Quotulatiousness

February 16, 2018

Trump’s Fake News: Deep Breaths and Fact-Checking Might Just Save America

Filed under: Humour, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

ReasonTV
Published on 15 Feb 2018

President Trump labels whatever he dislikes as “fake news,” and makes up his own, but the media is part of the problem. In the latest “Mostly Weekly,” Andrew Heaton provides a solution.

—————-

Donald Trump tends to call whatever he dislikes “fake news,” from inconvenient facts to unfavorable reporting. Even though the President himself is less a font of truth and more a spigot of self-serving exaggeration and insults.

But Trump isn’t all wrong when he labels reporting against him as fictitious or slanted. Reporters have become so enraged with the President that in their hurry to lambast him, they sometimes forget about fact checking and standard quality controls.

The result is that actual “fake news” is slipping into major news outlets. When hit pieces turn out to be false, they bolster Trump’s claims about the media and discredit journalists in the eyes of his supporters.

In the latest “Mostly Weekly” Andrew Heaton explains the relationship between “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” fake news, and a solution for the media.

Mostly Weekly is hosted by Andrew Heaton, with headwriter Sarah Rose Siskind.

Script by Sarah Rose Siskind with writing assistance from Andrew Heaton and Brian Sack.

Special guest appearance by Brian Sack as “TV doctor”

Edited by Austin Bragg and Siskind.

Produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg.

Theme Song: Frozen by Surfer Blood.

February 2, 2018

“Europeans like the U.S. to be a great St. Bernard dog that takes the risks and does the work, while they hold the leash and give the orders”

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Conrad Black on how the European press in general — and the British press in particular — view the United States:

A week in England has enabled me to see more clearly the absurdity of the depths and length that the political scandal-mongering in the United States has achieved. Most of the British media are anti-American anyway, and, like most of America’s so-called allies, Britain likes weak American presidents who are fluent and courteous, other than when they are themselves in mortal peril, at which point strong American presidents suddenly are appreciated. Generally, the Western European attitude toward the U.S. evolved from fervent and almost worshipful hope for rescue by Roosevelt, to appreciative, even grateful recognition for Truman and Marshall’s military and economic support of non-Communist Europe, while fretting whether America would “stay the course” (Mr. Churchill’s concern), to complacent patronization in the post-Suez Eisenhower-Dulles era. Europe, like most of the world, swooned over John F. Kennedy and genuinely mourned his tragic death, but it has been slim pickings since. Johnson was regarded as a boor and an amateur, and, on the left, a war criminal. Richard Nixon was regarded with suspicion and then the customary orchestrated opprobrium, though with grudging respect for his strategic talents. Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush were regarded as dolts, though Reagan, whose anti-missile defense plan was regarded with shrieks of derision and fear, was seen, long after he left office, as possibly useful. Clinton was likeable but déclassé, and Obama was greatly welcomed but ultimately a disappointment. The Europeans like the U.S. to be a great St. Bernard dog that takes the risks and does the work, while they hold the leash and give the orders.

With Donald Trump, the British and most Western Europeans have the coruscation of their dreams that the United States is a vulgar, completely materialistic, cultureless Darwinian contest of the most tasteless and unsavory elements, elevating people in their public life who excel at the country’s least attractive national characteristics. In the British national media there is almost never a remotely insightful or fair commentary on anything to do with President Trump. At one point last week, Ambassador John Bolton had what amounted to a debate with some academic British supporter of the Paris climate accord, and of feeble responses to all international crises, from Ukraine to Syria to North Korea. Both participants were speaking from remote locations and were on large screens, and the moderator’s questions were posed in such a provoking and tendentious manner to John Bolton that he began his last several responses with the stated assumption that the management of Britain’s national television network presumably approved of framing questions on such serious subjects in a deliberately dishonest way, and then answered effectively. The BBC correspondent in Washington uniformly referred to “Donald Trump” or just “Trump” and never to “President Trump” or to “the president,” as normal professional usage requires. The Economist, a distinguished magazine for many decades, follows the same route, referring to Mr. Trump as a “bad” or “poor” president, as if this were an indisputable and universally agreed fact.

