This week on CounterSpin: For many US citizens the Fourth of July is really just a chance to barbecue with friends and family. But for US media, it’s also a chance to say or imply that there really is something to celebrate about the unique place of the United States in the world, the special democratic project that this country is supposedly engaged in.
And that’s where the message gets complicated. Because while media give air time and column inches to where you can find the best holiday sales and celebrations, fewer will use the occasion to direct attention to the danger that the democratic project is facing, the energetic efforts to silence the voices of anyone who has something critical to say about this country, its practices and policies, or its history.
Celebrate, don’t interrogate—is the takeaway from a press corps that wants to tell you how to protect your dog from fireworks, but not how to protect yourself and your society from well-funded, well-entrenched campaigns to stop people from voting or speaking or going into the street to protest things that are wrong. We’ll talk about that with Vera Eidelman, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.
Also on the show: As the West Coast deals with a historic heatwave and drought, some city officials are banning fireworks to help prevent wildfires. If that’s some folks’ first indication that climate disruption will actually disrupt their lives, well, media need to take some of the blame.
A recent Washington Post piece on the unprecedented, punishing heat in the Pacific Northwest stressed how readers would be wrong to be shocked: Everybody saw this coming; there have been “40 years of warnings.” It had a breaker reading “Chickens Coming Home to Roost,” it used the phrase “human-caused.”… It’s just that the words “fossil fuels” appear nowhere.
So climate disruption is a horrible thing that’s happening, and we’re all to blame for not acknowledging it…but who is to blame for doing it? Well, that’s unclear. Just know that you should be worried and upset.
A CBS News piece did say: “This is only the beginning of the heating expected if humanity continues burning fossil fuels.” And it ended with Michael Mann calling for “rapidly decarboniz[ing] our civilization.” And that stripe of coverage is fine as far as it goes. But how far does it go? Where is the reporting that frankly identifies fossil fuels as the problem (rather than how long a shower I take), and incorporates that knowledge into all of the coverage—of Enbridge 3 and other pipelines, of extreme weather events, of how, as CNBC had it recently, “It’s not too late to buy oil and gas stocks.” Why won’t media move past narrating the nightmare of climate disruption, to using their powerful platforms to actually address it?
We’ll talk about that with Vivek Shandas; he focuses on the particular implications of climate change on cities, and on different people within cities, as a professor at Portland State University.
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This content originally appeared on FAIR and was authored by Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting.