Archive for journalism

Deforming Health Care

Posted in The Failed State with tags , , , , on October 29, 2009 by talewis

Just about a year ago, for the first time in modern American history, voters selected a president who had not been vetted and funded by Big Money. In the euphoria of the celebration, we did not notice for a while that no similar winds of change had blown through the Congress. As a result the drive for health care reform (or was it health care insurance reform? Or both?) by the new president, with the backing of about 70 per cent of the American people, has not only missed the cup, in the parlance of golf, but the green, and cannot be found anywhere on the fairway. They are out among the trees now, looking for its remains. Continue reading

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Got Swine Flu? Thank a Swine Factory

Posted in Fat of the Land with tags , , on October 27, 2009 by talewis

Even when the Washington Post gets around to placing the blame for the H1N1 Flu pandemic squarely where it belongs — on industrial agriculture — it does so obliquely, and with the mindset created by the industry’s flacks that prevents us from facing its increasingly dire consequences. Continue reading

Forget Everything, I Said

Posted in The Failed State with tags , , , on September 24, 2009 by talewis
The mantra of the industrial age rises in intensity, all around us, louder and more insistent as it becomes less defensible: we have to change everything, is the way it goes, but we can’t change any single thing.
On health care: yes, it’s terrible, the system is broken. The industry (imagine: in this country, health care is an industry), as President Obama likes to remind us, is on board this time, and agrees we must reform the system. It’s just that they are against changing any single thing about the system. Reduce their profits? That would be un-American. Offer Medicare to the people they have rejected as too poor or sick to help? Socialism! Sure, they’re willing to stop refusing or cancelling coverage of people who are, or get, sick. But that’s a no-brainer when, in return, 45 million Americans, now without insurance, are going to be required by law to pay them premiums. Now that’s a reform even an insurance coimpany could like.
The journalism industry — yes, it’s an industry now, too, I’m afraid — is complicit in all this. To cite just one example: two of the country’s most successful and respected columnists, Gail Collins and David Brooks, discuss the health care reform battle as if it were a contest of ideas between Republicans and Democrats, or the House and the Senate, or the Administration and Congress.
Compromising on Health Care
It is no such thing. It’s a contest between the 70% of Americans who want access to decent health care at a reasonable cost — and the industries that are making their profits by either denying the care or bankrupting the patient. Of course the industries are winning, at least partly because the journalists who should be shining light on what the companies are doing are instead flapping their right wings against their left wings.
Similarly. the oil industry agrees that we are going to run short of oil, and soon. Their most optimistic scenarios put peak oil — the begining of the perpetual and irreversible decline of the world’s oil supply in the face of steadily increasing demand — at 20 years away. Most reputable observers believe it’s happening now. But Big Oil says yes! we have to change everything! They even allowed their wholly-owned President, George W. Bush, say it explicity: we are addicted to foreign oil.
Just don’t try to change any single thing. Higher gas-mileage requirements for cars? No way. Tax gasoline to reduce consumption and stimulate atlternative, renewable fuels? Are you kidding? Limit carbon emissions as a late and lame admission that we are changing the climate of the planet, to our own peril? No, no, no. Instead, British Petroleum will rebrand itself as “Beyond Petroleum,” and run TV ads about how we have to change everything.
What I argue, here and in Brace for Impact, is that survival requires that we flip this brain-dead mantra on its head, admit that we cannot change everything, and then change something.

The mantra of the industrial age rises in intensity, all around us, louder and more insistent as it becomes less defensible: we have to change everything, is the way it goes, but we can’t change any single thing. Continue reading

It’s Not Funny

Posted in The Failed State with tags , , , on August 25, 2009 by talewis
Of all the players in the rancid shoutfest — please don’t call it a “debate” — about “health care reform,”  the most reprehensible may be the journalists. At least the others — the politicians, the lobbyists, the corporations, the perpetually paranoid — are acting and speaking in ways that are true to their natures.
Most journalists, on the other hand, pretend to a higher calling, then fail to answer the call. Most of them are as cowed by the loud and the stupid as anyone, but pretend to be judiciously weighing their words. Because the right has trumpeted that the government is proposing to conduct euthenasia on old people, the journalists have cravenly classified this as a conservative-liberal dispute, calling for an even-handed presentation quoting both sides. In fact (if I may use that word in its absolute sense) the only useful distinction to be made about this odious allegation is whether it is true, which it patently and obviously is not, or whether it is a lie. Not a mis-statement, not an exaggeration or a matter of opinion, but a damned lie.
Journalistic objectivity does not forbid the branding of a lie as a lie, it requires it. Who has done it?
I have seen a woman proclaim on a television ad dozens of times that she was denied treatment for her brain tumor in Canada, and the ad proceeds to imply that “health care reform” will lead to a Canadian style of health system in America. I have never seen a news cable network or newscast check the womn’s claim, or analyze the ad’s implication. Every news organization had fact-checks for all the allegations made in the presidential election campaign, but they don’t do it when it concerns the actual government of the country?
Perhaps the industrial media are so distracted by their own death spiral of declining circulation, ratings and revenues that they are unable to remember, let alone summon, the integrity, courage and service to the truth that is supposed to be their hallmark.
The depth of their failure in this essential regard is illuminated by the stellar performance of a non-journalist, a man who insists he is just a comedian, in doing the work that journalism is supposed to do. John Stewart’s Daily Show interview of Betsy McCaughey — a slightly-less-loopy-than-usual proponent of the death squad crowd, is by far the best journalistic performace of the year. He knows the subject better than she does, refuses to let her get away with non-sequitirs, lies, and other offenses, exposes her as a demagogue, and does so without becoming in any way offensive.
Watch both parts of the interview. And see what we’re missing on CBS and CNN.    Of all the players in the rancid shoutfest — please don’t call it a “debate” — about “health care reform,”  the most reprehensible may be the journalists. At least the others — the politicians, the lobbyists, the corporations, the perpetually paranoid — are acting and speaking in ways that are true to their natures.
Most journalists, on the other hand, pretend to a higher calling, then fail to answer the call. Most of them are as cowed by the loud and the stupid as anyone, but pretend to be judiciously weighing their words. Because the right has trumpeted that the government is proposing to conduct euthenasia on old people, the journalists have cravenly classified this as a conservative-liberal dispute, calling for an even-handed presentation quoting both sides. In fact (if I may use that word in its absolute sense) the only useful distinction to be made about this odious allegation is whether it is true, which it patently and obviously is not, or whether it is a lie. Not a mis-statement, not an exaggeration or a matter of opinion, but a damned lie.
Journalistic objectivity does not forbid the branding of a lie as a lie, it requires it. Who has done it?
I have seen a woman proclaim on a television ad dozens of times that she was denied treatment for her brain tumor in Canada, and the ad proceeds to imply that “health care reform” will lead to a Canadian style of health system in America. I have never seen a news cable network or newscast check the womn’s claim, or analyze the ad’s implication. Every news organization had fact-checks for all the allegations made in the presidential election campaign, but they don’t do it when it concerns the actual government of the country?
Perhaps the industrial media are so distracted by their own death spiral of declining circulation, ratings and revenues that they are unable to remember, let alone summon, the integrity, courage and service to the truth that is supposed to be their hallmark.
The depth of their failure in this essential regard is illuminated by the stellar performance of a non-journalist, a man who insists he is just a comedian, in doing the work that journalism is supposed to do. John Stewart’s Daily Show interview of Betsy McCaughey — a slightly-less-loopy-than-usual proponent of the death squad crowd, is by far the best journalistic performace of the year. He knows the subject better than she does, refuses to let her get away with non-sequitirs, lies, and other offenses, exposes her as a demagogue, and does so without becoming in any way offensive.
Watch both parts of the interview. And see what we’re missing on CBS and CNN.

Of all the players in the rancid shoutfest — please don’t call it a “debate” — about “health care reform,”  the most reprehensible may be the journalists. At least the others — the politicians, the lobbyists, the corporations, the perpetually paranoid — are acting and speaking in ways that are true to their natures. Continue reading