Corporate Welfare

When Losers Write History

Why legacy-newspaper media reporters get their own industry so wrong

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(Editor's note: This article is adapted from a chapter in Will the Last Reporter Please Turn out the Lights: The Collapse of Journalism and What Can Be Done To Fix It, published by The New Press in 2011.)

Most journalists are familiar with the arch observation, made famous by Winston Churchill, that history tends to be written "by the victors." Less known and more cheeky was Churchill's prediction (mostly accurate, it turned out) that "History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it."

To make even preliminary sense of the hotly disputed and remarkably fluid landscape of modern media, it helps to recall Churchill's axioms about historiography, and recognize that something closer to the inverse is warping our basic view of journalism. It's the losers, not the winners, who are writing the early historical drafts of this transformational media moment, while those actually making that history—the people formerly known as the audience, in critic Jay Rosen's apt phrase—are treating their legacy interpreters not with kindness but contempt. So much misunderstanding and breathtakingly wrong-headed analysis tumbles forth from this one paradox.

Imagine for a moment that the hurly-burly history of American retail was chronicled not by reporters and academics but by life-long employees of A&P, a largely forgotten supermarket chain that enjoyed a 75 percent market share as recently as the 1950s. How do you suppose an A&P Organization Man might portray the rise of discount super-retailer Wal-Mart, or organic foods-popularizer Whole Foods, let alone such newfangled Internet ventures as Peapod.com? Life looks a hell of a lot different from the perspective of a dinosaur slowly leaking power than it does to a fickle consumer happily gobbling up innovation wherever it shoots up.

That is largely where we find ourselves in the journalism conversation of 2012, with a dreary roll call of depressive statistics invariably from the behemoth's point of view: newspaper job losses, ad-spending cutbacks, shuttered bureaus, plummeting stock prices, major-media bankruptcies. Never has there been more journalism produced or consumed, never has it been easier to find or create or curate news items, and yet this moment is being portrayed by self-interested insiders as a tale of decline and despair.

It is no insult to the hard work and good faith of either newspaper reporters or media-beat writers (and I've been both) to acknowledge that their conflict of interest in this story far exceeds that of, say, academic researchers who occasionally take corporate money, or politicians who pocket campaign donations from entities they help regulate, to name two perennial targets of newspaper editorial boards. We should not expect anything like impartial analysis from people whose very livelihoods—and those of their close friends—are directly threatened by their subject matter.

This goes a long way toward explaining a persistent media-criticism dissonance that has been puzzling observers since at least the mid-1990s: Successful, established journalism insiders tend to be the most dour about the future of the craft, while marginalized and even unpaid aspirants are almost giddy about what might come next. More kids than ever go to journalism school; more commencement speeches than ever warn graduates that, sadly, there's no more gold in them thar hills. Consumers are having palpable fun finding, sharing, packaging, supplementing, and dreaming up pieces of editorial content; newsroom veterans are consistently among the most depressed of all modern professionals.

Every year, like a pack of crows announcing the arrival of winter, at least one and usually several anxious new tomes from big-media lifers pronounce journalism to be on death's door. In 1999, writing in the introduction to Bill Kovach's and Tom Rosenstiel's Warp Speed, legendary author David Halberstam declared that, "The past year has been, I think, the worst year for American journalism since I entered the profession forty-four years ago." Since then, obviously, things have only gotten worse.

Journalism "may face its greatest threat yet" and could well "disappear," Kovach and Rosenstiel warned in 2001's The Elements of Journalism. "The news about the news," according the subtitle of a 2002 book of the same name by life-long Washington Post editors Leonard Downie Jr. and Robert G. Kaiser, is that "American journalism" is "in peril." In 2009, Downie one-upped himself, co-writing in a white paper titled "The Reconstruction of American Journalism" that not only is accountability journalism "at risk," but that "American society must now take some collective responsibility for supporting news reporting."

