What the Muck?

I started this blog nearly four years ago intending to post my own original commentary, but I saw a comment on the website of NPR/WNYC’s On the Media that I could not leave buried in obscurity.

The comment criticizes the media’s lack of coverage of the plight of the lowest-wage workers in the U.S., in light of “On the Media” host Bob Garfield’s discussion on how a New York Times story about hazardous working conditions in nail salons became widely read. The commenter’s initialism “USCFM” apparently stands for U.S. Corporate-Funded Media, but I cannot decipher “ICBW”.

Garfield compares the NYT’s work on manicurists to the great muckrakers of the fin-de-siècle-beore-last, missing a *major* difference. Persons like Tarbell[1] and Sinclair[2] publicly declared their intent to fundamentally change their society and their pain when their work produced only token reforms: Sinclair famously despaired that (in The Jungle) he had aimed at his nation’s heart but merely hit it in the gut. ICBW, but I strongly suspect that the Times (and WNYC, and the rest of the US corporate-funded media) aims no higher than the nation’s toenails.

The “buried lead” (of which the NYC manicurists’ story is but a nail-clipping) is that mass migration to the US–especially illegal immigration–is driving down wages and working conditions (and increasingly living conditions) while driving up rents and housing costs, especially at the bottom of US labor and housing markets. (Mass emigration also drains energy, skills, and political oppositions from the source nations, but the discourse of “brain drain” appears to be banned from today’s USCFM.) ICBW, but I strongly suspect the NYT et al are going nowhere near that engine of inequality: it’s just too profitable for their 1% advertisers and funders. Instead of attacks on the *economics* of importing a new underclass–and especially on the bosses and landlords who profit most–the USCFM will deliver only xenophobic attacks on immigrants (but not those who exploit them) from the likes of Fox News and the Murdoch[3] press, and defenses of immigrants (but not the native-born underclass) by its more socially-liberal organs.

In 1906, President Roosevelt told the muckrakers to “know when to stop raking the muck”[4]. With increasingly few exceptions (like Seymour Hersh[5]–thanks for doing that, OTM!), the USCFM of 2015 don’t need to be told: they know to stop long before its stench afflicts the comfortable.

[1]: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ida_Tarbell
[2]: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upton_Sinclair
[3]: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Murdoch
[4]: en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Man_with_the_Muck_Rake
[5]: onthemedia.org/story/podcast-extra-seymour-hersh

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