aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Plotz on why the press is gaga for Obama
David Plotz, in “cocktail chatter” at the end of this week’s Slate Gabfest, tells us he’s figured out why so many of his peers are enraptured by Obama. It’s because…
He’s basically a journalist. You see it...all over the place… you see his ability to be living his own life and yet be making these very wry clever observations about it… which are sometimes just jokes or sometimes have true meaning… but it is a journalist’s way of thinking and I do think that that, even more than his ability to heighten the emotion of a crowd, is why journalists in particular are so gaga over him.
Yglesias on Welch on NYT on McCain
I think this is about right—non-reporting of a non-scandalous non-affair aside, the Times story manages to reproduce some not-new information about McCain that most people nonetheless don’t know and should.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Inheritance, good. Pay for grades, bad?
Do we not see our own biases??? Paying for grades may well work but even if it does I don’t trust that we’ll ever know:
Family Academy is one of 60 New York City public schools that volunteered to participate in the Spark incentive program, which is open to fourth and seventh graders for one school year. The money they earn is deposited into their own bank accounts, but they are free to spend it however they wish.
The Spark program, conceived by Harvard economist Dr. Roland Fryer, was created to narrow the educational gap between the haves and the have-nots. In other words, “trying to figure out a way to make school tangible for kids, to come up with short-term rewards that will be in their long-term best interest,” Fryer said.
Spark isn’t the only program in the country aimed at motivating kids with monetary incentives. Schools in a dozen states have similar programs. In Albuquerque, N.M., students at the Cesar Chavez Charter School can earn up to $300 a year for good attendance. In Santa Ana, Calif., kids who do well on their math tests can earn up to $250 and in Baltimore, students can take away $110 depending on their test scores.
The story asks “what does the research say?” then answers definitively that “despite short-term gains, [paying for grades] may be detrimental in the long-term by decreasing their motivation, especially when the incentive is removed.”
Huh??? MAY???? It ”may be detrimental?” WTF???
They use that conclusive qualifier to disqualify the whole idea and play into our cultural pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps myth when the simple fact is that social mobility between classes has lessened in this country—not increased—in the past 50 years.
We rail about the “death tax” so that the entitled can keep their leg-up, but don’t you go giving those poor kids money for good grades!!!
Fryer got one interesting quote into the story:
“The idea that we shouldn’t be giving kids rewards—come on. In affluent neighborhoods, parents take their kids to dinner, buy them shiny red cars. We’ve got to get past ‘It’s wrong, it’s bribery.’ We are in crisis mode; we’re beyond philosophy. If it doesn’t work, we’re all arguing over nothing.”
Fryer’s an interesting guy. I’ll be watching him.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Don’t Ask, They’ll Tell
DownWithTyrany looks at a piece in the March issue of Out Magazine on the “service” men for anti-gay Republican closet cases who have managed to trade in escort agencies for PR agencies.
Invited to White House press conferences, Ann Coulter cocktail parties, and guest host on Fox, Jeff Gannon, Matt Sanchez, and Mike Jones are male prostitutes whose momentary mainstream media fame comes from having sex with closeted Republicans.
[Be forewarned: Don’t click, they’ll show]
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Kennedy Brewer: I’m mad as hell!
From The Today Show this morning:
JENNA WOLFE, anchor: And finally, an emotional day in a Mississippi courtroom as a man once sentenced to death for the kidnapping and murder of a three-year-old girl is now free. Kennedy Brewer was freed Friday, more than a week after another man confessed to the crime. That man is already doing time for murdering another child in the same community. Brewer has been in prison since 1992 and he talked about how he got through that time in prison.
Mr. KENNEDY BREWER: You have to find the strength to make it like that. You have to find strength. And I found strength through God. Through the word of God I found strength. And by my family sticking by me, that was my strength.
WOLFE: An emotional Brewer says he is not angry, he just wants to spend time now with his family.
That’s the news. Now back to Lester, Amy and Chris.
I am sick to death at this kind of story being casually reported by happy-talk reporters. Specifically, that these stories routinely include that the victims of these horrible institutional injustices are “not angry.” And that’s the best these reporters can do, ask is the guy angry after 15 years of a life that cannot be recovered. Reduced to a happy ending story for their crappy little news segment!
A search of my 130 blog feeds finds no one—not one post—mentioning Brewer. A Google News search finds more, but not nearly enough. How in God’s name can this not be news???
LATER: For this I have added Talk Left to my reader.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Writers vote to end strike
Of 3,775 writers who cast ballots, 92.5 percent voted in favor of ending the strike. Officials of the Writers Guild of America West and the Writers Guild of America East disclosed results of the tally here an hour after voting closed at 6 p.m.
