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Tag: media

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.


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.”


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.


It’s Time to Resist the Excesses of #MeToo

Sunday, 14 January, 2018 0 Comments

Well, so says Andrew Sullivan in New York Magazine. What spurred his “resistance” is the open letter signed last week by a hundred French women who don’t regard themselves as helpless victims of men. Sullivan’s money quote: “A woman can, in the same day, lead a professional team and enjoy being the sexual object of a man, without being a ‘slut’, nor a cheap accomplice of the patriarchy.”

Sullivan then turns his attention to Moira Donegan, the infamous creator of the infamous “Shitty Media Men” list and he calls it for what it is: McCarthyism. Snippet:

“The act of anonymously disseminating serious allegations about people’s sex lives as a means to destroy their careers and livelihoods has long gone by a simple name. It’s called McCarthyism, and the people behind the list engaged in it. Sure, they believed they were doing good — but the McCarthyites, in a similar panic about communism, did as well. They believe they are fighting an insidious, ubiquitous evil — the patriarchy — just as the extreme anti-Communists in the 1950s believed that commies were everywhere and so foul they didn’t deserve a presumption of innocence, or simple human decency. They demand public confessions of the guilty and public support for their cause … or they will cast suspicion on you as well. Sophie Gilbert just berated the men at the Golden Globes for not saying what they were supposed to say. It’s no wonder that today’s McCarthyites also engage in demonizing other writers, like Katie Roiphe, and threatening their livelihoods. And just as McCarthyites believed they had no other option, given the complicity of the entire federal government with communism, so today’s McCarthyites claim that appeals to the police, or the HR department, or to the usual channels, are “fruitless” — because they’re part of the patriarchal system too! These mechanisms, Donegan writes, have ‘an obligation to presume innocence,’ and we can’t have that, can we?”

The time has come to resist the new McCarthyism of the Left and its cruel cadres.


When the MSM “resistance” cries “Wolf!”

Sunday, 10 December, 2017 0 Comments

“I remember Watergate pretty well, and I don’t remember anything like this level of journalistic carelessness back then. The constant stream of ‘bombshells’ that turn into duds is doing much more to damage the media than anything Trump could manage.” So commented Walter Russell Mead yesterday. He was responding to this tweet by CNN Communications:

CNN’s initial reporting of the date on an email sent to members of the Trump campaign about Wikileaks documents, which was confirmed by two sources to CNN, was incorrect. We have updated our story to include the correct date, and present the proper context for the timing of email

Glenn Greenwald provided readers of The Intercept with the background to this PR disaster for CNN, in particular, and US journalism, in general: “The U.S. Media Yesterday Suffered its Most Humiliating Debacle in Ages: Now Refuses All Transparency Over What Happened.” Snippet:

FRIDAY WAS ONE of the most embarrassing days for the U.S. media in quite a long time. The humiliation orgy was kicked off by CNN, with MSNBC and CBS close behind, with countless pundits, commentators and operatives joining the party throughout the day. By the end of the day, it was clear that several of the nation’s largest and most influential news outlets had spread an explosive but completely false news story to millions of people, while refusing to provide any explanation of how it happened.

The MSM “resistance” has thrown caution to the wind in its “gotcha” coverage of President Trump, but it’s a very risky strategy and those who have spent the past year crying “wolf” might find themselves being called “fakenews” in return.


Morrissey Spent the Day in Bed

Sunday, 19 November, 2017 0 Comments

Morrissey began the Twitter phase of his career two months ago. On 18 September, at 10.39 pm, he tweeted “Spent the Day in Bed.” Spent the Day in Bed is also the title of the first single from his new album Low In High School. In recent years, Moz has taken to saying things that people don’t want to hear and he’s not for turning now.

“Spent the day in bed
Very happy I did, yes
I spent the day in bed
As the workers stay enslaved
I spent the day in bed
I’m not my type, but
I love my bed
And I recommend that you

Stop watching the news!
Because the news contrives to frighten you
To make you feel small and alone
To make you feel that your mind isn’t your own.”


I’m not about to defend Stalin, but…

Saturday, 2 September, 2017 0 Comments

The epitome of today’s spoiled brat is Abi Wilkinson, who types stuff of such breathtaking inanity that one wonders if she has ever read a history book. Her idiocy yesterday went beyond #PeakGuardian and the shock hackette took it to 11 with a tweet that included “Stalin” and “but”:

Stalin but...

