Staying Neutral in Face of Impending Fascism

Anand is, like his peers, a decent journalists and will report on facts and be fair to both sides. But this concern for fairness has often led to him and his peer equating false equivalence with being fair or as he calls it, neutral. Max Weber’s value-free judgement often has molded these views that you ought to let your personal values not color your work. In this case, journalists often treat Trump’s crazy ramblings that can best be described as raving bigotry and rampant racism as just another view from the right. That has let most journalist to slot Hillary Clinton’s views as the other side without even acknowledging that Trump’s views are so far removed from normal discourse that it wouldn’t be tolerated in the public sphere.

Liberal Media Staying Neutral

As I’ve always said, calling it “liberal media” has been the conservatives’ masterstroke. By terming anything that the media says as ‘liberal media bias’, they sow doubt into the self-introspecting minds of professionals who are unnecessarily trying to stay value-free. It makes them couch every issue into the two-sides argument leading to false equivalence. Trump calls Mexicans rapists but hey, Clinton had a private email server. Trump encourages anti-semitisms leading to online witch hunts but hey, Clinton had a private email server.

I wonder what broke the camel’s back when journalists like Anand were committed to adhere to “norms of neutrality” when Trump was maligning Hispanics, blacks, Jews, and women for the past year. Did the “norms of neutrality” compel them to equate blatant bigotry and sexism so they would be told that they’re doing their job by people least qualified to do so?

But maybe better late than never, lets see if you can call Trump out on the blatantly false statistics he quotes as soon as he quotes them. Do not let him proceed to his next talking point unless he admits that the claim was false. If need be, let him throw a tantrum and walk out of the interview. You can tell your advertising supervisor that you may just get more eyeballs on that interview. Let’s see if he is willing to forgo ‘free airtime’ walking out on every interview.

All it takes is to not stay neutral on obvious falsehoods. I’m sure that will make your journalism professor will be proud instead of the drivel you shovel every day.

The Beginning of the End for Citizen Journalism

"Citizen journalism also has stabilized. Fewer than one in 10 Web users say they have created their own original news or opinion piece, according to Pew, and comment sections on blogs or mainstream media sites, which were supposed to turn the old one-way media model into a two-way street, are often too profane, hateful, or off-point to attract people. Only one in four Web users has left a comment—probably no more than wrote letters to the editor in decades past"

You have already seen this happen to some extent if you were a blogger in the past five years. People don't comment enough and if they do, all they leave behind is rants. The community feel of blogging which initially attracted everyone is probably now lost to Twitter and may move on to something else in the future. But if Wikipedia has to resort to recruiting then things are getting really bad.

[Link to The Beginning of the End for Citizen Journalism]

Excellent Journalism – Fatal Distraction

The power of journalism and quality writing is epitomized by this intense and moving article on the death of children in the back seat of a car [via]. The byline, “Forgetting a child in the back seat of a hot, parked car is a horrifying, inexcusable mistake. But is it a crime?” makes reexamine your first responses to such tragic accidents and makes you doubly cautious about making similar mistakes. The article strikes the perfect balance between highlighting facts and emphasizing emotion. We don’t have children yet we were shaken to the core after reading this article. Great job, Gene Weingarten.

The Real John McCain

Now that John McCain has run out of ideas, he is bringing up forgotten dirt on Obama to make a last-ditch effort to turn the election in his favor. With the days when the Dow drops by nearly 200 points and doesn’t bat eyelids getting increasingly common, you must wonder if those undecided voters really falling for this diversion?

But if McCain wants to play the biography story angle, it would be worth exploring his background too since all we hear is that he was a POW for five years and a maverick after that. Rolling Stone in a scathing long article takes a look at the real John McCain and I’m sure if things mentioned were widely known, the race would be long over (if it isn’t right now). One of the more enlightening passages comes right at the beginning and sets the tone for the rest of the story. But this anecdote reveals how cronyism and nepotism that McCain now rails against has landed a petulant undeserving and clearly unqualified individual so close to the White House. This conversation occured in 1974 with a colleague who was a fellow POW in Vietnam:

“I’m going to the Middle East,” Dramesi says. “Turkey, Kuwait, Lebanon, Iran.”

“Why are you going to the Middle East?” McCain asks, dismissively.

“It’s a place we’re probably going to have some problems,” Dramesi says.

“Why? Where are you going to, John?”

“Oh, I’m going to Rio.”

“What the hell are you going to Rio for?”

McCain, a married father of three, shrugs.

“I got a better chance of getting laid.”

If we love a ex-POW President so much then why don’t we see Dramesi running instead?

Why Football Sucks?

Now that the football fever has truly arrived and has the world in its grasp, America still continues to resist the ‘Joga Bonito’. After being asked why Americans hate soccer, Washington Post correspondent and blogger Mark Fisher gave a ‘inflammatory’ and ‘begging-for-fisking’ interview that ended up being published in many German newspapers. Now I am not sure if Fisher really meant all the things he said, but I could neither trace any signs of satire nor find any mention of ‘I’m kidding, guys’. Let me give you glimpses of his lack of understanding of the game that is so loved all over the world. If you want to read the whole thing, click on the link above.

“I don’t hate soccer, I simply consider it a sport that is fun for kids to play, but lacks the complexity and drama that make for a great spectator sport.”

