Washington Post: Jon Stewart, Enemy Of Democracy?

With that headline, the Washington Post commences a serious mischaracterization of a study centered on Daily Show viewers. The study’s authors, Jody Baumgartner and Jonathan Morris of East Carolina University, sought to define “The Daily Show Effect” on its audience.

The WP says:
“Two political scientists found that young people who watch Stewart’s faux news program, “The Daily Show,” develop cynical views about politics and politicians that could lead them to just say no to voting.”

The researchers themselves found that:
Daily Show viewers, primarily young adults in their late teens and early 20s, tend to trust their own knowledge of politics. And that, …whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, we don’t know. But that, As “Daily Show” viewers grow more confident in political knowledge…they could become more active voters…”Participation breeds more participation and informed participation” he said. “So that by itself would be a net positive.”

So amongst the conclusions of the researchers was the possibility that the Daily Show may produce a greater likelihood of voting. The Post doesn’t cite that possibility anywhere in its article, while featuring the notion that the program could suppress voting.

I would submit that any program that leads viewers “to be cynical about individual candidates, the electoral process and the media…[and]…to trust their own knowledge of politics,” is performing an essential public service. It proves that the program is producing an enlightened skepticism that is firmly rooted in reality – contrary to the ramblings of the folks at the Washington Post.

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SWIFT Invasions Of Privacy

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) is opening the vault to reveal your banking transactions to the federal government. This is being done with what they call an “administrative” subpoena that is not approved by any judicial agency. Once again, this administration has found a way to peek into private matters of law-abiding citizens by spreading the fear of terrorism and proclaiming that they will protect our sorry butts.

The story was investigated by the New York Times who proudly asserted that they went forward with publication, despite pressure from the White House. But it appears that the truth is that they held the story for several weeks when they were negotiating with officials that sought to suppress the news. The NYT only rushed to print because they were about to be scooped by the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal.

NYT reporter, Eric Lichtblau, even admitted that the paper’s decision to publish was partly based on the fact that, “It was done at the cabinet level this time around,” and that the president did not get involved directly. Does that mean that if the president had directly made the request to kill the story, the paper would have complied? That doesn’t seem like a point of pride to me.


Guantanamo Press Ban Update

Since the Pentagon booted reporters out of Guantanamo last week, they have apparently relented and invited a reporter back in. By happenstance, it is a reporter from Fox News.

ThinkProgress has the story about how Andrew Napolitano was singled out for a guest pass to the Cuban detainee facility. But since the original story claimed the prior evictions were to prevent lawsuits from news outlets that were not present, does this mean that these other media outlets are now free to sue because Fox was allowed in and nobody else?


Stop Big Media – The Battle Begins

Via Free Press:

The FCC is preparing to hold new hearings on media ownership. The last time they did this, they succeeded in passing a rule that drew widespread opposition from the public and Congress. It was ultimately thrown out by a Federal Court for not having justified its conclusions.

They’re at it again, but this time a coalition of public advocates is determined to preempt any mischief they try to engage in. The coalition, dubbed StopBigMedia, will seek to encourage greater public involvement in the debate over the future of the media.

“For far too long, media policy in this country has been made behind closed doors in the public’s name but without our informed consent,” said Robert W. McChesney, president of Free Press. “Despite overwhelming public opposition to greater media consolidation from across the entire political spectrum, the FCC and industry lobbyists are trying to sneak through the same misguided rules rejected in 2003.

Concentration of ownership and Net Neutrality are without a doubt the most critical media reform issues of the day. Your participation is needed and will surely have an impact. This is the time to make a stand. Go to StopBigMedia and register to join the effort to beat back the monopolists that seek to dominate the media and pervert its mission. We won this battle last time and we can do it again. But it will not happen without everybody taking responsibility and getting involved. You can be a part of this victory. So, please…..do it.


The All American Conservatism Rejects

With the publication of American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia, we now have a pretty good idea on whom to blame the nation’s problems.

The 997 page book casts itself as:

“…the first comprehensive reference volume to cover what is surely the most influential political and intellectual movement of the last half century. More than fifteen years in the making-and more than half a million words in length-this informative and entertaining encyclopedia contains substantive entries of up to two thousand words on those persons, events, organizations, and concepts of major importance to postwar American conservatism.”

Unfortunately, it is not as comprehensive as it’s publisher claims. Some of the most notorious pounders of conservative pap were egregiously omitted. Nowhere in this massive tome will you find the conservative stylings of Ann Coulter, Tom DeLay, Grover Norquist, Bill O’Reilly or Karl Rove. At the same time that they disassociate with these rightist stalwarts, they embrace the likes of John Birch, Joseph McCarthy, and George Wallace. They honor James Dobson but spurn Billy Graham. They include Charles Colson but not G. Gordon Liddy or Ollie North. And Jeanne Kirkpatrick makes the cut but not Henry Kissinger.

It’s hard to tell what their standards for inclusion are, but maybe that’s the point. When preparing a compendium of individuals with such uniformly low standards for the welfare of society and Constitutional rule, at some point you just have to throw your hands up and decide that it’s done. There are plenty of candidates for future volumes.


Drum Major Institute Drums Up Some Creative Media

The Drum Major Institute, a non-partisan, progressive think tank, has launched a Google AdWords campaign that takes advantage of the search engine’s ad results to educate voters.

Here’s how it works: Do a search for your congressman and check the list of “Sponsored Links” to the right. You’ll find your congressman with a letter grade representing his/her DMI score.

Here’s a few examples:

  • Berman Earns An “A”
  • Herseth Earns A “C”
  • Feingold Earns An “A”
  • Santorum Earns An “F”

The DMI gets points for originality. This campaign alerts net users to DMI’s congressional scoring whenever anyone does a search for a member and provides a link to more details of the member’s scorecard. This makes it easy to learn about the voting record of your representative whether you were looking for it or not.

Will this campaign produce a more informed electorate? Probably not. But it does inspire one to imagine other ways to exploit new media for the public good.

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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. The Wall Street Journal’s story notes that traditional Republican backers like the insurance, pharmaceuticals and tobacco industries, are flipping their allegiances in order to sustain their sway over Congress.

“The reality is beginning to set in here,” says Greg Casey, the head of the Business-Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC), an organization of businesses dedicated to electing pro-industry candidates. Even if Republicans maintain control of Congress after the November election, their majorities in both chambers are expected to shrink. “What you couldn’t get done in 2006 will be much more difficult in 2007,” Mr. Casey says.

Considering how little has been done in 2006, it’s easy to understand why the business community is worried. Their fear has propelled them to take drastic measures – Concede that Democrats exist. In the 2004-2005 election cycle, the BIPAC gave 3.5% of its campaign contributions to Democrats. So far in 2006, that’s up to 24%.

Donations to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee this year have exceeded those to the Republican Committee for the first time in more than a decade. Since corporations are the largest slice of the campaign finance pie, this demonstrates a clear shift in party loyalty.

The industries that provide these funds claim that there is no partisan motivation to their generosity and that speculation about future legislative majorities is unfounded. Their explanations for the charitable flip-flop range from an interest to donate to those who will listen, to “coincidence.”

Somehow, coincidence doesn’t seem to tell the whole story. The Journal also cites a shift in hiring at K Street firms. The Tom DeLay era featured some of the most aggressive arm-twisting DC has ever seen in order to assure that lobbyists hire only Republicans. But recently, The Federalist Group, who had never hired a Democrat in its eight year existence, added four of them to its staff, including a former aide to Ted Kennedy.

On the one hand, this news appears to shed a positive light on the prospects of congressional leadership after November’s elections. After all, in our free market system, the flow of dollars is a pretty accurate predictor of events. And the corporations of America are the high rollers in this game. If they are betting on blue, there is a fairly good chance that blue is going to prevail. That’s the good news.

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?

To cynics like myself, that question doesn’t really need to be asked. But, what the hell, let’s ask it anyway. Maybe by staking out a preemptive position we can forestall what we all sadly believe is inevitable anyway.

Update (8/17/06): A new WaPo article is confirming the shift in hiring on K Street: “In what lobbyists are calling a harbinger of possible upheaval on Capitol Hill, many who make a living influencing government have gone from mostly shunning Democrats to aggressively recruiting them as lobbyists over the past six months or so.”


Newspapers More Like Craigslist

The Wall Street Journal recently interviewed Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist. Not surprisingly, the Journal’s Brian Carney projected a befuddled confusion as to why this electronic phenomemon doesn’t properly exploit it’s revenue potential. Wall Street’s mouthpiece can’t understand why a profitable organization that more than satisfies its customers doesn’t wring out every spare nickel it can spot. The Journal, it seems, cannot be introduced to a Golden Goose without reaching for a hatchet.

Buckmaster does a great job of spurring Carney to wonder if he is a communist. As the head of one of the first entrepreneurial successes of the Internet era, Buckmaster would have been justified to laugh uproariously in Carney’s face.

But, instead, Buckmaster defended the Craigslist model, pointing out its longevity in a field sown with failure. He went on to address some broader issues that touch on the future of conventional publishers:

“In Mr. Buckmaster’s view, newspapers would be better off being a little more Craigslist-like: Go private, eschew Wall Street’s demands for continually “goosing profitability” and give your readers what they want.”

Damn Commie! Catering to customer’s wants and needs? Who does he think he is? The real brilliance in that clip is the idea that newspapers have much to gain by divorcing themselves from their corporate parents so that they can focus on producing superior journalism rather than short-term quarterly earnings results. Superior journalism would, in the end, give them what they really want – more readers, advertisers, and profits.

We all know how these megaliths are consumed with greed. The question now is, are they greedy enough to do what is truly in their best interest?


The Nation’s Corporate Media & Consolidation

The Nation magazine has updated its chart of who owns what in the media. Along with the chart, they invited some influential writers to comment on the state of entertainment and media. Here are some highlights:

Mark Crispin MillerThe Death of News
In short, our very lives and liberty are at unprecedented risk because our press has long since disappeared into “the media”–a mammoth antidemocratic oligopoly that is far more responsive to its owners, big shareholders and good buddies in the government than it is to the rest of us, the people of this country.

I couldn’t agree more.

Jeffrey ChesterA Ten-Point Plan for Media Democracy
The next several years are critical to insure that the promise of what we now experience online–and its vast potential to help build a just civil society–is fulfilled.

This is an invaluable resource for participation in the fight for media reform. Most of the top media sites on the Internet are divisions of old media conglomerates. What we do today will determine if new media remains independent.

Eric KlinenbergMega-merger Mania
No one, except the owners of conglomerates, benefits from concentrated control of local media, and in the past decade public outrage over the costs of consolidation has helped turn the embryonic media reform movement into the nation’s fastest-growing bipartisan political project.

Public outrage got Congress to reverse an FCC rule permitting media ownership to increase from 35% to 45%. But shortly after the Congress acted, the FCC produced a new rule with a 39% cap. Eternal vigilance is the price of a free press.

Markos Moulitsas ZúnigaUse the Tools
We are at the beginning of the age of citizen media, where corporations can own vast, billion-dollar media outlets yet fail to control the flow and content of information.

From a proven expert in citizen media, a call to arms. We can become the media we hope for. Though he is more optimistic than I am about the whether the old media will fade away.

Robert W. McChesneyFight for a Free Press
Despite the Internet’s truly revolutionary implications, in itself it cannot address the core crises of our media: the collapse of journalism and the rise of hypercommercialism.

What more can I say?

Robert GreenwaldBrave New Media
We have at our disposal a rapidly proliferating array of tools available at low cost to get our messages out–from the Internet to iPods to cellphones and whatever comes next.

Greenwald has been experimenting with alternative methods of film distribution, including providing free copies of films to people who host house parties for their family, freinds and neighbors.


Bargain Bin: FCC Indecency Alternatives

Lawbreakers who are considering cussing or flashing a breast on TV may not be getting the most value for their money. The FCC’s recently escalated fines for these heinous crimes is $325,000 per incident. Lost Remote has done the public service of identifying some relative bargains for the thrifty ne’er-do-well.

  • Killing someone by accident: $250,000.
  • Commit Second Degree Murder in Florida: $10,000.
  • Kidnap a child in California: $10,000.
  • Do drugs in Iowa: $10,000.
  • Violate someone’s civil rights: $10,000.

Some of these crimes also come with prison terms, but from a financial perspective, the benefits are clear. This is an excellent example of the free market at work.