Monday, June 30, 2014

The Corporate Welfare State Revisited

In early 2013, I wrote a piece titled "Welcome to the Corporate Welfare State," which generated considerable reader response. It remains the most-viewed post on this blog to date, with close to 250 views.

In the post I pointed out that corporate welfare--in the form of bailouts, subsidies, handouts, loopholes, tax-breaks and Tax Increment Financing (TIFs)--far outpaces traditional or individual welfare.

(Contrary to Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage's recent statements, Social Security is not welfare. It is an earned-income benefit that workers pay into throughout their working-lives.)

For instance, in 2012 alone the government spent $205 billion on corporate subsidies according to the Cato Institute. Compare that to the roughly $59 billion spent on individual welfare programs annually. In the words of U.S. Uncut co-founder, Carl Gibson, this means taxpayers spent "six times more on giving free money to companies making record profits than we did to making sure the people who were laid off by these corporations can still feed their families" ("Cut Corporate Welfare, Not the Safety Net," Huffington Post, 01/07/13).

He adds, the $205 billion in "corporate goodies" was "okay with [House] Speaker [John] Boehner, but $60 billion in Hurricane Sandy relief apparently wasn't."

Yet this disparity is almost never highlighted in media discussions of welfare.

Instead, most media "debates" on welfare remain myopically focused on individual welfare recipients (whom Ronald Reagan once callously dubbed "Welfare Queens"), typically thought of as single mothers, immigrants or people of color--even though actual welfare statistics dispel this stereotype. Statistically, black and white Americans take advantage of welfare benefits at nearly comparable rates.

Then again, most of our news comes from networks owned by the very corporations living high on the government teet (tax-dodger G.E.-NBC, for instance). So it makes sense they would not want to shine too much light on just how much they are costing American taxpayers.

Case in point is a recent front page story in the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram highlighting a recent poll on Mainers' views on welfare ("In Maine, a stark divide in attitudes about welfare," 6/23/2014).

The poll results are, frankly, nothing especially surprising or even newsworthy.

Conservative voters believe welfare "does more harm than good," and recipients "do not need the assistance and are taking advantage of the system." (The latter claim constitutes a wholly unsubstantiated accusation, which the story offers zero evidence to support.) Liberals, meanwhile, tend to be more supportive of welfare programs.

Overall, 46 percent of respondents claim welfare does "more harm than good," with a close 43 percent asserting the reverse.

Predictably, the nearly 1,700-word story by PPH staff writer Steve Mistler makes no mention of corporate welfare. The subject was not included in any of UNH's polling questions.

When I called UNH Survey Center director Andrew Smith to inquire why questions on corporate welfare were left out, he gave the telephonic equivalent of a shrug.

"It's not the kind of thing most voters think exists or see," he said.

But this logic is completely circular:

Voters are not knowledgeable about corporate welfare because the mainstream media--where the majority of Americans get their information about the world--rarely ever report on it. Reporters and editors, in turn, claim they do not cover the issue because their readers and viewers do not express concern over it. But how can they express concern over something they know nothing about...?

This is the same baseless excuse the corporate press use to exclude third-party candidates from their election coverage. There is a term for this deliberately selective sort of news coverage which intentionally leaves out major aspects of a story: Agenda-setting.

So, when are these behemoth corporations going to start working for a living? When will they pull themselves up by their own bootstraps? Most of them do not pay taxes as it is.

Thirty Fortune 500 companies routinely avoid paying any federal income taxes according to a 2011 report by the group Citizens for Tax Justice. Of the companies scrutinized, 280 paid "only about half" their obligatory amount at the current 35 percent tax rate. These corporate tax-dodgers include Proctor & Gamble, DuPont, Verizon Wireless, Wells Fargo, General Electric, and weapons-manufacturer Honeywell International.

Additionally, it is impossible to talk about corporate welfare without bringing up the minimum wage, as the two issues go hand-in-hand. In essence, we as taxpayers are paying low-wage workers at Walmart, McDonald's, and Starbucks because their employers are too cheap to.

A recent study by the University of California Berkeley finds U.S. taxpayers dole out nearly $7 billion a year to fund the public assistance programs utilized by the majority of fast-food workers, most of whom subside on $8.94 an hour or less. The fast-food industry--which accounts for 44 percent of job growth since the Great Recession--is a multibillion dollar industry, with McDonald's alone boasting profits of $1.5 billion last year.