How did we move so quickly from bemoaning the size and profitability of media companies (Downie 2002) to advocating government subsidies for those same weakened giants (Downie 2009)? Only by mistaking the fate of journalism's biggest manufacturers with the fate of the industry as a whole—by conflating A&P with the retail business—and then further muddying the waters by confusing the fortunes of big media companies with the health of democracy itself.

Within the Möbius strip of media criticism produced, digested, and praised by current and former mainstream journalists, the most impactful woe-is-media book in 2009 was Pulitzer-winner Alex S. Jones' Losing the News, where the gravity was right there in the subtitle: "The Future of the News That Feeds Democracy." Jones' potent operating metaphor was that the "iron core" of news—not crime blotter sensationalism or infotainment fluff, but foreign coverage, political watchdoggery, and statehouse news—was shrinking, and with it our ability to function as a republic.

But what if the iron core isn't shrinking?

I debated Jones about his book on Bloggingheads.tv (itself an outlet not remotely thinkable as recently as 1996, the year of James Fallows' Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy). Challenging the iron core premise, I pointed out that in terms of statehouse coverage, just that morning I had written a blog post for Reason linking to a flurry of last-minute California bills signed into law by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, which I had gathered through a Google News search taking me to (in addition to more than a half-dozen regional newspapers I wouldn't normally read) MTV.com, Hip Hop Press, and a boating newsletter. Since there's no way the Los Angeles Times or Sacramento Bee was going to cover all these laws, I argued, wasn't this a demonstration of the iron core expanding? Shouldn't we be happy that it's easier than ever to find out and publicize what our elected representatives are doing in the wee small hours?

Jones' response was telling.

"See, I think that's scandalous. I think that's appalling," he said. "Maybe Hip Hop News is a site that inspires you with confidence, but it would seem to me that you're giving away your confidence pretty cheaply." The exponential proliferation of news producers—and of our ability to access their product—is no consolation for the fact that the biggest hitters have been taken down a peg. What matters is not that there are more outlets than ever willing to dig up information on and criticize, say, the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandals, Jones argues, what matters is that the Church-dogging Boston Globe is weaker than it used to be.

This is analysis as edifice complex, not a clearheaded look at the evolving future of news. And unfortunately, this superpower-focused view is not limited to people whose careers were made inside the fortress walls. Like a Ralph Nader unable to avert his gaze from General Motors, or a Parents Television Council staring transfixed at another season of South Park, outside critics who have spent decades analyzing the mainstream media's corporate biases (from the left) and political agendas (from the right) have ended up reinforcing industrial journalism's vastly inflated sense of self-importance. Nothing adds more urgency to a critique than asserting that the target entity has nefarious power over the rest of us, even over the very ship of state.

So it is that 2003 could produce both Bernard Goldberg's Arrogance: Rescuing America From the Media Elite, and Our Media, Not Theirs: The Democratic Struggle Against Corporate Media by Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols. "Media bias" on 2004 bookshelves was both shackling President George W. Bush's foreign policy (in Bill Sammon's Misunderestimated) and enabling it (Amy Goodman's Exception to the Rulers). Focus here not on the incompatible political takes, but on the shared fear of Big Journalism's malodorous omnipotence. Time and again, citizens have been portrayed as under the sway, even the thumb, of giant media corporations. And time and again this description has turned out to be false.

When AOL bought Time Warner in 2000, for example, lefty critics who for years had been warning about an alleged "media monopoly" (consisting, somehow, of more than a half-dozen companies) reacted with positively millenarian forecasts of doom. Norman Solomon heralded a "new theocracy," and dusted off the old Aldous Huxley quote about how there is "no reason why the new totalitarianisms should resemble the old." Robert Scheer proclaimed that the new "Big Brother" would portend the end of the Internet "as a wild zone of libertarian freedom." And McChesney, arguably the most currently influential of the bunch, declared back then that "the eventual course of the Internet—the central nervous system of our era—will be determined by where the most money can be made, regardless of the social and political implications."

