Monthly Archives: May 2013

Liberal Media? Riiiighttt

“A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”

– Ronald Reagan1

“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’”

– George Orwell, 1984

How many times have you heard about the “liberal media”?  Probably so many times that most of you even believe it.  It would be amusing, if it wasn’t so sad.  These types of falsehoods that become “facts” are precisely part of the war of definitions that the right has used to drag the political center, and the country, further and further to the right over the years.

This myth, in its current form, originated from a single survey that was done many years ago.  1972, S. Robert Lichter et al in “The Media Elite: America’s New Powerbrokers” did a small survey of 238 journalists, and found that the majority of them did vote Democrat.  While this shouldn’t be surprising, particularly given that that study after study shows that there is an inverse relationship between education and conservatism, and as a rule, journalists tend to be fairly well educated.  (This is the truth behind why Republicans and conservatives are so opposed to education.  It is why people like Rick Santorum say, “We will never have the elite, smart people on our side”)

Did this survey find that the media was liberal?  No, not really.  Not even its authors claim so.  What it found was that the media was, in fact, not liberally biased, though many of the mid-level and below reporters did tend to vote Democrat.  (At that point, voting Democrat actually put one a bit left of center.)  The right wing though, and in particular (oh, the irony here), the right wing columnists in the media, took this survey, twisted it, as they are wont to do, and on the other end of their propaganda machine came out the turd that “The media is liberal”.  They have been decrying the media as such ever since.

The facts in front of us would convince any sane reasonable person to the contrary, but that is not what we are dealing with.  We are dealing with people who have largely been victims of a Milligramesque Experiment echo chamber.  “You will accept authority.”  You will accept that the media is liberal.”  “You will believe that everything that comes from the government is evil.”  “You will ignore the contradictions.”  “You will ignore the man behind the curtain.”  You will give me your dollars.”

Oh, and buy my book!  It’s called, “How to get rich by selling people a book called, How to get rich by selling a book called, How to get rich by …”  It’s only $19.99.  Order here.

One of the other interesting things to consider in this is that these low- and mid-level reporters really have very little control or influence over what they actually put in the papers or on the screens.  The people who are in control are the editors and the managers.  These people are the ones who are shown, in the same material referenced above, and multiple repeated surveys, to be most typically conservative.  Oh, wait.  Let’s pause here.  What we have here is pretty typical, isn’t it?  Those at the top are going to escape taking responsibility, while the right blames those at the bottom for their perceived issues?  It is the typical way that the right wing operates.

Let us look briefly at the consolidation of media.  I’m sure we’ve all seen the numbers, yes?  And, they are constantly changing.  Growing ever more consolidated.  When Ben Bagdikian introduced The Media Monopoly in 1983, he concluded that “50 men and women, chiefs of their corporations, control more than half the information and ideas that reach 220 million Americans, it is time for Americans to examine the institutions from which they receive their daily picture of the world.”  Today, 30 years later, the consolidation has grown to such a degree that we now have “more than 1500 newspapers, 1100 magazines, 9000 radio stations, 1500 TV stations, 2400 publishers, owned by only 3 corporations,” as the meme goes.  Using Bagdikian’s methodology, in 2009, this number had fallen from 50 to 15 controlling over 50% of the information and ideas dominating the American market, and:

Expanding the analysis to include emergent technologies like cable television, satellite radio and the Internet, the number of corporations dominating the American media remained at 20.



The Boys Who Cried Wolf

Does anyone else remember fairy tales?  As I recall, they used to serve a very different purpose many, many moons ago.  You see, fairy tales used to be used to scare children into behaving.  The stories as originally preserved by the Grimm Brothers, for example, were “capricious and often cruel”.  National Geographic says it well, except they leave out a crucial detail, which I’ll come back to in a moment.

Once they saw how the tales bewitched young readers, the Grimms, and editors aplenty after them, started “fixing” things. Tales gradually got softer, sweeter, and primly moral. Yet all the polishing never rubbed away the solid heart of the stories, now read and loved in more than 160 languages.

So, what was left out?  The modern, as in the last 30 years or so, impact on the fairy tale.  What I will call, “the Disney effect”, when fairy tales became even more sanitized and Pollyanna-ish1.  When fairy tales lost their truly moral lessons, and simply became entertainment.

They’re baaaacck!!  At least one of them.  The boy who cried wolf.  Remember that one?  In a nutshell, a shepherd boy who didn’t want to be alone in the fields watching the sheep cries out, “Wolf!” and the town’s men come running to protect him, even though there is no wolf.  Eventually, though, he does this so many times, that they stop.  Then, when there really is a wolf, he cries and cries, and no one comes to his aid.  I am sure in the older version, the wolf not only drives off many of the town’s flock, but also kills him and many of the sheep.  In the modern version, the wolf just scares the little miscreant and scatters the flock, because everyone knows that wolves don’t actually kill sheep, right? uh huh.

This presidency has been one never ending stream of accusations and trumped up scandals.  It has been a series of boys crying wolf, and now that there might, actually be one that is legitimate, most of us who are not so easily worked up and manipulated by the right-wing press are so worn out from it, that we are having a hard time caring.  How sad is that?  You have managed to wear us out with your constant stream of made up malarkey that now that there is a hint of possible real scandal in the air, guess what?  Most of us that you need in order to actually pursue it, don’t care.  Way to go.  Guess it’s time for the wolf to dine.

Before we get to that, let’s recap a little, shall we?  (Not even a complete list.  Just a survey.)

We have had, and still have, questions regarding the POTUS’ place of birth.  This despite it having been established and verified and certified and re-certified.

We have seen attempts to tie him to terrorist organizations, domestic and foreign, from the time he began campaigning and still going today.

We heard about his “Apology Tour”, which when fact checked by more reliable sources, is shown to be either completely fallacious, misunderstood, or overly hyped, depending on which aspect of the “tour” to which you are referring.

For the last 8 months, we have been subjected to the far right-wing, led primarily by Fox news, of course, pushing an investigation into a supposed Benghazi cover-up and scandal.  The Republican party and conservative public has dutifully followed along, wasting much time and money on a non-story.  The rest of the main stream media has had almost no choice but to cover it as well, since this is what all the players are playing.  If they didn’t, it would be like a reporter sent to cover a concert and ignoring the entire first set.  With the latest disclosure being that someone, somewhere, very likely in a Republican congressional office actually changed the e-mails released by the White House in order to make them look more damning than they actually are.  Could it be any more obvious how desperate they are to focus on anything other than real issues?


Google Viewing Peer-To-Peer

On March 11, 2012, I posted about peer-to-peer financing.  I wrote at the time that I felt this was a way for the people to use the system against itself.  It is not a perfect answer, but it was one tool that can be used.  I still believe this to be the case.  However, I heard something that is only slightly disturbing this week.  It is also reaffirming.

Google is getting involved.  Google directly, mind you.  Not their investing arm, Google Ventures.  Google is investing $125 million dollars and taking a seat on the board at Lending Club.  This indicates a number of things.

From a practical standpoint, neither Google nor Lending Club are speaking out directly about what their plans are specifically.  Speculation is that Google wants to implement their technology and bring Lending Club into the Google Wallet fold.  There is also, of course, their cut.  It’s just a good investment, when they’re going to get a slice of the loan fees generated; $350 million in loans in the last quarter.

It also, indicates that people are catching on more and more to this method of lending.  People are looking beyond banks more every day, and seeing other methods and ways to move beyond them.  Consider:

Chanda Lugere works for a bank, but when she wanted a loan to consolidate her credit card debt, which carried a high interest rate, the bank didn’t have much to offer. She tried other banks, but even with her excellent credit score she got nowhere.

So Lugere, who’s in her 30s, went online seeking alternatives.

People living in a 20th and 21st century capitalist society often find themselves in need of credit.  That is, sadly, a reality.  It was not always so, and it does not always have to be so, but it is the case now.  Do we have to go through the wringer to get it?  Do we have to sell our soul to the company store?  Not necessarily.  Peer-to-peer lending offers a way forward for people to get financing to reduce the interest they’re paying, while still returning a profit to those lending.  As I wrote in my previous piece on this topic, this not only has a solid financial basis, but a much higher social value.  For the borrower though, this saves them significantly and thus allows them to get out of debt much more quickly!  Chanda Lugere, mentioned above, got her loan at 6% which, while still high, is half of what she was paying.

Another issue that Google’s investment indicates though is that bigger businesses are catching on, and this part worries me.  If big business gets into the game, they will find ways to pervert it.  They will find ways to wrest control of the system even further away from the people.  Make no mistake about it, business was already involved.  As I pointed out in my previous piece, both of the big P2P lending facilitators, Lending Club and Prosper, were associated with WebBank.  This, as Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar put it, is not a true peer-to-peer system, but rather a “peer incorporated” system.  The smaller the corporation stays in relation to the overall system though, the more the peers are able to stay in control and to benefit from the system, rather than to become simply grease for the gears.

Divide and Fall

Yes.  Lately this space has been more focused on the social analysis with a bit of lean towards the politics.  That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise really.  These things are tightly related, and they are important also.  But, really, what of any true importance is new in the news lately?

Are we going to rehash the gun argument?  Right now, I’m tired of arguing with those on the right who would like to pick and choose from the 2nd Amendment so that they re-write it into a new version without any intelligence or reason, and who are too ignorant (or just plain stupid) and somehow think that because I am unabashedly liberal that I am a “gun grabber”.  Those who do not listen to what I have said, or read what I have written, but somehow think they know.  These are generally people who are too blinded by their own positions to actually hear anyone else anyway.  I am equally tired of arguing with people on the other side who inveigh about the need to enact better controls, but aren’t actually willing to do anything more than bitch and moan about it.  So, no, I don’t think so.

The Benghazi incident?  There is no larger political story there, folks.  This is yet another manufactured crisis that Fox news has made up to attack the center right and try to drag things even further to the right.  Enough about that.

No, today, we’re going to talk about divisiveness.  I’ve written on this as parts of other topics.  I cannot with any real honesty say whether this is increasing or not.  It is my feeling that it is.  Yet, I also suspect that it only seems that way, and to anyone who has been paying attention, we have always been very divided.

In looking back through history, and I am not going to be teaching a history course today, we see a long line of division used as distraction.  Divide and conquer, no?  We go all the way back to our earliest, most basic pack days and we find those classic divisions of “us” and “them”.  Now, we are still dividing and classifying.  To some extent this is necessary and useful.  It aids in our survival, for example, to know who our friends and our opponents are if we are actually in a combat situation.

The problem though is that we often make too large a category.  As I was listening to NPR’s All Things Considered the other day, I was struck by this again.  It was about the actor, Riz Ahmed, but it was only really about him, because of a newly released movie, Reluctant Fundamentalist.  Anyway, the point is this bit from that 5 minute story:

And it’s no surprise that Ahmed is making his American debut with a film as bold as The Reluctant Fundamentalist. It’s about the current fault lines between East and West, Muslim and American, ‘us versus them.’ Those deeper themes fueled director Mira Nair.

Did you catch that or are you so inured to this very problem that you missed it?  I’m going to let that sit for a minute.  We’ll come back.

Yesterday, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine on Facebook.  It was brief, but it was the same issue.  It was started by his posting of a meme of support for Lt Colonel Matthew Dooley.  You may or may not have heard of Lt. Col. Dooley.  To those on the far right, Dooley is being presented as a holy martyr.  (Despite the incident of his martyrdom having happened a year ago.)  He spent years in the US Army, graduating from West Point in 1994, and serving “with distinction” since, including teaching at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va from 2010 until his removal in 2012. Those are the bare facts.  What is being circulated from there by the right is that he is being persecuted by, and I quote my right-wing friend on this one, “Our pro-Jihadist President”.  He is being targeted, the lie, er, argument goes because, “The course “Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism” ,which was suggested and approved by the Joint Forces Staff College, caught the attention of several Islamic Groups, and they wanted to make an example of him.  They collectively wrote a letter expressing their outrage, and the Pro-Islamic Obama Administration was all too happy to assist.”

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