Dangerous Dan Thoughts and musings on the world

3/12/2006

Rather’s Rules

Filed under: Media — Dangerous Dan @ 11:49 am

Dan Rather gave a speech Wednesday in which he expounded on his rules for good journalism. Judging from what he said, they appear to be as follows:

1) Ask more questions, especially the tough ones.
2) Offer less sensationalism and more real analysis.
3) Pay more attention to international events.

It should be immediately obvious that in the memogate affair, Rather violated rules 1 and 2. Tough questions were not asked and the analysis was pitiful. Does this mean that Dan Rather was a bad journalist according to his own criteria?

For further irony, observe this statement: "American journalism at its best is a public trust and is deeply bound up in our system of checks and balances." Yes, the guy who reported clear forgeries as fact, who ignored concerns from document experts as to the memos' authenticity, who depended on a handwriting expert to say the typed documents were real (even though he didn't), who still claims the memos are real despite blinding evidence to the contrary, and who thinks he was unfairly canned for the fiasco, is lecturing on public trust and checks and balances.

Rather also said, "American journalism is in need of a spine transplant." A spine isn't very useful if it doesn't have a brain attached to it. Courage without moderating prudence and intelligence is not courage, but merely dangerous recklessness. Maybe Rather should first worry about that.

(link via MRC)

2/7/2006

The Globe’s Brave Surrender

Filed under: Media,Politics,Society,World — Dangerous Dan @ 12:27 am

Providing a paradigm example of irony, many furious Muslims around the world have taken to the streets committing acts of violence in protest of cartoons that implied Muslims were violent. There's nothing quite like playing to type. Thus far, mobs have torched a few embassies, some neighborhoods have been roughed up, a few protesters have been killed as a result of their own rampage, and untold numbers of Danish flags have been incinerated. The non-violent protests have involved boycotts of Danish goods.

As I argued in my last post, this conflict and how the West responds to it is important. It can either defend its core values of free speech and a free press and insist Muslims put up with these values or assimilate them, or the West can roll over and adopt Islamic religious edicts as binding on it through self-censorship. At least one prominent newspaper has chosen the latter course.

In an editorial, the Boston Globe chastises the European papers for publishing the cartoons, accusing them of pulling a childish prank. In fact, this editorial gets things wrong in a surprising number of ways.

This was a case of seeking a reason to exercise a freedom that had not been challenged. No government, political party, or corporate interest was trying to deny the paper its right to publish whatever it wanted.

The Globe certainly demonstrates its shortsightedness as to what constitutes a challenge to free speech. This statement comes just after explaining that what led to the cartoons’ initial publication is that a "Danish publisher of children's books had complained of trouble finding an illustrator to draw a likeness of Mohammed." This wasn't an accident, it was because potential illustrators were afraid to draw such pictures. It was the threat of violence that silenced them. If it was tacitly acknowledged that anyone who drew likenesses of Jesus would face the real threat of death from Christians, I somehow doubt the Globe would be so narrow in their thinking. They might instead think that the Christians’ threat of death constituted a very real challenge to free speech and a free press and that it should be confronted.

This is exactly the case with the Islamists. I don’t suppose the Globe has paid much attention to events in Europe, such as the Muslim riots in France, the murder of Theo van Gogh, that whole Salmon Rushdie thing, and many others, but the Islamists couldn’t make their challenge any more clear or obvious than if they put out a pamphlet called “The Challenge to the Freedoms of Speech and of the Press,” personally authored by Osama bin Laden. To say that the Danish newspaper was exercising a freedom that had not been challenged is a remarkable feat of ignorance.

Journalists in free societies have a healthy impulse to assert their hard-won right to insult powerful forces in society. Freedom of the press need not be weakened, however, when it is infused with restraint. This should not be restraint rooted in fear of angering a government, a political movement, or an advertiser.

This is practically a declaration of surrender. Don't let the fear of censure or strongly-worded letters from governments or politicians restrain the press. Nor let the fear of advertisers pulling their money retrain the press. The fear of riots, death, and the destruction of property, however… well, we’ll let that restrain the press.

The Globe's editorial staff may not agree with what you say, but it will defend to its last advertising dollar your right to say it! Just don’t ask it to put anything else at stake.

As with the current consensus against publishing racist or violence-inciting material, newspapers ought to refrain from publishing offensive caricatures of Mohammed in the name of the ultimate Enlightenment value: tolerance.

As I also argued in my last post, the value of tolerance has been distorted and misused. It merely means that you put up with people with whom you disagree and you don't try to coerce others into believing as you do. Given the violence and calls for violence from some Muslims in Europe and elsewhere, this is clearly a value that hasn't been inculcated among them. If this is the ultimate Enlightenment value, as they say, and if the West is based on it, then how do they expect the West to stand when a significant portion of its population do not hold it? Is tolerance of the intolerant to be pursued to the West’s own self-destruction or should a line be drawn?

Tolerance also does not demand that I not publish cartoons that, to any rational objective person, are no big deal. Name me another religion that would respond in the way these Muslims have if especially tame, mundane cartoons were published about their religious figures?

That aside, the idea that the Enlightenment's ultimate value or contribution to the world was tolerance is absurd. That's the sort of statement a college freshman throws out as a rhetorical flourish with absolutely no support. The Enlightenment was a rationalist movement that relied on science, logic, and secularism, that sought out to diminish dogma and censorship, and helped to separate religion from government. Given this, the societies and nations that base themselves on Islamism and the people rioting are fundamentally anti-Enlightenment. Western entities that practice self-censorship because of certain religious dictates are also being fundamentally anti-Enlightenment.

