This week on CounterSpin: For many, the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, is a clear case of environmental racism—the disproportionate infliction of environmental harms on communities of color, from the spraying of toxic pesticides to the siting of polluting factories. The government has a responsibility to address these harms—but do they do it, and if not, why not? These are some of the questions engaged by the Center for Public Integrity’s Environmental Justice, Denied series. We’ll speak with Center reporter Talia Buford.PlayStop pop out
Also on the show: The labeling of Genetically Modified food is a hard-fought policy battle, as Americans demand information about what they eat and and industry demands the ability to obscure that information. But recent evidence suggests we should also pay attention to the labeling of the experts media present on the question of GMOs. Carey Gillam is a longtime food and agriculture journalist, now research director at the group US Right to Know. We’ll talk with her about conflicts of interest in the coverage of our food supply.PlayStop pop out
And as usual we’ll take a look back at the week’s press, including Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump after Iowa, and corporate media’s selective interest in reparations.PlayStop pop out
This week on CounterSpin: The consensus of Beltway media seems to be that a single-payer healthcare system, similar to those in other industrialized countries is “excellent in theory,” but “dead on arrival” in Washington, making its proponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, naive at best. Americans make life-altering healthcare choices, in which worry over cost plays a big part, every day, but serious public discussion about how to address that crisis is a sometimes thing. So we should care what media are saying about single payer—as a lesson in policing possibilities, even apart from what it means for the presidential race.
One of the country’s foremost experts on the subject is Steffie Woolhandler. A primary care physician for many years, she’s co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program and a professor at the CUNY School of Public Health.PlayStop pop out
And first, as usual, we’ll take a quick look back at recent press, including Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Planned Parenthood.PlayStop pop out
- “Doctors Group Welcomes National Debate on ‘Medicare for All,’” Physicians for a National Health Program (1/22/16)
This week on CounterSpin: Now everyone is very upset at the state-made disaster that is the poisoning of Flint, Michigan’s water supply. Some children in the largely poor, largely black community have seen lead levels in their blood triple since the decision to take city tap water from the Flint River, but how that decision came to be made is fodder for more than the brief moment of sunlight corporate media generally afford. What are some of the questions journalists could draw from Flint’s experience and apply going forward? Chris Savage is owner/publisher of Michigan-based Eclectablog.com, where he’s been tracking this story; we have an extended interview with him.
And first, as usual, we take a quick look back at recent press.
Media are heralding South Carolina governor Nikki Haley’s Republican rebuttal to Obama’s State of the Union address. Haley’s call for the party to resist the “siren call of the angriest voices” was, according to AP (1/13/16), a message “of diversity and openness to immigrants that could answer the GOP establishment’s increasingly desperate search for an antidote to the loud pronouncements of presidential front-runner Donald Trump.”
The LA Times (1/12/16) cited her words that “no one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country,” noting that for those just noticing Haley, “she probably seemed like a voice of reason in a campaign that has often featured the opposite.”
And when Trump predictably attacked Haley as “weak on illegal immigration,” many outlets noted her remark, “I stand by what I believe.”
You might have wanted a little more detail, though, on what it is Haley apparently does believe, which, as Gawker (1/13/16) pointed out, is pretty weird. “When you’ve got immigrants who are coming here legally,” Haley told ABC News‘ Jonathan Karl (1/13/16), “we’ve never in the history of this country passed any laws or done anything based on race or religion. Let’s not start that now.”
The LA Times thought Haley’s showing in her rebuttal speech would have “implications for her future.” Maybe in the meanwhile, someone could help her brush up on the past.
Janine Jackson is FAIR’s program director and the host of CounterSpin.
