Posts from April 23, 2005

Tipping point (continued)

Tipping point (continued)

: More evidence that we’re at the tipping point in media (see earlier posts here and here):

: The Economist marvels at Rupert Murdoch’s speech to newspaper editors:

The speechóastonishing not so much for what it said as for who said itómay go down in history as the day that the stodgy newspaper business officially woke up to the new realities of the internet age. Talking at times more like a pony-tailed, new-age technophile than a septuagenarian old-media god-like figure, Mr Murdoch said that news ìprovidersî such as his own organisation had better get web-savvy, stop lecturing their audiences, ìbecome places for conversationî and ìdestinationsî where ìbloggersî and ìpodcastersî congregate to ìengage our reporters and editors in more extended discussions.î He also criticised editors and reporters who often ìthink their readers are stupidî.

I, too, said the speech will be seen as a tipping point.

: Ruth sends me a link to George Will’s column tomorrow:

If you awake before dawn you probably hear a daily sound that may become as anachronistic as the clatter of horses’ hooves on urban cobblestones. The sound is the slap of the morning paper on the sidewalk.

The circulation of daily U.S. newspapers is 55.2 million, down from 62.3 million in 1990. The percentages of adults who say they read a paper “yesterday” are ominous…

Perhaps we are entering what David T.Z. Mindich, formerly of CNN, calls “a post-journalism age.”

No, I think we’re entering a new journalism age.

: Will quotes the latest issue of the Wilson Quarterly, which I’m headed to a newsstand to buy now. The cover story: The Collapse of Big Media.

Bin Laden = Hitler, 9/11 murderers = SS murderers. Got it so far?

Bin Laden = Hitler, 9/11 murderers = SS murderers. Got it so far?

: The other day, I had a proper fit over filmmaker Brian Grazer saying he hoped his upcoming network exploitationfest about the 9/11 terrorist attacks would do for Muslims what Das Boot did for Germans: humanize them. Now Britt Blaser has issued a strange response and I’ll get to that in a minute. But first, let’s get our analogies straight:

1. Bin Laden is our Hitler: the man who invents, justifies, and orders mass murder and recruits the murderers. Evil.

2. The 9/11 hijackers are his SS concentration-camp killers. Evil.

3. Continuing this analogy, then, Muslims are Germans: just people.

There is no equivalency in this for soldiers. Germans fought in their government’s army. The terrorists have no army and no nation and no legitimacy whatsoever. So they should not be treated as soldiers. The only analogy that works for them is members of Charles Manson’s death cult; that is why I used Manson in my headline on the earlier post.

Glazer gets it all screwed up thinking that humanizing Muslims has anything to do with humanizing 9/11 terrorists. That would be like saying that we want to make a movie humanizing SS concentration camp commandants to better understand Germans. That is wrong on three counts: First, it wants us to humanize murderers who are, yes, evil, and that would be misguided, pointless, and even dangerous; it tries to give sense to a senseless act, justification to an unjustifiable crime. Second, it judges a culture by its worst, which is unsulting to millions, blaming them all for the sins of a few. Third, this assumes that war criminals are merely soldiers, which they most certainly are not.

Glazer’s perspective is, of course, merely the reverse view of the dangerous notion that we need to understand our enemy, the terrorists: Bill Maher’s contention that we need to build a Why They Hate Us pavilion.

No, we need to build a memorial to their victims to remember why we hate them. We need to fear them. We need to understand them only insofar as is necessary to defeat them. To humanize them would be insane.

: Now to Britt’s strange post:

But Jeff and I have a fundamental disagreement on a core principle. I believe that you can be a warrior and put yourself in harm’s way without hating your enemy, but he seems committed to hate and revenge as a result of his near-death experience on 9/11. Every time he touches on his personal experience that day, the bile spills onto the page and, to my gentle sensibilities, poisons the dialogue that is the core of the give-and-take of blogging. Jeff seems to seek out opportunities to pick the scab of his near-death experience. Today’s example is his “dread” (Jeff’s word) of Brian Grazer’s NBC mini-series on 9/11, presenting the viewpoint of the perps, whereby Grazer hopes to portray the Muslims in the way that Das Boot humanized the German U-Boat crews….. [He then quotes the post and continues….]

