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‘Israeli violence is legitimized and Palestinian counter-violence is delegitimized’

FAIR - March 1, 2024 - 2:31pm
CounterSpin interview with Gregory Shupak on Gaza assault

 

Janine Jackson interviewed Gregory Shupak about the Gaza assault for the February 23, 2024, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

 

https://media.blubrry.com/counterspin/content.blubrry.com/counterspin/CounterSpin240223Shupak.mp3

 

Janine Jackson: Seven national US unions, along with more than 200 locals, just formed a coalition calling for a ceasefire in Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza. Postal workers, flight attendants, teachers, nurses, auto workers, painters: more than 9 million union workers have signed on to the National Labor Network for Ceasefire, calling for an immediate end to violence and the restoration of basic human rights, the release of hostages and full access for humanitarian aid. “We can’t stand by in the face of this suffering,” said the head of United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers. “We cannot bomb our way to peace.” 

So this is on the heels of a ceasefire call by the AFL-CIO, who have a decidedly spotty history in taking the side of humanity in international conflicts in which the US is involved. It’s reflective of a growing understanding of the non-marginality of protesting Israel’s violent actions in Palestine, and dissenting from US financial and political support for them. 

At some point, elite media are going to say, “This was wrong and everyone saw it,” but what are they saying now? If you only can call out horror when it’s history, what is journalism good for? 

Gregory Shupak is a media critic, activist and teacher. He teaches English and media studies at the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto, and he’s author of the book The Wrong Story: Palestine, Israel and the Media from OR Books. He’s joining us now by phone. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Gregory Shupak.

Gregory Shupak: Hi, thanks for having me back.

JJ: Well, as of February 20, the US, for the third time, has used its veto on the security council to kill a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in what news outlets persist in calling the “Israel-Hamas war.” We’re told the White House has put forward an alternative that asks for a halt in fighting “as soon as practicable.” 

Well, we know that folks like to say journalism is the first draft of history, and unfortunately that can be true even when what you’re seeing with your eyes doesn’t match with what you’re reading in the paper. I still think that a lot of folks are kind of waking up to media criticism right now, but I just want to ask you, in terms of journalism in coverage of this nightmare, what are you seeing that needs to be called out? What do you think needs to be paid particular attention to?

GS: One thing that comes to mind is that there are a lot of credible organizations based in Palestine, including in Gaza, that get very little in the way of a platform in US media or Canadian media, organizations like Palestine Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Al-Haq, and the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights. These organizations are very well connected on the ground in Gaza and elsewhere in Palestine in some cases. 

BBC, 2/29/24

So I find it, well, at best disappointing that these groups are virtually never mentioned or never cited, I should say, in the American or Canadian media. I think that they provide a lot of very detailed information as to what’s happening, and it’s one of the problems with the constant framing of what is called the “Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza,” framing what Palestinian health officials say that way is flawed, as we know, because it’s used to cast doubt on what’s being said because Hamas is a thoroughly demonized organization in this part of the world. So, therefore, attaching their name to information is going to make that information sound suspect to a large portion of the audience. 

One other kind of facet of that is that it’s not just the so-called Hamas-run health ministries giving us information about attacks on hospitals and medical workers and schools and refugee camps and so on and so forth. There are these groups that have a really long history of doing vital work and a very strong track record and internationally recognized track record, and they should be part of the media conversation, but these sources are just not admitted. It’s just everything is presented as, “Well, Hamas said this versus Israel said that.” 

One of the more frustrating motifs throughout the period since October 7 has been to wedge Palestine into the anti-wokeness

New York Times, 2/6/24

culture war stuff. And we saw Bret Stephens a couple of weeks ago having a piece called “Settler Colonialism: A Guide for the Sincere,” we’ve seen at least two pieces in the Atlantic quite stridently opposing the framing of Palestine as a conflict between colonizer and colonized. And, in some way most disappointingly, we’ve seen in the last few days, Lydia Polgreen writing in the New York Times “Restoring the Past Won’t Liberate Palestine.”

And so all of these have in common, especially the Atlantic pieces and the Stephens piece, they rest on this idea of naive, fanatical college students who have these simplistic ideas about politics, and is really a way of eliding some very basic fundamental elements of how things have gotten to this point in Palestine. 

So Polgreen mentioned, partially to her credit, I guess, that the vast majority of people who created Israel were not from there, and this is still, I think,

New York Times, 2/18/24

treated as a minor point by her and it’s really absent in the other pieces I’m mentioning. And what she says is that talking about Palestine as a conflict between an indigenous population and a colonial population is what she describes as part of a “larger trend on the left these days, emanating from important and complex theories in the academy but reflected in crude and reductive forms in the memes and slogans at Palestine protests, an increasingly rigid set of ideas about the interloping colonizer and the indigenous colonized.”

So I mean, it’s hard to know what crude and reductive slogans Polgreen has in mind because she doesn’t mention any, but the fact that Polgreen, and especially Stephens, the pieces in the Atlantic, they’re all obscuring that at the time of the post-World War I British mandate in Palestine, the population of Palestine was 90% Palestinians. And even when the UN issued its 1947 partition plan, Palestinians owned more than 94% of the land between the river and the sea. 

So Polgreen—and the other commentators I’ve mentioned—they’re wrongly implying that the movement to stop the genocide in Gaza is at some basic level wrong about Israel being a colonial enterprise. And this is really significant because they present this idea of anti-colonial struggle in Palestine as some kind of a misguided romanticism that selectively wants to restore the past. Well, the issue isn’t whether the past should somehow be restored, but whether Zionism should continue to be the governing principle across all of historic Palestine.

And so these are all just one example of the ways that Israeli violence is legitimized and Palestinian counter-violence is delegitimized, as is the Palestine solidarity movement within the United States and Canada and so forth. Because if you obscure the fact that this is a colonial dynamic, then it’s much easier to just present what has happened both in the longer term and since October 7 as, “Israel is just a country defending itself.” 

We know, or I assume many of your listeners know, that that is a wildly misguided characterization of it, and it goes back to those decades leading up to the creation of the Israeli state, that this violence that we’ve seen in recent months is all a product of seeking to maintain an ethnostate in Palestine, wherein Palestinians remain an oppressed minority within what is now called Israel, and stateless occupied people in the West Bank and Gaza and of course internationally.

So you can’t understand the basic hinge point in this war, like the fact that most people in Gaza, 70% of them or thereabouts, are refugees without understanding that they got to be refugees because creating a colonial state in Palestine required expelling 750,000 Palestinians and also their descendants. So it’s treated in the Times by Polgreen and Stephens as let’s explore these trendy academic ideas. But this has really real implications for, of course, the people living in Palestine, but also for how the issue is presented and understood in even just factual reporting, where you get very little sense of the fact that there is a fundamental asymmetry here and that what we’re talking about is a colonial war or perhaps a decolonial or anti-colonial war.

