Lying Media Bastards: Media Archive

December 01, 2004

Media Mambo

The Great Indecency Hoax- last week, we wrote about how the "massive outcry" to the FCC about a racy Fox TV segment amounted to letters from 20 people. This week, we look at the newest media scandal, the infamous "naked back" commercial. On Monday Night Football, last week, ABC aired an ad for it's popular "Desperate Housewives" TV show, in which one of the actresses from the show attempted to seduce a football player by removing the towel she was wearing to bare her body to him. All the audience saw, however, was her back. No tits, no ass, no crotch, just her back.

No one complained.

The next Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh told his shocked viewers how the woman had appeard in the commercial "buck naked".

Then, the FCC received 50,000 complaints. How many of them actually saw this commercial is anyone's guess.

The article also shows the amazing statistics that although the Right is pretending that the "22% of Americans voted based on 'moral values'" statistic shows the return of the Moral Majority, this is actually a huge drop from the 35% who said that in the 2000 election or the 40% who said that in 1996 (when alleged pervert Bill Clinton was re-elected). This fact is so important I'm going to mention it over in the main news section too.

Brian Williams may surprise America- Tom Brokaw's replacement anchor, Brian Williams, dismissed the impact of blogs by saying that bloggers are "on an equal footing with someone in a bathroom with a modem." Which is really funny, coming out of the mouth of a dude who's idea of journalism is to read words out loud off a teleprompter. Seriously, if parrots were literate, Brian Williams would be reporting live from the line outside the soup kitchen.

In related news, Tom Brokaw has quit NBC Nightly News, and it appears that unlike his predecessor, the new guy can speak without slurring words like a drunk.

PR Meets Psy-Ops in War on Terror- in February of 2002, Donald Rumsfeld announced the creation of the Office of Strategic Influence, a new department that would fight the war on terror through misinformation, especially by lying to journalists. Journalists were so up in arms about this that the Pentagon agreed to scrap the program.

Don't you think that an agency designed to lie to the public might lie about being shut down, too?

This article gives some examples about the US military lying to the press for propaganda and disinformation purposes.

Tavis Smiley leaving NPR in December- African-American talk show host Tavis Smiley is opting to not renew his daily talk show on National Public Radio. He criticized his former employers for failing to: "meaningfully reach out to a broad spectrum of Americans who would benefit from public radio but simply don’t know it exists or what it offers ... In the most multicultural, multi-ethnic and multiracial America ever, I believe that NPR can and must do better in the future." He's 100% correct. NPR is white. Polar bear eating a marshmallow at the mayonaise factory white. And the reason it's so white is that it is trying to maintain an affluent listener base (premoniantly older white folks) who will donate money to their stations. This is a great paradox of American public broadcasting, that they have a mandate to express neglected viewpoints and serve marginalized communities, but those folks can't donate money in the amounts that the stations would like to see.

U.S. Muslim Cable TV Channel Aims to Build Bridges- it sounds more positive than it is "Bridges TV" seems to simultaneously be a cable channel pursuing an affluent American Muslim demographic, and a way of building understanding and tolerance among American non-Muslims who might happen to watch the channel's programming. I was hoping it would be aimed more at Muslim's worldwide, but it ain't. Still, I'd be interested in seeing how their news programs cover the issues.

Every Damned Weblog Post Ever- it's funny cuz it's true.

Wikipedia Creators Move Into News- Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia, created collectively by thousands of contributors. It's one of those non-profit, decentralized, collective, public projects that show how good the internet can be. Now, the Wikipedia founders are working on a similar project to create a collaborative news portal, with original content. Honestly, it's quite similar to IndyMedia sites (which reminds me, happy 5th birthday, IndyMedia!). I'll admit, I'm a bit skeptical about the Wikinews project, though. IndyMedia sites work because they're local, focused on certain lefty issues, and they're run by activists invested in their beliefs. I'm not sure what would drive Wikinews or how it would hang together.

CBS, NBC ban church ad inviting gays- the United Church of Christ created a TV ad which touts the church's inclusion, even implying that they accept homosexuals into their congregation. Both CBS and NBC are refusing to air the ad. This is not too surprising, as many Americans are uncomfortable about homosexuality, and because TV networks are utter cowards. But CBS' explanation for the ban was odd:

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples...and the fact that the executive branch has recently proposed a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast."

Whoa, what? First of all, the ad does not mention marriage at all. Second, since when do positions opposite of the Executive Branch constitute "unacceptable"? This doesn't sound like "we're not airing this because it's controversial", this sounds like "we're afraid of what the President might say."

Posted by Jake at 10:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

November 16, 2004

Tales of Media Woe

Senate May Ram Copyright Bill- one of the most depressing stories of the day that didn't involve death or bombs. It's the music and movie industries' wet dream. It criminalizes peer-to-peer software makers, allows the government to file civil lawsuits on behalf of these media industries, and eliminates fair use. Fair use is the idea that I can use a snippet of a copyrighted work for educational, political, or satirical purposes, without getting permission from the copyright-holder first.

And most tellingly, the bill legalizes technology that would automatically skip over "obejctionable content" (i.e. sex and violence) in a DVD, but bans devices that would automatically skip over commericals. This is a blatant, blatant, blatant gift to the movie industry. Fuck the movie industry, fuck the music industry, fuck the Senate.

Music industry aims to send in radio cops- the recording industry says that you're not allowed to record songs off the radio, be it real radio or internet radio. And now they're working on preventing you from recording songs off internet radio through a mixture of law and technological repression (although I imagine their techno-fixes will get hacked pretty quickly).

The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few- blogger Jeff Jarvis discovers that the recent $1.2 million FCC fine against a sex scene in Fox's "Married By America" TV show was not levied because hundreds of people wrote the FCC and complained. It was not because 159 people wrote in and complained (which is the FCC's current rationale). No, thanks to Jarvis' FOIA request, we find that only 23 people (of the show's several million viewers) wrote in and complained. On top of that, he finds that 21 of those letters were just copy-and-paste email jobs that some people attached their names to. Jarvis then spins this a bit by saying that "only 3" people actually wrote letters to the FCC, which is misleading but technically true. So somewhere between 3 and 23 angry people can determine what you can't see on television. Good to know.

Reuters Union Considers Striking Over Layoffs- will a strike by such a major newswire service impact the rest of the world's media?

Pentagon Starts Work On War Internet- the US military is talking about the creation of a global, wireless, satellite-aided computer network for use in battle. I think I saw a movie about this once...

Conservative host returns to the air after week suspension for using racial slur- Houston radio talk show host (and somtime Rush Limbaugh substitute) Mark Belling referred to Mexican-Americans as "wetbacks" on his show. He was suspended for a couple of weeks, and then submitted a written apology for the racial slur to a local newspaper. But he seems to be using the slur and its surrounding controversy to boost his conservative cred with his listeners.

Stay Tuned for Nudes- Cleveland TV news anchor Sharon Reed aired a story about artist Spencer Tunick, who uses large numbers of naked volunteers in his installations and photographs. The news report will be unique in that it will not blur or black-out the usual naughty bits. The story will air late at night, when it's allegedly okay with the FCC if you broadcast "indecent" material. The author of this article doesn't seem to notice that Reed first claims that this report is a publicity stunt, but then claims it's a protest against FCC repression. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I'm not that much of a sucker.

Posted by Jake at 04:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

October 10, 2004

Media Shower

Conservative TV Group to Air Anti-Kerry Film- when we last heard about the Sinclair Broadcast Group, the head office was commanding all of its local TV affiliates to not air an episode of Nightline that would read aloud the names of all of the US soldiers who had died in the Iraq war. This appeared to be pure conservative partisanship, trying to shield the nation from information that could decrease support for the war.

Now, SBG is forcing all of its affiliates to preempt their regular programs and air an anti-Kerry "documentary" just days before the election. This is precisely the sort of scenario that media activists are always warning against.

Feds Seize Indymedia Servers- odd tale. As I reconstruct it, someone posted a photograph of two undercover Swiss police officers, who were spying on protesters, to the British activist news site Indymedia UK. Swiss law enforcement was upset, so they contacted friends in the FBI to ask for help. The FBI, utilizing some sort of collaborative agreement with British law enforcement, seized Indymedia UK's server computers. These computers not only hosted Indymedia UK, but almost two dozen other international activist news sites. It all sounds pretty shady to me.

On a related note:

Free Radio Santa Cruz Shut Down by FCC- not sure why the FCC is cracking down on pirate stations, first Knoxville First Amendment Radio, now this long-running Santa Cruz station.

Howard Stern on Satellite Radio- Sirius Satellite Radio is the smaller of the two major satellite radio companies in the US. As a means of competing with rival XM, Sirius has signed a deal with popular morning talk host/shock jock Howard Stern. The terms of the deal are outrageous: $500 million for five years. Analysts are saying that Sirius will have to add 1 million subscribers for each of those five years to pay for the Stern deal-- and Stern doesn't even start broadcasting with them till 2006. Frankly, I have to predict that this plan will not be successful, and that in the next few years that XM and Sirius will merge, with XM ascendant.*

Fake Blogs, True Buzz- nothing that new here, advertisers creating fake blogs as a sneaky way to build hype for products. Just another example of advertisers attempts to ruin all that is good in the universe.

Reporter for Times Is Facing Jail Time- NYT reporter Judy Miller is in jail due to contempt of court charges, for refusing to name her sources in the Valerie Plame/CIA leak investigation. Miller is best known for being a pawn of Achmed Chalabi, publishing his lies about Iraq's WMDs with little skepticism.

Posted by Jake at 12:23 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

September 18, 2004

Smoking Poll

I am generally skeptical of polls because I just can't buy into the idea that you can interview 1000 people and then say that your results will accurately reflect the opinions of 290 million other people who happen to live in the same country. Mathematical, statistical and pollster friends have tried to convince me otherwise, and maybe they're right. But it seems like a ridiculous leap of logic to me.

But there is recent evidence that we should be skeptical of current election polls, not because of my brand of philosophical suspicion, because of basic design flaws.

First, we have this column which claims that pollsters, who usually do all their surveys via telephone, do not include cellphone numbers in their phone number lottery. If you've got a cell phone and a land-line, no problem. But if you only have a cell phone, you will never be polled. According to this article from back in April, over 8 million Americans fit that category, and the number is growing. The final piece of the puzzle: most of these 8 million are young people, and most young people tend to vote Democrat. So by ignoring cell phones, pollsters may be missing many Democratic opinions.

Secondly, we see that the highly respected Gallup Poll is skewing their sample. In their "polls of likely voters", they are assuming that 40% of those coming to vote will be Republicans and 33% will be Democrats. Meaning that they make sure that 40% of the people they poll are Republicans and 33% are Democrats.

I don't dismiss this idea out of hand; what if this 40:33 ratio is a historical trend? It would only make sense to make your polls follow suit. But the blogger linked to above researches this further, and finds that since 1992, the ratios of Rep to Dem have been 34:34, 34:39, 35:39 (granted, this is according to Zogby Polls, a rival of Gallup). Just using anecdotal evidence, I think that Democrats are going to flood the fucking polls this year because they are so angry at Bush. If the ratio this year isn't at least about equal, it will be because Kerry does something amazingly stupid, like announce publicly that he worships Satan.

And finally, we have evidence of some kind of slant in a recent NYT/CBS poll. After asking if they were voting for Bush or Kerry, the pollsters asked who the subject had voted for in the last election. 36% said Bush, 28% said Gore, and 32% said they didn't vote. That is amazingly skewed. If it was going to be representative, it should've been like 50% didn't vote, 25% said Gore, 24% said Bush. That's very fishy.

I'm not saying "look at the right-wing pollster conspiracy!" I'm saying "don't trust opinion polls!" And, to some extent, "maybe Kerry is getting more votes than we think." Of course, if our media was worth a damn, they would semi-regularly do stories about the limitations of polls, or analyze what questions were asked, who was asked, and what those results actually mean in the real world. But polls are such great, easy news stories, why would they fuck up a good thing?

Posted by Jake at 10:07 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

September 10, 2004

Project Censored 2004

Every year, the researchers at Sonoma State University's Project Censored comb through the alternative press, looking for stories of great importance. They then cross-check this vital stories against the mainstream media and see which ones got left out. They refer to these important, neglected stories as "censored," and every year, they publicize the year's Top Ten and Top Twenty-Five "most censored" stories

There's an article listing and summarizing 2003's Top Ten here, and a list of the Top Twenty-Five (with links to details and background) here.

The list is always worth a look. Some items will probably be familiar to you, and others will be surprising and disturbing new info.

Posted by Jake at 05:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

September 05, 2004

Foundation of the Facade

"Vidiot" is the blogging pseudonym of a TV journalist, from North Carolina I think.

Anynow, Vidiot was in NYC covering the Republican convention, and s/he created an amazing photo gallery which presents a media's-eye view of the convention: behind the scenes of the pomp, examining the wheels of the news machine, watching the facade being assembled and maintained.

If you're a media geek like myself, it's a definite must-view.

Posted by Jake at 02:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

August 08, 2004

Bundle o' News

JibJabbing for Artists' Rights- Gregg and Evan Spiridellis create animated web cartoons. Their latest is a political satire mocking both presidential candidates to the tune of "This Land Is Your Land". The company that owns the copyright to Woody Guthrie's catalog threatened to sue the Spiridellis brothers for using the song, the brothers filed legal papers asking a judge to speak to the copyright issues involved. Under US copyright law, you are allowed "fair use" of copyrighted works, if you're using them for critique, education, and several other occasions. And this case is obviously, obviously within that realm. I imagine that the judge will smack down the copyright-holders. The thing that makes the company's actions even more dispicable is the original songwriter's opinion on copyright:

"This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do."

'Real women' ad sets new trend- women's underwear company Dove launched a TV ad campaign in Britain using women of various shapes and sizes instead of busty-yet-anorexic swimsuit models, and Dove's sales increased by 700%. Maybe there's a lesson to be learned there...

Punk at a Moment's Notice- I'm sure it's extent is overexaggerated in the article, but this concept is very cool: small local band sends text messages to its fans and announces that in a few hours they will be playing a show at a nearby bar, subway train, gallery, funeral parlor, etc. People show up, band plays free show, everyone leaves.

FCC Blocks Spam on Wireless Devices- one of the first things the FCC has done in years that I approve of: ban spam text messages sent to cellphones and PDAs.

Liberally applying "most liberal" label- conservative pundits keep squawking that John Kerry and John Edwards the first- and fourth-most liberal members of the Senate, and the news media doesn't seem to be questioning it. This Spinsanity article shows that these rankings are not of Kerry or Edwards as individuals, but are rankings of their voting records for a single year, 2003. And 2003 was an unusual year, as both men took plenty of time off from the Senate to campaign, which meant that they had fewer votes as part of their tally. Spinsanity links to a more comprehensive survey which finds the two to be pretty close to the Democratic center rather than the Democratic left.

Covering the "Caged Hamster": Media's picture of Kerry based on RNC distortions- article which argues that the press' general coverage of Kerry seems to accept Republican stereotypes and disinformation at face value.

Selling the News- Vibrant Media Inc. and are working together to take the text of articles and hyperlink certain words to the websites of their advertisers. The president reassures us by saying that his company is "not trying to blur the line between advertising and editorial, we're just trying to find out where that line is." Comforting.

Posted by Jake at 02:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

August 03, 2004


After the big prehistoric killer asteroid hit the Earth, I imagine those first mammals said to themselves "it's getting pretty cold out. Good thing I've got this warm fur coat and a hibernation instinct." And the last dinosaurs were saying "it's getting pretty cold out. I'm... going to eat some leaves." Had they the brain pan, opposable digits, or tool-making skills, that same dinosaur might've said "I've got to make a shelter or a winter coat or something," and survived.

I feel that today's big media industries are like those dinosaurs. I'm not trying to pull some kind of hipper-than-thou, techno-manic attitude, that these businesses don't understand "the digital revolution" or some shit. I'm saying that these industries are working on business models that're decades old, and due to changes in society and technology, might not be viable any more.

I've written several articles where I talk about the music industry's violently stubborn refusal to accept change. Since probably the 1950s, the recording industry has depended upon the fact that mass-producing recorded music is so expensive that all musicians needed a corporate sugar daddy to survive. But now you can record an album on a friend's computer for cheap, burn CD copies for cheaper, and transfer the songs over the internet for free. As we know, the record industry has made little-to-no effort to adapt to its new circumstances; instead, it has tried to sue and intimidate people into pretending that it's 1950 again.

I found an odd example of both the changing music enviroment and the effects of the RIAA's backlash in this article. Brothers Alan and Andy Berry opened up a record store in Indianapolis, selling hip-hop music. As an interesting aside, the Berrys admit that they would "break the streetdate" for new albums. "Streetdate" is a collusion between record label and record store to refuse to sell an album until a certain day, even if the store has the records sitting in plain view for a week. In exchange for honoring the streetdate, the record companies give advertising money to the stores. But since they really only give this money to big stores, Berry's Music didn't see why they should bother.

But the main part of the article is about mixtapes. A local DJ will put together a number of exclusive tracks, by well-known and unsigned artists alike and sell copies of the compilation. They are quite popular. Berry's regularly sold mixtapes for several years. Then, *BAM*, the RIAA shows up with the cops, confiscates $10,000 worth of mixtape CDs, and arrests the brothers on 13 counts of royalty theft and fraud. Responds Alan Berry:

"We never really questioned the legalities of them. We never did. Because, one, we were getting some of the mix-CDs through our regular vendors that we bought our quote-unquote 'legit' product from. The same place I would get the Interscope record from, I would get mix-CDs from, from national distributors. Two, the artists are on there endorsing the mixes. I mean, Eminem's on the mix-CD saying, 'Yo, this is Eminem. You're listening to DJ Green Lantern.' Then he drops three or four exclusive free-styles and he’s talking within the mix, about the mix itself, saying Lantern's his man. You would kind of assume that Eminem's fine with it."

Which sounds pretty damn reasonable to me.

Unfortunately, the brothers Berry decided that they had to sell their store and all their records to pay for their legal defense. They managed to plea bargain down to a misdemeanor, but that carried a heavy fine. The only upside is that Alan plans to open up another record store, Naptown Music. If anyone hears about that place opening, please drop me a line so I can announce it. The fella could probably use a little publicity.

Was this a case of the RIAA trying to destroy the mixtape, which is effectively an alternative to a record label? I'm not sure, because I have not seen any other stories of stores closed for selling mixtapes. Was this a case of the RIAA cracking down on the violation of streetdate? That seems a little more likely to me.

My next example is the newspaper industry, by way of the comic strip. Scott Kurtz, of the internet comic PvP wants to get his comic in the newspapers. He explains that many comics are part of a syndicate. The syndicates pay the cartoonist, own all the rights to the cartoons, and sell bundles of cartoons to the newspapers. Kurtz claims that comic strips were originally a way for one local newspaper to draw readers away from another. But nearly every city in America is a one-paper-town these days, so there is no competition. Kurtz quotes a fellow cartoonist who says

"If any one newspaper would get the balls to just 86 their comics page, and suffer through the months of letters they would receive, we'd be done for. Once the papers realize they can survive dropping the comics page, everyone will do it."

And s/he's right. If comics are an expense, and newspaper publishers find out that they can keep selling as many papers without paying for that expense, the comics will vanish. Which leads to Kurtz's plan to give his cartoon away to newspapers for free. He figures that it would be free publicity, and that he (and other cartoonists, if they followed suit) could make their livings selling books of their cartoons, advertising on their websites, and cartoon-related merchandise.

Very strange, the modern newspaper. Almost none of them have any competition locally. I guess each local paper competes with the nearest regional paper and with the nearest "paper of record" (NY Times, LA Times, Washington Post). The local has the advantage that it'll say what's going on in your very city, the others have the advantage of real news.

And finally, we have the television. The TV business model is way fucked up. TV has made its profits by selling time to advertisers for decades. But advertisers want to get the most for their money, so TV stations started getting their audiences measured by the Nielsen company back in the 1940s. And today, TVs sell time to advertisers, based upon audience measurement by Nielsen. 60 fucking years later, not much change.

The biggest change has been what audience the advertisers want. Originally, advertisers wanted as many people as possible to see their ad. But since they were paying per person, they later decided that as much as possible, they only wanted to reach audiences likely to buy the advertised product (in the advertiser's wildest dreams, a network would air a program about toothpaste, watched by millions of toothpaste enthusiasts, on which they could advertise their own particular brand of toothpaste).

The shift in advertiser desires led to a shift in programming strategy. Instead of creating shows that would appeal to everyone, the networks began creating shows aimed at specific consumer-oriented audience segments. Advertisers want to reach a wealthier audience, because they have more money to spend, which makes sense. But they also want to reach a young male audience, almost to the exclusion of most other audience segments (no one has explained that to me very well. Wouldn't you want everyone's money?)

Anyhow. This article is about television's hunt for the 18-34 year old male audience... and how they're losing it. Guys this age (my age) resent advertising, don't watch advertising, and "hunger for authenticity", so how are advertisers responding? With advertising styles that either don't promote their products or that will incur Gen X wrath (I don't know how much "experimental" fake real life advertising the public will take before someone gets his ass whupped).

All I'm saying is that they times, they are a'changing, and the media giants, they are a'stupid.

Posted by Jake at 09:47 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

July 15, 2004

What Up, Docs?

There are more political documentaries in and around movie theaters these days than at any time I can remember. I'm seriously discovering a new one every week or two. For everyone's convenience, I'll go ahead and catalog em for you. Most of them have already been mentioned on this site, but let's get our one-stop convenience on.

Bush's Brain- in 2003, two reporters penned the book Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential. Karl Rove is, of course, the Mephistopheles to Bush's dim-witted Faust (what, all my references have to be to 80s cartoon shows?), the campaign advisor who's lies, strategery, and dirty tricks put his boss's cowboy boots on the desk in the Oval Office. Anyhow, someone read the book and said "hey, we should make this a movie", and did. Haven't seen the film, but its website implies that one of the main themes of the movie is new politics of not just defeating your opponent, but destroying him.

The Corporation- I plan to see this one this week (maybe tomorrow afternoon, if I play hooky). The film's conceit is "since corporations are considered 'people' under the law, why don't we try to psychoanalyze these artificial people and see what they're like." The conclusion is that if corporations were people, they'd be sociopaths. This film is also apparently based on a book of the same name.

Fahrenheit 9/11- you know about this one.

The Hunting of the President- another book-based doc, this one is about the lengthy Republican campaign to defeat/destroy Bill Clinton while he was in the White House. Of all the movies on this list, this is the one I'm least interested in.

Orwell Rolls in His Grave- just found out about this one like ten minutes ago. Near as I can figure, it's also about the run-up to the Iraq war, but with focus on the absolutely criminal behavior by the US media during this time. I'm most attracted to this film because of its stylish name and focus on my obsession, the media.

Outfoxed- I've mentioned this one a few times lately. Anti-Fox News documentary that is driving the network to distraction.

Super Size Me- least political of the bunch, but still, deals with corporate America, aspects of our government's food and nutritional policies, and getting a big fat ass.

Unprecendented: The 2000 Presidential Election- first of the recent "Un" trilogy. This one is about the Florida debacle part of the 2000 election.

Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War- second of the "Un" trilogy. Covers a lot of the same ground as F911, but with more focus on testimony by intelligence officials debunking the pro-war argument.

Unconstitutional- "Un" trilogy finale. Not yet released, but about post-9/11 fear and the Bush administration's attacks on civil rights in the US.

Posted by Jake at 08:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 13, 2004


Last week, I idly mentioned that there was a new anti-Fox News documentary out called Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism. Looks like a good flick, using the news channels' own footage to hang it, and you can apparently buy a copy for only about $10. But it's starting to get some media momentum, so let's take another look.

Apart from its obvious controversy, the documentary is also noteworthy because it uses more copyrighted material without permission than any previous film. The director seems to be hoping that he can get around it by claiming it was "fair use", a loophole that lets you use portions of a copyrighted work for "criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research". No one's used "fair use" so heartily before, so I'm looking forward to seeing how this shakes out.

While on the one hand Fox News is acting like the movie is no big deal, the network simultaneously seems to be losing its mind. In a really silly smear attempt, Fox is essentially arguing that billionaire George "Darth" Soros is the evil puppetmaster in this tale, making the movie, controlling the NY Times, and possibly eating babies.*

Then Fox tried to claim that every single ex-Fox-employee interviewed in the film was a low-level employee, fired for incompetence who lies for fun. And then Fox puffed up its chest and said that they will publicly release all of their "editorial directions and internal memos" if other major news agencies do the same. Which demonstrates all the courage of saying "I will stand in the middle of the freeway, if you do." I can say that fearlessly because I know full well that you're not gonna, and I still get to look like a big, ballsy hero (at least to the naked, stupid eye).

My absolute favorite thing though is that the film's director, in a mock effort to smooth things over with Fox, has offered to let the network air the film "for free." You, Mr. Director, are a funny man.

Anyhow, since this movie seems to be making Fox break out in a nervous, loony rash, there's only one thing to do: promote the hell out of it.

All you bloggers, post info and links about the movie on your site. Email the url to friends. Print out the logo/cover graphic and post it on the bulletin board at work. Go to Fox News HQ and pee on the doorknobs. Keep checking CableNewser, a blog that is apparently all over this story. Buy a copy of the movie, watch it, and pass it around.

I haven't seen the movie, don't know if it's any good, and guess that most Americans are already pretty aware of the reality of the movie's premise: the Fox News Channel is conservative. But if there's anything we can do to make Rupert Murdoch cry like a little girl, I say we go for it.


Wonkette has a batch of 30 Fox News memos where honcho John Moody tells his employees what to cover that day and how to cover it. Some of his directives are explicitly partisan, some are implicitly partisan, and some are just sensationalistic.


*There is a whisper of truth to this Fox allegation. Outfoxed was partially funded by, which was partially funded by George Soros. And a NY Times reporter wrote about the documentary, but agreed with the film's director not to call Fox News for comment till the last minute (allegedly so that Fox wouldn't be alerted about the movie, sue the director, and prevent the film's release). So obviously, these connections form a single tapestry of evil, woven by demonic succubi, on the payroll of mega-evil George Soros.**

** What's the deal with me and footnotes lately?

Posted by Jake at 07:26 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (1)

July 09, 2004

Medium, Message

The 'prop-agenda' war- a look at current and past uses and techniques of propaganda by the US government on the American people.

Some theater chains refuse 'Fahrenheit'- I have no problem with theater owners choosing to show or not show Michael Moore's new movie. I am amused by a quoted theater chain owner's claim that the reason that they are choosing to not show Moore's film is because "It has always been and will continue to be our policy to refuse to play what we feel are propaganda films, no matter the source." We salute thee, Captain Patriot, on your long-standing non-propaganda policy! So when when exactly has this been an issue at your theater? What was the last wide-release film which was propaganda and made you put your foot down to uphold your virtue? Pompous lying motherfucker.

News Hounds- site that's new to me, "We watch FOX so you don't have to" (that's quite a community service). Basically, they watch and critique Fox News Channel programming from a liberal point of view.

If anyone knows a site that critiques Fox News from a conservative point of view, please let me know. That could be hilarious.

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism- more Fox bashing. This is the site of a new documentary about the effects of corporate ownership on the news media, and on Fox in particular.

FCC may order media to keep on-air records- to better penalize broadcasters, the FCC is mulling over the idea of making those broadcasters keep recordings of all their shows. Expect broadcasters to fight back, talking about the high price of blank tape.

Photoshop other New York Post front-page scoops- after the New York Post's goofy blunder where they printed an erroneous front page about Kerry's running mate, the jokers at Fark put their graphical skills to work riffing on that theme. In related news, it looks as though the "mysterious source" who misinformed the Post might have been Post owner and media emperor Rupert Murdoch (actually, I'm not sure why the NY Times is running with that story, they only have a single, unnamed source making that claim. Oh wait, that's because they're the NY Times).

House Leaves Patriot Act Unchanged- members of the House of Representatives tried to alter the Patriot Act so that law enforcement did not have the right to search every American's library records and book receipts to find out what they're reading. The attempt failed. I love how when I read, Big Brother's lips move.

No Sex, Please, We're Texas- conservative nutjobs in Texas have decided that all the state's kids should be furnished solely with special "Texas edition" health books which teach that abstinence is the only form of birth control. Which is good, because there's nothing more evil than teen sex. Well, maybe teen pot smoking.

Posted by Jake at 06:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 24, 2004

Little Non-Losses

About a year ago, the FCC voted to relax ownership rules for mass media outlets, making it easier for a large media conglomerate to become a huge media conglomerate.

The rule change faced a surprising backlash. The public was actually angry about this, and some legislators actually took notice.

This week, the relaxed ownership rules have taken a double hit.

First, the Senate voted to overturn the deregulation (on the downside, the Senate then voted yes on two pro-censorship bills, one increasing fines on broadcast stations that air "indecent" material, and another looking to study the V-chip and possibly ban violent TV during times when children watch a lot). I presume that the House needs to vote on a similar bill before this would become law.

Then, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals sent the FCC packing. It blocked the implementation of the new FCC rules, and told the FCC to take its new regulations back for revision.

Granted, this just takes us back to the fairly shoddy ownership rules that we had last year.

Which is why I'm in favor of broadcast piracy. Big corporations used the government to hijack our airwaves. Hijack em back.

Posted by Jake at 02:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 14, 2004

Media Week

A Look Inside the PR Battle Against Super Size Me- the site is primarily a site of news & reviews of "cool" things for young men: movies; video games; cars; high-tech gadgets; etc. So I was proud of them when I saw that they'd risen above shallow and hip to get an actual newsy scoop. The article above was conceived when IGN received three different press releases attempting to debunk the anti-fast food message of the movie Super Size Me. The IGN guys did their research, finding that each of the press releases originated from a different PR front group funded by members of the junk food industry, often by the Golden Arches themselves.

Reading With the Enemy- allegedly inspired by Super Size Me, liberal writer Oliver Griswold tells his harrowing tale of going 30 days absorbing no media but right-wing news. He sustained permanent liver damage, and he grew three extra toes. Okay, I'm lying.

The Coming Backlash Against Outrage- in a nutshell, the author argues that "In the weeks ahead, we’ll be encouraged to turn away from information surfacing about imprisonment and interrogation techniques that have held sway under U.S. authority in Iraq. Atrocities will be discounted, excuses made, messengers blamed."

Media Matters for America Television Spot Reveals Controversial Iraqi Prisoner Torture Commentary- new media watchdog Media Matters has been driving Rush Limbaugh nuts by publicizing his most ignorant and mean-spirited comments. They now seek to take it to another level by placing commercials on TV, quoting Rush's claims that the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse is no big thing. If it pisses of Limbaugh, I'm glad to hear it.

Fox Doctor's Diploma Mill Degree- Fox's TV show "The Swan" is a fucking atrocity. It should be called "The Prey", as one of the world's largest corporations uses its power to exploit the insecurities of some of America's most emotionally vulnerable women. To make the whole thing more professional, their team of experts--plastic surgeons, nutritionists, personal trainers-- also includes a "therapist"/psychologist. As my brother and I watched part of the show in horror, we wondered what kind of psychologist could possibly find this show to be in the slightest bit ethical. Well, maybe part of that is because she's not exactly a "real" psychologist. This article finds that Dr. Lynn Ianni got her Ph.D from one of those fake universities that will give degrees to anybody for the right price (granted, it looks as though she did get her Master's in psych from a real university).

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April 30, 2004


As you may have heard, tonight's edition of Nightline (ABC) will solely be a reading of names and showing of images of American soldiers who have been killed in the war on Iraq.

As you may have also heard, the Sinclair Broadcast Group, a multimedia conglomerate that owns 62 television stations (reaching 24% of the US population) has told its 8 ABC affiliates not to air the Nightline program.

The Sinclair Group says that it is refusing to air this broadcast because it "appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq." It then "proves" its case by pondering the question, "why [Ted Koppel] chose to read the names of 523 troops killed in combat in Iraq, rather than the names of the thousands of private citizens killed in terrorist attacks since and including the events of September 11, 2001." Which seems to be incorrect; ABC asserts that it did read all of the names of the 9/11 victims on the one-year anniversary of the attacks, leaving Sinclair with nothing but an unsubstantiated insinuation.

It is posible that Sinclair's motives are genuine, thinking that they are protecting the American people from ABC's harmful political agenda. But Sinclair has a history of supporting the Bush administration and a right-wing agenda. Some of these actions include: forcing their news anchors read statements of "full support" for President Bush after 9/11; refusing to air a Democratic campaign ad critical of Bush; and just donating lots of cash to Bush and the Republicans.

This shows the danger of media consolidation: censorship. Eight regions of the US will not see this commemoration of the dead because of the political views of some corporate bigwigs.

