Tag Archives: media

one of jon stewart’s better moments

In a career of many many good moments of political commentary, surely one of the highlights of Jon Stewart’s career was the Wednesday March 4 episode of The Daily Show, which was almost entirely Jon Stewart doing commentary & interview about the financial situation.

I particularly loved his comment to Joe Nocera about CNBC’s “journalism” on Wall Street:

How does a guy like Rick Santelli have the balls to get mad about this idea of giving homeowners a break, when this network, CNBC — how did they miss this entire story? They’re a financial news network , I mean, it’d be like the weather channel interviewing hurricane Katrina and saying, “You know there’s reports that you have high winds and flooding,” and Katrina’s like, “No no no I’m sunny,” and they’re like “alright,” and then they walk away. This is insane!

At around 17:30 in the video.

middle-rite nation

Lately annoyed by all the (conservative & mainstream) pundits asserting confidently that the US is “a center-right nation”. What? When did that happen? As long as I’ve watched these things, people’s positions on issues trend ever leftward — although the Right has successfully managed terminology such that feminists hate the “f-word”, liberals hate the “l-word”, socialists hate the “s-word”. (Anarchists and atheists are apparently so lost to reason that they can’t even be brought to disavow those terms.)

And happily David Sirota noted the same thing:

[Conservatives] contend that no matter how big progressives may win on election day, this is nonetheless a center-right nation. Indeed, a LexisNexis search shows this poll-tested term — “center-right nation” — is lately among the Punditburo’s most ubiquitous Orwellian buzzwords. From a Newsweek cover story by conservative dittohead Jon Meacham to a Wall Street Journal screed by former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan to a Politico.com diatribe by former Rudy Giuliani aide John Avlon, the “center-right nation” phrase is being parroted with the propagandistic discipline of Cuba’s Ministry of Information.

The proof of this center-right nation? Republicans cite polls showing more Americans call themselves conservative than liberal. While that data point certainly measures brand name, those same surveys undermine the right’s larger argument because they show majorities support progressive positions on most economic issues.

Sirota, Mandate ’08: Reagan vs. FDR, SF Chronicle, 2008/10/31.

Yes, not only are these pundits wrong, but indeed, there is a concerted push this year on this term — the latest conservative talking point. Has anyone tracked the origin and dispersal of these phrases? I’d really like to know.

eta 2008/11/09: Lots of other folks have noticed this as well. See, e.g., Frank Rich 11/9, ….

ferraro and why the media sucks

So Geraldine Ferraro revealed her cluelessness about race issues with her “I’m being attacked for being white” comment. She also revealed, as my partner astutely pointed out, that she must have almost no people of color in her close circle who could help her out by explaining exactly what was wrong about the comment about Barack Obama succeeding because he is black.

But somehow lost in all of this fulmination about race is any fulmination at all about gender, which is pretty much the story of this 2008 campaign. For all the “women voters are doing X” and “Hillary played the sexism card” and so on, we have heard very little media analysis about whether there actually is sexism in the electorate, punditocracy, handling, or media coverage of the race. Ferraro’s comment is a perfect example: Her comment had multiple parts, including the clueless and offensive part about Barack Obama’s race, that was rightly jumped on by people who pointed out that it was clueless and offensive. Her follow-up implying some sort of “reverse racism” demonstrated thoroughly that she doesn’t understand the systematic and systemic effects of racism, and how it is not simply about “noticing skin color”.

But Ferraro also commented about sexism in the campaign when she noted that Barack Obama would not have been so successful had he been a black woman — or for that matter a white woman or a woman of any race — and that observation has gone completely unremarked upon. Which is really unfortunate, because this part of her comment was much more astute. Can we imagine for a minute that a woman who was a junior senator, with good lefty credentials and remarkable oratory, could have done this well? Having seen the outright way people talk about Hillary’s voice and whether a woman could run the country — presumably a question of experience and temperament — would a woman with only four years on the national scene even be treated seriously? even by her own party? I honestly doubt it, and I wish that — instead of simply relishing the catfight aspect of politicians and their staff sniping at each other and then being outraged and then ritually firing their outspoken staffmembers — instead of all that, I wish the media would actually, occasionally, examine the issues that they bring up.

Wouldn’t we all be a lot better if, instead of reporting that Ferraro said this, and Obama’s campaign expressed that, and then the Clinton campaign responded, and blah blah blah ad nauseum — if the media said, “is it true that Obama would not have done so well if he weren’t black?” and then analyzed it and did some talking about race in this country and how it is hardly a benefit no matter how much some white people blather on about so-called reverse racism, and looked at the studies about unconscious beliefs that people form about other people based on knowledge or presumptions about race. And while we’re at it we could look at the classism that infects discussions of Obama’s family, too.

