Baltimore, social and economic privation – through a glass darkly?

Or just use a clear glass? Or no glass? No CNN. No WaPo. No NYT. In short, no corporate MSM to disguise reality – clean break from unrelenting misinformation and disinformation?

And that is what more and more folk are, and should be doing: avoiding the subtle but deliberate opaqueness, studious avoidance of reality in news coverage by the US corporate MSM. The advent of the blog and alternative media has offered access to the reliable and accurate information and analysis increasingly avoided, ignored by the MSM – coverage of recent events in Baltimore would provide some of the incriminating evidence

Mother Jones (MoJo), as an example of leading alternative media, lacking the massive resources of ‘legacy’ corporate media, has been successful in the quality of its news coverage, as well as research and news analysis, and attracting more readers in the process. Early in the protests in Baltimore it, as lesser ‘known’ media, had zeroed in on issues overlooked, ignored by the US MSM – MoJo did the requisite legwork, not being stenographer for ‘official sources’ and their tailored ‘narrative’.

Well, again comes MoJo with some basics that most econ students would know how to find, and ‘legacy’ media would already have, yet not use – until necessity or embarrassment intrudes. Citing a slew of sources and studies, Edwin Rios and Jaeah Lee of MoJo tell the story with, 7 Charts Explaining Baltimore’s Economic and Racial Struggles.

From this, an indicative finding, which would explain the official preoccupation with the need for constant distractions, new enemies, to keep attention completely away from very serious, long festering and untreated problems right in the US,

Life expectancy in 15 Baltimore neighborhoods, including the one where Freddie Gray lived, is shorter than in North Korea, according to an analysis by the Washington Post. In eight Baltimore neighborhoods, the life expectancy rate is worse than in Syria.

[bold added for emphasis]

Life expectancy in these neighbourhoods shorter than in North Korea? And that never provoked alarm? Or action?

For context, for how all this came about, this analysis from Richard Rothstein of EPI, From Ferguson to Baltimore: The Fruits of Government-Sponsored Segregation. Couple excerpts, with a look far back to a much uglier time,

In Baltimore in 1910, a black Yale law school graduate purchased a home in a previously all-white neighborhood. The Baltimore city government reacted by adopting a residential segregation ordinance, restricting African Americans to designated blocks. Explaining the policy, Baltimore’s mayor proclaimed, “Blacks should be quarantined in isolated slums in order to reduce the incidence of civil disturbance, to prevent the spread of communicable disease into the nearby White neighborhoods, and to protect property values among the White majority.”

And with the passage of time,  others would strive for a dignified life,

Unable to get mortgages, and restricted to overcrowded neighborhoods where housing was in short supply, African Americans either rented apartments at rents considerably higher than those for similar dwellings in white neighborhoods, or bought homes on installment plans. These arrangements, known as contract sales, differed from mortgages because monthly payments were not amortized, so a single missed payment meant loss of a home, with no accumulated equity. In the Atlantic last year, Ta-Nehisi Coates described how this system worked in Chicago. Rutgers University historian Beryl Satter described it this way:

(Some can recall researching demand studies for housing in the US, and some cities, and especially the work of Richard Muth in that area. And in that was the searing introduction to institutionalised racism in the US.)

Yes, grim business for those seeking the best for their families and themselves. Clearly, lacking in ambition, shiftless, does not seem to characterise such residents, some of whose angry outbursts had them condemned as ‘thugs’ and ‘criminals’.

To put the plight of such residents and their lives of segregation in a ‘netherworld’, in better focus comes another report, recently issued, Study finds foreclosures fueled racial segregation in US.

And if we recall, the devastating impact of the ‘Great Recession’ would continue to play out for some time after 2008, with little respite, with no point of return for many.

WASHINGTON, DC, May 6, 2015 — Some 9 million American families lost their homes to foreclosure during the late 2000s housing bust, driving many to economic ruin and in search of new residences. Hardest hit were black, Latino, and racially integrated neighborhoods, according to a new Cornell University analysis of the crisis.


Examining virtually all urban residential foreclosures from 2005 to 2009, Hall and co-authors find that mostly black and mostly Latino neighborhoods lost homes at rates approximately three times higher than white areas, with ethnically mixed communities also deeply affected. They estimate that the typical neighborhood experienced 4.5 foreclosures per 100 homes during the crisis, but the figure rises to 8.1 and 6.2 homes in predominately black and Latino areas, respectively, while white neighborhoods lost only 2.3 homes on average.

[bold added for emphasis]

As a reminder, several years ago Baltimore had lost its Bethlehem Steel plant, a major employer, to strong competition from more modern steel plants in Japan and South Korea – jobs lost and no similar source of employment and income. If we add to that, lack of access to, and quality of education or health care in West Baltimore, we know a truly bleak existence would be the fate of many or most.

So one question is: why has the corporate US news media been so oblivious, indifferent to such news stories to influence or compel action, and instead has been so focused on ‘celebrities’ as news? Another is: why was the news media so outraged, so disparaging, so condemnatory towards the protesters, and their explosion of anger, into some cases of rioting?

Again, alternative media such as Salon, the online news magazine, would confirm doubts about the abject failure of corporate news media to live up to or fulfill its journalistic responsibilities. Here we have the indictment by Prof George Ciccariello-Maher, Drexel University, of the likes of CNN and the Washington PostRiots work: Wolf Blitzer and the Washington Post completely missed the real lesson from Baltimore. (Of course, ‘riots’ as spontaneous, uncontrolled expression of ignored helplessness.)

Closing of ‘The Theatre of the Absurd”. For many, neither CNN nor WaPo (or others of that ilk) would rank as even an afterthought for news or analysis for very many. Such media continues to lose what is left of its reputation, its relevance. With no sense of compunction, with no policy modification, there comes breathless coverage of gowns worn at some Met Gala, in a non-sexist US – business as usual?


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