The corporate media and the Occupy Wall Street protest

Occupy Wall Street cartoon

"They don't know why they are protesting"

This cartoon (cortesy of Think Progress) expresses well how the corporate media are trying to shape the narrative about the inconvenient Wall Street protesters. Regardless what one’s political opinion on the issues, nobody in their right mind can claim that the protesters don’t express specific grievances and propose specific policies how to address them unless they are intellectually dishonest (not to mention systematic liars like ADG’s Mike Masterson).

What is more, polls show very clearly that a majority of Americans agrees with some of OWS’s core messages:

  • A recent New York Times/CBS poll found that 46% of the public think OWS reflects the views of most Americans. 34% disagreed and 18% had no opinion. Only 27% think the Tea Party reflects the views of most Americans.
  • Two-thirds of the public said that wealth should be distributed more evenly in the country.
  • Two-thirds object to tax cuts for corporations and a similar number prefer increasing income taxes on millionaires.
  • 84 percent disapprove of Congress and 71 percent of the public say the Republican party does not have a clear plan for creating jobs.
  • Seven in 10 Americans think the policies of Congressional Republicans favor the rich.
  • In a more recent CBS poll 35 percent had a favorable impression of the OWS protest movement. Only 16 percent could say the same for Wall Street and large corporations. 29 percent had a favorable impression of the Tea Party movement, and 21 percent of government in Washington.
  • In terms of unpopularity, Wall Street/large corporations tied with Washington government, with 71 percent of those polled saying they had an unfavorable impression of them. The Tea Party movement got a 50 percent unfavorable response, and Occupy Wall Street protesters 40 percent.
  • 74 percent of those surveyed believe Americans who are not wealthy have too little influence on politics, while also saying Wall Street and large corporations (80 percent) and PACs (74 percent) have too much influence. Responses over the political influence of labor unions was divided – 39 percent said they have too much, 22 percent said they have too little, and 38 percent said they have about the right amount.

It seems that the corporate media, with their generally anti-union, pro-Wall Street, pro-corporate bias, are fighting an uphill battle on behalf of the 1%. Expect more of the nasty bad-smelling variety from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

UPDATE: Another excellent take on corporate media deafness by Tom Tomorrow:

Occupy Wall Street cartoon

"But what do they want?"

Fort Smith Times-Record under fire for Whirlpool coverage

Last week, Fort Smith was hit hard by the news that Whirlpool was closing its refrigerator factory, putting 1,000 employees out of work. An analysis in Columbia Journalism Review‘s Audit on the Business Press criticizes the local newspaper’s coverage of the news (via Arkansas Times):

So how does the local paper, the Southwest Times Record, cover the exit of one of its largest employers? With stories that read like they were written by Whirlpool’s PR department. (…)
The Times Record gives Whirlpool’s top flack the second, third, fourth, and fifth paragraphs, and then gives seven of the remaining eight paragraphs to rewriting the press release. Not one worker is quoted in the story.

“Flack-driven” coverage, as CJR’s Ryan Chittum puts it, is a common occurrence in business reporting. The analysis is well worth reading.

ADG’s Mike Masterson likens protesters to flea infestation

Today’s Mike Masterson column deserves its own post rather than just a passing mention. It deserves to be recognized as the essence of Masterson’s journalistic craft, uniting paranoid lunacy, incendiary language, and shameless lying within a few inches of column space. Referring to the Occupy Wallstreet movement that has recently mobilized tens of thousands of protesters, Masterson calls people whose opinions he disagrees with an “unwashed, whining, smelly mob occupying and infesting Wall Street”. The term “mob” appears three times in the rant, as well as the epithet “Flea Party”. Here’s the first paragraph in unabridged beauty:

LITTLE ROCK — I’m sold on one man’s proposed name for that unwashed, whining, smelly mob occupying and infesting Wall Street because they either:
1. Are being paid by big-bucks special interests to be there and create violent confrontations or…
2. Have no jobs, are bored and have nothing better to do but hang out together and screech “Pervert!,” “Boycott!” and “The world is watching!” as they intentionally pick fights with police to create headlines (and Internet videos for the 2012 election) or…
3. Are harboring free-floating anger about life as free Americans and are in search of scapegoats for their rage. Or, all of the above.
Yep, the calculated hatching of America’s newly named “Flea Party” seems to fit this mob. And shazam! It rhymes with Tea Party.

The unwashed, smelly mob (as seen in Little Rock)
The unwashed, smelly mob

Continue reading

ADG’s Paul Greenberg: no more libruls!

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette opinion page will henceforth drop any pretense at political balance: after the recent firing of sometime progressive columnist Pat Lynch, editorial page editor Paul Greenberg has canceled the column of liberal Gene Lyons. Lyons is (was) the only of ADG’s own columnists that has some national exposure. His columns can be read for free at Salon. In many of his columns, Lyons forcefully takes on the very right-wing propaganda lies and distortions that are the staple of ADG’s opinion page.

