Category Archives: Media

Best-Looking Nobel Laureate

rosalindfranklin2Slate perennially runs this piece about why a woman should receive the Nobel Prize for physics. It is easy to focus on the “societal” aspect, especially if you don’t understand the science.

Instead, we look at race and gender, and what kind of shirt the scientist is wearing. This allows social scolds, with no credentials, to set themselves up as judges.

Dr. Taylor’s apology … was like a scene from Mao’s Cultural Revolution when weeping intellectuals were forced to confess their crimes against the people. – Boris Johnson

A real controversy, if you must have one, might be whether neutrinos are more Nobel-worthy than dark matter or quantum entanglement. Here are some fun ways for non-participants to seek vicarious glory:

  • Nationalistic hubris about Olympic medals
  • Civic pride attached to a private sports franchise
  • Nationalistic hubris about Nobel Prizes for science
  • Race and gender identification of Nobel Prizes
  • Race identification of some silly award for pop music

Science is supposed to be a cooperative effort for the greater good of humanity, not a petty competition. The woman who cured malaria said, “[this] is a gift for the world’s people from traditional Chinese medicine.”

It would be nice if scientists received recognition (and funding) comparable to, say, movie stars. Jejune reporting like Slate’s shows us why that will never happen.

See also: Obama “Wins” Nobel Prize


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Establishment Shills

stephen-colbert-hobbit-cameo“Speaking truth to power” means standing up for your views, regardless of the risk. Dr. King was harassed by the FBI. People are also harassed by the IRS. There are a thousand ways the government can bankrupt you, or put you in jail.

Comedians can use humor to confront power, but it takes courage. Richard Pryor and George Carlin were both stalked by the FBI, though never prosecuted. Irate Congressmen have tried to take Bill Maher off the air.

Stanley-Tucci-as-Caesar-Flickerman-in-The-Hunger-GamesWhat does not take courage is agreeing, entirely and in detail, with the position of the ruling administration. Stephen Colbert may as well have his act written for him by the White House press corps. He carries water for the establishment, and only attacks its enemies.

Aspiring comedians take note. The political climate has shifted. To be relevant today, you must be Politically Incorrect.

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Selling Out

The Economist has been just brutal on President Obama’s foreign policy, despite having endorsed him in 2008 and again in 2012. They had some other policy in mind, and Jeremiah knows what it is. To prove it, we confidently predict the magazine will endorse Jeb Bush in 2016. Need a hint? Here is the latest shameless advertisement for Common Core.


The data in this chart is from Pearson’s annual report. We love The Economist, but it is chump change to the money Pearson makes from its multimillion dollar no-bid education contracts. They might as well use it for an advertising vehicle. Oh, and did we mention that “Doctor Evil,” Eric Schmidt of the Google-NSA security apparatus, recently joined the board?

A Politico investigation has found that Pearson stands to make tens of millions in taxpayer dollars and cuts in student tuition from deals arranged without competitive bids in states from Florida to Texas.

As for the substance of Common Core, centrist Jeremiah splits the difference. Standards, testing, and merit pay – good. Reliance on agitprop course packs – not so much. At this point, the best way for The Economist to recover its editorial integrity would be for Jeff Bezos to buy it and make it into an app.

Update:  Shortly after this post, Pearson sold FT.  As of this writing, July 28, they also plan to sell The Economist.  Someone must be reading Jeremiah.

See also: Strictly Fishwrap

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Conspiracy Duckspeak

We were struck by this headline, Conspiracy Theories Abound in Nemtsov Murder. Jeremiah is intrigued by the increasing use of “conspiracy theory” to designate views outside the accepted mainstream. He has debunked a few, as here, and supported others.

The mainstream view is that the Putin regime was behind the murder. The conspiracy view is that some group of agitators, like the Ukrainian resistance or Russian nationalists, killed Mr. Nemtsov as a provocation. There are plenty of motives to embarrass Putin and goad Russia into some course of action or another. As for means and opportunity, President Putin is much more likely to arrest his enemies than to have them shot dead on a high street in Moscow.

This is not to play armchair detective. On the contrary – at this early stage of the investigation, no one should rush to judgment, and no theory should be dismissed out of hand. What we would like to see, as a gesture of good faith, is an invitation for German experts to participate in the investigation.

A right-wing media star drops dead… a coroner’s technician dies weeks later… right-wing blogs erupt! Seven months later, we know the technician died from arsenic poisoning.

Here in America, if an outspoken opposition leader dies under suspicious circumstances, the conspiracy theorists are those who suspect the government. Yes, we mean Andrew Breitbart, a strong young man who dropped dead from a “massive” heart attack while walking his dog – hours after making himself inconvenient for the Obama administration.

We might also include reporter Michael Hastings, whose Mercedes exploded after striking a palm tree in Hollywood. Of course, American spooks have the good taste to make it look like an accident – not like that maniac, Vladimir Putin. If you look into any of these stories, including the poisoned L.A. technician, you will read “conspiracy theory” prominently in every one.

Note the symmetry here. Of suspicious deaths in America, the crazies are those who suggest the government might be involved. Of suspicious deaths in Russia, the crazies are those who suggest the government might not be involved. That’s because political assassinations don’t happen in America. Right?

All of this just goes to show that you must make up your own mind. Some theories are indeed crazy, but when the press tells you a theory is crazy – that just shows whose pocket they’re in. Globalism, for instance, is a strong movement with institutional support and outspoken advocates – yet, for some reason, people outside the movement cannot talk about it without sounding crazy.

