Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Turn It Off: Media is Entertainment

I am willing to bet that when I told people to turn off MSNBC or Fox News more than a few balked at the idea.   There are, of course, a number of folks who won't read my rant.  MSNBC is just as easy to get caught up in its programming as it is with Fox.  Fox News is "fair and balanced" they say and the rest of media is a part of the "Liberal Media." This is true of MSNBC.  Are you ready for this? The "Liberal Media" be it CBS or NBC or ABC or CNN does not exist. Remember, we are talking mainstream media, not sites dedicated to one side or the other.  There are plenty of those.

Now, go find me a story from one of those mainstream networks that clearly demonstrates a liberal bias without going to one of those conservative sites to light your way.  I'll wait.

Day oh...Day ohohoh...Day light come and me wanna go home...

Mind if I  ask a simple question? Too bad, I am going to ask it anyway.  What group specifically told us there is a Liberal Media? You see if a group can condemn the messenger before the message is even delivered, it can prevent and even pervert the message.

To answer this question we need to go back in history. Following the demise of Richard Nixon, the Republicans were at a loss.  Jerry Ford obviously was not going to win back the American People.  The Democrats were actually able to get Jimmy Carter elected.  Jimmy Carter who was one of the smartest politicians in the democratic fold was also one of the most boring speakers on the planet.  This gave the Republicans what they needed.  They needed a myth and they had one in the form of a dynamic actor turned politician.  Ronald Reagan began to propagate the myth that the American Press was liberally biased and Americans were not getting the truth.  He was very convincing.  He also created the Democrats biggest nightmare: The Welfare Queen or The Cadilac Queen.  She too did not exist.

From that point forward, the steady march to the Right began. The conservatives announced that the media's liberal bias was contributing to a declining in American values.  After all, why refute the facts of the report if you can blame the reporter.  The problem to start was, of course, the most visible media was television and the king of the media was the most trusted man in America, Walter Cronkite.  It was also clear to anyone who had watched or been on the receiving end of a Mike Wallace report on 60 Minutes, that the bias statement was a bit off.  Still, however, as many a  group had done in the past, the conservative right continued to push.

With the arrival of Fox News, a part of the newly acquired media groups by Rupert Murdoch's global conglomerate News Corporation, the conservatives began to find an outlet.  Murdoch, who had given up his Austrailian citizenship and become an American citizen, purchased Twentieth Century Fox in 1985.  Fox News started with the slogan of "fair and balanced." For a while, at any rate it seemed to many they were.  With each passing year, though more and more conservative pundits were added and fewer and fewer voices from the left were heard.  They furthered the idea that all other media was liberal.  It clearly worked. Lies became true-lies and everyone scraping by on the meager national wage was either a dopey part-time teen, or a college student working their way through school. I am not saying blaming the messenger is a new idea. It isn't.

The problem though is that if you listen to only one voice, all other voices are not in the background but are silenced.  The other problem is that Murdoch is first and foremost a business man. Fox, like all other organizations, is supposed to make money.  If they don't, changes will be made.  In case you don't know it, every major and  most minor networks on American TV, about 90 percent,  is owned by one of six mega media conglomerates.  In 1983, there were 50.

If people were to leave Fox News, abandon Bill O'Reily, then you can be sure there would be massive changes.  Whether it is on the right or the left, when one pundit crosses the line that begins to cost sponsors, you can be sure no matter how strong the voice is, he will be gone.  It has nothing to do with how liberal or conservative they are, and everything to do with money. Glenn Beck discovered this on Fox as did Keith Obermann on the left.

The news on TV from Fox to ABC is entertainment.  At some point, news programs became more and more about not reporting news but selling it.  Revealing the full story, in other words taking the fear or controversy from the story will not, as they say in the industry, "give it legs."  Some news programs seem to fear that if they attack a politician or pundit with the lies they've told or a presentation of the facts, they might lose a controversial voice.  Controversy sells. It makes money.

The mainstream walks a fine line.  When the line is crossed, the ax will fall.  When 60 Minutes produced a report on Benghazi that was inaccurate, the reporter, Lara Logan, and her producer were suspended.  Yet even when a Republican led committee in the house found no wrong doing by the administration in the Benghazi attack, "fair and balanced" Fox News continues to try and build a controversy.  They are not just playing to the base. The faux scandal gets ratings and generates money.  Another example of news for ratings can be found in the CNN coverage of the missing Malaysian flight.  For some reason, CNN's coverage of the missing plane gave it a ratings bump.  It was this ratings bump that coaxed the network into "missing plane coverage all the time."  It made money.

The liberal bias is a myth.  Money bias is what drives television news.  Ratings drop...then goodbye Katie Couric.  Nice seeing you David Gregory.  Hasta la vista, Piers Morgan.  No it wasn't Piers' anti gun rants that got him fired.  Those sold.  It was his flagging ratings that sent him packing.

You want fair and balanced?  Then TURN IT OFF.  MSNBC and Fox News are mouthpieces for left and the right not because they fulfill a need.  They are there because money can be made by playing to a very particular audience. TV news will not ask the hard question until we demand it through  not the networks but the advertisers.  You want real news, then demand that like Consumer Reports they should be beholding to no advertiser.  Just as so many in congress are now owned by their contributors not the people, the Fourth Estate is owned by advertisers.

Turn off the bias and it will change.  TURN IT OFF.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Banned Books Remind Us

If  you have ever read 1984 by George Orwell, you know that contrary to what the NRA would have you believe, unarming the public is not the first step in controlling a society.  It is all about controlling information. In the novel, Orwell writes  “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” More aptly, this statement of double-think in the book is about managing all aspects of information and creativity.  In Orwell's dystopia, even children's songs have been carefully altered.  It is this reason why remembering horrific incidents accurately or having events like Banned Books Week are important.

1984 is more than a warning about the rise of the totalitarian state.  It is also a guide to how such states exist and how they come to be.  We see the control of both an entire society, as well as individual brain washing.  Many have understood how to accomplish these states.  Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler were two such leaders.  They understood that first a ruling class must have a common enemy, and they must control information.  Finding an enemy is easy.  Simply keep plugging away at one person or group. The next is to make sure that fewer and fewer have information.  Teachers and Professors become evil and vilified by these dictators.  History is wrong. Science is wrong. It becomes a matter of opinion.  I read an article which pointed out that in few other places do we expect the uninformed to be experts.  Politicians tell us the evils of climate science and school board members announce that the history is wrong.  This despite the fact that the historians and scientists have spent years becoming experts.  We would never expect the local and highly skilled plumber to come into the hospital and do sucessful surgery; and yet, we let the local dentist tell us that the curriculum at the school is wrong, or a business man announce that science is an opinion.

One of the first things a dictator will do is to control the artists, the writers and the teachers.  The free thinkers must go.  The dictator knows that to control a society, he must divide it, keep it ill informed, make it paranoid while giving it the appearance of being free.  All this is in 1984, Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451.  We see the life of a dissident in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. We see the definition of true friendship and the truth of that friendship in Lord of the Rings.  We find innocence in Of Mice and Men and what it is truly like to stand against a culture of ignorance in To Kill a Mockingbird.  There are so many books, plays and so much history to learn.  Is it any wonder that even modern versions of oligarchies want control science and history and knowledge?

As students walk out in protest against those who would control history; as Texas builds text books in which Moses becomes a guiding hand in the founding of the United States; and as people deny the sciences be it in autism, climate, or genetically modified crops, we must be forever aware and wary of those who would take away or ignore what is right and true.  A society that does not remain vigilant and fight against those who would even go against their own best interests is doomed.  As Daniel Patrick Moynihan would say, “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”

This is the reason for Banned Books Week.  A well-read person is harder to mislead.  I am not talking about someone who reads the news, but someone who reads be it fantasy, romance, classics, biography or history. If we are not vigilant, we become like the hero at the end of 1984. Winston Smith "gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother."

If a free society is to survive, then a price and commitment must be paid.  Just turn off the propaganda of those who divide us.  It is what Banned Books Week reminds us to do.

Just turn it off.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Politics of Popeye...No, Really.

