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LOLCATS, LOLBREAD, LOLCIRCUSES, or a Republic, if you can keep it
July 28, 2007 2:07 PM   Subscribe

"Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters' Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all." CBS News said, let's give Oscar the Grim Reaper Cat 349% more ink than FBI Director Mueller contradicting Attorney General Gonzales's testimony. Media Matters asks, "There are very real and very serious questions about whether the United States is currently a fully functional republic.... Isn't it time news organizations devote more resources to exploring these issues -- even if it means fewer stories about cats and cleavage?" Has Stupor Killed the Fourth Estate? Was James Fallows that the Media Undermine[s] American Democracy?
posted by orthogonality (101 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Lolbread?
posted by delmoi at 2:21 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


"There are very real and very serious questions about whether the United States is currently a fully functional republic..."

*blink*

That's a serious question? They can't be serious.

Where's this 'Media Matters' thing been the past four decades or so?

The U.S. hasn't been fully functional as long as I been alive.

As for being a republic, the first time a politcian is bought by special interest groups, you have a corporate oligarchy, not a democratic republic. When dollars are more valuable than votes, you don't have a republic, fully functional or not.

I been saying this for years and nobody listens.
posted by ZachsMind at 2:21 PM on July 28, 2007 [10 favorites]


Don't ask us, ask the advertisers.
posted by furtive at 2:25 PM on July 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


I been saying this for years and nobody listens.

Well, that's your problem right there. Get a semen stained dress or a talking tortilla chip sporting the face of Christ to say it and you're golden.

That's pretty much the principle behind Michael Moore's entire oeuvre, isn't it?
posted by felix betachat at 2:28 PM on July 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm in ur dementia ward, portending ur demise


Oh wait, this isn't about the cat?
posted by Spacelegoman at 2:31 PM on July 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


I know I'd pay more attention to the news if there were more stories about cleavage.
posted by now i'm piste at 2:31 PM on July 28, 2007


Uh, it's not "ink" when it's on-air. Otherwise, interesting. As "customers," we (the millions and millions, not just you and me) get the news coverage we demand.
posted by Robert Angelo at 2:43 PM on July 28, 2007


It seems to me that the majority of Americans are just waiting for Bush's time in office to run out, because they're quite sure they won't be able to impeach him. Since he can't be re-elected, there's this incredible apathy about how much damage he can really do in the next year and a half.

After all, the incoming president will fix everything, right?
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:46 PM on July 28, 2007


Is the cat ok?
posted by YoBananaBoy at 2:47 PM on July 28, 2007


Uh yeah, this particular clue-train left the station round about 1976: Network.
posted by scheptech at 2:47 PM on July 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


The cat is fine (too).
posted by mendel at 2:48 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


I always confuse the fourth estate with the fifth column.
posted by tula at 2:54 PM on July 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


Wow. I hadn't heard about that cat. That's weird how it always goes to the bedsides of people who are going to die.
posted by koeselitz at 2:58 PM on July 28, 2007 [4 favorites]


The problem with addressing the media as "the media" is that it pretends that the media is self directed and not in the control of the interests that own it and not beholden to the advertisers that fund it. Media watchdog groups that do nothing but point to example of the crap that floats up in the media pool aren't really addressing the problem. The problem is not the media, the problem is the corporations that run the media, the people who run the corporations who believe that the world exists solely for their purposes and the politicians who take their money in return political favors. Any realistic suggestion on how to break that chain, beyond vote (that hasn't really worked so far) and vote with your wallet (certainly a good idea but too little too late), is very welcome.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:59 PM on July 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


Uh yeah, this particular clue-train left the station round about 1976: Network.

OK, this is only partially true.

Media criticism is not new. But there has been a marked decline in media quality in the time that I've been adult (from around 1990 to now). The difference in coverage between Gulf War I and Gulf War II is fucking stupendous. Ditto the difference in tone and tenor of coverage around George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton contrasted with George W. Bush. Again, a fucking stupendous difference.

A decline worth talking about.

And yes, we've had corrupt and screwed up governments in the past, but our current government is pushing the envelope. That's debatable, yes: is it the same-old, same-old, this Bush admin. corruption? Or is it something more drastic?

The question can't simply be dismissed out of hand, as most are doing when they say something along the lines of: 'duh, I know it all sucks. newb'

Ditto the media argument. Things sure seem to have gotten much worse in the last decade, there's a solid argument to show that, AND that's combined with a government that is pushing corruption and malfeasance to a new level.

How be talk about that?

Case in point: the last time the executive pretended it could ignore congressional subpoenas, every single Republican voted to call that criminal, even though that Republican executive was headed by Saint Ronnie. On the recent conference committee meeting about that question, it was 22-17. And Republicans don't really even like Bush any more.

This is the same old, same old?

The media ignoring Nixon-level corruption, on dozens of levels concurrently, is the same-old, same-old? I'm not buying it. It may be a difference of (significant) degree, but it's not always been this way, at least not in my memory.

