reporters whose copy was deemed insufficiently "supportive
of the war," and "darkly warned one correspondent that he was on a 'list'
along with two other reporters at his paper." In the play-along world of the
Bush Administration, critical reporting was a quick ticket to exile.
A media world of faith-based truth
The impulse to control the press hardly originated with George W. Bush, but
his administration has been less inclined than any in memory to echo Thomas
Jefferson's famous declaration that, "The basis of our government being the
opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right;
and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without
newspapers or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment
to prefer the latter."
The Bush Administration had little esteem for the watchdog role of the
press, in part because its own quest for "truth" has been based on something
other than empiricism. In fact, it enthroned a new criterion for veracity,
"faith-based" truth, sometimes corroborated by "faith -based" intelligence.
For officials of this administration (and not just the religious ones
either), truth seemed to descend from on high, a kind of divine revelation
begging no further earthly scrutiny. For our President this was evidently
literally the case. The Israeli paper Ha'aretz reported him saying to
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Prime Minister of the moment, "God told me to
strike Al Qaeda and I struck, and then he instructed me to strike Saddam,
which I did."
It is hardly surprising, then, that such a President would eschew newspapers
in favor of reports from other more "objective sources," namely, his staff.
He has spoken often of trusting "visceral reactions" and acting on "gut
feelings." For him as for much of the rest of his administration,
decision-making has tended to proceed not from evidence to conclusion, but
from conclusion to evidence. Reading, facts, history, logic and the complex
interaction between the electorate, the media, and the government have all
been relegated to subsidiary roles in what might be called "fundamentalist"
Just as the free exchange of information plays little role in the
relationship between a fundamentalist believer and his or her God, so it has
played a distinctly diminished role in our recent parallel world of divine
political revelation. After all, if you already know the answer to a
question, of what use is the media, except to broadcast that answer? The
task at hand, then, is never to listen but to proselytize the political
gospel among non-believers, thereby transforming a once interactive process
between citizen and leader into evangelism.
Although in the Bush political universe, "freedom has been endlessly
extolled in principle, it has had little utility in practice. What possible
role could a free press play when revelation trumps fact and conclusions are
preordained? A probing press is logically viewed as a spoiler under such
conditions, stepping between the administration and those whose only true
salvation lies in becoming part of a nation of true believers. Since there
was little need, and less respect, for an opposition (loyal or otherwise),
the information feedback loops in which the press should have played a
crucial role in any functioning democracy, ceased operating. The media
synapses which normally transmit warnings from citizen to government froze
Television networks continued to broadcast and papers continued to publish,
but, dismissed and ignored, they became irrelevant, except possibly for
their entertainment value. As the press has withered, the government,
already existing in a self-referential and self-deceptive universe, was
deprived of the ability to learn of danger from its own policies and thus
make course corrections.
A Universe in Which News Won't Matter
Karl Rove, the president's chief political advisor, bluntly declared to New
Yorker writer Ken Auletta that members of the press "don't represent the
public any more than other people do. I don't believe you have a
check-and-balance function." Auletta concluded that, in the eyes of the Bush
Administration, the press corps had become little more than another
special-interest lobbying group. Indeed, the territory the traditional media
once occupied has increasingly been deluged by administration lobbying,
publicity, and advertising -- cleverly staged "photo ops," carefully
produced propaganda rallies, preplanned "events," tidal waves of campaign
ads, and the like. Afraid of losing further "influence," access, and the
lucrative ad revenues that come from such political image-making, major
media outlets have found it in their financial interest to quietly yield.
What does this downgrading of the media's role say about how our government
views its citizens, the putative sovereigns of our country? It suggests that
"we the people" are seen not as political constituencies conferring
legitimacy on our rulers, but as consumers to be sold policy the way
advertisers sell product. In the storm of selling, spin, bullying, and
"discipline" that has been the Bush signature for years, traditional news
outlets found themselves increasingly drowned out, ghettoized, and cowed.
Attacked as "liberal" and "elitist," disesteemed as "trouble makers" and
"bashers" (even when making all too little trouble), they were relegated to
the sidelines, increasingly uncertain and timid about their shrinking place
in the political process.
Add in a further dynamic (which intellectuals from Marxist-Leninist
societies would instantly recognize): Groups denied legitimacy and disdained
by the state tend to internalize their exclusion as a form of culpability,
and often feel an abject, autonomic urge to seek reinstatement at almost any
price. Little wonder, then, that "the traditional press" has had a difficult
time mustering anything like a convincing counter-narrative as the
administration herded a terrified and all-too-trusting nation to war.
Not only did a mutant form of skepticism-free news succeed -- at least for a
time -- in leaving large segments of the populace uninformed, but it
corrupted the ability of high officials to function. All too often they
simply found themselves looking into a fun-house mirror of their own making
and imagined that they were viewing reality. As even the conservative
National Review noted, the Bush administration has "a dismaying capacity to
believe its own public relations."
In this world of mutant "news," information loops have become one-way
highways; and a national security advisor, cabinet secretary, or attorney
general, a well-managed and programmed polemicist charged to "stay on
message," the better to justify whatever the government has already done, or
is about to do. Because these latter-day campaigns to "dominate the media
environment," as the Pentagon likes to say, employ all the sophistication
and technology developed by communications experts since Edward Bernays,
nephew of Sigmund Freud, first wed an understanding of psychology to the
marketing of merchandise, they are far more seductive than older-style news.
Indeed, on Fox News, we can see the ultimate marriage of news and PR in a
fountainhead of artful propaganda so well-packaged that most people can't
tell it from the real thing.
For three-plus years we have been governed by people who don't view news, in
the traditional sense, as playing any constructive role in our system of
governance. At the moment, they are momentarily in retreat, driven back from
the front lines of faith-based truth by their own faith-based blunders. But
make no mistake, their frightening experiment will continue if Americans
allow it. Complete success would mean not just that the press had
surrendered its essential watchdog role, but -- a far darker thought --
that, even were it to refuse to do so, it might be shunted off to a place
where it would not matter.
As the war in Iraq descended into a desert quagmire, the press belatedly
appeared to awaken and adopt a more skeptical stance toward an already
crumbling set of Bush administration policies. But if a bloody, expensive,
catastrophic episode like the war in Iraq is necessary to remind us of the
important role that the press plays in our democracy, something is gravely
amiss in the way our political system has come to function.
Orville Schell is Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the
University of California, Berkeley. This piece is adapted from the preface
to a collection of New York Review of Books articles on the media's coverage
of the war in Iraq by Michael Massing. It will be published soon as a short
book, Now They Tell Us (The New York Review of Books, 2004).
Copyright C2004 Orville Schell