This week on CounterSpin: The arrest of storied Mexican drug cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman raises questions: How can a person sought vigorously by law enforcement from at least two countries be unearthed by…Sean Penn? And if the reason the arrest is so significant is its impact on the war on drugs—what, really, is that impact? Laura Carlsen is the director of the Americas Program of the Center for International Policy, in Mexico City. She’ll join us to talk about that.PlayStop pop out
Also on the show: It’s Barack Obama’s “legacy time,” say elite media, and one of the questions is whether he can fulfill what’s described as a personal “quest” to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center. What if reporters approached the military prison as a problem for detainees and for the rule of law, rather than as an item on Obama’s “to do” list? We’ll hear from Omar Shakir, fellow at the Bertha Justice Institute at the Center for Constitutional Rights.PlayStop pop out
And our usual look back at the week’s press, including Nikki Haley’s twisted history, Fox‘s PowerBall boosterism and the end of Al Jazeera America.PlayStop pop out
This week on CounterSpin: Barack Obama described beheadings by the extremist group ISIS as “an assault on all humanity,” but when US ally Saudi Arabia executed 47 people on January 2, many by beheading, the administration expressed “concern” and urged “restraint.” Media don’t make it easy to make sense of US policy in the Gulf region. We’ll get some context from Toby Craig Jones, associate professor of history at Rutgers University and author of Desert Kingdom: How Oil and Water Forged Modern Saudi Arabia.PlayStop pop out
Also on the show: For US media, Haiti is just, as CBS News put it, “a shamble, made worse by a corrupt government.” You’d hardly guess what role the international community, and in particular the US, has had in creating the country’s current situation, including the confusion and mistrust about the presidential election. We’ll hear from Jake Johnston on that; he’s a research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and lead author for the Center’s Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch project.PlayStop pop out
Plus a quick look back at recent press, including the Oregon standoff and a tale of two columnists at the Washington Post.PlayStop pop out
- “Saudi Arabia’s Dangerous Sectarian Game,” by Toby Craig Jones (New York Times, 1/5/16)
- Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch, Center for Economic and Policy Research
- Other Worlds: Another Haiti Is Possible
All year long, CounterSpin brings you a look, as we say, behind the headlines of the mainstream news—that’s both to shine a light on aspects of emerging stories that might be marginalized (or off the page entirely) in corporate media, and to remind us to be generally mindful of the practices and policies of elite news media that make it an unlikely arena for a full, vital debate on issues that matter—in which those outside of social and economic power can have their voices and their ideas heard.
So we bring you these selections from the year just gone, not to say that these were the most important stories or the most ignored perspectives—but just to say that these are some the cases that illustrate the kinds of questions we ought to always be thinking about as we read the paper or watch the news.
Interviews excerpted in this year’s Best of CounterSpin include:
- Journalist and activist Keane Bhatt on what CNN‘s characterization of Barack Obama’s State of the Union address as “very progressive” said about elite media’s connection to public opinion.
- FAIR’s Jim Naureckas on how op-ed writers at the nation’s big papers distorted history in their complaints about how the film Selma treated President Lyndon Johnson.
- Carlos Miller of Photography Is Not A Crime on how filming police can counteract official efforts to control the narrative in cases of violence by law enforcement.
- Professor and author Felicia Kornbluh revisiting Bill Clinton’s op-ed victory lap on the 10th anniversary of his bipartisan effort to take federal aid away from poor people.
- Professor and author Dean Spade on how media visibility is not the best barometer of progress for marginalized groups like trans people.
- Writer, producer and former CounterSpin host Laura Flanders on a project that explores alternative economic visions—alternative, that is, to the workplace models that elite media generally present as the only viable option.
This week on CounterSpin: From community rallies around the country to the presidential election, the Black Lives Matter movement has changed the conversation. Keeping a spotlight on state-sanctioned violence against black people, activists have opened up a debate, including in corporate media, that addresses racism and white supremacy in ways more searching and less euphemistic than we’re used to. At least, fewer pundits tell us we’re living in a “post-racial” society—that’s a start.
CounterSpin frequently engages corporate media’s role in issues of racial justice. We’re going to revisit a few of those conversations on this week’s show.
We’ll hear from UCLA professor and author Robin Kelley, from media activist Malkia Cyril of the Center for Media Justice, and from researcher and author Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute.
