Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Journalistic Bully-Coward

"When I was in college I worked on a project for Ralph Nader, long before his days as a presidential candidate. One evening he gave me his own graybeard lecture, from his venerable position as a man who had reached his mid-30s. He said that a really unattractive personality type was the journalistic bully-coward. That is, the person who breathes absolute fire when sitting at the keyboard, but skulks away nervously if he catches sight of someone he'd so fearlessly denounced from the writer's chair."
- James Fallows, Lessons From Nader: How Not To Be A Bully Coward, The Atlantic, June 30 2010
That's a lot of wherewithal for someone in their mid-30s.

Fallows links the following video of a 30ish Nader at a news conference following a speech he (Nader) gave at DePauw University on September 11, 1970, "Environmental Hazards: Man-Made, Man-Remedied."

It's a short clip. I found the following bit, starting at 1:24, relevant to today. And this was 40 years ago!
"There was recently a million dollar fine imposed on Chevron for the biggest oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. What is that? That's nothing! That's about an hour's gross revenue of the parent company. And it can be just be passed on through the cartel in the form of higher consumer prices. Unless these fines go to the culpable officials, you're not going to get law acting as deterrents to future activity.

And an oil spill is not just something that messes up beaches or kills a few seagulls. An oil spill as we now know, due to testimony before the Senate a few weeks ago, breaks down almost immediately into carcinogenic components, which are consumed by fish, and which can be passed through the food cycle. The oil spill also destroys almost every vestige of life on the seabed over an enormous area. So it's a very serious ecological disaster, one that does not repair itself in just a few months or even a few years."
In light of BP's massive oil spill from April of this year, now known to be the largest spill ever in the Gulf of Mexico, it is apparent we did not get law acting as deterent from the time Nader delivered his admonishment in 1970.


1 comment:

Dr. Mel said...

It's a lot of wherewithal for someone so utterly austere and humorless. Not that I don't agree w/ him, but I'm not sure it's possible to fine individuals within corporate bodies when it's for corporation-related mistakes. I don't actually know that, but I'm guessing, esp. given the recent pro-corporation rulings from the Supremes.
The other thing that bugs me about Nader is that I resent it when he becomes a spoiler in an election cycle.