Geov Parrish picks the most overhyped and underreported media stories of the year
I think he made some good picks for being focused on just overhyped and underreported as opposed to stories that were the most inaccurate or the most misleading (Gary Webb's death comes to mind). I would say most anything about the election was usually overhyped though sometimes underreported (the presidential campaigns provided plenty of examples of both). I would say he missed the underreporting on protests (the DNC/RNC protests being perhaps the most glaring) and the stop-loss orders that have led to a military that is no longer composed solely of volunteers (perhaps that is part of "the list goes on and on"). I'm interested to know what other stories people think were overhyped or underreported or perhaps misleading or inaccurate.
2004 media follies!
The most overhyped and underreported media stories of the year
For the ninth consecutive year, here's my list of the most overhyped and underreported stories of the year. Given the amount of hype and missing reporting in mainstream American media, I'm sure to have forgotten a few; send in your suggestions, and I'll run them in a future column. These are my attempt to restore some balance to a badly flawed media performance.
The solution, happily, is as close as your computer. Virtually every country in the world now has an English-language edition of at least one major media outlet; in particular, web sites for British and European media (www.bbc.co.uk, www.guardian.co.uk, The Independent, the Daily Mirror, Le Monde, the Irish Times, and many others) often provide international and even domestic U.S. reporting far superior to the pablum we receive here at home. There's also a healthy and vibrant alternative media here in the U.S.: www.workingforchange.com, www.alternet.org, www.commondreams.org, www.znet.org, and many others. Seek out other sources, weigh the differences, and make up your own mind. Happy New Year!
The Year's Most Overhyped Stories
John Kerry as a viable candidate. He got the Democrats' nomination because he was the candidate who could beat George Bush -- and then turned around and ran a stunningly inert campaign all the way through September. It cost him the election.
Ralph Nader as a threat to the Democratic presidental ticket. Who were they kidding?
The Economy is Improving. Then it's not. Then it is. Then it's not. Then it is. Then it's not. But Alan Greenspan says... and blah, blah, blah. Ah, stagnation. Only the U.S. media could make unemployment, high credit card debt, a sky-high federal deficit, kamikaze tax-cuts, a record trade imbalance, and sagging corporate profits appear rosy. Let's cut the crap: Capitalism is in a crisis that the Bush administration can't figure out how to fix. End of story.
The Scott Peterson Trial. Of all the murderers in the world, the U.S. media has obsessed over Peterson because he's photogenic, upper-middle-class, young, and white. The press should have given him one column inch, skipped the photo, and moved on to the next story. How about a nightly news story about a photogenic, white Mass-Murderer-in-Chief? Or some coverage of Pinochet's indictment by a Chilean court? Or any of the pandemic of other guys who killed their spouses, girlfriends, ex-spouses, ex-girlfriends, or fantasy lovers?
Ronald Reagan's Death. Forget Iran-Contra, illegal wars, administration corruption, AIDS, and the Me Decade. Just remember that he was a really nice guy. Oh, and he single-handedly ended Communism. But wait -- Communism can't have ended, because this is exactly how such regimes rewrite history. All hail the Great Fallen Helmsman Comrade Leader Ronnie.
Foreign Terrorists. Because of constant repetition and misuse, this term is utterly devoid of meaning. Many Americans, however, now think that any foreigner is a terrorist. Mission accomplished.
Anything the White House Says About Iraq It's time to stop treating these ridiculously optimistic, obtuse pronouncements as credible. "Freedom is on the march"?? Please.
Extreme Weather Hype. Get used to it. With global climate change, our future will be full of storms. Instead of hyping the storm-du-jour as a "once-in-a-lifetime" event, U.S. media outlets should be more honest. Local news shows ought to run regular features on how to prepare for this week's extreme weather challenge, with periodic tips on emergency preparedness. "And here's the phone number for Vice President Dick Cheney's office. Let him know what you think about global warming, climate change, and the administration's energy policy!"
The Year's Most Underreported Stories
Global Warming and Climate Change. No credible scientist disputes it any longer. Flooding, monsoons, droughts, intense heat waves, and the disappearance of fresh water sources will lead to the deaths of millions of people around the world -- not some time in the distant future, but within our own lifetimes and the lifetimes of our children. The impact is not just a human one: it will also involve the extinction of nearly half the species that inhabit the planet, by some estimates. In addition, millions of people will become refugees, and these displaced populations will put a heavy toll on those of us who thought our wealth would protect us from the ravages of climate change.
The Global AIDS Pandemic. From the lack of U.S. press coverage, you'd think AIDS has been conquered. Nothing could be further from the truth. The West has largely shirked its responsibility for combating the worst epidemic since the Black Death killed much of the population of Medieval Europe, or the U.S. military deployed smallpox to wipe out the native population of the Americas.
