aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Perpetual Partial Attention
A blurb in the Times today:
Just three short years ago - an eternity when you consider the explosive growth of the online juggernaut - regular Internet users already spent 25Ã‚Â½ hours a month sitting at the computer, the Nielsen/NetRatings study says. By now that has shot up to 30Ã‚Â½ hours - fully an hour a day. (It’s a wonder that people still also have time to watch the vast quantity of television they do. When do they wash the floor? Practice piano? Do laundry?)
The answer is: they don’t watch TV. It’s on, but they’re not paying attention. On the Web, we give/get full attention. My audience is smaller and asynchronous, anonymous and fickled (staying only so long as it wishes), but I get its full attention. Much more on that in a future post.
In 1997 I coined the phrase “continuous partial attention.” For almost two decades continuous partial attention has been a way of life. In order to cope and to keep up with responsibilities and relationships, we’ve stretched our attention bandwidth to its upper limits. We’ve used technology...as a way to think about how the brain works and, interestingly, we seem to think that if technology has a lot of bandwidth, well so do we…
With continuous partial attention we keep the top level item in focus and then we scan the periphery in case something more important emerges. Continuous partial attention is motivated by a desire not to miss opportunities. At the heart of it, we want to ensure our place as a live node on the network. We feel alive when we feel connected to others. To be busy and to be connected is to be important… Speed, agility and connectivity have been top of mind and marketers have been humming that tune for almost two decades now.
Between the extraordinary amount of information technology available today, the need to network and the always on lifestyle, we are increasingly over-stimulated, overwhelmed and unfulfilled.
I’ve recalled her term as Perpetual Partial Attention, and prefer it so I will keep it. The idea had never occurred to me even though at about the same time she coined it I moved from the always on lifestyle she describes so well to one where I “regulate my inputs.”
That’s my phrase, and not nearly so poetic, but descriptive nonetheless. I do not listen to my voicemail, read my email, answer my cell phone - or even my home phone - unless I choose to. I do not own a Palm Pilot anymore after migrating from the original Casio Boss (pictured?) that I upgraded with each new iteration from the early 1990s. I could type with my thumbs as quickly as with a full keyboard (and I did save my full address book which now resides in MyYahoo!)
So I’ve got the input part down pat; it’s no longer a problem. Now, as a budding-blogger, the trick is: to regulate my OUTPUT!
LATER: See also Perpetual Partial Attention II.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
My response to the “TV is going to be TV” commenters
The comments on my ”TV is going to be TV, delivered like TV, for a very long time” post - itself quoting Mark Cuban and Susan Crawford and calling for greater government involvement in Internet regulation - are unanimous in their belief that government can’t. I have to wonder, would they then agree with my further belief that we are headed for a benign corporate state? I’m not fearing that. They likely would.
But still they can’t imagine that government could do a good job of promoting an open and free Internet. Funny, then, to realize that it was our government that funded and developed the open and free Internet - and yes, Al Gore played a big role in helping that along.
I acknowledge that after government - either directly or through university research funding - gets it started, it is a corporate assessment of profitability that determines which of any emerging technologies will be developed for the consumer market.
But I think the Internet handoff was noteworthy for the ease with which it occurred. Not a peep from anyone, not even from the cyberspace technorati who heralded the Internet as the end of for-profit communication by arguing that this technology allows individuals to bypass the corporate sector and communicate directly with each other.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Glad to see Lafave charges dismissed
Three years of house arrest followed by seven years of probation and international notoriety is punishment enough for me. I don’t consider it a “mild rebuke;” I do see the double standard:
Comedian Jay Leno has joked about the case regularly, usually with a punchline like: “Where were these teachers when I was in school?”
As commentators have repeatedly noted, it is hard to imagine a comedian making similar comments if the case involved a male teacher and a young female student.
But the double standard I will refer you back to again is the one between Lafave and Matthew R. Limon:
Matthew R. Limon...after spending
four5 1/2 years in jail for a consensual sex act - also with a 14 year old boy though not his student and only four years his junior - and after having his case reviewed by the Kansas Supreme Court which concluded that the state can’t punish underage sex more harshly if it involves gay people, TODAY GOES TO COURT TO ANSWER NEW CHARGES FOR THE SAME INCIDENT.
Lafave’s ex-husband is saying she would have gotten jail time if she were a man. Maybe so. It’s a hook the press seems to love. But if she were gay or lesbian they’d throw her in jail and toss away the key.
I promised to follow that case and have found nothing, nothing at all, in the news since. Clearly, a mildly retarded gay boy is least attractive of all.
I remind you that I would more apprpriately scale our reaction to all sex offenders; and generally I do not believe in Retributive Justice - the thinking man’s vengeance - preferring instead Restorative Justice.
Even before Judith Levine’s Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex was published in 2002, a massive campaign by fundamentalist Christian groups, including Concerned Women for America, attacked the publisher, the University of Minnesota Press. While the book was published, the Press created a new process for reviewing its books before publication. Levine spoke publicly about how she was humiliated time and again in public. She said the manuscript for her book had been turned down by many publishers, treated as if it were “radioactive.” Among other insights, Levine wrote that “obsession with pedophiles stems for the reluctance to confront incest and the rampant sexualization of children” in American culture. “Adults project the eroticized desire outwards, creating a monster to hate, hunt down and destroy.” Of the outcry against her book she added, “What happened to me is a perfect example of the hysteria my book is about.”
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
William Safire on ‘gay’, 1981 & now
In his weekly NYTimes’ Magazine “On Language” column of September 27, 1981, he begins by discussing the term ‘geezer’ which I, like he, like:
I like the word ‘’geezer.’’ A century ago, this dialect form of ‘’guiser,’’ or one dressed in the guise of a mummer, meant an old person, particularly a woman; over the years, it picked up and then partially dropped a connotation of eccentricity, but turned mainly masculine. It can now be used either in derision or with affection to refer to old people, particularly - to my ear -outspoken old people, usually men.
Then moves on to euphemisms:
Anybody who is so sensitive about the word ‘’old’’ that he insists on being called a ‘’golden ager’’ or ‘’senior citizen’’ is too old to cut the mustard of controversy. I am middle-aged; I wish I were young again, but I don’t get any surge of youthful energy out of calling any crises in my middle-agedness midlife. ‘’Old’’ is something nobody likes to be (except considering the alternative), but if you are old, then old is what you are, and calling yourself venerable or in the sunset years isn’t going to make you any younger.