This is yet another form of corporate welfare. Fast-food franchises intentionally keep worker wages low while they reap the profits. This is not "free-market" capitalism in any way, shape or form. It is socialism for the rich.

Furthermore, these pervasive instances of corporate welfare completely undermine Friedmanites' utopian vision of an unregulated economy free of any government "distortions." Corporate welfare is the ultimate distortion. As Naomi Klein makes clear in her seminal 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, such a completely unfettered capitalist economy has never existed in any human society on its own. Free-market ideologues and Chicago School disciples have always had to install such an economy by violent force and repression (a la Pinochet's military coup of Chile in 1973).

Turns out Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand" is not so invisible after all.

Let's just call these perpetual attacks on welfare and the social safety net what they really are: a war against the poor.

Both Republicans and Democrats have their sights on privatizing Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The great irony--and one of the chief reasons neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama have been successful with privatization efforts--is these so-called "entitlement" programs are actually extremely popular with Americans of all political persuasions. Conservatives may rant and rave against welfare programs in polls like the PPH's, falsely believing they are to blame for our country's fiscal woes. But when it comes to their personal Social Security checks or Medicare benefits, they suddenly change their tune. (Funny how that works out, isn't it?)

Frankly, I think polls like this one do more to reinforce the bogus narrative there is a supposedly irreconcilable ideological divide between congressional Democrats and Republicans. But if papers like the PPH insist on conducting these surveys, let's at least present both sides of the debate--you know, "objectivity" and all of that.

"Freeloading large corporations have taken too much for too long," writes Ralph Nader ("President Obama--Get Tough on Corporate Welfare," Huffington Post, 02/12/13).

He is right. Let's make corporate handouts an integral part of welfare discussions. Goldman Sachs, G.M., Bank of America and others are the true "Welfare Queens,"--not the single mother working three part-time low-wage jobs just so she can (barely) get by.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Iraq War Redux

I stood outside the town hall in my hometown of Kennebunk on Friday holding a hastily scrawled sign that read, "DON'T ATTACK IRAQ (AGAIN)!" I stood there for about an hour.

I did this in response to President Barack Obama's announcement last week he will send some 300 "military advisers" to squelch the ever worsening violence in Iraq. This action may be followed by drone strikes.

I honestly expected more of an angry response than I received. As it is, only one person yelled at me as he drove by.

"We need to be there!" he shouted at me. There are a lot of things this country needs: Universal health care, jobs, free college education, forgiveness of student debt, a robust clean-energy program, democracy, etc. Another Middle Eastern war is not one of them.

Two passerby actually praised me. One middle-aged man assured me as he jogged by, "I'm with you in spirit!" whatever that means. I have never heard of protesting wars "in spirit" only, but, thanks... I guess.

And Kennebunk police chief, Robert MacKenzie (the town hall is across from the police station) approached me, read my sign, and walked away. Had he given me any trouble, I was fully prepared to present him with my "permit": A pocket-sized version of the U.S. Constitution.

Most people, however, simply drove by. A few, stopped at the adjacent traffic light, read my sign then quickly and uncomfortably looked away. I suppose if my sign had said something like, "Justice for Mary Tanner!" or "Death to Cancer!" I would have received more support.

War, of course, is itself a cancer upon the human race, though we tend not to think of it in such terms. It is, as George McGovern said about the Vietnam War, "[A] moral and political disaster--a terrible cancer eating away at the soul of our nation."

I am not so naive as to think my lone protest, ignored, as it mostly was in my yuppie, Bush-worshiping town, will have any discernible impact on the president's plans for resuming military conflict in Iraq--let alone halt those plans. This was merely my means of registering my dissent. I remain unwavering in my belief--contrary to the defeatist excuses of most liberals--that any form of dissent, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, matters.

"Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty," wrote Henry David Thoreau. "The obedient must be slaves."

Resuming military conflict in Iraq is a horrendous mistake. Most Americans, I believe, realize that.

It is the corporate news media--over a decade after their complicity in launching the Iraq War--that still needs convincing, however.