“The strike is over. Our membership has voted, and writers can go back to work,” Patric M. Verrone, president of the West Coast guild, said in a statement.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Shuster & TV News as an endangered species
What I found interesting from the defenders of Shuster was their reasoning. Take, for example, James Joyner. A thinking man’s conservative if ever there was one, he says he’s no fan of Shuster, “but these remarks aren’t worthy of tut-tutting, let alone firing.”
He goes on to defend them thusly:
These channels are on 24/7/365, trotting about people to fill the time with what amounts to idle speculation. It’s only natural that they’re going to say some really stupid things or even phrase some smart observations in inappropriate ways. That’s even more likely when there are three of them competing for a rather limited set of eyeballs. Rather than go Walter Cronkite on us, they’re trying to be hip and fresh with yahoos like Shuster.
As it happens, Broadcasting and Cable has an editorial this week noting the “poignant timing” of the expansion of the newly constructed Newseum in Washington, DC. to make television and radio news a dominant feature:
The need for this museum has never been greater. The freefall of many newspapers is largely because of the rise of the Internet. But it’s also because, for several decades, even before the Internet, newspaper owners did little or nothing to stimulate new readership and with some truculent disdain toward their readers, resisted change that would have reflected the new patterns of American life.
The next endangered species may be television newscasts, which have some of the same problems. If newspapers are too slow, the network newscasts are in trouble because they’re on when viewers can’t reach them. Most network magazine shows, and morning newscasts, are now more like People than Newsweek or Time. Many local newscasts are in trouble because their cookie-cutter Action Eyewitness Newscenter formats are parodies of news, not purveyors of it. Alas, cable news, on its worst days, is just a dogfight between “celebrity” ideological egotists.
Our provocation is intentional. Journalists wondering why people are seeking alternative sources for news might do well to visit the Newseum to be reminded that it’s the news profession they are in, not showbiz, and they have a crucial role to play in the day-to-day life of this country. They have a job to do. If they practice their craft with imagination and tenacity, the business will take care of itself.
Via Cory Bergman at Lost Remote who says of the B&C piece, “it mirrors much of what we’ve been writing… Well said.”
Friday, February 08, 2008
Shuster suspended for Chelsea Clinton comments
SHUSTER: Bill, there’s just something a little bit unseemly to me that Chelsea’s out there calling up celebrities, saying support my mom, and she’s apparently also calling these super delegates.
BILL PRESS: Hey, she’s working for her mom. What’s unseemly about that? During the last campaign, the Bush twins were out working for their dad. I think it’s great, I think she’s grown up in a political family, she’s got politics in her blood, she loves her mom, she thinks she’d make a great president --
SHUSTER: But doesn’t it seem like Chelsea’s sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way?
PRESS: No! If she didn’t want to be there she wouldn’t be there. Give Chelsea a break.
Media Matters has the following statement from NBC News President Steve Capus:
On Thursday’s “Tucker” on MSNBC, David Shuster, who was serving as guest-host of the program, made a comment about Chelsea Clinton and the Clinton campaign that was irresponsible and inappropriate. Shuster, who apologized this morning on MSNBC and will again this evening, has been suspended from appearing on all NBC News broadcasts, other than to make his apology. He has also extended an apology to the Clinton family. NBC News takes these matters seriously, and offers our sincere regrets to the Clintons for the remarks.
It’s too little too late from MSNBC at this point. Both apologies are here. The first is absolutely pathetic: “To the extent that people feel that I was being pejorative about the actions of Chelsea Clinton making these phone calls, to the extent that people feel that I was being pejorative, I apologize for that.”
As is the anchor banter that follows: “Anyone who knows David knows he was not being pejorative… we have to be transparent… we do a lot of live television and when we don’t hit a home run, we say it.” Huh??? Transparent???
Throughout his apology Schuster claims he made his comments within all kinds of praise for Chelsea. Media Matters knocked that down. Shuster’s a liar and the video shows it. But Media Matters has previously catalogued MSNBC’s extraordinarily odious and extensive record of misogynistic comments—“sexual harassment brought to you by MSNBC”—from its male anchors.
On the merits, Digby wonders:
Why on earth would anyone think it was “unseemly” for the 28 year old daughter of a presidential candidate to be “calling celebrities and superdelegates” on behalf of the campaign? What’s wrong with that?
She goes on to remind us that Mary & Liz Cheney served in their father’s campaign, Cate Edwards served in her father’s, and Romney’s five boys stumped for him, as does McCain’s daughter.
Atrios will give Press a pass on the comment, but not its underlying intent:
[W]hat I find worse is that it’s a general pattern of taking perfectly normal political activities - in this case a family member helping out with a campaign - and tlaking about it as if it’s unseemly, or corrupt, or inappropriate, or seedy, or sleazy, etc… The press has a long history of doing this with the Clintons, holding them to a weird standard that no one else is held to.