And the media could also then analyze the comment about whether Obama would do as well if he were a woman, and look at sexism and how that affects things, and you know there are actually quite a lot of studies that show that editors are less likely to accept a paper if they think it’s by a woman, and reference writers are more likely to talk about the person’s family credentials if it’s a woman, and professional musician auditions are less likely to hire a woman unless the audition is done “blind”, and oh yeah people routinely allow themselves to be filmed on national television saying things like they just don’t believe a woman can really run the country, and what kind of effect does that have on people when another study has shown that simply hearing some unknown person in another room describe people as “like animals” makes one much more likely to administer higher-level shocks to people.

Couldn’t we have some interesting conversations if we looked at the issues and the substance?

Isn’t this just another lament about the horse-race aspect of the campaign? Yes, it is.
update: See, this is why I love Katha Pollitt. Pollitt wrote:

that the “sulfurous emanations” about Mrs. Clinton made her want to write a check to her campaign, knock on doors, vote for her twice — even though she’d probably choose another candidate on policy grounds. “The hysterical insults flung at Hillary Clinton are just a franker, crazier version of the everyday insults — shrill, strident, angry, ranting, unattractive — that are flung at any vaguely liberal mildly feminist woman who shows a bit of spirit and independence,” she wrote, “who puts herself out in the public realm, who doesn’t fumble and look up coyly from underneath her hair and give her declarative sentences the cadence of a question.”

That’s pretty much exactly how I feel. And although Hillary isn’t interesting enough for me to read a whole book about her, I might try to get this essay by Pollitt.

To make things even better, this quote was actually from an article in the NYT that is actually on this exact topic: Postfeminism and Other Fairy Tales by Kate Zernike. It’s just a start but it’s good to see it, and maybe a little NYT coverage (albeit in Week in Review) will start at least a little self-reflection in other media.

requiem for the Weekly World News

The Weekly World News is shutting down. The WWN was the source of many a headline or graphic I pasted at various workplaces over the years.

This NYT article profiles the story, mostly from the perspective of right-wing (faux) commentator, Ed Anger. In the South, in the 80s, it wasn’t apparent to me that Ed Anger was a parody. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who took it seriously. The article describes the falling audience for the WWN, which has moved to rightwing talk radio ….

tentacles of copyright paranoia

Copyright paranoia is, truly, everywhere. Reading a NYT article about websites that track the Iraq war dead, I noticed this:

The Iraq Page (iraq.pigstye.net) is the obsession of Tom Willett, a software developer from Bloomington, Ind. The site includes a single news account for each United States service member killed in combat, with a fluttering American flag next to a photograph, and room for comments. At last count, there were 3,579 individuals memorialized from the coalition forces, 3,313 from the United States.

“I copy most of the articles, because I know the articles won’t be there in a few months,” he said. “I don’t have the copyright. I steal it from everybody, and I don’t care who knows about it.” The site, which Mr. Willett said had 2,000 to 3,000 unique visitors a day and 20 to 30 new comments a day, has never been asked to take down an article.

He automatically thinks about copyright, decides he’s stealing and that he’s going to commit civil disobedience because of the importance of the issue. Where is fair use in this equation? The NYT writers simply report his concerns, without explaining to the reader that this would be an arguable fair use issue.

WSJ editorial page embarrassment

The WSJ editorial page is not something I ordinarily frequent, but they recently wrote an editorial on the DMCA. Aside from a reflexive and simplistic “intellectual property is good so don’t bother me with nuance or details” attitude, this paragraph struck me:

Google claims “a legal safe harbor” from copyright infringement under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which allows Internet firms to provide a thumbnail of copyrighted material. The firm also asserts a right to reproduce and distribute intellectual property without permission as long as it promptly stops the trespass if the copyright owner objects. That’s like saying you have the legal right to hop over your neighbors’ fence and swim in their pool — unless they complain.

