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What Fox’s Bad Calls on Election Night 2020 Say About 2024

March 24, 2023 - 5:12pm


The problems Fox News had on Election Night 2020 don’t bode well for the election of 2024.

iMediaEthics (5/19/21): In Arizona, “the actual results were much closer than what VoteCast predicted.”

A little before midnight Eastern time on November 3, 2020, the Fox network, which was collaborating with the Associated Press on vote projections, predicted that Biden would win Arizona. The decision desk director at the time later acknowledged it seemed “premature.” Almost two years ago, on iMediaEthics (5/19/21), I outlined the reasons why the call should not have been made, based on Associated Press’s own post mortem assessment. More recently, Nate Cohn of the New York Times (3/13/23) made a similar argument.

On Election Day 2020, Fox also predicted Democrats to win the House, with their majority expanding by “at least five seats.” That was incorrect, also noted in my article. While Democrats retained the majority, they actually lost 13 seats. Cohn does not mention this miscall.

The predictions were based on a new system that Fox and AP had developed in conjunction with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC). Called  VoteCast by AP, and Fox News Voter Analysis by the network, it was born out of Fox’s frustration with the slow pace of predicting winners in 2016.

At that time, the network was part of a consortium, the National Election Pool (NEP) run by Edison Research, which uses exit polls and related data to project election winners. With its new system, Fox would presumably be able to make quicker decisions.

It did not go well.

Neither quicker nor more accurate

The New York Times‘ Peter Baker (3/4/23) suggests that Fox‘s problem was that its polling was too good.

Yet, earlier this month, Peter Baker of the New York Times (3/4/23) seemed to embrace the notion that the Fox/AP/NORC system is superior to the NEP system used by the other networks.

He alluded to a meeting of Fox executives after the 2020 election, when they were discussing how, in the future, they could avoid calling an election for a Democrat before the other networks. Information about the meeting came from evidence in Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit.

Baker wrote:

Maybe, the Fox executives mused, they should abandon the sophisticated new election-projecting system in which Fox had invested millions of dollars and revert to the slower, less accurate model.

It seems unlikely the executives would have referred to the NEP as a “less accurate” model. Slower, perhaps; that was the catalyst for developing the new system. But accuracy was not an issue, at least as publicly stated. It seems more a projected characterization by Baker.

In any case, Baker’s own words appeared to embrace VoteCast as a superior system:

Fox reached its call earlier than other networks because of the cutting-edge system that it developed after the 2016 election, a system tested during the 2018 midterm elections with great success—Fox projected that Democrats would capture the House before its competitors.

The only evidence Baker offered for VoteCast as a “cutting-edge” system is that Fox called the 2018 House contest “before its competitors.” In 2020, Fox also called the House contest before the other networks but, as already noted, that call was a rush to judgment that forced the network to eat crow more than a week later. Hardly cutting edge. NEP made no such error.

Baker ignored altogether the lopsided competition between the two systems in the 2022 House elections. Data posted on the Edison website shows that NEP correctly called the winners before AP and VoteCast in 296 congressional districts, while AP beat NEP in just 73 districts.

A dangerous competition

Personally, I’ve long been skeptical about the competition among networks to be first in calling winners. The public has no immediate need to know who the winner will “likely” be. In most cases, a few more hours will see a completed ballot count and the actual winners announced. If the counting extends for several days, so be it.

The real utility of the election night systems is the statistical information that is collected, which allows for a more in-depth understanding of the factors that motivated voters for one candidate or another. Projecting winners on Election Night is at best an added advantage, and at worst—when miscalls are made—a danger to democracy.

Then–Florida Gov. John Ellis “Jeb” Bush and his first cousin, Fox executive John Ellis, together made the decision that Fox would call Florida for their brother/cousin George W. Bush (image: Media Matters, 2/3/15).

That was the case in the 2000 election, when—at 2:16 in the morning after Election Day—Fox was the first to project George W. Bush the winner in Florida. The head of the decision desk was John Ellis, Bush’s cousin. Bush’s brother Jeb, then governor of Florida, was on the phone with Ellis, and urged his cousin to make the call, though the data did not support it. This projection caused the other major networks to follow suit, only to rescind the call hours later. Chaos ensued.

The miscall and resulting confusion caused Roger Ailes, chair and CEO of Fox News Network, later to admit, “In my heart, I do believe that democracy was harmed by my network and others on November 7, 2000.” (See my book How to Steal an Election: The Inside Story of How George Bush’s Brother and Fox Network Miscalled the 2000 Election and Changed the Course of History for further details.)

That kind of chaos could have happened again in 2020. As Cohn argues about the early call:

There’s not much reason to believe that there was a factual basis for a projection in Arizona. It came very close to being wrong. If it had been, it could have been disastrous.

The public’s confidence in elections would have taken another big hit if Mr. Trump had ultimately taken the lead after a call in Mr. Biden’s favor. It would have fueled the Trump campaign’s argument that he could and would eventually overturn the overall result.

Misleading distinctions

AP says of its VoteCast system, “We meet voters where they are”—meaning they don’t meet voters where they vote.

The hype about the VoteCast system begins with the misleading descriptions found on each news media’s website. Each has a slightly different description of the wonders of their new system, but both emphasize the limits of exit polls as its genesis.

AP: In the 2020 general election, less than a third of voters cast a ballot at a neighborhood polling place on Election Day. That’s why we meet voters where they are, surveying them via mail, phone and online to create a comprehensive data set that empowers accurate storytelling…. AP VoteCast is the product of more than a decade of research and years of experiments aimed at moving away from traditional, in-person exit polls to an approach to election research that reflects the modern approach to voting.

Fox: With more voters than ever voting early or by mail, the new method overcomes the limitations of in-person exit polls and captures the views of all Americans.

The descriptions imply the old, unnamed system, the one they used to belong to (NEP), relies solely on “in-person exit polls.” It does not. And the people at Fox and AP know that.

NEP has been much more than an exit poll operation, ever since its incarnation in 2004. I was with the previous media consortium, called Voter News Service (VNS), on Election Nights 1996 and 2000, and even then, the consortium supplemented exit polls with pre-election polls to measure the preferences of early and by-mail voters.

These days, NEP supplements Election Day exit polls with exit polls at early voting locations around the country, plus multi-mode pre-election polls of absentee voters, including interviews conducted by phone and web.

You can see a comparison of the two methodologies as outlined by NEP and AP Votecast. The comparison reveals two major differences:

  1. The Fox/AP system relies solely on surveys of voters done before polls close, while NEP uses pre-election polls to measure preferences of absentee voters and exit polls to measure preferences of voters as they have just finished voting.
  2. All voter preferences gathered by NEP are based on probability samples, the “gold standard of survey research.” Less than a third of VoteCast respondents are selected using probability methods.

To be fair, given the low response rates of phone surveys, or even of multi-mode surveys (those which include, as NEP does, phone and web), it’s not clear that probability samples continue to be superior to non-probability surveys (Pew, 5/2/16; 538, 8/11/14; 3Streams, 3/18/21).

VoteCast or NEP?

Journalists should welcome the addition of a statistically based Election Day coverage system like VoteCast to compete with NEP. Until 1990, the three major broadcast networks—ABC, CBS and NBC—each conducted their own exit poll operation, providing somewhat different takes on the electorate. But in 1990, because of prohibitive costs, they formed a consortium (and added CNN), originally called Voter Research and Surveys. The consortium expanded to include Fox and AP, but still there was only one take on the electorate.

Just as it’s useful to have more than one poll on any given race, it’s useful to have more than one election night operation. But there’s nothing to substantiate the idea that this new operation is especially “cutting edge” or superior to the one that already existed.

In fact, VoteCast is not so much cutting edge as duller edge. Its main advantage in avoiding any in-person exit polling and using mostly non-probability samples of voters is lower cost, rather than any increase in quality.

VoteCast cuts costs dramatically by getting rid of the whole exit poll operation, both in early voting states, and especially on Election Day, which (for NEP) includes 734 exit poll stations across the country, along with recruiting and training interviewers and establishing a live call-in reporting process for the results.

Fox and AP are not alone in trying to find cheaper methods of polling voters. There is an industry-wide effort to cut polling costs, because of abysmally low response rates. As Pew (5/2/16) noted several years ago:

For decades the gold standard for public opinion surveys has been the probability poll, where a sample of randomly selected adults is polled and results are used to measure public opinion across an entire population. But the cost of these traditional polls is growing each year, leading many pollsters to turn to online nonprobability surveys, which do not rely on random sampling and instead recruit through ads, pop-up solicitations and other approaches.

By 2020, most election polls had in fact turned to non-probability samples. As one article noted, from September 1 to November 1, 2020, only 23% of the reported election polls on 538 were based on strict probability samples. The rest were based either totally (61%) or partially (16%) on non-probability samples. Pew observed:

The advantages of these online surveys are obvious—they are fast and relatively inexpensive, and the technology for them is pervasive. But are they accurate?

That is the question that faces the industry overall. The advent of VoteCast, which mostly relies on non-probability samples, is yet another effort to develop more cost-effective ways of measuring public opinion. As such, it should provide useful information for other pollsters as the industry morphs away from the very expensive probability standard.

But the key test should not be which system is quicker in projecting winners, though it is naïve to assume the networks won’t continue to compete in this area. Instead, an evaluation of the two systems should rely on how accurate and plausible are the data each system provides about the nature of the electorate, and the factors that influenced the election.

What about Election Night?

Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott was worried about “the impact to the brand” of calling Arizona for Joe Biden (New York Times, 3/4/23).