Just as the demand from Muslim countries for European governments to punish papers that printed the cartoons shows a misunderstanding of free societies, publishing the cartoons reflects an obtuse refusal to accept the profound meaning for a billion Muslims of Islam's prohibition against any pictorial representation of the prophet. Depicting Mohammed wearing a turban in the form of a bomb with a sputtering fuse is no less hurtful to most Muslims than Nazi caricatures of Jews or Ku Klux Klan caricatures of blacks are to those victims of intolerance. That is why the Danish cartoons will not be reproduced on these pages.

This commits two sins. The first is the part about any pictorial representation of Mohammed being prohibited. This is a particular interpretation that some hold, but it has not been consistently followed by Muslims themselves as you can find plenty of representations of Mohammed in Islamic art. I would imagine and hope that there are also many, many Muslims who don't think the rule is valid and/or simply don't think representations of Mohammed are that big a deal, including ones that feature him wearing a turban bomb. So for the Globe to say that this is a prohibition with "profound meaning for a billion Muslims" is simply false and is another college freshman flourish, one that involves irrational, unsupportable overstatement.

Second, to say the cartoons are equivalent to "Nazi caricatures of Jews or Ku Klux Klan caricatures of blacks" is simply false. Even if you want to believe that of the turban bomb toon, tell me what's wrong with the one that features Mohammed traveling with his donkey or the one with a crescent halo over his head? Please find me a Nazi or KKK caricature that is as benign as these are.

Also, the comparison is invalid. Nazi and KKK caricatures mocked races by exaggerating physical features belonging to those races and by attributing certain behavioral traits or societal maliciousness to them that were utterly without merit. These cartoons, however, comment on an ideology, a religious one, but an ideology nonetheless. None of them exaggerate physical features of any race. They further comment on certain very real components of militant Islam, namely violence. As the riots, death threats, and embassy burnings have demonstrated, this concern is warranted and should have attention called to it. So here we have a third college freshman flourish: false equivalence.

So let us review. The reasons why the Globe will not publish the cartoons:
1) Freedoms had/have not been challenged – False
2) Never restrain only in cases of fear of government, politicians, and advertisers – False
3) Tolerance means we shouldn’t publish them – False
4) The world’s Muslims are offended by representations of Mohammed – False
5) The cartoons are racist and as bad as Nazi and KKK caricatures – False

I don't know what I have to fear more: the weak-will of Western journalists or their muddled thinking.

The CS Monitor has a nice roundup of various press reactions here and the Globe isn't the only media organ that's off track.

Others blogging: Rolled Stone, TheRIGHTJournal, themissinglink, and Volokh.

2/2/2006

The West Must Take a Stand

Filed under: Media,Pics,Politics,Society,World — Dangerous Dan @ 11:38 pm

There's all sorts of uproar among many Muslims about the cartoons of Mohammed that were published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten last September. It's supposedly against the Koran or a surah or some such to produce visual representations of the prophet. So for the paper to do was, again, supposedly a great affront and insult to Islam. In response, Muslim groups called for various sorts of retribution: apologies from the media and from governments, anti-discriminatory laws, a boycott of Danish goods, demonstrations, riots, and the ever-popular death of the infidels.

Several other European newspapers, in a show of solidarity with Jyllands-Posten and free speech, recently also published all or some of the 12 cartoons on their own pages. This has naturally been followed by an even greater outcry. So far, there have been demonstrations in the Gaza strip that closed the EU office (way to keep that funding you want, Hamas!), the editor of a French paper that published the cartoons got canned, there have been protests in Pakistan, the Turkish Prime Minister said the freedom of the press should have its limits, and a few prominent Muslim leaders residing in Europe have said, respectively, that "the war has begun," that "Friday be an international day of anger for God and his prophet" in which violence is anticipated, and that anybody to do with the cartoons should be killed.

So what's the big deal, you ask? What are these cartoons? Here are they are:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Brutal, right? You should also notice some irony. While the toon with the turban bomb has been getting most of the attention, also observe toons 8 and 11 (the chalkboard one and the one with orange falling on the guy's head). Both of those are criticizing the Danish newspaper for seeking to publish the cartoons. Then you go to toons 3 and 9 (the guy hiding his drawing and the one with Mohammed calling off his guards) and you'll see that they're a commentary on Muslims' potential reaction to the drawings, which was obviously warranted.

Thus far, no MSM outlets in America that I know of have dared publish the images or show them on TV. CNN.com's article, in fact, says that "CNN has chosen to not show the cartoons in respect for Islam." The other MSM folks have said pretty much the same thing. European papers have shown up for freedom of speech and freedom of the press, but not those in America. Even a newspaper in Jordan published a few of the drawings and told Muslims to chill. And as MM points out, their excuse of respect for religion seems weak when none of the MSM outlets have had hesitations about showing pictures of Kanye West dressed up as Jesus, of the virgin Mary accessorized with an elephant turd, or of the world renowned "Christ in Piss" that featured a crucifix in a jar of urine. Were people upset at those things? Sure, but nobody, not even Pat Robertson in one of his loonier moments, called for the death of those who would insult Christianity. And the protests certainly didn't stop the images from being published, nor should they have done so.

So either the MSM are afraid or this is a case of tolerance gone wild. One should wonder why, with all the things that come out of the media that could fairly be called insulting to Christianity, that Christians don't have the same reaction as the Muslim world is having over these exceedingly mundane scribblings. The answer is multipart (and this list is hardly exhaustive). First, Christianity has had a reformation, something Islam is sorely in need of having.

Second, in the West, Christianity and the government are not the same entity. Once upon a time in Europe, displaying a crucifix in urine as an objet d'art would likely earn you an appointment with flaming lumber or with an inconveniently large stone pressing down on your chest. The separation of religion from government, though, meant that the Church, no matter how put out it was by a particular act of heresy, did not itself have the power to punish; that belonged to the secular authority.

Third, and perhaps most important, in the West, we believe in certain secular values that allow for effective pluralism and debate. Among them are freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion. Freedom from being insulted or from being miffed, however, is not among them. Thus, my right to say a religious belief is wrong or to violate a tenet I believe is false, e.g. that displaying a depiction of Mohammed is heresy, overrides somebody's perfectly non-existent "right" not to have that tenet violated. Similarly, though I think "Christ in Piss" is insulting to Christianity, the media's right to free speech overrides my non-existent “right” not to be insulted and so they can do display it. I may say that they shouldn't do so, but this is not a normative claim and it is merely another example of free speech. I certainly wouldn't threaten coercive measures to prevent it.

So this is a case of Middle-East meets West. Islamic values are again coming into conflict with Western values, something that is becoming increasingly common in Europe. The question is how will the West respond? Will it stick to its core values, or will it allow itself to be dictated to by a select group? One core value of the West is tolerance. This, however, merely means putting up with people with whom you disagree. Tolerance does not mean that I shouldn't post representations of Mohammed against Islamic strictures. Tolerance also means that the Muslims, in the West at least, should put up with people not of their faith who do not follow the strictures of their faith and so they should not advocate death for those who violate those strictures.

Two cultures enter and two may leave, but one will have to come out a little different. Either Muslims must conform to Western values of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and of tolerance, and they must give up their militancy at perceived slights, or the West must conform to the religious tenets of Islam and through self-censorship not do anything that could possibly insult Muslims.

The latter would be truly unfortunate. I have said before that nobody can ever defeat the West, the West can only defeat itself. We must remain convicted of the importance of our core values and not shy from controversy. If a subculture in the West advocates anti-Western ideals and that the West also take on those anti-Western ideals, then we must confront it. If one side must conform to the others' core values, then the subculture must conform to the West. If it's the other way around, then the West is lost.

Others blogging: Riding Sun here and here, Belmont Club, Dread Pundit Bluto, Flopping Aces, CQ, most especially RWNH which is on the page as me.

2/1/2006

AP Bias

Filed under: Media,Politics — Dangerous Dan @ 2:25 am

The AP has a few different articles up about the State of the Union address and the editorializing is heavy. Here's a selection with actual quotes. Any italics are mine.

From Terence Hunt, AP White House Correspondent:

A politically weakened President Bush declared Tuesday night that America must break its long dependence on Mideast oil and rebuked critics of his stay-the-course strategy for the unpopular war in Iraq.

He declared that the "the state of our union is strong" despite Americans' anxieties about the war in Iraq, the economy and soaring energy costs. Oil prices are inching toward $70 a barrel, throwing a cloud over the economy and pinching Americans' pocketbooks.

Facing budget deficits that may approach or exceed $400 billion this year, Bush had no room for expensive, new initiatives.

Bush went before the nation after the toughest year of his administration. His job approval rating is in the anemic high 30s to low 40s.

Despite recent elections in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories that have given rise to religious-based parties with views sometimes hostile to the West, Bush pressed Saudi Arabia and Egypt — longtime allies that Washington is loath to challenge too aggressively — to provide greater freedoms to their citizens.

From an AP article about people reacting to the speech:

President Bush delivered his fifth State of the Union address following arguably his worst year in office — so-so poll numbers, the controversial war in
Iraq, revelations about the administration's secret domestic spying program, and missteps following Hurricane Katrina. Americans from Pennsylvania to California watched Tuesday with a mixture of skepticism and optimism — often along party lines.

The writers consulted 12 people about the speech. 10 of them reacted negatively. Moreover, most of them were predisposed to react negatively for various reasons, which should have been obvious. Keep in mind that they were most likely sought out, not just man on the street. Nice balance, guys.

From Josef Hebert, Associated Press Writer:

President Bush acknowledged America's reliance on oil Tuesday night, but his proposals will do nothing to curb today's high energy costs and are likely to make only a modest dent on oil imports — even in the long run.

But the president's litany of initiatives is similar to what he has long touted and reflects many of the same alternative fuel proposals included in a broad energy bill he signed into law last summer.

As he often has in the past, Bush renewed his call to develop hydrogen-fueled vehicles, a technology most energy experts say will not be ready for two or three decades, if then.

From AP's "analysis" by Ron Fournier, AP Political Writer:

The state of the union is fretful.

President Bush acknowledged the public's agitated state Tuesday night when he gave voice to growing concerns about the course of the nation he has led for five years. His credibility no longer the asset it once was, the president begged Americans' indulgence for another chance to fix things.

[And there's plenty more. Fournier also references somebody that appears to have been at the same Costa Mesa party mentioned in the reaction article.]


From Jennifer Loven
, Associated Press Writer:

President Bush, opening the fall campaign season, is painting Democrats as defeatist for criticizing his march to war in Iraq and protectionist for questioning new trade deals and tax-cut extensions.

Encumbered by some of the lowest approval ratings of his presidency, Bush hoped to take charge of the agenda at the start of a year that will see races for most of Congress and 36 governorships.