Jeff, you got the shit scared out of you. It happens. Get over yourself. Please.

9/11 isn’t about you, and it’s beneath your dignity to take it so personally and viscerally. By over-personalizing your experience, you deprive us of the best of your wonderful gifts, which you bestow so freely when you treat every other subject. We get it that it affected you so personally and strongly. Hatred is a drug that’s addictive, energizing and pervasive. The problem with all that testosterone and adrenaline coursing through your system is that you can’t fly your plane as well….

Britt, let’s go back to the analogy above: Would you tell a survivor of a concentration camp not to hate the commandant? Would you tell a survivor of the killing fields not to hate Pol Pot? Would you tell the child of a 9/11 victim not to hate bin Laden? Would you tell them to just get over themselves?

Would you condescend to them the way you have to me: to say that by disagreeing with Grazer, I’m pouring bile and ruining blogs? I had an opinion about what he said and engaged in a dialogue. You are the one who tries to psychoanalyze and personalize that, to separate it from the substance of the discussion, Britt.

Britt then goes on to give a spiel he tried to give to me at e-Tech a year ago — and he’s no more successful getting me to drink his Kool-Aid now than he was then. Britt was a Vietnam pilot and he likes to talk about the cool and unemotional reserve of a warrior pilot. I wonder whether it’s some odd effort to bring together his Vietnam warrior days with his Deaniac peacenik days — but then, that would be psychoanalyzing him, wouldn’t it?

The question we need to ask ourselves is whether we should model our behavior on poorly-trained, superstitious Muslim terrorists or on our own highly trained military aviators? Because hatred and revenge are the M.O. of terrorists, not cool-headed warriors, we lower ourselves to their standards by relying on their fuels of choice: hatred and revenge. I submit that the work we must do is too important to rely on passion as our fuel. Rather, we must adopt the smart attitudes that are effective, rather than the compelling, visceral passions that feel so good.

9/11 was a wake up call to a reality that we’ve been living in for forty years but have been unable to face. Devolving into ritualized, repetitious rants about how the enemy is evil and that there are no good enemies and no bad friendlies is worse than sophomoric. It’s simply ill-informed and stupid and has been proven to be so by so many wars and jihads that to misunderstand those learnings is a conscious choice to embrace the only dark side available to us: ignorance and superstition that’s been proven wrong.

Like our own Vietnam vets who’ve gone back and had tea with their former enemies and shared family photos and wept together, we too will some day sit down with former terrorists and meet the humans within. As will they. It has happened every time, with all the Gooks, Nips, Huns, Slopes and Ragheads that we’ve ever railed against as we firebombed their homes for no apparent military gain.

Once again, he messes up the analogy: We went to war with Afghanistan and Iraq and now we are sitting down with Afghans and Iraqis to help them build democracies — but we damned well should not be sitting down with the terrorists in either nation — including the murdering slime in the post below — anymore than we should have sat down with the SS after World War II. By this logic, we should have canceled the Nuremberg trials and held an ice cream social: “Whipped cream, Herr Goering? Cherry, Herr Streicher? Please share your feelings, Herr von Rippentrop.”

And I most certainly believe that hate is an important weapon. If we let down our guard now and think that the terrorists are merely misunderstood, then we open the door to their next attack on our children.

I’m not a soldier, Britt. Your analogies don’t work for me. I’m a civilian. And it was as a civilian on my way to work that I witnessed mass murder that day. So don’t tell me I have to follow your orders to be cool under fire. I’m not in your army. Scared? Well, as much as I also bristle at your macho-military attempt to belittle and demean that perfectly sane reaction, I will say that, of course, I was scared and I still am and so should you be, so should America be. Personal? You bet your ass it’s personal. But I wasn’t talking about that in the post you didn’t like. I was talking about the portrayal of mass murderers in network entertainment and wrote my opinion about that. You are the one who tried to make the discussion personal. And I am responding personally: I am insulted by your post.



