Ralph Nader Thinks People Aren’t Paying Attention to His … – Politico

Is ralph nader still alive

Video Is ralph nader still alive

“I stopped by her office twice, sent her emails and phone calls, she never called me back.”


“[he is] the chairman of the budget committee, and he hasn’t had a hearing on corporate crimes. he keeps talking about corporate crimes, why not a hearing? ”

but nader, now 88, is not giving up. instead, he decided to make one more bid for relevance by using a medium that suits his old-fashioned approach to politics: the print newspaper.

since april, nader has been working with a team of about fifteen freelance writers and journalists to publish capitol hill citizen, a new print newspaper that offers a decidedly unconventional look at congress. The newspaper’s coverage focuses on the issues that Nader had spent his career exposing and that, in Nader’s opinion, the mainstream press refuses to touch: the growth of corporate influence on Capitol Hill, the steady erosion of power of congress, the perennial corruption of us. the legislators and, of course, the follies and failures of the mainstream political circles. The citizen‘s mission, Nader said, is to direct national attention to the kinds of mainstream stories that get overlooked by Washington’s scoop-obsessed press corps, and to do it without any of the bells and whistles. and whistles from digital media.

“Online is a gulag of clutter, fun, advertisements, intrusions, and excess abundance,” says Nader, explaining the newspaper’s retro format. “people are sick of the distraction and manic matrix of the internet.”

It’s hard to argue with that, given mounting evidence of the corrosive effects of online media on the mental and civic health of Americans. But is the return to print media the solution to the information quality crisis in the United States? Nader, somewhat quixotically, is convinced that he is, and even like the rest of the d.c. As the media ecosystem shifts inexorably towards a “digital first” approach, it is betting, against all odds, that the urgency of the citizen pro-democracy message will outweigh the antiquated nature of its medium. .

“People really want more, you know,” says Nader. “They’ve ordered the first [edition] and want more.”

it remains to be seen who exactly “they” are.

The first two issues of citizen (the pilot issue ran in April and the second issue appeared in June) display the kind of unapologetic sensationalism that first propelled Nader into the national spotlight. The cover of the pilot issue, which runs to 40 tabloid-size pages, features a deep dive into the Congressional Labor Rights Office’s biennial report on occupational safety hazards on Capitol Hill, which found a total of 4,167 hazards between 2018 and 2019. — an increase of 56 per cent over the previous two years. Fourteen of these hazards were rated “Most Serious” and most related to “Fall Protection” or “Egress Routes.” (The report documents the death of a federal employee who was struck by a falling tree on capitol grounds in 2017; but otherwise the violations don’t exactly rise to the “unsafe at any speed” level.) , a color photograph of noam chomsky shows an exclusive interview between nader and the grizzled lefty icon: “noam chomsky: canceled before cancel was cool.”

Although the newspaper’s editorial philosophy is fairly straightforward, its financial model remains a bit more nebulous. For now, the paper is subsidized by Nader’s non-profit organization, the Center for the Study of Responsive Law, founded by Nader in 1968. The first run of the pilot issue included 4,000 copies in print, 750 of which were delivered by a distribution service to each member of Congress and to the offices of the various congressional committees. another 2,000 copies were mailed to individual subscribers, who can request a print copy through the newspaper’s basic web page in exchange for a $5 donation. the rest were sent free of charge to activists and journalists in the nader network. (The launch of the newspaper has received little coverage in the mainstream press, although the first issue received an Instagram announcement from singer-songwriter Patti Smith in April.) Going forward, Nader says, the plan is to maintain a monthly print program paid for by a mix of print subscriptions and individual donations. a third edition just went off the press this week. “Why are there no hearings on the inflated Pentagon budget?” asks a headline on the front page.

As his somewhat nonchalant approach to fundraising suggests, Nader is taking his new project seriously, but not too seriously. the newspaper’s tagline, “democracy dies in broad daylight” is a thinly veiled jab at the washington post‘s smug tagline “democracy dies in the dark.” Behind the joke, however, is a real criticism: that the most serious obstacle to hard-hitting public interest reporting is not a lack of access to confidential information, but the reluctance of the mainstream media to run stories that could upset feathers. from their corporate overlords.

“every time you read an exposé in politics or the washington post or the new york times or whatever, just ask yourself: how much of it was actually available ?” says nader. “I mean, these newspapers are not asking for secret information, it has been available.”

actually, i was a bit surprised that nader had agreed to talk to me, given that the first edition of citizen included two separate articles attacking politician and his parent company, axel springer, for promoting a “pay to play” culture of journalism by receiving money from corporate sponsors. (For the record, sponsors have no say in political editorial content.)

when I mention these criticisms to nader, he laughs.