JJ: I think of Plato’s shadows on the cave wall so much, that people interpret real events in terms of some sort of narrative and what it means for them. It just blows my mind. And I just want to ask you finally: journalism should be different, reporting should be different than telling us a story about the good guys and the bad guys. And I just wonder what you think responsible journalism would look like at this time?

GS: I think that responsible journalism would do more than just present what has unfolded as, at best, Israel says this on the one hand, Hamas said that on the other hand, when I think others have said before, we don’t have to present debates, like, well, somebody says the sky is blue and somebody says it’s purple. We have a lot of sources that can independently make clear what is happening, and those should be relied on more, including the sources I mentioned earlier today, but not only those—that what we’re seeing here is a brutal and, in the words of the ICJ, plausibly genocidal undertaking by Israel to kill what is now, if you include the estimated number of people under the rubble in Gaza, at least something in the ballpark of 35,000 dead Palestinians in four months or so. 

So I think that on the so-called factual reporting, it’s not very difficult, actually, to get a very clear picture of what is going on even just using a person’s, one’s own iPhone, if you spend a short period of time going to primary sources, but the general public ought not to have to do that. The role of journalism should be to give people a range of perspectives, and those perspectives ought to be grounded in reliable, credible information. And that’s out there, but a lot of our journalists, most of our journalists, seem to not present that in an unfiltered way or even in a way that is less heavily filtered, if I want to rein in my request a little bit. But that is sort of built into the commercial orientation of the media system that there are many considerations that have nothing to do with serving the public good by helping provide the populace with the information that we need and a range of possible lenses to think about them. What we see instead is an orientation toward minimizing atrocities carried out by countries like the United States and Canada and their allies, which in the case of Israel, is less an ally than an appendage.

JJ: Alright then. We’ve been speaking with writer, activist and teacher Greg Shupak from the University of Guelph-Humber. His book, The Wrong Story: Palestine, Israel and the Media, is Available From OR Books. Thank you so much, Gregory Shupak, for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

GS: Thanks again for having me.

The post ‘Israeli violence is legitimized and Palestinian counter-violence is delegitimized’ appeared first on FAIR.

Victor Pickard on the Crisis of Journalism

FAIR - March 1, 2024 - 9:49am
https://media.blubrry.com/counterspin/content.blubrry.com/counterspin/CounterSpin240301.mp3

 

This week on CounterSpin: Years ago when media critics called attention to ways corporate media’s profit-driven nature negatively impacts the news, lots of people would say, “But what about the internet?” Nowadays, folks seem to see more clearly that constraints on a news outlet’s content have little to do with whether it’s on paper or online, but on who owns it, who resources it, to whom is it accountable. You’ll see the phrase “crisis of journalism” newly circulating these days, but one thing hasn’t changed: If we don’t ask different questions about what we need from journalism, we will arrive at the same old unsatisfactory responses.

Victor Pickard is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, and author, most recently, of Democracy Without Journalism? Confronting the Misinformation Society, from Oxford University Press. We talk to him about the crisis of journalism and its future.

https://media.blubrry.com/counterspin/content.blubrry.com/counterspin/CounterSpin240301Pickard.mp3

 

Plus Janine Jackson takes a quick look at coverage of criminalizing journalism, gag rules and diversity data.

https://media.blubrry.com/counterspin/content.blubrry.com/counterspin/CounterSpin240301Banter.mp3

The post Victor Pickard on the Crisis of Journalism appeared first on FAIR.

Shielding US Public From Israeli Reports of Friendly Fire on October 7

FAIR - February 23, 2024 - 5:47pm

 

Since October, the Israeli press has uncovered damning evidence showing that an untold number of the Israeli victims during the October 7 Hamas attack were in fact killed by the IDF response.

While it is indisputable that the Hamas-led attackers were responsible for many Israeli civilian deaths that day, reports from Israel indicate that the IDF in multiple cases fired on and killed Israeli civilians. It’s an important issue that demands greater transparency—both in terms of the questions it raises about IDF policy, and in terms of the black-and-white narrative Israel has advanced about what happened on October 7, used to justify its ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip.

Indeed, IDF responsibility for Israeli deaths has been a repeated topic of discussion in the Israeli press, accompanied by demands for investigations. But the most US readers have gotten from their own press about the issue is a dismissive piece from the Washington Post about October 7 “truthers.”

Implementing the Hannibal Directive?

Israel’s Haaretz (12/13/23) is willing to raise questions that seem to be taboo in the US press.

In the wake of October 7, after Israel began its genocidal campaign against Gaza, reports began to emerge from the Israeli press of incidents in which Israeli troops made decisions to fire on Hamas targets regardless of whether Israeli civilians were present.

That the IDF’s initial reaction was chaotic at best is well-documented. Much of the early military response came from the air, with little information for pilots and drone operators to distinguish targets but orders to shoot anyway (Grayzone, 10/27/23). Citing a police source, Haaretz (11/18/23) reported that at the Supernova music festival site, “an IDF combat helicopter that arrived to the scene and fired at terrorists there apparently also hit some festival participants.” But there are also mainstream Israeli media reports that credibly suggest the IDF may have implemented a policy to sacrifice Israeli hostages.

Supernova music festival attendee Yasmin Porat had escaped the festival on foot to the nearby village of Be’eri, only to be held hostage in a home with 13 others. One of the captors surrendered and released Porat to IDF troops outside. She described how, after a prolonged standoff, Israeli tank fire demolished that home and killed all but one of the remaining Israeli hostages. Her account was verified by the other surviving hostage (Electronic Intifada, 10/16/23; Haaretz, 12/13/23). One of the Israeli victims was a child who had been held up as an example of Hamas’s brutality (Grayzone, 11/25/23).

Electronic Intifada (1/20/24) quoted the Israeli paper Yedioth Ahronoth (1/12/24) as saying that Israel “instructed all its fighting units to perform the Hannibal Directive in practice, although it did so without stating that name explicitly.”

Yedioth Ahronoth (1/12/24; translated into English by Electronic Intifada, 1/20/24)—one of Israel’s most widely read newspapers—published a bombshell piece that put these revelations in context. The paper reported that the IDF instructed its members

to stop “at any cost” any attempt by Hamas terrorists to return to Gaza, using language very similar to that of the original Hannibal Directive, despite repeated promises by the defense apparatus that the directive had been canceled.

The Hannibal Directive—named for the Carthaginian general who allegedly ingested poison rather than be captured by his enemies—is the once-secret doctrine meant to prevent at all costs the taking of IDF soldiers as hostages, even at the risk of harming the soldier (Haaretz, 11/1/11). It was supposedly revoked in 2016, and was ostensibly never meant to be applied to civilians (Haaretz, 1/17/24).

