Archive for the ‘media’ Tag

Tyranny By Another Other Name   Leave a comment

I like free speech and I like privacy. In fact, I think free speech depends on privacy.

 

Too bad the US government absolutely sucks at protecting our privacy.  Glenn Greenwald’s new book No Place To Hide reveals that the U.S. government tampers with Internet routers during the manufacturing process to aid its spying programs.

 

Do you really trust the government with control over the Internet? We know from the Fairness Doctrine that the government didn’t trust the media outlets to police themselves, so we can be sure that the government will need to technically verify whether the telecoms are treating data as they should, which will mean installing its own hardware and software at critical points to monitor Internet traffic.

 

We already know that , once installed, our government (and any other government able to hack in) will not use this access for benign purposes. They didn’t in the past. Why would they change their behavior now?

 

Oh, but you like Barack Obama and the current Chair of the FCC and you’re not worried that they will invade YOUR privacy or infringe upon YOUR freedom of speech. What happens if Jeb Bush is elected to the White House? What if Republicans remain in control of the House and Senate? That changes the dynamic a bit, doesn’t it?

 

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. – James Madison, The Federalist No. 51

 

I used to believe the US government was a benevolent and wise parent looking out for the best interests of society. When Jimmy Carter violated Alaska’s Statehood Compact and the provisions of ANILCA, I got real-world woke up. I see the US government as a dangerous tyrant, influenced by large corporations, seeking to control everyone and everything.

 

At the crux of the debate between proponents and opponents of Net Neutrality are that some of us have become aware that Skynet exists and others of you still want to live in dreamland.You want to believe that the US government is all-knowing with good intentions that will never change without your permission and all will be well. I don’t believe that because I look to history and see Woodrow Wilson outlawing political dissent and FDR locking up US citizens of Japanese ancestry. The US government topples elected democracies, fights unjust wars and interferes in world affairs. It executes American citizens in violation of 5th Amendment rights.

 

I don’t trust the government. It doesn’t matter which party is “in” at the moment because I’m convinced they’re two sides of the same coin called tyranny.

 

Regulations can start out with the best of intentions, but when enough red tape accumulates, we drown in it regardless. That leads to less freedom for us individually and for society as a whole.

Crony Capitalism & the Internet   Leave a comment

Were you happy with your doctor and did you get to keep him? Were you happy with your insurance policy and do you still have it? Have your premiums gone down … or up?

Yeah … the ACA is a cautionary tale of what happens when large corporations and government get into bed with one another. The ACA was written by large medical corporations behind closed doors in collusion with our elected representatives and, with a few notable exceptions, it has largely been a disaster.

So now we have Net Neutrality. Do we think it wasn’t written in a way that will make it harder for new companies to offer Internet service?

If I wasn’t a broke novelist taking informed pot shots from the cheap seats, I’d bet money that the telecoms now have an effective tool against smaller, more efficient competitors and that consumers will have few options for Internet service.

Oh, but you believe the politicians who say that if they hadn’t stepped in things would be much worse?

In a truly free market, telecoms like Comcast and Time Warner would have to adjust their practices or go out of business. They’d be replaced by options that would give us better service at lower prices. Some of the new options would depend on taking advantage of the freedom to charge more for certain types of Internet … which is exactly what Net Neutrality seeks to eliminate.

Barriers to competition tend to work in the favor of large corporations which can more easily afford to forego profits in the short term in order to profit in the long term. This sort of predatory capitalism blocks the smaller companies out of the market and leaves the field wide open for the larger companies that helped to write the regulations in the first place.

 

But hey, don’t take my word for it. Go research it for yourself.

Media Perception of Religion   Leave a comment

Statistically, conservative evangelical Christians are far and away the most generous people in the country … not just giving money to causes, but also giving time. The Southern Baptist Convention funds state-based disaster groups that are often the first responders to crises like Katrina and the World Trade Center attack. The World Health Organization actually sent a team to a section of Tanzania where there was an unexpectedly low rate of HIV, only to find that a Christian missionary team had spent the last 20 years evangelizing among the villagers, so that the majority of about 10 villages were Christians who had only one wife and didn’t sleep around.  Slightly more than 50% of American scientists say they believe in God as a metaphysical concept.

And, yet, America’s largest identifiable voting bloc — that of evangelical Christians — are overwhelmingly portrayed by Hollywood as hypocritical, sexually abusive, hostile to science, and psychological inhumane. Since the late 1960s, Hollywood has portrayed Christians in unflattering ways, branding them as ill-informed, intolerant, fanatical and wicked people who are not in touch with reality.

