Friday, December 24, 2004

Media Follies, part 1

The most overhyped and underreported stories of 2004, with reader responses.

And all the things we'd like to forget, that happened in 2004.


Blogger Management said...

2004 media follies!

Geov Parrish -

12.20.04 - 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 (,, 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.:,,,, 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.

8:09 PM  
Blogger Management said...

More media follies

Geov Parrish -

12.23.04 - When I ran a column on Monday of the most overhyped and underreported stories of the year, I missed a few. And you, dear readers, let me know about them.

As promised, here are some of those letters -- with comments.

* * * * *

Hi Geov,

Great list... I would add these off the top of my head:

- The US backing/initiation (?) of the coup d'etat in Haiti.

- The military/police crackdown on demonstrators at the RNC Convention in NYC.

- The 1 million disenfranchised African American voters in Nov 2004.

- The effect of privatizing the vote count with two companies -- both headed by Republicans -- counting 80% of US votes. The 3rd and 4th largest (Sequoia and SAIC, I believe) also have strong ties to Bush/Republicans. (This isn't new to 2004 but had obvious significance.)

Keep up the good work!

Thanks, Tom Watanabe, Albany, CA

The Haiti story is a particularly good suggestion. There's plenty of evidence to suggest that we witnessed a U.S.-backed coup d'etat, but it was hardly at all found in mainstream U.S. press, which treated the whole matter as an insolvable mystery.

* * * * *

Your Iraq entry should include the lack of debate involving the military use of depleted uranium in munitions.

Also, the "Million Worker March" is effectively a myth. Most people I mention it to are convinced I made it up. Plus, I can't even find an estimation of a head count anywhere.

The "nucular" energy story should certainly include the U.S. withdrawal from the Non-proliferation Treaty and our commitment to producing and testing "mini-nukes."

And two last minute items: Extortion as effective foreign policy. The Reuters story of our trying to obtain compromising information via wiretaps on the International Atomic Energy Agency in addition to the older, but still relevant and ignored plight of Katherine Gun; and the nearly 10 billion dollar spy satellite system in the Intel Reform bill that is apparently treasonous to report to the public.


Janson Jinnistan

I would categorize the satellite story not as underreported, but outright censored. There are, sadly, areas of our free and democratic country where taxpayers simply aren't allowed to know what's being done in our name. National security, or simple ass-covering?

* * * * *

Mr. Parrish:

Your column on censored stories of 2004 was wonderful & my letter should NOT be construed as criticism of you -- but, simply adding to critique of corporate-owned media censorship. As an independent journalist (writing for small alternative newspapers and producing a weekly public affairs show on a community radio station), I offer the "omissions" below:

1. Continued slanted coverage of the FAILED "war on drugs" which is a huge part of the escalating U.S. prison population (largest in the world). The expense of prison cells as opposed to treatment beds is not brought to public attention -- nor are the many expansions of police power under the war on drugs (which preceded 9/11).

2. Domestic terrorism by white supremacists, far right militias, and "Christian" anti-choicers. Remember that group busted outside Dallas with a load of explosives? If they'd been Arabs it would have been big news -- but they were white Texans, so the story got dumped. Ditto with ongoing attacks on abortion clinics. So what if we keep Roe but no one will give us an abortion because of these violent theocrats?

3. Continued invisibility of the three million homeless in the U.S. I was glad you pointed out that some veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are already living on the streets.

4. The reprehensible racism in Elections 2004 (you alluded to this -- I'm just reinforcing it): "racism" is now a dirty word that can never be used... but, what the hell else is it when black and brown neighborhoods have far fewer voting machines and far more incidents of intimidation, when they're dropped from voting lists, etc.? I am still furious about Election Theft 2004 and the failure of the media to report it.

Thanks for your great writing.

Keep on keeping on!

Lydia Howell, Minneapolis

Mr. Parrish,

I read and really appreciated your December 20th piece on "2004 media follies!" There were a lot of really good points made in the piece, and I couldn't agree more with most of the article.

Though I did want to mention another *huge* story that was vastly unreported in the mainstream news (and was also missing in your piece), and that was the March For Women's Lives that took place in Washington DC in April of 2004.

This was (by some accounts) the largest political demonstration in the history of our nation. 1.2 million women and men marched in Washington, DC to protect the right to choose and the right to comprehensive women's health care, yet the mainstream press hardly mentioned it at all. And when they did, they either drastically "underestimated" the number of people present, or in some cases they presented the Anti-Choice demonstrators on an equal level as the Pro-Choice demonstrators (something that was simply not true. We easily had 20 times more people than they did.)

I was at the march, and I felt very inspired and pumped up and motivated. As I drove home from the March and I heard that the mainstream press hardly even acknowledged the event, I thought about what a crime it was that a majority of Americans won't even know what happened, and they especially won't know the size and the significance of the March.

Anyway, like I said, I really enjoyed the article and I got a lot out of it (as I do your daily "this day in radical history" feature), but I also wanted to point out another big story that the mainstream media didn't bother to cover. I am sure there were others this year, but this was undoubtedly one of the biggest of 2004.

--Luke McKibben

Meanwhile, as Lydia mentioned, there was also little mention of anti-abortion extremism. Makes you wonder what it is about abortion that makes it so hard to report facts.

* * * * *

Re: "The Scott Peterson Trial." Agreed. But I don't agree it's over-hyped. At least the press and news isn't dwelling on the usual death-row candidate: poor & non-white, yes? At least we're seeing some attention paid along the upper-class, white race line for a change? At least it's not reinforcing the same old racial and class stereotypes?