: I just got comment spam from this piece of monkeyshit. Why don’t you go and tell him what you think of spammers?



: I was passing through the newsstand in Grand Central yesterday just as, on TV sets hanging from the ceiling, FoxNews was showing the video of terrorist bastards shooting down a civilian hellicopter in Iraq and then killing the lone survivor. The place practically stopped. People all around the store just stood and looked up at the screens. Some, like me, just kept shaking their heads.

These are not insurgents. To call them terrorists would be to dignify them. They are murderers.

Mainstreaming media (continued)

Mainstreaming media (continued)

: As is his habit, David Weinberger started a fascinating conversation out of his decision to wipe off his TV makeup and leave the set of mainstream media. Here‘s his original post. Pay special attention to the comments there, including Jay Rosen‘s nattering dialogue with David. Here‘s my response to David. And in the comnents here, David responded in turn and here’s the juicy bit:

… – It’d be easy to pretend this is a simple situation: Bad MSM, good bloggers. And, frankly, at this point I do believe that the mainstream media’s values have been corrupted. So, taken as generalizations, yeah, sure bad MSM, good bloggers. But specific real cases are always complex. We have producers who are terrific people, and who may wish they could do more news and less crap. We have bloggers out to promote the blogosphere but in an environment where we don’t get to set the rules. We have the usual melange of human motivation, as Jeff so honestly declares. It’s complex, and simple reactions such as “Fuck ’em, I quit” can be betrayals of the complex nature of the situation. I had the flu and was presented with an egregious case of media pandering — the Jane Fonda spit fest — so I blurted out that this wasn’t for me. I reduced a complex situation to a binary choice. I’m not sorry, but I’m not proud either.

And I said:


I did not address the important issue you raised in your post — really, at the start of Jay Rosen’s socratic badgering of you in the comments there — and again in your response here. And it’s the real issue, of course:

Have “mainstream media’s values been corrupted”?

Well, uh, duh, yeah. See Michael Jackson, OJ, cable-news yellfests, witchhunts, local TV pyromania… everybody has a catalogue.

And you are not of mainstream media.

So correct me if I’m wrong, but here’s what happened: Touched by those MSM cooties and fearing contamination, you recoiled and shouted inside: “Let me out! Let me out! Before it’s too late!”

I, on the other hand, corrupted and cootied since age 17, recognize and live with those issues but find small joy in small change: “Bloggers on TV. Cool!”

The danger for a few of the commenters on your post — not you, and you specifically pushed this notion aside — is that they would reject mainstream media out of hand and wholly, throwing out the value of journalism along with its present-day folly.

The danger for me is that I ignore and add to the corruption: I answer the question, “What’s the blogosphere saying about Michael Jackson, Jeff?” and I take small — but still too much — pride in quoting you, as it so happens, asking: “How do the journalists there — people who got into the business because they are committed to an informed democracy — feel about this outlandish pandering?” Oh, I asked the question. I even told the folks in little boxes on the screen with me that you were talking about us. But I didn’t answer your question.

So that’s the danger: corruption and cooties extend into our new and virginal not-a-medium-and-we-still-don’t-know-what-to-call-what-ever-it-is: Bloggers, too, end up exhibiting the values of Michael-Jacksoned mainstream media. Let us out! Before it’s too late!

But, of course, as you well recognize, there is also an opportunity: Bridging the gap, the separation (Jay Rosen’s word), that has grown between the press and the public it serves. I believe blogs are the agent of that change, the bridge that can bring the press back to its public. And I believe they can do that best when they are heard. And that’s why I find small joy in the MSNBC segments and CNN segments and Business Week cover story: Citizens speak. For only 90 seconds, perhaps. On an often-odd list of topics that MSM still picks and agendas it still sets. With all the odd hoo-ha of TV and slick publishing. But in still small voices, they speak. And that’s good.

But let me make clear who wins in that exchange:

Blogs don’t need mainstream media.

Mainstream media needs blogs.