Bush has been beset by criticism that his optimistic messages of recent years haven't squared with the worries many Americans feel over high energy and health care costs, the costly and deadly Iraq war and continuing terrorist threats. He acknowledged the anxieties of "a period of consequence," while still expressing confidence in the future.

In Tuesday's speech, the president, hampered by big budget deficits, offered a modest program. He declared that America must break its long dependence on Mideast oil and rebuked critics of his stay-the-course strategy for the unpopular war in Iraq.

Bush declared "the state of our union is strong and together we will make it stronger." But Democrats said Bush was living in a fantasyland.

From Liz Sidoti, Associated Press Writer, writing about Kaine's response:

The president's fifth State of the Union address comes during tumultuous times for the scandal-plagued Republican Party. Democrats are seeking to regain power in Congress by emphasizing GOP woes.

Ten months before Election Day, support for Bush has soured and public sentiment favors Democrats.

[She then goes to report Democratic responses with no commentary.]

That's the AP, everyone! The Agence France Presse article about the SOTU was far more straightforward than any of these. When people complain about liberal media bias, take note – this is it.

1/20/2006

A Parody Comes True

Filed under: Media,Politics — Dangerous Dan @ 12:23 am

An old joke is that because of the media's racial angles, if a giant asteroid were headed towards Earth, the headlines would read, "Asteroid to Destroy All Life on Planet! Blacks to be Most Affected."

Well, the joke is coming true. BET has a piece up declaring that "Global Warming Could Spell Disaster for Blacks."

It's fun reading. It also contains this gem: "President Bush enraged environmentalists when he opted out of the Kyoto protocol global warming treaty, saying it would harm the U.S. economy." This is the treaty that was voted down in the Senate (the only entity that can approve treaties) by a vote of 95-0. Yet curiously, Bush always gets all the blame for it.

1/19/2006

Niceness From the Left

Filed under: Media,Politics — Dangerous Dan @ 11:44 pm

The Washington Post had to close down one of its blogs because the comments had gotten obscene and out of hand.

In her Sunday column, ombudsman Deborah Howell wrote that Abramoff "had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties," prompting a wave of nasty reader postings on post.blog.

There were so many personal attacks that the newspaper's staff could not "keep the board clean, there was some pretty filthy stuff," and so the Post shut down comments on the blog, or Web log, said Jim Brady, executive editor of washingtonpost.com.

She's written an addendum here in which she says that a better phrasing would be that Abramoff "directed" money to both parties in that he advised his clients to do so. She then backs it up with some data.

This goes to show the level of discourse, however, in the leftie blogosphere. Yes, there are obscene troll comments that come out of the conservative side, but it's a greater problem for the liberal side. I think a contributing factor is that on many of the prominent liberal blogs, you will see straight-out profanity-laced vitriol. If you go to DailyKos, right at the top of the main page is an ad that says, "Money is f**king up the democratic party…" Related to Post blog, a post farther down says, "And when readers challenge her to, I don't know, do her f**king job, how does the Washington Post respond?" You'll see even more if you delve further into the site. If this is what the prominent blogs do, then no wonder that its readers do the same thing. If the comments were a physical forum, they'd be the same folks shouting down Howell or perhaps throwing pies at her.

I don’t expect politeness in political discourse… it would be nice, but far too optimistic. I do, however, expect some minimal level of civility. Tell me when you find it.

1/16/2006

AP Does Right on Execution Reporting

Filed under: Media,Society — Dangerous Dan @ 3:49 pm

I've complained several times about the AP's reporting on captial punishment cases, mainly that they're long on the plight of the condemned and almost wholly omit discussion of the crimes they committed and the people they killed. Well, I need to give credit where it's due as this article is nearly the exact opposite. It goes into some detail of the murders ordered by Clarence Ray Allen who is to be executed tonight, and makes it clear that he was a bad man. It even includes pictures of three of the people he was responsible for murdering. It's worth reading.

Update: It looks like I have to withdraw my praise. CNN.com has changed the article at the link. Instead of being the piece I described, it's now the usual stuff I complain about.

1/14/2006

More AP Fuzziness on Executions

Filed under: Media,Society — Dangerous Dan @ 3:20 pm

I complained here that when producing articles about death penalty cases, the AP is remarkably biased. Its stories focus almost exclusively on the plight of the person to be executed and almost completely ignore what the person did that got them on death row to begin with.

Well, they're doing it again. Clarence Ray Allen is to be executed in California Tuesday and, naturally, he and his lawyers are trying to keep that from happening. His defense is that he's nearly 76 years old (he's been on death row for 23 years), is now blind and deaf, often has to use a wheelchair and was even resuscitated after a heart attack last year. Essentially, the defense is that it’s cruel and unusual punishment to execute such an old and feeble man.

"The spectacle of Mr. Allen being wheeled into the death chamber, unable to walk and unable to see those who have come to witness his execution, violates all standards of decency and would amount to nothing more than the purposeless and needless imposition of pain and suffering prohibited by the Eighth Amendment," said Annette Carnegie, one of Allen's attorneys.

Once again, the AP article severely skimps on describing the crime(s) the condemned has committed that earned him his date with a needle, so let me fill in the blanks.

Allen was first given a life sentence for the 1974 murder of Mary Sue Kitts, his son's girlfriend, whom he murdered because she told the police about a burglary he had committed. While in prison, he then contracted with his cellmate to have the man kill eight witnesses who had testified at his murder trial. Upon being released on parole, his hit man, Billy Ray Hamilton, went to the first witness's place of work and shot him square in the forehead with a sawed off shotgun. He then proceeded to kill two of the man's co-workers, shooting them while they lay on the ground, and he wounded two others (one of whom nearly had his arm blown off when he used it to block the shotgun blast).