This week on CounterSpin: Alleged San Bernardino killers Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik did not pledge allegiance to ISIS on social media, the FBI now says, but no matter: The California killings have already added fuel to an upsurge of Islamophobia in US media and politics that in some ways is worse than that seen in the wake of September 11, 2001. One new element is the murky idea of “radicalization.” We’ll talk about that with Arun Kundnani, adjunct professor at NYU and author of, most recently, The Muslims Are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism and the Domestic War on Terror.PlayStop pop out
Also on the show: US media had a lot of worries about the recent elections in Venezuela; allegations of fraud and unfair advantage for the Maduro government were rampant, though the opposition party ended up ahead. Meanwhile, the same sorts of concerns, with greater foundation, were being raised in Haiti, to decidedly less elite media interest. We’ll discuss a Tale of Two Elections with journalist and activist Keane Bhatt.PlayStop pop out
As usual, we take a quick look back at the week’s press, including debate questions, Scalia’s racism and the Bernie blackout.PlayStop pop out
This week on CounterSpin: There are calls for the resignation of Chicago Mayor (and former Obama chief of staff) Rahm Emanuel—stemming from the city’s 13-month cover-up of video that belied the official story of the police killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. That video, along with an autopsy that also showed police’s initial story to be false, eventually came to light through the work of journalists—but not mainstream journalists; it was independent reporters, including our guest, who stepped in to force the police department and the city to acknowledge not only what happened on the night of October 20, 2014—when officer Jason Van Dyke put 16 bullets into the body of a boy who posed him no harm—but what happened after, as institutional forces came together to keep the truth from the public.
The story of Laquan McDonald is still ongoing. CounterSpin spoke with writer and activist Jamie Kalven. He’s reported on the Chicago police department for years; he unearthed McDonald’s autopsy and has continued to pursue the story.PlayStop pop out
Plus our a quick look back at the week’s press, including the San Bernardino massacre, the gun industry and union wages.PlayStop pop out
This week on CounterSpin: Some are wondering if the fatal shooting of 14 people in San Bernardino—along with a chart in the Washington Post showing that the year so far has included more mass shootings than days—might be the push corporate media need to stop covering gun control as a “culture war” issue on which “some say/others differ,” and move toward approaching it as an urgent public health concern.
A similar shift seems called for on abortion—which corporate media treat as, first and foremost, a “debate”—as though it can’t be the subject of straight reporting. But if media’s takeaway from the violent murders of three people at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, by a man reportedly ranting about “baby parts,” is that “both sides” need to tone down their rhetoric, then women and women’s reproductive rights will be taking a step backward.
We’ll discuss the broader context for the Colorado Springs killings and how to move forward on reproductive justice with Jodi Jacobson, editor-in-chief of RH Reality Check.PlayStop pop out
And first, as usual, we’ll take a look back at the week’s press, including selective reporting on civilian deaths, Argentine elections and a forgotten massacre in Paris.PlayStop pop out
This week on CounterSpin: While many folks go to family or friends for Thanksgiving dinner, somewhere around 15 million Americans have that holiday meal at a restaurant, with more millions ordering food to eat at home. What that means is that millions of restaurant workers don’t have a choice about where to have their Thanksgiving. And of course that’s only a small part of the things that make work in that industry difficult and, for many, precarious.