What's also interesting is the assumption that remembering the dead will cause harm. It is reasonable to think that the public, faced with a stark reminder of all of this death, may turn against the war and its supporters. Or, contrariwise, viewers could see all this death and be even more determined that the United States win the war, so that all these soldiers will not have died in vain. Honestly, poll data seems to support the latter; the worse we do in Iraq, the more Americans seem to want to rally behind the president.

Although it's a bit of a tangent, I also wanted to remark upon today's USA Today front page. The key headline was "Iraq's Deadliest Month", followed by an article about the large numbers of Americans killed in Iraq in April: 134. But to me, that shows an amount of America-centrism that's somewhat insulting. Iraq has existed as a nation since the 1930s, is home to 25 million Iraqis, and it's "deadliest month" just happened, and when 134 foreigners are killed? The article doesn't even mention the number of Iraqis killed this month (which the Associated Press claims is 1361-- ten times the number of Americans). It's as though Iraq is only visible when Americans are in it, and the deaths of people there only matter if those people were born under an American flag.

I'm thinking that Iraq has had "deadlier months", possibly including the final days of Gulf War I, one of the months of the embargo when people were dying of starvation and lack of medicine, or even the opening days of the latest war, thanks to Shock and Awe.

I understand that this USA Today article was not trying to be about the suffering of the Iraqis, or about the general suffering of war. And I'm not trying to say that the death of an Iraqi is more important than the death of an American. All of the deaths on all sides are tragic. I feel bad for all of the people who's lives are being cut short by the conflict, and for all of the brothers, mothers, wives, husbands, fathers and friends who will have to live the rest of their lives with a hole where their loved one used to be.

The idea that one life, or one death, is more important than another, is one of the main reasons we still have war.

Posted by Jake at 05:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

April 28, 2004


Air America: Clear Channel Lite- while I think it's a little ridiculous to compare tiny liberal AM radio network Air America to commercial radio behemoth Clear Channel, the article has a number of serious criticisms of the former. Primarily, the article exposes the seemingly unintentional racism of Air America and its staff.

Daily Howler 1 and 2- Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler has two columns that rip new assholes in a number of biased political journalists. Good reads, check em both out.

The Way They Were- check out the latest cover of US News & World Report magazine of George W. Bush and John Kerry circa 1971. Kerry, known for being a veteran, is represented by a picture of himself in a regular suit. Bush, who is known for using his daddy's connections to get into the National Guard to avoid Vietnam, is depicted by a photo of himself in his military uniform. Provocative juxtaposition? Ironic inversion? Political hackery? You make the call.

Another Africa Calamity -- Will Media Slumber On?- "American journalists are generally slower to cover mass death if the victims are not white." Obvious, but sometimes it's nice to have people point out what's being ignored, even when it's obvious.

Access of Evil- Newsweek interviews Democracy Now's Amy Goodman. Goodman has done a lot of great reporting over the years, but I find she too often resorts to partisanship and sensationalism in her journalism. Anyhow, she's out promoting her new book, and the newsmagazine asks her about the media. As one can expect, her answers are not flattering.

Much of What Advertisers Are Doing Is an Invasion of Privacy- really pretty amazing thing here. The marketing trade magazine Advertising Age, feeling the pinch of declining ad revenue, asks anti-advertising activist Gary Ruskin to write them an article explaining why people hate advertising so much. I think Ruskin's critique is right on, that consumers are disgusted with advertisers because they refuse to recognize any boundaries, and because they refuse to acknowledge it when their campaigns actually do harm.

Swallow This, Deep Throat- intriguing article which argues that it is no longer necessary or desirable for reporters to use anonymous sources. The author points out that there have only really been three explosive anonymous sources (Deep Throat, Daniel "Pentagon Papers" Ellsburg and Jeffrey "The Insider" Wigand), and two of those three had their identities exposed immediately. Now, individuals take advantage of reporters' hope to be the next Woodward & Bernstein by giving them anonymous quotes and info for those individual's own political gain, facing no consequences for their actions.

Posted by Jake at 01:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 08, 2004

Latest from the Media Front

Administration wages war on pornography and Xtreme Measures- while we have seen a crackdown on "mainstream" indecency ever since the Janet Jackson nipple flash, Attorney General John Ashcroft has been on a jihad against porn since at least 2002. The first article outlines the more concrete aspects of law enforcement and politics, while the latter deals more with the pornography itself, and the legal/social history of the concept of "obscenity." It looks as though obscenity was first outlawed because it could "deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences". And now, well... I can't find anything in modern obscenity laws that explains why obscenity is bad, except that it "offends community standards", and last I checked, it wasn't illegal to offend people.

Ashcroft seems to be pushing the "won't someone please think of the children?" angle, saying that porn is so pervasive that our nation's young'ns can easily get ahold of it. But rather than work on the relevant part there, children's access, Ashcroft would rather work on the more invasive and less practical effort of eliminating the porn itself.

But hey, it makes me feel safer just knowing that we're using our nation's law enforcement resources to fight video blow jobs instead of, y'know, deadly terrorist attacks.

A Heretical View of File Sharing-new study argues that people downloading mp3s off the internet doesn't actually hurt record sales. The study is largely an exercise in limited data-gathering and lots of math, so I don't know how accurate it is. A frantic record industry responded to the study with a "oh yeah, then how come our sales keep dropping, smart guy?" And the answer to that would be an academic "I don't know," and shows the weakness of the industry's position. In research, until you have proof that one thing causes another, you don't try to explain why something happens. The industry has been pretending that it's obvious that the only single possible cause of their sales slump has been the demon internet. But even this article points out a host of other potential causes: "a slow economy, fewer new releases and a consolidation of radio networks that has resulted in less variety on the airwaves. Some market experts have also suggested that record sales in the 1990's might have been abnormally high as people bought CD's to replace their vinyl record collections."

2004 Pulitzer Prizes for Journalism Announced- what the headline says. It actually looks like they picked out some good folks this year, despite the fact that this has been a shit year for journalism. You can read the stories themselves if you follow the links here.

Why Karen Ryan Deserved What She Got- another article about the PR scandal which pulled back the curtain on the uber-shady practice of Video News Releases. Journalist and scholar Jay Rosen takes a deep look at the event and gives some thoughtful analysis about all the hubbub.

Posted by Jake at 10:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 05, 2004

Truth and Kosequences

(Jake winces at title)

I don't usually write about the goings on of the blogosphere, but I feel compelled to say something here.

Long story short: last week, four "civilian contractors," employees of Blackwater USA, were killed in Iraq. Seems that the fellows were mercenaries, or something very similar. Kos of the Daily Kos blog wrote an angry post last week in response in which he said "they are there to wage war for profit. Screw them," and people went apeshit.

Right-winger bloggers now decided that this one comment showed the true nature of the left, uncaring of human life and America and whatnot. They then went on a campaign to get all of the folks who advertise on Kos' site (mainly political candidates in various state elections) to cancel their ads. Several did. John Kerry's website removed its link to Kos'. Some liberal bloggers demanded that Kos retract his comments and apologize. Then things seemed to finally die down.

First off, you can read a longer summary with some interesting analysis here. I found the author's "compare and contrast" between blogs and talk radio to be intriguing (maybe since I do both): blogs have memory (cuz of their archives) while radio is emphemeral, and that this in turn may lead to the more extreme rhetoric on radio (because there's no record of the words after they are uttered).

Second, what's the big deal? Does anyone really like mercenaries? They're hired killers, right? If ever tried for war crimes, they wouldn't even have the benefit of "I was only following orders," just "but he was gonna give me a dollar!" I don't find "screw hired killers" to be a particularly controversial statement.

Third, I don't care what Kos said, and don't understand why everyone's making a big deal of it. Was it an insensitive thing to say? Sure, but so what? That's what the comments section is for; you don't like what he said, you call him and asshole and a France-lover and you're done. I guess some folks see him as a "voice of the left" and part of the left-liberal blog community, and don't want any of the ire aimed at Kos to splatter onto themselves. Maybe I don't care because I've never felt myself a part of that community, as they're a bit to the left of Al Gore and I'm a bit to the left of Gandhi.

Fourth, as Steve Gilliard points out, this event points out the scummy, cowardly, "no friends" nature of party politics. By all accounts, Kos' site has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for various Democrats in the past year, and yet at the slightest hint of controversy they'll drop him like a bad habit. Fuck those guys.

As I mention, my politics are much more radical than those of Kos and his readers, but I think he has done some pretty amazing things. He started a blog, used it to help energize and organize tens of thousands of Democrats, raise money for their candidates, and launch the blogging careers of the amazing Steve Gilliard and Billmon. But most impressive to me, Kos his personal site into a community site. Most people who gain some amount of power keep it to themselves, but Kos opened his site up to complete strangers to contribute.

In conclusion, screw all mercenaries.

Posted by Jake at 12:29 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

April 02, 2004

Wonks Get Goofy

Although most of the April Fool's Day gags I saw this year were pretty lame, I did like this bit from the usually straight-laced "Benton Foundation Communications Policy Mailing List". But then, I'm a geeky media analyst, so...


STUDY: 90% OF TV CONTENT INDECENT Preliminary data for a report due to Congress January 1 finds that 90% of television programming is "indecent," according to regulators' new definition. "Wow, this problem is much worse than we thought," said one staffer. Broadcasters were quick to dispute the findings. "The study is ridiculous," argued an executive at the American Association of Television People. "Most of our programming is crass commercialism and shameless self-promotion. We're doing stuff legislators never dreamed of when they wrote indecency laws. And, anyway, you can block some of it with the V-chip." [SOURCE: FCCMonitor]

LOW POWER BUT HIGH VOLUME Seems established broadcasters were right along, low power radio can cause extra interference in the markets where it has been introduced. Apparently, DJs are encouraging listeners to turn their volume settings at the highest levels as they leave their homes for work. The ensuing noise drowns out any other commercial or noncommercial messages in the area. "This is a temporary protest," says on LPFM station owners. "We want our radio brethren to know what real interference is." [SOURCE:, AUTHOR: Dee Dee Devine]

DTV TRANSITION UPDATE: WHERE TO PLACE THE BLAME After some public bickering earlier this week, lobbyists for TV, cable and consumer electronic industries finally agreed, it is the fault of the American public that the transition to digital broadcasting isn't going smoother. "Some say chicken or egg, programming or hardware," said one lobbyist. "I say its that darn guy who keeps buying the Egg McMuffin when we're offering quiche. Buy the quiche! Sure, it is expensive and you get more than you want, but it tastes better." Continuing the poultry metaphor, one K Street maven asked, "Pretty picture, better sound...what do you want, eggs in your beer?" The industries are working on a joint proposal to the FCC that will allow broadcasters years to return analog TV spectrum in case they find a really profitable use for it and cable operators will be able to double prices for carrying both analog and digital TV signals (no, wait, they've already done that). Expect a decision sometime after the November election. [SOURCE: Will Street Journal, AUTHOR: Will McCunnell]


YOUR NEXT PHONE Consumer electronics executives meeting this week in Lubbock, Texas are touting the next generation of wireless phones. Instead of being tied to one carrier, the phones will automatically search for the best carrier to complete each call as directed by priorities set by the owner including cost, reliability and privacy. "For once," an executive told the press, "we're saying we're putting choice into people's hands and we really mean it." The phones will be compatible with WiFi and VoIP and be easily upgraded with new software to allow use of emerging technologies like WiMax. The phones will be the embodiment of convergence acting as computer, (with dozens of applications) communications device (telephone, e-mail and pager) and entertainment appliance (camera, MP3 player, videogame console, VCR programmer). The phones will offer high-speed Internet access allowing users to stream video, download songs and check email. All commands will be speech activated. Basic model will retail for $20, but can be affordablely upgraded to include features that allow the phone to walk the dog and put the kids to bed, too. [SOURCE: Mrropers, AUTHOR: Bill Kane]

PRESIDENT REVISES BROADBAND GOAL Combining two popular recent proposals, President Bush urged Congress to adopt as a national goal broadband access on mars by 2020. "Look," the President said, "we're already planning on sending scientists, astronauts and Al Gore to Mars, they will need information flowing across cables and telephone lines in a fast way. We can help. That's what broadband technology is. It means we'll open the interplanetary highways of knowledge -- new interplanetary highways of knowledge." The President added later in the day that broadband access on Mars should not be taxed. [SOURCE:, AUTHOR: Orville Ovalle]

Posted by Jake at 08:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 30, 2004

As Liberal as They Wanna Be

You've heard about that upcoming liberal talk radio network, right? A group of three AM radio stations, with liberal/progressive hosts like Al Franken and Janeane Garafalo, that will stick it to The right-wing radio Man?

Sadly, there's a seamy underbelly here:

Liberal Air America will displace Black talk at WLIB

One of the new network stations, WLIB, was formerly filled with programming aimed at the politics and concerns of NYC's African-American and Carribbean-American communities, very rare in today's corporate media-domnated environment.

Now WLIB's gonna be mostly white folks smirking about how Bill O'Reilly says things which are inaccurate.

I am unfamiliar with WLIB, so I can't speak too much on its content or importance. In fact, it may have been slipping for some time now. According to this article, WLIB seems to have been edging away from its community-oriented programming towards more profit-friendly fare for some years now.

But still, it's hard to see this as anything other than "well-meaning" white people taking control of a black enterprise for the benefit of "everyone" (where "everyone" means "mostly middle class white people").

The new Air America Radio network starts broadcasting tomorrow at noon. Maybe someone should call in to figurehead Al Franken's show and ask him about the network's takeover of WLIB.

Posted by Jake at 09:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 28, 2004

Real/Fake Fake/Real

Nice article in the new blog Abused by the News about Video News Releases, those agenda-laden fake news segments created by PR agencies and sometimes broadcast by cash-strapped local news programs. They help big corporations (or governments) shape what you think and believe by feeding you slanted information as "fact." The author of this article says that VNRs are not inherently evil. And true, maybe you could make a VNR about saving endangered puppies or eating healthy vegetables. But, the way that VNRs are generally used, yes, they are evil.

VNRs are finally getting a little limelight (although their creators prefer the anonymous gloom and shadow of their dank caves, *gollum gollum*) thanks to controversy surrounding a VNR created by the Bush administration, with federal tax dollars, to tell untruths to the public about how keen the new Medicare prescription program is. Some Americans were outraged by the use of public monies to pay for what was essentially a pro-Bush campaign commercial, others were angry about the government intentionally distorting the news, and still others are sure that White House is the official stable of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

The author also mentions the book Toxic Sludge Is Good for You, a ruthless expose of the demondogs of the PR industry. It is one of two books that I consider mandatory reading for understanding life in these United States. If you haven't read it, go get it now and don't come back till you're done.

Posted by Jake at 05:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 26, 2004

Choosing Sides

Fox News ain't so fair and balanced.

This is really pretty astounding.

The Bush administration is currently reeling from Richard Clarke's claims that they have been failing the fight on terrorism. They have been looking for a way to defuse the Clarke danger by spinning him as a liar or cad or bumbler or something.

So it was quite a boon when the White House discovered a tape of Clarke from 2002, where he gave a "background briefing" to reporters about antiterrorism. The 2002 report is far rosier than Clarke's recent claims, therefore, goes the Bush argument, Clarke is lying now (could it be that as a government official that Clarke played up the positives and played down the negatives? Nah).

Where did the tape come from?

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says, "It was Fox News who yesterday came to us and said they had a tape of this conversation with Mr. Clarke."

Jesus fucking Christ.

A supposedly neutral arbiter of public information, unbiased and beholden to no one, searched through its archives and found a videotape that could help win a political conflict, and then gave it to the administration in power, knowing full well what it would do with the tape.

This wipes its ass with "fair and balanced." It's certainly not objective, detached observation and reporting. It catapults over "bias", and straight into "I play ball for the Republicans." We always knew that Fox News had a conservative slant, but this moves from propaganda to action.

And it fucks journalism in another way, too. When a source tells a reporter that their information is "background," it means that they don't want to go on the record, they don't even want to be anonymous. It means that they want to tell you the truth, but they want you to go find evidence someplace else. And reporters usually follow this code and let their background sources stay safe. Near as I can figure, this tape of Clarke was background. Not only did Fox break the rule and reveal a background source, it explicitly tries to hurt the source by aiding the source's enemies.

Fox News is so low that they win all the limbo contests.


Fox News did not supply the White House with a tape, they supplied the White House with a transcript of the tape. Sorry for the error.


Posted by Jake at 12:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 19, 2004

And That's the Way It Is

I need to read this and comment on it, but I haven't had a chance yet:

The State of the News Media 2004: An Annual Report on American Journalism

It's put together by the The Project for Excellence in Journalism, a part of Columbia University's journalism program.

It's obviously not the pinnacle of all journalistic criticism, but it probably has a few interesting things to say. You can probably skip straight to its eight major trends section for most of the meat, unless you're particulary interested in a specific medium.

Overall, the eight trends point to economic concerns and how they are having large impacts on the way news is gathered, produced and distributed. The two non-economic trends I found most interesting were: In many parts of the news media, we are increasingly getting the raw elements of news as the end product and Those who would manipulate the press and public appear to be gaining leverage over the journalists who cover them. The first speaks much to the press' descent into press release readers instead of investigators and analysts. The second speaks to the press' spinelessness and gullibility; they may want to do harder hitting stories, but many factors encourage them to take the easier, subject-friendly route.

I'll try to look the whole thing over when I can and give you the highlights, but that might not be for a while.

Posted by Jake at 01:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 11, 2004

Media Child Panic #29584937

Some months back I wrote about a sensationalist "news" story that swept the country about "sex bracelets". As it turned out, this story was pretty much all myth, but it was popular because it mixed parental fears, the "children grow up to fast" meme, sex, and taboo (kids having sex).

Well, on to the next scare:

XXX-DVDs a new hazard for drivers

The scary opening:

Andrea Carlton hadn't planned on telling her daughter about the birds and bees until she was 8 or 9. But that changed the night 4-year-old Catherine spotted a porno movie flickering on a screen in a minivan nearby.

On no! Won't somebody please think of the children!!!

This tale has most of the attractions of the bracelet story, but also involves the "new technology is going to destroy us all" meme.

Apparently, some people are playing porn on their in-car video systems, and unless their windows are tinted, people outside the car can sometimes see what's on those (tiny) screens. And some of those people could be *gasp* children.

The CNN article documents 1... 2... 3... 4 cases of it happening! In a nation of 290 million people! That's almost an epidemic! Well, okay. Only 2 of those 4 cases involved kids. But, you know... As one concerned mother so eloquently put it, "You're not allowed to have sex in your car, so why are you allowed to watch it?"


Okay, show of hands. How many of you have TV/DVD systems in your cars?

That's what I thought.

Now how many of you know someone else who does?


I live in Hollywood and work for rock stars, and therefore have a much higher probablity of knowing people with tricked out cars with expensive doo-dads than most folks. And I don't know anyone who has these DVD systems. How bad can this porn-car thing be if no one has TVs in their cars?

And who the fuck is watching porn in their car?

Yawn. Wake me when the next panic-the-parents story hits.

Posted by Jake at 10:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 09, 2004

Sneak Attack

This really pisses me off.

The Voter Fund is a "527", a new form of political organization that can collect as much money as it likes, and can use that money on political advertising, so long as it doesn't support or oppose a specific candidate. 527s seem most effective in soliciting donations from partisan voters and then running TV ads that highlight a political topic which makes their opponent look bad (e.g. the "Bush in 30 Seconds" contest winner "Child's Pay", about the effects of the federal deficit). I couldn't tell you just yet if 527s are a good thing or a bad thing, but they are a legal thing-- at least for now.

Enter the Republican party.

A lawyer for the Republican National Committee wrote a letter to 250 TV stations around the country, demanding that these stations not air the Voter Fund's ads, because they are illegally financed. The letter concludes with a not so subtle warning that the station's could lose their licenses if they continue their "complicity in illegal activity."

If the ads were truly a violation of broadcast law, the stations could expect a letter of warning from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). If the ads violated electoral law, the stations could expect a letter of warning from the Federal Election Commission (FEC). But a letter from the Republican National Committee (RNC)? Last I checked, they weren't responsible for the enforcement of any kind of law.

I could continue tearing this apart, but I'll save us all the time.

This is a scare tactic. The Republicans are trying to scare TV stations into banning ads from liberal 527s by threatening to take away those stations' broadcast licenses. What a bunch of bitches.

Posted by Jake at 12:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 04, 2004

Nipple Ripples

The impact of Janet Jackson's breast-baring continues to reverberate.

The popular (yet puzzling) shock and outrage has been seen by some political folk as a mandate for a crackdown on naughty media. The FCC has rolled out new rules and punishments for TV and radio stations which violate obscenity and indecency laws (but has no problem with the way that monopolistic media destroys democracy. Gotta have your priorities, I guess).

While we're at it, we may as well lay out those rules:

Obscenity: must meet three criteria- "(1) an average person, applying contemporary community standards, must find that the material, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; (2) the material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law; and (3) the material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value." Basically, sexual material aimed at getting you horny, and only at getting you horny. Despite what most people believe about the First Amendment, obscene speech is against the law. If you want your sexy content to be legal, make sure it has some kind of "literary, artistic, political or scientific value." Say that one of the actresses in your porn film is supposed to be Charlotte Bronte and you'll be good to go.

Indecency: "Depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities." That means pee-pees, poo-poo, fannies or hoo-hoos. Indecent material is legal in print, but only permissable late at night on radio and TV (10pm-6am).

One of these days I really should write an article about all of the legal restrictions we Americans have on our rights to free speech. There are quite a lot of them, really.

Anyhow. Due to the Janet Jackson thing, our broadcast industries are freaked out that they might face government regulation. In addition to that, Clear Channel recently received some of the stiffest fines in the history of the FCC for indecent comments made by their DJ "Bubba the Love Sponge"-- $755,000. Bubba has since been fired.

Around this time, Clear Channel suddenly decided that it was a staunch supporter of American decency, and dusted off/created a list of decency codes. Popular Viacom DJ Howard Stern allegedly violated some of those codes, so Clear Channel removed Stern from 6 of its stations. That's really not that big a blow, but those stations were in some pretty major markets.

Do these crackdowns signal a hard right turn in our culture? Probably not. I think that this editorial gets it right when it points out that the predicted "permanent shift" in media tone after 9/11 lasted about six months, and naked tits don't score quite that high on the trauma scale, even if those displayed while the whole world is watching.

But as this chain of dominos keeps falling, as players react when acted upon. It is theorized that in anger over his censorship, that Howard Stern might try to get himself fired from Viacom and take up with one of the satelite radio companies, XM or Sirius, taking some fraction of his 18 million listeners with him and turning them into viable media outlets (at present the combined listenership of satelite radio in the US is around 1.5 million).

If things got worse for Stern this would seem possible, but I don't think it's real likely. Although I would love to see the headline "Jackson's Nipple Launches Satelite Radio".


I am aware of the allegations that the reason that Bubba and Stern were cut loose was because they had been criticizing President Bush on their shows. That is certainly a possible explanation, but I try to look for the simplest, most reasonable answers. And when it comes to corporations, the simplest answer is usually "money". Frequently when a company fears that government may pass regulatory legislation on their industry, they usually try to pre-emptively self-regulate, assuming that their own half-assed and misleading attempts to solve the problems themselves will save them the money that obeying externally imposed regulation would cost. I think that reason is more plausible than some sort of secret Clear Channel political agenda.


Posted by Jake at 10:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 03, 2004

Door, Ass, Way Out

Haw Haw!

Michael Eiser Fired as Disney's Chairman of the Board

Posted by Jake at 10:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

What Passes for News These Days

Copied from Empire Notes, transcribed from Fox News' "The Big Story with John Gibson", March 2, 2004:

JOHN GIBSON: Folks in Haiti getting used to life without Jean-Bertrand Aristide. As for Aristide, he is in exile pushing the idea that he is the victim of a coup. Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano has more on the hazards of being a dictator. Well, one of the hazards is you get run out of the country.

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: Absolutely. And you get run to a country which may turn on you. I mean, this Central African Republic has a horrific history of housing dictators. Emperor Bokassa I, who was reputed to be a cannibal.

GIBSON: He was actually acquitted of that charge.

NAPOLITANO: Acquitted of the cannibalism but convicted of murder. When the Central Africa Republic got tired of supporting his lavish lifestyle sent him back to the country out of which he had been kicked. They tried him for murder, sentenced him to 20 years. He was let out after a couple years and eventually died. So we don't know what life will be like for Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Jeeeeee-zus is that some fast & loose playing with the facts.

First, Gibson simply asserts that the democratically-elected Aristide is a "dictator."

Then dismisses Aristide's claims of "coup" out of hand. (As I note in this entry, Aristide was obviously the victim of a coup, what with all the armed men telling him to resign or be killed.)

Then, they imply that Aristide is a dictator again, because he's in Central African Republic, which they claim "houses dictators."

Then, they assert that some guy's a cannibal, even though he apparently isn't.

Net result: "Jean-Bertrand Aristide is a dictator cannibal on the run, who will die a horrible death."

Fox News needs a new slogan. Instead of "We Report. You Decide", it should be "Look at Me!! Look at Me!!"

Posted by Jake at 11:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Movie Sense Tingling

Jeez, comic books have overrun the movie industry to an amazing degree. Check out this list of scheduled comic book-based movies just by Marvel Comics:

The Punisher- April 16, 2004
Spider-Man 2- July 2, 2004
Blade 3- August 13, 2004
Man-Thing- October 2004
Fantastic Four- July 2005
Iron Man- November 2005
Ghost Rider- 2005
Luke Cage- 2005
X-Men 3- 2006
The Hulk 2- 2006
Namor- 2006
The Punisher 2- 2006
Spider-Man 3- 2007
Elektra- TBA
Iron Fist- TBA
Black Widow- TBA
Deathlok- TBA
Captain America- ?
Nick Fury- ?

That makes for at least planned 17 comic book films in the next 3 years (and surely other comic companies have movies in the mix). Now the big question is, do you think that America's love of comic book movies will last that long, or is it a fad that is soon to die? I don't know about you, but I wouldn't be making plans for 3 years from now based upon what worked last year.

Posted by Jake at 09:26 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)

February 29, 2004

Propaganda Is Go!

US to relay direct combat news from Iraq, Afghanistan

The US military will launch its own news service in Iraq and Afghan-istan to send military video, text and photos directly to the Internet or news outlets.

The $6.3m project, called Digital Video and Imagery Distribution System, and expected to begin operating in April, is one of the largest military public affairs projects in recent memory, and is intended to allow small media outlets in the US and elsewhere to bypass what the Pentagon views as an increasingly combative press corps.

Just cutting out the middleman. Why bother trying to manipulate private news agencies into telling your version of the story when you can just create your own news agency. Easy peasy.

And the word "combative" up there is a typo. It must be, because... well, it's just gotta be.

Posted by Jake at 11:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Los Oscars

It's been quite some time since I actually cared about the Academy Awards. I think I started losing interest as early as high school, primarily because the awards show itself was only entertaining for brief moments of its seven-hour span. Categories no one cared about, lousy musical numbers, awkward/forced patter between bizarrely coupled presenters, and Billy Crystal, who contrary to popular belief, is not really very funny.

I further lost interest in the things with the proliferation of awards shows. For quite some time, you just had the Big Three, the Oscars for movies, the Grammies for music, and the Emmies for TV. Then they added in the Golden Globes and the Peoples Choice Awards and the Billboard Awards and the American Music Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards and probably a half dozen I forgot, diluting any importance from those first three (if indeed they had any importance in the first place).

And then I started learning about how these awards are selected in the first place. I think I first got suspicious when AMAs started. Academy awards are selected by the Academy, the Peoples Choice Awards were selected by the people, who the hell picked the American Music Awards? Suddenly all of this stuff was very suspect.

For the Oscars, I guess I'd always assumed that the Academy was a handful of prestigious movie folks who would gather together and select winners, like a cinematic Supreme Court. Not so.

The Academy is made up of more than 6000 people who are in some way affiliated with the movie business. While some of these 6000 put much consideration into making selections on their ballots, others don't. For example, I met a guy back in college who's dad was a member of the Academy. He told me that every year when his father got his ballot, he gave it to his kids to fill out.

I've also seen interviews with comedian Dennis Leary in which he claimed that on his ballot, he first voted for movies he was in, then movies his friends were in, then movies that his friends' spouses were in, then for movies with hot women in them.

I'm not sure which should be more disillusioning, the Academy children voting, Dennis Leary's method of selecting winners, or the fact that Dennis Leary is considered good enough to be a member of the Academy.

So that's the Oscars (and by extension, most entertainment awards): a bunch of people you don't know, vote to honor the artistic achievements of a bunch of other people you don't know.

Hooray for Hollywood.

Posted by Jake at 09:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 21, 2004


"Sex and the City", the popular HBO program that I have never watched, is airing its final episode this Sunday.

Last night, news of the show's departure got a segment on "CNN's "Wolf Blitzer Reports" (where he interviewed show creator Darren Star), and a panel discussion predicting the show's final plot twists on CNN's "Newsnight with Aaron Brown".

The show received this repeated coverage on CNN because of its importance to American culture, not because both HBO and CNN are owned by the same corporation (Time Warner). And you would be a fool and a Communist to suggest otherwise.

[Thanks to DAMFACRATS]

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February 17, 2004

Burn Media Burn

Are More Bidders Waiting to Pounce?- about the biggest news story of the moment, the potential Disney-Comcast merger. It would create the largest media company in the world, beating out AOL-Time Warner (well, I guess it's just called Time Warner now). Disney refused Comcast's $47 billion-ish bid, more or less demanding another $7 billion. Will Comcast agree? And if they don't, asks this article, how are other media outlets likely to react? Does a good job of displaying the complicated chess moves of this industry.

Mega Media Mergers: How Dangerous?- from that leftist rag "Business Week," another examination of the Disney-Comcast thing, but with a broader view of the effects of media oligopolies. I like their quote on the subject from John McCain, "At some point, you'll have many voices -- and one ventriloquist."

British government considering dismantling BBC- yipes! The BBC has always managed to do some pretty good, impartial news reporting, despite the fact that it is fully funded by the British government. But the Blair regime is pissed at the way that the BBC opposed the Iraq war and exposed scandal within the administration. In the wake of the whitewashing Hutton report, which shifts blame of Iraq-intelligence-related scandal from Downing Street to the BBC, the Blair government is pondering fragmenting the BBC into several regional media outlets, stripping away some of its funding, and giving a government watchdog power to control final BBC content. Not good.

Miller Time (Again)- followup article to last week's Now They Tell US, criticizing the pre-Iraq war news media. This particular article focuses on NYT reporter Judith Miller, who parroted many false WMD claims from the shady Iraqi National Congress and other Iraqi defectors. Oddly, Miller's definition of "investigative journalism" seems to be "to report what people in power think about a situation" rather than reporting about the situation itself.

Wake-Up Time- nice piece by a couple of liberal/progressives who outline some simple ways that journalists can take back the power that they relinquished to the White House post-9/11.

Echo Effect: A New Generation Of Media Users, Ad Distrusters- results of a poll of Americans ages 12-17 (irritatingly dubbed by big business "Echo Boomers". They're children of Baby Boomers, an "echo" of the "boom", get it?) by a market research firm about their attitudes towards media and life. And to my delight, it finds that "82% are skeptical about the accuracy of the news media" and that less than a third don't trust any form of advertising (well, they say they don't, anyway). Right on, my young brothers and sisters.

Posted by Jake at 10:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 29, 2004

Off to See Elvis and JFK

Let us all bow our heads in respect.

Eddie Clontz, editor of the Weekly World News, has died.

WWN is the publication that broke such vital stories as the man who found a miniature mermaid in a hoagie, the Catholic church's plan to end the pedophilia scandal by using robot priests, and that space alien that endorsed Bill Clinton's presidential run back in 2000.

Good night, sweet prince. And flights of Bat Boys sing thee to thy rest.

Posted by Jake at 03:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 27, 2004

Conglomerates Smash!

FCC proposes $755,000 fine against Clear Channel- yes, the American radio behemoth (coming your way, Brits, watch out) has run afoul of government regulators and face their wrath. What was the crime? Monopolistic practices? Political bias? Censorship? No no. The FCC was angered that four Clear Channel stations in Florida aired "indecent material" of some sexual nature 26 times on their show "Bubba the Love Sponge." (they didn't specify what they found indecent, exactly, but perusing Bubba's page, I would guess perhaps it was the segment where he had women call in while masturbating with dildos. From the look of it, Bubba is an asshole)

Corporate Radio Doesn't Suck- an LA Weekly columnist discovers a new "indie" station in Los Angeles, 103.1 FM. Sounds like it's college meets hipster meets aging alt-rock snob, which is probably enjoyable to listen to. But "indie" it's not. Surprise surprise, it's owned by Clear Channel Inc., and run by Entravision Communications Corporation (which oddly is a Spanish-language-centric media corp). Don't know why you'd listen to 103.1 when you could listen to 104.7... sometimes.