When the monster Stalin died in 1953, those who had survived his reign of terror and had made new lives on the other side of the Atlantic celebrated. No ifs or buts, either.

Stalin is dead


The BuzzFeedfication of the New Republic

Thursday, 10 August, 2017 0 Comments

Times hilarious, times terrifying is Franklin Foer’s account of how the pursuit of digital readership ruined The New Republic. “When Silicon Valley Took Over Journalism” is filled with gems. Example:

Once a story grabs attention, the media write about the topic with repetitive fury, milking the subject for clicks until the public loses interest. A memorable yet utterly forgettable example: A story about a Minnesota hunter killing a lion named Cecil generated some 3.2 million stories. Virtually every news organization — even The New York Times and The New Yorker — attempted to scrape some traffic from Cecil. This required finding a novel angle, or a just novel enough angle. Vox: “Eating Chicken Is Morally Worse Than Killing Cecil the Lion.” BuzzFeed: “A Psychic Says She Spoke With Cecil the Lion After His Death.” TheAtlantic.com: “From Cecil the Lion to Climate Change: A Perfect Storm of Outrage One-upmanship.”

And The New Republic now? Trump, Trump, Trump and more Trump. It’s all about those clicks, you see. Once upon a time, and a very long time ago it was, The New Republic was an important liberal-moderate magazine. Now, it’s just one more silly site.


The public narcissism of cultural knowingness

Sunday, 30 April, 2017 0 Comments

The dinner of the White House Correspondents’ Association in Washington D.C. last night was defined by the man who wasn’t there. “It isn’t hard to figure that President Donald Trump will regret not being at the center of the kind of adulation and mutual self-congratulations that the media annually shared with former President Barack Obama,” wrote Michael Wolff in the Hollywood Reporter, adding: “At the same time, he apparently is self-aware enough, or combative enough, to refuse to swallow the slights and indignities that former President George W. Bush was said to annually feel amid the spring rites of the liberal media — slights and indignities that would, presumably, be much worse for Trump.”

Public Narcissism  and the White House Correspondents' Dinner

According to Michael Wolff, Donald Trump would have loved being the centre of media attention last night, but his presence among the “elites in their protected bubble” would “offend the populist heart and soul of Trumpism.” And then he wades into the fray:

“The White House Correspondents’ Dinner by any reasonable measure has become a very bad political symbol. It’s an exclusive and exclusionary event that celebrates power and influence for power and influence’s sake. It’s public narcissism, wherein all the celebrities become ecstatic at the sight of one another. (Of note, I have never known anyone invited to the dinner to say they actually wanted to go — rather, it is a burden of celebrity, a self-satisfied martyrdom.) The event is too, in its form, a kind of kin to late-night television — invariably hosted by a late-night star or a comedian aspiring to be a late-night star. It extols a cultural knowingness that, to say the least, excludes Trump and the Trump base, who are the reverse of cultural knowingness. One of the most notable aspects of the dinner for the past eight years, and one of the most notable aspects of Obama’s character, is how much, stepping out of presidential earnestness, he resembles — in timing, sensibility and archness — a late-night host.”

Indeed. But no late-night host is trousering a $400,000 Wall Street speaking fee.


Trump vs. Media: 100 Days of Trust and Mistrust

Saturday, 29 April, 2017 0 Comments

American adults trust President Trump more than the national political media, according to a poll released yesterday. Thirty-seven percent trust the White House against 29 percent who believe the political media in the Morning Consult survey (PDF). Thirty-four percent are unsure or have no opinion.

Morning Consult found that nearly half say the national political media is tougher on Trump than past presidential administrations. Forty-eight percent said America’s political journalists are harder on Trump, compared with 16 percent who say they are easier. Twenty-three percent say they are “about the same,” while 13 percent have no opinion.

Yesterday’s results found a slight majority who say the national political media is “out of touch with everyday Americans.” Twenty-eight percent said it “understands the challenges everyday Americans are facing,” and 21 percent were undecided.

Morning Consult conducted its survey of 2,006 US adults via online interviews from 25 to 26 April. It has a margin of error of two percentage points.