Ok! So according to Fisher, football is just 22 dudes trying to kick a ball into the net on opposite sides of a 110-yard field. Surely, he hasn’t seen the 1970s Brazilians or the 1974 Dutch in action. The struggle for supremacy at the intensely-competitive English Premier League is just a matter of chance for Fisher. The complex strategies may not be apparent in the spontaneity of the game but instead it lets the players control the game instead of the coach directing the play via remote-control from the sidelines as it happens in basketball or American football. And mind you, those are interesting games to watch as well but sometimes the spectators need some unanticipated action on the field and let the players brilliance shine through.

“We tend not to be interested in sports that attract hooligans and riots. In America, spectator sports tend to be family events, with a wholesome emphasis on community.”

Either Fisher hasn’t been to an Oakland Raiders or Washington Redskins game or he doesn’t consider them part of the NFL. Baseball players and managers slugging it out on the field and bullpen right in front of innocent children sure instills the right values of family affairs. I say, we let Fisher introduce croquet or curling. No one ever fights there but then there isn’t any passion either.

“Baseball is the only sport in which statistics over the course of more than a century of play can be compared directly, allowing fans to know instantly how today’s players rate against those of decades ago; Every comparison that I’ve seen concludes that the single most difficult task in all of sports is hitting a baseball thrown at 95 miles an hour.”

I bet cricket has more statistics than Fisher could ever imagine and thankfully, we have numbers on the left side of the decimal as well. Babe Ruth’s record might be broken (or heck, it already is) but Bradman is supreme. And try throwing a full-toss ball to Dhoni at speeds higher than 95 miles per hour and see where it lands, if it ever does. Or regards football, try stopping a full-blooded Roberto Carlos free kick or a curling Beckham kick from the sweet spot, the goalkeepers rarely try to move.

“Soccer’s popularity in much of the world is sadly tied up with the most disturbing face of nationalism, and so when Americans see soccer fans waving national flags and chanting vile slogans against other nations, we are reminded of the horrors of terrorism and the unfortunate abuse of sports by terrorists and by nations.”

Are Americans that wussy as some people would like us to believe? Whatever happened to the spirit of U-S-A, U-S-A and the Miracle on Ice, don’t tell me that it was a Disney on Ice marketing campaign! America’s greatest technological leap i.e. the man on the moon was powered by vile slogans against the mighty USSR. Nationalism is forgotten over after the game is over especially over a pitcher of Germany’s finest beer. I am not going to comment on the oft-used terrorism fear. Be afraid; be very afraid works only when you are running for an impossible reelection campaign.

“We tend to like sports that can accommodate stories about players, coaches and other personalities. Soccer, as a largely anonymous sport, doesn’t fit. The game simply doesn’t work on television because the field is so enormous that the players appear to be tiny. Fans therefore cannot form powerful emotional connections with their play.”

Heck, with the right marketing acumen even bobsledding can have personality. Beckham alone is responsible for England’s gossip circle. Add a bit of Spice and the gossip mags make a killing. Britney’s nth pregnancy might not generate as much hype as a Beckham’s hairstyle change does. And guess what, it doesn’t affect his headers. Fisher hasn’t seen a football match so that’s why he believes that we always watch the game in wide-angle on television. If the field size is a factor, then Americans would be crazy about chess.

“It’s very nice for soccer-loving countries to have their little tournament, but to call it the World Cup is rather arrogant and overblown.”

Ok! this one sentence alone makes me question if this indeed is a satirical piece because no newspaper correspondent worth his ink. I am not even going to mention the ‘World Series’ or NBA champions being called World Champions.

Gosh! Almost every sentence can be fisked and counter-argued. But I’ll leave some for you guys. I cannot write any more; I pass on the baton.

News for You

In yesterday’s post I had observed that the American media seems to be paying enough attention to the tsunami disaster in Asia. Some bloggers have disagreed but I still will give the Americans some credit for giving us a break from the cheery holiday news when water was wrecking havoc back home. Before an Indian newspaper observed it, I noticed the difference in the coverage. Pictures of dead bodies, parents carrying their dead child, and open mass graves — were splashed across all national and local newspapers in the US. Of course, they give a better understanding of the disaster and lend the secluded viewers an insight into the extent of a disaster in a developing country. But I definitely do not feel that this was their objective behind those pictures. The media is well known for its sensationalism and ability to shock us into admission. But if firing the wrong apprentice can send out waves of shock in the news, then honestly I have no respect for “real news” here.

Immediately after 9/11, images of people jumping out of the towers or the repeatedly displayed images of planes crashing into the second tower made people cry out in anguish and made beelines to the shrink. The media instantly rescinded all such display of gore and made their telecasts politically correct and sensitively aware. But it seems, now the playing ground is the Asian subcontinent — the venting ground to exhibit the hardcore sensational news. The tsunami gives them just that. Scenes of devastation without a personal attachment. Scattered bodies along washed out shorelines, rural Tamilians in anguish, grieving parents holding the scant remains of their child; cameras right in the faces of private grief. Where is the sensitive news coverage now?

A less extreme and more disinterested assessment comes from Ed Luce, south Asia bureau chief for Financial Times, who confesses he’s watched ”only a bit of television in the past few days and most of it NDTV”. One sight shocked him: ”TV crew in helicopters just above the sea, off the eastern coast of Sri Lanka, and Indonesia, filming victims below. It was voyeuristic.”

Hurricanes hit hard in the US last year but beyond the vast expanses of mangled piers and beach houses turned inside out, the only people stories we saw were of hope and close-calls. No bodies on the beach, no human anguish tales; admittedly they are better prepared but where are those people reported dead? We never saw them or their families talk on live TV. Cut now to tsunami news — amateur videos of rising water, people fleeing in horror, mass graves — are regular news.

Is it fair or am I just unfairly, crying unfair?

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