Fox News: Attention, Wal-Mart Shoppers- not content to destroy the world in their own respective fields, Wal-Mart and Fox News have formed a partnership in which Wal-Mart will play Fox News segments on the TVs in their stores. In other news, Sauron and Cobra Commander are throwing a barbecue this weekend, and you're invited.

Media ownership: Deal loosens limits, but less than FCC wanted- I really should've covered this story better. I knew it was going down, but didn't write about it. Long story short: in the spring, the FCC changed broadcast regulations so that it was legal for a single company to own media that reaches 45% of Americans, up from the previous limit of 35%. Amazingly, Congress took them on, threatening to pass bills that would drop the limit back to 35%. Then, a "compromise" provision got snuck into the recent Spending Bill (y'know, the one that if not passed shuts down the entire federal government), which knocked the limit down to 39%. Coincidentally, News Corps (Fox) and Viacom (CBS) reach 38% of Americans...

Posted by Jake at 09:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Maybe Not Coming to a Theater Near You

I want to see this movie...

"Darkly humored" documentary about what corporations are, what they've done, and how they operate. "In law, the corporation is a 'person'. But what kind of person is it?" they ask. And their apparent answer is "a psychopath."

The movie won an award at Sundance, and features interviews with a bunch of corporate execs, Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Naomi Klein, Howard Zinn, Vandana Shiva, and more. It's playing in Canada now, but we Americans might have to wait for DVD.

Posted by Jake at 08:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


The whole concept of blogs and blogging is getting a lot of coverage these days. Last night, NPR broadcast a two-hour special on blogs and politics ("The Blogging of the President 2004"), and our pal Billmon reports that the global elite networking soiree known as the World Economic Forum actually had a panel discussion on the topic "Will Mainstream Media Co-opt Blogs and the Internet?". So now is as good a time as any to write about the topic.

First of all, I feel kinda stupid writing about this at all. I'm a blogger, I have a blog, and I'm writing about the significance of blogging. Navel-gazing at its finest, with a tendency to self-congratulate, self-promote, and let one's self-importance soar. I'm not a proud man, and I've always preferred to let my work speak for itself, rather than try to point out to others how good or important or profound it is. I do what I do, people can like it or don't, it's not going to affect me that much. Several people have told me that my work has had great impact on them, which makes me feel good, and helps validate my own opinion that I do indeed write some good stuff.

Second of all, only a fraction of all blogs are politically-themed, a fact which is completely lost on most political bloggers. When political bloggers refer to blogs, bloggers, or the vague network of political bloggers often called "the blogosphere", they ignore everyone else. Truth to tell, most blogs are 14-year old girls gossiping about what happened at school, their latest celebrity crush, and the results of their "what kind of popstar/gumdrop/winged lizard are you?" personality quiz.

Which I suppose begs the question "what is a blog?" It's simply an online, web-based journal. Most are written by a single person, some are done in groups. They're really not much different than personal homepages (which were also championed as the end-all of personal freedom and democracy some years back), except that homepages were fairly static, while blogs add content frequently.

But in the world of political bloggers, and journalists who pay attention to political blogs, this is potentially the next step in media and journalism. Which in my opinion, is nonsense.

1) Bloggers are usually not journalists. We can be, but we usually simply absorb mainstream media, filter it, analyze it, critique it, mock it, pee on it, knit it into a nice scarf, etc. We also have the power to amplify certain stories. When we work together (usually in a non-organized, non-planned fashion), we can take a story that would be quickly forgotten and ignored, and give it new life.

2) Bloggers can influence bigger actors. Sometimes, a big name blogger will write or focus on a certain topic/issue/event, and a mainstream opinion columnist can take that nugget and run with it (sometimes the big name blogger got the idea from a less popular blogger, sometimes not). And once the columnist has written about it, it might actually get a decent amount of mainstream news coverage. Likewise, it's not inconceivable that a number of bloggers could have an influence on people like politicians.

3) Blog networks help put all news into a singular context. (Jeez, my years in academia are showing) When a person reads a number of related political blogs, written by authors who have similar opinions and/or worldviews, each news story gets jigsawed into a larger puzzle. Maybe bloggers aren't opinion makers or opinion shapers, but perception shapers. After reading half a dozen far left blogs on a regular basis, current events seem to fall into place more neatly.

But overall, I don't see bloggers and blogs as anything that hugely different or important. I was writing news and opinion articles and ranting about politics on the radio for years before I started blogging. Blog software made it easier to publish articles online than coding each article into a separate html page. And given the common features of the "genre", I could take some journalistic shortcuts (instead of explaining each term, person, organization, etc., I could just make the name a hyperlink to another page which gave details). And when I started my blog, I decided to use it primarily as a way to blow off steam while spending most of my time on "serious" journalistic articles, so the blog had a whole lot of attitude (which again, dovetailed nicely with the genre). And at a certain point, I saw that the blog was getting many more hits than my site of "legitimate" journalism. And the blog was a hell of a lot more fun. And that's how Lying Media Bastards Man came to be.

In conclusion,

Blogs. Eh, whatever.

Posted by Jake at 12:36 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

December 19, 2003

Take That!

Court: RIAA lawsuit strategy illegal- Ha!

A federal appeals court Friday handed a serious setback to the record industry's legal strategy of tracking down and suing alleged file swappers.

Overturning a series of decisions in favor of the Recording Industry Association of America, the Washington, D.C., court said copyright law did not allow the organization to issue subpoenas for the identity of file swappers on Internet service providers' networks.

Posted by Jake at 09:54 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


Washington Post ombudsman and NY Times editorial board member Geneva Overholser has printed this column about the media's most undercovered stories of 2003. Her list:

- FCC media ownership changes (gee, why didn't the media cover that one?)
- questions about the Iraq war before they happened
- changes in environmental policy
- political and business influence on scientific research
- income inequality in America (I think that's what she's talking about)
- growth of the "Hispanic" population ("Hispanic" is a term mainly used by advertisers, while just about everyone else uses "Latino")
- aftermath of U.S. intervention in Afghanistan and the Balkans
- failure of the war on drugs
- the entire continent of Africa
- effects of corporate welfare
- effects of tax cuts

In short, the media really, really sucks.

I am also amused/irritated by her (completely predictable) use of the third person. While she begins with the phrase "stories we missed" and "what should we be sure we DO cover in 2004?", the rest of the article blames these lapses on "the press" and "the media." Of course, she IS the press, she IS the media. With her position within two of the nation's largest news institutions, she can't act like she's not a part of this. And that in some ways, she could have prevented these lapses from happening.

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December 12, 2003

(Can't?) Stop the Music!

Sony and BMG sign music merger deal- ah, lovely. The music departments of Sony and Bertelsmann join forces. This allows them to better compete with industry leader Universal, and again narrows the number of players in the world of music. Keep an eye out for future mergers between Warner Music (from Time Warner) and British label EMI. Or, perhaps Warner and Universal.

But in a way, talk of competition in the music industry is rather silly, as Sony, BMG, Universal, Warner and EMI are all members of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which works to support the interests of all the mega-labels over the indie labels. And the parent conglomerates of these companies are so intertwined with various business deals and joint ventures and so on, I have to wonder if any of the big names are really competing with each other at all.

That was a rather clumsy segue into this article here.

Downhill Battler and RIAA Radar are two anti-corporate-music organizations trying to support indie labels and unsigned bands. And on the busiest shopping day of the 2003, these activists went on a spree, taking thousands of stickers and putting them on major label CDs at Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, etc. The stickers had a simple message:

The link above is a brief article, filled with photos of the activists actually putting the stickers on the CDs.

I think the kicker for that whole article is that when the activists made their first stop, Wal-Mart, they bought a digital camera to document their action. Then, when the day was done, they went and returned the camera and got their money back.

Go team!

Posted by Jake at 10:57 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

December 03, 2003


"Gotta give the White House credit on this one! My colleagues and I are incredibly impressed by how well we were misled. And this was for a good cause! Just imagine if they were doing something they were ashamed of! We'd never find out! This just proves that we journalists shouldn’t even try. Which we don’t."

- Stephen Colbert, "White House Correspondent", The Daily Show

Posted by Jake at 08:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

November 24, 2003

Virtual Treason

The company Electronic Arts has created a series of WWII-themed video games it calls "Medal of Honor". They are fairly realistic scenarios in which you, an American soldier, go behind enemy lines to fight the Axis powers. The games are displayed in first-person, meaning that the games are a bit like virtual reality; the screen shows what your field of vision would be, and as you move the controller around, the field of view rotates and changes angle and so on. This perspective often provides a greater level of immersion into the game than other styles of presentation.

Most of the games in the series have taken place in or around Nazi Germany, probably because Nazis make such easy villains. But the latest Medal of Honor game is set in the Pacific theater ("Medal of Honor: Rising Sun"), and your character fights Japanese forces.

And starting today, Electronic Arts has begun to market the game to Japanese consumers.

In other words, an American company is trying to convince young Japanese men to buy a video game in which they would be fighting against Japan, and killing young Japanese men.

That's gotta be disturbing, doesn't it?

Some quotes from Japanese gamers from the article:

"You know, even though it's just a game, those are our fathers and relatives we're killing. There's something about it that I just don't like."

"This is a game in which you play as a foreign soldier and try to kill troops from your own country. I bet that you couldn't even sell a game like this overseas. I have a feeling that Japanese are the only people who would brush this off because 'it's only a game.' I don't know if that's good or bad..."

Strange world we live in.

Posted by Jake at 07:29 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

November 09, 2003

The Crazy Factor

I don't usually write about conservative writers and columnists. Why take on them when I can take on the politicians and corporate assholes directly? Well, I do semi-regularly write about these pundits when they really piss me off, write insane shit, or seem to be successfully spreading information that's just wrong.

Today, Bill O'Reilly is pushing button #2. So here we go.

In Friday's "Talking Points" on "The O'Reilly Factor", Bill O'Reilly argues that theft, breaking and entering, illegal surveillance, and slander, is the same thing as selling books.


More specifically, O'Reilly compares the actions of "Nixon's plumber's union" (I presume he means Nixon's dirty tricks squad "the Plumbers") to the selling of anti-conservative books on the Democratic National Committee's website.

Where to begin.

O'Reilly's central argument seems to be that DNC head Terry McAuliffe is using DNC money to hire authors to write books smearing Republicans and then selling those books to raise money for the DNC and attack their opponents. And this is despicable behavior, and we should all be real outraged and stuff.

First of all, O'Reilly doesn't name any of these books. If he did, maybe we could start to agree with him. But without any examples of these smears, we either take his word for it or visit the DNC site. In my searching, I could only find any books for sale on the DNC blog, and those were Nation reporter David Corn's "The Lies of George W. Bush" and comedian Al Franken's "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them." Not exactly shadowy hacks hired to do hit pieces.

Are they smear jobs like O'Reilly suggests? Can't speak to the Corn book, as I haven't read it (and I can't imagine a Nation reporter writing anything as entertaining as a smear. Most Nation articles read like stereo instructions). But I've been reading the Franken book. Very anti-conservative, but I don't know that any portion of it is untrue or inappropriate.

Second, O'Reilly suggests that the DNC is hiring these authors to write these villanous tracts, but doesn't come right out and say it. He can't, because there is no evidence to back that claim up (hence the insinuation-only scheme). He then implies that buying copies of these books to sell on the DNC website is akin to hirng the authors to write the books in the first place. Eh. Kinda, sorta, not really.

Third, what's with the focus on McAuliffe? Was this book plan his idea? Did he approve it? Does McAuliffe even know the details of the DNC website?

And McAuliffe "does the bidding of the Clintons"? What the hell is O'Reilly talking about?

This article is equal parts attack on the book sale, and, ironically, a smear on McAullife. Why? I don't know. Maybe O'Reilly ran out of things to be pretend to be outraged about this week and really had to stretch to fill his quota.

Fourth, for fuck's sake, they're books! The Democratic party is selling books that praise Democrats and decry Republicans?! Has the whole world gone topsy -turvy?! Spreading one's political ideas via the printed word is the highest form of treachery. Let's travel back in time and hang Thomas Paine!

I think my favorite bit is this:

A political party jacking up book sales of dubious people is bad enough, but using the publishing industry to advance political power is disgraceful. The bestseller lists are full of political books. And that's fine. My book isn't political, but "Who's Looking Out For You" is an enormous success. So we obviously don't have a problem with the publishing industry putting ideas into the marketplace.

Yes, the fact that a man with a daily television show on one of the nation's largest TV news networks owned by one of the world's largest media conglomerates can get his book published and sell many copies is proof that the "marketplace of ideas" is open to all.

What a prick.

And I agree, using the publishing industry to advance political power can be disgraceful.

I also like the bit where O'Reilly asks why the DNC doesn't sell a nicer liberal book, like the new one from Alan Colmes (who describes himself as a moderate. And is a complete tool). Which is a good question. I think the answer is that for once, the Democrats are actually out to win an election.

So, in conclusion, Bill O'Reilly = ass. No big surprise there.

Posted by Jake at 10:56 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)

November 03, 2003

We Don't Need No Thought Control

In mid-November, CBS plans to air a mini-series dramatizing the life of former president Ronald Reagan. According to Newsweek, the series was "meant to be a warts-and-all portrait of an American icon". Think of any TV biopic you've ever seen, where they often make the person out to be a bit more selfish and volatile than you would've thought, but make the person look good overall, because otherwise the audience wouldn't want to watch that person for multiple hours. I imagine this was to be something like that.

Enter nutty conservatives.

I'm sure that there are many conservatives who think that Reagan was a good president or even a great one, but don't spend much of their day thinking about it. There are others who literally spend hours on end working to get Reagan's face on the ten dollar bill, or Mount Rushmore. It's probably this latter group that is up in arms that this mini-series might not be 100% adoring of the former president.

Now I have no problem with nutty conservatives voicing their opinion about the mini-series, or even trying to get it cancelled (and it looks like it might actually succeed). What bothers me is when our president's political party begins implying that they have the right to preview media that they think might disagree with their point of view before it becomes public. That's about one step away from the government itself asking to preview such media, and only a couple more steps from their to outright political censorship by the government.


CBS has indeed pulled the mini-series:

CBS insisted it was not bowing to pressure about portions of the script, but that the decision was made after seeing the finished film.

"Although the miniseries features impressive production values and acting performances, and although the producers have sources to verify each scene in the script, we believe it does not present a balanced portrayal of the Reagans for CBS and its audience," the network said in a statement.

The mini-series will now be shown on a CBS sister network, Showtime.


Posted by Jake at 10:56 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

November 02, 2003

More on Fox News Bias

Yeah yeah, it's completely obvious to anyone with a frontal lobe that the Fox News Channel has a conservative slant. But recently we got the first inside evidence of how the Fox News honchos control the channel's politics. Now, we have a few more. All of these are letters sent by journalists to the journalism news site Poynter Online that I am reprinting below because I can't link to the individual letters themselves.

The first letter is by an ex-Fox News editor:

The right-wing bias was up-front and obvious 10/31/2003 8:54:43 PM Posted By: Jim Romenesko

From MATT GROSS, assistant editor, New York magazine:
As a former editor at -- and therefore clearly a disgruntled ex-employee -- let me just say that the right-wing bias was there in the newsroom, up-front and obvious, from the day a certain executive editor was sent down from the channel to bring us in line with their coverage. His first directive to us: Seek out stories that cater to angry, middle-aged white men who listen to talk radio and yell at their televisions. (Oh, how I'd love to stick quotation marks around what is nearly a direct quote.)

What followed was a dumbing-down of what had been an ambitious and talented news operation. Stories could be no more than 1,000 words, then 800 (I heard it was reduced further after I left, in March 2001). More and more effort was devoted to adapting FNC "scripts" into Web stories, which meant we were essentially correcting the errors of FNC "reporters" who couldn't be bothered to get the facts.

To me, FNC reporters' laziness was the worst part of the bias. It wasn't that they were toeing some political line (though of course they were; see the embarrassing series on property rights from 2000), it was that the facts of a story just didn't matter at all. The idea was to get those viewers out of their seats, screaming at the TV, the politicians, the liberals -- whoever -- simply by running a provocative story.

The bizarre and sad part of this was that, at the Website, most of the reporters, editors, and producers were liberals -- and not only liberals but young, energetic, ambitious, talented journalists. Some of my friends still work there, and some of them no doubt wish they could leave for a better job elsewhere. Why don't they (and why didn't Charles Reina)? Well, despite the Bush administration's clear success in revitalizing the U.S. economy, the job market for journos is still pretty poor, especially if your portfolio is full of badly reported 600-word clunkers. (Sorry, guys.)

But what do I know? I haven't worked there in two and a half years -- I haven't voluntarily watched FNC since then -- so maybe things have changed. But from what Reina wrote, and what I experienced, it doesn't sound like it.

And the second letter is from a fellow who claims to have seen this mysterious Daily Memo:

He's seen The Memo 10/31/2003 12:15:24 PM Posted By: Jim Romenesko

From DAVID COHEN: The daily Fox News Channel coverage memo exists. I saw one once while visiting a friend who works there. It was different from memos I've seen at other news organizations. At the other news organizations, I've seen notes on coverage and providing direction on things like, "don't ignore this element," or "lead with reaction" on stories where there has been little or no movement in a period of time.

In a 24/7 news operation assembled by a couple of hundred people, the memo serves a useful function in ensuring consistency of numbers, pronunciation and other facts. Very helpful when wires and other sources disagree. The Fox memo was the only one I've seen that suggested a political line.

One of the arguments put forth by those critical of most news
organizations and detailed in Bernie Goldberg's book BIAS, was that
they had an institutional bias and were populated with like-thinking
individuals. Charlie Reina's exposure of the FNC daily memo simply
shows that it has its own institutional bias and seeks to ensure that
everyone who works there gets the message.

If I worked at Fox, I'd admit the memo's presence. But in doing so,
Fox would then admit that its detractors are correct -- that fair and
balanced is nothing more than a slogan, the "tastes great, less filling" of the news business.

The pressure is now on for someone at Fox News to leak the Daily Memo, to prove that the Channel is explicitly and intentionally ideological. If anyone wants to send a copy my way, feel free.

Posted by Jake at 11:29 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

October 29, 2003

The Real Fake News

Video News Releases. PR videos masquerading as news. You've been watching them for years and probably didn't know it. Read the article.

Posted by Jake at 10:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Not Really That Fair and Balanced

This message comes from the journalist website Poynter Online. It's a letter from Charlie Reina, the producer of Fox News Channel's media criticism show "News Watch". I'm posting the whole thing here cuz the links on the Poynter site are a little screwy. Read on, read on.

"The Memo" is the bible at Fox News
10/29/2003 4:46:23 PM
Posted By: Jim Romenesko

From CHARLIE REINA: So Chris Wallace says Fox News Channel really is fair and balanced. Well, I guess that settles it. We can all go home now. I mean, so what if Wallace's salary as Fox's newest big-name anchor ends with a whole lot of zeroes? So what if he hasn't spent a day in the FNC newsroom yet?

My advice to the pundits: If you really want to know about bias at Fox, talk to the grunts who work there - the desk assistants, tape editors, writers, researchers and assorted producers who have to deal with it every day. Ask enough of them what goes on, promise them anonymity, and you'll get the real story.

The fact is, daily life at FNC is all about management politics. I say this having served six years there - as producer of the media criticism show, News Watch, as a writer/producer of specials and (for the last year of my stay) as a newsroom copy editor. Not once in the 20+ years I had worked in broadcast journalism prior to Fox - including lengthy stays at The Associated Press, CBS Radio and ABC/Good Morning America - did I feel any pressure to toe a management line. But at Fox, if my boss wasn't warning me to "be careful" how I handled the writing of a special about Ronald Reagan ("You know how Roger [Fox News Chairman Ailes] feels about him."), he was telling me how the environmental special I was to produce should lean ("You can give both sides, but make sure the pro-environmentalists don't get the last word.")

Editorially, the FNC newsroom is under the constant control and vigilance of management. The pressure ranges from subtle to direct. First of all, it's a news network run by one of the most high-profile political operatives of recent times. Everyone there understands that FNC is, to a large extent, "Roger's Revenge" - against what he considers a liberal, pro-Democrat media establishment that has shunned him for decades. For the staffers, many of whom are too young to have come up through the ranks of objective journalism, and all of whom are non-union, with no protections regarding what they can be made to do, there is undue motivation to please the big boss.

Sometimes, this eagerness to serve Fox's ideological interests goes even beyond what management expects. For example, in June of last year, when a California judge ruled the Pledge of Allegiance's "Under God" wording unconstitutional, FNC's newsroom chief ordered the judge's mailing address and phone number put on the screen. The anchor, reading from the Teleprompter, found himself explaining that Fox was taking this unusual step so viewers could go directly to the judge and get "as much information as possible" about his decision. To their credit, the big bosses recognized that their underling's transparent attempt to serve their political interests might well threaten the judge's physical safety and ordered the offending information removed from the screen as soon as they saw it. A few months later, this same eager-to-please newsroom chief ordered the removal of a graphic quoting UN weapons inspector Hans Blix as saying his team had not yet found WMDs in Iraq. Fortunately, the electronic equipment was quicker on the uptake (and less susceptible to office politics) than the toady and displayed the graphic before his order could be obeyed.

But the roots of FNC's day-to-day on-air bias are actual and direct. They come in the form of an executive memo distributed electronically each morning, addressing what stories will be covered and, often, suggesting how they should be covered. To the newsroom personnel responsible for the channel's daytime programming, The Memo is the bible. If, on any given day, you notice that the Fox anchors seem to be trying to drive a particular point home, you can bet The Memo is behind it.

The Memo was born with the Bush administration, early in 2001, and, intentionally or not, has ensured that the administration's point of view consistently comes across on FNC. This year, of course, the war in Iraq became a constant subject of The Memo. But along with the obvious - information on who is where and what they'll be covering - there have been subtle hints as to the tone of the anchors' copy. For instance, from the March 20th memo: "There is something utterly incomprehensible about Kofi Annan's remarks in which he allows that his thoughts are 'with the Iraqi people.' One could ask where those thoughts were during the 23 years Saddam Hussein was brutalizing those same Iraqis. Food for thought." Can there be any doubt that the memo was offering not only "food for thought," but a direction for the FNC writers and anchors to go? Especially after describing the U.N. Secretary General's remarks as "utterly incomprehensible"?

The sad truth is, such subtlety is often all it takes to send Fox's newsroom personnel into action - or inaction, as the case may be. One day this past spring, just after the U.S. invaded Iraq, The Memo warned us that anti-war protesters would be "whining" about U.S. bombs killing Iraqi civilians, and suggested they could tell that to the families of American soldiers dying there. Editing copy that morning, I was not surprised when an eager young producer killed a correspondent's report on the day's fighting - simply because it included a brief shot of children in an Iraqi hospital.

These are not isolated incidents at Fox News Channel, where virtually no one of authority in the newsroom makes a move unmeasured against management's politics, actual or perceived. At the Fair and Balanced network, everyone knows management's point of view, and, in case they're not sure how to get it on air, The Memo is there to remind them.

Posted by Jake at 06:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)

When Bloggers Attack

The Players

Donald Luskin is a columnist for the conservative National Review magazine and a blogger.

Paul Krugman is a liberal economist and columnist for the NY Times.

"Atrios" is the pseudonym of a fellow who writes/edits the weblog Eschaton

The Background

Donald Luskin thinks that Paul Krugman is a liar. Luskin has spent lots of time trying to expose what he claims are Krugman's lies. Lots and lots of time. I checked Luskin's site today, and 13 of his last 14 blog entries have been about Krugman in some way.

The Incident

On October 7, 2003, Atrios posted a three word entry on his weblog, entitled "Diary of a Stalker". The entry simply says "By Donald Luskin" and has a link to Luskin's weblog. Knowing Atrios' general style, it seems most likely that the post was meant as a snide, sarcastic comment pointing out Luskin's seeming fixation on Krugman.

The Lawsuit

On October 29, Jeffrey J. Upton, lawyer for Donald Luskin, sends a letter to Atrios claiming that many of Atrios' readers submitted comments to the Oct. 5 post (which are visible if one clicks on the "comments" link, like most blogs) that were "libelous". Upton threatens to find Atrios' true identity by issuing a subpoena to Atrios' blog host, and "take further legal action" if Atrios does not erase the offending post and all of the related comments.


Wow, what a whiny motherfucker this Luskin is. People on a website insulted you. Boo fucking hoo.

Only three real explanations for Luskin's actions:

1) Luskin is really super thin-skinned and can't tolerate people making fun of him, so he decided to sue somebody.

2) Luskin wants to intimidate Atrios, and perhaps other pseudonymous writers, but exposing their true identities. Maybe they'd be afraid to speak out then.

3) Luskin is using your standard "win at any cost" strategy to silence his critics.

Either of these makes Luskin look like an unpleasant individual.

The Legal Stuff

First of all, are any of those comments libelous? Can an opinion be libelous? Seems like a bunch of nonsense to me.

If I detach myself from the situation, I do see an interesting legal conundrum here. Is Atrios actually responsible for the comments that other people post to his site?

On one hand, the answer should obviously be "no." He didn't write those things. Each individual comment poster is responsible for their own words, and Luskin should go sue each of them if he truly found their comments libelous.

On the other hand, it is Atrios' site and he is responsible for its content.

But on another (third?) hand, the comments aren't technically on Atrios' site. When you click the "comments" button, you get a pop-up window from a third party, a company called Haloscan. And on Haloscan's site, they claim that "We are not responsible in any way for the content posted on the members' sites or for the comments posted to this server as a result of the commenting service we provide." So Haloscan claims that they are not responsible for the content of comments, but does not say who is.

So who is responsible for all this libelousness? I have no idea. Is this potential lawsuit a waste of everyone's time? Hell yes.


Apparently, Atrios is not responsible for the comments that his readers post, there's actually legal precedent which explicitly says so.


Posted by Jake at 05:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

October 28, 2003

Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Treachery

You may remember a weblog that became fairly popular around February and March of this year, "Where's Raed?" by a fellow going under the pseudonym of "Salam Pax". Pax claimed to be an Iraqi living in Baghdad, giving his personal take on the Iraqi regime and on the coming war. I was quite skeptical as to its authenticity (I'm naturally skeptical), but the sheer volume of posts (going back to December 2002) and the numerous photographs eventually convinced me that it was probably legit.

Months later, a second Iraqi blog in English rose to popularity, Baghdad Burning, by a woman calling herself "river". It too is one person's take on daily life in Iraq, focusing more on the effects of the occupation, and the picture it paints is often quite grim. Again, I have been skeptical of its authenticity, but with the level of detail it contains, I concede that it probably is real.

But apparently someone here in the States feels that Baghdad Burning has too much of an effect on public opinion, and has launched a look-alike site in which all of the content is pro-occupation. The original site is , and the new one is, just one letter's difference. The second site is nearly identical in layout, font, etc., obviously trying to trick people into thinking that these are the words and feelings of river herself. Pretty scummy, if you ask me.

Who would stoop so low as to perform this charade? Blogger John Gorenfeld has some answers.

Digging around, he found one of the first references to this new blog on Usenet by a fellow calling himself "El Solerito Troy." And if you examine the very bottom of the fake page, there is a link to a hit counter. And the login name for that hit counter account? "Solerito." A bit too coincidental for my tastes.

Oh, also, El Solerito Troy ends all of his Usenet posts describing himself as, among other things, a GOP team leader. Lovely.

So there you have it. Some aging American Republican trying to boost his party's popularity by pretending to be an Iraqi woman who loves her American occupiers (Raise your outrage level by inserting various other relevant nationalities into that sentence).

Posted by Jake at 01:04 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

October 25, 2003

Sweet Merciful Crap!

Okay, I'll finally concede that we are in the Information Age.

Book behemoth now lets you do searches not just by title or author or keyword, but now by words inside the book.

They have made the text of 120,000 books searchable and viewable via their website. For free. You have to register with their site, and of course they want you to buy their books from their site, but still...


Posted by Jake at 06:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

October 09, 2003

Moronic Evil Geniuses

As you may or may not know, the record industry has come up with many bold new plans to stop the scourge of music piracy. The latest is called MediaMax CD3, created by a company called SunnComm. When you put a MMCD3-treated disc into your computer's CD-ROM drive, it automatically installs a small program onto your hard drive which intereferes with the copying of sound files, preventing you from turning the CD tracks into mp3 files to trade on the internet.

But there's a flaw. If you hold down your computer's "shift" key as the CD loads, the software doesn't install, foiling the anti-piracy technology entirely.

A Princeton student named Alex Halderman discovered this huge, colossal, glaring, immense flaw with MMCD3, who revealed it in an academic paper that he published online.

And now, SunnComm is suing Halderman for $10 million. SunComm claims that Halderman's paper was incorrect, and that his paper caused the company's stock to drop by $10 million.

No, what caused SunnComm's stock value to drop is the fact that they're idiots, and now everyone knows they're idiots. Sometimes, you reap what you sow.

I'm happy to hear that Halderman is confident that he'll beat the lawsuit: "I hardly think that telling people to push shift constitutes trafficking in a (copy-protection technology) circumvention device. I'm not very worried."

Posted by Jake at 06:11 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

October 08, 2003

Fresh and Balanced

I've been told that a Bill O'Reilly interview is being aired on the NPR show Fresh Air today, and that it's... interesting.

I only have the info on hearsay, but it sounds like O'Reilly gets really pissed, berates the host, and walks out of the interview.

Might be worth a listen.


I listened to the interview. Well, I skipped straight to the end to see what happened. Basically, O'Reilly accused the host of making the entire interview a series of defamatory attacks against him that he needed to defend himself against, hoping that he'd slip up and say something that could get printed in Harper's Magazine. Then he walked out of the interview.

I didn't listen to enough to know if O'Reilly's accusations were true (why would I want to?), but that description matches his own show pretty well.

Posted by Jake at 09:11 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

September 27, 2003

Fair and Balanced and Really Really Petty

On CNN's screaming pundit show "Crossfire" this weekend, the topic of the national "Do Not Call" anti-telemarketing controversy came up. Conservative Tucker Carlson was defending the rights of telemarketers, and his opponents challenged him, if he was so open to receiving phone calls from strangers at all times, to give out his home phone number. Carlson agreed, and pretended to give out his home number. But it turns out that Carlson actually has a pretty good sense of humor; the number he gave out was not for his home, but for the Washington bureau of CNN's rival, the Fox News Channel.

Okay, so that wasn't exactly polite, but it was fairly mild as pranks go.

That's when Fox News responded in kind, cranking the prank volume up to eleven.

In an article with no byline or attribution, posted an article about Carlson's prank which included the line: Viewers who want to reach Carlson can, in fact, dial the television "personality" at his Virginia home at 703-519-6456. And it wasn't exactly a slip, or buried deep within the article. The article's title was, in fact, "Tucker Carlson: 703-519-6456".

Yes, when Carlson gave out the number of Fox's offices in DC, Fox responded by giving out Carlson's unlisted home number. What assholes.

Fox apparently realized that they'd gone too far, and changed the article to "Tucker Carlson: 202-898-7900", listing the phone number for CNN's DC bureau instead of Carlson's home number. The previous article link is a cached version via Google.

Is this how professional news organizations are supposed to act? I'm trying to decide if this is more juvenile, or mean-spirited, and I'm not sure.

Fox News, keeping the "MB" in LMB.

Posted by Jake at 03:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

September 26, 2003

The Basics

I'm finally reading Robert McChesney's Rich Media, Poor Democracy (it sat on a shelf for a while), and found this passage to be a pretty good summary of some of the most glaring problems with today's news media:

Professional journalism is severely compromised as a democratic agency in numerous ways. To avoid the controversy associated with determining what is a legitimate news story, professional journalism relies upon official sources as the basis for stories. This gives those in positions of power (and the public relations industry, which developed at the exact same time as professional journalism) considerable ability to influence what is covered in the news. Moreover, professional journalism tends to demand "news hooks"-some sort of news event- to justify publication. This means that long-term public issues, like racism or suburban sprawl, tend to fall by the wayside, and there is little emphasis on providing the historical and ideological context necessary to bring public issues to life for readers. Finally, professional journalism internalizes the notion that business is the proper steward of society, so that the stunning combination of ample flattering attention to the affairs of business in the news with a virtual blackout of labor coverage is taken as "natural." In combination, these trends have had the effect not only of wiring pro-status quo biases directly into the professional code of conduct but also of keeping journalists blissfully unaware of the compromises with authority they make as they go about their daily rounds. It is far from politically neutral or "objective."
Posted by Jake at 10:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

September 25, 2003

MPAA Fucks With Kids' Heads

Coming soon, to your local schoolroom, thanks to the motion picture and recording industries:

Junior Achievement is projecting that the lesson, which will be taught both in school and after school, will be used in 36,000 classrooms nationwide and has the potential of reaching 900,000 students in grades five through nine, or about 10 percent of all students in those grade levels.

