Ted Rall

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Carly Fiorina, Identity Politics and the Death of Feminism

Tue, 09/29/2015 - 16:08

            If you doubt that the politics of identity have triumphed over the debate over ideas, read today’s New York Times story about how “Carly Fiorina Both Repels and Enthralls Liberal Feminists.”

Identity politics is the marketing of and resulting support of candidates based upon their historically underprivileged status. Never mind what I believe or claim I’ll do if I win. Vote for me, gay males, because I am one of you! Vote for me, black women, because it’s time for a black woman!

Also: vote for me, black men, because I’m black (and also a woman).

Or: vote for me, white liberals, because I’ll heal the rifts of sexism and/or racism.

Barack Obama is the patron saint of modern identity politics. Though not black in a typical American sense, which indicates slave ancestry, Obama swept to victory twice, and enjoyed remarkable deference from the media, because he was black enough to serve as a symbol of racial reconciliation. Identity politics is how he convinced most Democrats to vote for him and do so enthusiastically — this despite a conservative voting record and politics that would have been at home in any of several Republican administrations. Obama’s ideas — expanding NSA surveillance of American civilians, drone assassinations of thousands of innocent people, reducing Libya and Syria to failed states — are anathema to those who voted for him, but he was (sort of) black, so they did anyway.

This campaign season, it’s the women’s turn.

Hillary Clinton’s conservative politics and ideas and performance are overlooked by the vast majority of her liberal supporters because she’s a woman, and there needs to be a woman president, and if she falls short of victory, who is the next woman capable of pulling it off?

As the Times notes, feminists — most of whom are, by definition, politically liberal or progressive — are confused by the disconnect between Carly Fiorina’s projection of strong, competent womanness, and her retrograde right-wing politics. “Can you love a campaign but hate a candidate’s politics?” the paper quotes self-described feminist writer Robin Marty, writing for Consmopolitan‘s website. I dunno, Robin — can you be a feminist and still write for a rag that makes millions by reselling the same tired list of cheap orgasm tricks? Can I admire Adolf Hitler’s design sense while mourning the fact that no one managed to assassinate him?

In the crucible of the 1970s, identity politics had its place. Where would feminism have been without the identifier of Ms. Magazine? Trans people, the latest to step out of the shadows of historical marginalization and oppression, have gotten where they are today via an identity politics that, first things first, made it OK to be proud of who and what you are.

But that was then and this is now. Now identity politics is all identity, no politics, all image, no substance.

Erin Gloria Ryan of Jezebel’s quotes illustrate the bankruptcy of identity politics. “Carly Fiorina is an ice-cold shade queen debate princess and I’m in love with and terrified of her,” she tweeted. Would a resident of Waziristan write: “Barack Obama is an ice-cold drone killer and I’m in love with his suits but not so much into being droned?” No. He would not. Because a resident of Waziristan is connected to his class interests. Because he is scared of, and disgusted by, Obama’s drones, he cannot appreciate the way the president cuts a fine figure in a suit.

It’s of course ridiculous when you think about it, but it really does come down to aesthetics for Ryan: Fiorina, she says, is “contrary to the conservative female narrative, the way she looks, the way she presents herself, the no-nonsense businesswoman thing.” For this generation of image feminists, Fiorina is seductive because cuts a fine figure in a high-end corporate outfit and refuses to absorb Donald Trump’s cheap shots at her looks. Too bad she wants to tell pregnant teenagers tough beans, they have to have the baby — and that she brazenly lied about a purported Planned Parenthood “harvest the brain” video.

Marty compares “liberal” feminist interest in Fiorina to eating at McDonald’s: “You know, inherently, it’s not something you should be eating. But when there’s nothing else around, it’s what you go and take.”

That’s so wrong in so many ways.

In the 2016 presidential race, there is another woman running. I think Hillary’s politics are repugnant. There is no way I’d vote for her. But if you roll lesser-evil style, she’s obviously better from a progressive viewpoint than Carly — like going to Wendy’s instead of Mickey D’s.

But lesser evilism, that bastard cousin of identity politics, is the first express stop on the road to ideological ruin. Bernie Sanders — old and white and male — is 50 times the feminist that Hillary Clinton will ever be. I know because I’ve read his platform, which would do a lot more than Hillary, and a zillion times more than Carly Fiorina, to help women.

