Big Media Is Big On The Internet

An audience survey by comScore Networks reveals that the major league players in establishment media are coming closer to dominating the new media playing field as well.

Fox Interactive Media (1), Time Warner (3), Viacom (7), and Comcast (10), are all in the top 10 of sites as ranked by page views. It has already been noted here at News Corpse that 9 of the top 11 online news destinations are already owned or operated by the folks who bring you the conventional media, and those same voracious corporations are rapidly acquiring the most promising new web sensations.

So if anyone was getting the idea that new media was going to save us all from the old, mainstream variety, regard this as your wake up call.

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The Great American Voice Of Pessimism

There are good reasons to be pessimistic about the 110th Congress. The corrupting influence of power is ever-present and it is advancing on the Democrats.

While I couldn’t be more thrilled and relieved that Repubs took the thumpin’ that they did last month, I don’t think that this victory automatically ushers in a new era of progressive politics. I am somewhat pessimistic about the path that Dems will now take. There are many of them that share the same intentions and elitist supporters as Repubs. The Corporatist Political Holy Bankrollers just write down a different name on the payee line. It has been said that…

…democracy is that form of government where every four years the elite let the oppressed choose which of the elite will oppress them for the next four years.

There is a fair degree of cynicism in that quote. But it is not unwarranted. As recently as the last presidential election, we had two members of Yale’s exclusive Skull and Bones society vying for our support.

Since November 7, everyone who knows me has inquired as to just how happy I am about the electoral results. To their surprise, my answer has been relatively muted. I tell them that I am happy the Repubs are gone, now we just have to get the Dems to do the right thing. And that may be just as hard as getting rid of the Repubs.

Already in the early jockeying for position, some Dems are running for the center. The race for majority leader in the House pitted two confirmed conservative Democrats against each other, and the one with the old school cred prevailed. What might that portend for the future agenda of Speaker Pelosi? The First 100 Hours plan is not exactly a progressive manifesto. Raising the minimum wage and promoting stem cell research are laudable, but they also enjoy broad popular appeal and require little leadership to achieve. It would require substantially more leadership to confront the issues that voters thrust to the fore in last months elections. But already Pelosi has stated that impeachment and defunding the occupation of Iraq are “off the table.” Those are certainly difficult issues and maybe we shouldn’t do either one, but taking them off the table is not the act of a courageous leader. It is that act of a political functionary who is afraid to take the heat that comes with vigorous debate of consequential matters.

There are good reasons to be pessimistic about the 110th Congress. The corrupting influence of power is ever-present and it is advancing on the Democrats. I wrote about it last June: Corporate Handicappers Betting On Democrats:

After a decade of Republicans soaking up corporate largesse in the form of donations, vacations and other assorted perks and bribes, Democrats are starting to catch the eye of these deep-pocketed givers … traditional Republican backers like the insurance, pharmaceuticals and tobacco industries, are flipping their allegiances in order to sustain their sway over Congress.

And it isn’t just that lobbyists are now pitching to congressional Dems, the K Street firms that embody the lobbying community are aggressively recruiting Dems to become the next generation of lobbyists. Back in June I worried that…

The bad news is that the corporations that have besotted the Republican party, and to no small degree led to their decline through scandal and corruption, are now wining and dining Democrats. All that the corporations and lobbyists care about is that they have an ever-available stable of fresh whores that they can use up and discard when they’re no longer pretty. Will the Dems just become the next flurry of drunken sluts seduced by money and the power it brings?

So, will the ascending Dems do the right thing? Will they do the hard things? Will they conduct effective oversight? Will they produce accountability? Will they repeal the abominations of the previous regime, from bankruptcy rules to habeas corpus to environmental regs to tax equity, etc.? Of course, much of this agenda cannot be enacted without the signature of the president, but it can be fought for. Will the Dems step up for the fight?

I don’t know the answer, and I don’t think anyone else here does either. What I do know is that one difference between the Repubs and the Dems is that the Dems can be swayed through constituent pressure. That’s a big difference, but it means the onus is on US to get anything done.

So the change in congress is really just going to make our lives harder. With Repubs in power our lobbying was pointless. Now that it means something, we have to work harder at it. Will we step up for the fight? Will we show leadership? Will we fight just as hard against a Rubberstamp Democratic congress as we did against the Republican variety?

Well, will we?


2006 Word Of The Year: Truthiness

Merriam-Webster has announced that the winner of their first Word of the Year online survey is Stephen Colbert’s own “truthiness.”

“By an overwhelming 5 to 1 majority vote, our visitors have awarded top honors to a word Colbert first introduced on ‘The Word’ segment of his debut broadcast on Comedy Central back in October 2005.”

Colbert had this to say about having been recognized by this prestigious community of linguists:

“Though I’m no fan of reference books and their fact-based agendas, I am a fan of anyone who chooses to honor me. And what an honor. Truthiness now joins the lexicographical pantheon with words like ‘squash,’ ‘merry,’ ‘crumpet,’ ‘the,’ ‘xylophone,’ ‘circuitous,’ ‘others’ and others.”

Truthiness, as devoted Colbert fans know, is defined as:

“the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.”

Ironically, that is also how I would describe of viewers of Fox News. So in honor of Colbert being honored for his grammatical invention, I would like to announce one of my own. Here is the first synonym for truthiness: foxic. Foxic shares the same conceptual meaning as truthiness, but it can be used in more academic contexts, along with variations like foxicology and foxicism.


The Iraq Study Group’s Media Blindness

In the 96 pages of the ISG report, there is not a single reference to television, radio, newspapers, or any other media in Iraq or worldwide.

Yesterday the Bush family consigliore, James Baker, and his Leisure World Rockettes, released the product of their nine month review of the sad state of affairs (pdf) in Iraq. Their conclusion?

“The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating.”

Beyond this mind-numbingly obvious revelation, the report of this fiasco has produced some additional significant news. That news is that: there is no news to report about the news. In the 96 pages of the ISG report, there is not a single reference to television, radio, newspapers, or any other media in Iraq or worldwide. This despite the fact that media has played a central role in the execution and marketing of the war. From paying Iraqi newspapers to publish positive stories, to inventing front groups to spread misinformation, to propagandizing on behalf of a dishonest administration, the media has been an accomplice to the monumental failures that much of the ISG report documents.

For this group to ignore the role played by the media, a role media kingpin David Gergen himself describes as “cheerleaders,” leaves a hole in the search for solutions big enough to drive an inadequately armored HumVee through. The report’s omission of the media component even fails to rise to the level of responsibility that many in the media belatedly acknowledged. Mea culpas from the New York Times, the Washington Post, CBS, and others, at least superficially recognized that their dereliction to duty may have made things worse.

The truth is, they made things into a disaster of nightmarish proportions. Through lies, distortions, and collusion with BushCo’s warmongers, the press betrayed the American people, the Iraqis, and a broad array of citizens of the world, who are also suffering from the media’s deceit.

The ISG compounds the problem by not addressing the media’s role and proposing some sort of corrective action. The closest they come to this is to call on the president to communicate honestly with the American and world communities:

“Our leaders must be candid and forthright with the American people in order to win their support.” And…

“In public diplomacy, the President should convey as much detail as possible about the substance of these exchanges [between U.S. and Iraqi leadership] in order to keep the American people, the Iraqi people, and the countries in the region well informed.” And…

“Funding requests for the war in Iraq should be presented clearly to Congress and the American people.”

But that might be a lot to expect from an administration even the ISG criticizes for a lack of credibility in reporting:

“…there is significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq. The standard for recording attacks acts as a filter to keep events out of reports and databases. A murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack. If we cannot determine the source of a sectarian attack, that assault does not make it into the database. A roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn’t hurt U.S. personnel doesn’t count. For example, on one day in July 2006 there were 93 attacks or significant acts of violence reported. Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence. Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals.

Obviously, we have a long ways to go. We can’t trust the press to do their jobs responsibly, and we can’t trust our leaders to be honest with us, much less with the press or even themselves. And since the Blue Ribbon Commissions of the world aren’t going to take up these matters, we’ll have to do it on our own. So be alert, be proactive, be aggressive, and let the media know that we, the people, are watching them. Their apologies do not give them absolution. They must repent and reform. And then they must go forth and never sin again.


The FCC’s Ownership Quandry

The Federal Communications Commission is getting it from both sides.

A consortium of broadcasters and publishers wrote to Chairman Kevin Martin, to complain that they still don’t have as much of a stranglehold on the public’s attention as they would like. The letter was signed by all of the broadcast networks as well as radio giant Clear Channel, newspaper conglomerates Gannett and Tribune, and others. Here is a taste of their finely aged whine:

“…television and radio broadcasters are experiencing unprecedented challenges in maintaining their audience shares and the advertising revenues essential to the survival of non-subscription media.”

This complaint is based on the emergence of a vast array of new outlets available to today’s news and entertainment consumer. What they conveniently fail to mention is that they also own most of the new outlets that they accuse of taking their business away. They go on to implore the Commission to amend ownership rules…

“…to ensure that local television and radio broadcasters, as well as daily newspapers, are not unfairly hampered in their ability to serve the public.”

That request would be easier to take seriously if they were presently serving the public. That opinion is shared by a group of senators that sent a letter to Chairman Martin on the same day. Senator Byron Dorgan wrote the letter that was signed by eight other members of the Commerce committee.

“The FCC must first establish that there are sufficient mechanisms in place to ensure that broadcasters are serving their local communities before considering any changes to the ownership rules.”

So what will the FCC do? Will they bend to the will of their corporate overlords? Or will they accept the fact that, come January, the Democrats will be running Congress and chairing the committees that oversee the agency? My guess is they punt. There is an unfinished report on localism that they can use as an excuse to delay making a decision. When we see the conclusions in that report, we’ll know which way they intend to vote on new ownership rules.

For anybody handicapping the outcome, I wouldn’t bet on the FCC weighing in against the business crowd. So that means that we, the people, will have to stay vigilant and make sure they remember for whom they work.


O’Reilly Wants An Apology

Dan Rather recently appeared on Bill Maher’s “Real Time” and revealed the heretofore unthinkable notion that Fox News propagates perspectives from the Bush White House:

“I think it’s fair to say, Bill, in fact I know it is, that FOX News operates in at least a somewhat different way than every other news organization that I know, that they have their “talking points,” in which somebody in the hierarchy, whether this is Roger Ailes who runs the place or not, we know that they get talking points from the White House. And they can say well, we don’t always take those talking points, but I think it’s pretty clear that they had wished the election had gone another way.”

O’Reilly is now reacting typically aghast that anyone could criticize his network or accuse it of bias. But he isn’t merely expressing umbrage. As is the pattern with his psychosis, he is escalating it to the level of jihad and associating it with the well known cloak of hatred that enshrouds all of his enemies:

“As you may know, the far left in America is on a jihad to smear FOX News. They hate us for a variety of reasons…So day after day, the far left loons demean, defame, and attempt to damage the FOX News Channel.”

He goes on to say that neither he, nor anyone he knows, nor anyone at Fox, has ever seen a White House Talking Point. He really didn’t have to look any further than Fox News Vice President, John Moody, to find the elusive memos. And as for wishing the elections had gone another way, again Moody provides the evidence:

“The elections and Rumsfeld’s resignation were a major event but not the end of the world.”

In an attempt to appear even handed, O’Reilly cites his past defense of Rather during the controversy over Bush’s National Guard service, wherein O’Reilly helps Rather out by proclaiming that…

“…there’s no evidence Dan Rather fabricated anything. It was sloppy reporting that did him in.”

That’s a defense? With friends like that, who needs enemas?

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MSNBC/Olbermann Continue To Hound The Factor

The train keeps-a-rollin all night long. All week-night long in the cable news ratings, that is.

The latest numbers for the November period show a continuation of a trend that has lasted all year. For ten of the last eleven months, Keith Olbermann’s Countdown has gained viewers while Bill O’Reilly’s Factor sheds them in droves. Countdown improved a whopping 66% compared to O’Reilly’s slump of -17%.

Here are the numbers for network performance in November 2006 as compared November 2005:

Primetime CNN FOX MSNBC
Persons 2+ +15% -19% +29%
Persons 25-54 +40% +10 +38%

Total Day CNN FOX MSNBC
Persons 2+ +15% -13% +25%
Persons 25-54 +40% +13 +43%

Once again, the only declines were posted by Fox. Even where Fox showed improvement, it ranked as the smallest gains of all the networks. The dismal finish by Fox occurred despite expectations for viewer gains due to the mid-term elections and their aftermath. The other networks were able to meet those expectations with strong growth.

Does this foreshadow a bleak winter winter for Fox? Yes, gawd-dammit, it does. And it’s about time.

The irresponsible, journalistically vacant, unethical, propagandizing that is the hallmark of Fox is obviously wearing thin with the American television audience. And as they sink, their desperation is leading them into ever more pathetic theocon-ambulisms. As they struggle to cling to their crumbling empire they resort to inanities like a pilot for a conservative Daily Show, or the memo that sought to console the newsroom ranks by reassurring them that…

“The elections and Rumsfeld’s resignation were a major event but not the end of the world. The war on terror goes on without interruption”

Feel better? I know I sure do.


Gergen’s Cheerleaders

David Gergen has worked in the White House for several presidents including Reagan, Bush, and Clinton. He has also worked in the press as a frequently consulted pundit and analyst. As such he has experience obfuscating the truth from both sides of the media looking glass.

Today on CNN’s Reliable Sources, he confessed to what many media critics and knowledgeable citizens already knew: The press failed to do their job in the stampede toward the invasion of Iraq. Even worse than that, they affirmatively promoted it.

“There was a sense, in the lead-up to the war, in which the press, I think, was guilty of cheerleading. We were waving the flags and it was almost unpatriotic to question the possibility of war with Iraq.”

That admission should be justification for terminating Gergen and everyone on his cheerleading squad. In a just world, the families of the fallen ought to be able to sue them for wrongful death. There is simply no professional excuse for the behavior Gergen is describing. It is never the media’s purpose to endorse policy. Their purpose is to investigate and report. Had they done that, there is a pretty good chance that we, and the people of Iraq, would not now be mired in the chaos and tragedy that the media’s negligence spawned. Gergen and his cohorts cannot plead ignorance because even he admits that they knew more than they let on:

“…we were too easy on the claims of weapons of mass destruction and the mushroom clouds being a reason to go to war.”

No kidding! And it wasn’t as if there wasn’t a clamoring for further investigation and deliberation. The American people, and people throughout the world, took to the streets in record setting numbers in a vain attempt to head off the hostile intentions of the Bush administration and their enablers in the press.

It is unconscionable that propagandists like Gergen can wreak havoc on the world, and when they discover the curtain has been pulled aside and they are revealed as frauds, they just go on TV again and discuss how the curtain came to be pulled aside.

There are consequences for failure on the level demonstrated here – sad, desperate, enduring consequences. Unfortunately, not for those responsible. Neither our leaders, nor their media co-conspirators will be held to account. But thousands of American families and tens of thousands more in Iraq will forever bear the scars from cuts delivered by Gergen’s Cheerleaders.


You Better Watch Out

Santa Clause is Coming Town
And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll lay low. Operating from a secret, undisclosed location, Claus’ Dark Ops program is without parallel. That might explain Dick Cheney’s frequent visits. There has never been a credible sighting of the mysterious man and it is said that he never ventures out in daylight.

Still, he manages to maintain an impenetrable network of personnel and data. Admiral John Poindexter’s Total Information Awareness initiative pales by comparison. The methods by which Claus accumulated his data are unknown but they are, by all accounts, accurate to the smallest detail. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales must envy this guy. He can enter anyone’s home without first obtaining a warrant and he can peer into the most intimate corners of your personal life. In fact, he sees you when you’re sleeping and likewise knows when you’re awake. Frankly, he’s beginning to creep me out.

What do we really know about him, anyway? Some experts have speculated that he is being treated in his hideaway for diabetes and heart disease. But that speculation may just be based on reports of a persistent weight problem. Reports have also leaked from the compound that Claus suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder evidenced by a reflexive desire to produce lengthy lists and check them over twice or more.

Despite controversy, Claus does have an impressive array of supporters both inside and outside of governments throughout the world. But one look at the sort of people that count themselves as his defenders is another reason for concern. People like Bill O’Reilly who has gone so far as to declare that there is a war on Christmas. Jews, Muslims, and other non-Christians are characterized as secular in this war and accused of wanting to cut and run from Jesus.

Other interests in the Claus empire include commodities like plastic and timber. His firms have virtually cornered the market in pine. He is also a major player in transportation and shipping and has been called the brains behind Onassis. But his net worth can only be guessed at. We do know that he came in first on the Forbes Fictional Fifteen.

Claus’ detractors have learned the hard way what it means to tangle with him. He can be a ruthless competitor and he has demonstrated an ability to endure sleepless nights and daunting schedules that include heavy lifting and world travel. The one sentiment that is most frequently expressed by those who have challenged him is an admonition that has gained mythic proportions. Ask one of his victims and they will invariably warn that…

“You Better Watch Out!”

[The Flash movie linked here is my entry in the Huffington Post Contagious Festival. If you like it, please send it to everyone you know and put links to it on your blogs, MySpace pages, etc.]


Is It Civil War Yet?

With violence in Iraq escalating daily, the media has been struggling with how to characterize the conflict. The number of Iraqis killed this month is greater than at any other time since the days of the U.S. invasion 3 years ago. It is inescapable that the rotation of reciprical attacks constitutes a pattern that open eyes have no problem recognizing. Sunnis send suicide bombers into a Shiite mosque on one day. The next day a Shiite car bomb decimates a crowded Sunni marketplace.

What would you call this?

Finally, at least one voice in mediasphere is calling it what it is: A civil war:

“NBC said on the “Today” show that the Iraqi government’s inability to stop spiraling violence between rival factions fit its definition of civil war.”

It does not, however, fit the White House’s definition as they continue to deny reality by using euphemisms that speak of “sectarian” strife that is merely “serious”. It is in the interest of the administration to confuse the matter. They know that if the U.S. were seen to be targets in the midst of Iraq’s internal conflict, the public would not tolerate the loss of life, the wasted billions of dollars, and the international revulsion that results from our continued occupation of the crumbling and chaotic nation.

Bush will be meeting with Iraq’s Prime Minister, al-Maliki this week to discuss how to be more effectively deceptive and to continue to promote the fallacy that Iraq is not only not in a civil war, but is improving its security and stability. The Iraq Study Group is also preparing to release their report that early indications say will have no surprises beyond a suggestion that talks be held with Iran and Syria. The president has nixed this idea, but Maliki is already doing it. This further separates the U.S. from any role of influence and makes our presence even more bewildering and tragic. And the PR stunts and photo-ops will escalate along with the slaughter and despair.

The lies foisted on the American people by its leaders have, to date, been regurgitated by a compliant media. When the public is confused, sheltered and lied to, they will be understandably reluctant to draw conclusions. Or else they will become disgusted, disengaged and defensively apathetic. But when events are accurately portrayed in the press, and citizens are treated like adults, they are more willing and able to make better informed judgments.

Is It Civil War Yet? Not if the government and the press hide the facts from the people. Not if Orwellian perversions of truth are permitted to fog the landscape. Not if it’s forbidden to exercise free expression. At least NBC has finally bowed to acknowledge the obvious. Their tardy enlightenment will help to promote a more realistic national discussion. But they are only a single outpost in the media frontier. We’ll have to wait and see if other news organizations chose to contribute to the store of knowledge rather than continue to suppress and mangle it.