Poor Richard's Almanac--Mark Anderson
This is the personal blog of Mark Anderson. I will be posting on music, media, and politics, occasionally in the spirit of one of my heroes, Ben Franklin. I teach Japanese media, popular culture, and intellectual history at the University of Minnesota as my day job. Living in Japan for over seven years has affected my perception of the ongoing culture wars in the U.S. as well as Japan.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Bob Garfield's Track Record
Bob Garfield is actually still conflicted about stating the obvious truth that the Bush administration lies and breaks the law on a daily basis. He resents being forced by the administration to have to do it. He knows it's true, but he still refuses to accept it.
No such ambivalence when it comes to shooting down experiments in journalistic reform. This is a pretty stunning, but sadly typical exhibit of the liberal wing of the media's Stockholm Syndrome.
Poor Bob Garfield is in danger of being compared to Amy Goodman for telling the truth. Pass the smelling salts!
Gotcha journalism's assumption of cynicism and bad faith simply can't be presupposed when it comes to those in power with a track record of nothing but. But one exchange with an experiment in journalistic reform he personally misrepresents and the gloves are off, he's calling out liars and demanding apologies.
The evidence is clear: Jay Rosen is a greater danger to the republic than George W. Bush so he must be held to a stricter standard.
Aside from fear or self-loathing, this is the only possible logical premise that could support Bob Garfield's clownish double standard.
Either way, Bob Garfield upholds a truly noble tradition of abject obeisance to authority and contempt for reform. Congratulations, Bob, you and the Democratic congress are on the same dysfunctional page!
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Broder's Real Americans
Digby describes David Broder as effectively arguing that people who disagree with him aren't real Americans. I would extend her point to suggest that Broder's position here is entirely continuous with Limbaugh's recent "phony soldiers" diatribe. Limbaugh clearly and explicitly said that even Republican soldiers who disagree with him about policy are not "real soldiers." (I know he now wishfully claims he didn't say it, but we can't let fantasy become the only standard for analyzing political fantasy.)
For me, it is the increasingly apparent continuum between the purportedly centrist Broder and the avowedly right-wing Limbaugh that fails us--that has effectively banished political disagreement, banished the public sphere in a manner of speaking.
On one side we have "real Americans" who agree with daily GOP talking points and who come to about 30% of the population in most opinion polls. On the other side we have anyone else who dares to disagree--the 70% of the American people who are so beyond the pale they can't be taken seriously and O'Reilly can call them Nazis and both parties in Congress will pass legislation saying, "Amen."
How did David Broder, icon of civic journalism, arrive at a point where he is effectively calling 70% of the American people "phony Americans"? How can he not see a problem reinforcing an anti-democratic force like Rush Limbaugh who says essentially the same thing? It is becoming difficult to avoid Greenwald's conclusion that this happens because Broder and Limbaugh ultimately agree on these sorts of things. It is becoming difficult not to conclude that the press and the Democrats capitulate because they too are closet extremists, they too are GOP rubber stamps distinguished only by an additional layer of self-loathing and bad faith.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Does Universal Jurisdiction Exist? Yes and No.
Michael and Richard, welcome to Poor Richard's Almanac--Mark Anderson.
Amnesty International has collected case law from twelve separate nations grounded in claims to universal jurisdiction. Like most major issues in international law, universal jurisdiction is highly contested. There are many who favor it, even see it as the bare minimum for a civilized world, and many others who oppose its institution. At present, an objective observer would have to say that it is frequently and consistently being asserted by many different states and many different contexts. It has sometimes been enforced, sometimes defied, and sometimes abandoned by the states that claim it. In other words, it is frequently claimed, sometimes enforced, and sometimes opposed, often for political rather than legal reasons.
It is simply counterfactual to assert that such a highly contested and occasionally enforced doctrine of international law does not exist. There are legal schools of thought that oppose it. For those schools to assert that it "does not exist" is an assertion of a highly-contested interpretation they continue to actively promote, it is anything but an assertion of fact.
Lastly, isn't there a danger that opposition to universal jurisdiction retroactively challenges the legitimacy of Nuremberg and Tokyo War Crimes Trials? Why would the Geneva conventions apply to Axis powers, but not to the Allies? Why would they apply to enemies of the U.S., but not to the U.S. and its allies today? Isn't the alternative an effective concession that these were cases of victor's justice--that international law absent universal jurisdiction is a state of exception run out of Washington D.C. and the U.N. Security Council?
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
The GOP Fairness Doctrine Playbook
This is a response to a blogpost by Jay Rosen, which in turn responded to a post by Glenn Greenwald.
As usual, a very thought-provoking post. Doesn't this reading, though, require us to consider Warren Strobel's approach to be outside the playbook of status quo journalism? And is that really the case? I would say both yes and no.
Yes, there is a new politically correct celebrity journalism playbook that has become the norm over the last fifteen years or so that Strobel doesn't follow. No, in that his type of investigative journalism is exactly the job that even politically correct GOP fairness doctrine journalists still claim they are about when they go to work.--except that they're not. I define the GOP fairness doctrine as the journalistic rule that even fictional statistics and verifiably revisionist history must be treated with grave seriousness if they come from the politically and ideologically powerful GOP.
We might ask: Well what is so alternative about checking to see if what your sources tell you is true or not? Why shouldn't we see Strobel as status quo journalism and the rest of the press as part of a new paradigm that won't speak its name--a new paradigm that places greater emphasis on power and authority and political correctness than fact? Isn't that the condition of possibility of the game Rove and Cheney have played with the press? That power and authority and dogmatic "he said/she said" political correctness are considered to trump verifiable reality?
Because the truth of the matter is that Strobel was able to break the stories. In his mind, he was simply doing his job as an investigative journalist and wondered why his colleagues seemingly stopped doing theirs.
To me, one of the intriguing insights of the "savviness" theory is that it recognizes that what passes for power did indeed often trump verifiable reality. We know these things were verifiable because Strobel was able to verify them when others wouldn't even as we know they could have. What accounts for journalism moving from "Trust, but verify" to "Trust Authority?" Why was authority confused with verification?
What I'm suggesting is that perhaps there is another piece of the puzzle. Don't we see the press move from a paradigm of watchdog investigative journalism to a paradigm of politically correct journalism that nevertheless purports to be the same old watchdog journalistic objectivity? Isn't it the playbook of politically correct journalism that was overwhelmed by Cheney/Rove? Isn't it the previous paradigm of "just the facts mam" Sgt. Friday investigative journalism practiced by Strobel that was able to "call them on it?"
Lastly, wasn't one of the big differences between Strobel and his colleagues that his editor insisted that he follow the truth rather than the claims of power and the GOP fairness doctrine that requires even fictional facts must have their day if they come from a politically powerful source? Do you think it's possible that you are overly discounting the significance of a majority of editors (for whatever reasons) who insisted on enforcing the newer GOP fairness doctrine playbook and thereby tied the hands of many professionals who would undoubtedly have done much better under the old rules, the older investigative journalism playbook? Wouldn't the old investigative playbook anticipate and even expect that authority and deception go together? Wasn't it the credulity of the newer GOP fairness doctrine playbook that was overwhelmed? Doesn't the fact that radicalism in the guise of authority became an unimaginable and surprising idea in itself establish that this was not your father's investigative journalism playbook that the press was referring to in guiding its actions?
Despite journalists' protestations to the contrary, hasn't the GOP fairness doctrine playbook displaced the investigative journalism playbook and become the current status quo? Isn't it the new GOP fairness doctrine playbook that makes Strobel's old-school investigative journalism something other than mainstream now?
Gloria Borger reports from the "as if" world of the GOP fairness doctrine in which what Karl Rove says is true regardless of whether it comes to pass. This is not the same world that Warren Strobel lives and works in. They can't both be the traditional playbook. Which is which? Which was overwhelmed? It looks to me as if there is a newly reigning GOP fairness doctrine playbook in town and one of the biggest obstacles to thinking through the consequences of its hegemony is getting journalists to admit that anything has changed. To admit that the job they are doing does not fit Warren Strobel's job description. Can I get a witness?
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
There's a McLuhan in My Media Soup!
Over at PressThink, Jay Rosen has a reply to Michael Skube's Blogs: All the Noise That Fits, the 3,238th bloggers vs. the press anti-blogging rant which acuses bloggers of not doing original reporting. In Skube vs. Rosen, newmediatheory.net suggests that considering a number of Anglo-American media theorists might deepen the discussion. In this post, I try to add to that ongoing conversation.
Based on your reading of McLuhan in your MA, are there any insights of McLuhan that you feel still fundamentally inform your take on the emerging role of blogs in the media today?
I would say he is still useful in at least the following three ways:
1) The media are typically additive rather than substitutive--there are plenty of media roles to go around and it isn't the end of the world if they are expanded or redistributed. Of course, when this undermines a curmudgeon's authority later in life we can't expect him/her to comprehend the reality, to be pleased by the outcome, or to accept its rationality. Failure to understand the basic taxonomy of blogs is to demonstrate ignorance of your purported object of discussion. Film scholars certainly won't get sympathy for complaining that the latest melodrama is one of the lamest excuses for documentary film they've ever seen. It's a sign of incompetence and lack of knowledge, not an exculpatory context. Militantly raving about your own category mistake is a sign of intellectual failure and lack of curiosity about how your own opinion actually connects up with cultural reality.
2) Historical precedent demonstrates we may expect proponents of expiring views of the role of certain media in a changing world to cling to their increasingly counter-factual views with near theological and historically uninformed fervor. The media rank very high on the list of institutions about which people often seem constitutionally incapable of becoming self-reflexive or self-conscious. The authority of certain forms of entrenched cultural capital is often capable of disqualifying or marginalizing what our lying eyes tell us about sociological reality for decades. These general human failings are further complicated by whole public relations industries with vested interests in discrediting entire media systems in ways that are often consistent in terms of partisanship, but tactically and strategically incoherent as regards media systems per se.
3) Previous tectonic shifts in the media landscape give us important historical context. They provide a precedent for imagining the possibility of old media being challenged and reshaped without utter extinction being the necessary outcome. It was easy to imagine that the telegraph or the radio or the TV would make the news aspect of the newspaper completely redundant, too slow to be considered news anymore. The paper as it originally functioned was revolutionized by the wire services in the mid-nineteenth century and many of its originally perceived purposes of existence were largely farmed out to the electronic media from early in the twentieth century. The purpose of the popular press has already been revolutionized several times over by now. Since the mid-twentieth century, newspapers shifted from breaking the news to defining the news within a several tiered media hierarchy of popular and less popular outlets whose cultural capital and opinion-making influence was an inverse function of their audience share. In other words, for many decades radio and TV delivered the news, but newspapers set the agenda that they all followed. Talk radio, cable news, our current media system agenda setter Matt Drudge, and the more recent emergence of the wider blogosphere have all in their own way fundamentally reshaped this landscape and are in the process of making it more interactive even as older hierarchies of news-defining authority continue to function in their own way.
The really hard part, obviously, is what does all this mean now? That's the question your recent projects are clearly attempting to explore and map out in a more or less pragmatic and experimental manner and why it's so fascinating to keep tabs on what you and your collaborators are able to come up with.