Underlying Themes—Media Literacy
From Learning Activities Using "The Yes Men Fix the World"
1 Underlying Themes In The Film To Discuss As You Refine Your Project Plan—Media Literacy
|“||We actually see [our work] as a form of journalism. Or perhaps more precisely, the form of collaboration with journalists. A lot of the issues that we address journalists want to cover. And sometimes it's the reason they've gone into journalism. But in many jobs, in many situations, editorial control won't let them unless there's a good little hook behind it. And so, we've found a way to create funny spectacles that give journalists the excuse to cover issues.||”|
|— The Yes Men|
The Yes Men’s media work raises many questions about how we know what we know, and what do we know that is real, and how can we tell, and how can we tell that reality to a larger audience?[endnotes 1] At many points in the film, they challenge the language used in the media to describe situations in terms of what is stated explicitly, and what is silenced. Their work is about using various media to break that silence in order to fix the broken world. Through their interventions, The Yes Men force those in power to pay attention.
One of the goals of this guide is to sustain that attention through involving more people in continued and varied media interventions to fix our world. In this chapter, I am thinking about the media in a broad sense as all ways in which people communicate descriptions and ideas about the world. In order to use the media, people need to be aware of ways in which the media shape our perceptions, and the ways in which we can get the media to present a more accurate picture of our world. The point of all the exercises and resource suggestions that follow—studying general ideas about media literacy, and looking at the variety of ways people describe the world in media using language, quantities, visual images, sound, and other sensory information—is for learners to begin to think about how the media describes the issue students want to fix, and how the learners will want to describe their issue, using the media as part of their plan to fix that issue.
1.1 General Media Literacy Issues
1.1.1 Questions discussed before the film
Return to the specific questions you discussed from Chapter Three before students watched the film. Now you can open the conversation to include why they did not know about these events, or why they knew different perspectives about these events, or why they did know about the events from the perspective The Yes Men present.
1.1.2 Media driven ‘taken-for-granted’ knowledge
A very effective way I have found to highlight the power of mainstream media on our perceptions of the world, is to start my Media Literacy class by asking students what comes to their mind when they hear the name Mother Teresa. Everyone says something along the lines of “saint,” or “helped the poor.” Then I give them some information to read from Christopher Hitchens’ The Missionary Position: Mother Theresa in Theory and Practice (1995) and ask, “After reading those excerpts, when you hear the name Mother Teresa, what comes to mind?” Now, they all say something like “If the information he has is true, then I think differently about her, she did not help the poor, she was really horrible to so many sick people, she was a friend to dictators who made so many people poor.” Then I ask them to think about why they did not initially say “If the information I read about or saw on TV about Mother Teresa is true, then she is a saint.”
- “Hell’s Angel,” in three YouTube segments is a BBC film Hitchens made about Mother Teresa:
- Part 1
- Part 2 (which includes footage of Mother Teresa telling the people of Bhopal that they should forgive Union Carbide
- Part 3
- Part 1
- One point not fully developed in the videos above is how Mother Teresa not only accepted $1.25 million in donations from savings-and-loan scandal bankster Charles Keating, but during his trial she wrote to the court asking the judge to be merciful to Keating. Later, the Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles, as a private citizen, wrote to Mother Teresa about how Keating had been convicted of fraud involving stealing $252 million from 17,000 people, most of whom were “of modest means and unfamiliar with high finance. One was, indeed, a poor carpenter who did not speak English and had his life savings stolen by Mr. Keating’s fraud…. You urge Judge Ito to look into his heart—as he sentences Charles Keating—and do what Jesus would do. I submit the same challenge to you. Ask yourself what Jesus would do if he were in possession of money that had been stolen; what would Jesus do if he were being exploited by a thief to ease his conscience?” The DA offered to put Mother Teresa in direct contact with Keating’s victims. Hitchens reports that three years later there was still no reply from Mother Teresa, and feels this incident is “proof against the customary apologetics about innocence and unworldliness.”
- A different example challenging popular ‘knowledge,’ more connected to economics, and less controversial, involves the real history of the game Monopoly. Parker Brothers claims the game was created by an unemployed worker during the Great Depression. But, that worker had lied to the company, and by the time they discovered this, Monopoly was a best-seller, helping keep Parker Brothers afloat, so they covered up the truth. Retired San Francisco Economics Professor Ralph Anspach found this out after he invented a game called Anti-Monopoly (“in which players compete to see who could most effectively bust up imaginary corporate monoliths”) and was sued by Parker Brothers. Monopoly was originally called The Landlord’s Game, invented by a Maryland woman in 1904, 30 years before the unemployed worker supposedly invented the game. She believed that “speculation in land values was at the root of modern society’s social and financial problems,” and her game was designed to teach this lesson. She made copies and many Quakers played and modified the game over the years. An early player of the game, “remembering the anti-capitalist origins of the game, said it was a point of honor among early devotees not to think of commercializing it.” The game spread, and one player, the man who sold it to Parker Brothers, did not have the same scruples. Parker Brothers continued the lie “to protect their right to exclusive control of the game, for if it could be established that Monopoly had been made and played before they produced it the game would be in the public domain, beyond their exclusive control.” Of particular interest to media literacy is that Anspach could only find one news article about the true origins of Monopoly, in the Washington Star, whereas coverage of the game in The New Yorker and The New York Times, and other major periodicals never questioned the history put forth by Parker Brothers. For more information, and updates about the lawsuits, see the Anti-Monopoly website.
- This, sadly, could be an endless resource list. But, one other example that stands out because it goes so counter people’s taken-for-granted popular beliefs, no matter who anyone wanted to see President, is John McCain’s real record on Veteran’s issues. Counter information is reported from VetVoice and the Iraq Veterans Against the War “McCain MIA on Veteran’s Issues”
1.1.3 Corporate media disinformation
The Yes Men stress how their work draws attention to serious issues that the media distort and/or ignore. It is not just that mainstream media presents a picture of the world most take-for-granted, but corporate media actively disinforms. To deepen students’ experience in carefully reading websites to look for disinformation (and to distinguish distorted information from satire) you can have students compare the information about Bhopal on The Yes Men’s fake Dow Chemical website with the Bhopal information on the real Dow website and with the information on The Bhopal Medical Appeal website.