Among the media partners in each system, it appears that only one media organization can’t be trusted to make projections in a timely manner based on the statistical findings. Baker makes clear in his New York Times article (3/4/23) that following the 2020 election, Fox executives’ primary concern about the Arizona call was not that it was right, but that coming before any other network, it infuriated Trump and his aides, and angered their own viewers.

Discussions followed, even by their two main news anchors, who, according to Baker,

suggested it was not enough to call a state based on numerical calculations, the standard by which networks have made such determinations for generations, but that viewer reaction should be considered.

As Baker points out, that had already happened. When its decision desk decided to call Nevada for Biden on Friday night, November 6, Fox president Jay Wallace refused to air it. By VoteCast’s models, Arizona would have given Biden the electoral votes he needed to be declared president. Wallace didn’t want his network to be the first. He waited until all the other networks had made the call the next day, and then allowed Fox to follow suit.

Once a network has decided it’s more important to tell viewers what they want to hear, rather than what the data provide, it doesn’t matter how good the election night system might be. The calls can’t be trusted.

The post What Fox’s Bad Calls on Election Night 2020 Say About 2024 appeared first on FAIR.

‘People Have Been Protesting Against Cop City Since We Found Out About It’ - CounterSpin interview with Kamau Franklin on Cop City

March 24, 2023 - 2:18pm


Janine Jackson interviewed Community Movement Builders’ Kamau Franklin about the fight against Cop City for the March 17, 2023, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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Janine Jackson: The clearing of land, including forests, in South Atlanta, to build a gigantic police training complex brings together so many concerns, it’s hard to know where to begin.

NPR (3/11/23)

The January police killing of a protester and environmental activist known as Tortuguita, whose autopsy suggests they were sitting down with their hands raised when cops shot them multiple times, is a flashpoint illuminating a constellation of harms proposed by what’s been dubbed “Cop City,” as well as resistance to them.

Our guest is in the thick of it. Kamau Franklin is founder of the national grassroots organization Community Movement Builders, and co-host of the podcast Renegade Culture. He joins us now by phone from Atlanta; welcome to CounterSpin, Kamau Franklin.

Kamau Franklin: Hey, thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.

Cop City seems to bring together so much that is wrong and painful for Black and brown people. But we can actually start with the land itself. The place where this paramilitary police camp is planned has some meaningful history, doesn’t it?

KF: Yeah, this land, which has been dubbed by us the Weelaunee forest, was originally the home of part of the Muscogee nation. The Muscogee nation was the native occupiers of that land, the original occupiers of that land, and they were removed in an ethnic cleansing war by the United States from that land and pushed off.

And since that time period, the land has been used, initially, partly as a plantation, where enslaved Africans were brought to the land and made to work on that land. Later, the land was transferred into a prison farm, where working-class people and poor people and, again, particularly Black folks were put on the land to continue working for the state at, obviously, no wages, being punished and harassed and brutally treated.

The land has also served as a youth imprisonment camp, and the police have done trainings on that land.

So that land has been, over a time period, used for the brutal and harsh treatment of Black people in particular, but also of poor and working-class people.

One quick thing I want to say, also, is that that land, in terms of it being a forest before the invention of Cop City, was promised to the adjacent community, which is 70% Black, as a recreational and park area, particularly as the land re-forested itself over time, park areas where there were supposed to be nature trails, hiking available, parks available, and when the idea of Cop City arose, from the Atlanta Police Department, the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Foundation, all of those plans were scrapped immediately, without any input from that adjoining community, and instead they decided to move forward with this idea of Cop City.

New Republic (3/9/23)

JJ: I think that’s why folks are talking about, I’ve heard a reference to “layers of violence” at work here. And I think that’s what they’re getting at is, there’s what this place would be for, its purpose, and then there’s also the process of how it is being pushed on people that didn’t want it. And then there’s also the physical, environmental impact of the construction. It’s a lot, and yet they’re all intertwined, these problems.

KF: Yeah, this is a perfect illustration of how the state, vis-a-vis the city, the state government and even, in some ways, the federal government, operate in tandem, and a lot of times, most of the time, it doesn’t matter what party they are, but operate in tandem at the whim of capital and at the whim of a, relatively speaking, right-wing ideological outlook.

And, again, it doesn’t matter which party it is we’re talking about. It doesn’t matter whether or not those folks are Black or white, but an ideological outlook that says overpolicing in Black and brown communities is the answer to every problem.

And so here in particular, you talked about the process. This process of developing Cop City came after the 2020 uprisings against police violence, the 2020 uprisings that were national in scope, that started after Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and, here in Atlanta, Rayshard Brooks was killed by the police, and it caused a massive uprising and movement across the nation again.

The response by the authorities here in Atlanta was to push through their plans on building Cop City, to double down on their efforts, again, to continue the overpolicing of Black communities, particularly here in Atlanta. Atlanta is a city that is gentrifying at an astronomical rate. It’s gone from a 60% Black city to one that’s less than 50% in only a matter of 20, 30 years, all of that under Black leadership.

It’s a city that, in terms of those who are arrested, 90% of those who are arrested in Atlanta by the police are Black people; its jails are filled with Black people.

And so this is a city that doubled down on police violence and police militarization after these uprisings.

In addition, we feel like the part of Cop City, in terms of its militarization—over a dozen firing ranges, its mock cities to practice urban warfare, its military-grade structure that it’s bragging about—the fact that its past facility is called the Paramilitary Center, and this one is also going to be a paramilitary center.

In its earliest iterations of what it was supposed to be, it included a landing pad for Black Hawk helicopters, something they’ve now said that they’ve taken out.

This, for us, has been put forth to harass and stop future mobilizations and movements and uprisings against police brutality and misconduct.

Guardian (2/9/23)

It was pushed through the City Council. Seventy percent of the people who called in on the night of the vote voted against Cop City, but yet the City Council members decided to still enact this. And so this has been run over the heads of the community, without community input.

And it is something that we think is dangerous for both the overpolicing, and, as you restated earlier, the environmental concerns of stripping away a forest of 100 acres immediately. This particular area is something that is given to having floods. Once they start stripping even more of the forested area away, there’s going to be even more and increased floods.

The loudness of the shooting, the other things that’s going to be happening, this is going to be something that’s extremely detrimental to the environment, and the continued degradation of the climate, if it is allowed to take place and happen.

JJ: I think folks listening would understand why there are multiple points of resistance, why there are a range of communities and folks who would be against this. Some listeners may not know, people have been protesting Cop City for years now.

But now, Tortuguita’s killing amid ongoing protests has given an opening for corporate media to plug this into a narrative about “violent activists” and “clashes.” And this is par for the course for elite media, but, and I’m just picking up on what you’ve just said, it’s especially perverse here, because we’re seeing community resistance and rejection of hyper-policing presented as itself a reason for more of that hyper- and racist policing. It’s a knot. It’s a real complicated knot here.

KF: No, you’re exactly right. And we should say, again, that people have been protesting against Cop City since we found out about it in 2021. And our protests have been, since its beginning, met with police violence.

When we were protesting at City Hall, doing petition drives, town halls, contacting our legislators, when all that was happening and we were doing protests at City Hall and other places, the police would come and break up our protests.

They conducted over 20 arrests during the early stages of our protest movement against Cop City. At that particular time, people were being arrested for charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, obstruction of governmental administration.

LA Times (3/15/23)

After they passed the resolution to grant the lease to the Atlanta Police Foundation, and part of our tactics began to have—there were folks who moved to the actual forest and became forest defenders as an act of civil disobedience.

Then the policing agency in Atlanta basically hooked up and created a task force. So the Atlanta Police Department, DeKalb County Police Department, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security actually formed a task force where they first began having discussions on bringing charges of state domestic terrorism.

And so in December of last year, they conducted a raid in the forest and arrested approximately five or six people. And those were the first folks who were charged with domestic terrorism.

On January 18, they did a second raid, and they charged another five or six folks with domestic terrorism, and that was the raid in which they killed Tortuguita, the forest defender, activist and organizer who, again, as you pointed out earlier, through a private autopsy done by the family, because the Georgia Bureau of Investigation refuses to release information on their supposed or alleged investigation into this matter, the private autopsy is the first indication we have that the police narrative on how they were killed was a complete lie.

Tortuguita was sitting cross-legged and hands were up to protect their face from the firing directly into their body, they were hit approximately 13 times. And it may be more, but the second autopsy could not determine which were exit wounds and what were entry wounds.

After the killing of Tortuguita, another six or seven protesters were arrested at a rally downtown. And then this past Sunday, during our week of action against Cop City, another 35 arrests took place; 23 of those people were charged with domestic terrorism.

So we now have approximately 41 or 42 people who have been charged with domestic terrorism. And this is a scare tactic meant to demoralize the movement. And it’s also meant to criminalize the movement in the eyes of the larger public.

And this is something that’s been a tactic and strategy of the state since day one. But with the help, as you said, of corporate media, they’re trying to get this narrative out there. And we’re left to fight back against this narrative, which is obviously untrue.

JJ: And it’s been long in the works, and long on the wish list. I remember talking to Mara Verheyden-Hilliard about J20, about people who had been arrested protesting Trump’s inauguration, and the slippery tactics that, not just law enforcement, but also the courts were using to say, you were near a person or dressed similarly to a person who we believe committed a crime against property, and therefore you are swept up in this dragnet and charged with felonies, and with a lifetime in prison.

And let’s underscore, it’s a scare tactic. It’s a way to keep people in their homes. It’s a way to keep people from coming out in the street to use their voice on issues they care about.

Kamau Franklin: “These domestic terrorism charges are purposely meant to put fear in the heart of organizers and activists, not only on this issue, but in future issues.”

KF: Yes, definitely. I think it’s important what you pointed out, I’m sure viewers may have seen pictures of property destruction.

And, again, this movement is autonomous, and people are engaged in different actions. We don’t equate property destruction with the violence that the police have rained on Black and brown communities over centuries, to be clear; we don’t equate the idea of property destruction with the violent killings that led to the 2020 uprisings and the prior violent killings by the police of unarmed Black people over, again, decades.

But what’s important to point out even in these arrests, is that the folks who have been arrested and charged with domestic terrorism, who are actually involved in acts of civil disobedience at best, the people in the forest who were arrested during the first two raids we spoke about, were people who were sitting in tree huts and sitting in camps under trees, that police had no evidence whatsoever to suggest that they had been involved, either at that time or prior, in any destruction of property.

And even if they did have such evidence, then the correct legal charge would be vandalism or destruction of property. These domestic terrorism charges are purposely meant to put fear in the heart of organizers and activists, not only on this issue, but in future issues, when the state levels its power, it’s going to say that you tried to, and this is how broad the statute is, attempt to influence government policy by demonstrative means—so civil disobedience can be interpreted as domestic terrorism.

And this is the first time in Georgia that the state statute has ever been used. And the first choice to use it on are organizers and activists who are fighting against police violence.

JJ: And are we also going to see, I see Alec Karakatsanis pointing out that we’re also seeing this line about “outside agitators.” You know, everything old is new again. In other words, all these old tropes and tactics, it seems like they’re all coming to the fore here, and one of them is the idea that this isn’t really about the community. This is about people who are professional activists, professional troublemakers, and the phrase “outside agitators” is even bubbling up again. And that’s a particular kind of divide-and-conquer tactic.

KF: Most definitely. We should be clear that the heart of the Stop Cop City movement has been organizers and activists and community members, voting rights advocates, civil rights advocates, who have either been born or who have lived in Atlanta for a number of years.

But that movement has welcomed in people from all across the country to try to support in ending Cop City, whether or not that’s national support that people give from their homes, and/or whether or not that’s been support that people have traveled down to Atlanta to give support to either forest defenders or the larger movement to stop Cop City.

We see the language of “outside agitators” as being, as you said, a trope that is born from the language of Southern segregationists, that were used against people like Dr. King, the civil rights movement, Freedom Riders.

And so when we have Black elected officials parroting the language of Southern segregationists, it tells us how far we’ve come in terms of having representative politics, where basically you have Black faces representing capitalism, representing corporations, representing developers who have turned their back on the working-class and poor Black communities who they’ve helped pushed out of the city, in favor of these corporations, and in favor on strengthening a police apparatus that, again, is going to be used against every Black community that they claim to represent.

JJ: Well, finally, one of the corporate investors in Cop City, along with Home Depot and Coca-Cola and Delta, is Cox Enterprises, which owns the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which I understand is editorially supportive of Cop City.

I wonder what you’re making of local media that may be in contrast to national media or international media. And then, as a media critic, it’s strange, but a lot of what I want to say is, don’t follow them, don’t look to media to tell you about what’s happening, about what’s possible, about who matters, because it’s a distortion.

So I want you to talk a little about the resistance for folks, but also, maybe they’re not seeing that resistance in their news media, and there are reasons for that.

KF: We have a couple of reporters, I’ve singled them out, who have attempted at least to give a fair hearing to the struggle around Cop City.

However, the overwhelming local reporting has been in favor, and has led continually with the police narrative, with the city narrative, with the state narrative on this benign training center, as they present it, and these “outside agitators” we spoke of earlier, organizers who are coming in. That’s been the central narrative.

So even when we talk about police violence, they never use the term “police violence.” They only use “violence” in conjunction with the organizers and activists, that’s whether or not a so-called peaceful protest has been taking place and the police arrest organizers. And that’s whether or not there’s this quiet civil disobedience by staying in the woods. Anytime organizers or activists are brought up, they don’t hesitate but to use the word “violence.”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution (8/21/21)

And so we understand that not only the media that’s directly connected to Cox, which is a funder of the Atlanta Police Foundation and a funder of Cop City, and, as you stated, editorially, has put out four, five, six, editorials that have all been supportive of Cop City, and that have all tried to label organizers and activists as “violent.” But other corporate media, local corporate media, has been on that same bandwagon, except for a few notable exceptions.

We’ve gotten much better press, much, much more favorable hearings, that at least tells our side, from national media, from outlets who have a perspective and understand what organizing and activism and capitalism is vis-a-vis the way the society works, and from international media.

The things that have helped us get the word out to talk about the struggle has been media platforms like this, and others which have a perspective that understands the role of the United States, and the United States government entities and corporations, and how the world is run.

Without that perspective, we would be completely at a loss to get the word out in any way that could be considered fair and/or accurate.

Truthout (3/14/23)

JJ: You want to shout out any reporters or outlets? I would say Candice Bernd at Truthout has been doing some deep and thoughtful things on it. And, internationally, I’ve seen a few things. But if there are reporters or outlets that you think deserve a shout out, by all means.

KF: The Guardian has done a good job of representing organizer and activist concerns. As you said, Truthout. Millennials Are Killing Capitalism, as a podcast, has done a fantastic job. Cocktails and Capitalism has done a fantastic job. We’ve had some good reporting in Essence magazine, actually.

And so there have been outlets that have given us, again, a fair hearing on our views on the history of policing, on understanding capitalist development and capital development and corporate development here, not only in Atlanta, but in other urban cities across the country.

And so we thank those outlets for at least the opportunity to give voice as we fight back against a dominant corporate narrative that is all about supporting the police, supporting violent and militarized policing, and supporting the continued criminalization of movements that fight against it.

JJ: We’ve been speaking with Kamau Franklin. He’s founder of the national grassroots organization Community Movement Builders. They’re online at CommunityMovementBuilders.org. He’s also co-host of the podcast Renegade Culture. Kamau Franklin, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

KF: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.


The post ‘People Have Been Protesting Against Cop City Since We Found Out About It’ appeared first on FAIR.

Norman Solomon on the Iraq Invasion, 20 Years Later

March 24, 2023 - 10:38am
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New York Times (3/18/23)

This week on CounterSpin: In the immediate wake of the September 1, 2001, attacks, a military official told the Washington Post of the newly minted “war on terror”: “This is the most information-intensive war you can imagine. . . . We’re going to lie about things.” If reporters don’t evidence skepticism after a declaration like that, it says more about them than anyone or anything else.

But US elite news media did the opposite of what you would hope for from an independent press corps in a country launching an illegal and baseless invasion, whose leaders had announced in advance they would lie to support it. You can dig out the reality if you read, but if you rely on the same media you were looking at 2003, you will be equally misled, and in the same, frankly, boring ways you were before: The US is great and only wants democracy; other countries are bad, and if our reasons for invading them and replacing their leadership with folks we like better, and killing anyone who doesn’t agree with that, don’t add up, well, we’ll come up with others later, and you’ll swallow those too.

What passes for debate about why we must remain at some kind of war—cold, hot, corporate, stealth, acknowledged, denied—with Russia or China or whomever else is designated tomorrow, has roots worth studying in 2003. We’ll talk about it with author, critic and longtime friend of FAIR Norman Solomon.

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Plus Janine Jackson takes a quick look back at media coverage of ex-FCC nominee Gigi Sohn.

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The post Norman Solomon on the Iraq Invasion, 20 Years Later appeared first on FAIR.

20 Years Later, NYT Still Can’t Face Its Iraq War Shame

March 22, 2023 - 4:36pm


On the 20th anniversary of the US- and British-led invasion of Iraq, the New York Times continued to dedicate itself to a waffling narrative, one that writes out most of history and opts for a message of “it’s complicated” to discuss the disaster it can’t admit that it helped create.

The New York Times (3/18/23) looks back on the Iraq invasion: “For many Iraqis, it is hard to appreciate the positive developments.”

On Saturday, the Times (3/18/23) published an article on its website headlined, “20 Years After US Invasion, Iraq Is a Freer Place, but Not a Hopeful One.” The next morning, the article (under the headline “Lost Hopes Haunt Iraqis, Two Decades After Invasion”) was featured at the top-right corner of its front page—making it one of the most prominent articles in the English-speaking world that day.

The article, by Baghdad bureau chief Alissa Rubin, began and ended in a Fallujah cemetery, and it certainly painted a gloomy picture of both present-day Iraq and the ravages of war. Yet the Times couldn’t help but balance the gloom with positive notes. Rubin quoted former Iraqi President Barham Salih explaining that there have been “a lot of positive developments” in Iraq. For instance: “Once [Saddam] was gone, suddenly we had elections. We had an open polity, a multitude of press.” Another of those positive developments, Rubin wrote, was “a better relationship with the US military.”

And yet, Rubin went on, “For many Iraqis, it is hard to appreciate the positive developments when unemployment is rampant.” She also pointed to the fact that “about a quarter of Iraqis live at or below the poverty line” and, above all, to “the increasingly entrenched government corruption.” (Today, Iraq shares the rank of 157 out of 180 countries on the Transparency International corruption index with Myanmar and Azerbaijan, as the Times noted.)