Ah, but aren’t euphemisms generally a way of making people feel better about what they are? Yes and no. Cripple is a word that hurts, and is limited to afflictions of the limbs, while handicapped has a connotation of built-in sympathy and dignity, and is a broader term covering any sort of disability. Certainly ‘’handicapped’’ is a euphemism, but so what? Euphemism is not always bad, nor is a change in terminology always euphemistic: Yesterday’s insane asylum is not today’s mental hospital.
So euphamism and change in terminology is ok, unless the affected group asks for it: Thus his rejection of the term “gay:”
Are these decisions all by-guess-and-by-God, or are some standards at work here? One criterion that emerges is the source of the pressure for change: If it is spontaneous, or fills a linguisticpsychological need, then it should be accepted, but if it comes in the form of fiat from government or demand by pressure group or propaganda for a movement, then it can rightly be resisted.
Without communication disorder or speech disfluency, I resist the word gay just because homosexual-rights groups insist upon it; I don’t say queer, because that is a slur, but homosexual is neutral and accurate. If lesbians argue that ‘’homosexual’’ should be limited to men, I would put up a feeble fight -arguing that the homo is the same as the ‘’man’’ in ‘’mankind’’ and covers women, too - but I’d cave in; if many people used the separate terms, that differentiation would be in the direction of precision.
Those nettlesome homos insist upon it. My experience was, and I think history now shows, that it was “sponaneous.” And I do note that even then he “resists” the term “gay,” he doesn’t “reject” it.
A couple weeks later, John Simon took him to task, ‘’You are waxing prolix in your middle age!’’ and he got 208 letters, six postcards and a telex from people who know the difference between Latin and Greek derivations.
Monday, March 20, 2006
About ‘gay’: style matters
“For the AP Stylebook to update these entries is a significant milestone,” said GLAAD President Neil G. Giuliano, who praised the AP’s decisions to, among other things, encourage use of the term “transgender,” restrict usage of the word “homosexual” and prohibit use of the term “sexual preference.”
“Given the fundamental inaccuracy of terms like ‘sexual preference’ and the pejorative connotations of words like ‘homosexual,’ the AP’s style guidelines have been updated to reflect contemporary usage that’s more fair, more accurate and more inclusive,” Giuliano added.
I’m one of those who believes language matters, particularly for gay people. In fact, in the spring of 1982 I wrote a paper on the etymology of the word gay. I’ll spare you the full flowery prose, but some excerpts might be fun:
Though the word ‘homosexual’ has about it a certain venerable quality, contrary to public convictions, the word has neither a long nor distinguished history. Coined in Germany in 1860 by a Hungarian physician named Henkert (using the pseudonym K.M.Kertbeny), it was not introduced into the English language until 1891(1) and was considered too new to be included when in 1899 the Oxford English Dictionary published its “Hod-Horizontal” volume.(2) It was conceived as a neutral term--and remains lexically opaque--at a time when no single terminology existed.
The ancient Greeks had no need for a word to describe homosexuality (they were ambisexual) but Europe in the eighteenth century not only believed there was a need, she found herself with a plethora of terms vying for public acceptance. ‘Uranian’ and its derivative ‘urning’ were popular among homosexual authors and their sympathizers, but as these words were derived from a speech in Plato’s Symposium wherein homosexual love is described as heavenly and heterosexual passions as vulgar,(3) their acceptance by the popular or scientific communities could scarcely have been expected. ‘Third sex’, intermediate sex’, and ‘inversion’, though not as hostile as queer (4), seemed to imply that gay people were not quite human. ‘Intersexual’ (sex between?), ‘simulsexual’ (sex at the same time?), and ‘isosexual’ (sex alone?), though valiant attempts at the allusive neutrality, failed miserably (5*). So ‘homosexual’ won its acceptance not for its linguistic integrity, but rather because no one came up with a better word.
* Others that failed: ‘androgenic’, ‘catamite’, ‘controsexuality’, ‘hermaphroditism’, ‘homogenic’, ‘invert’, ‘morphadite’, ‘pathic’, ‘platonist’, ‘psychosexual’, and ‘transsexual’ (sic).
Sunday, March 12, 2006
The “Lowest Common Denominator” fallacy
This is an old argument of mine, not as relevant to today’s media environment. We don’t talk any more about “lowest common denominator programming” though surely we still have it. I raise it in the context of today’s rant on the broadcaster’s definition of “quality.” It’s from a 1998 paper I presented to the national conference of the Alliance for Community Media:
One of the most insidious impacts of our modern media environment is the “lowest common denominator” conception of the “average person.Ã¢â‚¬Â� Television programming is so bad it is said, because in their efforts to garner the largest audiences, programmers dumb-down their programming to the lowest level of shared understanding.
This premise is false and destructive on several fronts.
First, the media explicitly target high-income, highly-educated audiences, and neglect the poor, the under-educated, and all others. They seek the highest common denominator; the measure is the spending power of the viewer.
Second, the public, when given complete information and time to consider and process it, makes reasonable and appropriate decisions. A 1992 analysis of all public opinion polls having to do with national policy preferences found that the public tends to make appropriate, sensible, rational, coherent and consistent choices. Large general audiences are made up of smart individuals.
Finally, the circular reasoning of public choice faults the public for choosing among the only options presented. In making its choice, the public is then blamed for the poor quality of the options!
Further complicating the issue are two giant industries, public-relations and advertising, which each spend billions of dollars to manipulate choice. What makes all of this so profoundly distressing is the deleterious effect it has on our view of our fellow human beings. We’ve come to believe that “the average man is an idiot.” This has got to be ruinous to democratic governance.
Here is the source for the opinion poll, Benjamin I. Page and Robert Y. Shapiro, The Rational Public: Fifty Years of Trends in Americans’ Policy Preferences (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).
Here is a 2001 Onion piece, Lowest Common Denominator Continues To Plummet.
Slivercasting: content counts
One reason that ESPN has shied away from this sort of niche programming, [John Skipper, a senior vice president of ESPN] said, is that its brand stands for a level of high-quality visual production that would be difficult for small channels to afford. Indeed, ESPN has been investing millions of dollars to produce programs in high-definition formats.
And, as the article points out, some people want to watch sailing! They’d probably also want to watch Catfish Baseball or their local school games or any number of things that those broadcast types just can’t get a handle on.
