FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Widening Wasteland of the American Media

by RALPH NADER

There are times when unchallenged commercial greed morphs into institutional insanity. I am referring to the overall advertising-saturated, trivialized performance of the media conglomerates’ utilization of our public airwaves 24 hours a day and their dominance of the ever-expanding scores of cable channels.

Take a test. If you are an average consumer of TV or radio broadcasts or newspapers and magazines, you are ready for your exam. Have you ever seen coverage of the following three long-standing civic organizations working on very important aspects of our society’s needs and failures?

Lois Gibbs came out of the struggle over Love Canal’s toxified residential neighborhoods to start and lead the nationwide Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) in Falls Church, Virginia. Over the years the Center has organized thousands of small but vigorous community groups who are challenging or stopping the presence of toxic chemical particulates and gases in largely lower-income neighborhoods. Lois and her associates have trained thousands of ordinary people, committed to protecting their families, and educated scores of communities about the nature of these toxics and what can be done about them with law, action and exposure.

They have victory after victory to show for their efforts, but so intense and widespread has been the poisoning of America over the decades by corporations that there is always more to discover and do.

Right now, the Center has its community associations “fighting to block local schools from being built on contaminated land in Alabama, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.” CHEJ’s new report–Building Safe Schools: Invisible Threats, Visible Actions–covers the laws and situations in 250 states. Here is one example of many:

“In Birmingham, Alabama, Wenonah High School is being constructed on contaminated soil. The site is also across the street from the largest gasoline storage facility in the state and is adjacent to a railroad track and a junkyard. The site was further contaminated this past July by a gas spill when a train and gas truck collided right in front of the site of the future school.”

For more information, see www.childproofing.org.

For an astoundingly-optimistic demonstration of what science can do for the people, consider the Appalachia Science in the Public Interest (ASPI) out of Livingston, Kentucky. Founded in the ’70s by one of our former public interest scientists, Dr. Albert Fritsch, ASPI has shown what can be done for peoples’ houses, cars, and larger buildings with “proven energy conservation, healthy home and renewable energy solutions.” It connects “consumers with marketers of related products and services”.

It is the moving force, with state agencies, renewable-energy companies and college institutions, behind the annual Bluegrass Energy Expo. The 2005 event featured, among others, the University of Kentucky College of Engineering Solar Car. The Expo has taught many people in what one writer called “a rich land with poor people” about sustainable forests, water purification and conservation. It is a very hands-on organization that makes you want to obtain its recommended products pronto. See its web site: www.a-spi.org. And send for its wonderfully-engrossing Simple Lifestyle Calendar 2006 for $7.50 (to ASPI Calendar, 50 Lair Street, Mt. Vernon, KY 40456).

In Washington, D.C. another unsung group of Americans is working hard at the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH). END TWO There are hundreds of thousands of homeless people in our wealthy country. According to the Homeless Coalition, “60% are living in emergency shelter or transitional housing, and 40% are living on the streets. The majority, 53% are single adults, 42% are families and 5% are homeless/runaway youth.”

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, says NCH, “multiplied the homeless population along the Gulf Coast by as much as a hundred fold.” All this is in the face of the Bush regime’s proposed slicing of federal subsidies for housing by 40%. That proposal, sent to Congress, does not cut the burgeoning budget for the number one occupant of public housing–George W. Bush in the White House.

NCH reports, organizes and lobbies all over the country. They are supporting legislation, introduced by Rep. Julia Carson, of federal homeless policies that “tackle the root causes of homelessness and poverty in this nation.” For more on NCH, see its web page: www.nationalhomeless.org.

Now back to the mostly maniacal mass media’s priorities. 90% of radio and television are devoted to advertisements and entertainment. Often the rest is staccato news, weather and sports repeated throughout the day. There are, of course, he sterling exceptions such as weekly sections of 60 Minutes or the two and a half minute investigations on the network nightly TV news.

Cable is a widening wasteland. With infomercials (bracelets and necklaces, etc.), re-run movies, sports and comedy shows, and endless silly drivel, it does not matter how many new cable channels are added. There will not be any devoted to the wholesome activities and successes of groups such as the aforementioned to life up people, get them more active and introduce the young to practical citizenship that solves serious problems.

That is, not until enough people around America become serious about the need for serious media and reassert some control over the public airwaves they own and the no-rent licenses given out to radio and television companies by the Federal Communications Commission. Communities that license cable companies also need to feel the enlightened heat of local residents and neighborhood groups. It is ours for the demanding.

Let’s start demanding.

 

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

May 05, 2016
David L. Glotzer
Welcome to Fortified Europe: the Militarization of Europe’s Borders
Adam Szetela
Beyoncé’s “Formation” and the Boutique Activism of the Left
Bruce Lerro
Lost at Sea: Left Liberals Have No Party
Paul Cochrane
Hot Air in the Saudi Desert: a Kingdom in Descent?
Brian Terrell
My Visit to a Las Vegas Jail
Judith Deutsch
The Military’s “Securitization” of Climate Change
Phyllis Bennis
Kunduz Bombing: Proof the Pentagon Should Not Be Allowed to Investigate Itself for War Crimes
Chad Nelson
When Compassion is Terrorism: Animal Rights in a Post-911 World
Dan Arel
Making Sanders’ Dream a Reality Through Political Activism
Kent Paterson
Ten Years Later: Reflections on the Legacies of Immigrant Spring
Serge Halimi
Why Firefighters are Against Free Trade
Andrew Stewart
Green Bernie or Green Party Machine?
Binoy Kampmark
Yuri Gagarin in Space: the Politics of Cosmic Discovery
Hayes Rowan
This Naming of Things
May 04, 2016
Kshama Sawant
It’s Not About Bernie: Why We Can’t Let Our Revolution Die in Philadelphia
Conn Hallinan
Baiting the Bear: Russia and NATO
Joshua Frank
Hanford’s Leaky Nuke Tanks and Sick Workers, A Never-Ending Saga
Paul Craig Roberts
TIPP: Advancing American Imperialism
Ted Rall
Hillary to Bernie Supporters: Don’t Vote for Me!
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton and Wall Street’s Neoliberal War on Latin America
Leslie Scott
The Story of Jill Stein: Putting People, Peace and the Planet Before Profits
Ann Garrison
Building the Greens Into a Mass Party: Interview with Bruce Dixon
Tom Clifford
Crying Rape: Trump’s China-Bashing
Lawrence Davidson
Getting Rid of Bad Examples: Andrew Jackson & Woodrow Wilson
Ellen Brown
Bank of North Dakota Soars Despite Oil Bust: A Blueprint for California?
Nelson Valdes
Is Fidel Castro Outside or Part of Mainstream Thinking? A Selection of Quotes
Jesse Jackson
Don’t Send Flint Down the Drain: Fix It!
Nathan Riley
Help Bernie Keep His Halo
Rivera Sun
Remembering Nonviolent History: Freedom Rides
Clancy Sigal
Rachel and the Isolationists: How Maddow Blew It
Laura Finley
Changing the Conversation About “The Woman Card”
CJ Hopkins
Coming this Summer … Revenge of the Bride of Sophie’s Choice
May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail