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Oregonian article hits the bullseye; Nothing but an exception that proves the rule

i never thought i'd say this, but i read an article in the Oregonian that actually hit the target in the bullseye, or very close to it. The article, Full view of city's urban renewal lacking, by Randy Gregg, appeared in Sunday's paper. It's a review of the American Institute of Architects exhibit "Good Citizens Are the Riches of a City" showing in town. The exhibit was put together by the Portland Development Commission (PDC), and its theme is the history of Urban Planning in the city. Naturally, as Gregg points out, the PDC assembled what is essentially "a commercial for itself" with claimed successes highlighted and obvious failures mostly excised. Urban renewal in the United States is usually a racist and classist enterprise; for decades, targets of demolition across the country have been black neighborhoods and money-poor ethnic enclaves to make room for ugly "development", parking lots, or freeways. Urban renewal projects have destroyed many precious, vital places with a thoroughness that could only otherwise be accomplished through war-time bombing. The perpetrators have been, as Gregg points out, "a bunch of white guys".

Gregg does not shy away from any of these truths about the effects of urban renewal in Portland or the classism and racism at its roots. Most surprisingly, at the end of his column -- in describing a sculpture submitted for a proposed restoration of Ross Island -- Gregg raises an artist's question of what history will view as the greater crime: Ross Island Sand & Gravel's ravaging of the natural environment, or the act of burning trucks belonging to them in protest of their ecocidal activities. Whoah! With this last paragraph, Gregg gives that famous arson the most balanced and least hysterical treatment that has ever appeared in the Oregonian to my knowledge. This is where the discussion should have started in the first place, and it's too late now for the people since jailed.

Of course, this article by Randy Gregg is one of those exceptions that proves the rule; the rest of the paper remains dismally shallow and biased, and shows no signs of changing.

Gregg was able to get away with telling more truth than you usually see in the Oregonian because he was writing for the section covering the arts, not news or business. A race and class analysis like he uses, which is spot on in this case, is unwelcome in the rest of the paper, which is intended to support the cultural status quo and the business community, not to ask big questions or dig for real answers.

Obviously just as a good art review needs context and depth, so do current events, but why do the latter rarely get that treatment? Many reasons, but one of them is the journalism-school obsession with "facts" in contrast to "opinions". Racial discrimination and greed are difficult to "prove" from a strict standard; as motivations they can be clear as day by still deniable. Also, race and class oppression are long simmering conflicts, without convenient "news pegs", at least not that the Oregonian chooses to see. Even the shootings of dark-skinned people by white police in the city does not tease out an analysis as cogent as Gregg's in this article about an art exhibit. It's sad. It's also how the Oregonian operates, and in my opinion it would be naive to expect anything more, or to beseech them to do things differently. It's not their job, ultimately, to show the world as it is; their role is to help shape the world for those in charge. This process is often unconsciously promoted by individual reporters, but that doesn't make it any less real. Whether with self-censorship, or because of the social rung they inhabit and the cultural blinders that go with it, reporters for media outlets like the Oregonian will not stray far from their appointed role as guardians of corporate rule. Gregg was able to stray because he was talking about something that's considered harmless (art), and because the review form is expected to include "opinion", even of a political nature.

What Randy Gregg needs to do, if he cares about the world, is get on the asses of his fellow reporters here in town and around the country and tell them to start looking at and writing about human society the way he did in this article about an urban renewal art exhibit. Imagine if the New York Times had been so thorough and candid about U.S. military overtures against Iraq in the run-up to the invasion, instead of passing on lies about fictional Weapons of Mass Destruction. Or if CNN had jumped on the vicious, open racism that attended the 2000 (and 2002 and current) Florida elections. Or if the Oregonian carefully explored the reality of fire ecology during the forest fires int the region over the last 2-3 years. Imagine if context, history, and oppression were touched on whenever relevant (which is to say, almost always) by all news outlets everywhere. Imagine, that is, what a different world it could be, if the populace was truly being informed and educated by corporate media, instead of misled.

Randy Gregg gave us a taste of real reporting in his review. Kudos to him. Too bad it's the exception to the rule, and too bad that this rule won't be changing. But this is the breach into which indymedia steps -- into territory also inhabited by KBOO, the Alliance, and others -- and its growing success shows how people crave something different, something deeper, something true. Here, the rule is different, and liberation of mind, body and spirit is the goal, not their continued repression.

