Thursday, April 24, 2003

Romero and Banfield Kansas State University, where I am based, has come through with two excellent speakers in two days. First, there was Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. He discussed the Union's work on behalf of victims of the USA Patriot Act.

He pointed out, for example, that since the attacks more than 1,200 people have been detained without being charged with any crime, and without given any indication of how long their detainment will last. In many cases the detainees were prevented from speaking with a lawyer. There have been cases of immigrant families with children born in this country being deported to foreign countries, again, frequently with no opportunities to have proper legal representation. Romero then went on to discuss new provision being backed by Attorney General Ashcroft and George Bush that would grant to the government almost unlimited power to wiretap whomever they chose, without the requirement of obtaining a warrant.

It seems to me that many people are willing to turn a blind eye to these abuses because they feel confident that no one they know will be affected. They have also swallowed the line that we are engaged in an apocalyptic struggle against evil, and giving up civil liberties is just something hard-headed realists do in such situations.

The ACLU has been fighting these abuses in court since 9/11, with mixed results. Find out more about the Union's activities at their website.

Also appearing at the college was MSNBC journalist Ashleigh Banfield, who talked about some of her experiences covering the war in Iraq. She pointed out that while the cbale news channels provided a great deal of coverage of the war, they provided very little in the way of actual journalism. Sho also forthrightly addressed the right-wing tilt of cable news, which she attributed to the success of Fox News. She did not spare her own network, specifically singling out the recent hire of Michael Savage for criticism. On one of his braodcasts, Savage described Banfield as a "slut" and "porn star" and "complicit in the murder of Israeli children". This because Banfield had the audacity to interview members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade during a segment on the goings-on in Israel.

During the Q&A after the talk I had the opportunity to ask Banfield if MSNBC's lurch to the right has helpe dit in the ratings, She replied that it had not. One piece of good news at least. She closed her remarks by lamenting the increasingly vapid programming the cable news channels have been airing, and wondered if she would have a future as a journalist in cable news.

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