How North Koreans (and Cubans) read the state-sponsored newspaper

From the excellent blog Ask a Korean!, a very familiar account of how readers adjust to propaganda in order to eke out the truth:

Take, for example, the war in Iraq. When the war broke out, North Korean newspapers would report: “Iraqi army is bravely battling against America’s imperial army, downing two fighter jets and five missiles.” With this report, North Korean people would think: “Ah, there is a war in Iraq. There would have been a lot of fighter jets, and they only got two. They have no chance — America would win pretty soon.” And in fact, the reports on the exploits of the Iraqi military would decrease over time, and then completely disappear from Rodong Shinmun. Then the people would think: “Iraq is losing the war.” Some time later, upon seeing the reports that say “Iraqi patriots are bombing the American military base in Baghdad,” North Korean people would think: “So Iraq is now under American rule.”

previously: why are there newspapers in north korea?

About a year of tweets, archived here for posterity.

I began this current journal, XSML, with the intent of reducing my own notes to extra small, XML-friendly updates. Increasingly, I have been drawn by the allure of the 140 character limit of Twitter. I may get a round Tuit and synchronize my use of Twitter with this blog. For now, here’s a dump of about a year’s worth of tweets in a single post:

  • Xavier: Glowing at the OK Corral
  • “Books don’t become best sellers because they are ahead of their time.” Stephanie Coontz on Friedan via Louis Menand,
  • Belgian students riot on Ryanair flight: Was civility a victim of more bad price signaling?
  • A juicy, meaty, tasty read on football, concussions, televised sports, journalism, money, race… etc! in The New Yorker
  • on dictatorships harnessing “self-pitying, bullying shitheads.” cf. Cuba’s “actos de repudio,” via Matthew Yglesias
  • “Three takes on JP Morgan and Madoff” is also a fresh take on how online competition is sharpening analysis in news.
  • yellow is the next purple. i’m pretty sure it’s not but i’m going to pretend it is and hope things break my way.
  • UCSB prof. on Egypt: “a return of very powerful and vastly organized labor movements, principally among youth.” via TPM
  • “As pro-Mubarak demonstrators roam Cairo, Egypt’s Internet roars back to life” – Foreign Policy’s Passport
  • A history of ideas: In the 19th century, scientists pointed an elaborate telescope at distant societies. In the 20th, they turned it around.
  • The Internet is not enough: Matthew Yglesias chimes in on stunted technological progress and economic bubbles.
  • The U.S. is often criticized for its military aid to illiberal regimes but with Egypt it’s been a progressive tactic
  • Why do we say “my God” and not “our God”? #foxholes
  • want to bite your nails to the raw? watch the astoundingly tense The Verdict with Paul Newman:
  • Magical. Chris Matthews grilling Tea Party Express co-founder Russo on Rep. Bachmann’s slavery denialism:
  • Did the Obama White House, as headed by Michelle and Barack, just launch what will be their legacy? WalMart goes healthy and localvore?
  • If heterosexuality is the key to raising healthy children, time to close every school and home run by asexual priests and nuns.
  • 10,000 species. Most of us can’t even keep eight things in mind.Climate Threatens Birds From Tropics to Mountaintops –
  • Pro tip to high schoolers: consider a career in & profit from global warming floods.
  • Lazy food service analogy: linear TV is omakase. Video on demand is buffet.
  • When all cars have smartphone jacks, how will broadcast radio (antenna and/or satellite) compare to personalized radio via mobile web?
  • Morbid coincidence: ill person shoots embattled healthcare access advocate, others. Are victims externalities of a patchy health safety net?
  • i love the days when everyone jokes “see you next year” or “see you in [currentYear+1]”. it’s like a big carnaval for the fiction of time.
  • In Hollywood and then Highland Park, passed two billboards en español for American Idol. The great brown hope.
  • El Bulli or Marinetti? Pieces of olive, fennel, and kumquat are eaten with right hand while the left caresses sandpaper, velvet, and silk.
  • Google Ngram for “father, mother”
  • Hunter climbs into bear’s den, kills bear, boasts about it. Controversy ensues:
  • Rainy weeks are first disorienting in Los Angeles. Then familiar. We are returning. The water drenched clouds envelop the earth like a womb.
  • Thoughtful, fun read on computer languages – really, on computer programmers and their dogmatism: The Semicolon Wars
  • Can the curiosity of different cities be compared by the length of delays caused by rubbernecking on its highways?
  • The ending of American Psycho the movie is even better than I remembered. The commercials that followed it were creepier.
  • Russia as the Baltimore depicted in The Wire, only with nukes and vast energy reserves: NYT on leaked cables
  • Some heavy, fun ish: Why Farmers Are Flocking to Manure | Atlantic
  • “Are you ready for an uneventful flight?” the passenger asked the captain. Wouldn’t it be better if he were ready for an eventful one?
  • One of the major political movements of our time is an effort to redefine selfishness as patriotic. Maybe that’s nothing new.
  • check the angle of repose: feeling awfully like this “fat monkey made of flip flops”
  • so very sad, Google StreetView images curated by Jon Rafman via @waxpancake
  • The majority of the audience at the Foals show was born after Nirvana’s Nevermind. #recalibrating
  • The more Spanish language TV shows Whitman’s former maid bawling, the more Whitman’s campaign has to pump money into Spanish language TV.
  • The singer for Junior Boys sounds a little like Don Henley after a swallow of helium.
  • re: Egypt. Enough with the prattle about new media. It’s the economy, stupid. (And satellite TV.)