Yedioth Ahronoth reported:

It is not clear at this stage how many of the captives were killed due to the operation of this order on October 7. During the week after Black Sabbath [i.e., October 7] and at the initiative of Southern Command, soldiers from elite units examined some 70 vehicles that had remained in the area between the Gaza Envelope settlements and the Gaza Strip. These were vehicles that did not reach Gaza because on their way they had been hit by fire from a helicopter gunship, a UAV or a tank, and at least in some of the cases, everyone in the vehicle was killed.

Reports that the IDF gave orders to disregard the lives of Israeli captives have caused great consternation in Israel (Haaretz, 12/13/23). An author of the IDF ethics code called it “unlawful, unethical, horrifying” (Haaretz, 1/17/23). Yet any mention of the reports, or the debates they have inspired in Israel, seems to be virtually taboo in the mainstream US media.

The only mention of “Hannibal directive” FAIR could find in a major US newspaper the since October 7 came in a New York Post article (12/18/23) paraphrasing a released hostage who

claimed that Hamas told them the Israel Defense Forces would employ the infamous “Hannibal Directive” on civilians, a revoked protocol that once allegedly called on troops to prioritize taking out terrorists even if it meant killing a kidnapped soldier.

‘A general’s dilemma’

Readers had to read 150 paragraphs into this New York Times piece (12/22/23) before they came to the stunning revelation that an Israeli general ordered an assault on a house full of hostages “even at the cost of civilian casualties.”

A version of Supernova attendee Porat’s account was related a few days later in the New York Times (12/22/23), which published a lengthy investigative report piecing together what happened across the village of Be’eri. That report included a section about the standoff at the house where Porat was held, under the subhead “A General’s Dilemma.” It did not mention Porat’s prior revelations in Israeli media and the controversy they had caused.

The piece described how

the captors had forced roughly half of the hostages, including the Dagans, into Ms. Cohen’s backyard. They positioned the hostages between the troops and the house, according to Ms. Dagan and Ms. Porat.

After more than an hour of gunfire between the IDF and the gunmen, Ms. Dagan reported seeing at least two hostages in the backyard “killed in the gunfire. It wasn’t clear who killed them, she said.”

The article continued:

As the dusk approached, the SWAT commander and General [Barak] Hiram began to argue. The SWAT commander thought more kidnappers might surrender. The general wanted the situation resolved by nightfall.

Minutes later, the militants launched a rocket-propelled grenade, according to the general and other witnesses who spoke to the Times.

”The negotiations are over,” General Hiram recalled telling the tank commander. ”Break in, even at the cost of civilian casualties.”

The tank fired two light shells at the house.

Shrapnel from the second shell hit Mr. Dagan in the neck, severing an artery and killing him, his wife said.

During the melee, the kidnappers were also killed.

Only two of the 14 hostages—Ms. Dagan and Ms. Porat—survived.

It’s a shocking order; it’s also shocking that the Times offered no comment about the order. After the revelation caused a firestorm in Israel, including demands for an immediate investigation by family of those killed in the incident, the Times (12/27/23) published a followup about how General Hiram’s quote “stirred debate,” including multiple quotes from the general’s defenders.

Ignoring the context

The New York Times (1/5/24) neglected to mention its earlier report about the IDF being willing to sacrifice civilians.

There was another rare mention of Israeli friendly fire in New York Times (1/5/24), reporting on Palestinian Jerusalem resident Soheib Abu Amar, who was also held hostage and ultimately killed in the house Porat escaped from. Bizarrely, it did not mention the controversy over Hiram’s order.

Under the headline, “A Palestinian Man Vanished October 7. His Family Wants to Know Who Killed Him,” the Times traced Abu Amar’s disappearance that day, which began as a bus driver for partygoers at the music festival. Describing his final moments, the Times wrote that “Israeli security forces engaged in an intense battle with Hamas terrorists at the home” in which nearly “all of the hostages were killed.” It later mentioned that “families of the hostages…want an investigation to begin immediately,” but made no mention of Hiram’s order.

None of these Times articles put the Be’eri incident in the context of the Israeli press reports of other “friendly fire” incidents, and no other Times reporting has mentioned them, either, leaving the impression that the Hiram order was an isolated incident.

This is especially remarkable, given that one of the reporters on the Yedioth Ahronoth story, Ronen Bergenen, is also a New York Times contributor, and shared the byline on the Times‘ Be’eri investigation. His Yedioth Ahronoth revelations have yet to be mentioned in the Times, or elsewhere in US corporate media.

‘A small but growing group’

The Washington Post (1/21/24) conflates random cranks who claim that the October 7 attack was “staged by the Israeli military” with independent journalists who report on Israeli media exposés of friendly fire deaths—and associates both with Holocaust denial.

Meanwhile, the first time the Washington Post (1/21/24) made any mention of the controversies, it did so indirectly, and only to dismiss them by conflating them with conspiracy theories. Under the headline “Growing October 7 ‘Truther’ Groups Say Hamas Massacre Was a False Flag,” Post “Silicon Valley correspondent” Elizabeth Dwoskin attacked “truthers” who question the Israeli narrative of October 7, equating them with Holocaust deniers.

The Post’s first subject was a woman named Mirela Monte, who subscribed to a Telegram channel called Uncensored Truths. This convinced her that October 7 was a “’false flag’ staged by the Israelis—likely with help from the Americans—to justify genocide in Gaza.” The Post reported that the channel had nearly 3,000 subscribers, but despite this relatively miniscule reach, still used it as its lead example of dangerous misinformation.

Another target was an anonymous poster on the niche subreddit r/LateStageCapitalism, who claimed that “the Hamas attack was a false flag for Israel to occupy Gaza and kill Palestinians.” Though this is an internet forum largely consisting of memes, the Post described the subreddit as “a community of left-wing activists.”

These were held up as examples of a “small but growing group” that “denies the basic facts of the attacks,” pushes “falsehoods” and “misleading narratives” that “minimize the violence or dispute its origins.” The Post cited a seemingly random woman at a protest who claimed that “Israel murdered their own people on October 7”—linking her to “some in the crowd” who allegedly shouted “antisemitism isn’t real.”

But the Post avoided any attempt to address the empirical question of whether Israel killed any of its own on October 7. Dwoskin’s only reference to the reports from Israel come in a paragraph meant to downplay that question:

Israeli citizens have accused the country’s military of accidentally killing Israeli civilians while battling Hamas on October 7; the army has said it will investigate.

Dwoskin’s framing suggests these are minor concerns that are being appropriately dealt with. But those accusations are not of accidental killings, but of deliberate choices to treat Israeli civilians as expendable. And an internal army investigation is not the same as an independent investigation.

Moreover, the IDF only agreed to investigate the Be’eri incident, not the question of whether the Hannibal Directive was issued—and only after press scrutiny and public pressure, demonstrating the importance of having journalists willing to challenge those in power rather than covering up for them, as Dwoskin’s article did.