In the role-playing activity Starving Artist, for example, groups of students are encouraged to come up with an idea for a musical act, write lyrics and design a CD cover only to be told by a volunteer teacher their work can be downloaded free. According to the lesson, the volunteer would then "ask them how they felt when they realized that their work was stolen and that they would not get anything for their efforts."

Yes, the MPAA and RIAA have joined up with Junior Achievement-- the non-profit run by major corporations that somehow has permission to enter public schools to teach kids that free enterprise is keen-- to guilt children into not downloading movies and songs off of the internet.

Well, that's the bad news. The good news is that this program is just like DARE, and all the other manipulative "kids, don't use drugs" programs that storm the American schools. And looking around my high school, it's safe to say that that didn't work, maybe this program will be just as big of a waste of time.

Posted by Jake at 02:05 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

September 15, 2003

Well Duh

Christiane Amanpour: CNN practiced self-censorship

Well, yeah, we'd kinda noticed that. Thanks for playing.

But check out the response from Fox News spokeswoman Irena Briganti: "Given the choice, it's better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda."


I'm not sure if there's a single word of that that isn't fucked up.

Posted by Jake at 11:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

September 08, 2003

RIAA (Doesn't) Confront the Obvious

Steve Gilliard just posted an entry on his website about the RIAA's (Recording Industry Association of America) latest plans to fight the evils of mp3s (no permalink on Steve's site, the article's called "Vietnam, Iraq, file sharing", dated September 9). His basic conclusion is that the RIAA's efforts are doomed to failure. I posted a long comment to the article, which I may as well copy here for y'all to read. I've probably said a lot of it before, but:

You are 100% correct. The prime services that record labels offer to their musicians are: loans to record the albums; manufacture of the product (the CDs); distribution of the product; and marketing. And for this, record labels usually take 80-90% of the profits.

With the invention of digital distribution, record labels are no longer needed for services 2 and 3. Musicians don't need millions of dollars to press thousands of CDs, they just need sound files on a hard drive and some bandwidth to send it. If more artists got turned on to this, they could start keeping that 80-90% for themselves, and be able to make a living selling far fewer records and being far less popular. In other words, there could probably be a much larger number of successful career musicians. Which is, in my opinion, a good thing.

And finally, perhaps the "album" is a dead concept. Digital music proponent Chuck D has said that artists should sell individual songs in a "buy 3 get 4 free" package. He says that that's what many albums are anyway, 3 good singles accompanied by a lot of no-good songs to fill out the rest of the album. Perhaps artists need to focus more on making songs that people would want to buy indvidually, or small packages of songs that have a higher good-to-bad ratio than your average album.

Bottom line is that the record label has sort of lost its quasi-monopolistic power, control of the "means of production." And they refuse to acknowledge it, vainly fighting the future through lawsuits and temporary technological stop-gaps. They'll have to face up to reality at some point.

Posted by Jake at 11:00 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Up to Snuff

Wow. Reporters actually doing their jobs. Who'd've thought I'd live to see the day?

On a special edition of Larry King Live last night, the guests were reporters. And these reporters actually analyzed Bush's recent speech, pointed out errors, misleading statements, provided context, and explained what this might mean in the real world. Lots of good stuff in there.

Would've been nice to have this kind of journalism before the U.S. decided to invade and occupy another country.

Posted by Jake at 09:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

September 04, 2003

Haw Haw

Court Blocks New FCC Ownership Rules

Senate Committee Blocks FCC Media Plan

But one "d'oh!"

"The Bush administration must be ecstatic about this," one broadcast industry official said. "This could take the issue off the table during the election year."

Posted by Jake at 02:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 28, 2003

Super-Fair and Mega-Balanced

Interesting nugget in this article about the aftermath of the goofy Fox News vs. Al Franken lawsuit:

Even [Fox News staple Bill] O'Reilly conceded that "we never thought we were going to win the lawsuit. We wanted to expose the vicious tactics being used by the far left."

1) O'Reilly pretty much admits that his company filed a frivolous lawsuit.

2) "The far left"? Al Franken is a liberal, not a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party. The only way someone from the "far left" can get Franken's kind of media attention is to kill somebody.

3) "Vicious tactics"? Franken took Fox News' own slogan and inserted it into his droll book title as a minor jab. Take that, Josef Stalin!

Posted by Jake at 07:38 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

August 21, 2003


Not anything truly groundbreaking, but certainly worth being aware of.

The Republican National Commitee has a website called GOP Team Leader, which (among other things) tries to maniuplate the opinion pages of American newspapers.

Basically, they provide their subscribers with the text of a "letter to the editor". The subscribers then send that letter to their local newspaper verbatim. Often, these letters are printed as though they were the words and opinions of local citizens, and not explicit Republican party propaganda.

Tom Tomorrow finds many examples of a recent Team Leader mailing in a number of papers.

It's PR tactic #1: ventriloquism.

Posted by Jake at 01:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 15, 2003

Wow. What Bastards.

On Thursday, the Washington Post printed a bizarrely idiotic editorial in which they haughtily mocked Europeans for complaining about how hot it has been in their region this summer. It concludes that Europeans shouldn't turn up their nose at "American" comforts like super-cold air-conditioning.

In other news, as many as 3000 people have died from the heat in France alone.

Judging from the tone of the editorial, it must have been written before the death toll was announced. But still, people are mighty pissed about the editorial. Snarky liberal site Media Whores Online has posted a number of angry letters to the editor on the issue.

But seriously, why the hell was this editorial written at all? Typically, a newspaper will choose 3-4 important topics per day and write editorials about those issues that reflect the paper's official stance on the issue. For example, today's WP editorials are about the East Coast blackouts, NATO in Afghanistan, and corruption at the United Way charity. How the hell does "Europeans whine about heat wave" possibly become "one of the top four stories of the day"?

Sadly, I think our answer can be found in the messageboard dedicated to the story of the French heatwave deaths. The level of hatred towards the French and Europeans by American readers is simply off the charts. People wooping it up and having a laugh at all the death. Primarily because the French deserve it, because they didn't want to go to war Iraq, apparently.

Frankly, I can't see the WP editorial as anything more than a cheap shot aimed at pleasing the "we hate Europe" crowd. Although honestly, do these folks read the editorials? Does anyone?

Posted by Jake at 03:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

July 24, 2003

And Your Little Dog, Too

Wow. The RIAA has lost its mind.

Music-Sharing Subpoenas Target Parents

Yes, in order to stop illegal mp3-trading on the internet, the recording industry is now threatening to sue the parents of file-traders.

If this tactic fails to end file-sharing, I hear the RIAA plans to push old women down the stairs, block out the sun, and steal Christmas.

Posted by Jake at 07:13 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

July 23, 2003

Bizarro Congress Votes for Public Interest

US House approves bill rolling back FCC TV cap

I'm not speechless, but I'm very surprised!

Lawmakers voted 400-21 for a spending bill for the Federal Communications Commission and other agencies that includes language blocking the FCC from spending money to approve deals in which networks would own stations that collectively reach more than 35 percent of the national audience.

The agency last month raised the limit to 45 percent from 35 percent -- sparking a firestorm of criticism from Democrats and Republicans in Congress who argue it could reduce local reporting and the diversity of viewpoints.

The summary is that half of the Congress, the House, voted pretty overwhelmingly to keep TV oligopoly at it's pre-June 2003 levels, but did not roll back more general media consolidation (cross-ownership of newspapers, TV and radio stations). When the budget bills hit the Senate, there will certainly be a fight over this, but there is a surprising level of bipartisan support for this rollback. As I noted earlier today, Bush had pre-emptively threatened to veto a spending bill that had rollback in it, so the results of this struggle are pretty uncertain.

Now that I see that there is actually a chance of defeating the FCC's policy, I'll keep you posted about ways you can get involved (mainly fax and call-in opportunities sponsored by groups like

Even if we win this battle, things aren't happy in medialand. This can only be one step towards wresting control of the media from our corporate masters. As I've said before, I heartily support pirate TV and radio, and encourage everyone to give it a try. They're our airwaves, not theirs.

Posted by Jake at 03:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sons of Bitches Strike Back

Back in June, the FCC continued its pattern of ignoring the public interest by allowing media conglomerates to own even larger percentages of the media market. Some members of Congress have actually started fighting against these new changes, which I was quite happy to hear about.


White House Threatens Veto on Media-Ownership Cap

The Bush administration is threatening to veto a big spending bill if Congress continues fighting the FCC's pro-media consolidation policies.

Fucking assholes, man.

Fun quote from the article:

"The four major networks, Walt Disney Co.'s ABC, Viacom Inc.'s CBS, News Corp. Ltd.'s Fox and General Electric Co.'s NBC oppose any attempt to roll back the new, higher ownership cap."

I'd imagine they do.

Posted by Jake at 08:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 25, 2003

Let the File-Sharer Beware

Just heard this news:

Music Industry to Sue File-Sharers

Music companies are poised to sue thousands of people who share songs on the Internet, escalating their attack on piracy with a strategy that many in the music industry have long hoped to avoid.

The Recording Industry Assn. of America today announced plans to spend the next month identifying targets among the estimated 80 million people using file-sharing networks, focusing on those offering a "significant" amount of songs for others to copy. Then, in August, the RIAA plans to file its first lawsuits on behalf of record companies, RIAA President Cary Sherman said...

Sherman said the RIAA will begin collecting the Internet addresses Thursday of those who offer copyrighted songs for others to copy though file-sharing networks. There's no minimum number of files that will trigger a lawsuit, he said, adding that "offering even one file without permission is one too many."

So there's your warning, folks. If you download mp3s off the internet, you should probably move most of your files to a folder that you do not allow other folks to download from. Granted, it looks like the RIAA will only go after you if you have a "significant" amount of songs that other people want, which probably means if you've got lots of top 40 artists, you should be cautious. But theoretically, they can go after anyone.

Just a heads up.

Posted by Jake at 01:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

June 20, 2003

Fair and Balanced and Frequently Wrong

This is some excellent work.

Fibbing It Up at Fox

Author Dale Steinreich examines Fox News Channel's war coverage and lists the "lies, propagation of lies, exaggerations, distortions, spin, and conjecture presented as fact." Good stuff, go read now.

Posted by Jake at 10:14 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

June 19, 2003

Congress vs. the FCC

Senate panel passes bill to overrule FCC media ownership rules

The Senate Commerce Committee has voted to eliminate the recent FCC decision to allow more media consolidation in the United States. That doesn't turn it into law, it just gets the bill onto the Senate floor for a future vote. Don't know where this will end up, but it's a good start.

Posted by Jake at 10:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 07, 2003

Media No Longer Liberal... Apparently

I'm going to steal this graphic from Busy Busy Busy.

It's a screengrab from conservative Fox News pundit show The O'Reilly Factor:

If you have trouble reading the text there, it says "The radical left is furious that liberals no longer set the agenda in the national media."

So O'Reilly is claiming that the media used to be liberal, but now it isn't. Good to know.

So next time you're in an argument with a conservative nut, and the "liberal media" comes up, you can point out that one of America's most influential conservatives says that the media is no longer liberal. That's a win-win-win situation: a) the conservative will have to agree with their pal O'Reilly and concede that the media isn't liberal, b) they'll refuse to believe that the media isn't liberal and lose their love of Bill O'Reilly, or c) their head will explode.

Posted by Jake at 09:09 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)

June 04, 2003

Diversity in Media

From a discussion on this weekend's Meet the Press, with journalists David Broder, Albert Hunt, Robert Novak and William Safire (in advance, emphasis mine):

MR. RUSSERT: But, Bob, for the facts—this is important. There are indications that some of the soldiers in Iraq, because of their low income, will not be getting beneficiaries of this tax cut. Would that be acceptable to you?
MR. NOVAK: To me, it’s quite obvious that people who pay the taxes should get the tax cuts. People, like you, for example, who get so much income should get the tax cuts.
MR. SAFIRE: And you and you.
MR. NOVAK: All of us here, let’s be honest

Oh, it does make me chuckle.

Thanks to the The Daily Howler

Posted by Jake at 03:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

June 02, 2003

Bastards Get Fatter

As predicted, the FCC has voted 3-2 in favor of new rules which allow large media conglomerates to swallow up smaller media conglomerates. Their essential argument was "hey, there's so many TV stations, so many cable channels, and so many internet sites, that there's no reason for these limits on how much media a single entity can own." Of course, they didn't mention that all of the most popular TV stations, cable channels and internet sites are owned by the same few enormous corporations.

The main changes in ownership rules:

- a company can now own TV stations that reach 45% of the nation, instead of the previous 35%

- in large cities (with nine or more TV stations), a company is allowed to own TV stations, radio stations and newspapers (previously there had been rules against owning more than one of these mediums in the same city). In medium-sized cities, they can own some combination of TV, radio, and newspapers, but not as many of each. And in small towns, no cross-ownership is permitted.

- the FCC is creating a "diversity index" to determine how much potential diversity of opinion (as measured by number of individual owners of local media outlets) there is in a given location. However they have made no committment to do a damn thing with these statistics once they have calculated them.

You can read the text of the FCC decision in pdf format here, chairman Powell's statement here and dissenting opinion by Commissioner Copps here.

Will we see another massive consolidation of ownership like the FCC's deregulatory Telecom Act of 1996? Will we see a more cautious approach to media mergers in the wake of the mixed success of AOL-Time Warner? Something else?

Posted by Jake at 08:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 24, 2003

That Was Fast

Iraq has been "liberated" for only a number of weeks now, and they already have their own Independent Media Center.

Baghdad IMC, or "Al MuaJaha" is now up and running, with a lead article written by mysterious Iraqi blogger "Salam Pax" about his recent trip down to Basra, complete with photographs.

Al MuJaha ("The Iraqi Witness") will also be a newspaper (sorry, that link will require you to watch an ad), and is brought to you by a donation by the American peace/anti-sanctions group Voices in the Wilderness. Which makes my cynical self wonder if the financial source will skew the reporting. I hope not.

Posted by Jake at 02:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 20, 2003


Sorry, when I see stuff that's factually wrong, sometimes I feel the need to write about it even if it's not the most important topic.

Napster set to return

I was very curious after seeing the headline to this AP story on Turns out it's not very true.

Napster was the popular mp3-sharing software that let folks search for and download songs by musicians worldwide at no cost. It was eventually destroyed by lawsuits.

The Napster name is owned by a company called Roxio. Roxio has also just purchased pressplay, a for-profit mp3-sharing service that allows users to search for and download selected songs by selected artists on selected record labels (ones owned by Sony and Universal). Roxio is going to slap its Napster brand name on top of this.


- unlike the old Napster, the new one will not be free
- unlike the old Napster, the new one will be severely limited in the songs a user can download.

In other words, Napster is not back. A new, inferior and costlier mp3-sharing service is hijacking the name of an older free mp3-sharing service. And that's all.

Posted by Jake at 11:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 04, 2003

Slip of the Tongue

April 24, 2003
NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw

Tom Brokaw: "...The president took his message right to a powerful Ohio Republican who is not convinced that tax cunts are the answer."

Yes, he really said that.

As one sly commenter on the Bitter Shack of Resentment site said, "Gives a new meaning to the word 'loophole.'"

News anchors are pathetic. Maybe they used to be hard working journalists, now they're just town criers, reading the news off of teleprompters. Any of the 97% of Americans who are literate (and non-mute) could do that. Some computer programs could do that. A really, really smart parrot could probably do it (well okay, it couldn't). It sure as fuck is not a skill who's difficulty justifies the millions of dollars a year these motherfuckers get.

And look at Tom Brokaw! He can't even pronounce shit right!! Every other newscast he's slurring his words like a drunk. "Ow top stuhwee tonide, President Bush suhnd a piss tridy with Vladimi Puddin." Listen to the man speak sometime, it's mind-numbing. How rough could it be to hire a national news anchor that doesn't have a speech impediment?

Posted by Jake at 10:12 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)

April 24, 2003


I'm just going to go ahead and reprint this whole article cuz you should read it.

BBC Chief Attacks U.S. Media War Coverage

LONDON (Reuters) - The head of the BBC launched a broadside against American broadcasters on Thursday, accusing them of "unquestioning" coverage of the Iraq war and blatant patriotism.

BBC Director General Greg Dyke said many U.S. television networks had lacked impartiality during the conflict and risked losing credibility if they persisted with their stance.

"Personally I was shocked while in the United States by how unquestioning the broadcast news media was during this war," Dyke said in a speech at a University of London conference.

"If Iraq proved anything, it was that the BBC cannot afford to mix patriotism and journalism. This is happening in the United States and if it continues, will undermine the credibility of the U.S. electronic news media."

U.S. broadcasters came under attack for "cheerleading" during the Iraq conflict, with what some critics saw as gung-ho reporting and flag-waving patriotism. In one example, a U.S. network described U.S. soldiers as "heroes" and "liberators."

Dyke singled out Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, the most popular U.S. cable news network during the conflict, for its "gung-ho patriotism."

"We are still surprised when we see Fox News with such a committed political position," said Dyke.

"For the health of our democracy, it's vital we don't follow the path of many American networks."

Fox News declined to comment.


The British media veteran also attacked U.S. radio broadcaster Clear Channel Communication Inc. and warned against British media becoming "Americanised."

"We are genuinely shocked when we discover that the largest radio group in the United States was using its airwaves to organize pro-war rallies. We are even more shocked to discover that the same group wants to become a big player in radio in the UK when it is deregulated later this year," said Dyke.

Clear Channel was not immediately available to comment.

Dyke suggested the problem stemmed from the recent fragmentation of media, with no single network having the clout to stand up to the U.S. government.

"This is particularly so since September 11 when many U.S. networks wrapped themselves in the American flag and swapped impartiality for patriotism," said Dyke.

Dyke defended the BBC in the face of accusations that the broadcaster had been soft on Saddam Hussein's government, some of which came from the British government.

"In times of war, British governments of every persuasion have sought to use the media to manage public's only a problem if the BBC caves in," Dyke said.

Well, let's qualify a few things.

1) The head of the BBC is surely not without his own agenda
2) BBC and American news channels are increasingly rivals, as cable and satelite TV services add the foreign channels to their line-up
3) BBC is especially in competition with Rupert Murdoch and Fox, because Murdoch owns quite a bit of media in the UK
4) The first part of the speech makes me think that the BBC is receiving pressure to side more with the government line, and his rebuttal strategy is to point out how buffoonish the American media was during the war, and blame it on excessive patriotism.
5) The fact that Clear Channel wants into the UK radio market is news to me, but isn't really much of a surprise
6) I'm not sure exactly how Mr. BBC can attack Clear Channel's media consolidation, and then argue that the problem with American broadcast media is its "fragmentation," where no network is powerful enough to withstand the U.S. government. Sadly, this is also the argument for deregulation, "if our huge company can't merge with their huge company, there's no way we can compete with the superhuge company!"
7) The second part of the speech is also self-interested, as the BBC would not want to have to compete with Clear Channel (or anyone, really) for the UK radio market.

Posted by Jake at 07:29 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

April 22, 2003


During Iraq War 2, the U.S. military allowed American (and foreign? I don't know) reporters to "embed" themselves with individual military units and cover the invasion from there. On one hand, it was hailed as a great leap forward in press freedom. On the other, it was condemned as an attempt to control and bias reporters in favor of the military action. Personally, I think it was clearly aimed at biasing the coverage, but it also led to some good reporting as well. But here's a host of links with other people's stories and thoughts about the embedding process, some of whome were embedded themselves.

Gyllenhaal: Up-close coverage of war in Iraq served readers and the rank and file- "The result was layers of coverage that never existed before, from live battlefield reports to the dispatches and photos about local troops that made their way to even the smallest papers and radio stations."

Embedded reporter comes away from front lines torn- "Look up Stockholm syndrome in the dictionary, though, and you'll get a pretty good idea about what I was going through in those first hours away from combat. I had lived so closely for so long under such extreme circumstances with the Second Battalion, 11th Marines, fighting their way through Iraq, that I began to think and feel like a Marine. Therein lies the quandary for the hundreds of 'embedded' reporters and photographers who covered Gulf War II and the editors who paid them to go. Did we sell our souls as journalists for access to the death and destruction at the front lines?"

Iraq Embed Program Hailed As a Success- "The sand, the food, the physical exhaustion — NBC's Chip Reid is glad to put those behind him. But as a journalist, being embedded with a military unit during the war in Iraq exceeded his expectations. 'We had total freedom to cover virtually everything we wanted to cover,' he said."

Interview with Michele Norris- "I'm not going to say it's been the best war journalism ever because I think there was some fantastic journalism that came out of the Vietnam war and World War II... There've been a lot of unsung 'embeds' who have been doing some incredible work."

The embedded in Iraq: stenography for the Pentagon- "We've benefited from some excellent and courageous reporting, particularly from reporters in the field and in Baghdad. In some sense, we lived with them through the sandstorms and firefights, and were reminded of the hell that is war. But many of the embedded reporters also came to consider the troops their friends and protectors. They relied on them, in some cases, as their only information source. Too many reporters came to see themselves as latter-day Larrys of Arabia, wearing military-issue camouflage and combat boots."

The media's conflict: Experts say access to troops helped more than hurt- "With the fog - and dust - of war beginning to lift in Iraq, the media's performance on the battlefield will be scrutinized almost as closely as the military's. The eight media analysts surveyed for this story differed somewhat in their assessments, but a broad consensus emerged on three major issues..."

Media vs. truth: If public listens truth can't lose- not exactly embedding, but on the same general theme of government and media. Story from a college kid who interned at the Office of Public Diplomacy, a de facto propaganda agency. I find the author pretty naive (even more than she seems to admit to herself), but she worked at the office and I didn't, so take that how you will.

Posted by Jake at 12:43 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

April 15, 2003


TNN is a cable television network that's kind of vague and ill-defined. They show mostly re-runs of shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Blind Date, and CSI. Not too long ago, it was The Nashville Network, and catered to more rural, Southern concerns, like country music, Nascar, fishing, hunting, and Boss Hogg.

Then it became just TNN. Then TNN: The National Network. And on June 16, it will emerge yet again from its cocoon taking an entirely new form.

Spike TV, "the first network for men."

Says TNN prez Albie Hecht, "Spike TV captures the attributes and essence of what we want the first network for men to be. It's unapologetically male; it's active; it's smart and contemporary with a personality that's aggressive and irreverent. This is a first major step in our journey to super-serving men in a way no one has done before."

"Super-serving" is the most ass-puckering advertising buzzword I've heard in quite some time.

But you've gotta admit, it's good that we finally have some television channels devoted to men.

"Aggressive and irreverent"? "Unapologetically male"? We all know what this means, right? This is aimed at guys who don't like being criticized for being sexist or for treating their wives and girlfriends poorly. It boggles the fucking mind that many middle class white guys seem to think that THEY are the ones being oppressed, by the forces of PC, which say that maybe they should treat people with respect and not feel divinely entitled to more than their fair share.

Well, let's take a step back. TNN is not creating this channel to soothe the bruised conscience of the American male. It is creating this channel for the sole purpose of capturing advertising dollars by companies that want to aim their products at young men who want to believe that they are aggressive and irreverent and the essence of all things male. Tell young men these are the products that make you "a man" (or at least "a cool man"), and those who are insecure and desperate to fit the mold will go buy them. Sad, really.

I'm going to make a prediction that Spike TV will try to be like Comedy Central's "The Man Show", but the gag will quickly wear thin, and it will slowly devolve into a cross between the FX Network and ESPN.

Posted by Jake at 05:57 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)


Check out the cover of this week's Time Magazine.

Better yet, let's compare this picture with a Time Magazine cover from 1945:

That second set of images comes from a feature called "History of the 'X.'" (there isn't a link that goes directly to it, so go here and click on "History of the 'X'" on the right side of the screen). What does History of the X say?

During the first days of May 1945, the world did not quite know what had happened to Adolf Hitler. There was no shortage of rumors: he had been arrested by Gestapo chief Heinrich Himmler, he was on a U-boat headed for Japan, he had been killed by an exploding shell. What was known for certain was that Berlin was about to fall, and as TIME reported, "Adolf Hitler had been buried, dead or alive, in the rubble of his collapsing Third Reich." Unsure of what had happened to Hitler but certain that his rule was finished, TIME ran on its cover a portrait of Hitler with a bloody X through it.

World War II and Gulf War II, of course, are very different conflicts, and though some commentators have compared aspects of Saddam's tyranny to Hitler's, the two dictators belong in separate leagues of cruelty and terror. But like Hitler, Saddam became the target of a U.S.-led war, and like Hitler, he had a reign that collapsed before the exact circumstances of his downfall became known.

In Hitler's case, six months had elapsed before a report was issued concluding that he had killed himself. No one knows for sure whether the Iraqi ruler is dead or alive. But this much was clear last week: Saddam Hussein's regime had been "X-ed."

So... Saddam Hussein isn't like Hitler, and the Iraq war was different than WWII, but they'll use the same imagery for both situations because...?

Posted by Jake at 09:18 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)

April 11, 2003

The O'Reilly O'Reilly O'Reilly Factor

Lying right-wing blowhard Bill O'Reilly not only has his own television and radio shows, but he also apparently has his own weekly syndicated newspaper column.

O'Reilly's column was a regular feature in the Orange County Register, the most popular paper in Orange County (among other publications, of course). This should be no surprise, as Orange County is one of the most politically conservative regions of the United States.

But, sadly, the OC Register dropped O'Reilly's column in early March. O'Reilly bravely spoke out against this grave injustice on his TV show, "The Orange County Register dropped my column because I was in favor of the war." And in O'Reilly's defense (did I really just say that?) despite it's staunch conservative editorial stances, the OC Register does oppose the Iraq war.

But the OC Register denies O'Reilly's specific charge, and editor Cathy Taylor explains why they chose to let Bill go:

"We published a number of his columns throughout the fall and into the spring. Then we started to notice something. The columns were more and more about Bill O’Reilly and Bill O’Reilly’s television show and what happened to Bill O’Reilly on Bill O’Reilly’s television show."

Heh heh heh.

Bill, they didn't fire you because they disagree with you! They fired you because you're a fucking narcissist! They wanted columns of political analysis, not columns where you jerk off your ego and shill for your own products!

Quit your self-obsessed whining and slink back to television, jerk.

Posted by Jake at 10:25 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

April 07, 2003

We Reporteth, Thou Decideth


Good photoshop contest:

"What if Fox News were around during other historical events?"

Que witty!

Posted by Jake at 08:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

April 02, 2003

Back in Iraq

Chris Allbritton of Back to Iraq 2.0 has finally made it back into Iraq.

Go check out his first blog entry back inside the country.

Posted by Jake at 10:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Unexpected Bonus

War = hell, this one in particular. The U.S. is provoking anger around the globe, destablizing large regions, and of course, killing many innocent people.

But there's a silver lining:

PR Industry Hit Hard By War

Yes, everyone's favorite mind-bending predators, the people who earn their living via "public relations", are having a difficult time. Why? Because there's so much war news that they barely have a chance to get their press releases and puff pieces and false experts on the air. The longer the war goes on, the longer we'll have to wait to learn why Exxon is environmentally-friendly, about the new brand of toothpaste we can't live without, and the unveiling of a new fast food chain's logo.

Although I guess the government-sponsored PR flaks are still getting work.

Posted by Jake at 05:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Doctor, Doctor, Gimme the News

The L.A. Times ran a doctored photograph on the front page of their Monday edition.

Not a huge thing, not some sort of Stalinist editting of history for propaganda purposes or anything like that. Looks like the photographer photoshopped together portions of two different photos for better drama and composition. Well, and the altered version appears to have editted out what looks like a tank in the background (lower left of the original photo on the right. Looks like a tank to me, maybe I'm wrong).

The photographer was Brian Walski. He's been fired from the Times. But should make us a bit more wary of all photographs, because it is so easy to manipulate images these days.

Posted by Jake at 10:03 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

March 28, 2003

Aaron Brown is a Failure

When interviewing peace activist and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, CNN's Aaron Brown made an obvious play to smear the entire anti-war movement as pawns of Saddam Hussein:

BROWN: The Iraqi political strategy is in large part to use the anti-war demonstrations around the world to create political pressure on the coalition governments to stand down, cease fire and stop the war. In that regard, are you playing into the hands of what I think you would even acknowledge is a very bad regime.

Ellsberg refuses to be drawn into that trap. Brown tries again. Ellsberg sidesteps and defuses the trap, and also manages to imply that Brown is either naive, or an idiot. Brown is then a bit cowed, and lets Ellsberg say whatever he wants.

Go read the transcript, it's fun.

Posted by Jake at 12:34 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)

We Distort. We Deride.

Fox News Channel, the most respected name in objective, unbiased reporting continued its tradition of neutral, unpoliticized behavior at the anti-war protests in New York City yesterday.

Demonstrators outside of Fox News headquarters decried the media's role on the war in Iraq, and the little electric news ticker sign on the outside of the building switched from displaying headlines to displaying... commentary.

"War protester auditions here today ... thanks for coming!"

"Who won your right to show up here today? Protesters or soldiers?"

"How do you keep a war protester in suspense? Ignore them."

"Attention protesters: the Michael Moore Fan Club meets Thursday at a phone booth at Sixth Avenue and 50th Street"

Mmmm boy, that's some good objectivity.

"Reached for comment Thursday afternoon, Fox spokeswoman Tracy Spector was unaware of the messages on the news ticker and said she would look into it. Spector said the network 'didn't mean to insult anyone.' Spector did not return calls for further comment by early Thursday evening. "

If the issue is pressed, I imagine Fox News will scapegoat the person who mans the news ticker controls and say that s/he was the "lone gunman" of this incident. And maybe s/he is. But the fact that they felt comfortable enough to go ahead and do something so obviously biased in the name of a news agency, I think that speaks volumes.

Posted by Jake at 12:18 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

March 27, 2003


Polls Suggest Media Failure in Pre-War Coverage- one of the more disturbing stories of the day, if poll results can be trusted (and, well, they can't). The stat in this report that most unnerves me:

32% of those supporting an attack cited Saddam's alleged involvement in supporting terrorists as the "main reason" for endorsing invasion. Another 43% said it was "one reason."

In other words, 75% of Americans who support the U.S.' war on Iraq did so based upon information that is totally wrong. There is no public evidence that Saddam Hussein supports "terrorists" in the way that Americans define the term (we think "terrorist" means "Arab who is out to kill Americans"). Thanks to poor journalism and White House sleight of tongue, a large segment of Americans see "terrorists," Al Qaeda, 9-11, and Saddam Hussein as one big ominous group. And therefore fighting Iraq is obviously protecting ourselves from terrorism. It saddens me that if the American people had been better educated about the Middle East that this war might never have even gotten off the ground.

Television agendas shape images of war- press coverage of the war in the U.S., U.K., Arab world and Iraq compared and contrasted.

Media giant's rally sponsorship raises questions- I could've posted this article days ago, but I was looking for a little more information. Since I haven't been able to find it, here's the article anyway. Radio giant Clear Channel is reported to have been "sponsoring" pro-war/pro-troop/"patriotic" rallies across the country. I hestitated to post the article because I couldn't really discover what was meant by "sponsor." Does that mean they endorsed it, organized it, paid for it, what? One interviewee in the article speculates that CC's involvement is simply "manufacturing the news," while others have argued that this is simply a way for CC to suck up to the Bush administration so that CC is looked upon favorably and allowed to continue its monopolization of the radio industry.

'It's more than exciting, Christiane'- "Most TV correspondents reporting from Iraq are attached to combat units and adopt the military viewpoint, so who is giving us the other side of the war?"

White House prepares to feed 24-hour news cycle- the word "feed" should be replaced with "dominate." Claims that the White House is scheduling several press conferences a day at times that will serve best to distract journalists and keep the government's message at the top of the heap.

"Precise" and "Surgical": NBC's Bombing Claims Lack Verification- FAIR notes that the media are using descriptive terms that the Pentagon would like them too, without knowing whether or not those terms are very fitting.

Got another email from FAIR today about the media setting up a fiction in which "pro-war" and "pro-troops" are the equivalent, and where "anti-war" and "against the troops" mean the same thing. But that article does not appear to be posted on their site yet.

Posted by Jake at 01:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 23, 2003

A Little Anti-War Music

A number of musicians have released free anti-war songs onto the net.

Beastie Boys- In a World Gone Mad- popular goofy rap group puts out first song in years. Lyrics

Anti-Flag & the DONOTs- Protest Song- a punk band from Pittsburgh and a punk band from Ibbenbueren, Germany join forces for a spirited acoustic song encouraging their fans to make the jump from consumers of rebellious music to involve themselves in rebellious movements.