When I heard media criticism arguments in the 1980s, they were mostly hypothetical, and often seen as a bit alarmist. The difference today is that the hypothetical is a reality, and a much more insidious and dangerous one than I heard talked about by media critics in the 1980s.
posted by teece at 3:00 PM on July 28, 2007 [19 favorites]


but you're missing the whole point. it's a cat that can predict when someone is about to die!
posted by cazoo at 3:01 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Is this where we start making Soylent Green out of people?
posted by b1tr0t at 3:01 PM on July 28, 2007


First Strike
Second Helping
Third Base
Fourth Estate
Fifth Column
Sixth Sense
Seventh Heaven
Eight Is Enough and
With Nine You Get Eggroll.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:02 PM on July 28, 2007 [5 favorites]


I'd say seanmpuckett pretty much nails it. Americans are apathetic at this point, just waiting things out. After the last two presidential elections, I think most Americans have lost faith in the democratic process as well. America is a fully dysfunctional republic at this point.
posted by Sailormom at 3:02 PM on July 28, 2007 [2 favorites]



Mark Danner has written very perceptively about what he calls The Age of Frozen Scandal

While the media has certainly become ever-more obsessed with personality rather than policy and fluff rather than substance, I think a rather deep set learned helplessness has set in as a result of doing exposes that go nowhere.

Arianna Huffington has said the MSM have ADD while the blogs have OCD. Well, OCD traditionally led to change (ie, Watergate stories until the President resigned)-- and it no longer does so. Insane wrongdoing--lying into war, torture for goodness sake, all manner of corruption and abuse of power-- and the perpetrators get promoted, not punished. Impeachment is off the table because it was used for partisan purposes last time-- so no matter what this guy does, he gets a pass on the "no tit for tat" principle.

Because both the media and its audience feels powerless as a result, cats, cleavage and Lindsay are a compelling distraction and if the audience wants it, we're going to serve it. As a journalist myself, I can't tell you how frustrating it is to do exposes that would have once led to change (not necessarily successful change, but at least an attempt to address the problem), but now go nowhere.
posted by Maias at 3:03 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


From the movie "Broadcast News" (1987):

(...) we first encounter Jane lecturing a clearly apathetic conference audience about the slipping standards of network news. As they begin to head for the exits, she tries to win them back by showing them a tape of a story carried by every major network on the night of a roundly ignored piece of crucial legislation. The tape shows a massive (and presumably record-breaking) domino run, complete with all manner of spectacular pyrotechnics, and, in the film’s first of many moments of bittersweet comedy, the departing audience turns to watch -- not indignant and upset as Jane had hoped, but rapt and entertained, all oohs, aahs and applause, only to turn again and finish their exodus as soon as the tape ends. This, in essence, is the film’s message: the triumph of style over substance, the lowering of standards."

Se also this (Youtube link).
posted by iviken at 3:04 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Is this a banhammer before me, the handle towards my hand?
posted by dw at 3:07 PM on July 28, 2007


The example in the article though-- the difference between the coverage of Watergate and the coverage of today's outrages-- holds. I remember Watergate; the Washington Post helped to bring Nixon down. There was a sense, at least for me, that sanity and civil standards eventually prevailed-- that the idea of the integrity of justice was actually real.

Of course compared to Bush/Cheney, Nixon looks like a rank amateur.
posted by jokeefe at 3:13 PM on July 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


Maybe the media will start paying attention if/when Oscar the Grim Reaper Cat starts circling Abu Gonzales' bed.
posted by Poolio at 3:19 PM on July 28, 2007


and from this very important post will come...nothing. Or perhaps a bit more of that feeling of disconnect, that twinge of frustration, that passing wave of despair.

And then it's on to the latest YouTube link.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:29 PM on July 28, 2007


"compared to Bush/Cheney, Nixon looks like a rank amateur"

It goes deeper than that. Compared to the presidents who did as much or more than Bush or Nixon but didn't get caught, Bush looks either like an amateur, or a guy who is so blatant and obviously NOT hiding it that he knows nobody can touch him and he doesn't care. My money's on the latter. Bush & Cheney aren't amateurs, but they didn't really seem to cover their tracks very well, if at all. They're like bulls in a china shop.

I'm not saying Bush or Nixon are the only bad eggs in the line of presidents. I think every president at least since Roosevelt and perhaps before that, is dirty. They're probably all dirty. You don't become president of the US for that paltry yearly salary because you're as noble and lucky as Harry Potter. You make it there cuz you're the best backstabber, and you had the wealthiest friends.

The difference is, Bush and Nixon forgot to wash their red hands before they left the restroom.

Nixon goofed. He got sloppy. He was an amateur.

Bush uses ignorance as an excuse, but I think he knows exactly what he's doing. By the time he's done, the next president will not have the power to fix the mess. Bush is no amateur, but cleaning up after himself is just not very high on his priority list. It's like he wants everyone to see what he's doing to us, to what he's committing this country.

I think he read the last book of the New Testament, and the Left Behind series of books, or maybe his wife did and gave him a summary of it over dinner, and I think Bush wants to write himself into those books. I think he wants to make the End Times happen - he wants to be instrumental in forcing his God's hand and initiating The Second Coming.

That makes him worse than an amateur. That makes him a frightening lunatic.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:32 PM on July 28, 2007 [3 favorites]


The difference in coverage between Gulf War I and Gulf War II is fucking stupendous

The difference is that the corporate suits running media empires were taking notes as CNN made shedloads of sweet cash delivering video & stories from the former 24/7.

How can Big Media not resist pushing the Big Story? Action! Drama! History in the Making!