And that’s leaving out the world where feminism should inhabit: the perfect ideal of total gender equality. We’re not going to get to equality under this variety of capitalism, or any other kind of capitalism. How can an identity politics that distracts real live feminists with the likes of a corporate monster like Carly Fiorina start to destroy and replace the entire system?

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the new book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)


Cole Smithey’s MovieWeek

Thu, 09/24/2015 - 11:20

Cole Smithey’s film review video essay of Sicario and Cinema Classic The Band Wagon.

Smart New Media Presents


SYNDICATED COLUMN: Let VW Face the Same Penalties as Us — or Let Us Go Unpunished Too

Thu, 09/24/2015 - 11:13

            If you did it once, you’d be fired.

If you did it hundreds of times, you’d go to prison.

Why should a corporation worth billions of dollars be treated more leniently than we individuals?

“Volkswagen has admitted installing software in 11 million vehicles that was used to provide false results about emissions, though it was not clear if it was used in all countries where the cars were sold,” The New York Times reports. The United States, however, accounts for 20% to 25% of the automaker’s sales.

“Those U.S. [diesel] vehicles would have spewed between 10,392 and 41,571 ton of toxic gas into the air each year, if they had covered the average annual US mileage. If they had complied with EPA standards, they would have emitted just 1,039 tons of NOx each year in total,” according to The Guardian. That’s “roughly the same as the UK’s combined emissions for all power stations, vehicles, industry and agriculture.”

VW executives broke federal pollution control laws. They knew they were breaking those laws. And they did so on a massive scale.

Now I want you to imagine, if you can, what would happen to you, if you did the same thing — assuming you were in a position to do the same thing.

If the feds found out that you’d rigged your car with a device that fools state vehicle inspectors into thinking that your pollution-belching piece of crap was as green as a Leaf, they’d take your car off the road, maybe confiscate it. They might slap you with a stiff fine ($25,000 in Texas, $295,000 under federal law). Maybe even a jail term.

Volkswagon will wind up paying hundreds of millions of dollars, or more, to the U.S. government for this crime. But that’s far, far less than they — or their top executives — deserve. We live in a time in which corporations enjoy the same benefits as people, and in which some politicians even claim that they are people. Shouldn’t corporations face proportionately equivalent penalties when they commit crimes?

Let’s start with civil penalties.

The average American citizen has a net worth of $45,000. A $295,000 federal civil fine would wipe him out six times over. Since VW has assets of $14.4 billion, the equivalent civil fine should be $94.4 billion.

VW should cease to exist. Alternatively, it could be nationalized by the U.S. government, with its future profits used to pay down the deficit.

Anything less tells American citizens that they are worth less than a corporation. Not even an American corporation — a German one. A German corporation founded by Adolf Hitler!

Then there’s the issue of criminal penalties.

The maximum term for fraud under federal sentencing guidelines is 30 years in prison. Seems fair in this case. Let the company’s top executives face those terms, as well as the company itself — it should be placed in a virtual financial “prison” by being banned from operating for its own financial advantage for 30 years as well.

Of course, the chances of VW being put out of business, or its execs facing prison for their crimes, are zero.

Corporations are responsible for lawbreaking and murder on a scale that Jeffrey Dahmer couldn’t have imagined. So why is it just little old us, private individuals, who get the book thrown at us?

Look at, if you can stand the stink, British Petroleum.

Federal and state fines and settlements related to the catastrophic 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico will total $18.7 billion. Sounds like a lot of money, but thanks to quiet leniency by the Obama Administration EPA, that expense will mostly be tax-deductible.

Not to mention, it’s a drop in the bucket.

BP has $87.3 billion in assets. Which means its total cost for the Gulf spill is just 21%, barely over a fifth.

BP will be able to pay off its entire Gulf spill tab with just over a year of profits. No layoffs. No salary cuts. No replacing the gold faucets in the bathroom of CEO Bob Dudley, who “earns” $5 million a year.

