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Tag Archive: News Product

The MSM has embarrassed itself to a near-fatal degree

Posted: Friday, August 31, 2012 (11:26 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Friday, August 31st, 2012:

Who better than J. E. Dyer to inspire me to rekindle my moribund blog, in a blog post entitled Are the American voters idiots?, which ultimately tackles several of my favorite hobby horses:

There were so many reasons to know in advance that Obama would be a poor president.  Yet many of the voters were taken in by the media hype surrounding Obama.  The president’s associations and recorded statements were played down.  The record was there for a number of investigative authors to find, from Michelle Malkin to Stanley Kurtz and Aaron Klein.  But the mainstream media presented a very selective picture of the Democratic candidate.

The MSM, in fact, has embarrassed itself to a near-fatal degree with its remarkable coverage of the Obama administration, whether it is amplifying the cries of “racism!” that erupt whenever there is criticism of the president, or credulously reporting whatever the administration puts out, word for word, as if there is no previous record or any set of facts to be counter-checked.  (The latter pattern is especially strong when it comes to reporting about defense and national security.  Reporters have regularly retailed administration talking points about the unprecedented “shows of strength” the Obama administration is making, when a little research would reveal that the US had already been doing whatever the “unprecedented” thing is, for 5, 20, or even – in the case of North and South Korea – 60 years.)

There has been a tremendous growth in vague, elliptical, and/or tendentious narration of what’s going on in the nation and the world.  The people can be pardoned for being tired and confused.

But the inability to distinguish fantasy-news and talking points from reality is a product of the US education system.  That system has taken millions of people with plenty of native smarts and indoctrinated them with a set of ideological trigger-concepts, all while declining to teach them to think critically.  Developing judgment through critical thinking is one of the hallmarks of adulthood, and the US education system has been making that harder for Americans, rather than fostering their abilities.

I have this lingering sense, which I honestly suspect is nothing but delusion, that the producers of mainstream “news” product really are making themselves progressively (!) more and more irrelevant by alienating their audiences with increasingly transparent cultivated stupidity, and un-reflexive progressive bias and partisanship. I hope it’s not just the projection of wishful thinking on my part.

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And although I agree with her assessment of the typical results of the US education system, I think the actual contributions of the schools to those results might entail a smaller and more collaborative role than Dyer seems to be suggesting. The entertainment industry plays no small part, independently of the schools, as does the overall entitlement ethic of society.

Dyer’s article gets to that in its own way later on, where she speaks critically of “the modern American pathology-network” of dependencies, addictions, disorders, and despair. She remains confident in the redeeming value of the free exchange of ideas in the public square, though the history of progressives and other leftists in power does not fill me with the same confidence that the square will remain open for dissent indefinitely.

An article that was never worth dying for

Posted: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 (11:23 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011:

From a New York Times article, published on Boston.com, from four Times’ reporters who had just been released from several days of captivity in the loony bin of wartime Libya, relaying some of the details of their ordeal, including this moment of realization that their Libyan driver had likely been killed by the soldiers who’d captured them:

From the pickup, Lynsey saw a body lying next to our car, one arm outstretched. We still don’t know whether that was Mohammed. We fear it was, though his body has yet to be found. If he died, we will have to bear the burden for the rest of our lives that an innocent man died because of us, because of wrong choices that we made, for an article that was never worth dying for.

No article is, but we were too blind to admit that.

Ummm, do you think? And if that poor man had a family, what exactly should be said to his wife now? That he died so that Americans back home could be thrilled by up-to-the-minute eye-witness war reporting?

I often feel queasy when I pass by TVs playing war front footage, thinking about the irresponsibility and just plain inanity of it all. And it’s not just the media outlets that are to blame; those who sit down with their popcorn and crackerjacks to take it in are equally responsible.

War zone reporting is a kind of pornography; a tacit agreement between a salacious public eager to indulge its lust for the thrill of purely objectified knowledge, and a pimping media equally eager to grow wealthy and powerful providing the entertainment “content” of a stranger’s debasement, especially given the ease with which such emotionally charged messaging can be used to manipulate public opinion for political ends.

The “news” is just about the worst of what the mass entertainment industry has to offer society, and this article is, I hope, a pretty clear example of why that is.

The mind is dulled, not fed, by inordinate reading

Posted: Tuesday, March 8, 2011 (9:23 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Tuesday, March 8th, 2011:

More from A. G. Sertillanges’ The Intellectual Life, from the section “Reading” in the chapter “Preparation for Work,” on “not reading much” as a prerequisite to intellectual vitality:

What we are proscribing is the passion for reading, the uncontrolled habit, the poisoning of the mind by excess of mental food, the laziness in disguise which prefers easy familiarity with others’ thought to personal effort.

The passion for reading which many pride themselves on as a precious intellectual quality, is in reality a defect; it differs in no wise from the other passions that monopolize the soul, keep it in a state of disturbance, set up in it uncertain currents and cross-currents, and exhaust its powers.

The mind is dulled, not fed, by inordinate reading, it is made gradually incapable of reflection and concentration, and therefore of production; it grows inwardly extroverted, if one can so express oneself, becomes the slave of its mental images, of the ebb and flow of ideas on which it has eagerly fastened its attention. This uncontrolled delight is an escape from self; it ousts the intelligence from its function and allows it merely to follow point for point the thoughts of others, to be carried along in the stream of words, developments, chapters, volumes.

Can you imagine what this guy would have had to say regarding television?

As unintuitive as this thought might seem at first blush, I quickly recognized its truth as I read through it. I cannot deny, for example, that when I am feeling mentally lazy, I reach for something to read – so I won’t have to think too much. At its worst, that amounts to web browsing. At best, it means making headway in a book, but at times like those I tend to avoid the books I’m grinding through in favor of something either light or novel (or both), and the fact that I’m inclined to doze off while reading unless I’m mentally sharp at the time just further proves the point.

And then there’s truly useless reading (Sertillanges even says of newspapers: “defend yourself against them” – Amen, I say!), about which I’ll say nothing more than that Sertillanges’ proscription is a useful parallel to my occasional snarky reply to the invariably breathless claim that education is an important and necessary good: It might be important, but it’s not good. An education in virtue is an important and necessary good, yes, but an education in evil is an education neither necessary nor good, and one I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. The distinction is important.

Vicious charges made by people who claimed to be criticizing viciousness

Posted: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 (7:47 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Wednesday, January 12th, 2011:

New York Times columnist David Brooks, in a too-rare moment of lucidity, commenting Monday on the despicable liberal media spin on the Giffords shooting:

Keith Olbermann demanded a Palin repudiation and the founder of the Daily Kos wrote on Twitter: “Mission Accomplished, Sarah Palin.” Others argued that the killing was fostered by a political climate of hate.

These accusations — that political actors contributed to the murder of 6 people, including a 9-year-old girl — are extremely grave. … They were vicious charges made by people who claimed to be criticizing viciousness.

Yet such is the state of things. … We have a news media with a strong distaste for Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement, and this seemed like a golden opportunity to tarnish them. …

I have no love for Sarah Palin, and I like to think I’m committed to civil discourse. But the political opportunism occasioned by this tragedy has ranged from the completely irrelevant to the shamelessly irresponsible.

I think Brooks misses the Left’s sly assault via this tragedy on the 1st Amendment, but I have to give him credit for bucking the mob of his fellows, and doing it early, before the backlash from an offended public – if this was published in the grey lady Monday, it must have been written no later than Sunday night. Besides, the aspect he instead focuses on is at least equally important, and he hits the nail on the head in terms of the viciousness involved. I don’t know how some of these people sleep at night…

Our whole society shares this stupidity

Posted: Monday, January 3, 2011 (9:35 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for January 3rd, 2011:

John Sommerville, from an article in the October 1991 issue of First Things, entitled: Why the News Makes Us Dumb

The News can’t be fixed. There is something about daily publication, all by itself, that distorts reality. That is why the addiction to News that so many of us share has brought on a kind of stupidity. Our whole society shares this stupidity, and so we have a hard time recognizing it.

Catching up on some blog reading I missed last week, I noticed that Joe Carter had penned a piece at FirstThings.com on one of my favorite subjects to grouse about: how the Daily News Product industry dominates our culture, and infests it with rampant stupidity. Carter quoted a different passage in this 20 year-old article from Sommerville, which happily appears to be a free article in the First Things on-line archive. According to Carter, this essay was later fleshed out into a book by Sommerville, which I see via Amazon is a rather short one (155 pgs.) published by IVP in 1999, called How the News Makes Us Dumb: The Death of Wisdom in an Information Society. It never ceases to amaze me how many people think the schlock marketed to them as "news" makes them somehow more knowledgeable about the world around them.

What Liberal Bias?

Posted: Monday, November 15, 2010 (9:43 pm), by John W Gillis


I saw something on TV last night that was just too funny to pass up. When I got home from teaching CCD, my wife had the TV on, watching a nice 60 Minutes character piece on an Afghan vet who is being awarded the Medal of Honor, and I milled around to watch it. Then Andy Rooney came on.

Rooney started complaining about a recent Gallup poll showing pretty broad dissatisfaction with President Obama and his performance. Rooney contrarily said he had gone and asked nine of his friends what they thought, and they all thought Obama was doing a terrific job. Well, duh! I have no doubt that if Rooney had spent an entire afternoon polling his friends and co-workers, he would have had a hard time coming up with anyone dissatisfied with Obama – except for those perhaps who think Obama has been too much of a middling moderate! “They polled 90, 000 people!”, he crowed: “Where do they find these people?”

I was just a little bit too stung by this man’s naivety to laugh out loud. If someone had hired an actor to portray the stereotype of mainstream media figures as a collection of smug, condescending liberals, living a secluded existence completely out of touch with the American people, he couldn’t have done better than Rooney did.

The point is not whether Rooney and his nine friends, or the 90,000 Americans, are better judges of Obama’s presidency. The point is how funny it is that a guy like Rooney apparently genuinely has no idea how much farther to the left the insular world of liberal “opinion” institutions is from mainstream America.

How is this ignorance cultivated? How about, for an example, we take Ted Koppel’s musings the same day on the sad demise of the nobly objective media institution his rose-colored way-back glasses remember from back in the day – like, you know, the days when Koppel held court and people listened. The three-step formula? Find someone else even more egregiously leftist to serve as one punching bag (MSNBC fits the bill nicely here). Then, to serve as the main punching bag, find someone who seems quite out of place in the whole media mix because they’re not particularly leftist at all (this is the FOX News role, since they’re not leftist – though they are pretty libertarian, which is something of a cross between being a liberal and being a tightwad, but that’s what passes for “conservatism” in a lot of circles today). Finally, declare yourself a centrist, or “normal,” or the only ones without an accent, etc.

But back to philosopher number one: the final punch line has to be Rooney insisting that there just must be something wrong with polls that reflect views so contrary to the prevailing view within the hallways of places like CBS. “They never ask me what I think,” he huffs.

So then, why do you keep telling us, Andy?