- Corporate disinformation campaigns, along with the collusion of corporate (mass) media, prevent democratic debate about so many issues. An example is the current debate about how to fix the shattered U.S. health care system, a debate distorted by lies about the Congressional proposals, as well as the almost complete exclusion of “single-payer” or “Medicare-for-All” from the current debate. Keith Olbermann exposes the many lies (August 10, 2009) and Bill Moyers Journal includes videos of Wendell Potter, a former top corporate insider detailing how “for-profit insurers hijack our health care system and put profits before patients,” and a video essay by Moyers on how The Washington Post tried to make money selling influence with top White House and Congressional officials to CEOs and lobbyists from the health care industry. Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has a video and written information providing evidence and analysis “that of hundreds of stories about health care in major outlets earlier this year, only five stories included the views of advocates of single-payer—none of which appeared on the TV networks. In May, news coverage of the arrests of single-payer advocates showed that practically the only way to get single-payer mentioned in the corporate media is to get thrown out of Senate hearings.”
For some other recent articles on the U.S. health care crisis: “An Incoherent Truth” and “New Rule: Not Everything in America has to Make a Profit”.
There are also “grassroots” campaigns (called “Astroturf campaigns” by many progressive commentators) that are corporate financed. For example, Patients United Now (PUN), although claiming to be composed of “people just like you” who care about keeping insurance costs down, but are “SHOCKED” by what they found out about health care reform efforts in Washington, D.C.: “Radical solutions. Discussions behind closed doors. Patients like us NOT included, just big companies, lobbyists, unions and politicians.” Students could compare PUN’s website and the website of the organization that created and funds PUN, Americans for Prosperity Foundation with other reports that give a very different picture: an interview with Tim Phillips, President of Americans for Prosperity, from Rachel Maddow’s show “Just Your Average Health Care Opponent,” and a point-by-point critique of the PUN advertisement and “corporate-Sponsored Patients United Now,” by Igor Volsky, co-author of Howard Dean’s Prescription for Real Health Care Reform with links to the videos of the people funding the PUN ads, and a “neutral” The New York Times article. You can have students dig into these websites to analyze their political/economic perspectives and how those perspectives influence their positions on the issue of health care in the United States.
- School texts are also corporate controlled by the publishers. In 1979, Jean Anyon reviewed the treatment of economic and labor history between the Civil War and World War I in 17 widely used secondary school United States history textbooks revealed that,
The average length of the section in the texts on labor history is six pages. Most strikes are not even mentioned, and although there were more than 30,000 during the period, the texts only describe a few of them. Fourteen of the 17 books choose from among the same three strikes, ones that were especially violent and were failures from labor's point of view…p. 393.
Anyon also found an absence even of the concept of, or label for, "the working class," and a clear underlying theme that "the methods appropriate for solving economic and labor problems and the view of consensual and orderly social change inherent in them are actions that maintain the balance of power in society; confrontation between contending groups which could increase the likelihood of changes in the power structure are not implied".
Students can review their textbooks and other learning materials, especially connected to the issue they will try to fix, and analyze any biases, including omissions.
1.1.4 Media bias and concentration
Any general discussion about Media Literacy should include some analysis of media bias and media concentration. You could start by asking students where they get news from, and then ask them to analyze what is the perspective of that news (including information they get from friends—what is the source of the news they get? Where does the mainstream media get news?) Then, they can look at information about the concentration of the media (the progressive view from MoveOn and the conservative view from The Heritage Foundation. Also, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) issues yearly surveys of which think-tanks are cited most frequently. The most recent survey and surveys over the last years[endnotes 2] can explain why so many people’s beliefs are shaped by a conservative perspective or are uninformed (i.e., like the airline ticket agent who swore to me that Obama is Muslim, and 45 minutes later I could not move her from that position, but did uncover that her source was “she heard it on TV, and she knew in her heart it was true”). There is also the film Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, focused on Chomsky’s critique of the media, and The Myth of the Liberal Media: The Propaganda Model of News, featuring Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky discussing “a comprehensive framework for understanding how the news is produced and in whose interest it works…. they argue that the news media are so subordinated to corporate and conservative interests that their function can only be described as that of ‘elite propaganda.’” And, Brave New Films’ Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism is a specific look at the tendentiously right-wing “news” channel and “explores Murdoch’s burgeoning kingdom and the impact on society when a broad swath of media is controlled by one person.”
1.1.5 Non-corporate media
You can introduce learners to some alternative news sources like Democracy Now! and real reporters websites, like Greg Palast and Jim Hightower. Then, there are critical, progressive news magazines: The Nation; Colorlines; Z Magazine; the Progressive; In These Times. Many additional progressive media outlets are listed at The Media Reform and Information Center and a map of different kinds of media functions and which groups are doing what can be found on “The Emerging Progressive Media Network 2006”. There are sites that focus on video, like Brave New Films which, in addition to feature documentaries like “Outfoxed,” produces short clips for widespread dissemination. There are also progressive web-magazines that focus on specific issues, such as Black Commentator, “dedicated to the movement for economic justice, social justice and peace; providing commentary, analysis and investigations on issues affecting African Americans and the African world”. And, there are countless email lists you can subscribe to that send daily selections of progressive counter-information to the mainstream media, such as Portside: The Left Side of the Internet.
1.1.6 Student projects in the media
After students gain experiences and knowledge from exercises like those suggested above, they can work in small groups to investigate the issue they have chosen to fix. In what ways, and with what underlying perspectives, do most of the mainstream media (including school textbooks) portray their issue? What frameworks and credible information can they find about their issue that challenges the mainstream media’s views? (Of course, this will start learners thinking about how they would want to see their issue described and analyzed, and how they might make that happen.)
I would not recommend starting a general discussion of Media Literacy with student investigations, however, since, in most cases, students need the kinds of background learning experiences suggested in the exercises above before they can do any real research on the matter.
1.2 Linguistic descriptions of our world
1.2.1 Language is not neutral
The Yes Men Fix the World deals with media issues connected with how the language people use to describe situations and ideas are not neutral. You can start by asking students to identify some of situations in which The Yes Men challenge others’ linguistic descriptions of reality. Andy, for example, does not accept the mainstream media label of their Bhopal action as a “hoax.” Instead he argues that Dow is the one pulling off a hoax—the hoax that Dow has no responsibility, and no means, for cleaning up Bhopal. Further, he claims The Yes Men actions were not a “hoax,” but rather, “an honest representation of what Dow should be doing.” In the interventions in New Orleans, they again challenge the notion of what the “hoax” is, arguing that the government’s Department of Housing and Urban Development is the one pulling off a hoax by pretending that tearing down affordable housing will make things better for the people of New Orleans: “by saying it makes sense to not tear down the housing, we are not pulling off a hoax, we are telling the truth. This is truth telling where normally there would only be lies.”
Another example is The Yes Men’s forcing their critics in the media to broaden the discussion. When the duped BBC commentator interviews Andy after Dow informs the media that “Jude” is not their spokesperson, he batters Andy on the cruelty of giving the people in Bhopal false hope. Andy counters that although The Yes Men may have given people 2 hours of false hope, compare that to Union Carbide/Dow giving those same people 20 years of suffering. Which actions should be labeled “cruel[endnotes 3]?”