Zack de la Rocha- March of Death- first new track from former Rage Against the Machine front man Zack de la Rocha. Interesting rock/funk/industrial beats by DJ Shadow. Lyrics

System of a Down-Boom!- quirky metal band System of a Down recorded this song several years ago, but found it prophetically relevant today. They recorded a music video for this song with director Michael Moore, depicting the massive international peace protests of February 15, 2003. The video has allegedly been banned from MTV because it shows casualty estimates for the Iraq war. Don't know if your computer can handle video streams, but I'd recommend giving it a try, because I think it is a great video. If you can't handle streams, you can download an mpeg version of the video here

Posted by Jake at 11:22 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)

March 18, 2003

Dixie Chicanery

Sigh, I hate having to correct hysteria. Also not real thrilled with discussing popular country music, but here goes.

A member of the band "The Dixie Chicks" recently made a comment at one of their shows in London, said to the audience, "Just so you know, we're ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas." As you can imagine, stupid symbolic patriotic outrage ensued, with all kinds of talk about boycotting the DCs, pulling their songs from the radio, etc.

There is one happy story out of this. Country station KFKF had an online poll in which site visitors (many of whom didn't listen to the station, just wanted to bash the "traitors), voted 4 to 1 to ban DC songs. But the station manager decided to ignore the poll results, arguing that America is a land of free speech, even when unpopular. He urged them to boycott the DCs or even KFKF if they disagreed, but that everyone should be able to make their voices heard. Big thumbs up to KFKF station manager Dale Carter for that decision.

But now to the debunking. A mistitled news story is panicking the left with regards to this issue, "Dixie Chicks axed by Clear Channel." Clear Channel owns a gajillion U.S. radio stations (and billboards and concert venues and a few television stations), and if they decided to ban a song, that would be a massive act of censorship. Bloggers are already decrying the act, and denouncing the corporate media that wants to silence all dissent and eat our children.


If you read the article, it actually says, "The group's records have been pulled by dozens of country-music stations across the country, including two Clear Channel-owned stations in Jacksonville, WQIK 99.1-FM and WROO 107.3-FM." So of the 1200 Clear Channel-owned stations, the song has been pulled by two of them.

Obviously, none of that's a good thing, banning songs because they express unpopular opinion, but we're not at Farenheit 78RPM just yet.

You've always gotta read the articles folks. The headlines are often contradicted by the information within.

Posted by Jake at 02:48 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)

March 13, 2003

CNN Must Be Destroyed


Check this story from CNN:

Selling an Iraq-al Qaeda connection: Some critics blame TV news for making Baghdad new enemy

Man, do I hate this bullshit. Happens on an irregular basis, the press does something colosally bad (usually in post-media circus situations like O.J.), and then as a tiny foil, they'll run a story something like "Does the media go too far?"

"The media"? You're the media! Say "we", asshole! Is it that hard? "Did we, the media, including myself standing right here before you, go too far?"

Some critics blame "TV news" for making the American people think Saddam and Osama are pals, eh? YOU! WE BLAME YOU, CNN!!!

Dammit, now I'm using exclamation points again. I hate those things.

The article is pitiful. The article basically admits that there is no connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda. But this fact that is rarely mentioned doesn't get its own article, it gets relegated to a meta-topic in an article about media performance.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said he thinks the TV networks' news coverage has helped sell the Saddam-al Qaeda connection. "Suddenly, it was Osama, Osama, Osama ... Saddam, Saddam, Saddam ... and the networks -- the broadcast media -- simply picked that up [and] transferred our feelings of alarm and anger from one villain to another..."

Some critics blame the cable news networks for helping make Iraq the new enemy. "They use essentially the kind of logos, martial music, and so on that we saw after Gulf War One had started," Krugman said. "So, from the point of view of the American public, Iraq is already the enemy; we're already at war."

Obviously, Krugman's got a point. The media have helped pave the way for this war, making it easier to swallow, helping divert our anger, and making the invasion seem inevitable. And they don't own up to it, they don't admit that the criticism is aimed at them, they don't try to defend their actions, and they sure as hell don't try to take responsibility for them.

Blind eye-turning motherfuckers.

Posted by Jake at 09:47 PM | Comments (5)

Well Behind the Curtain

A reporter from the Washington Post wrote this confessional letter to media news guy Jim Romenesko which indicts both the White House and White House reporters as massive frauds.

The reporter, Jonathan Weisman, was writing about a White House economic advisor. But the White House press office gave him some conditions for the interview:

The catch was this: The interview would be off the record. Any quotes I wanted to put into the newspaper would have to be e-mailed to the press office. If approved, the quotation could be attributed to a White House official. (This has become fairly standard practice.)

Okay, first of all, we should be a bit shocked that journalists are forced to get permission from the White House press office to quote any member of the White House about anything. If we remove the pretty words, this is outright GOVERNMENT CENSORSHIP. If you want to talk to a reporter, fine. If you don't, fine. But you can't talk to him, and then tell him what he can and can't say. Well, let me back that up. You can tell him what he can say, and if he does as you command, he is collaborating in his own censorship.

Weisman then wanted to use a direct quote from his interview subject, the sentence "This is probably the most academic proposal ever to come out of an administration." But...

The press office said it was fine, but the official wanted a little change. Instead, the quote was to read, "This is probably the purest, most far reaching economic proposal ever to come out of an administration." I protested that the point of the quote was the word "academic," so the quote was again amended to state, "This is probably the purest, most academic, most far reaching economic proposal ever to come out of an administration."

What appeared in the Washington Post was, "This is probably the purest, most academic ... economic proposal ever to come out of an administration." What followed was an angry denunciation by the White House press official, telling me I had broken my word and violated journalistic ethics.

Okay. HE'S PRINTING STUFF THAT'S NOT TRUE. The original source said nothing about the purity or far-reaching-ness of any Bush policy. He said it was "academic, " which maybe means smart, or detailed or wanky or something. It doesn't mean "pure" and it doesn't mean "far reaching." But a "pure, far reaching" policy does sound pretty positive, doesn't it? Wouldn't you rather support one of those policies than one that's just "academic"? The power of words.

"Journalist" Weisman and the Press Office worked together to fabricate and publish a quote by a third guy, a quote that the third guy never said. This is our news reporting. Falsehoods masquerading as facts. Reporters and spin doctors negotiating what version of the "truth" the reporter is allowed to print. I put most of the blame on the White House for this, but jeez, reporters don't have to go along with it!

I don't mention this story because it's important in and of itself. I don't care that a news article I didn't read about an advisor I've never heard of had an incorrect quote. I mention this story because this practice appears to be THE NORM. This White House quote control is a constant. We can't say that as definitely about the made-up quotes, but that seems fairly likely.

I guess we can take some comfort in the fact that Weisman has come forward and feels terrible about what he's done. He sent this letter to a forum for journalists, encouraging them to take a stand and not consent to these shady White House policies. I hope he inspires others.

Posted by Jake at 02:33 PM | Comments (4)

Shabby State of Journalism

Head Games With Media's Help- ugh. The U.S. is giving American journalists amazing access to the Iraqi battlefield by "embedding" them within specific military units. As I predicted, some of these journalists are now identifying with their military cohorts and are therefore self-censoring. A British officer has referred to this tactic as a form of "white psyops."

Spooky Story- the story that the U.S. was spying on UN delegates is now turning into the British equivalent of the Pentagon Papers. American media does not seem to care.

AP Protests Gov't Seizure of Package- "Government agencies opened a package mailed between two Associated Press reporters last September and seized a copy of an eight-year-old unclassified FBI lab report without obtaining a warrant or notifying the news agency."

Spoon-Feeding the Press- examination of massive and increasing secrecy on the part of the Bush administration, and the sad acquiescence of the press to the trend.

Media Misquote and Excise Bush Comment About "Scripted" Press Conference- during Bush's press conference last week, he made a slip in which he alluded to the fact that the conference was scripted, that the reporters, and possibly even their questions, were pre-determined. While the White House put the slip into the conference transcript they posted on their website, most press outlets conveniently editted it out, or changed Bush's comment from "this is scripted" to "this is unscripted."

The "War on Terrorism" at Home- amateur video reporter arrested for "disorderly conduct" and "impeding a police officer." The reporter claims that he did nothing wrong-- except maybe videotape police brutality at a peace protest in southern Oregon.

New York Times Deletes Mention of Police Snipers- on February 15, the NY Times posted an article about local anti-war protests in which they described a massive police presence. The next day, the NYT replaced the story on their website with a new version which omitted the mention of police snipers and undercover officers in the crowd.

Posted by Jake at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2003


Michael Savage is a right-wing racist and zealot who also happens to have his own daily talk radio show. He is also supposed to have a TV talk show on MSNBC in the near future.

Take Back the Media tells us the scary tales behind Savage's rise to fame.

Michael Savage (real name Michael Weiner. I mention it only because it's funny) achieved success when his show was picked up by Talk Radio Network. I am having trouble finding concrete numbers, but TRN seems to be a series of stations owned and operated by one Roy Masters (real name Reuben Obermeister. Again, the funny), with over 300 affiliated stations. I couldn't help but notice that TRN hosts some of the nuttiest right-wing fruitcups in the nation. People like Bob Dornan (stark raving mad former Congressman) and Lucianne Goldberg (Monica Lewinsky-wiretapper turned ideologue).

Now things start to get wierd.

Roy Masters, is not only the head of TRN, but also of the Foundation for Human Understanding. Which is a cult.

Near as I can figure, FHU is some mixture of Christianity, hypnosis, mediatation, psychology, and paying money to FHU. It also may or may not involve wearing Cool Whip on your head (c'mon, check out his picture and tell me it doesn't look like he's got a mound of whipped cream on his noggin!).

So in other words, Microsoft and General Electric (owners of NBC) are working together to broadcast a regular TV show by a mean-spirited racist homophobe who's radio shows are heard on a radio network owned by a cult leader.

God bless America.

If you want to join the GLAAD-sponsored boycott of Savage/Weiner's show, click here.

Posted by Jake at 01:37 AM | Comments (3)

Mongerline with Lou Dobbs


Just flipped past CNN, where they were apparently re-broadcasting the day's edition of Moneyline. But instead of the expected scene of talking heads and economic graphs, there was a handsome young fella strumming a gee-tar and drawling a country tune. His song was accompanied by a montage of footage of U.S. soldiers gearing up for battle, and gripping shots from the 9-11 aftermath.

The twangy singer was Darryl Worley. The song was "Have You Forgotten?" The reason the economic news show played a country-western music video is anyone's guess.

As captain of my neighborhood media criticism team, I was aghast that a country music song was being pitched as news, and financial news at that. explained the performance thusly, "Members of the music industry remain split over war with Iraq. Country music singer Darryl Worley tunes in with his hit song 'Have You Forgotten?' and explains why he supports U.S. military action." So that's apparently the connection to international finance, Darryl is part of the music industry. But then, my dad's part of the construction industry, so I guess it would be just as valid to interview him.

I was even more aghast at the blatant propaganda that was going on. A moving country song calling for war, its emotional power boosted by the CNN-supplied video footage of brave troops and iconic, heart-rending 9-11 footage. That's amazingly biased. Imagine if CNN had let a fellow perform an anti-war song, and supplied their own footage of carnage in Afghanistan and starving children in Iraq. Same thing (well, the same except in the latter case it would be a scandal proving that the media had a liberal bias, and someone would be fired).

And I was pissed at the song's lyrics' guilt-by-non-sequitor argument. The song seeks to be a response to any criticism of the war in Iraq or any U.S. policy by reminding the listener of the anguish Americans felt at the 9-11 attacks. That's it. Think the war is a bad idea? "Have you forgotten how it felt that day / To see your homeland under fire / And her people blown away?" And so on. The song is either a guilt-trip towards those who disagree with American policies, or a distraction ploy to change the subject from Iraq to 9-11.

But there is one odd nugget in there:

"Some say this country's just out looking for a fight
After 9/11 man I'd have to say that's right"

Yeeeeeeee-haaa! U-S-A!! U-S-A!!!

As a writer, I have to say that those lines really fuck up the song's message. Most of it has a tone of remembered pain, or quiet determination, or noble adherence to core American values. Then it suddenly concedes that maybe America is out to kill because it's angry, and that that's okay. Poor writing Darryl (well, Darryl and rarely-mentioned co-writer Wynn Varble).

So my first thought was, "hmmm, I wonder if Darryl Worley is on an AOL-Time Warner-owned record label." Nope, he's on Dreamworks Nashville, and I can't find any links between the two companies.

Maybe Moneyline's ratings are sagging, and they hope to capture the country-western fan demographic, the young women who like attractive men demographic and the let's bomb the bejeezus out of the brown people demographic. Maybe Lou Dobbs owns stock in Dreamworks. Maybe Darryl has a keen instinct for investment and trading. I dunno.

Posted by Jake at 12:44 AM | Comments (19)

March 11, 2003

Good News, Bad News

News media abdicate role in Iraq war- says San Diego Union-Tribune columnist James O. Goldborough. He claims that the press accepted Bush's arguments for war immediately, and therefore didn't "question, question, question" like they were supposed to. And therefore the public is confused about all this Iraq stuff because the media never did a very good job of explaining it.

But maybe it's a good thing that the media "abdicated their role" because

Pentagon Threatens to Kill Independent Reporters in Iraq- BBC war correspondent Kate Adie claims that a "senior officer in the Pentagon" told her that his forces would destroy any television signals or satelite uplinks that they detected in Iraq. This means that any broadcast journalist inside Iraq who tries to transmit their story to their home news agency is a potential target of U.S. attack. While there is certainly the possibility that Iraqi soldiers might use such equipment, the Pentagon is allegedly saying that they will make no effort to differentiate between broadcast journalists reporting the news, and the enemy. Both will be killed. And much less important in the context, Adie also claims that the military is quizzing reporters about their feelings about the war, and is giving little access to those who have skeptical views.

Posted by Jake at 02:46 AM | Comments (0)

March 01, 2003

What the NY Times Left Out

Very good post over at Body and Soul about important and highly relevant historical facts that the New York Times consistently leaves out of its modern Iraq war coverage.

Go check it out.

Posted by Jake at 10:45 AM | Comments (0)

February 26, 2003

Skeptical to the Opposition

I get tired of this sort of thing.

MSNBC is cancelling the Donahue talk show. Donahue was a fairly liberal, fairly open-minded political debate/interview program that the station had put on in attempt to support its sagging ratings. Despite the fact that Donahue got some of the network's highest ratings, the show is being cancelled.

That's not the part I'm tired of, we'll get there in a minute.

Now, the lefty blogs are all abuzz at a month-old MSNBC study which claimed that Donahue had to go, because it could hurt the network if they were "stigmatized" as anti-war by Donahue's views. And therefore this proves that the media is pro-war, blah blah blah (as if you couldn't tell by simply turning on a television).

But what's our source here? The source of all of this hubub is a column by Rick Ellis, in which he claims that received this report from an "NBC news insider." Rick Ellis writes for, a site I have never heard of in my life.

So that's it. The left-wing of the blogosphere is running amuck over an alleged report by an unnamed source mentioned on a column by an unknown writer in an unknown website. Some of my fellow bloggers are even claiming this pile of anonymity is a "smoking gun" proving media bias. But if a White House claim had come out with this hazy type of sourcing, they'd be crucifying it. Sorry folks, if you're going to be picky and skeptical, you have to view every source of information to that kind of critical eye, even the ones that confirm what you already believe.

So that's what I'm tired of, selective skepticism, selective eagerness. For all I know, Rick Ellis is true-blue and his article is 100% pure fact. But until I have some harder evidence, I can't embrace his claims, and I wish some of my compadres would hold out for better support as well.

Posted by Jake at 08:16 PM | Comments (12)

February 25, 2003

Media Assault

Pentagon's Recipe for Propaganda- unlike the Gulf War, the Pentagon is at least pretending to give reporters full access to the battlefield. This will be done by having journalists go through specialized combat-preparedness training, and then "embedding" them within a military unit "for life":

At a recent orientation meeting with Washington bureau chiefs, [Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Bryan] Whitman described the ideal "embed" as one who follows a unit (ground, air or sea) from load-out to deployment through combat (subject to field approval) to the "march on whatever capital we happen to march on" to the return trip home and the "victory parade." This could take "two weeks, two months, two years." If reporters leave a unit there is no guarantee they can return or even join another unit. Probably they will be "pooled" in mobile media clusters that form and dissolve as the action dictates. "Itinerants" (reporters working independently) are not encouraged.

In other words, journalists will be trained as soldiers, and then live, work and risk their lives with American soldiers for the duration of the war. Could this lead the reporters to identify very strongly with the soldiers and lead to strongly positive coverage of the war? Nah.

Journalists Are Assigned to Accompany U.S. Troops- as if the mild brainwashing above wasn't enough, journalists will need to get permission from "their" commanding officer about "live, continuing action," "future operations or postponed or canceled operations." While that sounds reasonable in the name of military secrecy, I also note that "the outcomes of mission results can be described only in general terms," and most tellingly, that "other ground rules remain to be spelled out." Which could presumably include complete censorship when the military feels like it.

MSNBC adjusts image as war looms- apparently the MSNBC news channel is "rebranding" itself as a "hard news" station. Which probably has more drawing power than their previous, unofficial "we kinda suck" brand image.

Caught on Film: The Bush Credibility Gap- are the Democrats growing some balls? They are allegedly beginning a new political and media strategy of questioning the truthfulness of George W. Bush. This page is a series of comparisons between what Bush says at political photo ops, and how his true policies frequently contradict this statements 100%. The page appears on the Appropriations Committee Democrats webpage.

Fla. Court Overturns Reporter's Jury Award- this one pisses me off because I've been writing about this story for years. Back in 1997, two Tampa reporters put together a series of television news segments about the use of artificial Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) in dairy cows to increase their milk production. The two found that rBGH posed a risk to human health, and that there was really no way of knowing if the milk Floridians were drinking came from rBGH cows or not. Enter Monsanto, one of the most evil corporations on planet Earth. Before the story aired, Monsanto (which manufactures and sells "Posilac," the most popular brand of rBGH) intimidated the reporters' television station into re-editting the piece so that it was "more fair" to Monsanto's point of view. But repeated re-writse were not good enough for the scared execs, and eventually the reporters were fired for refusing to lie in their story.

The reporters recently sued their old employers, claiming that they had violated the state's whistleblower act. The two argued that they were about to "blow the whistle" on their station's illegal practice of distorting the news, and that their station illegally fired them in retaliation. They won the suit.

And then their win was overturned. This latest judge found that the whistleblower claim didn't hold up, because her station did not violate the law. And since they didn't violate the law, they couldn't have a whistle blown on them.

The ruling explicitly claims that when a TV station distorts the news, it is not violating FCC regulations. In other words, it is perfectly legal for television news to lie to you. Which is good for the Fox News Channel, I suppose.

Posted by Jake at 10:23 AM | Comments (1)

February 21, 2003

In a World... With TV Commercials on Movie Screens...

Okay, very minor issue, but one that should make all movie-goers happy.

Ads Before Movies Prompt Lawsuit


An English teacher in Chicago has filed a class action lawsuit against Loews theaters, claiming that saying "the movie starts at 3pm" and then showing 10 minutes of advertisements (excluding the movie previews) before the film starts is a "deceptive business practice."

Is this a frivolous lawsuit? Probably. But I hope she wins.

Posted by Jake at 12:19 AM | Comments (12)

February 16, 2003

Blogging Central

Pyra, the company that brought you Blogger and all the websites, has now been bought by Google.

Two reasons to be wary of this.

1) Google has a history of massive, unaccountable data collection. For example, Google keep records of every search that is made by IP address. Meaning that theoretically, every single internet search you've ever made using Google could be compiled. Some might consider that a threat to their privacy.

2) Consolidation. This site reminds us that Google has made some major data purchases in the past, and wonders about Google's capacities to centralize the decentralized internet.

Just keep an eye out, blogspot folks.

Posted by Jake at 11:25 PM | Comments (0)

February 07, 2003

Media News

Connecticut to Vote on Ad Tax- I'm gleeful about this one. "As early as tonight Connecticut legislators could vote on a proposed 6% sales tax on state and national advertising." Said billboard advertising exec John Barrett, "We are quaking in our boots. It would have a major impact on us. Advertisers are all working on fixed budgets. Because the advertising industry doesn't have much in variable costs, it would come right off our bottom line." And I hope it destroys you.

STEVE HEYER'S MANIFESTO FOR A NEW AGE OF MARKETING- I really have been meaning to write a comprehensive article on this topic. Advertisers are scared out of their minds these days, finding that simply buying space in existing entertainment media is increasingly expensive and ineffective. Therefore advertisers are seeking to integrate themselves with the entertainment producers and also produce their own entertainment. They're calling it "Madison + Vine," the name of a famous advertising district with a (formerly) famous movie-making district.

The Steve Heyer fellow mentioned above is a honcho at Coca-Cola, which seems to be embracing this radical shift in the biz. This is a speech he gave at the "Madison + Vine" conference this week.

Some fun quotes:

- "Coca-Cola isn't black water with a little sugar and a lot of fizz anymore than one of your movies is celluloid digital bits and bytes, or one of your songs is a random collection of words and notes. Coca-Cola isn't a drink. It's an idea. Like great movies, like great music. Coca-Cola is a feeling."

- "Coca-Cola is refreshment and connection. Always has been... always will be."

- "We will use a diverse array of entertainment assets to break into people's hearts and minds. In that order. For this is the way to their wallets. Always has been. Always will be."

Man, I gotta stop there. That speech is so full of jargon, buzz-words and self-congratulatory emptiness it's making my eyes hurt.

Bad Data- good news analysis by Notes on the Atrocities. The author digs into a poll-centric news story, only to find that poll questions themselves are biased and misleading, which leads to an unreliable and shady news story.

Posted by Jake at 03:49 PM | Comments (2)

More on (Moron?) O'Reilly

As you read here yesterday, Bill O'Reilly is an asshole. Well, that shouldn't have surprised anyone. But he's at it again:

On yesterday's O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly referred to Mexicans as "wetbacks".

Yeah. Go read the link, I won't bother trying to put it into context.

Actually, when I think back on it, the first time I saw Bill O'Reilly on TV, maybe five or six years ago, he was a racist fuck even then.

He was interviewing world famous rapper Chuck D of the group Public Enemy. Remember, Chuck D, internationally famous, has sold millions of albums. Just setting the stage.

Somehow or another, they get onto the topic of welfare. O'Reilly actually says to Chuck D, something like "why should we give our hard-earned money to you people...?"

"You people?" Chuck D's a goddam millionaire. Chuck is not getting any welfare checks. O'Reilly has slipped up, and he most likely means "why should we hard-working white people give our money to poor, lazy blacks?"

I imagine O'Reilly will weasel his way out of this latest scandal through simple, bald-faced lies. Just check out this past example from O'Reilly's bizarre crusade against rapper Ludacris' endorsement of Pepsi:

"First of all -- Ms. Rousseau. First of all, I never do anything tacitly. I do things directly. I simply said I wasn't going to drink Pepsi while [Ludacris] was on their payroll. No boycott was ever mentioned by me."

-- Bill O'Reilly, The O'Reilly Factor, 02/03/03

"I'm calling for all responsible Americans to fight back and punish Pepsi...I'm calling for all Americans to say, Hey, Pepsi, I'm not drinking your stuff. You want to hang around with Ludacris, you do that, I' m not hanging around with you."

-- Bill O'Reilly, The O'Reilly Factor, 08/27/02

But I'll lay off now. Bashing Bill O'Reilly is like shooting fish in a barrel. Actually, it's more like shooting the barrel.

Posted by Jake at 11:59 AM | Comments (8)

February 06, 2003

Fun in MediaLand

Wealth of Opinions- Paul Krugman is one of the few mainstream liberal newspaper columnists who actually takes some good swings at conservative politicians. This long, fawning piece about Krugman has one interesting tidbit buried in paragraph 39: "It wasn't long before Krugman started ripping the Republican presidential candidate [George W. Bush], though he says [NY Times editor Howell] Raines barred him from using the word 'lying' for the duration of the campaign." Covering a presidential campaign and not being allowed to use the word "lying"? Why not have him go scuba diving without an oxygen tank?

Colin Powell Is Flawless -- Inside a Media Bubble- media critic Norman Solomon comes up with a list of good, insightful questions that the press should be asking Colin Powell-- questions that might tarnish his reputation as American Superman.

First Amendment, Schmirst Amendment- "Associated Press staffers Tony Winton and Cathy Wilson recently stood outside the Miami Herald building and handed out info on their sluggish contract talks with AP. Eventually, the newspaper's guards and an attorney confronted them. Wilson says the Herald lawyer told security: 'Make sure the police arrest these people.' Winton adds: 'This [newspaper] is a paragon of the First Amendment! -- except in front of our building.'"

FCC Chiefs Clash Over Media Rules- we've got two opposing forces in the FCC today: Michael "Corporate Bitch" Powell, and Michael "Listen to the People" Copps. Powell says that they should make decisions about reforming media ownership rules (greatly loosening them) now, while Copps is trying to hold public hearings on the issue around the country. Powell seems kinda mad at Copps disobedience.

Copps: Silenced by fear- the same Michael Copps mentioned above says that there are many people inside the media industry who fear the effects of deregulation and consolidation, but do not speak out for fear of being fired.

Posted by Jake at 03:47 PM | Comments (0)

I Can't Believe You Won't Shut Up

Bill O'Reilly yells at man who's father died in 9/11.

Seriously, you have to read that one.

What a supreme asshole.

Posted by Jake at 01:41 AM | Comments (5)

February 02, 2003

All the News That's Fit to Manufacture

You may have heard the news last week that Eight European Countries Affirm Solidarity with United States Against Saddam. I just read the headlines, and assumed that a bunch of world leaders had gotten together and Issued a Statement of their support for the war on Iraq.

Not so.

After France and Germany publicly announced their opposition to the Iraq war, the Wall Street Journal solicited Iraq-oriented op-ed pieces from the Prime Minister of Italy and the President of Spain. Seeing that the two shared views on the war, the paper's editors had a brainstorm to contact other heads of state and see if they wanted to collaborate on a piece. Near as I can figure, the letter was written by government hacks in Britain and Spain, and the other countries just signed on. And, to turn this letter into an international show of solidarity, the world leaders insisted that it be published simultaneously in the major papers of each country.

So three conclusions here:

1) The eight European leaders didn't actually decide to go out and write a statement of support for President Bush. The WSJ didn't tell these leaders what to think, but it seems as though they wouldn't have thought this plan up on their own.
2) The WSJ organized an international publicity blitz to support U.S. war policy.
3) The Wall Street Journal then got to lead the pack by first publishing this breaking story that they sort of created. PT Barnum would be proud.

In their defense (well, kinda), I don't think this was ideological. I don't think the WSJ did this because they want war to happen. If you read the LA Times article about all this, the WSJ editors are crowing about their journalistic hucksterism. It sounds like they just wanted to get a scoop and sell newspapers. If they had to manufacture the scoop themselves, fine.

[Thanks to Thinking It Through]

Posted by Jake at 10:07 PM | Comments (0)

Amateur Hour

Let's say you were an aging white male PR executive who was told to create a webpage for young people, maybe 10-15 years old.

It might be uncomfortable, as you are really out of touch with this age group, not knowing what they enjoy, what they think is "cool," what words they use, what they want.

Now let's say you were an aging white male PR executive who was told to create a webpage for 10-15 year old girls. Even trickier. Not only were you young so long ago, but you were never a young girl.

Now let's say that you're an aging white male PR executive who needs to create a webpage for 10-15 year old girls, encouraging them to eat more beef.

Apparently, you'd scan the graphics for a Barbie doll box, read an issue of Teen People, and then create this pile of crap:


"Cool-2B-Real is about real girls like you! Whether you're in school, playing sports or just having fun, strive to be the best you can be! Real girls are 'keepin' it real' by building strong bodies and strong minds... and they're feeling great about themselves!"

And if you check the fine print at the bottom:

"This project was funded by beef producers through their $1-per head checkoff and was produced for the Cattlemen's Beef Board and state beef councils by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association".

The site is hilariously bad.

Not only is there nothing there that would make a young girl want to spend time on the site, but there's also nothing that's going to convince young girls that they need to eat more steak. Or beef tacos. Or kabobs. Or beef on bamboo. Or nacho beef dip.

And the beef council is not all that subtle. Among all the boring talk about self-esteem and keeping fit (with anything resembling a slang word put in "quotes"), are these very out of place references to meat. For example, on the Keepin' It Real page, there are sections about self-esteem, "smart snacking," exercise, and a poll question: "What type of beef do you most like to eat with your friends?"


So we've learned a valuable lesson. PR execs aren't always nefarious schemers who are warping our minds. Sometimes, they're idiots.

[thanks to "saint aaron"]


I think I found the boys' version, Burger Town. They're even more blatant that the C2BR site. Poll on the front page "Eat up! How many ounces of cooked beef make one serving? 10 to 11? 5 to 6? 2 to 3? 3 to 5?"

And their KidsCom Cookbook is loaded with all-beef recipes, including--I shit you not-- salads made of meat!!

Both of these sites are apparently products of KidsCom, which is owned by Circle 1 Network which is part of or subsidiary of SpectraCom. Spectracom's company history page tells us that in 1994, " [was] developed as a pilot project for Kraft Foods."

[Update II]

Andy has shown us one more youth-meat site, Pork4Kids. If you thought the other sites were funny, man, are you gonna dig this one. Of course, this site gives you recipes for meat-laden salad, games, and most strangely, a smiling, cartoon pig mascot who is apparently cool with the idea of web visitors killing and grilling his entire race.

Posted by Jake at 03:24 PM | Comments (9)

January 31, 2003

Man Made Weather

War Talk Shifts From 'If' to 'When'- I have a problem with this NY Times headline. I don't remember a time when the war talk was "if."

FCC Chairman Ho-Hums Anti-War Ad Controversy- a group called the Anti-War Video Fund tried to buy advertising time on a Comcast cable outlet in Washington, DC to play an anti-war commercial on CNN twice a day for the length of this week. Comcast accepted, then changed its mind because the ad "fails to substantiate certain claims or allegations," specifically the one that "that the war was a violation of international law and was being conducted by 'mercenaries.'"

The group went to the FCC to complain that the media oligarchy in America resulted in this "censorship," and that they should do something about it. Said FCC chair and deregulation shill Michael Powell (no relation to Colin Powell. Oh wait, I mean "Colin Powell's son"), "'Issues like that have been around in the commission and in public policy since the beginning of time. That ad was about Washington, D.C. The fact that Comcast might own assets in another part of the country to which the ad wasn't even placed' doesn't matter."

Two main points here.

1) Let's not pretend that this commercial is like every other commercial. Most TV ads have all kinds of unsubstantiated claims, and everyone knows it. This is a political ad on a controversial issue that could cause a backlash against Comcast. Pretending that its about standards or media monopoly is disingenuous. Comcast didn't run the ad because they were afraid of negative consequences if they did.

2) I think there is a larger unspoken issue here that has a much more direct link to media consolidation and federal regulation than this specific ad. The reason that this organization felt the need to buy this advertising time is because the full spectrum of ideas and concerns about this war are not being covered by the broadcast media. The airwaves are supposed to belong to the people and serve the public interest. I can't think of a more important public interest than facilitating debate about whether or not the United States should spend hundreds of billions of its tax dollars and send its own soldiers to another region of the world to destablize and kill. The mere existence of this attempted ad purchase says more about American media monopoly than anything else.

Prominent Ohioans among members of Bush's all-star volunteerism team- ABC News reporter (? Anchor? Commentator? Mummy?) Cokie Roberts, and a number of other prominent public figures have joined "the president's Council on Service and Civic Participation" which will "will recognize outstanding volunteer service among children and adults." Conflict of interests, serving on a governmental committee that she is supposed to investigate? ABC doesn't think so. I'm not going to pretend to care one way or the other, because I don't give a damn what Cokie Roberts has to say about anything.

Coke to Slash 1000 Jobs- "Cost Savings to Be Put Toward Marketing." One more reason to hate advertisers.

DaimlerChrysler's Jeep Tricks- DaimlerChrysler recently bought a full-page ad in the NY Times to mourn the passing of cartoonist Bill Maudlin. Maudlin became famous during WWII for his comics in the U.S. military's publication Stars and Stripes. Why would DaimlerChrysler care? Because they own Jeep, and many of Maudlin's comics depicted soldiers fighting for freedom in U.S. Jeeps. Good way to commemorate a man who gave them free advertising, and to use his ghost for one last plug.