Indeed, in the last week the corporate networks have faithfully, and without irony or shame, trotted out the very same people--Dick Cheney, Tony Blair, Bill O' Reilly, Bill Kristol--that lied and deceived the public about "Weapons of Mass Destruction" to sell us the last Iraq debacle. One would think these people have lost any iota of credibility they may have once possessed on foreign policy matters.

As FAIR's (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting) Peter Hart observes in a recent blog post, "It's obviously quite revealing that these people are invited onto television at all--further proof... that there is no accountability for being so wrong in so many important ways" ("'Drawn Back into War' in Iraq," 6/18/2014).

Have we learned nothing?

George W. Bush's 2003 invasion of Iraq left well over 100,000 Iraqis killed, thousands more injured, the country destroyed, and opened massive, perhaps irreparable rifts between Iraqi factions--most notably the Sunnis and the Shiites which, contrary to popular perception, have not always been at each other's throats as they have been in recent years.

We left Iraq shattered. And now our proverbial chickens have come home to roost.

Arguments over whether Iraq would have been "better off with Saddam Hussein" in power are hypocritically hollow. Our collective historical amnesia--if not outright ignorance--makes us forget who allowed Hussein to come to power in the first place: The United States. Any WMD Hussein may have once possessed were those we sold to him during the Iraq-Iran war.

Hussein's replacement, the U.S.-installed, Nouri al-Maliki has proven just as morally degenerate. We merely replaced one dictator with another. Then we shamelessly and patronizingly chastise the citizens of Iraq for the turmoil we caused. I guess they simply did not want democracy enough, we shrug.

"They who have put out the people's eyes," John Milton famously wrote, "reproach them for their blindness."

And can we please end this pervasive myth that unmanned predator drones are somehow "safer," more "precise" killing machines?

Maine's U.S. Senator Angus King deserves a share of the blame for spreading this nonsense. Last year he told MSNBC's Joe Scarborough drones are "a lot more civilized" compared to 19th century methods of warfare. Except I can think of something even more civilized than drones: Not going to war in the first place.

"I think it's actually a more humane weapon," said King, "because it can be targeted to specific enemies and specific people."

Here is how "precise" drones are: The U.S. military counts every "military-aged male" within the vicinity of a drone strike to be an "enemy combatant," whether or not they actually are. This rationale, as revealed in a 2012 New York Times expose ("Secret 'Kill List' Proves a Test of Obama's Principles and Will," 5/29/2012), is based on the assumption that any civilian who happens to be within the general proximity of a known al-Qaeda operative is "probably up to no good."

In other words, if you are an American reporter covering the conflict in, say Syria or Pakistan, and you just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, as far as the U.S.. government is concerned, you are an "enemy combatant." That is how "accurate" drone strikes are.

We cannot squelch sectarian violence by bombing the hell out of people. Our renewed military presence in Iraq will only further inflame hostilities, anti-U.S. sentiments, and cause more innocents to die. It is the arrogance of imperialism that makes America believe it is the exalted, self-appointed policeman of the globe. Al-Qaeda was not present in Iraq until our 2003 invasion.

The Iraq War was the costliest, bloodiest, most morally reprehensible foreign policy blunder in my lifetime. I opposed it then--I oppose it now. It was a war of choice based on lies and deception. To date, none of the war's architects have faced criminal accountability for their crimes against humanity. These contemptible charlatans--most of whom have never served in combat themselves--should not be on television urging us to go to war again. They should be in prison.

I refuse to sit back and passively watch my government repeat the crimes of the recent past. I have learned and experienced too much in the last ten years to remain silent.

If that means standing alone, so be it.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Reclaiming Feminism

Nadya Tolokonnikova of Russian feminist punk-rock band, Pussy Riot.

Last month, Forbes magazine issued its annual list of the "100 Most Powerful Women." Prominent female power-brokers and "buzzworthy" women-of-the-moment like Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (she's #1) round-out the top-20.

All of the women featured are government officials, CEOs or celebrities. (Hence their qualification as "most powerful," I suppose.) There are no working-class women featured. Those who are CEOs represent some of the largest, most insidious corporations in the world including Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Facebook, and criminally negligent General Motors.

Of those from the United States, a mere seven are African American. Only one woman, Lady Gaga, is under the age of 30. (Queen Elizabeth II is the oldest, at 88.) Most are Baby-Boomer-aged or older.

