Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Press, de Blasio and Class Warfare

Word to the wise: Anyone seeking public office with the hope of helping this city's left-behind is going to get bashed by the press.

Why? Well because the press belongs to the upper classes and, as one popular musician put it some time ago, "when they own information, they can bent it all they want".

Here is a case in point: Maureen Dowd -who I've never seen bother to write a single word on behalf of improving the lives of New York's nearly 50% poor- recently foiled de Blasio -a man who's integrity is impeccable-  against new LA mayor Garcetti -a man who admitted to tending bar and getting so drunk on Monday for St. Patrick's Day that he doesn't quite remember everything he did that day. And, according to Dowd, the guy who was AWOL the day of an LA Earthquake, is doing a better job.

"He has been a stark contrast to New York's new Democratic mayor, Bill de Blasio, who has been visible but abrasive(1) about one cause: funding a pre-K program by taxing the wealthy. While de Blasio came to power belittling Michael Bloomberg's tenure, Garcetti went to Manhattan before he was sworn in to seek Bloomberg's advice.
While de Blasio has been battling Gov. Andrew Cuomo on raising taxes (1) and closing charter schools, Garcetti has been quietly and amiably working with Gov. Jerry Brown on climate change and on tax inducements that would stem the exodus of film and TV companies to Louisiana and Canada.
While de Blasio is seen as a captive of unions and foe of business (3), Garcetti has pushed back against the powerful public works employees' union and reached out to business.
The hope of liberals that de Blasio would turn New York into a lab for populist government theories has faded, as that mayor's disapproval rating has more than doubled since January. (4)

This is classwareafe at it's most slick. It's the type of mentality that put JJ Walker into office during the 1920s (later resigned during a scandal) and the precise type of rhetoric that leads people in the middle classes to wage war on the poor, instead of on poverty.

Sad as it may be, Dowd is, of course, not the first to take pot shots at the only big city mayor who speaks for the poor. You're aware of how residents from the Upper East Side complained about how their streets didn't get plowed during a snowstorm. The New York Post picked up on that story and sold a million copies (for a change)!

And, on the now famous day that schools were kept open during the snowstorm, did anyone notice how the press was only interested in how the middle class (their audience) felt about schools being open?

When New York City schools stayed open that day, it did so for the benefit of the few people who needed them most. And despite doing the right thing for this city's most vulnerable the  press slayed him.

WABC's noon coverage from that day is an excellent example of the class warfare the press plays.

After the anchor, Ken Rosato,  introduced senior reporter Art McFarland, who did a live shot from the ritzy Upper West Side, the McFarland offered this lede to his story:
"Well, Ken, if anyone was looking forward to going to public schools in the city  today for a hot meal or any other reason, we-did-not-find-them"  
He then played his recorded story which featured his interview of two parents -homeowners from Astoria, Queens- about whether it was too dangerous to put their children on the bus during the storm.  He also interviewed students and parents from Astoria's IS 141 "The Steinway School" about how upset they were that the mayor hadn't closed schools. All in all, it was a very nice three-minute piece (you can see the full report for yourself here).

In Astoria's 11105 zip code, where McFarland interviewed parents, just 7.5% of residents live below the poverty level. The children of the parents he first interviewed may very well attend P.S. 234 in that neighborhood. That school has an Economic Need Index of .58 (meaning just over 1/2 of their students qualify for a free hot lunch). The Economic Need Index at "The Steinway School", Mc Farland's school visit, is even less than that: only .49.

McFarland could have, but never did, travel to another Queens neighborhood that day -one with a higher percentage of students who might have benefitted from having an open school during a snowstorm and who may well have traveled there for a 'hot meal or any other reason' during one.

He might have, for instance, visited a neighborhood in the Rockaways. Zip code 11691 is in the Rockaways. 11691 has a poverty rate of 47.3% -much higher than the Astoria neighborhood that he actually visited. He could have interviewed students from one of that neighborhood's schools, such as M.S 53 and asked them how they felt about the option (it was only an option) of going to school that day.  MS 53 has an Economic Need Index of .90.  He might also have visited the recently famous PS 106 in that same neighborhood. The Economic Need Index there is .94!! Almost every student in these schools qualify for the free hot meal that the mayor and the chancellor were talking about when they justified opening up schools during that storm.

McFarland, however, did not go to these neighborhoods. Instead, he was sent a middle class neighborhood to ask middle class parents questions.

Throughout the day, I saw reporters interview parents in front of such prestigious schools as PS 89 (Battery Park City) and PS 41 (Greenwich Village) but I never saw them travel to the Bronx or to Harlem or to Jamaica or East New York. I never got to see those parents answer questions about whether or not schools should be opened.

Why would the press stay away from showing people who would have benefitted from having an open school door during a snowstorm and, instead, going to a neighborhood with a relatively high household income and  'go live' from one of the most upscale neighborhoods in the world? Did they want to ask middle class people how they felt about schools staying open? Or did they want to ask middle class people how they felt about schools staying open for the benefit of the poor? Is it because they only want to see the middle class and above? Is it because poor people don't buy their newspapers? Or is it because they want the war against the poor to continue? Given the track record since January 1 -when the richest a-hole in New York left public office- I'd have to say it's due to their distain of nearly 50% of New York City residents. That's right, they just don't like poor people.

Only now that the New York Times and Marueen Dowd have jumped on the bandwagon, you can expect the class warfare from the press to really heat up!!! It will be open season on BDB, and open season on anyone who takes a strong public stance in favor of helping the 'other half' in our society.

 Just because I want them off my chest, here are some thoughts, arranged as footnotes:

1) de Blasio isn't an abrasive Mayor. After 12 years of Bloomberg, does she really think her readership is too stupid to remember Michael R Bloomberg?

2) He isn't battling Cuomo about the Pre-K tax. Cuomo is battling him. Anyone following the pre-K story knows this full well.

3) If making sure that people can have a few paid days off and a livable working wage is a "foe to business", then we really have left the building of truth. There was once a time when that paper would only publish the truth.

4) But it's people like Down who have creamed his approval rating! It has nothing to do with 'liberal hopes fading' It has to do with a concerted effort by rich idiots.

Final thought: According to each of the three Abrahamic Religions, it is the duty - the sacred duty, in fact- of people to care for the poor in their society. The very impeccable Raginghorse blog recently reminded me that, in a for-profit society; 'All that is sacred becomes profane'. I never was a big Marx fan, but that quote describes the press' treatment of New York's City's mayor to a T. If this guy is a one-term mayor, it won't be because of anything he did. It will be because of an unfair, untruthful fourth estate that assassinated the character of his leadership.

And if you were once poor, and you're watching this unfold without calling it out for what it is, then shame on you too!

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