The movie also shows how the corporate world challenges social change groups’ language. One clip in the film shows the advertisement produced by The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank funded by Exxon-Mobil: “CO2: They call it Pollution; we call it Life.”
The notes below contain other examples of how the words we use to describe a situation or an idea influence how people think about that situation or idea. The examples are connected to economic issues and issues of racism. Students can analyze these examples and find others from the movie or other media sources, gaining learning experiences in recognizing the consequences of the language we use to describe our world, and in thinking about how they want to label the realities and ideas about their issue.
- There are (too many!) examples of descriptions in the media that might seem “neutral,” but can be challenged as presenting a particular perspective. For example, Extra!, the monthly magazine published by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, points out that Obama’s tax policies are described by The New York Times as “a pronounced move to redistribute wealth by reimposing a larger share of the tax burden on corporations and the most affluent taxpayers.” FAIR searched Nexis data base for examples of Bush’s tax policies being described in a similar way, and in spite of the fact that those policies greatly transferred wealth upward, they could not find one reference to “redistribution.”
- Another example involves thinking about how people react when something is described as an “estate tax” versus a “death tax.” Would the more ghoulish label help blind people to the facts that the federal estate tax, the only tax on accumulated wealth in the United States, effects only the wealthiest households—less than 2% of all estates—but still generates significant revenue (in 2003, $30 billion annually, or about 9% of the non-military discretionary budget)? Under Bush’s tax cut, the amount of wealth exempted from the estate tax rises from $1 million ($2 million for a couple) to $3.5 million in 2009 ($7 million for a couple). The number of households subject to the estate tax will shrink from 50,000 to about 6,000 a year.
- For another example, does describing the middle-class tax help with housing as a “homeowner’s tax deduction,” and the poor people’s tax help with housing a “housing subsidy” influence people to support the former and view the latter as a hand-out for the lazy? Would people be surprised to know that in 1981, for example, the housing subsidy for homeowner's real estate taxes and mortgage interest . . . was greater than the money the government had spent in all its housing programs for low-income families since 1937. The arc has not bent towards more justice—according to housing activist and scholar Michael Stone, in 2006, total housing tax expenditures (for homeowners and investors) were about $150 billion versus housing subsidies (for people with low enough incomes to qualify) of about $39 billion; and, if we use the same words to describe all government spending on housing, the top quintile received about three times what the bottom quintile got ($94.3 billion versus $34.3 billion).
- John Miller argues for the importance of calling our current economic decline “The Repression,” as suggested by University of Massachusetts economics professor Arthur MacEwan. “ Part recession, part depression, today’s economic meltdown is very much a product of the large dose of economic repression that preceded it. Deregulation, pro-rich, anti-labor public policy guaranteed that the benefits of economic growth, at least what we had of it this decade, went almost exclusively to the most well-to-do among us, leaving many vulnerable. The latest business cycle, both its expansion beginning in 2001 and its catastrophic down turn now underway, make those consequences clear for all to see. In a very real way, the Repression of 2008 and 2009 has not pushed many people out of the frying pan and into the fire. And not only does the term “repression” describe the causes of the current crisis; it also point us toward its consequences, and toward prospective cures for today’s economic woes.”
- An example of how the world which the mainstream media describe, often based on information from conservative think-tanks, is so unconnected to reality: “Good News! The Rich get Richer: Lack of Applause for Falling Wages is Media Mystery”.
- In a letter to the editor of Extra!, Dan Green challenges the term ‘anti-globalization.’ He argues that since the majority of the protesters are “against worker exploitation, environmental degradation and the lack of popular representation in the FTAA decision-making,” it would be more accurate to call them “pro-labor, pro-environment or pro-democracy activists.” He goes on to argue that “many of these protesters probably support global efforts to end land mines, or global environmental programs such as the Kyoto accords.” Why does it matter what the media call the protesters?
- A Washington Post article reported that the United States Department of Agriculture will no longer use the word “hunger” to describe people who cannot get enough food to eat; instead these people will be described in official government documents as having “very low food security.”
- Other examples involve the political issues in calling The United States, “America:” Elizabeth Matinez’ “Don’t’ Call this Country ‘America:’ How the Name was Hijacked and Why it Matters Today” and the political issues in calling human beings “illegal:” Howard Zinn’s “No Human Being is Illegal”.
1.2.2 Ways language serves power
In “Word Tricks & Propaganda: Words are Transformed in the Service of Power,” Herman gives examples of various categories of descriptions used by those who want their ideas and actions to dominate. Purring (“words with positive overtones that create an aura of decency” like “national security” and “stability” and “efficiency”); Snarling (words “that induce negative reactions and feelings of anger and rejection” like “extremist” and “terrorist”); Putdowns (“less aggressive words of denigration” like when leftists are “noisy” and conservatives are “realistic” and “courageous”); Playing Down Violence (“client state leaders who kill and torture are not ruthless killers and torturers but ‘tough’ (Argentinian General Robert Viola) or merely ‘forceful’ (Israeli General Ariel Sharon ); Obscuring Appeasement of Client State Terror (“Key phrases serving this function include ‘quiet diplomacy,’ ‘commercial diplomacy,’ and ‘constructive engagement’”); Facilitating Innuendo (“Words and phrases like ‘linked’ and ‘it is reported’ and ‘officials claim’ permit connections and actions to be presented without verifiable evidence. The headline ‘Link to Iran suspected in Saudi blast’ illustrates an important mode of disseminating propaganda; and the more the allegation fits existing biases the easier it is to pass it along without supporting evidence.”); Personification and Use of Collective Words (“to get over preferred positions not supported by evidence. The use of ‘Brazil’ in “Faith in reform buoys Brazil’ is based entirely on attitudes expressed by Brazilian bankers and securities market professionals, who constitute less than a quarter of 1 percent of the Brazilian people.”); Falsely Imputing Benevolent Motives (“The Philadelphia Inquirer asserts that ‘congress and Clinton are gambling that many poor Americans won’t need a safety net to land on their fee’. Using the word ‘gambling’ implies that the politicians passing so-called welfare reform legislation “are really concerned about those poor folks being pushed out on the streets and no doubt weighed the costs and benefits in some kind of humanistic calculus.”); and, Removing Agency (“Where we or our allies have done terrible things watch for the resort to the passive voice”).[endnotes 4]
Another example is how “You Can’t just Say the President is Lying: The Limits of Honesty in the Mainstream Press,”. This article records a fascinating excerpt from a panel discussion in Washington, D.C. sponsored by Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism on November 4, 2004 about all the euphemisms that the corporate media required to be used, instead of saying “Bush is lying,” when he was lying.