However, as the article above demonstrates, the cartoon used in the tribute ad is not one of Mauldin's. It is a Maudlin strip that has been altered.

The original was a picture of a sorrowful soldier about to shoot a damaged Jeep, as though he was sadly putting a wounded horse out of its misery.

The new version is a picture of a sorrowful soldier near a damaged Jeep-- holding a box of tissues. Cuz, like, his car is damaged, so he's, like, sad...

Good going, DC, eulogize the man by convincing the public that he's not funny.

Note: the title of this entry is from a quote from the movie Natural Born Killers, where Mickey Knox says that the media is "like the weather," except it's "man made weather." Always thought that line was kind of profound somehow.

Posted by Jake at 01:01 PM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2003

American TV Sucks

Check this out.

Holidays in the Axis of Evil

"The Bush regime claims that North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya and Cuba are part of an 'axis of evil'. In a remarkable two-part travelogue, reporter Ben Anderson, armed with a hidden camera and a tourist map, visits all six rogue states and tries to find the reality of life in some of the most repressive regimes in the world."

Airing on the BBC this month and next. Sounds great, and I don't get to see it. Anyone in the UK wanna videotape it and mail me a copy?

Posted by Jake at 09:56 PM | Comments (5)

January 25, 2003

Revolution! Dissent! Neckties!

For tears of laughter and a sad shaking of the head--

Embarassingly shallow call to arms, or blandly executed parody site? You decide.


Heh, just listened to the audio clip of the greeting for the "Avrilution™ Hotline." They reminded me to keep it Av-Real.

Posted by Jake at 12:03 AM | Comments (2)

January 23, 2003


I posted an article earlier today about a recent court victory by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), a lobby group for major record labels. In quick succession, I found an additional three articles also about the RIAA which make that victory look insignificant in comparison.

The first of these three was about the RIAA capitalizing on their latest legal victory by demanding that ISPs pay damages to the record industry for the music illegally downloaded by the ISP's customers. As the article points out, this is sheer fantasy. The completely accurate analogy is quoted in the article, that "Blaming ISPs for giving these hardened criminals the bandwidth for perpetrating their heinous file-sharing acts is akin to blaming the highway department for creating roads that are used by dope smugglers."

I don't think the RIAA has a legal leg to stand on here. At best, they could hope to use this demand as leverage to coerce frightened ISPs into taking steps of their own to prevent file-sharing (or at least scare them into a cash settlement). But still, seems like a long shot.

Actually, let's break away here for a minute to discuss the record industry itself. You can read these next four or five paragraphs, or you can listen to this interview I did with Rage Against the Machine (and now Audioslave) guitarist Tom Morello. He's a savvy fellow who's been in the business for about 15 years. That twenty minutes of audio might better explain what's going on than I'm about to.

In succint terms, record labels--the entities which "release" a band's album-- are loan sharks. When you sign a contract with a record label, they will give you an "advance" which is actually a loan. You might get a $100,000 advance to pay for the studios and producers to record your album, and you have to pay back every penny to your label.

Record contracts usually guarantee the artist 10-15% of the profits from their album sales (meaning that the record label, who has not written a single lyric or sung a single note of the music, receives 85-90% of the profit). The record label helps itself to 100% of your cut until you have paid them pack, while simultaneously taking their 90%. So if your 10% amounts to a dollar an album, then your band must sell 100,000 albums before you make a single penny.

I remember being shocked years ago hearing about world famous musicians going bankrupt. Everyone knew that rock stars were rich, how could they have spent all that money? Because of this loan system. Bands go into debt to record an album, and receive additional advances/loans to pay for concert tours, to film videos, etc. If your record doesn't sell well, you can not only make no money, but end up in the hole.

And what's worse, is that labels hold the artists' futures in their hands. Artists sign contracts for multiple albums, and the record label can choose to release/not release, promote/not promote your album as they see fit.

So let's say you have a four record deal. You go into debt for album #1, and it does poorly. You remain in debt. You borrow some more money to record album #2, but the label is no longer confident in your sales power. They release your record, but don't put much effort into promoting it. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, your album sells poorly. Your debt has increased. You borrow even more and record album #3. The label decides to not even bother releasing it. So what the hell do you do now? Any songs you record now will be the property of your label. You can no longer make your career as a recording artist.

There are other factors, like copyright and merchandising and such, but I'm not going there today (for more info about the inner workings and ecnomics of the record industry, I highly recommend the Rap Coalition website. RC is basically a quasi-labor union and business education center for rap artists. Good stuff there).

I point all this out mainly to: 1) inform, and 2) show how despicable it is when the RIAA self-righteously condemns file-traders for depriving their artists of money (maybe they just don't like competition on that front). They are about sucking consumers and artists dry, and to pretend otherwise is just vile.


Now we get to article #2, The Year the Music Dies. This article points out the dire straits that the record industry is in. Record labels serve three main functions, and other players can now perform those functions.

1) Capital. The advances/loans given to artists is often necessary to pay for things like recording and going on tour. This is the primary leverage that the industry still has. But the more artists come to realize the economic situation involved (getting a loan in exchange for 85-90% of all profits made on future sales of their album), we might see artists turning to alternate financial sources and releasing their albums themselves. Also, the costs of recording keep decreasing as recording technology and software drops in price.

2) Promotion. With their vast capital, marketing know-how, and connections with the media, record labels (especially the majors) can pack a real punch in raising an artist's profile and convincing consumers to purchase the artists' albums. But we sink into a catch-22 here: massive promotions are needed to generate massive sales to pay for the massive costs of a massive record release. But what if the costs were much lower...? See below.

3) Distribution. Here is the number one fear of the record industry. Labels have to pay for the manufacture and physical transportation of millions of compact discs to recoup their advances. So what happens when music can be distributed for practically nothing, say, over the internet? This cornerstone of the label empire is completely stripped away. In the past, artists could never distribute their records on a national or international level because they could never afford it. Now they could pretty easily sell their songs for download online...

I think what we see here is a need for a supreme restructuring of music finance, in the downward direction. The previous reality was that due to the expense of massive distribution/promotion/production costs, you needed the backing of rich and powerful corporations. One RC article claims that it is not worth most record labels' time to have artists who's records sell less than 200,000 copies. So imagine a different world, where an artist makes not 12% but 100% of the profits of their sales, where they record their album with moderately-priced technology, and distribute it via the internet for pennies. And because the costs are so much lower, you need to sell far fewer albums to earn a living.

(Actually, I envision a potential future where you can buy records at a kiosk at the mall, where the proprietor simply downloads the music from a label's server via high-speed internet, and then fast burns it to a blank CD that he has on-hand. More economically and ecologically efficient that producing millions of copies and trucking them from coast to coast)

The article points out that the industry faces this huge challenge, and that in its arrogance and short-sightedness, has alienated all of its potential allies: politicians, webcasters, customers, musicians, songwriters, radio, television, etc. Even, interestingly, the mega-corporations that own the labels. The author points out that a conglomerate like Sony might find that they make more money selling mp3 players which play illegally-downloaded music, than they do from records sold on the Sony record label. What happens then?

And our final RIAA-related article of the day:

Music Industry's Chief Lobbyist Leaving

For several years now, the RIAA's loudest, shrillest voice has been its head, Hillary Rosen. She screamed about Napster, about webcasters, CD-copying, always complaining how the industry was losing money because of the efforts of people who simply love music. Anyone who's taken more than a casual interest in these issues probably has little love for Rosen. And today, she has announced that she will resign from the position at the end of the year [insert thunderous applause here].


"Rosen's departure comes as the organization sought to soften its image among Internet consumers, many of whom viewed the RIAA and Rosen personally with antipathy over incessant pressure for crackdowns on sharing digital music over the Internet."

This theory backs up the previous article's dire forecast. If the music industry wants to survive, it needs to win back some allies. And Rosen's departure could get music fans back on their side.

Interesting stuff. We'll have to wait and see what happens next.

Posted by Jake at 12:08 AM | Comments (3)

January 22, 2003

Do They Even Try Anymore?

Surfing Television News For Antiwar Demonstrations- non-scientific examination of cable news coverage of this weekend's anti-war protests via flipping back and forth among the channels.

War Journalists Should Not Be Cosying Up to the Military- Robert Fisk attacks war reporters who try to suck up to and sympathize with the subjects of their stories, the military. Key passage:

So here's a thumbnail list of how to watch out for mendacity and propaganda on your screen once Gulf War Two (or Three if you include the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq conflict) begins. You should suspect the following:

Reporters who wear items of American or British military costume – helmets, camouflage jackets, weapons, etc.

Reporters who say "we" when they are referring to the US or British military unit in which they are "embedded".

Those who use the words "collateral damage" instead of "dead civilians".

Those who commence answering questions with the words: "Well, of course, because of military security I can't divulge..." Those who, reporting from the Iraqi side, insist on referring to the Iraqi population as "his" (ie Saddam's) people.

Journalists in Baghdad who refer to "what the Americans describe as Saddam Hussein's human rights abuses" – rather than the plain and simple torture we all know Saddam practices.

Journalists reporting from either side who use the god-awful and creepy phrase "officials say" without naming, quite specifically, who these often lying "officials" are.

The Unseen Gulf War- what happens when photojournalists don't "cosy up to the military." Grisly, terrible images of the aftermath of the U.S. ground war in Iraq, by photographer Peter Turnley. I think you owe it to yourself to check these out, but the pictures are mainly of charred corpses.

The dangers of plumbing public view on Iraq war- article that claims that Americans have very complex and conflicting views about the proposed war on Iraq. But strangely, they tell this tale primarily from the point of few of hand-wringing journalists who apparently have a hard time talking about individuals' beliefs without an official opinion poll handy. The subject of the story, the complicated desires and fears, is treated as a frustrating and terrifying aberration, which reporters hope will go away once the war begins in earnest. In the author's defense, I notice that he is the paper's media columnist, and perhaps this was the only way he could "officially" write about this subject.

Sensitive? Step Aside- Most news outlets seem unable to cover the topic of science with an ounce of intelligence or accuracy. Any "new study" that is "provocative," confirms commonly-held beliefs, or contradicts commonly-held beliefs gets coverage, even if that study was designed and performed by Professor Idjit from the University of Can't Do a Damn Thing Right. The above article is about a new study which "proves" that "women who are on birth control pills are more attracted to sexy, macho men, while women who aren't on the pill prefer sensitive, caring guys."

The first five paragraphs of the nine paragraph article state the study's "conclusions" in fairly objective terms (except for the word "suggests" that appears once). By this point, many readers will have stopped reading the article and moved on to another. But the final four paragraphs point out significant flaws with the study, flaws big enough to make its "conclusions" meaningless. So the story is that there isn't really a story. That sort of thing drives me nuts!

Posted by Jake at 06:46 PM | Comments (3)

January 20, 2003

No Time for Complex Media Analysis, Dr. Jones

War Stories- longish rumination about journalism in time of war and coverage of conflict. Most interesting are the discussions about whether or not the American audience wants "real reporting" or "rah-rah reporting." Examines journalistic freedom, access to battlefields, and a reporter's own national pride affecting their coverage.

Advertisers, the Middle-Aged Dis Youth with Slang- a few months back, CNN Headline News announced that it was going to start incorporating hip new slang into its newscasts, to the jeers of journalists everywhere. They now appear to have changed their mind about that. The article then goes on to argue that attempts by adults to fake respect and understanding of young folks is insulting, and that if programmers and advertisers wanted to win the respect of youth that they should take them seriously and listen to what they have to say. What the author doesn't seem to realize is the inherent disrespect in advertising. As an advertiser, you're trying to trick people into buying your products. You simply can't have respect for someone you're trying to dupe, especially if you successfully do so.

The More Pernicious Bias is Less Substance, More Fluff- an LA Times reporter assures us that the media is biased, but not politically so (they're just biased in favor of conflict and sensationlist material). I'm sold.

DMCA: Ma Bell Would Be Proud- to really understand media industries in the U.S., you need to study all of telecommunications, not just television and newspapers. One of the most boring aspects of learning about telecom history is about Bell Telephone, the company that literally held a monopoly on all American telephone services for most of the 1900s. The article above is the most painless summary of Ma Bell I've seen. But the majority of the article is about a bizarre usage of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to prevent consumers from buying generic ink cartridges for their computer printers.

Pharmaceuticals vs. Human Health- a new article in the British Medical Journal argues that recent studies which show a high amount of sexual dysfunction in women were funded by drug companies which manufacture medications to treat sexual dysfunction in women. The article goes so far as to claim that these drug companies might be fabricating medical conditions that don't really exist in attempt to sell more drugs. And now, in the top article link, PR company HCC De Facto is seeking to generate media that will counter BMJ's claims by contacting women's health groups in Canada and Australia. "Clumsy efforts like this are based on what PR practitioners refer to as the 'third party principle.' It is all about seeking to invisibly orchestrate patient groups and community groups---who are seen as many times more credible than sponsoring companies---to parrot the claims of the PR companies' clients."

Posted by Jake at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2003

I Surrender

'Kangaroo Jack' Tops Box Office in Debut

Posted by Jake at 07:05 PM | Comments (7)

January 18, 2003

Welcome Hilary Duff Fans!

For some reason, hundreds of fans of teen actress/singer Hilary Duff keep visiting the site because of one post I made months ago about how the Disney corporation was using its media power (pardon me, "synergy") to cross-promote her into superstardom.

The comments section of that short post is becoming a mini-debate among Duff's fans. Non-fans, feel free to join in, but be polite. They're my guests.

Enjoy the site young'ns. While you're here, why not check out our selection of anti-war commentary and corporate capitalism critiques? And listen to my radio show, it's entirely possible that you won't hate it.

PS- It's "Hilary" not "Hillary". You're finding my site by using the same misspelling I used in my original post about the lady.

[update: 5/21/03]

You people in the comments section are a bunch of idiots. I didn't mind you coming to my site to talk about Hilary Duff, either to praise her or criticize her. But now you're coming here to pathetically beg for her email address, or have let yourself believe that some anonymous person who claims to be Hilary Duff is actually the real deal. This is the internet, and faking stuff is real easy.

Why would she spend time emailing strangers she'll never meet, when she could be spending time with her friends and family? Why the hell would she come to a site of politics and media analysis (cuz that's where you are)?

Answer: she wouldn't.

So, to protect you from your own foolishness, I'm shutting down the comments on this one, and on the other Hilary Duff post on my site. Go do your Hilary chatting someplace else.


Posted by Jake at 11:19 PM | Comments (344)


From today's anti-war protest in DC

Posted by Jake at 11:08 PM | Comments (4)

January 15, 2003

I Don't Know, But I've Been Told, the Press is Easily Controlled

Very interesting debate on Democracy Now! yesterday.

The U.S. military has fucking OWNED the press corps since the early 1990s. They controlled what reporters saw, where they went, and what made the news for the Gulf War. This tight control led to amazingly positive coverage of every aspect of the Gulf War, and similar controls were instituted for every U.S. conflict through the war on Afghanistan (to the point that when Washington Post reporter Doug Struck tried to investigate the results of a U.S. missile attack in Afghanistan, U.S. soldiers prevented him from doing so at gunpoint, threatening to shoot him). The goal of course is to prevent any negative news from reaching the American public, as it could lead to popular opposition to a particular military campaign and make its continuation politically difficult for the folks waging it.

But now the military seems to be changing tactics. They are now talking about bringing U.S. reporters along with the troops for the pending war in Iraq. And to that end:

"Over the last few months the Pentagon has held a series of journalist-training programs at military bases. One hundred twenty journalists trained last November at the Quantico Marine Corps Base and the Norfolk Naval Station; another wave of reporters trained last month at Fort Benning, and another session is scheduled this month at Fort Dix in New Jersey."

Tuesday's Democracy Now held a roundtable discussion on this issue, made up of three journalists and a Pentagon spokesman. Go listen, it's the second item on the page, in Real Audio format.

There's a few different interpretations of this change in Pentagon policy:

- the Pentagon has done an about face, and feels that hard-hitting and honest coverage of the war will not harm the war effort, or might even aid it.

- the Pentagon is lying about letting the reporters coming to the war and this reporter boot camp is just a distraction.

- the Pentagon is hoping to make the reporters identify with the soldiers' point of view, so that they will naturally write stories favorable to the military.

I dismiss option #1 out of hand.

The more experienced war correspondents on the DN show "guaranteed" that the reporters would never ever get close to battle, so it sounds like they suport option #2.

But I wouldn't count out option #3. It's much riskier than #2, but if it worked properly, it would pay off big: this would be a long-term investment that could permanently affect the journalists' point of view, the experience making them forever sympathetic to the trials and tribulations faced by soldiers in wartime. And this sympathy could easily shape every story that reporter writes for the rest of their career. The Pentagon no longer needs to spend time and energy spinning that reporter, that reporter is now a friendly face in the media.

I recommend listening to the clip above, it's maybe 20-30 minutes long. At the very least, listen to the exchange between the cynical reporter and the Pentagon guy about "respect for journalists." Pentagon guy gets reamed, and rightly so.

Posted by Jake at 11:05 PM | Comments (3)

January 14, 2003

Staving Off Singularity?

The bad news:

Music, technology groups agree on copyright plans- Hollywood and Silicon Valley have been at war for the past year. The entertainment industry was fearful that computers and the internet will lead to piracy and profit-loss. The entertainment industry has therefore been lobbying the Government mandate the technology industry incorporate some kind of copyright-protection hardware into their systems. But now it looks like the two have made nice, and are going to work together, with their monopolistic control of popular culture and information technology. Don't sound good to me.

The good:

FCC's Powell Concerned by Media Concentration
Senate Questions FCC Media Ownership Review
FCC Chair To Attend Another Public Forum

FCC chairman Michael Powell has been pushing to eliminate laws which prevent companies or individuals from owning the local newspaper and the local radio station and the local TV station and the local cable company and etc. simultaneously. And it looked like he was going to succeed. But as the above links show, Powell seems to be facing opposition.

In his testimony before Congress, Powell says that he's concerned about media concentration, "particularly radio." He received a number of critical questions from members of Congress. And he has finally condescended to attend a public forum on the topic with pro-keep-the-ownership-rules FCC commissioner Michael Copps (Jan. 16 at Columbia University's Law School in NYC, if you're interested).

So there's two possiblities here.

1) Powell is facing enough opposition to his deregulation plans that he is having to soften his stance.

2) Powell is seeking to lull his opposition into a false sense of security by using rhetoric that makes it sound as though he is softening his stance when he has not wavered.

My theory: something in the middle.

Posted by Jake at 06:36 PM | Comments (0)

Musical Chairs

AOL-TW Chairman of the board Steve Case (and former CEO of AOL)resigned this weekend (only 6 months after former AOL-TW CEO Gerald Levin quit).

Then, 24 hours after Case's resignation, the chairman and CEO of CNN News (a subsidiary of AOL-TW) Walter Isaacson also resigned.

Last Thursday, Thomas Mottola, Chairman and CEO of Sony Music (the guy Michael Jackson called "the devil") resigned to start his own record label.

Andrew Lack (interesting name), president of NBC is leaving to take over as the new head of Sony Music.

And finally, from the Wall Street Journal:

Facing Crisis, Media Giants Scrounge for Fresh Strategies

Posted by Jake at 06:13 PM | Comments (1)

January 08, 2003

Capitalist Media Prognosticating

The business magazine Forbes has printed an issue which focuses on predictions for the world of commerce in 2003. They had one section on "Media, Marketing & Entertainment" which had a few interesting ideas. I don't really know anything about this panel of precogs, but I'm going to comment on what I feel to be their more accurate and inaccurate predictions.

"Advertisers are going to start calling the creative shots on TV."

I think that this is true. In the wake of the dot-com bubble burst, advertisers want more for their money. They have finally awoken to the fact that the commercials they run on TV or banner ads they place on websites might not be increasing their sales. They now only want to spend money on sure things, which has left a lot of the advertising-driven media into a frenzy. In the author's words: "imagine a marketer running a focus group to find out what kind of show their target demographic wants to see--or which storylines interest those potential consumers most--and then handing their notes to the producers and scriptwriters, who program accordingly. Advertisers are already quietly experimenting with co-financing television programming, which buys them ad time, product placement and other subtler efforts at 'brand integration.' It will take us back to the original soap operas, just far more meticulously engineered." I think that's where television is headed.

"It's time to buy [stock in] cable. A growing number of cable operators are finally making good on their plans to deliver new services like video-on-demand."

This seems somewhat true. I have read that some cable companies are working on video-on-demand, but your selection will primarily be long-form ads, sponsored mini-movies, and promotional material for movies and musicians (again, largely due to the changing demands of advertisers). Does anyone reall "demand" this kind of programming? I don't think that this kind of VOD is going to make cable companies much money.

"Despite the industry's efforts to sell music legally online, many music buyers prefer to steal it. Barring some breakthrough in anti-piracy technology, the bloodsucking is sure to continue."

This guy doesn't know what he's talking about. This guy below does:

"The music industry's problems ... run much deeper than [piracy]. Management needs to find the next hot genre, artists are rebelling against the pay structure, and radio consolidation has turned the station programmers into the real hit makers."

Music sales are down because 1) the music that most labels are releasing is terrible, and 2) the country is in a recession. The second music "expert" here also adds in the additional factors of employee-employer conflict and the rise of radio power over label power.

"Movie-rental late fees will disappear altogether ... they will be a thing of the past for those who catch on to disposable DVDs."

I doubt this one. This idea came out and was killed about four years ago. It was called Divx, DVDs that would have some kind of computer chip installed which would prevent you from watching a movie more than once or twice. If this predicted new version of disposable DVD becomes reality, hackers will break the code, I'm sure of it.

So there you go. America's business experts, or whoever they are, and the media world of 2003. Stuff will happen, or maybe it won't.

Posted by Jake at 10:36 PM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2003

Big Ol' Media News Roundup

I guess I couldn't really call this site Lying Media Bastards if I didn't link to this:

Media Whores Online Whore of the Year 2002- I don't like MWO very much. Sometimes they are right on in their criticism of Republicans, sometimes they break good stories of journalistic malfeasance, and they mirror the tactics of their Attack-Conservative counterparts quite well. And their tagline, "the site that set out to bring the media to its knees, but found they were already there," is inspired. But their "conclusion," so to speak, is that the solution to American problems is the election of moderate-to-liberal Democrats, which just baffles me. Like Democrats aren't also in the pockets of corporations that wouldn't bat an eyelash about killing us all, as long as our corpses could be re-animated and issued credit cards.


The link above is your chance to vote for the journalistic "whore" of the year, the reporter or pundit who most went out of their way to ignore the facts to take the side of conservatives. Go ahead and make your mark.

Virtual Journalist!- another little piece I found on the MWO site yesterday. An amusing, easy little web-game in which you pretend that you are a newspaper reporter, dealing with all the economic and political pressures real journalists face. It does a pretty good job of pointing out what I feel are the real obstacles that steer American journalism into the sewer. Ends with a touching (yet not entirely relevant) flash music video.

Networks Petition FCC on Ownership Limits- the FCC is wrapping up its "public comment" time in which citizens can voice their opinions about ownership limits, the laws which prevent media companies from buying up all their competitors to become oligopolies and monopolies. News Corp. (owner of Fox television), NBC, and Viacom (owner of CBS and MTV) all filed their opinions that eliminating all ownership limit rules would not be a bad thing at all. In fact, eliminating the rules would serve the public interest, presumably by reminding us that there are still flavors of potato chips and toothpaste we have not yet tried.

FCC Flooded With Letters Opposing Media Consolidation- many Americans seem to be taking advantage of this opportunity to tell the FCC what they think; the FCC has received 1700 letters of comment. However, this article quotes a "former FCC insider" who has some disheartening opinions on the subject. He claims that "the [FCC] commissioners are likely to take notice of the volume of letters, but not necessarily to what the writers advocate," and that comments made by the broadcast industry itself are likely to be taken more seriously. Which means that even this tiny democratic opening in the policy process is just like every other aspect of it, dominated by corporate interests.

Posted by Jake at 09:55 PM | Comments (0)

January 01, 2003

Proof That There is No God

Kangaroo Jack: The Movie

Posted by Jake at 02:11 PM | Comments (3)

December 30, 2002

Newsy Newsy

Inquiry into weeklies is coming to town- as I mentioned some weeks back, the pretty decent alternative newsweekly, the New Times L.A., was closed recently as part of a business deal between the Village Voice Media and New Times Media companies. Now the deal is under investigation for possibly violating federal and state antitrust laws. The investigators are examining whether or not the deal has decreased the quantity and quality of local news coverage, but I presume that the real reason for the investigation is the second reason listed in the article: increases in prices charged to local advertisers.

Copyright Concerns Lead the Year's Big Fusses and Flaps- "In 2002, the important developments in the computing business had little to do with hardware or software; instead, they revolved around a comparably bug-ridden realm, that of politics -- specifically, copyright politics." The film and music industries used their political clout to try to drive policy about computer and video technology this year, in order to maximize their own profits. And to the detriment of users of computer and video technology. Fuckers.

Unions blast FCC's studies on media-ownership rules- the business-too-friendly FCC has released a number of studies recently which say that it is better for the country if all the mass media is in the hands of a few big corporations. Many of the major media worker unions disagree. Lefty economist Dean Baker is quoted in the article reviewed the studies and was surprised to find that in some of them, the conclusions were the opposite of what the data supported. Nice work, FCC.

Show and Prove: Bill O'Reilly's Hip-Hop Problem- you may remember some months back that the folks at Soundbitten wrote an article taking a hatchet to "newsman" Bill O'Reilly's hatchet job on the rapper Ludacris. The author of that article has now written a new article based upon the first, discussing Bill O'Reilly's relentless and not-really-justified criticism of all hiphop. Well, it actually is an examination of O'Reilly as a producer of cheap, mildly fact-based melodrama, focusing on the ways in which O'Reilly has created this melodrama using famous hiphop icons as the mustache-twisting villains in his morality plays. Fairly long, but defintely good stuff.

Rubbish!- In March of 2002, police officers in Portland went through the garbage of a fellow officer without her permission looking for "evidence" that she was using drugs (an investigation that looks more to me like an attempt to punish and smear the officer in question, because she had won a sexual harassment suit against the department). Among the garbage/evidence was a bloody tampon that the cops sent to the lab for tests. And the Law found this privacy invasion to be perfectly legal.

So why am I giggling?

Because a local newspaper, the Williamette Weekly decided that if there was no such thing as private garbage, that the judges and cops who approved the garbage invasion wouldn't mind if the WW reporters went through their garbage... Which leads to a fun article examining the trash of the local police chief, mayor, and district attorney, hopefully causing them a bit of shame of their own.

Posted by Jake at 07:40 PM | Comments (1)

December 21, 2002

Media Year in Review

My pals over at Eat the State! have compiled a list of the most overhyped and underreported news stories from 2002. It's a very well done, so I won't bother trying to top it with my own. You can read the whole list over on their site, or, if you're the type that doesn't like playing follow the link, I'm copying and pasting their article here (minus the stories that only effect the authors' hometown of Seattle).

2002 Media Follies
by Geov Parrish & Maria Tomchick
ETS! Volume 7, #8

This is the seventh year ETS! has compiled the most overhyped and underreported stories of the year. We started the list in 1996 with the perception that the U.S, public, instead of getting the information it needed to make informed decisions in a democracy, was being distracted with an endless barrage of feel-good trivia.

Ah, the good old days. Now, that same trivia is mixed in with active disinformation being cynically fed by politicians from the White House down, self-interested corporations, and media that could know better if it only dared rock a boat now and then. As a result, two-thirds of Americans in a recent poll were reported to believe that Iraq was responsible for 9/11. That's a combination of a cynical and extraordinarily effective propaganda campaign, and corporate reporters not doing their job -- or at least, not the job they're supposed to be doing. Instead, network news gives us 45 second standups in front of the State Department followed by ten minutes promoting some new movie or TV series put out by the same corporate octopus. Then you'll see the same entertainment footage on local news, right after the car wreck and the sports, and before Super-Double-Doppler (TM) 14-day weather.

In such a climate, it's more important than ever to seek out -- and create! -- alternative media; to take in more than one source; to decide for yourself; and to not believe everything you read. We've already been told this administration will lie to us; at least give them points for honesty on that score. Pity that's the only time corporate media didn't believe them.

The Most Overrated Stories of the Year

Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction: Nobody -- except the Bush Administration and Tony Blair -- believes they exist. Seldom have so many words been wasted on weapons that, if they did exist, would be few in number, poorly made, and impossible to deliver more than a couple hundred miles. Instead, Bush's obsession becomes our obsession. Worse, constant repetition of "Iraq = Saddam = Terrorist" has successfully shifted post 9/11 focus -- and blame -- away from the very real threat posed by Islamic terrorists, most of whom seem to come from countries we consider allies.

Axis of Evil: News Flash!! Iraq, Iran, and North Korea are three different countries. Iraq and Iran's governments loathe each other, and neither has any connection with North Korea. They are radically different in politics, history, religion, and culture, linked only by the rhetorical flourishes of George Bush's marketers -- er, speechwriters. Apparently that's enough.

The Economic Recovery: It's coming, remember? And coming, and coming, it's just around the corner. Who'd have guessed this funhouse had so damned many corners?

John Walker Lindh: Amazing how a dirty filthy traitor can become a confused kid with a heart of gold when Dad can afford good lawyers.

Catholic Sex Scandals: Yes, they were horrific crimes. But media coverage routinely failed to distinguish between the recent priestly crimes and coverups and the ones that happened two or three decades ago. How come we can care so much about someone who committed sex crimes in the '70s, but a documented war criminal in the '70s or '80s can completely avoid criticism for engineering mass murder, even when nominated to a high-profile national position? That would be Mr. Kissinger. Come to think of it, it could also be a dozen other people in the Bush Administration.

Code Yellow: Or amber, or chartreuse, or whatever other attempt to transform routine risk into public fear is being trotted out this week. As warnings, they're pointless; nobody pays attention. But as attempts to make the White House look good and prop up its other policies, it works like a charm.

9/11 Conspiracies: Internet is media, and this is a media phenomenon -- an embarrassing one in which Someone, usually Bush or the CIA or Israel. either Knew And Did Nothing or Planned It All Themselves. It's an alternate universe in which circumstance is proof, every connection has meaning, every action is intentional and perfectly executed, and the thousands of people in on it are either too craven or scared to Tell What They Know. It's an impulse for order. Life isn't random: it must have some higher cause. This is religion, not news. And it's horseshit.

The Smallpox Threat: The chances of a terrorist group getting its hands on smallpox and being able to effectively store, transport, and disperse it in a biological attack are vanishingly small. Even the suicidal smallpox terrorist who coughs on folks at the shopping mall would infect maybe one or two people before he died (and their chances of surviving are pretty good). We have better drugs and better sanitation nowadays. But media loves a scare tactic and they've seized on this one.

Dirty Bombs: As if smallpox wasn't a big enough scare, the Bush administration and US media want you to forget about arsenic in your water and nuclear waste being trucked through your town on its way to Yucca Mountain. Instead, we're supposed to worry about dirty bombs that don't exist.

Kidnapped Children: So often the story started with "little Suzy disappeared yesterday..." and ends with "Suzy was found early this morning. She had wandered away from her backyard to visit the neighbors..." It was pointless, horrible, and pandered to parents' worst fears. And the "epidemic" of high-profile cases masked that abduction rates were normal this year, and most involve custody disputes, not strangers.

Royal Butler Bitchiness: Who cares what they stole, saw, heard, said, did, or whatever: the royals are rich weirdos, and their butlers are ass-kissing jerks. So what?

My Big Fat Greek Wedding--The Highlight of My Pathetic Life: If only women were encouraged to spend as much time on their intellectual lives as they spend on catching "Mr. Right," we'd probably have a cure for AIDS by now. Screw Maid in America. Repeat after me: "Hey, hey, ho, ho, the Cinderella myth has got to go!"

The Most Important Underreported Stories of 2002

White House Propaganda: Particularly while justifying its Iraq obsession, the Bush Administration told one whopper after another this year -- exaggerations or outright lies not even consistent with each other, let alone reality. The individual statements are rarely challenged, and the Bush Administration's overall pro-war propaganda campaign -- one of the most effective in a half-century -- is itself rarely acknowledged by media that instead willingly participate.

America's Weapons of Mass Destruction: While Iraq's weapons got the attention, it's America's that still could wipe out life on earth. Yet abolition of the ABM treaty and the world's arms control structure got very little attention, the obscene cost and (after abolition of ABM) global first-strike potential of Star Wars remained invisible, and the potential for terrorist attacks against our own vulnerable facilities was simply verboten.

Say, Who Sent Those Anthrax Spores, Anyway?