Think:

  • Warden Norton in the Shawshank Redemption, quoting Bible versus while mistreating inmate and pilfering money
  • The fanatical preacher in Contact, who blows up an interplanetary spaceship because he hates science
  • Mrs. Carmody from The Mist — just your average Christian housewife waiting to uncork some pent -up repression.
  • Mother from Carrie (choose your version) – a garden variety Pentacostal nutjob child abuser

Christians tend to get excited whenever a faith-themed movie is announced. We hope it will finally portray us or the Bible accurately and respectfully, while at the same time, we know it won’t.

NOTE: I did not say “fear” it won’t. We KNOW it won’t. We hope for better, but we no longer are surprised by what Hollywood feels free to do to our most precious stories and history.

Which is not to say that Muslims are not also portrayed in stereotypical ways — when they’re not featured as terrorists, they are depicted as misogynistic brutes with backward and mysterious customs. I’m just choosing to focus on Christians because I know from personal experience the truth of what I am writing.

When Hollywood attempts to do a “Christian” film, they give us Noah, depicting the Biblical figure as a crazy, irrational nut who is so fixated on modern-day problems like overpopulation and environmental degradation that his wife has to threaten him with divorce to keep him from killing his grandchildren.

Faith on television hardly gets any better treatment. Contemporary television goes out of its way to paint moving, sympathetic portraits of everyone from bullied gay teenagers to sex addicts and Mafia wives, but somehow can’t find any empathy for men and women of faith.

This misrepresentation of Christianity and Christians has wide-ranging effects. For a secular audience, it is much easier to passively watch a 90-minute movie than interview members of a congregation or attend a religious service to get facts straight. Under the 1st amendment to the US Constitution, Hollywood may legally portray religions in a negative light, but the aftereffects can be harmful in shaping public opinions about religion or its followers.

The typical Hollywood writer, according to media commentator Ben Stein, is from a large Eastern city, often of Jewish background, who grew up being taught that people in small towns hated him and were out to get him. When he gets a chance, he attacks that mythical small town on television or in the movies. He’s not writing reality, but portraying the point of view of a small, extremely powerful section of the American intellectual community, resulting in a popular national culture waging culture war on a way of life that is still widely practiced in the same country. Affection for small towns and small town values (like faith) runs very deep in America, but the mass culture of the country hates small towns and their related values, so spews their view onto television and movie screens, showing nothing but contempt for a fairly large part of the population. People are told that their culture is rooted in sickness, violence, and depravity, which gives them little confidence in the future of that culture. They feel ashamed of the country and come to believe that, if their society is in decline, it deserves to be.” (Stein, 1976).

Media Manipulation Mash   Leave a comment

Media manipulation currently shapes almost everything you read, hear and watch online.

When I was working on my degrees, we feared the government propagandist and the hustling publicist. They were serious, but known threats. Vigilance kept them in check and they were the exception rather than the rule. They exploited that the media was trusted and reliable. Today, with our blog and Internet-drive media cycle, nothing escapes exaggeration, distortion, fabrication or simplification.

 

 

And, no, the European press is not immune to this syndrome, nor is PBS, the Blaze, or Huffington Post.

Every media outlet can manipulate you and most do.

Today news is selected by what readers are clicking rather than the importance of the topic or event. The news cycle is so fast the coverage is never complete. Dubious scandals scuttle election bids and knock billions from the market share of publicly traded companies. News organizations frequently report on their own reporting in “unfolding stories.” Media manipulation is the status quo.

A couple of nights ago, a reporter told us breathlessly about what was going on in the White House as the president decided what to do about Yemen. As she stood there in in blue coat and white gloves before the lit-up White House, my son (16) wandered in and said “If it’s so cold she has to be that bundled up, why is there no fog coming out of her mouth?”

Smart kid! Observant! And, Alaskan! We know aboutt talking outside in the cold. My point is, if the media are playing that sort of game with the setting of news-coverage, just imagine what they could be doing with the content.

I could spin the bottle on media manipulators and hit many familiar names and faces, but let’s start with Michael Arrington, the former editor and founder of the popular blog Tech Crunch.

“Getting it right is expensive; getting it first is cheap.”

Arrington made $25 million from that fact, but others do it too. Ever wonder why Gawker headlines have just enough of the story to grab your attention, but not enough to satisfy your curiosity, so you click on the headlines? Did you know they are partially funded by those clicks?

