When is a first strike not a first strike?
When it's Anticipatory Retaliation.

February 24, 2005

Jeff Gannon

Bravo Romeo Delta

Jeff Gannon is evidently running a bit short on cash, although the goatee works for him. So help a guy out.

Since the link seems to be uncooperative, here's a screen capture:


As the texdt seems to be aq bit hard to read, here's the description: "I will totally punch myself in the FACE for the highest bidder. on tape, i will hit my self about 7 to 22 times, depending on how stupid i feel, for you then i will have my friend hit me with a cinder block in the head, and then i will eat a ketchup sandwich. this is the real thing, don't be fooled by amateurs."

Launched simultaneously by Bravo Romeo Delta at Anticipatory Retaliation and the Jawa Report.

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at 09:18 PM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (0)

February 22, 2005


Bravo Romeo Delta

I've done it again. I've meandered off into the path of trying to blog home run hits to the exclusion of actually writing because I like it. Writing the things that I want to leave as historical records, rather than writing the things that will bring me to the keyboard, and in so doing, writing nothing at all.

Well, tell you what - I'll finish off the last bit of the thing I've been noodling on and get back to a sensible pace of actually writing regularly.

Actually, let me rephrase myself. I will, from time to time, get a brainstorm. Naturally, the more complex the idea, the more I feel that I should explain myself clearly.

With this last post on Media and Objectivity, I worked a fairly long time at it, and had people miss the point right left and center.

If the driving motivation to blog is to give voice to one's muse, then do I have an obligation to be an effective gobetween from my muse to my audience? I had thought that it was my responsibility to make sure my ideas are well understood.

Now, I am no longer sure. It seems that the effort to make that jump may impede the writing itself. On the one hand, this would be utterly self-defeating if I were writing for pay, but am I writing for my audience or myself.

This is the central dilemma of blogging. At what point do you cease working on your blog, and at what point does blogging work on you?

The short-pass methodology was an attempt to break away from the tendency to let the blog work me over. I have however, not been successful, so back to the grindstone again.

Much like riding a bike, one has to accept that, despite knowing and theory, there is an unaviodable amount of falling off and an inescapable number of skinned knees that must be gotten past, in order to gain mastery of the vehicle.

And so, I get back on the damnned bike again.

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at 02:33 AM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (4)

February 14, 2005

Media Bias: An Overview

Bravo Romeo Delta

In the wake of the Gannon and Jordan affairs, there has been a resurrection of discussions about media bias: whether it exists, and its nature if it does exist.  For myself, this examination began recently with my post on the Fourth Estate in which I evidently forgot to code my html for hyperbole for calling journalists Stalinist, and was fairly called out on it by Rick DeMent of Unspecified Chatter (nee, the Rant).

More broadly, two recent blog posts have provided a reasonably cogent defense of the so-called Mainstream Media (MSM) from folks sitting within the game itself; the first, from Steve Silver (courtesy Michael Totten) gets what appears to be a fairly solid fisking from commenter JBP at February 10, 2005 09:30 AM in Michael Totten's thread.  The other is by one Derek Rose, who is also a 'member' of the media, and takes the form of a rebuttal of an open letter by a Marine in Iraq.  In this one, Mr. Rose is deserving of credit, if nothing else, by sticking around in the comments and replying to his detractors.

But unfortunately, neither of these defenses or much of the immediate response provides much more than a he said, she said approach and fails to apply much thought to the problem.  This is, to a certain extent, to be expected since folks on both sides of the aisle seem to think that the day-to-day conduct of major media outlets is, in and of itself, prima facie evidence of bias of some sort or another.

So, let's go back to the data, and some of the probable responses to the data.

First, we've got a collection of large number of studies on media bias cataloged by the Media Research Center.  Without drilling down through each of them individually, we can get a generalized sense of what they're driving at by noting the general trend of the reports.  In terms of both party identification and voting behaviors, the journalistic corps is roughly as far to the left as an average Berkley, California; Cambridge, Massachusetts; or, a Washington, DC.  More or less, journalists who report at the national level tend to vote Democrat by something like a 10-to-1 margin with party identification to match.