The Bush administration has insisted that U.S. government funds be used only for programs that promote abstinence. In addition, the U.S. government has hindered efforts to use generic AIDS drugs in poor nations, in response to pharmaceutical companies who want to protect their profits. That's criminal behavior.
Meanwhile, 30 years of neoliberal economic policies have dismantled the healthcare systems of underdeveloped and industrial nations alike and are largely to blame for all the money that must now be poured into basic infrastructure, like re-building health clinics in African countries. The human race should be ashamed. We should admit the mistake, open our wallets, and begin to tackle another problem that has a whole variety of solutions, in particular: the use of condoms, the manufacture of generic AIDS drugs, and the funding of social welfare programs.
The Resurgence of Nuclear Power. Leave it to the Bush administration to promote nuclear power as its "green" solution to global warming, particularly in export to China and other developing countries. So far, the U.S. media has allowed this to sneak under the radar, in spite of well-established and long-standing public opposition to nuclear power and the costly problems entailed with nuclear waste disposal.
The Politics and Economics of Oil permeate everything from the economy to foreign policy, but are never discussed directly by the media. From major pipeline deals between Russia and Japan, to the influence of oil on U.S. intervention in the Middle East, to China cutting major deals with Latin American and African nations for long-term oil contracts, to the impact of burning fossil fuels on our environment, to misguided tax policies and our deteriorating highway system here at home, to massive oil spills in our increasingly polluted oceans and waterways, the U.S. press has managed to talk around the main topic: we are addicted to oil and something must be done to wean us off this drug. Let's declare a war on oil.
Continuing Corporate Scandals. The Enron and Worldcom scandals broke in the summer of 2001. Shortly thereafter, politicians and businessmen on Wall Street assured us that new regulations would make corporate scandals a thing of the past. Hah. Last week the SEC announced that the mortgage giant, Fannie Mae - - which, together with Freddie Mac, backs half of all the mortgages issued in the U.S. -- is involved in a new corporate scandal. Fannie Mae will have to recognize $9 billion in losses that they've hidden from the public since 2001. Yes, this accounting fraud, which rivals anything Worldcom or Enron did, has occurred in the last three years, in spite of a so-called crack-down on corporate crime. And it's received zero press coverage, except for a few small articles in the Wall Street Journal. For shame!
Not Every Vote Counts. Miscounts and "accidents" (that may or may not have been accidental) have been steadily oozing out of Ohio and Florida since the election, but tampering with voter registration lists and voter suppression techniques have also been widely reported. What it adds up to is an election process so riddled with fraud and error that it would shame most Third World countries. And we're supposed to be a model for this stuff?
South America Stands Up to Washington. Additional elections this year have meant a near-clean sweep (the exception being Colombia) of South American governments by left-leaning candidates who have won office by campaigning against Bush and the neoliberal policies of the U.S. The result: an emerging Global South bloc, led by Brazil, Venezuela, and India, that has brought free trade expansion via the WTO and FTAA to a standstill.
Torture. The horrific Abu Ghraib scandal got plenty of attention -- along with the Bush Administration's ridiculous assertion that it was the work of a few isolated soldiers -- but the systemic use of torture and prison abuse at Guantanamo, Afghanistan, and Iraq has now been documented far beyond question. Even less examined: that many of the torture techniques, and not a few of their practitioners, have been borrowed directly from federal and state "control unit" prisons, where such practices have been decried by Amnesty International and others for years.
Anything That Happens on the Ground in Iraq: the use of napalm, white phosphorus, and cluster bombs in Fallujah; continuing evidence of prisoner abuse in U.S. detention centers in Iraq; the lack of foreign fighters among captured Iraqi insurgents; zero progress in reconstruction; major fraud and the misappropriation of reconstruction funds; bombing of voter registration centers and the assassination of candidates and party members; no voter registration at all in the Sunni triangle, including Iraq's third largest city, Mosul; the massacre of civilians by hastily-trained, poorly-equipped Iraqi security forces and the combat weary, stressed-out U.S. soldiers who oversee them; U.S. military policy that is copying failed tactics from the Israeli military's playbook for the West Bank and Gaza Strip; continued fighting in Fallujah, a relatively small city that was supposed to have been pacified three weeks ago -- the list goes on and on.
If it's negative news, the U.S. press doesn't report it, on the assumption that telling the truth might make the American people demand a full and immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq. The U.S. media has swallowed the Bush administration argument, echoed by John Kerry, that we must "stay the course" in Iraq or the whole Middle East will go up in flames (and whose fault would that be, hmm?).
It's not the job of the U.S. media to worry about the consequences of failed U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. press should stop worrying about controversy and start doing its job: report the news, negative or not. Let the people decide. That's what real democracy is all about.
Thanks to Eat the State! co-editor Maria Tomchick for her help in selecting this year's list.
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