While I agree on the weird standard point, I’m not willing to give the language a pass. What I’m seeing in this campaign, the first with a viable woman candidate for president, is misogyny unleashed that deserves serious examination not
boys-will-be-boys anchors-will-be-anchors excuses. They’re paid one helluva lot of money, they have wasy disproportionate influence, their sexist language should not be tolerated.
Shuster should be fired and the rest of the MSNBC lot put on notice. I won’t be holding my breath.
Coulter, Limbaugh, Republicans and their young
Ann Coulter’s on The Today Show right now; Doug screamed that she drinks the blood of innocents and fled the room. Georgia’s Young Republicans share his antipathy:
Whereas: Political Pundits like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, and Ann Coulter, along with other talk show hosts in national and local markets, have viciously attacked Republican candidates running in the primary election; and
Whereas: Many of these same pundits have used their shows and their vast audiences to spread disunity among Republicans when we need to be uniting to face the greater threat to our national security and well being that is embodied in the Democrat candidates for President; and
Whereas: Despite all of these pundits invoking the greatness of Ronald Reagan, none of them have paused for a second to remember Reagan’s 11th Commandment; and
Whereas: Each of the above named have, through their actions and words, lost the confidence of millions of their fans and Republican voters; and
Whereas: The members of the Georgia Federation of Young Republican Clubs are prepared to support our nominee, whether he is Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Ron Paul or Mitt Romney, against the real threat, the Democrat nominee; now
Therefore, be it resolved, this 5th Day of February, 2008, that the Georgia Federation of Young Republican Clubs strongly condemns and denounces the actions and speech over the past several weeks by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, and others for breeding contempt, disunity and hatred among the Republican Party in order to bolster their own careers...
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Lapdogs of the corporate press
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Colbert, Murrow and Me
Then last week I trotted out the Murrow comparison again, this time for Stephen Colbert. Swept up in his episode aiming to end the WGA writers strike via a civil rights history lesson, I said he “he is nothing less than the modern embodiment of Edward R. Murrow.”
Over the top?
Maybe. That’s what bloggers do. But I decided to check it out with Robert Thompson, a professor of Television and Popular Culture at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University.
He was generous in his reply:
I think there a lot of good comparisons to be made. I certainly think it is a provocative statement to make and one that holds a lot of truth to it. For one thing I think people forget that when Murrow was doing his best work and the work he is most remembered for, he was doing straight-out advocacy journalism. He was making really no effort to be objective. That is, the documentary in which he took on McCarthy was not fair, not balanced. He went after that subject â€“ It wasn’t that he lied, it wasn’t that those clips that he showed or those tapes that he played or newspapers that he held were made up. It was all factual information. But the way that was produced, the way it was narrated, the way it was edited, was in fact a full frontal attack on something that Murrow and many other people then and since felt that needed to be attacked. And he did it. [...]
That’s something that so much of American television journalism has in many ways abandoned. Even Walter Cronkite did his famous editorial against the Viet Nam war back in 1968. It’s very unlikely we would ever see that being done by any of the big anchors today. And in that fear, that change of news culture, we’ve taken that away from so many of the legit news people and the comedy people can move in and do it. And Colbert is doing just that. So in that sense, I agree. There is this comparison with Murrow and Colbert.
However, we have to be careful that we don’t take it too far because Murrow was still working within a set of professional standard that made up broadcast journalism in its heyday. When it was covering the cold war and civil rights, the two great stories of the last half of 20th century. And it was operating according to those journalistic principles. Colbert doesn’t have to do that. It’s a comedy show and while not having to obey those things make him able to do stuff that journalists can’t, we still have to remember that this is in fact a good comedy, a politically relevant one, but still a comedy show. For example, his Januray 22 bit on the hospital strike, you really have to kind of figure it out. It is really difficult to parse what is actually going on here. Unusually, for that date, Colbert himself narrates it. Not the other people who often do that kind of story on The Daily Show, for example. So, Colbert narrates it himself. And we know that Stephen Colbert is narrating in, he’s always on that show in his character “Stephen Colbert” in quotation marks. This O’Reilly-esque type he plays that we clearly know he’s not his own real person. But at the same time, part of the story includes his own personal history. His up-bringing in South Carolina, what his father did, and all of this kind of thing. So he’s really kind of floating around on both side of this line of, Stephen Colbert, the real person. Stephen Colbert, the character he plays. And at the same time he’s commenting on the WGA strike which he currently is in some ways persona non grata about because he put his show back on the air. But in some other eyes he is the hero because he is making that cause, using his pulpit for that cause, and the whole thing is really kind of fuzzy because these lines keep being crossed.