1.2.3 Communism—a dangerous word
In addition to a powerful discussion of the power of words to shape our thought and actions, “A Murderous Word” quotes in the notes that follow it, also give students a chance to analyze satirical and serious writing.
- The recent nonsense about Obama being a socialist because he wanted to raise the marginal federal income tax rate on income over $250,000 by about 3 percentage points, continues the tradition of Newt Gingrich who claimed the editorial boards of most major newspapers contain socialists. The Boston Globe reported that Gingrich’s spokesman, Tony Blankely, added that liberalism turns into socialism when editorial writers “oppose cuts in the capital gains tax—a classic free-market device to create jobs and profits—and characterize it as giving money to the rich.”
- In “Communism may be Dead, but clearly not Dead Enough,” Seumas Milne reports that Goran Lindblad, a conservative Swedish MP introduced a narrowly defeated resolution in the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly. It demanded “that European ministers launch a continent-wide anti-communist campaign—including school textbook revisions, official memorial days and museums . . . Paradoxically, given that there is no communist government left in Europe outside Moldava, the attacks have if anything become more extreme as time has gone on. A clue as to why that might be can be found in the rambling report by Lindblad . . . Blaming class struggle and public ownership, he explained that ‘different elements of communist ideology such as equality or social justice still seduce many’. . .” Another clue discussed by Milne is that “battles over history are more about the future than the past. . . . [this attack on communism] reflects a determination to prove there is no alternative to the new global capitalist order—and that any attempt to find one is bound to lead to suffering and bloodshed. With the new imperialism now being resisted in both the Muslim world and Latin America, growing international demands for social justice and ever greater doubts about whether the environmental crisis can be solved within the existing economic system, the pressure for political and social alternatives will increase.”
In October 1995, Gary Fethke, the Dean of the College of Business at the University of Iowa, ran into a colleague, Donald McCloskey, in the hallway of the business school. McCloskey, Fethke noticed, was wearing gold ear studs—small, but on both ears. ‘What’s this, Don?’ Fethke asked jovially. ‘The earrings! Have you turned gay?’ ‘You want to know, Gary?’ McCloskey asked. When Fethke nodded yes, McCloskey, a renowned free-market economist and married father of two, motioned him into his office and shut the door.
He then unburdened himself of a startling secret: At age 52, after years of closeted cross-dressing, he had come to the conclusion that he needed to become a woman. And so, the economics professor explained to his astounded dean, he had embarked on a course of hormone therapy, designed to swell his breasts and alter his voice. Over the course of the next year he intended to become a physical woman: full beard electrolysis, eyebrow bones ground down, gender reassignment surgery. At that very moment, McCloskey confessed, underneath his sensible brown oxfords and argyle socks, his toenails gleamed candy-apple red.
Dean Fethke sat stunned for a moment, then rushed to put McCloskey at ease. ‘Thank God,’ he exclaimed. ‘I thought for a moment you were going to confess to converting to socialism.’” 
1.2.4 Student projects descriptions
Students can think more about the language they will use to describe the issue they want to fix. At this point, you might want to have students draft a press release, and then after reviewing the next sections on quantitative and visual and other descriptions of the world, you can ask them how they would modify their descriptions. When the students move deeper into their plan (in Chapter Eight) and connect with an existing group, they can work in collaboration to further refine their descriptions.
1.3 Quantitative descriptions of our world
The Yes Men Fix the World also contains quantitative descriptions. For example, Andy gives figures for how much money Dow will get from liquidating Union Carbide ($12 billion) and they show a chart to illustrate the precipitous drop in the value of Dow stock after Jude’s announcement that the $12 billion would be used to clean up Bhopal. What other quantitative descriptions are used in the film? Do these strengthen or weaken the arguments The Yes Men are making—why? What other quantitative descriptions could they have used in their actions? Why didn’t they use more numbers to describe the ideas and situations in which they intervened?
1.3.1 Quantitative forms
The form in which we put numerical information can strengthen arguments by helping us make sense of quantities whose significance it is very hard to grasp.[endnotes 5] Without changing the form through basic calculations, can we really get a sense of the impact of those quantities on our world? If we want to understand what the $12 billion means, we can calculate that spending at the non-stop rate of $1000 per hour, it would take over 100 years to use up just $1 billion.[endnotes 6]
- You can give students some different quantitative descriptions and have them present arguments about which is the most clear, which is the most powerful, and why. For example, is it more powerful to state that in 2004, the wealthiest 1 percent of people in the United States owned about 34 percent of all the wealth, or that in the United States the richest 1 percent owns more than the poorest 90 percent combined: http://www.demos.org/inequality/numbers.cfm
- Another example involves analyzing which quantitative form gives the most clear picture, and which gives the most powerful picture of the growing gap between the average worker and the average CEO:
- If the minimum wage had risen at the same level pace as executive pay since 1990, it would be $25.50 an hour, not $5.15; if average pay for production workers had risen at the same level as CEO pay since 1990, the annual salary would be $120,491, not $24,668.
1.3.2 Numbers are not neutral
Quantitative descriptions of the world are also not neutral; the form in which you present the quantity can give misleading descriptions. I pointed this out in a letter to The Boston Globe (which amazingly they published on December 4, 2002, titled it “Secretary of Death[endnotes 7]” and included a drawing of Kissinger, which made the letter the central one on the editorial page):
I commend The Globe for writing an editorial questioning the appointment of Henry Kissinger to lead what is supposed to be an independent commission investigating intelligence failures in the September 11, 2001 attacks.
However, as a teacher of Quantitative Reasoning, I was dismayed to see your misleading presentation of numerical data. You mention Kissinger’s responsibility for “thousands” of civilian deaths in Indochina, Bangladesh and East Timor. In facts, very clearly documented by Christopher Hitchens’ review of USA government declassified documents detailing only Kissinger’s legal crimes''The Trial of Henry Kissinger'', London and New York: Verso, 2001, Pentagon figures for deaths in Vietnam during the period under which Kissinger’s deceits and policies prolonged that war, are: 31,205 of our citizens, 86,101 South Vietnamese, and 475,609 Vietnamese “enemy.” The US Senate Subcommittee on Refugees estimated that during that time more than 3 million civilians were killed, injured or made homeless.p.41 In Banglasdesh, “the eventual civilian death toll has never been placed at less than half a million and has been put as high as 3 million.p.46 In East Timor, 200,000 people, approximately one-third of the population, were slaughtered as a direct result of the “green light” then United States Secretary of State Kissinger gave to Indonesian dictator General Suharto.p.93
Although your statement that Kissinger’s policies resulted in “thousands” of civilian deaths is technically accurate, clearly it presents a misleading picture. In a conservative tallying from just these three areas of the world, Kissinger is responsible for ''more than one million deaths, hundreds of thousands'' of them civilian deaths.
