Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho
“… Tarbell was the nemesis of John D. Rockefeller, the creator of Standard Oil, precursor of ExxonMobil. But she was a lot more than that — as a journalist she was the first to understand and challenge the power of the modern corporation, the first to dig deep into the way corporations bought and used politicians and the first to force a president to check that power.
And all this at a time, the age of the robber barons, when white males dominated not only big business and politics but also journalism. Indeed, there has never been a woman who so single-mindedly cleaved her way through all the male hierarchies and vanities and humbled them.”
Full text: The Mother of All Muckrakers – TDB
Yet another superbly written and fascinating article by Clive Irving. There’s a line that stands out: are there enough reporters literate enough in the way that corporate power is developed and exploited, particularly the way in which it effectively covers itself with opacity and uses deliberate deception in the promotion of its policies?- That’s the one thing that should set off alarm bells every time. If deliberate deception is a necessary part of promoting an(y) idea, that probably means there aren’t enough facts to support it in the first place.
A perfect example is the Climate Change debate. In the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s the debate was over pollution and films like Erin Brockovich convinced the general public that clean water and clean air were probably something we might want. Realising the pollution debate was lost, corporations and the politicians who are funded by them reframed the pollution debate as one of climate change. A topic complex enough as for them to be able to create confusion around it. The thing is when you break it down, denial of climate change has just one objective: no pollution controls. It’s that simple.
Another interesting example was the Christian Right’s anti-gay campaign tactic of saying their issue was with the use of the word marriage. This created an entirely false scenario. One in which their image was softened and they gave the impression the debate was merely semantic. In reality they opposed not only homosexual unions of any kind, including civil unions, but homosexuality itself. That’s deception.
And we can apply that standard across the board. Sarah Palin once said the Affordable Care Act would involve death panels. That’s a necessary deception to make health insurance sound like a bad thing. This is where the media is failing now. It’s allowing the deceptive framing of issues to go unchallenged. Whence that happens, the rise of demagogues is sure to follow.