The deliberate exclusion of prominent female figures like Jill Stein, Kshama Sawant, Naomi Klein or members of Pussy Riot leads me to believe Forbes's editors do not consider these women "powerful" enough for their exclusive millionaires club. Perhaps they were overlooked because, even collectively, they do not possess Beyonce's (#17) estimated net worth of $350 million.

Take a good look, young girls of America.

These A-lister elites are, according to Forbes and the rest of the corporate media, the women you should emulate. Yes, you too can join the ranks of Michelle Obama and Nancy Pelosi, so long as you work hard, get an MBA from a prestigious university, and "lean in" to use Sheryl Sandberg's phrase. (Marrying a rich guy doesn't hurt, either. I mean, it worked for Maine's U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, right?)

These women are also notable for something else: They have effectively killed feminism. At the very least, they have dramatically scaled-back, compromised, and redefined its goals.

Feminism as it currently exists is little more than an appeal to the corporate state for inclusion. Millionaires like Sandberg and GM CEO Mary Barra, by co-opting the language and spirit of feminism, claim to speak for all women. They disingenuously insist they can relate to the plight of the average working-class woman. And, through books like Sandberg's self-help bestseller, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, they claim to offer women the "advice," and "skills" necessary to "have it all."

For the corporate media, books like Lean In and the ascension of a few privileged women like Sandberg in the corporate office, reinforce its perpetual narrative that we now live in a "post-feminist" society. This, incidentally, is not much different from the narrative that we now occupy a "post-racial" society, as evidenced in the election of Barack Obama. If only either concept were true.

Elizabeth Schulte in an article for the Socialist Worker calls this a sort of "trickle-down feminism" ("Trickle- Down Feminism?", 03/20/2013). The media drumbeat over our supposed "post-feminist" era, she explains, "rarely address the concerns of the vast majority of women who are a part of the working class."

Schulte writes:

They [the media] measure the success of women at large by the success stories of a few corporate executives or political officials at the top--and argue that these examples of "having it all" will eventually trickle down to all women.
The inevitable focus of these [post-feminist] articles and books is what women can do personally to succeed. (Italics hers.)

By highlighting a few isolated success stories and subtly berating others for not following suit, the media, according to Schulte, "ignore the institutional gender inequality that is at the heart of U.S. society."

As a result, young women are beginning to confuse this pseudo-corporate brand of feminism with the real thing.

They chant they are "ready for Hillary," as if the probable presidential candidate is any sort of champion of women's rights. They continue to invest their energy into a Democratic Party that views empty appeals to "feminism" as an easy way to increase its own ranks locally and nationally. (See the women's political-training seminar, Emerge Maine. Admission price: $800.)

And they retreat into agonizingly academic discourses on the concept of gender, using arcane poststructuralist terms like "cisgender."

Meanwhile, in the world outside of the Ivory Tower, 11 states have passed laws severely restricting access to abortion. The words "terrorist" or "terrorism" are never applied to the zealous anti-choice mercenaries who blow-up abortion clinics or kill abortion providers, despite the fact these violent individuals represent more of a real threat to U.S. security than al-Qaeda.

Likewise, women still receive less pay than men--77 cents to every dollar--for the exact same work. Earlier this year, Maine's Senator Angus King joined Senate Republicans in shooting down a bill that would have addressed this inexplicable pay disparity. Upon returning home from these gyp-jobs, many women are faced with a mountain of unpaid "domestic labor," the majority of which still disproportionately falls on them.

This is where the limits of identity politics manifest themselves.

Certainly, if we are to create a truly egalitarian social democracy, gender equality must be an integral part of it. But, as with other identity-driven equal-rights struggles, the narrow, often personal focus of feminism prevents it from creating a framework for broad, systemic change. Instead the Horatio (Horatia...?) Alger stories of a few privileged ceiling-smashers become the default model of expectation for all.

Yet identity politics has become the raison d'etre of the left. Rather than fighting poverty, militarism or for a broader sense of social justice, progressives dabble in the boutique activism of multiculturalism, racism, sexism, and other forms of identity politics. As a result, the left has become splintered, atomized, and largely ineffective.    

"Women have discovered that they cannot rely on men's chivalry to give them justice," wrote Helen Keller in 1916. Keller--who was far more radical than your history teacher led you to believe--was an early crusader in the fight for women's suffrage in the early part of the 20th century. While Keller was universally praised for her strength in overcoming her physical disabilities, her outspoken socialist, feminist, and anti-war views were met with cold reception, and bitter denouncement.

