Author Archive | Danny Schechter

Nelson Mandela’s Life, Coming To A Big Screen Near You

long walkIt has been said that this is the year of the black film. Three have stood out as the Oscar buzz begins in earnest.

First, there was The Butler, later Lee Daniels’ The Butler, after a studio pissing-match about who owned the title. The heavily rewritten and sanitized story of a black butler in the White House became a platform for celebration as a cast of Hollywood heavyweights led by TV Queen Oprah Winfrey offered a praise poem to civil rights victories in which they included the election of Barack Obama.

Some critics like one at the Daily Mail felt the film was over the top: “It has been given a rather overly generous dashing, as if by a nervous butler, of dramatic license. Not historic license, though. No, every major development in the civil rights story is ticked off…what you might call the Forrest Gumping of Forest Whitaker.”

The Guardian said it “plays fast and loose with the facts” as the “central character becomes a cipher for the changing fortunes of African Americans in the 20th century.”

The underlying idea: turn civil rights into a feel-good story.… Read the rest

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CBS Still Under Attack for Benghazi And Other Reports

240px-CBS_logoGood news amidst the bad at CBS: Their drama, “Criminal Minds” had its biggest audience this week. Am I alone in believing that the network, once known for the stellar journalism of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite can at the same time be on the receiving end of at least three attacks, suggesting there is something far from kosher going on in the minds of the people in charge?

First, we have the now infamous 60 Minutes Benghazi report, which when criticized, was defended, as if it was a papal encyclical, by the powers that be, until problems were acknowledged, a lukewarm apology offered by chief correspondent, Lara Logan, that, boo hoo, did not quite silence the doubters who are still besieging CBS HQ at the Manhattan building known as Black Rock with fresh doubts and unanswered questions.

Back to Benghazi, once known as Al Qaeda’s favorite Libyan port, in a hot second.… Read the rest

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The Battle Over The Future of Journalism is Becoming More Intense

free pressNew York, NY: I was among the many media wannabe reformers to attend the tenth anniversary party of Free Press, the mostly online organization and lobby that promotes itself as a movement to transform our media system, and save our democracy.

I certainly support their policy goals like net neutrality and curbs on media consolidation,  and also admire their staying power, even if their style is very upwardly mobile, and rather un-left like, starting with this trendy soireee in an ultra modern upscale hotel lounge where drinks went for $15.00.

Free Press has been very effective in raising large sums of money using top-down means of organizing support.  (To be honest, as the editor of Mediachannel.org, a site that is barely holding on, I am a bit jealous of their evident skills as fundraisers and organization builders.)

I would like to see them do more to encourage other progressive groups to do more than electoral politics and take on media issues.… Read the rest

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Beheadings For Breakfast?

18xx Richtblock und Richtbeil anagoriaFacebook struck what it thought was a blow for freedom of expression: It is now going to allow beheadings to be seen in its news feeds.

Said the house of the billionaire Zuckerberg,

“since some people object to graphic video of this nature, we are working to give people additional control over the content they see. This may include warning them in advance that the image they are about to see contains graphic content.”

I am sure this oh-so-reasonable distinction without a difference is being celebrated at this very moment in some cave in Afghanistan by the crazies who delight in chopping off heads as acts of terror.

They do it so that their handywork will be seen. Facebook is ready to oblige them in the name of giving their members more control over the means of shocking others.

How nice.

Earlier, when their decision was roundly condemned, they qualified their pro-gore fatwa in this age of Zombie lovers everywhere, and just in time for Halloween, to put a liberal face on decision that makes chopping off faces more visible.… Read the rest

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Deal Done But War Goes On: No Winners, Only Losers

John BoehnerBehind the Shutdown was a politics of right-wing movement building to raise money and visibility by raising hell. Obamacare had nothing to do with it.

So what was it all about?  The Senate deal ending the shutdown and deferring a default until the next time has solved nothing. It is as if we have been given a break for Thanksgiving and the Christmas shopping season until the partisan wars resume.  The fighting and arguing have only ceased.

It is unlikely that any of the instigators have learned anything other  how a handful of parliamentary savvy kamikazes can bring the government to its knees in the name of a righteous cause—not to bring about change but to try to stop changes they don’t like.

When the Ted Cruz missile against Obamacare helped trigger the melee that closed national parks, limited government services and disrupted the livelihoods of 800, 000 federal employees and the lives of millions, many wondered why when it was clear the extreme right was pursing an unachievable goal.… Read the rest

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Introducing Tri Hita Karana, Bali’s Bold New Model for Sustainable Development

Megan-young-for-miss-world-2013Bali, Indonesia: When you arrive in Bali, the most diverse and popular of Indonesia’s 7,000+ islands, you are immediately confronted with a just-constructed, state of the art, vast airport with an arrivals area designed to accommodate thousands of visitors and conference delegates.

