Posts from January 15, 2004

Undemocratic CBS

Undemocratic CBS
: Incredibly — unbelievably, disturbingly, appallingly — CBS has barred MoveOn from airing its commercial on the SuperBowl. AdAge reports:

Viacom’s CBS today rejected a request from liberal group MoveOn to air a 30-second anti-President Bush ad during the Super Bowl, saying the spot violated the network’s policy against running issue advocacy advertising.

A CBS spokesman said the decision against broadcasting the spot had nothing to do with either the Super Bowl or the ad’s specific issue but was because the network has had a long-term policy not to air issue ads anywhere on the network.

That’s a pile of Black Rock bile.

What, they can accept an ad about, oh, literacy and that’s not an issue?

They accept ads against smoking and that’s not an issue?

But an ad about the presidential election and the deficit is somehow corrupting?

Listen, I’m no fan of the MoveOn ads, as I’ve said. And I’m no fan of interference with the airwaves and media. But I have to say that this offends my senses of democracy, free speech, responsible media behavior, and just good business. It’s dumb on CBS’ part: insulting to the audience and irresponsible to democracy. It is, on the other hand, great news for MoveOn: They’ll get tons of publicity and I would be surprised if, oh, Fox calls and volunteers to run the ad.

: Sheila Lennon has lots more. She points out:

CBS will however run anti-smoking ads during the game and, for the third year, an entry from The White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (remember the “drug use aids terrorists” ads?).

Right. The issue rubicon has been crossed already.

An editor blogs

An editor blogs
: Doug Clifton, editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, has started a weblog at

I’m not sure I know of another editor of a major daily paper who’s attempting this. Do you?

Clifton says he will use the weblog as another way to communicate with readers:

As a lifelong consumer of the written word displayed on paper, the prospect of talking to readers by way of a “blog” is a little unnerving.

I’ve decided to tip toe into these electronic waters because I recognize that to ignore change is to be consumed by it.

In his first post, he dives right in, discussing the paper’s policy in a complicated controversy regarding the publishing of the names of holders of new concealed-weapon permits (names that can be revealed to media but not to individuals). He explains:

We also believe that a democracy works best when the public has the capacity to inform itself if it so chooses and, certainly, the ability to learn whether someone in your neighborhood carries a concealed weapon should be among the things a citizen has a right to.

That would be our position on all kinds of license information, from marriage to fishing and all stops in between. That said, we also believe that if a record is open to one class of citizen – in this case the media – it should be open to all citizens.

To favor one group over another is unfair and probably unconstitutional. Besides, because “media” is so broadly defined the Ohio law would give access to permit records to anyone who worked for a publication of any description.

Under the Ohio concealed carry law the most disreputable journalist in the country working for the most disreputable publication would have access to the records but the parish priest, the school teacher, even the governor, would be denied.

So we decided that we had an obligation to share the information the legislature had given us the right to see….

If the records were open to public scrutiny there would be no need for us to publish them. But as long as the legislature creates this dual citizenship I think we have an obligation to share the information.

This sort of transparency, explaining what is behind the decisions made inside a major media institution, is a good thing and this is a good format for it.

Full disclosure: is one of the services at my day job (so don’t expect me to get into any Second Amendment fisticuffs in the comments).

Penn, Part II

Penn, Part II
: The Chronicle put up the second and last part of Sean Penn’s return-to-Baghdad travelog today.

I meant to point to the paper’s own full-of-crap intro yesterday:

Sean Penn did not go to Iraq a year ago as an actor, but as a father, a husband and an American.

No, Sean Penn does everything he does as an actor. That’s why he went. That’s why media paid attention. That’s what it’s all about. Let’s not be naive about celebrity after all this time.

Penn lets his video camera get him in trouble as he tapes a place that had just been attacked and CIAesque mercenaries working with the Iraqis detain him and review his tape. This allows Penn to launch into a history of Dyncorp that I’m surprised doesn’t wend its way to the Trilateral Commission, though it gets to the next-best thing, Halliburton.

He runs into his Baathist minder from his last visit to Baghdad, who’s now working for journalists. He learns that you can’t tell whom to trust.

Welcome to a world without a script.

He goes to a hospital that hasn’t been fixed up yet. Read the Iraqi bloggers and you will hear about health facilities that have been fixed up. No news there; it takes time to build a nation.

He spends time with a lot of reporters and give them this:

I am deeply impressed with the risk-taking and commitment of all of the journalists I’ve met in Baghdad.

He says goodbye to an Iraqi he has met and has this nice epiphany:

He writes down a Hotmail e-mail address. This world’s getting too small for war.

As he’s about to leave, he sees more mercenary protectors outside a hotel and there’s his neat exchange:

And there they are, another unit of PMC men polishing their rifles, suiting up in bulletproof vests and warming up the engines of armored vehicles. And out of the hotel comes their client. He too has a chain around his neck with an identification card, sees me and says, “Hey, aren’t you …?”

“Yeah,” I say. “Your ID card says contractor. What do you build?”

And with a smile, he says, “Elections.”

“How do you do that?”

He grins a little more and says, “Whatever it takes.”

We’re almost out of Iraq and Penn has been remarkably restrained. So he can’t resist getting in one ideological jab:

We pull over and I get out of the car to urinate roadside while Yasir fills up. None of the black-market gas kids or Iraqis passing in vehicles pays me any attention. The one honk I get from a passing vehicle is from an armored car of PMC men transporting clients into the country. The honk seems to indicate their misguided sense of kinship to me. Perhaps they are familiar with the practice of pissing on this tragic place.

Yeah, yeah. Feeling relieved in many ways, he leaves Iraq:

I get the Air France flight from Amman to Paris and am abruptly reminded of my own notoriety as the pilot invites me to experience takeoff from the cockpit. If I’m on my way home to take more crap from the radical right talking heads on TV, I am damn well gonna strap into a jump seat directly behind a French pilot. And when I do, there sitting to my right in the jump seat behind the co-pilot is CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. Every French story has to have a woman. And I’ve always found this woman impressive. One would think she’d had enough adventures for any six lifetimes, yet she still seems innocently excited about this cockpit takeoff. To look at her face, you think she’s just strapped herself into a roller coaster at Disneyland. She is all giggles. I pretend to share her enthusiasm by accessing the glee I feel just being out of Iraq. For her it is just plain fun, for me it is an escape….

Wheels down. Terra firma, U.S.A., baby. Yes, I love my country.

If this blog were televised

If this blog were televised
: Low Culture asks, if your blog were a TV channel, which channel would it be?

Protecting the masses

Protecting the masses
: While Michael Powell is trying to wash our media mouths out with soap — he wants to multiply by 10 the fines charged for dirty words on the air — Britain has its own nanny trying to protect their tender sensibilities.

Clare Short, disloyal opposition to Tony Blair, wants to ban breasts:

Ms Short criticised the Sun at a Westminster lunch yesterday, where she said she wanted to “take the pornography out of our press”.

“I’d love to ban it. It degrades women and our country,” she said.

“A survey of Sun readers’ wives and daughters showed they believed it degraded them. We need to push back the tide of nakedness. You can’t take it out of the whole of society but I think you can take it out of the mainstream,” she added.

And The Sun hit back. The paper sent a bevvy of Page 3 girls to Short’s house so they could put a picture of them at her door with the caption, “Door knockers” (no distance is too far to go for a punchline), and so they could quote one of them saying: