Shooting the Messenger

Fraysters debate press bias.

Messenger Service: A three-part debate between gthomson and Jack_Baltimore takes the mantel as the Fray’s best discourse of the week. GT got it started last week with “Shooting the Messenger,” claiming that any charges of ideological bias in the media are “silly”:

In the end, arguments about bias in media are frighteningly simplistic: the bias you should be worried about is the bias against in-depth reportage, asking tough questions, finding the nonconventional story, the new angle, the voice that is not being heard. The media relies on conservative talking points because historically, conservative groups have been more aggressive and organized, providing a complacent media with a barrage of press releases, which are often used as sources for supposed “news” stories. This conservative bias is a collective personality flaw, a bias toward lack of effort, pride of occupation, and individual accountability. In short, if liberal lobby groups whore themselves to media like the conservatives do, the perceived bias begins to magically diminish. Unfortunately, the real problems will remain, because “media bias” was only a symptom of a larger ailment.
Jack_Baltimore responds with gusto on Wednesday by stating, “I strongly disagree with Frayster gthompson’s propositions in Shooting the Messenger.” JB writes:
What we have to be concerned about is the spreading of anti-American, anti-middle class, corporatist values through the selection and editing of news by an overwhelmingly conservative, and increasingly consolidated media leadership.
JB draws what he sees as a clear distinction between the yeoman reporter and the executive editors:
As to the nature of the bias in news reporting: what counts is not the overall viewpoint of reporters in our major media, which in fact collectively leans somewhat Democratic and liberal on social issues but leans more strongly Republican and conservative on fiscal issues and foreign policy.

Reporters, in fact, never decide what you see and hear in our media. Editors do.

And surveys of attitudes of newspaper and broadcast editors reveal not a detectable lean to the right on social, economic and foreign policy issues, but pronounced support for the conservative Republican viewpoint across the board.

The stories they select for print and broadcast, the headlines, the shape of the worldview to which Americans are exposed, are driven by a worldview of the typical American editor that is consistently conservative and corporatist.
This stems from where? 
Broadcast television, broadcast radio, and the newspaper businesses have all been going through a process of massive ownership concentration and consolidation in this country since the Reagan administration eliminated the Fairness Doctrine and removed regulatory restrictions limiting media ownership. The corporate owners of America’s media outlets are exerting today an unprecedented degree of centralized control over both the editorial and the hard news content of these media, and the hard slant we encounter is toward the right, in support of corporate agendas, and particularly the Republican Party.

Are you familiar with Gresham’s Law? It states, roughly, with respect to national currencies, that bad money drives good money out of circulation.
For more on the JB’s corporatism-not-commercialism theory of journalistic degeneration, click here. This morning, gt offers another response:
You say that reporters never decide what you see and hear in our media, editors do. I believe this glosses the reality a little, in two ways. First of all, reporters do play an important role in shaping the stories you see, though of course their editors choose to emphasize certain points, de-emphasize others etc. However, the editor doesn’t usually simply rewrite a story to suit their political bias; it is more like a push-pull relationship, where the reporter and editor(s) perform a little dance where two or more often different biases hopefully cancel each other out some…Further, you seem to be assuming that editors are largely right-wing, which does not appear to be the case. The Pew Center’s industry study  indicates that 7% of editors and reporters are politically conservative, with about an even number of reporters and editors/executives reporting (see the methodology here). This covers print, TV and radio. So in terms of political beliefs, at least, neither editors nor reporters are especially conservative. I’ve seen other studies that show editors and reporters closer to the center, but this may be a question of methodology.
Want to gab more about the present state of the Fourth Estate? Stoke up Press Box Fray. Hey, Your Chocolate Got in My Peanut Butter: On the matter of Skippy’s Rastafarian Elephants ad, here  MatthewGarth blunts Seth Stevenson’s stoner theory:
Now, if you look back over the thematics, you’ll see that we’ve got African elephants, Jamaican music, the ghost of George Washington Carver, and a major peanut-industry funded push to market nuts as an anti-diabetes food. Put it together and you have a readily deployable racial background. Does the campaign start with the desire to market to African-Americans or to market blackness to non-black audiences? Of course, it can always be a 2-fer: shore up the mom’s nostalgic for the days of race pride (and peanut wizard Carver) who are worried about diabetes on the one hand, and then get all the kids going to the same Sean-Pauly groove.

