Censored in 2005, Part II

Media Rants

By Tony Palmeri

from the February, 2006 issue of The Valley Scene

Last month I identified half of the top 10 stories censored by mainstream northeast Wisconsin media in 2005. They were: (10) KFC Cruelty Protests, (9) The Citgo BUY-cott, (8) The Case for Maintaining County Supported Nursing Homes in Wisconsin, (7) Kaufert and Foti, and (6) The Single Sales Scam. To escape the censoring tendencies of the corporate press, check out these independent local websites: tonypalmeri.com, babblemur.com, oshkoshnews.org, eyeonoshkosh.com, foxxriverwatch.com, and the ABV Army Times at www.geocities.com/abvtimes/newsa.

And now the top 5 censored stories of 2005. Drum roll, please.

No. 5: Serving the Have-Mores: The Development Finance Board. Did you know that Wisconsin has an unelected “Development Finance Board” empowered to dole out millions of taxpayer dollars to corporations in grants, loans, and credits with no public hearings? Did you know the public has no say in how the money will be used? I didn't either, until I read about it in an online report produced by the nonpartisan watchdog Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (www.wisdc.org).

WDC’s 2005 “Serving the Have Mores” report studied 10 projects, worth $28.5 million in low interest loans, grants, and tax credits. They found that awards went to nationally known corporations and corporate farms, and that half the projects “violated program guidelines because they were not located in an economically distressed area, or where unemployment and poverty rates were higher than the statewide average.” Businesses in well-heeled Menomonee Falls and Mequon received over $12 million in aid. Why? Could it be because campaign contributions from those areas to the governors and key legislators totaled almost $2 million since 1993?


No. 4: Hidden in Plain Sight: Legislative Logrolling. Last June Wisconsin’s minimum wage went up to $5.70, the first increase in 8 years. Next June it rises to $6.50. To secure these increases, Democratic Governor Doyle agreed to Republican demands to sign legislation preventing any municipality from raising its minimum wage above the state level. City of Madison alderman Austin King rightly charged that Doyle and the Republicans engaged in legislative logrolling, a “quid-pro-quo” vote-trading arrangement that is a Class I felony under Wisconsin law.

King asked Attorney General Lautenschlager to prosecute Doyle and the Republican leadership, a request covered by the media and rejected by the AG. Yet no media took the logrolling charge seriously to the point of exposing the extent to which it has become the norm in the sick culture of Madison politics. A lapdog media has made the capital crooks so brazen that illegal logrolling is now hidden in plain sight. Worse, community discussions of living wages have now become almost mute because the governor and legislature were allowed to shamefully take away our right to control of a key element of the local economy.

Austin King

No. 3: The Pope on Media. When Pope John Paul II passed away last April, mainstream media tripped over themselves to praise the late pontiff’s utility to the West during the Cold War. Missing was any awareness of John Paul II’s views on media, views which if taken seriously would force a realization that he understood the destructive power of the press. Here’s a sample:

Pope John Paul II visited his almost assassin Mehmet Ali-Acga in prison

"Accurate knowledge promotes understanding, dispels prejudice, and awakens the desire to learn more. Images especially have the power to convey lasting impressions and to shape attitudes. They teach people how to regard members of other groups and nations, subtly influencing whether they are considered as friends or enemies, allies or potential adversaries . . . When others are portrayed in hostile terms, seeds of conflict are sown which can all too easily escalate into violence, war, or even genocide. Instead of building unity and understanding, the media can be used to demonize other social, ethnic and religious groups, fomenting fear and hatred. Those responsible for the style and content of what is communicated have a grave duty to ensure that this does not happen. Indeed, the media have enormous potential for promoting peace and building bridges between peoples, breaking the fatal cycle of violence, reprisal, and fresh violence that is so widespread today "

I must however give the Appleton Post-Crescent kudos for this statement from an April editorial: “It is more embarrassing than gratifying that U.S. Reps. Mark Green, R-Green Bay, and Dave Obey, D-Wausau, were part of the 40-member congressional junket to Pope John Paul II’s funeral in Rome last week at taxpayer expense.”

No. 2: The Long Emergency. Author Jim Kunstler’s best selling 2005 book The Long Emergency deals with the "global oil-production peak.” If Kunstler and other peak oil crisis authors are correct, we are soon headed for a period of great instability and trauma that will dramatically change our way of life. Doesn't this very real possibility deserve sustained journalistic treatment in all major media?

No. 1: The Cost of the Iraq War. As I write this in late January, congressional appropriations toward Iraq have topped $235 billion. Local media have done a miserable job of identifying the local cost. The National Priorities Project estimates that the war has cost cities of Oshkosh, Appleton, and Green Bay a combined total of $167 million. How much more blood and money will it take before mainstream media lead the effort to get us out of Iraq with the same gusto exerted to get us in?

Tony Palmeri (www.tonypalmeri.com) is an associate professor of communication at UW Oshkosh