The Onion, a satirical publication which likes to call itself "America's finest news source," has published a clever parody of the current political environment in the United States: "We live in a land governed by plurality of opinion in an open electorate, but we are now under siege by adherents of a fundamentalist, totalitarian belief system that tolerates no dissent," a government official is quoted as saying. "Our most basic American values are threatened by an enemy opposed to everything for which our flag stands.
In an interview with Lip Magazine, media critic Bob McChesney discusses mass media's failure to provide context and understanding in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. "We need our media to really lead and show direction in all three areas: explaining what's happening, explaining why it's happening, and leading debate over what can and should be done about it," said McChesney.
Professor Jerold M. Starr looks at corporate control of the U.S. media and calls for a new independent public broadcasting system: "Today a mere six corporations control more than half of all communications enterprises: books, magazines, newspapers, music, motion pictures, radio and television. Some 77 percent of the nation's daily newspapers are part of chains. Two firms control more than half the market for 11,000 magazines. Four firms control our broadcast TV networks and almost all the cable networks.
University professors across the country have found their freedom to speak about the issues surrounding September 11 hemmed in by incensed students, alumni, and university officials. Academics have been shouted down by critics who say that now isn't the time to say anything that might offend others. At California State University at Chico, a professor who criticized U.S. foreign policy was heckled by students and received an e-mail barrage of hate messages from around the United States.
Florida is under a state of emergency, legislators are considering closing committee meetings, and routine public records are being withheld in the name of a massive federal terrorism investigation. In the two weeks since suicide attacks killed thousands, civil libertarians are growing worried that Florida's ironclad Government- in-the-Sunshine Law -- the most open in the nation -- could become collateral damage.
Washington Post staff writer Howard Kurtz writes, "As the administration gears up for what President Bush has described as a new kind of war, many journalists are growing concerned that they will have less information and less access to U.S. troops than ever before. Even the use of deliberate disinformation cannot be ruled out." He continues by quoting President Bush. "Let me condition the press this way: Any sources and methods of intelligence will remain guarded in secret," Bush said.
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were so calamitous that they threaten to shake us loose from our constitutional mooring. A civil liberties catastrophe looms as citizens surrender to fear, fury and frustration and as lawmakers throw money and shards of the Bill of Rights at the specter of terrorism.
The Federation of American Scientists sponsors this project, which works to challenge excessive government secrecy and to promote public oversight. They also publish an email newsletter, the Secrecy News, which provides informal coverage of new developments in secrecy, security and intelligence policies.
Vanessa Leggett, a college English teacher and freelance writer, is languishing in jail after she refused to turn her notes over to the FBI, which is investigating a murder case she is writing about. The FBI rejected her claims of being a journalist because she hasn't published yet. She insists that she is "sacrificing personal liberty" to maintain her "journalistic freedom." But should the FBI be deciding who is or isn't a journalist?
It has been two years since Congress suppressed an overview of the risks to people from chemical plant explosions. Dangerous chemical plants, they argued, were potential terrorist weapons, and if terrorists knew which ones were most dangerous, they would target them. Congress also ordered the Justice Department to produce a report by August 2000 on how to protect chemical plants from terrorists and make them less dangerous. A year after that deadline, the report is nowhere to be seen.