You know you might be in trouble if your news panel is talking about the ridiculous as if it is serious political news. I did not actually see this, but when I saw it being reported on my timeline, I had to check it out.  It is all on video(see video here).

We talked about pundits who were upset over a tan suit worn by President Obama.  How about the talk show on Fox that complained that comic book figures are being sissified. You know because they saw a leaked animation sample of a new Popeye movie in which Popeye isn't smoking his trademark pipe and has no tattoos.  One host  says the pipe is a "symbol of masculinity" and that "the reason the country exists" is tobacco.  They were also concerned that Thor is becoming a woman.  The fact that he has also been a frog and horse  didn't come up (okay, the horse Thor was also known as Beta Ray Bill).  The other concern was that the new Wonder Woman costume  in Batman v. Superman is dark. This apparently means that she is no longer patriotic.  After all, she is an Amazon, which is as American as one can get. One of the hosts even shows a photo of Wonder Woman in a pantsuit.  He laments the loss of the halter top and hotpants because apparently he thinks the pants were added so as to not offend Muslims.    Gee, I wonder why he misses that outfit?  He probably wonders why real women find him sexist?

And then there was this:

I have only one thing to say:

Monday, September 22, 2014

Turn It Off: Polls and more Polls

The other night, my wife received a phone call that was supposed to be a poll.  It quickly became clear that this was no carefully worded, unbiased poll.  It was a political poll that would eventually lead the person being polled to give the answer the pollster wanted.  It was clear that the poll was a from an anti-abortion group looking for statistics that would back up their position.  I've had similar polls hit us before.  They have a specific design to elicit a specific response.

This brings me to another poll about attitudes.  This a poll about shifting attitudes in the partisan divide.  Did you know at one time most people were able to sit down and talk out differences without calling the other person name.  "Steadfast Conservatives" and "Steadfast Liberals" in this survey actually see the other side as a "threat to the nation's well-being." These two sides  represent the extremes in both groups.  They will not change their minds, and they will not listen to what others say.  The fact is that the two parties often go after the more fanatical and ignore the vast majority which fits most of us.  Given how wide the point of views vary on the conservative side, the extreme right tends to be much more fringe than the extreme left.  And this brings me to another reason why you need to turn off all the follows and biased sites.  It's the base. 

It stands to reason that the most vocal groups, the loudest and least likely to care about the facts, are the fringe groups.  They are the ones that post the memes, troll the opposite group's social and media pages, and wouldn't listen to facts if they had them tattooed on their arms in easy to read type.  Original and critical thought is not their strong suit. They are the ones who refuse to see the science behind climate change as a reality on the right and the science about GMO's being safe on the left.  They both tend to point to one debunked study as the touch stone of their beliefs and ignore the mounting evidence to the contrary.  It's like that group of people who have stopped immunizing their kids because a single, debunked and now with-drawn study from the 90's said there might be a link.  To date, not a single study has shown any link between autism and immunizations.  Still though with the facts staring them in the face, they believe the connection to be true, and all the while, once controlled and nearly wiped out diseases like whooping cough are on the rise.  So with the minuscule odds vs. the very real odds of catching a disease, they have blindly chose minuscule over a real danger.  The same is said for any extreme view.  Again and again we are daily bombarded by the faithful on the right and the left with misinformation that has not been verified in the least.

Take for example a new anti-gun control meme coming off the Right Wing News page about the "largest school shooting in American history" was not Sandy Hook, but when the evil government killed 290 Native American women and children.  The problem with the entire meme is that the only massacre of that size by the government in 1890 was Wounded Knee.  A simple Google search discredits the whole thing, and it is also what leads us to the account of Wounded Knee.  It was the culminating and most horrific event of the "Indian Wars." Yes the majority of those who died were women and children.  The problem is that historians do not agree on the number who were killed.  It was perhaps as high as 290 and perhaps lower at, according to the History Channel, 149.  Wounded Knee was not a school.  It is not a school shooting and the Natives were not unarmed.  In fact, the reason the calvary attacked was to disarm several Lakota Sioux.  Between 25 to 29, again the number varies, U.S. Calvary soldiers were killed.  If the friend who posted this piece had turned off the feed to this tripe, that friend would have never been influenced to post this horrifically misinformed meme.  It would simply circulate among the extreme fringe who are protected in tin foil anyway.