A decade later we can see that this telescopic focus on the elephant in the room missed out on history's biggest mouse party. The most important fact of our modern media world, the engine of such unprecedented creativity and anxiety-inducing destruction, is that the customer is no longer captive. People create their own media, for the sheer bloody hell of it, and no longer adhere permanently to one of a handful of legacy brands.

That all of this should be self-evident to anyone who can open a Web browser makes it no less relevant to our assessment of media—or, more precisely, to the prevailing assessment of media, which serves as the misplaced starting line for most discussion. Too many media critics are still obsessed with mergers, with ownership percentages, with whatever political slant they think establishment newsrooms are force-feeding down our throats, instead of recognizing that the threats to good journalism in 1972 are vastly different than the threats to good journalism in 2012. For heaven's sake, we still have a "Project Censored" churning out annual collections, in an era of Wikileaks, ubiquitous camera phones, and homeless guys publishing popular blogs.

To those of us whose career prospects did not depend on media behemoths or academic institutions, whose view was not colored by an over-arching fear of economic and political power concentrated in the hands of would-be 21st century media barons, the AOL-Time Warner merger, like all supposedly frightening media consolidations, was only as relevant as our comparatively minor consumption of the new conglomerate's products. (I would invite every Ben Bagdikian fan reading this to keep a detailed diary of your media consumption for a full day, count up how many different corporations and human beings compiled the stuff you consumed, note which entities did not even exist in the 20th century, and then try ever again to say or write with a straight face the phrase "media monopoly.") As I wrote when the merger was announced, "If this is the 'new totalitarianism'…then we're the freest slaves in the history of tyranny."

Audience empowerment (to rescue a debased term) is not just about the ability for humans to send text messages or create ad hoc social networks free from government sanction, though both of those developments are revolutionary on their own. Nor is it chiefly about individuals creatively re-packaging the journalistic spade-work of deep-pocketed media institutions, though that, too, has been a remarkably beneficial, not detrimental, innovation (any newspaper journalists who claim otherwise should estimate their number of visits to sites edited by Jim Romenesko). No, the reality rarely broached in the media's own drumbeat of doom is that members of the formerly captive audience are, on a daily basis, beating the professionals at their own game, in the process rendering hollow the claim that our democracy is imperiled when newspapers tremble.

Take public opinion research. From within the newsroom fraternity, the media story about political polling is that, sadly, operations such as the L.A. Times Poll are scaling back, firing employees, shutting down. The view from the outside, however, looks a good deal more wonderful—and damning.  

In 2008, a 30-year-old baseball stat nerd looked at the reams of public research product churned out by the nation's 1,500-plus daily newspapers, and concluded that, though "there is nearly as much data as there is for first basemen," the "understanding has lagged behind." So Nate Silver launched 538.com (named after the number of votes in the Electoral College), and through sheer intellectual rigor and superior numeracy went on to outperform all comers in the political prediction business that year. As Silver later explained in The New York Post, too often "polls are cherry-picked based on their brand name or shock value rather than their track record of accuracy," and "demographic variables are misrepresented or misunderstood."

Silver, who was later hired by The New York Times (a blogger-to-riches story that would have made headlines a decade ago but is no big deal nowadays), is a living refutation of the Labor Theory of Value. All those thousands of big-media reporters and commentators and pollsters, paid full time to analyze and interpret political information, got their clocks cleaned by a sports geek blowing off steam after hours.

It's fitting that Silver made his initial mark through Baseball Prospectus, itself the flowering of an alternative-media uprising in a field—baseball analysis—that for decades was dominated by daily newspapers and sports weeklies. As they did with political research, mainstream news organizations took their overwhelming first-mover advantage in experience and resources on the baseball beat and just squandered it. Starting with a pork-and-beans factory night watchman named Bill James in the mid-1970s, an increasingly restive audience, unsatisfied with the quality and quantity of news they cared about most, invented an entire field of research (called sabermetrics) that slowly but surely upended the very way people now see and run the sport. Bill James went from being the butt of newspaper columnists' jokes to a best-selling author whose in-house analysis helped the Boston Red Sox win two World Championships.

