Media

In the end, it was a break moment for the hoax gang

Thursday, 25 July, 2019

The Putin Hoax


The English of the Future is English

Friday, 28 June, 2019

On 29 November 1968, at the 58th annual meeting of the National Council of Teachers of English in Milwaukee, the late Neil Postman gave a talk entitled “Growing Up Relevant” as the main part of a session entitled “Media Ecology: The English of the Future.” The talk was later published as a chapter in High School 1980: The Shape of the Future in American Secondary Education (PDF), where it appeared as “The Reformed English Curriculum.” Postman’s 1968 address marked the formal introduction of the term “media ecology”, which he used as the name for a field of study he defined as “the study of media as environments.”

In Postman’s time, the internet, texting and emoji were as distant as GN-z11 so his comments on the future of English have to be seen in that light. Snippet:

“Perhaps what I meant to say at the conference was that there ought not to be such a subject as English by 1980; that English as it is commonly taught, is shallow and precious, is not very interesting to most children and, above all, has very little survival value for people who are going to live most of their lives in the seventies, eighties, nineties, and beyond.

I will not take time here to catalog the shortcomings of English. If you have not already noticed that English is withering away, being consumed by its own irrelevance, the chances are slim that I can make you see that this is, in fact, the case. I do want to point out, however, that what happens in school should have survival value (or what’s an education for?) and that the soundest reason for having such a subject as English has always been that children need to be competent in using and understanding the dominant communication media of their own culture. When these media were largely limited to such forms as novels, poems, and essays, the content of English made some sense. My purpose here is to suggest an alternative to English for the high school of 1980 when we will be so deeply immersed in the nuclear space age.”

Given that English has become the lingua franca of a global economy, Neil Postman was spectacularly wrong on this subject, but on many others, especially media ecology, he was spectacularly prescient.


Mailer on newsprint and newsprint on Boris Johnson

Monday, 24 June, 2019

A summer re-reading of The Spooky Art: Thoughts on Writing by Norman Mailer is especially relevant, considering what has happened to politics and the press and between the press and politics. The most recent example was provided at the weekend by the Guardian, which published the literal words spoken by Boris Johnson and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds in a late-night row in their own home, which it got from a recording made by a neighbour. This particular newspaper is now so determined to damage Johnson’s reputation during the Tory leadership contest that it will happily trash its own alleged commitment to ethical journalism and report verbatim an entirely private conversation. This is a new low for a low industry. Mailer:

“Centuries from now; the moral intelligence of another time may look in horror upon the history implanted into twentieth-century people by way of newsprint. A deadening of the collective brain has been one consequence. Another is the active warping of consciousness in any leader whose actions are consistently in the paper for he has been obliged to learn how to speak only in quotable and self-protective remarks.”

And who among us can deny that this has happened? As newsprint loses its power and presence, television has taken over the job of deadening the collective brain and that torch will, inevitably, be passed to social media. Many would argue that the toxic transition has already taken place.

By the way, Norman Mailer, to his credit, made no bones about his usage of “he” throughout The Spooky Art. In the preface, he writes: “By now, at least as many women as men are novelists, but the old habit of speaking of a writer as he persists. So, I’ve employed the masculine pronoun most of the time when making general remarks about writers. I do not know if the women who read this book will be all that inclined to forgive me, but the alternative was to edit many old remarks over into a style I cannot bear — the rhetorically hygienic politically correct.”

If there’s one reason to celebrate the late Norman Mailer, it’s that: his aversion to the rhetorically hygienic politically correct.


Times Does Not Apologize for Anti-Semitic Cartoon

Monday, 29 April, 2019

Actually, the headline on the piece reads, Times Apologizes for Publishing Anti-Semitic Cartoon, but it doesn’t, really. The repulsive image was the work of Portuguese cartoonist António Moreira Antunes, who has form when it comes to anti-Semitism, and the New York Times ends its fake apology thus: “The profession of cartoonist is a profession of risk,” Mr. Antunes said in an interview with the Portuguese Observer in 2015, after the fatal attack in Paris on the staff of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
“There is always fear, but there is no other option but to defend freedom of expression.”

The linking there of the Islamist attack on Charlie Hebdo with the vile cartoon by Antunes and the right to freedom of expression is completely tendentious and reveals the hollowness of the non-apology apology.

