Letters for the week of July 28-August 3, 2004 

A torrent of response to Will Harper's story on media ownership trends, in which he is called neoconservative, illiterate, self-serving, and vulgar.


"True Justice," Bottom Feeder, 6/30

Do some reporting
Your article on this bicyclist's death presents no evidence that the woman who hit him was in any way careless, criminal, or at fault. Yet you are out there baying for vengeance and calling for the judge's resignation. Apparently it's been about a year since this happened. You had all that time to find out what time of the day the incident happened, to find out if the cyclist had lights on his bike, and a host of other details that bear on fault. The article tells me none of this, so I don't know.
Sherman Kassof, San Francisco

"Rethinking the Media Monopoly," Feature, 7/7

Spare us your vulgar and self-serving articles
Will Harper states: "The same critics who accuse Big Media of hiding information get their information from the media anyway." That's like saying that restaurant critics shouldn't taste the food.

The media lies by omission: Important stories get underreported, and even the important ones that get extensive coverage usually fall down the memory hole.

One Newsweek story and one Robert Byrd speech on the United States' arming of Iraq hardly constitute coverage, especially when compared to the Monica Lewinsky, Gary Condit, or O.J. Simpson stories. Seventeen days after the Newsweek story, The New York Times carried a Robert Byrd opinion piece on going to war; no mention of the US arming of Iraq. During the 1992 presidential campaign, this story was covered by the major newspapers and news magazines. On television, this story didn't make a blip, except for those who stayed up late and watched the joint Nightline/Financial Times

Today's Contra Costa Times may be liberal compared to its former version. But that didn't stop them from praising Bush's rantings in defense of Condoleezza Rice's live testimony before the 9/11 Commission at his April 13, 2004 press conference. (See "Bush's tough stand," Editorial, April 14, 2004.) The Times had no problem allowing a right-wing, Bushite letter writer to grossly exceed their two-hundred-word limit by 56 words. (See: "Headline was misleading in 9/11 testimony," Readers' Forum, March 30, 2004.) Another Times letter writer was allowed to opine that affirmative action "moved from a fairness policy to an integration policy." (See: "Affirmative action unfair to students," Readers' Forum, May 6, 2004.)

The respondents in Harper's Gallup poll aren't media analysts. If any of them feel that the media is too liberal, it's because the media told them so.

An April 2003 Los Angeles Times poll found that respondents preferred cable television news over the Internet as a source for their Iraq war coverage by 69 percent to 13 percent. How does Harper know how many of the 41.5 percent of the households with Internet access use it for news, as opposed to pornography or other leisures? What does DJ Rick Stuart's "diversity of sound" have to do with world and national news?

Even for someone who writes for a newspaper that rarely reports anything earthshaking and that is part of a miniconglomerate, Harper's piece is overtly (nonconspiratorially) self-serving.

P.S. It's obvious to this analyst that Mr. Harper is suffering from H.I.I.V., i.e., he's Historically Illiterate and Intellectually Vulgar. He probably caught it from Stephen Buel.
Stuart Piacente, Berkeley

The stations all sound like Will Harper
It's hard to read the Express because of the Chris Thompson-style cynicism, and an overall tone hostile to unions, pacifists, and any artist or intellectual not engaging in the same fake lowbrow, status quo center-right BS. But I picked up "What Media Monopoly?" and boy, did I reaffirm my hypothesis. Why do the Will Harpers of the world have a monopoly on the Bay Area free weeklies? Why, in an allegedly impenetrable "liberal" atmosphere, do so many editorialists get so much airtime with their vague neoconservative rhetoric?

Harper loves to remind us that "nearly half the population, according to a 2003 Gallup poll, believes the media are 'too liberal. '" Harper doesn't bother to explore the paradox of an apparently "diverse" media and the fact that, according to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, in the weeks leading up to the war, only three out of nearly four hundred interviews on top American news programs were antiwar, and this despite the fact that polls showed the country divided 50/50. The article doesn't bother to address whether all those new free dailies, radio, and television stations are representative of the readers, listeners, and viewers they serve. The point is, it doesn't matter how many new radio and television stations there are; they all sound the same, they're all saying the same thing, and it sounds a lot like Harper. All those stations are profit-driven news and entertainment de rigueur, and this despite the Internet.

Harper had the nerve to say, "Unlike fellow critics such as linguist Noam Chomsky, Bagdikian could call upon his journalistic experience to inform his arguments." Is Will Harper's journalistic experience greater than Noam Chomsky's? Are his arguments more firmly founded? Harper is one of many "nutty right" journalists, disguised in false objectivity, attempting to monopolize the American Political Narrative.
Kahlil Karn, Berkeley

This media monopoly
Your recent lead article was very interesting. What media monopoly? Could it be the one that gave candidate Governor Bush a virtually free ride before the 2000 election, while hammering Vice President Al Gore with continual attacks on honesty? Could it be the media monopoly that didn't say boo when the Republicans rigged the 2000 presidential election in Florida and thus gave the election to Bush? The media monopoly that closed ranks behind Bush after 9/11? The media monopoly that uncritically repeated and blessed all of the Bush regime lies about its war on Iraq?

I have a satellite television service that offers more than a hundred channels, broadcast 24/7, yet I cannot watch any of the English BBC channels or the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) offerings. I cannot get any news channels from any other English-speaking countries including Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa, Jamaica, or Trinidad. With all of the new satellite technology available, why are we consumers being force-fed American corporate propaganda? Oh, monopolies tend to monopolize, I guess. No public over-the-air dissent allowed in corporate America. This American corporate media monopoly happily works in lockstep with the ruling Republican/Democratic political establishment.

Even in the area of sports entertainment we are force-fed a very narrow choice of sports to watch. During these shows, we are constantly bombarded with an endless series of commercials, hypes, promos, retros, popup ads, game breaks, updates, and stupid interviews with coaches about their great-aunt's recent successful hangnail operation. The so-called "All-Star Baseball Game" has become virtually unwatchable for anyone not afflicted with a serious case of attention deficit disorder. Any international sports events are viewed with a hypernationalistic American viewpoint. In the last Winter Olympics in 2002, the United States ranked sixteenth in medals won per million population, but that fact was conveniently hidden away from viewers. The USA was ranked after Norway, Estonia, Austria, Finland, Switzerland, Croatia, Sweden, Canada, Netherlands, Slovenia, Germany, Bulgaria, Italy, Czech Republic, and France. Norway was winning forty times as much as the US on the basis of medals per million population. God forbid if I should want to want a sports show from Australia or New Zealand, such as cricket, rugby, or even sheepdog trials.

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