If we’re going to treat corporations like people, let’s treat people like corporations. Either slash the penalties we face when we screw up — or ramp up those faced by big companies so they’re in line with ours.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the new book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)


So Much in Common

Wed, 09/23/2015 - 23:26

The New York Times says that Obama and Pope Francis I, currently visiting the United States, have more in common than not. But those differences? Oh, what differences.

Generation Hexed

Tue, 09/22/2015 - 23:24

Throughout most of their working years, Generation Xers were excluded from jobs and passed over for promotions because they were too young for their Baby Boomer gatekeepers and employers. Suddenly Millennials are in charge, and now the Generation Xers are being treated like old codgers.

Government a la Carte

Sun, 09/20/2015 - 23:29

After Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis asserts the right to issue marriage certificates to everyone except same-sex couples, it’s only a matter of time before other government employees pick and choose who to serve.

Show of Hands

Fri, 09/18/2015 - 13:04

If you’ve followed the scandal following my firing by the LA Times as an apparent favor to the LAPD, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that I am talking to lawyers about the possibility of pursuing legal action against the Times, LAPD and/or LAPPL.

Despite major developments in this story, most notably my enhancement of the LAPD-supplied WAV dub to show that I was handcuffed and that there were angry witnesses, and the recent dismissal of Austin Beutner, the LAPPL-alligned publisher who was probably behind my firing, none of these organizations has contacted me. This forces me to conclude that they have no intention of trying to resolve our differences amicably.

People who listen to the enhanced tape know I was telling the truth and that the LAPD is lying about me…and so is the LA Times.

Lawyers tell me, however, that I will require a sophisticated and detailed analysis by a professional audio forensics specialist in order to move forward. Given the poor quality of the LA Times-supplied WAV dub, however, this has been challenging — and there is no guarantee that the results will be of sufficiently high quality. Ah, the irony: the Times fired me based on a tape so shitty that even professional forensicists can’t hear much on it. Ah, the bigger irony: I am now in the position of trying to use that same tape to exonerate myself.

Bottom line is, this will cost thousands of dollars. Which I don’t have, especially now that I’ve lost the income from the LA Times.

So here’s my request for a show of hands. If you would contribute toward this expense, please say so, along with how much, in the comments section to this post. This will help me determine whether I can continue my fight against the Times’ defamation and its collusion with the LAPD.

Thank you very much for reading this, and for supporting me during this trying time.


SYNDICATED COLUMN: There Is No “Flood” of Syrian Immigrants

Mon, 09/14/2015 - 07:48

Of all the stupid things people say while talking about politics, the one whose stupidity never ceases to astound me is that we’re all out of room for new immigrants.

Haven’t the nativists ever flown cross-country? Grab a window seat! If America has anything, it’s space.

The no-room-at-the-inn argument, used most recently in opposition to immigration from Mexico, has been with us throughout America’s first two centuries. Yet, despite a 320% population increase from 76 million in 1900 to nearly 320 million today, the U.S. has somehow managed to muddle through.

Now we’re hearing the same lock-the-borders build-a-beautiful-wall argument in response to refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria.

Europe has borne the brunt of the migration out of the Middle East — and they’ve freaked out the most. European Union countries that ought to know better (Germany) and others choosing to ignore their treaty obligations (Hungary) have even restored the passport checkpoints whose elimination was the primary purpose of the EU.

European governments keep saying they’re “overwhelmed” by migrants. As they do, the media has cut-and-pasted these official pronouncements into its “news” reports. But is it true?

Germany predicts that it will have taken in a million refugees by the end of this year. A “common European effort,” its vice chancellor says, is required to cope with this “flood” of immigration. Bowing to international criticism, the U.S. promises to accept a not-so-whopping 10,000. It has become a campaign issue, with presidential candidate Bernie Sanders under pressure to name his own (higher) number.

For the sake of this argument, let’s set aside moral responsibility. There probably wouldn’t be a civil war in Syria, or an ISIS, or a resulting refugee crisis, had the U.S. and its European allies not armed and funded the Free Syrian Army in opposition to the Damascus government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Let’s focus instead on the numbers. How many refugees can the U.S. and Europe allow to immigrate without facing an economic or political crisis?

