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  • Archive Post – The Poisoned Pool

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on September 25th, 2012 (All posts by )

    (In light of the recent release of Gallup survey results indicating that an embarrassingly large portion of the American public has little trust in the news media, I present a reprise post from the Daily Brief, circa 2005, when the rot had already well set in, but wasn’t yet screamingly obvious.)

    In the twilight afterglow of the Edward Murrow era of journalism, the only people that I remember routinely complaining about bias, selective reporting, or outright lies in journalism – print and broadcast both— were of the far-right-over-the-horizon John Birch Society persuasion, sourly grumbling about creeping godless communism (or maybe it was godless creeping communism) at cocktail parties or in letters to the editor. Considering that John Reed and Walter Duranty, among others, made careers out of painting world socialism in far more sunny colors than completely unbiased and disinterested journalism required, I have to concede that those doughty anti-communists of my youth may have had a point. But on the whole, it was a given that the main-stream media outlets of the American mid-century had enormous stores of credibility with the public.

    It was accepted that the major newspapers, the big three television channels were generally telling the truth, as fairly and as accurately as they knew it. Reporters might be lied to by sources, might be misled or mistaken, might miss the story entirely – but if it was in the paper or on the 6 PM news, well, then it must be an accurate reflection of reality. Our media was not like the Russian propaganda organ, Pravda, which had to be read carefully, teasing out small nuggets of information from tiny scraps inadvertently included, or deduced from a sudden appearance of certain topics. This was American, damn it, and serious reporters had the benefit of the doubt. Only the supermarket tabloids with pictures of monkey babies and hundred-year old shipwreck survivors were assumed to have made up stories out of whole cloth.

    I honestly can’t — and won’t given the depths to which the profession has lately fallen — claim to be a paid-up member myself, on the basis of an eight-week shake-and-bake military broadcaster course at the Defense Information School, but I spent a fair amount of time after that, loitering meaningfully in the neighborhood where acts of journalism were being committed; radio and television news, and dabbling a little in the print side. I know the mechanics of interviewing, editing, and writing fourteen lines per minute of copy, or how many yards and minutes of tape wind up in the trash can, because fifteen minutes of talk with an expert must be boiled down to a 15-second insert into a story written in the active voice and taking care to pronounce all the names right. I know that I usually had a pretty good idea of where I was going with a story; because I was an in-house hack for the military establishment – it was what they paid me for.

    I was also a voracious news consumer, considering it part of my job to know the direction from which every imaginable s**tstorm might come, and to where TDY orders might send the military personnel who were my audience. I read or had subscriptions to – well, practically everything, at one time or another. Time, Newsweek, International Herald Tribune, Stars and Stripes, Rolling Stone, the military Times newspapers, Harpers’, Atlantic, Working Woman, National Geographic, Smithsonian, MS, Guardian Weekly, National Review, Mother Jones, Utne Reader, Spy, Brill’s Content, Village Voice, History Today, American Heritage – just for starters. The fringier publications often had stories that were a long way off on the horizon; I remember the Village Voice being about the first to start airing troubling doubts about alleged satanic child abuse at day care centers, months before the more mainstream news started taking those doubts seriously, too. Of course, every outlet, every magazine had a different take, a different emphasis, a different angle, and obviously some of the above had a little more credibility than others, and more than a few grains of salt necessary as an adjunct.

    When did the rot begin? Hard to say, really, since there has always some potential for distortion of the news. The great press magnates of the mid century did have their foibles: Henry Booth Luce was so enchanted with Chiang Kai-shek and his wife that he (and by extension Time Magazine) overlooked for twenty years the Generalissimo’s complete ineptitude at governing China. No note was ever taken of Roosevelt’s almost complete reliance on braces, wheelchairs and the sturdy arms of aides all during his presidency – or more alarmingly, JFK’s compulsive serial womanizing during his, although both were open secrets among the press corps. Some will argue for Watergate, when the thrill of taking down a presidency put blood in the water for the ambitious investigative reporter seeking fame everlasting.
    Peter Boyer’s Who Killed CBS?, from twenty years ago puts the blame squarely on the emphasis in television news— specifically CBS news, and 60 Minutes— on emphasizing a gripping visual image at the expense of plain facts, of news as entertainment spectacle. A modern morality play as it were. James Fallows in Breaking The News put the blame on—among other things— a disconnect between the consumers of news, and the highly paid elite press corps. Whether the genesis of the current situation was in the making ten, twenty or thirty years ago is almost irrelevant, in light of that everything that has piled on in the last three or four years.

    Any sort of recent list has to include CNN maintaining their bureau in Baghdad by quietly killing stories about Saddam Hussein’s atrocities. It has to include mention of how coverage of the Middle East is warped by major international news services reliance on local stringers who have every reason to tilt their dispatches very much to one side. Of how on-scene reportage on the West Bank and Gaza is controlled by the Palestinians, who control access of the place to film crews and reporters. Of photographers who are marvelously on the spot when car bombs, ambushes and executions are going down, and respected news professionals insist that it is their obligation to watch it all happen. Or of reporters like Sy Hersh, whose past performance guarantees a pulpit for dubious and improbable stories of war crimes committed by the American military. It has to include stories based on transparent frauds and forgeries, on political hit-pieces perpetrated by reporters insisting that, no; they really, really are totally unbiased. It has to include stories where interviewees are presented as being merely interview subjects, when they are actually deeply compromised, with a strong interest in the coverage of the story one way or the other.

    The pool has been poisoned.

    I never was one of those people who assumed that just because it was broadcast, or in print, that therefore it must be true, but when I read or listen to something now, I am thinking: OK, who is this that you are talking too, and what is their game. What is yours? Why did you pick that expert out of your golden rolodex? Who is your local stringer, or your taxicab driver? Your local minder? Who gave you the lead and why? Why does your voice sound somehow warmer, more enthusiastic, when you talk to, or about this person or situation? What footage wound up in the wastebasket? How many people did you talk to before you got the answer that fitted your mental outline of the story? Where have you been before, who really writes your paycheck, and why? How long have you been in this place, how much do you really know, based on your previous reportage?

    The saddest part of this new era of journalism, is that I already assume that I am being lied to, until otherwise confirmed by research. It is good to be an informed and savvy consumer – but what trust and credibility the mainstream media have carelessly pissed away.
    Edward R. Murrow is probably revolving in his grave like a Black & Decker drill.

     

    57 Responses to “Archive Post – The Poisoned Pool”

    1. Joe Citizen Says:

      I think we reached a stunning milestone on this road when a recent poll found that the viewers of the largest cable news network (Fox) actually were LESS informed about events in the world than people who do not watch the news at all.
      It takes one’s breath away.

    2. Ginny Says:

      source?

    3. Sgt. Mom Says:

      This survey, you mean? I’d never have considered Fairleigh Dickenson U a paragon when it came to public research expertise, but never mind.
      http://publicmind.fdu.edu/2012/confirmed/
      Not quite as simple as all that. If I read this correctly the viewers of MSNBC don’t come out much better. Lesson being that those who depended only on one partisan source for news were not particularly well informed.

    4. Joe Citizen Says:

      “Lesson being that those who depended only on one partisan source for news were not particularly well informed.”

      Yeah, I think the real problem that you are pointing to is the emergence – or we should say RE-emergence – of the hyperpartisan press. Back in the day, all newspapers were partisans and often quite viciously so. It was, to my sense, only in the early to mid 20th century that we had the notion of “objectivity” as a standard that should be upheld by the newsmedia. And that standard was pushed by the liberal progressive press such as the NYT.

      I think it fair to point out that the reemergence of blatant partisanship in news outlets really got its push from Rupert Murdoch, especially through FoxNews. Once the game is joined, of course, others will play as well.

      Talk radio, especially Limbaugh, was another major force in injecting partisanship into news reporting (and yes, given the habits of his listeners, it is fair to consider Limbaugh as a major frontline news dissemination source) with the attendant loss of credibility for the field.

    5. Javahead Says:

      I tend to classify any comment by Joe Citizen as false till proven otherwise. Assuming he can produce a cite, I’d expect it to be one given by a left-leaning news source, quite possibly asking it’s own audience about how well informed the Fox audience is.

      I recall reading something several years back – Instapundit, maybe? – about a media bias study done by some UCLA professors and their graduate students. To their credit, they admitted their own biases up front – they were at least slightly left of center, and they expected to find that Fox was both extremely inaccurate and far to the right of center. The team did semantic analysis of news stories on all the major TV news sources for several weeks. – negative vs positive word choices in stories, time given to left- or right- leaning stories, apparent newscaster approval/disapproval, etc.

      RTheir metrics put bias on a scale of 1 – 100. When they normalized their data, a story with no apparent bias have been rated about 50-51, extreme right 1, extreme left 100. From my fallible memory (I may be off by a point or so, but I believe I have the essentials correct):

      Fox is right of center. Barely. And it was the only news network that was. Their ordering -

      FOX – 47-48
      CNN – 52-53
      ABC, CBS, NBC – 55-56
      MSNBC – 58-59

      So the two closest to the center were FOX (right) and CNN (left). The 3 original broadcast networks were about as far to the left of CNN as CNN was of FOX. And MSNBC was several points to *their* left.

      There may have been mistakes or hidden assumptions in this study, but it sounded like an honest attempt on their part to measure media bias. As stated, the results didn’t match their expectations – they had expected to find the 3 legacy broadcasters in the center, CNN a bit right, and MSNBC a bit left. So the next time you hear someone describing CNN as “right wing”, remember that they’re probably assuming the legacy networks represent the center.

      This was at least a couple of years back, so take it with a large grain of salt (I think it was after the 2008 election cycle, but I could be wrong). All the same, I don’t believe anyone would claim that mainstream media has moved towards the right in the last few years. I distrust all news media to some extent, but feel that if I average FOX and CNN I get a useful first approximation of what’s happening in the world.

    6. Joe Citizen Says:

      Javahead,

      Sgt. Mom already helpfully provided the cite.

      “So the next time you hear someone describing CNN as “right wing”, remember that they’re probably assuming the legacy networks represent the center”

      Maybe that should read – the next time you hear someone describing CNN as right wing, remember that some UCLA professor and his class once did a study that didn’t find that.

    7. Owen Says:

      Every major newspaper in the U.S. and every television network except Fox are part of the Lefty Orwellian Brainwashing Machine and have been for a very long time. If you read the book “Blacklisted by History” you would learn that the Left, including Murrow, dishonestly went after McCarthy in much the same fashion as they go after Rush Limbaugh or anyone else today that represents a “disturbance in the force”. The famous quip about Roger Ailes and Fox is that “he discovered a niche market – half of America”. The Left’s obsession with Fox is rather absurd when you consider that the “news” part has a typical viewership of around 3 million versus the 25 million of ABC/CBS/NBC combined.

      In newspapers the 800 pound gorilla is the Associated Press and the major opinion papers are the N.Y. Times and the Washington Post; all have been pro-Democrat for a half-century or more. Even the news portion of the Wall Street Journal is well left of center. If you want a fairly current and well researched reading on media bias then try “Left Turn..” by Prof. Tim Groseclose at UCLA. His work has even been blessed by the Marxists in academia.

      I’m not sure there was a tipping point, it’s just that it took first talk radio, then Fox, then the internet to point out the obvious. Individuals in journalism tend to be on the Left, they go to Lefty journalism schools, and they go to work in an environment that is 90% or more on the Left. How unsurprising it is that you get a biased result. What is currently interesting is that so much of the Leftstream Media no longer even pretends to be objective, they don’t even seem to care. The good news is that newspapers are dying, the media’s influence is waning and the internet is leveling the playing field. The bad news is that a good part of the country still take these Leftist propagandists seriously and they can still impact elections.

    8. Javahead Says:

      Joe,

      I started my post when only your response and her request for a cite was visible. Absent a time machine, and given the current posting interface, these race conditions will always exist.

      I will apologize if it appears I am claiming you are deliberately misleading. I don’t believe that you are. I do believe, however, that your world view, and general political preferences, are rather to the left of my own, and that they do color your world view, as my own beliefs do mine. And that – at least, from where I’m sitting – you tend to strain at gnats and swallow camels in support of your preferred worldview. You doubtless feel the same about me and any who might share my beliefs.

      I will always dispute any attempt to claim magisterial authority – on anyone’s part – in the absence of well-documented evidence. A statement without evidence is opinion, not proof. I do attempt to label my opinions as such, but admit that I may sometimes not make the distinction clearly.

      As to which of us is more objectively “correct”, I think we’ll need to agree to disagree.

    9. Mike K Says:

      “I think it fair to point out that the reemergence of blatant partisanship in news outlets really got its push from Rupert Murdoch, especially through FoxNews. Once the game is joined, of course, others will play as well. ”

      The blatant partisanship was there well before Fox. Does no one remember the CNN story accusing the US Army of using poison gas in Vietnam ?

      “Peter Arnett has the story of Operation Tailwind, a raid into Laos, which, according to military officials with knowledge of the mission, held two top secrets: dropping nerve gas on a mission to kill American defectors.”
      It was a high-stakes, sensational expos¨¦, unusual for CNN. Since its emergence 18 years ago as the nation’s first 24-hour news channel, CNN had become far more renowned for its saturation coverage of breaking news than its blockbuster investigations. It had been producing weekly newsmagazines for five years. But with audiences of under a million viewers, “Impact,” “NewsStand’s” predecessor, had never matched the huge ratings of network rivals like CBS’ “60 Minutes,” ABC’s “PrimeTime Live” and “Dateline NBC.” “Valley of Death” might give CNN a major boost.
      Instead, the broadcast turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. After it aired, so many questions arose about the story’s validity that CNN hired constitutional lawyer Floyd Abrams, an advocate for press freedoms as far back as the Pentagon Papers, to reinvestigate. Abrams was assisted by CNN General Counsel David Kohler, the lawyer who had scrutinized the piece before it aired and had raised no substantive objections.
      Less than two weeks later, Abrams released his findings: “CNN’s conclusion that United States troops used nerve gas during the Vietnamese conflict on a mission in Laos designed to kill American defectors is unsupportable.” By early July, CNN had retracted the story and apologized for a broadcast that had drawn on some of the network’s best talent, including “NewsStand” co-hosts and veteran journalists Jeff Greenfield and Bernard Shaw.
      The story’s producer, April Oliver, her senior producer, Jack Smith, and their unit’s senior executive producer, Pamela Hill, had lost their jobs.

      Getting old is accompanied by memories that nobody else seems to have retained. As far as Watergate is concerned; it was a successful coup d’etat. I have the details and links on my blog.

      A sample:

      Stratfor.com has a very important discussion of the Watergate story today. We now know that Mark Felt, who died last week, was the “Deep Throat” source for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in their coverage of the Watergate scandal. Felt was the number #3 man in the FBI hierarchy at the time J. Edgar Hoover died. He expected to be named as Hoover’s successor but Nixon appointed an outsider, L Patrick Gray. Gray had had an outstanding career but was vilified in the Watergate story. He never spoke of it again until he commented on Felt’s admission of his role three years ago.

      The Stratfor analysis has some interesting comments on the origins of the story.

      Felt saw Gray’s selection as an unwelcome politicization of the FBI (by placing it under direct presidential control), an assault on the traditions created by Hoover and an insult to his memory, and a massive personal disappointment. Felt was thus a disgruntled employee at the highest level. He was also a senior official in an organization that traditionally had protected its interests in predictable ways. (By then formally the No. 2 figure in FBI, Felt effectively controlled the agency given Gray’s inexperience and outsider status.) The FBI identified its enemies, then used its vast knowledge of its enemies’ wrongdoings in press leaks designed to be as devastating as possible. While carefully hiding the source of the information, it then watched the victim — who was usually guilty as sin — crumble. Felt, who himself was later convicted and pardoned for illegal wiretaps and break-ins, was not nearly as appalled by Nixon’s crimes as by Nixon’s decision to pass him over as head of the FBI. He merely set Hoover’s playbook in motion.

    10. Sgt. Mom Says:

      I very well remember the ‘Tailwind’ story – as well as my reaction, which would have been the reaction of just about every milblogger out there.

      In brief, “OK, so we have a combat mission involving the use of suuuper sekrit and very deadly nerve gas – so deadly that a single drop on the bare skin is fatal – and the air crews of the helicopter, and the ground combat troops deployed with it are not MOPPed up to the eyeballs?” (MOPP gear – bio-radiation-chem protective gear, which is probably post Vietnam-era, but the equivalent would have applied in this case.) Special Forces may be insane, but they certainly aren’t stupid. Pull the other leg, Peter Arnett – that one plays Jingle Bells.” So I wasn’t the least surprised when CNN’s crack legal team came to the conclusion that they did.

      Another crack in the wall of CNN’s credibility. I always was richly skeptical, and with considerable justification of the mainstream media when it came to matters military. Remember, I worked Public Affairs now and again. But in the last couple of years, I’ve come to be bitterly skeptical when they cover anything else.

    11. Jim Miller Says:

      For those interested in this problems, I recommend reading Edward Epstein’s essay on how ABC moved to the center during the Nixon administration. (Don’t remember where it was originally published, but you can probably find it at his site. And it is in his wonderful collection, “News from Nowhere”, which you should grab if you ever see one for sale.)

      What has fascinated me ever since I read it is that ABC profited from their move to the center, that they increased their viewership significantly.

      Some of the changes at ABC were subtle, but not so subtle that you can’t understand them once he explained them. For instance, suppose a government department decides to cut some program. The standard approach, then and now, is to start with protesters and then get a reaction from the department. ABC sometimes reversed this — which in most cases seems like the right way to tell the story.

      I mention this because most of the news organizations that refuse to play it straight are, almost certainly, losing money because of that. (Similarly, as Michael Medved has shown, Hollywood studios are losing money because they make fewer family films than they should.)

      An example: The Blethen heir, while trying to be the editorial page editor at the Seattle Times, dropped Krauthammer, who is one of the most popular columnists in the United States. That can’t have increased circulation at the Times, but it probably made it easier for Ryan Blethen to read his newspaper. (He’s now associate publisher, if I recall correctly, in spite of that, and similar blunders.)

    12. Jim Miller Says:

      Now that I am thinking about it, I should add that the essay might be in his collection, “Between Fact and Fiction” — which is an even better book.

      I would guess, by the way, that Sgt. Mom would understand how much you change the emotional impact of a TV story by that simple reversal that I described.

    13. Sgt. Mom Says:

      Oh, yeah – simple point – counterpoint. (Only reversed; counterpoint, then point, which will always sound weaker, defensive.) I know all the subtle story-telling tricks (as well as the not-so-subtle ones) that are used to color the narrative to the required shade. The words you choose, the tone you put into your voice, the pictures that you frame to direct the emotions of rhe reader/viewer into the direction you want it to go.

      I write historical fiction, after all.

    14. Ginny Says:

      For some reason I could see your link was to NPR but have been uanble to go back.
      I do remember there was a study that Chris Wallace angrily quoted saying that Fox’s listeners were actually more knowledgeable (that was after one of those late night comic political commentors said Fox listeners were uninformed). I’ve also seen that broken down in the past and some issues that were clearly controversial were treated as if they were the revealed truth – and if a Fox listener didn’t see them that way the listener was seen as ignorant. Perhaps that isn’t true of the one I can’t see – but I suspect it often is.
      I’m always amazed by how little my husband’s colleagues know about issues such as Fast and Furious, I’m sure those relying on the NYT for Libyan coverage can hardly be seen as well informed. I’m especially struck by how few seem to understand the demographic changes that have led to below-replacement childbirth rates. One would think those reaching retirement might have had cause to note that. But they still blithely discuss overpopoulation and how bad having children is. Etc. Etc.

    15. Whitehall Says:

      One really has to wonder at the management of what are, at base, businesses. Are the owners picking managers to fulfill some political agenda, knowing that it will lose money and strangle their investment?

      I can see the owners of the NYT making that choice but most corporate management is beholden to their shareholders who have the right to replace them with someone who will pay dividends.

      I hate to sound conspiratory but are there owners who have other interests, monetary or not, that are served by declining profits from biased reporting?

      Then there’s PBS and NPR, owned by the taxpayers, yet somehow protected.

      Anyway, who needs any of them anymore?

    16. Jim Miller Says:

      Whitehall – Medved claims — and he has more than a little Hollywood experience — that the Hollywood insiders tend to be nerdy guys who are trying to impress the beautiful girls, by having politically correct opinions.

      With news organizations, it’s not clear to me whether there is a single explanation. Sometimes you get a leftist heir (Sulzberger, Blethen), sometimes you recruit from the J-schools, which are not particularly open to ideas from the center or the right, and often, I think, you start producing for your peers, rather than your customers.

      (I am no expert on the subject, but I suspect something like the last happened in jazz, which explains why it is so less popular than it once was. The musicians started playing for each other, instead of audiences.)

    17. renminbi Says:

      The Journalistic product has always been crap, but here was no internet to point it out. See for further confirmation:

      http://paul.kedrosky.com/archives/2011/07/the-gell-mann-amnesia-effect.html

      If you buy any physical object there is usually a standard to judge it by. The journalist is selling something much less tangible and you are not often in a position to judge the story he is telling. How do you know that what happened in ,say, Kinshasa actually happened? People do an honest job when they have to. The TV or car that breaks down tells its story. And the journalistic fairy tale slips by because the false meme causes no immediate pain to its consumer.

    18. Sgt. Mom Says:

      “Playing for each other, instead of audiences.” – That was the ukase of Medved’s argument in Hollywood vs America (http://www.amazon.com/Hollywood-America-How–Why–Entertainment/dp/0060924357/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1348616916&sr=1-1&keywords=medved%2Bhollywood+vs+america )

      – that the entertainment moguls were making films to appeal to each other, rather than to ordinary Americans. Say what you might about the old Hollywood studio system, they knew what appealed to the mass audience, they had to sometimes make convoluted work-arounds to get the point across, and they never, ever stamped on the traditions valued by that audience, and they turned out enough movies in a season that a single mass-audience winner would cover the costs of nine other so-so productions. (And a good few of those so-so movies proved to be successes in the long run.) It’s sad and pathetic what Hollywood has become – almost as sad as the legacy news media. Not to distract anybody off-thread; this post is about the legacy news media, not legacy Hollywood.)

    19. renminbi Says:

      Whitehall:
      By being such suckups to the NY political establishment, the NYT was able to get, by eminent domain, cheap land for their new headquarters. These people are really vile.

    20. pst314 Says:

      “Talk radio, especially Limbaugh, was another major force in injecting partisanship into news reporting….”

      Um, no. That’s a very strange assertion. The rot preceded the rise of talk radio. In fact, the success of Rush Limbaugh and conservative talk radio in general was due to the fact that conservatives were largely locked out of the mainstream news and the reporting was very much biased to the left, with stories generally given a leftward spin and many “inconvenient” stories simply not reported.

    21. Mike K Says:

      “Say what you might about the old Hollywood studio system, they knew what appealed to the mass audience, they had to sometimes make convoluted work-arounds to get the point across, and they never, ever stamped on the traditions valued by that audience, and they turned out enough movies in a season that a single mass-audience winner would cover the costs of nine other so-so productions.”

      Which has a lot to do with my taste in movies, mostly old ones like Casablanca which I have watched 100 times and that’s not counting since college. I do like a few recent films, like Forrest Gump, Murphy’s Romance, Absence of Malice, Robin Hood (both 1938 and 2010 versions), anything Kevin Kline is in, Sinatra and Bogart to go back to the dead white men. I also like almost anything Denzel Washington is in, especially Devil in a Blue Dress, and Training Day. Clint Eastwood is, of course, on my list. Kenneth Branaugh is another I almost always watch. I have a large collection of DVDs and cycle them every month or two.

      What I especially miss is the character actors the studio system supported.

    22. Bill Brandt Says:

      When you think that CNN pioneered cable news – they were ridiculed for years by the “Big 3″ (not so big any more) as the “Chicken Noodle Network” – today they have at best 500,000-600,000 viewers – latecomer Fox News swarfs NBC/CBS/ABC, MS-NBC is miniscule (I mean when you hear – who is that blond woman – Mika somebody) ridiculing Republicans on Letterman – is this an “objective” “jolurnalist”

      I was thinking today that for many – including the “Gray Lady” their brand is irretrievably tarnished.

      The LA Times – circulation 500,000? Out of the LA Basin (I am sure 10 million people)

      Every news organization, by being comprised of people, is “biased” one way or the other – but the MSM makes no effort at even being objective

    23. Bill Brandt Says:

      Mike_K – I have developed an interestin in Classic Hollywood and asd you said they would use the “shotgun” approach to making movies – not know what would be a hit they cranked out a lot of them.

      Sure they had some big budget – like GWTW – but it is amazing – some of the most treasured movies today – like Casablanca – were just cranked out.

      I have a friend who is a true cinamaphile; we are currently going through the 10 movies Fred Astair made with Ginger Rogers.

      I can tell you the music that came out of them – like The Contentental – is still enjoyed 80 years later.

      And you know something else? They made you feel good. Made at the height of the Depression people went to the theater to escape their problems for a time – they never denigrated the audience. Some of the sets are laughable by today’s standards but the acting and music punch through that deficiency.

      They are still making them like they used to – just far fewer.

      Go see the latest Clint Eastwood movie, Trouble With the Curve

      We were talking about this – there is a scene where Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake go “skinny dipping” – but guess what? Justin just strips to his underwear as does Amy – now your typical Hollywood schlocky director would want the audience to see Justin’s butt and Amy’s boobs – but not necessary to the writing or enjoyment.

    24. grey eagle Says:

      In the 50s the FCC regulated the TV stations using the ‘fairness doctrine’. The FCC licenced stations to use the public airways. The station kept irs license if it provided programming that was ‘fair and balanced’. In those days there were only 3 or 4 networks that provided national news and programming (eg ‘My Mother the Car”). This allowed the networks to control local programming because the locals simply didn’t have the money to do expensive programs.

      Cable TV spread slowly – but it slowly took programming off the public airwaves and set it free from FCC control. The ‘fairness doctrine’ was forgotten and national network news was controlled by college educated managers with degrees in women’s studies, race relations, anti-colonialism, etc. and soon the nation was segmented by victimhood. A classless nation suddenly discoverd it had classes.

      Cable companies started in the 60s and slowly grew. Many were locally owned but gradually these locals were bought by major monopolies. The monopoly laws were not enforced. Laws were passed at the state and federal levels to protect these cable monopolies. The cable monopolies attracted foreign investors with political ideals that were under-represented in 50s TV. Today. the biggest investors control cable programming and determine what we watch by limiting our choices.

    25. Joe Citizen Says:

      “CNN pioneered cable news – … – today they have at best 500,000-600,000 viewers – latecomer Fox News swarfs NBC/CBS/ABC”

      ????

      Nightly news audiences:

      NBC – 8.75 million
      ABC – 7.82 million
      CBS – 5.97 million
      PBS – 1.1 million

      Cable Prime Time audience averages

      Fox – 1.8 million
      MSNBC – 811,000
      CNN – 425,000

      you were right about CNN at least…
      Maybe I just don’t understand what you mean by “swarf”

    26. Ginny Says:

      There’s a lot to be said for working together, working daily – those film noirs were cheap even by the standards of those days but the dialogue was often witty, the characters had depth – I think it’s kind of the (is it Gladwell?) 10,000 hours, the Beatles in Germany effect

      I think a lot of people felt the news wasn’t . . . well, honest. The thirties had shown them that; in the forties it was dishonest, perhaps, but you cut them slack – we’re at war. But by the time Limbaugh started, fly-over country was beginning to think – those people don’t know me and I suspect they don’t like me.

    27. TMLutas Says:

      Joe Citizen – Read your poll more carefully, it does not show what you claim it shows. Both FOX and MSNBC show a marked difference in conservative vs liberal knowledge based on viewing just that station. Ask yourself what kind of conservative is *just* watching MSNBC and what kind of liberal is *just* watching FOX? In reality these are no news consumption people who are captive audiences at work. You would expect that watching an ideologically hostile news station would lead you to discount all the news there and *that* is what you’re picking up on. Add a little question bias (I’m betting that there wasn’t a fast and furious question) to tilt things to the left and you pretty much have predictable results. It would be interesting to see how much they oversampled the Republicans and what the error bars are on those cross tabs.

      You really ought to look at the news bias studies that Lichter Rothman have been doing since at least the 1970s. They’ve shown consistent left wing bias long before Murdoch appeared on the US scene.

    28. seaninsf Says:

      Sad. I’m liberal by international standards (which means I consider Obama a conservative, certainly too conservative for my taste), but used to read this site years ago. I’ve always liked to hear from people who disagree with me – one might actually learn something new that way.

      I’m revisiting it again after a number of years and the quality of the posts and discussion is not quite what it used to be. Stale ideas, scared conservatives clutching their pearls and clinging to their pieties in a hermetically sealed bubble. I’m not sure the America you believe in ever existed, but the one you have has passed you by.

    29. TMLutas Says:

      Seaninsf – Welcome back, sorry you haven’t found what you were looking for. I am puzzled by what you mean a liberal by international standards. Among my international friends, liberal generally means something quite different than what it means in america. Are you saying that you’re in accord with the liberal international?

    30. pst314 Says:

      “In the 50s the FCC regulated the TV stations using the ‘fairness doctrine’. The FCC licenced stations to use the public airways. The station kept irs license if it provided programming that was ‘fair and balanced’.”

      It’s important to note that the ‘fairness doctrine’ was used to eliminate conservative voices from the airwaves. In fact, that what it was invented for, as some liberals have proudly admitted.

    31. pst314 Says:

      seaninsf “Sad. I’m liberal…but used to read this site years ago…I’m revisiting it again after a number of years and the quality of the posts and discussion is not quite what it used to be. Stale ideas, scared conservatives clutching their pearls and clinging to their pieties in a hermetically sealed bubble. I’m not sure the America you believe in ever existed, but the one you have has passed you by.”

      A quick google search shows that your previous comments (going back to 2010) tended to be high on condescension and BS talking points, and very low on serious thought. Too bad you haven’t improved.

    32. grey eagle Says:

      pst314 – You are correct. In ‘the good old days’, The media irrationally favored Kennedy over Nixon, Johnson over Goldwater, Stevenson over Eisenhower, drove Nixon from office, favored Carter over Reagan.

      In those days Americans paid for their own health care, hospitals were charitable institutions that cared for the weak and helpless. Many charities looked after the poor and less fortunate. But the federal government has pushed these charities aside and political patronage machines have taken over. The poor are allowed to exist and used to please the ruling class.

      Today children across America are underfed and go to bed hungry. When Michelle heard that children passed out in school from hunger, she laughed and said ‘let them eat argula’. And all present at her lawn party laughed. Michelle is very well dressed and has excellent taste.

    33. Polar Bear Says:

      ‘let them eat argula’.

      Heh.

      One talking point that lefties never get tired of is that the right loves hierarchies, while the left cares about individuals. That’s hilariously wrongheaded, considering that it’s the essence of classical liberalism is small government and individual liberty while the left perpetually seeks to impose ever more gargantuan government control over our lives.

      I’m re-reading Jean-Francois Revel’s Last Exit to Utopia, in which he notes that whenever another socialist “experiment” fails disastrously, the left shows little to no genuine concern for the countless lives ruined, but great sympathy for the megalomaniacs whose progressive dreams came to naught–and a deep loathing for those who pointed out why the left was wrong.

    34. pst314 Says:

      That should have been signed “pst314″, not “polar bear”.

    35. Bill Brandt Says:

      Pst314 – when I was in Australia I learned that the term “liberal” is quite different from here – there I think it is more of what it should be – as libertarian – here it has morphed into a big statist – group collective solves all society’s woes – I think too that when yet another massive experiment fails (any ready to cede LBJs “War On Poverty?) – as you say no concern for lives ruined – think of how the black family has changed – but the fact that “good intentions” count for everything while results – read lack of positive – are not important

    36. The Sanity Inspector Says:

      It seems to me that many big-time reporters simply no longer believe in the simple yet vital mission of their profession: Keep the public informed. They instead feel called to instruct the public what to believe. “In a recent poll, a surprising 45% of registered voters…” Why not let me decide whether or not to be surprised?

    37. Mike K Says:

      ” Stale ideas, scared conservatives clutching their pearls and clinging to their pieties in a hermetically sealed bubble. I’m not sure the America you believe in ever existed, but the one you have has passed you by.”

      Amusing but ill informed. The blog sites that will quickly delete disagreeing comments are on the left. Hermetically sealed indeed.

    38. Joe Citizen Says:

      “…in Australia I learned that the term “liberal” is quite different from here – there I think it is more of what it should be – as libertarian – here it has morphed into a big statist – group collective solves all society’s woes…”

      That is not what “liberal” means in America, except in the caricature that so many rightwingers carry around in their heads.

      The term has evolved however, from the classical definition – because we in America went through the Industrial Revolution and the Great Depression. Modern liberalism represents a classical liberalism that has been mugged by reality, to coin a phrase. Experiencing the utter disaster that unregulated capitalism delivers (along with great wealth creation) inspired the development of a modified liberalism – one that recognizes and institutionalizes a role for government as a policing force regulating markets, as an institution that can carry forth projects that are socially desirable yet outside the profit window of private enterprises, and as a provider of a safety net for all those “labor assets” are not capable of being productive in the free market.

      This represents one of America’s great gifts to the world. When nations around the world were struggling to find some system that alleviated or avoided the problems that unregulated capitalism delivered, the US, in the first half of the 20th century, was able to forge this balance. I think that one could interpret much of 20th century history as a long series of experiments trying out sociopolitical systems that could solve the problems of pure capitalism.

      We happened upon the best solution. Y’all should be proud of that.

    39. Bill Brandt Says:

      We happened upon the best solution. Y’all should be proud of that.

      Proud of that? When the government (more specifically a vast army of bureaucrats) regulates everything from the amount of water a washing machine can use to – since 1968 – becoming a “co-partner” in automobile design (eg, tire pressure sensors just to pick one item out of 1000s)

      A friend of mine – from Hong Kong – came here when he was 20 with nothing and we were remarking on the irony of Hong Kong still being one of the most capitalistic areas while the US is falling way down the list.

      The more government involves itself in the decicision making of providing goods and services, the more they inhibit the process of offering those goods and services.

      Is some intervention necessary?

      Of course –

      But it has gone way over the line.

      Witness the vast migration of companies out of California for friendlier climates.

      Imagine trying to build a Golden Gate Bridge today. Think it could be done in 3 years, as it was once done?

    40. TMLutas Says:

      Joe Citizen – The Great Depression was filled with economic nonsense and flim flam operators. We’ve progressed a bit beyond the Phillips curve (which held that you can’t simultaneously reduce inflation and unemployment) in the 1980s when we actually reduced both inflation and unemployment at the same time. Some of us have even progressed past the Great Society to absorb that it front loaded some progress at the cost of destroying subsequent progress. Liberals haven’t, of course. They’re still stuck in the days of the New Deal when we were competing against the Red and Black flim flammers. It would be sad, if it wasn’t so dangerous.

    41. grey eagle Says:

      “. Experiencing the utter disaster that unregulated capitalism delivers (along with great wealth creation) inspired the development of a modified liberalism – one that recognizes and institutionalizes a role for government as a policing force regulating markets, as an institution that can carry forth projects that are socially desirable yet outside the profit window of private enterprises, and as a provider of a safety net for all those “labor assets” are not capable of being productive in the free market.”

      What a beautiful restatement of Vladimir Ilych Ulianov’s New Economic Policy. A plan which the Chinese government is currently implementing and which will reach completion next year! He would be proud of you.

    42. Mike K Says:

      I try not to use the term”liberal” for what is really leftist thinking. Fascist is a more accurate term for what Obama is creating but the term is too loaded with historical baggage to use.

      “Sure they had some big budget – like GWTW – but it is amazing – some of the most treasured movies today – like Casablanca – were just cranked out.”

      I have several books on movies and one on Casablanca is the best. It’s called Round up the Usual Suspects and describes a number of coincidences that made the movie the classic it is. Even the ending was an afterthought.

      Depression movies were popular on TV in the early days when I was a college student and they had little material to fill the day. That’s when Casablanca really became famous all over again and movies like “Topper” got new fans. I have a collection of Bill Powell Thin Man films, for example. Also, My Man Godfrey, which has a theme similar to modern social justice movies but does it with style and is entertaining. I still remember some that I loved but can’t find because I can’t remember the titles. A common theme was sort of like Superman, a Depression era comic, in that the hero was disguised as a bum. Clark Gable did that well in “It Happened One Night.”

    43. Helian Says:

      Duranty and Reed were hardly the only ones “prettifying” totalitarian regimes back in the 30′s. I just posted an article on my blog about two examples of the genre that appeared in a single copy of the Atlantic Monthly back in 1934, one by Vincent Sheean, an apologist for the Communists, and the other by William Orton, an apologist for the Nazis. Orton was a professor of economics at Smith who continued as such after the war, and apparently never suffered the slightest inconvenience for his panegyric of Hitler. However, Sheean was a “mainstream media” journalist of the day who was a very entertaining writer. His books, such as “Not Peace but a Sword” and “Personal History” are still easy to come by, and are interesting documents of the time. He was something of a prototype for the mainstream media journalists of today. He saw the world in terms of good guys and bad guys, and himself as a knight in shining armor on a mission to rescue the downtrodden of the world. This inspired him to write alibis for Stalin and the Communists, the greatest mass murderers of all times.

      I doubt media bias is worse today than it was back in 1934, but people are certainly more aware of it. IMHO we have the emergence of powerful alternative voices to thank for this, such as Rush Limbaugh et. al. on talk radio, influential bloggers like Instapundit, and Fox News. Together they smashed the mainstream media monopoly of what Karl Marx might have called the social means of communication. Such counterweights don’t exist in much of Europe, and as a result the slant there is more extreme, and taken seriously by a much greater number of people. I can only laugh when the Europeans say their version of “freedom of the press” is better than ours.

    44. tyouth Says:

      Re-poisoning the pool yet again: At the UN, BHO said amongst other things, that the “future must not rest with those who slander the prophet of Islam”.

      “….that line appeared almost nowhere in the old media where Obama’s supposed defense of free speech dominated. The broadcast networks ignored it and only Jake Tapper noted that Team Obama had also tried to get the video pulled from YouTube for violation of “terms of use.” The New York Times skipped the line, ironically in an article headlined: “Obama Tells U.N. New Democracies Need Free Speech.”

      If you wanted a clear indication that few news outlets are even ware conservatives exist, this was it.”

      http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/09/26/media-ignore-obama-attack-on-those-who-slander-prophet-islam/

      Another example, another chilling example, of public information manipulation, not the least troubling of which is the O. administration moving to censor youtube.

      Of course, the problem could be that FOX is just too damn anti-liberal or something.

    45. Joe Citizen Says:

      What is wrong with denouncing people who engage in slander?

    46. pst314 Says:

      “The term has evolved however, from the classical definition…”

      Uh, no. The left hijacked the term, in keeping with its long tradition of corrupting language and culture.

    47. grey eagle Says:

      Actually some rulers prefer cutting out tongues. And cuttinf off hands. Rulers hate sign language and people who write stuff. And there is very little that is written that is not slanderous to some one.

      Some rulers makes life interesting.

    48. Jonathan Says:

      Tyouth,

      I caught that. Even without that remark Obama’s speech was craven and tactically foolish for its moral equivalence and masturbatory emphasis on the supposed anti-Islam video.

    49. tyouth Says:

      Joe, your assumed (or pretended) obtuseness is exceeded very much by your actual obtuseness that you don’t begin to be conscious of.

    50. Gringo Says:

      Joe Citizen:
      What is wrong with denouncing people who engage in slander?

      Bear in mind that according to the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood or C.A.I.R., any criticism of Islam is tantamount to slander. When the standards of what the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood or C.A.I.R. consider to be slander are applied to other forms of speech, you will understand.

      Consider the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where criticism of Islam is not taken lightly. Churches and temples of religions other than Islam are not permitted in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

      Do you believe that KSA standards of free speech should be applied to the US- with KSA standards of “slander of Islam” applied to the US ?

    51. Joe Citizen Says:

      Gringo,

      Why are you concerned with what the Muslim Brotherhood’s definition of slander is? Or the KSA? Are you one of those who are searching for Muslims underneath your bed?

      Relax. Obama is not a Muslim. Sharia is not creeping up on our shorelines. All those who have invested so much in scaring you about some cultural invasion by the Moooslims are either nutjobs or pushing some other agenda.

    52. pst314 Says:

      “What is wrong with denouncing people who engage in slander?”

      and

      “Why are you concerned with what the Muslim Brotherhood’s definition of slander is?”

      Then explain yourself. What slander do you think needs denouncing?

    53. Joe Citizen Says:

      I think it is perfectly legitimate and responsible for the President to engage in diplomacy – and in this particular case that entails sending a very clear message to a billion or so people that the US government does not support or condone the gratuitous insulting of that which those people hold sacred, even as we stand firm on the principle of freedom of speech.

      Obama found the perfect balance in the UN speech.

      I find it so amusing that the same people who, as Americans, live in the most powerful country on earth – by some large exponent – and who live in one of the most dynamic and robust cultures in the world – and yet are scared to death about the encroaching mosquitoes from a stagnant culture on the other side of the world – these same people seem not to understand how those on the other side could actually be terrified to death of us. They have good reason to be. We are the ones who could, if we felt the need, obliterate them in ten minutes. We are the ones whose culture is actually, really, seeping into every corner of THEIR lives, and there is not much they can do about it.

      The real effect that Islam has in America is indistinguishable from zero. Our effect on them is considerable. Are we a hostile force? Do we hold all of them in contempt? Is it actually a rational decision for a loyal Muslim to consider us an existential threat?

      When you get beyond just mouthing off, and actually have responsibilities, say – you are the President of the United States – you realize that it is very much in America’s interest that these questions be answered accurately. George Bush certainly understood that – at least in his better moments. And Obama is doing what is very much in our national interest.

    54. Gringo Says:

      Joe Citizen
      Gringo,Why are you concerned with what the Muslim Brotherhood’s definition of slander is? Or the KSA?

      The Muslim Brotherhood and the KSA said the film slandered Islam. Obama agreed. Need I say more?

      Please show me where Obama has openly disagreed with Muslim Brotherhood’s definitions of slander of Islam. Or with the KSA’s definitions of slander, for that matter. Seems to me he is simply parroting them. Has me made a similar statement about those who slander Christianity? Don’t thi9nk so.

      Are you one of those who are searching for Muslims underneath your bed?

      For the last five years I didn’t need to look under my bed for Muslims, as there was one living two doors down from me in my condo. We served on the condo board together for two years. He has since moved up and bought a better place. I found your question rather stupid.

      The Muslim Brotherhood is in power in Egypt. For anyone who claims that the Muslim Brotherhood is “moderate,” I refer you to Sayyid Qutb, who found Greeley, Colorado to be a den of iniquity, where, horror of horrors, single men and women DANCED together.

      There is good reason to be wary of the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood and C.A.I.R.

      The real effect that Islam has in America is indistinguishable from zero.
      After 9/11 you state this.

      My final comment to CitizenJoe.

    55. Mike K Says:

      “The real effect that Islam has in America is indistinguishable from zero.
      After 9/11 you state this.

      My final comment to CitizenJoe.”

      He hasn’t heard about Fort Hood and a few other incidents where Islam had a bit more effect.

      I’m taking a DoD course on terrorism and I am impressed that they do include Fort Hood as terrorism and not “workplace violence” as Joe no doubt believes.

    56. Joe Citizen Says:

      The fact that some muslims murder some people does not equate to Islam constituting a threat to American culture.

    57. Joe Citizen Says:

      “…I didn’t need to look under my bed for Muslims, as there was one living two doors down from me in my condo….I found your question rather stupid.”

      Backatcha Mr. Gringo. The reference was quite obviously to your fear of “muslim standards” of free speech infecting the American soul, not good normal muslim Americans on your condo board.
      But you knew that….