    Here’s a headline you don’t want to miss, from January 18, 2007:

    MIDDLE EAST: Population growth poses huge challenge for Middle East and North Africa – – International Herald Tribune.

    More from the Arab Planning Institute:

    Currently, an estimated 2 million Egyptians are out of work. The overall unemployment measures, high as they are, do not sufficiently reflect the extent of labor market pressures in Egypt, and in particular the socio-economic problems of high youth unemployment and widespread underemployment…

    The unemployment problem in Egypt is more related to labor market insertion (finding the first job) than getting back on the job ladder.4 It is more about the educated youth than the illiterate, unskilled middle age workers. The problem is particularly acute among women and is worse in the urban areas…

    According to the 2005 Labor Force Sample Survey compiled by CAPMAS,5 92% of all those unemployed were below the age of 30.

    That was before the global economic crisis.

    Also, this: Forget Twitter and Facebook; this is a satellite TV revolution.

    The separation of powers and personalities.

    Yesterday I spent some time thinking about the differences between grifters and leaders and how the public stage beckons and rewards them both. So much so that, from a certain distance, and if viewing only a single scene, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two kinds of players.

    Today, Josh Marshall eloquently disabuses his Washington D.C. peers of the notion that former lobbyist par excellence and current governor of Mississippi Haley Barbour could one day be president. In doing so, Marshall reminded me of a principle I had groped for but missed: the importance of an independent character for the execution of an independent power.

    The framers – and keepers – of the U.S. Constitution recognized the importance of keeping the executive branch at arms length from the legislative and judicial branches. When we allow political parties to build their power in violation of these plans, by stacking the Supreme Court with partisans or opening the White House to lobbyists, we undermine the very balance which has kept the U.S. on the path towards liberty and justice for all.

    Perhaps chief among the qualities we should require of our presidents then is a measured and thoughtful independence. (Likewise, we may want our representatives to be hotheaded horse traders.)

    On friendly politicians and presidential character.

    My parents just sent me a story in the Washington Post by Anne Kornblut that focuses on the personal slights and favors that underpin so much of our politics. In other words, grade A standard political journalism.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I recently celebrated just such a report by Ryan Lizza in The New Yorker for laying bare the fragile egos that created and then destroyed our best shot at effective climate change legislation.

    Unlike Lizza’s chronicle, which ultimately shames the protagonists for allowing their personal shortcomings to endanger our collective welfare, Kornblut’s account is long on tattle but falls short on tale.