“Well, try to get them to actually go after the pharmaceutical and military-industrial complex,” he replies. “it’s a problem.”

nader’s critique isn’t reserved for so-called mainstream publications: “independent media need a kick in the rear, too,” nader tells me. but one gets the feeling that his misgivings with the progressive media may be motivated as much by personal animosities as by actual ideological disagreements.

“the nation hasn’t reviewed any of my last 12 books, not even mentioned them! — neither the progressive, nor in these times, nor the washington monthly”, fumes nader. “I didn’t come to Washington in a UFO, you know?”

nader’s complaints are not strictly true: the washington month published a lengthy interview with nader about his 2014 book “unstoppable: the emerging left-right alliance to dismantle the corporate state“, and the nation and the progressive have published flattering stories about him in recent years. But Nader’s sense of isolation reflects the reality that his particular brand of liberalism, which blends an unflinching critique of corporate power with a certain nostalgia for the lower-case D democratic ethos of the pre-digital age, fits hard into today’s ideological matrix. of the American left.

in fact, the citizen includes a handful of articles that flagrantly clash with the current political devotions of the progressive movement. The pilot issue, for example, includes a barrage against the congressional black caucus’s ties to corporate America, and in his interview with Chomsky, Nader lashes out at the “politically correct tyranny” of the left, calling it “debilitating,” ” distracting” and “nearly immolated in terms of the younger generation”. An article in the third issue denounces the progressive congressional caucus and the AOC-led team as “the core of [the] bogus populist movements in the Democratic Party” and puppets of the “progressive industrial complex.”

Perhaps, as expected, Nader’s new project hasn’t made him win back many friends in Washington.

“‘don’t push bernie, don’t push elizabeth [warren], they’re doing a good job,’” says nader, echoing the advice of his fellow progressives. “what do you mean ‘don’t push’? it’s all about pushing!”

brilliantly absent from the first two editions of citizen is any extended coverage of the story that increasingly dominates the main headlines: former president donald trump’s attempt to nullify the 2020 election and the republican party’s quick embrace of trump’s hardline electoral denialism.

as nader explained, this is not because he thinks these stories are unimportant, but because he sees trump as the logical extension of the undemocratic corporate politics that took root in washington long before january. 6.

“trump is a corporate state,” says nader, citing the previous administration’s efforts to reduce financial regulations and weaken agencies like the bureau of consumer financial protection. “You’re getting an extension of the corporate domination of the government, which is the clinical definition of fascism.”

But behind Nader’s well-known jeremiads against corporate misconduct and pay-to-play politics, his main criticism of Congress is quite simple: that it’s extremely difficult for the average citizen to speak directly to their elected representative.

“[members of congress] will respond to birthdays and grandkids and graduations they will RSVP on invitations, they’re very good at it, but when it comes to serious letters, it’s reserved for people who are donors ”, a word that nader pronounces, somewhat confusedly, with the emphasis on the second syllable (“do-nor”). “major lobbyists connected to major donors” (again, with the syncopated pronunciation) “would get over it.”

could it be the case that members of congress are exceptionally reluctant to take calls from nader, whom many in washington still blame for costing al gore the presidency in 2000? maybe, but nader is right. In an article for the newspaper’s pilot issue, corporate crime reporter russell mokhiber documents his exhaustive efforts to contact members of his congressional delegation: sens. Joe Manchin, Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. alex mooney, to discuss his positions on corporate crime. Mokhiber uses every resource available to the average citizen to try to contact his representatives: fill out online forms, call the Washington and regional offices, send follow-up emails, and make follow-up calls, but to no avail. . In the end, he gets only one response, a form letter from Manchin thanking him for “sharing his perspective on building back better.”

as nader pointed out, the firewall that representatives have erected between themselves and their constituents poses a real threat to the basic tenets of representative democracy, and yet remains virtually invisible to mainstream reporters passing a an important part of his professional life hobnobbing with elected representatives on capitol hill.

“We have a first amendment right to petition our government, right? Well, how much is that right worth if our government never responds? says nader. “It’s basically a dead letter in the first amendment, it’s done. you can’t do it.”

To Nader’s credit, there is a certain consistency, in a sort of “the medium is the message”, between the retro citizen format and Nader’s old-fashioned approach. to politics both suggest that to reinvigorate democracy, america needs to go back to basics: a face-to-face conversation between a representative and his or her constituents. a newspaper you can actually hold in your hands.

“People see clearly when they have a newspaper in their hand,” says Nader. “That’s all they’re reading. no one is trying to get your attention in any other way. they really appreciate it.”

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