The British, and to a large degree the major continental powers, slavishly repeat the Trumpophobic feed from the American national media and justify “Trump’s” view that most of the media propagate lies as a matter of policy, and that America’s allies are largely freeloaders — passengers of the Pentagon with no loyalty to the country that liberated them from Nazism and protected them from Soviet Communism. Senator McCain’s editorial criticism of the president in the New York Times two weeks ago, that his attacks on the press weakened democracy by demeaning a free press, is bunk. The president was closer, though, as is his wont, was slightly carried away, when he called the primal-scream newscasters and writers “enemies of the people.” They are even worse abroad.

January 29, 2018

A new collection of H.L. Mencken’s “The Free Lance” columns

Filed under: Books, History, Liberty, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In Reason, Bill Kauffman reviews S.T. Joshi’s new selection from H.L. Mencken’s Baltimore Evening Sun essays:

The longtime Baltimore Evening Sun columnist, American Mercury editor, and rumbustiously splenetic critic, who graced this orb from 1880 to 1956, would not be published in any major newspaper today. The reasons he foresaw over a century ago, when he decried the “cheap bullying and cheaper moralizing” whose purpose was the extirpation, the annihilation, of anything resembling a robust exchange of ideas. Two beliefs puffed up the righteous censor, according to Mencken: first, “that any man who dissents from the prevailing platitudes is a hireling of the devil,” and second, “that he should be silenced and destroyed forthwith. Down with free speech; up with the uplift!”

Plus ça change and all that.

S.T. Joshi, who has chosen his primary scholarly interests — Mencken, H.P. Lovecraft, and Ambrose Bierce — with a fine eye for readability over reputation, has assembled a selection of Mencken’s Evening Sun “Free Lance” columns of 1911–1915 into a book called A Saturnalia of Bunk and contributed an informative introduction to it.

Henry Louis Mencken churned out six of these 1,200-word meringues every week, a vertiginous pace that makes Joyce Carol Oates look like Harper Lee.

Logorrheic bloggers aside, does anyone really have that much to say about the controversies of the day? Mencken once nicked Bierce for reprinting his early work, which was “filled with epigrams against frauds long dead and forgotten, and echoes of old and puerile newspaper controversies.” Is A Saturnalia of Bunk similarly irrelevant?

Happily, no. Although Mencken’s fusillades against, say, blue laws have grown fusty, his rousing conclusions — “the militant moralist tries to steal liberty and self-respect, and the man who has lost both is a man who has lost everything that separates a civilized freeman from a convict in a chain-gang” — have lost none of their punch.

These columns, composed while their author was on the shy side of middle age, afford, says Joshi, “a nearly complete view of Mencken’s political, religious, social, and cultural philosophy as it had evolved up to this point” — and this philosophy would largely remain constant for the rest of his rooted life. (Mencken, a dyed-in-the-wool third-generation Baltimorean, a sardonic citizen of his place, made his home in the house in which he grew up.)

January 21, 2018

QotD: When to stop reading an article

Filed under: Media, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I read full-time to edit The Browser, and I abandon a hundred articles for every one that I finish. I generally stop if I hit “eponymous”, or “toxic”, or “trigger warning”, or “make no mistake”. Summary labelling of anything in an article as “complex” means that the writer does not understand or cannot explain the material. I don’t often read beyond headlines that use the words “surprising”, “secret”, “really”, “not” or “… and why it matters”. Any headline ending in a question mark is a bad sign. I know writers don’t usually write their own headlines, but the headline represents a best effort to say what is useful in the article by a sympathetic person who has been paid to read it.

Robert Cottrell, quoted by Tyler Cowen, “When does Robert Cottrell just stop reading? (from the comments)”, Marginal Revolution, 2016-05-19.

January 18, 2018

QotD: The news business, post-internet impact

Filed under: Media, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The job he was hired to do, namely to help the president of the United States communicate with the public, was changing in equally significant ways, thanks to the impact of digital technologies that people in Washington were just beginning to wrap their minds around. It is hard for many to absorb the true magnitude of the change in the news business — 40 percent of newspaper-industry professionals have lost their jobs over the past decade — in part because readers can absorb all the news they want from social-media platforms like Facebook, which are valued in the tens and hundreds of billions of dollars and pay nothing for the “content” they provide to their readers. You have to have skin in the game — to be in the news business, or depend in a life-or-death way on its products — to understand the radical and qualitative ways in which words that appear in familiar typefaces have changed. Rhodes singled out a key example to me one day, laced with the brutal contempt that is a hallmark of his private utterances. “All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” he said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

David Samuels, “The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru”, New York Times Magazine, 2016-05-05.