The counterargument to this might be related to something along the lines that political leanings don't a reporting bias make.  Folks may have all manner of political leanings without making that a pre-eminent focus of their work.  After all, we look to judges to rule without bias.  Whether or not the folks on the Supreme Court do so or not, we certainly do not go into a court for a traffic ticket and immediately ask how the judge voted in the last election.  Besides which, if reporters go into the game with a full intention to report the truth wholly, why is it that one would assume that they are incapable of reporting without bias any more than one might have problems assuming that a doctor act within the guidelines established by the Hippocratic Oath?  If nothing else, wouldn't it be much more likely to assume that the news media are beholden to corporate interests, rather than purely political motives?

We can approach the question of bias by looking at what news outlets use for information in an effort to see if their sources reflect a non-partisan selection.  A study done at Stanford and later posted by Yale (link now expired, new link appreciated) notes that media outlets tend rather strongly toward citing the same bits of information heavily preferred by Democratic politicians.  Absent the actual study, I have been able to find a few key paragraphs from an article about the study (Courtesy Protein Wisdom):

"Our results show a very significant liberal bias," they write. "One of our measures found that The Drudge Report is the most centrist of all media outlets in our sample. Our other measure found that Fox News' Special Report is the most centrist." And all three papers, plus NBC and CBS, "were closer to the average Democrat in Congress than to the median member of the House of Representatives." Fair and balanced, anyone? To use a simplified example, they say, suppose there were only two think tanks, and The New York Times cited the liberal one twice as often as the conservative one. Then the newspaper's ADA score would be the same as that of a member of Congress who did the same.

The estimated ADA score for Fox, based on citations, was 35.6. That puts it in the company of Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and a few points below the House median, 39.0. The two highest were The New York Times, at 67.6, and CBS Evening News, at 70.0. The average Republican in Congress has an ADA score of 11.2, and the average Democrat 74.1.

The authors say they expected to find that the mainstream media leaned to the left, but they were "astounded by the degree." So when people say, for example, that The New York Times may be tilted left, but people can compensate for that by watching Fox News, they don't take into account that the Times is much further from the center than Fox. "To gain a balanced perspective, one would need to spend twice as much time watching Special Report as he or she spends reading The New York Times."

But rather than trying to read statistical tea leaves, we can look at the stories covered by the media.  The coverage of the Iraq War is an obvious place to start.  One of the constant cries from the right is that news coverage about Iraq is hopelessly biased on disaster and therefore is relentless in it's effort to paint the Bush effort in the worst possible light.  Rather than take that assertion at face value, one of the most astute experts on news coverage in Iraq, Arthur Cherenkoff, has tallied a sample of news reports about Iraq.  By his count, there are 10,877 stories damaging to Bush, 123 neutral stories, and 407 that could be seen to be in Bush's favor (or 95%:1%:4%).  The first line of response normally heard in response to something like this is that the situation in Iraq really is that dire, and even in cases where it's not, bad news sells.  A fair enough response, so let us look at a narrower set of Iraq-related news in an effort to at least see if Iraq news itself reflects an undue focus on disaster, without respect to the broader question of whether Iraq is a mess in its entirety.

Some good research on coverage of the Iraqi museum looting after the fall of Baghdad has been done by Jeffery, at Iraqi Bloggers Central.  He follows the evolution of the looting story quite closely, and notes, essentially, that the original claims that the entire inventory of 170,000 artifacts had been looted, turned out after saner heads compared notes, that some 2% of a total of 501,000 items have yet to be accounted for.  No small difference that.  So, while this might seem to confirm the thesis that stories of mayhem, death, and destruction.  But before we use these anecdotes as a demonstration that the "drama sells" thesis is a lock, let's take a deeper look.

If we examine reporting on Joesph Wilson and the subsequent coverage of the fact that he lied about his allegations regarding Iraqi attempts to purchase Uranium in Niger.  Rather than looking it as the number of stories about Wilson's veracity, we can flip it back around and look at it as the number of stories backing up the allegation that "Bush Lied"™ versus the number of stories exonerating the sitting President from behavior bordering on treason.  In either case we get a range of ratios between the two categories of stories ­is from 48:1 to 18:1 (for individual outlets: the total cited was 302:9 or about 33:1) on stories about Bush's perfidy, versus the willing distortion of the truth in an effort to unseat the President.