As opposed to Edward R. Murrow who came out and said this is Edward R. Murrow, CBS News, and he spoke in that voice, under that authority, and presented a bunch of documentary evidence. Comedy is not able to speak with that kind of authority. But then, it also doesn’t have to obey its rules, which allows it to play fast and loose. And it allows it, as any comic fool can rush in, where the angels of journalists and historians fear to tread. And as we know if we’ve ever watched any Shakespearean tragedy, fools can often be the wisest people on the stage.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Do you really think they could be conducting on-air seminars?
A reader responds to Robert Thompson’s notion of a missed opportunity to educate on the late night comedy shows:
Clearly this matter concerns you. Let me tell you a little about myself so that you will better understand my point of view.
If I’m preaching to the converted, forgive me, I don’t know what your background is. I’ve worked in the theatre in the UK and the US for more than 40 years. One of my plays was produced on Broadway quite recently and is now being produced around the country and abroad. I am a member of AEA, SAG (no, I didn’t vote, I loathe award shows and find them demeaning - unless, of course, I’m involved), AFTRA and the Dramatists’ Guild. I have been involved in strikes and I do not cross picket lines. Were I invited, I would not appear on a program whose writers are striking. It’s that simple. Without my unions I wouldn’t have health insurance or a pension, I would be working under worse conditions for much less money. I pay Equity 2% of everything I earn under its aegis and it’s worth every penny. I haven’t done much TV here but I did quite a bit in Britain.
Messrs Colbert and Stewart are under contract to Viacom. They must fulfill their contracts or face huge lawsuits. By doing so they are inevitably undermining the position of their staff writers. Since they themselves are members of the Guild it’s a particularly difficult position for them to be in and I’m sympathetic to their plight. I thought they both found graceful ways to re-introduce themselves without their writers: they were both funny and informative. I, however, choose not to watch till the strike is over.
Do you really think that Viacom and the producers of The Daily Show would allow Stewart to be conducting on-air seminars about the virtue of the writers’ strike? And do you think his audience would put up with it? They want to laugh at Dubya or Billary. Viacom wants to sell advertising: that’s why these shows exist.
Anyone can watch if they like. My only point in communicating with you was to suggest that it might not be a good idea to link to this material which has been written by scab labor. Would you stay in a hotel if the maids were on strike? I wouldn’t.
I wouldn’t. And I won’t going forward.
Thompson on Colbert & the WGA: a missed opportunity to educate
Robert Thompson is a professor of Television and Popular Culture at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. Last week, after a particularly strong Colbert Report that tackled race, civil rights and the WGA strike, I quoted him in a gushing post I wrote on Colbert.
Thompson says the late night comics, not bound by journalistic standards, are free to play fast and loose with the facts. “Any comic fool can rush in, where the angels of journalists and historians fear to tread,ï¿½? he told me on Friday. “And as we know if we’ve ever watched any Shakespearean tragedy, fools can often be the wisest people on the stage.ï¿½?
I wanted to know if Thompson shared my view that Colbert had approached the writers’ strike “in a stunningly effective way.ï¿½? That the Colbert episode “demands to be seen.ï¿½? Thompson saw it differently.
“In many ways,ï¿½? he said, “instead of becoming more informed about the strike by running late night comedy I think sometimes we can actually become more confused because they themselves make the issue confusing because they seem to be supporting it at the same time they’re back on the air.ï¿½?
Thompson sees a missed opportunity:
The comics, while they’re showing solidarity for the writers while they go on the air â€“ even though by going on the air the solidarity has to some extent been betrayed â€“ I think they are constantly trying to justify why they’re going back on the airâ€¦ Ok, first of all the Leno argument, because other people are put out of work. That’s not such a great argument because that’s what happens in a strike. The second argument, I think, is that if we can keep the writers’ goal in front of the public then we are justifying going back on the air because we’re going to be the voice of the writer. Here’s a place that I think late night comedy is not succeeding. And as interesting and as complex, and even as funny as that Colbert thing was about the hospital strike, it certainly didn’t clarify for me anything about the details of the writers’ strike; where it’s going, how it’s changed, what’s going to happen, what was the deal with the directors and why don’t the writers’ like that kind of deal? And all those kinds of things remained no more clear at the end of that show.
