I have been doing a lot of reading of late. Not books, mind you, but screens. The internet is the new library and we’re all writers. You think that Facebook post you made of your silly dog was just an update to your grandkids but indeed, depending on your settings, it could be the post that brings a needed smile for a lonely dog lover who just lost his sole companion. We really never realize the extent of our deeds and I am here today to cheer on humble writers of that seemingly small tool of democracy, the Letter to the Editor.
Lowell Shellack of Park Rapids, MN gets credit for instigating this blog as his recent piece on Enbridge’s 99.999% safe record was exactly what I needed to see as this ridiculous number, posted in ad after ad in Minnesota papers, frustrates me and attempts to delude readers.
Lowell has a history of revealing to the public that which has not been clearly and fully presented by the local press on their own. In his LTE from 2017, he exposed three major Enbridge pipeline spills in Minnesota as shown below.
- August 1979, west of Bemidji: 449,000 gallons oil spilled, a quarter of the oil oozed through sandy soil into a wetland and water table. It has never been cleaned up entirely and is the subject of an ongoing study to see how petroleum products break down naturally.
- March 1991, near Grand Rapids: A state record 1.7 million gallons spilled when Enbridge employees misinterpreted alarms and did not respond immediately. A similar mistake happened almost two decades later in 2010, at Marshall, Mich., when almost a million gallons of tar sands spilled into the Kalamazoo River. The river was shut down for two years and the river still isn’t completely cleaned up.
- July, 2002, near Cohasset: 252,000 gallons of crude oil spilled when the pipeline ruptured as a result of pipeline fatigue developed while shipping the pipe. It took a controlled burn sending black smoke over a mile high to dispose of some of the oil.
This is the kind of thoughtful and well-written journalism we hunger for as mainstream media becomes more and more of a sound-byte propaganda machine for government and corporate interests. Where is the news coverage that looks like this kind of debunkery? Where are the articles that truly reveal the nature of this pipeline project? Where are the voices of the non-human entities? Hell, where are the voices of everyday citizens who oppose Line 3? Mostly in LTEs and Op-Eds. The only time we hear these voices in the mainstream news seems to be when they become so loud in utter frustration to bring change that we see people marching in the streets.
Big corporations like Enbridge have plenty of money to buy ads but more importantly, influence.
Locally, I refuse to give money to the KAXE/KBXE public radio stations because they air misleading Enbridge ads. On the surface, this seems like a freedom of enterprise issue, yes? I mean, Enbridge pays them for the ad time just like any local business. What’s the problem? Well, the problem is that this ad revenue seems to have brought with it an associated willingness to look the other way with regard to their big pipeline project which runs directly through the KAXE/KBXE listening area. What kind of coverage is the station giving to those in opposition to Line 3? Not much. Even with the local trial ongoing regarding 4 Necessity Valve Turners.
Even their coverage of what was a horrible night for Enbridge seems to press as much as it can of the positive by focusing on pro-Enbridge views. The reporter, Scott Hall, spoke with the Enbridge representative, a landowner on the pipeline, and three Enbridge construction workers giving feedback from each of these conversations. But while he mentions speaking with a “dozen or more” in opposition to Line 3, there is not a single quote or summarized comment from any of the tribal members present or the non-natives working to prevent Line 3 construction. The voice of the opposition was barely represented in the KAXE/KBXE reporting, consisting of basically the question Winona LaDuke asked.
The extent of Scott Hall’s coverage for the voice of Line 3 opposition.
Someone asked for quiet and the leader of Honor the Earth, Winona LaDuke from White Earth, asked the Enbridge staff if the company was going to use the same tactics against pipeline protesters in MN as were used recently by law enforcement in North Dakota. At one point she asked “are you going to bring tanks here?”
We’ve made it clear via phone conversations and survey responses with KAXE/KBXE that we will not support their efforts until they refuse to take Enbridge money. It seems they are doubling down with Enbridge though, recently having them as a sponsor for a major community event.
Because I so appreciate those who write in to the paper, I called and left a message for my new friend Lowell. He returned my call the next day and we chatted about our beautiful region and our dedication to the work we hope will result in saving this place from the destruction of the fossil fuel industry. I encourage you to not only reach out to those who do write with thanks but to take a shot yourself at sharing your own views, ideas, concerns, and hopes. You never know who you might be helping.
Another area where I believe we are losing ground is in our televised satire. I love the coverage given to the inside story by our satirists but I truly wish the American public were mature enough to digest this information without all the distracting name-calling and ridiculous humor. How about we simply talk about the facts which, if really understood, would astonish most citizens? Our government spying on everyone should be front page news until it stops. Unfortunately, our mainstream media is owned by corporations who work in cahoots with the government to continue the capitalistic profits, regardless of the effect to the environment or the very citizens the government is meant to serve and corporations claim to benefit. Trevor Noah, John Oliver, Sam Bee, and even more mainstream Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers all use silliness while discussing subjects that would be terrifying if we could only see the full truth. This Assange case could mean the end of a free press, though it may only be a short step from the bound press we already have.
In fact, in this era of murder and prosecution of journalists who are speaking out against the powers that be, we need to hear MORE from everyday people from LTEs to Op-Eds to outright direct action. While the recent arrest of Julian Assange may well be a sign of the end, corporate ownership has bound the press to a large extent already. Outside MSM (mainstream media) we still see independent journalism that informs of the darker side of the workings of government, corporations, or even simply racist asshats. The livestream video-capture subversive public, especially that of those in the Resistance to the Empire may be our last best hope. Just ask Princess Leah.