I agree with Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, there’s a business model out there for this niche programming delivered via the web and that business model is advertising. It’s coming and its potential is bigger than search.
The “there’s just not enough talent out there to produce anything of quality” arguments come straight from the broadcaster bible and they’re wrong! They’ve all learned that production values trump everything and they have tried to establish a “broadcast quality” requirement to enforce their views.
But then you get news footage of a plane crash and they suddenly find that even video from your cell phone is “broadcast quality.” These are the same people who invented the demeaning “lowest common denominator” concept and fill our screens with so many visual elements that they split our attention beyond what we can reasonably understand or absorb.
I believe that genius is evenly distributed, we just don’t know it yet, and that the reason for concentrated talent in New York, and LA or anywhere else is a function of the technology’s once limited ability to find and distribute it. That’s all changing now.
Now content counts.
We are interested in many many things that can indeed be shown and do not require the gratuitous broadcast folderol that networks have codified in their efforts to fascinate, attract, aggregate and hold us. Most of what’s on any channel, any channel, is of no interest to us. That’s why so many of us say that TV is awful while at the same time loving those individual programs that we watch.
It will take time for us to broadly achieve that threshold level of technical quality. We do all need to learn basic rules of lighting, framing and sound. We are all learning basic rules of lighting, framing and sound.
I spent 12 years working in community media production. The problem wasn’t the talent or the creativity. It was the time, money and complexity. Each of those is being addressed. The media industry had better wake up and smell the coffee. They’re forcing us away from those 6 hours we spend in front of the TV. If they don’t give us what we want one day soon we’ll use those 6 hours making our own instead of watching theirs.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Married____ Single____ Widowed____ Divorced____
In Newsweekly is running a series of dispatches sent by a gay soldier who is being dispatched to Iraq. Writing under the pseudonym D.A. Donttell, last week he talked about paperwork:
I decided that at this point in my life I would rather have my partner notified in the case of emergency, and I would name him as my beneficiary in the event of my passing… A senior non-commissioned officer took my paperwork and asked, “Who is this in block 7a? Is he a relative?” I stated, “ My roommate, and no.” When I answered no, I was told I needed to put a relative down or at least a next of kin. “You should put your parents down if you aren’t married,” he stated. [...]
We finally resolved the discussion when I agreed to sign a counseling statement officially stating I was not putting my parents down in the case of an emergency, and in the event of my death, that someone other than a family member was going to be the beneficiary for my life insurance. I left the station feeling extremely disgruntled. Clearly had I had the option I would have rather stated, “Partner, Husband, or even Spouse” but those weren’t options.
This soldier’s tale has particular resonance for me these days. Regular readers know I have had quite a number of dealings with the medical establishment here recently. Their profligate use of the Social Security number aside, a distinguishing characteristic of their paperwork is the limited number of relationship options offered. They are: married, single, widowed, divorced.
The very order of these options seems laden with meaning. It honestly doesn’t occur to them that there could be any other. Then, under “who to notify in case of emergency,” they propose options: “mother, father, sister, brother...” Even “friend” doesn’t put in an appearance!
Two quick anecdotes…
In the first the nurse asks me, “Does your wife teach at the college?” Now, she had my insurance card and I work at the college, so I was baffled that she had asked this question. (Now I get it, duh! Kind, friendly small talk.)
Given that I had just had a disconcerting experience with the surgeon, I wasn’t in tip top intellectual shape. So I blurt out, and again I have no idea why beyond awkward innocence, “No, my husband does.” Fumbling to fix that took us from bad to worse.
In my second anecdote, Doug and I show up for my surgery in the dark of morning after a long drive with no eating (or coffee) in prep for surgery and the nurse asks Doug, “Would you like to accompany your father to the room.” Father???
Doug, properly feeling as awkward as I, answers, “he’s not my father he’s my lover.” Now I prefer the term “life-partner” (I’m not simply some hottie on the side) and I’m sure Doug does too but he was so nonplussed that the word lover was the one put out there. The nurse replied, “Hey that’s even better.”
These people may or may not have trouble dealing with the fact that I’m a gay man, but they give no indication of it and so it just seems to me that it would be easier all around if the form could give them that little heads up that, hey, this guy’s not married, not single, not widowed and not divorced!
Friday, March 03, 2006
Uh oh, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing
As evening approaches I’ve completed my first week since waking with sudden complete hearing loss in my right ear. Thanks to everyone who has written commented or called since my last update. The support is invaluable. It’s been an interesting, at times emotional, ride.
Yesterday I went in for extensive testing. It was scheduled for an hour and fifteen minutes, it went on for two and a half hours. I’m told I’m a fascinating case. The news was not what I might have hoped. There is no response, none, in the ear, and they have subtly downgraded the expectations of recovering the hearing. I’m hopeful that there is still some chance of recovering some, but I get the clear impression that there’s less hope than before we started the tests.
I’m not trying to be a pessimist, but neither am I an optimist. My personality, for the moment, would rather adjust to life without the hearing and be grateful for anything that comes back. People, naturally, are more comfortable with a sunnier hope. That’s not what I’m getting from the people who are working on me. I’m getting from them that this is very serious, with some potential complications.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Social networking sites: teen menace or teachable moment?
I just listened to John Shehan of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in this ITConversations podcast warn of the threat that social networking sites pose to children and teenagers who share personal information. I came away decidedly unimpressed.
I’m not at all convinced that awareness requires the scare tactics of inflammatory rhetoric and sensationalistic terms; I actually think adults - and probably chidren too - respond better to honest and accurate asssesments. I know there are real threats and real problems; I’m just not sure we’re looking at them.
In this instance, I think the truth is closer to what Wired reported yesterday:
The most oft-stated concern about all this [personal information revealed on social networking sites] is that predators might use it to track down the kids, then abduct or attack them. Actual cases of this happening are hard to find. Instead...the teens themselves are being treated as offenders, garnering punishment for writing about their teachers, school administrators or each other.
In November, a 16-year-old girl at Paramus High School in New Jersey had three days added to an existing suspension for posting mean comments about another student on her MySpace page. Last month, seven students in Lincoln, Nebraska, were suspended from their high school basketball team after a MySpace message mentioned they’d been drinking alcohol.
Early this year, administrators at Powell High School in Tennessee suspended two sophomores and a junior for as long as 30 days for posting off-color messages under a teacher’s name. Last week, under threat of an ACLU lawsuit, Littleton High School in Colorado reluctantly readmitted a 16-year-old MySpace user who had been suspended for posting a satirical commentary on the school.