Here we have two ways to parse this. On one hand we get an a convincing demonstration that bad news sells - 33 stories of Bush scandal to every story clearing things up.  But flip that around to look at how the stories were originally sold: 33 stories of good news (or certainly good news to those who were seeking proof of Presidential perfidy) to every counter story.  Does this support the notion that perceptions of bias only derive from the natural tendency of the media to focus on disaster? Much of bias is in the eye of the beholder and I leave it to the reader to review some of the specifics.  Does the disproportionate interest reflect an interest in selling stories, or tarnishing the president?

It must be noted that the media certainly didn't wear kid gloves when following the Lewinski affair.  Perhaps it's just that Presidential scandal attracts the eye more quickly than other sorts of bad behavior.  But with respect to Lewinski, some on the right might point out that the interest in marital infidelity, rather than the more serious charge of perjury.  However the centrist explanation about the coverage of Lewinski ties in directly to the centrist explanation of why the focus wasn't on perjury: scandals, particularly those related to sex, sell.  So, with this, we have nothing particularly conclusive one way or the other.  Further, it's certainly difficult to compare metrics on "scandal" since not all scandals are made alike.

One of the blog links that I've been trying to find recently, but have been unable to find was one that I felt gave a reasonable comparison of how the media deals with differing Presidents.  Specifically, it addressed the historical mandate debate by comparing when the media felt that the elected (or re-elected) President really had a mandate.  Some of the more interesting points made notes that Clinton was granted a mandate by the press in 1992 with his 43% win, while there was some significant noise about Reagan not having a mandate, despite his 49 state win in 1984.  I was, however, able to find this bit:

When the Republicans took over control of congress in 1994, Peter Jennings said that this was not really a "mandate for change" ..."It's clear that anger controls the child and not the other way around," stated Mr. Jennings. "The voters had a temper-tantrum...The nation can't be run by an angry 2-year-old." (The actual statement was said on a radio commentary in 1994, and reported again in the South Jersey Courier Post on November 27, 1994.) The Republican victory was also stated by Steve Roberts, a US News and World Report writer on CNBC's Equal Time - "They (voters) are not voting Republican...They are voting against a lot of unhappiness in their own lives."

Funny - the same media was hailing Clinton's 1992 victory as a "mandate for change" (with a whopping 43% of the vote) and that Republican ideas were dead, that the Democrat ideas were what the people wanted. So, when the voters vote Republican they don't know what they are doing, but when they vote for a Democrat they have more credibility?

So, with this and my memory we may have evidence that on a directly measurable basis, that the news media may actually have a bias.

But, if all I have is a set of empirical data, that does not a bias make.  Correlation does not imply causation.  So, what theory do I have that would tie this bits of observation together in a coherent whole?  Well, the idea was first brought to my mind in another blog post about (as I recall) "moment media".  Alas, this is a post that I cannot find either, but the gist of it was that journalism was, for decades, a profession built around the objection recording of truth - sort of stenographers of record, if you will.  In the post-Watergate era, not only did advocacy journalism start to rise to the fore, but so did "moment journalism."  The explanation given is that not only did the media have an obligation to report the news, but should also try to create an emotional "moment" with each news story.  In an effort to make the news relevant and real for the news consumer, journalists started looking for a hook, a story, something to rouse hearts and minds - not just a dry recitation of facts.  I was able to find a few articles speaking to how journalists view their own responsibilities with respect to creating a narrative:

Some city room diehards may still deem narrative journalism’s concern with voice and theme, protagonists and story arcs, mere staff-draining, news hole-eating incursions onto fiction’s traditional turf.

But Mark Kramer, who brought his annual conference to Harvard’s Nieman Foundation last year, said tough economic times have made editorial management more receptive to some aspects of narrative because they see it as a way to attract and hold readers.

Or, as is noted here:

Hardboiled reporters don't routinely seek to engineer the sequential emotional responses of readers. They don't mess much with their readers at all. Storytellers do. The two roles are in conflict. But the conflict has often been resolved, even by some of those hard-boiled reporters.

So it would seem that this increasing tendency to look for the engaging emotional hook and the resonant story, journalists first look for the sensational.  This is reasonable as the sensational story is an easier one to write - it takes a lot more work to make a story about a family returning home after a mediocre vacation than it does to create a gripping narrative about a Peace Corps volunteer lost in a tsunami.