Not to be out done, another meme making its way from a left wing page shows two ears of corn.  The hand labeled pictures, which shows barely eaten ear of corn labeled "GMO" and a stripped ear of corn, labeled "Organic" makes the comment that even squirrels know the difference. The problem is, of course, we don't know if either ear of corn is actually what it says it is or that squirrels even ate them. In a taste test I saw on TV, people could not tell the difference between organic and factory farm bananas but would announce when told that one piece was organic that it tasted better.  The problem was that both sections of banana they were given to taste came from the same banana.  One piece was labeled organic.  The other problem is that if squirrels, and other rodents actually had such a discerning pallet, then the exterminator's poisoned feed pellets would fail miserably.  Again, if  the friend had turned off this feed or simply refused to pass on this meme, it would eventually fade from view.

Hate begets hate and stupidity begets stupidity. Far too often, we have been trained on the instant nature of the internet to react quickly and immediately.  Too many people simply don't check it before passing it on.  We have all been caught.  I now refuse to post any meme of scientific or political nature without checking first.  If we continue to allow the hate and fear to bombard us, we will only see the partisan divide grow.  A page that calls itself Right Wing America or Democrats for America is not going to be a middle of the road page.  They will pander to the extreme base.  They will do their best to push us further apart.  If you want Republicans and Democrats to move back to the middle, where  most of us are, then they need to know that the biggest demographic they need to reach is no longer listening to the pandering and hate. We are moving these extremists  back to the corner to scream at nothing and carry their sandwich sign that says "the end is nigh" while wearing their tin foil hat.   If we do this then the end is near...for them.

Unlike, don't visit, unsubscribe, ignore...just


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Turn It Off: Getting rid of those who divide us.

 Stop please....just stop.  I have a challenge for you. I am begging you.  I bet you can't do it.  I DARE YOU.  In other words, whatever it takes to challenge you, your friends, your friends' friends to turn off the feed and daily procession to stupidity, I dare you to unlike, not visit, unsubscribe, mute, and in general get all your information from as reasonably unbiased news outlet as you can find.

I dare you if you're on the left to unlike and quit visiting or watching MSNBC, Democratic Underground, Daily Kos, Mother Jones, Egberto Willies, and a host of other sites.  Dislike leftwing personalities like Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, Jessica Valenti, Paul Krugmann, Arrianna Huffington or the host of left wing radio and TV mouth pieces. I must admit that I do read articles on the Huffington Post, but its editorial and political reporting, I look at very carefully. If you are on the right then I dare you to unlike and quit visiting or watching FoxNews, Red State, Tea Party, World Net Daily, Tea Party Patriots, Breitbart, Drudge Report, and a host of other sights.  Dislike right wing personalities like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Neil Cavuto, Geroge Will, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and the host of right wing radio and tv mouth pieces. Long ago, I would watch Fox New when it really was, I thought, trying to be fair and balanced.  It has dropped all pretense of fair and balanced long ago.

If you cannot drop these folks then I have a different challenge: If you like one liberal then you must also like one conservative.  I am not including politicians whom you follow.  Politics is their job.  A pundit and a news station and a Facebook page, however, is not in existence but for his or her or its own selfish purpose and propaganda. We all know very well when it comes to Facebook or live news they have one thing they consider first: making money. To that end, far too many news organizations have committed themselves to entertainment. A part of that is keeping the conflict going because great controversy, real or imagined, puts up rating numbers, and rating numbers determine how much money these networks and pundits can charge.  Noble news reporters and honest political commentary are about ratings and not an informed public.  Meet the Press, which once actually had reporters asking leaders tough questions, has become let's have an interview with conflicting view points.  Facts are not relevant.  Rating points are. Just ask David Gregory.

I know what you're thinking about right now is "why should we do this?"