November 30, 2017

“[W]henever I visit a newsroom these days, I instinctively feel unhealthy, like a 19th-century Lake Poet visiting an especially polluted part of London”

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Colby Cosh goes well out of his way to rub salt in the wounds of daily commuters, while basking in the glories of working from home:

When Statistics Canada puts its big brains to work on measuring the time devoted to commuting, and the various ways in which people drag their butts to work, I always read the results with the particular interest-fascination-horror of a permanent non-commuter. I am well into my second decade of working full-time, pretty much exclusively, from home. I’m dragged out of the house very occasionally for assignments and broadcast appearances, but most of what I do for a living happens a few feet from my bed.

None of it, I should specify, actually happens in bed (and relatively little of it involves actual writing). As most people who have to physically travel to a job seem to suspect, working remotely gives you a scary, even nauseating freedom to customize your working arrangements. I suppose most of us professional shut-ins find that we have to establish arbitrary rules and mini-disciplines to prevent our lives from becoming totally unstructured and unhealthy. “Bed is for sleep” is one of mine.

All of my conscious writing and research is done strictly at a desk, whether or not I happen to be wearing pants. With that said, as I get older, I do find sleep to be a more important component of my overall work process. Naps can be magical, and the ability to get around a writing difficulty by means of one is something I would immediately miss if I became a miserable corporate prisoner/drone again.

This kind of consideration deepens the psychic divide between commuters and remote workers: we have trouble understanding one another’s worlds even when we have switched between them. Commuters shudder at the thought of an amorphous life with less social contact and minimal formal barriers between work and non-work. Indeed, I think working at home does make one a little dottier (note: this is not necessarily a practical disadvantage for a newspaper columnist). I suspect it may also discourage groupthink. It definitely cuts down on pointless meetings; and whenever I visit a newsroom these days, I instinctively feel unhealthy, like a 19th-century Lake Poet visiting an especially polluted part of London.

I’ve spent more of my time working from home over the last decade than sitting in the office (and therefore also needing to drag my carcass to and from said office), and I really do understand his viewpoint. It’s one of the things I anticipate with no joy at all, as any new job I’m likely to land will probably require a daily commute. On a good day, it’s about an hour’s drive to downtown Toronto, but there aren’t enough good travel days and taking public transit literally doubles that time. Spending four hours per day to get to work and back feels very wasteful, even when I can get in some reading on the way.

November 27, 2017

Steve Kates on growing up in a communist home

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At Catallaxy Files, Steve Kates reflects on how his early upbringing gave him insights into modern political discourse:

The one blessing about being brought up in a communist household is that you understand the left a good deal better than most. It also brings an added measure of concern when I see how easily a public unused to lying as a tactic is influenced by these manoeuvres which are standard practice on the left. My Dad was an expert in agit prop and I grew up understanding the role of the agent provocateur only too well. These are not well-meaning individuals who wish to investigate the truth. They are individuals whose only interest is to disrupt the communications among those on the other side through whatever lies they might find convenient and they hope persuasive.

[…] You will be lied to by the left to the furthest extent they believe they can get away with. That there is not an instantaneous scepticism amongst us on this side of politics from any unverified political story carried by a mainstream media organisation fills me with dread since most of us are so middle class that we find it hard to believe others will lie, distort, or withhold relevant information without the slightest hesitation if it serves their ends. The attitude you need to take when reading anything from an MSM report is the same attitude you might take when buying a used car. Do not trust a thing you are told and make sure you verify everything you can from a separate source.

Dishonesty is the trade mark of the left, not that they have a monopoly, but it is a specific tactic aimed at the fair minded who are seldom as aware as they need to be of the practice, and seldom think of the need to guard against the premeditated lies they tell. […] The interesting part is that for the left to succeed, they can only achieve their ends by lying. For the right, what you hear people say is almost invariably what they believe. The left often mimics the same concerns but it is tactical and never substantive unless for a change good policy overlaps what they see as tactical advantage.

The one valuable part of being on this side of the fence is that with so many out there on the left who will swarm around any genuine falsehood stated by someone on the right, the standard of probity is higher. This is part of the reason why sex scandals, to just name the issue in relation to Roy Moore, are not as common on the right as on the left. Except that when they are caught out – such as with Bill Clinton – it is no longer a scandal and is put to bed as soon as it is practical to do so. They never mean it. It is not hypocrisy, it is a policy of deceit. They are perfectly aware they are lying and just take the rest of us for fools.

