The Parable of Rupert Murdoch


Photo by DonkeyHotey

The Nation

Although he successfully runs one of the largest media empires in the world, Rupert Murdoch has more detractors than fans. His persona and appearance so evoke the archetype of a villain (rich, ruthless) that some James Bond enthusiasts believe he inspired the evil character Elliot Carver, who tries to provoke a war to gain broadcasting rights in China in the film Tomorrow Never Dies. 

… In the United States, Murdoch’s most controversial media network is, of course, Fox News. But his company, News Corp, also owns numerous television stations, the book publisher HarperCollins, and such iconic publications as The Wall Street Journal. The Guardian has called Fox a “major driving force behind global warming denial,” citing a recent study that said Fox viewers were more likely to distrust scientists and disbelieve the evidence that climate change is happening.

But there is a parallel universe in which Murdoch has even more power over information—the faraway country where the media mogul was born, Australia. [Read more.]

Dar Williams: Why the Music of Protest Is Still Worth Defending

Photo by Chris Chin

Photo by Chris Chin

YES! Magazine

It’s become fashionable to say that political music is either dead or irrelevant. “Because of the ’60s, part and parcel of being a ‘serious music fan’ is lamenting that music isn’t political enough,” wrote communications scholar Michael Barthel in Salon last year, in an article called “Protest Songs Are Pointless.” The pop sound that’s churned out these days by top-grossing industry producers, even when it’s edgy or raging, is rarely political. But some of us secretly long for the solidarity that comes from belting out an old anthem together, without embarrassment. We wish it were possible for such a small act to foment revolutions.

It’s never been quite that simple. Protest songs tend to grow from existing social movements, not the other way around. They nourish and reinforce the emotional strength necessary to confront political problems. And they remind us that we aren’t alone in our convictions—this is how I felt when I first heard Dar Williams’ music in 1998, when I was still a student. She reached into my Gen X angst, not with a political rant but with something far more personal. “I’m so glad that you finally made it here. You thought nobody cared, but I did; I could tell,” she sang in “You’re Aging Well,” a song that seems to call, much in the way Gloria Steinem did, for a revolution based on self-esteem.

Today, Dar Williams is the torchbearer for a set of musical sensibilities that have deep roots in America’s history of dissent—from the abolition songs of the 19th century and the labor anthems of the early and mid-20th to the folk revival of the 1960s. The small-framed, 46-year-old guitar player, vocalist, and mother of two has, for the past two decades, established herself as “one of America’s very best singer-songwriters,” in the words of the New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg. [Read more.]

What We Owe Adrienne Rich


Photo by K. Kendall

YES! Magazine, March 30, 2012

I was 19 when I first read Adrienne Rich and … “An Atlas of the Difficult World,” which seemed to tear down the barriers between the poem and me, and let me in.

Like Rich, I grew up at a distance from true poverty: “reader reading under a summer tree in the landscape of the rural working poor,” she writes. But I knew how fractured and unstable the world around me was becoming. I was part of the first generation to grow up knowing about climate change, brought to world attention by James Hansen and to my school classroom by a forward-thinking science teacher. I was in high school when the Soviet Union collapsed; as a child, I had nightmares about nuclear war. Rich’s poetry gave me hope that stories could change things—could force us to confront and heal what is painful and give us hope, strength, and compassion. [Read more.]