Did you know Politifact keeps track of the accuracy of not just pundits, but of entire networks?   Did you know that the network that receives the most  "mostly false, false and pants on fire" is Fox News? Number two is MSNBC. Fox News is at 58% while MSNBC is at 48% in the political arena of how often they are inaccurate.  Now it is true that this rating is based only on the items that Politifact checks. They don't fact check everything. News networks like CBS, who doesn't have a political network like NBC has MSNBC, does not get fact checked as often.  It is also true that if an MSNBC pundit goes on CNN and doles out misinformation, CNN takes the hit for the inaccuracy.  Politifact also includes NBC's rating with MSNBC's rating, which is I think a bit unfair.  CNN's rating is at only 22% inaccurate.

You can also fact check pundits like Glen Beck whose fact check card rate at "mostly false, false or pants on fire" is 61% of the time.  Rachel Maddow has a 51% inaccuracy rating.  Her equal in rating is Bill O'Reilly.  Good old Rush Limbaugh has an inaccuracy rating of 82% of the time and has never once received a true rating and only mostly true 7% of the time.  Did you know, for example, Fox News  edits public speeches by the President to change the speeches' meanings or they will cut away during a live speech for a pundit's remarks? Both MSNBC and Fox regularly use loaded language and hyperbole.

You may also notice that I did not include well-known liberals like Jon Stewart.  He is liberal yes, but pretty much anyone and everyone are his targets.  And believe it or not, political comedians like Stewart, Bill Maher and John Oliver are doing a different job by pointing at the foibles of politics.  I do admit though that Maher may be crossing the line on occasion, but then again even he says that is what he has always done.  I enjoy the stupidity these humorist points to.  It's kind of in their job description.  Political satirists from the likes of Johnathan Swift and Voltaire to Mark Twain and Will Rogers have been with us for a very long time. It's just that Stewart and the folks at Saturday Night Live have a more visible platform.

So let's get this strait once and for all: these pundits and political networks have a job and they are relying on you to never check their veracity.   In other words, if you don't check, you are the perfect, low information voter that you've heard about.  You are being led around by the nose and spreading all kinds of misleading information every time you post one of those Facebook memes or misleading stories you heard on Al Shapton or Sean Hannity. To follow these people makes about as much sense as failing to vote because you  think your vote won't count.  Now whom do you suppose would want you to think that?  An irate, ill informed voter is so much better for those who would divide us than voters who talk to each other and call out the lies and misinformation.  Quit saying you don't like congress and then sending your same, old, bought and paid for representative back to doing nothing.

Facebook pages of political persuasion are also there for the same reason.  Often created and ran by extreme groups, I suspect they are also even created and supported by the so called dark money. They have strong extremist agendas that don't really care about whether it is true or not.  Take for example one Tea Party page I was reading announced a few weeks back that Mike Ditka "annihilated" the left wing talking points about the name of the Washington football team, the Redskins. Ditka did not annihilate a talking point or group.  He simply stated his opinion in defending the use of the name.  A defense, I might add, that was also once used to defend almost every other ethnic slur ever used.  It's not a good defense.

Fox News Nation another site for the "Fox Community" announced that Attorney General Eric Holder's wife is part owner in an abortion clinic.  A "fact" that I saw reported on a friend's status.  The fact though is more complicated than that.  Eric Holder's wife, Sharon, and her sister own a building through a family trust that has, depending on what articles you read, an abortion clinic or a controversial abortion clinic, or a clinic that does abortions in the building. A doctor in that clinic was convicted of a scheme to defraud the government into paying for abortions.  A family trust to which Sharon Holder, who is a doctor and OB/GYN, is a member, has a women's clinic in it is what the news actually is.  She does not "own an abortion clinic." A family trust has purchased a building that rents to clinic.  For those of you counting propaganda techniques, by the way, this one is called "guilt by association."

Other political pundits were outraged a couple of weeks ago by Obama wearing a tan suit.  They were upset by a TAN SUIT.  I could not believe it.  A TAN SUIT was a part of the national dialog.  Meanwhile, a report that shows on the  jobs, growth and investing front Obama has been more successful than any president in recent history including Democrat hero Bill Clinton and Republican god, Ronald Reagan has gone unnoticed.  I wonder who else has worn this horrible blight of something other than a dark colored suit. A TAN SUIT...honestly...

