My Thoughts Exactly

Footnote to Harold: Media Dynamics 101

Harold Feld provides an insightful analysis of the right wing noise machine’s attack on Oprah. As this is kind of an advanced topic in media watching, involving feints and jujitsu-like tactics, I think it may be useful to ground the analysis in elementary theory, viz, short run optimization:

1) The “news” media (and this includes Keith Olberman and other so-called liberals), has only one interest, and that is to make money.
2) They make money by selling advertising.
3) The more people who watch them, the more money newsmedia make.
4) More people watch “the news” when there is a tight race, or better still, controversy and a tight race. Viewers are seeking entertainment, not to become better informed about policy.
5) Therefore, the media will do whatever they can possibly do to ensure a tight race with lots of controversy.

Coralarries to theorem 5, above, are that things that distract from the entertainment value of the news, such as coverage of wars that are not going so well, will be minimized. People watch TV that flatters them and rewards their laziness; therefore TV news advances the point of view that personalities are more important than policies–because most people consider themselves good judges of personalities & it requires no work to decide whether or not you like somebody.

The only national news media figure who is an exception to this dynamic is Jon Stewart. He clearly cares about the country and respects our constitution. Stewart makes money by serving the considerable minority of viewers who actually want to understand what’s going on in our government.

Below the fold: Media Dynamics 102: long run optimization

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My Thoughts Exactly

Jack Welch, Karl Rove, media cartels, and the subversion of democracy

By way of Smirking Chimp I come across this fascinating (and utterly depressing) account of how Karl Rove “reached out” to (Saint) Jack Welch, A.K.A “the buzz saw”, Chairman of General Electric, the parent company of NBC, and how together they put in place the right wing noise machine that masquerades as our nation’s electronic news media.

Posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Telcos Find Link Between Google, Net Neutrality, and Al Qeda

As others have chronicled, the people who brought you “Net Neutrality Is In Its Last Throes” and “Deregulated Telecoms Will Be Greeted As Liberators” have now launched a new campaign based on the highly successful tools of this administration and the conservative noise machine generally. This is perhaps unsurprising given the paucity of arguments the anti-net neutrality folks have at this point.

The fear of Google is attractive. Any huge entity attracts concern, and rightly so. I’m pleased that Google has “don’t be evil” as a credo, and that by and large it has done a good job sticking to that. But they are a large corporation like any other, and if they become convinced that something contrary to the public interest is in their best financial interest, I know which way to bet. For this reason, you find a number of perfectly reasonable folks, such as industry observer Robert Cringley (whose push for local ownership of infrastructure hardly makes him a telco or cable enthusiast) is now worried that Google has accumulated a sufficient mass of resources to take over the internet the same way Microsoft took over the desk top.

Please note that this has nothing to do with network neutrality. In fact, if Google really did have an evil plan to leverage its network assets and services to dminate the internet, thelast they would want would be network neutrality. Network neutrality means treating everyone equal, so if Google became the uber-Tier 1 carrier — what Cringley alleges is Google’s ultimate plan — the last thing Google would want would be a requirement to carry everyone’s traffic equally. It would be like Microsoft fighting to keep its monopoly by making the GNU GPL mandatory for all desktop operating systems.

But, as the current Administration has discovered, we don’t need logic. We just need a big old cloud of anxiety and the power of repetition. If you fear Iran and its nuclear ambitions, you must support a surge in Iraq , because Iran supports U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, and Iran has nuclear ambitions. If you fear Google invading your privacy or dominating net applications, you must fear network neutrality, because Google supports network neutrality and they’re big and scary. Network neutrality is a plot by Google to take over the internet, because Google wants to take over the internet and they like network neutrality. And did we mention they’re big and scary? Biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigggggggg and scaaaaarrrrrrryyyyy!!!! And they like network neutrality. So Network neutrality is scary and bad, like Google, but without the “I’m feeling lucky!” button.

Mind you, you can find plenty of examples of this kind of logic in the mainstream media. You can see this amazing (as always) clip of Stephen Colbert demonstrating how the mainstream media uses this technique on Barack Obama. In a world where the mainstream media apparently believes that voters will make their decision on whether his middle name is Hossein or whether his “business casual look” is too much like Iranian President and fashion plate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, we can expect the cable cos and telcos to push the link between Google, net neutrality, and Al Qeda

I’ve been at Media Access Project snce 1999. Long enough to remember when America Online and the telcos supported not just network neutrality, but “open access” (letting ISP resell broadband capacity). A fair number of folks accused open access supporters of being AOL shills or tools of the telcos. But after AOL merged with Time Warner, and Michael “deregulate them all and God will know his own” Powell took over the FCC, the companies that had backed open access switched sides. But the public interest community, including MAP, kept fighting the same fight (which has now morphed into the ‘net neutrality’ fight) long after the industry folks switched sides or dropped out.

As I have said many times before, citizen movements must stay citizen driven. Corporations will act in their best interest. They will spend money if they think it will help them earn more money. But that’s as far as they go.

You can’t get a million people or more in this overworked, busy 24/7 world to fight for something — in the face of a continued barrage of advertising, push-polling and the pervasive corrosive cynicism that you can never hope to win in our corrupt political system against the corporate powers that be — unless they believe in it. And you can’t get people to believe in it — especially in the face of the barrage of misinformation — unless there is really something to it. Especially when we are talking about a geeky technical policy issue that no one outside Washington ever heard of a year ago.

So yeah, Google supports network neutrality, and for their own reasons. But chosing to support or not support a cause because Google does is about as stupid as deciding whether or not to vote for Obama because both he and Ahmadinejad hate ties.

For the record, I hate ties too, and I support network neutrality. Just like Obama supports network neutrality. So I guess I must have links to Ahmadinejad. Hopefully, this will not scare away too many readers. But for those unafraid of the frightenng link between network neutrality, me, Barack Obama, and Ahmadinejad,

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Series of Tubes, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Brilliant Indictment of Bush and His Proxies from MSNBC

See Keith Oberman give a passionate, well spoken condemnation of the efforts by Bush, the folks at Fox News, and the rest of the Republican “noise machine” to rewrite history. Ten minutes long, but well worth it. Click here.

Would that we could find such willingness to challenge the powers that be on broadcast networks.

Stay tuned . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

What we can Learn from the “War on Christmas”

The latest effort by social conservatives to rally their troops around the so called “war on Christmas” teaches us many valuable lessons for the season. Notably, we can look forward to more ugliness in 2006 as the conservative sound machine ramps up the volume to try to drive its troops out for what (for now at least) look like pretty dismal ’06 by-election for the GOP.

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Posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , | 8 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

My Muni Report

Well, not mine exclusively, but I did write a good deal of it. Connecting the Public: The Truth About Municipal Broadband Takes on the telco/cable noise machine and explains why municipal broadband systems are a good thing and why states should not buy into the anti-muni argument.

It’s one of three papers a bunch of us released today. Ben Scott and Frannie Welling at Free Press also did a paper directly taking on the telco “fact sheets” that claim muni systems failed. And the Florida Municipal Electric Association released a study showing that municipal broadband systems really do increase economic development as compared to similarly situated towns in Florida (remember, Florida is one of the states considering an anti-muni bill). You can read all those reports here. And, if you feel like writing something to your state or federal legislator about this, you can print out the letter we did back in February, put your own name on it, and mail it off.

Stay tuned . . .

Posted in General, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)
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