An intellectual freedom blog with an emphasis on libraries and technology

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Don't go looking at FP magazine.

If you are a fan of the Rachel Maddow show you have probably already seen her wonderful segment on the undisputed King of Wrong, Paul Wolfowitz, and how he has co-authored an "article" about the war in Afghanistan. She did a wonderful re-cap on Friday night's show of all of the "wrong-ness" when he was in a position of power and influence. I particularly like this zinger:

"If you hear something clangingly, obviously wrong in America - look around - Paul Wolfowitz is somewhere near you."

You may be tempted, like me, to go to the magazine's site and leave a comment. Two bits of info to keep in mind:

1. This is a web 'zine and not a publication with much of any reputation at all. Even free web publications that have any proven reputation for having good quality content show up in at least one or two commercial databases. I checked. None of the half-dozen databases to which my library subscribes carries this title.

2. "Publications" like FP magazine like to publish "controversial" (English translation: dead wrong about everything) people in order to increase their page views and even gain more registered users (you must register to comment). Visiting the site in the hope of leaving a snarky comment about how the author and therefore the publication lack credibility actually plays into their hands. They want you to get angry, go to the article, register to leave a comment, then tell them off.

Information is not the commodity, information is not the product sold in this venture. You are. We are. Our eyes on the page seeing the ads. Any evidence that verifies the number of viewers, or registered users, obtains more advertising revenue.

If anyone tries to tell you that the invisible hand of the free market guarantees the best quality at the lowest cost - keep this in mind. Given that information that we actually seek is not the product, we continue to have to witness such spectacles as Wolfowitz pontificating on war, Penn Gillette served up as a public intellectual (his highest educational level is clown college - not kidding) by a site calling itself "Big Think" and worse.

Sadly, often times information that we find useful, meaningful and actionable does not make enough people angry enough to generate lots of comments and draw page views. Presenting controversial points of view has a very important role in journalism and I commend any effort to introduce ideas with evidence to support them which make rational inferences from verifiably real evidence. We do not see enough of that. There exists a very big difference between finding conflicting viewpoints on matters of public policy which have intelligent, articulate people disagreeing with each other on the one hand and serving up crap designed to piss off lots of people to generate traffic on a web site (serving no other useful purpose) on the other.

Ultimately, no one should consider Paul Wolfowitz a controversial figure, anymore than we would consider a controversial thinker someone who believes in unicorns, or Big Foot. When the "Big Foot spotter" of foreign policy writes anything about foreign policy, the best way to proceed is just not to click on the link. Don't go there. Nothing worth looking at there.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Unfair and Imbalanced

See the video below which Fox News taped but did not air. (How do we know this? Notice that the man interviewed gestures to his right then the camera taking the video you are actually watching pans to show the Fox News camera).

My favorite part comes when the Fox talking head ratchets up the smug and smarmy by mentioning that this interview will (but not in the reality the rest of us occupy) be aired and that Fox is "giving" him the same coverage as they did the tea party. Hint to Fox: if you do not actually air the interview, you're not actually giving anyone anything even pretending to be fair or balanced.

Good idea that - having your own camera taping at the same time.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

The Fiendish Gun-Control Plan

The Rachel Maddow show on Friday had a segment on the wonderfully demented head of the NRA expounding upon President Obama's fiendish plan to take away their guns. Those liberals who find themselves a bit disappointed with the President might find this a bit encouraging - that is, until you find out what the leader of the NRA finds so upsetting.

I suggest you watch this segment before reading further for the full humor effect - no one can deconstruct entertaining crazy quite as well as Maddow can. Below the embed you will find spoilers.

The bad, scary liberals are coming after their guns by …

… NOT coming after their guns. Seriously.

Later in the show in another segment she makes reference to a right-wing religious nut who thinks that the U.S. should go to war against demon grizzly bears (not kidding). And Bryan Fischer (Mr. Demon Grizzly Bears) is scheduled to speak at a "Conservative Values" shindig right after someone he considers the anti-Christ himself: Mitt Romney. (For those not fully up to date on right-wing nuttery Fischer is rabidly anti-Mormon and Romney is one - now that's entertainment!).

Why do these live-action cartoon people have such national prominence and obtain so much exposure in the media? It's not just for their entertainment value to me. They act as the attack dogs of the one percenters: a de facto aristocracy who, despite the Constitution banning titles of nobility enjoy all the powers and privileges of the aristocrats of old.

It's important to keep in mind that the causes of most interest to the rabid right remain of little interest to the very rich. Abortion? Outlawing it in the U.S. will not trouble a multi millionaire: he (sorry, most of them are "he's") can fly his wife, girlfriend, daughter or mistress to Canada or Denmark or some other place where abortion remains legal and safe. That's just combining a brief vacation with an errand. Guns? The private security firms will have all the weaponry they need regardless of any controls that ever do come out of a legislature. We already have a well bifurcated legal system with a different set of laws for the wealthy and powerful than the rest of us have to follow. (Goldman Sachs engaged in investments that effectively bet against their own customers. Any prosecutions?) The crash of 08: aside from peripheral bottom feeders such as Madoff and other "mini-Madoffs" - any prosecutions? Has anyone actually responsible for illegal acts that contributed to crashing the world's economy even so much as seen the inside of a courtroom?

The immunity that the ridiculously wealthy enjoys reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

"The law, in its majestic wisdom, punishes the rich and the poor equally for the crime of sleeping under a bridge." --- Anatole France.