WSJ 2006/12/1 (it’s the editorial page so the person who actually penned this embarrassment doesn’t have to sign his or her name)

I realize that editorial pages don’t require fact-checking, but getting the law this wrong is embarrassing. Readers of this blog probably are very familiar with the DMCA, but a couple of quick pointers:

  1. The DMCA doesn’t “allow[] Internet firms to provide a thumbnail of copyrighted material.” I believe the hopelessly inept WSJ editor was probably thinking about the Kelly v. Arriba 9th Cir. decision, supported recently by the 2d Cir. decision in Dorling-Kindersley. Both of those interpreted fair use (17 USC 107) to include offering thumbnails for a different purpose.
  2. “… without permission as long as it promptly stops the trespass if the copyright owner objects.” Presumably here they’re talking about the DMCA notice-and-takedown provisions, 17 USC 512. Of course, these provisions don’t apply to original infringement — reproduction and distribution — but to the responsibility of ISPs and other intermediaries when their networks are used for reproduction and distribution. That is, at best, secondary infringement (contributing to or vicariously responsible for someone else’s infringement), and it’s really not at all clear that ISPs would be liable for it even in the absence of the safe harbor provisions. Which aren’t “claimed” by Google et al but ”given” to them by Congress.

Since they can’t be bothered to do even the barest minimum of fact checking, and don’t understand what they’re talking about, it’s hard to actually take them seriously. Are they this bad all the time?

Gigi Sohn of Public Knowledge probably very wisely didn’t bother correcting their extremely shoddy fact-checking but responded to the overall tenor of their arguments; the WSJ published their letter – and because the WSJ puts their content behind passwords, the full-text of the letter is available at PK’s blog by Alex Curtis.

LA Times thinks Hollywood is going too far

Is it a sign when the LA Times thinks Hollywood is going too far? God, I hope so.

In today’s editorial, the LAT says:

[editorial summary: Copyright infringement is bad, intellectual property is good, yadda yadda.] But what the entertainment industry is seeking in this year’s proposals isn’t merely protection from piracy; it’s after increased leverage to protect its business models.

That’s why lawmakers must bear in mind the balance needed between copyright holders’ interests and the public’s, something Congress has not done well lately. In 1998, it gave copyright holders broad power to block legitimate uses of works, even those in the public domain, through the use of electronic locks that impede copying of digital products. And that same year, it prolonged the public domain’s starvation diet by extending copyrights an additional 20 years, to 70 years beyond the death of the creator.

As they weigh the entertainment industry’s pleas, lawmakers shouldn’t assume all consumers are bootleggers and every digital device is a hand grenade aimed at Hollywood.

I really ought to read the LAT more often, because this seems pretty sensible.

nyt article on t33n s3xc@ms

This nyt article on teen s3xc@ms raised a lot of interesting issues, not least of which was the role of the NYT reporter(s) in developing the story.

update 3pm 12/20: I see that I wasn’t alone in finding the journalist ethics issues troubling. Jack Shafer @ Slate also raised the issue, and got the reporter to respond. The ensuing dialog sheds a little more light on some of the missing back-story. [link from boingboing; see also sexerati]

Juarez: missing-non-white-women meme, at work?

This article is the first time I have seen NYT coverage of the missing women in the maquiladoras towns along the border — a rash of killings and disappearances that has affected literally hundreds of women, many of whom worked in US-owned factories.

Searching the NYT archives since 1996 (“missing women maquiladoras”, “missing women Juarez”) I found a couple of others; one from Dec. 2002; one from Aug. 2002 focusing on a filmmaker doing a documentary about the issue; and one from Aug. 2003; another from Oct. 2004. I won’t do the word count; it’s embarrassing, since many of these articles appear in the short-shrift foreign desk section. But by comparison a search for “Natalee Holloway”, missing in Mexico, turned up 17 articles since June. With this relative level of media coverage, I’m certainly glad to see this year’s story about the Juarez disappearances actually make the front webpage of the NYT. [Well, for a couple of hours it did, anyway, as one of three articles in the NATIONAL subsection.] Maybe the missing-non-white-women meme is starting to spread? Or maybe there’s some natural spillover effect from the missing-white-women coverage? every twenty articles about a missing white woman the NYT can run one about a non-white-woman human interest story?

Amnesty International, in 2003, noted that the disappearances and murders involved at least 700 women in 10 years.

According to official figures 70 women remain missing in Ciudad Juárez, and more recently in the city of Chihuahua. Information from other sources puts this figure at 400 women missing since 1993. Their families fear the worst, given the alarming number of missing women who have subsequently been found murdered days, or even years, later.

Amnesty International’s investigation found that in the last ten years approximately 370 women have been murdered, of which at least 137 were sexually assaulted prior to their death. A further 75 bodies have still not been identified — it is thought some may be those of women who have been reported missing but grossly inadequate forensic investigations have made this impossible to confirm.

Many of the women were abducted, held captive for several days and subjected to humiliation, torture and the most horrific sexual violence before dying, most as a result of asphyxiation caused by strangulation or from being beaten. Their bodies have then been found hidden among rubble or abandoned in desert areas near the city.

An unknown number of other women, not included in these numbers, have escaped their captors.