November 23, 2017

QotD: The rise of junk science

Filed under: Education, Media, Quotations, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

As the twentieth century drew to a close, the connection between hard scientific fact and public policy became increasingly elastic. In part this was possible because of the complacency of the scientific profession; in part because of the lack of good science education among the public; in part, because of the rise of specialized advocacy groups which have been enormously effective in getting publicity and shaping policy; and in great part because of the decline of the media as an independent assessor of fact. The deterioration of the American media is dire loss for our country. When distinguished institutions like the New York Times can no longer differentiate between factual content and editorial opinion, but rather mix both freely on their front page, then who will hold anyone to a higher standard?

Michael Crichton, “Aliens Cause Global Warming”: the Caltech Michelin Lecture, 2003-01-17.

October 22, 2017

IKEA’s strengths and weaknesses, from a consumer point of view

Filed under: Business, Europe, Woodworking — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Paul Sellers posted an article on his woodworking blog, reacting to some British journalists praising IKEA’s “democratisation of design”:

Visually neat and relatively cheap at first glance, but they are basic and they resolve the need in a new and young family for storage. The pinnacle of three-dimensional cubism!
(photo from PaulSellers.com)

Yup! a couple of newspaper writers (maybe more, knowing British journalism) reported the same thing in a short space of time, both hailing IKEA as a ‘democratising’ force revolutionising people’s perspectives on furniture design. Both articles were interesting in the way some articles can be, you know, not contributing much to society really, but time filling on a lazy Sunday. What actually struck me most between their somewhat opposing points of views was the unifying thread in their use of the terms “democratisation of design” and “democratising design and the theme of creating affordable, non-fusty furniture for the masses.” As far as I have seen through the years it is not so much IKEA’s ability to design but more their ability to produce zero- or minimalist-design products that seem less to be concepts of style, shape or form but mostly the selling of square-edged, styleless, plank-type items in the form of very, very plain boxes. Yes, I do understand the needs of young families for low cost storage and first year students to furnish their rooms, but democratisers of design!

Unpretentious though their lines are, you can hardly say they are designs so much as meagre assemblies and of course assemblies you generally have to take care in the way they are used because the selling points are their lightweight cheapness, transportability, dismantle-ability and simple (or complex) self-assembly products. You might be better to strike out into similar fashion statements rejecting the classics of old and adopt an equally classless line of unimagination by using old scaffold planks for dining tables and benches or, say, a shipping pallet coffee table on commercial galvanised swivel casters.

Elizabeth and I used to enjoy visiting a furniture store up in Peterborough, but about a year or so back, they stopped carrying the kind of furniture we liked and started stocking exactly the sort of stuff Paul is talking about. Industrial chic is all very well, but these pieces looked like they’d been thrown together at the last possible second as a student project for a college design course: the industrial fittings were cobbled together as crudely and as shoddily as possible, with no eye to either aesthetics or sturdiness. They were literally props that might appear in the background of a Victorian or Edwardian shop floor scene in an off-, off-, off-Broadway kind of production.

I’m far from a curmudgeon on the topic of home decor and furniture, but the pieces in that store were expensive crap. You can do the industrial chic look, or more modern variations using cast-offs from all sorts of places. My friend Brendan, in his first couple of apartments, had no spare cash at all so he scrounged up pretty much all of his furniture from around town. He had the weirdest collection of decades-old store signs, former display cabinets from different eras, and I don’t know what else, but he has a great eye for design, so no matter how eclectic it all was, he managed to make it look appealing and (somehow) integrated. That was clearly the ideal for the owners of the Peterborough furniture store, but they missed the mark by a very large amount.

I never liked lazy, press-release type journalism (as we are used to in British woodworking magazines) because it can be the same as lazy design work; both lacking any true imagination. But the two authors, each celebrating IKEA’s birth for opposite and then too the same reasons, seemed more focussed on this issue of IKEA somehow ‘democratising’ something rather than considering what could be in essence more a diktat. I question whether IKEA makes products that people actually want or makes people want what they make by virtue of cheapness and driving out competition, but then what do I know? I know this though, IKEA only sells what it wants you to buy, sells stuff so cheap that no one else can compete, and devalues the market by forcing down prices to a level that promotes mainly quite dumbed down designs. I don’t ever recall much in IKEA’s selling centres that I would describe as at all imaginative. People buy there because it’s cheap. To zone in on the reporting world, on Beeb 4 a day later a reporter interviewed some head of IKEA UK and allowed way too much waffling claptrap boasting IKEA’s products were now no longer going into the landfill after a short lifespan as the reporter suggested, which is of course absolutely true, but onto the secondhand market, which IKEA wants to include in its ‘widening circle of circulation’.