Although I agree the President cum murderer idea is aces!

Cheers, Rob Vaughn


Excellent column on the overhyped and underreported stories of the past year. I agree with your assessment, but I'm terribly frustrated by people's refusal to acknowledge reality even when facing it. I regularly send my conservative relatives and friends links to articles from The Guardian, The Independent and numerous other progressive online news and opinion sources, only to be dismissed as overly pessimistic, America-hating or a conspiracy freak. I suppose all I can do is keep trying to get them to inform and educate themselves, because the prospect of giving up is too depressing to contemplate. Thanks for the great writing, and keep it up.

Brad Taylor

All I can suggest is to keep at it. There's nothing that beats documentation when it comes to trying to peddle unpopular or uncomfortable facts. As I mentioned Monday, there are plenty of reputable news sources, abroad and here at home, where stories like these are carried -- it's just not on network TV or in the big dailies.

* * * * *


Your column is always a must read! I have a few suggestions which I hope you might consider worthy of inclusion in the list:

Four U.S. Congressional seats stolen from the people of Texas.

Fruits of media consolidation. Taxpayers fund $400 million nuclear study.

The election irregularities.

The suppression of the press (Judith Miller, et al.)

A personal aside, though there is precious little to be thankful for this season, I wish you and yours the best.


Allen Brooks

There were more letters, too, with more arcane suggestions, like the bankruptcy of the Russian oil giant Yukos, a key New York state court ruling on public schools, and more unanswered questions on 9-11. It all goes to show that there's plenty to report out there, if media can only be persuaded to take its job as the Fourth Estate seriously.

And I wish you, dear reader, the same as Allen: Merry Christmas, and a joyous and peaceable (and active) New Year!

8:09 PM  
Blogger Management said...

A year to forget

Arianna Huffington - Arianna Online

12.30.04 - While so many year-end publications focus on what we should remember about the year now grinding to a close, I'd like to continue this column's contrarian tradition of pointing out the things we'd all be better off never having cross our minds again.

Here then is a list of all the things I'd like to forget, circa 2004:

Bernard Kerik's nanny. Bernard Kerik's Ground Zero love nest. Bernard Kerik.

That the woman who dismissed a presidential briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." as a "historical" document is going to be our next secretary of state.

That a man who finds the Geneva Conventions "quaint" is going to be our next attorney general.

Janet Jackson's briefly exposed right boob.

That it took 14 months and public protests from the victims' families before the president OK'd the 9/11 Commission, but only two weeks before the first hearings were held on Janet Jackson's boob.

That the media thought "Don't be economic girlie men" was a great line.

Scott Peterson's love of golf. And that his lawyers thought it was a reason he shouldn't be sentenced to death.

Paris Hilton's new perfume. Paris Hilton's new album. Paris Hilton's new book. Paris Hilton.

"Surviving Christmas," "Jersey Girl," J-Lo: Ben Affleck goes 0-for-2004.

Madrid, Spain, March 11, 2004.

Beslan, Russia, Sept. 3, 2004.

That the Federal budget deficit hit $413 billion this year, and two-thirds of it is the result of Bush's tax cuts.

That Dick Cheney is talking about another round of tax cuts.

What Colin Powell did to his credibility. "You break it, you live with it for the rest of your life."

"I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

That picture of Lynndie England holding the leash.

The way the administration tried to sweep Abu Ghraib under the rug.

William Hung, recording artist.

Ashlee Simpson, lip synch artist.

Bob Dylan, lingerie salesman.

That George Tenet, who knew that the intel on Iraqi WMD was thinner than Lara Flynn Boyle on Dexatrim, turned into the Dick Vitale of WMD: "It's a slam dunk, baby!"

That George Tenet was subsequently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

That a 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich allegedly bearing the likeness of the Virgin Mary sold for $28,000 on eBay.

The 10,000 Web remixes incorporating The Dean Scream.

That of the roughly 550 enemy combatants held captive in Guantanamo Bay, only four have been formally charged.

The Pistons/Pacers basketbrawl.

The looks on George and Laura Bush's faces when Dr. Phil asked them about the "epidemic levels of oral sex" in America's middle schools.

That Osama is still on the loose -- and releasing tapes.

That the Kyoto Protocol was ratified -- and we aren't part of it.

That Ken Lay has still not gone to trial or served a minute in jail.

That 35.9 million Americans live below the poverty line -- 12.9 million of them children.

That 42 percent of Americans still think Saddam Hussein was "directly involved in planning, financing or carrying out" the 9/11 attacks.

That, thanks to presidential cutbacks, we actually have fewer police and first responders on the streets today than we had on 9/11.

Star Jones' wedding.

The Movie Multiplex from Hell: "Alexander," "My Baby's Daddy," "Thunderbirds," "Sleepover," "Around the World in 80 Days."

The iPod Party Mix from Hell: Jessica Simpson's "Take My Breath Away," William Hung's "She Bangs," Britney Spears' "Toxic," Britney Spears' "My Prerogative," Britney Spears' "I've Just Begun Having My Fun."

That Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld couldn't find time to personally sign letters of condolence to the families of troops killed in Iraq.

That Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz couldn't remember the number of soldiers who'd lost their lives in Iraq.

Drilling for oil in ANWR. I've been desperately trying to forget this one since 2001, but the White House just won't let me.

11:20 PM  

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