In many of these cases it’s clearly the adults who are misbehaving. Under a 1969 Supreme Court decision Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, even on-campus student speech is afforded First Amendment protection at public schools, unless it “materially disrupts classwork or involves substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others.”
Educators should buy-in to the “teachable moment” notion and use the opportunity to guide safe internet habits:
“Maybe the MySpace medium is another channel where we can be working with our students,” says Fenger. To that end, he’s forming a student-teacher committee to explore positive uses of MySpace. “The reason I think a lot of schools don’t go this way is it takes staff, it takes resources. It takes faculty time and it takes students’ time.”
Boyd argues persuasively that MySpace is serving an important role for teens who need to interact with one another away from adults as part of the normal socialization process. “We all forget that teenage years are all about hanging out,” she says.
Teens are doing this on the internet, in part, because there are fewer public places they can claim as their own, and safety-conscious parents are more reluctant than past generations to let their kids go out into a real world unsupervised.
NOTE: The photo is a stilll of NYU’s Siva Vaidhyanathan being interviewed by Demetri Martin for a Daily Show Trendspotting segment on Social Networking. Demetri’s got 9,000 friends… now that’s an issue. Not a “problem” but worth looking at. It’s also a fun segment!
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
An eye for an eye
News that Mississippi plans to put pictures of sex offenders on roadside billboards sent me back to reread Salon’s interview with William Ian Miller, professor of law at the University of Michigan, on the fine art of revenge.
I have called Retributive Justice “the thinking man’s vengeance.” And Doug has explained to me that the biblical “eye for an eye” actually had a moderating effect on retribution at the time. Here Miller asks:
But why assume that what motivates the victim (or the victim’s survivors) is anger, rage and fury? Couldn’t they also be motivated by a sense of grief or duty or love? Perhaps they’re desperate to set things right for their loved one. Perhaps they’re not motivated by rage but by a grim sense of purpose, or a keen sense of obligation. We demean the wide emotional range of what an avenger might feel. Often in a talionic society what an avenger would feel is fear because he’s got to go do this duty against someone who’s already proven himself a killer.
When God says, “Vengeance is mine saith the Lord,” he’s taking a right that the people had and saying, “I’ll do it on your behalf.” Today, the state says to a victim, “We are taking away what, in prior times, was your right to settle this account and we will settle it on your behalf.” Supposedly, we do this for the benefit of the entire society. But if that price is less than what the victim would have gotten in the earlier system, isn’t the victim being asked to pay for a wider societal benefit? Doesn’t something more need to be done for the person who’s been wronged?
I come to what may be an opposite conclusion: that the judicial machinery does indeed detach us from retribution, but it exaggerates the retribution in the process.
If I had to club my neighbor - rather than, say, sue him - I’d have a more honest realization of the impact of my punishment, even if we include the additional distorting effect of rage. If I had to deal with the consequences of my rage, I might moderate some.
As it is I rage at politicians who operate through public policy. And it is clear to me that the policy that results is often not in the broad public interest.
Beyond the question of effectively limiting the behavior it sets out to limit, locking up human beings for long periods of deprivation while doing nothing to build the skills necessary to function in society either means perpetual lockup for virtually any crime or dumping criminals back onto the streets hardened to commit crimes again.
That’s a heavy cost burden for our society to bear.
Monday, February 20, 2006
Bring on some liberals!
You know, I’m a liberal and I enjoy lots of conservative commentators. I don’t just like them when I agree with them, I like them when they make me think a little differently. I’d like to believe that conservatives could feel that way, too, about liberal commentators. That is, of course, if there were ever any to be found on Sunday talk!
Katrina Vanden Heuval sure comes close and she was on This Week yesterday. I just saw it. (TiVo! You can see it via Crooks and Liars.) I did not agree with all that she had to say but wow was she a pleasurable presence.
Here George Stephanopoulos asks about a Pew poll on happiness that found Republicans are happier than Democrats. Katrina follows George Will’s sanctimonious “conservatives believe in the pursuit of happiness, liberals believe in the delivering of happiness from a post-New Deal government.” And she does so with great style:
[Y]ou’re asking a woman named Katrina who is an independent Democrat half Jewish half Catholic, wakes up with guilt and anxiety every morning, and edits a liberal weekly in the fifth year of the Bush administration—no, I think that for, for Democrats or people who believe that the Declaration of Independence meant the inalienable right to pursue happiness, that you look around your country today, at the squandered promises, the unfulfilled promises and you can’t sit back and sing “Be Happy,” you know, that song, “Be Happy, Don’t Worry,” because you have got to get out there with some passion and remake that nation and be proud of it again.
She makes me proud!
There are others like her out there. I only wish they could be a regular feature of Sunday talk.
Lincoln’s homosexual proclivity
On this Presidents Day, it’s worth remembering that many historians have suspected that Abraham Lincoln had a homosexual proclivity. In Lincoln’s day there was only homosexual activity and no such thing as a gay identity; I, for one, believe he might have been a happier man if there had been and if he had been free to choose it.
From the December 2004 NYTimes, which asked, ”Was Abraham Lincoln a gay American?”
The subject of the 16th president’s sexuality has been debated among scholars for years. They cite his troubled marriage to Mary Todd and his youthful friendship with Joshua Speed, who shared his bed for four years. Now, in a new book, C. A. Tripp also asserts that Lincoln had a homosexual relationship with the captain of his bodyguards, David V. Derickson, who shared his bed whenever Mary Todd was away.
In “The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln,” to be published next month by Free Press, Mr. Tripp, a psychologist, influential gay writer and former sex researcher for Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey, tries to resolve the issue of Lincoln’s sexuality once and for all. The author, who died in 2003, two weeks after finishing the book, subjected almost every word ever written by and about Lincoln to minute analysis. His conclusion is that America’s greatest president, the beacon of the Republican Party, was a gay man.
Of course, I believe a gay identity is a choice that Lincoln did not have, and though I haven’t read the book my reading about it and of Lincoln through the years leads me to find its central thesis persuasive.
These things are agreed to by pretty much all Lincoln scholars: Lincoln spent years sleeping in a small bad with Joshua Speed, he slept in the White House with Captain David V. Derickson when his wife was away and pulled strings to keep the good captain around.