And yet what was the most interesting media story about baseball journalism in 2009, from the old guard point of view? "As Newspapers Cut Back, Press Boxes Grow Lonelier; How a Venerable Institution Lost Its Way," The Wall Street Journal lamented that spring. Only 29 newspapers covered that year's World Series, complained New York sportswriting legend Murray Chass. "Baseball fans are suffering" as a result, chimed in ESPN.com columnist Jim Caple.

But is the iron core of baseball news and analysis remotely shrinking? I'm an avid baseball consumer, and when I compare my media diet today to the dawn of the 21st century, when the dot-com boom was near its initial apex, it isn't even close. Back then, more than 90 percent of my baseball-related intake, for example, was whatever appeared in the print edition of that morning's L.A. Times. The Times (which I would go on to work for from 2006-07), had by acclamation the best sports section in the country for much of the 1970s and '80s, producing not just legendary wordsmiths like columnist Jim Murray, but also terrific beat writers such as longtime California Angels chronicler (and Baseball Hall of Fame member) Ross Newhan. Already by 2000, however, the Times' sports page had been steadily shrunken down, with a disproportionate share of the remaining news hole taken up not by inside information you couldn't get elsewhere, but by windbaggy columnists whose views and expertise were indistinguishable from that of your local bartender. Still, that (plus game broadcasts) was about the only daily game in town for us Angels fans.

Now let's fast forward to 2012. Instead of cable and radio, I watch games live on my computer by subscribing to MLB.tv. I choose Yahoo.com from a crowded field for live box scores and AP game recaps. An extraordinary website called Baseball-Reference.com—again, launched by a motivated outsider—gives me and millions of others the best baseball encyclopedia ever created, for free, updated with fresh information every morning. For links to and smart discussion about sabermetric-related material, I check out Baseball Think Factory; for similar original writing I'll also consult The Hardball Times and The Baseball Analysts (each of these, too, started by "amateurs"; I've contributed to both). The team's hometown Orange County Register, despite suffering through rounds of layoffs and bankruptcy, has the last few years drastically ramped up the quality of its round-the-clock online coverage. I follow the Twitter feeds of various Angels-related people (ranging from stars to broadcasters to minor league wives); look at the team's own news-filled website, and most enjoyably of all, spend a lot of time on a community website called Halos Heaven, where fans argue with one another about personnel, link to relevant commentary from all over the globe, commiserate in game threads, and contribute a damn impressive amount of actual journalism—from insightful interviews with the team's scouting director (the kind of thing you would never see in the newspaper), to heavily sophisticated scouting analyses of minor leaguers, to trashy testimonials of running into players drunk at a bar. The L.A. Times, even before its introducing a reader-repelling paywall, had become an afterthought in a competition it once dominated.

Counting it up, that's 10 media entities where I once consumed three, four journalistic spaces I contribute to where there once was zero, and none of them are owned by one of "Big Six" companies that allegedly dominate our mediaverse. And for those journalism futurists fixated on consumers' allegedly punitive unwillingness to pay for content, note that I shell out much more money than I used to: $125 a year for MLB.tv, plus a couple hundred bucks in page-sponsorships on Baseball-Reference.com in gratitude for the service it provides. What's more, the "free" online providers out there are growing rapdily in revenue, reach, and investment money. Halos Heaven, for example, is owned by SB Nation, a network of more than 300 sports websites co-founded by Markos Moulitsas, better known as the "net roots" impresario of the wildly successful and materially influential lefty political group blog Daily Kos. The sports-news business isn't shrinking at all, it's ballooning, with consumer-producers at the forefront of the action. 

