This week on CounterSpin: The killing of two Western hostages by a CIA drone strike in Pakistan led some US media to re- engage debate over US drone policy. But media’s discussion is over how and where drones should be used—not whether they should be. We’ll talk to law professor Marjorie Cohn, author of, most recently, Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral and Geopolitical Issues.
Also on the show: Sometimes called the Green Nobel, the Goldman Environmental Prize is given to grassroots environmental activists from each of six world regions. This year’s winners, including Honduran indigenous rights leader Berta Caceres and the group COPINH, are fighting not just governments but some of the world’s most powerful corporations to protect their land and livelihood. That’s why Caceres and her colleagues face death threats and repression. And it surely has something to do with why you can read all of the US media coverage of Caceres and the Goldman Prize in the time of an elevator ride. We’ll hear from Beverly Bell of the group Other Worlds about this story.
As usual, CounterSpin also looks back on the week’s news, including the Baltimore protests and the Supreme Court’s consideration of marriage equality.
- “Double Standards and Drones,” by Marjorie Cohn (ConsortiumNews.com, 4/28/15)
- “Berta Cáceres, Honduran Indigenous Leader, Wins Goldman Prize” (Other Worlds, 4/20/15)
- Other Worlds
This week on CounterSpin: There’s plenty of opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But in corporate press accounts, the whole debate is reduced to battling soundbites. More useful and more interesting journalism would include getting outside the Beltway and talking to people about what the fallout from TPP and similar corporate-centered international agreements really looks like. We’ll fill in some of the picture with Karen Hansen-Kuhn, director of international strategies at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
Also on the show: In all the media talk around newly confirmed Attorney General Loretta Lynch, her role as US attorney in brokering a deferred-prosecution agreement with HSBC when the bank was found guilty of money laundering for the likes of the Sinoloa drug cartel was hardly considered. This says something about Lynch–but also about media’s general lack of outrage about government support for big banks, no matter what crimes they commit. A few months back, CounterSpin spoke with journalist James Henry about more HSBC violations recently come to light — violations, it turns out, Loretta Lynch knew about when she worked on that deal.
And our usual look back at the week’s news.
This week on CounterSpin: The extremist group Al Shabab attacked a government building in Mogadishu on April 14, leaving 17 people dead, just weeks after a horrific attack at Garissa University in Kenya in which at least 148 people were killed. Media readers will know that Al Shabab is based in Somalia and that they’re “linked to” Al Qaeda, but what more should we know? And what needs to happen in Somalia and elsewhere to help that country move forward? We’ll talk about that with Abdi Ismail Samatar, professor and chair of the Department of Geography, Environment & Society at the University of Minnesota and a member of the African Academy of Sciences.
Also on the show: Many were heartened, if that’s the word, to see four former Blackwater security contractors going to jail for killing 14 unarmed Iraqis in Nisour Square in 2007. But does this mean others who committed atrocities under cover of war will face justice? The Obama administration doesn’t even want to release more photographs unearthed of torture and abuse at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, so how likely is anyone with power to be prosecuted for it? There is one Abu Ghraib-based lawsuit making its way through the courts, with the help of the Center for Constitutional Rights. We’ll talk to senior staff attorney Katherine Gallagher about the state of that case.
And as usual, the show starts with a look back at the week’s press.
This week on CounterSpin: What should we look for in media coverage of the current Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen, given Saudi Arabia’s role as a US ally and the sort of press treatment that generally entails? The Washington Post‘s David Ignatius, for one, says US support for Operation Decisive Storm shows that Obama understands the need for “pushback” against Iran in its “proxy wars.” What’s wrong with that picture? We’ll get some background on Yemen and the US’s involvement there from Sheila Carapico, professor of political science and international studies at the University of Richmond, and author of Civil Society in Yemen.
Also on the show: Current conversations about domestic surveillance focus on revelations of what’s often described as “indiscriminate” data collection by the NSA. But before we entertain the idea of “targeted” surveillance as a rational alternative, we should know who the most frequent targets are—historically and today. We’ll talk with Malkia Cyril, executive director of the Center for Media Justice, about her article “Black America’s State of Surveillance” from the April issue of The Progressive.
This week on CounterSpin: The backlash was immediate and strong against the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act just passed in Indiana. The law’s proponents, including Gov. Mike Pence, say it’s just intended to “open a door” to conversations about how people can express religious beliefs. Legal scholars and rights advocates say that the law as originally written actually invites conflict and sanctions discrimination, particularly against LGBT people. The scores of organizations saying they will reconsider doing business with and in Indiana seem to know who they believe. What can journalists do to shed light on this story without resorting to a “some say, others differ” approach? We’ll hear from Jennifer Wagner from the group Freedom Indiana on that.
Also on the show (and speaking of backlash): The Internet and Twitterverse made short work of lambasting entertainment-industry outlet Deadline for a piece that legitimized the idea that the presence of a larger than usual number of people of color in broadcast TV series means “the pendulum might have swung a bit too far in the opposite direction”–that white actors, in other words, are now the ones being discriminated against. But the thesis and tone of that piece didn’t come from nowhere, and denouncing the article doesn’t erase the climate that produced it. We’ll talk about Hollywood and race with Darnell Hunt, professor of sociology and director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African-American Studies at UCLA.
