Amusing ourselves to death: new Sciencegasm meme nails it

The public interest is what the public is interested in, bitches.

Thanks to Facebook, we all see new memes every day. Some of them are funny, some insightful, and a lot are of the preaching to the choir variety, which even though they’re right as rain, they occasionally get tiresome. Like a lot of us, frustrated as hell with the sorry shape of our society and the deteriorating condition of our planet and the sheer hopelessness of mounting an assault against the mountain of cynical, corrupt cash standing between us and a solution, I guess I suffer from bouts of what we’ll call Fact Fatigue. If we’re intelligent, I fear, the truth is too much with us.

Every once in awhile, though, somebody sends one around that’s so on-point you can’t ignore it. Today, for instance, it was my friend Heather Sowards-Valey (she of Fiction 8 fame) sharing this one from Sciencegasm: Continue reading “Amusing ourselves to death: new Sciencegasm meme nails it”

The Komen “reversal”: a crushing failure of America’s newsrooms

Yesterday I attempted to shed a little light on the PR crisis strategy behind the Komen Foundation’s sudden Planned Parenthood “backtracking.”

Contrary to what Komen’s highly-paid PR crisis hacks and gullible headline writers at newsdesks around the nation would ask you to believe, The Susan G. Komen Foundation does NOT promise to fund Planned Parenthood in the future. They promise to let PP APPLY for grants in the future. Applying and receiving are different things, as anyone who ever applied and got rejected for a job ought to know. Continue reading “The Komen “reversal”: a crushing failure of America’s newsrooms”

The American Parliament: our nation’s 10 political parties

Part two in a series.

Forgive me for abstracting and oversimplifying a bit, but one might argue that American politics breaks along the following 10 lines:

Conservatives, Progressives and the future of representative democracy: what would an American Parliament look like?

Part one in a series.

A little thought experiment for a Monday morning…

Over the past few years I have tried to make as much sense as I could out of the American political landscape. By nature, I’m a theoretically minded thinker, and the point of these exercises has been to try and articulate the structures, shapes, motivators and dynamics the define who we are so that I might develop better theories about why so that I might then think more effectively about how we might be nudged in a more productive direction. Facts → Theory → Action, in other words.

I have observed a few things along the way.

Time for America’s Freddie Mercury moment: there are more than 100 gay pro athletes in the US, and the sooner they get out of the equipment closet the better

In a recent discussion on one of my political lists Sara Robinson (easily one of the brightest folks in the blogosphere) made an important point about what often causes people to migrate from socially conservative perspectives to more progressive points of view. In describing her experiences with a particular activist group that helped people leaving fundamentalist religions (something that can be emotionally traumatic at the very least, and that frequently comes at a significant price in their lives – lost families, ostracization, etc.), she noted:

[T]he first sliver of doubt came about when the person’s authorities asked them to believe something that they simply could not reconcile with their own experience. In a plurality of cases, this dissonance was caused by knowing and caring for someone who was gay, and realizing that the conservative storyline on the inherent evil of homosexuality just didn’t line up with what they knew of this wonderful person. (If the religious right knew just how often this one issue triggered those first unignorable doubts, they’d walk away from gay-hating and never go back to it.) Continue reading “Time for America’s Freddie Mercury moment: there are more than 100 gay pro athletes in the US, and the sooner they get out of the equipment closet the better”

What would a progressive society look like? The Tricentennial Manifesto

The Tricentennial ManifestoOne of my lists is currently engaged in a fairly dynamic discussion about “what is a progressive?”

In thinking about the issue, I realized that it might help to ask the question a slightly different way: what would a progressive society look like? Maybe I can better understand what it means to be progressive in 2010 if I reverse-engineer the definition from a vision of the future where things work the way they ought to.

I have argued that the success of the progressive movement hinges on seriously long-term thinking. It’s not about the 2012 elections or the 2016 elections or even the 2020 elections – those fights are about the battle, not the war.

Instead, if we do things properly, if we concentrate on and win the war, what does America look like on our Tricentennial? The following 40 articles suggest some ideas. Continue reading “What would a progressive society look like? The Tricentennial Manifesto”

Gallup poll reveals that public questions PR industry credibility: are PR practitioners to blame?

A Gallup poll released in August indicated that the advertising and PR industries aren’t viewed very favorably by the American public.

One-third of respondents voiced a positive view of the advertising/pr industry (6 percent “very,” 27 percent “somewhat”). Twenty-seven percent were “neutral.” Twenty-five percent expressed a “somewhat negative view,” while 11 percent were “very negative.” (The rest didn’t venture an opinion.)

