MEDIA MASH: Nader Rising

Nader Rising

If insurgent populist Ralph Nader's presidential campaign is to make a serious run at the two party monopoly, the media needs to cooperate. So far so good. Nader is being taken seriously by the mainstream writers and pundits and the excitement accompanying him on the campaign trail is lending credibility.

The media is looking for an escape from the numbing predictability of Gore/Bush, and Nader is emerging as the H. Ross Perot of 2000, leaving Pat Buchanan in the dust. Nader is soon due for face-to-face sessions with Jim Lehrer and Tom Brokaw on national television. His top notch performance on Meet the Press with Tim Russert a few weeks ago helped build some media momentum. Then CSPAN carried live coverage of last weekend's Green Party Convention in Denver, and repeated the show at least three times, adding to the Nader momentum.

Jimmy Hoffa Jr. and the Teamster's flirtation with endorsing Nader -- a reaction to Gore's push on the China trade vote -- received good press. Nader's suit against the Federal Election Commission for allowing corporate sponsorship of the debates also got some significant play. The suit, which is supported by heavies like Susan Sarandon and Phil Donohue, claims that when corporations like brewski maker Anheuser-Busch sponsor presidential debates, they are violating the law against corporate contributions, in the sense that their sponsorship guarantees millions of dollars of free publicity to the Democratic and Republican parties.

It doesn't hurt that Nader is an American icon with a steady record of forty years of effective consumer advocacy, a record that gives him celebrity status. Ironically, the recent public announcement by Nader that he had made more than $13 million over his career and had given 80 percent of it away has made him a more complex character. No doubt many a high tech libertarian smiled when Nader revealed that he had made a bundle investing in the hugely successful Cisco Systems, and other high tech stocks like Comcorp and Iomega. Clearly, Nader is no dummy when it comes to investing either.

So far Nader has been more or less ignored by the Gore camp, but that's beginning to change. Recently Senator Harry Reid of Nevada uttered what the Masher thinks was marvelous projection when he called Nader selfish for running for president. Sure Henry, and your man Gore there is the picture of selflessness running for President of all the people.

Burger King Supplies Kids with Porn Addresses

An item from the UK Telegraph is the Masher's laugher for the week. According to writer Jonathan Lambeth, Burger King has been forced to withdraw a CD-ROM given away with children's meals after complaints that the disc contained Internet addresses for more than 2,000 pornographic Web sites.

Apparently, the Burger King CD includes "software called Net Nanny, designed to provide parents with a filtering mechanism to block certain Web sites. Unfortunately, once installed from the CD, it only takes a couple of mouse clicks to view the global list of pornographic Web addresses." More than a million of the CDs had been given away before the promotion was pulled.

Although the small print said that the CD should be installed by someone over 18, it featured a photo of teen pop star Louise, whose new single is on the CD. Given the fact that most teenagers are more adroit with their computers than their parents, Burger King -- which has 630 shops in Britain -- had a huge PR mess on their hands.

Poverty on the Tube

In the face of constant cheerleading about our so-called soaring economy, two veteran filmmakers have produced "Outriders," a new movie that documents the brutal poverty still pervading the U.S. -- and what a group of feisty poor people decided to do about it.

Co-produced by the Independent Television Service (ITVS), Outriders was directed and produced by Pamela Yates and Peter Kinoy, known for their powerful film work on political struggles in Central America. Outriders is the third in a series of productions about people who have been left out of the economic expansion of the '90s. It will air on PBS stations around the country in late July (check local listings).

Outriders traces a hectic, 30 day bus trip across America by a group of homeless people and their families who have been pushed off welfare. The group goes out to collect the stories of those who have been left behind in today's economy. The trip culminates in their testifying at the United Nations.

The "freedom bus riders of the '90s" are members of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union (KWRU), an organization made up and run by poor and homeless people. The fact that the group has little money means struggling on the road, sleeping in parking lots and on people's floors. Nevertheless, despite the hardships, the trip has profound effects on many of the participants. Tune into the film and you'll get a sense of how many people struggle to survive in this land of abundance.

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