Attacking independent journalism

The Washington Post (1/21/24) falsely claimed that Grayzone “suggest[ed] that most Israeli deaths were caused by friendly fire, not Hamas,” because the outlet’s actual claim—that “the Israeli military killed its own citizens as they fought to neutralize Palestinian gunmen”—could not be refuted.

Dwoskin continued by attacking independent media outlets that have been covering the story: “But articles on Electronic Intifada and Grayzone exaggerated these claims to suggest that most Israeli deaths were caused by friendly fire, not Hamas.”

Electronic Intifada and the Grayzone are among the few outlets that have exposed English-language audiences to the reporting from Israel about the IDF’s attacks on Israeli civilians on October 7. To criticize Grayzone‘s reporting (10/27/23), the Post cited the director of “an Israeli watchdog organization dedicated to fighting disinformation,” who said that Grayzone “distorts” a helicopter pilot’s account of having trouble “distinguishing between civilians and Hamas.”

On the word “distorts,” Dwoskin hyperlinked to a Haaretz op-ed (11/27/23) attacking Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal’s reporting. That piece accused him misusing ellipses when he quoted the pilot from the Ynet piece who said there was “tremendous difficulty in distinguishing within the occupied outposts and settlements who was a terrorist and who was a soldier or civilian.”

Haaretz complained that Blumenthal’s ellipses left out a statement from the pilot: “A decision was made that the first mission of the combat helicopters and the armed drones was to stop the flow of terrorists and the murderous mob that poured into Israeli territory through the gaps in the fence.” Blumenthal, the paper complained, ignored that “the pilots were assigned a different task: stopping the terrorists flowing in from Gaza,” and that there was “no ambiguity in this task.”

However, this is entirely consistent with Blumenthal’s claim that “the pilots let loose a fury of cannon and missile fire onto Israeli areas below.” Given that hundreds of hostages were concurrently being taken from Israel into Gaza, there was a great deal of “ambiguity” in the task of “stop[ping] the flow of terrorists…through the gaps in the fence.” It’s highly relevant that the pilot said it was very difficult to distinguish “who was a terrorist and who was a soldier or civilian,” and that only later did the IDF “carefully select the targets.”

The Haaretz piece made several other dubious accusations, including charging Blumenthal with using “biased language” when he described Hamas as “militants” and “gunmen”—terms chosen by many establishment news outlets precisely to avoid bias (AP on Twitter, 1/7/21; BBC, 10/11/23).

The op-ed also accused Blumenthal of omitting “everything related to the war crimes committed by Hamas terrorists,” ignoring his clear statement in his article that “video filmed by uniformed Hamas gunmen makes it clear they intentionally shot many Israelis with Kalashnikov rifles on October 7.”

The Post offered no example of the Grayzone claiming “most” Israeli deaths were caused by friendly fire, and FAIR could find no such claims in the outlet’s October 7 coverage. It has, however, reported extensively on the friendly fire reports in Israeli media that the Post has so studiously avoided.

Hiding the accusations

The Washington Post (1/21/24) misquoted this Electronic Intifada article (11/23/23) as saying that “‘most’ Israeli casualties on October 7″—military and civilian—were killed by friendly fire. What the article actually said was that “Israel killed many, if not most, of the civilians that died during the Palestinian offensive.”

The independent Palestinian-run outlet Electronic Intifada has also based its reporting on articles and interviews from the Israeli press (e.g., Ynet, 10/15/23; Haaretz, 10/20/23, 11/9/23, 11/18/23; Times of Israel, 11/9/23). The Washington Post, however, only wrote that EI senior editor Asa Winstanley was “basing the story, in part, on a YouTube clip (10/15/23) of a man who describes himself as a former Israeli general.”

As Winstanley noted in his response to Dwoskin, “‘Graeme Ipp’ described himself—and actually was—an Israeli major, as I explain in detail in the piece itself.” The Post did not link to the article, video or give any citation to help readers find the article in question, which served to conceal the blatant misquotation.

The Post also misquoted Winstanley to claim he wrote that “most” of the Israeli civilians were killed by the Israeli military that day. In reality, Winstanely (Electronic Intifada, 11/23/23) wrote that Ipp’s testimony was confirmation that “Israel killed many, if not most, of the civilians that died during the Palestinian offensive.”

Had the Post actually pointed its readers to the reporting from the Grayzone and Electronic Intifada, readers may have been able to more easily understand Dwoskin’s distortions. But discrediting those outlets serves an important political purpose: Along with Mondoweiss, they are some of the only English-language outlets that have covered the bombshell revelations that appear frequently within the Israeli press. Attacking their reporting hides from US public view the numerous accusations of deliberate mishandling of intelligence and mass killing by the IDF of its own civilians.

Holocaust denial? 

Mondoweiss (2/1/24): “Stories of atrocity, sometimes cobbled together from unreliable eyewitnesses, sometimes fabricated entirely, have made their way to heads of state and been used to justify Israel’s military violence.”

A sizable chunk of the Washington Post‘s article centered on interviews with pro-Israel “experts” linking October 7 “truthers” to Holocaust denialism, or promoting “internet-driven conspiracy theories.” Dwoskin cited Emerson Brooking, a researcher from the NATO-affiliated Atlantic Council think tank, who warned that “the long tail of Holocaust denial is a lesson in what may happen to October 7.”

Dismissing any actual investigation into the facts, Brooking says, “It’s generally indisputable that Hamas did something—the pro-Hamas camp can’t erase that entirely.” He never specifies what that “something” was—the exact issue in question. Instead, he assumes that “something” is settled fact, and that anyone who investigates it is trying to “chip away at it” in an attempt at “rewriting…history.”

The Post equates people questioning the Holocaust—which has a factual record established over decades of international investigations, scholarship and research—with questioning the details of what Hamas called the Al Aqsa Flood, which has only ever been investigated by the Israeli government. That government, it should be recalled, has a documented record of blatantly lying and fabricating evidence.

Israel’s justification for its relentless assault upon Gaza has depended in large part upon its narrative. Since October 7, the Israeli government has blocked or rejected any serious international inquiry into the attacks or the IDF response. The US government has declined to call for or engage in any investigation.

On the other hand, in a recent statement, Hamas—which maintains that the Al Aqsa Flood was a military, not a terror, operation—has publicly agreed to cooperate with an international investigation into its own war crimes (Palestine Chronicle, 1/21/24).

Many of the most lurid claims that mobilized public opinion in support of Israel’s attack (e.g., 40 beheaded babies, babies cooked in ovens, etc.) have since been debunked and disproven (Mondoweiss, 2/1/24). In fact, Haaretz (11/18/23) revealed that Hamas had no prior knowledge of the festival they were accused of targeting.

Israeli and US officials repeatedly attribute all civilian deaths to Hamas, even though this is certainly false. Clearly, then, s0me Israeli civilian casualties have been “blame[d] on another party.”