This week on CounterSpin: March 22 was World Water Day, meant to call attention to the crisis in world water supply and sanitation that makes lack of access to clean water far and away the leading cause of death for children under 5. Headlines about “taking shorter showers” suggest mainstream media didn’t dive that deeply into the crisis’ environmental, economic or political context. We talk about water with Darcey O’Callaghan, International Policy Director at Food & Water Watch.
Also on the show: You may have heard that the Class of 2014 is the most indebted ever, or that graduates leave school with an average of $33,000 of debt. But now some are telling us the student loan crisis is “easing,” others that it was never that big a deal to begin with. What’s up with that, and what impact would Barack Obama’s proposed Student Aid Bill of Rights have on the issue? We’ll get that story from Natalia Abrams, executive director of Student Debt Crisis.
This week on CounterSpin: Is Venezuela really a threat to the security of the United States, as the White House has declared? And if not, what can be the point of such a statement? We’ll get an accounting about what seems to be threatening Washington from activist and author Alfredo Lopez, of May First/People Link.
Also on the show: “Coal is an outlaw enterprise,” declared Robert Kennedy Jr. in a New York Times op-ed last December. Apart from that forceful opinion piece, though, you probably haven’t seen very much about one of the most damaging — to people and the environment — aspects of that enterprise: mountaintop removal. After years of activism, are we about to see an end to that harmful process? We’ll hear from Jeff Biggers, author of Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland.
–“Venezuela’s Continuous Coup,” by Alfredo Lopez (This Can’t Be Happening!, 3/2/15)
–“Mountaintop Removal on the Ropes,” by Jeff Biggers (Huffington Post, 3/13/15)
This week on CounterSpin: USA Today had one headline, “50 Years Later, Selma Still Inspires,” paired with another reading: “Why Ferguson Reports Changed No One’s Mind.” Somewhere in there is a way for the media to talk about the fight over voting rights and black people’s access to basics of democracy as an ongoing story, not just a historical one. We’ll talk about voting rights–then and now–with Deborah Vagins, senior legislative counsel at the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office.
Also on the show: You may think of the American Red Cross as the venerated deliverer of humanitarian services. Red Cross CEO and former marketing professor Gail McGovern calls it “a brand to die for.” (She really said that.) Might the conflict between those visions account for some of the problems the organization had in the wake of Superstorm Sandy? A new investigation by ProPublica and NPR sheds light on that. We’ll hear from its co-author, ProPublica‘s Justin Elliott.
–“Reflections From the Bridge: Where the Stain of Slavery and Segregation Met a Young Man’s Courage and a Preacher’s Dream,” by Deborah J. Vagins (Huffington Post, 3/11/15)
–Voting Rights Project: ACLU
–Red Cross: ProPublica
This week on CounterSpin: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress about what the New York Times called the “Iranian nuclear threat” was controversial before it happened, because Republicans arranged it without White House sanction. But are media asking the fundamental questions about what Netanyahu actually said? We’ll talk to reporter Murtaza Hussain of The Intercept about that.
Also on the show: After Cleveland police officers killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice on a playground last November, they told a series of lies: that Rice grabbed an air pistol and put it in his waistband as they arrived, that they ordered him to put his hands up three times and he refused, that he pulled out the pistol before they shot him. But we only know these are lies because someone videotaped the incident. Is it any wonder, then, that the right of citizens to film police is resisted vehemently by some in law enforcement, and embraced vehemently by those concerned about police abuses? We’ll talk about that with Carlos Miller, founder and publisher of the project Photography Is Not A Crime.
–“Benjamin Netanyahu’s Long History of Crying Wolf About Iran’s Nuclear Weapons,” by Murtaza Hussain (Intercept, 3/2/15)
This week on CounterSpin: FBI director James Comey received praise for saying that police officers should recognize their own racial biases. But a new report says eliminating racism in criminal justice is about more than what’s in a cop’s mind. We’ll speak with the report’s author, Nazgol Ghandnoosh of the Sentencing Project.
Also on the show: How does a company become wildly profitable and market-dominant–with little or no evidence that its products and services are effective? And the business it’s in is…testing students and teachers? We’ll talk to Stephanie Simon, senior education reporter at Politico, about the power of Pearson.
–Black Lives Matter: Eliminating Racial Inequity in the Criminal Justice System, by Nazgol Ghandnoosh (Sentencing Project, 2015)
–“No Profit Left Behind,” by Stephanie Simon (Politico Pro, 2/10/15)
This week on CounterSpin: Media are consumed with whether the authorization Barack Obama is seeking from Congress to wage attacks on ISIS “and associated persons or forces” gives the executive branch too much power–or not enough. There’s no room left to ask whether authorization would actually make those attacks legal, much less what makes anyone think more military attacks are the solution to the crisis. We’ll talk about those things with law professor and author Marjorie Cohn.
