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Danny Schechter, the News Dissector's Plunder

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  A Review of Plunder: Investigating our Economic Calamity and the Subprime Scandal


You have been reading the headlines and watching the markets crashing and asking yourself just what is this really about? I am sure there are a host of other questions you are asking as well: Who saw this coming? Why weren’t they listened to? What is the real cause of all this chaos? Where was the media and why weren’t they doing their job?


If those questions and others are rattling around in your mind then I have a great book for you to read and to use for future activism.


Danny Schechter’s book Plunder is beyond doubt the best guide to answering the questions you have. For all thinking persons who truly want to understand what is happening, here is what the news the media forgot to tell you. And let it serve as a guide to you for all future disasters brought about by the men behind the curtain who really do not have any of our best interests at heart.


Plunder is an outgrowth of Schechter’s documentary , In Debt We Trust. That film brought Schechter a lot of grief. Rather than being seen as a prophet of doom, which in and of itself was not so terrible, he should have been lauded for sounding the alarm when it would have been in time. It is truly an amazing fact of American life that the powers that be can so disastrously determine what information we are able to see based on their subjective judgment of what is too negative or too harsh a view of a specific topic. From this perspective, we should judge all these gatekeepers as those on the Titanic who did not want to alarm the passengers that the ship was going down. (Or from a different vantage point comes this comment from Marie Cocco to me in an email, “I think its (sic) clear that the Republicans are a political party and not a governing one. At the moment, it seems the American public wants governance.”)


But rather than me going on and on indicting the obviously guilty, let’s look instead at what Schechter has placed as evidence that was there for all to see who wanted to see. Within each of the three sections of the book, he goes at the issues from a slightly different perspective.


The first section provides an overview of what the terms of the crisis are, and in particular what predatory lending truly is and what it does to those who are preyed upon. This section also contains what is de rigueur for Schechter’s take on the world, a criticism of the media for their unwillingness to really explore this crisis at its infancy so that we could have averted it.


The meat of the book, for this reviewer, is the second section, which brings us up close to the daily reporting Schechter did via his News Dissector blog where he chronicled what led us into this current disaster. What we now have is a reliable history of the factors that occurred day by day over a period of several months. This reprinting of his blog affords us all a record of what was happening during the time when the rest of the media was asleep at the wheel and/or was too busy distracting us with the sights and sounds of “news” that was just sexier to report. Yet, we can now see because of Schechter’s recordkeeping how brief a period of time it was before the house of cards came crashing down. By reading through these blog entries, you are able to watch in the day-by-dayness of the news from a variety of sources just what was happening to the credit markets, the stock market, the housing market and all the reactions from a wide array of players and observers of the players all over the world.


Schechter travels in a global world and experiences the events not just from New York or any other major US city. He is truly the kind of journalist who has been to see what global expansion means from here to Dubai and back. His list of sources makes the telling of this story read like the best kind of historical record. You do feel as if you are truly there when you read his reports.


The final part of the book and the most difficult part to hang onto is the way in which Schechter worked tirelessly to get the word out. But what makes this part of the book much more difficult to read is that he asks us to also do what he does: critique the media by holding them to account for the way they are in bed with big business. This relationship between the news people and the corporations that own most of this debt needs to be investigated by those who can hold them to account. With what you read in Schechter’s book you will know just what their culpability is.


Schechter urges all of us to get involved in the massive amount of work there is to do to change not only how the news gets out but who gets to say what the news is. And as my other hero, Dennis Kucinich, has been saying from the halls of Congress while the bailout was being “debated,” the whole point of this is that we have become a nation of debtors because that is where the money was being made by the banks, the credit card companies and obviously by the mortgage lenders. They could find no way to make those kinds of profits by helping American manufacturers or farmers. The money was to be made by getting us into a kind of debt from which there was no escape and thus a huge fraud was perpetrated on us.  


The topsy-turvy world of our economy has become a huge credit default mess where the twin towers of greed and government colluded to come after us and all we possessed. There are a few people working out there who can help us to speak truth to power and Danny Schechter’s book, Plunder: Investigating our Economic Calamity and Subprime Scandal is an excellent place to begin the work. I strongly encourage you to read this book.

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Deborah Emin is the founder of the publishing company, Sullivan Street Press ( She is also the impressario of the Itinerant Book Show as well as the program director of the REZ Reading Series in Kew Gardens, NY. Her (more...)
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