Even Phillip Nobile, a co-author dropped from the Tripp book project who later became its chief critic, wrote in 2001, “I do believe that bisexuality (he was bisexual by definition) is the best explanation for Lincoln’s sex life” and “If I am right, all of Lincoln biography is wrong and all of Lincoln’s biographers were blind.”
For more, here’s Nobile’s review of the Tripp book. Andrew Sullivan called it a hatchet job, pointed to an earlier Nobile essay that contradicts it, and did side by side comparisons of the earlier essay and the review.
Then there’s this from The New Republic by Princeton’s Christine Stansell. She starts out by asking, who cares? and what would it matter anyway? then walks through the evidence dismissively ("what did it really mean for people to sleep together in small beds?"), calls it all “conjecture amplified by conjecture,” and explains away his affinity for men as “like the great majority of nineteenth-century men.”
Sounds like Homophobia in Lincoln studies to me.
Friday, February 17, 2006
Oprah & Justin
I believe Kurt Eichenwald’s article on the boy looking for friends who became an online porn star is of critical important for all of us to contemplate. So when I happened to see that Oprah had the “Exclusive” of “The Young Boy Lured Into Pornography Online” I made sure to catch it.
I’m glad this show was on and there is no doubt that it had an impact on its audience, but because it was an Oprah show it shared some aspects of the Frey programs. From the transcript:
WINFREY: Pedophiles don’t want you to hear what Justin Berry is brave enough to expose today. Despite death threats, he agreed to be here today because he wanted to give his first television interview to the OPRAH show.
And I honor you for doing that. Thank you very much for having the courage to step out when a lot of people didn’t want you to do it. We’re going to ask Justin about the death threats in a moment. We were also told that Justin was just offered a big book deal worth a lot of money on the condition that he does not appear on our show, because what they wanted to do was to have you sell the book, and you said what?
Mr. BERRY: Well, I thought about it. And I put the numbers together and, well, it was enough to purchase a Diablo Lamborghini. And you know, that’s not something that’s more important than children’s lives here in America. And I just--I couldn’t bring myself to--money over children’s lives. So we’re here.
WINFREY: That’s the kind of kid he is. True. Thank you for that.
Frey’s was a tale of redemption; Justin’s is that too and more: a victim, a hero and he turned down a book deal. (We can bet that one day he will write a book, and that book will be an Oprah Book Club selection.) To complete her narrative Oprah sets him up as “just an ordinary kid.” Justin’s “the boy next-door, class president, an honor student.”
I am not saying he may not have been, but there’s plenty to indicate trouble. We’re told that “at 14, Justin’s mother Karen began noticing a change in his personality.” Karen is depicted as an innocent who “had no idea” even as she tells us that “what I actually did for a living was work with kids that have been molested.”
So she’s a professional and she noticed something yet this went on for four more years? During those years, as any reader of the Times’ account already knew, “Justin had 1500 people who were paying him money.” And what of Justin’s father?
WINFREY: Justin says he was about to be betrayed by another adult after he arrived in Mexico. His father asked why he always had so much money. That’s when Justin confessed he had been running a Web cam cyber porn site.
Mr. BERRY: He offered to help. He said, `Well, how can we maximize the earning potential here?’ Kind of disappointing that my dad did that.
WINFREY: Justin says, with his father by his side, he created his most sophisticated Web site yet.
So mom’s oblivious and dad’s unspeakably evil but still, Oprah’s narrative lovingly mentions Justin’s “parents” 19 times. I gather their was a step-father; he had no place in the narrative.
Kurt Eichenwald of the Times says, “When I first saw Justin, he was emaciated. He was a drug addict. He looked like he hadn’t slept in weeks. He was probably in the worst shape of any teenager I’ve ever had a conversation with.” That and 1,500 cyber-Johns suggest that Justin is in need of some serious care. I don’t see how Oprah’s “exclusive” furthers that.
Justin’s story is a horrific one, and I don’t accept that it must be shaped in this way in order to wake up parents and save America’s children. Yes it should be told, it must be told. But I think a more honest telling, one shorn of television conventions, would be equally effective in getting America’s attention.
Those television conventions have an element of dishonesty to them. Not only that, they are their own kind of exploitation. I don’t see how they help Justin; I even wonder if they don’t compound his problems.
Monday, February 13, 2006
Seeing Brokeback in Manhattan and Macon
OR why I believe the Brokeback breakout meme
I saw Brokeback Mountain the first time in New York, the second this past weekend in Macon. My Macon matinee audience was proportionally as large (and proportionally as late in the run) as my Chelsea matinee audience, and they seemed to enjoy it just as much.
So my anecdotal evidence is that the Red State Brokeback meme has some truth behind it. But sitting in that Macon theater next to my straight male friend - who had read my post about Brokeback audiences in Montana - I felt full-disclosure culpable for not having written about Mickey Kaus’s dismissal of it.
Today, in his 43rd post on the topic, Mickey gives me another shot:
I hadn’t realized, until someone tipped me off, that Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 had exactly the same marketing strategy as Brokeback Mountain, the gist of which was “Hey, a film sticks it to the conservatives but it’s playing in the red states!” This is the now-familiar Heartland Breakout meme.
I do believe the Brokeback marketing strategy is a savvy one, but it’s not substantially different from that of many other challenging films that try to breakout to a wider audience. I don’t take seriously his notion that it’s based on sticking it to the conservatives - if I did, wouldn’t I also have to believe that the very act of my moving here is sticking it to conservatives? - but I do feel compelled to answer his three point explanation of why his belief that Red State audiences aren’t really going to see Brokeback - it’s all just a media ploy - merits 43 posts.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Political leanings & hidden bias
Another study presented at the conference, which was in Palm Springs, Calif., explored relationships between racial bias and political affiliation by analyzing self-reported beliefs, voting patterns and the results of psychological tests that measure implicit attitudes—subtle stereotypes people hold about various groups.
That study found that supporters of President Bush and other conservatives had stronger self-admitted and implicit biases against blacks than liberals did. [...]
The analysis found that substantial majorities of Americans, liberals and conservatives, found it more difficult to associate black faces with positive concepts than white faces—evidence of implicit bias. But districts that registered higher levels of bias systematically produced more votes for Bush.
“Obviously, such research does not speak at all to the question of the prejudice level of the president,” said [one of the study’s authors, psychologist Mahzarin] Banaji, “but it does show that George W. Bush is appealing as a leader to those Americans who harbor greater anti-black prejudice.”