All funded by the taxpayers of the future -- all the media produces need is hairspray, a safari suit, and a video camera.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:40 PM on July 28, 2007


It is not our media/government/ country anymore. It has been taken over by corporations/republicans/ shape changing lizards. I know already. What I don't know is what can we DO about it. Despair.
posted by haikuku at 3:41 PM on July 28, 2007


if the audience wants it, we're going to serve it

Not exactly. The Media for all intents is/are owned solely by profit making entities, whose actual customers are other corporate entities, not human beings, citizens. And these customers, of course, are only interested in reaching citizens willing to sit through endless adverts for panty liners and beer. They're not interested in serving people who would rather spend time thinking about what's going on in the world than about hair care.
posted by scheptech at 3:47 PM on July 28, 2007


"compared to Bush/Cheney, Nixon looks like a rank amateur"

No, Bush and Nixon where working together.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:47 PM on July 28, 2007


That makes him a frightening lunatic

Bush is no lunatic. He's just a guy rolling the dice with OPM, trying to keep the shiny side up and the rubber on the road, his Republican buddies at Hoover, Manhattan, Heritage, AEI, AIPAC , PNAC, etc etc in control, and the the bad guys (lefties/militant athiests/abortionists/pacifists) marginalized as much as possible.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:51 PM on July 28, 2007


Maybe if we all went outside at noon everyday and screamed "HELP!".
posted by haikuku at 3:57 PM on July 28, 2007


Okay, so maybe that is a dumb idea. But I am frustrated. I vote, I write, I call, I sign petitions, I send money, I pray, I stand on the street with a sign. I don't think any of it makes any differance. What do we do? It's my country too dammit.
posted by haikuku at 4:09 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hello? Hello? Okay fine. Let's talk about the damn cat.
posted by haikuku at 4:12 PM on July 28, 2007


See also: Al Gore - Media and Democracy
See also: Noal Chomsky - Class Warfare (the section about anitpolitcs)
posted by blue_beetle at 4:14 PM on July 28, 2007


if the audience wants it, we're going to serve it

Except that the audiences for news in print, and on the radio and tv, have been turning away from it more and more each year, and turning online for real news. The people don't want celebunews, or pundits telling us what to think about everything--we can get that everywhere else. The people are way way way ahead of both the mainstream media and elected officials by every single measure. Until and unless the media stops covering for GOP crimes, and starts giving them the coverage they deserve, they will continue to decline and fall. They're already losing revenue fast, and will continue to do so.

The people want truth. They want to see "Gonzales Lies at Congressional Hearing", not "Democrats Accuse Gonzales of Lying". They want to see "Bush Lies About Al Qaeda for 27th day in a row", not "Some Disagree With Bush's Al Qaeda Focus". ....
posted by amberglow at 4:15 PM on July 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


What do we do? It's my country too dammit.

Shut up and shop. Is Dick Cheney gonna have to choke a bitch?
posted by nasreddin at 4:16 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


There was a quote recently sourced in an AskMe thread: "If you lead people to think that they're thinking, they'll love you. If you actually make them think, they'll hate you."

The republic dies because its ideals: that the free market is the final arbiter of what is right and good in all things, that man prospers best when he is left alone - are the same qualities that so poorly serve those who need it most.

You cannot have a informed public served best by a media beholden to advertisers. The public wants big-titted, shiny, fast, violent and loud. They have to be coaxed, convinced and cajoled to accept anything else. In the myopic battle between money and quality, money will win every time. The only way to solve it is to divorce money from the equation as much as possible.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 4:19 PM on July 28, 2007


Shut up and shop. Is Dick Cheney gonna have to choke a bitch?
posted by nasreddin at 4:16 PM on July 28 [+] [!]


the neat thing about Cheney is that a man with his medical problems is not doing it for money or fame, or even power... that damn cat's been meowing at his door for years. Dick Cheney does what he does because he thinks it's the right thing to do.
posted by geos at 4:26 PM on July 28, 2007


Well, I don't have any money, that would account for my bitchy attitude. ( Answers knock at door, choking sounds heard in background)
posted by haikuku at 4:28 PM on July 28, 2007


Let's put a copy of the constitution in Oscar's nursing home and see if he curls up next to it.
posted by namespan at 4:30 PM on July 28, 2007 [7 favorites]


And utter and complete bullshit like this should never ever be run and screamed about in any media until verified: TSA knew 'dry run' terror alerts were bogus (CNN, after making it 5 days of "breaking news"!!!! terror!!!! be afraid!!!! etc, finally decides to check up on the claims)
posted by amberglow at 4:31 PM on July 28, 2007


The public wants big-titted, shiny, fast, violent and loud. They have to be coaxed, convinced and cajoled to accept anything else. In the myopic battle between money and quality, money will win every time. The only way to solve it is to divorce money from the equation as much as possible.

But that's not true for news. Their declining ratings and readerships are proving that over and over and over...
posted by amberglow at 4:34 PM on July 28, 2007


Heywood Mogroot: "Bush is no lunatic"

He believes in a god who thinks it's okay to kill in His name for fun and profit. Or at the very least he's managed to convince just under half of the US that he believes in THEIR god who THEY think thinks it's okay.

"He's just a guy rolling the dice with OPM, trying to keep the shiny side up and the rubber on the road, his Republican buddies at Hoover, Manhattan, Heritage, AEI, AIPAC , PNAC, etc etc in control, and the the bad guys (lefties/militant athiests/abortionists/pacifists) marginalized as much as possible."

If that were really all he was trying to do, there's much easier ways to accomplish that, which wouldn't involve going to war with muslims. I'm telling you his real modus operandi is biblical, radical, and ridiculous. He may not be psychotic but he's certainly sociopathic. Any way you slice it that still makes him a lunatic.

In fact, when wolves howl at the moon, they're being MORE sensible than Bush the loony.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:42 PM on July 28, 2007 [3 favorites]


I bought a new phone which was Internet-ready. Excited, I activated the News option. That fucking Grim Reaper Cat was the splash screen for CNN. There were no other events pictured.