It had its inaugural run a week earlier for the Miss World contest that brought bevvies of beauty queens and their entourages to the Nusa Dua Convention Center that, this week, plays hosts to far less popular government leaders of the 21 member APEC—Asia Pacific Economic Community.  Later, as foreign leaders arrived, the new airport was shut down—ostensibly for security reasons—greatly inconveniencing 17,000 travelers.

Predictably, there were more photos in the press of the victory of a smiling and vivacious Miss Philippines than all of the self-important politicians scurrying for credentials.  The news in America focused on one issue: Obama’s no show and then John Kerry standing off to the side for the official photo and what he was wearing.… Read the rest

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A Shutdown or A Coup? How It Was Engineered

What is the Tea Party and where did it come from? Was it a grass roots movement nurtured in the bowels of deep dissatisfaction in the American electorate with “big government” and its inexorable turn towards Socialism?

Hate to disappoint folks who buy the populist revolt theory. Anyone remember the mad rant of Rick Santelli in 2009? He’s a fixture on the pro-business channel CNBC who actually was first to call for a Tea Party by millionaires in Chicago to protest against any relief for homeowners who were on the verge of being foreclosed upon.

It was this loudmouth who used his bully pulpit on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade to make the original call.

The idea resonated with the armies of the resentful who always feel l that the government should not help those in need—characterizing them as people living in bigger houses than they can afford and unfairly demanding a bailout from tax payers.… Read the rest

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Commemorating the Financial Crisis: It Ain’t Over Yet

Lehman Brothers Headquarters on Bankruptcy Day. Photo:Robert Scoble (CC)

Lehman Brothers Headquarters on Bankruptcy Day. Photo: Robert Scoble (CC)

Media outlets love anniversaries. They become the makers and newspegs for one day stories that become pretexts for episodic coverage of key issues that substitute for ongoing critical reporting.

It’s a ‘how are we doing coverage ‘ that aims to give us a grade but not look too closely at the causes..

So, no surprise, the President will mark the occasion this week, with, what else—a speech, really remarks aimed at providing a positive spin for a series of economic disasters that we have yet to climb out of.

Reuters reports:

“A White House official said Obama will deliver remarks in the White House Rose Garden on Monday to mark the fifth anniversary of the financial crisis, which was accelerated on September 15, 2008 when the Lehman Brothers firm filed for bankruptcy protection.

The Democratic president will focus on the positive, discussing progress made and highlighting his prescriptions for boosting job creation amid budget battles expected with Republicans in Congress in the weeks ahead.”

Never mind that that venerable bank, Bear Stearns went down a year earlier in 2007, and that consumers were being targeted by financial predators pedaling subprime loans and other financial frauds for many years earlier.… Read the rest

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Financial Crisis and Impending War Are Converging As Failed Policies Become Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Obama speech on AfghanistanIt looks like two great events may be converging.

First, the announced, then put off, and, now, increasingly back-on US punitive bombing of Syria, which seems to be timed around the anniversary of 9/11, just so we don’t lose our anger at the terrorist “bad guys” who, so it seems, are on our side for this great military salute to international law by breaking it.

And, then, there’s the anniversary of the financial crisis which all the military bang-bang is sure to drive off the front pages even as New York Times economist Paul Krugman noted Friday:

“In a few days, we’ll reach the fifth anniversary of the fall of Lehman Brothers — the moment when a recession, which was bad enough, turned into something much scarier. Suddenly, we were looking at the real possibility of economic catastrophe.

And the catastrophe came.”

President Obama has demanded TV airtime for Tuesday, the day after the Congress is supposed to vote on Syria (although he earlier said he would not be required to respect any vote.)

Currently calls to Congressional offices are reportedly running 540-1 against this war, but what the American people want does not seem to register with teeny alliance between the US, France and Israel—and not the rest of the world—determined to teach Assad a lesson no matter who likes it.  The latest number I saw showed a majority of Americans oppose a military strike.… Read the rest

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Is The Western Media Promoting War on Syria? Are All The Facts in? Does It Matter?

Tomahawk Block IV cruise missile -cropAs the United States threatens to target Syria militarily, how can we expect the military strikes to be covered?

First, there are very few US or western journalists stationed in Syria,  and many of the citizen reporters on the ground have become casualties, and/or have been intimidated and forced to leave.

That assures poor coverage of  those who will be hurt or become predictable and disposable “collateral damage.”

A front page New York Times article on Friday reporting on Syria, carries no dateline and was filed from Beirut. The Times explains that mainstream journalists cannot work freely in Syria, and contends that social media offers better coverage.

The paper quotes Absi Smesem, Syrian journalist, as saying,

“There are no objective sources of information on either side, neither with the regime nor the rebels .We need to get out of this Facebook phase, where all we do is whine and complain about the regime.”

Writing on Salon, in a piece picked up by Mediachannel.org, Patrick L Smith indicts western “lapdog media,”  asking,

“When was it that journalists began thinking of themselves as national security operatives?

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