Reports in Review

The Public Eye Magazine - Winter 2006

Report of the Month

What Liberal Media Bias?

Study Finds First Drop in Think Tank Cites
by Michael Dolny, Extra
May/June 2006.

Claims by conservatives of a liberal bias in the media are totally unfounded, if you judge only by which "experts" are interviewed. This was the tactic taken by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) in its annual survey.

Of the "expert" sources appearing in the major newspapers, TV and radio transcripts archived in the Nexis database in 2005, 40 percent were affiliated with conservative or center-right groups, 47 percent were to centrist groups and 13 percent were to center-left or progressive groups.

Think tanks are the main source of "expert" opinion for news sources. The centrist Brookings Institution is most cited, followed by the conservative Heritage Foundation at number two. What's more, according to FAIR, unmistakably progressive think tanks are being replaced by "left-centrist" ones. The most often quoted of these groups -- the Urban Institute -- receives "less than a third of Heritage's total and approximately one-fifth of Brookings' citations" -- a statistic that is less disturbing when you consider its more limited mandate.

FAIR also found that journalists are citing think tanks 10 percent less often than in 2004 -- the first drop since the survey began in 1996. Left-center and progressive groups saw a 23 percent decline in citations in 2005 compared to 2004, almost three times the decline in citations for right-leaning think tanks. And a few rightleaning groups are cited more than in years past: the conservative Discovery Institute -- a think tank that denies the science of evolution -- and the militaristic, Lexington Institute.

The highest ranked progressive group to make the top 20 -- the Economic Policy Institute at number 13 -- experienced a drop in citations from 1,376 in 2004 to just 730 in 2005, a 47 percent drop. Meanwhile, the conservative group with the biggest negative percent change in the top 20, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, had 1,869 citations in 2004 and only 1,331 citations in 2005, a 29 percent drop.

-- Jake Pearson

Other Reports in Review

Beyond Family Values

2006 American Values Survey
By Dr. Robert P. Jones and Dan Cox
The Center for American Values in Public Life, People for the American Way Foundation, September 2006.

This research turns everything we think we know about values voting on its head.

Given eight choices, people reported that the top political issue that would influence their vote in 2006 was the economy, followed by the Iraq War and terrorism, with only 5 percent saying abortion and gay marriage were the most important. Republicans overwhelmingly listed the Iraq War and terrorism as their top issue. A politician's integrity was the top concern of the 2,502 people surveyed. This was true across parties.

Turning to the top issue facing America, the economy still ranked first, with 85 percent choosing poverty and affordable health care. But more than 20 percent of Hispanic Protestants and Catholics joined the 27 percent of traditional evangelicals who said abortion and same sex marriage is their top issue.

In a more nuanced approach to religious orientation, the survey identified about 50% of Americans as religious centrists, whether Catholic or Protestant, about 22 percent as traditionalists and 18 percent as modernists, creating the categories by evaluating how often someone goes to church or prays, their view of God and the Bible, and their sense of how important religion is. This sidesteps the trap of other polls which identified religiosity only by how often someone goes to church each week -- a practice largely associated with evangelicals.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was that 44 percent of those "born again" said conservative evangelicals Pat Robertson and James Dobson don't speak for them well or at all. And a majority polled -- 61 percent -- support at least civil unions for gays.

-– Abby Scher

Different Kind of Front Group

by Brendan Mock, Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report
Fall 2006.

This investigative article sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center tracks the impact a tiny number of black anti-immigration advocates have on the primarily whiteorganized and white-run anti-immigration groups like the Minuteman Project and Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). "The campaign aims to convert black Americans to their cause, and simultaneously to provide groups like the Minuteman Project and…FAIR with cover against accusations of racism," writes Mock.

He focuses on Terry Anderson, a black pundit from South Central Los Angeles, who hosts a weekly radio show in which he regularly harangues against Latino -- mainly Mexican -- immigrants with blatantly racist, vitri-olic speech. Yet while Anderson is active in the anti-immigration cause -- he regularly speaks at Minuteman sponsored conferences and sits on the board for the FAIR front-group, Choose Black America (CBA) -- he is not well known beyond the anti-immigration hard-core and especially not by black people. "By his own description, most of his radio show’s nationwide listening audience is white."