Taking the top figure of 400 missing women, but subtracting the 75 unidentified bodies from the missing women to arrive at a conservative (non-official) estimate, you find that one woman has gone missing every 5.25 days. Juarez, for comparison, is 1.2 million people — that’s pretty comparable to San Diego, and just a little bit smaller than Philly. Imagine a rash of disappearances: one every five to six days. Friday, another woman missing; Thursday, another woman missing; Monday, another woman missing; Saturday, another woman missing … tick, tick, tick, another woman, and another woman, and another woman … Every couple of weeks they turn up a body. They identify most but not all of the bodies. Now imagine this goes on for twelve years.

I’ve been following this story off and on for five or six years. It’s impossible to maintain a proportionate sense of horror with so many individual lives. I decided to focus on women who share my name. Over the years, five women named Laura have been murdered or have disappeared.

  • Laura Ana Inere (b. approximately 1968; 27 years old when murdered; body found Dec. 1995). She was shot to death. Her body was found on Christmas day, 1995, in the municipal cemetery. Because a firearm was involved, investigators suspect police involvement in Laura Inere’s murder.
  • Laura Georgina Vargas (b. approximately 1961; 40 years old when murdered; body found Jan. 3, 2001)
  • Laura Alondra Márquez (b. approximately 1985; 16 years old when murdered; body found May 1, 2001)
  • Laura Berenice Ramos Monárrez. Laura was a high school student when she disappeared in Sept. 2001. Her body was found Nov. 6-7, 2001. Two Juárez bus drivers confessed to Laura’s murder, and the murder of ten other women, but claimed they were tortured to elicit a confession. El Diario, 11/12-21/2001, also reports that the victims’ families are unconvinced about the confessions, and they and human rights groups cite irregularities in police investigation techniques.
  • Laura Lourdes Cordero García. No information other than her name on lists of disappeared and murdered women.

More info about the murders and disappearances in Juàrez and nearby Chihuahua communities:

  • Women of Juarez. (English) The site includes a list of some of the victims’ names, or occasionally a cursory description of remains found, painstakingly gathered by Esther Chavez Cano from news sources through 2002.
  • Mujeres de Juarez (Español) The list of names includes 286 women reported missing from 1993 through 2004.
  • Amnesty Int’l’s page on Juarez’ missing women. (English) Amnesty wants people to contact their own Congressional representatives to urge them to cosponsor a US Congressional Resolution offered by Representative Hilda Solis and Senator Jeff Bingaman on the murders.
  • Safe Juarez takes donations. (English) They began by providing self-defense training & establishing safehouses for women. They are now doing family interventions. While I have no knowledge of this group other than what’s on their website, a couple of quick google searches looking for criticism of them didn’t turn up anything negative in the first many pages.
  • AcciOn (Español) Another list of women’s names.
  • crimelibrary.com. (English) Listing of media coverage (notably, most from nearby Texas towns)
  • Mother Jones, To Work and Die in Juarez (2002) (English)
  • El Paso Times, Death Stalks the border, 2002. (English)
  • Gender[f] offers an online memorial rollcall of 400 missing women’s names. (English)

related posts: missing non-white women meme

missing-non-white-women meme

this post on the buggydoo blog (“one good thing”) does two important things: (1) it makes a sensible comment on the snarky ‘media coverage of missing white women’ blog-o-phenomena, and (2) it draws attention to a missing woman, Latoyia Figueroa, who has not gotten as much media attention, clearly on account of race.

I am uncomfortable with the bloggers who have been sneering about “missing white women” lately, mostly because it doesn’t have the effect I think they’re going for. It’s very trendy with liberal bloggers to make comments like “Oh, ho hum, look at the media go crazy over another missing white woman.” or “CNN isn’t covering the war in Iraq because, hold the presses, there’s another missing white woman!” I understand the intent behind this is to point out the racism behind the manufactured press hysteria, but what actually happens is this: black, asian, and hispanic women still get ignored, and white women are held in contempt and blamed for media coverage over which they have no control. That’s it.

For more info on Latoyia Figueroa (and positive responses to lack of attention to missing non-white-women), see black feminism and the one good thing post.

related posts: Juárez: missing non-white women meme, at work?

Civil Rights Leader Calls for Copyright Civil Disobedience

“I would call upon everyone who has access to ‘Eyes on the Prize’ to openly violate any and all laws regarding its showing,” says civil rights leader Lawrence Guyot, who led the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and today is a program manager for the D.C. Department of Human Services.

from daily kos 1/17; and see also wired 12/22 and on the commons 1/18 and Toronto Globe & Mail 1/17.