How many Israeli civilians were actually killed by Hamas, and how many by Israel? Was the Al Aqsa Flood a terrorist attack designed to kill as many civilians as possible? These are important questions that have yet to be conclusively and independently answered, but the Washington Post seems to want to dissuade people from even asking them. In evoking the specter of Holocaust denial, Dwoskin and the Post are not defending the truth, but attempting to protect readers from it.

The post Shielding US Public From Israeli Reports of Friendly Fire on October 7 appeared first on FAIR.

Government Gag Rules Keep Vital Info From the Public

FAIR - February 23, 2024 - 3:49pm

 

Reporting on the government institution charged with saving us from the Covid pandemic was restricted enough to leave real holes in what we knew.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—like many other organizations these days, public and private—prohibits its employees from speaking freely to reporters. At many entities, the rules mean staff members cannot have any unauthorized contact with reporters, with media inquiries often redirected to a public information office (PIO).

The forced notification of the higher-ups is quite enough to silence many employees about anything that would displease the bosses. But beyond that, reporters’ requests to speak to someone are often not granted at all.

Unreported gaps in defenses

Washington Post (7/4/20)

Why are those controls not an outrage? Certainly, some CDC shortcomings that led to ill-controlled Covid spread could have been revealed earlier—maybe well before the pandemic—if people were talking to reporters normally. That would include confidential conversations, if that were the agreement between staff member and reporter.

The Covid Crisis Group, in its investigative report last year, pointed out (among many other shortcomings) that neither the CDC nor anyone in government had a well-developed design for screening people at international air gateways. Nor had  CDC or any other agency  “tried to build a rapid-action, interdisciplinary, systematic biomedical surveillance network.” In July 2020, months after the agency’s mistakes with the Covid test hampered the early response, the Washington Post (7/4/20) revealed CDC had made the same mistakes with the Zika virus test four years before.

One could look at each such gap in the nation’s pandemic defenses and think: “There were agency staff who understood the problem—possibly couldn’t sleep at night because of it—and they were banned from speaking freely about it to reporters.”

Quite possibly either a general-interest outlet or a specialized trade newsletter would have been tipped off, if they had  normal contact with such people.

Gradually, over several decades, with almost no public discussion, these gag rules have come to many corners of  society, including public and private entities, businesses, federal, state and local governments, organizations covered by science reporters, schools of all levels, and police departments. The censorship mechanism is taught in at least some communications classes.

Journalists’ responsibility to fight such restrictions, not just get stories, is indicated by regular reports about bad situations that might have been changed earlier: information on generic drug production problems that took author Katherine Eban 10 years to pull out of the system; plans by the Trump administration to separate children from parents; young CDC scientists who knew in early 2020 that Covid could be spread by people who did not seem ill; or the many law enforcement organizations all over the country that stifle reporting on themselves.

Blockages politically driven

Quill (9/22/22)

Former CDC media relations head Glen Nowak (Quill, 9/22/22) has said the agency’s controls grew tighter with each presidential administration, beginning with President Ronald Reagan. Each new administration looked back at what the previous one had done, and saw there had been no adverse political impact from tightening the restrictions. Nowak said the blockages were often politically driven, and frequently effective in controlling information.

When a reporter contacts the PIO for permission to talk to someone at the CDC, the request is sent up through the political layers of government, at least to the Department of Health and Human Services secretary of public affairs, and often all the way to the White House. Behind closed doors, officials decide who may speak to whom, and what may be discussed.

Nowak said:

Administrations, typically, their priority is trying to remain elected. And they’re often looking at policies through: how will this help or not help when it comes to running for election…. A serious health threat can be underplayed or ignored if it doesn’t align with political ideology of the party in power, or a party is trying to get power.

For over 15 years, a number of journalism organizations have been fighting these controls. Letters signed by 25 to 60 organizations have gone to the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations, as well as to Congress, calling for an end to the constraints in federal entities.

News outlets have researched or editorialized against the practice. Last year, the Lexington Courier Journal (6/15/23) found that of 35 Kentucky agencies, 70% restrict or prohibit employees from talking to journalists. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette editorial board (9/4/23) said that “governments and other agencies have tightly constricted access to the people who actually make the decisions and know, first-hand, key information.”

Testing the restrictions

There’s been another important step in the last few months. Two journalists filed separate suits against public agencies for having these policies. Some people, including attorneys, have said in the past that journalists could not sue agencies in such instances.  A plaintiff, they said, would have to be an insider, a “willing speaker.”

However, Brittany Hailer, director of the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, sued the Allegheny County Jail last August for allegedly prohibiting employees and contractors from speaking to journalists without prior approval of the warden. Her complaint says that the jail, which houses on average 1,553 people, has had a death rate “reportedly nearly twice the national average among local jails of similar size.”

Hailer is represented by the Yale Law School Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

In addition, the publishers of the Catskills, NY–based Reporter sued the Delaware County (New York) Board of Supervisors. The board had pulled the county’s legal advertising from the paper, allegedly in retaliation for news coverage the board didn’t like, and then prohibited county employees from speaking to the paper about “pressing matters of public concern.” The board mandated, the complaint said, that all communications with the Reporter be funneled through the county attorney’s office.

The Reporter’s publishers are represented by the Cornell Law School First Amendment Clinic and Michael J. Grygiel.

Both cases are currently pending before the courts.

Foundational thinking for the cases was provided by a 2019 report by prominent First Amendment attorney Frank LoMonte, who was then head of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, and is now counsel at CNN. In a summary report, LoMonte said of the constraints:

Media plaintiffs should be able to establish that their interests have been injured, whether directly or indirectly, to sustain a First Amendment challenge to government restraints on employees’ speech to the media. The only question is whether the restraint will be treated as a presumptively unconstitutional prior restraint, or whether a less rigorous level of scrutiny will apply.

Is this authoritarianism?

Is this trend a kind of authoritarianism that is growing out of our public relations culture?

Many types of media—national, local or specialized—publish, with little or no skepticism, information handed out from government agencies. Nor do journalists warn audiences that the staff members who know other parts of the story are walled off from reporters.

Why does the press assume that any human organization will maintain competence or integrity when it is blocking or manipulating information about itself?

Even as climate disruption poses an ever-greater threat, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy have these don’t-talk policies, as do most federal agencies.

Last year, the Department of Commerce, with its prominent role in regulating artificial intelligence, put out a policy saying that requests for official press interviews should go through the public affairs officials, and further

should be submitted by email with details to include story angle, background, requested attribution, Q&A, suggested talking points and reporter’s deadline. Please do not agree to attribution terms prior to OPA [Office of Public Affairs] clearance. If possible, please allow a 24-hour turnaround for print interviews. Please allow a 48-hour turnaround for television interviews, due to the extended White House clearance process.

But, again, even with the hazards inherent in such restraints on journalism, the press doesn’t often tell the public about the controls.

