Author Archive | Danny Schechter

Debating Poverty At The United Nations: Do The Media Hate The Poor?

United Nations, New York: One is always proud to be invited to speak at the United Nations, one of the few global institutions that is still taken seriously, and that can generate international resolutions and shape programs free of total domination by the big powers.  

When you are an outsider like I am, it’s a bit of an ego boost to think that the world might be listening to little old you, and that, at least for one session, you are among the chosen to hold forth on something serious in what critics deride as ‘The House of Babble.’

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I have been around the world body for years, even as recipient of a prize for a TV documentary from the UN Correspondents Association  (UNCA). In that case, the film offered a strong critique of the UN cockup in Bosnia, but then, the award was presented to me by the then (and sixth) UN  Secretary General Boutros-Boutros Ghali, who clearly hadn’t seen it

So, yes there is pretense and hypocrisy,  but there are also sincere and dedicated people—diplomats and international civil servents– working to improve the world.… Read the rest

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The Olympics Are Here To Stay—And To Pay

Vladimir Putin - Olympic HostThe Winter Olympics are off and running, and the media focus is about the threat of terrorism, Putin’s motives in holding it, and why a backward town in the old Soviet Union that has been a center of human rights abuse for years is somehow, surprise, surprise, not up to the luxury standards in Los Angeles or Park City Utah (especially for reporters who bitch the most!)

As the Guardian noted,

“every Olympics experienced pre-Games jitters: in London there was the last-minute panic over security guards that resulted in the army being called in; in Vancouver there were street protests and a fatality on the luge course; and the runup to Beijing was clouded by human-rights protests during the torch relay.”

The politics of it is always conspicuous by its presence; the economic agenda behind it conspicuous by its absence.

Every day, the stories are more and more absurd:  The Russians are blocking a delivery of Greek yogurt for our figure skaters or rounding up stray dogs—features like that.… Read the rest

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Pete Seeger As Media Maker and Critic

Pete Seeger NYWTS 2Pete Seeger, my American idol, was a great singer, songsmith. Troubadour and progressive voice. His death was celebrated with tributes in leading newspapers the world over.

What’s less well known is that Seeger wanted to be a newspaperman, but thanks to his unique skills, deep talent and incredible artistry, he actually “covered” the world in ways that went above and beyond what appeared in much of the media.

He was ahead of the News with the Times never quite able to catch up. He touched hearts as well as heads.

At the same time, he sang about the media with an edge that didn’t win him many friends in outlets that treated him as an eccentric, not a major cultural voice.
Here’s a song he liked to sing, written by Vern Partlow, and reported on by the Guardian, safely outside the USA.

“Oh, a newspaperman meets such interesting people
He knows the lowdown (now it can be told);

I’ll tell you quite reliably off the record,

About some charming people I have known.

Read the rest
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State of the Union Or State Of Obama?

Obama SOTUThe political classes in our country seem to relish moments of high ritual and symbolic occasions with TV news routinely bringing these events to a country more engaged with awards shows and sporting contests.

The State of the Union, the annual presidential projection of power, enjoys a special status because it showcases the prowess of the incumbent to weave a self-congratulatory narrative before what is in effect a peanut galley to cheer him on. Widely understood is that the Congress is at a new low in public approval.

Even when half the office holders, cabinet members, Supreme Court Judges (minus 3) and military brass is sitting on its hands, with some glowering hostility, the acoustics make it seem as if the Speechifier-in-chief’s every word is receiving a standing ovation.  His guests joined in to make it appear as if it was a pep rally or he had won the lottery.

Obama may not be a brilliant politician or program implementer, but he is a good speaker and his speech was crafted like a Hollywood script, sprinkled with humor and closing with a crescendo of bi-partisan patriotic adulation for an injured soldier—the modern equivalent of manipulative flag waving.… Read the rest

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The Politics of the Oscars

long walkThe whole world recognized and paid tribute to South African icon Nelson Mandela when he died at age 95. Ninety-one Heads of State attended his funeral. The UN General Assembly organized a special tribute. His legacy is secure in official circles, and in the hearts of South Africans, but will there be recognition in the place that seems to matter to the media even more: Hollywood?

The Oscar nominations are due any day, and early on, it seemed, as if the epic movie about the world’s most revered icon was a sure thing for Oscar consideration. Most of the main big newspaper reviewers loved it and, and its American distributor Harvey Weinstein has specialized in influencing Academy decisions.