Rubin offered only glimpses of responsibility. Of the George W. Bush administration’s claims of weapons of mass destruction, she simply wrote, “no evidence to back up those accusations was ever found.” Of the power vacuum that Iran stepped into, Rubin wrote, “Abetting and expanding Iran’s influence in Iraq was hardly the intention of American policymakers in 2003.” The power-sharing government system the US installed “is regarded by many as having undermined from the start any hope of good governance,” she explained. “But Mr. Crocker and others said that at the time it seemed the only way to ensure that all sects and ethnicities would have a role in governing.”

Understating catastrophe

Looking back on six years covering Iraq, the New York Times‘ Alissa Rubin (11/1/09) acknowledged that “Americans, too, did their share of violence”—but she didn’t call it “horrific crimes” or “brutality.”

It’s perhaps an unsurprising framing, coming from a journalist whose reflections on Iraq in 2009 (11/1/09; FAIR.org, 11/3/09) included the observation that while Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq committed “horrific crimes,” and Kurds displayed “brutality,” the “Americans, too, did their share of violence.” But maybe, she seemed to suggest, Americans didn’t commit enough violence?

Among the worst they did was wishful thinking, the misreading of the winds and allowing what Yeats called “the blood-dimmed tide” to swell. Could they have stopped it? Probably not. Could it have been stemmed so that it did less damage, saved some of the fathers and brothers, mothers and sons? Yes, almost certainly, yes.

Though her present-day article did emphasize the deaths and loss suffered by Iraqis, the numbers Rubin offered represented the floor, not the ceiling, of estimates. She wrote that “about 200,000 civilians died at the hands of American forces, Al Qaeda militants, Iraqi insurgents or the Islamic State terrorist group, according to Brown University’s Cost of War Project.”

This only includes violent deaths, and only of civilians. A peer-reviewed study in 2013 estimated that more than 400,000 Iraqi deaths from March 1, 2003 through June 30, 2011 were directly attributable to the war, with more than 60% due to violence and the rest to other war-related causes.

Meanwhile, Opinion Research Business (Reuters, 1/30/08) used polling methods to estimate that, only five years into the war, “more than 1 million Iraqis have died as a result of the conflict in their country since the US-led invasion in 2003.”

And the New York Times didn’t mention another dark part of the Brown University study: The war helped create more than 9 million Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people. Also unreported at the Times: US war and sanctions left an estimated one in 10 Iraqis disabled (Reuters, 1/21/10). In other words, however bleak a picture it might have painted, Rubin’s piece understated the catastrophe.

Selling the case for war

New York Times (9/8/02): “The attempted purchases [of aluminum tubes] are not the only signs of a renewed Iraqi interest in acquiring nuclear arms.”

Rubin also did not acknowledge that by the New York Times’ own admission (5/26/04), a year after the invasion, the paper had published numerous articles based on anonymous Iraqi informants that promoted false claims about Iraq’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

The magnitude of the Times’ role in selling the case for the Iraq War is staggering. A few of the dubious articles about Saddam’s weapons program involved the infamous reporter Judith Miller (9/8/02, 1/23/03, 4/21/03), who today works at the conservative Manhattan Institute, writing pieces for City Journal about the superiority of Red State policies (3/1/23) and condemning “cancel culture” (6/6/21).

Many of Miller’s key pieces of disinformation were co-written with Michael Gordon, who remained a lead journalist for the Times for many years, continuing to relay the charges of anonymous US officials against official enemies (FAIR.org, 2/16/07; Extra!, 1/13). Now he’s doing much the same thing for the Wall Street Journal (FAIR.org, 6/28/21).

After Gordon and Miller dutifully transcribed the fabricated case that Iraq was pursuing a nuclear bomb—a story generated by the office of Vice President Dick Cheney—Cheney was able to go on Meet the Press (NBC, 9/8/02) and issue dire warnings about a nuclear-armed Iraq, citing “a story in the New York Times this morning” (FAIR.org, 3/19/07).

When UN weapons inspectors failed to find the nonexistent WMDs prior to the invasion, the Times (2/2/03) dismissed the lack of evidence; after all, “nobody seriously expected Mr. Hussein to lead inspectors to his stash of illegal poisons or rockets, or to let his scientists tell all,” correspondent Serge Schmemann reported.

Times reporter Steven Weisman (2/6/03) praised Colin Powell’s deceptive UN presentation as an “encyclopedic catalog that reached further than many had expected.” A Times editorial (2/6/03) called it “the most powerful case to date that Saddam Hussein stands in defiance of Security Council resolutions and has no intention of revealing or surrendering whatever unconventional weapons he may have.”

Explaining why journalists didn’t ask President George W. Bush critical questions about the evidence put forward as justification for war, Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller (Baltimore Sun, 3/22/04) later explained, “No one wanted to get into an argument with the president at this very serious time.” (Bumiller is now the TimesWashington bureau chief.)

Deriding the opposition

The New York Times  (3/14/03) rounded up a bunch of “reluctant hawks”—all of whom had been reluctantly hawkish on the Gulf War 13 years earlier.

Other New York Times pieces derided the world’s opposition to war, with correspondent Elaine Sciolino (9/15/02) mocking “old French attitudes” like those of President Jacques Chirac, who “made it clear that he doesn’t think it is the business of the world’s powers to oust leaders simply because they are dictators who repress their people.”

While doing its best to ignore massive protests against the war (FAIR.org, 9/30/02), the Times highlighted supposedly surprising supporters of invasion. Under the headline “Liberals for War: Some of Intellectual Left’s Longtime Doves Taking on Role of Hawks,” Kate Zernike (3/14/03) argued that “as the nation stands on the brink of war, reluctant hawks are declining to join their usual soulmates in marching against war.” It cited seven people by name as “somewhat hesitant backers of military might”—every one of whom is on the record as having supported the 1991 Gulf War.

On the eve of war, Baghdad correspondent John Burns (3/19/03) declared, “The striking thing was that for many Iraqis, the first American strike could not come too soon.” Burns was the reporter who could glean the feelings of Iraqis about the invasion by viewing them on the street from his hotel room:

From an 11th-floor balcony of the Palestine Hotel, it was not possible to hear what the driver of the red Mercedes said when he was pulled over halfway down the block, but his gestures conveyed the essence powerfully enough. “Get real,” the driver seemed to be saying. “Look at the sky. Look across the river. The old is giving way to the new.”

Invasion advocacy

This fantasy of Saddam Hussein’s hidden WMDs (New York Times, 12/28/01) accompanied Richard Perle’s post-9/11 call for an attack on Iraq.

Things were no better in the opinion section. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (4/27/03) said after the invasion, invoking Saddam’s repression, “As far as I’m concerned, we do not need to find any weapons of mass destruction to justify this war,” and later (9/18/03) accused France of “becoming our enemy” for opposing the invasion.

Ex-CIA analyst Kenneth Pollack (New York Times, 2/21/03), who serves at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and was praised by New Yorker editor David Remnick (1/26/03) as the most clear-thinking invasion advocate, wrote that because of Saddam’s “terrifying beliefs about the utility of nuclear weapons, it would be reckless for us to assume that he can be deterred.” While “we must weigh the costs of a war with Iraq today,” Pollack advised, “we must place the cost of a war with a nuclear-armed Iraq tomorrow.”

Even as the nation was still in shock from the 9/11 attacks, Richard Perle (New York Times, 12/28/01), a prominent neoconservative and then chair of the White House’s Defense Policy Board, demanded action against Iraq, because Saddam maintained an “array of chemical and biological weapons” and was “willing to absorb the pain of a decade-long embargo rather than allow international inspectors to uncover the full magnitude of his program.”

The Times even gave column space (1/23/03) to then–National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to say “Iraq has a high-level political commitment to maintain and conceal its weapons.”

It’s no wonder that the Times, despite its liberal reputation, is remembered in antiwar circles as a public relations arm of the Bush administration.

‘Bumbling into conflict’

“The world may never get a definitive answer” as to why the US invaded Iraq—if it waits for the New York Times (3/18/23).

Accompanying Rubin’s piece after the jump was an analysis by Max Fisher (3/18/23) and a spread of Iraq War photos (3/18/23). Fisher’s piece, headlined, “Two Decades Later, a Question Remains: Why Did the US Invade?” wondered:

Was it really, as the George W. Bush administration claimed in the war’s run-up, to neutralize an active Iraqi arsenal of weapons of mass destruction that turned out to not exist?

Was it over, as the administration heavily implied, suspicions that Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s leader, had been involved in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which also proved false?

Was it to liberate Iraqis from Mr. Hussein’s rule and bring democracy to the Middle East, as the administration would later claim?

Oil? Faulty intelligence? Geopolitical gain? Simple overconfidence? Popular desire for a war, any war, to reclaim national pride? Or, as in conflicts like World War I, mutual miscommunication that sent distrustful states bumbling into conflict?

“I will go to my grave not knowing that. I can’t answer it,” Richard Haass, a senior State Department official at the time of the invasion, said in 2004 when asked why it had happened.

Ultimately, Fisher wrote, “The world may never get a definitive answer.” After a lengthy examination of various officials’ and scholars’ thoughts about the question, Fisher concluded that it comes down to “a mix of ideological convictions, psychological biases, process breakdowns and misaligned diplomatic signals.”

Designed to obfuscate

George W. Bush’s Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were among the PNAC signatories demanding regime change in Iraq—as were Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Under Secretary of State John Bolton, the National Security Council’s Elliott Abrams, Cheney chief of staff Scooter Libby and several other Bush administration officials.

Like Rubin’s piece, Fisher’s piece seems designed to obfuscate any direct accountability for the devastation wrought by the war, leaning heavily on passive constructions and quotes, such as another from Haass: “A decision was not made. A decision happened, and you can’t say when or how.”