Fuck the Corporate Media. Let's find out what's really going on, ourselves.


I suppose 13.Sep.2004 00:38

.

Getting into bed with the corporate media is doubtless a worthy goal.

However, we must stop screwing over those who sometimes agree with us but don't swallow 100% our various analyses.

Whoa! 13.Sep.2004 11:13

CatWoman

spArk? Are you well? I never thought I would see a feature on indy discussing the benefits of an article that first appeared in the oregonian. Wow! Musta been SOME article.

I didn't read the article mentioned, as I try very hard not to read that filthy rag, but if it's as you describe then it does, indeed, sound like quite a landmark. While I can't imagine you sitting down to read the corporate paper, I'm happy you found it and happier still that some of the masses were exposed to such an honest portrayal of both the degradation of gentrification and the truth about those jailed for their self-defense against the actions of Ross Island Sand and Gravel.

Your article was very well written, as always. The only thing I would like to correct is this: The problems with the corporate media are much deeper than an obsession with "facts." I know you already know this, but you seem to suggest that their lies and distortions and lack of depth are rooted in that obsession. It's much more serious than that. In reality, the corporate media not only ignores real facts, but actively engages in a reification of falsities. Take the case of the present war, for example, to which you refer above. The "facts," well known and obvious to anyone even slightly familiar with them, completely discredited bushCo's assertion that Iraq had any WMDs, or that war was necessary. The corporate media ignored all those facts, and chose to feed the people lies instead. The masters of the machine desired this war, and so the corporate "journalists" shamefully embedded themselves where they always are: lips firmly on the asses of those who control the $.

The same coverage, lacking as it was in "facts," was full of opinions. Corporate "journalists" were falling over each other declaring the righteousness of the American cause during all that. It was disgusting.

Some local examples of this penchant for lies over facts: In the wake of the murder of Jahar Perez almost a year to the day after the murder of Kendra James, the corporate media once again made excuses for the perpetrators and dug up dirt on the dead. Jahar Perez had drugs on him, they told us. But they would not show us the hard, cold fact of the murderer's face. The same had been true for Kendra James.

On A22, the police attacked and assaulted the people of Portland, who had done nothing illegal. Their many victims included innocent babies. The corporate media glossed over that fact, but continually justified the police violence by stating that someone in the crowd had provoked the attack by "throwing a bottle," a lie, and that the attack on the 10 month old baby was the fault of the baby's parents rather than the fault of the Portland pigs. That's an opinion, not a fact.

During the anti-war protests last year, the corporate media was given a press packet which included videotaped footage of the police assaults on Bill Ellis and Miranda May. The unedited footage clearly showed Mr. Ellis's civil rights being violated as he was violently dragged off the sidewalk, thrown face-down into the street, pepper sprayed while hand-cuffed, and hit in the head with a metal cannister. It showed Ms. May being repeatedly hit in the face with pepper spray as she blindly clung to a post, trapped between the post and a newspaper box. One of the officers responsible smiled as he assaulted her. In an impressive feat of editing, the corporate media managed to cut out all of the shots showing any details of either assault, and instead showed only a few moments of Mr. Ellis refusing to give his name (since he had been standing on the sidewalk and doing nothing wrong), and Ms. May turning toward the police screaming (since she had just been pepper sprayed by them for no reason). This was a careful and deliberate skirting of the "facts."

The list could go on for miles, but I've written enough. Again, I know you already know this, spArk, but I had to add this anyway.

Randy Gragg is the only Oregonian columnist worth reading 13.Sep.2004 18:02

architecture observer

When he reports on architecture and urban development from a "hard-news" angle more than from a "art critic" angle, you'll read some interesting things about how Portland's power structure works, information that doesn't make it into the Metro section.