So let's review. He personally killed one person and conspired to kill eight more people, one of whom was “successfully” murdered. Oh, and another two folks were killed as a result. That's four people whom Clarence Ray Allen is responsible for murdering and when he was a spry 44 and 50 year-old at that. You'll forgive me if I trouble mustering sympathy for Allen considering the horrific crimes he committed, not to mention the further killings he would have carried had his hit man not been captured.

The AP article, though, doesn't tell you about any of this. Here's the best we get:

Allen is set to die by injection Tuesday for ordering three slayings while behind bars for another murder.

and this:

The brother of one of Allen's victims said the arguments in favor of sparing the killer's life are nonsensical. Robert Rocha — whose sister, Josephine, was murdered at a Fresno market in 1980 by a hitman Allen hired — said Allen's repeated appeals are the only reason he is old and frail.

"Mr. Allen feels he is too old to die," Rocha said. "We feel Josephine was too young to die. She was only 17 when she was taken from us and murdered."

Robert Rocha's absolutely correct. People say Allen is too old to die. It’s far worse to be too young to die and that’s Allen forced on his victims.

1/12/2006

Alito Hearings

Filed under: Media,Politics — Dangerous Dan @ 12:01 pm

I tried watching some of the Alito hearings yesterday. I could only watch for so long because the political posturing from both sides just annoyed me.

But why should the Senate committee members have all the fun? Yes, you too can be a senator interviewing a nominee to the Supreme Court! Just follow these easy steps:

  • If you're a member of the opposition party, make sure to follow this question format:
    1) State some sort of problem that you perceive in society and ask how the nominee would rule on a case concerning that problem.
    2) No matter what the nominee says, just respond, "Well, I'm afraid I have to disagree with you on that, such and such is still a big problem. Now I’d like to ask you about something else." Then go back to step 1.

    In step 1, make sure to spend an inordinate amount of time sermonizing and basically giving a speech before actually asking the question. The content of the speech need not be related to the question being asked. For added points, sermonize again in step 2.

  • If you're a member of the majority party, follow the same process as above, but praise the nominee for his wisdom and insight in step 2 instead of criticizing him.
  • Honestly, it just gets tiresome after a while. And again, we see that the Democrats can't find their ass with both hands. The repeated attempts (especially by Ted Kennedy) to hang Concerned Alumni of Princeton around Alito's neck have obviously failed. Considering that there's absolutely no evidence that Alito was anything but a mere member of the group, it's amazing that the Dems thought the gambit would work. If Alito had a prominent role in the organization or wrote for them, that'd be one thing, but he apparently just joined it and donated a few bucks. The Dems are engaging in opposition for opposition's sake.

    One other observation: this is supposed to be an important hearing, somewhat solemn, and of paramount importance to the republic. You would then expect presentation and decorum that reflect this. Yet when I watch it, I can’t ignore all the photographers sitting around in front of the senators. They’re squatting on the ground or sitting Indian-style or have their legs pulled up, their equipment is scattered all over the place… it looks like a Kindergarten play area… it looks completely ridiculous. I understand the need to get pictures and that the press needs accessibility, but you’d think they could stick the photographers behind the senators or in the shadows or something; anything so that they could still get their pictures, but aren’t littering the ground and making the hearing look like reading time at the public library.

    1/10/2006

    Elitism, Phone Poles, and a No-Spin Progessive CNN

    Filed under: General,Media,Politics,Society — Dangerous Dan @ 12:02 am

    From HuffPo's Jesse Kornbluth:

    Would you like to know that the news program you're watching — whatever the politics of the network's owner — presents verifiable facts from respectable sources?

    Would you like to watch commentary on the news by experts whose opinions don't come from the daily talking points of either political party?

    Me too. That's why I'm writing this open letter to George Soros with one simple request — PLEASE BUY CNN.

    If you're like me, you just about choked on your corn flakes with that last line.

    Given that George Soros is an uber-liberal who donates heavily to Democratic causes and campaigns and is openly hostile to all things conservative and/or Republican, you'll pardon my doubting that in his hands CNN would be a neutral news organ.

    To understand why Kornbluth thinks so, though, you need to read his article. It's the usual lefty reasoning that because the news media is owned by corporate parents and gets its revenue from other corporations, then the news is de facto and necessarily skewed to the right. This is an impressive theory considering the overwhelming majority of liberals in the news media, the constant attack reports on the right and whatever the right is supporting at the time, dour news on whatever could help Bush ("…the economy picked up in the last quarter, but…"), and that even independent studies show the media's leftward tilt.

    Oh, but there's also "the most vindictive administration in our history," says Kornbluth. The network suits don't dare cross Bush & Co. lest it bring the pain by canceling parent corporate contracts or siccing the FCC on the networks. It's hard to think this a credible threat when the news media has already given plenty of cause for a vindictive White House to do its Nixonest, and yet CBS still has its broadcast license, Disney World is still operating, and "Joey" was NBC's own fault. Oh, but Kornbluth admits that "it's not the sort of charge you can ever prove" that the suits hold back on Bush and Republicans because of Executive retribution. Well, if that's the case – that you can level accusations that can't possibly be proven – then strap on your tinfoil hat and make any charge you like; they pass the Kornbluth test. Other baseless charges from Kornbluth are that the government has investigated George Soros's taxes and possibly even bugged his phones. No word on whether they've snuck Inch High Private Eye into his office.