When Fisher asks, “Did the administration sincerely believe its rationale for war, or engineer it as a pretense?,” his conclusion—even after pointing out that the official rationale changed from Saddam Hussein’s purported involvement in 9/11 to his purported secret stash of WMD (and, later, to US democracy promotion)—is that “the record suggests something more banal”: that various senior officials wanted Hussein out “for their own reasons, and then talked one another into believing the most readily available justification.” It’s hard to see how talking each other into false justifications for pre-established goals isn’t far closer to “engineer[ing] it as a pretense” than it is to “sincerely believ[ing] its rationale.”

Later, Fisher writes, “Few scholars argue that Mr. Bush’s team came into office plotting to invade Iraq and then seized on September 11 as an excuse.” Again, this seems like splitting hairs at best. Fisher had just noted that neoconservatives represented by the Project for a New American Century (PNAC)—who later formed Bush’s inner circle—”now spoke for the Republican Party,” and that as far back as 1998, PNAC insisted that Hussein be removed from power. In a 2000 memo, PNAC suggested this might require “some catastrophic and catalyzing event, like a new Pearl Harbor.”

Fisher’s piece reiterates some of the most prominent myths about the invasion rationale. He claims that during the Clinton administration, “Mr. Hussein had ejected international weapons inspectors”—an error that the New York Times has repeatedly had to correct (2/2/00, 9/17/02, 10/4/03, 10/8/03; FAIR.org, 10/7/03). As news outlets correctly reported at the time but later consistently misrepresented (Extra! Update, 10/02), the UN withdrew its inspectors from Iraq on December 16, 1998, because the United States was preparing to bomb the country.

Fisher also gives credence to the claim that Saddam Hussein

overstated his willingness to fight and concealed the paltry state of his weapons programs to appear strong at home and deter the Americans, who had attacked in 1998. But Washington believed him.

This theory that the Iraq War was caused by Hussein’s “bluffs” is not based on evidence (Extra!, 1–2/04, 5–6/04, 3–4/08), but rather on a desire to blame Iraq for the United States’ refusal to accept its repeated and forceful denials that it had any secret banned weaponry.

‘Carried and amplified’

Adam Johnson (Real News Network, 3/17/23): “Not only have none of the hawks who promoted, cheerled or authorized the criminal invasion of Iraq ever been held accountable, they’ve since thrived: They’ve found success in the media, the speaking circuit, government jobs and cushy think tank gigs.”

Meanwhile, the only mention in the entire article of corporate media’s role was to acknowledge that the administration’s WMD “claims were carried, and amplified, by America’s major media outlets.”

Neither anniversary article brought up the burning question: If such a devastating war was based on such faulty information, shouldn’t there be some kind of accountability, not just inside the government but within the press, in order to ensure this never happens again?

That’s important, because while the New York Post and Fox News, drunk on the post-9/11 sentiment of the time, were able to rally their conservative audience behind the Bush administration, the New York Times‘ fearmongering was key to selling the idea of war to Democrats and centrists from Central Park West to Sunset Boulevard.

At the time of the invasion, despite the raging street protests, corporate media were unified in cheering for the president’s plan—FAIR found in the lead-up to the war that at four major television news networks, the number of pro-war guests on Iraq segments dwarfed skeptical voices (FAIR.org, 3/18/03). And much of the US public supported the war (Pew Research, 3/19/08). For a decent retrospective on the corporate press’ role in the lead-up to the war, one should glance at Al Jazeera’s Marc Lamont Hill (3/17/23) interviewing Katrina vanden Heuvel (publisher of The Nation), Norman Solomon (of the Institute for Public Accuracy) and former Telegraph commentator Peter Oborne.

But like the Bush administration, the Times and the rest of the corporate journalists who sold the disastrous war have never faced accountability.

Research assistance: Conor Smyth

The post 20 Years Later, NYT Still Can’t Face Its Iraq War Shame appeared first on FAIR.

ACTION ALERT: Trump Rules Remain at FCC as Democrats Cave to Big Cable, Fox News

March 17, 2023 - 3:31pm


Remember Ajit Pai, the former Verizon lawyer Trump put in charge of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)? When he gutted net neutrality rules and kneecapped the agency’s ability to regulate telecom monopolies, voters from across the political spectrum were outraged. The internet erupted in protest.

Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to popular opinion by promising to restore net neutrality rules (The Hill, 3/20/19).

Millions of people from across the political spectrum called their elected officials and submitted comments to the FCC, and thousands took to the streets. It was a rare moment of genuinely popular public revolt that defied partisan DC logic. If there’s one thing everyone can agree on, it’s that we don’t want our cable or phone company screwing us over more than they already do, selling our browsing habits and real-time location to advertisers, or dictating what websites we can visit or which apps we use.

Indeed, the FCC’s net neutrality rules—banning Internet Service Providers from blocking apps, throttling, discriminating or charging scammy fees—were overwhelmingly popular with the general public, regardless of political views.

When Pai repealed those rules, Democrats capitalized on the moment, loudly proclaiming that they were the party that would stand up to Big Cable and their deep-pocketed lobbyists. In speeches and fundraising emails, they promised they would fix this mess if they regained the White House.

Trump lost the election. But astonishingly, two years into the Biden administration, Trump still more or less runs the FCC. Pai is no longer employed at the agency, but his disastrous policies remain firmly in place. And unless we rekindle some of that collective outrage we felt when net neutrality was repealed, it’s looking increasingly likely that those Trump-era handouts to abusive telecom giants will continue for the foreseeable future.

Dark money smears

Right-wing media responded to Gigi Sohn’s nomination with a homophobic smear campaign (NBC, 2/3/23).

Last week, Gigi Sohn, who had been Biden’s nominee to fill the FCC’s crucial fifth seat, withdrew her nomination. Sohn is an eminently qualified candidate and well-known public interest champion who has dedicated her career to closing the digital divide. She was also a historic pick: the first openly LGBTQ nominee to the position. With Democrats holding the Senate majority, she should have been swiftly confirmed.

Instead, her nomination languished, as she faced a months-long, industry-funded smear campaign. Front groups for cable and phone companies flooded swing states with false and misleading ads. Pundits painted Sohn as “anti-police” because she had liked a few tweets in support of Black Lives Matter.

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) piled on, painting Sohn as dangerous because she sits on the board of the highly respected Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which rightly opposes government backdoors in encrypted messaging (an issue the FCC has zero jurisdiction over, by the way).

The FOP has a longstanding reputation for “pay-to-play” lobbying. The group’s executive director, Jim Pasco, maintains a lucrative side business lobbying for corporations, which has sparked controversy when the FOP mysteriously adopts positions favorable to his outside clients. Pasco’s wife, Cybele Daley, was a registered lobbyist for AT&T as recently as 2009. She is currently the vice president of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), copyright-maximalist lobbyists for Hollywood frequently criticized by Public Knowledge, the free expression nonprofit that Sohn co-founded.

The FOP has never been known to take a position on FCC nominations in the past. Its arrival to the fight seems suspicious at best.

Other groups opposing Sohn’s nomination are even more clearly paid shills for the telecom industry, like the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, which has been exposed in the past for “astroturfing” on behalf of telecom companies. Don’t forget these same companies were caught red-handed orchestrating a massive flood of fraudulent comments praising the net neutrality rules repeal that were submitted to the FCC in 2017, using real people’s stolen information.

Emboldened by industry-funded smears and Republican talking points, the right-wing media machine started cranking out even more slime, culminating in blatantly homophobic, QAnon conspiracy–style attacks attempting to paint Sohn as some kind of sexual deviant or predator. A particularly nasty and dishonest article in the Daily Mail (1/26/23) included a photo of Sohn and her wife.

Democrats could have stood up to these utterly disingenuous attacks. Party leaders could have forcefully condemned the smear campaign at any of the three Senate hearings that Sohn testified at, and made it clear that Senate Democrats wouldn’t allow homophobia and corruption to derail a qualified nominee’s confirmation process. Instead, they hung Sohn out to dry. Senate Democratic leadership, including Commerce Committee chair Maria Cantwell (D.–Wash.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D.–N.Y.), were shamefully silent about the homophobia and lies hurled at their party’s nominee.

The FOP’s leadership has a long history of racist and bigoted comments, and has routinely opposed police reforms. The organization endorsed Donald Trump for President. Twice. But in the end, a small handful of Senate Democrats chose to side with the FOP, Big Telecom and Fox News over labor unions, environmental groups, LGBTQ+ organizations, civil rights leaders, teachers, librarians, human rights advocates and small business associations—more than 400 in all—who supported Sohn’s confirmation.

And in the process, they handed Republicans a blueprint for how to sink any future nominee they don’t like, especially if they happen to be gay. It’s not just shameful, it’s an embarrassing strategic failure.

The battle for the net

So what happens next? Biden will have to nominate someone else to fill the FCC’s fifth seat. We can be sure that lobbyists for the likes of Comcast, Verizon and AT&T are already circulating their lists of “approved” candidates. And, given everything that has happened, we have every reason to be worried that Biden could take one of those names.

If the industry gets to install its preferred commissioner for the crucial fifth deciding vote, it will effectively own the agency that’s supposed to regulate it. Just like it did when Ajit Pai was in charge.

The stakes are too high to let the FCC coast on under policies set by Donald Trump (Vice, 11/17/21).

We can’t let that happen. The stakes are too high. The pandemic only exacerbated the digital divide, and ended any debate over whether access to affordable high-speed Internet is a “necessity” or not. Kids were sitting outside of Taco Bell using the wi-fi to go to school on Zoom. There is absolutely no reason we cannot ensure that every single child in this country has access to an internet connection they can use for school—except that for too long the agency tasked with protecting the public interest has been captured by the industry it’s supposed to oversee.