Also, a year or two ago I was browsing an internationally distibuted architecture magazine (I forget which one, but it's probably published in London or New York) and came across a feature article on Dignity Village, several pages long with plenty of photos. Just by reading this one article I learned a lot more about D.V. than I had ever picked up from any local corporate media... Then I noticed the byline: Randy Gragg.

thanks for the additions, CatWoman 13.Sep.2004 19:08

spArk

you're totally right to add all that - thanks! there's other ways the corporate media sucks that we could add to the list, too, including the effect of the profit motive on story selection/editing, the trivialization that occurs for the sake of brevity, and the false "balance" claimed in many articles.

an example of that last attribute has often been seen with articles discussing climate change; hundreds of scientists working under the auspices of the U.N. will reveal how human activity such as pollution is altering temperatures, the atmosphere, glaciers, etc., and their research will be "balanced" by the claims of a small group of scientists who work for oil/coal/extraction companies, with no mention of the money trail there.

modern journalists are mere "gofers", taking a quote or image from some corporate someone and repeating it without examination in their article or on their program. a press release is enough, no research is needed. it's lazy. it's also killing us, by concealing the reality of corporate behavior from the population.

the corporate media work hand-in-hand with the powers-that-be to keep tight social control over everyone. some individuals in that system are unaware of what they're doing, or have fooled themselves, or naively believe they can "change it from the inside" (which has never worked anywhere) and these individuals need to be educated so they can liberate themselves.

thanks again for the additions.

I'll bet 13.Sep.2004 22:00

.

APOC folks are wondering why the corporate whore noticed how the "development" bureaucracy was used to eliminate competition from Black businesses, whilst the radical investigative journalist is mesmerized by burning trucks.

huh? 13.Sep.2004 23:20

a reader

what exactly does your comment mean, "."? both the "corporate whore" and the "radical investigative journalist" dwelt on race/class predominantly in their articles, with the burning trucks being really just footnotes. what gives? i think you're barking up the wrong trees here...

?huh 14.Sep.2004 00:12

.

If you don't understand the significance of destroying the Albina community economy, I don't know what to say.

PS 14.Sep.2004 00:15

.

spArk dwells on the short-comings of corporate media.

goody 2, goody 2, goody-goody 2 shoes 14.Sep.2004 00:41

small O

Activists do not seem to be immune from falling into the "holier than thou" trap. Activists turn their noses up at corporate media. That's fine. But it's not going away. Modern journalists may not be able to change it, but some with a progressive mind can infiltrate it, and with unrelenting determination, subtly introduce reality to a receptive public comprised of a very large readership typified by a newspaper such as the big O. Modern journalists, in addition to writing for corporate publications, can also write for publications allowing a greater freedom to lay out all aspects of an issue in greater detail, as according to a previous post, gragg may have done.
Do yourselves a favor. Cloak a bit of your insolence. Occasionally try to write something that won't automatically produce a knee-jerk rejection from a moderately conservative publication, and in so doing, allows some carefully selected shafts of insight to be received by a wider public.

response to "." 14.Sep.2004 11:17

a reader

uh, both writers bewail the destruction of the Albina community. and, the indymedia writer cites such racism as characteristic of urban renewal all over the country. so, what got missed here?

Another example 14.Sep.2004 13:16

Media Watch

Yesterday on NPR, I heard a discussion about how last week's 60 Minutes piece on Bush's draft dodging needs to spark a debate on fact checking among journalists. The pseudo-corporate NPR reporter repeated suggestions that some of the documents used on that show -- those claiming to support the other mountains of evidence that Bush went AWOL -- might have been falsified. Several corporate mouthpieces used that to dive into a self-critical discussion about the moral and ethical duty of all journalists to thoroughly check their facts before going public.

I ask you. How is it that a few obscure papers purporting to show something we all already know are suddenly sparking such debate, when all the gushing, oozing, dribbling, pouring streams of disinfo about WMDs in Iraq did not? People fucking DIED when corporate journalists allowed bushCo to lie to us. Why no heartfelt debate about that? Why only debate something as trivial and meaningless as this, and only in order to defend the "honor" of a man who has none?

Nothing 14.Sep.2004 14:51

.

Since you are so careful not to say it, I conclude you missed nothing.

Ridiculous... 14.Sep.2004 16:33

me

...to just ignore corporate media. Doesn't anyone know how to read between the lines anymore? I read every frigin paper around and sort through the fray. There is important information printed in all media. Not every article is about controlling your minds. I take all media with a grain of salt, including aternative media. Indymedia is full of inaccurate information as anyone can publish. I think that's great, and I have learned a lot, but not before doing my own research.