1.3.3 Numbers that are missing
Quantitative descriptions can also be misleading when certain numbers are given, but more relevant ones are left out. A classic example is the unemployment rate which appears a neutral calculation, but leaves out many categories of workers who some of us would count as unemployed. For example, how should workers who want full-time work, but can only find part-time jobs, be counted? What about the millions of people who work full-time, year round, and get paid a salary below the official government poverty line?
Just adding a few other groups (unemployed workers who have not looked for a job in the last 4 weeks, and forced part-time workers) to the official government unemployment rate (which only counts those without jobs who are available to work and have looked for a job in the last 4 weeks) changes the April 2009 unemployment rate from the official 9.4% to 16.4%. . Still these figures omit the millions of full-time workers who earn below the federal poverty line (in 2007, 7.5 million who worked for at least 27 weeks; 5.8 million of those who worked for at least 50 weeks); and, they do not indicate the great disparities among different groups of workers. As of May 2009, official unemployment rates were already 14.9% for Blacks, 12.7% for Hispanics, and 22.7% for teenagers. And what about people who need to take more than one job in order to make ends meet—how are they counted in employment statistics?
- Another example of omitting relevant numbers from descriptions of the world involves the hidden costs of corporations. The classic example is Wal-Mart, where many of their counted-as-employed-in-the-unemployment-statistics full-time workers earn so little that, even under the current stinginess of our government, they are eligible for various kinds of public assistance. Wal-Mart pays its workers so little that, even under the current stinginess of our government, they are eligible for various kinds of assistance. According to a 2003 study by University of California/Berkeley’s Institute for Industrial Relations, providing health care to Wal-Mart workers cost California taxpayers $32 million each year, and California Wal-Mart workers utilized an additional $54 million in non-health related federal assistance, including food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit, subsidized school lunches, and subsidized housing. Democratic staffers of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce estimated that one 200-person Wal-Mart store may result in an excess cost of about $400,000 a year for federal taxpayers!. Further kinds of hidden costs that Wal-Mart extracts from taxpayers, like building roads and other infrastructure designed to help people drive to the stores, are detailed in Robert Greenwald’s documentary Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price.
- Another way of omitting the relevant numbers is to limit how you break down a data set. For example, the United States government rarely collects health data broken down by social class. In 1986 when they did this for heart and cerebro-vascular disease they found enormous gaps: “The death rate from heart disease, for example, was 2.3 times higher among unskilled blue-collar operators than among managers and professionals. “By contrast, the mortality rate from hear disease in 1986 for blacks were 1.3 times higher than for whites…the way in which statistics are kept does not help to make white and black workers aware of the commonality of their predicament.” Similarly, income and wealth data is rarely reported disaggregated into what Michael Parenti calls the “super rich”. In December 1997, for example, the average income of the richest fifth was $117,500, about 13 times larger than the average income of the poorest fifth ($9250). By looking only at the richest fifth, the picture averages out the super rich. Parenti reports that “the reportable upper limit” for Census data on incomes in 1994 is $1 million. “The super rich simply have been computerized out of the picture…. The difference between Michael Eisner, Disney CEO who pocketed $565 million in 1996, and the individuals who average $9,250 is not 13 to 1 — the reported spread between highest and lowest quintiles — but over 61,000 to 1.” At that time, the richest 0.25 percent of the population owned more wealth than the other 99 percent combined.
- The most effective way to omit relevant numbers is to completely omit them, even though/because including them would destroy your argument. An example is the taken-for-granted idea that so-called “illegal” immigrants are taking away public monies from “real” citizens. Instead, the reality is that they are contributing over $7 billion each year to Social Security and Medicare, which since they do not have “legal” documents, they cannot collect. And, of course, they pay sales taxes, and they often go to their home countries when they get older since they have no retirement benefits in the United States. So, the numbers counter the stereotype[endnotes 8].
1.3.4 Numbers that answer the wrong question
Another way that quantities can give misleading descriptions of the world is when the wrong quantitative question is answered correctly. For example, in evaluating whether a particular tax structure is fair, you need to decide which measures of fairness make the most sense to investigate. Although, in 1997 in the USA, the top 1% income group paid 33.6% of all federal income taxes, the more salient ratios to examine are the before and after tax share of total income that group got (before taxes: 15.8%; after taxes: 13.7%). In other words, the system is very slightly progressive (the bottom 20% income group went from a before-tax share of 4.0% to an after-tax share of 4.8%). As Ellen Frank, in Dollars and Sense states:
If one believes that Ken Lay deserved no less than the $100 million he collected from Enron last year, while the burger-flippers and office cleaners of America deserve no more than the $6.50 an hour they collect, then a progressive tax would seem immoral. But if one believes that incomes are determined by race, gender, connections, power, luck, and (occasionally) fraud, then redistribution through the tax system is a moral imperative.
Further, if one takes into account all the other taxes paid, the system is actually regressive. For example, clearly Social Security taxes (paid at the same rate by all, and only paid on the first $90,000 of income) take a much larger percent out of workers’ paychecks than out of wealthy people’s incomes. And, labor economists believe that even the employer’s share of Social Security taxes hurts workers “since employers reduce wages to compensate for the tax instead of paying for it out of profits.” For another example, state and local taxes are quite regressive, with the bottom 20% income group paying 12.4% of their income in those taxes, as opposed to the top 1% paying 5.8% of their income in state and local taxes.
- Another situation in which the wrong question is asked (sometimes not explicitly) has to do with focusing on population as the problem in the environmental degradation of our planet. This letter that I wrote to the editor of the Boston Globe on April 2, 2006 did not get published. I reacted to their “neutral” presentation of population figures, arguing it perpetuates the myth that countries with giant populations are causing our planet’s environmental problems..
As a teacher of Quantitative Reasoning and Argument, I was dismayed to see the Sunday Globalist Quiz’s de-contextualized, and therefore, misleading, presentation of numbers. It uses data about relative population growth to contrast Europe’s much smaller growth with those of other areas of our world. (Northern Africa is not a country, as your text stated.) You calculate that India, for example, increases its population in one week as much as the entire annual increase in the 25 countries comprising the European Union.
This seemingly neutral data carries a seriously wrong “hidden message” that countries such as India and China are draining the world’s resources, and because of over-population, those countries still cannot provide adequate resources for their people.
In fact, the real picture is quite the opposite. A more appropriate measure comparing various countries’ impact on the environment is the “ecological footprint” devised by Wackernagel, Onisto, et.al. It measures the biologically productive areas necessary to continuously provide resource supplies and absorb wastes, using prevailing technology in particular communities. In 1997, India’s ecological footprint was 0.8 hectares per person (ha/cap) and China’s was 1.2 ha/cap, in contrast to Belgium’s footprint of 5.0 ha/cap, England’s of 5.2 ha/cap, and our country’s 10.3 ha/cap.