[…]

On the one hand Rhiannon Cosslett article in the Guardian describes IKEA accurately as the “symbol of impermanence”, but she also follows the same track as India Knight in stating that this IKEA is enabling people to shed their ties with “snobbery regarding middle-class home decoration”. The woman reporting in the Times, India Knight, describes the pretension of owning a semi (duplex, USA) and adding furniture that emulates the chintz (a word used in the two articles) of the rich and famed owners living in UK mansions past as a kind of mindless hypocrisy. I agree to some degree, but then there are those millions of others who follow the IKEA trending in equally mindless ways buying into its philosophies purely on the basis that it’s IKEA, as though IKEA holds the keys to concepts of good design. This, in my mind at least, shows how lacking we can become in discerning just what a good design is. I might liken IKEA designs to all the nations County Councils use of standardised street and buildings signage. Yes, they work effectively, but only because they have a created dull and unimaginative examples that stand out because of dullness. The main difference here of course is that for safety reasons the County Councils have a get out clause. I have yet to walk through an IKEA store without thinking (smelling too) MDF, pressed fibreboard, resins and plastic but how is it even possible that any company could put so much effort into creating so much artificiality.

Nope, not plywood, faux ply ‘engineered hollow core particle board.’
(Photo from PaulSellers.com)

October 6, 2017

New NDP leader Jagmeet Singh even gets the thumbs up from crusty old conservative fogey

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

That is, Singh is seen as a much bigger threat to Justin Trudeau than to “stodgy” Andrew Scheer … which, in electoral terms, might leave the Liberals and NDP fighting it out for second place in the polls and the Conservatives up near majority territory. He’s certainly teh new hotness as far as the newspapers are concerned:

The media is buzzing about Jagmeet Singh being a game changer. Campbell Clark, writing in the Globe and Mail, says that “The NDP once picked stalwarts to fight the good fight as leader. Now, they have chosen someone who might disrupt Canadian politics. Don’t underestimate the potential for Jagmeet Singh to shake things up.” Chantal Hébert, writing in the Toronto Star, says “[Andrew] Scheer has to be hoping that Singh will give Trudeau more of a run for his money, for it usually takes a divided progressive vote for the Conservatives to win power.” And Lorne Gunter, writing in the Edmonton Sun, says that “Trudeau is a paper “progressive” – a poser – compared to Singh … [and] … unlike Thomas Mulcair, Singh’s predecessor as NDP leader, Singh won’t lose core social democrat voters by running to the right of the Liberals in the next federal election the way Mulcair did in 2015 … [thus, and] … In short, Singh is a headache the Liberals never imagined having. Compared to Trudeau, he is younger (38 rather than 45), smarter, at least as well-dressed and even more of a trendy, politically correct symbol.“

“But,” Mr Gunter says, while Jagmeet’s Singh’s selection is bad news for the Liberals, it “should be good for the Tories … [because] … It should revive vote-splitting on the left. And it should allow Tory Leader Andrew Scheer, while dull, to appear as the only clear alternative to the two Big Government leaders.”

Singh isn’t likely to draw a lot of votes from the Tories, but he’s a major threat to Trudeau in exactly those mediagenic qualities that Trudeau used to such great effect in the last federal election. Justin is in danger of being out-cooled by the new guy. A lot will depend on how long the media allows Singh’s political honeymoon to last, as they will be the primary channel for the “cool duel” to play out.

September 15, 2017

“Assemble the squad”

Filed under: Environment, Media, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Severe weather is coming, and the media know their role. Joe Bob Briggs has been there, and speaks from his own experience:

News executives love disasters. They get to act like Chuck Norris and Assemble the Squad.

“Maginnis, you cover first responders.”

“Wilson, get over to NOAA and stay on those maps.”

“Kelly, official press briefings. Work with Yurozawski to keep tabs on every emergency room within a 300-mile radius.”

“Bergram, you’re Cop Shop, but we’ll keep the aperiodic radio tracking the locals.”

“Ramstein, find that German guy who gets a hard-on for global warming.”

By the time a managing editor or a news director gets finished “covering this mother like blubber on a seal,” you’ve got thirty people who feel like they’re crammed into a D-day troop carrier, waiting for somebody to throw open the landing door and engage the Nazis. They have lust in their eyes. They’re hopped up like nekkid trance drummers at Burning Man.

You know those reporters clinging to lampposts in 120-mile-per-hour winds on the pier at Sanibel Island?

Same thing. They’re pumped. They’re wild. They’re getting all orgasmic from the needle burns on their cheeks as the gooey red juice of the hurricane danger zones envelop them in delirious wet convulsions.

I know. I was one of those guys.

August 14, 2017

When did you first suspect that the world was being run by incompetent idiots?

Filed under: Government, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Ace discusses the moment he realized there was a perfectly reasonable explanation for the otherwise incomprehensible way our government and mainstream media operate:

Here’s a question I’d like to ask. I’ll try to figure out my own answer in the comments. But this is what I’m interested in:

When did you begin to suspect that the people in charge of the government and the media were dumb, ignorant, and sometimes actually deranged, and what confirmed it for you? What were your feelings about this? That is, was it like taking the Red Pill? Was it scary?

I’m trying to remember when this happened to me. Oh, the media I knew was biased; but I didn’t realize until the last decade that it was pig-ignorant and incompetent and filled with people who are mentally unwell.

The government — well, I blithely assumed that people who ran the government (or other major institutions) were generally at least low-level qualified.

At some point I realized we are being led — or rather controlled, as we do not follow willingly, but through coercion — by misfits, morons, and maniacs.

It was both scarifying and liberating, in a dark way.

But I think these realizations came kind of slowly and I’m trying to think of major things that crystallized them.

It also changed my opinion of many of my fellow citizens and onetime allies: I now view them as fools and maniacs (or worse) themselves for apparently seeming to continue to believe that Everything’s Okay and we’re still being led (controlled) by, if not the best and brightest, certainly the somewhat good and reasonably intelligent.

July 13, 2017

“Stop lamenting the days of ‘objective’ news reporting. There was never any such thing”

Filed under: History, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Sarah Hoyt on the ridiculous nostalgia for the “objectivity” of the three networks era (or earlier):

It never fails. Someone gets in a discussion (yes, on Facebook. Where else? It’s where the fossilized stupidity of ages past has come to die and decay, forming a substratum not unlike oil, but far less useful. Well, unless you’re a blogger in need of post ideas.) about some of the latest misdeeds of the press, like say CNN’s bizarre pivot from all Russia all the Time to threatening posters for funny memes (Yes, of course I can barely resist the GIF posts when I see that. Unfortunately they take more time than writing.) and someone comes on and laments the days when the media was “objective.”

This is when I’d dent my desk with my head, except I have one of those standing desks that’s made of plastic which pops right back up. Good thing too.

I too would love the mythical times when kings were just, ordained by G-d and pulled the sword from the stone. They are as real as the days of “honest” media.

Look, take it from someone who went through journalistic training. EVERY good journalist (a minority as in all other professions) TRIES to be unbiased. This is relatively (but only relatively) easy when writing about the incident on first and main where a dog bit a man. It is far less convenient/easy when writing about a politician who embezzled something. And since politics touches everything these days, the result of the media’s obsession with making the personal political, it’s becoming impossible to report ANYTHING objectively, including the dog/man incident. I mean, do you want to get mobbed by PETA? What about people who love leash laws? What about the lobby to eliminate pit bulls?

Having training in journalism, and friends in the profession, I can tell you those “great” long ago times when all newspapers spoke with a unified voice, the narrative made sense and “everyone agreed” on what was sane and sensible, were anything but bipartisan, or impartial.

What they were was UNIFIED and totalitarian, in the sense that your entire media experience came from a very small number of people, who mutually vetted each other, and who had all been educated in the same colleges and believed the same things.

The era of newspaper “objectivity” also happened to be the era of newspaper monopolies, as Tim Worstall pointed out the other day. The supposed objectivity was a function of their need not to create opinion space for competitors to arise that would threaten their monopoly position for commercial advertising and classified ads (especially the classified ads). True objectivity is a difficult problem anyway:

I’m simply going to say, like Heinlein did, at about my age, that I’ve never seen any event I was witness to reported with ANY degree of accuracy. In fact, often they are completely and insanely wrong. But the report fits the left wing “narrative” in which they are good and moral so there’s that.