As Big Tech has gotten bigger, net neutrality has only become more important. While attention in DC has shifted from Comcast and Verizon to Amazon and Instagram, the problems with monopoly power and surveillance capitalism are widespread. Unless net neutrality rules are revived, it’s only a matter of time before Big Tech giants start cutting deals with Big Telecom gatekeepers, crushing competition from smaller players and startups and solidifying their dominance.

Beyond restoring Title II oversight and net neutrality protections, the FCC could use its rulemaking authority to crack down on cell phone carriers’ shady data collection practices. Stopping the collection and abuse of cell phone location data is one of the most concrete things the Federal government can do to protect the privacy and safety of people seeking, providing and facilitating abortions. One data broker was exposed selling the location data of people who had entered Planned Parenthood clinics. The FCC could also investigate and crack down on certain types of surveillance devices, like Amazon’s creepy flying Ring drones.

But they can’t do any of that until the Senate confirms a fifth commissioner. And they won’t do any of that if that fifth commissioner is a sleeper agent for the telecom industry. So it’s time to get organized.

This morning, more than 60 civil society organizations sent a letter to President Joe Biden, calling on him to “immediately put forth a new nominee” who:

  • “has a history of advocacy for the public interest;
  • “is free of industry conflicts of interest;
  • “demonstrates a clear commitment to championing the rights of low-income families and communities of color;
  • “and supports Title II oversight and laws that ensure the FCC the authority to prevent unjust discrimination and promote affordable access.”

When Biden nominated Gigi Sohn, it seemed like an opportunity to finally slam shut the revolving door between the telecom industry and the FCC. The industry saw this as a threat to their status as unregulated monopolies, so they threw money bombs and leveraged their immense influence in DC to kill her nomination.

Now all eyes are on Biden. Will he nominate another public interest champion who will implement his stated agenda at the FCC? Or will he start the revolving door spinning again? We’re about to find out.

ACTION ALERT: If you want to make your voice heard, you can use BattleForTheNet.com to call on President Biden to nominate another public interest champion for the FCC.

The post ACTION ALERT: Trump Rules Remain at FCC as Democrats Cave to Big Cable, Fox News appeared first on FAIR.

Kamau Franklin on Cop City Protests

March 17, 2023 - 10:07am



(CC photo: Chad Davis)

This week on CounterSpin: If there are ideas, tools or tactics that are part of both this country’s horror-filled past, and some people’s vision for its dystopic future, they are at work in Cop City. Over-policing, racist policing, paramilitarization, the usurping of public resources, environmental racism, community voicelessness, and efforts to criminalize protest (that’s some kinds of protest)—it’s all here. Add to that a corporate press corps that, for one thing, disaggregates issues that are intertwined—Black people, for instance, are impacted not only by police brutality, but also by the environment, breathing air and drinking water as we do—and seems intent on forcing a vital, important situation into old, tired and harmful frames.

Kamau Franklin is founder of Community Movement Builders, the national grassroots organization, and co-host of the podcast Renegade Culture. We’ll hear from him about Cop City and the fight against it.

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Plus Janine Jackson takes a quick look at press coverage of DC’s crime bill.

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The post Kamau Franklin on Cop City Protests appeared first on FAIR.

‘The Whole System Is Stacked Against a Person With a Disability’ - CounterSpin interview with Kim Knackstedt on disability policy

March 16, 2023 - 1:21pm


Janine Jackson interviewed the Disability Economic Justice Collaborative’s Kim Knackstedt about disability policy for the March 10, 2023, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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Janine Jackson: Human rights advocates everywhere marked the death, March 5, of groundbreaking disability justice activist, spokesperson and policymaker Judy Heumann.

Obituaries rightfully noted meaningful advances Heumann played a role in, like the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Washington Post (3/6/23)

It rang a bit odd though to read in the Washington Post that Heumann, born in 1947, “came of age at a time when disabled people had restricted access to libraries, schools and public transportation, with limited opportunities for education or employment.”

Perhaps the outpouring of attention for Heumann’s life and work could encourage journalists to explore present-day restrictions, limitations, crises, confronted by people with disabilities—one in four adults in the country—along with what responses, including policy responses, are called for.

Kim Knackstedt is senior fellow at the Century Foundation and director of the Disability Economic Justice Collaborative. She joins us now by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome to CounterSpin, Kim Knackstedt.

Kim Knackstedt: Hi. I’m glad to be with everyone today.

JJ: Well, I’m not making fun of that piece. But I was just struck by that “cast your mind back, if you can, to a time when disabled people didn’t enjoy all the freedoms…”

I guess my thought, just to start us off, is that. But also, Judy Heumann was emphatically not of the “wait patiently and progress will inevitably come” school of thinking, was she?

KK: Oh, no, no, not at all. Judy was definitely one to fight for what she wanted, and she was fiery. One of the words she loved to use was “feisty.” And she really went after what she knew was wrong.

And during her services yesterday—I was very lucky to attend and be in community with so many people from around the country, and by video, around the world—we got to hear so many stories about her, and every story had a note about her fighting for the rights of disabled people, and against the injustices that so many of us face.

Time (9/19/22)

JJ: And still face. And this is of course what I’m complaining about here, the treatment of disabled people as an afterthought in policy, in media, which I know is what you engage.

And it’s weird, given not only that so many people in the country are living with disabilities of varying kinds, but also because it’s a community that anyone can join at any moment. And, indeed, I’ve heard Covid described as a “mass disabling event.”

And I wanted to ask you, what is Covid showing us about policy responsiveness, about movement responsiveness? What are some of the impacts when the disabled community grows, as it were, suddenly in this way?

KK: I appreciate you pointing out that anyone can become disabled at any time, because that is part of what I think the US economy is actually facing right now, with the growth of the disability community in a very abrupt way because of Covid.

And we do have the largest influx of the community that we’ve seen in many, many years, and that has really caused the workforce to try to make an adjustment. And that adjustment’s been slow, it’s been difficult, because we have so many people that now cannot do the job that they used to do because of long Covid. And that is extremely difficult, not only for the entire, again, US economy, but for that person.

We’ve had some great pieces, actually, through one of the projects at the Century Foundation, called the Voices of Disability Economic Justice project, with people talking about this, and what it means to become disabled because of long Covid, and not be able to do the things you used to be able to do so easily every day.

Our policies have not changed fast enough to be able to support everyone. That includes our healthcare policies. That includes, now, our education policies. And it includes, again, those workforce policies and accommodations that people need.

Washington Post (7/23/22)

JJ: There was a thoughtful piece from last June in the Washington Post that talked about what supports and education veteran advocates can offer to “long haulers,” dealing with not just new problems, but with, as you’re saying, a new identity. And it also talked about tensions within the disability community, which as with many marginalized communities often finds itself struggling over limited resources. And now there are millions more people involved.

And it’s an interesting situation. But I just wanted to lift up—there was one quote in this piece from a guy who says long Covid gives a chance to make some updates to health policy, in part because the condition is affecting, he said, “a different mix of people than what we’ve seen in the traditional disability population.”

Now, I’m not trying to stir up trouble here, but it sounds a little like “we’re getting a better class of disabled now, not that ragtag group you’re used to,” and there’s an implication, in other words, that now maybe there will be the power to change things. And I guess that arouses mixed feelings in me, is what I want to say.

KK: It does. And I think there’s a couple ways to unpack that. One, there’s a narrative out there that the disability community are kind of fakers and takers. That’s a narrative that we have to undo, because it’s an incorrect narrative, and it’s a narrative that really doesn’t actually help, it only harms the disability community, because, again, anyone can become disabled at any point in their life.

That quote that you mentioned, it really ignores the fact that there’s a false narrative that’s already circulated about the disability community.

But I think, on the other side, what the quote does acknowledge is that having a whole new influx of people to the community gives a renewed energy, and a renewed movement, to the policies that are needed.

When all of the sudden you have a bunch of other people that have entered any community, any movement, there’s different energy behind it. You know, all of a sudden, we have senators saying, “I need this, I am part of this community. I guess now we need a bill on it.”

That’s very different, and we don’t always see that. And so we do get some of that renewed energy, and that’s really important. But at the same time, we have to balance that with the fact that we have a false narrative that exists. And that just breeds into the stigma against disability that we really need to try to overcome.

JJ: If the comment is partly acknowledging that some of the Covid long haulers have wealth, then one can, very sadly, ask, for how long?

The nexus between disability and poverty is central, and of course that’s key to the Collaborative’s work. I’m not sure that it’s really understood how policy choices—not disability, but policy choices—put disabled people in struggle, and keep them there. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Kim Knackstedt: “Undoing that entangled web of policies that really focus on keeping people with disabilities in poverty is extraordinarily difficult.”

KK: Yes, the problem is I could talk about that for hours! Disability and poverty are so connected, and some say the whole structure and the whole system is broken. Well, unfortunately, the whole system is actually working exactly how it was designed.

It is keeping disabled people in poverty because that’s how the system was structured. And so it’s not that the system was broken. The system has to be completely corrected. And what I mean by that is that so many of our policies have been designed to keep disabled people out of work, to keep disabled people from actually building wealth, and to keep disabled people from even getting the care that they need to live independently.

Some of our healthcare policies really actually preference institutional care, not living in a community.

So undoing that entangled web of policies that really focus on keeping people with disabilities in poverty is extraordinarily difficult, and that’s something that we have to do. Even outside of wealth, I would say, social and political capital that people hold? Leveraging that as we start to make some work on all of this is going to be really important.

