Media follies

EVERY YEAR, I survey some of the year's most overhyped and underreported stories, and every year, they seemingly get worse. But 2001, and in particular the past three months, has reached a new low.

The remedy? Seek out alternative news sources and make up your own mind. Meanwhile, here's some context for your search:


* The Mariners. Summer is a good time to go on a long vacation. The next time you hear "116," just remember: "four."

* How much America has changed since Sept. 11. Newspapers and TV news shows remind us constantly. And enough of the daily coverage, still, of victims of the World Trade Center attacks. How 'bout a story or two on how the rest of the world hasn't changed, nor America's role in it?

* Whatever the stock market is doing. Before the dot bust, lots of folks checked stock and mutual fund prices daily, if not hourly. Now nobody cares.

* Boeing moves its headquarters. Local politicians, newspapers, and Boeing employees thought it was the end of the world. What was it Bush supporters were saying this time last year? "Get over it."

* And last, but not least, Harry Potter. The books are lots of fun; great for kids. But the Harry Potter marketing blitz, and fawning stories on it, are repulsive. Bartell has ads this week for H.P. toothbrushes. And we wonder why fundamentalists hate us.


* Judging from TV and the dailies, the 2001 elections never happened. Most people didn't even vote, despite critical races and issues.

* With I-747 and plummeting revenues, the state faces a budget crisis. The budget shortfall could be eliminated by repealing special business tax credits. Instead, Washington's regressive tax structure will stay unchallenged, (gasp) income taxes are still anathema, and the coming budget cuts will hurt the state's neediest citizens most.

* Antitrust law is history. Meanwhile, the local press quoted Microsoft's lawyers ad nauseam and reported on how badly rich peoples' stock options are suffering.

* Energy privatization is dead. Several states put on hold or canceled their plans to privatize utilities after California's mess showed what privatization really means: Taxpayers take it in the shorts.

* Massive protests greeted George Bush's January inauguration. Protesters overwhelmed key points on the Pennsylvania Avenue inaugural parade route, and TV cameras carefully avoided those areas, the fences surrounding the parade route, or any acknowledgement of public anger over last December's coup d'鴡t.

* Bush and the Republicans have shamelessly used the Sept. 11 tragedy to try to push through reactionary legislation. The list is long, as is the list of assaults on the Bill of Rights for those "suspected" of being terrorists, and anyone else in the general vicinity. How bad is it? Spain is refusing to extradite terrorist suspects because of Bush's military courts. When the land of Franco and the Spanish inquisition is lecturing the U.S. on due process, you'd think there's a story afoot.

* Bush's $300 tax rebates weren't rebates at all. That $300 will simply go on your new tax bill instead. The government is getting every penny from you it originally expected to; the "rebate" was a cheap accounting trick to divert attention from huge, permanent cuts for the wealthy. Most news reports obediently parroted the fraud. Meanwhile, Dubya's tax cut was a "stimulus" flop long before Sept. 11, but as Congress now considers yet another such plan, that story, too, is conspicuously absent.

* For weeks, only The Wall Street Journal has reliably and repeatedly reported that the anthrax spores found in three letters to congressmen are a U.S. weapons-grade variety. Once anthrax attacks didn't fit the Osama bin Laden narrative, the investigation vanished from news programs.

* Gore won Florida. The exhaustive media recount finally released last month concluded that if all legally cast votes in all of Florida's counties had been counted in 2000, Al Gore would be president. Inexplicably, media accounts almost uniformly spun the study as vindicating Bush's victory.

* Finally, so many aspects of our Afghan invasion were reported extensively worldwide, except here, that it's impossible to pick among them. American media distinguished themselves by avoiding actual field reporting in favor of a bizarre alternate universe of White House and Pentagon briefings and spin. Among our Pravda- esque domestic media's almost verboten topics: new post-Sept. 11 support for dictators, Afghan civilian deaths, CIA training of bin Laden, long-term military strategy, oil politics, the Carlyle Group, Saudi connections to terrorism, nuclear proliferation and the ABM treaty, or why it is much of the world views the U.S. as a rogue—even terrorist—state.

Happy New Year!

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