But past that, does narrative focus lead to bias?  I would say yes, in those cases when the profession itself has a strong set of political leanings.  In that kind of environment when editors and reporters are looking to pick out the point of interest and refine the gripping details that breath life into otherwise "hardboiled" reporting, they have only one reliable metric to work with - whether or not they themselves are interested in the story.  Does a given presentation of data generate outrage, move one to tears, or cause a sense of warm satisfaction?  Well, that would depend on the people reading the story.  And, in the case of journalists, the people making the first call on whether or not a story gets written, and if it does, how it is presented, would be people who will be (at least at the national level) overwhelmingly left-leaning.

But why is this?  This, in my estimation is a perverse result of the attempt of media itself to be objective.  Without delving into the origins of an objective media in America, one will note that an objective media implies a role for media in the democratic process.  Specifically, an objective media takes on the responsibility for educating and drawing the public's attention to those items which are most relevant and important for their democracy.  In other words, in this world view, the media provides a role which augments the role of government in a patriarchal system.  But why doesn't this show up as right-side social patriarchialism?

It's because the left and right are not mirror image political philosophies.  The left has, among its intellectual foundations, the idea of Marxist "false consciousness." This is the catalyst that really makes the concept of narrative journalism really react so very dynamically with the idea of objective media as a necessary component of democracy.  A philosophical underpinning of many of those folks who make up the left today is that the people are mislead by those who would take advantage of them, and that it is the responsibility of those on the soapbox to speak truth to power.  And the new mission of media is to tell the story compellingly and steer clear of a simple recitation of data that won't engage people in critical discussions about their own fate at the hands of corporations and theocrats.

So does this pan out as a viable theory?  Hard to say, but in closing I would note what it is that journalists themselves have to say about the state of their profession.  Well, Christopher Hitchens would seem to agree with the assertion that the proclivities of the press made the prospect of a Vietnam-like quagmire and exciting prospect indeed:

There were no more than three Bush-Blair sympathizers in the Kuwait Hilton during the days of the "southern front" in last year's Iraq war, and I know this because I was in that case in the minority. One doesn't have to be an "old hand" to detect the signs of a conscience collective or, if one doesn't care for it, a "herd mentality."

It's now fairly obvious that those who cover Iraq have placed their bets on a fiasco or "quagmire" and that this conclusion shows in the fiber and detail of their writing.

But past that, how about someone a little bit less of a firebrand, how do they see the same things in Iraq coverage?  Strangely enough, highly-respected reporter John Burns goes beyond my argument of an unintentional drift towards the tantalizing to something a bit more insidious and more than a bit disheartening.  Especially in light of Eason Jordan and his revelations about CNN's behavior in Iraq.

Although I could make the case that this kind of pandering to dictators is simply a manifestation of the effort to destroy a false consciousness through aggressive pursuit of narrative.  But really, come on now, at what point do I have to keep making excuses for some of those sorry sons-of-bitches simply in an effort to appear even handed.

And oh, by the way, don't even think about picking up bias in talk radio as a worthwhile counterpoint to bias in the MSM.  Or at least until you start showing me how people rely on talk radio for their news.

(Simultaneously launched by Bravo Romeo Delta from Demosophia, The Jawa News, & Anticipatory Retaliation)

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at 04:51 AM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (1)

February 12, 2005

News Flash

Bravo Romeo Delta

Eason Jordan quits.

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at 03:49 PM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (1)

February 11, 2005

Whose Side Are They On? The Lynne Stewart Conviction


Wretchard has a post up about Lynne Stewart's conviction wherein he makes the observation not only that the compassion of the left is selective, but that it's conditioned by the Left's "refusal to acknowledge anything smaller than a mass noun." The essence of this perspective concerns the evidence that Stewart, along with some co-conspirators, sought to use the leverage of the kidnapping of civilians, including "poor" Filipinos and children as well as the sick and elderly, to leverage their negotiations for the Sheik's treatment and release. In essence it concerns a defacto alliance with the Al Qaeda-affiliated kidnappers. It's instructive to consider just how the Left and Stewart's team are spinning this story, including the presentation of their attempts to employ the leverage of the kidnappings.