Indeed, many of the early feminists like Keller saw a direct, inextricable link between the goals of feminism and socialism. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn for example was a labor activist, IWW leader, and a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Flynn wrote in her autobiography Rebel Girl:

A domestic life and possibly a large family had no attraction for me... I wanted to speak and write, to travel, to meet people, to see places, to organize for the I.W.W. I saw no reason why I, as a woman, should give up my work for this...
We in the left need to rediscover this language. We need to realize that overthrowing the corporate state, and promoting the equality of women are not mutually exclusive goals. They are one and the same.

But we cannot accomplish this so long as economic elites like Sandberg, Winfrey and Barra are held up as "feminist" proponents. Let's all of us--women and men--reclaim feminism for the masses. Then we can show corporate publications like Forbes what real power looks like.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Death of the Fourth Estate

CBS' Bob Schieffer hobnobs with actress Claire Danes at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Real journalists do not enjoy--nor do they seek--this sort of access to power and celebrity.

The vacuous shell that has become of American journalism was on full display last week during NBC's savagely hostile interview with Edward Snowden. Indeed, Brian Williams's attempted takedown of the former National Security Agency (N.S.A.) contractor-turned-whistleblower proved an embarrassing backfire given Snowden's calm, thoughtful, reasoned responses to his host's vacuous, uninspired questions.

At one point during the interview, Williams held up what he called a "burner" cell phone--or a temporary, disposable phone typically used by drug dealers (and, apparently, NBC reporters...) which is meant to be promptly discarded after use so as to avoid detection--and asked Snowden what specific information the N.S.A. could obtain from it.

Snowden did not miss a beat. "Well, that's got to be the most expensive 'burner' I've ever seen," he said of Williams's high-end smartphone.

This brief segment, incidentally, was the only part of the interview that focused on the actual details of the N.S.A. surveillance programs Snowden went to such heroic lengths to reveal to the American public. The majority of the piece centered exclusively on Edward Snowden himself--his early life, his politics, his exact title at the N.S.A., and other biographical details. In fact, NBC's much hyped, exclusive interview is titled, "Inside the Mind of Edward Snowden,"--not say, "Inside the U.S. Surveillance State."

This tactic of focusing almost entirely on the character of the whistleblower, the activist, or the reporter--be it Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Thomas Drake, or Glenn Greenwald--has become the media's default approach to dealing with whistleblowers. The goal is always the same: Shoot the messenger, ignore the message. Ergo, Assange, we are told, is an "anti-social egomaniac,"; Manning, a sexually confused youth; and Greenwald an "activist journalist," (as if any other kind exists) whose reporting is driven by his political agenda rather than facts.

The point is to discredit the source of pertinent government crimes or abuses of power. Call them disloyal, unpatriotic, or accuse them of enabling "the enemy." And, even if this personal smear campaign fails, the corporate media have still succeeded in shifting the discussion away from the actual content of the crimes, themselves. From the media's perspective, it is a win-win strategy. And Williams's interview deviated little from the playbook.

Williams wastes no time with his accusatory questioning. In fact, he kicks the interview off not with a question, but a declarative statement: "A lot of people would say you have badly damaged your country."

He follows this up with a slight variation on the previous statement, quoting former N.S.A. Director Keith Alexander who claims Snowden has done "significant and irreversible damage to the nation...." Williams makes no mention of the fact that Alexander lied outright to a congressional committee concerning the N.S.A.'s illegal spying last fall.

Could it be that G.E.-owned NBC--one of the world's largest weapons manufacturers and, as such, a major proponent for the Iraq war--is just as "agenda-driven" as Greenwald?

"Journalism," wrote George Orwell, "is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations."

Brian Williams is no journalist--not in the traditional sense of the word. Neither is Scott Pelley, Katie Couric, Bill O' Reilly, David Gregory, Charlie Rose or Rachel Maddow. They are, at best, celebrities. At worst, they are facilitators of corporate propaganda.

Williams, for instance, makes $13 million a year hosting NBC's Nightly News. His net worth is placed at $40 million. This sort of money is unheard of for actual reporters like Amy Goodman, Seymour Hersh or Jeremy Scahill.