And, in spite of the drain that the technologically developed countries put on the world’s resources, there is enough food to feed us all. According to Food First, in 1998 the world produced enough to provide at least 4.3 pounds of food per person a day. The problem is not scarcity, but economic injustice. India, for example, is a net agricultural exporter. In 1995, there were approximately 200 million nutritionally hungry Indians, while India exported $625 million worth of wheat and flour, and $1.3 billion worth of rice.
1.3.5 Numbers for student projects
Are there numbers, implicitly or explicitly, involved with the issue students have chosen to fix? How do you want to describe those numbers? As someone who thinks numbers reveal the real deal, and well researched and well presented quantitative data strengthen arguments, I would suggest students look for what numbers help describe their issue. They can begin to think about the most powerful forms of presenting the data, and think about what counter arguments the people who don’t want to fix their issue would use to challenge the numbers they found.
1.4 Visual and other descriptions of our world
The media present images of the world through more than just words and numbers. Visual images are common, but also sound and other senses can be used. I suggest starting this topic, by asking students to identify actions in the film where The Yes Men use visual and other sensory descriptions to present their message. How does the visual ridiculousness of the Survivaball contribute to the interventions of The Yes Men? What about the sound and smoke and Gilda? What visual statement do they add to the graph about the decline in Dow’s stock after Jude’s BBC announcement? What images do they use to show the progress of the private, “free” market in rebuilding New Orleans? Why did they spend so much time figuring out how to get the Reggie candles to smell like burning flesh?
After the film, The Yes Men have continued their work trying to draw attention to what is still going on in Bhopal. Their latest action was to hand out “B’eau Pal” bottled water, with the ingredients of the actual toxic Bhopal water written on the label. They also tried to deliver bottles of B’eau Pal, filled with actual toxic groundwater from Bhopal, and a report about the current toxic contaminations in Bhopal to Dow’s London headquarters. The Yes Men found the building shut down. There is a video of the London action and another video explaining the decisions made by the London design firm that created the logo for water: http://www.theyesmen.org/blog/dow-runs-scared-from-water. Students might find this of interest in thinking about various visual aspects of their project.
It is also important to think about issues in the film that are not explicitly stated, but referred to implicitly and visually. There are many images, for example, that The Yes Men used to provoke people to think about racism. The entire “Tribute to Reggie” video can be analyzed for what stereotypes it uses to challenge their audience to think about racism.
In other ways, The Yes Men provoke thinking about racism, from the all white male conservative think-tankers, to the fact that The (white) Yes Men might not have been able to get as far into their actions as they did, if they were black men. Would they have been watched more closely at those conferences if they were black? Would the ridiculous Survivaball have been applauded if presented by black men? Would an audience with many people of color have reacted so positively to the devaluing of Indian life?
1.4.1 Pictures imagined from words and numbers
Many times words and numbers paint a powerful visual picture to help us imagine a situation. For example, “if the real 555-foot Washington Monument reflects average 1998 CEO pay, then a scaled-down replica representing average worker pay would be just 16 inches tall—5 inches shorter than in 1997. Back in 1980, the Workers Monument was over 13 feet tall—reflecting a CEO-worker wage gap of 42 to one.” United for a Fair Economy Press Release For another example, to visualize what David Cay Johnston calls the enormous chasm in incomes (“just 28,000 men, women and children had as much income in 2000 as the poorest 96 million Americans.”), he suggests we “imagine these two groups in geographic terms. The super rich would occupy just one-third of the seats at Yankee Stadium, while those at the bottom as the equivalent of every American who lives west of Iowa—plus everyone in Iowa.”
1.4.2 Words and numbers strengthening pictures
Other times, artists/activists use words and numbers, sometimes implicitly, to enhance the pictures they create to draw attention to what’s going on in our world that they think needs fixing. Some (possibly fake) ads like this were on the internet in May 2009. I have used a poster created by Mario Torero, “You are not a Minority,” which has Che pointing like “Uncle Sam,” to have students learn about percents while analyzing that political poster in the context of the politics of language where people who constitute the vast majority of the world’s population are referred to as “minorities.” Students also see that numbers are “behind” many economic, political, and/or social issues even if there are no numbers “visible” in the picture.
- Students can discuss the meaning and power of artist Chris Burden’s “The Other Vietnam Memorial” which refers to the famous memorial in Washington, D.C. by artist Maya Lin which lists the names of 57,939 Americans killed during the Vietnam War. Chris Burden etched 3,000,000 names onto a Rolodex-type structure, standing on its end, that fills the entire room in which it is displayed. The names represent the approximate number of Vietnamese people killed during the US war on Vietnam. Since many of their names are unknown, Burden created variations of 4000 names taken from Vietnamese telephone books. Also, the museum notes comment that by using the form of a common desktop object which (before the computer) was used to organize professional and social contacts, Burden underlines the unrecognized loss of Vietnamese lives in US memory.
- You can also have students analyze whether or not the work of Chris Jordan gives us a powerful way of visualizing the impact humans are having on our environment. He describes his “Running the Numbers” series as viewing “contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 32,000 breast augmentation surgeries in the U.S. every month.
- Students can analyze if the combination of images, language and numbers in Brave New Films’ “Sick for Profit” is effective. Would the film be as powerful without the numbers? Why or why not?
1.4.3 Pictures are not neutral
Visual images, as any knowledge, are not neutral. There are many examples that can be used to illustrate this point. By now, many people are familiar with the cropped photo of the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein. The image seen on TV was closely cropped to omit that the square where it took place was surrounded and controlled by U.S. tanks and troops, and was mostly empty.
- Two anti-war images, created by artist Richard Serra to oppose Bush in the 2004 election, and reprinted (as an advertisement paid for by Serra) on the back covers of The Nation: the Abu Ghraib Stop Bush and the “Goya/Bush”, can be used to stimulate discussion about the ethics of these kinds of very strong political artistic statements. The “Goya/Bush” generated very strong reaction among The Nation readers, including threats to cancel their subscriptions if the ad was repeated. Reacting to those comments, one reader felt that those who complained should “Lighten up! Serra's update of Goya's horrifying Saturn Devouring One of His Sons illustrates the nightmarish implications of George W. Bush's domestic and foreign policies. Do these readers recognize Swiftian irony? Should Jonathan Swift have toned down his "modest proposal" to cook and eat Irish children because readers would find its "ghoulishness" "inappropriate," "gross" and "tasteless"? In this time of the madness of the Bushites, we need all the Swiftian irony we can get.”
