Monday, June 06, 2011

Weiners in the news

When you watch the network nightly news on TV, if you are a watch-the-network-news sort, you probably want to congratulate yourself on your effort to be well-informed yet normal. Once in a while, I too worry about being well-informed yet normal, so I watched the NBC nightly news this evening where I found out the most important news of the day was Anthony Weiner's press conference contriteness at having 'sexted' some women via Twitter and Facebook.The second item Brian Williams discussed was about how some Sarah Palin supporters editing the Wikipedia biography of Paul Revere to make it seem to conform with Mrs Palin's comments regarding his famous ride, which seems both pathetic and creepy.

But Yemen's Saleh skipping the country and Israel attacking Palistineans at the Syrian border were apparently not so important. Now I realize that Weiner's virtual hanky panky makes for "sexier" and more readily digested news(especially with that name!), and since it's a story about a congressman and not the never-ending Casey Anthony trial, I suppose the typical network nightly news viewer might be forgiven (a bit) if he thinks he did his part to try and get better informed.

Even among Americans who might get their news from the internet, I'm guessing most who might go to or Yahoo News aren't aware of, for example, Asia Times Online or the Guardian(of course The Guardian also has some problems as far as perspective goes ).

Still, I have to believe most educated and semi-educated people here must realize how awful most mass media journalism is, and have at least an inkling they can try to use that internet thingie to access broader and more sober perspectives(at least for now). So it's "on them", as the saying goes.

As far as the notion that the big media powers that be are just giving people what they want, I wonder if that's entirely true. For example I seem to remember that at the height of protests in Egypt the networks said their viewership rose a bit, so maybe there's more to it than that. In the case of the protests in Syria, for example, we have another country that borders Israel, and if you believe that most US news coverage from the Middle East is calculated in terms of whether it may have an impact on Israel, then the protests in Syria certainly fit the bill, but the networks seem less interested. I suspect this is less about whether Syria's government's fate would affect Israel, but simply because there was already a Western news bureau presence in Cairo, but very little in the way of a Western journalistic presence in Syria. In the case of Saleh of Yemen I guess the "Arab Spring" is so February 2011, and the Western news people have moved on. Maybe they're weiners too.

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At June 07, 2011 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as the notion that the big media powers that be are just giving people what they want, I wonder if that's entirely true

I'd say it's true only if restated this way:

First, they tell viewers what viewers should want to see.

Then, they give viewers what "they want."

Do viewers prefer titillation to information? Of course! They're human! Humans prefer ignoring bad news when given the option of hearing it and dealing with it, or simply ignoring it.

The question then becomes, what are the Mainstream Infotainment Media doing, really? What is their mission?

Do they intend to inform? Then where's the information? I don't recall seeing or hearing much of it. Instead I recall lots of opinion, lots of emotional button-pushing, lots of offerings of pre-packaged perspective.

Do they intend to challenge? If so, then what exactly are they challenging?

Do they intend to mislead? Well, if you asked me, and I were gauging intent by observing the actions assumed to implement the intent... I say they intend to mislead.

At June 07, 2011 1:26 PM, Blogger Mimi said...

Ho, ho, Jon, you should read The Singapore Times. A good face and cheery smile is put on everything; paper is controlled by the government, a benign dictatorship. (Well, I guess that's better than a malignant one). Now my son is moving to London, so I guess I won't go to 'Spore anymore. BTW, I think Mr. Ochstradt's comment is so good; perfectly clear and very insightful. (Now PLEASE, forgive me for usibng the idiot word "insightful"!)

At June 07, 2011 10:02 PM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

Hi KFO n' Mimi,

KFO, I dimly remember a New Republic article from the early 90s called something like "Defining Deviancy Up" in which the author argued that one of the express purposes of US marketing people in the 50s and 60s was to push the envelope of propriety regarding what was acceptable communication because it represented a sales opportunity, i.e., the creation of new markets.

Thus we have the media pushing coverage of the court trials of blue collar schmoes because it represents increased opportunity to create programming and sell stuff, so we have a program of 'challenging' bourgeois sqeamishness which had previously rendered such coverage beyond the pale, and therefore noncommercial.

It's been a long time since I read the article and I may have inadvertently misrepresented the author's thesis, but that's how I remember it.

Mimi, what do the people you encountered in Singapore think of Americans? Dare I ask? (Maybe they think we all behave like Peter Griffith on "Family Guy"?)

At June 08, 2011 3:32 AM, Blogger Mimi said...

Singapore, as I'm sure you know, is a hub of international finance and business. Most of the people I've met there are ex-pats from the U.S. or the U.K. As far as I could see, native Singaporeans --and Malaysians, a large group there--are perfectly happy to have U.S. dollars be such an integral part of their society. Interestingly, Malaysia has a large Muslim population.

At June 08, 2011 9:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


"Want" and "need" are manufactured cultural themes, not real human things, when observing a consumerist society.

It seems absurd, but it's true: in America you are defined by what you buy and show to the world.

Esteem and admiration flow mostly from "purchasing power." Not from humane generosity toward others, not from helping others, not from doing socially beneficial things.

So of course, when the "news" is pitched to people, it uses the same devices.

Editors control the flow of what is covered and "reported." They are the ones who decide, despite the Fukushima meltdown being highly important for the energy future of all nations, it's more relevant to talk about Tony Weiner's dick hidden in his underwear in a Tweet photo.


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