At the local level, stories emerge about abuses by law enforcement, like the murder of George Floyd and systemic abuse by sheriffs’ departments. Still, most of the press doesn’t explain that many police departments impose rules that can hide such violations.

The gag rules, or “censorship by PIO,” have become a cultural norm, and millions of people in the United States are now banned from speaking, or speaking freely, to journalists. Even though free speech is necessary for democracy and public welfare, journalists have in large part acquiesced to making routine, permission-to-speak requests through PIOs or others.

A right to control the message?

Police1 (7/27/20)

I’ve heard reporters from prominent outlets gripe about the process, and the time it takes to be allowed to talk to someone. But there seems to be no recognition that the public needs to know when none of the thousands of people in an agency are allowed to speak to journalists without that oversight, and most can’t speak to them at all. Nor is there discussion that someone in the agency, in a high or low position, could blow the journalists’ story out of the water, even after publication, or blow their minds about something they are oblivious to.

This may have originated with the long-held journalism convention that news outlets do not complain to the public about the trials they go through when people in power try to block their newsgathering. We may fear that if we admit we’ve been blocked, we discredit our news product.

On the other side, some public relations people or agency leaders try to rebut the idea they are censors, saying they are trying to help the press, or increase transparency, or they want to coordinate the story from different parts of their organization. That, of course, doesn’t address the fact they could serve these functions without banning all unfettered contacts.

Other PR officials are quite straightforward about why employees are silenced: People leading an organization, they say, have a right to set the message.

There is no doubt that agencies and offices have real challenges in this communications era. Carefully crafted, honest messages can be blown apart by careless statements. Employees can be ill-informed, or they can be promoting their own agenda. Statements can come across as coming from the organization itself when they are not—due to what the staffer says, what the news outlet says or how the audience interprets it. Journalists are often time-pressured, and can be sensation-seeking or less than careful.

Those are serious problems that can cause real harm. They need to be continuously addressed by both agencies and journalists, with both sides listening carefully to the other. However, they are not a reason to degrade ourselves to what is one of the most repressive and deadly things in history: people in power controlling information.

There is no reason news outlets can’t fight this. If they stand together, they can fight against these policies, and work to ensure the press and others have normal access to staff. They can work within their associations or build coalitions. They can agree to tell the public routinely when employees are gagged, treating the situation like the corruption it is.

The press has led similar fights for decades, pushing for access to documents with freedom of information laws, and access to official meetings under the open meetings laws. Fighting for normal communication with human beings should not be different.

Why is the press doing this?

Popular Resistance (2/5/24)

Jay Rosen, journalism professor at New York University, says (Popular Resistance, 2/5/24): “The news system is not designed for human understanding. Even at the top providers, it’s designed to produce a flow of new content today—and every day.”

Media, at their best, do seriously excellent content. In this era of information tsunamis, a lot of stuff is still pushed at the press. There are also masses of information in the public arena that just take work to pull together. By reading the Federal Register or other public documents, a reporter can find something intriguing that’s getting little attention.  And reporters also get material that isn’t public.

The unfortunate side of all this legitimate supply is that it keeps outlets from worrying too much about how people in power are manipulating us away from overall understanding, and from some of the most critical information.

Journalists often respond to questions about these censorship systems with something like, “Good reporters get the story anyway.” It’s possible that we can use our skills to dig out stories that audiences are interested in, and hopefully our news outlet survives. That doesn’t mean that we are doing good enough coverage of the institutions that impact the public—not with nearly everyone in the organization silenced.

The newsgathering controls began to grow well before today’s alarming decline in numbers of journalists and news outlets, or the emergence of other threats to democracy. One can imagine that vicious cycles among those factors will worsen as journalists grow even more dependent “on inexpensive official sources as the credible news source,” as press critic Victor Pickard (Editor & Publisher, 11/15/21) has called them.

It’s up to journalists to fight for the right to talk to people with vital information normally, fluidly, without authorities’ involvement.

Featured image: Creative Commons photo by .

 

 

The post Government Gag Rules Keep Vital Info From the Public appeared first on FAIR.

Gregory Shupak and Trita Parsi on Gaza Assault

FAIR - February 23, 2024 - 11:02am
https://media.blubrry.com/counterspin/content.blubrry.com/counterspin/CounterSpin240223.mp3

 

Reuters (2/20/24)

This week on CounterSpin: International human rights lawyer Craig Mokhiber told Electronic Intifada recently that the International Court of Justice hearings on the legality of Israel’s 56-year occupation of Palestinian land are

the largest case in history—more than 50 countries are taking part in this, and the US is virtually alone…in defending the legality of Israel’s occupation. Most states are affirming its illegality and cataloging Israeli war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other gross violations of international law.

Every day the US falls more out of step with the world in its support for Israel’s violent assault on Gaza. As Mokhiber said, US vetoes of ceasefires in the UN Security Council, after which thousands more were killed, mean the US is directly responsible for those deaths: “Complicity is a crime.” Many in the US press seem divorced from the idea of US responsibility, and somehow we’re seeing more of the opinions of random TV actors than of groups on the ground in Palestine, and international human rights and legal bodies.

We get some update on this unfolding nightmare from author and activist Gregory Shupak, from the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto, and from Trita Parsi, co-founder and executive vice president at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

https://media.blubrry.com/counterspin/content.blubrry.com/counterspin/CounterSpin240223Shupak.mp3

 

https://media.blubrry.com/counterspin/content.blubrry.com/counterspin/CounterSpin240223Parsi.mp3

 

The post Gregory Shupak and Trita Parsi on Gaza Assault appeared first on FAIR.

‘Disenfranchised, Under-Resourced Populations Are Burdened With Enforcing Major Federal Regulation’ 

FAIR - February 22, 2024 - 3:53pm

 

Janine Jackson interviewed Ariel Adelman about disability and civil rights for the February 16, 2024, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

https://media.blubrry.com/counterspin/content.blubrry.com/counterspin/CounterSpin240216Adelman.mp3

 

Janine Jackson: In 2000, when the Americans with Disabilities Act was already 10 years old, actor Clint Eastwood was accused of running a California hotel with inadequately accessible rooms, bathrooms and parking lot. “It’s just not fair,” the millionaire complained, and his beleaguered stance found echo in the press, with the likes of ABC‘s John Stossel wondering, if people with disabilities want access to a business or an accommodation that bars them, why don’t they “just ask”? Presumably, the answer could be no, but wouldn’t that be “the decent thing to do,” rather than bringing a lawsuit, which, as Eastwood quipped, means lawyers “drive off in a big Mercedes and the disabled end up riding off in a wheelchair.”

ABC‘s Stossel, in a segment called “Give Me a Break,” introduced by Barbara Walters, called legal efforts to enforce the ADA a “shakedown racket.” The presentation recasts human rights, never mind compliance with a decades-old law, as fundamentally corporate noblesse oblige.

