Editorial: Media Madness


In recent issues we have had a number of discussions regarding left media. It is important to point out, every so often, that mainstream media is so abysmal that everything progressives generate, however flawed compared to one standard or another that some of us may have, is, nonetheless, a vast improvement over mainstream media. The reason is that mainstream media is motivated both by private profit (selling access to audience with disposable income to advertisers seeking to fleece it) and the maintenance of society’s hierarchical social and class relations in the interests of their elite beneficiaries, regardless of what effect it has on everyone else. In contrast, alternative, progressive, and left media, whatever definition one gives to these terms, is motivated at least in large part by a search for the basic truth, as well as for information, mutual communication, and public empowerment through knowledge.

Examples to prove the bias of mainstream media are legion, of course. But here is another graphic example, lest we forget. Most Z readers are probably generally aware of the proposed role of the United States government in the bailout of Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and South Korea. The cost of the undertaking could climb to $80 billion, and it will surely be the largest bailout in world history. It’s a big story, therefore, and gets considerable coverage.

So along comes a U.S. Congressperson, Bernie Sanders, who questions the U.S. role. He calls a press conference and indicates his three-fold concerns: (1) "I find it rather amazing and disconcerting that putting at risk some $15 to $20 billion of American taxpayer money has been done by the President without the approval of Congress and with absolutely no input from Congress. I have questions about the propriety of this, and even questions about the constitutionality of this." (2) "I find it remarkable that at a time when President Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and many leaders in Congress have found it necessary to cut back on Medicare, Medicaid, veterans programs, affordable housing, children's programs, and the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in this country that suddenly, out of nowhere, the government is able to find some $20 billion in a moment's notice to bailout Asian economies." And (3) "In fact, it is my strong opinion, and the opinion of a number of other knowledgeable people, that U.S. participation in this bailout is illegal as a direct result of a law that Barney Frank of Massachusetts and I passed in 1994 as members of the Subcommittee on International Financial Organizations. In short, that law states that the United States government cannot support any International Monetary Fund or World Bank loans to any country unless the loan proposal guarantees internationally-recognized worker rights."

This is heady stuff. The executive claims poverty, and then has huge stores of wealth for sudden dispersal abroad. It cuts back programs that benefit suffering U.S. citizens while spending to shore up "Asian economies." And it violates its own laws, in the process.

Sanders continued, "I have read the proposal from the Indonesian government--an authoritarian nation led by a ruthless man, General Suharto, a man directly responsible for, among other things, the deaths of tens of thousands of people in his own country and East Timor. Not one word in that proposal suggests that the Indonesian government will adopt policies guaranteeing internationally-recognized worker rights. Therefore, plain and simple, it is against the law for the United States, and the Secretary of the Treasury, to support this bailout…. Furthermore, I find it very ironic that the hard-pressed taxpayers of this country are being asked to bailout Indonesia and other countries where the leaders of those countries are often extremely wealthy. According to Forbes magazine, Suharto himself is worth $16 billion. Jeffrey Winters of Northwestern University has estimated the Suharto family wealth at over $30 billion, with another $30 billion held by fifty close allies. So here we have a handful of people in that country worth $60 billion dollars, owning almost all of the industry and resources in Indonesia, and the taxpayers of the United States are being asked to bail them out."

So, one wonders, scanning the pages of the New York Times, Washington Post, and LA Times, and examining the news from ABC, CBS, NBC, etc., where is this blockbuster story? Why isn’t it news that a U.S. Congressman claims his government is lying, anti- U.S. citizens, and illegal? Imagine playing this up in a big expose style, revealing the venal motives of the parties involved and their lack of concern for the human well being of anyone other than themselves. This could sell a few papers. So, again, why isn’t it news? Or is it news, but simply not news that is "fit to print."