When Vietnam defeated the U.S. in 1975, we took in 800,000 Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians and others who fled the victorious communists. That was just shy of a 0.4% population increase (from 216 million). It worked out well. Southeast Asian-Americans generated billions of dollars in increased economic activity while having one of the lowest rates of applying for public assistance of any ethnic group. Plus we got some great restaurants in the bargain.

Four million people, about a fifth of Syria’s population, have fled the war. An estimated 42,500 refugees leave every day. It won’t happen — but what if half of the remainder followed suit?

Eight million additional Syrians would increase the E.U.’s population by 1.6% — substantial and noticeable, but a drop in the bucket compared to German and Irish immigration to the U.S. from 1820 to 1870, which more than doubled the nation’s population.

Were the U.S. to accept Syrians in the same proportion to its population as it took in Southeast Asians in the 1970s, we could absorb 1.2 million — close to the total who have fled to Europe since the crisis began last year.

Though vast human migrations are psychologically traumatic and bureaucratically challenging for governments, there is a tendency to exaggerate the inability of people to cope. Léon Werth’s riveting memoir “33 Days” describes the chaos of “l’Exode,” when 8 million Frenchmen took to the roads to escape advancing Nazi forces during the summer of 1940. It has been described as the largest migration in history.

L’éxode increased the population of the areas where it ended — the southern French “Free Zone” administered by the collaborationist Vichy regime — by 25%. Moreover, the host region was traumatized by war, military occupation and economic ruin. Still, people coped. For the most part, these internally displaced persons reported being treated with kindness until they were able to return home at the end of World War II. Of the many economic problems faced by Vichy, histories scarcely mention the burden of absorbing les Parisiens.

If wartime France could cope with one new arrival for every four inhabitants, we can deal with one in 250.

Nativists cite economic and demographic arguments against immigration to cover for their real motivation: racism and bigotry. If one or two million Syrians want to come here, the U.S. should welcome them with open arms.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the new book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)


Trump is Loki

Mon, 09/14/2015 - 07:44

Why are people supporting Trump? Not for the reasons you think.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Hillary Is So Sorry She Wasn’t Sorry Sooner

Fri, 09/11/2015 - 13:23

 Poor Hillary.

First they beat her up for refusing to apologize over the stupid/wrong/probably illegal way she mismanaged her emails as secretary of state.

Now they’re beating her up for apologizing. (About this “they”: I’m one of them.)

This is what happens when you get stuck between two competing public-relations imperatives.
On the one hand, as Clinton wrote in her memoir: “In our political culture, saying you made a mistake is often taken as weakness.” She’s right. On the other, it’s better to lance a boil than to let it fester. If everyone knows you messed up, admit it. The sooner you apologize, the sooner it becomes old news. Get out in front of bad news — if it’s going to get out no matter what, people would rather hear it from you than about you. (Classic case study: Johnson & Johnson was transparent and proactive in its response to the Tylenol tampering attacks.)

It’s hard to think of how Hillary could have done a worse job reacting to the news that she kept her emails as secretary of state on a private server in a closet at her home in Chappaqua.

First she tried to game the system. As a likely 2016 presidential contender, she knew there was “a vast right-wing conspiracy” out to get her. Given the heat that was going to be on her, why didn’t she tell her IT people to handle her emails in scrupulous over-compliance with government regulations?

Second, she was defensive, wondering why people didn’t trust her. Listen, Hillary, it isn’t personal: we don’t trust politicians. Especially those who seem to have something to hide. Which you did since, after all, you were hiding stuff.

Third, she dragged her feet. It took months before she turned over some of her emails to the State Department. It took more months before she coughed up the server.

Then there was August’s subject-free half-apology, in which she said that the private server “wasn’t the best choice.” Better to issue no apology at all than one measured in fractions.

This week’s apology came months too late and thousands of emails too little.

Like her vote in support of invading Iraq in 2003, this fiasco has hobbled her presidential campaign, hurt her poll numbers (especially among progressive Democrats, who are gravitating toward Bernie Sanders) and cast doubts about her judgment.

