The real political task in a society such as ours is to criticize the workings of institutions that appear to be both neutral and independent, to criticize and attack them in such a manner that the political violence that has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them.
–Michel Foucault, The Chomsky-Foucault Debate: On Human Nature
I guess Sunday was business at usual at NPR, but I found it astounding. Maybe my rage came from the fact that a couple of days previously I’d written a brief commentary about the failure of the Tennessee print media to report on or even acknowledge the astronomical rise in the number of homeless public school students between 2007 and 2010—74%.
The national rise in the number of homeless public school students was 38%.
Have you seen any newspaper headlines about that in your local papers? Any commentaries on your local NPR station?
This all came home to me while listening to wiccan priestess [that’s a descriptor from her Wikipedia entry] Margot Adler on NPR, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012.
ADLER: At the Imagine plaque in Strawberry fields, a real return to normal; a guitarist singing Beatle songs and crowds taking pictures.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) Is going to be a…
ADLER: There were two totally different Manhattans in the wake of Sandy’s fury. And I spent a lot of my time in what I’ve come to call the border area: those blocks where there was power, activity and normalcy on one side; and on the other, no lights and just the noise of a few generators pumping power into darkened delis and pizza joints. Grand Central Terminal was on the power side, bustling Friday; the Apple store on the upper level was packed, the restaurants a hive of activity. The open banks on the border became makeshift workspaces for the powerless on the dark side.
Edward Sherman sat with some 15 other people in a Chase Bank.
EDWARD SHERMAN: It’s become my office. I have been sitting in the lobby of JP Morgan Chase working, yeah. Yes. Yes.
ADLER: Our NPR New York office on 42nd Street was on the power side of the street, the beloved public library on Fifth Avenue, with it’s lions out front, was shuttered and dark and will not open until tomorrow. Macy’s was filled with customers. Huge symbols of capitalism – Charles Schwab, Credit Swiss – were locked down. The upscale Lord and Taylor, a block from the library was in darkness until it opened at noon on Saturday.
Minutes before that, I saw people with Lord and Taylor shopping bags coming from the subway to return things. And just about to walk in was Salma El Said from Egypt.
SALMA EL SAID: We are happy because it’s business. You know, I mean, you want the best for the best for the people, too. You know? It was sad to see it closed like that, closed.
ADLER: People in Staten island and New Jersey are still struggling, and so are some here in Manhattan, but now that the power is back, we’re beginning, just beginning to be one island once again.
Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.
I’m sure glad that life has returned to Normal for Margot Adler and that she can again enjoy a stroll in Central Park. . . . But heralding shopping at Macy’s? And Lord and Taylor shopping bags? I was screaming at the radio, “1.8 million people in the New York City area are without electricity. Forty thousand people in New York City are homeless. Those in Staten Island and the Rockaways who still have homes—sort of—are battling the cold, the sewage pile up. And worse. Maybe Margot Adler and NPR need to venture a bit further downtown—or at least read the New York Times. [http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/05/nyregion/freezing-temperatures-complicate-storm-recovery.html?pagewanted=all]
NPR, are you out of your #*%@- mind????
And what about the rest of us? When are we going to demand that our local media tell the truth about poverty?
We need to be relentless, calling out the megaphones to power. We need to demand that they stop ignoring the poor while celebrating those Macy’s shoppers. I would say “hats off” to @NYTMetro on Twitter; the New York Times Metro Desk posts ongoing updates about what’s happening to the people in the New York-New Jersey area who face much greater challenges than returning items at Lord & Taylor.