Washington Post Editorial Page, Meet Noam Chomsky

FAIR Blog - 4 hours 42 min ago
The Washington Post stands firm against Russian aggression, since Putin has violated an "international norm" that is "uncontroversial." Do those rules apply to the US, though?
Categories: Media

FAIR TV: August 29, 2014

FAIR Blog - 6 hours 26 min ago
On the show this week: On the day of his funeral, the New York Times declared that Michael Brown was "no angel." We look at that and other shoddy reporting from Ferguson. Plus Newsweek spreads farfetched fear about Ebola and African immigrants, and we look at how often union leaders appear on the Sunday chat shows. (Brace yourself.)
Categories: Media

Playboy's Shockingly Astute Guide to How to Avoid Harassing Women on the Street

Alternet - Media Culture - 7 hours 44 min ago
Wait, what? Playboy? Feminist-y?

Earlier this week, Playboy announced plans to rebrand its Web content in order to get on the “shareability” train, indicating that the site would focus more on safe-for-work lifestyle pieces in addition to its traditional “girl content” (which has since been shrouded by new front-page items such as “Why Do Guys Like MILFs?”). While the transition to SFW content shouldn’t come as much of a surprise (this isn’t the first time Playboy has tried to make its site office-appropriate, after all), one article in particular shows a surprising change of tone. The post, a handy flowchart titled “Should You Catcall Her?,” is sort of … well, it’s sort of feminist.

The chart explains when it’s acceptable to make explicit or sexually suggestive comments to women on the street. Your thought, reader, might be “Never,” which isn’t necessarily off-base. But Playboy’s answer, shockingly, is a bit more nuanced, and offers a concise lesson in consent. The infographic essentially concludes that yelling at a woman on the street is only acceptable if and when she has said, in no uncertain terms, that she would like to be yelled at on the street — oh, and it has to be a two-way street, so she can yell right back. Unless the woman has said explicitly that it’s OK to be explicit — or unless potential catcallers are interacting with cats instead of human women — Playboy tells readers plainly, “Nope. Don’t do it.” Pretty solid advice.

There have been plenty of other helpful guides to avoiding street harassment; Playboy’s is not the best. But, considering it was posted on a site that has literally made a joke of consent before, the chart could be a sign that Playboy’s new SFW model is more overtly socially conscious than posts that readers are more likely to keep to themselves.


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Trust the New York Times to Tell You Not to Trust Twitter

FAIR Blog - 8 hours 6 min ago
The Newspaper of Record wants you to know that you shouldn't trust Twitter's coverage of Ferguson. But their examples of inaccuracies aren't all that convincing
Categories: Media

Why the Grace Shown by James Foley's Parents Is Unfathomable to Me

Alternet - Media Culture - 8 hours 38 min ago
No anger, resentment, nor calls for revenge. They're not even mad at him for going back to Syria.

I got mad at my son for cutting his finger the other day. He had accidentally broken the lightbulb in a lamp he dropped while loading the car for college, after I told him— specifically—to get a tool to remove the socket, or he would cut himself doing it. He ignored me, tried to remove the socket and cut himself, of course. I was steaming about it for hours. Didn't even feel sorry for him.

It kills me when my kids don't listen to me. I have so many ‘I told you so’ moments, and let me tell you, those moments give me no pleasure. I don’t handle them very well. I wish my kids would just listen to me in the first place. Haven't they learned that I am almost always right? I also find it impossible to resist telling them I told them so.

Tonight I heard an interview with James Foley’s mother on NPR. It is hard for me to believe she can even speak right now. But she not only speaks, she says such beautiful things—Foley’s parents have consistently said the most remarkably graceful, lovely things, starting the very day after the video of their son’s beheading in Syria surfaced. They have only said things celebrating him, his spirit, his work, his life, his accomplishments, his bravery, his desire to tell suffering people’s stories. She expressed huge gratitude to the released hostage who memorized James' letter to his parents, and was happy to report his state of mind was positive, even in captivity. I am in awe of the Foleys' grace about their murdered son.

Even though they told him not to go back to Syria.

His mother let that drop in the interview.  The interviewer kind of led her there; it wasn’t like she was dying to say it. She said, “Of course, we didn’t want him to go back to Syria.” He had, after all, already been kidnapped and tortured in Libya for 44 days while documenting Qaddafi’s fall. It was terrible. He made it out, and then, lo and behold,  he wanted to go back into another warzone. That must have killed his parents. Imagine the conversations. His mother acknowledged that James had had a privileged upbringing—meaning he had lots of other choices—but said he felt driven to tell the Syrian people’s stories. She was proud of that.

I have not heard one angry or resentful word from James Foley’s parents. Not one word of anger or blame. Not for Obama nor the government for failing to rescue him, no resentment for his fellow hostages who are still alive, some freed, no ‘why my son, and not someone else’s son?’ I have not even heard them blame ISIS, for Pete’s sake. No calls for vengeance, nor airstrikes nor swift justice.

It reminds me of my friend *Amy, whose husband *Ben died in the Word Trade Center on 9/11. Almost made it out. Ran down 111 floors then got killed by falling building parts. They found his body. Amy has three children, including my daughter’s preschool classmate at the time. I don’t think Amy ever gave a single crap about rooting out Al Qaeda, killing Osama bin Laden, or the war raged in her husband’s name.

I have seen other instances of exceptional grace shown by mothers whose children have been killed. I once interviewed a mother of a raped and murdered girl who visited her daughter’s rapists and murderers in prison, and came to understand that their lives had been terrible until then. She forgave them, vowed to help kids like them, started a support group for parents of murdered children, and fights for stricter gun control. (ha!)

I can only imagine that James Foley’s parents achieved their state of grace and acceptance in stages. James was taken hostage by ISIS in November of 2012. His parents must have run the scenario of his not making it out alive through their heads during numerous sleepless nights between then and now. They must have practiced and practiced letting him go. You have to let your children go. Even when it is to terrible fates.

Can I learn that? Can I outgrow the 'I told you so' phase? 

Now the Foleys just seem proud of the man their son became. Someone who wanted to document atrocities and suffering. Someone who helped keep his fellow hostages’ spirits’ up. Someone who probably made a few mistakes along the way, and didn't always listen. Someone who, unfortunately died young, but lived a life of his own choosing. Which is what we all want for our children—right?

*Names changed to protect privacy.










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Categories: Media

Newsweek's Monkey Meat Ebola Fearmongering

FAIR Blog - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 5:01pm
Newsweek's cover story is built around the idea that illegally imported "bushmeat"--what we would call "wild game" if it were being eaten in the United States--could carry the deadly Ebola virus. But is there any evidence that imported meat could actually carry Ebola? On that score, Newsweek comes up empty.
Categories: Media

Part 2: Yvonne Ng on the "Activists' Guide to Archiving Video"

Democracy Now! - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 1:56pm

We continue our conversation with Yvonne Ng, senior archivist for WITNESS, a group that trains and supports people using video in their fight for human rights. She has been giving advice for the growing number of people filming protests, human rights violations and police abuse with their smartphones and video cameras — particularly with respect to how to properly preserve such video. She co-authored their resource, "Activists' Guide to Archiving Video."

Watch Part 1, 'After Police Abuses Caught on Video, a New Guide Teaches How to Best Archive and Distribute Footage'

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we continue our conversation on the growing number of people filming police abuse on their smartphones and with video cameras. Yvonne Ng is the senior archivist for WITNESS, which trains and supports people using video in their fight for human rights. She co-authored their "Activists' Guide to Archiving Video," which is available in English and Spanish and Arabic, after hearing from activists that this was a skill set that they were largely missing.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

YVONNE NG: Thank you for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: So, before we talk about archiving, how people should actually film when they want to document something?

YVONNE NG: Yeah, so, a few tips that I can share is, well, first of all, be prepared. So bring extra memory cards and extra batteries with you. So, if you're filming an incident and you're afraid that footage might be confiscated from you, you want to swap out those cards and preferably work in pairs or in teams, so you can hand off those cards to somebody else. The second thing is to, when you're filming, document landmarks that are notable or street signs, and this makes it easier for people to verify and identify your video later on. So we've seen this, for example, in Syria, where activists are using mosques as ways to identify where certain undocumented footage is taking place and so that they can map where things are happening.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we've had a bunch of questions coming to us on Facebook about this, one of them from a Byron Windhorst, who asked, "Are there any phone apps that will 'livestream' in real time to a website so people around the world can view what is happening at the very moment one is holding the phone?"

YVONNE NG: Yeah, so there actually are a number of live-streaming services, and they're all kind of similar. One important thing to note with the live streaming is that often they have options for recording your session or keeping a copy of your session that you can download afterwards. And that's important to do, because you don't want just a copy of your live stream to stay on this site that often you have no control over. You want to have a copy yourself, so that you can preserve it, so that it can be used later, so it can be viewed by more than just the people who happened to be tuning in during that one moment that you were filming.

AMY GOODMAN: We have another question someone sent in on Facebook from Guari Adelkar, who asked, "What online video/photo portals/apps, that won't strip us of our privacy of course, do you recommend to make an actual difference, both in terms of the number of people who can see it, and to catalyze legal action against injustice?" I'm assuming what this person means is how can it not be traced back to them, but they want to post it.

YVONNE NG: Well, it's important, with whatever service you choose, to know what information that site makes available to others, whether that's through some kind of back end or whether that's just to the general public. So, YouTube, for example, like, you can—there is a face-blurring tool, so you can blur faces. If you upload videos, you can make private or unlisted videos. But YouTube, there is a lot of data about the video that you can access via, let's say, its API or just, you know, on the interface. So, to protect privacy, you just have to be aware of what the different services expose.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about editing video? What effect does that have? You go out, and you want to show this, and you want to show that, but all the stuff in between you don't think is important. Will that compromise the video you put up? They'll say, "You changed it."

YVONNE NG: It's not that if you don't have the original video or that if you've edited, it's not usable at all. But by keeping the original footage unaltered, unedited, in its original format, you're sort of increasing the chances that it can be used, because it can be shown to be authentic. You know, editing a video, people don't know what was taken out and why you took it out. So, you know, it's not that it can't be used, but you want to keep at least a copy of the raw footage, if somebody wants to see it later on.

AMY GOODMAN: You said actually two copies. You want to keep a copy of the raw footage on two different hard drives or in a computer and give to someone else.

YVONNE NG: Yeah, and when you edit a video, like you were mentioning before, you're creating a new video, so that original metadata that's part of your original file is not going to be in your new video. So you can share an edited version of the video. Let's say you need, for privacy reasons, to blur someone's face or to take out some sensitive information, but keep a copy of your original.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I'm wondering if you could sort of assess the impact of these citizen videos. It's only been 25 years. I remember when I interviewed the guy who did the Rodney King video back in 1992. He was an Argentinian businessman who just happened to be in his apartment. He had just gotten a video camera as a birthday present the day before. And when he heard the commotion outside his window, he took out the camera from the box, used it for the first time to film the Rodney King video. And now we've had, in 25 years, this explosion of citizen video.

YVONNE NG: Yeah. And it's interesting. The Rodney King video was actually shot on videotape, which in some ways is actually a lot easier to manage than the digital files that activists are creating now, because with a videotape, you can put it on a shelf for a little while, at least, before you have to digitize it to preserve it. But, you know, the digital files that activists are creating now are fragile, sort of from the moment that they're created. And that's why archiving is relevant now to activists who are shooting video. It's not really just an afterthought.

But to your question about, you know, what difference archiving videos make, one example that I can give is, the Congolese warlord, Thomas Lubanga, was on trial at the International Criminal Court. He was the first person that that court was able to sentence. And video was used before and during his trial to prove that he conscripted child soldiers. There was video of him talking to children at military camps. There was footage of him using children as their bodyguards. And so, the crimes that he was convicted of happened from 2002 to 2003. He wasn't arrested until 2006. And then his trial took another six years after that. So, that video had to be available and preserved for at least 10 years to be used in the case. And even beyond that 10 years, you know, now those videos are part of the historical document. They're how we understand what happened. They're part of the official record. So, that is like the impact of these videos. It goes much beyond its sort of initial upload or use to just get that information out there. It really has a long-term value.

AMY GOODMAN: And then I want to just ask, finally, about your organization, WITNESS. I mean, we just interviewed the head of Amnesty International. They were—Amnesty USA. They were headed to Ferguson, because these international organizations, Human Rights Watch and others, are looking more and more at the United States—


AMY GOODMAN: —and practices that are going on here. WITNESS, too, is known as an organization that provides video cameras for people around the world to document the abuses of dictators and their militaries.


AMY GOODMAN: And yet you're working now with people here in the United States.

YVONNE NG: Yeah. I mean, we work all around the world, and that's where we've learned a lot of the knowledge that we have, that we are able to share in our resources. And one of the important things that we know is that the local communities understand their context best. So the way that we've produced our resources are so that they can be easily downloaded for free, they can be customized to local needs, and they can be republished by local organizations. And we also rely a lot on local expertise. So, you know, rather than producing some resources ourselves, we depend—we point activists to local expertise. For example, the ACLU has great resources on, like, your rights to film during a protest.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much, Yvonne Ng, for joining us, senior archivist for WITNESS, which trains and supports people using video in their fight for human rights, co-author of the "Activists' Guide to Archiving Video." It's available in English, in Spanish, in Arabic. And we'll link to it at our website. I also want to say special thanks to Democracy Now!'s own archivist, Brendan Allen, who first brought the "Activists' Guide to Archiving Video" to our attention. Our records stretch from the early '80s to today and include interviews, oral histories, field recordings and footage of people and histories that often go undocumented. The archives are an integral part of our show. We use material from them almost daily. So, thanks so much, Brendan, and thanks to all of you who make Democracy Now! possible. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

Categories: Media

NY Times Vs. Cuomo: A Sign of Ethics on the Rise?

Alternet - Media Culture - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 1:46pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's team was stunned not to get the 'paper of record's' endorsement.

This article first appeared in

Members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s team are “stunned” by latest endorsements of his opponent, Fordham University Associate Law Professor and Top Wonk Zephyr Teachout. The New York Times declined to make an endorsement in the race, attributing the unusual decision to the Governor’s “failure on ethics reform” … meanwhile, Teachout has garnered endorsements from the National Organization for Women’s New York chapterSierra Club,the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, the New York State Public Employees Federation, and The Nation, who called her “a savvy, trust-busting progressive.”

The Working Families Party (WFP) had initially tapped Teachout to run against Cuomo in response to the Governor’s interference with an ethics commission and overall lack of adherence to progressive principles. Cuomo might have thought he was in the clear when he eventually secured the WFP endorsement in a backdoor deal in early June; however, a WFP member recently told the Daily Beast: “There is definitely a sense right now of buyer’s remorse” … perhaps that is why Cuomo is refusing to debate his up and coming progressive opponent?

Is the TEACHOUT challenge a teachable moment for ethically-agnostic politicians? Should Mug Shot Perry and Gov. Bridgegate read the tea leaves and pack in their presidential ambitions? Or is this just a bump in the road for Cuomo? Time will tell…

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Categories: Media

Omaha Police Fatally Shoot 'COPS' TV Crew Member During Standoff

Alternet - Media Culture - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 1:12pm
Police officers killed a "COPS" crew member as well as a robbery suspect, who was armed with a pellet gun they thought was a real handgun.

Washington (AFP) — The filming of the reality show “Cops” turned deadly when U.S. police firing on a man suspected of robbing a restaurant hit a TV sound man and killed him, police said.

The suspect, later found to have a pistol that fired pellets, was also killed in the incident in Omaha, Nebraska, on Tuesday night.

The audio technician was named as Bryce Dion, 38, and his death is believed to be the first in the 25-year history of the show, one of the first American reality programs, U.S. media said.

In “Cops,” TV crews embed with the police and film them in action.

Omaha police chief Todd Schmaderer said Dion was in the vestibule of a Wendy’s fast food restaurant as the suspect, identified as Cortez Washington, came out firing his pellet gun.

“He’s on his way out. Officers are returning fire. Bryce is in that vestibule and gets struck by a round,” Schmaderer told a news conference.

The police chief said it was “absolutely ridiculous” to suggest that officers might have been showing off for the TV cameras, according to CNN.

The production company that makes “Cops,” Langley Productions, said it was “deeply saddened and shocked by this tragedy and our main concern is helping his family in any way we can.”

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Fareed Zakaria Is Plagued by More Than Plagiarism—He Suffers from Neoliberal Know-It-All-Ism

Alternet - Media Culture - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:31pm
Zakaria showed his true character in his outburst on 'Charlie Rose.' In August 2011, about a year before Fareed Zakaria's misappropriation of some paragraphs written by New Yorker writer Jill Lepore prompted his brief suspension by Time, The Washington Post, and CNN and his resignation from the Yale Corporation, I reported an earlier instance his duplicitous "editing" as he scrambled to tidy up an uncharacteristically id-like public eruption on the Charlie Rose Show. Few noticed the little clean-up effort at the time, but I cited it again here a year later when the Lepore scandal broke. And I want return to it briefly now amid new, increasingly substantial accusations that Zakaria is a plagiarist. Whenever he has passed off someone else's work and authorial voice as his own, he has crossed a line that Time, the Post, and CNN shouldn't be blurring as shamelessly as they've been doing. Now we're learning that passages in his book The Post American World have been lifted from others' published work without proper (if any) attribution or credit. Is this controversy really only about the affected journalists' resentment of Zakaria's use of their work and about other journalists' envy of his prominence? Does it reflect a wide-spread misunderstanding of how things really work in journalism now that digitalism is opening everyone's access to everything in real time and blurring the value of individual scholarship and authorship? I don't think so. Zakaria's effort to distract attention from his Rose Show eruption matters here because, although no plagiarism was involved, it bared a characteristic hunger -- not unknown in other pundits -- to be the authority and arbiter of the newest "inside" information and strategies for neoliberal elites and their apologists and wannabes. It's wrong, though not necessarily shocking, for a rushed journalist to lift a few phrases and adjectives from other journalists' own recycling of what are basically just "facts" from academic and think-tank reports and, heaven help us, even press releases. Zakaria has done this, apparently often. One of many examples presented by the website Our Bad Media shows him reproducing, in hisTime Magazine column, a couple of sentences -- citing statistics on corporate tax avoidance, gathered by IQ Capital Research for the New York Times-- from a column written and published there months earlier by David Leonhardt. Zakaria's column didn't credit Leonhardt, the researchers, or the Times. A reader might have assumed that Zakaria had discovered the information himself or that it had long been publicly known. A reader wouldn't have noticed that Zakaria was using Leonhardt's own sentence structure and diction. Leonhardt and his publisher would be well-justified in taking offense, but does this really matter to the quality of public discourse? Did Leonhardt work any harder at gathering these particular statistics, handed him by the Times' contractor, than Zakaria did in passing them on? As far as I can tell, the Zakaria column at issue here is an otherwise wholly original, counterintuitive, and illuminating essay on tax fairness. It takes off on a proposal by the then-Republican presidential-primary candidate Herman Caine, who championed a flat tax scheme that many -- including Leonhardt and, for that matter, me -- may not endorse but that Zakaria found worthy of consideration, with some modifications of his own that he proposed in his column. Fair enough, but, what would it have cost him to credit Leonhardt and the Times' research contractor? A lot, apparently, at least in his own busy mind. Zakaria's own assiduously cultivated stock in trade relies on his being widely regarded as a one-man Davos, a "go-to" seer for the rich and powerful and for millions who follow their moves. His virtuosity and ubiquity as neo-liberal consciousness-shaper of the hour are driven not merely by his sometimes-illuminating intelligence but by his hunger to advise elites whose prerogatives and policies he smoothly defends. Zakaria mistakes the hub-bub and dynamism of "free markets" for the vigorous give-and-take of public discourse, when in reality the former often undermines the latter. The neo-liberal mindset within which he lives and moves gives far too much scope to inequality and elitism, worrying more about people who would champion "too much" social equality than about people and undercurrents that are undermining it and that justify elitism itself. Zakaria pretty clearly conceives a special role for himself in balancing these tensions. He disguises his conviction -- that he and the elites he comforts and only sometimes challenges are special -- with his well-practiced, faux-democratic grace notes and smoke-screens, crafted to secure the approval or at least the acquiescence of the mass audiences he brings to the neoliberal consensus. This makes Zakaria a profit center, not a prophet. And that matters to his employers, who'll find reasons to forgive him and to keep on blurring the standards of public discourse that make democracy and deliberation viable. Media corporations exist, after all, not to inform the public or help it deliberate but to assemble and re-assemble audiences for profit on any pretext, however sensationalist or degrading, that will assemble them. To keep your eyeballs glued, they've become expert at bypassing your brain and the heart on the way to your lower viscera and your wallet. Their pretext in Zakaria's case is a good one: He gives large audiences "inside information" and connect-the-dots insights. He provides this in abundance, or seems to, by aggregating the work of other journalists, who uncover many dots but don't connect them as ambitiously as Zakaria does. For him, other journalists are clerks of fact, worker bees, oarsmen in the bowels of a galley at whose prow stands Fareed Zakaria, giving their work direction and meaning. What happened on the Charlie Rose Show, and how Zakaria tried to excuse and bury it, is recounted on my website, which has all the relevant details and links. Operating as a leader of President Obama's palace guard of pundits (Obama had been photographed during his first presidential campaign carrying Zakaria's The Post American World, where some of the worst plagiarism occurred), Zakaria went on the Rose Show to discredit the academic psychologist and political consultant Drew Westen's early and prescient criticisms of Obama's leadership, which I link and explain in the post. Westen wasn't a ivory tower, knee-jerk moralist but a tougher, savvier customer than Zakaria and his side-kick on the show, Jonathan Chait, then of The New Republic, had expected. Realizing that Westen was getting the better of him at one point, Zakaria lost his composure: "Look I -- what I would say, and I`m not going to get into the what-ifs of a professor, you know, who has never run for dogcatcher advising one of the most skilful politicians in the country on how he should have handled this. It`s a - "Rose intervened, re-balancing the discussion and saving Zakaria from himself: "The former would be you and the latter would be President Obama? " "Yes, exactly," said Zakaria, deft on the uptake, as ever, and eager to right himself. "The whole idea that all of us who`ve never run for anything have you know, have -- can brilliantly explain how to maneuver another $400 billion through the Senate...."Still, Zakaria couldn't stop himself from adding, "I`m also a little uncomfortable with people who have facile answers -- 'if only [Obama] would have waved his magic wand...'" Rose intervened again, wisely: "I don`t think anybody`s arguing that there`s a magic speech to be made. I do think people can make a legitimate question" -- as Westen was doing - "which is, Did this president exhibit the kind of skills that he may or may not have that would have produced a different result at various stages in his presidency? These have to do with leadership skills...." Zakaria muddled off into non-sequiturs and switched the subject, as you can read in the post. At6:35 am on the Saturday after the Thursday night show, he posted on his CNN blog, under the headline, "What Liberals Fantasize About", an item that attempted to excuse and bury his gaffe. "Here's a lightly edited excerpt of our conversation where I discuss the fantasy of liberals and why many need to grow up," he wrote, but in truth he excerpted the show heavily, dishonestly, obliterating Westen's arguments about Obama's missed opportunities in the Senate and omitting his own condescending response to the professor who'd never run for dog-catcher. Let me emphasize that this is not plagiarism. It's not about something illegal. It's not about something unusual among public writers. But it's revelatory of the characteristic opportunism behind Zakaria's seemingly definitive pronouncements. 

Asked in 2011 at the inauguration of Yale's Jackson Institute for Global Affairs to assess the Iraq War in retrospect, he said that while "it's clear now that costs outweighed benefits and that anyone who says he'd do it over again is not being honest or is not in command of the facts," we must also remember that South Korea, too, seemed "a big mess, a brutal dictatorship, until the 1980s," when it stabilized and became hospitable to Western values as well as investments. Presumably, Iraq might yet do the same. But then Zakaria admonished his Yale audience to "re-balance American foreign policy away from these crisis centers that are riven by 15th-century feuds." He thus dodged the truth that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, neo-conservatives, and commentators such as Fareed Zakaria stampeded the American public into unleashing those ancient feuds by wrecking post-Saddam Iraq with fatuously bad, ideologically driven planning. His account at Yale was bad history, bad politics and a good example of trying to eat his cake and keep it, too. He was for the war, then against it, and, then in 2011 he offered others the wan hope that Iraq, like Korea, would stabilize enough to vindicate what so many had supported, with his encouragement, in 2003. Having made these criticisms of Zakaria a year before his Lepore heist became public, I reiterated them here in Huffington Post afterward, in August 2012, because I'd become convinced that his modus is worse than the plagiarism it sometimes entails. Zakaria is driven to scoop up anything of value in order to appear omniscient not only because he's immensely self-important, and not only because he congratulates himself on his desire and unique ability to reconcile the rich and powerful with liberal-democratic publics in a "global public sphere" that just might save the planet; he's also driven by something I consider spiritually perverse and, in the end, tawdry. His lust to become a counselor and consigliere to kings and Head Tutor to their subjects is turning him, for all his intelligence and practiced charm, into a wind-up toy. His offenses aren't mortal or monstrous, let alone illegal or "unprofessional;" they're just opportunistic and pushy. They're a little like having bad body odor and crashing a civic-republican party that needs participants more principled and nourishing than those driven by media corporations that are assembling audiences only for profit. Must our best political journalists become creatures of those companies and their incentives, even when they're writing their own books? Granted, publishing houses are media companies, too, some of them perversions of what they should be. But publishers and even media-tainment companies like CNN still give him enough latitude to be a far better thinker and even leader than the drill sergeant of the neoliberal cyber-cage that he is becoming. Will his character and temperament allow him to become something better, with a little help from his critics?    Related Stories
Categories: Media

The Guns of August

Democracy Now! - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 10:39am

By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan

In her epic, Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Guns of August,” historian Barbara Tuchman detailed how World War I began in 1914, and how the belligerence, vanity and poor policies of powerful leaders led millions to gory deaths in that four-year conflagration. Before people realized world wars had to be numbered, World War I was called “The Great War” or “The War to End All Wars,” which it wasn’t. It was the first modern war with massive, mechanized slaughter on land, sea and in the air. We can look at that war in retrospect, now 100 years after it started, as if through a distant mirror. The reflection, where we are today, is grim from within the greatest war-making nation in human history, the United States.

In the early years of the 20th century, the leaders of the nations of Europe had contrived a web of alliances, each treaty binding one country to join in the defense of another in the event of war. When the Austrian emperor’s son, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, visited Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, 19-year-old Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip assassinated him. As Barbara Tuchman writes in her book, published in 1962, Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia, which set off a chain reaction, involving Russia, France, Belgium and Great Britain in the war against Austria-Hungary, Germany and the Ottoman Empire.

After the war plans of the various powers failed, a period of brutal trench warfare began, with millions of lives lost under a relentless barrage of mortars, machine guns, mustard gas and newfangled airplanes outfitted with machine guns and bombs. By the war’s end, an estimated 9,700,000 soldiers would be dead, along with 6,800,000 civilians killed.

What, if anything, have we learned from the disaster of World War I? Look no farther than Gaza, or Ferguson, Mo. After nearly 50 days of the bombardment of Gaza with Israel’s intensely lethal, high-tech, U.S.-funded arsenal, Palestinian health officials put the number of Gazans killed at 2,139, of whom over 490 were children. Israel reported 64 soldiers killed as a result of its ground invasion of Gaza, with six civilians dead. The narrow Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated places on Earth, suffering under an Israeli-imposed state of siege, is now a pile of rubble through which people pick, searching for the bodies of loved ones.

Click here to read the full column posted at Truthdig.

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Categories: Media

One Christian Group's Never-Ending, Futile Quest to Save America's Children from Sex

Alternet - Media Culture - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 1:15pm
The Parents Television Council still claims they’re in it for the children.

As anyone familiar with the Christian right can attest, there are a great many sayings Christians spout that are less charitable than it would seem. “I’ll pray for you” is a passive-aggressive way to tell someone to shove off. “It’s in the Lord’s hands” means that the speaker cannot be bothered to actually do something about a problem. And “we’re doing this for the children” means that adults and teenagers are doing something the Christian conservative thinks is ungodly, and children will be invoked to excuse attempts to control the choices of older people.

Take, for instance, the annual rite of the media watchdog organization Parents Television Council complaining about the MTV Video Music Awards. No one in the real world mistakes the VMAs for Sesame Street. The show starts at 8pm and doesn’t really get going until later. To make absolutely sure, the show is rated TV-14. Despite the many signposts alerting parents to the fact that this isn’t programming for the little ones, PTC always finds a way to use hand-wringing about the children to demand more censorship of the VMAs.

PTC seems like a very retro organization these days, still hammering on about what’s on TV when everyone has immediate access to whatever entertainment they want through the Internet. But the organization matters, not just because it is symptomatic of the larger tendency on the right to use “the children” as cover for attacks on the choices of older people, but because they are still the biggest organization out there setting the agenda for what kind of media conservatives are going to hold out as evil. You know, because of the children.

And while PTC might not be very successful at getting stuff off TV, it and its proxies in the media are extremely good at spreading the myth that our culture is oversexed, especially to conservative audiences. That, in turn, leads to attacks on sex education, Planned Parenthood, and activists like Sandra Fluke who want insurance to cover birth control—anyone who is perceived as aiding this supposed over-sexualization.

Because conservative “watchdog” groups, with PTC leading the pack, set this agenda for the right, it’s no surprise that Fox News has picked up on PTC’s obsession with the evils of dancing and the VMAs in particular, such as Bill O’Reilly railing on for multiple nights on Fox News about the supposed threat to girls that the VMAs present and Fox News using the awards show to forward attacks on “modern feminism.” Sexy dancing is available to anyone’s eyeballs whenever they want to see it, but because PTC obsesses over the VMAs, so must Fox News.

Screaming about the supposed effect of the VMAs on children is such a big deal for the PTC that it released pre- and post-VMAs statement. The pre-statement was a threat, which really calls into question what kind of lessons PTC thinks are appropriate to teach small children. “The 2013 VMAs were a public relations kerfuffle for your network that I feel certain you will not wish to repeat,” it warned ominously, even though there is no evidence that the Miley Cyrus performance it referenced did much beyond garner more attention for Cyrus’ burgeoning career.

PTC demanded a TV-MA rating for the show, even though it has no nudity and never anything more ribald than dancing. The TV-14 rating, according to the PTC, “was simply unacceptable to the families who depend on the television ratings system to be applied accurately and to the millions of families whose children are marketed to by MTV.”

The PTC was founded in the '90s by Christian right activist Brent Bozell, and for most of its life, it didn’t bother to hide that it was an organization rooted in Christian right ideals. It’s been undergoing a makeover to appear more as a secular organization in recent years, hiring Tim Winter, a registered Democrat, to take over from Bozell in 2007. Under Winter’s direction, PTC has made a few moves to actually try to be a bit more convincing when it comes to the claim that they’re in this for the children, including creating a division of its website that takes a stab at pushing for better role models for girls in media. 

But looking over the PTC blog, it becomes clear that it's just the same old reactionary organization that exists mainly to complain about sex and profanity on-air, even in situations where broadcasters have reasonable expectations that small children won’t be watching the shows.

For instance, Winter, whose legal party affiliation as a Democrat hasn’t stopped him from writing for Christian right organizations like One News Now, wrote a piece in early August denouncing McDonald’s advertising. He wasn’t concerned about the rising rates of childhood obesity or the way that McDonald’s targets children directly for manipulative advertising of incredibly unhealthy food. That’s for people who actually give a crap about children.

No, Winter is mad that McDonald’s advertised on a silly VH1 show called Dating Naked. “The juxtaposition of this historically family brand with such sexually graphic content is shocking,” he argues, even though the nudity on the show is obscured through pixilation and the contestants aren’t engaged in any more sexual behavior than on any other dating show. So McDonald’s can continue to use clowns and toys to encourage kids to eat all the grease and sugar they can stomach, but god forbid a dating show that admits people are naked under their clothes.

Even though bumping and grinding has been part of pop music since roughly forever, PTC has a special obsession with being angry at Miley Cyrus for engaging in the usual pop musician antics. “America Wants More “Sound of Music” – Less “Bangerz” reads one headline where the PTC bloggers unintentionally parody their own religious right obsession with eradicating any acknowledgement of sex from the entertainment industry.

Cyrus gets singled out because she had the temerity to change from a squeaky clean child star to a more mainstream, risqué pop performer. In other words, she grew up. “Miley Cyrus built her career on the backs of teens, ‘tweens’ and their parents. But the content of her Bangerz Tour is wildly inappropriate for children and families, and NBC knows it,” Winter complained on the blog.

Even though Cyrus is now a grown woman, she is obligated to continue acting like she is a child. No big surprise there, as PTC’s entire existence is predicated on using children as a cover story for what they really want, which is an entertainment industry that treats grown adults like we are children.

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Categories: Media

If Social Media 'Silence Debate,' What Do Corporate Media Do?

FAIR Blog - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 12:38pm
A new study has some outlets saying that social media inhibit debate. You want to compare Twitter's record to the corporate media on that score?
Categories: Media

Jon Stewart Eviscerates Fox Pundits in Searing Monologue on Ferguson

Alternet - Media Culture - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 8:29am
"Do you not understand that life in this country is inherently different for white people and black people?”

After a summer hiatus, Jon Stewart was back in full force last night, delivering a searing opening monologue that took the conservative media to task for their misguided, biased coverage of the events still unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri.

Stewart eviscerated Fox News blowhards for trying to steer the national conversation toward black-on-black crime and defending the white cop who killed Michael Brown. In one clip, Sean Hannity describes his standard response when getting pulled over by cops (which apparently happens on a semi-regular basis): telling the officer he has a licensed handgun, getting out of the car and lifting up his shirt to show them where he keeps it. Putting aside the fact that Brown was unarmed at the time of his fatal shooting, this approach would be unthinkable a black teen in an economically depressed neighborhood plagued by a fraught relationship with police.

Shaking his head in disbelief, Stewart says, “You really have no fucking idea, do you?...Do you not understand that life in this country is inherently different for white people and black people? Race is there and it is a constant. You’re tired of hearing about it? Imagine how fucking exhausting it is living it.”

Watch the rest of the clip. 

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Categories: Media

How Fox News Promoted One of the Most Bogus Ferguson Smears So Far

Alternet - Media Culture - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 4:10pm
How did Fox News run a totally bogus Ferguson story? Welcome to the truly slimy side of the right-wing hit machine

The killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed young black man shot at least six times by police officer Darren Wilson, and the resulting protests in Ferguson, Missouri, left the right-wing media machine in something of a conundrum. Days ticked by and still there was no viable right-wing narrative.

Then, six days after the shooting, Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson bowed to pressure from the community and media and identified Wilson as the cop who shot Brown. At the same time, Jackson released two new bits of information. He said Wilson had been taken to a hospital after the shooting with swelling to his face. He also released a store surveillance video that showed Brown reaching over a counter and grabbing a handful of cigars, then pushing a store clerk on his way out.

This was a turning point in the story: Ferguson police seemingly wanted to transform Michael Brown from an innocent victim to a criminal. Still, it was hard to justify killing a young man with no previous record — especially shooting him six times, for allegedly stealing a handful of cheap cigars.

It wasn’t long before Fox News was pushing a new narrative: Michael Brown wasn’t just the latest in a depressingly long line of unarmed young black men to be gunned down by a white cop. He was a thug, they suggested, a criminal who deserved what he got, because he posed a deadly threat to Officer Wilson.

This was proven, Fox News reported with an unnamed source, because “the officer had sustained a fractured eye socket in the incident.” Ann Coulter even suggested, incorrectly,that we’d seen X-rays of the fracture. Fox went on to claim “solid proof” of a battle between Wilson and Brown for the officer’s handgun.

It was not long, of course, before CNN and others disproved such bogus claims. But how did such fiction make it all the way to an outlet as major, if intellectually challenged, as Fox News?

Enter Jim Hoft — the man often described as the stupidest man on the Internet, by people on both the left and the right.

Here’s how it happened.

Perhaps the first shot in the right-wing news campaign to smear Michael Brown came in the form of a call to a conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch on Aug. 15. A caller who claimed to be a friend of Wilson’s — who would only identify herself as Josie — told Loesch that Brown had “bum rushed” officer Wilson, punched him in the face and tried to go for Wilson’s gun. Brown and his friend then walked away. Wilson pulled his gun and ordered Brown to stop. Brown turned around, taunted Wilson, then again “bum rushed” him. Wilson fired six shots, the last shot to Brown’s forehead. “Josie” claimed that she had gotten this information from a Facebook discussion. She did not claim that Wilson had been seriously injured in the encounter.

Much discussion and rampant speculation  followed in the right-wing blogosphere, even though the only source was an anonymous caller to a radio show and a supposed Facebook discussion. Then, on Aug. 19, Jim Hoft, a St. Louis-based blogger, announced on his site Gateway Pundit that Wilson had suffered an “Orbital Blowout Fracture to Eye Socket.”

“The Gateway Pundit can now confirm from two local St. Louis sources that police Officer Darren Wilson suffered facial fractures during his confrontation with deceased 18 year-old Michael Brown. Officer Wilson clearly feared for his life during the incident that led to the shooting death of Brown. This was after Michael Brown and his accomplice Dorian Johnson robbed a local Ferguson convenience store.”

Hoft offered a still from a CT scan as evidence of Wilson’s injury. It did not take long for people to debunk the story. Later that afternoon on the conservative-leaning website Little Green Footballs, Charles Johnson, who takes delight in debunking Hoft, shredded the story.

Johnson cited video of the immediate aftermath that showed an apparently uninjured Wilson casually strolling around the scene of Brown’s body lying in the middle of the street. He also pointed out that the CT still Hoft posted was actually a stock image lifted from the website of American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus that had been crudely altered to block out the identifying information.

Johnson pointed out that the image Hoft posted cuts off the line at the bottom of the original image that identifies it as coming from University of Iowa Education Technology Center. Hoft did not specifically say the image was Officer Wilson, but he also did not say that it wasn’t. He apparently wanted to create the impression that it was, indeed, an image of Officer Wilson’s head. At some later time Hoft added a caption to the image that identifies it as a “File Image,” but this information was only added after Hoft had been caught red-handed.

Hoft also cited a tweet from Christine Byers, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who said, “Police sources tell me more than a dozen witnesses have corroborated cop’s version of events in shooting.” This was odd, as at this point there had been no story from Wilson, who had gone into hiding shortly after the shooting.

Apparently the Post-Dispatch found it odd, too, as the paper published a story making clear that they never published Byers’ information, that she was not working on this story, and that she had been on leave since March. Byers then tweeted: “On FMLA from paper. Earlier tweets did not meet standards for publication.”

Meanwhile, despite the obvious problems with Hoft’s story, it was just too juicy for the right-wing blogosphere to ignore. Finally there was a narrative that painted Brown as a violent thug and Wilson as a man who was badly beaten and justified in fearing for his life. Couching the nonsense behind weasel-words like “report” and “claim,” they pushed the nonsense into the media bloodstream.

In short order Hoft’s story spread throughout the right-wing blogosphere. The right-wing media machine was cranking up. Early in the afternoon of Aug. 19, the right-wing libertarian site Before It’s News cited Mark Dice’s YouTube report, which in turn cited Hoft’s story.

Dice is something of a low-budget Alex Jones, but naturally it wasn’t long before Jones himself would weigh in. On  InfoWars, Jones’ website, the headline was “FERGUSON LYNCH MOB: NO JUSTICE FOR COP ACCUSED OF KILLING MICHAEL BROWN – Dozen witnesses say Michael Brown attacked officer before shooting.” The sourcing? InfoWars cited, yes, Hoft’s story and Byers’ tweet.

The next day Glenn Beck’s The Blaze cited Hoft’s report under the headline “Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson Beaten Nearly Unconscious, Suffered Eye Socket Fracture Before Shooting Michael Brown: Report.”

Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller also cited Hoft, under the headline “Claim: Darren Wilson Suffered Fractured Eye Socket.”

Soon the story had been picked up by pretty much all of the right-wing noise machine, including Matt Drudge, Breitbart, Right Wing News, the Washington Times and the New York Post.

Now that the story had broken into the wild and had been reported by numerous sources — all citing Jim Hoft’s original report as well as each other — Fox News decided it had enough cover to report on Hoft’s bogus story.

They ran the story every half-hour with a flashing “ALERT ALERT” image at the bottom of the screen and cited , yep, Jim Hoft’s report.

Later in the day Fox found its own anonymous source. Fox cited a “well-placed source” that was “close to the [Ferguson police] department’s top brass” who claimed that there was “solid proof” that “He [Wilson] was beaten very severely.”

What had started out as a sketchy story on a sketchy blog that was full of glaring holes had now become rock-solid news reported by the leader of the right-wing news machine. Never mind that Fox was also citing an anonymous source; the story was true because they said it was true. Soon the story moved from right-wing outlets to respectable mainstream news sources.  The Washington Post also found an anonymous source and reported:

“The officer who fatally shot an unarmed Ferguson youth suffered a fracture to his eye bone in a scuffle with Michael Brown, according to a family friend.

The hospital X-rays of the injury have been submitted to the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney, and will be shared with a grand jury now weighing evidence to determine if Officer Darren Wilson should be charged in the shooting.”

A little later in the day the Washington Post walked it back and contradicted its own story, but without retracting or updating the original report.

“​[St. Louis County Prosecutor spokesman Ed] Magee said that prosecutors have not received any medical records relating to Wilson so far. ​But he said that since Wilson was taken to the hospital, they assume there are medical records and they just haven’t received them yet.

A family friend of Wilson’s told The Washington Post that Wilson suffered a fractured eye socket. Ferguson police have said that Wilson’s face was injured and he needed medical treatment, but they did not go into any detail. On Wednesday night, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III told Fox News that he could not confirm reports that Wilson suffered a fractured eye bone.”

That afternoon CNN “unequivocally” debunked Hoft’s claim. Don Lemon reported that according to sources in the Ferguson Police Department, Darren Wilson did have swelling and did visit an emergency room. X-rays were taken but came back negative. There was no fracture.

Later the same day, as the anonymous reports began to unravel and it became clear that they were inaccurate, the Washington Post threw up its hands and published a “here’s what everybody says, you sort it out” article that cast even more doubt on its earlier reporting:

“It is not known just how severe Wilson’s injuries were following the encounter. Jackson, the Ferguson police chief, only said that the side of Wilson’s face was swollen and that he required treatment at a hospital, but he did not elaborate beyond that. A family friend of Wilson’s told The Washington Post that the officer suffered an eye bone fracture during the encounter with Wilson. This friend also said hospital X-rays of this injury were going to be shared with the office of St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney McCulloch.

A spokesman for McCulloch said they have received no medical records yet relating to Wilson and said they could not comment on the officer’s injuries.”

CNN, who hadn’t reported on Hoft’s story, gleefully scolded Fox News for running with a bogus story from a blogger with a reputation for posting splashy, and untrue, stories. CNN media critic Brian Stelter blasted Fox: ”Frankly, I’m surprised that Fox ripped the information off this blog and repeated it on air.”

In a matter of days a story that stared out on a blog circulated throughout the right-wing media machine and made it all the way up and into the legitimate news media, then crashed and burned as it became apparent the story was simply not true — which everyone involved should have known right from the start.

And what of Jim Hoft? How did Hoft react when his story fell apart? Being Jim Hoft means never having to say “I was wrong.” In fact, in a follow-up piece, Hoft doubled down. His original two anonymous sources were now four anonymous sources. Hoft even took CNN to task for not running with his original BS story. Under the headline “NOW THERE ARE FOUR SOURCES: Officer Darren Wilson Suffered Fractured Eye Socket,” Hoft hilariously cites himself as a source, then closes with: ”CNN really needs to be more responsible with such sensitive information.”

Not only was Hoft doubling down on his now discredited original story, he was taking a victory lap. He claims to have single handedly caused the “Liberal Media” to pull out of Ferguson under the banner headline “Liberal Media Pulls Out of #Ferguson – After Reports of Officer Wilson’s Busted Up Face” And for extra comedic effect, Hoft cites World Net Daily, one of the craziest, least reliable sources in the entire wingnutosphere and known to critics as World Nut Daily.

Hoft is still “reporting” on Ferguson, posting a string of articles that take race baiting to the next level. He talks about “black lynch mobs” and decries the looting and rioting while poor, innocent Darren Wilson is “struggling” and “in fear for his life.” He claims Wilson’s supporters are receiving death threats (from black people) and reports on how white people are co-opting the now famous “hands up” posture to promise not to rob convenience stores. He explains that Mike Brown’s family calling for an end to protests is actually a calling for protests to continue.

And now you know why Jim Hoft is often referred to as the Dumbest Man on the Internet. But why any news source anywhere — even Fox News — would ever cite anything this guy writes, on any subject, remains a mystery.


Categories: Media

WaPo Bemoans a Climate Debate It Helped 'Devolve'

FAIR Blog - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 4:00pm
The paper's editorial page has a new focus on fighting climate change. But will it keep publishing climate nonsense?
Categories: Media

The World as WaPo Would Like It to Be

FAIR Blog - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 1:26pm
Obama's foreign policy is invariably analyzed as being either foolishly pacifistic or prudently diplomatic. The reality that the Obama administration has used military force on a large scale in many countries is not acknowledged.
Categories: Media

Beyoncé's 'Flawless' Feminist Act at the Video Music Awards Leads the Way for Other Women

Alternet - Media Culture - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 4:58pm
Queen Bey doesn’t just tell interviewers about her feminism: she references it in her work and promotes it to her fans.

Beyoncé, in the midst of an epic 15 minute medley at Sunday night’s MTV Video Music awards, performed her song “Flawless” in front of a giant screen blazoned with the word “FEMINIST”. And, as in her music video, the superstar sampled author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech on feminism and expectations for girls.

The zeitgeist is irrefutably feminist: its name literally in bright lights.

As feminism’s star has ascended, so has the number of celebrities willing to lend their name to the movement. Feminism is no longer “the f-word”, it’s the realm of cool kids: Beyoncé, Lena DunhamAmy Poehler,Kerry Washington and Joseph Gordon-Levitt all call themselves feminists. And just this week, after years of equivocating, Taylor Swift came out as a feminist.

When one of the most popular artists in the world has been calling herself a feminist for a while, it’s easy for others like Swift to shout her feminist allegiance from the rooftops. But while Swift and others calling themselves feminists is great, being feminists every day is better.

What I’d love to see is this new crop of celebrity feminists strongly coming out in support of social justice issues: using their newfound (or quiet but long-standing) politics to create change influenced by that gender justice lens.

Beyoncé already got us started – she directly references feminism in her work and penned an article in support of equal pay, among other things. Dianna Agron of Glee fame speaks at pro-choice organizations’ events, Martha Plimpton created the pro-choice organization A is For and Kerry Washington is a frequent commentator on women’s rights and sits on the board of V-Day.

Others have more work to do. Swift told the Guardian that her previous rejection of feminism was because she didn’t really understand what the word meant. (In 2012, when a reporter asked Swift if she was a feminist she replied, “I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls”.)

She explained last week that, “what it seemed to me, the way it was phrased in culture, society, was that you hate men. And now, I think a lot of girls have had a feminist awakening because they understand what the word means”.

I’m glad that another celebrity with mass appeal – to young women, especially – is touting a movement necessary for gender justice. But the singer-songwriter calling herself a feminist for the first time in the same week that she released a video in which she twerks and crawls through the disembodied legs of women of color shows that it takes more than identifying as a feminist to understand feminism. (Perhaps as Swiftbrowses the feminist section of bookstores she could pick up something on racism and cultural appropriation. Maybe she could read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, as Beyoncé clearly has?)

If celebrities want to cement their feminist bonafides, they should educate themselves on the work that’s already been done and move forward with the intention of creating change, not just good PR. Because as exciting as it can be to see our best-known celebs talking about feminism, walking the walk is a lot more interesting.

So let Beyoncé lead the way with her hat tips to Adichie and tangible support of gender justice.

Obviously, feminism can’t hang its hat on celebrity endorsements – it’s a movement for social and political change, not a popularity contest. But successful movements need support, be it in the grassroots or in Hollywood. And there is no debating the hugely powerful cultural message sent last night as Beyoncé sang about feminism, while her husband looked on lovingly, holding their daughter.

It was, without a doubt, flawless. 

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Categories: Media

Michael Brown, According to the New York Times

FAIR Blog - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 4:18pm
The New York Times makes some curious choices in its coverage of the victim in the Ferguson, Missouri, police shooting.
Categories: Media

65 Groups Urge the FCC to Reject the Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger

Hear Us Now - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 3:53pm

For Immediate Release:  Monday, August 25, 2014

65 Groups Urge the FCC to Reject the Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger

Deal Would Give Comcast Unprecedented Market Power & Lead To Higher Prices and Fewer Choices For Consumers

Sixty-five organizations representing consumers, content producers, and social justice and democracy-reform advocates called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today to reject the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable.  The FCC is currently reviewing the deal to determine whether it serves the public interest.

In a letter to the FCC, the groups warned that the merger would give Comcast “unprecedented gatekeeper control” over the nation’s telecommunications and media landscape and lead to higher prices and fewer choices for broadband and cable customers.  The merger would give Comcast too much control over the future of the Internet and communications infrastructure and undermine the diversity of ownership and content in media, according to the groups.

The letter highlights Comcast’s history of failing to meet commitments made to gain approval for its previous merger with NBCUniversal.  “Given this history, no amount of promises or conditions would be good enough to assuage concerns about this merger….The deal needs to be rejected outright.”

A full copy of the letter along with a list of organizations that signed it follows:

Chairman Tom Wheeler
Federal Communications Commission
445 12st St SW
Washington, DC 20554

August 25th 2014

Dear Chairman Wheeler:

On behalf of the 65 undersigned organizations, representing low-income consumers, community-based leaders, content producers, and public interest organizations from across the country, we urge you to stop the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable. A merger between the nation’s two largest cable companies would inevitably lead to unprecedented gatekeeper control over our nation’s telecommunications and media landscape. It would mean higher prices and fewer choices for broadband users and cable customers. It would put too much control over the future of the Internet and our communications infrastructure in one company’s hands and would negatively impact diversity in ownership and content.

Pay-TV rates have risen for two straight decades, and Comcast’s rates have gone up as fast as anyone’s despite its scale. Comcast’s Executive Vice President David Cohen made no promises that this merger would rein in those skyrocketing prices, saying there was no guarantee “that customer bills are going to go down or even increase less rapidly.”[1]

This deal would increase Comcast’s service area to almost two-thirds of the U.S. It would allow Comcast to use its increased market power, and increased control over millions more customers, to dictate terms to broadband content providers and increase its leverage over cable programmers. To put it mildly, combining these two firms would lessen competition and harm innovation, but notimprove the consumer experience.

Despite all this, Comcast is currently trying to impress Washington by claiming to provide low-cost broadband access to low income communities and by nominally embracing Net Neutrality. Yet due to barriers that limit eligibility, customer difficulty with signing up, and lack of outreach even to eligible participants, the company’s Internet Essentials program has not delivered on its promises.

Comcast’s commitment to Net Neutrality is also problematic to say the least. First, all broadband users deserve strong Open Internet protections, and that’s only possible with Title II reclassification that applies to every broadband provider. Merger conditions that apply only to Comcast are no substitute for rules protecting everyone, no matter how strong those conditions may be.  Moreover, the conditions that apply to Comcast today are not permanent. Comcast agreed to Net Neutrality conditions that run until 2018 to gain approval for its previous merger with NBCUniversal.

After 2018, those conditions expire and Comcast customers would be left without protection absent reclassification and real Net Neutrality rules. Our rights to connect and communicate should not have an expiration date. Even while these conditions have been in place, Comcast has found ways to manipulate them – using its market power to charge new tolls for Internet content and create special exemptions for its own video services. These kinds of anticompetitive practices would only grow as a result of this merger.

Comcast has a history of misrepresenting its adherence to other merger commitments, too. It has been fined for failing to fulfill the standalone broadband service commitments it also made for the NBCUniversal acquisition, and it had to be ordered by the FCC to live up to its commitments about equitable treatment for independent channels. Given this history, no amount of promises or conditions would be good enough to assuage concerns about this merger. The deal needs to be rejected outright.

The transaction is just as concerning for its negative impacts on media localism and diversity. At the state level, firms like Comcast have lobbied for “State Franchising” bills that have stripped municipalities of the power to negotiate franchise agreements with cable companies. This merger would also further the need for measures promoting diversity in ownership. The FCC’s most recent statistics found that already low ownership levels for people of color have only gotten worse. Allowing Comcast to merge with Time Warner Cable would only continue the trend away from the diverse local media our communities need.

In closing, we urge the Federal Communications Commission to review the facts—this merger is not in the public interest.  Hundreds of thousands of people around the country have already called on you to stop this merger and an increasing number of people around the country want the opportunity to meet with the FCC face to face to provide the data and public input crucial for informed discussions and decisions about this merger.  For these reasons, we ask you to reject this deal.


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Access Humboldt

Appalshop, Inc.

Art Is Change

Austin Airwaves

Broadband Alliance of Mendocino County

Cambridge Community Television

CCTV Center for Media & Democracy

Center for Digital Democracy

Center for Media Justice

Center for Rural Strategies

Common Cause

Common Cause Colorado

Common Cause Hawaii

Common Cause Illinois

Common Cause New York

Common Frequency

Community Media Visioning

Consumers Union

Courage Campaign

CREDO Mobile

Daily Kos

Demand Progress

Democracy for America

Easton Community Access Television

Evanston Community TV

Free Press

FREE! (Families Rally for Emancipation and Empowerment)

Future of Music Coalition

Generation Justice

Global Action Project

Independent Media Publications

Institute for Local Self Reliance

Iraq Veterans Against the War

Martinez Street Women’s Project

Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net)

Media Alliance

Media Literacy Project

Media Mobilizing Project

Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizing

National Alliance for Media Arts & Culture

National Organization for Women

Nothing Without Us

OpenMedia International

Open Technology Institute, New America Foundation

Philadelphia Student Union

Popular Resistance

Progressives United

Prometheus Radio Project

Public Knowledge

Rural Broadband Policy Group

St. Paul Neighborhood Network

Sports Fan Coalition

Stop Comcast


The Greenlining Institute

The Harry Potter Alliance

The Other 98%

The People’s Press Project

TURN – The Utility Reform Network

Writers Guild of America East

Women in Media & News

Working Narratives


Contact:  Michael McCauley, Consumers Union, mmccauley@consumer.org415-902-9537 (cell) or Dale Eisman, Common Cause, deisman@commoncause.org202-736-5788 or Tim Karr, tkarr@freepress.net201-533-8838

Categories: Media