It’s hard to beat Barack Obama when it comes to getting out in front of bad news — he admitted using pot and cocaine back in 1995 (in his memoir), before he entered politics at all. His history of illegal drug use wasn’t an issue in 2008. Still, I’m sure that, if I were Hillary, I would have coughed up the server — and all the emails, including the personal yoga plans and Chelsea wedding ones — as soon as EmailGate broke. She’d have to do it sooner or later; sooner is better during a presidential campaign.

Still, I have some sympathy for Hillary’s dilemma. Because, like it or not, we do not reward the penitent.

I’ve faced a number of controversies over my cartoons. The only time a cartoon got me well and truly hosed, however, was after I apologized for it. I was wrong, I admitted it, and I thought people would appreciate my humanity. Wrong.

Like Hillary, I learned that regrets are for wimps — public regrets, anyway. It’ll be a frosty day in Hades before I make that mistake again.

I’ve been pressuring Hillary to apologize for her Iraq War vote. After all, she contributed to the deaths of at least a million people. She should have known better. She probably did know better, cynically backing an unjustifiable war in the charged right-wing nationalism following 9/11. (Though…why? She was a senator from New York, a liberal state that didn’t support the war.)

At this point, however, the political analyst in me knows that it’s too late for Hillary to come clean from her pet bloodbath. She should have admitted it years ago — before she and Obama destroyed Libya too.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the new book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)


Muscle Memory

Thu, 09/10/2015 - 23:20

California police continue to abuse minorities and others in their sights. Since the LA Times fired me at the behest of the LAPD, however, there is no longer commentary directed against them in cartoon form in the LA Times. This is, of course, exactly what the LAPD wanted.

Down by Law

Wed, 09/09/2015 - 23:19

They always say America is a litigious society. But when you find you need a lawyer to help clear your name, it isn’t always that easy to find the right lawyer to fight for your case.

GOP Attacks the Idea That Black Lives Matter

Tue, 09/08/2015 - 23:17

Republican presidential candidates attacking Black Lives Matter appear not to understand the optics of attacking a group whose message is, you know, that Black Lives Matter. Or maybe they do understand the optics…

Austin Beutner, Publisher Who Probably Ordered My Firing at the Behest of the LAPD/LAPPL, Fired from LA Times

Tue, 09/08/2015 - 12:49

Austin Beutner, the billionaire M&A king who probably ordered my firing as editorial cartoonist of The Los Angeles Times, has been dismissed by Tribune Publishing, the Times’ parent company.

Mainstream media reports attribute the reason for Beutner’s firing to a “culture clash” between Tribune’s desire for centralized corporate control and his preference to run things from SoCal.

Divvying Up the 1%

Mon, 09/07/2015 - 23:01

Wealthy people take almost all of the national income. So why are we only discussing income inequality between genders and races?

Dear LA Times

Fri, 09/04/2015 - 11:26

I have sent the following demand for a retraction to The Los Angeles Times. It follows legal requirements for such demands under California law.


On August 19, 2015, The Los Angeles Times’ Deirdre Edgar published a “Readers’ Representative Journal” titled “Times reaffirms decision that Ted Rall’s blog post did not meet its standards” that contains falsehoods and/or libelous statements about me.

I hereby demand that you retract this article and issue an apology for what appears to be a continuation of your malicious effort to defame me.

In addition, I reaffirm my previous demands, based on the “Editor’s Note” dated July 28, 2015 by Nick Goldberg, that you issue a retraction for that piece, which also contains falsehoods and libelous statements, issue an apology, and reinstate my cartoons and blogs to the Opinion Pages.

Regarding the August 19th “Journal” piece:

(1) The Times wrote: ” The Los Angeles Police Department challenged Rall’s account and provided documents and a tape recording of the 2001 encounter that indicate the officer did not use force against Rall and treated him politely.”

This statement is false.

It is not true that the LAPD provided a “tape recording of the 2001 encounter…” According to you (” The LAPD also provided a copy of an audio recording of the jaywalking stop made by Durr”), the original recording was apparently made on an analog micro-cassette. Paul Pringle sent me a digital WAV file. This is not the original tape recording. Because audio experts require the original recording, along with the device with which is was made, in order to determine the authenticity of an audio recording, dubs and copies are inadmissable as evidence in US courts. (See, for example, http://expertpages.com/news/verifying_integrity.htm)

This statement is libelous because the article goes on to claim that there are ” discrepancies between the police records and tape recording and his blog post.” In fact, there is no “tape recording.” There is an impossible to authenticate, and therefore utterly worthless, dub — possibly a dub of a dub.