Appealing as in “to make an appeal” or “appealing” as in “attractive to?” Either way we liberals would do well to remember that “liberals and conservatives, found it more difficult to associate black faces with positive concepts than white faces.”
I thought the consensus conclusion had long been that the Southern “realignment” was a consequence of those Southern racists who once voted Democrat now voting Republican. (This is emphatically not to agree that the South is more racist than anyplace else in the country - see also Race Here.)
What I see in the reaction of those eager to point to the racism of Republicans is a clear illustration of the conclusions of a study - more significant and more important in my view - mentioned earlier in that very same article:
Studies presented at the conference, for example, produced evidence that emotions and implicit assumptions often influence why people choose their political affiliations, and that partisans stubbornly discount any information that challenges their preexisting beliefs.
Emory University psychologist Drew Westen put self-identified Democratic and Republican partisans in brain scanners and asked them to evaluate negative information about various candidates. Both groups were quick to spot inconsistency and hypocrisy—but only in candidates they opposed.
When presented with negative information about the candidates they liked, partisans of all stripes found ways to discount it, Westen said. When the unpalatable information was rejected, furthermore, the brain scans showed that volunteers gave themselves feel-good pats—the scans showed that “reward centers” in volunteers’ brains were activated. The psychologist observed that the way these subjects dealt with unwelcome information had curious parallels with drug addiction as addicts also reward themselves for wrong-headed behavior.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Gay was beautiful
Recently I had occasion to discuss with a friend his troubles reconciling his inclination towards inclusion of gay people in his Christian faith with the language of the Bible.
He wrote that, “Yes, Biblical language about homosexuality gives me some trouble. I’ve read enough through the years to know that what we think the Bible is saying isn’t always what it was actually saying. I just haven’t been able to settle the debate in my mind.”
I understand, but that debate was settled for me decades ago. In the fall of 1980 I read Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century. It was the single most important book in shaping my understanding of Chistianity and homosexuality. I told my friend about it and that I’d send him a review.
This review, written by Stanford History professor Paul Robinson, appeared on August 10, 1980 in the Sunday New York Times Book Review:
JOHN BOSWELL restores one’s faith in scholarship as the union of erudition, analysis and moral vision. I would not hesitate to call his book revolutionary, for it tells of things heretofore unimagined and sets a standard of excellence that one would have thought impossible in the treatment of an issue so large, uncharted and vexed.
Although the book’s findings are startling enough, they are not half so startling as the book itself. Its subject is the experience of homosexuals over some 1,500 years of European history. (Readers should not be put off by Professor Boswell’s insistence on the word ‘’gay,’’ which he defines precisely and sensibly as persons ‘’conscious of erotic inclination toward their own gender,’’ while the more inclusive term ‘’homosexuality’’ designates ‘’the general phenomenon of same-sex eroticism.’’) By my count, the author is the master of 12 languages, including Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Persian and Arabic. He is thus able to compose a narrative of truly Braudelian scope: All of non-Slavic Europe, from Scandinavia to Spain, is examined in these pages. His knowledge of the relevant scholarly literature is remarkable, and his book displays the sweep and control that one finds only in the work of a major historian.
The text contains many wonders, from a learned discussion of the hare, the hyena and the weasel to a line of Cary Grant’s in the movie ‘’Bringing Up Baby’’ - both equally apposite to the author’s subject. The book has two principal themes. The first pertains to the chronology of prejudice against homosexuals. Professor Boswell confirms received opinion that the Greeks and the Romans (at least until the third century) were either sympathetic or indifferent to homosexuality. But he makes the astonishing suggestion that that indifference survived well into the Christian era, even though some of the early Fathers, he allows, were on the severe side. The 12th century in particular he considers to have been as tolerant of homosexual behavior as any period in European history before our own, and it gave rise to similar manifestations: A homoerotic literature, male prostitution, widespread knowledge that homosexuals held positions of political and ecclesiastical authority, and even the rudiments of what appears to be gay slang.
What of intolerance?
Saturday, February 04, 2006
More damaging pandering in the guise of toughness
Remember last year when the Georgia Parole Board - THE GEORGIA PAROLE BOARD for crying out loud! - proposed reducing mandatory sentences and allowing earlier parole for convicts including sex-offenders? I asked then, “have you met any parole officers lately? They’re not the liberal elite!”
Of course it was defeated. Another victory for retributive justice - still the thinking man’s vengeance if you ask me. Well this week we’ve topped ourselves here in Georgia. We’re going to have the biggest, baddest, toughest sex-offender law on the nation whether it’s effective or not:
The Georgia House declared war Thursday on sex offenders who prey on children, passing mandatory 25-year sentences for some crimes and requiring lifetime electronic monitoring for the worst violators.
The bill, which its sponsors say could lead to the nation’s toughest sex offender law, passed 144-27 after nearly four hours of contentious debate.
It’s harshest on attacks on children, mandating a minimum 25-year sentence for a new crime of aggravated assault with the intent to rape a child under 14. Kidnapping a child in that age range also carries a sentence of 25 to 50 years.
That “with intent to rape” is a little vague if you ask me. How exactly do we prove that? Does anyone know how many children “under 14” are raped in Georgia? It’ll cost $1 billion over 10 years to implement and what do we get?
“You’re going to mandate building prison beds, and when you do that, you’re going to take away monies for education and schools,” said state Rep. David Lucas (D-Macon). “And I will tell you right now jails at their best are not better than schools at their worst.”
Critics also pointed out that the bill could punish some teen offenders as harshly as it would adults. Teenagers 13 through 16 who are tried in adult court for serious violent felonies of rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated child molestation and aggravated sexual battery would face a mandatory sentence of at least 25 years. The current penalty for such teens is at least 10 years.
State Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield (D-Atlanta) criticized a change that she said removed a judge’s discretion to grant first-offender status to some suspects 21 and younger.
“What we’re doing is unduly harsh, I believe, for the juveniles,” Benfield said. “I do not believe it’s appropriate to sentence a 17-year-old to 25 years minimum mandatory in prison for aggravated assault with the intent to rape. There may be a case where that would be an appropriate sentence, but let’s let a judge decide.”
Ah, yes, what we get is we criminalize the kids we’re claiming the bill will protect. I spoke with a family therapist yesterday who is gathering data on adolescence and pleading with elected officials to stop hurting these kids.