There is a lot of obligatory support being tossed about for the writers. But there isn’t any sense on these shows, I think, that they’re actually educating us any better then the other places that seem to be failing in educating us about it. And they could do that. For example, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert could have, say, every Wednesday a 5-minute conversation about the strike. And they could invite writers to come on and say, “What exactly do you feel? Where is this now? What do you want? What is this all about?ï¿½? And then you could invite the producers. Now, of course, in the first weeks the producers wouldn’t come because, for one thing, they seem to be less on the moral high-ground here. And for another, comedy writers are going to be funnier than they are and they’re going to feel that they are going to be a visitor on the home team’s field and that they’re not going to look good. However, if every week the writers got up and you really ask them specific questions about what was going on and what they thought, eventually the producers would want to get their two cents in and you could actually turn the public education about this strike â€“ as well as the potential ad-hoc negotiations â€“ into the very three-ring circus of a late night comedy segment. I haven’t seen any of that kind of thing done yet.
So are the comics just making excuses?
I think we’re seeing the complexity. They always, I mean, the late night comedians saying how much we need the writers has become like someone who’s questioning the war saying, “We support the troops.ï¿½? I mean there’s almost that obligatory support the troops that you’ve got to say before any conversation can continue. And the same is true in their support of the writers and their necessity and how important they are and all the rest. And that’s being done constantly by either coming right out and saying it, or making these, getting into a situation and then getting all weepy because, you know, “be nice to me I’ve got no writersï¿½? kind of thing. The self-deprecation that comes, that “don’t blame me that this is bad, it’s the writer that are all the brains.ï¿½?
If the Colbert episode failed at educating it’s viewers, how did it fare on emotion?
Well, I think one of the things that segment did best on, strangely enough, there are an awful lot of people who are watching The Colbert Report every night who had never heard the name Ralph Abernathy. Who don’t remember any of those periods of Civil Rights. And if nothing else, it was a little mini documentary about...an important labor/civil rights event in history that I think otherwise most people would have had no idea aboutâ€¦ it’s almost like Trojan Horse education. They sneak these little history lessons into the Trojan Horse of another Stephen Colbert show. You know, a goofy sort of a thing. And I think that’s really useful. A lot of the audience of that show learned something there, accidentally, that had actually nothing to do with the writers strike, very little to do with Steve Colbert and even though he framed it in, it’s all about me, in fact it ended up being about a lot other stuff as well. I mean I think if you can give someone a two minute little glimpse of some of those activities that went on in that period, especially to people who have no idea about, that’s a good thing.
SEE ALSO: Colbert, Murrow, & me.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
More praise for Stephen
I was afraid that maybe I went over the top comparing Stephen Colbert to Edward R. Murrow, but I’m happy to see that I am far from alone in healing praise on last night’s show.
In last night’s episode of the Report, Stephen staged one of the most touching displays of love to the picketing writers that I have seen since the start of the strike.
Before introducing the night’s guest, Ambassador Andrew Young, the last living member of Dr. Martin Luther King’s inner circle, Stephen rolled a video celebrating Young’s efforts in a certain strike in 1969. In Stephen’s hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, hundreds of black hospital workers went on strike, demanding fair pay, equal to their whiter counterparts. Young played a huge role in leading the community to support the workers. However, when he attempted to have some private negotiations with the hospital, the only administrator that was willing to speak with Young was a man named Dr. James Colbert, Stephen’s father.
A good portion of the interview with Young was spent discussing Dr. Colbert’s influence in the strike. I was really touched by the way Stephen was listening to the stories. For anyone that doesn’t know, Stephen lost his father and two of his brothers in a plane crash when he was only ten years old, and I think maybe that’s what made it so touching to me. Young also went on to say that he was Stephen’s destiny and told him that he’s the one that will end the writers’ strike, just the way his father helped to end the hospital workers’ strike. It was really an incredible moment that could have been topped only by a rousing rendition of “Let My People Go”, lead by Stephen and backed by Andrew Young, Malcom Gladwell (the night’s other guest), and the Harlem Gospel Choir.
Stephen Colbert is a great entertainer, but the reason he has resonated so strongly with audiences particularly during this administration is because he has a core of earnestness that deeply reflects a strong moral sense and a desire to educate, illuminate, and do good works. If you think I’m being overblown, all you need to do is watch last night’s episode of The Colbert Report, which was uniquely inspiring, edifying and touching - all while still managing to be completely hilarious. [...]
In a clip that the WGA should blast to every studio, network and media organization across the country (which we have below, of course), Young said the current striking writers weren’t a whole lot different than the striking hospital workers in 1969, fighting to be paid the same wages as their white counterparts - in both cases, said Young, it was about a small amount, fair money for fair work, but more than that it was about respect. He called on Stephen to start the behind-the-scenes work to start settling the strike...just like his father. Even though Colbert is as jovial and joke-cracking as ever during this, it is hard not to respond to all of this - the historical and personal context, the moment of the meeting between Young and Colbert, the fact that Stephen was actually getting a mission from this giant of the civil rights movement and American history. Who turns down Obi Won Kenobe? Probably not Colbert, who has always had a thing for fantasy. Liken Young to Gandalf and it’s pretty much a done deal.
