Archive for November, 2005

November 23, 2005

The Nanny Media

John points out a problem with the media that has long bothered me but that I’ve never articulated in public before:

Hello Ted,
I just read your column about how the media can restore its credibility. All your points were spot on, but I’d like to add one more that is counter-intuitive.
Right now I’m reading George Packer’s book Assassin’s Gate. In it, Packer describes a scene during which an American guard demeans and humiliates a detainee by using obscenity. Summarizing the conversation does not do it justice. Only reading it verbatim conveys what every American knows: When we use the F word among friends, it’s a sign of affinity. When we use it among strangers, especially when the stranger is in a difficult situation, it’s a sign of dominance and often an indication that we are willing to resort to violence. How does a reporter respond when every other word is an expletive? Usually, he skips the whole statement or he reduces it to a meaningless exchange.
From there, where do the newspapers go? Well, they can’t show pictures of dead bodies. From there? They can’t show coffins. From there, if they travel with troops, they can’t publish the obscenity laden dialog of soldiers. From there, they have to rely on press conferences, which, as you mentioned in your article, are a source of lies, not news. The ultimate result is the daily news media go from a fear of publishing the obscene to a fear of publishing the offensive.
What does the public get? A litany of mundane, feel-good stories; a streak of political “gotcha” stories; a limitless supply of superstar screw-ups; and, when foreign events are covered, they are watered down to the point that they bore most adults. Acceptable for kids, palatable for the easily offended, boring to the average adult who requires something a little more visceral to pique his interest.
Mark Twain originally published his book Innocents Abroad in a newspaper, the Daily Alta California. By today’s standards it is a highly offensive book (it points out the sanctimony, cruelty, and hypocrisy of pilgrimaging Christians), and it is not journalism because it relies simply on the keen observations of the journalist. Now imagine Packard trying to get his book published in any daily newspaper in America. Forget the neocon history, or the relevance, or the fact that it paints a detailed picture of Iraqis that Americans rarely see, it would be banned because it is written as a first-person narrative and because it is spiced with the occasional expletive.
Journalists have a long litany of words and things they can’t publish, but far war worse is the fact that journalists cannot publish their own observations because personal observations, particularly in a war zone, are often rife with obscenities, offensive topics, and dead bodies.
If I could say one thing to the readers of the trade journal Editor and Publisher, it would be this:
War is not rated G. It is an adult topic, it is an obscene topic, and, unless journalists want to continue destroying their credibility by relying on anonymous sources and pathological liars, they’ve got to get out there and report first hand what they see and hear. Thank you, Ted. I enjoy your writing very much.

I can also vouch that Packer’s “Assassin’s Gate” is superb.

November 23, 2005

Taking Responsibility

Jim sends this awesome rant:

When someone says: “It was a mistake to vote for this war in 2002. I take responsibility for that mistake.” I wonder what is meant by “taking responsibility”. Where is the downside? Talk, especially from our politicians, is cheap. For a politician, “taking responsibility” is a duck tossing water on its back. It should be more like falling on one’s sword. I was buying John Edwards tale until I got to the ‘taking responsibility” point, followed by “We have to give our troops a way to end their mission honorably. Why is the word “honorably” used? This is not an honorable war; “taking responsibility” would mean saying to the American people that we should not expect an honorable outcome. “Taking responsibility” would be telling those grieving parents that their children have died for nothing. “Taking responsibility” would be to apologize to the world and to Iraqi people for starting this damn war. Apologize for the loss of life; apologize for the destruction of Iraq and its infrastructure. “Taking responsibility” would be the President and Vice President submitting their resignation and those of their cabinets and call for a special election. Apologize for this failure in leadership, this failure to do Their Job. Apologize to the World for the cowboy foreign policy that bypassed all conventional norms. “Taking responsibility” would be admitting to that the American system failed to protect the well-being of the World’s people and surrender control of the U.S. Armed forces to the United Nations.
But, I expect nothing from this bastard President.

November 23, 2005

Torture Primer

I missed this the first time around. Maybe you did too: 2119122/sidebar/2119631/

November 19, 2005

Ted Rall w/Ruben Bolling on Air America

Fellow cartoonist Ruben Bolling, creator of “Tom the Dancing Bug,” will join me tomorrow as we discuss the week in media coverage on the Laura Flanders Show on Air America Sunday/tomorrow night. Air time is 7:30 PM East Coast time; check local listings for airtimes near you. Among the subjects we’ll be talking about will be the Tribune Company’s apparent policy of eliminating its staff editorial cartoonists. Mike Ramirez has been laid off by the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune has decided not to replace Jeff MacNelly (who died a few years ago), and now both KAL of the Baltimore Sun and Bob Englehardt of the Hartford Courant have been given buyout offers with no indication as to whether they’ll ultimately be allowed to remain on staff. Staff editorial cartoonist positions have been vanishing for years, but Tribune’s policy would represent the mass elimination of some of the nation’s most prominent cartoonists as well as a stark display of the power and impact of corporate consolidation of the media industry.

November 19, 2005

Tomorrow on the Ted Rall Show

My radio show’s second edition airs tomorrow on San Francisco’s 106.9 Free FM from 11 am to 2 pm. Livestreaming and podcasting are in the works and may even be available within a week or two, but for now only residents of th Bay Area will be able to listen to tomorrow’s highlights:

Should San Francisco and other big cities try to become more child-friendly?

Why the bursting of the housing bubble doesn’t mean who can buy your first home

Who was Bob Woodward’s source? and Why Scooter is still in deep doo-doo

Double jeopardy in the Robert Blake case

The Vatican opposes “intelligent design”

1 pm Guest: Harmon Leon, prankster/comedian/genius author of “Republican Like Me”

November 11, 2005

Livestream Broadcasts of the new Ted Rall Show

Non-San Franciscans are asking if and when they’ll be able to listen to my new radio show, which debuts this Sunday from 11 am to 2 pm West Coast time on KIFR 106.9 Free FM in the Bay Area, on the Internet. The answer to if is yes, the answer to when is probably within two or three weeks. Watch this space for information, updates and links. It’s a new station and they’re still figuring out the tech stuff.

In other news, there’ll be even more of me on the airwaves after January 1st! As usual, all the info goes on the Rallblog.

November 5, 2005

Radio, Radio

The inaugural airing of the new Ted Rall Show is scheduled for Sunday, November 13.

The show, which will air Sundays from 11 am to 2 pm, will be aired on San Francisco’s brand-new 106.9 Free FM. Topics will include politics, relationships, pop culture and anything interesting. If you live in the SF Bay Area, please listen in and call when the spirit moves you. Plans are afoot for live-streaming and/or downloadable Podcasts as well for people who live elsewhere.

I can’t wait for the 13th!