Alright, so who else has an interest in playing up the African roots of this yummy spread? Turn to the Skippy history and you’ll see that while Carver might be the peanut wizard, it was Joe Rosefield who owned the emulsification patents. Skippy’s new campaign is The Jazz Singer of peanut marketing, and The Nutshells are Rosefield’s blackface mask…
NAR-ly: It’s not a Fray item, per se, but the The National Association of Realtors responds to Douglas Gantenbein’s hit piece. Check out the append here.  Evidently, there are realtors, and there are Realtors®. Somewhere David Foster Wallace is grinning … KA9:05 a.m.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Ask and Ye Shall Receive: On Monday, Fraywatch expressed bemusement that few fraysters had delved into the Jim McGreevey fiasco and its implications on any number of fronts. With that, several among you stepped forward. The_Bell’s post centers on McGreevey’s decision to resign:

No, the reason McGreevey was correct to resign was the very principle that he himself again articulated so simply and clearly.I am also here today because, shamefully, I engaged in an adult consensual affair with another man, which violates my bonds of matrimony. [my emphasis]Much as I recently posted about Jack Ryan’s decision to withdraw from the Illinois Senate race, the issue here has nothing to do with sex or sexuality. Rather it is McGreevey’s infidelity as well as his refusal to deal with his own sexual orientation that reflects a basic disrespect toward the women he married (McGreevey’s first marriage ended in divorce) and a betrayal of their trust in him. It cuts to basic character and undercuts his integrity and the public trust awarded him as a result of his election.
On the “gay American” matter?
There is nothing wrong with the Governor of New Jersey or of any other state being gay and it is unfortunate that for many people Governor McGreevey’s decision to resign will reinforce their perception of homosexuality as a shameful condition that drives people from recognition, public service, and all the “quote ‘good things’ and all the quote ‘right things’ of typical … adult behavior.” McGreevey was right to resign but it was right because it was right for him and because he was ashamed of the right thing—not his sexual orientation but the betrayal of his wife that an extramarital affair entailed. Hopefully, enough people can look beyond the lurid nature of the circumstances to see that important Truth.
What say MarcEHaag? In “Jim the Jade, Our Man in Trenton,” Marc writes
As a gay man, I want very much to sympathize with McGreevey’s plight, but I have to admit, he seems to have hurt rather a lot of people, including his constituents. And he might be more than just a little corrupt.

So, actually, the more that comes out about this story, the more annoyed, even a little offended I start to get with Jaded Jim. I certainly hope he wasn’t trying to instrumentalize his gayness to plead, well, maybe not innocence so much as irresponsibility. If we gay men want to be accepted or even promoted in society we can’t fall into the trap of allowing ourselves to be treated as helpless or incapacitated in any moral or intellectual way by our “sexuality,” to which McGreevey kept referring in his speech as if it somehow excused him of something.
Marc does something interesting in the closing of his post—he finds an unseemly relationship between power and the closet:
If anything homiletic is to be extracted from yesterday’s bombshell, I think it has to do with the evils of the closet. I’ve never been a fan of “outing” as a gay political tactic, but this incident might prompt some second or third ruminations on that score … the only reason why someone like McGreevey would resort to it is because of a blind determination to get, accumulate and hang on to power. And anyone whose sole motivation in life is power … is already half way down the road to some kind of corruption.
So far as the November 15 drop dead date, TheAList writes in “The Golan Lows,”
Should Jim go before Nov. 15? Almost certainly. I can’t imagine the Dems want McGreevey on voters’ minds when they enter the voting booth this fall, so the sooner he is out the better.
Scandal just ain’t what it used to be. Just Sold! As of last count, a majority of the National Association of Realtors membership had logged onto A Fine Whine Fray to protest Douglas Gantenbein’s “Realty Bites: Why do you still need an agent to buy a home?” Unless you care to marvel at the density on a usually bucolic area of the Fray, Fraywatch can pretty much sum up the responses by reporting that realtors are pissed. VitaminTommy respectfully begins his torch job this way:
As with most poorly researched hit pieces, there is a kernel of truth to this article, and I’d like to acknowledge that before I proceed to eviscerate the rest of it.
And eviscerate he does, tearing apart each element of Gantenbein’s piece, from the range of a realtor’s functions to the cost of doing business. Tommy’s thread gets so hot that Gantenbein himself jumps into the Fray to pour fuel on the fire:
Yeah, but what about paying a 5-6% commission and STILL having headaches, as in stupid real estate agents who have no idea how to sell, market or advise. Let’s get real: the majority of agents failed at everything else, just like school teachers, and took on real estate as a last resort. If they were so hot at selling and marketing they’d be working for IBM.
For a more measured discussion of this donnybrook, check out Fritz_Gerlich here and kensi here. Doom, Doom, Doom, Doom: Gaming aficionados should give locdog’s review of Doom 3 a read; it’s well worth it … KA 8:50 a.m.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Three-Ring Bind: That’s what BenK got himself into with this post:

Those are the two women’s sports that the US cares about. Everything else is limited to hardcore fans and hardcore feminists.

It’s the simple truth. While policy wonks may suggest that Title IX has boosted women’s participation, it hasn’t forced anyone to watch more, follow more, or care more about women’s sports in general. In general, people still want the men to be strong and fast, and the women to be graceful and beautiful.

It’s a pretty simple, possibly biologically rooted, observation. Some people would argue that it is socially constructed. If so, it has been a social construct in every successful human society since the dawn of time, let alone history.
In response, ShriekingViolet bangs out a guide titled, “How to write a sexist comment”:
Step 1: Spout an ill-informed opinion that makes broad generalizations about men and women as if genders are monolithic hive-mind categories.

Step 2: Universalize the comment by implying that everyone agrees with you except “hardcore feminists.”

Step 3: Bash Title IX for good measure.
SV elaborates on her points—check out her post in its entirety here. So Iran to My Dictionary and … : Jacob Weisberg’s daily Bushism is a screamer:
“Secondly, the tactics of our—as you know, we don’t have relationships with Iran. I mean, that’s—ever since the late ‘70s, we have no contacts with them, and we’ve totally sanctioned them. In other words, there’s no sanctions—you can’t—we’re out of sanctions.”—Annandale, Va., Aug. 9, 2004
But gthomson points out that:
Bush is technically correct in everything he says here. The problem may be with the word “sanction,” which has two distinct and, in some contexts, contradictory meanings, according to WordNet Dictionary:

* official permission or approval
* a mechanism of social control for enforcing a society’s standards

Thus, America has “totally sanctioned” Iran, as in instituted a mechanism of social control … At the same time, there are “no sanctions,” as in no official permission or approval given. … Maybe that is why Bush seems to go into word salad mode toward the end, “there’s no sanctions—you can’t—we’re out of sanctions.” Bush had simply come up against his greatest enemy—the English language itself. It proved a cunning foe.
Apparently, access and axis present similar problems for the President, as well. On the Matter of McGreevey: Fraywatch has found nothing of note in the Fray. Granted, Slate has yet to publish on the story, but resident political theorists from The_Bell to TheAList, to ethicist GeoffsPneuma, to queer theorist Ang_Cho haven’t offered up any armchair analysis as of yet. Fraywatch waits. … KA2:40 p.m.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

The Anti-Kerryism: BPike writes that:

In “Revelation of the Nerds” William Saletan writes, “Why does Kerry call it a “ban on stem-cell research” instead of a ban on federal funding of embryonic stem-cell lines derived after Aug. 9, 2001? Because the shorter phrase, while scientifically inaccurate in four egregious ways, is more politically effective.”… Isn’t this exactly the sort of phrase that [Saletan] would normally tear apart?
Does BPike have a point? Hasn’t Saletan been taking Kerry to task for wordiness the candidate avoids here? Saletan jumps into the fray to respond to BPike:
There’s a difference between a prescriptive caveat and a descriptive one.

If Kerry says stem cell research should be permitted but that federal funding of such research should be banned, that’s a prescriptive caveat.

If Kerry says Bush’s position is that stem cell research should be permitted and that embryonic stem cell research should be federally funded, but only for cell lines derived before 8/9/01, that’s a bunch of accurate descriptive caveats.

If Kerry says Bush’s position is that stem cell research should be banned—when in fact Bush’s position is that stem cell research should be permitted and that embryonic stem cell research should be federally funded, but only for cell lines derived before 8/9/01—that’s a misrepresentation by omission of several caveats.

You may include caveats in your position or omit them, because you get to decide what your position is. They aren’t required, and sometimes they’re evasive.

You may not omit caveats in your opponent’s position. You don’t get to decide what his position is. They’re required, even if (on his part) they’re evasive.
Agree with Saletan’s descriptive/prescriptive delineation? Pipe in here. Would You Care for Some Crackers with That? Not surprisingly, Debra Dickerson’s piece “Racist Like Me: Why am I the only honest bigot?” generated a lot of traffic in High Concept Fray. GeoffsPneuma begins his post by praising Dickerson for:
Point[ing] out the futility of this great crusade. Much as we might like to, none of us can ever completely sever the link between our lived experiences and our daily preconceptions. We find our prejudices are layered like an onion, with finer and more nuanced discriminations always residing beneath our broadest and most superficial presumptions.
But Geoff ultimately veers from Dickerson’s prescription:
The “solution” to the problems of social justice does not lie in the private purity of our hearts, but in the public conduct of our persons.

Ms. Dickerson is hobbled by a crippling preconception that she shares with the very persons she is striving to refute—that prejudice and injustice are inextricably linked. This relationship is far from necessary, and in fact isn’t as obvious as our intuition would suggest …Racism is regrettable, and worthy of rebuttal or censure. But if the object of our reformist zeal is injustice, we won’t find it in the private nooks and crannies of our innermost conscience. It’s out there, in the streets, where we interact with one another. America didn’t defeat the evils of slavery and segregation by purifying the hearts of men. It did so by asserting, with growing force and conviction, that there are certain forms of conduct which, whatever our own private flaws may be, rise to a level of manifest injustice that we could no longer sanction and would no longer tolerate.

So, with all due respect to Ms. Dickerson, I must disagree with her conclusion that “in the struggle to achieve a just society … [w]e have to learn how to forgive each other, and more importantly ourselves, when we’re stupid.”

Rather, we must learn how to see injustice when it parades before our eyes, and we must find the courage and wisdom to confront it with passion and efficaciousness.
Must racism be materially challenged? Talk it over with Geoff here. Both Razzen here and locdog here take issue with Dickerson for, what Razzen calls, “replacing one bigotry with another.” Razzen:
So Dickerson wants to replace “unnatural, irrational” ethnic-based discrimination with “natural, rational” discrimination based on economic class, and she thinks this is going to be a ray of hope in our ugly, hate-filled world.
On a similar note, gthomson was genuinely disappointed by Dickerson:
Dickerson also reveals a condescending worldview in the following passage, “a world of perfect harmony would be lovely, but until the rapture comes I’d rather blue-collar types of all races faced off against us ‘suits’ than one race against the other.” Note that the world has conveniently divided itself into two classes: blue and white collar. Interesting that many skilled blue-collar workers make more money than white-collar ones. Interesting that more and more people occupy both worlds without feeling the need to declare allegiance to either. This is almost too simplistic for words. Also, as an attorney would well know, in most conflicts between the suits and so-called “blue collars,” the ones with the power, the money and the lawyers, usually win. But maybe losing isn’t important, so long as one fights the good fight.

There is a good, honest article buried here under all the smug, the self-congratulation, the clueless condescension. The tone here is unfortunate, tinged with self-regard, not humility, though an acknowledgement of our own frailty and weakness ought to make us humble. What a waste.
More honest anecdotal confessionals? Here’s EarlyBird’s from the campus of UC-Berkeley. … KA9:05 a.m.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Nature of Science: William Saletan’s “Revelation of the Nerds: The religion of stem cell research” sparked some of the best Fraywork in weeks. Saletan brings to the surface a compelling irony of the stem cell research debate—namely that “science has become political, ideological, and religious.” Elaborating on Saletan’s point, BenK’s post on the three classifications of science is a classic. The “three sciences”:

One ‘science’ is that outgrowth of old school natural philosophy, the investigation of the natural world with the fullest belief that in it is reflected the face of a Creator. This science may seek for evidence of faith, but more often than not, it seeks for beauty, order, or some other type of craftsmanship and art.The second science is what some would call ‘engineering’ or ‘technology.’ Figuring out how to build a bridge from here to there or design a vaccine against some dread disease. Practiced equally by liberals and conservatives, valued by all but the Amish and Luddites, it is a generally apolitical, non-ideological pursuit of practical aims. It resembles the first science in so much as it relies on logic and experimentation, observation and simplifications called laws.The third science is an outgrowth of humanism, secularism, materialism, and existentialism. It is the dogged pursuit of evidence that anything and everything in the world can be explained by the human mind and natural laws, that the material universe is self-contained, that there is nothing mysterious outside the realms of logic and impervious to analysis and observation. It seeks boundless license to tell ‘the truth’ and seeks to silence ‘superstition.’ This science, like the first, is far from apolitical or free from religion. Instead, it hides the need for faith—trying to label as ‘unscientific’ all other religion, effectively a smear campaign. It co-opts the successes of the second science to demonstrate its benevolence.
According to Ben:
This is the split that we are seeing on stem cell research. The first ‘science’ is relatively rare today. The second is trying to cure diseases, using whatever methods are permitted and practical. The third is trying to hide behind the second, while promoting its own view of ‘tolerance’—meaning its own freedom to do anything and say anything, and silence the opposition.
Theonemacduff takes issue with Ben’s model:
The 3 types you describe would better be thought of as attitudes towards science. And it’s interesting that you appear to feel more warmly towards the “natural philosophy” type of science, ie, the emerging science of the seventeenth century (although in fact its roots go much deeper, back to theological debates of the middle ages over the nature of God’s power), a science that was just beginning to define itself and its mission. The second science, your term, isn’t science at all but an application of science to pragmatic problems. Look at Tacola’s book of engineering tips and tricks from the thirteenth century and you’ll see that he had no need of (what we call) science to build a bridge, power a mill, or any other of a dozen technological feats. And nor is your third “science” really science, something which is given away by your lumping together a whole string of philosophical tendencies, stretching over centuries, as if they were all part of one thing.
Jones1 and RuggerJay see this debate as a dialectic in the day’s larger political conflict. A cynical RJ:
The Bush administration has peddled its lies (WMD’s, the Iraq Al Qaeda connection, the rebounding job market, moving forward on the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations) to a populace who either can’t or won’t do their homework and has reaped the rewards. Kerry is right on target in his belief that Bush’s whacked-out religious views are putting roadblocks in the way of science; if he’s a little wrong on the specifics, who cares?
BenK and fozzy share an interesting debate over the postmodern implications of science as politics. The thread begins here with fozzy:
To paraphrase one prof, “There are two types of physicists: those against weapons research, and those who get government funding.” Likewise, all the “real experts” in stem cell will tend to be people who do stem cell research for a living. Naturally they believe in continuation, progress, more funding, etc.
BenK rebuts:
Be wary of an argument that starts by suggesting that there is no absolute truth. It usually comes from a humanities student trying to regain the lost high ground that the study of literature had over the classification of birds.

So it is with the postmodernists trying to tar all science as a tool of greed.

I admit that scientists have agendas. To be sure. And they are willing to use their command of the material to advance those agendas … To presume that a scientist will be able to evenhandedly assess the potential of his own life’s work would be foolish, even if he himself has the largest stock of relevant facts to work with.

… Politics is everywhere, sure, but we need not conflate the terms unnecessarily. That is mere rhetoric.
Finally, Demosthenes2 hosts a compelling thread that begins here with D2’s strong objection to Saletan’s characterization of “the Bush decision as not a ban.” Like many on the ideo-humanist side of the debate, D2 finds that Bush’s choice, draconian or not
is part of a larger conflict that we have allowed to permeate our society sacrificing good science to religious qualms—imposing religious injunctions on a secular democratic republic to our own detriment and peril.
BenK comes with another quality response here, and Robes offers some insight on the issue hereKA7:30 a.m.