Posts from January 6, 2005

Michael Powell, earthbound

Michael Powell, earthbound

: I actually believe that in his heart of hearts, Michael Powell — once a friend of the First Amendment — is embarrassed that he turned himself into the national nanny for cheap political gain. Call me an optimist.

At CES, Powell gave a Q&A and said again he’d keep his hands off satellite.

Michael Powell had a rare bit of good news Thursday for shock jock Howard Stern, saying the government had no interest in censoring satellite radio.

Engaging in a question-and-answer session at the Consumer Electronics Show, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission dismissed notions that broadcast radio operators will suffer unless the growing satellite radio business is subjected to the same content restrictions that forbid “the seven dirty words.”

“I think it’s a dangerous thing to start talking about extending government oversight of content to other media just to level the playing field,” Powell said….

Broadcast radio operators have made several unsuccessful attempts to restrict satellite radio content. But Powell said the merging of media formats and the Internet and changing attitudes favor minimal oversight.

“At the end of the day, I think we’re going to move in the direction of the Jeffersonian free-speech tradition,” he said.

At the end of the day. Which day?

Stern’s C in FCC

Stern’s C in FCC

: does a feature on the guy who taught Howard Stern for his radio license. He got a C.

The tsunami’s map

The tsunami’s map

: Ralph Peters draws a compelling view of the political importance of the tsunami’s path:

No region of the world is so complex, or so thick with both threats and opportunities. The Indian Ocean region is not only critical in detail, but has an overall importance even greater than its parts. From the vital sea lanes that once carried spices and now carry oil, to the competing civilizations on its littorals, the Indian Ocean binds together the world’s great passions, needs and dangers.

This is where Islam must



: The best moment in the Alberto Gonzales hearings that I’ve heard: When Joe Biden spent so long giving the preamble to his questions — even telling him that he is “the real deal” — that he runs out of time before he can reach a question mark.

Passed over

Passed over

: James Wolcott is gets passed over for a promotion at Conde Nast.

: Note, by the way, that Gawker had the news of editorial director James Truman’s departure from Conde hours before anybody else. All that stalking paid off.



: Susan Crawford is at some egghead event about complexity and she’s blogging it. That’s guts.

In today’s report, there’s a fascinating bit from Mary Ann Allison of the Allison group saying that societies were once described by gemeinschaft (think community) and the, after the industrial revolution, as gesellschaft (think society). We’re at a next stage:

Allison doesn’t see these as oppositional systems, but rather as stages in evolution — and she thinks we’re at a big punctuation point prompted by the information revolution. The new society is gecyberschaft.

So if your unit of community in gemeinschaft was the village, it became “friends and family” in gesellschaft, and it’s now your “primary attention group.” You pay attention to that group (or groups, I’d hope she’d say) and to “groups of purpose” — groups neither bound to a place nor to a particular bureaucracy.

In gemeinschaft, your status was ascribed (based on birth); in gesellschaft, it was achieved; and now, in gecyberschaft, it’s assessed.

Is this on the final?

But seriously… It is a compelling concept: Has society fundamentally changed again? Are the old strings that tied us together replaced with (and tangled in) new strings that not only cut across geography, boundaries, and societies but also are created and valued in entirely new means and measurements? We are assessed not by our bloodline and not by our location or income or education but instead by our connections. Hmmmm.

: LATER: Matt Bruce calls gecybershaft “extreme language torture.” Yes, I thought gememeshaft was a bit more elegant.

: Kenneth suggests gebyteshaft.

: Martin in the comments slaps us all (as my German teacher used to) for torturing not just English but German and explains it well.

I just tried to use Google to translate various English words to German to find a more legitimate construction. I loved what happened. I put in these distinct words, looking for a translation for each: “link connection network net string wire.” Google, acting quite German, came back and gave me this: Verbindungsanschlu

No more head-butting — give us fisking instead

No more head-butting — give us fisking instead

: So Jon Stewart killed Crossfire.

Thank you, Jon. Good work, guy.

But in the announcement today that Tucker Carlson’s going to tie his tie elsewhere and CNN is killing Crossfire, network boss Jonathan Klein got it half wrong.

Mr. Klein said he wanted to move CNN away from what he called “head-butting debate shows,” which have become the staple of much of all-news television in the prime-time hours, especially at the top-rated Fox News Channel.

“CNN is a different animal,” Mr. Klein said. “We report the news. Fox talks about the news. They’re very good at what they do and we’re very good at what we do.”

Mr. Klein specifically cited the criticism that the comedian Jon Stewart leveled at “Crossfire” when he was a guest on the program during the presidential campaign. Mr. Stewart said that ranting partisan political shows on cable were “hurting America.”

Mr. Klein said last night, “I agree wholeheartedly with Jon Stewart’s overall premise.” He said he believed that especially after the terror attacks on 9/11, viewers are interested in information, not opinion.

Yes, we want to end the head-butting and the cockfights. Stop hurting America, boys.

But the conversation is valuable. And that means that opinion is good. Talking about the news is often necessary.

Too often, cable news gets the conversation wrong on one extreme or another. Either they have head-butting and shouting, which tells us absolutely nothing and no longer entertains, either. Or they become slavish to getting one from Column A and one from Column B for every story and every opinion and we’re left with acid and alkaline canceling each other out; we’re left with water.

The problem is, they treat opinions as people. What they should be doing is dealing with the issues, not the actors. They are producing a show when they should be producing a debate.

From my experience, they have me on to fight the FCC and defend the First Amendment and they have someone from the “other side” on and we either yell at each other or we go back-and-forth in a boring game of issue ping-pong and nothing comes of it. How much better it would be if a good anchor — a reporter, a journalist — tackled the issues instead of letting the guests tackle each other. In the old days, reporters knew they were supposed to play devil’s advocate. So that anchor should go after me about whether the FCC should manage the public airwaves and what it means for the airwaves to be owned by the public. Push me on the questions. Fisk, don’t fight.

It’s not just cable that is grappling with how to deal with opinions as a prism on the news, of course. Newspapers play the Column A and Column B game on their op-ed pages. And that can be just as frustrating, for it appears over time; it’s syncopated. This week, The New York Times ran two opeds with very specific opinions on what to do with Social Security. I know if a few days, they’ll have letters to the editor arguing with them. But that’s quite unhelpful. Again, what I’d prefer is that they put out an issue and then an idea and then debate about it right then and there. Freeze-dry the fisking and put it in print.

Through the conversation, I believe, I’ll be served with the facts and arguments that help me make up my mind. And that is supposed to be the point of all this, isn’t it: informing the public.



: Legendary GM design honcho Bob Lutz starts a blog.

After years of reading and reacting to the automotive press, I finally get to put the shoe on the other foot. In the age of the Internet, anybody can be a