Maybe, as the coverage of the Grim Reaper Cat grows and grows, our society truly does inch closer to death.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:44 PM on July 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


This is what they should be learning from:
TPM Muckraker: Alleged Discriminator Nominated to Employee Discrimination Panel

NYT: nothing
Washington Post: nothing
AP has nothing either.
posted by amberglow at 4:46 PM on July 28, 2007


What do we do? It's my country too dammit.

I'm on my way out (seriously, I am catching a flight tonight) but I think the only thing any average person can do is donate to candidates that don't suck as much (if they can afford it), volunteer where they can when they can politically, and hope to hell that some of the people that get voted in might actually be genuinely motivated to do the things that need doing rather than sit around and collect money and blowjobs from lobbyists and corporations. Maybe get into politics? Write, make art, talk to people. Enlighten those who don't see.

The unfortunate thing is that, while that seems like the best anyone can do, it feels pretty unlikely that it's enough, anymore. The nation is fed by the media, and the media caters to the nation. Entertainment sells, and it's a pretty inescapable feedback mechanism. It's bleak.

Maybe if there were some new legislation dictating that any creative work can only call itself "news" if it stands up to certain criteria of transparency and fact-checking for everything it broadcasts. Would that survive the first amendment though? Hell, would it even survive the ostensibly-democratic congress (assuming a democratic president)?

And would that even work? Fox News would then become Fox Reality, and they'd never use the word "news", and they'd continue being "fair and balanced."

Wow, I can't even type that phrase without wanting to yell and/or hit things.

... turning online for real news. The people don't want celebunews ...

That isn't "the people." That's "the people who regularly use the internet", which is probably significantly less than the 69.7% of the population Nielsen//Netratings calls "users". Not to mention the fact that there's a lot of disparity between various states as to internet use. When it comes down to the howevermany electoral college votes in North Carolina, how many of those voters do you really think use the internet as their primary (or even secondary) news source?

A lot of people just float on through hearing the news on the radio on the way to work, or at work, or flip through newspapers, or have some TV news on during dinner, maybe. A lot of people don't spend that much time online. And a hell of a lot of those people vote.

And some people don't even bother. The only thing declining viewership of TV news necessarily means is that people are watching less TV news. What they're doing with their saved time is not always what you think. You might read a lot of news online – a lot of other people just check their myspace and watch Tay Zonday singing Chocolate Rain. It's the internet, not a magic citzenry-enlightenment machine.
posted by blacklite at 4:53 PM on July 28, 2007


Washington has become Versailles, but instead of pissing in the corners of a glorious palace, the fops, dandies, and country fools being sent to court are pissing on liberty itself. And this cherished "fourth estate" we speak of? It is nothing more than a pot of this piss.
posted by ogre at 4:54 PM on July 28, 2007


Or at the very least he's managed to convince just under half of the US that he believes in THEIR god who THEY think thinks it's okay

Of course. Need I remind you that almost half this country believes humans magically appeared on this planet, ie. we do not share common ancestors with other animals?

These people are functionally stupid, but not "insane" or even sociopaths.

I thought going into Iraq like we did was risky -- the words I used were "fucking insane" actually, but that was just a cost/benefit analysis. I feared the downside of destabilization, having read how things will go sideways at the village level -- that, over the long term, protecting the neck of the vilage chief is just as important as the Minister of Petroleum Exports (but much more difficult).

Part of the problem is the Incompetence Complex that includes not knowing one is incompetent. I am reminded of the Simpson's quote that is in currency right now:

"Why do things that only happen to stupid people keep happening to me?"

The sociopathy from this administration you see directed toward radical muslims I see distributed evenly in a 360-degree arc, lowering income and capital gains taxes, energy policy, privatizing social security, public piety . . . these people are arch-conservatives intent on restructuring society back to the halycon gilded age of the McKinley -era.

They are wrong, but not necessarily evil.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 5:01 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Why do things that only happen in banana-republics keep happening in ours?"
posted by Mick at 5:20 PM on July 28, 2007 [4 favorites]


It's interesting the insistence here that the current state of the media is either the result of a sudden recent change or somehow connected particularly with Bush II. The roots of the media problem in America go back to the founding of the country. America is first entrepreneurial and individualistic, not Christian (as some would have it) and today's media domination by corporate profit-seeking entities reflects that. It's not an anomaly, it's the natural order of things.

Bush, Rove, and Cheney are not lunatics. They're cynics. dangerous, wealthy, powerful cynics who among other things know how to manipulate and cow the media, the lowly sellers of panty liners and beer. To imagine these guys as simply mentally ill is to seriously misread the situation. Their motivation is not something as high-flown as doing kingdom work in the Christian sense, or to act out some sort of mental illness, but only to maintain their wealth and power in the worldly sense.

For their part, and quite independently, the media long ago sold their independence to the highest bidder, an auction that continues to this day in the form of advertising rates and share prices.
posted by scheptech at 5:27 PM on July 28, 2007 [3 favorites]


This is the least crappy post that has had the word Gonzales in it all week.
posted by jessamyn at 6:07 PM on July 28, 2007


Yes, jess, this is definitely the best discussion thread attached to a Gonzales post in a while, and much of the credit goes to ZachsMind, who provided an excellent example of how to lead up to a "OMG BUSH=EVIL" conclusion, which is gradually and incrementally, over several comments. Yes Zach, I for one have been listening to you for years, and while I do not wish to subscribe to your newsletter, I agree with over 80% of what you say (which is one of the highest rates at which I agree with ANYBODY).