You might argue that, on balance, the numbers are only slightly negative – total positives were 33% while total negatives were 36% – and the AdWeek story cited here certainly goes out of their way to put a chirpy spin on the results (no real surprise there, I suppose). Continue reading “Gallup poll reveals that public questions PR industry credibility: are PR practitioners to blame?”

Amusing ourselves to death, circa 2010

This is the future – people, translated as data. – Bryce, Network 23

The future has always interested me, even when it scares me to death. I wrote a doctoral dissertation that spent a good deal of time examining our culture’s ideologies of technology and development, for instance (and built some discussion of William Gibson and cyberpunk into the mix). I once taught a two-semester sequence at the University of Colorado in Humanities and the Electronic Media, where I introduced the concept of the “Posthumanities” to my students. A few years back I talked about the future of retail and described the smartest shopping cart that ever lived. Continue reading “Amusing ourselves to death, circa 2010”

ArtSunday: Let the musicians die

Every once in awhile I come across unrelated stories that somehow associate themselves in my mind. Take these, for instance:

First, I hope you saw Lex’s tribute to Starchild (given name, Gary Shider), he of P-Funk fame. As Lex notes, Shider experienced problems where the cost of fighting the cancer that killed him was concerned.

Second, another American music icon, Alex Chilton, passed away earlier this year. Continue reading “ArtSunday: Let the musicians die”

Educating PlayNation: Obama, iPads, Xboxes and America’s culture of noise

President Barack Obama yesterday took a shot at America’s culture of noise and the media and entertainment technologies that foster it. In addressing the commencement exercises at Hampton University, Obama said:

“With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations, — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation,” Obama said.

He bemoaned the fact that “some of the craziest claims can quickly claim traction,” in the clamor of certain blogs and talk radio outlets. Continue reading “Educating PlayNation: Obama, iPads, Xboxes and America’s culture of noise”

Jesus Gone Wild! It’s time to separate church and state, once and for all

Part 1 of 2.

I tripped across a provocative headline in the Wall Street Journal the other day: “They Need to be Liberated from Their God.” Turns out the story was about Mosab Hassan Yousef and his spying on Hamas. Which was a little disappointing. There’s no doubt that Palestinian Muslims need to be liberated from their god, but given the recent explosion in documented attacks by US Christians on their fellow Americans (as well as on reason and basic common sense), I thought perhaps the WSJ was going to be the first mainstream “news” outlet to do a story on Jesus Gone Wild!

I keep a running tab of stories that strike my interest. Continue reading “Jesus Gone Wild! It’s time to separate church and state, once and for all”

9/11 happened on Obama’s watch! GOP noise machine already hard at work on the history books of the future

Something wicked this way comes.

There are a number of problems with these assertions, not the least of which is that when Saudi terrorists started flying hijacked jets into large buildings on September 11, 2001, George W. Bush had been president of the United States for the better part of eight months. The lapses in memory noted above are all striking, but especially so in the case of Giuliani, who was, from September 11 until he dropped out of the presidential race on January 30, 2008 (a span of roughly 2,332 days, if my math is accurate), unable to say so much as “hello” without somehow shoehorning “9/11” into the conversation. Continue reading “9/11 happened on Obama’s watch! GOP noise machine already hard at work on the history books of the future”

Why American media has such a signal-to-noise problem, pt. 2

Part 2 of a series; Previously: What Bell Labs and French Intellectuals Can Tell Us About Cronkite and Couric

The Signal-to-Noise Journey of American Media

The 20th Century represented a Golden Age of Institutional Journalism. The Yellow Journalism wars of the late 19th Century gave way to a more responsible mode of reporting built on ethical and professional codes that encouraged fairness and “objectivity.” (Granted, these concepts, like their bastard cousin “balance,” are not wholly unproblematic. Still, they represented a far better way of conducting journalism than we had seen before.) It’s probably not idealizing too much to assert that reporting in the Cronkite Era, for instance, was characterized by a commitment to rise above partisanship and manipulation. The journalist was expected to hold him/herself to a higher standard and to serve the public interest. These professionals – and I have met a few who are more than worthy of the title – believed they had a duty to search for the facts and to present them in a fashion that was as free of bias as possible.

In other words, their careers, like that of Claude Shannon, were devoted to maximizing the signal in the system – the system here being the “marketplace of ideas.” Continue reading “Why American media has such a signal-to-noise problem, pt. 2”

Has a college degree become a bad investment? Better question: is conservative rhetoric the worst investment in history?