It is left to Times columnist Bret Stephens to say what needs to be said: A Despicable Cartoon in The Times. Key graph:

“Here was an image that, in another age, might have been published in the pages of Der Stürmer. The Jew in the form of a dog. The small but wily Jew leading the dumb and trusting American. The hated Trump being Judaized with a skullcap. The nominal servant acting as the true master. The cartoon checked so many anti-Semitic boxes that the only thing missing was a dollar sign.”

New York Times

The media’s constant demonization of Netanyahu and Trump is not going to end well.


Matt Taibbi: The Hoax That Was Russiagate

Thursday, 25 April, 2019

“It’s shocking to see national media voices after the release of Robert Mueller’s report patting each other on the back, congratulating themselves for a three-year faceplant they must know will haunt the whole business for a long time.” So writes Matt Taibbi in The Press Will Learn Nothing From the Russiagate Fiasco. The piece, by the way, appears in Rolling Stone and that’s deserving of attention because the publication has been resolutely hostile to Donald Trump from the outset. Maybe we’re seeing a sobering up. Probably not, though, because Taibbi shows that the MSM is still inhaling the stuff that’s not in the Mueller Report. Snippet:

“You know what was fake news? Most of the Russiagate story. There was no Trump-Russia conspiracy, that thing we just spent three years chasing. The Mueller Report is crystal clear on this.

He didn’t just ‘fail to establish’ evidence of crime. His report is full of incredibly damning passages, like one about Russian officialdom’s efforts to reach the Trump campaign after the election: ‘They appeared not to have preexisting contacts and struggled to connect with senior officials around the President-Elect.'”

This isn’t Matt Taibbi’s first foray into the Russiagate Hoax, either. On 23 March he published “It’s official: Russiagate is this generation’s WMD.” It’s a brilliant rubbishing of the entire charade and a devastating critique of the MSM: Quote: “But what retraction is possible for the Washington Post headline, ‘How will Democrats cope if Putin starts playing dirty tricks for Bernie Sanders (again)?’ How to reverse Rachel Maddow’s spiel about Russia perhaps shutting down heat across America during a cold wave? There’s no correction for McCarthyism and fearmongering.”

Bear that in mind the next time you browse the headlines: “There’s no correction for McCarthyism and fearmongering.”


Google search for “P&G” on 19 January

Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

P&G

The controversy over Gillette’s recent “toxic masculinity” ad campaign has got people talking and thinking. If Proctor & Gamble, which owns Gillette, wishes to use some of the enormous profits it makes on every razor and blade to re-educate un-woke men on how to behave, that’s its business, but not everyone has to fund the venture.


When snowfalls were a thing of the past

Sunday, 13 January, 2019

On Friday, the BBC reported: “Snow brings parts of Europe to standstill.” The item was replete with images and video of the horror. If we are to believe the media now, snow is very much a thing of the present, but back in March 2000, the same industry was telling us a very different story: “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past.” That’s what The Independent declared in a piece authored by one Charles Onians.

Why is there no link to the story? Because The Independnt removed it from its website due to the persistent gaiety that resulted from this classic example of #FakeNews. Still, the internet never forgets and here’s a PDF (2.78MB) of the infamous prediction. And what became of Charles Onians? Why, he’s the Rome correspondent @AFP. Which proves once more that there’s no business like snow business, eh?

Snow scam

Meanwhile, from our own correspondent in Munich, snow lodging on tables.

Snow in Munich 2019


Man of the Year 2018

Sunday, 30 December, 2018

Will future historians of the culture wars see it as the tipping point? You know, the moment when the balance shifted, when the tide ebbed? The combatants were University of Toronto professor of psychology Jordan Peterson and Cathy Newman, Channel 4 News presenter. What made the encounter so significant is that whenever Peterson said something, Newman restated what he purportedly had said to make it seem as if his positions were absurd and offensive. And the more Peterson explained his stances, rationally and calmly, the more Newman ratcheted up her rage and ignored what he was saying. Watch the whole thing.

Newman: Is gender equality a myth?

Peterson: I don’t know what you mean by the question. Men and women aren’t the same. And they won’t be the same. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be treated fairly.

Newman: Is gender equality desirable?

Peterson: If it means equality of outcome then it is almost certainly undesirable. That’s already been demonstrated in Scandinavia. Men and women won’t sort themselves into the same categories if you leave them to do it of their own accord. It’s 20 to 1 female nurses to male, something like that. And approximately the same male engineers to female engineers. That’s a consequence of the free choice of men and women in the societies that have gone farther than any other societies to make gender equality the purpose of the law. Those are ineradicable differences––you can eradicate them with tremendous social pressure, and tyranny, but if you leave men and women to make their own choices you will not get equal outcomes.