While the investigation shows that a handful of truly racist, active anti-immigration African-Americans do exist, their presence is less important than the decision by organizations like FAIR to utilize them for their own cause. The 11 founding members of CBA are not necessarily of the same ilk. One member, the far-right Christian Evangelical preacher Jesse Lee Peterson, is actually despised by another member, businessman and columnist James Clingman, who told Mock that "...if he had known, he would have never shown up [for CBA's creation]."

Though mentioned, there is less focus on the actual racism of these black men (there are no women featured in the article). Instead, the focus is largely on the connections between the various anti-immigration groups and the handful of black anti-immigration activists who allow themselves to be paid as spokespeople: Anderson alone received upwards of $10,000 from FAIR founder John Tanton's U.S. Inc. to fund his radio show.

Mock does not delve into why Anderson and those like him are so actively aligning themselves with racists and organizations like FAIR or the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC). Still, it may not matter. Indeed the main finding of "Smokescreen" is that there is no black anti-immigration movement, only a few individuals promoted by the same, racist groups that have been fighting the rights of immigrants for years.

-- Jake Pearson

A Nation of Civil Libertarians?

ACLU Voter Poll: Connecticut, New Mexico, Ohio and Pennsylvania
American Civil Liberties Union
October 10, 2006. 010.html#attach

Perhaps we shouldn't get too excited by the results of a survey of 600 people about civil liberties issues, especially when the ACLU phrased the questions for election purposes. Nonetheless, the poll of registered voters in four key states found that a greater proportion say the US President shouldn't act on his own in fighting terrorism and bypass the checks and balances provided by the courts or Congress. Depending on the state, somewhere between 64 to 72 percent backed that statement versus 60 percent in February.

Seventy percent opposed "extraordinary rendition" where the government detains suspects in a different country and secretly flies them to a location where they could be tortured. Two-thirds opposed torture. Sixty percent wanted Guantanamo detainees to see all the evidence against them and bar hearsay evidence. Sixty percent objected to holding detainees without charge or access to a lawyer.

On the down side, close to half supported the government secretly listening in on calls without a warrant. Almost 30 percent thought it was okay for the government to look at someone's library records without his or her knowledge. And surprisingly large proportions say we should back the President and "give up some civil liberties to keep Americans safe." That is, 35 percent in Connecticut, 31 percent in New Mexico, 33 percent in Ohio and 30 percent in Pennsylvania. - Abby Scher

War Profiteering by Privateers

Executive Excess 2006: Defense and Oil Executives Cash In on Conflict. The 13th Annual CEO Compensation Survey.
Institute of Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy
Washington, DC and Boston, MA
August 2006, 60 pp.

With a focus on military contractors and oil company executives, this 13th edition of the compensation survey reveals that since the War on Terror began, CEOs of 34 of the top military contractors made on average double what they had before 2001.

The figures are mind-boggling. The average compensation of these "war profiteers" is $7.2 million per year, with the highest package going to United Technology's George David at $31.9 million. Military contractor CEOs make 308 times what an Army private makes, and 44 times an Army general with 20 years' experience.

Across industries, CEOs make on average 411 times an average worker's pay. The top 15 U.S. oil company executives received an average of $32.9 million each in 2005, 518 times the average worker in the oil and gas industry, with "pump profiteer" William Greehey of Valero Energy raking in $95.2 million.

Aside from statistics, represented in easily accessible charts and graphs, the added value of the report for activists includes arguments against unchecked greed and a welcome set of reasonable recommendations. Starting with talking points about why such pay disparity is wrong, (not the least of which is creating a privatized profit motive for war), they go on to recommend ways to encourage restraint and workable caps on CEO pay, curb windfall corporate profits, put in place tough anti-trust requirements and eliminate taxpayer subsidies for the oil industry.

-- Pam Chamberlain

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