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I Don't Want to Meet the Press
January 14, 2009 1:26 PM   Subscribe


 
Without reading the article, I can safely say, "Yes, as a matter of fact, I am in the Sphere of Deviance."
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:30 PM on January 14, 2009


[pulls up pants]

Deviance? Heh heh... I have no idea what you're talking about.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:32 PM on January 14, 2009


I think there are a lot of critics who think that . . . . if we did not stand up and say this is bogus, and you're a liar, and why are you doing this, that we didn't do our job. I respectfully disagree. It's not our role. -- David Gregory on the press's roll before the Iraq War.
posted by delmoi at 1:35 PM on January 14, 2009


the net gives deviance its day - news at 11
posted by caddis at 1:36 PM on January 14, 2009


Mainstream debate invades 4chan; moot requests /b/lackup
posted by infinitewindow at 1:37 PM on January 14, 2009


Honey - I am The Sphere of Deviance!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:41 PM on January 14, 2009


Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press

You can't weaken what ain't there to start with. The real title should probably be something more like "How Free and Open Communication Ruined Our Propaganda Machine".
posted by doctor_negative at 1:45 PM on January 14, 2009 [7 favorites]


I went with the Sphere of Deviance for my redoubt because, you know, the Fortress of Solitude just doesn't have the right atmosphere. Bad landscaping, too.
posted by Kikkoman at 1:45 PM on January 14, 2009


Wow, I just read this and sent it to a friend seconds before I saw this post. I think he's right and it's not obvious to journalists at all.

I experienced this covering the "war on some drugs." Any possible question that even barely touches anything near legalization-- even something as minor as syringe exchange-- is considered in the sphere of deviance.

This made for bizarre theatre over needle exchange when reporters would routinely quote opponents who had absolutely zero data to back their contention that it increased drug abuse and then quote all the data on the other side as if the two positions were equivalent.

It also makes for the insane coverage of the drug war in which everyone says the drug war has failed and none of the proposals suggested as alternatives actually call for ending the drug war.

The conventional wisdom that any liberalization in drug laws would increase use, that drugs themselves cause crime and that addiction requires harsh consequences in order to spur recovery is continually repeated without reporters even thinking that it's something that needs to be fact-checked. It's accepted truth to them.

That is not to say that legalization would necessarily be better (that's a whole different discussion)-- but it's very strange to have a debate in which one side's position is considered outside the pale of acceptable discourse.
posted by Maias at 1:53 PM on January 14, 2009 [11 favorites]


Screw the Orgasmotron, I'm hittin' the Sphere Of Deviance!
posted by The Whelk at 1:54 PM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I built a sphere of deviance in my backyard, but the wife wont let me use it.
posted by Capt Jingo at 2:04 PM on January 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


This article dovetailed nicely in my mind with an article in the new Harper's Magazine that I'm reading on single payer health care. Single payer healthcare is, apparently, off the table and not going to be part of the healthcare reform debate. I can only think that the "Washington Elite" have put single payer into this so called circle of deviance, where it will only be discussed by hippies and the non-serious.
posted by Staggering Jack at 2:09 PM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is totally not what I wanted this post to be about.
posted by desjardins at 2:09 PM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


No offense, but this sort of seems like epicycles upon epicycles. The real reason why journalists act this way and make these mistakes is much simpler: most are not clever and insightful people to begin with and they entered an industry where cleverness and insight and not rewarded. There are some phenomenal people/publications out there, where brilliant people with a solid background in the subjects they cover are given the time and column space to write in-depth and probing reviews of matters of significance. Yet most journalists are hacks who dumb down ideas they don't understand for their even stupider audiences. The Kinks had it right.

But hey, let's just draw circles. It's fun and shiny.
posted by allen.spaulding at 2:11 PM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Feh. I was hoping for the spear of deviance.
posted by everichon at 2:14 PM on January 14, 2009


Of course it was my fear of deviance that drove me into the mere of deviance.

Which, it turns out, is surprisingly warm.
posted by everichon at 2:17 PM on January 14, 2009


So...is this idea about the sphere of deviance in the sphere of deviance?
posted by Salvor Hardin at 2:20 PM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


"There are some phenomenal people/publications out there, where brilliant people with a solid background in the subjects they cover are given the time and column space to write in-depth and probing reviews of matters of significance."

Can I get the list of those publications please? Thank you.

Or, better yet, could you have the list printed onto self-adhesive stickers and paste them all of the place throughout the country in great enough numbers that I'm bound to run across one?
posted by aapep at 2:21 PM on January 14, 2009


That is not to say that legalization would necessarily be better (that's a whole different discussion)-- but it's very strange to have a debate in which one side's position is considered outside the pale of acceptable discourse.

I don't think this is necessarily so. Take, for example, the desirability of man-boy love. There's a pretty wide consensus that agrees that adults having sex with children is not acceptable, and most people would agree that people who propose such an argument actually *belong* in that sphere of deviance.

When it becomes a problem is when a sufficiently large section of the population sees man-boy love as a relatively harmless thing to do, bringing real benefits to the children and reducing the enormous paedophile prison population.

And so drug legalization has been an ongoing debate in Europe for at least the last ten years now -- with growing sections of the broadsheet media supporting increased liberalization (or at least going backwards and forwards on the issue), while the tabloids play to what they believe their constituencies prejudices are.

Also, I think it's a mistake to get hung up on evidence in this respect, because these debates are primarily about values rather than evidence. When it comes to questions re. legalization and drug policy liberalization (with the exception of the US needle exchange debate), there's little in the way of evidence on either side, so what we're really arguing about is competing visions of the good society. And in that sense, America is much more conservative than Europe.

One of the things I've always found really interesting though, is the number of journalists who like a line of coke from time to time, like a cheeky little 'e' on a Saturday night, but are happy to uncritically spout their paper's 'Just Say No' position when called upon to write the story. I suppose though, it's just another job, just another story, and they've got no more emotional or intellectual commitment to the issues on that story than they have on the crap that they churn out from press releases to keep the advertising department happy.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:24 PM on January 14, 2009


Fascinating article. Cherry-picking:
"...anyone whose basic views lie outside the sphere of consensus will experience the press not just as biased but savagely so."

"Whereas journalists equate ideology with the clash of programs and parties in the debate sphere, academics know that the consensus or background sphere is almost pure ideology: the American creed."

"Deciding what does and does not legitimately belong within the national debate is—no way around it—a political act. And yet a pervasive belief within the press is that journalists do not engage in such action, for to do so would be against their principles... The press does not permit itself to think politically. But it does engage in political acts. Ergo, it is an unthinking actor, which is not good. When it is criticized for this it will reject the criticism out of hand, which is also not good."
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:34 PM on January 14, 2009


So sorry about your AUTHORITAH being eroded, Jay.

By the way, I exist in a cube of deviance. Others may even prefer a pyramid of deviance.
posted by longsleeves at 2:35 PM on January 14, 2009


Splendid! We choose to occupy the Sphere of Deviance from June to August inclusive. It shall be Our Summer Palace.
posted by fleetmouse at 2:36 PM on January 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is there a Sphere of Devo-ance I could occupy?
posted by spicynuts at 2:39 PM on January 14, 2009


I'm a Cube of Deviance. Mr Longsleeves must live in another one, since I currently only have one occupant (room for two.)

That being said, serious internet means serious business and I'll get down to serious comment.

Re: ...brilliant people with a solid background in the subjects they cover are given the time and column space... Can I get the list of those publications please? Thank you

They aren't journalists. They don't become journalists, since they have solid backgroudns in their subject. That doesn't leave time to be a journalist - there'es enough publishing they need to do, without having to sell their bodies, as it were, to cut things down and make it palatable for sale to the mass market.

So they write in specialized journals. Every occupation has a journal of some sort. In many cases these are unavailable to the layman: possibly they are impossible to find due to lack of interest outside of a small specialized group, or, frankly, require way too much background for anyone to make sense of it. There are even editorials in these journals, and book reviews, and counter-articles (sometimes a lot of back-and-forth, as a matter of fact.) You're going to find some things that don't agree with the mainline thought in these, but in many cases, they aren't going to be made public for whatever reason. Not that they aren't there, they're just not OUT THERE public.
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 2:53 PM on January 14, 2009


...the Sphere of Deviance

That was a great Wolfenstein 3D add-on.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:56 PM on January 14, 2009


I occupy the Orb of OMGWTFBBQ and I have a time-share in the Ball of Bullshit.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 2:57 PM on January 14, 2009


The Sphere of Deviance in action:

Associated Press State Department Correspondent Matthew Lee asks a simple question. Given that the U.S. claims to want to stop the humanitarian catastrophe in Israel's war on the people of Gaza...

"What’s wrong with an immediate cease-fire that doesn’t have to be sustainable and durable if, during the pause that you get from an immediate cease-fire, something longer-term can be negotiated?"

Lee pressed the States Department spokesman on their illogical position for two days, but none of Lee's questions or the State Department's answers ever appeared in his final articles. AP editors stripped all references to these questions out of his articles, and instead, gave one of his articles the hopeful yet misleading headline "Rice Traveling to UN to Push Gaza Cease-Fire".
posted by markkraft at 3:02 PM on January 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


Any deviophile worth his saltpeter will tell you that deviance is football-shaped.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:51 PM on January 14, 2009


He stole my idea but I called mine the Doughnut of Democracy.
posted by chairface at 3:52 PM on January 14, 2009


The Sphere of Defiance begins at about age two, when your previously compliant child will begin to revel in saying "No."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:08 PM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I won't miss mass media much, George Bush less so.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 4:46 PM on January 14, 2009


So...is this idea about the sphere of deviance in the sphere of deviance?

The sphere of deviance contains all spheres which do not contain the sphere of deviance. (In the mathematical community, that sentence is itself in the sphere of deviance.)

We should also talk about how the Sphere of Consensus (+3 to STR, CHR) is a huge problem as well as the Sphere of Deviance.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:07 PM on January 14, 2009


sphere of SEXUAL deviance amirite
posted by DU at 6:12 PM on January 14, 2009


Feh. I was hoping for the spear of deviance.

How about Spear of Destiny instead?

But seriously folks, I think the author's main premise is spot on, and I think the War on Drugs, the War on Gaza, and single-payer health care are three strong examples.

Opinions contrary to the two-party US political line (e.g. that drug dealers and users should be punished; supporting Israel is in the best interest of the US; and government-administrated health care is unfeasible) are considered within the sphere of deviance, *despite* the fact that millions of people hold those opinions.

I do think the two-party, majoritarian political system is to blame, and that the mainstream media feeds off of it completely. If we had proportional representation in our government, more and more "deviant" ideas would become accepted as legitimate opinions. But now, 51% of the population can set the standards for the other 49%.
posted by mrgrimm at 6:21 PM on January 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


PressThink? I was hoping thinking this was going to be a link to something I could order from Blowfish.com. Color me disappointed.
posted by MikeMc at 6:26 PM on January 14, 2009


I'm not sure I'd include single-payer in that, as I've seen quite a lot of discussion about it in the past year. Paul Krugman has advocated for it at several times in his column, just as one example.

Even drug policy is discussed in the mainstream press, and not always one-sidedly, especially things like medical marijuana. The recent Massachusetts intiative did not receive unanimous condemnation from the press either, despite being actual drug decriminalization.

I think it depends on what you call mainstream media -- to me, NPR and the New York Times, both of which have featured many stories sympathetic to single-payer and drug decriminalization/legalization, are pretty mainstream. Certainly once you move to magazines you can find many, many counterexamples.

If you just mean the 11 o'clock news on one of the major broadcast TV stations, then sure... but that's a pretty narrow definition of mainstream.
posted by wildcrdj at 8:34 PM on January 14, 2009


whats defined as acceptable discussion topics is, of course, malleable. for the example of single-payer health care look how much time and effort has been needed to bring it into the mainstream. from the early 1990s when the last attempt at health care failed until just recently even talking about government provided health care made you a deviant.

the ideas flowing in and out of the mainstream dont get there because of the merits and that the problem.
posted by Glibpaxman at 9:18 PM on January 14, 2009


I think it depends on what you call mainstream media...

The majority of Americans, TV is the primary news medium, and it's extraordinarily conservative in this regard.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:41 PM on January 14, 2009


For those complaining about the shape of the sphere of deviance, I would just like to point out that, as drawn, it is UNBOUNDED. Which is awesome.

Maias: There's another well documented phenomenon in the lazy style of American journalism in which journalists, in a misguided attempt to be objective, give equal time to two sides of an issue, without regard to evidence or reason. This is what destroyed the American debate on global climate change for about two decades too long. When one of the sides is backed up by major institutions (like the DEA or major petrol companies, for example), the effect seems to be enhanced to the point where one side is more equal than the other...
posted by kaibutsu at 12:25 AM on January 15, 2009


If we had proportional representation in our government, more and more "deviant" ideas would become accepted as legitimate opinions.

A lot of people advocate this thinking that it will empower green parties etc. like in Europe. Here it would empower the Christian conservatives in very disturbing ways.
posted by caddis at 5:39 AM on January 15, 2009


Yeah, kaibatsu, I've written extensively about the stupidity of "he said, she said" journalism-- especially when the science is overwhelmingly on one side. This contributed a great deal to wrong ideas about global climate change.

I do consider the NYT and NPR mainstream journalism-- but they are *not* what you'd call sympathetic to any real drug policy reform debates. When they cover marijuana, they get very "cutesy" about it and they typically hedge their language and allow the drug warriors to make statements that are not supported by data without challenging them.

What's important here is often what you *don't* see: for example, the MSM assumes marijuana causes lung cancer but the data really doesn't support that.

Regarding single payer health care-- it is something that has recently moved out of the sphere of deviance toward the center.
posted by Maias at 7:48 AM on January 15, 2009


This seems to be a pretty straightforward model.

The way it works is both good and bad. Of course one of the problems is that we can now point and laugh at people in the sphere of deviance regardless of whether they deserve it or not, but at least both sides can articulate the root cause of the disagreement.

Sphere of deviance: The Anglo-Saxons lost at the Battle of Hastings because the Norman army was composed of elements of the Ninth Zombie Legion.

Sphere of Deviance: Israel was carved out of historically Arab lands and the Arabs have many legitimate grievances with Israeli policies.

As you can see, both positions are clearly worthy of much derision, and do not deserve any attention in the press.
posted by Xoebe at 9:44 AM on January 15, 2009


The article is a little silly. On a rhetorical level, it takes the Overton window, renames it, and then insinuates this new thing is secret and exclusive, and that journalists must find out about it. The author has been teaching J-school at NYU since 1986, and chaired the department for six years. If he wanted to draw this diagram for students, he could've. He probably did. And even if other schools didn't put circles down on paper, I'm fairly certain that students were made to discuss matters of fairness and inclusion.

I'm sorry, but I do have a bee in my bonnet over people complaining about "the media" in general terms. Or using the abbreviation "MSM." It's too easy a bugaboo, and simultaneously, too general a concept to be useful. Discussing specific incidents of bias, or possible improvements within a single medium, can be productive. Kvetching about how "journalists are all idiots, and for some reason they're all out to shill for the government" is not so great. It might be hard to believe, but most journalists do not live in black boxes. Most consider bias is an incredibly serious issue, and every single one has complaints about how things are being run at their company and elsewhere. That David Gregory quote infuriates journalists, too.

The good news: You can vote with your wallet. In fact, please vote with your wallet. Find a publication you like, "mainstream" or not. Tell friends about it. If it's non-profit, donate. If it's for-profit, subscribe, buy it, or click site ads, because (at least in the US) there are gigantic rounds of layoffs and bankruptcies right now, further whittling down the field of independent outlets. Otherwise, seek out multiple sources for information, eschew broadcast news as much as possible, and expect that you're going to have to think critically. The Internet can be great for filling in holes in a story because of personal accounts and reports, but also because it enables access to backlogs of documentaries, articles, and books (you know, media). Without which, it'd be a whole lot less useful.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:49 AM on January 15, 2009


The author has been teaching J-school at NYU since 1986, and chaired the department for six years. If he wanted to draw this diagram for students, he could've. He probably did. And even if other schools didn't put circles down on paper, I'm fairly certain that students were made to discuss matters of fairness and inclusion.

So what are you suggesting, that the author of the piece is lying? Senile? Or genuinely dissatisfied with the quality of journalism in this country? If anyone is complaining in "general terms" it's you, having failed to address any points actually made in the linked article and instead attacking the author for being overly qualified and tossing around straw men like "journalists are all idiots."
posted by mek at 11:28 AM on January 16, 2009


One very simple thing that could open up the range of perspectives that get aired is to return to the multiple questioner format that the Sunday morning political shows had from their start until the 1980s when Tim Russert took over Meet the Press, paving the way for This Week, Face the Nation & others to follow suit. The Sunday shows are a very peculiar breed - a roster of reporters & politicians who never actually meet each other (on camera at least) but interact solely through their gatekeeping host & whatever questions he decides to ask. I understand why it's unlikely to ever happen, it's a position of immense power & it's a rare thing for anybody who seeks after power to willingly give it up.
posted by scalefree at 2:08 PM on January 18, 2009


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