aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Monday, August 22, 2005
On Cindy’s commercial, and the Rave
Yesterday the Washington Post reported on the ClearChannel-owned ABC afiliate in Utah refusing to run the Cindy Sheehan ad saying that it was an “inappropriate commercial advertisement for Salt Lake City.”
The night before Utah Sheriffs with helicopters, assault rifles, tear gas, and camouflage-wearing soldiers shut down a Rave.
As it happens, this passage from copyfighter Larry Lessig’s important book, Free Culture (free PDF here), speaks to both. Long for a blog, I hope you’ll read it:
[p. 166] In addition to the copyright wars, we’re in the middle of the drug wars. Government policy is strongly directed against the drug cartels; criminal and civil courts are filled with the consequences of this battle.
Let me hereby disqualify myself from any possible appointment to any position in government by saying I believe this war is a profound mistake. I am not pro drugs. Indeed, I come from a family once wrecked by drugs-though the drugs that wrecked my family were all quite legal. I believe this war is a profound mistake because the collateral damage from it is so great as to make waging the war insane. When you add together the burdens on the criminal justice system, the desperation of generations of kids whose only real economic opportunities are as drug warriors, the queering of constitutional protections because of the constant surveillance this war requires, and, most profoundly, the total destruction of the legal systems of many South American nations because of the power of the local drug cartels, I find it impossible to believe that the marginal benefit in reduced drug consumption by Americans could possibly outweigh these costs.
You may not be convinced. That’s fine. We live in a democracy, and it is through votes that we are to choose policy. But to do that, we depend fundamentally upon the press to help inform Americans about these issues.
Beginning in 1998, the Office of National Drug Control Policy launched a media campaign as part of the “war on drugs.” The campaign produced scores of short film clips about issues related to illegal drugs. In one series (the Nick and Norm series) two men are in a bar, discussing the idea of legalizing drugs as a way to avoid some of the collateral damage from the war. One advances an argument in favor of drug legalization. The other responds in a powerful and effective way against the argument of the first. In the end, the first guy changes his mind (hey, it’s television). The plug at the end is a damning attack on the pro-legalization campaign.
Fair enough. It’s a good ad. Not terribly misleading. It delivers its message well. It’s a fair and reasonable message.
But let’s say you think it is a wrong message, and you’d like to run a countercommercial. Say you want to run a series of ads that try to demonstrate the extraordinary collateral harm that comes from the drug war… Can you be sure your message will be heard then?
No. You cannot. Television stations have a general policy of avoiding “controversial” ads. Ads sponsored by the government are deemed uncontroversial; ads disagreeing with the government are controversial. This selectivity might be thought inconsistent with the First Amendment, but the Supreme Court has held that stations have the right to choose what they run. Thus, the major channels of commercial media will refuse one side of a crucial debate the opportunity to present its case. And the courts will defend the rights of the stations to be this biased.
I’d be happy to defend the networks’ rights, as well-if we lived in a media market that was truly diverse. But concentration in the media throws that condition into doubt. If a handful of companies control access to the media, and that handful of companies gets to decide which political positions it will allow to be promoted on its channels, then in an obvious and important way, concentration matters. You might like the positions the handful of companies selects. But you should not like a world in which a mere few get to decide which issues the rest of us get to know about.
For the record, I do not agree with Cindy’s message. I don’t want our troops brought home now. But I do think that in a free culture, as ours purports to be, the ad should be shown.
What country is this?
The helicopter dipped lower and lower and started shining its lights on the crowd. I was kind of in awe and just sat and watched this thing circle us for a minute. As I looked back towards the crowd I saw a guy dressed in camoflauge walking by, toting an assault rifle. At this point, everyone was fully aware of what was going on . A few “troops” rushed the stage and cut the sound off and started yelling that everyone “get the fuck out of here or go to jail”. This is where it got really sticky.
No one resisted. That’s for sure. They had police dogs raiding the crowd of people and I saw a dog signal out a guy who obviously had some drugs on him. The soldiers attacked the guy (4 of them on 1), and kicked him a few times in the ribs and had their knees in his back and sides. As they were cuffing him, there was about 1000 kids trying to leave in the backdrop, peacefully. Next thing I know, A can of fucking TEAR GAS is launched into the crowd. People are running and screaming at this point. Girls are crying, guys are cussing… bad scene.
From several previous experiences with Rave parties of this size, a large amount of drug use and underage consumption of alcohol occur. In addition reports of sexual assaults, overdoses, firearm violations, vehicle burglaries, and numerous individuals drive from the party under the influence of alcohol and or drugs.