- Sometimes an image never actually existed, but becomes a part of taken-for-granted cultural memory. The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam  traces the history and mythology about the image of anti-war protestors supposedly spitting on returning veterans. Lembcke presents evidence that “relations between veterans and anti-war activists were generally friendly,” and argues that films were largely responsible for engraving the image of Vietnam veteran rejection in the popular imagination. “Just as important, through film, veterans and the stories of their reentry into American society come to displace the story of the war itself…. Well into the 1980s, the vast majority of filmic representations show veterans as dysfunctional or disabled…. From the late 1970s on, Hollywood produces more and more films portraying anti-war movement hostility towards soldiers and veterans. It is little wonder that by the beginning of the Gulf War the image of the Vietnam veteran as victim prevailed in America and that many Americans blamed the anti-war movement for that victimization.”
- Sometimes it is the caption that reveals the political perspective underlying the use of an image. I still have a copy (a Xerox without the citation) of a photo from The New York Times purporting to show evidence against North Vietnam during the time the United States was fighting a war on Vietnam. The photo is an aerial view, hard to interpret. The caption reads: “PENTAGON EVIDENCE: Photo released Friday in Washington is described as showing three antiaircraft guns emplaced on a dike near Hanoi. Guns, obscured by smoke, were said to be firing at a U.S. plane. This was the first photo issued by the Pentagon to support its contention that North Vietnam keeps weapons sites near dikes .”
- Other times the caption reveals the political bias of the writer (and all the readers who did not question it). Lies of our Times points out a caption on a photograph illustrating an article “Gold Miners Threaten Indian Tribe” published by The New York Times. The caption, included in the above link which does not include any photo, read: “Napoleon A. Chagnon, left, American anthropologist, and Charles Brewer-Carias, Venezuelan naturalist at Konabuma-teri, one of 10 Yanomami villages that remained isolated from outside world.” The incredible bias is that there are three people in the photo! And, the one on the left is a member of the Indian tribe, Chagnon is in the center of the three men. As Lies of our Times editorialized: “To be a good Times reader, you have to train your eye to see only two men (the tall white ones, that is) standing amid some jungle growth.”
- Another controversy over the politics and power of visual imagery arose over the museum exhibit Without Sanctuary: Artifacts of Lynching in America ; Tavis Smiley’s May 6, 2004 NPR radio show deals with this exhibition. Patricia Williams comments “According to historian Leon Litwack’s essay in the exhibit’s monograph, Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America, black victims tended to have one feature in common: They were people who had actually or purportedly challenged their status as inferior….‘black men and women perceived by whites as having stepped out of their place, trying to be white.’” Williams questions why whites passed on these photos, horrifically captioned with phrases like ‘the coon that stole our chickens’ and argues that lynching is still with us:
It’s repercussions shape not just blacks but millions of white people who are very much alive. Not then but now, where are those surviving perpetrators who still walk free? Not then but now, where are the children in those pictures, and the children of those children, those little ones whose schools declared a holiday that they might watch the communion-like dispersal of black flesh and bits of bone? Not then but now, how does this traumatic violence repeat itself, re-view itself, and yet remain so mystically unreal, so stunningly routine?
- When I teach Quantitative Reasoning I often use maps to show the politics involved in seemingly neutral mathematical descriptions of our world. Any two-dimensional map of our three-dimensional Earth must contain mathematical distortions. The political struggle/choice centers around which of these distortions are acceptable to us and what other understandings of ours are distorted by these false pictures. For example, the map with which most people are familiar, the Mercator map, greatly enlarges the size of ‘Europe’[endnotes 9] and shrinks the size of Africa . Most people do not realize that the area of what is commonly referred to as ‘Europe’ is smaller than 20% of the area of Africa[endnotes 10].
As Wood emphasizes:
The map is not an innocent witness...silently recording what would otherwise take place without it, but a committed participant, as often as not driving the very acts of identifying and naming, bounding and inventorying it pretends to no more than observe.
1.4.4 References on the politics of visual knowledge
Some references on various aspects of the politics of visual knowledge are: John Berger's Ways of Seeing. Parts of the BBC television series on which the book is based are on YouTube, including one on advertising; John A. Walker's Art in the Age of Mass Media which explores the tensions between “fine art” and popular culture, from “the socialist paintings of Courbet to the anti-Nazi photomontages of Heartfield, from community murals and Keith Haring's use of graffiti to the kitsch self-promotion associated with Jeff Koons; Susan Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others  which raises questions about whether the overwhelming amount of images of atrocities distance us or inure us to the suffering of people who are far away; David Levi Strauss' Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics; Catherine A. Lutz's and Jane L. Collins' Reading National Geographic which treats the way “other” people are represented in a “complex portrait of an institution and its role in promoting a kind of conservative humanism that acknowledges universal values and celebrates diversity while it allows readers to relegates non-Western peoples to an earlier stage of progress.”; and, Colin Jacobson's (editor) Underexposed: “Pictures can Lie and Liars use Pictures” .
1.4.5 Painting a picture with sound
Sound was used to disrupt business as usual and dramatize the toll of domestic violence as part of a traveling exhibit, Witness to Violence. A bell was rung in the Massachusetts State House’s Great Hall every 15 seconds on February 14, 1995. Each ring represented that somewhere in the USA during that time interval, another woman had been beaten. I ask my quantitative reasoning students to write a commentary that uses quantitative data to highlight the emotional and political impact of domestic violence. They are given hints about how to elaborate on the numerical data in such a way that it would make sense to as many people as possible and would capture the attention and imagination of most people. We also discuss media coverage of the issue. In “Not All Domestic Violence Studies are Created Equal,” Pozner argues that the results of the studies are what decides how they will be considered. “A small number of faulty studies showing women and men as ‘equal’ batterers get a lot of press coverage and respect. On the other hand, many more carefully researched studies, including those conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, showing most victims of domestic violence are women, and most perpetrators of this violence, against women and men, are men, are ignored and/or attributed to “feminists” promoting “half-truths based on ideological dogma.”
- In The Yes Men Fix the World, note the angry tone of voice of the media once they realize they have been fooled by The Yes Men, accusing them of being cruel and twisted. The sound of the newscasters voices are quite harsh when they interrogate Jude about the Bhopal “hoax” and when they report about the “sick” and “twisted” New Orleans “hoax.” Did they use that tone of voice when asking Jude why it took Dow so long to clean up Bhopal? Did they use that tone of voice questioning Warren Anderson, head of Union Carbide at the time of the Bhopal disaster, about why his company initially covered up the disaster, losing precious time to help the victims? Did they use that kind of language and tone when they were asking why people in New Orleans are not being allowed to return to their non-damaged public housing? Did they even ask that question?
