The Media’s Views on War and Torture Aren’t Fixed

As a person who has had his brain physically removed once, mentally transferred twice (not to mention controlled, rebooted and sped up) I think a lot about what influences, controls and re-configures our brains and how we use those methods on others.

I’ve been working on a series of posts on media based on Aaron Sorkin’s HBO show, The Newsroom at Crooks and Liars and talking about torture at Hullabaloo, Firedoglake and here.

Besides just analyzing what is happening, I keep thinking, “What is to be done?”

The Newsroom, a fantasy, has shown the external and internal pressures today’s media (esp. TV news) are under. Financial, political, professional, ethical and personal.

In the real world the news media has gone from a public trust to a profit center. They are now part of a “portfolio of companies” dedicated to maximizing shareholder value.

This last week, with the release of the Senate Torture Report, I was remind of what started me on my path to push back on the sickness I saw in right wing media.

We have have tremulous success in de-funding the right wing media using reason, politeness and an understanding of what pressures the right wing media responds to.

I was accused recently of having “delusions of grandeur” when I wrote about changing the way mainstream TV news operates. I also have those same “delusions” when it comes to how they talk about torture.  But change is possible.

Between 2006 and 2014 the funding picture for right wing radio has changed radically because of the efforts of myself and hundreds of others who understood how to use the right’s own sick violent rhetoric, bigotry, homophobia and sexism against them.

At the time it was important to show people this isn’t about censorship. I didn’t want to trigger an ACLU response, “I don’t like what they say, but I’ll fight to the death for their right to say it!”  Yes, they can say what want, but they don’t have to get rich doing it. Even then, the advertisers have a choice. We pointed out where their own stated values didn’t match with the program.

Giving people a method, process and rational for contacting the sponsors kept us away from using the Government so there were not 1st Amendment fears. Focusing on advertisers who support them put us in the “market forces” category.

Today ideologically it appears that nothing changed on the RW media shows. If anything the loss of sponsors made them, “double down” on their rhetoric. Which was fine, we used it to our advantage when contacting other sponsors.

They have adapted by turning to other sources for funding. More dark money, less customer facing sponsors and cash funneled through RW think tanks. But a LOT of money the distributors were counting on was lost. 100’s of millions of dollars. (It would have been nice if those millions went to me and my friends, but a big win is that those companies, and their brands, got the message that it is NOT okay to publicly associate with these radical RW ideas.)

Corporations today care about their brand to an almost obsessive degree. By understanding that it is possible to convince them to detach from morally repugnant people, groups and actions.

News Networks Have Brands Too

In The Newsroom, Charlie, the president of the news network ACN, tries to explain to two big shareholders that owning a news network is different. That the 1st Amendment gives them rights, but also duties. That they have a constitutional responsibility that a “content producer” with a fiscal bottom line doesn’t.

The news network also employs humans who have a mix of personal, professional, ethical and moral responsibilities which drive their acts or failures to act.

One point that Sorkin makes is, Journalism Matters. How something is reported and talked about on the news can be a life or death difference.

I’ve been asking people for years, “What is powerful enough to make you change your mind after you have already decided on something?” It’s almost always a person. Someone who either gives them new information, a different way of looking at something, or reminds them of what is really important.

The individuals in a corporation often need an excuse or reason to do the right thing. When external pressure for change matches internal pressure, things happen.

The people in the corporations that we convinced to leave RW radio aren’t sending us thank you notes for protecting their brand from the taint of RW hosts, although they should.  We do it because it’s for US. Own good, the public good.

If coming up this year we pressure the network news people to disclose who is paying the pro-war generals and to give equal time for anti-war guests, they should be thanking us for getting them back in-line with their brand image.

Instead they will get angry and attack us, especially if we use financial pressure. It’s hard for them to see that it’s for the good of their brand.  It has been hammered into them, “Short term shareholder value” trumps all–except when they decide it doesn’t and cancel the money making Phil Donahue show.

Years after certain incidents (cough *Iraq War* cough) some individuals in the news media look back and say, “I could have, should have, done better, but…” and they use whatever excuse is acceptable at the time.  It often boils down to, “We were afraid.” But what they are afraid of changes. That is why multiple strategies via multiple methods using multiple groups is necessary.

I envision all the pressures lining up. Public, regulatory, financial, market, internal brand and internal ethical in order to take advantage of whichever one is hottest.  Here’s my fantasy statement from the news division of a network doing the right thing.

“From now on, during the news and Sunday commentary shows, we will be disclosing who is paying our guests.  This meets our FCC and FTC requirements for disclosure but we went a step further to better serve the public. Therefore we will be providing more detailed info on each of our guests on our website.

This is part of  delivering on our promise to do what’s right for our customers, investors, employees and communities.

In the end the decision to be more transparent was really a no-brainer.”

Maybe I’m deluded, but wouldn’t that be grand?

Cross posted at Firedoglake

New Fantastic Four Script Product Placement and Merchandise Possibilities

Possible Fantastic Four script leaked.  Email forwarded to me by mistake

From: Art Foonman, merchandising and product placement dept.

To: Josh Trank, Fantastic Four producer

Josh, the script looks GREAT! A few notes:

1) Action figures. Tell me more about these costumes Sue wears that contains her “powers!” .  I’m assuming skin tight, blue, white and black. Need Art ASAP.  Confirmed toy art dept is using SPRHRO blue, Pantone 9-286  Heads can wait until casting is complete since they just pop on, just make sure the cast is all white! Remember the scare with a black Spiderman!? HA!

2) The Doombot line of military drones–GENIUS!  Killer line of toys! DoD is already on board with rejected designs from the latest war. Lego has ponied up big numbers for licensing. Got one request for a “cute” doombot from Hasbro, think Wall-E with guns. Any chance of a good Doombot? One with big “eyes?”

3) Computer product placement. Sad trombone sound. Hacking into them? What is this 1989? Boring, nobody wants to pay to see their servers hacked. Oracle paid big bucks for Iron Man tie ins but we had to promise Ellison a bit part. Thank god he was a RDJ fan . . . → Read More: New Fantastic Four Script Product Placement and Merchandise Possibilities

The Newsroom: A Fantasy Network Reality Show

Aaron Sorkin writes more fantasy than George R.R. Martin. The Newsroom is Sorkin’s latest. I watch SF and fantasy for entertainment first and if I get some some insights into human nature and into a different world that’s a bonus.  The season three opener of The Newsroom was useful in both these ways and also gave me some ideas for media activism.

These things happened in last night’s episode of The Newsroom:

A TV news network  learned from a major mistake made last season. They changed their behavior to maintain a higher professional standard and are trying to do better. People in the news division have values and responsibilities in their lives and profession other than the bottom line. They will act on these even at the cost of their ratings or job. The president of the network states that the news division’s autonomy can only be protected if they have good ratings.  Rating are not separated from quality or ethical work. Ratings equals money. If they don’t maintain high ratings they will lose autonomy. It appears the news division’s recent failure impacted the parent companies’ financial projections.  The parent company is now under some kind of attack from outside entities with unknown goals. . . . → Read More: The Newsroom: A Fantasy Network Reality Show

Homeland Discussion: Shalwar Kameez. Who decided “All’s fair in love and war?”

This is a post about Homeland, season 4 episode 3 titled “Shalwar Kameez” This is chock full of spoilers, but it’s not a recap or review, more of a starting point to talk about issues that strike me. You don’t have to watch the episode to join in and comment on the issues, but I’ll be using shorthand for characters and to describe scenes in the show.

The episode is about love and war. The phrase “All’s fair in love and war” came to me as I thought about what struck me. What will people do for love? What will they do in a war? I like Mari-Lou A’s explanation, “The concept behind the phrase is that some areas of life are so important and overwhelming that you cannot blame someone for acting in their own best interest.”

Homeland Season 3 Episode 3

The title of the episode, Shalwar Kameez, is an interesting choice. it is a traditional dress of South and Central Asia. It is worn by men and women in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. People selling them on ebay say,”Salwar Kameez (shalwar kameez) are beautiful and elegant Indian fashion clothing meant to accentuate the female body.” . . . → Read More: Homeland Discussion: Shalwar Kameez. Who decided “All’s fair in love and war?”

View NFL Player Crimes in Interactive Graphical Form

Can’t keep track of which NFL player has committed what crime? Want to avoid filling in your Fantasy Football League with past or current domestic violence felons?

Here’s a nifty website (Link) that takes the data from USA Today’s updated arrest list and lets you sort and display by crime, team or position.

Note: No commissioners, NFL staff or team owners are on the list.

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UPDATE: Why Does Fox News Side with Abusers, like Ray Rice?

Today’s Ray Rice story is still developing, but one thing it illustrates is the role outsiders can play in demanding justice and then expecting change from an institution that failed to act–or failed to act with sufficient seriousness about a problem.

Digby and Perlstein wrote today about what happened when we failed to hold individuals accountable for malfeasance. When institutions protect individuals, by explaining away their actions, it prevents change from happening.

The other thing it is illustrating is how great it is to have a group of people like Fox News or the RW media on your side, even if only temporarily.

Last week I wrote this piece, CEO Abuses Puppy. Why RW Media Supports Abusers Instead of Victims. I wondered how the RW media would act when they were told to be on the abusers’ side.

Well today we saw just a peek of what that might look like on Fox and Friends. Now they aren’t totally on the side of Rice, but they are able to get in some victim blaming and pass on some protective advice to their abusing buddies.

“We should also point out, after that video — and now you know what happened in . . . → Read More: UPDATE: Why Does Fox News Side with Abusers, like Ray Rice?

Why Doesn’t Good SF TV Spawn More? Case in point, CBS’s Great Person Of Interest vs. Its Intelligence

I’m excited for the return of ” Person of Interest” Season 4 premieres Tuesday, Sept. 23 on CBS. I will not be missing the cancelled TV show Intelligence.

I was praising the show recently and i09 user Longsnake agreed.  “POI is probably the best show on TV, full stop. ” Agreed.  I wondered, how the hell did this make it to mainstream network TV? J.J. Abrams of course, but I wondered if any of the people who green lighted PoI figured out why it works and make more like it or if they learned the wrong lessons and make crappy copies? The answer: They make crappy copies, like: Intelligence. 

But why make crappy copies? To answer the question I used the power of my mind and my computer hacking skillz to find the answer.

Below is an inexact transcript of the pitch meeting for Intelligence that took place at CBS following the success of Person of Interest.* 

Guy pitching Intelligence: “It’s like Person of Interest meets Chuck. He’s a good looking Navy Seal who has the NSA database in his head. Actually the whole Internet is IN the head of  the hero. He works for a Government cyberspace agency nobody’s heard of . . . → Read More: Why Doesn’t Good SF TV Spawn More? Case in point, CBS’s Great Person Of Interest vs. Its Intelligence

A Darker Side of Dark Money: Negative Ads Are Just the Start

People in media and politics love dark money, especially if they are gettin’ some. -Spocko

On Fresh Air yesterday they talked to campaign expert Neil Oxman about making political ads. He talks about how much money congressional campaigns spend on TV and how much it costs today.

Even beyond the cost of the way college in tuition have gone up. I mean, the cost of American television has exceeded every year the cost of inflation by many times.

He talks about the new role in social media but explains why it’s still not as important as reaching voters, whom he points out are older people.

And older people watch TV. They’re much more passive about how they get their information. They sit in front of the television. They don’t flick away from commercials. They watch TV. Kids today don’t watch TV on TV. They watch it on every other thing they can get. They watch it on their phones. They watch on their iPads. They watch it on computers.

So his premise, and I’m sure he has data to back it up, is that this expensive medium is the best way to reach the target voter. For . . . → Read More: A Darker Side of Dark Money: Negative Ads Are Just the Start

Nixon Wouldn’t have Authorized Torture, Suggests John Dean

I asked John Dean a few questions about his new book, The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It, during a Book Salon at Firedoglake.

1) After listening to hundreds hours of all conversations did President “Sock it to me” Nixon tell any good jokes? Were they dirty? Racist or sexist?  His answer was,  “Bottom line: Richard Nixon had almost no sense of humor whatsoever.” My suspicion, confirmed!

2) What did he think Cheney and Rumsfeld learned from the Watergate Scandal? His reply:

Rumsfeld and Cheney volunteered to help Nixon when he was sinking, but Nixon did not trust Rumsfeld (he didn’t know Cheney). Needless to say, it is pure speculation as to what Rummy and Dick “learned” from Watergate. I gave my views on the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld presidency in “Worse Than Watergate,” explaining how they imposed secrecy way beyond Nixon. This was how they got away with blatant violations of law that make Watergate look like little league. I am not sure that Richard Nixon in one of his darkest moods would have authorized torture! 

That last sentence surprised me. So I asked for more insight.

What would Nixon’s reasons have been for not torturing people? Was he close . . . → Read More: Nixon Wouldn’t have Authorized Torture, Suggests John Dean

Nixon Would Not Have Authorized Torture. Suggests

I asked John Dean a few questions about his new book, The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It, during a Book Salon at Firedoglake.

1) After listening to hundreds hours of all conversations did President “Sock it to me” Nixon tell any good jokes? Were they dirty? Racist or sexist? His answer was, “Bottom line: Richard Nixon had almost no sense of humor.” My suspicion, confirmed!

2) What did he think Cheney and Rumsfeld learned from the Watergate Scandal? His reply:

Rumsfeld and Cheney volunteered to help Nixon when he was sinking, but Nixon did not trust Rumsfeld (he didn’t know Cheney). Needless to say, it is pure speculation as to what Rummy and Dick “learned” from Watergate. I gave my views on the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld presidency in “Worse Than Watergate,” explaining how they imposed secrecy way beyond Nixon. This was how they got away with blatant violations of law that make Watergate look like little league. I am not sure that Richard Nixon in one of his darkest moods would have authorized torture!

That last sentence surprised me. So I asked for more insight.

What would Nixon’s reasons have been for not torturing people? Was he . . . → Read More: Nixon Would Not Have Authorized Torture. Suggests