I just watched a rather longish and in depth interview on LinkTV's Democracy Now "news" program with Lynne Stewart, Ramsey Clark, and Stewart's lawyer (whose name I can't recall). It's clear that the Left is presenting this conviction as a tragedy, taking full advantage not only of Stewart's "Mother-Hubbardish" physical characteristics (which I'm sure have served her well in the courtroom) but also the symbolism of the fact that she was convicted in the same courtroom as the Rosenbergs, and lives in a neighborhood where the streets are named for the victims of a "similar" miscarriage of justice in the 18th century. But apart from all this emotional and symbolic appeal the essence of their spin is that Stewart simply wanted to keep Rahman's name before the public; that she feared should he fade from the media consciousness he would be stuffed down a "memory hole." This is a preposterous interpretation, for a number of reasons.

First, it would seem a long shot that the public in the US would ever develop, from media exposure, significant sympathy for the Sheik and his predicament to put pressure on the judiciary in the US. That cannot have played any part in her thoughts, or the thoughts and actions of her confederates, unless they were simply crazy. Stewart is considered a rather shrewd lawyer, so it's unlikely that she's crazy in that particular sense. No, what she wanted Americans to be aware of was not the Sheik's predicament, but the fact that the predicament and fate of the hostages were contingent on that of the Sheik. To put it in the simplest terms, she wanted Americans to notice that there were guns pointed at the heads of these innocents and that the price for lowering those arms involved setting the Sheik (and others like Ramsey Youssef) free. The text of the exchange concerning their dismay at absence in the NYT piece about the Abu Sayyaf kidnappings of any mention of the Sheik, which I will not reproduce here, but which can be found on the Belmont Club, makes it clear that their concern was that the public was unaware that the fingers on the triggers of those guns were connected by a line of intent to the Sheik in his cell, and that his release would be theirs.

Now, there is one interpretation of this concern that could mitigate against the interpretation of their unwavering cold-heartedness. It is simply that she feared that the death of those innocents was a certainty unless the public were made aware of these "conditions." That would seem to make some sense. But interestingly it is not the case that Stewart and her team have presented, possibly because to do so she'd have to abandon the fiction that there was any moral legitimacy attaching to the Sheik, or to the Jihadist movement in general. In other words, to make a case for her own humanity she'd have to abandon the claim to theirs... which would betray the Left's entire strategic position. What is that, you ask?

The reason why this position makes sense to the Left is the subject for a later post, but suffice to say that, however much they may despise the barbaric acts of these zealots, they're able to suppress that revulsion because ultimately, when the time comes, they believe the Jihadists can be controlled. It's not so much that they're on the side of the Jihadists as that they believe the Jihadists are strategically (and perhaps unwittingly) on theirs.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)

Launched by Demosophist at 06:13 PM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (0)

February 09, 2005

Woolcock Responds


Prof. Joseph Woolcock was accused by Kuwaiti student Ahmad al-Qloushi of ordering him to seek psychological counseling for his pro-American views.

Professor Woolcock responded to the accusation by dropping a comment in this post written at The Jawa Report by Gordon. After doing an initial IP search and contacting him, Prof. Woolcock confirmed that he had left the comment and had sent the same as a press release to the various MSM outlets. Ok, so we're not exactly the MSM---but I guess we'll do in a pinch! Here is what he says in his defense:

I have been asked by a number of news organizations about my interaction in late November 2004 with a Foothill College student Ahmad al-Qloushi. This is my response.

In mid-November 2004, Ahmad al-Qloushi came to see me at my request to discuss the outline of his Final Research Paper assignment in the course : “Introduction to American Government & Politics.” He had failed to write the mid-term assignment and had chosen to write his final paper on a topic we both agreed would be a challenge for him. Recognizing that he would have difficulty completing the assignment, I offered him the opportunity to write his paper on a less challenging topic from the mid-term assignment list of topics. We agreed that should he take up the offer, I would not only discount the points he failed to earn at mid-term, but I would also work with him on the outline, and on the review of a draft copy of the paper before he submitted it for grading. Mr. al-Qloushi agreed to do that. However, he turned in his final written assignment without returning for the assistance which we had agreed on earlier. When I read the paper, it became clear to me that it did not respond to the question.

In late November, after grading all final papers, I asked Mr. al-Qloushi to come
and discuss with me the grade. During this meeting, I sought from him his
reasons for reneging on our earlier agreement. In response, he expressed in
great detail, concerns and feelings of high anxiety he was having about certain
developments which had occurred over ten years ago in his country. Some aspects of his concerns were similar to certain concerns expressed in his paper.

