Thursday, April 03, 2014

The New Media

That is why I lie to her and she to me
And in our faults by lies we flatter'd be 
--Sonnet 138 (Lie with Me),

 Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody 
--Gotta Serve Somebody, 
Bob Dylan 

As a teenager, Michel believed that suffering
conferred dignity on a person.
Now he had to admit that he had been wrong.
What conferred dignity on people was television 
--The Elementary Particles, Michel Houellebecq 

And then it just becomes an industry
of... cool 
--Almost Famous (2000)

More on how the media creates and feeds myth, and subtracts from the truth:

The integrity of reportage is being keenly challenged due to economics, and venture capitalists like eBay's Pierre Omidyar are stepping in to the breach to provide what he calls alternately "crusading journalism," or "opinionated news"; what friend FDChief calls, "vanity media".

Omidyar's new online journal, First Look Media, will join Vice Media, Business Insider and Ozy, among others, in presenting news with a spin. It is "Entertainment Tonight" for a hipster 21st century, and he has recruited names like Glenn Greenwald (The Guardian) and Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone) to unabashedly front their take on the news they will report.

But "opinionated news" = agenda news (or, propaganda). Is it any different to get fed a line by someone you think is "on your side", than it is to read a Murdoch publication or listen to the Drudge Report or Fox news? You can dig some truth out of CounterPunch or Fox, by why should you have to? There are only so many hours in a day, and opinion will never reveal the truth until you get the facts and decide for yourself.

Greenwald is being disingenuous when he asserts that no one is a tabula rasa, ergo, writers should be opinionated. We may as well give up on our jury system if we do not believe a reporter can do his job in a disinterested manner. To be well-informed, we should seek more facts, less opinion. I can be wrong all on my own -- I do not need someone mainlining his thoughts to me like a pusher.

Mr. Greenwald, one of the reporters to whom Edward Snowden released his NSA documents, seems like a nice guy. He started out on Blogger with the ugly brown wallpaper, like the rest of us -- an attorney who began writing on public matters from a Constitutional viewpoint. But As Omidyar's star mouthpiece he is getting swept up into the cult of personality, and says being "boring" is a cardinal sin of the press. "Aggressive adversarial journalism" is where it's at.

It is sad when an educated man like Greenwald argues for the integrity of biased reportage. His dialog with the NYT's Bill Keller was embarrassing for the number of faulty syllogisms and the "new news" party line propaganda he peddled. He says we want personalities to interpret "the words and actions of political officials", but that is so patronizing. There are objective truths which precede the Postmodernist's savvy "post-truth" worldview, and presenting those facts is what news writer should do.

In her "Still Mad as Hell", The Times Maureen Dowd wrote an excellent analogy of Chaveysky's fictional newsman Howard Beale in the 1976 film "Network" to today's broadcasters who will "tell you what to think":

Chayefsky said his 1976 masterpiece was “a rage against the dehumanization of people” addicted to “boredom-killing” devices — a dehumanization that has gone to warp speed as we have entered the cloud. He said it was about “how to protect ourselves” from “the illusion we sell as truth.”

I totally get that this is a democracy with all of its attendant freedoms. We at RangerAgainstWar champion those freedoms, assuming that most people will (as the beer adverts say) consume responsibly. But there must be something pure to consume, if one is to operate from the facts.

Reflection is also a necessary antecedent to responsible decision-making and action; it is the pause that refreshes. If there is no gap -- no space between the stimulation and the act -- then we are operating in the realm of the paramecium, reacting aimlesslessly and instinctively to stimuli.

Sadly, our sped-up lifestyles involve a rapidity of information dispersal and consumption demanding instant response and judgement, akin to Malcolm Gladwell's Blink which champions this knee-jerk response.

It is like listening to a call-and-response spiritual in a Fundamentalist church. Recent brain studies confirm that our actions precede conscious decision, so the reversion to spontaneity and away from rationality appears to be an innate human default. We are the paramecia with an overgrown neo-cortex.

Perhaps the ubiquity of easily-boarded social platforms and instantaneous uploads is more of a burden than a release, for it keeps us so busy and tired that we do not have the time to process all that runs across our minds in a day, leaving us operating on a hamster wheel of feeds.

The requirement to respond instantaneously in a social milieu requires a reversion to group-think, so affiliation with social networks of "like mind" is of primary importance.  Crowdsourcing is essential in order to attempt to access the significance of any act in real time. However, that ingathering of input is too often drawn from affinity-based media.

We are all babes in this new frontier of social networking, and being frontiersman we look to exploit opportunities. We can't blame the Greenwald's for trying to hitch their wagon to a star. But in today's emotive entertainment stew, sanctioning opinionated writing writing under the imprimatur of a newpaper's banner seems a fool's errand at best, duplicitous at worst.

Revisiting FDChief's earlier-mentioned post reminds us that we both began blogging in late 2006. Blogging was a way to get out the word and to find fellow travelers.

Many of us here met via Phil Carter's early military - policy blog, "IntelDump". Mr. Carter was an early friend to RAW, and like Mr. Greenwald, an attorney. Both have moved on to projects less pure but more lucrative than their early efforts in the medium. [Mr. Carter joined, then left, the Obama administration. He is now on the staff of the policy think tank Center for a New American Security (CNAS). CNAS began around the blog "Abu Muquwama" whose founder -- Andrew Exum -- has exited down the rabbit hole of other, unknown, greener fields.]

We feel FDChief's frustration as what began as a promising project (the honest intensity of the blog) has being co-opted by Twitter "feeds", Facebook posts and the vanity press. The good guys have found new, profitable homes, and when you have a landlord, you may not change the interior too much.

The myths of Echo and Narcissus are cautionary tales for our new "echo chamber" clannishness. Echo was punished for adultery with Zeus by having her voice erased, except in foolish repetition of another's shouted words. Thus all Echo could do was repeat the voice of another.

Echo fell in love with Narcissus, who fell in love with himself (his own reflection), thereby risking an impossible love, ever-receding in its falseness. She, repeating his words, he who stands entranced before his own image, unaware of his adoration of his own reflection.

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Blogger Ael said...

My daughter is taking classics at university. She says that one of the fun things is puzzling stuff out because history then was written by liars and sycophants .. just like today.

Friday, April 4, 2014 at 9:21:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Same as it ever was.

The disappointment is in the promise: Better living through science. It just hasn't quite panned out that way, and the reason is, because we (the users) are still the same liars and toadies, eh?

Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 12:04:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Ael said...

In happier times, a friend of mine was visiting the Cairo museum he rounded a corner and saw a painted wooden bust of one of pharaoh's chief scribes. A man who had been dead for over 4000 years.

Except, it was the spitting image of one of his co-workers (an Egyptian Copt who had emigrated to Canada) Same chin, same nose, same everything. He told me it was kind of terrifying and humbling at the same time.

So, yes, people are much the same as they ever were. But when I despair, I cheer myself up by recalling that there are peaks as well as valleys in the human terrain.

Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 3:52:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Your friend had a wonderful apprehension.

Shelley's "Ozymandius" gives a fair roundup of the situation. As a species and and individuals, we're on a sine wave. The metronome moves back and forth, and one hopes that more time is spent in the relative peace of the middle than on either end.

ISTM most people wake up late, if ever, and enlightenment consists in understanding and acting in beneficial ways, foremost for oneself (Love thy neighbor as thyself).

Argument for argument's sake is a dead end. Know thyself, however -- and to that end, factual input is helpful.

"KNOW know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Not merely have an apprehension that there is truth somewhere out there, but see it and understand it for yourselves.

Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 12:20:00 PM GMT-5  

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