    It repeats, in various phrasings and through a half dozen quotes, the observation that unlike Bill Clinton, Barack Obama does not like to ingratiate himself – an observation obvious to anyone with a television set.

    Kornblut doesn’t establish whether this difference in character has political consequence. She notes that Clinton’s personality made him highly accessible to donors and opponents, alike, but that this warmth did not save him from almost being impeached. (Nor did those connections help him pass health care reform, etc.)

    Kornblut may not have been encouraged to draw a conclusion but there are political lessons to be drawn from the evidence she has gathered. For instance:

    Some lawmakers see it more as a sign of insularity, if not arrogance. “[President Obama] doesn’t suffer fools, and he thinks we’re all fools,” one senior Republican member of Congress said.

    If that is Obama’s opinion, it’s one held by the overwhelming majority of Americans, according to polls.

    Fool: (12c., Mod.Fr. fou), from L. follis “bellows, leather bag” (see follicle); in V.L. used with a sense of “windbag, empty-headed person.”

    Foolish politicians mistake their office for a privilege rather than a duty, a vanity re-enforced by the multibillion-dollar lobbying industry that provides funding for candidates on their way in and golden parachutes on the way out.

    When politicians have more interactions with corporate courtesans than they do with their constituents they may feel they’ve done a great job when they get re-elected even though there are less and less people voting. (It doesn’t help that it’s still easier to buy the vote of a million and suppress the vote of nine than it is to get ten million to vote for you.)

    That our politics has digressed towards a pathological courtship for money has been noted strenuously by insiders and outsiders alike. It may be a function of the complexity of modern life where specialization is the norm and bureaucracy its (mostly hidden) cost (cf. Max Weber). But it is not a welcome state of affairs and its beneficiaries should be mocked rather than encouraged for making politics so personal.

    If you know any Italians, please forward this anecdote to them.

    An anecdote that must be shared:

    Their favorite activity, however, seems to be holding joint press conferences. At one of their most memorable appearances together, in Moscow, in 2008, a Russian journalist named Natalia Melikova asked Putin about his apparent marital trouble and rumored romance with the young and indecently plastic gymnast-cum-parliamentarian Alina Kabaeva. When asked about the liaison, Putin’s face hardened. “There is not a word of truth in this story,” he said. Berlusconi, giggling, regarded the exchange. When Putin had finished answering, Berlusconi cocked his hands, and, imitating a gun, fired with a silent “Pow! Pow!” at Melikova. It had only been a year and a half since Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative journalist, had been shot in her Moscow elevator, and Melikova was reduced to tears. On the dais, Berlusconi laughed, and Putin nodded.

    A nail-biter, page-turner, on the edge of your seats drama… about cap and trade.

    Ryan Lizza’s recent account of the birth and death of the most promising U.S. response to global warming is by far one of the best written thrillers I have read in some time. And it’s all true. It should be taught in every high school history class in the nation, alongside Julius Caesar or whatever it is we use these days to teach our young about the meaning of honor, loyalty and patriotism.

    Right wing frustration over Colbert’s testimony to Congress is the best news I’ve heard this week.

    Our society and economy would be much, much better off if debaters, especially on television, were able to call each others’ bluff with the simple use of the word “ignorant.”

    “You’re ignorant and here’s why.” That is, “You do not know what you are talking about. Here’s why. Now, prove me wrong, right here, right now.”

    Too often, we take a speaker’s word that they know what they’re talking about. Given the intellectual pedigree of most of the talking heads on television, this is not only a baseless claim, it’s contradicted by fact.

    This culture of mediocrity, of baseless assertion being trotted out as studied fact is precisely what Stephen Colbert has satirized in a very public appearance before the U.S. Congress:

    “Does one day in the field make you an expert witness?” Mr. [Lamar] Smith pressed.

    “I believe that one day of me studying anything makes me an expert,” Mr. Colbert replied.

    The apoplexy on the right over Stephen Colbert’s testimony to Congress is a loud, clear signal that he hit the nail on the head: he has exploded one of their most useful tools. (When your opponents protests a tactic, it’s often because that tactic is near and dear to them or they would like it to be.)