In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.

This is a lot like the way the government controlled speech in Orwell’s 1984. Their language was designed so that it was grammatically impossible to express dissent. Anyone who tried, would sound like an idiot. They called it duckspeak. We call it conspiracy theory.

See also: Written by the Victors

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Take the Red Pill

MorpheusMany people still get their news from television, at home and in public spaces like bars and airports. While CNN is not the most watched news here in America, it is regarded as the American news station of record overseas. What they know about us in Europe, for example, they know from CNN. Not the facts, mind you, but the spin. International viewers know that our news reporting is strongly influenced by government PR efforts, and so they watch to learn what those are.

Amber Lyon, a correspondent at the network, claimed in 2011 that she had been instructed by CNN to ensure her reports helped sway US opinion towards supporting an attack on Syria, and even Iran.

Imagine two traveling businessmen with CNN playing in the airport lounge. One is an American, the other from Central Europe. While Jeremiah ignores the news and checks his email, Ivan watches American propaganda.

Anita Dunn boasted of having total control over the news media and, of course, retired White House spokesmen invariably end up working for CNN. Russians used to call it the Clinton News Network.

Cynicism about the news media increases as you travel eastward across the continent, maybe due to Eastern Europe’s experience with Soviet propaganda – or maybe due to less material wealth. As long as there is a chicken in every pot, people are willing to believe the party line. This “prosperity theory” of propaganda may explain why modern Russians are losing their edge, and why Americans are so completely obtuse.

Jeremiah regularly coaches you to seek out new sources of opinion, like the blog links at right. If you must watch TV news, here are some suggestions:

  • Al-JazeeraAl Jazeera brings you much broader coverage of the world, and much more intelligent coverage of the Middle East. They have a certain “perspective,” of course, which you must take into account – but so does any other news station. In fact, we found a surprising level of objectivity here, on the Gaza conflict.
  • Russia Times – “RT” keeps trying to brand itself as something other than Russia Times. They have a strong anti-American bias, and you will see direct rebuttals of our foreign policy pronouncements – Sergey Lavrov calling John Kerry a liar, for example. We like it for coverage of police and surveillance abuses which, obviously, are hushed up here at home.
  • Fox News – We started taking Fox seriously when the administration started bitching about it. This is the voice of the opposition, and the only place on TV where you can hear that. The mainstream has also, foolishly, allowed Fox to acquire a monopoly on libertarians. The schedule is here. We recommend Special Report, which is a traditional news hour format.

As patriotic Americans, we believe in our country. We also want to believe in our government, and hope that its policies are right. Blind faith, however, does not serve our cause. It is our job, as voters and activists, to critique the policies and correct the politicians. We can’t do that job if we allow ourselves to be fed a steady diet of bullshit on the television.

See also: U.S. ranks 46th in press freedom

Update: The Economist directly attacks RT as Russian propaganda. Charlemagne calls for amping up the European side, with government funds, to counter it. Best line: there is truth in reporting, not “just a postmodern potpourri of perspectives.”

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Media Self-Censorship

An interview with ex-Reuters bureau chief Andrew MacGregor Marshall is here, in Russia Today. Of course, you already know that the mainstream media are censored. Marshall describes how this censorship is implemented, without any conspiracy or direct interference. It is merely the subtle and persistent pressure of certain editorial norms, and biased standards of evidence.

There are some things that are safe to say and we become conditioned that they are safe to say, and there are other things that … if we say them we are mocked or delegitimized.

Marshall makes the obvious but important point that other people don’t share our prejudices. News stories that seem unbiased to us may sound like total propaganda to them. He cites some examples from his experience in Iraq. This is why we must develop the ability to question and critique all news sources, and seek out differing points of view.

Without the freedom to report on politics and strategy, coverage of the Iraq war(s) degenerated into a daily body count, like the box score of some macabre sporting event. Viewers have no way to process this contextless violence, and so they tune out. They click on a story about – Marshall’s example – Paris Hilton instead.

Jeremiah complains all the time about stupid viewers of stupid stories, and this discussion points to a solution. If a news outlet could show, in some detail, who is behind the violence – and why – that might garner an audience. Why did the Iraqi army disintegrate, for instance? Whose policy mistake was that?

If someone started a news outlet that would place the day’s tragedy in its political and historical context, so that readers could make sense of it, people might just generate actionable ideas that would make a positive change in the world. One can hope.

See also: Written by the Victors

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Strictly Fishwrap

fish-and-chips-in-newspaperSomething fishy is going on at The Economist. The rest of the magazine still features economics, but the United States section increasingly reads like talking points from the White House. Policies for which they ridicule President Hollande in the Europe section magically make sense in America. We suspect that “Lexington” is actually James Carville.

Pearson has billions of dollars in long-term contracts with education departments in a number of states and municipalities

Last week, the magazine featured a faulty analysis of economic growth having something to do with which president is in office. To be useful, such an analysis must identify whether the economy is responding to a policy at all, and then whether (some) president is responsible for the policy.

Even if you wanted to draw simple minded generalizations about presidents and the economy – Jeremiah doesn’t – you would have to add lag time for the policies to take effect.

The same issue featured an equally idiotic assertion that our economy must be good because the stock market is up. Seriously? In a magazine called The Economist? We are not even going to dignify that one with a rebuttal.

Something fishy is definitely going on. We suspect it has something to do with Pearson’s lucrative no-bid deal to provide Common Core materials. We will continue to read the finance and economics sections, but the United States? Forget about it. You might as well read Huffington Post.

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