Unfortunately, that still inflects media coverage, and forms part of the backdrop of a current legal case, Acheson Hotels v. Laufer. Our guest will bring us up to date on what’s happening and what it means.

CEPR (1/31/24)

Ariel Adelman is a disability rights advocate and policy analyst. Her piece with Hayley Brown on Acheson v. Laufer appears at CEPR.net. She joins us now by phone. Welcome to CounterSpin, Ariel Adelman.

Ariel Adelman: Hi, good to be here.

JJ: Most recently, in December, the Supreme Court declined to hear Acheson, and that’s significant, but it doesn’t mean the core of the case has been fully addressed. I’m quite sure that many listeners have never heard of this case, so if you could talk us through, what are the facts in Acheson v. Laufer, and what’s at stake?

AA: I’ll give a brief overview of the background of the case. Laufer is a disabled woman with multiple sclerosis who acts as a civil rights tester, specifically for the ADA. Testers are people who basically check to see if people are in compliance with a certain civil rights law. There are individual testers, and testers who volunteer or work for legal organizations.

And so Laufer began testing hotel websites for their compliance with the reservation rule, after a personal experience with a hotel that violated the ADA’s reservation rule. The incident forced her to sleep in her car, when she arrived at the hotel only to find that the room was inaccessible to her.

And something important to note is that it’s completely free for businesses to comply with the reservation rule, which is part of title three of the ADA. All it means is they have to add accessibility information about their rooms and other facilities, even if they’re inaccessible. The hotel just needs to say the room is or isn’t wheelchair accessible, or does or doesn’t have visual fire alarms, for example.

So Laufer was acting as a tester when she sued Acheson Hotels for failing to comply with the reservation rule. And after the Supreme Court heard the case on October 4, they dismissed the case on mootness, because Laufer withdrew her claim in fear that the decision would upend “test your rights” as a whole.

And it’s important also to know that lawsuits filed by individuals are currently the primary enforcement mechanism for the ADA, which is already generally underenforced. The DoJ is technically in charge of enforcing the ADA, aside from individual lawsuits. The DoJ can sue ADA violators, or they can attempt mediation, which only comprises a tiny percentage of cases.

And the DoJ really doesn’t have sufficient incentive, really, to pursue ADA violations in court, even when they’re egregious. And so civil rights testers for the ADA, for the Civil Rights Act, for the Fair Housing Act, for any civil rights legislation, they’re really needed.

And, unfortunately, that also means that individual suits are an unfair burden, especially when it’s on people who are being actively discriminated against. And testers fill that gap, so that people with very few means—which is important to note, that disabled people are generally living in forced poverty; they don’t have the means, the time or the health, really, to bring a lawsuit to sue every single person that violates the ADA. If we were doing that, every disabled person would just constantly be in court, suing people. So testers are really needed to fill that gap.

JJ:The objection to testers has been about standing, right?

AA: Yes. So the big issue at the center of this case is standing, and standing is basically whether or not you have the right to sue. And the case that sets up important precedent for Acheson v. Laufer is Havens Realty Corp v. Coleman, which was a 1982 Supreme Court case that established standing to sue for civil rights testers, regardless of whether they expected to be discriminated against, and, importantly, regardless of their intent to, for example, in that case, buy or rent a home.

So Havens established, it doesn’t matter if you do truly intend to use that good or service. If you’re discriminated against, that constitutes a real injury. And that includes dignitary injury. There’s a bunch of legalese we could go into, that the article covers, but basically you need to know, Havens is already established. You don’t need to actually truly intend.

Unfortunately, the court’s opinion in Acheson, and Acheson’s lawyer’s argument hinged, in part, on the idea that Laufer supposedly had no intent to stay at the inn owned by Acheson Hotels. And the court’s opinion and Justice Thomas’ concurrence repeatedly referred to Laufer, and to civil rights testers in general, as “serial filers,” which, to me, showed pretty open disdain for civil rights testing, despite testers having standing enshrined by Havens for over four decades at this point.

JJ: In case anyone is missing it, the idea is, if you are a person with a disability, you need to wait until you are actively suffering harm, and then you can have standing to sue. And we can’t do proactive compliance testing, with testers who go in to see whether, in fact, these accommodations or venues or whatever are compliant. The idea is, well, “You were just pretending you were going to stay at this hotel, and therefore you don’t have standing to sue that the hotel or whatever is inaccessible.”

AA: That’s kind of the status quo that the conservative elements of the court are gunning for, and business interests in general are hoping for, because they don’t want to have to comply with civil rights law, even if it’s completely free to comply with it.

JJ: And the idea, I think, for the general public is, well, we have the ADA, so something has already happened to make all businesses aware that they need to be compliant, and so why do lawyers need to get involved? But the truth is, the ADA doesn’t have a lot of aggressive enforcement attached to it. So there’s a real critical role for these testers.

AA: Exactly. And the point that my co-author Hayley Brown and I make in our report is that, one, testers fill a really important gap in enforcement. And two, if people are really taking issue with the concept of civil rights testers, that means that we would need to have really aggressive, as you said, proactive enforcement on the part of the government to enforce these civil rights laws, because people right now are just getting away with completely flouting civil rights laws with no consequences.

JJ: What do you think are the implications if Acheson v. Laufer goes the wrong way? I mean, what should folks understand? I’m happy to center the ADA and disabled people at this point, but it does actually have huge implications if we decide that civil rights testers don’t have standing to bring lawsuits.

Ariel Adelman: “How would we go about suing every single time we have our rights violated, when that happens every single day?”

AA: So this case was dismissed on mootness, but if you read the opinion of the court and the concurrence by Justice Clarence Thomas, they make it extremely clear that if this were not dismissed on mootness, they would have ruled in favor of Acheson, which would effectively upend and eviscerate civil rights testing.

And that has really dire consequences for enforcing and maintaining civil rights in general, because that means that overwhelmingly disenfranchised, impoverished, really under-resourced populations are now being burdened with the task of enforcing major federal legislation. And, again, these communities are extremely under-resourced. How would we go about suing every single time we have our rights violated, when that happens every single day?

And the businesses we’re going up against often have these monstrous legal teams that could take down anyone in court. And, of course, with a court that doesn’t want to side with disabled people, it’s really just bad news for civil rights in general in the United States.

JJ: CounterSpin listeners in particular might remember the case Food Lion, in which reporters in 1992, reporters from ABC‘s Primetime Live, went undercover to investigate claims of unsanitary food handling at Food Lion, the supermarket chain. And they found it: old meat being redated and put out again, out-of-date chicken getting soaked in barbecue sauce and then moved to the gourmet section.

But then Food Lion sued ABC, not so much on the accuracy of the story, but that the reporters misrepresented themselves fraudulently by applying for jobs, and then since they were there fraudulently, they were trespassing. And Food Lion won; they won $5.5 million in 1997.