Prior to the industrial era, and the unification of newspapers and the distribution of some of those throughout the nation, shaping the opinion of all the smaller wanna bes, media was gloriously, loudly, obviously biased.

Stands to reason. Being humans we can’t hope for “no bias.” No, listen to me, it’s impossible. My husband and I are as close as two human beings can be, and have been married for over 30 years. Yet if we both witness something and describe it, our different backgrounds and natures come to the fore.

July 12, 2017

The real newspaper problem is not Facebook and Google … it’s their monopolistic heritage

Filed under: Business, History, Law, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Tim Worstall argues against allowing US newspapers to have an anti-trust exemption to fight Facebook and Google:

The first thing to note is the influence of geography and transport. By definition a newspaper needs to arrive daily — in physical format least — meaning that there’s a useful radius around a printing plant which can be served. What then happened is exactly what is happening with Google and Facebook, network effects come into play. Each urban area effectively became the monopoly of just the one newspaper. Sure, there were more than that in New York City for example, SF supported two majors later than many other places. But even in such large and rich places we did really only ever end up with one “serious” newspaper.

The network effects stem from the revenue sources. Roughly speaking, you understand, one third came from subscription revenues, one third from display advertising and one third from classifieds. Classifieds are a classic case of said network effects. Everyone advertises where they know everyone reads. Everyone reads the ads where they know everyone advertises those used baby bassinets. Whoever can get ahead in the collection of either then almost always wins the race. Classifieds are also hugely, vastly, profitable.

The way that American newspapers are sold, on subscriptions with a local paper boy, also contains elements of such network effects.

The effect of this economic structure was that each major urban area really had the one monopolist newspaper. This is where that famed “objectivity” comes from too. If there’s going to be the one newspaper then it’s going to try to make sure there’s no room for another by steadily occupying the middle ground on anything and everything. This is just the Hotelling problem all over again. Swing too viciously left or right (on any issue, political, social, whatever) and there might be room for someone to sneak in from the borderlands. Thus the very milquetoast indeed political views at most of these newspapers.

[…]

And that, I insist, is what is really happening to US newspapers. Most certainly, their problems stem from the internet. for the internet broke that monopoly imposed by economic geography and all else stems from that. They got fat and happy within those monopolistic areas and their pain is coming from the adjustments necessary to deal with that. The likely outcome I would expect to be many fewer first line newspapers staffed by many fewer people in much the way that the UK market has worked for near a century now. I would also expect to see them using political stance as a differentiator just as in Britain.

July 7, 2017

“Donald Trump views the mainstream press with contempt, and the mainstream press returns the favor”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Jacob Sullum on the tendentious relationship between President Trump and the mainstream media:

Donald Trump views the mainstream press with contempt, and the mainstream press returns the favor. Or is it the other way around?

Just as the president has trouble distinguishing between negative press coverage and “fake news,” the journalists who cover him tend to treat every inaccurate, unfounded, or even debatable statement he makes as a lie. That mistake, to which I myself am sometimes prone, clouds the judgment and damages the credibility of reporters and commentators who aspire to skepticism but too often settle for reflexive disbelief.

New York Times columnist David Leonhardt recently catalogued “nearly every outright lie [Trump] has told publicly since taking the oath of office.” There are a lot of verifiably false assertions on Leonhardt’s list, but it’s an exaggeration to say every one of them is an “outright lie,” which implies that Trump knew the statement was wrong when he made it and said it with the intent of misleading people.

Take Trump’s preposterous puffery about the size of the crowd at his inauguration. “It looked like a million, million and a half people,” he said the next day in a speech at CIA headquarters.

Four days later, Trump was still marveling at the size of the crowd. “The audience was the biggest ever,” he told ABC News anchor David Muir on January 25, standing in front of a photo on the wall in the White House. “This crowd was massive. Look how far back it goes.”

Maybe Trump was trying to trick people into ignoring plain photographic evidence that his inaugural audience paled beside Barack Obama’s in 2009. But it seems much more likely that he was offering an emotionally tinged, self-flattering impression of his experience as he took the oath of office.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress