MySpace – The Predator’s Feeding Ground

News Corpse readers know that I am not a fan of MySpace. But they will also know that I am even more opposed to government intrusion into civil liberty and free expression. Consequently, I find myself in the awkward position of defending MySpace from the congressional thought police.

The truth is that DOPA, the “Deleting Online Predators Act” (PDF), is an assault on much more than MySpace. This bill, offered by Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA), purports to protect minors from sexual deviants patrolling the Internet by banning access to social networking sites on computers in schools, libraries and other federally funded property. Here’s how the bill defines “social networking”

“…a commercially operated Internet website that allows users to create web pages or profiles that provide information about themselves and are available to other users and offers a mechanism of communication with other users, such as a forum, chat room, e-mail, or instant messenger.”

That definition is so broad that it would also prohibit access to sites like Flickr, Wikipedia, DailyKos, and virtually every public blog on services like Blogger and Live Journal. Even Instant Messaging services would be at risk.

Fitzpatrick, the bill’s author, argues that the bill is necessary because,

“…this new technology has become a feeding ground for child predators that use these sites as just another way to do our children harm.”

Trying to blame social networking for the behavior of sexual deviants is short-sighted and distracts from efforts to implement effective legal reform. While the incidence of online child assaults has been sensationalized by the media, it’s actual occurrence is much less than that of the offline variety. Many more children have been assaulted by teachers, but I don’t hear calls for banning children from schools. The practical effect of this legislation, other than arbitrary censorship, is that children from low income families will be disproportionately excluded from access because they are less likely to have computers at home and are more dependent on public terminals.

But protecting children isn’t really what these folks are after. DOPA is the product of the House Suburban Caucus. Its founder, Mark Kirk (R-IL), recently commissioned a poll to identify issues that would appeal to suburban families and take attention away from the bigger issues facing the nation like Iraq, NSA wiretapping, gas prices, etc. The caucus now includes 18 Republican members. They are gaining some measure of influence and have recently met with Karl Rove and Denny Hastert.

In the end, this is just another cynical political scheme by Republican fear mongers to forestall the electoral beating they anticipate in November. The refrain is all too familiar now. If it isn’t terrorists on our doorstep, it’s perverts in our kids’ bedrooms. And their response always seems to be more chipping away at freedom.

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Songs Of Unity – English Only!

The U.S. Senate yesterday approved S. Res. 458, a bill that:

…affirms that statements or songs that symbolize the unity of the Nation, including the National Anthem, the Oath of Allegiance sworn by new United States citizens, and the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States, should be recited or sung in English, the common language of the United States.

Particularly troubling is the vague wording that applies this law to, “statements or songs” beyond those enumerated in the bill. How exactly is that determined? The only criteria is that the item, “symbolize the unity of the nation.” What other statements or songs would would this bill apply to?

  • America the Beautiful
  • My Country Tis of Thee
  • God Bless America
  • Born in the USA
  • This Land Is Your Land
  • Home on the Range
  • Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Would we be in violation of this law if we translated the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence or Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or King’s “I Have a Dream” speech?

What moronically shallow thinking produced this idea that would inhibit our freedom to share our principles and patriotism with the majority of the people in the world that do not speak our language? It’s just another example of the Persistent Legislative State that seeks to impose its own form of mind control.

To all of this I say simply:

Amanece:­ ¿lo véis a la luz de la aurora
Lo que tanto aclamamos la noche al caer?
sus estrellas, sus franjas flotaban ayer,
en el fiero combate en señal de victoria.
Fulgor de lucha, al paso de la libertad,
por la noche decían: «¡Se va defendiendo!»
¡Oh, decid! ¿Despliega aún su hermosura estrellada,
sobre tierra de libres, la bandera sagrada?
-“Nuestro Himno”

The Stalking Points Memo – Culture War

Culture War

Believe it or not, the left-wing media in America hates Bill O’Reilly. It’s the Secular Media vs. the Traditional Media (traditional?). Well, he’s not going to sit still for that anymore. He’s taking names. He’s making a list and checking it…..well, he’s making a list.

(Click the pic here to go to Stalking Points Memo page, then click the pic there to start the Flash movie)

No More White House Press Briefings

Jay Rosen at PressThink wins the “Best Idea Of The Year Award” for this little piece of brilliance in response to Josh Bolton, the White House Chief of Staff, who hinted that he may end the daily press briefings:

“End the briefings! I suppose it would never occur to Bolten that such a decision also belongs to the people being briefed. If Snow turns out to be McClellan with better hair, the press ought to quit the briefing room and give up on getting explanations from the White House. Beat Bolten to the punch, in other words.

By “quit” I mean pull your top talent. Send interns instead to occupy the seats without asking questions or filing reports. That means no correspondents at the two daily briefings, none on the President’s plane, none at his public appearances. (Except for foreign trips where other heads of state might speak.) Let the White House publicize itself.”

Just imagine it. Tony Snow steps behind the podium and gazes out to a room of youthful and unfamiliar faces. He stumbles uncomfortably with his opening statement and then opens the floor to questions…..


Maybe he will muddle through some topics the Communications office planned to highlight, but all he would see is a pack of kids hurriedly scribbling down what he’s saying. On first blush it may seem like everything the White House has ever dreamed of – a corps of stenographers. Except for two things:

  • It would be glaringly apparent that these briefings are (and were) meaningless.
  • The real reporters would (hopefully) be out doing real journalism.

We can only hope.

GeezerVision – Or The Graying Of TV News

While television news programmers fret over strategies to attract younger viewers, they are plastering their air with coverage that can only serve to drive younger viewers further away.

In an article in Variety, Brian Lowry, reveals that:

Fox News Channel and CNN are two of only three leading basic networks (the other being the Hallmark Channel) whose median viewer age is over 60. Headline News rings in next at 59.9, and MSNBC is still on the rickety side at 57.

Despite this demographic maturity, much of the programming is the sort that would be most appealling to the grumpy old man that yells at kids to, “Get off of my lawn.”

The networks’ obsession with missing white girls, columbine kids, and child predators, paints a picture of a generation in turmoil. To that generation it must seem insulting and shallow. It is certainly not the way to encourage them to tune in more often.

Creativism And The Rise Of The Art Insurgency

In its many forms, movies, books, music, etc., art entertains, enlightens, challenges and comforts us. We encounter it in virtually every waking moment, if not in the creative aspect, then in the commercial. We transform the creators into objects of desire and curiosity. Creativism, the pursuit of truth through expression, in one way or another consumes more of our consciousness than any other activity of life not directly associated with survival.

And yet, the past decade has seen an unsettling evolution of thought with regard to the artist’s place in society. That place has increasingly become a wobbly axis of discord. Painters, poets, actors, authors and musicians are battered and belittled for doing nothing more than what they were born to do: express themselves. While the artist’s contribution to the world community was once valued for its conscience and vision, in recent years it has depreciated and even become a liability.

Now there has arisen a class of self-appointed, civic hall monitors who believe that they can decide who passes through the corridors of free expression. These martinets of virtue want artists to repress their natural inclination to share their insight and their soul. Emblematic of this trend is the book by censorious pundit Laura Ingraham, “Shut Up and Sing.” The publisher touts the book for exposing, “the outrageous howlers and muddled thinking peddled by a rogues’ gallery of Hollywood celebs…” This view has infected modern society and is propelled by critics, moralists and pseudo-patriots whose shallowness demands that artists be nothing more than amusements. They must certainly never make us think or feel.

I’m sick and tired of limp-brained gasbags like John McCain saying, “Do I know how to sing? About as well as she [Barbra Streisand] knows how to govern America!”. The obvious extension of that thought is that anyone who does any job other than serving in Congress is unqualified to have an opinion about what our government does in our name. Just try changing the word “sing” with the word “farm” or “teach” or “weld.” This is unadulterated elitist bullshit. If we’re qualified to vote them into office, then we’re qualified to comment on the job they are doing.

When did this happen? How did artists come to be assaulted for having opinions and the courage to express them? That is, in fact, their strength and purpose. Throughout history it was artists who shaped the character of our culture. It was artists who illustrated our spiritual quests; documented our humanity; exposed our flaws; inspired us to repair them. The enlightened observations they shared were like medicinal potions. They were sometimes caustic, but they always served to heal. Today, merely being controversial (a side effect of honesty) subjects the artist to condemnation and ridicule from the ranks of the cultural imperialists.

