Foolish but dangerous attempts to manage the media by Team Obama

 Each President for several generations whittles away our freedoms.  Each party has their preferences in freedoms to erode; neither displays much interest in expanding our political and economic interests — although all display generosity in trivial matters, and make token efforts on some important matters.  Now Obama takes the knife.

Media manipulation has been a primary tactic of US administrations since Kennedy.  The slow dying of the mainstream media and birth of new media (talk radio, cable news, the Internet) complicates government efforts to control the flow of information to the public.  Now they strike back, with some tentative strikes.  As usual with Team Obama, their execution is amateurish — but that should not mask the danger of the government directly targeting news agencies.  History suggests that this is just the another step in a long process with an unpleasant ending. 

This post looks at two examples, with links to additional information at the end.  First the proposed FCC rules to regulate the Internet.

Second, Team Obama attempts to suppress Fox News (shrewd “divide and conquer” tactics):

  1. Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz,  CNN, 11 October 2009 — transcript of interview with Anita Dunn (White House Communications Director)
  2. State of the Union with John King“, CNN, 18 October 2009 — Transcript of  interview with Rahm Emanuel (White House Chief of Staff)
  3. Fox returns fire:   “The Radical Truth About Anita Dunn“, Glenn Beck, Fox News, 15 October 2009 — Anita Dunn tells schoolkids about Mao’s insights.

Analysis (no excerpts given)

(a)  “Media Matters coordinates campaign against ‘lethal’ Fox“, Politico, 23 October 2009 — Unintenetional irony by Media Matters, illustrating the policial nature of Team Obama’s attack on Fox.

(b)  “Behind the War Between White House and Fox“, New York Times, 23 October 2009 — Excellent and fair analysis, stirred from their slumber by the competition from new media like Fox News.

(c)  A summary of the NYT story — “In other words, their problem is not that Fox isn’t a real news organization, their problem is that it is.”  From “The White House’s Real Problem with Fox“, Rich Lowry, National Review Online, 23 October 2009

(d)  Eighteen thousand webposts about the short skirts of Fox News Anchorwomen — evidence that Fox News has smart management and that Americans need either to get out more or watch more foreign TV.

A note from the past

Please read the words of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’ in Whitney vs. California (1929). See the Wikipedia entry for details; text is from Justia.com.

Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty. To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence. Only an emergency can justify repression. Such must be the rule if authority is to be reconciled with freedom.

Excerpts

(1)  Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz,  CNN, 11 October 2009 — transcript of interview with Anita Dunn (White House Communications Director).  Red emphasis added.

KURTZ:  We talked about conservative commentators. Let’s talk about FOX News. You were quoted in “Time” magazine as saying of FOX News, that it’s “opinion journalism masquerading as news.” What do you mean “masquerading?”

DUNN:  Howie, I think if we went back a year go to the fall of 2008, to the campaign, that it was a time when this country was in two wars, that we had a financial collapse probably more significant than any financial collapse since the Great Depression. If you were a FOX News viewer in the fall election, what you would have seen would have been that the biggest stories and biggest threats facing America were a guy named Bill Ayers and something called ACORN. The reality of it is that FOX News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party. And it’s not ideological. Obviously, there are many commentators who have conservative, liberal, centrist, and everybody understands that. But I think what is fair to say about FOX and certainly the way we view it is that it really is more a wing of the Republican Party.

KURTZ:  Is that the reason the president did not go on FOX News Sunday when he did all the other Sunday shows, and will President Obama appear again on FOX this year?

DUNN:  President Obama, he did “The Factor.” He did “O’Reilly.”

KURTZ:  Yes. That was during the campaign.

DUNN:  That was last year. … You had a two-part question. The first was, is this why he did not appear? And the answer is yes, obviously he’ll go on Fox because he engages with ideological opponents. And he has done that before. He will do it again. I can’t give you a date because, frankly, I can’t give you dates for anybody else right now.
But what I will say is that when he goes on FOX, he understands that he is not going on — it really is not a news network at this point. He’s going to debate the opposition. And that’s fine. He never minds doing that. But…

KURTZ:  On that point, (inaudible), I want to read a statement from FOX senior VP Michael Clemente, who said the following, we’ll put it up on the screen. “An increasing number of viewers are relying on FOX News for both news and opinion, and the average news consumer can certainly distinguish between the A-section of the newspaper and the editorial page, which is what our programming represents. So with all due respect to anyone who might still be confused between news reporting and vibrant opinion, my suggestion would be to talk about the stories and the facts rather than attack the messenger, which over time has never worked.” Your response?

DUNN:  Yes. I think there have been numerous independent analyses that have looked at the difference between CNN, ABC, NBC — ABC and FOX, and have seen there is a very different story selection. There’s a very even down to the chyron they run below stories that, you know, this isn’t us making it up, Howie. You study the media. You know that it’s not just their opinion shows.

KURTZ:  Take Major Garrett, he’s the White House correspondent for FOX News. Do you think he’s fair? Do you think he’s masquerading as a newsman?

DUNN:  I will say — and I’ve done this in my interviews. I’ve differentiated. No, I’ve not said — I’ve differentiated between Major Garrett, who we view as a very good correspondent, and his network, and Major knows this. Major came to me when we didn’t include Chris.

KURTZ:  Chris Wallace.

DUNN:  In the round of Sunday shows, Chris Wallace from the Sunday shows. And I told Major quite honestly that we had told Chris Wallace that having fact-checked an administration guest on his show, something I’ve never seen a Sunday show do, and Howie, you can show me examples of where Sunday shows have fact-checked previous weeks’ guests. We asked Chris for example where he had done that to anybody besides somebody from the administration in the year 2009, and we’re still waiting to hear from him. When they want to treat us like they treat everyone else — but let’s be realistic here, Howie. They are — they’re widely viewed as, you know, part of the Republican Party. Take their talking points and put them on the air. Take their opposition research and put them on the air, and that’s fine. But let’s not pretend they’re a news network the way CNN is.

KURTZ: You are making a distinction, just before I move on, between the opinion guys, O’Reilly, Hannity, Glenn Beck, and people like Major Garrett.

DUNN: I’m not talking about people like Major Garrett. I’m talking about the overall programming. For instance, Howie, “The New York Times” had a front page story about Nevada Senator John Ensign and the fact that he had gotten his former chief of staff a job as a lobbyist and his former chief of staff’s wife was someone Ensign had had an affair with.

KURTZ: We reported the story.

DUNN: Did you see coverage of that on FOX News? I’m not talking Glenn Beck, and I’m not talking Sean or “The Factor.” I’m talking about FOX News.

KURTZ: I will have to check on that. I assume you know the answer.

(2)  State of the Union with John King“, CNN, 18 October 2009 — Transcript of  remarks by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.  Red emphasis added.  Excerpt:

KING: You need to go, and so I’m going to ask you one more quick question. … I’m trying to get behind the curtain and understand why your White House has decided that it is in its interest to have this, boom, with our rival, Fox News, Anita Dunn, one of your staff, calls it the — the communications director, the wing of the Republican Party. why?

EMANUEL: Well, no, it’s not so much a conflict with FOX News. But unlike — I suppose, the way to look at it, and the way we — the president looks at it and we look at it, is, it’s not a news organization so much as it has a perspective. And that’s a different take. And more importantly, it does not have — the CNNs and others in the world basically be led and following FOX, as if that — what they’re trying to do is a legitimate news organization, in the sense of both sides and a sense of a value opinion.

But let me say this. While it’s clear what the White House and what Anita said, I mean, the concentration at the White House isn’t about what Fox is doing. Its concentration is about, what does it take to make sure the economy is moving, creating jobs, helping the economy grow, making sure that we responsibly withdraw from Iraq, making sure what — the decisions we make on Afghanistan, we ask the questions before we go ahead first into putting 40,000 more troops on the line and America’s reputation, its most treasured resources, its young men and women, and its resources. That’s what’s occupying the decisions and the time in the White House.

(3)  The Radical Truth About Anita Dunn“, Glenn Beck, Fox News, 15 October 2009 — Great message, poor choice of an example, stupid to have added context about Mao.  Red emphasis added.  Excerpt:

Glen Beck: The videotape I’m about to show you is from way, way, way back in June of this year. It was in front of a high school crowd. The woman on the tape is Anita Dunn

A lot of you have a great deal of ability. A lot of you work hard. Put them together and that answers the “why not” question. There is usually not a good reason. And then the third lesson and tip actually comes from two of my favorite political philosophers: Mao Tse Tung and Mother Teresa, not often coupled together, but the two people that I turn to most to basically deliver a simple point, which is, you’re going to make choices. You’re going to challenge. You’re going to say “why not.” You’re going to figure out how to do things that have never been done before.

But here’s the deal — these are your choices. They are no one else’s. In 1947, when Mao Tse Tung was being challenged within his own party on his plan to basically take China over, Chiang Kai Shek and the nationalist Chinese held the cities that had the army. They had the airport. They had everything on their side, and people said, “How can you win? How can you do this? How can you do this, against all the odds against you?” And Mao Tse Tung said, “You know, you fight your war, and I’ll fight mine.”

And think about that for a second. You don’t have to accept the definition of how to do things, and you don’t have to follow other people’s choices and paths, OK? It is about your choices and your path. You fight your own war. You lay out your own path. You figure out what’s right for you. You don’t let external definitions define how good you are internally. You fight your war. You let them fight theirs. Everybody has their own path.

And Mother Teresa, who, upon receiving a letter from a fairly affluent young person who asked her whether she could come over and help with that orphanage in Calcutta, responded very simply, “Go find your own Calcutta.”

OK? Go find your own Calcutta. Fight your own path. Go find the thing that is unique to you. The challenge that is actually yours, not somebody else’s challenge. One of the things that we see the Obamas, both of them, Michelle and Barack, came out of backgrounds as community organizers, working.

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar:  Information & disinformation, the new media & the old.  It has links to posts about these subjects.

  1. The new media
  2. Propaganda and info warfare
  3. Disinformation
  4. The mainstream media

Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page.

Some of the posts about the mainstream media :

  1. The media discover info ops, with outrage!, 22 April 2008
  2. Only our amnesia makes reading the newspapers bearable, 30 April 2008
  3. The myth of media pessimism about the economy, 13 June 2008
  4. “Elegy for a rubber stamp”, by Lewis Lapham, 26 August 2008
  5. “The Death of Deep Throat and the Crisis of Journalism”, 23 December 2008
  6. The media doing what it does best these days, feeding us disinformation, 18 February 2009
  7. The media rolls over and plays dead for Obama, as it does for all new Presidents, 19 February 2009
  8. The magic of the mainstream media changes even the plainest words into face powder, 24 April 2009
  9. The media – a broken component of America’s machinery to observe and understand the world, 2 June 2009
  10. We’re ignorant about the world because we rely on our media for information, 3 June 2009 
  11. About campaigns for high office in America – we always expect a better result from the same process, 17 June 2009
  12. The perfidy of ABC News (tentative conclusion on a breaking story), 18 June 2009
  13. Are we blind, or just incurious about important news?, 6 July 2009
  14. We know nothing because we read newspapers, 12 October 2009

Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below. Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 word max), civil and relevant to this post. Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

48 thoughts on “Foolish but dangerous attempts to manage the media by Team Obama

  1. THe fact of the matter is that Anglo-Saxons (to use the French term) have the fiction that their news media (newspapers, TV, radio) are supposed to be unbiased and fact-based whereas in Europe the media are judged to be reporting from their own political perspective (the old Pravda, L’Humanité being the most blatant examples).

    The reality is even if / when the facts are presented “fairly”, editors chose stories and how they are “played” based on the perspective of the publication / network.

    That is the reality of the world and it has been this way for a long time. You will rarely see an anti-Israel story in the New York Times.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I agree that this describes the view in America, but certainly not in the UK. As explained in this scene from “Yes, Minister”:

    PM Hacker: “Don’t tell me about the press. I know exactly who reads the papers.
    * The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country;
    * The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country;
    * The Times is read by people who actually do run the country;
    * the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country;
    * the Financial Times is read by people who own the country;
    * The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country;
    * and The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.”

    Sir Humphrey: “Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?”

    Bernard: “Sun readers don’t care who runs the country, as long as she’s got big tits.”

  2. I’m somewhat confused about this post: the proposed FCC rulemaking is probably necessary, and it is in many ways the opposite of media management. Its rather rulemaking designed to keep everyone’s Internet connections as unfettered as possible, to prevent media manipulation by the network providers.

    It is completely unrelated to the second part, and actually is really an attempt by the FCC not to “Regulate the Internet” but to ensure that the Internet is not unduely crippled by network provider behavior.

    There is significant economic pressure for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to discriminate against some network traffic over others. EG, Comcast in the past blocked peer to peer traffic (regardless of content) that was deemed undesirable. Reportedly Bell Canada acts to favor HTTP traffic over other traffic. Similar reports are coming from Europe.

    Since most every ISP is also a telephone company, they would benefit greatly from manipulating voice-over-IP traffic, which is a far lower cost competitor. And often such pressures are related NOT to providing service to the customer, but because the Internet competes directly with other portions of the ISP’s business, since almost all major ISPs in the US are also both telephone companies and TV entertainment providers. We have yet to see a major US ISP do such disruptions, but the potential exists.

    Additionally, the ISPs are a duopoly or monopoly in most areas: you pretty much have two choices if you are lucky: the cable company (who also provides phone service) and the phone company (who also provides cable or sattelite service). And currently there is no regulatory structure outside the angry public opinion when ISPs manage traffic in a discrimatory manner. Thus there is very little market force outside direct customer anger which prevents ISP manipulations.

    Thus we need a regulatory mechanism to prevent things such as an ISP from deciding that “Netflix is competition for our video on demand service, lets slow down Netflix traffic”. A set of sound principles that ensure that the network remains open and accessable to any and all services on a nondescrimatory basis.

    A summary of the FCC’s position is here in a much more readable form. I gurantee you Comcast’s, AT&T’s, Google’s, and user advocatcy groups laywers are going over the mouseprint to ensure that it really corresponds to the principles as stated.

    The six pinciples the FCC wishes to establish:
    1. would not be allowed to prevent any of its users from sending or receiving the lawful content of the user’s choice over the Internet;
    2. would not be allowed to prevent any of its users from running the lawful applications or using the lawful services of the user’s choice;
    3. would not be allowed to prevent any of its users from connecting to and using on its network the user’s choice of lawful devices that do not harm the network;
    4. would not be allowed to deprive any of its users of the user’s entitlement to competition among network providers, application providers, service providers, and content providers;
    5. would be required to treat lawful content, applications, and services in a nondiscriminatory manner; and
    6. would be required to disclose such information concerning network management and other practices as is reasonably required for users and content, application, and service providers to enjoy the protections specified in this rulemaking.

    And reading through this as an expert on the technical side in this area (detecting ISP introduced deviations has been a significant focus of my research work), and someone with strong connections with network operations: the FCC’s principles are reasonable, while still allowing for necessary network management (eg, to prevent a heavy user from disrupting light users, to deal with spam and malcode and malicious activity, and doing reasonable actions like blocking Windows ports as long as the ISP is transparent about doing so).

    It is also remarkably well balanced. It does not fall into the “only best effort” camp that a few extreme network neutrality types advocate, rather it allows reasonable network management. Additionally, I don’t know of any major US ISP’s management policy which would be significantly impacted beyond the disclosure requirement.

    Finally, it is also not final rulemaking. This is specifically an invitation for comments and feedback on the proces, from ISPs, consumer advocates, and any others who care to. Thus this is not about managing the media but rather the opposite: ensuring basic principles to ensure that the Internet as a media remains open and accessable to new developments.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: This is way outside my expertise, hence included to put the current activities in a broader context. And I do not want this thread to become a debate on net neutrality. So I’ll just give some citations suggesting that we have a potential problem here. Note that this issue, like so many these days, transcends usual divisions of left and right.

    * “Freedom of Speech and Press in the 21st Century: New Technology Meets Old Constitutionalism“, by Laurence H. Tribe (Harvard Law Prof), 19 September 2007

    (I was interrupted before I finished this comment. Now Weaver has posted a new one below, so we’ll pick up the thread there)

  3. I haven’t been following this story too closely, but my understanding was that the White House had simply criticized Fox and refused to grant them interviews. I have two questions for Fabius. First, at this point, why do Obama’s actions seem particularly significant? All of the President’s we’ve had since I’ve been alive have complained about media bias. Are Obama’s attacks worse in some way? Or just a continuation of something bad which one would hope he would stop? Along with this, how would Fabius compare Obama’s treatment of news media with his predecessor’s treatment?
    Second, does Fabius think that it is inappropriate for the President to criticize a news organization at all? Mere criticism (as opposed to censorship, or taking official action) seems like a right of any citizen, including the President. But maybe there are special reasons he should keep his mouth shut about these things.
    This isn’t meant to be rhetorical or hostile, but I have to admit I’m a little confused why people seem to be freaking out about Obama’s criticism of Fox, when, for as long as I can remember, President’s have accused the media of having some sort of bias against them.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I do not have much documentation about this, but I believe this is the strongest attack on the news media since Nixon — and far more subtle in conception (if poorly executed). Declaring the media to be illegitimate because of its criticism IMO crosses a line — like calling someone “Un-American.” Which is of course the next step for Obama’s supporters, and one they were quick to take: “The O’Garbage Factor“, Jacob Weisberg, Newsweek, 26 October 2009 — “Fox News isn’t just bad. It’s un-American”

    This poisons the debate, creating divisions that must be overcome for so that we can set public policy and move ahead together. This cohesion has been America’s great strength. The temptation always exists to trade it away for transient political advantage. Both Left and Right ruthlessly attempt this today, and I believe both sides must be resisted when they do it.

  4. The media socializes us. This is probably the main reason we’re sheep. Even if we become self-aware and recognize we’re sheep, it has become impossible to easily obtain reliable information about specific issues, as every media source is potentially unreliable and explicitly manipulative. If a person has the time to consume an a-cross-the-board sampling of information on a specific issue, he can become informed. With a news aggregator there is no excuse not to at least try. Too many people get all of their information from either Fox or CNN, and they’re sheep.

    As to the Obama v. Fox part of the post, I live in the reddest part of a red state. The religious right is the largest single political player in my state. A non-trivial minority of the religious right has become very uncomfortable with the explicit racist insults/threats and the focus on Obama’s “otherness”. A year ago when it became likely Obama would win, many preachers with congregations who would reliablely vote Republican by a 3 or 4 to 1 margin started delivering sermons explicitly dealing with how and why the Bible requires Christians to support secular leaders. These sermons made a lot of people in the pews uncomfortable. But they also made a lot of people happy, who wanted to continue to be comfortable voting Republican.

    The people who get all of their information from Beck, Limbaugh, and Fox didn’t vote for Obama in the first place and never will. There is no down-side for Obama to poke them, particularly if many of their responses are clumsy and continue to focus on his “otherness”.

  5. How many people are aware that there is a serious risk that another war will break out in the Balkans? And if the media is worth defending, why don’t more people know this?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Define “serious war”? Also, any good articles you’ve found about this? Stratfor has had little to say about this, so it’s not just the general media quiet on this.

  6. WELL, THESE COmMENTS TELL ME THAT MANY PEOPLE SIMPLY DO NOT SEE WHAT IS DEVELOPING BEFORE OUR EYES NOR COMPREHEND WHAT FM IS DRIVING AT. OH WELL. Greg

  7. As to the general proposition that an administration getting tough on unfavorable but legitimate reporting is a bad idea – I agree.
    Howsomeever there is legitimate media – and then there is PT Barnum calling himself a journalist – and there is naked in your face demagoguery and rabble rousing taken to dangerous and – IMHO – profoundly immoral levels. In my view the media – mostly cable – has a duty – the same duty all responsible journalists have and that is to attempt to raise up where possible the public’s standards. I would compare a responsible journalist to clergy in this respect. When a clergyman stands in the pulpit and praises the sins of his congregation he is irresponsible and immoral. Likewise when a large news organization sees parts of the public indulging in dangerous talk about assassination – armed rebellion – and the like – and rather than doing the right thing and lecturing their audience on how wrong this is – they instead encourage and approve such destructive nonsense for profit – the Whitehouse should condemn it- you should condemn it- we should all condemn it. Not to do so is profoundly irresponsible.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: You can see out news sources that “raise up where possible your standards.” I look for one that just reports the news, which is difficult enough. If I want a priest’s opinion, I’ll go to church. I don’t want priests deciding what I need to know, nor newsmen (with their inevitably cynical views) in the pulpit.

    (2) “dangerous talk about assassination – armed rebellion – and the like – and rather than doing the right thing and lecturing their audience on how wrong this is – they instead encourage and approve such destructive”

    I agree. The mainstream media should stop this at once, ending their gentle treatment of domestic terrorism by leftist groups. Animal rights, eco-terrorists (spiking trees, burning down sawmills), a tradition going back to the radical terrorists of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

    (3) “the Whitehouse should condemn it”

    Yes. But I doubt either Obama or the mainstream media will do so. Here’s a place to start: Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s “Morning Meeting”, 13 October 2009 (video here; I’m still looking for a transript)

    You guys see Live and Let Die, the great Bond film with Yaphet Kotto as the bad guy, Mr. Big? In the end they jam a big CO2 pellet in his face and he blew up. I have to tell you, Rush Limbaugh is looking more and more like Mr. Big, and at some point somebodys going to jam a CO2 pellet into his head and he’s going to explode like a giant blimp. That day may come. Not yet. But we’ll be there to watch. I think hes Mr. Big, I think Yaphet Kotto. Are you watching, Rush?

    Here are Matthews follow-up remarks on MSNBC’s “Hardball”, 14 October 2009 (transcript):

    Well, it was a movie reference with which I am very proud to relentlessly give you. But, in this political atmosphere, I shouldn’t have gone into such detail about Mr. Big’s demise at the end of that movie, about the CO2 capsule, especially in reference to Rush. And, certainly, I shouldn’t have speculated, even metaphorically, or cinematically, about that happening to Rushbo in the real world.

  8. The demagoguery is being done for MONEY..In America it is the money – it is always the money. Greed has sucked us dry.

    I don’t need a priest either or want one. Nevertheless the demagoguery/greed is immoral and criminal as far as I am concerned – and it has made one of the most deadly contributions to our accelerating decline…Somebody has to preach and it might just as well be me – cause nobody else is interested in the slightest – or so it would seem.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I don’t see the connection between demagogueryand greed, or greed and your previous comment about the role of journalists.

  9. FM: This is explicitly in my area of expertise, and I don’t see the similarity here. The article you link to concerns the 7 dirty words decision, and other court cases when I search for FCC, areas where the FCC imposes a power to restrict the use of a communications medium.

    While the regulations proposed on network neutrality are the opposite designed to ensure that the speech on the network is NOT controlled by the network operator or the government, but only the users, to the extent possible within the resource constraints of the network itself.

    It appears to be the opposite of the context you are trying to establish on government regulation of speech and attempts to shape the direction of thought and communication.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: It’s not my area of expertise, and its one line in a 2300 word post. So let’s not go wild on this. Anyway, to establish a pattern of conduct we can look at other attempts by the FCC to move the ball in the wrong direction.

    (1) Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising“, FCC, effective date 1 December 2009 — More growth by the nanny state government. For a brief analysis see “FTC regulates our speech“, Jeff Jarvis (Ass Prof of Journalism at City University of NY), at his blog BuzzMachine, 5 October 2009.

    (2) Preserving a Free and Open Internet: A Platform for Innovation, Opportunity, and Prosperity“, Julius Genachowski (FCC Chairman), 21 September 2009. For a review of the speech see The Internet’s New Enforcer“, Peter Suderman (Assoc Editor), Reason, 23 September 2009 — “The FCC chairman appoints himself top cop on the World Wide Web.” Excerpt:

    Rather than see the Internet’s growth and integration into everyday life as evidence that government intervention isn’t necessary, the Web’s chief regulator took the opposite view—that the Net’s size and scope make government meddling a necessity. The Internet, in other words, is Too Connected to Fail.

    The theme of the speech was openness, but for Genachowski, an “open Internet” seems to mean a “government-monitored Internet.” Innovators and entrepreneurs may have been responsible for making the Web great, but care, oversight, and access are now up to the government. “Congress and the President have charged the FCC with developing a National Broadband Plan to ensure that every American has access to open and robust broadband,” he said.

    In other words, Genachowski’s starting point is that it is the job of the FCC job to provide access, not the market.

    …Genachowski talks a good game on Internet freedom and innovation, but then positions the FCC as a sort of Internet enforcer. “In the words of Tim Berners-Lee,” he said, “the Internet is a ‘blank canvas’—allowing anyone to contribute and to innovate without permission.” That’s how it should be. But the crucial question is permission from whom? Genachowski seems oblivious to the fact that that the regulatory regime he is promoting would implicitly require innovators to get permission for their innovations from his agency. In his words, “the FCC must be a smart cop on the beat preserving a free and open Internet.”

    A better analogy, however, would be to a judge and jury. Genachowski doesn’t merely envision a Web bound by FCC rules, but one subject to the momentary whims of FCC commissioners. “I will propose that the FCC evaluate alleged violations of the non-discrimination principle as they arise, on a case-by-case basis.” In theory, this gives the FCC more flexibility, allowing the agency to be smarter and more generous when weeding out violators. But in practice, it’s likely to expand the bureaucracy’s reach as it refuses to define the boundaries of its authority.

  10. The attempt by Team Obama to take out Fox News is just another example of brass knuckle Chicago-style politics, writ large. You hit your opponent with everything you’ve got, and keep hitting him – below the belt if necessary – until he is down and out. Rules be damned, just do what it takes, etc. The late Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Royko wrote about it all in his book “Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago,” for interested readers. It was about the old man, but it could just as well been written about the son, currently the nearest thing these Unitd States have to a modern-day Huey Long.

    If it was this alone the Obama admininitration was doing, it would be bad enough. But that isn’t all of it, not by a long shot. The last administration that tried to systematically muzzle the media – that of Richard Milhous “Tricky Dick” Nixon – did not end well. That is something of which Team Obama might take note. Beware of blowback. Legitimize attacks on specific media organizations and personalities, a tactic formerly agreed by all sides to be out of bounds, and one day you will wake up to find the same measures being used against you. Whatever weapon you invent, can and will be turned upon you.

    If Obama and company are indeed confident that their ideas and policies are better than those of the opposition, then why are they trying to squealch criticism of them? A confident leader secure in the knowledge of his ability to govern does not shrink from criticism; he welcomes it – sees it as a way of making his governance more effective and wise. The fact that Obama is trying to derail criticism in the press only shows that he is insecure and unwilling to have his ideas tested by others. If he is so sure he is right, and his critics – Glenn Beck, Rush, et al. are wrong – then give ’em enough rope, they will hang themselves, so to speak. The POTUS, it appears, is thin-skinned and not very good at taking criticism. That’s too bad, because it comes with the job, and bitching about whoever occupies the Oval Office is the real nation sport in this country, not baseball or football. Enjoy the next three years, Mr. President!

    What is the point of having free speech unless it can used to say things that are uncomfortable, unpleasant, and even objectionable? Would someone please show me where in the Constitution, in what clause or article, resides the freedom not to be offended? Doesn’t anyone remember their Patrick Henry (by way of Voltaire) – “I may disagree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it”?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: You touch upon something which gets too little attention. We elect governors to the Presidency, who often have little exposure to both Washingon’s dynamics and national issues. Reagan, Clinton, Bush Jr, and now Obama all came in with local experience and a small team of advisors. So we got Arkansas-style politics, Texas-style politics, and now Chicago-style politics. Just an observation; don’t know what it means.

  11. Genachowski talks a good game on Internet freedom and innovation, but then positions the FCC as a sort of Internet enforcer. “In the words of Tim Berners-Lee,” he said, “the Internet is a ‘blank canvas’—allowing anyone to contribute and to innovate without permission.” That’s how it should be. But the crucial question is permission from whom? Genachowski seems oblivious to the fact that that the regulatory regime he is promoting would implicitly require innovators to get permission for their innovations from his agency. In his words, “the FCC must be a smart cop on the beat preserving a free and open Internet.”

    This is an, IMO, very strange interpretation of both the intent and the description of the regulation, speaking as a network engineer, application developer, and someone intimately involved in the problem of network neutrality. It is not about adding the FCC as a gatekeeper, but preventing the ISP from being a gatekeeper.

    Much of my scholarly work recently has been on how ISPs have acted as gatekeepers, why they may want to act as gatekeepers, and how to detect when they are. For example, http://netalyzr.icsi.berkeley.edu/ is our network tester. It is designed to detect really subtle things in the network, both errors and deliberate configurations. Likewise, I was the lead author and developer of a tool and our analysis of ISP-injected TCP resets, which were being used to block P2P traffic among other uses. We identified multiple ISPs that were blocking P2P applications, both in the US and in foreign networks, by looking at how this behavior disrupted traffic.

    Without the FCC proposed regulation, anyone proposing a new application or innovative use of the network has to implicitly or explicitly get permission from the network operators lest the network operators decide that an application should not be allowed. That is the situation today: I’ve heard reports of game developers talking to ISPs to make sure the ports they select won’t inadvertantly get filtered.

    And ISPs have in the past decided that legal uses of the network were somehow undesirable and blocked them, and there is nothing to prevent them from currently doing so in the future.

    Instead, the proposed rules require that the network NOT discriminate against new applications and uses. But at the same time, it doesn’t limit the ability to sell tiered service, do quality of service, bandwidth shaping, local caching and colocation, and other management techniques as long as it is application neutral and transparent.

    Thus it does not place the FCC as a gatekeeper blocking new applications and uses. Rather, it prevents the ISP from acting as a gatekeeper on the Internet.

    Overall, this FCC decision on network neutrality is what government rulemaking should be: Open, slow developing, highly technical, highly participatory, transparent, and designed to ensure an open and competitive communication network. If the rest of our government’s rulemaking was this good, we would be in much better shape.

    The FTC business, on the other hand, thats a far better example for your inital post’s argument, and very despicable behavior which I found strongly offensive when it was announced a few weeks ago. May it burn in a fire of first-ammendment lawsuits.

  12. I see sense in the White House’s actions, not folly or danger. I’m glad that Dunn and Emanuel have publicly pointed out what has been obvious for at least a decade… that FOX news is in no sense an objective news organization. It is, rather, a propaganda outlet for the Republican party.

    FOX News president Roger Ailes was a media advisor to the Nixon, Reagan, and George H. W. Bush campaigns (wikipedia).

    John Ellis, a freelance political advisor with a Bush family connection, called the 2000 election for Bush, on FOX News, while the outcome was still in doubt (“Bush Cousin Calls Presidential Election“, by Michael I. Niman, special to Buffalo Beat, Dec. 14, 2000), thus influencing the rest of the media to follow suit. The previous night he had spoken with George W. & Jeb by phone.

    After the Democratic gains in the US 2006 elections, FOX news reporter Martha McCallum claimed on-air that “Iraqi terrorists are dancing in the streets” (“McCallum: Terrorists Dancing in Streets After Dems Win“, News Hounds, 11/9/2006).

    This is not the first time that Democrats have decided to bypass FOX News, or the first time that FOX News has used this as a basis to attack. In 2007, the Nevada Democratic Party pulled out of a FOX news debate. In response, “Beltway Boys” co-host Mort Kondracke labelled liberal groups “Junior Stalinists” (“Upset Over Canceled Fox Debate, Kondracke Attacks ‘Left-Wing Liberals’ As ‘Junior-Grade Stalinists’“, Think Progress, Faiz Shakir, March 11, 2007).
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    Fabius Maximus replies: While true, this ignores that much of the mainstream media has functioned in a similar capacity for liberals during the past several decades. This has been documented in a dozen different ways: admissions in autobiographies, analysis of language used, voting records, surveys of political opinions, background of journalists. The latter is my favorite, the large number of media executives who move from Democratic political operatives to impartial media execs. Matthew 7:5:

    first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

  13. Net neutrality is not a bad idea. It essentially makes the ISPs common carriers.

    The difficulty lies in the realm of content control. And that is the real threat. The FCC regulates broadcasts for content. The direction we have been headed in with obscenity laws is that almost anything sexual is fair game. Fine with me. I have never monitored my kids’ ‘net use. I never saw the harm in sexual material.

    Where it gets problematic (and I think this is the connection FM is looking for) is McCain-Feingold (MF) which regulates political speech. It raises the barrier to entry in the political realm. Essentially you can not be a candidate unless you can hire accountants and lawyers to make sure you comply with the laws. In addition MF regulates content. Certain kinds of attack ads are not allowed near the ends of campaigns.

    So far the law forces self censorship only as the enforcement mechanism is weak and poorly staffed. But what happens when that is not the case? And the impulses of the current administration are not even Nixonian. They are more in line with Comrade Obama’s heroes Chavez and Castro etc.

    One might add in – why has so little stimulus money been spent? I have heard rumors to the effect that the bulk of the money has been saved for campaign season where it can be used to buy favors and possibly elicit campaign donations from those seeking government favors.

    What Comrade Zero is attempting is to gain enough leverage to force one Party Rule. First it is “FOX is an arm of the Republican Party” which is not legitimate for a broadcast medium. You get that one into the tent and you are soon at “the Republican Party is not a legitimate party”.

    If you have the time go through three or four pages of comments at: CNN Poll: “GOP favorable rating lowest in a decade“, CNN, 23 October 2009. You will find more than one person espousing that point of view.

    What can you do to fight back? I’d say small acts of rebellion for now. Put a link to FOX near the top of your sidebar. Not because you agree with anything on FOX but because you are against regulation of political content.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Thanks for the analysis about the FCC rules. It was beyond my ability to explain it so clearly.

    “why has so little stimulus money been spent?”

    The stimulus money has been spent as planned, at very roughly $100B per month. First are direct payments, which start rapidly: $288B in tax cuts, $144 in payments to States to maintain social service programs, $82B in Federal social services, $44B in aid to schools, etc. The $100B in infrastructure spending (broadly defined) takes time to work though the pipeline, and is just hitting. No projects move quickly in America. See the Wikipedia entry for details.

  14. Well. What do you know. You don’t have to look at the story on the CNN polls. Atheist has chimed in here with the very arguments you can see at the link I provided. So Atheist – can we shut down Chrissy Mathews for being in the tank for the Democrats? How about Olberman? How about Dan Rather (when he was important)? How about all the righties on talk radio?

    We have the example of Eason Jordan self-censoring the truth about Saddam’s Iraq for “access”. What we will of course hear in response is:

    It can’t happen here

    Well it is happening here. The White House’s efforts against Fox are not directed at Fox (for now). It is directed against the rest. And the message is simple and direct: tow the party line comrades or you will lose access.

    So let me say this about that: I hated Nixon with a purple passion. I still do. But nothing I have seen in my 65 years has disturbed me as much as what I am seeing from this administration.

    Helen Thomas – no fan of Republicans sees the danger. The question is will enough regular Americans see it clearly enough in 2010 to put the Republicans back in charge in Congress to provide a check on the Won?
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    FM Note: Hearst columnist Helen Thomas on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”, 19 October 2009 (from article in The Hill): “Stay out of these fights. … They can only take you down. You can’t kill the messenger.”

  15. In a country that celebrates its founding by armed rebellion I think shutting down armed rebellion talk is bad for history and also unwise. The level of such talk gives our “servants” a gauge to measure how far they can go.

    Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them. Fredrick Douglas

    In fact censoring such calls increases the chance of armed rebellion. One need only look at firearms and ammunition sales since the advent of the Won to gauge the level of resistance developing.

    Or if you are a mind look up “Oath Keepers” or “Three Percenter”. In fact if you type in “Three” on Google it will try to help you by suggesting “percenter” to complete your request.
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    FM Note:

    “I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”
    — Thomas Jefferson in a letter to James Madison, 30 January 1787; referring to Shays’ Rebellion

  16. FM: “Define ‘serious war’? Also, any good articles you’ve found about this? Stratfor has had little to say about this, so it’s not just the general media quiet on this.

    I said “serious risk” not “serious war.”

    Here’s a recent example — “Before imposing a new “Dayton” on Bosnia…“, Akif Emre, WorldBulletin, 23 October 2009:

    With a dangerous acceleration of tension rising between parties internally, Bosnia has been giving an alarm signal for some time. A certain amount of tension was already existent in Bosnia Herzegovina and this time developments are reminiscent of the pre-war situation. Even the well-planned visit to Sarajevo just at this time by Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoğlu was not given enough coverage. Those who did show interest in Davutoğlu’s visit to Bosnia as Turkish foreign minister preferred to give priority to the nostalgic dimension of the event. This visit, however, during meetings that will reshape the state structure of Bosnia was of the nature of a kind of intervention.

    The fact that the Dayton Agreement, which ended the Bosnian war and established today’s Bosnian state, no longer works is admitted even by the powers, themselves, who imposed this agreement.

    Here’s another “Bosnia’s Serb Republic Challenges OHR, Radio Free Europe, 1 october 2009:

    There is probably no danger that the Balkans will fall back into the horrendous conflicts we witnessed during the 1990s. However, there are unresolved issues that continue to remind us that the Balkans remain the “powder keg of Europe….
    However, redrawing already disputed Balkan borders is fraught with risk. The secession of the Serb entity from Bosnia could spark a war that Islamic extremists from all around the world might be drawn to. If northern Kosovo was to be ceded to Serbia, it wouldn’t go unanswered by authorities in Pristina and Albanian extremists. It would trigger a violent chain reaction, with the leaders of the Albanian community in southern Serbia arguing that that if northern Kosovo joins Serbia, then Serbia’s Presevo Valley, which is mostly populated by Albanians, should become part of Kosovo. There could be more attacks like the recent assault on Serbian police officers in the Presevo Valley. Albanians in Macedonia, who agreed on a federal solution following the civil war in 2001, could opt out of that commitment if Kosovo’s borders change.”

    William Hague, the British Conservative Party Shadow Foreign Secretary has warned –“William Hague fears bleak future for Bosnia“, London Evening Standard, 12 August 2009:

    Urgent action is needed to prevent Bosnia being plunged back into turmoil, shadow foreign secretary William Hague warned today.

    David Cameron, head of the British Conservative Party, has stated {at} “
    The Balkans: A New Crisis?
    “, Brookings Institution, 24 Octover 2009:

    My argument today is very straightforward: there is a crisis developing in the Balkans, and we must act now to prevent it in the interests of national security, not just in that region but around the world.

    A source of news reporting about the Balkans is Balkans Insight.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: My apologies for the misquote (I read it too quickly). Thank you for the great cites! This sounds like something worth watching. But there have been so many false alarms. Note the most recent Stratfor report about the region:

    Kosovo’s expected Dec. 10 declaration of independence from Serbia is already inspiring minor violent incidents throughout the Balkans. If tensions erupt over the issue, the fighting is almost certain to spread beyond Kosovo and Serbia.
    — “Kosovo: The Fuse on the Balkan Powder Keg”, 16 November 2007

  17. I think CNN resorting to “fact-checking” of an SNL satire of Obama perfectly captures the spirit of the lap-dog media. They have become such teacher’s pets of the administration that they can’t see their absurdity and irrelevance. Can you imagine a “legitimate news organization” fact-checking the Tina Fey satires of Sarah Palin {e.g. this}?

    Of course if you assume that anyone who watches Fox is by definition an idiot who can’t make up his own mind on anything, then of course you’re afraid of it.

    “The remedy for false speech is more speech,” not censorship or strong-arm tactics.
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    Important FM note: I have added this quote to the post. It is from Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’ opinion in WHITNEY V. CALIFORNIA (1929). See the Wikipedia entry for details. Here is the quote, from Justia.com.

    Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty. To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence. Only an emergency can justify repression. Such must be the rule if authority is to be reconciled with freedom.

  18. Mr. Obama is simply having it explained to him that Washington D.C. is not Chicago, and The United States of America is not Venezuela.

  19. “The remedy for false speech is more speech,” not censorship or strong-arm tactics.

    Yeah, but calling out FOX for its obvious bias is “more speech” – not censorship or strong arm tactis.

    Also, while we my not impede speech even if false, if that false speech gives rise to harm, then it is well settled that you should be held responsible for that harm. That involves a certain level of “strong-arm tactics.”
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I don’t believe either of those is applicable. First, this is the government attacking a news organization. There is a presumption, based on many precedents, that this risks the government using its power to suppress criticism: IRS, FCC licensing, limiting access to government officials, etc. The second is clearly wrong. Political attacks might cause harm, but is the essence of protected speech under the first ammendment. This was exactly the point Justice Brandeis’ made.

  20. TO ADD A LIGHTER MOMENT:
    My husband (a Social Security and Medicare recipient) recently received the following e-mail from an old friend who spends a lot of time disparaging President Obama with silly jokes–all to my husband’s consternation:

    BREAKING NEWS!!! To save the economy in 2010, the Obama government will start deporting all of the weird old people in order to lower Social Security and Medicare costs.I started crying – when I thought of you. RUN, YOU OLD FART, RUN!!! Well…what can I say…someone sent this message to me, and I ‘ m not going alone!!!!

    In reply, my husband immediately shot the “know Obama detractor” the following message:

    BREAKING NEWS UPDATE!!! When told by his advisers that all the “weird old people” on Medicare and Social Security were rioting in the streets because of his deportation order, President Obama–with the 2012 election in mind–immediately gave the order to exempt from deportation all the known “old farts” and give the rest of those old assholes a one-way tickets to a foreign country of their choice. Well . . . what can I say . . . except . . . BON VOYAGE!! Guess you’ll be making the trip alone, after all….

    (I told my husband that he should start a blog that concentrates ( in a like manner) to all the overly obvious nonsense being circulated on the internet), answering joke with soul-searching joke.

  21. Ok, Whoever you arr. What happened to the Fabi who used to write for DNI? This Fabi’s sourcing and analysis are very Fox Noise like. One could get shot in a poker game stacking the deck like this Fabi has here. As a matter of fact this site looks more and more like a wingnut “Hasbara” site.
    Ever So Sincerely,
    Michael D. Adams

    PS. Just keep telling everyone that Bjorn Lomborg is a Climate Scientist. Eventually it will become the truth.

  22. FM: “I don’t believe either of those is applicable. First, this is the government attacking a news organization. There is a presumption, based on many precedents, that this risks the government using its power to suppress criticism: IRS, FCC licensing, limiting access to government officials, etc. The second is clearly wrong. Political attacks might cause harm, but is the essence of protected speech under the first ammendment. This was exactly the point Justice Brandeis’ made.

    The right to free speech does not entail the right to be free from a rebuttal.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Agreed. But that’s hardly the point of this, is it? Other presidents have argued with the press without feeling the need to call their supports real news and their opponents fake news organizations. What happened to the liberals chant of “dissent is patriotic” that we heard during the Bush Jr. administration?

  23. To emphasize my prior point: All arguments consist of three elements: ethos, pathos, and logos. For example, were you to say to me, “Your mother wears army boots,” I might rebut any of these elements. E.g.
    Logos: “No, my mother wears sandals. Here’s a picture of her in them.”
    Ethos: “You are out of line talking about my mother. What’s wrong with you?
    Pathos Crack some sort of army boot joke.

    In the present case, Obama has called FOX’s ethos into question. He has pointed out that they are biased – which they clearly are. To throw FOX’s ethos into question is standard rebuttal.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Agreed. Has anyone objected to Obama saying Fox is biased? Presidents have done that for decades. Before that nobody had the delusional belief anyone in the media was neutral. My guess is that this belief was promulgated when the Democratic party had a grip on the major media, to enhance the media credibility.

  24. Re24:
    You have it exactly right, and the advice being given to Obama is: Stop with the Ethos man, it’s demeaning. You come off looking like Hugo Chavez. Man up, you’re the president of the United States for Chris’ sake.

  25. You have it exactly right, and the advice being given to Obama is: Stop with the Ethos man, it’s demeaning. You come off looking like Hugo Chavez. Man up, you’re the president of the United States for Chris’ sake.

    That amounts to arguing that Obamas’ strategy is mistaken, which may be correct but distinct from whether it is legitimate.

    Compare, eg: FDR’s “malefactors of great wealth”

  26. Re #24, it’s more than just that. Obama’s aids argue that Fox should be ignored because it’s not a legitimate news organization and the others are. To claim that ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS, and NBC (and its MS- brother) are not “as biased” is hallucination. To them, the federal government passing a law or Doing Something is almost always the preferred solution to societal problems.

    The administration’s message to Fox’s competitors is, “Tow the line or you’ll be branded illegitimate and frozen out, too.”

  27. With Rham Emmanuel as CofS what did you expect other than relentless, unsophisticated attack? As the currency slides off the cliff next year, the stock market bubble collapses, the cc default really hits home, the commercial real estate bubble finally explodes, the sellout of the car industry to the union produces nothing anyone wants to buy, the White House will become more rabid. Expect a major move by Iran via Chavez to really tip the cart over, possibly in Mexico. And never forget the terrorist wildcard. Not to mention our having no foreign policy, which may be better than what we had with Bush but really, even Italy has a foreign policy. And Sarah Palin has informed the Republican Party she is not planning on sinking with it. It is going to be wild. And, don’t worry about Fox, Rupert Murdoch has the Chinese in his corner.

  28. FM: “I don’t see the connection between demagogueryand greed, or greed and your previous comment about the role of journalists.

    Sorry I didn’t replay last night but I went to bed but let me answer – Explaining the demagoguery greed connection is easy. Demagoguery sells –
    It sells to the least capable among us – but it sells – ratings in other words –
    Ratings bring in advertising dollars – the better the rating – the bigger the ad money.
    If that demagoguery is dangerous – that seller is greedy – sell his own mama I’d wager.
    In summary – ideology my patoot – it’s a racket.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Do you believe everybody around you is motivated solely by greed? If so, that’s sad. And in my experience, not correct.

  29. FM note: Before you read this, some background about the author. As evidence of his lack of judgement, he who replied as follows to a post including peer-reviewed science literature, a DoD report on climate change, and a presentation by a former Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere (in charge of NOAA) –

    Fabius Maximus is a troll. Ignore him. Please don’t feed trolls like Fabius Maximus.

    That’s the full comment, what mclaren considers a rational reply. He’s never explained it, let alone retracted it. That’s how he regards the posts I’ve written, citing aprox one hundred articles in the scientific literature (almost all of which is either peer-revied or conference presentation). Now he says:

    “grossly incompetent and probably criminal members of the economics profession, like Lawrence Summers”

    What are maclaren’s qualifications as an economist to declare “incompetent” someone with Summer’s distinguished record, both academia and public service (no doubt maclaren will disparage Summer’s performance, like a fans at pro football games with the delusion that what goes on the field is easy to do). With this record, there is no need to treat maclaren’s rant as worthy of reply. Esp as this is the usually unsupported mud-slinging that substitutes for though in so much of US political debate.
    .
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    FM generally makes astute observations and brings valuable information to the fore. Every once in a while, FM goes off the rails and starts spouting kooky stuff. This occurs with his anti-global-warming posts and it occasionally happens when FM praises some of the grossly incompetent and probably criminal members of the economics profession, like Lawrence Summers. It also seems to happen on rare occasions when FM discusses propaganda operations like Ann Coulter or Glenn Beck or Roger Ailes’ dirt tricks operation AKA Fox News.

    The claim that Fox News merely corrects decades of alleged liberal bias by the other TV networks and major newspapers represents the classic example of false equivalence we see in people who sniffed at evidence of massive corruption by Halliburton in Iraq or the grotesque levels of bribery that went on in K Street under the recent Republican-controlled congress by claiming “all politics is corrupt.”

    No, there really is a provable and documentable difference between the incredible levels of Republican corruption in the recent congress and historic levels of corruption in congress. There relaly is a specifically demonstrable mountain of hard evidence showing that the criminal fraud that went on in Iraq-war no-bid contractors was massively larger and quantitatively as well as qualitatively different from previous levels of corruption in wartime contractors.

    Likewise, there is a huge and easily documentable difference, both in magnitude and in kind, between propaganda operations like Fox News, and the alleged liberal bias of other TV networks and newspapers.

    To see the difference, ask yourself the following questions:

    [1] How many TV networks, aside from Fox News, are run by former media consultants and campaign managers credited with coaching multiples Democratic presidents to victory? Answer: none. Not one.

    Ailes served as a political consultant for many Republican candidates during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. His first such job was as media advisor for the Nixon campaign in 1968. He returned to presidential campaigning as a consultant to Ronald Reagan in 1984. He is widely credited with having coached Reagan to victory in the second presidential debate with Walter Mondale.

    In 1988 Ailes was credited (along with Lee Atwater) with guiding George H. W. Bush to a come-from-behind [11] victory over Michael Dukakis. Ailes and Lee Atwater scripted and produced the “Revolving Door” ad.

    Source: Wikipedia.

    On the Democratic side of the fence, this would be equivalent to James Carville running one of the other three major TV networks. Not only is that not the case, the very prospect of anyone in CBS or NBC or ABC even proposing to elevate a highly partisan political operative like James Carville to the presidency of a major news organization like ABC or NBC or CBS would be met with a firestorm of mass outrage. People would point out, correctly, that Carville has no journalist background, that he is not qualified to run a major news organization, and that such a partisan operative would inject unacceptable amounts of slant into any major news organization he controlled.

    [2] Ask yourself how many major TV news networks organize and promote anti-government demonstrations. Answer: aside from Fox News, zero. None. Not one. The very idea of promoting something like a mass “teabagger rally” on the nightly news would be thrown out of any reputable news organization’s editorial meetings. Serious news organizations don’t do that kind of thing. But Fox News does.

    [3] If Fox News is a legitimate news organization, why do polls consistently show that Fox News viewers are far more misinformed about major events than viewers of other news networks?

    This is not a new phenomenon. It goes back to the Iraq War, when 60% of Fox News viewers incorrectly believed that Saddam not only possessed, but had actually used, chemical weapons of mass destruction against U.S. troops, compared to only a tiny fraction of viewers who regularly watch other TV networks.

    [4] If Fox News is a serious reputable news organization, why has is consistently misidentified corrupt Republicans as Democrats on its news broadcasts? And why has it incorrectly identified President Obama as “Obama bin Laden”?

    [5] If Fox News is a serious news organization, why does its guests and commentators routinely suggests murdering Supreme Court judges, assassinating New York Times correspondents, and killing the President of the United States?

    How many other TV networks routinely feature guests and commentators who suggest murdering Supreme Court judges or killing the president? Asnwer: none. Zero. That kind of behavior is not tolerated in a serious news organization.

    FM’s feeble and failed attempt at false equivalence in this case falls flat. It’s as completely illegitimate to try to equate the blatant propaganda operation misnamed Fox “news” with serious news organizations as it to dismiss the current dismal state of Pentagon procurement by claiming “military contractors have always lined their pockets.” No, there is a huge and clearly measurable difference in both the quantity and quality of military procurement corruption today as compared to past eras like WW II or the Korean War, just as there is a huge</B. and clearly measurable difference in both the quality and quantity of lies and deliberate propaganda and shameless partisan political dirty tricks going on in Fox “News'” so-called “reporting” compared to the news operations of serious legitimate news organizations.

    Serious news organizations are not headed by partisan politcal hacks who spent decades immersed in bare-knuckles political presidential campaigns. Serious news organizations don’t make “mistakes” like calling the President of the united states “Obama Bin Laden.”

    Serious news organizations don’t regularly feature guests who propose assassinating the president or poisoning Supreme Court judges.

  30. Comment #27 by Arms Merchant: “The administration’s message to Fox’s competitors is, ‘Tow the line or you’ll be branded illegitimate and frozen out, too.'”

    Frozen out of what? In today’s world, so-called outcasts and pariah’s are networking with each other in all sorts of interesting ways. FOX may be at a disadvantage in this, as they specialize in brash talk – while fancy footwork is rather more the order of the day.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: A large fraction of today’s news comes directly from the government. Photo ops, interviews, leaks. Losing even a degree of acess to these would put them at a competitive disadvantage. The Obama team floated a trial balloon at this, about restricing their acess to reporter pools. Nixon showed how far this pressure can extend. Let’s not let a future President get so far as he did, as I suspect our ability to resist is far less than in the early 1970’s.

  31. If there was no FOX news … the administration would have to create one. Without our enemies, we Americans would not know what to do with ourselves :)

  32. I’m signing up for the war on drugs, and terrorism, and poverty, and, uh, what’s that new one? Oh yes, the great war on obesity begins next year! GRRRRRR!

  33. FM #33: “A large fraction of today’s news comes directly from the government. Photo ops, interviews, leaks. Losing even a degree of acess to these would put them at a competitive disadvantage. The Obama team floated a trial balloon at this, about restricing their acess to reporter pools. Nixon showed how far this pressure can extend. Let’s not let a future President get so far as he did, as I suspect our ability to resist is far less than in the early 1970’s.

    None of the cable or over-the-air news networks provide any useful information. The content of all of the networks is a soup of edited facts cleverly written to appeal to the confirmatory biases of the targeted audience. Although there is useful information in their content, it is impossible without great time and effort to distinguish the reliable information, from the unreliable and the false. And because you can’t tell the difference, all of the content becomes worthless.

    For instance, what useful information (I mean information upon which you can confidently rely to make up your own mind) have the news networks provided about Afghanistan or the health care reform proposals? It’s all presented as: Obama v. the Republicans; Obama v. the Blue Dogs; Obama v. Beck; ect. It reminds me of a Hollywood gossip magazine “reporting” on Jen v. Angelina; Jen v. Brad; Angelina v. Brad; ect.

    So imagine what Fox News programing would look like, if Fox were completely locked out of the White House. Other than some whining about the unfairness of it all and the “threat” to Western Civilization, the programing would be no different than before. (This would be true even if it was CNN or one of the other networks being locked out.) So if there is no difference in programing, what is the “threat” to Western Civilization?

    It is pointless to argue that the garbage of one network is somehow better (or worse) than the garbage of another. It’s all garbage. Moreover it is the main reason we’re sheep.
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    Fabius Maximus: I can hardly disagree, having watched my last TV news in 1973. In the interests of deep research I watched the Youtube video “d”, which IMO proves that at least one aspect of TV news has improved.

  34. This thuggish government from Chicago has all the markings of organized crime. They gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse.

  35. FM reply to me in #12: “While true, this ignores that much of the mainstream media has functioned in a similar capacity for liberals during the past several decades. … first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

    Fabius, thank you for reminding me that my own partisanship could blind me in matters such as this. It is something to consider, however, I do not beleive that this is happening is this instance. McLaren in #32 may be rude but I really think he has some points here, especially his point [1]… there is simply no “MSM” analogue to the political consultant Roger Ailes being president of FOX news. Check out this comparison of the heads of the leading US media companies: “Because being ignored is exactly the same thing as being muzzled“, Oct 21, 2009, Lawyers, Guns & Money blog, by “SEK”. (It is a couple of paragraphs down.) I fully admit that the “MSM” is pretty bad, and getting worse, but they are nowhere near as partisan as FOX is.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: The MSM is staffed with democrats, top to bottom. Their language, as has been shown by analysis using nexis, is constistently slanted (e.g., there are people on the “right-wing”, but only “activists” on the left). When looking at scandals, their party identification was usually given only for Republicans (prompting the “guess their party” posts). Etc, etc. For decades this was considered right and proper by liberals. Now a 4th network enters the game with differing views — suddenly partisanship becomes a threat to the Republic — if not to Nature and God. I find this difficult to take seriously. A tempest in a teapot.

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