The Bush administration knew how to use the media. The Obama administration is even better at it. While newspapers and traditional broadcast must worry about libel laws, so will not touch some stories, campaigns understand that blogs don’t have the same concerns. While some bloggers strive to present news from perspectives never covered by traditional media, the courts consider them opinion … hence libel laws are not in force (yet).

Media manipulation exploits the different between perception and reality. When my parents were heads of the household, they trusted Uncle Walter to give them the straight scoop. Walter Cronkite lied regularly about the Vietnam War — so regularly that my parents (on opposite ends of the war debate, btw) caught onto him. Today, we get our news individually, which removes the checks-and-balances of your spouse or kids calling “crap” on the broadcast you’re watching together. That individual consumption and opinion-based news means all the barriers that made the traditional media somewhat reliable have broken down. Yet, the old perception remains. If a random blog is half as reliable as a New York Times article that was fact-checked, edited and reviewed by multiple editors (who each have a political agenda, btw), it is twice as easy to get coverage on. So manipulators play the volume game. If they can generate enough online buzz, people will assume that where there is smoke there is fire and the unreal becomes real.

There’s no consequence for burning someone. Facebook and Twitter will help destroy a reputation (or make one), and there’s nobody to blame. There’s no cost to the media organization so long as they have advertising dollars to keep the doors open. The politicians and corporations who pay them to manipulate you (or provide the content) can point their finger at the media, but nobody really gets blamed. It’s all hidden in smoke and mirrors and perception is accepted as reality.

And, the solution to that?

I don’t know that there is an easy one. One pundit I read said he believes it would be solved by readers paying for the news, but I don’t think so. I get some good things from the Blaze, but it’s one organization’s view of the news, which doesn’t necessarily mean it is wholly true.

I think the solution lies with us — the readers/consumers — but saying that doesn’t mean it will be easy.

Wicked Web of Deceit   Leave a comment

Inundated and overwhelmed by a flood of information from a wide array of sources, Western society needs to have independent honest voices to provide facts and analysis that we can trust. Unfortunately, most people get their news from media that are obviously biased and manipulative and connected with a complicated network of other major global corporations and elite interests.

Take Time Warner for instance. It owns Time Magazine, HBO, Warner Bros, and CNN (among others) and its board of directors includes individuals who are or once were affiliated with the Council of Foreign Relations, the International Monetary Fund, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Warburg Pincus, Phillip Morris and many others.

The New York Times (newspaper of record for the US) has board members affliated with Schering-Plough International (pharmaceuticals), the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (also major donors to PBS and NPR), Chevron Corporation, Wesco Financial Corporation, Kolberg & Company, The Charles Schwab Corporation, eBay Inc, Xerox, IMB, Ford Motor Company, Eli Lilly & Company … among others.

The Washington Post board has Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia University and former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and others associated with Coca-Cola Company, New York University, Conservation International, the Council on Foreign Relations, Xerox, Catalyst, Johnson & Johnson, Target Corporation, RAND Corporation, General Motors and the Business Council.

I’m a capitalist and I don’t think any of these companies or individuals are evil just because they’re in business, but it’s important to realize how intertwined, often covertly, these corporations and mainstream media are with the federal and some state governments. Carl Bernstein (of Watergate fame) claims that over 400 American journalists had secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency.

“The use of journalists has been among the most productive means of intelligence-gathering employed by the CIA.”

According to Bernstein, the cooperative media companies include ABC, NBC, the Associated Press (AP), United Press International (UPI), Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps-Howard, Newsweek magazine, the Mutual Broadcasting System, PBS, NPR, CNN, the Miami Herald, the Saturday Evening Post and the New York Herald-Tribune.

The media are meant to be a fifth column, a bulwark against government corruption, willing to take corporations to task when needed … but how do they do that when their members are completely wrapped up in government and corporations?

Which brings us to the most important question of all. How do we the people even know what is real in the news and what is propaganda created to elicit certain responses from us depending on who is pulling the strings?

Media Slinky Effect   Leave a comment

My copy of my Masters thesis has been trapped on a hard drive of a long defunct computer for a long time, but a good friend recovered it for me so I could mine it for this series. After recognizing that it is the sort of geeky research you do when a committee requires you to, I have decided to use it only as a guide.