This is not happening by accident. There is a deliberate campaign to denigrate artists due specifically to their ability to communicate. Popular artists are natural targets because their popularity increases the volume of their voices. Thus we find artists, whose work was once profound enough to enrich our lives, are disparaged for employing that same vision to touch our lives in ever more meaningful ways.

By silencing the voices of creativism, the ruling class seeks to dominate an inconvenient public. The McCarthyites did it to the Hollywood 10, and they’re doing it still. They don’t even try to be subtle. An example:

In January of 2003, shortly before the U. S. invasion of Iraq, Colin Powell assembled the media at the United Nations to comment on his presentation. But before the media arrived, the tapestry of Picasso’s masterpiece, Guernica, was covered by a blue drape. A press conference to discuss launching an unprecedented war of aggression could not be held in front of one of the twentieth century’s most moving anti-war statements.

The symbolism of literally throwing a blanket over this representation of truth is unmistakable. They know the power of art – and they fear it. Another example:

Shortly after 9/11, Clear Channel Communications, the world’s largest radio conglomerate, distributed a list of 164 songs they deemed inappropriate for airing. The list bordered on the absurd, including:

  • Louis Armstrong – “What A Wonderful World”
  • Buddy Holly and the Crickets – “That’ll Be The Day”
  • Carole King – “I Feel the Earth Move”
  • John Lennon – “Imagine”
  • Frank Sinatra – “New York, New York”

And in a master stroke:

  • Rage Against The Machine – All Songs!

The time has come to restore the dignity of creativism. We must beat back the repressive forces that would prefer the Dark Ages to the Renaissance. We must recognize the power that speaking the truth brings to our world and ourselves. We must support our creative advocates. They are more reliable as leaders than their political counterparts. Too often, the politician’s voice is reduced to platitudes for fear of alienating a listener. The artist’s voice, unencumbered by these fears, is more likely to resonate with independence and honesty.

Every great social movement was fueled in part by the arts – from the Napoleonic era Disasters of War by Goya, to the guerilla postering of Robbie Conal. The art insurgency is latent now, but it is strong and committed. Like other insurgencies, it blends in with the populace and can strike with fierce and startling force. It stockpiles its weapons of mass construction for the building of consensus and passion and hope.

Now is the time to reignite creativism for social progress. A new generation of artists is already engaged. But they need to be embraced by the political actors – the campaigners and strategists; the wonks and activists; the publicists and what’s left of the independent media. Those that presently grip the reins of our society know the strength with which art speaks, and they are doing their best to suppress it. We must not leave them alone on that battlefield.

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The Stalking Points Memo – Tony Snow

The Snow Job

Bill goes after the Far-Left Bomb Throwers who don’t seem to have anything nice to say about Fox shill, and new White House Press Secretary, Tony Snow. Watch as Bill lays into the disgraceful Howard Dean and His Minions (CD available now).

(Click the pic here to go to Stalking Points Memo page, then click the pic there to start the Flash movie)

Colbert Slays White House Press Corpse

I’m afraid a lot of folks are missing the big story on the White House Stenographer’s Association Dinner.

First of all, I think Colbert’s material was devasting but his delivery was a little stiff and he was too dependent on his notes. But that’s really irrelevant. The routine itself was more about media punditry than the president. even when he addressed politics, it was in the context of how a pundit would frame it. He never broke character.

The most important thing that happened that night was the routine with Bush and his impersonator. Here’s the reason it’s important:

In satirical comedy the key is to identify the most recognizable characteristic of the subject and amplify it. It must be an actual characteristic or there will be no humor. Think about every good impersonation you’ve ever seen whether political or celebrity. You laugh because you recognize the subject’s peculiarities.

And what charactersitic was selected for amplification in that routine:

Bush Is Stupid!

This may not be news to people with measurable brain activity, but it is significant that it has now been validated in public by this event. And the fact that the president would participate in this certification of his idiocy is astonishing.

This was not typical self-deprecation, it was a confession. It was an acknowledgement that the one element of Bush’s character that is obvious to all is what an ignorant boob he is. And it was funny because it was true.

The Tony Snow Job

I suppose it was inevitable. Former Poppa Bush speechwriter, current Fox News commentator and Fox Radio talk show host, Tony Snow, been appointed White House Press Secretary. Since Snow has been shilling for the president for years in his current job, a guest on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown recently asked if he would be getting back pay. It must be convenient for the White House to have the farm team at Fox available any time they need a new relief spinner.

Amongst the jokes that write themselves when stupefying events like this occur, there are some seriously funny moments to treasure. ThinkProgress has compiled some commentary by Snow that refers to the president as “an embarrassment,” “impotent,” and more. If that’s the kind of counsel he’ll be giving in the Oval Office, this might turn out pretty well after all.

Unfortunately, we can’t expect Snow to be any more honest in his new job than he was in his old one. Media Matters has documented some of the many falsehoods that were a regular feature of his broadcasts.

However, as we bid farewell to Scotty McClellan and welcome Tony to his new digs, we must not forget why this substitution is taking place. The administration is in turmoil:

  • They are losing two wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) and rattling their paper sabers at a third (Iran).
  • They are defending multiple top-level aides who are under investigation or indictment.
  • They are stumbling around trying to deal with record high gas prices.
  • They are suffering from ever lower poll numbers and the possible loss of one or both houses of congress in November.

Their solution to this perfect storm of political chaos? A new press secretary!

This game plan clearly holds the hope that the new face will create a diversion. They expect that the White House Press Corpse will honor Snow with a Honeymoon Period. They’re going to say, “He needs to get his bearings and figure out which drawer the paper clips are in. Give him a break.”

Well I say Hell No! He is a veteran of both the media and the White House. If he can’t do the job he shouldn’t have been appointed. There are too many critical issues facing the country to allow precious time to slip away. We need answers to the questions raised above and others, like health care, tax fairness, immigration, wiretapping, global warming, and on and on. It is the Press Corpse’s job to elicit these answers from our representatives and they better damn well do it.

The Fox Befouling Of MySpace Has Begun

It was inevitable. Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of MySpace was going to destroy it. Everyone knew that. Now the evidence is at hand and on display in the New York Times.

The decline begins with monetizing everything that moves. With Fox as the parent company, MySpace becomes just another mainstream vehicle to inject advertising into the tattered veins of a public that is viewed as nothing but consumption junkies. The lust for revenue will overpower whatever social benefit the service presently offers. And for those who hoped that MySpace’s founders, Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson, would insulate their brainchild from the suits, they will only be bitterly disappointed by reality. The Times reports this repulsive initiative…

“…to expand one of Mr. DeWolfe’s advertising ideas – turning advertisers into members of the MySpace community, with their own profiles, like the teenagers’ – so that the young people who often spend hours each day on MySpace can become “friends” with movies, cellphone companies and even deodorants. Young people can link to the profiles set up for these goods and services, as they would to real friends, and these commercial “friends” can even send them messages – ads, really, but of a whole new kind.”

Deodorants as a whole new kind of real friend for the young people. Now that’s innovation! But that’s not all. The new bosses think it would be a good idea to start charging the many bands that have created profiles and use the site to develop and connect with their fans. This idea is so bad that even DeWolfe opposes it. Unfortunately, the Fox Interactive Media boss, Ross Levinsohn, has ideas of his own and dismisses DeWolfe’s objections…

“…saying it was appropriate for the people running MySpace to be more concerned at this point about serving users than making money.”

That’s essentially an admission that, at some point in the near future, it will be appropriate to be more concerned about making money than serving users. These examples of commercialization foreshadow precisely how the culture of MySpace will become tarnished and unappealing. Its members will come to feel disinterested and exploited. But I’ve always considered the real threat to be the invasion of privacy by intrusive marketing strategies. This avenue is not being ignored by Fox:

“Mr. Levinsohn says he also hopes to raise ad rates by collecting more user data so advertisers can find the most promising prospects. To use the site, people need to provide their age, location and sex, and often volunteer their sexual orientation and personal interests. Some of that information is already being used to select ads to display. Soon, the site will track when users visit profile pages and other sections devoted to topics of interest to advertisers.”

I’m sure that will provide them with a truckload of demographic data they can use to throw ads at their membership. But they will also know a lot more about their members than any of them would be likely approve. When you combine the personal data that members volunteer with the data that can be collected from the relationships in their network of friends and add the data acquired by monitoring their surfing habits, you end up with a profile that can be awfully revealing.

Knowing that the folks behind MySpace have previously been affiliated with business practices wherein they unlawfully spied on their customers, should give MySpace users sufficient cause for alarm to reconsider remaining in the network.