3/19/11

Pun of the Week

Coach at kid's soccer: ok, I want every to say their name and also their favorite number.

Noah (6 years old): I'm Noah and my favorite number is Pi.

Nick: I'm Nick and my favorite number is "donut."

-- David

3/18/11

Letter to Journalists on Diane Rehm Show regarding NPR and Government Support

On the Diane Rehm Show on Friday, March 18th, a caller questioned why the GOP was targeting NPR and CPB, among others. It was then reported the GOP/Tea Party argument that "the government just shouldn't be in the business of supporting media."

It would be nice to hear reporters bring some pretty well established historical facts to bear on this, namely that it was part of our founding to ensure that there be a healthy press--particularly a press aiming to report on matters of import to the people when the basis for "what matters" is not simply up to ratings and corporate profits.

The history on this is pretty clear. In their recent book, Robert McChesney and John Nichols write,

"The founders regarded the establishment of a press system, the Fourth Estate, as the first duty of the state. Jefferson and Madison devoted considerable energy to explaining the necessity of the press to a vibrant democracy. The government implemented extraordinary postal subsidies for the distribution of newspapers. It also instituted massive newspaper subsidies through printing contracts and the paid publication of government notices, all with the intent of expanding the number and variety of newspapers. When Tocqueville visited the United States in the 1830s he was struck by the quantity and quality of newspapers and periodicals compared with France, Canada and Britain. It was not an accident. It had little to do with "free markets." It was the result of public policy."

(Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols, The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again.) WEB SOURCE: http://sustainablejournalism.org/uncategorized/mcchesney-nichols-advocate-government-help-to-save-journalism

Why mention this? Because I am politely requesting that this history be brought to bear by reporters discussing the issue today. It is not "objective" of journalists to treat stories a-historically, as if the claims made in them had no context. That is how the opponents of public media want to frame the issue--as a story with no backstory--but that a-historical argument is being presented as if it was "the American way of doing things." Mentioning the history of government support for media would be a way of making the story more accurate by adding in more context.

I hope you see my point. Journalism is extremely important for democracy, and to the degree that you exclude historical context (in the service of seeming "fair") you actually undermine the role journalism plays in educating citizens---and ensuring that the press remain an indispensable democratic ingredient, as Jefferson and Madison believed it was.

3/7/11

Why relativism fails


Why relativism fails:

The universe in which every opinion is as good as every other is a universe without argument. A universe without argument, without reason, is not (contra Aristotle, Spinoza) absurd. It is not self contradictory to conceive such a state of affairs. But such a universe is without firm assertion, without contrast, without interest. Such a universe is blah, ennui, boredom per se. One can exist in such a universe, but not live. Thus, a relativistic stance is not only practically impossible (because we *have* to take stands in the tussle of life) but it is also existentially impossible. We couldn't bear such a place. We'd kill ourselves or kill someone else rather than let the status quo stand. Schopenhauer's conclusion, if not his premises.

3/5/11

Who is a Facebook user with hundreds or thousands of friends?


Here's the interesting issue (to me) about having a lot of FB friends: Who *is* the person with 2000 friends? I mean, when I post on FB, I have some reasonable sense of who might be reading it. This is important, because it allows me to be fairly candid and then get responses from people whose perspective I can gauge, somewhat. This is why I don't "friend" students or relative strangers. So how does someone with, say, 500 or 1000 or more friends remain candid on FB? It would seem that they either just post relatively anodyne things or they manufacture a false kind of candidness. Both such forms of expression seem rather self-alienating to me.

This is not to say one cannot talk to different groups at different times, but my point is that in those circumstances where one just feels like throwing out a "general" post (i.e., one not targeting anyone in particular) then a larger group of friends makes such posting either totally missing the audience--or, if one wants to avoid miscommunication--making the posts so general that they begin to lack "candid-ness."

When I listen to "the new generations" (as some call them) talk, it often takes a lot of back and forth to get them to be precise enough to make their point so that I and others IN THEIR PEER GROUP understand what they are saying. This is, I think, evidence of language habit uses which are more mis-communicative than "new" or "generationally innovative." Put another way, they're inarticulate.

3/3/11

How's that "Balance" Treating you Now?


All these years PBS, NPR, et al. have bent over backwards to be "fair" to conservative voices, even allowing them half the debate when it comes to things like global warming. Now, that same group of folks are going to thank PBS, NPR et al. by radically cutting or eliminating their funding.