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Archive for the ‘The Web’ Category

Media Monopoly

In journalism school, in a class on ethics, we were assigned to read “The Media Monopoly,” a thoroughly depressing screed about the onset of media consolidation with dire, unrelenting bad news that we young journalists were about to enter a field of whoredom owned by a handful of self-interested media conglomerates. These companies were filtering out far-ranging, dissenting voices (it was a prep of sorts for Noam Chomsky’s “Manufacturing Consent.”) It left a big mark on me. The book’s author Ben Bagdikian has just left us now.  RIP. (You can read his obituary here.)

I feel two ways about his book in hindsight. In one sense he was absolutely correct: Most of the big media is owned by the same conglomerates who pollute our water and build war materiel and would indeed like to keep us in the dark. At the same time, the Internet has recreated journalism as cottage industry where even the most extreme voices (communists and global warming deniers alike) are free to put their wares in the marketplace of ideas and have them amplified. That’s given us the multiplicity of voices, but it’s also given us a lot of echo chambers for aspirational opinion havers to confirm their own biases with selective research. To the new voices, pretenses to objectivity are boorish, arcane and disingenuous. The kind of serious investigative, bias-free journalism we used to rely on from professionals becomes harder to find and fund, and must often be paid for by philanthropist billionaires –the patronage of the modern tech Medici. Meanwhile, a lot of old-time professional journalists are simply getting out of the business because there’s no money in it and going into PR.

The Internet age has led us to a kind of anarchy of opposing realities where you can choose your own facts and deny things that are indisputable–global warming, the Sandy Hook massacre or the fact that the Sept. 11 attacks were planned by Muslim extremists. The Internet has given people the confidence to say they trust nothing they read. But it hasn’t confronted them with the consequences of that sentiment: You now have more work to do in scrutinizing what is real by taking multiple viewpoints into account and understanding your own subjective interference in it, including the value system given to your by your peers and parents. Somebody somewhere on the Internet right now will be very happy to let you off the hook for this work by coddling you and your values, and in this you are just as manipulated as you would be by General Electric trying to bury a pollution story.

In this light, the handful of sober conglomerate voices Bagdikian warned us against don’t look all that bad, frankly.

But here we are. Change is change and not to be judged, least of all by me. Powerful money interests have lost a great deal of power over information. It happened quite naturally in a technological upheaval. Power over it has come back to the people, even sweaty, frustrated schizophrenics sitting on their laptops at night. Many people, however, will likely not know what to do with all the conflicting information they have. They will be confused and they will turn to the people they trust, and once again risk becoming tools of somebody else’s will. They will repeat others’ ideas, not innovate on them, and act as if this is some sort of emancipation. The power only to repeat.

So mission accomplished. Patriarchy smashed. Hope you have some idea what you’re in for.

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–*Ten childhood actors who now have goiters.

–*Ten stars with the most intractable liver diseases.

–*Celebs who are not afraid to munch carpet right in your face.

–*Who are the 10 biggest Noam Chomskys?

–*Bet you didn’t know these people were anti-Semites.

–*You’ll never guess what happened to this puppy that climbed into a coffer of unexploded Qassam rockets.

–*This part-time gym teacher destroys theory of evolution.

–*This woman nailed it with her letter to the compliance department about proper processes and work flow alerts.

–*Ten metacarpals most easily smashed with a claw hammer.

–*Ten richest celebs who weren’t rich enough to tip me 20%.

–*How many languages can Bibi Netanyahu say “Go fuck yourself” in?

–*The 100 hottest pictures of people who are purportedly Selena Gomez.

–*You’ll never guess what countries you can buy a child in right now.

–*Ten celebrities surprisingly small enough to put in a trunk.

–*These shocking facts will shock you shocking shock.

–*Carrie Fisher insulted nerf herders. This nerf herder destroys her.

–*Five things you’re doing wrong right now.

–*This woman put a tomato in the refrigerator. The tomato destroys her.

–*Make your credit card do what your pancreas no longer can.

–*Ten celebrity hairstyles we hope to see on a YouTube puppy in the next 10 minutes.

–*Ten shocking GPS coordinates of women breastfeeding their babies in public right now.

–*These people took sides in the Israel-Palestinian debate. Watch what happens to their cars.

–*This person made a movie when she was 5. We destroy her.

–*You’ll never believe whose endoscopy footage this is.

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–*Kanye and Kim’s new mansion. How does it compare with a hole in your skull?

–*The Elusive Nipples of Miley Cyrus.

–*Acid or industrial press: Which is the most effective way for the government to do away with Edward Snowden?

–*Jennifer Aniston emerges from home without hat and sunglasses.

–*How the government can kill you where you are standing right now.

–*How to burn fat while eating an ice cream sundae and watching reruns of “Friends.”

–*This deflated balloon looks remarkably like Josh Hartnett’s shrunken scrotum after a swim.

–*Is this a picture of Lady Gaga? (We can’t ever be too sure these days!)

–*Breaking: This idiot doesn’t know how to spell “cereal.”

–*Will Cameron Diaz ever get any younger?

–*Parent capturing child’s tantrum over candy goes viral.

–*Child gets even with fake molestation charges.

–*We approached Justin Theroux with a billy club, just to see what he would do.

–*Brides on fire: A pictorial.

–*The most delicious yogurt in the world happens to be 40 feet from this writer’s apartment.

–*Viral video: See why this dog is doomed.

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I see some horrible person is getting some WordPress attention doing Top 10 lists. As you know, Beauty Is Imperfection reader, I’ve done a fair number of those in my time. I started to feel a little cheap relying on them instead of offering you some well-thought-out, well-crafted prose. Writing Top 10 lists to me is easier than drawing breath. But to see someone else get attention for it, while I sit over here in Transcendentalville howling alone in the wilderness, is too much.

So I offer my first one in ages. Top 10 reasons to do a top 10 list:

1) It’s a cultural meme that everybody understands, nay, one that makes them feel a sense of belonging to their social subgroup

2) It takes about 2 minutes, whereas a real editorial takes hours to craft.

3) It’s almost always possible to insert Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Snooki or Britney Spears into a Top 10 list somewhere, and when you’ve got them in your list, you can put them in your tags, and then it becomes part of Google search universe and makes your a site a destination on the superhighway rather than a gasoline outpost somewhere in Arizona.

4) Top 10 lists employ the sort of repetition and variation that’s key to comedy.

5) Top 10 lists employ the sort of repetition and variation that’s key to comedy, y’all

6) Every Top 10 list comes with a free kitten

7) Except this one

8 ) When people can absorb information from a well-understood social convention like this one, it is easier for them to assimilate information that is otherwise difficult to digest–for instance, if we had the Top 10 reasons why Barack Obama should have closed Guantanamo by now and why in failing to do so he’s let a lot of us down.

9) If you get really good at Top 10 lists, you will be compared unfavorably to David Letterman, but hey, at least you’re in the same neighborhood.

10) A snappy ending makes you feel warm all over: The monster at the end of this list was Grover all along!

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Welcome Spanish Speakers

I was very amused to see “chicas desnudas” as one of the search terms that directed someone to my blog today. For those of you who are regular readers, you’ll know that I do a parody of the TV Guide listings sometimes. A very old entry lists “chicas desnudas” as one of the highlights of “Real Sexo” on Spanish HBO. A very obscure old blog post, but I’m not picky.

I just want to let everybody know that this is a Spanish friendly site, and I am personally happy to have all immigrants, illegal or otherwise, in our country. To hell with Arizona!

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My wife Stephanie, producer and star of the our Web series The Retributioners, recently penned an article for Digital Chick TV (DigitalchickTV.com) about the joys and horrors of making a Web show from scratch in our living room.

Digital Chick TV is run by another ce-Webrity, the amazing Daryn Strauss, the writer/director/producer of Downsized. Check out both our shows.

Stephanie would also probably like it if I showed off this head shot of her. I like to show her off, and besides, we can probably depreciate the photo expenses for accounting purposes.

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