And this chilled investigative reporting as inherently deceptive, for getting stories that they couldn’t get otherwise, and revealing things that were true and in the public interest. And I tie that here because Acheson seems to have implications also for journalism, at least in the way that it touches on the public’s right to know, and the right to know things that folks don’t want to show us.

AA: Interestingly, the opinion talks about the right to information—or I should say, I think it was actually Justice Thomas’ concurrence that talks about whether or not people have a right to information under the reservation rule. And he argues that it doesn’t, even though, at least in my view, in plain text, and according to a lot of disability rights scholars, it does give you the right to information.

And when business interests, or even government entities, are allowed to cloak themselves in uncertainty, even when people affected by their civil rights violations or health code violations, violations of any kind of protection, even if people know for a fact that they’re violating these laws, there’s really no way to bring that to light until you’re actually harmed. And that could harm people, it can kill people.

Extra! (3–4/08)

In the case of that supermarket, if we had to wait for multiple people to die, there’s a death toll to not being able to uncover health code violations. In the case of the ADA, Laufer had to sleep in her car. And who knows if someone has died because they slept in their car, because they didn’t have adequate shelter? What if there was a snowstorm?

And that’s just with inadequate access to information. There’s, of course, issues of literal physical access to buildings. But I think people really undercount the importance of access to information, because if you don’t have proper information, you can’t make the proper decisions to keep yourself safe.

And that’s actually an issue of equal dignity. I wanted to quote from the ACLU amicus brief for Laufer, where they said, “Guaranteeing equal dignity was an animating purpose of the statute’s”—the Civil Rights Act of 1964, its “other antidiscrimination protections.”

And I think that’s really important to keep in mind, is that equal dignity is at the center of basically every civil rights statute. And if we can’t guarantee equal access to information, which is part of the issue in Acheson v. Laufer, then you don’t have equal dignity. And that is not only legally wrong, as it constitutes a dignitary injury, but it’s also morally wrong, if we want to treat disabled people, or anyone part of a marginalized group, as an equal person in society.

JJ: And that equal dignity runs right up against where we started: “Well, why don’t they just ask? Why don’t they just come, hat in hand, and say, ‘Hey, I’d really like to get into your restaurant.’ And then maybe we would say, ‘OK, you could come around the back and we can let you in this other entrance.’” Dignity is often missing from that whole conversation about what businesses are required to do, as if we aren’t talking about human beings.

AA: It’s so bizarre to me. I mean, it’s not bizarre, because I expect it, because ableism is so entrenched in our society. But if you asked someone, “Oh, do you think it would be OK if instead of having robust health code enforcement, if we should just ask if people in restaurants could wash their hands before cooking our food?” Or if small businesses dodge state taxes for 10 years, nobody would go, “Oh, well, they didn’t know any better, and nobody asked them for those taxes. It’s really not their fault.” We only really treat it like this when it comes to civil rights, and it’s not OK.

And a lot of that, I think, is because our society places a really high premium on productivity, and sees disabled people—and, by extension, other marginalized people, whether racially, in terms of gender, religion—they see us as a drain, rather than as a vital part of the population. And as I want to point out to people, disabled people comprise at least a quarter of the population, and that’s rising, because of the ongoing pandemic, which many people have called a mass disabling event.

So we comprise a very large part of society, but people see us as a drain, or they think that our rights shouldn’t really be real, because we’re perceived as not being productive or contributing to society.

Extra! (11–12/00)

JJ: And, finally, the way that folks are seen has not everything, but a lot to do with news media. And back in 2000, many years ago, I wrote about major news outlets presenting the ADA as mainly a regulatory issue affecting private businesses, rather than a human rights issue facing society as a whole.

And my beef, among many others, at the time, as now, was that we saw stories about “It goes too far.” “The ADA goes too far, it’s too expensive and it harms and it’s well-intentioned, but it actually harms.” And that those stories were not sufficiently countered by stories saying, “Well, what if it doesn’t go far enough?” And then, instead, you get the hardy perennial of, “We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go.”

It’s not unique, but I feel like there is something special about the way the rights of disabled people, a community that anyone can join at any minute, are somehow never urgent. They’re never front-page news, somehow, there’s never urgency attached to it. And I just wonder, finally, what you think about media coverage, and what you would like to see more of, what you’d like to see less of, in terms of news media?

Vox (9/25/23)

AA: As you said, it’s never seen as urgent or important, despite it being the only marginalized group that you could join at any point. I think that most coverage is really unnuanced, and tends to be overly sympathetic to business interests.

There’s one reporter that I think has had good coverage of this case specifically, which is Ian Millhiser over at Vox. I think his articles are excellent.

With everyone else, there’s headlines like the “Supreme Court Dodges This Ruling,” or “This Woman Sued Over 600 Hotels,” but they never have any headlines that are anything like ”Tourism Industry Tends to Fail to Comply With the ADA,” or “This Hotel Owner and Former Anthropology Professor Repeatedly Flouts Civil Rights Laws.”

And, again, if it were any other major regulatory issue, nobody would really question it, except for maybe small sections of society. But most people think, yeah, we should probably have people regularly checking up to make sure the building doesn’t fall down on us because it’s not up to code, or that we can escape in a fire, or that people are washing their hands before they cook, or give us vaccinations.

And like you said, it’s treated as not urgent. And I think, in part, it’s because disabled people are not just seen as a drain, but we’re seen as somehow cunning, or kind of getting one over on the system. And we’ve seen this kind of backlash before: After the 1918 influenza, postviral disability skyrocketed, and so did the popularity of eugenics and fascism. And so we’ve had reactionaries going after disability rights the exact same way they’re going after immigration, abortion rights, racial equality, labor protections.

CEPR (10/12/22)

And a huge problem is that people across the political spectrum, especially white people, are hostile to the idea that disabled people should have rights at all. And that really is reflected in media, and then it’s reflected back on the population, and then artistic media reflects that back, and then journalism. It’s like a cycle that perpetuates this idea that disabled people are a drain, and their rights are somehow a zero-sum game, that they’re stealing rights from other people.

I did want to add in that there’s really important work being done on these issues, and that if people want to continue to educate themselves, and to follow ongoing disability rights issues, look at my co-author Hayley Brown’s ongoing work on disability and labor, her co-authored piece, “The Long Reach of Long Covid.” And CEPR also has an updated chart book coming on disability and economic justice.

So keep looking at those. There’s really mind-boggling stats that you’ll find that CEPR digs up. Their work is incredible, and I think everyone should look at disability as a cornerstone of civil rights as we are fighting against right-wing reactionaries.

JJ: All right then. We’ve been speaking with Ariel Adelman; the piece “Disability Justice and Civil Rights: The Fight Isn’t Over After Acheson v. Laufer can be found at CEPR.net. Ariel Adelman, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

AA: Thank you.

 

The post ‘Disenfranchised, Under-Resourced Populations Are Burdened With Enforcing Major Federal Regulation’  appeared first on FAIR.

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