    Now put down the corn flakes because I don't want you to choke again when you read this next part:

    I submit there's an audience that wants more than propaganda from cable TV. I believe many millions of viewers want real news — without spin from any side — and informed opinion that's clearly labeled. And I'd bet that audience is vastly bigger than the numbers CNN is currently attracting.

    The business rationale for a progressive CNN?

    That's right, there'd be absolutely no spin from any side at a "progressive" CNN. I guess he means there'd be no spin from either the extreme left or the right-leaning left. The reporting would be straight down the middle of the liberal political spectrum.

    Kornbluth thinks a "progressive" CNN would be a straight-shooting news network because he dismisses the idea that there are actually two sides to an issue. The only side is his side. Don't, he implies,

    Treat all issues as if there are two, equally plausible positions — even when "on the one hand this, on the other hand that" programming results in pointless blather or blatant whoring for Republican causes.

    And also realize this:

    What would a Soros-owned CNN be like? Not, please, a blindly "liberal" CNN that gives new prominence to the tired Democratic hacks who currently appear on cable — that would be as dreary as Fox. But to the degree that the truth these days favors "progressive" positions — the existence of global warming, the primacy of hard science, support for education and the arts, decent conditions for workers and universal but cost-conscious health-care — yeah, let's get that on.

    I'm at a loss to understand how truth "favors" anything and that it’s only doing so "these days" and not previously. I can only presume that progressive positions must have sent truth a gift basket last month and so it now favors them over heartless conservative positions that sent nary a Christmas card. He's using loose, and inappropriate language, of course. Truth is a property of beliefs (and perhaps, derivatively, positions) and favors nothing. It also doesn't temporally shift, or at least not in the respect that Kornbluth is using it.

    That aside, this merely demonstrates his elitism and ignorance of differing opinions, something the left likes to do (as well as some on the right). I'm sure he would decry some conservatives saying he supports terrorists merely because he wants to bring the troops home. It's similarly flawed reasoning to assert that I don't support education merely because, say, I support school vouchers.

    Kornbluth, however, has determined that truth favors his positions (let's not confuse that with people saying God favors their positions… dude, it's completely different) and so they are de facto right, even when others say they're not or even when they're proven wrong. There are no two sides the story. There is the correct side, which is his side, and so any disagreement is simply unintelligible and should be disregarded. That's a heck of a way to run a news station.

    This sort of elitist attitude can be seen elsewhere, though. Observe this piece by Mark Goldblatt in which he relates his adventures at the last MLA conference. After a speaker said she blatantly presented an anti-Iraq war curriculum in her class, he asked if she would ever consider hiring somebody who was in favor of the war or presented a curriculum that favored the war. She dodged the question, but others in the audience were happy to answer him:

    An older man was the next person called on; he turned in my direction and said that he'd served on many hiring committees and that he would never hire a teacher who seemed likely to adopt a pro-war curriculum . . . for the same reason he wouldn't hire a teacher who seemed likely to espouse creationism or intelligent design. The issue isn't political, he explained. It's that the theory is simply wrong. A pro-war curriculum would, by necessity, be rooted in falsehoods and false logic. The classroom, he insisted, is a place for truth.

    The next comment was also addressed to me, by a young man sitting in the back. He said that, in theory, he would not be opposed to hiring a teacher who supported the war in Iraq . . . but that situation was unlikely to come up because people who teach in the humanities are trained in critical thinking, and no one who thinks critically could support the war in Iraq.

    You see, they have the truth and there is no room for disagreement. Anybody who would disagree is necessarily wrong, likely has faulty reasoning capacities, and should be instantly disregarded. Such sorry rejects certainly shouldn't be hired for positions at august academic institutions.

    What's amazing is that Kornbluth and those pleasant academics have so surrounded themselves in their own echo-chamber and have so cavalierly convinced themselves of their own righteousness that they cannot fathom that they could possibly be in error on such important political issues. To entertain such a notion simply doesn't compute. While I'm sure they have torn many garments, gnashed their teeth, and wrung their hands over that Bush character who will not admit mistakes, those conservatives who beat their chests with patriotic fervor, and those odd God-believing folks who say God is on their side, they commit the same sins. They're fervently pointing at eye-specks while the telephone pole sticking out of their orbital sockets is breaking the dishes and frightening small children. They too believe that correct judgments are by default on their side and so is truth, and so they are unwilling to entertain debate on important issues.

    It's elitist, it's ignorant, and it's naive. Say you're right and that what emanates from your mouth is full of truthy goodness. That's fine; opinions and beliefs worth having are worth advocating. But at least be open to the possibility that you're wrong, that your opponent is right, and certainly advocate that the two sides of an issue deserve equal time, treatment, and respect.

    12/30/2005

    The Old Catch-22

    Filed under: Media,Society — Dangerous Dan @ 12:00 am

    Wizbang points to this Townhall column by Kathleen Parker. In it, she condemns most bloggers as being immature kids:

    These effete and often clever baby "bloggies" are rich in time and toys, but bereft of adult supervision. Spoiled and undisciplined, they have grabbed the mike and seized the stage, a privilege granted not by years in the trenches, but by virtue of a three-pronged plug and the miracle of WiFi.

    …many bloggers seek the destruction of others for their own self-aggrandizement. When a mainstream journalist stumbles, they pile on like so many savages, hoisting his or her head on a bloody stick as Golding's children did the fly-covered head of a butchered sow.