- The Sound of Inequality is a fascinating way to experience, aurally, the concentration of wealth in the U.S. it is part of The Working Group on Extreme Inequality, formed in 2007, connected to the Institute for Policy Studies, believes that the fight against poverty and economic insecurity “has to both ‘raise the floor’ and challenge the concentrated wealth and power that increasingly sit at the top of our economic ladder.”
- Another use of sound to describe our world, which also challenges stereotypes of what knowledge is and who has it, involves the Australian Aboriginal use of music to encode geographic knowledge. Chatwin summarizes his Aboriginal companion’s explanation: “Music is a memory bank for finding one’s way about the world.” Chatwin details how although most Aboriginal Nations speak the language of their immediate neighbor, they do not speak the language of more geographically distant Nations. And yet, they can understand what land is being sung when they hear songs in any Aboriginal language.
Regardless of words, it seems the melodic contour of the song describes the nature of the land over which the song passes. So, if the Lizard Man were dragging his heels across the salt-pans of Lake Eyre, you could expect a succession of long flats, like Chopin’s ‘Funeral March.’ If he were skipping up and down the MacDonnell escarpments, you’d have a series of arpeggios and glissandos, like Liszt’s ‘Hungarian Rhapsodies.’
Certain phrases, certain combinations of musical notes, are thought to describe the action of the Ancestor’s feet. One phrase would say, ‘Salt-pan’; another ‘Creek-bed,’…‘Rock-face’ and so forth. An expert songman, by listening to their order of succession, would count how many times his hero crossed a river, or scaled a ridge—and be able to calculate where, and how far along, a Songline he was.
1.4.6 Images and other experiences for student projects
Students can think about the images and other sensory experiences that people visualize when they think about the problem students want to fix. They can start imagining what alternative images and sounds they will use, and how to combine them with language, to describe their issue and advance their project plan to change that situation.
- ↑ Of course, the media literacy in The Yes Men Fix the World can be studied both from the perspective of film analysis (camera angles, musical score, and so on), and from the perspective of the media used in each of The Yes Men’s actions around particular issues. In this guide, the focus is on the media used in their political interventions.
- ↑ When you click on the link, you'll need to search for "think tank"
- ↑ The Yes Men play with language in other ways too. For example, the name “Jude Finisterra” was created because Jude is the patron saint of impossible causes, and Finisterra (finis terra) translates as “end of the earth.” (Democracy Now! Interview posted in CounterCurrents, an alternative news site from Kerala, India). For another example, in a post-film action, they go to Dow headquarters in London to deliver a bottle of actual contaminated Bhopal water, in an elite designer-water bottle labeled “B’eau Pal Water”
- ↑ I remember being shocked by the video at the entrance to the Peace Museum in Hiroshima. I watched it twice to make sure I had heard correctly: “On August 6, 1945 the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima,” as if it fell out of the sky on its own!
- ↑ I develop this idea with many examples in “Quantitative Form in Arguments,” (Frankenstein, 2007).
- ↑ One visual approach to understanding giant numbers is “What does one TRILLION dollars look like?” Does this help us understand the enormity of the toxic waste dump Union Carbide/Dow created and left for Bhopal?
- ↑ And, speaking of language, shouldn’t Kissinger be described as a “terrorist?”
- ↑ This kind of omission happens a lot in discussing Social Security, especially in predictions that it is going broke.
- ↑ Grossman (1994) argues that "Europe has always been a political and cultural definition. Geographically, Europe does not exist, since it is only a peninsula on the vast Eurasian continent." He goes on to discuss the history and various contradictions of geographers' attempts to "draw the eastern limits of 'western civilization' and the white race" (p. 39).
- ↑ Not only is the relative size of Africa misrepresented in commonly used maps, but the geographic/cultural details of the continent have also been distorted. Temin (1996) reviews an exhibit of historical maps of Africa that “demonstrates how an entire continent was ‘erased’ from European maps.” By the nineteenth century, the detailed sixteenth century maps of Africa were viewed as “mere myth…treating Africa like a blank made it easier to colonize because the justification went, nothing in the way of major cities or cultures existed there.”
- ↑ 1995, pp.64-71
- ↑ January 27, 1936
- ↑ quotes from Fager, 1982, pp. 16, 14
- ↑ July 10, 2009
- ↑ Krugman, 2009
- ↑ Maher, 2009
- ↑ p. 383
- ↑ Mark Achbar & Peter Wintonick, Zeitgeist Video, 1992, 167 minutes
- ↑ The Media Education Foundation, 2002, 60 minutes
- ↑ Robert Greenwald, 2004, 77 minutes
- ↑ April 2009, p.3
- ↑ “’Death Tax Deception,” Rosie Hunter and Chuck Collins, Dollars & Sense, January/February 2003
- ↑ Dollars & Sense, 1983, pp. 12-14
- ↑ 2009, pp.13-18
- ↑ p.14
- ↑ Jackson, 2006
- ↑ The Progressive, 2007, p.11
- ↑ New York Times, Oct. 6, 1980
- ↑ NYT, Feb. 11, 1983
- ↑ Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug. 3, 1996
- ↑ Financial Times, Feb. 24, 1997
- ↑ Aug. 4, 1996
- ↑ Extra!, January/February 2005
- ↑ Zinn, 1989
- ↑ March 19, 1995, p.9
- ↑ The Guardian, February 16, 2006
- ↑ from a book review, written by Ruth Shalit for Deidre McCloskey’s Lingua Franca of Crossing: A Memoir
- ↑ Jackson, 2001, p. A27
- ↑ “The Real Unemployment rate Hits a 68-Year High,” John Miller, 2009
- ↑ “Wal-Mart Welfare: How Taxpayers Subsidize the World’s largest Retailer,” , Jenna Wright, Dollars & Sense, January/February 2005, p. 7-8
- ↑ Brave New Films, 97 minutes, 2005
- ↑ Navarro, 1991, p.436
- ↑ 2002
- ↑ p.44
- ↑ Up-to-date information can be found at the website of the Global Footprint Network
- ↑ 2003
- ↑ p.41
- ↑ Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, IL,
- ↑ Also, see a profile of Chris Jordan on Bill Moyers, September 21, 2007. fckLR
- ↑ The Nation, Letters, August 16, 2004
- ↑ Lembcke, 1998
- ↑ pp. 9-10
- ↑ (italics added)
- ↑ October 1990; a magazine that was published between 1990 and 1994
- ↑ September 18, 1990
- ↑ 2000, p.9
- ↑ 1992
- ↑ London, England: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1972
- ↑ London, England: Pluto, 2001
- ↑ New York: Picador, 200
- ↑ New York: Aperture, 2003
- ↑ Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1993
- ↑ London, England: Vision on Publishing, 2002
- ↑ 1987
- ↑ p.108
- ↑ pg. 108