    He and others should proceed to hit that nail again and again and again.

    News as meat: raw vs. aged prime, ground vs. choice cuts.

    Or, to fight commoditization, provide analysis.

    I pay to read The New Yorker because its reporters provide a service that is rare in the information marketplace: they not only quote people accurately, they also tell me whether or not that quote is factual.

    It’s an added service that requires the writers at The New Yorker to analyze and research the statements they quote. From a business standpoint, it takes a deep and specialized know-how to hire people who can consistently create this added value. (Like manufacturing computers or race cars, fact-checking can be a highly complex process since the people who make inaccurate statements for a living often spend a great deal of time and/or money to cover their tracks.)

    The product of such labors is thus what is commonly regarded as “quality.” Because The New Yorker can report both the fact that someone said something as well as the truth of what they said, they have a competitive advantage over those who are only competing to be the first to report the statement.

    Unlike so much of the news that is available to consumers today, the news in The New Yorker is not a commodity.

    “Speed kills.”

    Receiving inaccurate news immediately is less useful than receiving accurate news later on. This is difficult to believe given how much emphasis our market has placed on timeliness since the advent of the afternoon paper, the dedicated news station on radio and later television, or, most recently, the Twitter headline.

    But if someone tells you the movie theater is on fire when it’s not, you are not going to be happy towards the person who first made this inaccurate report – nor will you have warm fuzzies for every other person who quoted the first reporter verbatim without corroborating the facts before doing so.

    When all the news provides is quotation marks they’re basically putting an asterisk next to the statement they’re reporting. The asterisk says: “This statement might or might not be true. We can’t or won’t say. You decide, right?”

    While everyone may want to decide few have the means to do so. They will need to make time and spend money to find, visit and interview the people who can corroborate the quoted statement. Most people want to do other things with their free time and hard-earned money rather than tracking down authoritative sources. (That is, doing the work of journalists.)

    Many news services make a half-hearted effort to get at the truth by quoting competing claims and thus contradictory statements. However, few news services actually synthesize these antithetical statements.

    So what is the consumer to do when they’re served two contradictory statements. Surely one of those statements is a live one and the other is a decoy? When consumers aren’t sure if the catch they’re being served is a lure, they’re less likely to go with that brand of news.

    Alternately, when the consumer is served a story so full of nonsense words that they’re left chewing for hours on cartilage, they’re less likely to want a repeat of that experience.

    “It’s ‘prime’ time.”

    I believe that if consumers are served different cuts of news (Prime, AAA, AA, A), they will gravitate towards that news that is more useful even if it costs them more – “cost” in terms of their choices, of choosing between content that inspires, energizes and educates them.

    The ratings and revenue success of Fox News in prime time as well as of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report in late-night suggest that many consumers do value the news more than other entertainment options when that news is provided with analysis.

    Neither Fox News in prime nor the news on Comedy Central are focusing on soft stories* about dancing dogs or celebrity divorces; they’re tackling the “hardest”, life and death news of the moment. (The most recent Daily Show, which featured extensive coverage of the United Nations General Assembly and an interview with the King of Jordan on the Mideast Peace Process, is a good example.)

    The fact that Fox News programs in prime and Comedy Central’s late night news shows are hosted, respectively, by clowns and satirists does not mean that providing engaging analysis requires humor. The New Yorker, The Economist and many programs on the BBC Radio provide entertaining news analysis without recourse to the rhetoric of comedy.

    Not only can quality news be produced in a variety of formats, consumers across the spectrum have made it clear they are willing to pay for quality with their time and money.

    *If anything, you are more likely to see a squirrel water-skiing on the local news than in these prime time news shows. The local news often tries to make a more entertaining product without access to the requisite resources: writers and specialist producers. This trend towards an inferior and thus less competitive product is a result of poor tactical moves – personnel cuts – made instead of the correct trategic shift; hiring the writers and producers needed to produce the product now being requested by consumers.