Utah County Sheriff’s Office Detectives interviewed several females that had attended a prior rave party in the Utah county area in the past month that had been sexual assaulted. These females stated that the combination of drugs and alcohol made them fear for their safety due to the groping and sexual assaults that occurred during the Rave party. In the last year alone one near fatal shooting was investigated by Utah County Sheriff’s Office at a similar party.
I find comments like “it was verified that more than 250 individuals were at the party” questionable as well. Verified by who? How?
Keller “blasts” Posner
In his recent New York Times Book Review piece, Richard Posner “swallows almost uncritically the conventional hogwash of partisan critics on both sides: that “the media” (as accused from the right) work in tireless pursuit of a liberal agenda, and that they have (as accused from the left) become docile house pets of the Bush administration because they fear offending the powers that be,” says Times executive editor Bill Keller.
The Posner piece is still online. (How does the Times archiving work anyway? News stories stay a week, movie reviews forever, books forever? I can’t quite figure it out...) I recommend reading it. I quoted it approvingly when it appeared in July and stood by it when others trashed it.
I read a lot of blogs and don’t always know when I’m reading left or right. I may recollect that the right liked it (or maybe not) but I know that I thought it was darned good and largely on point. Which is not to say that I agreed with everything in it.
I read it thoroughly then and with all the comment should read it again but until I do my impression remains that folks don’t like the particulars and are thereby missing the overall message, which I read as a positive one.
Google builds rather than buys
Another reason I like Google:
The 4,100-employee company that the three computer scientists have built has maintained a marked predisposition toward building and not buying its future. Indeed, its acquisitions to date have exclusively been of small technology start-ups led by designers whom Google wanted to hire.
That is a marked contrast to its two main competitors, the Microsoft Corporation and Yahoo, which have recently turned to high-profile acquisitions to enter new markets.
Google’s preference has been instead to try to create new markets from scratch or to redefine existing ones when it enters them.
Meanwhile, the ever-vigilant Cory suspects stealthy monitoring of clickthroughs:
There’s some very subtle clickthrough tracking going on at Google. Just before you click on a link on a search-results page, at the “on mousedown” event, Google rewrites the links in its search results with a long redirector URL that is presumably being used to track which search results are being selected most often.
Updates to his original post suggest a more benign purpose. One from a Koz I hadn’t read before:
I believe the letter-salad you’re seeing is related to google’s personalised search & search-history features… If I want to turn it off, I can click my account and then Delete personalised search. I don’t know if my experience is different because I’m logged into gmail, but it doesn’t look like anything evil is happening here.
Star Trek phone
The only surprise here is that it took so long:
Sona Mobile and Viacom Consumer Products are set to offer a Star Trek communicator-themed mobile device that will let users make calls, play video clips, play online Star Trek games and surf the internet.
The cool gadgetry on the classic TV series has made dreamers drool since the first time Captain Kirk barked the words “Beam me up, Scotty!” into his little black box and snapped it shut. But this is the first time Viacom, which owns the rights to the TV and movie franchise, has put its licensed imprint on such a device.
The special-edition Star Trek Communicator Phone is part of the ramping-up of events and promotions tied to the 40th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise next year. But the timing was also right because “the technology is better now,” said Sandi Isaacs, VP of interactive at Viacom Consumer Products. “With the prior generations of handsets and mobiles, it was really hard to give consumers a rich experience.”
Viacom and Sona are still finalizing details of the look and features that the communicator phone, due in stores Sept. 30, will sport. But fans can expect the devices to chirp and beep with ringtones that mimic the familiar sounds of the communicators used in the Star Trek TV series and movies.
New recruiting ads
Recruiting ads typically depict life in the military as a really fun first-person shooter game, one that happens to look good on a rÃƒÂ©sumÃƒÂ©. Recently, the “Army of One” spots showed off some of the awesome, adrenaline-pumping jobs that soldiers can have-mostly jobs that don’t involve being shot at.
But this new set of four ads (one of them is in Spanish) takes a quieter approach. Gone are all the choppers and night-vision goggles. They’ve been replaced by kitchen tables and conversations. This campaign seems aimed less at potential recruits than at their parents. And, sure enough, the press release describes the spots as “influencer-targeted.” Apparently, most kids won’t enlist until they’ve had a serious talk with Mom and Dad (or a teacher, or a coach). These ads are meant to make that talk go down easier.
Most other ads paid for by the government have very different goals. In PSAs about drugs, drunk driving, smoking, and teen sex, parents are unfailingly urged to shield their kids from danger. Here, they’re being asked to throw their kids right in harm’s way.