On the other hand, jessamyn's wendell-agrees rating has dropped bedlow 50% and comments like that one are a big reason why.
posted by wendell at 6:47 PM on July 28, 2007 [3 favorites]


And need I remind everyone that the cited bad example "death cat" story also made the "front page" here. And with 94 comments, earned the blog-format equivalent of "top stories".
posted by wendell at 6:52 PM on July 28, 2007


...I have a newsletter?

WHY AM I ALWAYS THE LAST ONE TO KNOW ABOUT THESE THINGS???
posted by ZachsMind at 7:02 PM on July 28, 2007


"And need I remind everyone that the cited bad example 'death cat' story also made the 'front page' here. And with 94 comments, earned the blog-format equivalent of 'top stories'."

It did? I had no idea.

Admittedly, it is a very interesting story, especially when it's not just an occasion to "LOLCAT!s", but leads to discussion of animal behavior/cognition.


jessamyn writes "This is the least crappy post that has had the word Gonzales in it all week."

It's not that the "Death Cat" is a worthless story; it's that the Gonzales stories are also important to discuss, if we are citizens in a democracy and not just amusing ourselves to death with ephemeria and trivia and supermarket tabloid fodder. So I'm glad to know from jessamyn there have been several discussion of Gonzales in the Blue this week; for some reason I failed to notice them on the front page.
posted by orthogonality at 7:09 PM on July 28, 2007 [7 favorites]


Every day, we're not learning or being exposed to more and more: A few days ago, Rupert Murdoch's Times of London screamed "A catastrophe with mankind's footprints stamped on it." The Times' more conservative rival, The Telegraph, was more dispassionate, with its headline reading "Man-made global warming increases rainfall." Of course, the left-leaning Guardian also covered the story. Japan's leading daily, Yomiuri Shimbun, had a similar headline. So did the Toronto Star, the Vancouver Sun and The Hindu.
What did The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today have to say about the story? Absolutely nothing. While news organizations around the world were reporting about the "first evidence that human activity has altered rainfall patterns," the vast majority of US news outlets ignored the story. ...

posted by amberglow at 7:15 PM on July 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


as remarked to me by a certain juju jiving madame, they'd be deleting the saturday night massacre posts if this were the nixon era.
posted by quonsar at 7:18 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


> "There are very real and very serious questions about whether the United States is currently a fully functional republic

That must be some kind of polite joke. A court-installed president assigning himself runaway powers and has destroyed an entire country while he opens a sandbox for terrorists and violates the rights of his own people and beyond, with nothing but pure contempt for every democratic process. Yeah, it stopped being a republic a while ago. Now I'm just waiting for the population to actually take its democracy back.
posted by holycola at 7:43 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


So I'm glad to know from jessamyn there have been several discussion of Gonzales in the Blue this week; for some reason I failed to notice them on the front page.

They probably got deleted. More cats, less media criticism, prole.
posted by blacklite at 7:53 PM on July 28, 2007


This is the least crappy post that has had the word Gonzales in it all week.

Take it to Metatalk, lady.

Seriously, the thread is here and not going anywhere—why don't we shunt the discussion of the thread to the open Metatalk threads and let this one be about what it's ostensibly about, yeah?
posted by cortex at 8:02 PM on July 28, 2007 [3 favorites]


This has got to have been posted here before... Bill Moyers 1989 documentary 'The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis' at Google Video.
posted by acro at 8:05 PM on July 28, 2007


Incidentally, I don't know, maybe I can mention it here, but I have been in a bit of a cave recently, and the CNN/Youtube democratic debate was one of the most enjoyable bits of media I've seen in a while. There was no link, or talk about it, anywhere on Metafilter. It seemed like something actually fresh for once, and though the questions weren't stellar – a couple of them made me wince on behalf of Youtube, and CNN fucked up the technical details a couple of times* – some of them were pretty poignant and definitely seemed like things you would never get a Real Life American Reporter to ask a politician. Anderson Cooper was even sort of okay. The candidates seemed almost human. Even Clinton, for a minute.

Now it sounds like the Republican party might refuse to participate in one at all. It doesn't surprise me – one of the thoughts I had while watching was "wow, I wonder what this would be like with Republicans? aw, that'd never happen anyway." But it seems comment-worthy to me. A few writers in various newspapers around the country wrote about how this really felt like the first time in decades that people actually got to talk to politicians. Doesn't sound like something most of the Republican candidates would really want to do these days. Certainly, the internet must be left-biased just like every other media instrument through which people may communicate. Why lower yourselves!?

Anyway, I watched pretty much all of the movies at the Youtube link above, this morning. Biden impressed the hell out of me. I couldn't have picked him out of a lineup before. (Though I do remember his name from past years.)

Maybe, if that debate is any indication, we might be on the verge of some kind of new media synthesis that starts involving real people, and thereby will suck a bit less. Maybe. It gave me hope. I would have posted, because it was interesting, and I think one of the most impressive displays of the political influence of the web, to date, but I couldn't figure out a post about it which wouldn't get deleted.

* - One question about health care was 3 youtube videos. The third of the 3 consisted of music and a man holding signs. CNN had no ability to actually show us the youtube video itself, and so the screen showed a camera pointed at the large projection screen in the debate hall. This is despite the fact that each of the candidates had a small screen in front of them with the same image. I could understand this happening if it was a campus television station, but it was CNN, doing a major event, which they are still replaying five days later as I sit in this airport. Did they let some interns run the entire thing, or what?
posted by blacklite at 8:11 PM on July 28, 2007


blacklite writes "[The Gonzales posts in te Blue] probably got deleted. More cats, less media criticism, prole."

I can't believe that; surely Metafilter's very literate, well-educated, highly engaged membership would have wanted to discuss something of such great import as the appointed Attorney General of the United States perjuring himself to the duly elected representatives of the America people.

I mean, the underming of the rule of law (by the holder of the office charged with upholding that rule of law), the flouting of Congressional oversight and thus the separation of powers, a real threat to the foundations of our democracy, surely there's room for that discussion on Metafilter, among all the breathless updates about the state of Lindsey Lohan's sobriety?

I seem to recall a long discussion here during and after the shock of 9/11, but taking a longer view, if Gonzales has perjured himself (and over events arising from possibly unconstitutional wiretaps, at that), surely that will be seen by historians a generation hence as a far greater watershed moment in our democracy than a shocking, tragic terrorist attack that did not, in itself fundamentally threaten the continuance of our nation and our national democratic institutions? (For comparison, which event 60-some years ago matters more in our history of our democracy: the attack on Pearl Harbor or the internment of US citizens of Japanese descent?)

Surely, if Metafilter discussed 9/11, Metafilter would want to discuss the Gonzales hearings. So I can't imagine such posts would have been deleted. That valuing-entertainment-and-fluff-over-substance is something that CBS News does (which is why I made this post). Not Metafilter.
posted by orthogonality at 8:29 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Metafilter would want to discuss the Gonzales hearings. So I can't imagine such posts would have been deleted.

Non-sequiter. That Mefites want to discuss something is not even vaguely related to whether or not it will be deleted.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:02 PM on July 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


Mendacious \Men*da"cious\, a. [L. mendax, -acis, lying, cf.
mentiri to lie.]
1. Given to deception or falsehood; lying; as, a mendacious
person.
[1913 Webster]

2. False; counterfeit; containing falsehood; as, a mendacious
statement.
[1913 Webster] -- {Men*da"cious*ly}, adv. --
{Men*da"cious*ness}, n.
[1913 Webster]


It's been blur hasn't it?

All these days and their associated lies, and the brazen mouths that tell what wicked minds have devised.

It really doesn't matter what is said and what mouth it pours forth from.

The results are all to clear to see.

Their intent all along.

Was to break it all.

Leave nothing.

Nothing.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 9:13 PM on July 28, 2007


One simple structural change to our voting process could do wonders to improve our republic: knowledge-weighted voting. If part of the act of voting required one to take a multiple-choice quiz on the candidates and the issues, and if you score 100%, you have 100% of a vote. You fail, your vote counts for nothing.

Okay, this would never fly in the face of the inevitable "Jim Crow", knee-jerk, "will somebody please think of the rights of the ignorant" reaction such a move would spark. So what we do is, we appeal to the baser motives of the voter - make the quiz results translate into entries in a national $100 million lottery. A perfect score gives you, say, 1000 entries in the lottery. A failing grade like 60% gives you zero entries. That way, nobody can whine about voter discrimination, but we end up with people who actually care enough to bone up on the issues and, perhaps as a by-product, actually think a little before pissing away their votes.
posted by gregor-e at 9:41 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


How does that cat know when geezers are going to die? Can he see their souls loosing the tethers with his legendary cat vision? Or is it the smell of death closing in? Or maybe cats really are famiiars of the underworld and should be hunted down and killed before they kill us.
posted by LarryC at 9:48 PM on July 28, 2007


The republic is broken until it runs exactly the way I think it should run.
posted by srboisvert at 3:52 AM on July 29, 2007


Remember when GM, Firestone, the oil companies, etc. banded together to eliminate intercity trolley companies, so they could sell more cars, tires, and oil? First they bought up all the trolley companies. Then they sold the rights-of-way and converted the lines to buses. Then they reduced service until the companies were not profitable. Then, all the former trolley companies went out of business.

I think a similar thing has been done to the news business in America. All the major news outlets have been converted to entertainment outlets. The delivery of actual news has been degraded to the point that people who care about the news no longer use the service. In 1980 there were 1,745 daily newspapers in the United States. By 2002, there were just 1,457 papers left in the country.[Source] Those that remail are sinking or being bought up by the same corporations and people that already prevent serious questioning of the Bush corporatist agenda in their publications. Television news is already nothing but entertainment.

We're all second-class citizens, when compared to the corporations.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:18 AM on July 29, 2007 [3 favorites]


I'm not so sure you can blame it on the media. Every night people have a choice of whether to watch the news or something else, and they simply choose "something else" all the damn time.
posted by bink at 7:09 AM on July 29, 2007


I have been concerned about this very problem for nearly two decades now. Where indeed is the strident and unignorable voice crying out at corruption, scandal, and cronyism? After a night on the Duke campus as they were attempting to get me to donate another building or some such, I retired to my swanky hotel room and flipped on the cable. I came across a certain Ira Levin film and thus a plan was hatched.

The original sample was a bitch to get - he remained out of public scrutiny for a long, long time. It's been nerve-wracking, first developing the technology and then keeping it all under wraps as my group has begun to carefully orchestrate the lives of a couple of hundred young boys. We laughed at Dolly. We've had washouts - sometimes the indoctrination sessions with the Nixon masks and the Doonesbury cartoons were just too much. We accidentally produced two Cory Doctorows; three too many. In high school, there are always copies of The Great Gatsby around, the yearbook isn't as popular anymore, but getting the most likely candidates interested in the Air Force was tricky. Arranging for them to be given an honorable discharge might be risky, but people always come with a price. The acid scene has been dry for a few years; fortunately we found an organic chemistry student with college loans that seem too insurmountable for him to deal with alone.

Meanwhile, the rest of my money has been carefully invested in silent partnerships with various small news outlets. Just enough to buy a little bit of voice, an internship here, a column there. It's quite a gamble, but I firmly predict that, one day, big media will come to rue the day I unleash one hundred Hunter S. Thompson clones upon journalism.
posted by adipocere at 8:22 AM on July 29, 2007 [5 favorites]


Now it sounds like the Republican party might refuse to participate in one at all.

CNN Calls Republicans’ Bluff, Reschedules YouTube Debate
"On July 23, all eight Democratic presidential candidates participated in the CNN/YouTube debate. By uploading a 30-second video to YouTube, 'voters could directly question a presidential candidate during the debate.' Steve Grove, YouTube’s news and politics editor, called this new debate format 'more democratic than ever.'

Yet so far, just three Republican presidential candidates — Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and as of yesterday, Tommy Thompson — have confirmed that they will participate in the Sept. 17 debate.

Both former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney have said that they have scheduling conflicts. CNN has called their bluff. The website for Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) reports today that CNN has postponed the September debate:
'We received word yesterday that the CNN/YouTube/Florida GOP presidential candidates debate scheduled for September 17 has been postponed. A new date has yet to be determined.'"
Romney Mocks YouTube Debates
"Earlier in the week, Romney confused YouTube with MySpace ['YouTube is a website that allows kids to network with one another and make friends and contact each other,' Romney "explained" yesterday in Iowa.'*] Yesterday, Romney’s spokesperson mocked the debate — where citizens nationwide submit video questions — stating that 'a lot of Americans would wonder whether we should be answering questions from a cartoon.'"
posted by ericb at 8:25 AM on July 29, 2007


Maybe, if that debate is any indication, we might be on the verge of some kind of new media synthesis that starts involving real people, and thereby will suck a bit less. Maybe. It gave me hope.

Some things you should know about that "debate": No Sport of Kings: How the Questioners Featured in Last Night's Debate Feel Now and Vetting the YouTube Questions
posted by amberglow at 8:49 AM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


(and most importantly, there were no questions allowed on air on impeachment--which was most popular on YouTube, trade, nafta, spying, rights, corruption, Gonzales/DOJ, executive privilege and power grabs, voting, ...)
posted by amberglow at 8:54 AM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Steve Grove, YouTube’s news and politics editor, called this new debate format 'more democratic than ever.'

Gosh, they should let dead candidates run, too! More candidates is more democracy!

Panem et circenses, indeed.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:32 AM on July 29, 2007


The leak designed to save Alberto Gonzales
posted by homunculus at 10:37 AM on July 29, 2007


Fox can't find anyone to defend Alberto Gonzales.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:09 AM on July 29, 2007


As long as I can pay my bills on time, there's food on the table, and I get a vacation twice a year and at Christmas, I'm more interested in the cat.

I'm only partially joking.
posted by matty at 4:20 PM on July 29, 2007


Once again, amberglow with exactly the piece of useful information needed. I was wondering how they would defuse that debate so as to make it impotent. So that's how!
posted by JHarris at 12:16 AM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


They spend millions on crafting their image. Why would they allow “you” access to that image? Especially if it isn’t conducive to it?
This all reminds me of “Quiz Show” - the quote at the end: “We thought we were gonna get television. But television is gonna get us.”
In a sense that’s what’s at stake. In the case of “Quiz Show” - what was really being fought for there? The truth?
It’s exactly like the t.v. guys said - no one cares (and Kant wouldn’t have a problem with it *smirk*) it’s just t.v., made up, etc.
Truth, on the other hand, is valueless. Oh certainly, it’s priceless, but that means it’s not really something one can commodify.
Different images can have value and you can put a price on them.
I’m reminded of the card game “Magic.” One of the things that put me off the game is that money is a factor in winning. By that I mean, you couldn’t just print up your own cards and play and there was no universally standardized set of cards such that if you’re a poor kid and can only afford a few, you don’t have as much of a chance as putting together a deck better than someone who’s spent the money. (Certainly there are mitigating factors, skill, etc. - but if you can barely buy enough cards to put together one deck, odds are against you)
Similar to how image is played in the media.
There’s no profit in truth. You have to spend money on it. Have a passion for it. No one pays to hear it because there’s an expectation there is some of it, but that’s the game and how it’s rigged.
There is no truth in media.
There is only language manipulation to craft/preserve an image.
The languages range from advertising, referential ( ‘Darmok and Jelad at Tenagra’ in form, but surely “Friends” and whatever other pop elements there are) to technical, but only rarely to real purity and relevence and almost never to truth.
But that’s the game played, whether consciously or not. Even in excellent news stories, the communication involved is typically technical (here’s what happened), even in the most accurate news, truth must be gleaned from it.
Of course, that’s the thing about accurate news - truth can be derived from it. But very few people want to do that. Often it only serves to illuminate how impotent they are - which (as pointed out above ‘learned helplessness) is usually a self-fufilling cycle.
And most folks see it as that material vs. ephemeral dichotomy that so many cynics push: “So Gonzalez lied, so what? They all lie.”
And, as in “Quiz Show” usually the only ones really harmed are the ones who care about the truth and liberty and other non-tangibles, even while they’re expected to uphold what is otherwise regarded as a suckers game (‘a working class hero is something to be’). ‘You’re stupid if you oppose people that powerful if you don’t expect to get anything from it.’ So - no tangible support (’cos why throw money at a loser, even if they’re right) and nothing to really gain if you do win.
Except what people already expect a right to (the commons, the truth, liberty, etc.) so why not lie and sell them the bullshit?

