The Widening Wasteland of the American Media


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.


October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War
Kristine Mattis
GMO Propaganda and the Sociology of Science
Heidi Morrison
Well-Intentioned Islamophobia
Ralph Nader
Monsanto and Its Promoters vs. Freedom of Information
Arturo Desimone
Retro-Colonialism: the Exportation of Austerity as War By Other Means
Robert M. Nelson
Noted Argentine Chemist Warns of Climate Disaster
Matt Peppe
Misrepresentation of the Colombian Conflict
Barbara Dorris
Pope Sympathizes More with Bishops, Less with Victims
Clancy Sigal
I’m Not a Scientologist, But I Wish TV Shrinks Would Just Shut Up
Chris Zinda
Get Outta’ Dodge: the State of the Constitution Down in Dixie
Eileen Applebaum
Family and Medical Leave Insurance, Not Tax Credits, Will Help Families
Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure
“Boxing on Paper” for the Nation of Islam, Black Nationalism, and the Black Athlete: a Review of “The Complete Muhammad Ali” by Ishmael Reed
Lawrence Ware
Michael Vick and the Hypocrisy of NFL Fans
Gary Corseri - Charles Orloski
Poets’ Talk: Pope Francis, Masilo, Marc Beaudin, et. al.
Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria
Jennifer Loewenstein
Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars
John Pilger
Wikileaks vs. the Empire: the Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth
Gary Leupp
A Useful Prep-Sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists
Jeffrey St. Clair
Pesticides, Neoliberalism and the Politics of Acceptable Death
Joshua Frank
The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria
Lawrence Ware – Paul Buhle
Insurrectional Black Power: CLR James on Race and Class
Oliver Tickell
Jeremy Corbyn’s Heroic Refusal to be a Nuclear Mass Murderer
Helen Yaffe
Che’s Economist: Remembering Jorge Risquet
Mark Hand
‘Rape Rooms’: How West Virginia Women Paid Off Coal Company Debts
Michael Welton
Junior Partner of Empire: Why Canada’s Foreign Policy Isn’t What You Think
Yves Engler
War Crimes in the Dark: Inside Canada’s Special Forces
Arno J. Mayer
Israel: the Wages of Hubris and Violence
W. T. Whitney
Cuban Government Describes Devastating Effects of U. S. Economic Blockade
Brian Cloughley
The US-NATO Alliance Destroyed Libya, Where Next?
Karl Grossman
The Politics of Lyme Disease
Barry Lando
Syria: Obama’s Bay of Pigs?
Andre Vltchek
Southeast Asia “Forgets” About Western Terror
Jose Martinez
American Violence: Umpqua is “Routine”?
Vijay Prashad
Russian Gambit, Syrian Dilemma
Sam Smith
Why the Democrats are in Such a Mess
Uri Avnery
Nasser and Me
Andrew Levine
The Saints March In: The Donald and the Pope
Arun Gupta
The Refugee Crisis in America
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Elections and Verbal Vomit
Dan Glazebrook
Refugees Don’t Cause Fascism, Mr. Timmermann – You Do
Victor Grossman
Blood Moon Over Germany
Patrick Bond
Can World’s Worst Case of Inequality be Fixed by Pikettian Posturing?
Pete Dolack
Earning a Profit from Global Warming