Also on the show: It’s unsurprising that corporate-owned and -sponsored news media tend to present the corporation as the best and most natural way of doing business. But what of the alternative economic models that means we miss hearing about, different ways of organizing work that many people in our increasingly unequal society might be very interested to know about? We’ll talk about one of those ideas — workers’ co-ops — with author Laura Flanders of the Laura Flanders Show, who’s done some recent work on the subject.
–“Obama to Congress: Rubber-Stamp My Perpetual War,” by Marjorie Cohn (Truthout, 2/17/15)
–Own the Change: Building Economic Democracy One Worker Co-op at a Time, by GRITtv and TESA (2/9/15)
This week on CounterSpin: two stories featuring bad news, but good journalism. First up: HSBC is a recidivist criminal actor, so how exactly is it still the second-biggest commercial bank in the world? The latest revelation–thanks to a whistleblower working with a number of media outlets–-is that HSBC has been helping millionaires and billionaires hide money from tax authorities. What’s the impact of HSBC’s actions and–once more with feeling–what will it take to put a banker in jail? We’ll hear from journalist James Henry on that.
Also on the show: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said it was just a “drafting error” that led to his proposed budget calling for the evisceration of the central philosophy guiding the state’s university system, along with $300 million in cuts. Reporters and activists showed that to be a falsehood, and Walker’s proposed changes look like a revealing peak at the agenda of the man who wants to be the next president. We’ll hear from a key player in that story, Mary Bottari from the Center for Media and Democracy.
–“HSBC: A ‘Pervasively Polluted’ Culture” (Tax Justice Network, 7/17/12)
–“Why Aren’t Big Bankers in Jail?: Why Ask Why, Say Their Enablers in Financial Press,” by Janine Jackson (Extra!, 1/14)
–“Walker Strikes Truth and Wisconsin Idea from UW Mission in Budget,” by Jonas Persson and Mary Bottari (PR Watch, 2/4/15)
This week on CounterSpin: The head of the FCC has just announced new rules protecting the openness of the Internet. The vote is still weeks away, but if agency chair Tom Wheeler’s proposal goes through, it would mean real Net Neutrality, maintaining the even playing field that makes the Internet what it is. And it would be a landmark victory for regular folks over industry titans. We’ll talk about what it all means with Craig Aaron of the group Free Press.
Also on the show: The Black Lives Matter movement has put a spotlight on real-world racism in our supposedly post-racial society, and part of that is a challenge to corporate media’s narrow and negative portrayals. But the face of “black people” in the conversation is overwhelmingly male. It might surprise some, therefore, to realize that the same phenomena that weigh on black men and boys-–things like aggressive policing and the school-to-prison pipeline-–also affect black women and girls. Which makes it all the more significant that proposed policy responses-–like Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative-–leave those women and girls out. A new report, called Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected, seeks to change that conversation. We talk with its lead author, professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, director of the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies at Columbia Law School and co-founder of the African-American Policy Forum.
–“The President May Have Just Saved the Internet,” by Craig Aaron (Huffington Post, 11/10/14)
–Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected, by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw with Priscilla Ocen and Jyoti Nanda (Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies/African-American Policy Forum)
This week on CounterSpin: The victory of the austerity-rejecting Syriza party in Greece has some corporate media clucking about “financial chaos” in Europe, due to Greece’s unwillingness to “clean up its act.” But could it be that what elite media fear isn’t that Syriza will fail—but that it might succeed? We’ll talk with Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research about the meaning of the Greek elections.
Also on the show: The last-minute cancellation of a House vote on a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks was reported as a “stumble” for the new Republican leadership. It’s not the first time women’s right to control their own bodies has been framed as primarily a political football. Besides being shallow and predictable, our guest says such coverage presents real threats to real women’s rights. We’ll talk with Amanda Marcotte about abortion and the new Congress.
–“How Greece Could Change the Future of Europe,” by Mark Weisbrot (Vice, 1/28/15)
–“GOP Women Stopped the 20-Week Abortion Bill. That’s Not Standing Up for Reproductive Rights,” by Amanda Marcotte
This week on CounterSpin: After the State of the Union address, one paper’s headline was “Obama Pulls No Punches,” but another said the speech consisted of “modest proposals,” while a third deemed it “A Bold Call to Action Even if No Action Is Likely.” What’s the public to make of this exercise in political theater and the media’s morning-after tea leaf-reading? We’ll talk with journalist and activist Keane Bhatt.
Also on the show: A proposed Pennsylvania law aimed at silencing Mumia Abu-Jamal targets our right to hear as much as his right to speak. Why aren’t more journalists up in arms? We’ll talk to one who is: Daniel Denvir, senior staff writer at Philadelphia City Paper.
— “Progressive Policies Are Popular–So Why Should Democrats Be Afraid of Them?” by Keane Bhatt (FAIR Blog, 1/21/15)
–Why I Filed a Federal Lawsuit to Defend Criminals’ Free Speech Rights,” by Daniel Denvir (Philadelphia City Paper, 1/8/15)