Stephen Colbert to producers: LET MY PEOPLE GO
At around the time of Stephen Colbert’s infamous speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Robert Thompson, a professor of Television and Popular Culture at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University, dubbed the practitioners of fake news The Fifth Estate:
I think what Colbert has proved is that Comedy has moved in as the Fifth Estate when the Fourth Estate had dropped the ball. The press, of course, as others have said, completely rolled over in the lead-up to the war and the only good commentators out there were all coming from the perspective of the support of the president - the Bill O’Reillys, the Rush Limbaughs and so forth and so on - and comedy moved into that vacuum ... if you continue to watch Comedy Central shows you get a sense that boy, you know, maybe this isn’t a bad place to be getting some of our news information.
Last night Colbert demonstrated how true that is. Proving he is nothing less than the modern embodiment of Edward R. Murrow, Colbert addressed both race and the writers’ strike in a stunningly effective way. The show demands to be seen. This being Comedy Central, it’s likely to be repeated throughout the day today. Watch it.
Colbert begins with an interview of Malcolm Gladwell discussing his important New Yorker article on what race doesn’t tell you about IQ.
In the article Gladwell convincingly refutes the arguments of the “I.Q. fundamentalistï¿½? that blacks have an innately lower IQ than whites. He discusses the article on his blog here, here and here and manages in the difficult format of a Colbert interview to get across the very complex point that IQ is rooted in modernity; we answer those IQ questions in context--a context more favorable to some than to others.
The interview isn’t funny. Colbert’s in character, poking at Gladwell throughout, but - as in the correspondents’ dinner - the laughs are really beside the point.
We come back from commercial to learn that it’s all about Stephen. In a remarkable piece of history tossed in the center of a comic fake news show, we learn about the 1969 hospital strike in Charleston, SC (watch especially for the white policemen beating the black women strikers):
So you see, Stephen’s father ended that strike by brokering a deal with Andrew Young.
Now Andrew Young has been the subject of intense criticism over some frank remarks he made last fall in favor of Hillary Clinton. The whole clip remains online here.
Andrew Young was Colbert’s guest last night. Together they reminisce about Colbert’s dad:
Stephen: Do you remember my father?
Andrew Young: I do. Very, very wellâ€¦ your father apologized. See, he was a southern gentleman from New York. That’s kind of unusual.
And all I aspire to be.
Young is an old man and not the most articulate. He has walked the walk, not just talked the talk. We have much to learn from his experience even if some of us today may disagree with the lessons he’s learned. To trash him as a jealous cranky old man for supporting Hillary is despicable.
(For more on the post-civil rights era fallacy, see Salim Muwakkil in In These Times.)
Back from commercial and it all comes together. In the earlier interview Colbert asked Young, “Were you guys fighting over internet residuals?ï¿½? Young answered, “it’s the same thing:ï¿½?
YOUNG: I am your destiny. See this strike was 100 days. And your father and I settled it. But the key to settling it was neither of us got credit. So you have to settle this strike.
COLBERT: And not get credit.
YOUNG: And not get credit.
COLBERT: I like credit for things.
YOUNG: Being humble is a difficult task.
COLBERT: I have trouble with strikers. If you don’t show up to work, then that’s like not playing in the gameâ€¦ how is striking the right thing to do?
YOUNG: Well, it’s not. You only strike when you can’t talk. And the right thing to do is to talkâ€¦ A Teamster union organizer told me strikes are never about money, they’re always about respect. And when people can sit down and respect one another and work a problem out, it’s settled. And that’s what your father and I didâ€¦
COLBERT: Nowâ€¦ this is the first strike I’ve ever been involved in. And the way that strikes go is that one side makes a proposal and the producers get up and leave and they don’t talk anymore.
Now Colbert closes the show with the power of song. He dedicates it to “everyone involved in the WGA strike, but especially my writers.ï¿½? I choked up as I watched Colbert on stage singing with Andrew Young, Malcolm Gladwell and the Harlem Gospel Choir, carrying on Martin Luther King’s fight for economic justice:
LATER: More praise for Stephen.
LATER STILL: I wanted to know if Dr. Thompson shared my view that Colbert had approached the writers’ strike “in a stunningly effective way” and that the Colbert episode “demands to be seen.” So I called him up. Thompson saw it differently. He called it a missed opportunity to educate.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
The media and the writers strike
Andrew Sullivan says he supports the writers strike. He was on The Colbert Report last night:
The show didn’t use any written material, and I never do in public speaking. I was asked to go on a national TV show to talk about the election, and promote my recent Atlantic cover-story. And I hope the WGA wins their battle.