It is time to turn it off. Join me as I go through my likes and bookmarks and unlike a few. Let's tell them that we won't be used anymore. Like your local newspaper. Follow Time and Forbes and The Washington Post. Follow CNN and NPR and Reuters and maybe even Wikinews.

Become informed.  Not just a good Republican or Democrat.  It is far too easy to become involved in the glut of misinformation.  SHUT IT DOWN.  TURN IT OFF.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Where Was the Outrage?

If you haven't been on the web or seen the news or read any headline in the past few days - in short you've been living in a cave and scrounging for berries - you probably haven't heard about the 100's of personal pictures stolen from the personal accounts of celebrities. These pictures and a few videos are extremely personal. This is not a scandal. This is theft. These people did nothing wrong even if you question the idea of storing such things in the cloud. Unwise decisions are not a crime. If it was, I know more than a few folks who would be forbidden to go anywhere near a computer.  Breaking into a private account and stealing things from that account is a crime. There is no scandal except the fact that the press seems intent on using the term instead of crime.

But this brings me to something even more insidious about the entire situation, and it is the outrage that followed. Not that we shouldn't be outraged by this act, but because we were not particularly outraged when it was done before. There is only one reason for this, and it is that one of the most universally loved stars was hurt and embarrassed. Don't believe me. Go ahead and type in the search box for news about the leaked photos, and you will see one picture appear in every article. The picture of Jennifer "JLaw" Lawrence. We've all known that Jennifer is unabashedly without filters as David Letterman observed following an interview. It is this why we love her. She is who she is and there seems to be no carefully laid image or press spin.  We will continue to support her even after the theft of her personal pictures.

This outrage about the theft got me thinking about where was the outrage when this happened before? Where was my outrage? I am not talking about the invasion of privacy by the paparazzi taking pictures of private moments.  That's another issue that sadly we have few if any laws to protect people from.  No, I am talking about would we be as outraged if it were just a couple of stars or someone who was not as loved as Lawrence?

Where was the massive disgust with the guy who leaked Pamela Anderson's tapes?  Well, it was Pamela Anderson. Right? She had been in Playboy. I guess that means she doesn't get a private and personal life. What about when Vanessa Hudgens had it done? How about when Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Alba, Blake Lively, Paris Hilton, Chris Brown, Kesha, Kanye West, Heather Morris, Olivia Munn, Christina Hendricks, Christina Aguilera, Annalynne McCord, CoCo, Adrianne Curry, Tawny Kitaen or Tonya Harding had their pictures and videos stolen and posted? This is just a short list of leaked photos.  Some were stolen and some were released by bitter ex's. Where is the outrage for these folks even if you have never heard of some of them or don't like some of them? Admittedly there are a few folks that have tweeted their own doom.  There have even been a few that it is widely believed leaked the material themselves as a part of shameless self-promotion.  Those are not the ones I am talking about.

There was very little coverage of the guy who stole Scarlett Johansson's pictures being convicted and sentenced to ten years.  Perhaps if there had been more coverage, then what is happening this week could have been avoided.  It's doubtful though.  I mean most criminals don't think they will be caught.  Shoot, Pam Anderoson's and Paris Hilton's videos were even sold as porn tapes.  No the outrage that should have been there for thefts and leaks, going back years, comes too late. What is more, tell me where the prison sentences and outrage are for those stolen and revenge pics of those who aren't famous?  You think there was little coverage of the guy who was convicted of hacking Johansson's pictures, there is no one, not FBI or local law going after the guys and girls posting revenge pics.  There are, in fact, entire websites dedicated to revenge photos.

So if you're less than pleased, disgusted, or outraged by the leaks this week, then maybe we need to stay that way for everyone and not just our favorite stars.  We all need to be angered by the new invasion into privacy.  But the fact is we should have been angered by it long ago. This includes me.  We cannot just say, "Oh well, it's the internet." We have to let folks who are spying on us and hacking us know that we are mad as hell, and we're not taking it any more.