    Falsehoods being traded as facts, “irrespective of their validity.”

    The problem with so much journalism:

    Mr. Loeb’s views, irrespective of their validity, point to a bigger problem for the economy: If business leaders have a such a distrust of government, they won’t invest in the country. And perception is becoming reality.

    It is precisely because these views are not questioned that they pose a problem for the economy. Were they questioned, in public, and confirmed, the process would benefit the marketplace of ideas. As is, they’re counterfeit goods.

    As for the subjects of this report, the billionaire financiers who are upset at being painted as villains: grow a pair.

    Or, better yet, try loving your country without such shallow conditions. If patriotism comes with a prenup, I’m pretty sure “hurt feelings” isn’t cause.

    afterthought: China Asks C.E.O.’s to Work for State. I mean, we’re still competing with them, right?

    Countering the real threat of fake news.

    Short version: To counter the real threat of fake stories – e.g., “Right-Wingers Stand By Their Fabricated Mexican Drug Cartel Raid Story” – it’s not enough to expose a lie by replacing it with a rational proof. We must also require that the leaders who benefit from such lies renounce them publicly.

    Long version: We’re not so modern, our society is not so transparent, our media are not so well trained and our networks not so efficient that we are not at constant risk of visiting death and destruction upon millions as a result of a single well-placed lie. Or, worse, the lack of a truth.

    The Spanish American War was, at the very least, co-produced by the yellow press. The same could be said for the second U.S. invasion of Iraq. Dozens of modern-era conflicts around the world have been launched with the help of rumor mongers. Or, more precisely, with the help of their audiences.

    In the U.S., the rise of online media has re-enforced a concurrent trend towards fragmentation. It is now possible to recreate the isolation that afflicted much of 18th and 19th century America using 21st century tools.

    It’s not the rare community of Amish who live curiously out of touch with mainstream reality, but the millions of Americans in every city and state who choose to break away from the difficulties of reality – the paradoxes of being human, so frail and so noble – by immersing themselves in a stream of “perfect news,” where no revelation ever contradicts dogma.

    We turn to news for information that is “new” and thus valuable. By definition, that which is news is a discontinuity in the state of things. (If the weather was 70°F every day and night of the year, if it never changed, there would be no interest in weather reports.) True news is challenging. It is a process by which we confront the external.

    But orthodoxy does not tolerate change from without. Thus, “perfect news” must simulate the experience of encountering new-ness which, quite to the contrary, is old as it never challenges prejudices or held beliefs.

    Perfect news – or propaganda – is thus a fantastic and especially pernicious trap. It’s the appearance of a rational process which disguises an ongoing flight into fancy. It’s the inspector who signs off on a building filled with empty fire extinguishers. The hospital pharmacy stocked with placebos. The emergency phone that has been unplugged from its jack.

    Such entirely superficial arrangements inevitably fall apart. Idiots do not make effective leaders. Communities under the spell of crazed authoritarians or a collective delusion always collapse. (The emperor’s new clothes is an ancient and universal reminder.) But dupes play an indispensable role in every con. Even complex democracies such as our own, where there are myriad checks and balances to prevent such catastrophes, can host dangerous con games.

    Well-informed, rational leaders can benefit tremendously from the support of constituents who have lost their grip on reality. History is rife with examples of leaders who have “shorted” their own clients (supporters) by making private deals that are contrary to their own public and/or their constituents’ positions. (The person selling the magic beans seldom believes they are magical – otherwise, why put them up for sale?)

    These cons can only be carried out for as long as the constituents believe their leaders share their delusions. By forcing leaders who are playing a con to lay out their positions, these leaders are forced to take on the exposure inherent in that position. Live by the lie, die by the lie.

    Side note
    Whatever the short-term costs of news gathering may be, they are an essential “operating expense” for maintaining a transparent and thus efficient marketplace.

    We’re not quite sure how we will pay to expose lies and replace them with rational proofs – i.e., journalism in the digital age – but I think we can be sure that we’ll find a way to cover this cost as long as we’re all invested in an efficient market.

    Is the web making journalism more effective and thus more pleasurable? Maybe.

    Context transforms content. It’s not that people like reading at a computer, though many have more opportunities to do so in the modern workplace. It’s that writing and reading under new conditions transforms that writing. In the case of the web, which is driven as much by pleasure as by technology (as is everything), the new writing may be more pleasurable because it’s more efficient: Michael Kinsley for The Atlantic:

    One reason seekers of news are abandoning print newspapers for the Internet has nothing directly to do with technology. It’s that newspaper articles are too long.

    I often forward news articles to friends and colleagues. Very seldom do I include the first sentence. More often than not I quote a paragraph halfway through or even the closer. Quite often I quote someone who is in turn being quoted by the author. Kinsley pinpoints the failures in the original prose that prompt me – and doubtless many others – to thus compensate with our edits. (That the above quote is the opening sentence testifies to the author’s clarity on the matter.)


    my friend KF responds:

    I disagree that length itself is the problem, and in the end Kinsely’s argument seems less about length and more about bad journalism. Not too many words but the wrong words. If I am fascinated by a topic I will read a very long article about it–as I just did read The Atlantic’s story about “The Science of Success” –online. And when I email a passage from the middle of a story to others it is because it is that particular passage felt powerful to me, and I think it might to the person I am emailing as well, but others might find different passages hit them over the head. What seems to one person like the most essential point, might not be to someone else…

    All very good points. But i wonder just how many possible pull quotes an article has. And the web is like reading one pull quote after another.

    Who selects those pull quotes is interesting. It’s only sort of me in that I select other, better readers – or “quote pullers” – to follow. When I do eventually read some longer stories I do so thanks to their very pointed introductions. It’s that kind of introduction that Kinsley brings up as essential for news and too late or too subtle in some stories.

    Maybe his wording was not the best: it’s not that they’re too long but that they take too long to get to their premise?

    Journalists: your job is to speak truth to power. That’s it.

    America would be a stronger, more democratic and far wealthier nation if our journalists asked questions as directly as the team of Frank Dohmen and Klaus-Peter Kerbusk do in this interview for Spiegel:

    SPIEGEL: Is the crisis over for you?

    Kleisterlee: No, it isn’t. But we are getting it under better and better control, as you can see from our costs.

    SPIEGEL: No wonder, if you do what Philips does and cut thousands of jobs at short notice.

    That’s just the beginning.

    SPIEGEL: In the consumer electronics division, you’ve already closed almost all of your factories. Is Philips in danger of facing the same fate as German consumer electronics companies like Grundig or Telefunken, which went bust despite being household names?

    And, whoa:

    SPIEGEL: If you’ll pardon our saying so, you’re talking exclusively about computer companies. Your direct competitors are companies like Panasonic and Sony — who still do their own manufacturing. Isn’t your retreat more of a declaration of bankruptcy in the face of competition from Southeast Asia?

    Just as important, perhaps, is the way the interviewee, Philips CEO Gerard Kleisterlee, is able to parry each question without – as far as I can tell – losing his cool or equivocation. A great read.


    also, it’s quite possible that I’m asking journalists (and CEO’s) to be more German in their interactions.

    On unsubscribing to BoingBoing, thanks to Google Reader, curiosity and time.

    There was a time, before I always read MetaFilter and Andy Baio’s, before I checked Jon Gruber’s Daring Fireball and Bruce Schneier’s blog daily, before I ran through every update on art sites ranging from Designboom to VVork, that I was often delighted by the posts in BoingBoing, one of the first successful instances of crowd-sourced content on the web. And when, on occasion, the curators walked out from behind the curtains to make a petulant political tirade or to repeatedly share an unexamined personal obsession, it struck me as a fair price to pay for so many surprising stories about the web as culture and/or the impact of the web on culture. stories that were once hard to find, all aggregated in one place. a place that is now, for me, a piece of software: Google Reader.