Of course, the reason people buy into that in the first place is that they haven’t been on the receiving end, haven’t been hungry, in danger, in need, and look away when others are, so they don’t get just how bad it is when the bad money drives the good out of circulation (to use a metaphor).
They don’t see how Gonzalez’s testimony affects them.
That’s the largest failure of the news media. You don’t have to teach them critical thinking. Just show them accurately what happened and explain how it affects them.
Because what the fuck does this cat mean to anyone’s lives?

I mean even if you believe the cat can predict people are going to die and such - so? Maybe that says something about the afterlife, spirits, God, whatever - but the bottom line is, the news is never going to be able to confirm that for you and the administration is hosing you NOW.

And I don’t know that I’d call it a failure. As stated above, the conglomeration of news media seems very much by design, as does this LOLCATZNOESWHENUDYE as pure distraction.
Religion was the opiate of the masses, now it’s illusory novelty. Like the Japanese pop culture, one shallow “now” news thing after another.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:14 AM on July 30, 2007


Conyers to Gonzales: Will You Investigate This Leak... Too?
posted by homunculus at 3:11 PM on July 30, 2007


this week it's all Hillary's cleavage all the time--ugh! All the very serious journalists and pundits simply can't resist--the Washington Post ran a story and now it's open season, apparently.

Romney's hair and makeup bill, Thompson's "red pickup" rentals, etc--all invisible.
posted by amberglow at 4:26 PM on July 30, 2007


Inslee to introduce Gonzales impeachment tomorrow (and that'll get less attention than Hill's hills too)
posted by amberglow at 4:27 PM on July 30, 2007


Media Falsely Labels O’Hanlon And Pollack ‘Vocal Critics’ Of Bush Administration
posted by amberglow at 4:47 PM on July 30, 2007


and the newest talking point about Iraq: sustainable stability
posted by amberglow at 4:51 PM on July 30, 2007


and very very related: digby: Strike Up the Band
posted by amberglow at 4:53 PM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


NSA Spying Bill Headed for Vote This Week!
posted by homunculus at 6:14 PM on July 30, 2007


A CBS television newswriter says: "We take a lot of stuff from 'Entertainment Tonight.' We watch it at 6:30 and decide what to use."
posted by amberglow at 11:08 AM on July 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


A CBS television newswriter says: "We take a lot of stuff from 'Entertainment Tonight.' We watch it at 6:30 and decide what to use."

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAkillme.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:27 PM on July 31, 2007


Better just to vow never to watch CBS News ever again. Tell your friends too.
posted by amberglow at 3:32 PM on July 31, 2007


Court Ruling that NSA Wiretapping is Illegal Drives Emergency Push for New Spy Powers, MSNBC Reports
posted by homunculus at 11:12 PM on August 1, 2007


Government Presses to Turn Internet into Giant Spy Machine; AP Reports Citizen's Rights Being Protected
posted by homunculus at 11:16 PM on August 1, 2007


New PEW study: The Pew Research Center for People & the Press said Thursday that 87% of respondents said celebrity scandals get way too much ink and airtime. Only 8% think the media gets the balance between celebrity and serious news right, while 2% told the surveyors that there wasn't enough celebrity scandal coverage.
...
The survey found that cable news is most to blame for the ongoing celebrity coverage, with 34% of respondents saying cable news had the most celebrity coverage, followed by network TV news (27%), Internet news sites (15%) and newspapers (8%).
None of that type of celebrity news topped last week's list of the most followed topics, Pew said. Twenty-five% of survey respondents said they were following the Iraq War most closely, though Pew noted that only 3% of news coverage was devoted to the story. The presidential campaign was singled out by 12% of respondents, while 12% of all news coverage featured it. ...

posted by amberglow at 11:28 AM on August 4, 2007


More than half of Americans say US news organizations are politically biased, inaccurate, and don't care about the people they report on, a poll published Thursday showed. ...
posted by amberglow at 4:48 PM on August 10, 2007


"There are very real and very serious questions about whether the United States is currently a fully functional republic..."

Duh!
posted by ZachsMind at 8:16 PM on August 10, 2007


"It has always been part of the job of news organizations to provide people with the news that they need to know as well as the news that they want to know," said Deborah Potter, a former CBS News reporter and executive director of the News Lab think tank. "What you don't want to do is allow the news that you want to know swallow the news that you need to know."

...

Duh!
posted by ZachsMind at 8:52 PM on August 10, 2007


What you don't want to do is allow the news that you want to know swallow the news that you need to know...

...unless you want to make more money than god, in which case you fer sure want to pander to the most eyeball-grabbing shite.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:01 PM on August 10, 2007


...unless you want to make more money than god, in which case you fer sure want to pander to the most eyeball-grabbing shite.

But that's just it--it's not helping them at all profitwise, and actually helps turn people off from watching or reading or buying. The celeb stuff especially--we're oversaturated with celeb shit, and people don't turn to news channels or newspapers to get the same stuff they get all over the place anyway. Right now, CNN is all trapped miners all the time and there's no news--there really hasn't been any news for days except for little developments that could be aired in 15 seconds. The airtime taken up by shit and by nothing is time that is not spent covering anything important.
posted by amberglow at 2:39 PM on August 11, 2007


And you truly believe that the networks are losing money by doing so? That they are being run by stupid executives who are not interested in maximizing their bottom line?
posted by five fresh fish at 3:51 PM on August 11, 2007


they're losing viewers and therefore can't charge advertisers as much--all of them are.
posted by amberglow at 4:07 PM on August 11, 2007


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