Loyal Arkansas Democrat-Gazette readers will now have to endure the raging right-wing extremism of the ADG opinion page tempered only by the centrism of John Brummett, who recently rejoined the newspaper. Whether the supply of sufficiently masochistic readers is sufficient to ensure the survival of the paper remains to be seen. Greenberg apparently hopes that enough Arkansans cherish the economic illiteracy of columnist Bradley Gitz and the undisguised pro-corporate agenda of opinion editor Mike Masterson.

Arkansas Democrat Gazette – objective reporting or politics?

Lindsey Millar examines The Dem-Gaz’s failed quest for objectivity in a recent column at Arkansas Times. Millar notes that a recent ADG story about the Occupy Wall Street movement was slanted by certain editorial decisions:

It also ran a subhead, “Too loose to last? wonder some,” that doesn’t reflect the views of anyone quoted in the story. In fact, the fifth paragraph of the story notes that the “growing cohesiveness and profile” of the protest has “caught the attention of public intellectuals and veterans of past social movements.” Finally, where other subscribers of the AP elected to accompany the story with a picture of protesters holding signs or a photo of veteran activists, the Democrat-Gazette ran a picture of a man demonstrating how to break free from plastic hand restraints during the protests.

This is a stark example of the flaw in Fellone’s position. The decisions an editor made in the Occupy Wall Street story might not be a reflection the Democrat-Gazette’s conservative editorial posture, but at the very least, they’re the product of an editor bringing his subjective views to a story.

Even less subtle examples of politically slanted ADG front page news reporting are not hard to find. Arkansas Media Watch pointed out ADG headlines during the debt ceiling impasse wrongly claiming that both parties in Washington refused to compromise when the newspaper’s own reporting clearly indicated the opposite.

Here’s another one. Yesterday, the ADG front page had the following headline concerning new trade agreements:

“3 trade pacts win approval of Congress – Panama, S. Korea, Colombia deals touted as job creators”

The problem with that headline is that there is no evidence that these trade agreements are “job creators”. The article itself reports:

Continue reading

NWA Times shooting the messenger – Updated

This is rich. NWA Times attacks “liberal bloggers” for quoting their own report. Last week, Arkansas Media Watch pointed out a Northwest Arkansas Times report (copy of cutout below the fold) according to which Senator Mark Pryor had made the wrong and insulting statement:

Pryor said various tax breaks have created a system in which 45 percent of Americans don’t pay taxes. “It’s hard to have a fair tax system where only about half the people are paying,” he said.

This blog pointed out that most Americans do pay taxes (payroll taxes, gas and sales taxes etc.), even those too poor to pay federal income taxes. The issue of wrong or misleading statements about tax fairness has been in the air lately. Pryor’s Senate colleague John Boozman is on record with a similar wrong statement: “51 percent of the public don’t pay any federal taxes”. A recent, well researched New York Times editorial pointed out the fallacy in these claims.

Arkansas Media Watch has not only criticized the two Senators for making inaccurate statements, but also the local media for letting them get away with inaccurate statements. Pryor’s office has now maintained that Pryor was misquoted. Arkansas Media Watch has contacted NWA Times (editors Greg Harton and Lisa Thompson and publisher Rusty Turner) twice (on August 24 and 29) and requested clarification. No response.

Continue reading

Pryor on taxes

UPDATE, April 17, 2012: While Senator Pryor’s office in the below statement claims that Pryor is concerned about millionaires not paying their fair share in taxes (“It is maddening that hundreds of millionaires pay virtually no federal income taxes, and this should change”), Pryor recently joined Senate Republicans in voting down President Obama’s proposal for a minimum tax on income millionaires (the “Buffett rule”). What does Pryor really stand for? A fairer tax system, or tax privileges for the super rich? His actions unambiguously point to the second.

Michael Teague from the office of Senator Pryor emailed Arkansas Media Watch a clarification regarding Pryor’s remarks about tax fairness. Full text below the fold. It is essentially the same account as recently given by John Brummett: Pryor allegedly was misquoted.

AMW has asked NWA Times editor Greg Harton and journalist Larry Henry for confirmation what Pryor actually said and they have not responded. This is not reassuring. The newspaper pretends to have a policy of correcting any factual mistakes. So far this hasn’t happened. Let’s hope that the newspaper takes the incident seriously and is more careful in its future reporting.

On the other hand, Pryor’s clarification still raises some issues. Pryor expresses concern “that 1,470 taxpayers who earned $1 million or more paid no federal income taxes in 2009”. But a statement like “It’s hard to have a fair tax system where only about half the people are paying”, assuming it is meant to only refer to the federal income tax, seems to imply that more of the working poor and the elderly should be paying income taxes. Or does Pryor think half the people are millionaires? When you care about tax fairness, why would you single out just one component of the tax system? Why discuss only “the inequities in the federal income tax system, [as opposed to] city, state or even sales or excise taxes” – not to mention federal payroll taxes?

The full statement from Mark Pryor’s office below the fold:

Continue reading