Corporate Media Sources on Syrian Crisis Tied to Defense and Intelligence Industries
The debate of whether or not America should militarily intervene in Syria was widely covered by corporate American news outlets for several weeks in August and September 2013. This public discourse took place in major news outlets including CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Bloomberg, and the Washington Post. However, as a reported by the Public Accountability Initiative, individuals who perhaps should not have been speaking on these delicate issues dominated the corporate media’s coverage of the debate.
The interviewed guests on news broadcasts and authors of newspaper articles regarding military intervention in Syria were presented to the American public as diplomats, generals, and experts with unbiased credibility on the issue. However, the majority of these sources were connected to contracting, investment, or consulting firms with a primary focus on defense and intelligence. These ties were left out of the reporting, despite being clear conflicts of interest due to the personal benefits these sources might derive from US military intervention.
The report made a few key points. It identified twenty-two commentators who spoke on military intervention in Syria, all of whom were linked to defense and intelligence contractors, or investment firms. These twenty-two contractors made a total of 111 appearances in newspapers and broadcasts, though only thirteen reports disclosed these links. Some of these “experts” would receive direct financial gain from military intervention, while others had clients who would benefit financially from intervention. Not surprisingly, the majority of the commentators overwhelmingly supported military action in Syria and identified it as an issue of US national security.
By filling the dialogue with individuals holding personal and financial interests in military intervention in Syria, corporate news outlets corrupted public debate over military intervention in the Syria conflict. The corporate media’s failure to disclose such vital information to the American people calls into question its duties. The press has an obligation to truthfully inform the public. They ought to be held accountable for giving individuals with such sizable conflicts of interest the platform to speak on such momentous matters.
Gin Armstrong, Whitney Yax, and Kevin Connor, “Conflicts of Interest in the Syria Debate,” Public Accountability Initiative, October 11, 2013, http://public-accountability.org/2013/10/conflicts-of-interest-in-the-syria-debate.
“The Military Industrial Pundits”, Democracy Now!, October 18, 2013, http://www.democracynow.org/2013/10/18/the_military_industrial_pundits_conflicts_of.
Student Researchers: Grace Quinn and Anne Connelly (DePauw University)
Faculty Evaluators: Kevin Howley and Jeff McCall (DePauw University)
Minority Patients Sustain Higher Trauma Center Death Rates
A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine analyzed data from 181 trauma centers within the US and showed a correlation between trauma centers that serve mainly minority patients and higher than average death rates of those patients they serve. Trauma centers that serve mainly white patients have newer and more efficient technology, better trained staff, and more access to specialists and services; these trauma centers have better outcomes and more of their patients are insured or are able to afford the health care costs. In contrast, trauma centers that serve mainly minority patients have fewer economic resources available to them for use in the improvement of equipment, quality of staff, and maintenance; this discrepancy in funding among trauma centers in different neighborhoods leads to unnecessary deaths that could be prevented were trauma centers sufficiently funded.
Adil Haider, an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and lead author of the study, said that the new research may help answer a long-standing question: is the reason for the disparity found in the biology or history of the patient, or in the hospital treating that patient? The study, he said, suggests that hospitals play the bigger role. “It’s not just differences in the patients,” says Haider. “All patients of all races do better at the trauma centers treating white majority populations, so this research tells us we need to direct attention to hospitals with higher mortality rates to help them improve their outcomes, or we won’t ever be able to turn this around.”
Haider stated, “It can’t continue to be the case that the color of a patient’s skin determines whether he or she survives a serious injury.” Trauma centers in areas that have a majority of patients who cannot afford the insurance or medical bills—typically minority patients—are not discriminating against patients based on race or privilege, but rather they are improperly funded and because of this, patients are dying—deaths that could be prevented with the proper funding.
“Trauma Centers Serving Mostly White Patients Have Lower Death Rates for Patients of All Races,” Science Daily, September 11, 2013, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130911125005.htm.
Student Researchers: Maria Gutierrez Muñoz, J. P. Carrillo, Ashley O’Brien, Jessica Lozano, and Ian Levy (Santa Rosa Junior College)
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (Santa Rosa Junior College)
“Epidemic” of Wage Theft Plagues American Workers
A report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) finds that low-wage workers are robbed far more often than banks, gas stations, and convenience stores combined, by employers who fail to adhere to minimum wage laws or pay overtime. “The country suffers an epidemic of wage theft, as large numbers of employers violate minimum-wage, overtime, and other wage and hour laws with virtual impunity,” University of Oregon economist Gordon Lafer wrote in the report.