But change is afoot, with a movement to outlaw the “tipped wage” — the idea that a minimum wage of $2.13 is OK, because waitstaff get enough in voluntary tips to make up for it. The change is driven by persistent efforts of restaurant workers and their representatives, and eminent among those is our guest, Saru Jayaraman. She’s co-founder and co-director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United) and director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California/Berkeley. She’s also author of the book Behind the Kitchen Door and the upcoming Forked: A New Standard for American Dining.PlayStop pop out
And our usual look back at the week’s press, including Donald Trump and the truth, and what you can and can’t say at CNN.PlayStop pop out
- “Eliminating the Tipped Minimum Wage,” Restaurant Opportunities Centers United
This week on CounterSpin: The Paris attacks by the group known as ISIS have dominated news outlets, but if the goal really is to prevent the recurrence of such violence, then reporting that eliminates political context can’t be the way forward. We talk about the differing ways corporate media report terrorist violence with FAIR’s own Jim Naureckas.PlayStop pop out
Also on the show: In the wake of the Paris attacks, the word is that activism at the upcoming UN conference on climate change in that city may be restrained. But activism outside of these global gatherings is often the source of a clearer picture of where we stand on the problem, as opposed to where we need to be. Janet Redman, director of the Climate Policy Program at the Institute for Policy Studies, will join us to talk about that.PlayStop pop out
As usual, we take a quick look back at the week’s press, including the New York Times‘ blood-soaked expert, David Brooks’ $120,000 vacation and police sexual assault.PlayStop pop out
This week on CounterSpin: Republican presidential candidates disagreed on many things, but when it came to the idea of raising the minimum wage, they were in concert: It would be a “disaster,” increase joblessness and knock us out of international competition. Media usually present the issue as one of workers vs. business, but that’s not the whole story. We’ll get a different angle from Holly Sklar of the national network called Business for a Fair Minimum Wage.PlayStop pop out
Also on the show: Transparency and accountability — principles we’d hope would be paramount in the workings of state governments. But a new assessment called the State Integrity Investigation shows they are actually in short supply. We’ll learn the extent of the problem and what journalists can do about it from the Investigation’s project manager, reporter Nicholas Kusnetz of the Center for Public Integrity.PlayStop pop out
As usual, we take a quick look back at the week’s press, including factchecking Netanyahu, 60 Minutes vs. whistleblowers, and blaming technology for government repression.PlayStop pop out
- “Research Shows Minimum Wage Increases Do Not Cause Job Loss,” by Holly Sklar (Business for a Fair Minimum Wage)
- State Integrity Investigation
This week on CounterSpin: Corporate media in election mode means lots of talk about strategy and tactics and who candidates would like to have a beer with. What it could use more of is attention to core electoral issues like who gets to vote. Joining us to discuss the first presidential race in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act is Ari Berman, senior contributing writer for The Nation magazine and author of the new book Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America.PlayStop pop out
Also on the show: The New York Times has just run an eye-opening series on just what you sign away in those fine print contracts now necessary for everything from buying a cellphone to getting a job—namely, your right to justice in a court of law. We’ll talk about forced arbitration and what it means with Joanne Doroshow, founder and executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy.PlayStop pop out
First, as usual, we’ll take a look back at the week’s press, including Ahmed Chalabi’s death, Denmark-bashing and an Uber conflict of interest.PlayStop pop out
This week on CounterSpin: Many people were outraged by video evidence of a police officer violently assaulting and arresting a young black woman—not just by the brutality of the attack on a person who posed no threat, but because of where it happened, in a high school classroom. The incident at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina reflects a lot of problems, from the school-to-prison pipeline to the marginalization of black girls and women in conversations about state violence. We’ll talk about it with UCLA and Columbia law professor Kimberle Crenshaw, of the African American Policy Forum, producers of the report Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected.PlayStop pop out
Also on the show: A New York Times headline referred to “The Dueling Narratives of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” Such language implies a symmetry of power that doesn’t exist. We’ll discuss what’s missing from coverage of the most recent violence in the region from political analyst and writer Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.PlayStop pop out
And our usual look back at the week’s press, including Donald Trump’s anti-war claims, industry-funded food reporting and high-speed police chases.PlayStop pop out
- Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected, African American Policy Forum
- US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
- “Netanyahu’s Holocaust Revisionism Actually Reflects Widespread Dehumanization of Palestinians,” by Yousef Munayyer (The Nation, 10/24/15)
This week on CounterSpin: Nearly a year after 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed by a Cleveland police officer, the county prosecutor is giving signs that he won’t be strenuously encouraging indictments, deflating the hopes of many that the officer, Timothy Loehmann, will face any punishment at all for the killing. Whether or not you are surprised by this may have to do with your experiences with law enforcement in your community, or with your knowledge of the workings of the legal system when it comes to police shootings. If the justice system won’t bring justice, what could? We’ll discuss those issues with civil rights attorney Chase Madar. He’s the author of the book The Passion of Chelsea Manning, and of an article for The Nation titled “Why It’s Impossible to Indict a Cop.”PlayStop pop out
But first we’ll take a quick look back at recent press, including violence in Israel, George Will on inequality, and phantom Cubans in Syria.PlayStop pop out
- “Why It’s Impossible to Indict a Cop,” by Chase Madar (The Nation, 11/25/14)