 

Media influence on society has been extensively researched and for me, revisiting this topic after the rise of social media, it has been overwhelming to sift through all the material. When I was writing my thesis in the 1980s, there were still only a handful of channels to choose from and most people got their news and analysis either from CNN and/or the network channels and/or the newspapers and news magazines. Today, you can literally find thousands of media outlets across the Internet to choose from and you can self-select your very own opinion bubble.

Some studies suggestt that audiences choose their media content, channel and genres because of factors that already exist in their lives – age, experience, social identity, but there are also studies that indicate that media influences those choices, supplementing the personal preferences of the audience.

A prime example would be the studies that focused on media effects on adolescent aggression. Some of those studies showed an apparently correlative relationship between violent media content and aggression in teen audiences. Other studies found independent variables such as gender, age, substance use and prior victimization were contributing factors. In other words, teens who are drug users and/or come from an abusive household and also watch violence in media are more likely to be violent, while teens without these exascerbating factors appear much less affected by violence in the media. A child psychiatrist I once worked with in the social work agency suggested that substance-using teens with violent upbringings self-select violent media more than straight-edge kids. The studies are inconclusive, but I trust his 40 years of boots-on-the-ground experience more.

Similarly, there is apparently correlation between sexual content in media and sexualization of pre-adolescents within the audience, but there is also strong counter evidence to suggest that parental attitudes toward sexualization influences whether children watch sexual content in media and, therefore, is at least a contributing factor. In other words, if parents who think it’s okay for junior high kids to have sex tend to allow their children to watch sexual content on television and their kids are more likely not only to watch sexual content in media, but also to engage in sexualized behavior at a younger age. Is this the result of media influence or parental attitude? Well, parents who object to their kids having sex in junior high tend to restrict their children’s access to sexual content in media and their children appear to be sexualized at an older age. Again, what is the correlation? Which came first?

My 1980s self, pre-kiddos, thought it was a reciprocal relationshp, that media selectivity and media effects are mutually influencing process. It can be argued that media content serves to reinforce existing beliefs, but it can also be asserted that increased exposure to certain contenet through media can lead to additional informationg-seeking  behavior.  Exposure to online pornography, for example, seems to lead to seeking more online pornography, which is perhaps an indication that this media reciprocity moves forward with time, each cycle reinforcing the previous cycle.

 

What I watch influences me, so I watch more of it, until I believe what I watch, so I watch even more of it and because I believe it, I reject alternative channels of media that might disabuse me of my beliefs.

 

Media influence reciprocity may be described as a spiral in which the role of prior beliefs and media influence moves foreward, changing and/or reinforcing beliefs, leading to more selectivity, which leads to more influence and more changing or reinforcement of beliefs. It is not a static relationship. Sometimes media has the greater influence and sometimes pre-existing beliefs do, but generally, these spirals of influence reinforce one another over time.

So, for example, let me introduce you to a liberal friend. She is an aggregate of several coworkers from my former place of employment in touchy-feely, wishy-washing social work land. I’m going to call her “Ashley” because in all the years I worked there, there was never an Ashley employed there. Ashley is a Democrat who went to a liberal liberal arts college and holds a masters degree in Social Work. She took consumer economics in high school and the History of Women in college. She believes President Obama is perhaps the greastest president since FDR and maybe the greatest one since George Washington … if George Washington had not been a racist homophobe slave-owner. She can’t name even one article of the Constitution and has never read the Federalist Papers let alone the Anti-Federalist Papers. She watches PBS, listens to NRP and is a regular reader of the Huffington Post. When you suggest she might find a greater depth of knowledge by broadening her media intake, she insists that you’re a right-wing idiot who only watches Fox News network and probably has nothing more than an 8th grade education. When you point out that you have a Masters degree and have read the Constitution, the Wealth of Nations, the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers, Frederick Bastiat, Lysander Spooner and Das Capital and  and also ocassionally watch PBS and listen to NPR while also turning into Fox News and other media, she insists that it’s all because you watch Fox News that you believe such “lies” as there is “no such thing as a free lunch” and the US Constitution restrains the government from abusing the people and not the other way around.

Reinforcing spirals strengthened by self-selection of media.

Of course, we do not live in a closed system … unless we want to. I can and do tune into many media channels that do not necessarily support my presuppositions. Sometimes what I learn there influences me at least to the point of causing me to examine some beliefs. There are beliefs that warrant examination from  time to time and divergent media content can be an influence in that reevaluation, but ultimately our most closely held beliefs are unlikely to be dislodged by mere influence by media.

The question is — should they be?

Your Opinions, Please!   Leave a comment

Let’s discuss this. What do you think?

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