I have some serious ambivalence about the late night talk shows coming back. I thought Jon Stewart’s first night was a flop; and Colbert shined. I can’t say I understand all of the nuance of the issue but I know I’m seeing very little reporting of it in the media.
Jack Myers, of the Media Business Report, from On The Media last week:
BOB GARFIELD: Now, I want to ask you for a moment about Sarah Fay, whom we both know, and she is the CEO of the media-buying firm Carat U.S. And she said that the press has not covered the writers’ side of these issues fairly. Do you think she’s right about that?
JACK MYERS: Yes, I think she’s right. I think there’s a real reluctance on the part of the television writers and several of the business writers, whose lifeblood is dependent on the networks and studios, to be critical of them and be critical of their negotiating posture.
There really hasn’t been, in my opinion, fair presentation of the fact that the alliance is simply not coming to the negotiating table. What they’re doing is they’re falling into their traditional pattern of essentially ignoring you and hoping you’ll go away and assuming that the writers will experience more pain than they will, and that the writers won’t have the stomach to last until the summer.
RELATED: The Golden Globes “scale back.” Go WGA!
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
FCC scraps Media Ownership Rule
Bill Moyers knew they would. Here’s his update from late last week:
Friday, December 14, 2007
Needed: Regulation to Prevent Journalists-Turned-Professors from Embarrassing Themselves
The Center for Citizen Media’s Dan Gillmor on David Hazinski’s ‘citizen journalism’ too risky:
It is false, of course, that anyone who’s serious about this field argues that it’s entirely accurate or reliable (though it is often independent, and often covers what traditional media can’t or won’t spend time on). In fact, as many of us have been noting for years, accuracy ane reliability are key areas for improvement.
Then, having kindly allowed that this new media “has its place” - use the servant’s entrance, please - Hazinski removes it entirely from the realm of journalism, which is literally absurd.
And then, with the kind of hubris that sounds like a lampoon of a Big Media guy turned professor, he demands that the news industry regulate it all. (Could they first turn some of that regulatory sternness on themselves? More on that in a minute.)
Let’s note the one sound point in his generally bizarre piece: To the extent that traditional media organizations are going to bring their audiences into their journalism processes, they should insist doing things in an honorable and journalistically sound way. If he’d left it at that, Hazinski would have had a reasonable argument. But with dismaying lapses in fact and logic, he goes much further. [READ ON]
Monday, December 10, 2007
NYTimes.com traffic skyrockets after paywall drops
Ever since the NYTimes.com swept away the last remaining boulders of its subscription pay wall (aka Times Select) in mid-September, its traffic has been going through the roof. According to comScore, it gained 7.5 million readers worldwide from the end of August through the end of October (November numbers are not out yet). That is a 64 percent jump (to a total of 19.4 million). Similarly worldwide monthly pageviews surged 52 percent in that time period to 181 million. [...]
To put this in perspective, in the month of October alone, the New York Times added 4.9 million readers on the Web. That is more than double the total readership of CNet’s News.com of 2 million, which sadly seems to be one of the few media sites declining in visitors (from 2.5 million in August).
Via Cory Bergman.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
The General’s question
I could see it if the question itself was rude or shockingly partisan, but there is a GOP “special interest group” called the Log Cabin Republicans who actually sued the government over the same issue. One of them could have asked it just as easily. It’s obviously a salient political issue in America and I don’t see why any news organization should apologize and expunge the record just because of the political leanings of a citizen who asked a question. Apparently, after all these years of Bush’s canned Townhall meetings with sweet softball questions, the media has decided that’s the only form of legitimate debate.
But Wonkette had the most fun commentary, noting gay call-boy Republican “journalist” Jeff Gannon’s lack of irony:
You’ll recall that one of the folks at the Republican debate on Wednesday turned out to be working for Hillary’s campaign, and thus was accused of planting a question. Jeff Gannon thinks that’s totally shitty [please insert obligatory “Jeff Gannon thinks?” joke here as it’s Friday and we’re tired]. He thinks CNN President Jonathan Klein should initiate a full investigation and remove everyone involved in improperly vetting the multiple people with their fake questions.
Wait, how many people got fired for letting Jeff into the White House briefings and allowing him to ask fake questions of the actual President? None, right? Just checking.
More marginalizing our media!
I did not watch the YouTube debates, Democrat or Republican, and I tend to view them as not much more than Big Media big-footing into our media - media made by and for the people and emphatically not rooted in our commercial television system - in an attempt to co-opt and cash-in on us.
Let’s be clear, the network, CNN, picked the questions and shoe-horned the show into its own
tried tired and [not] true cable format.
So far, so be it. What can we do? It is what it is.
