A community of NPR critics monitoring NPR for its corporatist, Pentagon friendly, pro-US foreign policy coverage of the news.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Genius Thing

In the aftermath of Haiti's earthquake tragedy I noted NPR's typically amnesiac coverage of Haitian history. As Haiti works toward recovery, Wednesday's ATC featured NPR's Planet Money imbeciles [that would be Bank Whisperer Adam Davidson and Count von Count to a trillion Joffe-Walt] explaining how Haitian textile business representatives are out "to change the destiny of Haiti's economy."

Seriously, Adam Davidson states that
"six Haitian businesspeople, five men, one woman, flew to Las Vegas recently to - I don't think you can put this too grandly - to change the destiny of Haiti's economy."
The entire piece was an uncritical paean to the benefits of US/neoliberal trade policies. Davidson introduces the US trade representative with this homage:
"Ladies and gentlemen, Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative. The only reason Haiti even has a textile industry right now is because of this guy, or at least because of his office."
Joffe-Walt soon chimes in with her I'm-lecturing-preschoolers voice as she explains the complexities of how Haiti's textile industry and US quotas work:
"Haiti wants the quota lifted. They want to be able to sell as many clothes to the U.S. as possible. To them, its simple: lift the quota and we get out of poverty."
Joffe-Walt explains that "The U.S. really only gives out trade deals if it serves some purpose, some American purpose." She and Davidson have nothing but praise for the policy - even going so far as to tout its Middle East peacemaking power. Davidson finds an Egyptian textile dealer at the Las Vegas trade fair who says, "President Clinton wanted to make peace between Israel and Arab nations. So, he thought of this genius protocol..." Forgetting to mention that Egypt is dictator-run, torture state and that Israel is a "democratic" torture state bent on destroying Palestinian people - Davidson explains that
"the genius thing there is that Israel and Arab nations only get this special deal if they work together."
If there's any confusion about whose viewpoint Davidson represents in the report, consider this gem when he is talking about Pakistan:
"Pakistan's apparel industry got a huge boost itself right after 9/11, when they got a sweet textile trade deal in exchange for helping us with the war on terror." [I hate to break it to Davidson, but neither "the war on terror" nor Pakistan's role in it has ever done squat for "us" - unless he means the cheerful militarists and war profiteers here in the land of the free.]
And so it goes throughout the rest of the report. The voices never heard are those lucky Haitians who get $3.09 a day working in the exciting world of making clothes for "us" in Haiti. It also goes without saying that Davidson and Joffe-Walt present nothing of the general history of the European/US exploitation of Haiti or the US role in bringing that "sweet deal" of sweat shop life to Haiti.


Boulder Dude said...

Yeah, and the Barbados v Jamaica piece from the Planet Monkey folks was a giant memory hole of dismissing the last 40 years of history.

gDog said...

As BD commented in Q Tips, Alex Blumberg was on the neighboring island, Jamaica, making equally inane ahistorical observations in Why GDP Matters: Compare Jamaica To Barbados

My comment there is that NPR's CIA is sort of like the Talking Heads' Heaven: nothing there ever happens.

biggerbox said...

But, but, what will the people of the Northern Marianas Islands do if we improve Haiti's ability to make clothes for us?? Are they SOL now that Twinkletoes Delay has moved on? Another subject left unmentioned by the Planet Monkey team.

"Planet Monkey twins, form of dumbed-down oversimplification - ACTIVATE!"

gDog said...

Really, one really excellent feature of MTW's posts are links he researches.

For instance,


Which describes in accurate, thoroughly documented terms the ways in which, for all practical purposes, Haiti has become a de facto US slave colony.

Anonymous said...

Blumberg's GDP exposition is a textbook example of NPR's failure to maintain good journalistic practices.
What's interesting about the GDP comparison report, and is not as evident in the incredibly poor grammar of the NPR transcript (apostrophes are optional?), is Alex’s glee at finding just what he wanted to find. This is not reportage, but a cherry-picking of examples that fit what he wanted to prove in the first place. His questions all lead the interviewee to the answers necessary to prove his point. He did not come to learn nor merely listen, but to extract.

I was glad to see that most of the comments posted at NPR about the story faulted it for being overly simplistic and would love to see Alex answer the US teachers’ responses comparing their school’s situations as being more like those in Jamaica than those of Barbados.

And how does Alex’s theory jive with Adam Davidson’s recent amazement at an entrepreneur’s mental ability to calculate and maintain books on her customers using her brain and a fifth grade education?

“DAVIDSON: Yvrose told us that she has a fifth-grade education. And I couldn't stop thinking that she has to understand all these complicated financial principles that people I interview on Wall Street get paid millions to master: interest rate arbitrage, loan maturities.”
--Al Hoover