I’m so blue today because I believe it’s futile. This bill hurts our culture and hurts our society and does not protect us but it hurts Georgia’s young people most. And as with the Bible bill, these legislators are hard-pressed to vote against stiffer penalties for child molesters. Even as they have to know it does nothing, nothing at all to solve the problem. In fact I believe it makes it worse.
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Is it harassment to recruit “GLBT Friendly” gamers?
I think not.
In Newsweekly reports that the popular online multiplayer World of Warcraft game is apparently “using a policy meant to protect GLBT people as a way to discriminate against them.”
Sara Andrews received an e-mail from a game master citing her for “Harassment - Sexual Orientation.” Andrews had posted that she was recruiting for a “GLBT friendly” guild in a general chat channel within the game:
Gamer John Blatzheim, who heard of Andrews’ situation, e-mailed Blizzard to express his concern of a double standard that game masters would send her a warning that she could not use “GLBT” as an advertisement to express a safe place for gay gamers after an incident a few months ago where a plague occurred within the game and players yelled in general chat, “Don’t get the AIDS!”
“Many people are insulted just at the word ‘homosexual’ or any other word referring to sexual orientation,” Blizzard responded to Blatzheim in an e-mail. “Also to discriminate against other players, such as not allowing any heterosexuals into the guild simply because of their sexual orientation, could cause extreme offense to a large percentage of our players and should be avoided.”
Online games are incredibly, deeply moving social software that have hit on a perfect formula for getting players to devote themselves to play: make play into a set of social grooming negotiations. Big chunks of our brains are devoted to figuring out how to socialize with one another—it’s how our primate ancestors enabled the cooperation that turned them into evolutionary winners.
But real life has one gigantic advantage over gamelife. In real life, you can be a citizen with rights. In gamelife, you’re a customer with a license agreement. In real life, if a cop or a judge just makes up a nonsensical or capricious interpretation of the law, you can demand an appeal. In gamelife, you can cancel your contract, or suck it up.
In Newsweekly promises to follow-up. I’ll be following their follow-up.
Is it defamation to call someone gay?
I think not.
Reading this raised the question again:
Former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has sued his former boss, ex-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, for accusing him of being homosexual.
Dr Mahathir repeated the allegation - first made when the two leaders became rivals in 1998 - last September.
“Imagine having a gay prime minister. Nobody would be safe,” he said.
The repugnance of the comment aside, the article sent me back to my post, Will Tom Sue?, which asked whether it would be a good idea for Tom Cruise to sue South Park over its Trapped in the Closet episode in which all of South Park asks Tom to “Please come out of the closet!” (clip)
Findlaw did a terrific piece on the question, which included this:
Imagine a white person in the Jim Crow South suing to counter rumors that he was hiding African-American ancestry, and the problem with such a claim becomes plain: The purpose of the claim is to restore the plaintiff to a prior, undeserved position of societal privilege, so he can avoid the maltreatment, racism—and if he is a racist himself, the shame—that he would otherwise suffer. The claim itself, then, rests on a malicious societal hierarchy.
The same is arguably true of a claim by a straight person that he has been falsely labeled as gay: Such a claim takes advantage of the courts so that one person can escape bias that others unfairly suffer.
It also caters to societal bias by saying, in effect, “Stop thinking less of me; I’m not really gay.” But imagine, again, the parallel claim: “Stop thinking less of me, I’m not really African-American.”
I hope Mr. Anwar can take down Dr. Mahathir, but not with a lawsuit alleging that being called gay is defamatory.
RELATED: For how allowing confusion about your heterosexual orientation might actually be a political act in support of equal rights for lesbian and gay people, see Gay Like Me.
Friday, January 27, 2006
Privacy worth worrying about
When I say that there are real issues to be dealt with but that we are not addressing them in the way we are reacting to the Google situation, and that the problem I have with the reaction to the Google situation is that is misses an important opportunity to address them, here is an example of precisely the kind of issues I’m talking about.
I heard that since the mass market content industries have such tremendous influence on policy, that a significant extension of existing copyright laws (in the United States, at least) is likely in the near future.
I heard one person go so far as to call this a “totalitarian” intellectual property regime—a police state for content.
I heard that one possible benefit of this extension would be a general improvement of internet content distribution, and possibly greater freedom for creators to independently sell their work since they would have greater control over the flow of digital copies and be less reliant on infrastructure that today only big companies can provide.
I heard that another possible benefit of such control would be price discrimination—i.e. a graduated pricing scale for content varying according to the means of individual consumers, which could result in fairer prices. Basically, a graduated cultural consumption tax imposed by media conglomerates
I heard, however, that such a system would be possible only through a substantial invasion of users’ privacy: tracking users’ consumption patterns in other markets (right down to their local grocery store), pinpointing of users’ geographical location and analysis of their socioeconomic status.
I heard that this degree of control could be achieved only through persistent surveillance of the flow of content through codes and controls embedded in files, software and hardware.
I heard that such a wholesale compromise on privacy is all but inevitable—is in fact already happening.
I am absolutely, totally, 100% confident that these changes are coming and that, yes, they have an impact on privacy and that this is where the public needs to be engaged so that it can have some impact on shaping how this comes about.
I believe we have a real, if admittedly slight, chance to carve out some public benefits rather than merely market benefits.
The Google brouhaha is an opportunity for that engagement and that discussion. It has been squandered on affirming preconceptions rather than moving the discussion forward and that is a disservice to all of us that upsets me greatly.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Quicken sunset policy
I’ve been a Quicken user since 1988. I’ve upgraded through a variety of company strategies, most annoyingly the “new and improved...add more features” bloatware phase that went on for years. When I read about the most recent back-to-basics, stripped-down-simple, offer-tailored-products phase, I thought it a great move and decided to upgrade right away. And that I’d buy some of the tailored products.
I should rethink.
Today, out of the blue, I got notice that if I am using an older version of Quicken it is subject to their Sunset Policies. Certain features will stop working. SUNSET POLICIES??? I missed it when it was covered last year in the Washington Post:
Users of the popular Quicken financial management program are facing a yearly ritual this April that many dread and none enjoy—a ritual that does not involve any 1040 forms.
It’s Intuit Inc.’s forced retirement of the online components of slightly dated versions of Quicken, which has long dominated the personal finance management-software market. [...]
Intuit calls this phase-out of older software its “sunset policy,” and nothing rankles some Intuit customers quite like it. This “sunsetting” means they will either have to start typing in all their financial data, from credit card bills to 401(k) statements, by hand, instead of simply downloading it into Quicken—or pay to upgrade to a new and unfamiliar version of the program.