Yesterday over at Future Majority, Kevin Bondelli responded to Jack Hough’s New York Post column “Don’t Get That College Degree!” Bondelli’s take led with one of the more terrifying titles I’ve seen lately: “Has College Become a Bad Investment?” Yow. When you dig the hole so deep that you can even use that kind of question as a rhetorical device, you know you’re in some deep, deep kim-chee. Seriously. That one ranks right up there with “Is breathing really a good idea?” and “What are the lasting benefits of a howitzer shot to the balls?”

Snark aside, Bondelli does a nice job of addressing Hough, who “argues that the increase in lifetime wages for graduates no longer makes up for the financial burden of university education and the ensuing student loan burden.” He also takes on one of the GOP’s most successful and devastating canards, explaining that Continue reading “Has a college degree become a bad investment? Better question: is conservative rhetoric the worst investment in history?”

An open letter to America’s progressive billionaires

Dear Mr. Buffet, Mr. Gates, Mr. Turner, Mr. Soros, Ms. Winfrey, and any other hyper-rich types with progressive political leanings:

If this essay has, against all odds, somehow made its way to your desk, please, bear with me. It’s longish, but it winds eventually toward an exceedingly important conclusion. If you’ll give me a few minutes, I’ll do my best to reward your patience.
_______________

In the 2008 election, Barack Obama won a landmark political victory on a couple of prominent themes: “hope” and “change.” He has since been afforded ample opportunity to talk about these ideas, having inherited the nastiest economic quagmire in living memory and a Republican minority in Congress that has interpreted November’s results as a mandate to obstruct the public interest even more rabidly than it was doing before. Reactions among those of us who supported Obama have been predictably mixed, but even those who have been critical of his efforts to date are generally united in their hope that his win signaled the end of “movement conservatism” in the US. Continue reading “An open letter to America’s progressive billionaires”

Where great PR and bad journalism collide: the Denver Post strikes again

Once upon a time the Denver Post was a pretty good newspaper. These days? Well, it’s pretty much like every other newspaper. And that isn’t a compliment. On Sunday last (the 21st) we were presented with a front-page, above-the-fold case study in what happens when budget cuts drive too many professionals out of the newsroom and talent that might once have served the public interest in a journalistic role turns to public relations.

Short version: Continue reading “Where great PR and bad journalism collide: the Denver Post strikes again”

The Scholars & Rogues Manifesto: what are we doing here?

It has been alleged that Scholars & Rogues is not, strictly speaking, a political blog. Sure, we write about overtly political issues and devote our share of time to things like media policy, energy and the environment, business and the economy, and international dynamics. Yes, we were credentialed to cover the DNC, but we don’t really do hard, insider, by god politics. Daily Kos is a political blog. Firedoglake is a political blog. Little Green Footballs, The Agonist, Politico, The Seminal – these are real poliblogs.

S&R, on the other hand, writes about music. About literature and poetry. About art. Education. Sports. Culture and popular culture. The Ramsey case and what it tells us about the state of media. And now that the election is over, S&R is writing about politics less than ever.

So really, what is S&R? Continue reading “The Scholars & Rogues Manifesto: what are we doing here?”

RIAA, meet RICO

Finally, FINALLY we’re starting to treat the RIAA like an organized crime syndicate. Check the latest on a RICO class-action in Missouri, via Slashdot:

“In Atlantic Recording v. Raleigh, an RIAA case pending in St. Louis, Missouri, the defendant has asserted detailed counterclaims against the RIAA for federal RICO violations, fraud, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, prima facie tort, trespass, and conspiracy. The claims focus on the RIAA’s ‘driftnet’ tactic of suing innocent people, and of demanding extortionate settlements. The RICO ‘predicate acts’ alleged in the 42-page pleading (PDF) are extortion, mail fraud, and wire fraud.

This is a wonderful approach. Continue reading “RIAA, meet RICO”

ElecTunesDay: ending the War on Music

Trusting is one thing I don’t know
When it comes to the campaigning men
But I’ll meet you at the election
When I vote for the hope of this land
Sean Kelly

You may have noticed, if you’ve been paying attention, that the music industry has gone to hell of late. It isn’t that nobody is making good music anymore – on the contrary, there are legions of fantastic bands and artists out there. It’s just that the best ones rarely get played on the radio; the recording industry cranks out nothing but imitation, prefabricated product – the musical equivalent of Cheez-Whiz (Now With Zero Intellectual Calories!); the RIAA – the body that’s allegedly working on behalf of artists – never misses a chance to kneecap young, developing musicians; and if an artist is making a living, it’s probably at a day job and not with his or her music. Continue reading “ElecTunesDay: ending the War on Music”