Newman: So you’re saying that anyone who believes in equality, whether you call them feminists or whatever you want to call them, should basically give up because it ain’t going to happen.

Peterson: Only if they’re aiming at equality of outcome.

Newman: So you’re saying give people equality of opportunity, that’s fine.

Peterson: It’s not only fine, it’s eminently desirable for everyone, for individuals as well as societies.

Newman: But still women aren’t going to make it. That’s what you’re really saying.

Except, of course, that’s not what he’s “really saying.” In the end, Jordan Peterson, our Man of the Year, dispatched Cathy Newman with the help of lobsters.


The Bezosian Scale

Monday, 8 October, 2018

What is it? Well, the first thing to note is that the Washington Post’s publishing platform, Arc, currently powers the top-three news and information sites in France, Canada, New Zealand, Argentina and Spain. Last month, Arc signed up both The Dallas Morning News and the publisher of El País, PRISA Noticias, as customers. By the end of the first quarter next year, Arc “will power over 400 websites and serve over 10 billion page views per month,” says Shailesh Prakash, Chief Information Officer for the WaPo. By the way, his Twitter bio says he’s “Planning the plan that will plan the plan…”

And the Bezosian Scale? It’s a measure for mapping the dimensions of Arc’s global expansion writes Ken Doctor at Nieman Lab. The role model is the enormously powerful and profitable Amazon Web Services (AWS). According, to Doctor, Arc wants to head down the path prepared by AWS: a technology stack built for internal use and then licensed to the world.

First, we take Washington and then we ramp up and take the world, plots Jeff Bezos. That’s ambition on the Bezosian Scale.


Whatever happened to Seymour Hersh?

Thursday, 26 July, 2018

That’s the title of an article by Steve Bloomfield in the August issue of Prospect Magazine. The subtitle chronicles a career that’s ending in ignominy: “The strange story of how a legendary investigative journalist came to echo Assad’s propaganda.”

Hersh became a journalistic icon in 1968 when his report of a massacre of Vietnamese civilians by US troops in the village of My Lai, which he filed for Dispatch News Service, was picked up by newspapers worldwide. He was hired by the New York Times and later began a lengthy relationship with the New Yorker magazine. That arrangement came to an end in 2012 when the editor, David Remnick, rejected a conspiratorial piece about the death of Osama bin Laden. But Hersh found willing believers at the London Review of Books, for a while, but they soon tired of his unsourced fantasies.

He found one final outlet for his fabrications before the total descent into shame and the platform was provided by the once-respected German newspaper, Die Welt. What it headlined as “Trump’s Red Line” was rubbished quickly and decisively, however, by Belling Cat. Summing up the Hershian ravings about the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack, Steve Bloomfield notes in his Prospect article: “Chemical weapons experts say this is impossible.”

Shame then, on Die Welt, the London Review of Books and the New Yorker for offering so much space to a crackpot who is now being treated as a hero by RT, which Bloomfield calls “the Kremlin-funded news channel that slavishly echoes the Russian government’s line on Syria (and, indeed, everything else).”

The decline and fall of a media star is aptly summed up in two letters: RT.


Bourdain on Trump voters

Tuesday, 17 July, 2018

The death by suicide last month of the American chef Anthony Bourdain shocked not just the world of cuisine. Bourdain was a celebrity: he was a TV star, a popular author, sexy, successful and wealthy. But what’s the point of fame if the famous can no longer endure it was the question that did the rounds once the cause of death became known.

Maria Bustillos interviewed Anthony Bourdain earlier this year and their lengthy conversation has done a lot to raise the profile of her new magazine, Popula. There’s a lot to take away from Bourdain Confidential. Here’s a snippet:

“You know, I just spent about ten days in West Virginia. I like them. I liked the Trump voters. They say grace every meal. Coal is gone.

I love them. And anybody who cannot understand how important even the promise of a slight increase in the number of coal jobs is, how important that is to their cellular tissue, their self-image, everything. How grotesque it is, for people to bigfoot in and say we’re all going to move you into solar, and why can’t you people… No!

The contempt and the ridicule which has been heaped on places like West Virginia, which is the heart, demographically, of enemy territory, as far as New York liberals like us are concerned. If we cannot… This is something we fucked up in the Sixties. We were fighting against cops and construction workers… cops and construction workers were exactly who we fucking needed! They were the first to die, in Vietnam. We weren’t gonna!”

Anthony Bourdain