By Reid Mukai, CAGJ Co-chair
Since April 15, news about the Boston Marathon bombing and the two alleged suspects have dominated corporate-stream media. Despite the heavy coverage, the quality of the information reported was often lacking even by corporate news standards. Seemingly in competition with Twitter, Reddit, and other social media while in a desperate bid to fill airtime, cable news channels recklessly circulated unsubstantiated rumor and speculation, repetitive factoids, and emotionally manipulative human interest stories instead of actual investigation into exactly what happened and why (meaning not merely repeating dubious allegations from unidentified authorities). Since the suspicious death of one alleged suspect on 4/18 and arrest of the other on 4/19, changing narratives and conflicting facts being reported by corporate media have only worsened. But there’s at least a few clear trends the incident and its aftermath have confirmed. Cross-checking information between social media, local community and foreign news organizations and independent news sites provides far more accurate and timely information about major stories than one will find anywhere on corporate network and cable television. The corporate-security state won’t hesitate to exploit tragedies and disasters to further their agenda, including the militarization of police and public policy with an accelerated roll-out of domestic drones and other surveillance measures. Also, such events, as tragic and disturbing as they might be, distract from other potentially more important current events.
Just two days after the Boston Marathon bombing, a devastating blast at a West, Texas fertilizer plant killed 15 people, injured more than 200 others and damaged or destroyed more than 150 surrounding buildings. Federal investigators still haven’t determined the cause of the explosion, but it has since come to light that the plant’s last Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection was in 1985. The most recent regulation legislation bill introduced by Congress earlier this year was endorsed by the Fertilizer Institute and actually reduced the EPA’s regulatory authority over fertilizer plants. According to an article from Reason.com, in the decade between September 12, 2001 and September 2011, 30 Americans were killed in terrorist attacks. According to an OSHA report, between 2001 and 2011 there were 59,167 reported work related deaths in the U.S.
On April 23, a forum was held at the University of Washington’s Seattle campus called “End Death Trap Factories” sponsored by the Washington Fair Trade Coalition, United Students Against Sweatshops, Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, OUR Walmart, and UFCW Local 21. One of the speakers was Kalpona Akter, a former child garment worker and executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, a group which played a vital role in documenting labor violations in the apparel industry in Bangladesh (which has 3.6 million garment workers, most of whom are women). Kalpona was interviewed extensively following the horrific fire at Tazreen Fashions in November 2012 which killed 112 people. Also speaking was Sumi Abedin, a garment worker and survivor of the Tazreen fire. Sponsors of the forum held a special ceremony the following day to commemorate Worker Memorial Day (officially recognized on April 28) in honor of the thousands of workers killed and millions more injured because of their jobs each year.
On the same day, April 24, a massive eight story garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh due to substandard construction and lack of oversight. As of April 28, 377 people have been reported killed, over a thousand injured and at least 900 remain unaccounted for, making it the country’s worst tragedy related to the global garment industry. As searches continued for the missing, public outrage led to violent protests around the site of the collapse. Two engineers and two owners of the building have been arrested so far, but nothing has been done to overhaul the dysfunctional systems at the root of such tragedies. In an interview with Russia Today, Trades Journal publisher Gerald Celente stated: “It’s an international trend that we see growing more and more as profits are put before people. People are more expendable. So it’s just a lot of talk that you hear from these companies in the West, for example, that say they watch the standards going on in the sweat factories around the world. They’re just show. There’s really no security, really no hard institutions in place that are monitoring these kind of factories.”
The Boston Marathon bombing and recent large-scale industrial disasters caused by corporate greed are both newsworthy topics, but coverage from corporate news media is obviously not proportionate to the scale of the events in terms of lives directly affected, public safety, and systemic problems they’re indicative of. What the focus and priorities of corporate-stream news can tell us is whose agenda they serve and whose interests they promote and protect, namely the upper levels of U.S. government and multinational corporations. It’s to their advantage to keep citizens in a state of fear and ignorance so countless taxpayer dollars can more easily be diverted from social services towards police, the pentagon, intelligence agencies, government contractors and private central banks. Such policies are pushed through in the name of “homeland security” and “defense” but have a tacit effect of consolidating power and weakening any opposition. Now more than ever we need to overcome fear and raise awareness of the neoliberal global capitalist agenda at the root of world’s worst problems and do our best to challenge it, whether that means to question, resist, subvert, network, mobilize, etc. in ways as myriad and unique as every individual.