By definition, then, there are no “discrepancies.”

(2) The Times wrote: ” In response, The Times has reexamined the evidence and found no basis to change its decision.”

This statement is false.

The Times did not originally examine the evidence. As stated above, there was no “evidence.” The audio file was not submitted to audio experts for authentication or enhancement – basic steps under journalistic due diligence. By definition, it cannot have “reexamined it” because it did not “examine” it in the first place.

(3) The Times wrote: ” The Times also had two forensic audio experts analyze the LAPD recording after Rall asserted that background voices, which he said were audible on a version enhanced for him by sound technicians, supported his account. Rall has insisted that two women can be heard objecting to the officer’s handcuffing of him.”

This statement contains a striking lie of omission.

The Times says it had its experts “analyze” its LAPD dub of a dubbed recording. However, one of the Times’ experts, Mr. Primeau, also had it enhanced. (See: http://www.audioforensicexpert.com/ted-rall-and-the-l-a-p-d-what-really-happened/) Perhaps unaware that the Times planned to cherry-pick evidence for a further libelous attack on my reputation, Mr. Primeau posted the results on his blog. Though his transcript is not as complete as the one that resulted from the Post Haste Digital enhancement the results, which the Times chose not to mention or refer to, support my assertion that there was an angry crowd present: people in the background can be heard discussing “jaywalking.”

Why, in 2500 words, did the Times fail to disclose to its readers that its own expert confirmed my account, or that it asked at least one of its experts to have it enhanced? Whatever the reason, it is yet another example of the careless, malicious and dishonest way the Times has handled this matter.

(4) The Times wrote: “A second recording furnished by the department was made by Sgt. Kilby when he called Rall’s phone number and left a voicemail. On the tape, Kilby is heard saying he had left earlier messages to no avail.”

This statement is false.

By the Times’ own account, ” LAPD also provided a copy of an audio recording.”

A copy of an audio recording (” made on a micro-cassette recorder and later transferred to a digital format”) is worthless, impossible to authenticate, inadmissable as evidence, and is not, in any event “a second recording.”

(5) The Times wrote: ” Nor does Rall express any complaints about how is he being treated.”

This statement is libelous because it states that there a discrepancy between the WAV file and my previous statements. There is not.

At no time have I expressed any complaints about how I was treated.

(6) The Times wrote: ” Here is the full LAPD transcript.” There is a link to a document.

This statement is false.

There is no way to verify whether this document is authentic.

Also, this “full LAPD transcript” has clearly been redacted. Therefore, it is not “full.”

Furthermore, it contains at least one glaring error, referring to a “Mr. Raul.” It is hard to believe that anyone should be expected to rely on this shoddy document.

(7) The Times wrote: “Grigoras said his analysis detected no reference to handcuffs. He said a man and a woman can be heard speaking in the background at one point, but only a few of their words are intelligible.  Grigoras said the man and woman appear to be having a conversation unrelated to the jaywalking stop. “It is obvious the police officer is not part of that conversation,” he said.”

This passage contains two conflicting statements. Both cannot be true.

If Grigoras really said that “only a few of their words are intelligible,” it is not possible for it to be “obvious that the police officer is not part of that conversation.”

This does not constitute a complete listing of the libelous and/or untruthful statements contained within this article.

Given the substantial “discrepancies” between the truth and what the Times has written about me in two articles, will everyone involved in writing them be fired and repeatedly libeled, the way I was over my truthful May 11, 2015 blog post?

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this urgent matter.

Very truly yours,
Ted Rall

Religious Preferences

Fri, 09/04/2015 - 09:44

A court clerk in Kentucky has refused to issue marriage licenses to LGBTQA couples despite a US Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states. Along with photographers who refuse to work gay weddings, where does all this commercialized bigotry end?

SYNDICATED COLUMN: What’s With News Media Who Don’t Want to Publish News?

Thu, 09/03/2015 - 13:36

If a pizza shop refused to sell pizza, everyone would say it was run by crazy people.