But of late, it lost its buzz, and is appears buried by the hype machine, almost being treated as an also ran. The entertainment media no long seems to take it seriously. All the focus is on other films and the big US  stars.… Read the rest

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Happy News Year: ‘The News Dissector’ Looks Beyond The Top Stories of the Year to Examine the News System

Times Square,New York CC-BY-SAAt year end, the news agenda fills up with stories on top stories, a chance for networks to repackage footage or highlight favorite newsmakers.  These stories rarely look at the news system that picks them or why.

There are two news systems in America–the official parody of journalism that represents most of what the mainstream or what some call the “lame stream” media offers.

These are the “products” an “official” news business, an industry now under growing pressure from within and without to maintain a semblance of credibility with an  global audience that has so many other divergent sources to rely on or suck information from.

A part of a global entertainment combine, the advertising sponsored “news biz” also spends inordinate amounts of money marketing itself and referencing its own output.

It is that system that has become one of the major pillars of established power like the institutions of government and the office holders it covers to a fault.… Read the rest

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The World Unites Behind Mandela: An Unreported United Message From The United Nations

Mandela Funeral ProgrammeMillions of South Africans mourned the death of Nelson Mandela as you would expect, but the rest of world also joined in an unprecedented display of the same international solidarity that for years helped South Africa isolate its enemies and overthrow apartheid.

Mandela was not the first Third World revolutionary to become so popular in the West–just think of all the images of Cuba’s Che Guevara that remain proudly displayed on T-shirts the world over. Yet, Mandela built an international community of supporters that transcended ideological/political differences, races and cultures.

Nations not known for being supportive of the liberation movement he headed want to be thought of as Mandela backers.

Even Israel, whose Prime Minister Binjamin Netanyahu begged off an invitation to attend a memorial service in Johannesburg because he ostensibly ‘could not afford’ to come—other Israelis did attend—is now floating claims that their intelligence service assisted Mandela through support from a Intelligence operative in the Mossad back in 1962 who gave him a pistol.… Read the rest

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As the End Draws Nigh: Will Mandela’s Burial Also Bury His Memory?

Nelson_MandelaAs the body of Nelson Mandela heads for its “final rest” in the rural community where he was born, reverential exhilaration is turning into emotionally draining reflection tinged with criticism and self-criticism.

Mandela has moved from a person into a historical figure as in “now he belongs to the ages.”

In the world at large, this final Mandela moment has been bathed in media attention as have earlier spectacular events like his release from prison and inauguration as President. This time, there were more than two billion social media references leading to growing backlash of negativity from those who never supported him in the first place, as if the events were a distraction from the daily news parade of war, economic decline and political scandal.

Despite his death, this saga is largely considered “positive,” good news in a sea of bad. You can be sure that once he is in the ground, all you will here from media mavens is “We did Mandela, next.”

Wrote the Daily Mail in London, a newspaper that has over the years disseminated nasty and questionable criticisms of Mandela (even as in the thirties it was worshipful of fascists): ‘… while some reflected on the remarkable life of Nelson Mandela, some world leaders saw it as the perfect opportunity to grab a quick ‘selfie’ with their peers – prompting a backlash from web users accusing them of undermining the seriousness of the event.… Read the rest

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There Is More To Learn From Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela 1998Nelson Mandela is back in the news, not just due to his passing, but also because of his teaching. His daughter Makaziwe Mandela told the state-owned television network SABC that her father (from his first marriage) taught the family life lessons from what she termed his “deathbed.”

“Even, for a lack of a better word, on his deathbed, he is teaching us lessons; lessons in patience, in love, lessons of tolerance.”

Thanks to the release of the new epic movie, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom starring Idris Elba and Naomi Harris, the public is learning other lessons about the freedom struggle that he led.

On Christmas day, it opens nationwide in the US on 2000 screens with a majority of reviews very positive. It is already showing in France and England will be next in January.

In South Africa, the movie that shows Mandela’s early days as a boxer broke all box-office records.… Read the rest

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A Citizen’s Apology To Afghanistan

Hamid Karzai 2002Excellency Hamid Karzai
President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Dilkoshah Palace, a.k.a The ARG
Kabul

Dear President Karzai,

I am very, very sorry that my government won’t say how sorry we should be for the way Afghan people have died and been maimed and, otherwise poorly treated, by American soldiers, who, in too many cases, are imbued with an officially encouraged macho culture and sense of superiority enabled by having the guns and power to push people around.

That is even as we are supposedly in your country to defend and protect your emerging “democracy” from the bearded Taliban meanies who are violent extremists, or at least play them in this psycho-drama we call our “strategic partnership.” (Recall: we came to fight Al Qaeda, not the Taliban, the enemy no one mentions anymore!)

I am sorry that it’s so hard for American officials to see what others do see: that we, too, are viewed as violent extremists, what with our unrestrained use of drones and other killing machines.… Read the rest

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