JJ: CounterSpin listeners will have heard us referenced the “Medicaid divorce,” in which people have to get divorced in order to keep their health care because if they’re married, or they can’t get married, because together, they make too much money. It’s cruel, and it’s often hidden, I think, to other folks.

KK: Yeah, absolutely. And there’s so many choices that I think so many people do have to make, and it’s just how you start to allocate funds to try to just live day to day.

I mean, I acknowledge that I have privilege, because I work at a great place that has health insurance. But I also am a high health cost user; I have infusions that without insurance would be $30,000 a month. Thank goodness for insurance. I also have to spend a lot of money towards that, because I could never qualify for Medicaid to help pay for that.

So you think about, even though I acknowledge the privilege that I have to be able to afford what I do, the whole system is stacked against you when you are a person with a disability and trying to get the care you need, from the cost of prescriptions, the cost of specialists, the cost of getting home, community-based living, the cost of a direct care worker, trying to access the workplace you need. And the list goes on.

JJ: And the Disability Economic Justice Collaborative is saying there are things we can do, there are policy changes that we can make, that can, as you’re saying, not tweak and not fiddle with and “perfect” the system that we have, but really fundamentally overhaul it.

Century Foundation (1/12/23)

KK: Absolutely. So much of what we do does tinker on the edges, and we’re saying we need to stop just tinkering. And so much of disability policy is siloed, and again, we’ve been caught in this web that I mentioned before for so long.

Instead, what we’re saying is, let’s bring a lens of disability to all economic policymaking: food security, transportation, housing.

What we are trying to do at the Disability Economic Justice Collaborative is really bring a disability lens to all economic policymaking. And that’s really the goal, whether, again, you’re doing all of these different policies, it’s trying to embed disability into every single piece that you are working on.

So we are saying, let’s center the values that disabled people need, and bring that into all of our domestic policy work.

So I’m going to give an example. We believe every disabled person needs to have access to reliable, affordable and accessible transportation. That’s something that’s fundamental. And so we want to see that, no matter what the bill is, what the proposal is, what the law is, regulation—I could go on, right?—that’s the goal we want to see throughout. And the same thing for healthcare, access to healthcare they need, access to food.

And so we’ve developed a framework, we call it the Disability Economic Justice Policy framework; we want to see that embedded into domestic policymaking to really move the needle on how we think about policymaking with a disability lens.

JJ: Because every issue is a disability issue. And that goes for media as well as for policy. Every story that impacts disabled people should include awareness of the impact, is my feeling.

It’s not bad to have occasional reports that focus solely on disability or the disabled community. But if you’re reporting rent hikes or food prices or criminal justice, well, disabled people are in that reality, so they should be in the story.

Do you have any thoughts, finally, about media coverage?

KK: Yeah, I think it is really important for media coverage to think more about disability. I think one of the things we see is—you’re exactly right, there will be a story about something related to disability and then you won’t see something else until it’s very disability-centric, and everything in between ignores that disability exists.

And we know that that’s just not how disability is in our lives. Disability is part of the natural human experience.

And so, very much so, I think disability just needs to be embedded more into the stories that we hear about, and part of the narrative throughout everyone’s life.

I also would encourage, in the media, that it’s not about disability being an “inspiration.” I think that’s where the lean tends to go when there is a disability-centric story. And it’s just, disability is part of the life that we all live, and here’s the story that happens to be about a disabled person, or a narrative that we’re talking about.

And so those are some of the pieces that I think would be great to think about more.

JJ: We’ve been speaking with Kim Knackstedt of the Century Foundation and the Disability Economic Justice Collaborative. You can find their work online at TCF.org. Kim Knackstedt, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

KK: Thanks for having me.


The post ‘The Whole System Is Stacked Against a Person With a Disability’ appeared first on FAIR.

‘Let’s Target Job Creation to These Forgotten Places and People’ - CounterSpin interview with Algernon Austin on race and unemployment

March 15, 2023 - 12:23pm


Janine Jackson interviewed CEPR’s Algernon Austin about race and unemployment for the March 10, 2023, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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Janine Jackson: The unspoken premise of most major news reporting is that people are all independent economic actors, making choices about what skills to acquire, what workplace to work at, what salary to negotiate. The economy, overall, reflects the range of those choices and their impacts. The idea that people find themselves in jobs or sectors with differing pay scales and workplace rights informs what news media see as acceptable states of affairs, and what they present as reasonable interventions.

Which is why it takes an active effort to see the role that policy has played, and does play, in shaping employment opportunities, and, what’s more, how using policy to help people would reflect not the insertion of the government hand into a hitherto untampered-with realm, but simply the use of policy to address a keystone problem.

Algernon Austin is the director for race and economic justice at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and author of, most recently, America Is Not Post-Racial: Xenophobia, Islamophobia, Racism and the 44th President.

He joins us now by phone. Welcome to CounterSpin, Algernon Austin.

Algernon Austin: It’s a pleasure to be with you.

Ascent (2/19/23)

JJ: The headlines tell me that unemployment in the United States is at a record low, and you sort of seem uninformed or churlish to not acknowledge, if not celebrate, that.

But it’s important, isn’t it, to recognize the limits of that raw number? What and who is being obscured there?

AA: Absolutely. The unemployment rate, it’s a valid statistical measure. However, it’s important to recognize its limitations.

To be counted as unemployed, you have to be actively looking for work in the past four weeks. And if you have faced significant obstacles in finding work, or if you are unfortunate enough to live in some of our more economically depressed areas, then you’re not likely to be actively looking for work, because you’ve been rejected repeatedly from employers, or you look around your community and you know that there are no jobs available.

And for individuals in those circumstances, they stopped actively looking for work, although they would like to work. But even though they don’t have a job and would like to work, because they’re not actively looking for work, they are not counted as unemployed.

So in that way, the unemployment rate presents a significant undercount of the overall rate of joblessness. And the undercount is most severe in populations that, as I mentioned, face a lot of discrimination in the labor market, or live in more economically disadvantaged communities.

So that means that, although the Black unemployment rate has been consistently about twice the white unemployment rate for the last 60 years–so this two-to-one ratio has been a permanent, sort of structural feature of our economy–although that Black unemployment rate being twice the white rate is still a high rate, it still undercounts the Black joblessness by a significant degree.

So, if we had a count of Black joblessness, it would be a multiple, two, three, four times what the official Black unemployment rate is.

JJ: I wanted to ask you, because part of the celebration about the relatively low unemployment rate has said, “and this is also reflecting advances in terms of Black employment.” So what is the status, you’ve just indicated it, but comparative Black and white employment, or unemployment, is that changing, historically, that relationship?

CEPR (2/1/23)

AA: No, over the last 60 years—and I highlight 60 years because this is the 60th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. And the title, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom—this is the march where Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech—people forget that there were significant economic demands, including demands for jobs, at that march.

And unfortunately, the Black unemployment rate was twice the white unemployment rate in 1963. It’s about twice the white unemployment rate today. And it’s been about twice the white unemployment rate for all 60 years. So this is a serious structural problem in American society, and it’s a problem because of racial discrimination in the labor market.

I talked about the economically depressed communities; Black communities have been hurt significantly by the decline in manufacturing, because of deindustrialization, etc.

And the broader problem, remember, I said that there’s lots of joblessness that’s not being counted. Mass incarceration that hit Black communities, and Black men particularly severely, contributes to that hidden joblessness in Black communities. Because if you’re a Black man and you have a criminal record, it becomes very difficult for you to find work, among the Black populations that are not likely to be counted in unemployment statistics.

JJ: I want to talk to you a little bit about history, which is so relevant here, but often kind of dropped out. The history is there to be found, but it seems like only some things survive as a dominant narrative.

And one thing that has dropped out is the role that the government played with regard to jobs during the Great Depression. And I wonder if you could just tell listeners a little something about that, and the import of that history today?

AA: Yes, it’s important to recognize, people don’t fully recognize—this gets me to a sort of tangential issue—our discourse about the working class in the United States tends to be coded white, but the majority of Black people are working-class people, the majority of Latino people are working-class people. And increasingly, as our country becomes more racially and ethnically diverse, the working class is every day becoming more and more racially and ethnically diverse.

So we really have to change our thinking: When we think about working class, remember that we’re also talking about the majority of Black people, and the majority of the Latino or Hispanic population.

So the WPA, the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression, it’s really important for people to realize that in response to this massive economic downturn and massive high rates of unemployment, the government stepped in and directly created jobs for people.

And the positive thing about that is that it included Black people. And at the height of the WPA jobs program, over 400,000 Black workers were employed by the WPA.

So this is a really important example, because it shows that the federal government can create jobs, and can employ Black workers.

Algernon Austin: “Because a lot of Black joblessness is not counted in the unemployment rate, we still have a massive need for jobs in Black communities.”

Today, as I mentioned, even in a period of historically low unemployment rate for Black people, because the Black unemployment rate is still twice the white unemployment rate, and because a lot of Black joblessness is not counted in the unemployment rate, we still have a massive need for jobs in Black communities.

And the WPA shows us that the federal government can actually address this, through direct job creation, through subsidized employment programs, which is what the WPA was.

And I’m actually involved in a campaign that’s called Full Employment for All, that’s calling for the federal government to create a national subsidized employment program that’s targeted to communities that suffer from persistently high rates of joblessness, and people can find out about that, and sign on to it, at the website FullEmploymentForAll.org.

And although we’re talking about the importance and the crisis of joblessness for Black people, it’s important to recognize that there are other places across the country that also have significant levels of joblessness.

