Is Media Wise?:

Media Ignore Criticism of U.S. Bailout of Indonesia

Editorial from Z Magazine

In recent issues we have had many critical discussions about left media. So it is important to also point out on occasion that the mainstream media are so abysmal that the media that progressives generate, however flawed compared to one high standard or another, are nonetheless a vast improvement over mainstream media.

Mainstream media are motivated both by norms of private profit (selling access to audiences with disposable income to advertisers seeking to fleece it) and by the maintenance of society's hierarchical social and class relations in the interest of their elite beneficiaries, regardless of what effect it has on anyone else. In contrast, alternative, progressive, and left media, whatever definition one gives to these terms, are motivated in large part by a search for basic truths, as well as for mutual communication and public empowerment through knowledge.

Examples to prove the bias of mainstream media are legion, of course. But here is another graphic example, lest we forget. Most Z readers are probably aware of the recent proposed United States bailout of Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and South Korea. The cost of the undertaking could climb to $80 billion, and it could easily become the largest bailout in world history. It's a big story, therefore, and gets considerable mainstream coverage.

So along comes U.S. Congressperson Bernie Sanders, who questions the U.S. role. He calls a public press conference and indicates his three-fold concerns:

(1) "I find it rather amazing and disconcerting that putting at risk some $15 to $20 billion of American taxpayer money has been done by the President without the approval of Congress and with absolutely no input from Congress. I have questions about the propriety of this, and even questions about the constitutionality of this."

(2) "I find it remarkable that at a time when President Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and many leaders in congress have found it necessary to cut back on Medicare, Medicaid, veteran's programs, affordable housing, children's programs, and the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in this country, that suddenly, out of nowhere, the government is able to find some $20 billion at a moment's notice to bail out Asian economies."

And (3) "In fact, it is my strong opinion, and the opinion of a number of other knowledgeable people, that U.S. participation in the bailout is illegal as a direct result of a law that Barney Frank of Massachusetts and I passed in 1994 as members of the Subcommittee on International Financial Organizations. In short, that law states that the United States government cannot support any International Monetary Fund or World Bank loans to any country unless the loan proposal guarantees internationally-recognized worker rights."

This is heady stuff. Obviously a big story. We cut back programs that benefit U.S. citizens while spending to shore up "Asian economies." We violate our own laws in the process.

Sanders continues, "I have read the proposal from the Indonesian government-an authoritarian nation led by a ruthless man, General Suharto, a man directly responsible for, among other things, the deaths of tens of thousands of people in his own country and in East Timor. Not one word in that proposal suggests that the Indonesian government will adopt policies guaranteeing internationally-recognized worker rights. Therefore, plain and simple, it is against the law for the United States, and the Secretary of the Treasury, to support this bailout....

"Furthermore, I find it very ironic that the hard-pressed taxpayers of this country are being asked to bail out Indonesia and other countries where the leaders of those countries are often extremely wealthy. According to Forbes magazine, Suharto is worth $16 billion. Jeffrey Winters of Northwestern University has estimated the Suharto family wealth at over $30 billion, with another $30 billion held by 50 close allies. So here we have a handful of people in that country worth $60 billion, owning almost all of the industry and resources of Indonesia, and taxpayers of the United States are being asked to bail them out."

So, one wonders, scanning the New York Times, Washington Post, and LA Times, and examining the news from ABC, CBS, NBC, etc., why isn't it news when a U.S. Congressperson claims his government is lying and instituting policies that are anti-U.S. citizens and illegal? Imagine an exposé, revealing the venal motives of the parties involved and their lack of concern for the well-being of anyone other than themselves. This could sell a few papers. So again, why isn't it news? It's the wrong news.

Reprinted with permission from Z Magazine, $30 per year, monthly. Phone: 508-548-9063 Address: 18 Millfield St., Woodsdale, MA, 02543.

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This story was published on February 4, 1998.