Versus the values of our upper-end press corps: We were struck by a pair of front-page reports in Sunday’s Washington Post.
More specifically, we were struck by the values lodged within these reports, which sat side-by-side on page one of the hard-copy Post.
This first report concerned Nelson Mandela’s first home in Johannesburg. As he started, Sudarsan Raghavan compared this less than modest dwelling to the home where Mandela lived in his (much) later years:
RAGHAVAN (12/8/13): Less than 10 miles from Nelson Mandela's opulent home, where thousands are gathering every day to pay tribute, is another house once inhabited by the anti-apartheid icon. This one has only one room, no toilet, no running water, and is in the heart of one of the city's poorest and most politically volatile enclaves, Alexandra.Such narratives come from the annals of the world’s oldest hero stories. On Sunday, we compared the values lurking in that report with the values lurking inside a second front-page news report.
...The house was Mandela's first residence after he left his ancestral village of Qunu in South Africa's Eastern Cape province in 1941 for Johannesburg, where he eventually launched his career as a lawyer—a journey that will come full circle next weekend when he is buried in Qunu. The house was the anchor of a crucial chapter of Mandela's life, when he evolved from an heir of a tribal kingdom to revolutionary leader.
By his own account, Mandela spent some of his happiest days in Alexandra.
Mandela arrived in Alexandra at the age of 23, in part to avoid an arranged tribal marriage. He initially stayed at a local Anglican church before renting the one-room residence in the back of the house owned by Xhoma's great-grandfather, John Xhoma. In his autobiography "Long Walk to Freedom," Mandela describes the residence as "no more than a shack, with a dirt floor, no heat, no electricity, no running water. But it was a place of my own and I was happy to have it.”
This second report concerned one of the ways Americans get ripped off—looted—in the normal workings of American health care. Whoriskey and Keating started their lengthy report like this:
WHORISKEY AND KEATING (12/8/13): The two drugs have been declared equivalently miraculous. Tested side by side in six major trials, both prevent blindness in a common old-age affliction. Biologically, they are cousins. They're even made by the same company.Historically and in myth, the moral giants have emerged from the small, single rooms.
But one holds a clear price advantage.
Avastin costs about $50 per injection. Lucentis costs about $2,000 per injection.
Doctors choose the more expensive drug more than half a million times every year, a choice that costs the Medicare program, the largest single customer, an extra $1 billion or more annually.
Spending that much may make little sense for a country burdened by ever-rising health bills, but as is often the case in American health care, there is a certain economic logic: Doctors and drugmakers profit when more-costly treatments are adopted.
Our corporate players don’t play it like that. Then again, neither do our ranking opinion leaders.
In this post, Kevin Drum expresses a complaint about this second report in the Post, the one about health care looting. “Oddly, despite the length of the story, the writers never clearly explain precisely what's going on,” he says.
Drum explains in more detail. We didn’t bother reading. Here’s why:
It’s increasingly clear that topics like this simply aren’t part of our nation’s debate. Even in our emerging “liberal” organs, corporate-backed journalists scrupulously defer to powerful interests.
Stars of the emerging “liberal” media are concerned with topics of race, gender and sexuality. Beyond a few campaign-based attempts to pretend, the ways the American public is looted by powerful interests barely causes our revered stars to bat an eye.
This looting of Medicare won’t be discussed on MSNBC. As an illustration of what we mean, let’s return to Elisabeth Rosenthal’s New York Times series, Paying Till It Hurts.
The series began in June. By early August, Rosenthal had done three gigantic front-page reports about the ludicrous price of health care in the U.S. as compared to the rest of the developed world.
Over the course of two months, these gigantic front-page reports had appeared in the New York Times, a well-known American newspaper. They had produced almost no reaction, a fact which is passing strange.
As everyone knows, TV news producers routinely take their cues from the New York Times. In this case, a series of gigantic reports produced zero reaction from TV news outlets.
As we noted on August 13, Rosenthal’s name hadn’t been mentioned, not even once, on any MSNBC programs. (We had searched the Nexis archives.) Her name had also been missing from CNN and the Fox News Channel.
According to Nexis, Rosenthal hadn't been mentioned on the three major TV networks. Or on the PBS NewsHour.
One week earlier, Rosenthal had been interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air. According to Nexis, that represented the only time her name had so much as been mentioned by any of the news orgs we’ve mentioned above.
Rosenthal’s series has continued. Along with a set of smaller reports, she has published two more gigantic front-page reports:
October 13, 2013: The Soaring Cost of a Simple Breath. 3840 wordsHave you seen or heard a single world about these front-page reports? In a quick Nexis search, we find no sign that Rosenthal, or her series, has been mentioned on any network TV or cable news program, right to the present day.
December 3, 2013: As Hospital Costs Soar, Single Stitch Tops $500. 3644 words
For our money, Rosenthal’s initial reports were a bit politely written. On Sunday, Whoriskey and Keating asserted a financial scam in a way which was much more journalistically direct.
But all of Rosenthal’s reports opened the door for a discussion of the massive looting which characterizes American health care. Our health care is crazily expensive when compared to that of all other developed nations.
Rosenthal’s huge reports opened the door. That said, here’s the basic fact:
American journalists don’t plan to go through it! Even when prompted by the Times, they are keeping their pretty traps shut about this remarkable looting, which affects red and blue voters alike.
Today’s post-journalistic press corps like to talk about race and sex. Simply put, corporate looting is widely, completely accepted.
We didn’t bother to puzzle out Sunday’s report in the Post. Corporate looting is widely accepted by everyone from Rachel on down.
These people are being well paid for their silence. To all appearances, they have decided to take the money and clown.
This was our basic takeaway from Sunday's pair of front-page reports:
Mandela was happy in that one room. Our TV stars aren’t like that.