Based on the nature of the concerns and the feelings of high anxiety which he
expressed, I encouraged him to visist one of the college counselors. I neither
forced nor ordered Mr. al-Qloushi to see a counselor; I have no authority to do
so. My suggestion to him was a recommendation he freely chose to accept and
which he acknowledged in an e-mail message to me on December 1, 2004.

Foothill College counselors are competent and highly respected professionals
capable of providing professional services to students, and faculty members are
always encouraged by the college administration to make such referrals to
college counselors as the need may arise.

In my conversation with Mr. al-Qloushi, I did not make any reference, explicitly
or implicity, to the Dean of International Students or to any other Dean. In my
conversation with Mr. al-Qloushi, I did not make any reference, explicit or
implicit, to Mr. al-Qloushi’s status as an international student. At the time of
our conversation, Mr. al-Qolushi was still enrolled in my class, but after he
met with the counselor, he never returned to the class.

I deny unequivocally all the allegations Mr. al-Qloushi has attributed to me
regarding my suggestion to him that it might be helpful for him to discuss his
long-standing concerns with a college counselor, as I have described here. All
the other allegations made are false and have no basis whatsoever in fact.

Professor Joseph A. Woolcock

As a college professor let me make two observations in defense of both al-Qloushi and Woolcock.

First, students have a tendency to blow things way out of proportion, take professors the wrong way, or misinterpret what the professor is saying. Here's an example. On Tuesday I was describing an upcoming trip to D.C. and told the students how we would not be going on the White House tour. After class a student accused me of not going to the White House because I was a liberal Democrat. "If your man Bill Clinton were in the White House I bet you'd go," she said. Either I'm doing my job way too well and disguising my political beliefs or this student was just psycho.

This happens all the time. In fact, not a semester goes by where at least one student doesn't accuse me of giving them an F because I don't like their politics or have some personal vendetta against them. The fact is that neither is true.

The reason I give so many students an F is because there is no lower grade to give.

Second, it is understandable why this student might perceive bias in an Introduction to American Government class, especially one that uses Dye and Ziegler's The Irony of Democracy. There is a definite leftist bias on American campuses. In my own department the biases are rarely overt, but come out in the snide remarks, jokes, or what passes as irony by the faculty. Because we are so insulated, most professors are not even aware of their own biases. To their credit, when these biases are pointed out to most of my colleagues they at least make an attempt at fairness.

On top of these biases Dye and Ziegler prove difficult reading for students. You see, The Irony of Democracy is written from an elitist point of view. Elitism rejects pluralism in favor of a model of democratic participation where the few lead the many. The problem for students is that they do not understand the difference between a normative model and an empirical model. Dye and Ziegler do not argue that elites should lead, but that this is simply the nature of social relations. It is neither bad nor good--it simply is. In fact, if my reading of Dye is correct then he is a Conservative Republican. But students just have a difficult time seeing this and think the book bashes the Founders. It does not.

Since facts are in dispute in this controversy I am not able to say which are true. However, my own experience suggests that Professor Woolcock's version of the events are probably accurate. Students often mistake the intentions of their professors.

Further, students have the tendency to think that we really give a rat's ass what their political beliefs are. We don't. In fact, there is nothing personal about the grading process at all. We don't give you an A if we like yo and and F if we don't. We rarely think of you at all.

It's not that we don't feel for you, we do. It really breaks my heart to have to give the number of Fs that I do. It's just that we don't care.


For more background on the Ahmad Al-Qloushi allegations see this article written by the student.

For other professor's takes see:
James Joyner
Steve Taylor
Betsy Newmark
Northern Alliance

For blogosphere reaction to the initial accusations see:
Michelle Malkin
California Yankee

(Cross Posted at My Pet Jawa & Demosophia)

Launched by Rusty at 05:26 PM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (0)
» Now You Know Retaliates with: Joseph Woolcock, Again?!?!?
» TechnoChitlins Retaliates with: Students and Profs

February 07, 2005

The 4th Estate

Bravo Romeo Delta

In all the hullabaloo about exactly how depraved a bunch of Stalinists the Main Stream Media (MSM) are, the actual concrete impact of media bias has not received as much attention as I think is warranted.

Sure, we've got the attempt to swing a presidential election, or the handling of the Tet Offensive, but these are pretty visible first-order effects.  The implications for Open-Source research and the subsequent effect on the policy community do seem to have gone largely unacknowledged.