    Schadenfreude – pleasure in others' misfortunes – has become the new barbarity on an island called Blog. When someone trips, whether Dan Rather or Eason Jordan or Judith Miller, bloggers are the bloodthirsty masses slavering for a public flogging. Incivility is their weapon and humanity their victim.

    Yeah, she goes way over the top complaining about blog swarms. It's a little extreme to say 'humanity' was victimized because a couple of journos were brought down. If you read the rest, you can also see the tremendous elitism she displays.

    No matter… I'm actually not concerned about the substance, so much as the form of the argument. This is a nice example of a catch-22 attack; there is no good response. There are three possible options for responding:

    1) Agree with her. Most of the people she criticizes will not be inclined to do this.

    2) Say nothing. The disadvantage of this is that it can be taken as implicitly agreeing with her. Refer back to (1).

    3) Defend yourselves1 and criticize her analysis.

    If you take option 3, of course, she's got you. She can then dance around and say that you are merely proving her point by jumping on her, being uncivil, etc.

    I'm not necessarily against catch-22's, but I prefer them to be more coyly formed and a bit more Socratic. This was just a crude form and practically dared bloggers to come after her so she could turn it around on them. It's an unfortunate use.


    1. I'm not necessarily including myself in this. I have no idea if I fall into her ill-defined category of malcontents or not. [back]

    12/19/2005

    Time Spit Take

    Filed under: General,Media,Politics — Dangerous Dan @ 10:50 pm

    Time magazine's section on "People Who Mattered 2005″ featured New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin with this blurb:

    Could he have done more to get his people out before Katrina hit? Probably. But once the levees broke, the mayor of New Orleans embodied the pain and frustration of his city, even cursing on the radio as he joined thousands of stranded residents in wondering why their government had failed them.

    What?! He was the government that failed them. And by publicly whining and panicking in a time of crisis, he showed himself to be a pitiful leader. Instead of trying to do anything himself, he sat around and waited for the big daddy feds to do things for him and then complained that the government responsible for the entire country wasn't fast enough dealing with the small locality under his specific jurisdiction. Nagin mattered, alright. Too bad he didn't matter more.

    This is typical, though, in that the media put the blame on the federal government (who did deserve some blame), while ignoring the glaring incompetence of Nagin and Louisiana governor Blanco.

    Try looking at the rest of the people to see the leftward tilt.

    For George W. Bush and Dick Cheney: "After winning re-election and claiming a mandate, the President and his No. 2 quickly squandered their political capital."

    John McCain and Harry Reid are pleasingly featured for sticking it to the President.

    Tom Delay gets a spot for his indictments and stepping down as House majority leader.

    Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame get a spot, natch.

    Patrick Fitzgerald receives a mention for casting "an unflattering light on the inner workings of the White House and the press."

    Cindy Sheehan pops in for second 886 of the 900 she's allowed.

    Condi's blurb ends with this: "And she must be doing something right: she's far more popular than her boss."

    Tony Blair took "Britain into a deeply unpopular war."

    On Pope Benedict XVI: "For years Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger seemed too polarizing a conservative to succeed John Paul II." Where's the 'but?' Here it is: "But his closeness to the late Pontiff, his intellectual substance and his high profile entering the conclave turned him into the obvious choice." Notice the but clause did nothing to dispel the ‘polarizing conservative’ label.

    Kanye West is in. He "freestyled an outraged rant on a TV benefit for Katrina victims." Is that what blurting out pause-riddled incoherent whines in the style of a five-year-old is called nowadays?

    It's a little ridiculous.

    12/15/2005

    AP Death Penalty Coverage

    Filed under: General,Media,Society — Dangerous Dan @ 3:03 am

    When reading articles about the death penalty, I've been repeatedly amazed at the AP's obvious slant. I first noticed it reading this article about the forthcoming "grim milestone"(TM) of the 1,000th execution since capital punishment was reinstated in 1977. You can read it for yourself, but you can get the general idea just from looking at the subheadings:

    The race factor
    Executing the innocent?
    Questions raised

    Under each subheading, death penalty proponents get about two or three lines and the rest is against them.

    You then got similar treatment for the Stanley Tookie Williams fiasco (I'm not putting 'Tookie' in quotes, because it turns out that it's not a nickname; that was his real middle name. Who knew?). The articles constantly bemoaned his impending execution and how his defenders said he was innocent and/or had been redeemed.1 The fact that he had murdered four innocent people in cold blood during robberies and then laughed and bragged about it afterwards, that he had created a pox on American society generally and black communities especially by founding the Crips, that he never admitted to his crimes, that he always refused to provide any information on the gangs because he wasn't a “snitch”… well, all that got nary a mention or was significantly downplayed. It usually wasn't as important as noting that he wrote a few anti-gang kids books that were probably ghost-written, few were purchased, and nevermind the fact that it's when kids are entering their teens that they're especially vulnerable and a book read to them at 5 probably won't have much impact.

    Then I get to this article about Charles V. Thompson, the guy who walked out of a Houston jail last month even though he was on death row. He relates his experience on the lam to the AP:

    It was great. I got to smell the trees, feel the wind in my hair, grass under my feet, see the stars at night. It took me straight back to childhood being outside on a summer night. It was short lived, but I think it was worth it.

    (Apparently he also drank a lot as a child because he was stinking drunk when he was captured.)

    The article even ends with this little quote meant to make us feel sorry for him:

    I'm pretty much resolved to my fate. Concrete box 23 hours a day. Just sit in there and think about how they're going to kill you.