Furthermore, Williams has repeatedly appeared on popular TV shows like 30 Rock playing himself or a parody thereof. While this sort of sitcom moonlighting shows Williams is not afraid to poke fun at himself, it nonetheless begs the question: is he a journalist or an entertainer? (Williams's daughter, Allison Williams, stars on HBO's Girls so it must run in the family.)

Williams was ranked the second "most trusted" TV news reporter in America in a 2009 Time magazine readers poll. The Comedy Central satirist, Jon Stewart was number one. While some media scholars objected to Stewart's inclusion in the poll among "serious" reporters, it makes perfect sense, really. The only difference between Stewart and the "Establishment" reporters he routinely sends up, is he openly acknowledges everything on his show is a joke.

Six corporations currently determine all of the news we read and watch: Disney (ABC), Newscorp (Fox News/Wall Street Journal), CBS Corporation (CBS), General Electric (NBC/Comcast), Time Warner (CNN/HBO/Time Magazine) and Viacom. Not only does this sort of mega-merger consolidation significantly decrease the number and diversity of voices in the mainstream news, it is the antithesis of a free and independent press.

"[J]ournalists are not in control of the instruments they play," writes Bill Moyers, in the introduction to his excellent essay collection Moyers on Democracy (Anchor Books, 2008)

As conglomerates swallow up newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, and networks, and profit rather than product becomes the focus of corporate effort, news organizations... are folded into entertainment divisions. The "news hole" in the print media shrinks to make room for advertisements, and stories needed by informed citizens working together are pulled in favor of the latest celebrity scandals because the media moguls have decided that uncovering the inner workings of public and private power is boring and will drive viewers and readers away to greener pastures of pabulum. Good reporters and editors confront walls of resistance in trying to place serious and informative reports over which they have long labored. Media owners who should be sounding the trumpets of alarm on the battlements of democracy instead blow popular ditties through tin horns, undercutting the basis for their existence and their First Amendment rights (p. 5-6).

Real journalism--the kind television entertainers like Williams know nothing about--rarely makes reporters rich. Real investigative reporting is tedious, time consuming, and often expensive. It requires a fierce loyalty to the truth, no matter how unpleasant that truth may be. Truth is not to be confused with the corporate media's professed journalistic "objectivity." Truth is rarely nestled comfortably between the "right" and "left" or two similar opposing viewpoints. Truth, in the words of the late Molly Ivins, "has the oddest habit of being way the hell off on one side or the other."

Without a free and independent press--one that speaks truth to power, is fiercely critical of authority, and remains steadfastly committed to truth and journalistic integrity--democracy is not possible. We are reduced to captive, ignorant prisoners in Plato's metaphorical cave, entertained by the shadows on the walls.

Yet we are living in an era of unprecedented crackdown on journalists and an attempt to criminalize, through draconian laws like the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the very work they do. The Obama administration has overseen more prosecutions of government whistleblowers than any other administration in history. President Obama has invoked the 1917 Espionage Act twice as many times as all previous presidents combined.

This has created a chilling effect among government insiders and sources. As a result, according to the New Yorker's Jane Mayer, "Investigative reporting has come to a standstill."

Independent muckraking journalism has played an integral role in American history. From Ida Tarbell's expose on John D. Rockefeller in the early 20th century; to Upton Sinclair's inside look at the unsanitary, inhumane working conditions in the Chicago meat factories chronicled in The Jungle; to I.F. Stone and Edward R. Murrow's takedown of Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s; and Seymour Hersh's horrific revelations of the My Lai Massacre in the Vietnam War and, years later, the Abu Ghraib prison abuse in Iraq.

"It is the responsibility of journalists to go where the silence is," writes Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman in her book, Breaking the Sound Barrier (Haymarket Books, 2009), "to seek out news and people who are ignored..."

She continues:

What is typically presented as news analysis is, for the most part, a small circle of pundits who know so little about so much, explaining the world to us and getting it so wrong. While they may appear to differ, they are quibbling over how quickly the bombs should be dropped, not asking whether they should be dropped at all (p. 1).
So do not labor long over NBC's recent corporate assault on democracy. It is, in the end, so much bread and circuses for a dying empire.

You can watch Brian Williams's entire interview with Edward Snowden below.

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