Open-source intelligence (OSI), as the term is used here, is the synergistic use of unclassified and non-sensitive materials to draw conclusions and uncover data about a subject for analysis.  OSI is used by think tanks, academia, and other policy generating and policy-analysis generating organizations as the raw data for reports, open testimony, and any one of a number of other critical functions in the public policy community.

In OSI, a great deal of emphasis is placed on information generated by the MSM for two reasons.  First, a government (or organization) may wish to make something publicly known to inform or influence discussion on a given subject.  Thus, governments may leak something through the media that they want to make known without having to put it out into the world on their own letterhead.  Second, the MSM provide (at least in theory) a very large, well-funded intelligence gathering organization that provides (hypothetically) unbiased, factual information about events going on around the world.  A classic example of this is the Early Bird, a document culling some of the significant stories of the upcoming day and distributing them around Washington and the world.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Early Bird, it is generally accepted that the Early Bird provides the minimum daily requirement of relevant foreign policy news for consumers from the Oval Office, to combatant commands, to think tanks, to talking heads.  On a broader basis, many of the positions and reports generated by think tanks (and presented later as analysis) are informed very heavily by OSI, and by extent, the MSM.

OSI does have some sort of self-correcting component to it.  A news source that, over time, repeatedly trends towards inaccuracy becomes a less valuable and reliable source of OSI.  Thus, a source like Bloomberg doesn't really have a very strong following - their reports tend to be far more geared towards being first, rather than being right, and as a result, are more likely to report unconfirmed initial information, rather than well-researched reporting.  This rating of sources goes down to individual writers and producers - no reputable outfit will take a position on Robert Fisk's say-so.

However, if the bias in reporting becomes pervasive, then we end up with a problem.  If errors in reporting are not exposed later by other outfits, then we have no efficient way of knowing that any given source or sources are unreliable.

To take this a step further, we can include things like official government reports as part of our OSI data stream.  If, for sake of argument, the government report is 100% on the level, and the press report disagrees with it, we have no metric to determine the veracity of either report.  Naturally the tendency is then to assume that the government report is slanted as much (but in the opposite) direction of the MSM report.  Or even that the MSM report is valid, while the government report is a white-wash.

Ultimately, as we might already suspect, the media creates "news," the problem is however, not only does it affect our elected representatives by applying pressure through their constituencies, but also directly changes the way that Washington makes policy.  DC is still built on the notion that descriptions like "The Newspaper of Record" actually have some weight.  And unfortunately the massive private sector human intelligence operation we call journalism has turned into a mouthpiece for an ideology - and this will continue to put a hand on the tiller of the ship of state.

(Simultaneously launched by Bravo Romeo Delta from Demosophia, The Jawa Retailer, & Anticipatory Retaliation)

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at 07:59 PM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (1)
» The Jawa Report Retaliates with: Media Bias: An Overview

February 02, 2005

All Geek and No Dork

Bravo Romeo Delta

Ok, meandering away from the Understanding The Fate of All Mankind for a bit, a few things that just tickled me silly over the last few days of skittering around the Interweb.

So, yes, I'm taking off my Dork hat for a quick spin as a Geek. Enjoy!




Credit for the above three goes to Deskmerc, evidently a man who not only has a way with computer graphics, but a sense of humor only a physicist could love.

With this one, it's not so much the image, as the fact that I think the caption here has been totally nailed by Bob at Let's Try Freedom.

"I find your lack of faith disturbing."

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at 06:23 PM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (0)

February 01, 2005

The First-Best Option


A link to an article in a left-leaning paper, in a left-leaning area of a left-leaning country, sent to me today by a left-leaning friend. In his words: "All I want is a good outcome. I don't have to have been right."

Admit It: Bush Was Right About Iraq. Excerpt:

But on the defining, fundamental question, Bush was right.

He understood that to defeat an idea, no matter how perverse and brutal it might be, it was necessary to have an opposite and superior idea.

He understood, in other words — instinctively rather than intellectually — that the only way to win a war against terrorism was to turn it into a war for democracy.

This is now happening. Against the quest of ordinary Iraqis for dignity and self-respect and freedom, the terrorists in Iraq had nothing ultimately to offer, except blood and hatred.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)

Launched by Demosophist at 11:06 PM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (1)

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