So, in Appalachia, you also have significant joblessness. In the Southwest, you can find several communities with high levels of joblessness. Among the Native American or American Indian population, you can find many of those communities suffering from high rates of joblessness.

President Biden, in his State of the Union address, talked about forgotten places and people. And so Full Employment for All is about, let’s target job creation to these forgotten places and people, and include them in the American economy.

JJ: Let me just ask you, finally, on the level of ideas and in terms of media, it’s seen as unserious or unsophisticated to say that you can’t understand why we have lots of people who want jobs and lots of jobs that want doing, and the idea that the government would play a role in connecting those things is somehow not serious.

And I just wonder how we fight that.

AA: Yeah, it’s like you said, I think, in your introduction, the government exists to serve the people, the government exists to make our lives better.

And, unfortunately, the American government does do that. But unfortunately, it does that primarily for the wealthy people who pay the lobbyists.

So the government is constantly enacting policies that help people–it’s often helping wealthy people via helping corporations.

But what we saw during the Great Depression, with the WPA, was the government working to help average working people. And we need more efforts to get our policymakers to enact policies that help average working people, or average people who would like to work, as I’m doing in the Full Employment for All campaign, making sure the government provides jobs for those people.

JJ: We’ve been speaking with Algernon Austin; he’s director for race and economic justice at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. They’re online at CEPR.net. And that website we’ve discussed is FullEmploymentForAll.org. Thank you so much, Algernon Austin, for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

AA: It’s been a great pleasure for me.


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Wrath at Khan: Right Sets Sights at FTC for Regulating Tech

March 14, 2023 - 5:08pm


Federal Trade Commission chair Lina Khan is bent on holding Twitter and its owner, Elon Musk, accountable—and the right-wing outrage machine isn’t having it.

The FTC has been investigating Twitter’s security policies, the Washington Post (3/9/23) reported, “following an explosive whistleblower complaint accusing the company of violating a 2011 settlement that required it implement privacy safeguards.” The probe has expanded, the Post explained, since Musk’s takeover last year,

as former employees warned that broad staff departures of key employees could leave the company unable to comply with the agreements it made with the FTC to protect data privacy.

The New York Post (3/8/23) charged that “Big Brother” was going after Elon Musk for “dar[ing to] expose the federal government’s lies on Covid and its collusion with tech giants on Russiagate and Hunter’s laptop.”

The Wall Street Journal editorial board (3/8/23) called Khan “unrestrained.”

The New York Post editorial board (3/8/23) invoked George Orwell as it explained that in addition to “digging into Twitter’s layoffs,” the FTC is “also demanding all internal communications by, from or about Musk.”

Republicans see Khan’s probe as politically motivated against Musk, an outspoken right-wing partisan on issues like trans rights (Newsweek, 12/12/22) and labor unions (NPR, 3/3/22). Musk threw his support behind the Republicans in the most recent midterm elections (Politico, 11/7/22).

Intensified obsession

This marks an intensification of the right’s obsession with Khan. Robert Bork, Jr. (son of the Supreme Court nominee) called for Congress to investigate her (Wall Street Journal, 3/2/23). As Bloomberg (3/2/23) reported, the US Chamber of Commerce, tech companies and Koch-backed groups have attacked her antitrust campaigns. It said:

Since 2021, Khan has been mentioned in 43 editorials, op-eds and letters to the editor in the Wall Street Journal. Jonathan Kanter, who heads the US Department of Justice’s antitrust efforts, appears in five. Khan’s critics have gotten personal at times, and some people say it’s impossible to ignore their sexist tone. “There is no doubt that Chair Khan is being subjected to what’s really a disproportionate level of critique that is not based in the substance. It’s really based in personal attacks on her gender, her race, age and then also the fact she is trying to use an agency’s authority to enforce the law, which has not been done for a generation,” says Morgan Harper, director of policy and advocacy at the American Economic Liberties Project, which supports strong antitrust action.

Christine Wilson wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed (2/14/23) saying she was resigning from as an FTC commissioner because Lina Khan hadn’t recused herself from a decision involving Meta after criticizing Meta’s acquisitions as a private citizen. But Wilson didn’t have any problem voting in favor of a Bristol-Myers Squibb acquisition after she worked on antitrust issues for the drug company as a private lawyer (Legal Dive, 2/15/23).

In an op-ed at the Wall Street Journal (2/14/23) announcing her resignation, the FTC’s last Republican commissioner, Christine Wilson, painted Khan as a bull in a china shop, acting with “disregard for the rule of law and due process.” CNBC (2/14/23) reported:

Khan’s approach has come with risk, as most recently evidenced by the FTC’s failure in court to block Meta’s proposed acquisition of VR fitness app developer Within Unlimited. But those who support Khan tend to argue that if regulators win all their cases, they’re likely not bringing enough of them.

Wilson criticized the fact that Khan had not recused herself from an administrative proceeding on the Meta/Within deal based on her statements before joining the agency advocating for keeping the company from making future acquisitions. Wilson also admonished the two other commissioners, who supported her decision. The FTC ended up dropping the administrative proceeding anyway after failing to win a preliminary injunction in federal court.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board (2/6/23) also ridiculed Khan for losing the case.

Mark Zuckerberg, chair and co-founder of Meta (formerly Facebook), has been a Republican punching bag for some while (AP, 8/8/21; New York Post, 10/13/21; Independent, 8/26/22). But the right presented Khan’s legal action against his company’s growth as overreach. The conservative National Taxpayers Union (2/1/23) called the FTC’s loss in the Meta case “a victory for innovators and startups.”

A mess to clean up

The right enjoys using Elon Musk’s Twitter to censor its foes (Intercept, 12/16/22) the way it pretends the left was able to do under the old regime.

Khan’s probe into Twitter has brought the vitriol to a new level, as the right paints Musk as their man on the inside of Big Tech, fighting perceived internet censorship of conservatives (Fox News, 12/19/22). As a result, while conservatives have railed against social media companies at election time, actual government action against Twitter is no longer welcome.

Progressives like Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (CNBC, 3/8/19) and independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (Politico, 7/16/19) have long sought to break up Big Tech, so left and right agree, at least rhetorically, that Big Tech and social media companies have too much unchecked power. Khan, from her record, is acting on that sentiment.

There’s good reason for a serious regulator to see Twitter as needing supervision to ensure customers’ rights are being respected, and that one of the world’s richest humans has not amassed too much power. Here is just a taste of the mess Musk has caused:

  • The departure of top security staff and roll outs of new policies under Musk has meant that Twitter is “exposing itself to a deluge of new security risks that could soon ramify into the public sphere, according to top cyber experts and those who’ve overseen cybersecurity at other companies” (Politico, 11/11/22).
  • “The European Union told Elon Musk to hire more human moderators and factcheckers to review posts on Twitter” (Reuters, 3/7/23).
  • Musk’s Twitter has censored journalists and left-wing activists (Intercept, 12/16/22; Independent, 1/29/23).
  • Twitter “complied with an Indian government request to delete all links to a BBC documentary critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to journalists and free speech advocates in the country” (Hollywood Reporter, 1/24/23).
  • Musk was forced to publicly apologize after he publicly mocked a disabled worker (AP, 3/7/23).
  • Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Florida) asked Musk “how he plans to combat the rise of antisemitism on the social media platform” after Moskowitz said his “Twitter account received ‘hundreds of hateful, divisive comments’ after he posted a video clip of himself pointing out the spread of antisemitism on the platform” (The Hill, 2/10/23).
  • Twitter has allegedly failed to make rent payments (Wall Street Journal, 1/23/23).
  • Janitors at the company headquarters went on strike because “Twitter reportedly failed to negotiate new contracts with Flagship, the company responsible for hiring the janitors” (Gizmodo, 12/6/22), which, in addition to being an anti-labor practice, has meant unsanitary conditions (New York Post, 12/30/22).
Trying to ‘harass business’

The right pretends to be opposed to Big Tech—but leaps to the defense of Facebook and Google when anyone tries to regulate them (Fox News, 1/30/23).

Republicans and the Rupert Murdoch empire want to portray themselves as defending Musk and Twitter against some kind of partisan inquisition, but the fact is that the right has always opposed Khan for her aggressiveness against corporate giants—whether Big Tech, anti–Big Tech or just big.

For example, the Wall Street Journal editorial board (1/8/23) railed against her campaign to curb noncompete clauses, a position the paper saw as support for organized labor. The paper (7/5/21) also accused her of simply trying to “harass business.” Walmart, a notoriously anti-union company, accused Khan’s FTC of “agency overreach” (Fox News, 8/31/22).

While Fox News (1/30/23) complained generally about the Biden administration’s overzealous antitrust action against Google and Meta, it took special aim at Khan, saying she wrote “a law school paper complaining about Amazon’s prices being too low.”

What her Yale Law Journal article (1/17) actually said, according to the New York Times (9/7/18), was that Amazon “should not get a pass on anticompetitive behavior just because it makes customers happy.” And since “monopoly laws have been marginalized…Amazon is amassing structural power that lets it exert increasing control over many parts of the economy.”

Fox also complained that Khan “lauded a far-left organization that…calls for universal basic income.” This policy actually exists in Republican-voting Alaska, and is discussed approvingly in the University of Pennsylvania business journal Knowledge at Wharton (5/10/18).

Murdoch and GOP sympathy for Musk is about corporate ownership class solidarity against Khan, whose mission riles the One Percent. This only makes Khan’s work on Twitter and so many other corporate giants seem all the more necessary.

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