The part that pisses me off is the afterward where the public is blamed for the inanity of the questions. This kind of marginalizing our media is nothing new. You may know that I spent a dozen years as
a marginal media magnate the director of a community television organization.
Here’s a young idealistic me in 1991 commenting on MTV’s take on our media. Just substitute “YouTube” every time they say “public access” and you will see that my message then is as true today as it ever was:
SEE ALSO: Entertainment Tonight in 1991 on wacky weird crazy kooks from cable hell. And so long as we’re on the topic of how our market-driven media defines the public, please remember the fallacy of the lowest common denominator.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Tucker Carlson: Mr. Right Now
MSNBC has been accused by many rightist pundits of adopting a liberal editorial policy. The sole basis of this charge appears to be the existence of Keith Olbermann’s Countdown. In an interview with NPR, MSNBC Sr VP Phil Griffin denies the charge saying that it is the host’s personalities, not their positions that make them popular. So Tucker’s already starting at a disadvantage. Griffin acknowledges that the network is trading on the audience identifying with the program’s anchors.“Keith Olbermann is our brand; Chris Matthews is our brand. These are smart, well-informed people who have a real sense of history and can put things in context.”
That is an unequivocal expression of the faith Griffin has in Olbermann and Matthews. But when he is specifically asked whether Tucker Carlson is also their brand, he pauses and says…
“He is right now.”
Not exactly a vote of confidence. Griffin seems to be hinting that his answer might be different if you ask him again in a week or two. Looks like the only thing Tucker has to be thankful for is his well-connected family and a contract for an upcoming TV game show pilot. I still can’t get over this project - a remake of “Who Do You Trust?”
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
BIG Media = BAD Media
This week on Bill Moyers Journal:
On November 2, 2007, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin announced that the Commission would hold the sixth and final public hearing on media consolidation November 9, 2007 in Seattle, Washington. Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein blasted the Chairman’s decision to give the public only five business days notice before the hearing:
“With such short notice, many people will be shut out ... This is outrageous and not how important media policy should be made.”
The people agree. Watch through to the end:
Monday, November 19, 2007
Oprah in Macon why???
My nephew was shocked to find himself standing next to her on College Avenue on Friday, so much so that he neglected to snap a cellphone photo for the blog. Or go to the show and get us a refrigerator with an HD TV in the door:
Macon will set up free, public viewing areas of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” on Tuesday at the Terminal Station and in the City Council chambers at City Hall.
The show, which was filmed Saturday in the Macon City Auditorium and featured the talk show host giving away her “favorite things” to the audience members, starts at 4 p.m.
Apparently this is the hottest ticket in daytime TV “because of the thousands of dollars in loot each person in the audience takes away.” 4,500 people applied for the 300 tickets.
So why Macon?
Oprah, who stages the “Favorite Things” show every year at holiday time, usually tries to find a deserving group to put in the audience.
In past years, the audience was made up entirely of teachers or rescue workers from Hurricane Katrina.
This year, she took the show to Macon because it consistently has the nation’s highest percentage of viewers tuned into her afternoon talk show.
Local reports say that 45 percent of homes in Macon watch Oprah at 4 p.m. - a huge market share. (In New York, the local share of audience is closer to 20 percent.)
Taking the “Favorite Things” show to Macon was a thank-you to the fans, she told the audience.
Emphasis mine. I’m dumbstruck.
LATER: Here’s the gift list.
NBC hypes Dubai, ignores rape
Last spring Dubai was one of the destinations for “Where in the World is Matt Lauer.” On the Today Show just now there was a piece hyping all of the construction and growth in Dubai. CNBC correspondent Erin Burnett said, “Dubai wants America to like them.”
Alexandre Robert, a French 15-year-old...was rushing to meet his father for dinner when he bumped into an acquaintance, a 17-year-old, who said he and his cousin could drop Alex off at home.
There were, in fact, three Emirati men in the car, including a pair of former convicts ages 35 and 18, according to Alex. He says they drove him past his house and into a dark patch of desert, between a row of new villas and a power plant, took away his cellphone, threatened him with a knife and a club, and told him they would kill his family if he ever reported them.
Then they stripped off his pants and one by one sodomized him in the back seat of the car. They dumped Alex across from one of Dubai’s luxury hotel towers.
Alex and his family were about to learn that despite Dubai’s status as the Arab world’s paragon of modernity and wealth, and its well-earned reputation for protecting foreign investors, its criminal legal system remains a perilous gantlet when it comes to homosexuality and protection of foreigners.
The authorities not only discouraged Alex from pressing charges, he, his family and French diplomats say; they raised the possibility of charging him with criminal homosexual activity, and neglected for weeks to inform him or his parents that one of his attackers had tested H.I.V. positive while in prison four years earlier.