    Oh, poor boy. Well, you know who won't be smelling trees, feeling the wind in their hair, grass under their feet, or seeing the stars at night? His ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend whom he killed and who receive barely a blip in the article. In fact, their names aren't even mentioned, so I'll say them here: Dennise Hayslip and Darren Keith Cain.

    So what about the slain?

    Thompson got in an argument with Cain, left, came back with a gun and shot them both. He shot Cain four times before then shooting Hayslip once in the face. Moreover, a psychologist who examined Thompson said that he is "a charming, narcissistic sociopath who turns violent under stress." Being a sociopath means that he lacks the ability to sympathize with others and is essentially an amoral being. Other people have no moral import to him and he can lie, cheat, steal, kill, and do whatever is to his advantage and it's no big deal as far as he's concerned. In fact, it's not a deal at all except that if caught it will inconvenience him. And so he will say whatever and do whatever he thinks will get people on his side. He's scum.

    So when CNN.com puts up this friendly-looking picture of Thompson…

    murderer

    …remember what a heartless, manipulating bastard he is and that these were the friendly-looking people he murdered (from a victim-tribute site the AP apparently couldn't be bothered to visit):

    the victims

    "I'm pretty much resolved to my fate. Concrete box 23 hours a day. Just sit in there and think about how they're going to kill you." Good. At least he'll get to know when death comes for him. He gave Dennise Hayslip and Darren Cain no such courtesy.

    I highly recommend this post from the crime blog The Dark Side with details, links, and newspaper clippings of the case.


    1. I'll comment more on the Tookie circus when I get a chance. [back]

    11/6/2005

    The Gay Cowboy Movie

    Filed under: General,Media,Society — Dangerous Dan @ 11:10 pm

    Having not seen the independent film Brokeback Mountain, I really don't have an opinion on the movie itself or the quality of it. But when I read that it will have explicit sex scenes, it doesn't make me want to see it. It's not because they're gay sex scenes (although I'll admit, that doesn't help), but because I'm not a big fan of movie sex scenes in general. I don't think this out of prudery so much as that they rarely add anything substantive to the film. Showing a full-out love-making session hardly ever advances the plot or helps develop the characters in any meaningful way that a substantially shorn down or intimated version couldn’t impart. Some people excuse them by saying that's real life, which to me doesn't help considering that 95% of movies don't portray real life. Nor do sex scenes portray how real sex is had. There are also plenty of real-life events (some of which I may do) that I don’t care to see. I’m familiar with the real-life experience of taking a dump, for example, and so is nearly everybody else on the planet, but that doesn’t mean that I care to see it portrayed in the theatre (except, perhaps for comedic effect).

    Movie-makers don’t normally use sex scenes for the story’s sake, they instead use them as an opportunity to spark popular interest in their film through prurient interest, or to create buzz in that somebody is being honest about sex! That's why this movie is already irritating me.

    And there's this:

    NEW YORK DAILY NEWS critic Jack Mathews predicts the gay cowboy movie, which takes place in Wyoming, may be "too much for red-state audiences, but it gives the liberal-leaning Academy a great chance to stick its thumb in conservatives' eyes."

    Gosh, considering how low the box office revenues have been, it seems like a great idea to poke red states in the eye. Brokeback Mountain certainly seems like an idea right out of the liberal playbook. Take a manly icon, turn him gay (which is not traditionally seen as manly), show that they're still manly, and throw in explicit sex scenes on the excuse of being "real" and "honest." Then wag fingers at anybody who doesn't like it and accuse them of being intolerant. We can soon expect similar films about bikers, policemen, construction workers, and Indian chiefs. Then all the Village People will have been worked through and the manly icons they mocked brought low for the sake of realism. There have certainly been gay cowboys, but that’s not the point of this film. The choice of a manly icon that is representative of country folks and rural red state America (not to mention the current White House occupant) was not coincidental. This is liberals taking a shot at the red stater’s perception of themselves.

    There's also this prescient bit from a South Park episode:

    Cartman: No dude, independent films are those black and white hippie movies. They're always about gay cowboys eating pudding.

    Wendy: No they're not. Independent films are produced outside the Hollywood system. They're movies without all the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.

    Cartman: Well, you show me one independent film that isn't about gay cowboys eating pudding.

    No word on if there's pudding in the movie.

    11/1/2005

    No Talking at the Urinal

    Filed under: General,Media — Dangerous Dan @ 3:18 am

    Now every good man knows that you generally don't talk while peeing at the urinal. Nothing is more annoying than to be taking care of business when some dope shuffles up to the next urinal and makes some inane comment about the weather, sports, or other stupid topic. I'm peeing, I don't know you, I don't care about whatever you're mentioning, and I hate small talk anyway. I usually just say, "Yup," and hurry to finish before he says something else. And that's just the small stuff. You certainly shouldn't go raising inflamatory topics. That's why I can't understand why Mike Wallace, who is now just shy of his 243rd birthday, couldn't keep his trap shut when he sidled up to the urinal next to Dan Rather.

    According to sources inside the network, Wallace recently got into a shouting match with Rather after telling the disgraced journo he should have resigned over “Memogate”—while the two men were standing side-by-side at a urinal.

    “They were both standing at the urinals when Wallace casually mentioned what he had told Katie,” says the source. ”There proceeded a twenty-minute shouting match in the bathroom” between Rather and the 87-year-old journalist.

    I just hope they both zipped up before things got too heated. Although as old as they both are, I suppose their prostates could have easily kept them in place for the full 20 minutes. All the same, don't talk at urinals.

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