What does it say about the people who run the news media that they don’t want to report news?

If you read on, you probably expect this lede to be revealed as hyperbole. Sorry, no. I mean it: newspaper editors and TV producers routinely come across delicious slices of news, and then decide not to publish them or put them on the air.

Yet nobody calls them what they are: censors.

Or crazy people.

News businesses constantly refuse to serve news to eager news consumers. Because censorship is normative, it rarely makes the news itself.

This week’s debate over whether to run photos of the body of a 3-year-old boy on a beach, a Syrian refugee boy who drowned off the coast of Turkey, is a revealing exception.

“As the photographs appeared again and again in timelines on Facebook and Twitter, spurred in part by their publication on the websites of major European newspapers, a debate broke out about the ethics of sharing such graphic images of a dead child,” Robert Mackey reported in The New York Times. “There were also disagreements inside newsrooms about whether to publish or even share the images. A number of reporters argued forcefully that it was necessary to confront the public with the human toll of the war in Syria, and the impact of policies that make it difficult for refugees to find asylum in Europe. But many editors were concerned about shocking their readers and wanted to avoid the appearance of trafficking in sensational images for profit.”

Debate? There should be no debate.

Newspapers sell news. When an editor decides whether an item ought to go into her newspaper, she ought to consider one question, and one question only:

Is it news?

If it’s news, it goes in. No matter what.

Clearly, Europe’s refugee crisis is news. Tens of thousands of people, many fleeing civil wars and poverty in north Africa and the Middle East, are escaping to Europe on rickety vessels, some of which founder and sink in the Mediterranean. The European Union can’t come up with a plan to deal with them. It’s a story involving big issues like nativism, xenophobia, racism and a vacuum of political leadership, as well as blowback from American and European foreign interventionism.

Though sentimental and perhaps a big mawkish, the heartbreaking photo of the drowned boy illustrates the human cost of Europe’s failure vis-à-vis the refugee crisis. Which makes it news.

So it should run.

Easy decision, really. So why are editors worried about irrelevant concerns, like whether the photo is “tasteful”?

For some editors, according to the Times, it came down to whether readers could see the boy’s face:

“Many news organizations in the United States decided to publish pictures of the dead child in their print or online editions, but they were divided over whether to show more graphic images of the boy lying in the sand with his face partially visible. The New York Times published a less jarring image that shows a Turkish police officer carrying the child away but conceals his face. Several other newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal and The Baltimore Sun, followed the same course of action.”

Thank you, Editor Nanny, but I’ll take my news the way God intended it: 200 proof, undiluted.

This is yet another case of a tiny good — respect for the dead — causing a big harm.

Hundreds of people, including that Syrian boy, are dying, and dying horribly. Their deaths are totally avoidable. The EU, home to hundreds of millions of people, can easily absorb even a million refugees. The U.S., whose foreign wars are in large part responsible for the crisis, can help subsidize resettlement costs, and invite many of the victims to come here.

Posting the more “jarring” image (which appeared all over the Internet anyway) might help jar the world into taking action. Conversely, not posting it delays action, guaranteeing that more little boys will die.

Surely saving those boys is more important than worrying making readers queasy over their morning cereal — yes, even if some of those readers are kids themselves.

“I understand the argument for running the photo as a way to raise awareness and call attention to the severity of the refugee crisis, and I don’t begrudge outlets that did,” commented Vox media editorial director Max Fisher, “but I ultimately I decided against running it because the child in that photo can’t consent to becoming a symbol.” Does this mean Vox won’t run any images of dead people, ever? Or images of people who don’t consent to being photographed? That’ll make Vox even more boring.

You know what’s worse than taking a chance that kids will see pictures of dead kids? Not taking that chance, so that more kids wind up dead.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the new book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)



Wed, 09/02/2015 - 23:25

Working for ISIS? The last thing you want is a promotion, if you have the #3 job. What to do if your boss wants show his appreciation?

The Trump Code

Wed, 09/02/2015 - 08:22

Donald Trump has risen to the top of the Republican primaries by speaking candidly about his prejudices against immigrants and others. Now the Republican Party has him using code, like resurrecting Richard Nixon’s old “silent majority.”