Such workplace abuses are occurring as some of the most powerful corporate lobbies attack labor standards and workplace protections, including minimum wage laws, paid sick leave, and even child labor protections. As Ramy Srour reported, EPI researchers found that corporate lobbies have engaged in “an intense attack” on labor standards and workplace protections. According to John Schmitt, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, “what is particularly important about this new report is that it emphasizes the recent legislative developments at the state and local levels, which unfortunately have been largely ignored.”
Wage theft is on the increase even in the context of greater worker productivity. According to EPI statistics, from 1983 to 2010 the bottom 60 percent of Americans lost wealth, despite the fact that the overall US economy has grown over this same time period. According to EPI Vice President Ross Eisenbrey, “this is a remarkable indictment of how the economy is not working for everybody.”
Josh Eidelson, “84 Percent of NYC Fast Food Workers Report Wage Theft in a New Survey,” Nation, May 16, 2013, http://www.thenation.com/blog/174375/84-percent-nyc-fast-food-workers-report-wage-theft-new-survey – .
Caroline Fairchild, “Low-Wage Workers Are Robbed More than Banks, Gas Stations and Convenience Stores Combined,” Huffington Post, October 31, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/30/low-wage-workers-robbed_n_4178706.html.
Ramy Srour, “Corporations Rewriting US Labor Laws,” Inter Press Service, Nov 1, 2013, http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/corporations-rewriting-u-s-labour-laws.
Student Researcher: Ryan Kemp (Florida Atlantic University)
Faculty Evaluator: James F. Tracy (Florida Atlantic University)
Public Radio International Obscures US Involvement in Guatemalan Massacre
In May 2012, Public Radio International’s This American Life partnered with ProPublica and Fundación MEPI to produce a broadcast titled, “What Happened at Dos Erres,” which gave a new account of a 1982 military massacre in that Guatemalan village. In March 2013, the broadcast received a prestigious Peabody Award for excellence in electronic journalism. What This American Life failed to mention in its account of “What Happened at Dos Erres,” and what the Peabody board overlooked, Keane Bhatt reported, was prior documentation of the United States’ direct involvement in supporting the murder of over two hundred innocent Guatemalan civilians in that event.
Although This American Life’s Ira Glass reported that state-led massacres “happened in over six hundred villages” and he cited a 1999 United Nations–sponsored truth commission report that found “the number of Guatemalans killed or disappeared by their own government was over 180,000,” Glass failed to report that the same commission also concluded that the “government of the United States, through various agencies including the CIA, provided direct and indirect support for some state operations,” which resulted in atrocities like those at Dos Erres. As Bhatt noted in his report, the Washington Post and PBS both reported this aspect of the commission’s report at the time.
Bhatt’s report also clarifies the deep historical context of Guatemalan state-sponsored violence against its civilian population, in ways that the This American Life story failed to explain. In 1954, the US organized a coup d’état against Guatemala’s first democratically elected President Jacobo Árbenz. Consequently, a series of US-backed dictators ruled Guatemala. The Dos Erres massacre was part of the Guatemalan military’s ongoing campaign, which the US had supported at least indirectly since the 1954 coup. Under the direction of Efraín Ríos Montt, who ruled Guatemala for seventeen months from 1982 to 1983, the state’s security forces escalated their attacks on leftist insurgents. The US helped to train and arm Montt’s troops. Declassified US intelligence documents revealed CIA and Pentagon involvement in the massacre.
During his rule, Montt counted President Ronald Reagan as a close ally. As Bhatt documented, the Reagan administration deliberately obscured “Guatemala’s record of atrocities” under Montt. Although the This American Life episode included commentary by Kate Doyle, an expert on declassified documents at the National Security Archives, as Bhatt also reported the broadcast version of “What Happened at Dos Erres” omitted the portions of Doyle’s in-studio discussion where she spoke about US complicity in the massacre. Similarly, Bhatt noted that the This American Life broadcast also “excluded content from its own media partner, ProPublica,” which would have corroborated US involvement in the massacre.
“One would be hard-pressed,” Bhatt wrote, “to encounter another contemporary mainstream account of that period so thoroughly sanitized of Washington’s involvement in crimes against humanity.”
Keane Bhatt, “This American Life Whitewashes U.S. Crimes in Central America, Wins Peabody Award,” North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA), July 29, 2013, http://nacla.org/blog/2013/7/29/this-american-life-whitewashes-us-crimes-central-america-wins-peabody-award.
Keane Bhatt, “How the Media Got Guatemala’s Dos Erres Massacre Wrong,” Real News, August 4, 2013, http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?Itemid=74&id=31&jumival=10519&option=com_content&task=view.
Student Researcher: Karen Griffith (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluators: Nora Wilkins and Andy Lee Roth (Sonoma State University)