    And so that time has passed, the need satisfied otherwise and the curators’ political digressions strike me as more ill-informed than ever, their predilections that much more predictable and flat. Certainly, very few writers can touch upon a wide variety of topics with consistent results. But the best know how to tread into the unknown or the uncertain with humility or, at least, curiosity. The ones worth following know how to get lost in themselves without becoming solipsistic.

    Blind spots.

    The AP quotes one of the pilots of the NWA flight that overshot its destination by 150 miles: “We were not asleep; we were not having an argument; we were not having a fight.”

    Has anyone asked them if they were making out?

    Update: sadly, it was a Dilbert moment. (Or Tufte.)

    Opportunists and demagogues both trade in real events and real emotions.

    They wouldn’t be called opportunists if they weren’t exploiting a real opportunity. Rick Perlstein via TPM:

    So the birthers, the anti-tax tea-partiers, the town hall hecklers — these are “either” the genuine grass roots or evil conspirators staging scenes for YouTube? The quiver on the lips of the man pushing the wheelchair, the crazed risk of carrying a pistol around a president — too heartfelt to be an act. The lockstep strangeness of the mad lies on the protesters’ signs — too uniform to be spontaneous. They are both. If you don’t understand that any moment of genuine political change always produces both, you can’t understand America, where the crazy tree blooms in every moment of liberal ascendancy, and where elites exploit the crazy for their own narrow interests.

    Emphasis mine.

    Reading through the comments (about 200 or so) you can find examples of both hysterical scattershot copy-paste tirades (not funny) as well as reasoned posts by conservatives who are genuinely disappointed because their own criticisms of left-identified hysteria have not been sufficiently validated by the press. One such poster cites Farrakhan’s loony numerological riff at the Million Man March in 1995 as an example of the “pass” the media gives to allies of the Democratic party. (The GOP’s totemic animal is an elephant, after all.)

    Perlstein’s argument is canny enough to anticipate this line of rebuttal. The need to find equivalence is what keeps the public debate focused on the sideshow. It’s emotionally satisfying to vent but besides the point. Keeping track of slights and insults is for clans and families. Modern states have to keep track of justice, fairness and the common wealth. When politicians and journalists indulge emotions over reason, they do the public a disservice.

    Because emotions are far easier to convey via video than ideas, our medium of choice favors drama over debate. We get the format we prefer but not necessarily the news we deserve.

    Having strong feelings on a subject, doesn’t necessarily entail a good grasp of same. If the angry protesters cited by Perlstein were bringing up deficiencies in the proposed legislation (shortcuts, compromises, cooked numbers) it would be wrong to mistake their fervor for madness. But when a Medicare recipient charges that the government can’t be trusted to administer health care, or when a voter argues that, categorically, government can do no good, those aren’t arguments. Those are contradictions. And the only way to hold on to contradictory beliefs is to reject reason.


    I should know better than to respond to a post on BoingBoing. When it veers into politics, it’s too often fluffernutter. But this post, by a guest blogger, was hard to swallow:

    [This 1968 Rolling Stones story denouncing the Yippies’ tactics], in the middle of the Vietnam War, one year before Woodstock would prove just how wrong Rolling Stone was.

    The author is being glib. It was vicious in-fighting over tactics that defined the counter-culture at just that very moment. (The SDS tore itself apart the following summer.)

    Did Woodstock have political ramifications? No. (Though maybe Altamont did.) And all of this revisionism to what end? To say Rolling Stone was once a political magazine?

    Once again, is the author living under a rock? Matt Taibbi’s piece on Goldman Sachs is the most overtly political piece of journalism on the collapse of our economy published to date in a mass publication.

    Here’s a link to Google Trends for “Taibbi” in the last 12 months. The spike in April was for his previous Rolling Stone story on AIG and the bailout.

    dry humor

    Chris Beam:

    No doubt the new political appointees can handle the job. Roos, as CEO of a global, technology-focused law firm, understands trade issues likely to arise in Japan. Rivkin has international experience as a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy. And Obama’s appointee to Great Britain, Louis Susman, speaks fluent English.

    via Blake Hounshell