“They haven’t offered any compelling reason for me to upgrade, so now they are just trying nasty stuff to try and make me upgrade,” said Dan Doernberg, a Charlottesville resident who has used Quicken and other Intuit products for 12 years. “They’re effectively breaking the old software; it’s not that they just aren’t supporting it anymore.”
My friends will remember that years and years ago I said that as we moved from an analogue to a digital world we would move to process over product; we’d subscribe instead of buy. I don’t have an inherent problem with that. But I want it to be made loud and clear.
When we buy a CD we are in fact buying a license to play the music contained on the CD in certain limited circumstances. That’s not made loud and clear. When buying Quicken software there’s no “Good through” date on the package. (I could find no published schedule and have long since thrown away the box. My guess is it can’t be found there.) By all that is right this date should be made clear or made illegal.
We won’t care because as the Intuit public relations man said, “most customers upgrade every other year anyway.” But we’re losing something here, and we’re hardly even noticing.
Monday, January 23, 2006
Egregious is as egregious does: Google as cause cÃƒÂ©lÃƒÂ¨bre
I’m so irked by the Google thing. I’m reading all kinds of overblown rhetoric from people I admire who in true knee-jerk fashion call this an egregious invasion of privacy. I just don’t get it.
An anonymous list of search terms and the results they return is no cause cÃƒÂ©lÃƒÂ¨bre to me!
So to pick but one random example, Columbia Law professor Tim Wu in Slate today:
[T]he big news for most Americans shouldn’t be that the administration wants yet more confidential records. It should be the revelation that every single search you’ve ever conducted-ever-is stored on a database, somewhere. Forget e-mail and wiretaps-for many of us, there’s probably nothing more embarrassing than the searches we’ve made over the last decade.
Should they be confidential? Need they be confidential? Let’s discuss. But I’ll tell you this, the supposition that “there’s probably nothing more embarrassing” than my searches is flat-out wrong. I promise you, I have a lot of things to be embarrassed about - and plenty of secrets to keep - the terms I search for are least among them.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
Retributive Justice: the thinking man’s vengeance
OR “Vengeance” is to “Retributive Justice” as “Creation Science” is to “Intelligent Design.”
Every time I say something about reasonable sentences for sex offenders or call for a more forgiving culture with rehabilitation as a goal, somebody posts a comment pointing to this or that hideous indefensible crime suggesting… what? I don’t know. Maybe that I’ll be persuaded if I hear about the right crime?
My argument, of course, is that there are very real problems to be addressed but I believe that a more effective response would lead to a better, more just and healthier civilization with less crime.
While driving north for the holiday I heard, for the first time, the term ”Retributive Justice” and though I’ve spent too much time searching for the program I heard it on to dig up that particular argument, I believe it was in the context of Stanley Tookie Williams and thought it was someone from RedState.com. Lo and behold, on that very day there’s this entry at RedState:
[T]he true rationale for capital punishment is indeed justice. It is an approximation of the transcendent order of justice which God has ordained and which the legitimate sovereign, that is, the State, has an obligation to protect, despite the impossibility of its perfect achievement here below.
That a great many mistake vengeance for retributive justice is beyond dispute…
Hm, sounds like a distinction without a difference to me. Just exactly what is retributive justice?
Central to retributive justice are the notions of merit and desert. We think that people should receive what they deserve. This means that people who work hard deserve the fruits of their labor, while those who break the rules deserve to be punished. In addition, people deserve to be treated in the same way that they voluntarily choose to treat others. If you behave well, you are entitled to good treatment from others. [...]
The idea that we should treat people as they deserve is commonly accepted. We do not think that war criminals should be allowed to live carefree lives after committing unspeakable crimes against humanity.
However, there is a dangerous tendency to slip from retributive justice to an emphasis on revenge.
Conservative Christians are overrepresented among those who believe in retribution, rooting their support in “an eye for an eye” while not giving a second thought to “turn the other cheek” and all that is said about forgiveness in the name of God.
Restorative Justice, with its belief that everyone is entitled to “good treatment,” seems more Christian to me.
UPDATE: VT District Judge Edward Cashman on retribution, “I feel very strongly about retribution. And why? I didn’t come to that easily. It isn’t something that I started at. I started out as a just desert sentencer. I liked it. Across the line? Pop Them. Well, then I discovered it accomplishes nothing of value. It doesn’t make anything better.”
Friday, January 13, 2006
CBS, Katie & the evening news
This Romenesko post caught my attention today:
Matthew Felling asks CBS News: “Simply from a ‘capital J’ Journalistic standpoint, how can you designate as ‘anchor’ someone who hasn’t been a newsperson in over a decade? There. I said it. Has Katie Couric been a morning show host? By definition. But that’s not the same thing. ...The tone and skills she has honed perfectly on the ‘Today’ show would never work on the ‘CBS Evening News.’”
So I read the whole article. Unlike Felling, I’m not in the target demographic. And I haven’t watched the evening news for decades. But Couric is absolutely a newsperson. I watch her interviews and she’s darned good. She’s on 10 hours a week, how many other newspeople are? Of course he can find 8 examples of her bringing herself into the story (though I didn’t really get the point of half of them).
And even Felling says:
In case I’ve been a tad strident, I want you to know I think Katie Couric’s schtick works perfectly on the “Today” show. She’s the right woman in the right studio at the right time slot. It’s merely my contention that the tone and skills she has honed perfectly on the “TodayÃ¢â‚¬Â� show would never work on the “CBS Evening News.”
LATER: Did I really put Murrow and Couric in the same league???
At first I backed off and changed it to Barbara Walters (the obvious choice) who got a raw deal with the evening news from ABC. But then I put Murrow back. I’m thinking she has it in her. In my book, she’s hard-working, smart, seasoned, and stands out from the crowd that we call television journalists. (Elizabeth Vargas?)
Last April Reomenesko quoted former ABC News producer Paul Friedman’s advice to CBS News execs: “Summarize the news of the day in five minutes or so; spend a big chunk of time—10 minutes or so—on covering one really good story; and give people even more to think about by ending with opinion.”
Adopt that format with Katie in the anchor seat and I’d watch. Nightline’s over, 60 Minutes had its day, the newsmagazine format is tired and worn, the evening news has been flailing about forever - there’s an opening for a breakout news program. Come on CBS, break out from the yellow-bellied network pack and do it!