Majority of Americans Are Not Fooled: Surveys have showed, time and again, that U.S. citizens think that war with Iraq will increase our chances of being attacked by terrorists, yet the U.S. media continues to call it The War on Terrorism. Go figure. And the "broad public support" consistently reported in polls is only under the conditions of international support for war and few American casualties -- both highly unlikely.

Revitalized U.S. and World Peace Movement: Half a million people marched in Florence, Italy. Hundreds of thousands participated in various marches and rallies in U.S. But where was the U.S. media? Missing the key story: a peace movement organized to prevent a war. That's not just news, it's historic.

Afghanistan: And if we're to instigate "regime change" and democracy in Iraq, how about looking at the country where we promised exactly the same thing only a year ago? Afghan democracy American-style has been a disaster, with a puppet regime in Kabul and new U.N. offices sucking up the foreign aide, while the rest of Afghanistan remains impoverished and terrorized by many of the same warlords, committing many of the same crimes, that turned the wretched country into the killing fields during the Northern Alliance's first reign of terror. And those warlords are being funded with U.S. dollars via the Pentagon, who's been paying them to hunt the Taliban. Oh, and it was a record harvest for poppies this year...

Palestine: Meanwhile, the one country in the Middle East with confirmed nukes, a track record of defying international law and UN resolutions, and a consistent refusal to allow outside inspection remains our closest ally and biggest aid recipient. Moreover, Israel has committed systematic, horrific abuses against civilians within its militarily-occupied lands all year. Excepting a brief flurry during the Easter Offensive, it's mostly been media background noise, second fiddle to suicide bombings. And this, remember, is the one issue above all others motivating the people who did and would attack America.

Colombia: Then there's our other war -- well, the biggest of them, since the U.S. military is now in 60 countries. Colombia's new far-right government and its paramilitary thug friends are getting not just Pentagon help, but a whole crew of private armies, mercenaries, arms dealers, and other American corporations making good money from dead Colombian peasants. That Saddam sure is a menace.

Indonesia: While rigged tribunals pardoned Indonesian officers for their role in the East Timor election massacres, the Bush administration quietly sought to reestablish ties and provide training, money, and weapons to the worst and bloodiest military in the world. The Indonesian military is responsible for massacres in Irian Jaya and Aceh provinces, plus the arming and training of Islamic fundamentalists that have been responsible for massive sectarian killings. In short, they're perfect candidates for a White House dinner.

Military Corporate Welfare: It all adds up to the post-9/11 conversion, without media attention or public debate, of the United States into a country built on permanent war. It's most evident in the budget, which gives blank checks to the Pentagon and to a dozen other agencies -- and that's just the overt ones -- with war as part of their mission. Most of the money is going into hardware, not personnel, meaning juicy new contracts for triply redundant hi-tech kill toys. Along with tax cuts, it means all war, all the time, and tremendous fortunes for the people least likely to get caught in the crossfire.

The Rest of the Corporate Scandals ... and What Happened to Corporate Reform?: Enron was a star. WorldCom got some ink (although not much discussion of why its debt tripled from $3 billion to $9 billion), and Harken and Halliburton even put in (too) brief appearances. But the long, long list of other corporate scandals this year almost never made past the business section. And the systemic reasons why such "scandals" are the norm, or slight variations on the norm, were almost never discussed. Neither, after 20 years of deregulation and privatizing, was the complicity of most major figures in both political parties, or the total cost to consumers and taxpayers. Reform? With one SEC Chairman down and one head of the new Accounting Oversight Board resigning before his term even began, you can bet "reform" is a lost cause.

White House Power Grab: Occasional flurries, like Dick Cheney's noisy refusal to release information on who wrote his energy policy, made the news. But on endless fronts, this White House and its Congressional allies have reserved for themselves an unthinkable array of powers -- everything from keeping details of legislation secret until the last moment to imprisoning Americans without charges or counsel on nothing more than the President's say. A full list of the ways in which our unelected president is becoming emperor would be useful. We're still waiting.

Incumbents Forever: Why aren't Democrats rocking the boat? Because they've got their own yachts. At every level from Congress to dogcatcher, 2002 saw a record low in the number of close elections. For Congress, fewer than 10% of the races were ever in doubt, and only one -- sort of -- in Washington state. Why? Money, of course, but factor in toothless campaign finance reform and 2000 Census redistricting, which, in state after state, saw the two parties agree on plans that maximized the number of incumbents with permanent sinecures.

Bush's Foxes, Our Henhouses: Turns out our emperor put a stop to the revolving door between corporate America and the White House -- by appointing people who never stopped working for the industries they came from. Particularly at the Undersecretary level, almost every conceivable segment of America's corporate economy now has a friend on the inside looking for ways to maximize its profits. Food safety, media ownership, land use, bankruptcy law, tort reform, pollution, tax law, anti-trust protection, and on, and on. Any one of these is a scandal. Three are a trend. Several dozen and you've got a looting spree of historic proportions.

Bush Flunks the Economy Test: His tax cut was supposed to bear fruit by stimulating the economy this year. It didn't, and next year's cut won't, either. He's a "supply-sider"--and the Reagan administration should have proved long ago that supply-side economics is a joke.

High Consumer Debt Drags Down the Economy: All those years of taking out second mortgages, home improvement loans, and racking up credit card debt are starting to tell on the US public and the economy. Bankruptcies are up, way up. Consumer spending, the engine that really drives the economy, is way, way down. A tax cut for a few rich guys isn't gonna help.

Environmental Catastrophe: The Bush Administration's abolition-by-decree of numerous major protections could have been the story of the year, and served as the basis for other important stories: global warming (and the increasing isolation of America as Atmospheric Enemy No. 1), the Spanish oil tanker disaster, the impending final plunder of remaining Northwest old growth forests, the Klamath River fish kill, massive (and needless) forest fires, and the potentially enormous disaster if the Gulf War's Kuwaiti oil fires are replicated in Iraq.

The Rest of The World Goes Ahead with Kyoto: The Europeans are trading carbon credits, the Japanese are cutting emissions, and Canada has ratified the Kyoto Protocol. In January, when Russia ratifies it, it'll go into effect as international law--for everyone except us. Oink.

Privatizing Water: The natural resource in greatest demand this century won't be oil -- it'll be potable water, already in desperately short supply in much of the world. And throughout it, access is being privatized. Anyone who thinks Bechtel will make that water affordable just because millions of people need it to survive hasn't been paying attention to the pharmaceutical industry, AIDS, and Africa. But how could they? That's underreported, too -- as is the health care crisis in this country, which makes this list for the 7th consecutive year.

The Collapse of the Neoliberal Consensus: While most governments still salute the IMF flag -- caught between the debt squeeze and loyalty to their own countries' elites -- all over the world, the public isn't buying it. In South America's two biggest countries, Brazil and Argentina, popular outrage threw such governments out. In Venezuela, a coup attempt backed by the business elite and the U.S. (another underreported story) was undone by popular demonstrations. Salvadorans just defied free trade (see article, this issue). Mexico's much-vaunted maquiladoras are shutting their doors, as companies flee for China and other still cheaper labor markets. The rich get richer, the poor get more desperate, and around the world, the free market model now presented as inevitable in this country is anything but. And lots of people hate our genetically engineered food, too.

Fast track: Meanwhile, back in DC, far-reaching legislation giving the president virtually total authority to commit the US to neoliberal trade agreements was whisked through Congress -- in the dead of night, with no congressional, let alone public, debate.

The Smallpox Vaccine Scandal: It's a tale of contractors sucking up taxpayer money to make an unnecessary product that will do more harm than good. The vaccine program was stopped 30 years ago for a reason: more people were killed and permanently injured by the shots than would ever get the disease. Nothing has changed, except the Bush PR/Terrorism campaign. And with a large population of HIV-positive people and immuno-suppressed people with organ transplants, it's sheer murder to set a live vaccine loose. Meanwhile, flu vaccine shortages are an annual ritual, while 20,000 people per year die of it.

The Whole World Doesn't Hate Us: Sure, much of the world does (for good reason), but a substantial number simply think our government is run by certifiable lunatics. That perspective almost never shows up in US media.

Shredded Safety Nets: Beyond all the false cheerleading and Greenspan-worship, the one piece of the rotten economy that did, in fact, make news -- beyond tanking 401(k)s -- was budget crises. But these were inevitably painted as local stories. Washington is only one of 46 states -- almost all of them -- with severe budget shortfalls this year. The feds send less money to the states, the states send less to the counties and cities, and at every level revenues suffer as politicians (or Eyman figures) rail against taxes. The first thing to get cut, at every level, is the safety net. And thanks to the aforementioned global warming, the winters will get colder on the street, too.

[Eat the State rocks and you should read it every bi-week- Jake.]

Posted by Jake at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

December 18, 2002

Media News Gumbo

FCC May Ease Cap on Cable Ownership- at present, US law prevents any company or individual from owning cable outlets that would give them access to more than 30% of the population. Now, the FCC is talking about raising that cap to 45%. This is ridiculous.

Back in 1996, the FCC eased restrictions on cable station ownership, and there was a buying/consolidation frenzy. As a result, American cable subscribers pay about 36% more in 2002 than they did in 1996 (granted, about 15% of that could be explained by general inflation). How much are rates going to increase this time?

MTV's Playlist to Focus More on Popular Acts- the first question should be "is that even possible?" MTV will achieve this goal by decreasing the number of different videos it shows during the seven and a half minutes per day that it devotes to music videos (the remaining 99.8% will still broadcast "reality" programs and commercials). So the homogenous MTV will further decrease its diversity, lovely.

Actually, a lot of amusing things are going on in that article. 1) "When our audience asks for something, we have to deliver it to them," says an MTV exec (after claiming that these changes are being made because of audience research). Wrong. MTV has a monopoly on music videos on television. Its only real rivals are MTV2 (owned by MTV's parent company, Viacom), the rap and R&B video shows on BET (owned by Viacom), the country music videos on CMT (owned by Viacom), and the Canadian station MuchMusic (which very few households in America receive). Since they have a monopoly, they can do whatever they damn well please. 2) It speaks quite plainly about the business of music and pushing/promoting artists on the public. You don't hear too much about that in the press.

Patent Creates IM Wrinkle- In 1997, America Online applied for a patent for its "instant messenger" technology. In September 2002, their patent was granted. Then, in December 2002, someone decided it was an issue worth writing about. Theoretically, this means that AOL could sue/destroy all of the other instant messenger networks out there, namely MSN and Yahoo. But the patent itself is goofy, because it is so broad: "a system where you have a network; you have a way to monitor who's on the network; and if you want to talk to them you hook them up," according to a tech patent geek.

As a side note, I'd like to mention that for my IM needs, I use a free program called Trillian, which you can use to simultaneously use accounts with AOL, MSN, Yahoo, and IRC. And it doesn't have the irritating advertisments that AOL's program does.

Journalists are Under Fire for Telling the Truth- Robert Fisk describes how Western are generally a bunch of cowards, and that those who do speak the unpopular truth about the Middle East are slandered and attacked.

Pensylvania Town Revokes Civil Rights for Corporations- hot damn! A small town votes that people and citizens are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that corporations are not. Somewhere, a CEO is reading this and quietly wetting his pants.

The NYPD Wants to Watch You- "Nation's Largest Law Enforcement Agency Vies for Total Spying Power". Fucking cops.

Posted by Jake at 11:32 PM | Comments (0)

December 17, 2002

Stop Trusting Anything

Reasons why you, the person reading this, should not trust anything that the media tells you for the rest of your life.

Hezbollah Media Debacle- about two weeks ago, a reporter named Paul Martin wrote a story for right-wing semi-loony newspaper The Washington Times in which he claimed that a Hezbollah leader named Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said the following in a televised speech in Lebanon: "Martyrdom operations — suicide bombings — should be exported outside Palestine. I encourage Palestinians to take suicide bombings worldwide. Don't be shy about it."

The following day, Canda's National Post and Globe and Mail used Martin's article as a source for their own page one stories on the topic. And about a week later, the Canadian government added Hezbollah to their list of "banned terrorist organizations" (they have an unbanned terrorist organization list?).

As it turns out, Nasrallah never made the statements that Martin claimed he did. Hezbollah has not called for worldwide suicide bombing rampage. Some dumbass reporter just claimed that they had. And apparently Martin has lied in his reporting before, even writing under pseudonyms so that he can't be caught for his bullshit.

Leaked Scare Stories- a looked at leaked disinformation reported as fact, erroneous reporting, and charged terminology that help build public opinion for war.

I've got one more, but it's so ridiculous it's getting its own entry. In fact, you probably already read it, due to the wierd time-sensitive layout of these blog things.

Posted by Jake at 09:09 PM | Comments (1)

LMB Endorsed by Cool Old Patriots

From reader Jim Downey:

"Whether I have too little sense to see, or too much to be imposed upon; whether I have too much or too little pride, or of anything else, I leave out of the question; but certain it is, that what is called monarchy, always appears to me a silly, contemptible thing. I compare it to something kept behind a curtain, about which there is a great deal of bustle and fuss, and a wonderful air of seeming solemnity; but when, by any accident, the curtain happens to be open- and the company see what it is, they burst into laughter."

From Thomas Paine's "Rights of Man" part 2

..then they kick its ass.

Posted by Jake at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2002

Sloppy Headlines

Newspaper reporters are taught that news stories should follow an "inverted pyramid" structure: the most important aspect of the article should appear first, and then facts should be reported in order of declining importance. This is done because many people will read the headlines, fewer will read the beginning of the article, and even fewer will read the story all the way to the end. Therefore a sloppily written headline and opening can mislead many, even if the rest of the article is technically correct.

The latest article of this type: Report Cites Al Qaeda Deal For Iraqi Gas: U.S. Suspects Nerve Agent VX Was Smuggled Through Turkey

To the casual reader, this headline and subheading will probably leave three impressions: Iraq and Al Qaeda are working together; Al Qaeda now has chemical weapons; somehow, Turkey is working together with Al Qaeda and Iraq.

But, if we deconstruct the story, we find that it's really a flimsy tale. Perhaps the allegations of Al Qaeda and Iraqi chemical gas are true, but the evidence sure isn't in this story.

When you take a closer look, nearly every piece of "evidence" for this story is based on the statements of two unnamed "officials with firsthand knowledge of the report and its source." These two anonymous sources claim that they received information from another source. They don't disclose this other guy's identity either, but they say that they are confident that the other anonymous guy's information is accurate.

And that guy's "information" is that "Islamic extremists affiliated with al Qaeda took possession of a chemical weapon in Iraq" in October or November. There is not much hard evidence to support this claim. But running with the allegation, some military analysts have speculated that the chemical weapon could be VX nerve gas, and that the weapon could have been smuggled through Turkey, but there is no evidence to support those claims either.

It's not really "news" when two guys tell a reporter something that somebody told them. It's called "rumor."

The headline should have read something like "Anonymous Sources Believe Al Qaeda Affiliate Has Obtained Chemical Weapons". Or more accurately, "Anonymous Sources, Possibly with Their Own Goals and Agendas, Tell Washington Post Reporter That Some Guy That They Say Is Trustworthy Told Them That An Al Qaeda Affiliate Has Obtained Chemical Weapons: Analysts Admit They Have Few Facts, but Make Speculations Anway".

[update] has printed what is almost the counter-article to the one above, "Officials: No hard evidence in nerve agent report". But again, the article is based solely upon the alleged statements of anonymous government officials, so there's not really much more reason to believe this article over the first one. Since I am a skeptic (a person who needs substantial evidence to believe anything), and the second article quotes "officials" who counsel against premature conclusions and speculation, I find it more credible. But, it could just as easily be a government cover-up of an alarming story. We have no way of knowing.

Note to news reporters: until you actually have a news story based on facts and evidence, shut the hell up.


Posted by Jake at 11:21 PM | Comments (0)

People Are Noticing My Tagline

A People Defends its Democracy Against Media Power- another coup attempt is underway in Venezuela, the rich trying to convince the world that the nation's masses are fed up with President Hugo Chavez, when in fact the rich are simply tired of not being the ones in control. The country's media are in on this anti-Chavez conspiracy, and the people of Venezuela have had enough:

"An amazing sight: Thousands of people have surrounded the headquarters of five commercial television stations (RCTV, Globovision, TVS, Meridiano TV, Venevision) and are treating them to one hell of a cazerolazo (pot-banging). They are shouting 'medios golpistas!' (putschist media) and 'terroristas!'. The channels have stopped (probably only briefly) broadcasting anti governmental propaganda and are at last giving some pro governmental demonstrations some coverage.

"The television commentators keep reminding their audience of the grave threat to their lives and their profession ... But these declarations somehow fall flat when you see the images of the demonstrators: many women, old men (banging away impressively for their age), very ordinary looking citizens, many still in their work clothes. No sticks, no guns, no people trying to climb over the fences and walls of the establishments. Just peaceful groups of citizens saying: we've had enough, how about showing a little bit of us now instead of always showing rich folks demonstrating in the east of Caracas and instead of trying by any means possible to make your audiences think that this government is undemocratic, dictatorial, and 'castro-communist.'"

Right ON!

Protesters storm Defender's offices- " A crowd of people angry about the Chicago Defender's coverage of a fatal police shooting over the weekend stormed the paper's South Side offices Tuesday and roughed up at least two newsroom employees ... The paper's publisher, Eugene Scott, said the protesters were angry that a story in Monday's Defender about the police shooting of Donnell Strickland, 24, did not mention that many people at the Hilliard Homes public housing complex contended Strickland was attempting to surrender when he was shot.

"Scott said the Defender, historically the most influential black paper in America, often takes an advocacy position on African-American issues. He said that he was disappointed that the paper's coverage Monday did not include community criticism of the police reported by other media outlets."

While I don't like that these protesters smacked around some random news personnel, I can't argue with much of the rest of it.

Posted by Jake at 05:27 PM | Comments (1)

December 10, 2002

Amazing Breakthroughs in Modern Censorship

Probably the biggest media news story of the day:

Ruling in Australia May Have Big Impact on Web News Sites

Australian plutocrat Joseph Gutnick sued Barron's magazine for defamation this year. Even though the magazine is based out of the U.S., Gutnick insisted on suing the magazine in Australia, since you could read the internet version of the story in Australia via the internet. In addition, freedom of the press laws in Australia are much weaker in Australia than they are in New Jersey, making the lawsuit that much easier to win.

Today, Australia's highest court agreed that Gutnick had the right to sue the Americans in Australia.

This isn't entirely new, we saw a similar case earlier this year regarding journalist Greg Palast and the Barrick Gold mining company (hmm, Gutnick is in the minining industry as well, wonder if there's a connection).

Basically, this court ruling gives further credence to the idea that you can publish an article on your personal webserver in your own hometown, and be subject to the free speech regulations of a different society, thousands of miles away.

Posted by Jake at 06:47 PM | Comments (0)

December 09, 2002

Joy to the World

I was very happy to see this music news headline:

Audioslave Deliver Like Santa Claus, Creed Booed At Radio Show

I was happy to see the positive review given to Audioslave, my friends and quasi-employers, but I was even happier to see the second half of the title.

I was pleased to see that folks seem to finally be fed up with the weak-ass Christ-rock stylings of Creed. The article says that the audience booed the band, and that half of them left before the band had finished their set.

Which leads me to wonder: the fact that audiences are turning on this Christian band--is it proof that there is indeed a God, or is it proof that no such God exists?

Posted by Jake at 09:56 PM | Comments (1)

More on Viggo

A lot of folks seem to have linked to the blog because of my entry about Viggo Mortensen's anti-war dialogue on the Charlie Rose show. I traced one of these referrers back ( Good site name), and found a good link for those of you who are sad that you missed it.

You can download a large video clip of the interview at this link. It's the file It's a zipped .asf file, and if that doesn't make sense to you, maybe the download won't do much for you. The part with Viggo about the war kicks in around the 10 minute mark, and lasts till pretty near the end of the 18 minute file.

(If the owner of that site doesn't want that link there, just let me know and I'll take it down with an apology)

Posted by Jake at 09:50 PM | Comments (5)

December 06, 2002

Trouble in Hell's Throne Room

I hate the PR industry more than just about anything.

Which is why recent turmoil in the field of corporate lying has got me a'chucklin'.

First of all, I find that O'Dwyer's PR Daily--the most prominent site for "breaking public relations news"-- has switched from a free website to a subscription service. That would imply that they are having trouble financially. Hee hee. Actually, I think I am going to end up paying the $20 for a yearly subscription, because I want to keep an eye on these bastards.

Second, we have a crisis over at the PR firm of Qorvis. One of Qorvis' biggest clients was the government of Saudi Arabia. Now, as more and more evidence comes to light suggesting that members of the Saudi elite have been funding Al Qaeda, the former heads of Qorvis are fleeing. That's some good PR, knowing when your clients' reputation is starting to damage your own.

And finally, PR Watch reports that the Qorvis heads are now dodging Congressional subpoenas, presumably about their relationships with the Saudis.

Posted by Jake at 03:32 PM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2002

El Media

Britain accused of providing Saddam torture instruments- One of the biggest PR backfires this year. The UK government's Foreign Office released a report today accusing the Iraqi government of torturing political prisoners, presumably as just one more brick in the "Saddam is so evil that we must bomb his country" wall. But the man the Foreign Office chose to present the report to the press, former Iraqi prisoner Hussain al-Shahristani, hijacked the event. Most embarrassingly for the British government, al-Shahristani claimed that during his own detention, he was held with British-made handcuffs, and that when the torturers used drills to put agonizing holes in their victims' bones, that the drills were also made in Britain. Then, when it was Q&A time, the press corps asked if the British government was so concerned about human rights violations in Iraq, then why had it been silent during Saddam's chemical warfare attacks during the 80s.

Bush: Iraq Inspections 'Not Encouraging'- "The lack of a confrontation thus far between Iraq and inspectors has the White House worried that the Iraqi president might be winning the early public relations battle by creating an impression that he is complying. Aides said those fears prompted the president and Vice President Dick Cheney to deliver separate speeches Monday casting doubt on Saddam's intentions."

Cable Charges Ahead with Higher Rates- the Comcast corporation is raising the rates it charges its customers for cable television. Significantly. And other cable companies are following suit. Since the wondrous Telecom Act of 1996, cable prices have risen 45%.

Critics fear Comcast's new muscle could hurt competitive Internet offerings- the Comcast corporation has just purchased AT&T Broadband, a cable and high-speed internet company. The merged company is now the nation's largest cable service, twice as big as its nearest competitor, the also enormous AOL-Time Warner. As broadband internet becomes more and more popular, Comcast may have a lot of leverage in shaping the future of the medium.

FDA Finds Day-After Contraceptive Ads Inaccurate- "Plan B" is the name of a pill that a woman can take after sex that can prevent them from becoming pregnant. The pill can be taken up to 3 days after the sex and still be effective. Plan B is marketed as such, saying in their ads that a woman can "has 72 hours after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy with Plan B emergency contraception." But after review, the FDA finds those sorts of claims are misleading. The pill can be effective 72 hours after, but its effectiveness decreases the longer you wait. In other words, the ad should probably say something like "if you take this after unprotected sex, Plan B can prevent pregnancy. Best if you take it right after, but if you take it as late as 72 hours later, it still might work."

The DiIulio Letter- John DiIulio was an assistant to President George W. Bush, and was appointed to run the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. He quit the job in August of 2001. In October of 2002, DiIulio wrote a scathing letter about the Bush administration to Esquire magazine, focusing on the regime's politics-over-policy style (especially Karl Rove). This letter, which was explicitly on-the-record, became the basis of an article being published in the January 2003 edition of Esquire. News of the story hit the NY Times on Sunday morning. By Monday morning, Ari Fleischer was denying the story wholesale, and that same day DiIulio issued an official "apology," whatever that means. Sounds like someone pressured the man hard.


More on the DiIulio apology. He actually issued two statements yesterday. The first argues that the finished Esquire article contains two specific quotes that he did not say, and that the article was unfair to Rove. He apologized for "any and all misimpressions." But later that day, he issued a second statement through a spokesperson for the University of Pennsylvania, where he works. Shortly after Ari Fleischer called DiIulio's criticisms of the White House "baseless and groundless," the UPenn spokesperson stated that "John DiIulio agrees that his criticisms were groundless and baseless due to poorly chosen words and examples. He sincerely apologizes and is deeply remorseful."

Bush anything but moronic, according to author- Mark Crispin Miller has made himself a small cottage industry out of documenting the language-manglings of George W. Bush. But now he's taking a new stance, claiming that patterns in Bush's proper and tortured syntax: "Bush is not an imbecile. He's not a puppet. I think that Bush is a sociopathic personality. I think he's incapable of empathy. He has an inordinate sense of his own entitlement, and he's a very skilled manipulator. And in all the snickering about his alleged idiocy, this is what a lot of people miss." Miller makes these claims by arguing that Bush makes his verbal gaffes whenever he talks about "compassion, or idealism, or altruism." But Miller finds no such mistakes whenever Bush talks about violence or revenge. I think it's a stretch, but you can read it for yourself.

Posted by Jake at 12:06 AM | Comments (1)

December 01, 2002

Power to the People

"The People Who Do That" is a sketch comedy troop (troup? troupe?) here in Los Angeles that has a weekly show on Kill Radio. They are now releasing a CD based on their excellent stage show "National Corporate Radio", a beyond-scathing take on the pompous NPR network, the White House's war on terrorism, and on modern journalism in general.

You can listen to some choice samples here:

Dick Cheney receives the "Architect of Peace" award

George W. Bush speaks plainly at press conference

NCR report about the formation of the mega-conglomerate Scamron Inc.

You can buy a copy of the album at the bottom of this page. Support subversive comedy!

Posted by Jake at 01:59 PM | Comments (0)

November 26, 2002

All Consuming

I was visiting movie news/rumors site Dark Horizons today, and it really hit me how low movie studios will go. It boggles the mind. They will make movies based on anything. They do not discriminate, taking all forms of media and cramming it into the movie hole. Here's a list just from today's DH news:

Posted by Jake at 08:52 AM | Comments (1)

November 21, 2002

Feel My Fury!

Shiva H. Vishnu, there's a lot of media news today! So much in fact that I probably shouldn't post them all in one entry. But I will anyway!! Muhuhuhahahaha!!

Tainted Research? Tainted Journalists- while financial journalists scream about the corruption in the world of accountants and stock advisors, they carefully turn a blind eye to their own faults and corruption.

The Untold Story- article about how the increasing interrelationships, consolidation and conflicts of interests in the media world are quickly eliminating all reliable coverage of the media industry. Ironically, this article appeared in the LA Weekly, which is currently under investigation itself for anti-trust violations.

WLS Radio hanging up on callers who 'sound old'- WLS-AM is a Disney-owned talk radio station in Chicago. A confidential memo written by the station's operations director last week announced that since their target demographic was people aged 25 to 54, that the call-screeners at the station should hang up on anyone who "sounded older" than 54. The director apparently doesn't care how old the callers actually are, just so long as they don't "sound old."

Columnist says his political job is no conflict of interest- Bob Sanders is a columnist for the Merced Sun-Star newspaper. He is also the campaign manager for Rusty Areias, who is running for the California state Senate. But Sanders insists there's no conflict of interest there. Of course there isn't.

A pinhead editorial writer's adventure in the No Spin Zone- newspaper editor tells of his experience as an assaulted guest on Bill O'Reilly's syndicated radio show. When the editor criticized O'Reilly during the phone interview, O'Reilly hung up and then ranted about how the fellow was wrong.

Pentagon to Track American Consumer Purchases- U.S. government, having met such success with "racial profiling" moves on to "consumption profiling." Better hope that the type of toilet paper you buy doesn't fit into the "terrorist shopping profile."

Protecting U.S. Could Boost Tech Industries- Hmm, the Bush administration pushes hard for a homeland security bill that will pour billions of dollars into the tech industry. And during the 2000 presidential campaign, the tech industry poured over $1.2 million into Bush's campaign. Nah, must be a coincidence.

FCC's Copps to Take Media Hearings on the Road- the FCC is considering relaxing (well, even further relaxing) regulations on media ownership in the U.S. FCC head Michael Powell (Colin Powell's son. No, no nepotism there) is very anti-regulation (which is a good reason to put him in charge of a regulatory agency). But one FCC commissioner seems opposed to Powell's stance, and is going to hold hearings about the issue, and hold them far away from Washington. Sounds like he's a defiant chap. I wish him luck.

BMG to Roll Out Royalty Plan- one of the tricks of the trade for record labels to suck money out of their artists is for the labels to sign contracts with artists for a fixed royalty percentage, say 12% of the profits from each album sold, but with hidden costs. They add all sorts ot little "fees" which are deducted from that 12% (see article for details). But now, the Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) is changing their tune. They're not going to stop bleeding the artists dry, but they're going to stop lying about it (well, they say they're going to stop lying about it). They claim that in the example above, they'll sign a deal so that an artist gets 9%, but there are no hidden fees. Best quote from the article: "One reason this industry has ended up with such a bad image is because we could not look a guy in the eye and tell him, as a partner, that the contract he was about to sign was fair."

Necessary Bedfellows- an interesting and lengthy article about press access during war. Compares the access journalists had during Vietnam to the access they had in Afghanistan, and tries to predict what things will be like during Gulf War II.

The Fox News Presidential Adviser- did I mention this yet? Fox News president and former Republican strategist Roger Ailes gave advice to President Bush about how to handle things in the wake of September 11. "We Report, We Tell the Government What to Do, You Decide."

Media consolidation causes worries for PBS head- Pat Mitchell, the CEO of PBS... did I read that right? Public television has a CEO, just like a corporation? Funny. Anyway, Mitchell recently spoke out about bias and conflicts of interest in the corporate media. Which is very different from public television, because, um... public television sometimes has shows about tree frogs.

Media Bill loosens rules on ownership- deciding to follow another bad U.S. trend, Britain decides to deregulate their media too, largely due to the pressure of billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch.

Charlotte Sends Regrets- Charlotte Beers is a PR exec who has been given the ludicrous job of trying to make Middle Easterners like the U.S. even as the U.S. continues policies that hurt those same people. The only part of this particular article that interests me is a comment down near the bottom by "Angry PR Dude." Of course it's just hearsay, but allegedly hearsay from someone in the PR world who might know. He/she claims that Beers' success as a PR professional came from her personal connections, not her skills at propagandizing. Which means that she's not even qualified for her impossible "public diplomacy" job.

Give Peace a Chance? Not Really- mainly this article examines findings from "a report released by the National Defense University's Institute for National Strategic Studies." The report seems to conclude that the U.S. should should somehow encourage freedom--but not democracy-- in the Middle East, and detaching itself somewhat from Saudi Arabia.

CBS Sells Fake TV News in VNR Venture- ever hear of a "video news release"? Basically, a PR agency will record a video segment that looks just like a real news segment, and then these VNRs are shipped to TV news departments. Sometimes these VNRs are aired on cash-strapped stations with no notice that they are, in fact, business-friendly editorials posing as news. Now, as PR Watch points out, CBS is going into the business of filming VNRs for paying customers. Is it a conflict of interest producing news and fake news at the same time? Probably.

Posted by Jake at 05:09 PM | Comments (0)

The Mee-Dee-Yuh

Comedian, alumnus returns to College for Q&A session- wow, what an incredibly boring article title. Another fun interview with our pal Jon Stewart, as he visits his alma mater.

Smoke Signals- we've heard about this a few times by now, but the U.S. military is controlling the information received by the press in the most secretive and effective of ways. These two paragraphs are probably the key to understanding large swaths of journalism, regarding the "patronage system":

"'The Washington press corps is complicit,' [60 Minutes' Bob] Simon added ruefully. 'The game that's played in Washington—and it's always been played this way—is the trade-off of access for patronage. If you agree to sing their song, you'll be invited for an audience... They go easy on the president and his people, and they keep on getting invited back and getting more access.'"

"Not that the access matters—Simon says much of what the administration gives reporters is spin, masquerading as information. Take it from Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank, whose October 22 story accusing President Bush of 'distortions,' 'exaggerations,' and 'flights of fancy' resulted in a White House campaign to discredit him. Interviewed on NPR, Milbank dismissed the idea that he had been punished. 'I have exactly as much access as I had when I began,' he explained, 'which is to say, not very much access at all. This administration does not release information.'"

Global goofs: U.S. youth can't find Iraq- time for the annual "look how dumb our American kids are" news flurry. Why don't American kids know anything about geography? Because their teachers don't teach it! And when they do, it is not followed up. When I was in high school, my smart kids' history class learned all of the countries in the world. We were given a week to learn each continent, were tested, and then we went back to talking solely about Western Europe and the United States.

Commercial Radio Station Ownership Consolidation Shown to Harm Artists and the Public, Says FMC Study- deregulation of the radio industry is not good for musicians or music fans? I am shocked, just shocked. Full report here.

It's the Media, Stupid- "It's the Media, Stupid" is a "pamphlet" by John Nichols and Robert McChesney about the corporate consolidated media system in the United States. It's a short book, but this webpage condenses the 100+ page book into maybe 20 pages of quotes and summaries. Good stuff. Reminds me that I need to write a media manifesto for the LMB site one of these days.

Posted by Jake at 01:16 AM | Comments (1)

November 20, 2002

Rape: The Anti-Drug

Everyone's favorite government-funded fearmongers, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America (remember them? They're the ones who told you that if you bought drugs, you were responsible for 9-11) have begun a new set of TV commericals using a new set of scare tactics. They basically focus on various tragedies that could occur when someone is under the influence of marijuana (e.g. getting high while driving could cause impaired reaction time and lead to deadly car accidents). But one of them is very disturbing for an unintended message that it sends out.

The ad is called "Couple," according to the PDFA's hip teen website "Free Vibe" (sponsored by DKNY and MTV, featuring tons of young celebrities allegedly opposed to drugs). You can watch it here.

"Couple" features two young white teens at a party. A young dark-haired boy is sitting on a couch, and a young blonde girl walks into the shot and collapsing all giggly onto the couch. As she hits the couch, she hands the boy a small marijuana pipe. Quick fade to the next shot, a very similar one of the giddy girl collapsing on the couch and handing back the pipe. After the third couch-fall, she seems pretty out of it, nearly unconscious. The young boy quickly sets down the pipe, moves over to the girl, and starts unbuttoning her shirt. The camera moves to a shot of the smoking pipe on table, and we hear the girl mumble "no" and the boy try to quiet her with a "shhh." Then we see the commericial's final taglines: "Marijuana can impair your judgement", which fades out and is replaced by "Harmless?"

We could slowly dissect this ad all we want, but I think we can see the simple message: "girls, don't smoke pot because then some guy will rape you." And while it's true that any intoxicating substance can make it easier for you to be taken advantage of, this commericial is based on a firm bedrock of "blame the victim." This girl on the commercial is going to be raped, and the PDFA are saying that it's her fault because she got high. Somehow the fact that someone else did the raping doesn't get much emphasis. And that tagline, "can impair your judgement"? Are they saying that while under the influence, the girl showed "poor judgement" and decided to get raped?

The ad very clearly shows either: a) a girl got so high that she was barely conscious, and then some guy raped her, or b) a guy who intentionally got a girl really wasted so that he could rape her. And the ad says pretty clearly that this attack is because of "impaired judgement": hers.

So in the interests of countering harmful propaganda, let me write a new ending for this ad.

[we hear girl mumble "no" and guy try to quiet her with a "shh."]

Girl wakes up next morning, disheveled and confused. Slowly the memories return, and she starts to cry. She then stops, and wipes away the tears angrily. She seizes the phone and starts making some calls.

We see the dark-haired boy outside his home, shooting baskets. He hears footsteps behind him, he turns. Camera pans up from long shadows to blonde girl and several of her friends. They are all angry, and hold steel shovels in their hands. The blonde girl lifts hers and swings. Boy falls. The girls quickly surround his fallen form and beat him with the shovels as he protests and cries.

Tagline: "Girls, smoking marijuana can cloud your mind, hamper your motor control, and make you vulnerable. But if someone tries something, don't let the motherfuckers get away with it."

Tagline fade, replaced with: "Harmless?"

Posted by Jake at 05:35 PM | Comments (7)

November 17, 2002


For about a year now, I've been frequently been playing a CD on my radio show by a fellow named "Baseck." Baseck's style is called "breakcore," sort of a mix of industrial, drum & bass, and experimental noise: distorted, loud, jumpy yet very danceable (so long as you pay attention).

Saw a great show last night that featured Baseck (along with our Kill Radio pals Mash Up Soundsystem) where I learned that I've been pronouncing the guy's name wrong. For a year (in my defense, I was instructed in the mispronunciation by folks more knowledgeable than myself). Although it is a ridiculous phonetic interpretation, I've been erroneously referring to the guy as "base-check," when the correct pronunciation is "basic." Which obviously makes more sense.

My apologies to Baseck/Basic. And my condolences on his having to leave L.A. for Milwaukee.


See Baseck in action!

Posted by Jake at 08:57 PM | Comments (19)

This Could Catch On

A small meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) took place this weekend in Sydney, Australia, and some local activists came up with a way to get the word out about harmful WTO policies: pirate radio.

But not the good old-fashioned "I'm going to broadcast my signal on an unused frequency and hope that someone listens" way, but in the "let's hijack the city's most popular radio frequency to spread our message" way.

Good work, fellas.

Posted by Jake at 08:28 PM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2002

Sexy Headlines Undercut Truth

"Library Sex Site Case Goes to High Court"
"Justices to Hear Internet Porn Case"

Just a few recent headlines about a Supreme Court case regarding the use of internet filtering software on computers in public libraries. The American Library Association doesn't want to use them. The "won't someone please think of the children" crowd want them to.

Basically, the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) passed in April of 2001, says that any library that receives federal funding needs to install filtering software on all of their internet-accessible computers, to protect any children from viewing sites that might be pornographic, or otherwise "inappropriate."

Sadly, it looks like the press is using this, one if its few justified opportunities, to play up the sex/porn angle and make their stories more titillating. In reality, this issue isn't about sex, it's a dull issue of computer coding.

The technology to effectively keep kids from internet porn does not exist. The Federal demand that libraries install filtering software to protect kids from pornography would be like Congress passing a law demanding that all passenger cars give up gasoline and run solely on rainbows and moonbeams.

Basically, all internet filtering software runs on blocking sites which use certain keywords. Picking out which keywords to use is a tricky business. Do you block "sex"? That would get rid of a lot of pornographic sites, but also elminate sites that use the word at all, sites about AIDS info, gay rights, or even the rantings of Jake SEXton. "Fuck"? Lots of sites that have nothing to do with sex use swear words. And on and on it goes. The software that is most effective in blocking porn is the one that goes too far and blocks out a myriad of unrelated sites. On top of that, the filtering software often has wierd little bugs that eliminate sites for reasons no one can comprehend. The LA Times article above notes that some filtering software "screened out a site for aspiring dentists, a second site that promotes federalism in Uganda and a third that sells wooden wall hangings of scenes from the Bible." And while that might be okay for a parent to install on their home computer to protect their own kids, how okay is it to install on a computer used by a community's children and adults at centers for information and research?

Honestly, wouldn't the easiest method to this "problem" (and how many kids are actually going to their local library to look at porn anyway?) to put the computers in an area where the librarians can keep an eye on them? What's more effective, some unpredictablly goofy software, or a rational adult that can glance across the room every few minutes and, if need be, send an offending child scurrying? "Get out of that chair, little Billy! No vaginas for you!"


This just in, Public library's filtering software causes it to ban its own website.

Posted by Jake at 10:31 AM | Comments (0)

November 11, 2002

Archived Interviews

Forgot to mention this.

Kill Radio now has an archives section, and I'm slowly uploading some of my past interviews so you can listen to them at your leisure.

For now, you can listen to my interview with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave about the music industry. And my interview with activist Garrick Ruiz shortly after his 3 month stay in Palestine.

Both are in mp3 format.

Posted by Jake at 11:55 PM | Comments (0)

November 10, 2002

The Most Shocking News Ever!!

There's this pop singer, see. She's also a TV actress. Her name is Hillary Duff. She put out a single, "I Can't Wait," but it did really poorly. It got played on the radio exactly once, in Albuquerque, in September.

But the song is absolutely massive on the Radio Disney network, a series of 52 AM radio stations owned by the Disney corporation. Radio Disney has played the song 850 times in the past 6 weeks.

Have I mentioned that Duff's album was released by a Disney-owned record label?

Or that she is the star of the show "Lizzie McGuire," which airs only on the Disney Channel?


[update: 5/21/03]

I've had about enough of this, Hilary fans. This website is not and has never been about your favorite actress/singer. I hope you've had a nice time, but I'm ending the comments here. Go have your Hilary chats someplace else.


Posted by Jake at 09:50 AM | Comments (147)

November 08, 2002

Slowly, I Conquer

Hmm. The ol' LMB blog got quoted in a newspaper last week.

Michael S. Miller, columnist for the South Florida Business Journal, wrote a piece about those "Deliverance"-themed Saturn commercials:

It's supposed to be funny if you know the context. As the media commentator at says, "Without proper context, that commercial probably doesn't make much sense. And with proper context, the commercial becomes outright disturbing. In other words, the TV commercial's tag line could easily be: The Saturn VUE: protection from rape by psychotic hillbillies."

Those are my words, taken off the LMB weblog, which is technically hosted on (a more objective, newsier project of mine).

Too bad he couldn't properly name the author (me), the site (it's pretty clearly labelled "Lying Media Bastards"), or even quote me properly (it's "anal rape by psychotic hillbillies").

Wierd. Still, nice to be noticed.

Posted by Jake at 04:47 PM | Comments (1)

November 07, 2002

Fuck Diesel

Fledgling Activists or Fashion Models?- the Diesel clothing company has a new ad campaign which uses images of punk and street protest to create a campy yet edgy image for their products. The Diesel website is modeled on a 'zine meets Indymedia style, and advocates action and protest on such weighty issues as "plant more flowers" and "respect your mom." The site seems to endorse protest as a means of carpeing the diem and expressing your campy lovey passion. Yes, I'd love it if I could spend all my free time on fashionable jeans and goofy protest signs about bowling, but I've got more serious things to worry about.

One of the downsides of commercial free speech is its ability to destroy the significance of any and all words, phrases, images and symbols, by equating each and every one of them with sales. When the last word crawls gasping and bloody and clinging to life, a marketing team will sedate it, dissect it into tiny bits, and sell the last word organs at a discount table at a brightly lit department store.

Words have power.

Words are dangerous.

Some people support free speech with the arguments that there's no need to worry about restricting speech because it is essentially harmless, sticks and stones and all that. Bullshit. I know the power words have to create and destroy, and I support free speech anyway. It's the Wild West and everyone's packing linguistic revolvers.

That's fine by me, cuz I'm a goddam Gunslinger.

I think that's an important point, the dangerous necessity of free speech. I'll muse about it again some other day.

In the meantime, someone please do me a favor and hack the Diesel website.

Thank you.

Posted by Jake at 01:35 PM | Comments (12)

November 06, 2002

Entertainers vs. the Media

A couple of really excellent interviews here. I usually put all kinds of links in my articles without really caring if the reader actually clicks on the links and takes in that auxilliary information. But go ahead and do it this time. Hell, most of you are probably reading this at work anyway, and surely these interviews will be more interesting than anything else on your computer screen.

Jon Stewart vs. CNN- I love Jon Stewart. He's the host of the scathing news satire program The Daily Show. Stewart was interviewd on "Reliable Sources," CNN's weekly news program that reports on the news media. Stewart skewered the news media, particularly the 24-hour news networks. His comments about their coverage of the DC sniper was hilarious and dead-on:

"By watching the 24-hour news networks, I learned that the sniper was an olive-skinned, white-black male -- men -- with ties to Son of Sam, al Qaeda, and was a military kid, playing video games, white, 17, maybe 40 ... You know what they should've called the coverage, 'You know what I heard?' and just have people randomly showing up."

But perhaps my favorite part was after host Howard Kurtz conceded that maybe the press had goofed by putting on pundits and analysts who didn't really know what they were talking about, that maybe "cable folks who put these [pundit/analyst] folks in front of the camera have to bear some of the responsibility"*. Stewart refused to let him off the hook:

"Not some, all ... Not some. They bear all of the responsibility. You cannot -- I'm not even sure what the reasoning was behind just putting people on who didn't know anything. I mean, you know what was my favorite part was the hand wringing. People would do this, 'Now, I know that we're not supposed to speculate, you know, obviously, people are nervous and it would be irresponsible to inflame passions by speculating, seriously, though, do you think it's terrorism?' ... Unless you know the guy's name, don't say anything. Unless you have information, rather than speculating -- unless you could say, like, 'Oh, the sniper? Yes, it's John Muhammad, I think.' Unless you know that, shut up, say nothing. "

Right on, Stewart, right on.

Tom Petty vs. Pop Culture- never knew that aging rocker Tom Petty had such a rebel streak in him. This interview is a series of fiery quotes decrying radio, greed in the music industry, greed among musicians, skyrocketing concert ticket prices, shallow song lyrics, advertising, the media's sexualization of young girls, and more. Go Tom go!

* This is a big pet peeve of mine anyway. For weeks the news media will overcover a story and really fuck it up, and after the story's run its course, they'll solemnly ask "did the media go too far this time?" What do you mean "the media"? It's YOU! Not some dude in the next room, you! YOU'RE THE MEDIA! "Did we go too far, did I, my co-anchor and everyone at this news station go too far?" That's the proper question, motherfuckers!

Posted by Jake at 10:54 AM | Comments (1)

October 25, 2002

Lies, Parrots and Brainwashing

Retropoll is a new organization that seeks to "investigate, expose, and challenge bias in corporate medial polling." So far I think they have performed one small national poll about the war on terrorism, which honestly looks more like a questionaire designed to shape public opinion more than to measure it.

But their data analysis does show one interesting result. The respondents who supported a war on Iraq were frequently the same ones who thought that there was evidence that Iraq had worked with Al Qaeda. And a high percentage of those who opposed the war thought that there was little to no evidence that Iraq had worked with Al Qaeda.

The analysts argue that many war supporters are victims of false government propaganda, and that media misinformation is having a large impact on public opinion.

["Although," says Jake, donning his social scientist hat, "there is no proof that the beliefs about Iraq-Al Qaeda evidence are the direct cause of the respondents' support or opposition to the war. Perhaps war supporters are more likely to believe that there is evidence that supports their position, while war detractors are more likely to believe that their opponents' position has no factual support."]

But I'm going to work on Retropoll's assumptions here for a minute.

I have re-shaped my opinion of reporters in the past year. I don't see them as villains anymore. The news media doesn't do that much "lying," but more often just repeat the lies that they have been told. For example, when a reporter quotes someone and says "today the president stated that 'two plus two equals five'", the reporter isn't lying. The reporter is telling the truth, that person did say those words. But the words are a lie, and reporters usually leave those lies unchallenged. I'd prefer a world where the reporter then continued "but our research shows that the president's claim is false." I'm sick and tired of reporters refusing to draw any conclusions, even when they're obvious and in plain sight.

But if the Retropoll people are right, this "truthfully reporting lies" style of coverage has an effect. It doesn't matter that the reporters didn't actually tell us that there is evidence of an Iraq-Al Qaeda link; their repetition of the White House's claim has convinced people that such evidence exists. And (according to Retropoll) that erroneous conviction is directly supporting public opinion about a monumental government policy decision. Which sort of makes the public into puppets and the reporters our strings. The liars call the tune and we dance on command, with a little help from the press.

Truthful media bastards.

Posted by Jake at 02:38 AM | Comments (0)


I sure hope this guy they caught is indeed the DC sniper.

A lot is being said as the 24-hour news networks scramble to interview everyone who's ever known, talked to, or heard rumors about Muhammad and Malvo. As always, you have to wait for the dust to settle on breaking news. Everything looks kosher so far, but always remember how those "Florida terrorists" turned out to be innocent med students who's only crime was eating lunch in the same restaurant as a paranoiac.

Noticed a few strange things in's coverage.

"He described Muhammad as a strong believer in Islam who attended the Million Man March in Washington in 1995.

The Associated Press reported that a former neighbor of Muhammad's said he provided security at the march, which was organized by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Nation of Islam officials in Chicago had no immediate comment, according to the AP."

This is just confusing. The AP said that a guy who used to live near Muhammad said that Muhammad in some way "provided security" for the Million Man March. Was he hired as a security guard? Was he a self-appointed keeper of the peace? Does he have any relationship to Farrakhan at all?

Then we've got a bit of confusion when the news reports say that Muhammad converted to Islam, and then mentions the Nation of Islam. The religious beliefs of mainstream Islam and the Nation of Islam are vastly different. Frankly, NOI seems more of a political movement than a religion. As I understand it, NOI is a black supremacist theology which wildly diverges from the Qu'ran. Which kind of "Muslim" was Muhammad the sniper?

"The Seattle Times also reported that federal sources told the newspaper that Muhammad and Malvo were known to speak sympathetically about the September 11 hijackers and may have been motivated by anti-American sentiment."

"Federal sources?" Federal sources are currently telling me that Saddam Hussein is a threat. Federal sources tell me that the economy is doing just fine. If all you've got are vague allegations from "federal sources," keep your damn mouth shut and come back when you've got something resembling reliable evidence.

I'm just afraid that these allegations are going to be the final bit of "proof" that many Americans needed to justify their fears of Muslims. Any protests that this guy's actions don't mean that all Muslims are dangerous will frequently be met with "how many of us do these Muslims have to kill before you wake up?"

Posted by Jake at 02:34 AM | Comments (1)

October 22, 2002

Keepin It Real

"This is a commercial enterprise. This is not PBS. We're not here as a public service. We're here to make money. We sell advertising and we do it on the premise that people are going to watch. If you don't cover the miners because you want to do a story about a debt crisis in Brazil at the time everybody else is covering the miners, then Citibank calls up and says 'you know what? We're not renewing the commerical contract.' I mean it's a business."

- CNN anchor Jack Cafferty (American Morning, 8/5/02) [via FAIR]

Posted by Jake at 10:00 PM | Comments (3)

October 15, 2002

And Now, a Word from Our Sponsor

Product "A" is better than Product "B"

Product "A" is your product

Product "A" is your reward for your loyalty to Product "A"

Choose product loyalty above loyalty to others

Thank you, and goodnight.

Posted by Jake at 04:29 PM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2002

Questionable Marketing

I saw a bizarre commercial on television today for the Saturn VUE sport utility vehicle.

The commercial depicted several men in their 30s driving out to the woods. The men unload their gear from their Saturn and set up camp. Then the opening strains of the song "Dueling Banjos" are heard. The men all freeze in place, eyes wide. They then throw all their gear back in the car and speed off.

Without proper context, that commercial probably doesn't make much sense. And with proper context, the commercial becomes outright disturbing.

"Dueling Banjos" was a song famously featured in the 1972 movie Deliverance. Deliverance is about four suburban men who go on a camping trip, only to be brutalized physically and sexually by some deranged backwoods residents.

In other words, the TV commercial's tagline could easily be:

The Saturn VUE- protection from anal rape by psychotic hillbillies.

Posted by Jake at 09:43 PM | Comments (23)

October 11, 2002

Go Back to J-School, Bitch

Pretty sickening new report from our pals at FAIR.

Connie Chung: Skeptical of Skepticism

It describes an interview with Rep. Mike Thompson on CNN's Connie Chung Tonight. Key repulsive segments:

She then aired a clip from the speech that Bush made in Cincinnati:

"Some al Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq. These include one very senior al Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks.
"We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making, in poisons and deadly gases. And we know that after September 11, Saddam Hussein's regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America."

After this soundbite, Chung continued: "Congressman, doesn't that tell you that an invasion of Iraq is justified?"

Thompson began to respond: "Connie, we haven't seen any proof that any of this has happened. I have sat through all the classified briefings on the Armed Services...."

She interrupted Thompson's answer, saying, "You mean you don't believe what President Bush just said? With all due know... I mean, what..."

What the hell are you talking about, Connie? The president's assertions are proof? Any decent journalist could take half a dozen cracks to the skull with a crowbar and still know that words aren't evidence.

And later, she spouted:

"Congressman Thompson, there are those who believe that you and your two colleagues who went to Iraq came back with the basic position of President Bush may be trying to tell you something that in his effort to get approval for an invasion in Iraq, that you shouldn't believe. So it sounds almost as if you're asking the American public, 'Believe Saddam Hussein, don't believe President Bush.' "

So in other words, since this Congressman finds all the anti-Iraq evidence he's seen unconvincing, he is obviously scheming with Saddam to destroy America, right?

FAIR's report then gives a link to what they think is a better, more thorough analysis than Chung's incredulous White House shilling, which you can read here.

Posted by Jake at 02:50 AM | Comments (3)

October 09, 2002

Enrique's Journey

If journalism is just another type of storytelling, we've got an amazing example of it here.

Lourdes lived on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, with her two young children, Enrique and Belky. In 1989, when her two children were 5 and 7 respectively, she left the two with relatives and snuck into the United States, hoping to earn more money so that her children could live a better life. If than poverty they would face she stayed in Honduras. Enrique longed for his mother, and eleven years after her departure, he decided to make the dangerous trip himself to see her once again.

This is his story.

Two reporters from the LA Times, writer Sonia Nazario and photographer Don Bartletti met Enrique in Mexico in 2000, as he began his 8th and final attempt to cross into the United States. After documenting his story and its conclusion, Nazario and Bartletti decided to retrace Enrique's steps. They took the same voyage themselves, to make their report as vivid and personal as possible.

Their result is pretty impressive, a six-part LA Times special report that reads more like a novel than news. It is supplemented with gorgeous photographs, maps, charts, and stories of other immigrants like Enrique.

It's certainly worth a read.

Enrique's Journey

Posted by Jake at 03:59 PM | Comments (0)

October 08, 2002

Nazis, Bastards, Charlatans, Toadies, Critics, and Cops

(not necessarily in that order)

German Media Firm Discloses Nazi Ties- ever hear of the Bertelsmann corporation? Well, you should know them. They're one of the five largest media conglomerates on planet Earth, and the world's largest publishing company. Here in the U.S., they're probably best known for their mail-order record club, BMG. Well, Bertelsmann is now publicly admitting that during WWII they printed huge amounts of Nazi propaganda for Germany, and employed Jewish slave laborers.

Armey Seeks Provision in Bill To Punish Hometown Paper- "Furious at how the Dallas Morning News covered his son's failed congressional bid this year, House Majority Leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) is trying to insert language in a military spending bill that would force the newspaper's parent company to sell off one of its Dallas media properties." What an asshole.

A Debate Erupts Over the Gubernatorial Debate- Yesterday, the LA Times held a debate for the California governor candidates Gray Davis and Bill Simon. Simon invited Green Party candidate Peter Camejo to join in the debate, but Davis stated that if Camejo were included, that Davis would cancel the debate. While that's good politicking (it is likely that Camejo might have drawn votes away from Democrat Davis), it's fucked up in all other ways. I'm not the hugest fan of the Green Party, but it is the closest thing the U.S. has had to a viable third party in quite some time. But the duopoly of Dems and Reps are doing their best to maintain their stranglehold on governmental power. The LA Times take on the debate controversy is here.

Disturbing Behavior: Police Response to the Riot Raises Troubling Questions- a local reporter describes his erroneous arrest by Eugene police simply because he was nearby a "riot" that the police were trying to "contain." I've been looking for info about this "riot" but I'm not having much luck. Sounds like a bunch of college students, for reasons I can't find, tore up a bunch of street signs and started a huge bonfire in the street. Cops then arrested 35 people, many of whom seem to have simply been standing around, not breaking any laws.

"Journalism is a total scam"- blogger and columnist Ken Layne points out how reporters were filing stories about W's big Iraq speech last night before he even gave it. Layne describes it as part of a journalistic farce in which reporters receive a copy of a politician's speech far in advance of his reading of it, and often get that politician's opponent's comments about the speech as well. The reporter then writes the story, and usually holds off to file it until the speech has actually been given, to give it at least a veneer of legitimacy.

Media Activists Impact Iraq Coverage- FAIR claims that pressure from average Jo(e)s like you and me has caused major media outlets to correct some of their recent shoddy coverage of issues surrounding the war on Iraq.

Media Guide: How to View the United Nations- cynical Media Beat column about the schizophrenic ways in which pundits and reporters regard the United Nations. When the White House supports it, a UN resolution is very important. When the White House doesn't support it, a UN resolution is irrelevant rhetoric.

Posted by Jake at 10:13 AM | Comments (5)

October 04, 2002

Bad News News

The New Times company and Village Voice Media have signed some sort of deal which has resulted in the closing of the alternative newsweeklies the New Times Los Angeles and the Cleveland Free Times. That's a shame, because the New Times LA was a pretty good read. We'll still have the LA Weekly here in Los Angeles, which is a somewhat similar publication, but I liked having both around. Even the site seems gone, merged with the LA Weekly's site. Which means that a funny, mean-spirited piece about the band Creed that appeared in the final edition of New Times LA might be lost forever. Unless I reprint it here, in its entirey.

(by Tim Grierson, New Times LA, Oct 3-9, 2002)

Dear Scott:
Hope this letter finds you well. I'm glad to see you're recovering nicely from that unfortunate little fender bender back in April.
Before I get to the point, let me first say how much I appreciate the continued prayers and thanks for your band's success. Additionally, I don't want you to think that I am anything other than completely flattered by what you're trying to do in My honor.
But really-- and this time I mean it-- please, knock it off.
Scott, I have enough image problems these days. I've got my hands full with bad priests. The Middle East alone keeps me up nights. And, well, I don't need to tell you about the Pope, now do I?
Frankly, I can't afford any more P.R. nightmares. With that in mind, I think it's high time you guys got off the whole praising-Me angle. More importantly-- and I say this as a Friend, Scott-- you and the boys need to stop being such posers. I mean, Jesus, you sound just like Pearl Jam.
You're on top of the world right now, so I guess it's up to Me to give you a reality check: I don't care how much you celebrate My name, eventually people are going to realize you suck. Really really suck.
I'm sorry to be so blunt, but there it is. And don't think sucking up to Me is going to help. Listen, I'm telling you the same thing I told Amy Grant and DC Talk and Jars of Clay and King's X: God don't like no kiss-ass.
Have to run. But take what I said to heart. Next time, Scott, it won't be a car accident.

RIP New Times LA

In other media news, the Chicago Tribune is about to begin publishing a youth-oriented tabloid paper called Red Eye. This is a dumb idea that I think will fail. The CT wants the ad revenue that affluent young kids would bring in, but those affluent young kids likely get their news from their high-speed internet connections at work, school or home, and won't want to shell out money for the stuff they can get for free online. The article also notes that similar papers are in the works in Michigan and Long Island. I've been waiting to see the business world shift their news focus from the Baby Boomers to the GenX/GenY crowd. I can't wait for the youth-oriented pundit explosion. Sadly, since I hate Liberals, Conservatives and Moderates, I'm unlikely to get picked up as a GenX pundit. Guess I'll just have to keep shouting into the void.

And here's a decent article criticizing the radio industry from a recently unemployed industry insider.

Posted by Jake at 09:40 AM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2002

Death of a Rich Guy

Plutocrat Walter Annenberg died this week, well-known for his former ownership of TV Guide and his philanthropy.

I'm not very sentimental about it, but I did want to mention it because there is a slight connection between me and Walter. Every year, he gave tons of money to the communications program at the University of Pennsylvania that bore his name. Because of this money, I was given a full scholarship to their grad school program. This scholarship led to me getting an internship with FAIR, which led me to getting a job as a web consultant for Rage Against the Machine's website. Which led to me getting promoted to their political advisor, which is leading to me running a non-profit rock & radical politics organization.

So you could say that without Annenberg's generosity, I wouldn't be where I am today. Or, you could say that I scammed him good as I now take potshots at the imperial corporate world in which he thrived.

But rather than wax nostalgic as so many eulogies do, I'm gonna link instead to this article which crucifies him for his mob ties, political cronyism, and attacks on freedom of the press.

Citizen Annenberg: So Long, You Rotten Bastard


Posted by Jake at 09:45 AM | Comments (2)

October 02, 2002

All the Nizews Ill Enough to Prizint

More on Headline News' plans to jiggify their broadcast for da youth:

Get ready for slang phrases like "bling-bling," "flava," and "freak" mixed in with the day's headlines as the AOL Time Warner-owned cable network turns to hip hop lingo to rope in younger viewers.

"In an effort to be sure we are as cutting-edge as possible with our on-screen persona, please refer to this slang dictionary when looking for just the right phrase," reads an internal Headline News memo obtained by the Daily News.

"Please use this guide to help all you homeys and honeys add a new flava to your tickers and dekos," the memo continues, referring to the graphics that appear on the busy Headline News screen.

On the CNN pick list of hip hop phrases: "jimmy hat" meaning condom, "fly" for sexually attractive, and "ill," meaning to act inappropriately.

I agree with media monitor Andrew Tyndall's comment on the situation, "There's nothing more ridiculous than people trying to act hipper than they are."

Posted by Jake at 03:31 PM | Comments (0)

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Media News

December 01, 2004

Media Mambo

The Great Indecency Hoax- last week, we wrote about how the "massive outcry" to the FCC about a racy Fox TV segment amounted to letters from 20 people. This week, we look at the newest media scandal, the infamous "naked back" commercial. On Monday Night Football, last week, ABC aired an ad for it's popular "Desperate Housewives" TV show, in which one of the actresses from the show attempted to seduce a football player by removing the towel she was wearing to bare her body to him. All the audience saw, however, was her back. No tits, no ass, no crotch, just her back.

No one complained.

The next Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh told his shocked viewers how the woman had appeard in the commercial "buck naked".

Then, the FCC received 50,000 complaints. How many of them actually saw this commercial is anyone's guess.

The article also shows the amazing statistics that although the Right is pretending that the "22% of Americans voted based on 'moral values'" statistic shows the return of the Moral Majority, this is actually a huge drop from the 35% who said that in the 2000 election or the 40% who said that in 1996 (when alleged pervert Bill Clinton was re-elected). This fact is so important I'm going to mention it over in the main news section too.

Brian Williams may surprise America- Tom Brokaw's replacement anchor, Brian Williams, dismissed the impact of blogs by saying that bloggers are "on an equal footing with someone in a bathroom with a modem." Which is really funny, coming out of the mouth of a dude who's idea of journalism is to read words out loud off a teleprompter. Seriously, if parrots were literate, Brian Williams would be reporting live from the line outside the soup kitchen.

In related news, Tom Brokaw has quit NBC Nightly News, and it appears that unlike his predecessor, the new guy can speak without slurring words like a drunk.

PR Meets Psy-Ops in War on Terror- in February of 2002, Donald Rumsfeld announced the creation of the Office of Strategic Influence, a new department that would fight the war on terror through misinformation, especially by lying to journalists. Journalists were so up in arms about this that the Pentagon agreed to scrap the program.

Don't you think that an agency designed to lie to the public might lie about being shut down, too?

This article gives some examples about the US military lying to the press for propaganda and disinformation purposes.

Tavis Smiley leaving NPR in December- African-American talk show host Tavis Smiley is opting to not renew his daily talk show on National Public Radio. He criticized his former employers for failing to: "meaningfully reach out to a broad spectrum of Americans who would benefit from public radio but simply don’t know it exists or what it offers ... In the most multicultural, multi-ethnic and multiracial America ever, I believe that NPR can and must do better in the future." He's 100% correct. NPR is white. Polar bear eating a marshmallow at the mayonaise factory white. And the reason it's so white is that it is trying to maintain an affluent listener base (premoniantly older white folks) who will donate money to their stations. This is a great paradox of American public broadcasting, that they have a mandate to express neglected viewpoints and serve marginalized communities, but those folks can't donate money in the amounts that the stations would like to see.

U.S. Muslim Cable TV Channel Aims to Build Bridges- it sounds more positive than it is "Bridges TV" seems to simultaneously be a cable channel pursuing an affluent American Muslim demographic, and a way of building understanding and tolerance among American non-Muslims who might happen to watch the channel's programming. I was hoping it would be aimed more at Muslim's worldwide, but it ain't. Still, I'd be interested in seeing how their news programs cover the issues.

Every Damned Weblog Post Ever- it's funny cuz it's true.

Wikipedia Creators Move Into News- Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia, created collectively by thousands of contributors. It's one of those non-profit, decentralized, collective, public projects that show how good the internet can be. Now, the Wikipedia founders are working on a similar project to create a collaborative news portal, with original content. Honestly, it's quite similar to IndyMedia sites (which reminds me, happy 5th birthday, IndyMedia!). I'll admit, I'm a bit skeptical about the Wikinews project, though. IndyMedia sites work because they're local, focused on certain lefty issues, and they're run by activists invested in their beliefs. I'm not sure what would drive Wikinews or how it would hang together.

CBS, NBC ban church ad inviting gays- the United Church of Christ created a TV ad which touts the church's inclusion, even implying that they accept homosexuals into their congregation. Both CBS and NBC are refusing to air the ad. This is not too surprising, as many Americans are uncomfortable about homosexuality, and because TV networks are utter cowards. But CBS' explanation for the ban was odd:

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples...and the fact that the executive branch has recently proposed a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast."

Whoa, what? First of all, the ad does not mention marriage at all. Second, since when do positions opposite of the Executive Branch constitute "unacceptable"? This doesn't sound like "we're not airing this because it's controversial", this sounds like "we're afraid of what the President might say."

Posted by Jake at 10:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
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