Does it matter that most people telling us about the state of the media are, either through their professional conflicts of interest or career-long fixations, missing or severely underplaying the liberatory effects of the formerly captive audience becoming sophisticated and productive journalism consumers and creators? Unfortunately, yes. If Steven Brill wants to convince newspapers to throw their content behind paywalls, that's his (and their) business. (And, as an editor of a magazine that puts all its content up for free, it's my business, too—hurry up, Brill!) Ditto for newspaper columnists who want to further alienate their dwindling readerships by accusing them of undermining democracy when they read stuff for free. If nothing else, this blame-the-consumer routine is some of the best evidence yet for how an entitled, monopolist-style mentality crept into the worldview of a profession once noted for its cutthroat sense of competition. Instead of begging the audience to stay, the old guard is trying to charge them a steep exit fee.

But the problem here is that the legacy-centric view is bleeding into the sausage-making of public policy. The A&P Organization Men aren't just spinning their own industrial decline and confusing it with the fate of democracy, they're actively advising the Federal Trade Commission on how laws might be rewritten to punish news aggregators—from Google to individual bloggers—whose work is perceived to hurt them. Dollars from every single taxpaying American may be redistributed to an industry that until very recently was among the most profitable in U.S. history. And like the last round of newspaper protectionism—the Newspaper Protection Act of 1970—any rulemaking or legislation that comes out of this process will almost axiomatically reward deep-pocketed incumbents at the direct expense of new entrants, all in an effort to delay the inevitable.

In 2006, remarking on the suddenly troubled fates of the formerly indestructible duopolist film processor Eastman Kodak, The Wall Street Journal's William M. Bulkeley put the problem succinctly: "Photography and publishing companies shouldn't be surprised when digital technology upends their industries. After all, their business success relied on forcing customers to buy things they didn't want." The customers have moved away from yesterday's news bundle, and from the mentality that fetishizes it, but instead of abandoning news they've dived into the production process with both feet. Instead of blaming them for ruining the past, we should be thanking them for inventing the future. And above all, we should do nothing to get in their way.

Matt Welch (matt.welch@reason.com) is editor in chief of Reason magazine.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

189 responses to “When Losers Write History

  1. I just want to say that I greatly favor the adjective “legacy” over “mainstream” when describing the media. It just has that wonderful backhandedness to it.

    1. I agree with the “loosers”. Journalism is dead. Journalists who spend time inestigating an issue before they write about it have been replaced by correspondents who summarize what they are told at a news conference or read on Google News.

      1. Like the investigation they did into the Zimmerman-Martin fiasco before publishing the Black Panthers’ talking points?

        1. the Black Panthers’ talking points?

          You realize the Black Panthers are no more, and the New Black Panther Party are like three guys with an internet message board.

          Referencing them is like those SoCon birther crazies constantly screeching about Saul Alinsky.

          1. Yeah, sorry I didn’t put “New” when typing on my iPad. They’ve offered a reward for Zimmerman.

            1. Yeah but its like, 10 grand. I thought it was amusingly pathetic to hear the news they put a 10K bounty out – Way to show how little support your organization has.

          2. Not quite the same. Alinsky spawned an entire movement, with interconnected parts. Not exactly 3 guys with a BB.

            1. If you’re talking about what Alinsky actually did, sure. But all too often, he’s just name dropped as a bogeyman.

              1. Who is more incorrectly portrayed: Alinsky or the Koch brothers?

                I think it’s a toss-up. And I haaaaaaaate Alinsky and tend to like the Kochtopus.

                1. couldn’t Alinsky be brought up on ‘hate’ charges…
                  or is he just Ameriphobic?

        2. Hero has a bit of a point. At the very least, the remnants of the original Black Panther Party have nothing but bad things to say about the “new” guys. The disclaim any “new” Party at all.

          1. Jealousy is ugly, isn’t it?

      2. ‘Reporting’ died a couple of generations ago. Replaced by ‘Journalism’, which is just another word for propagandist as amply demonstrated by the Zimmerman brouhaha: invented outrage following political activism, intentional lies reported as fact, ‘analysis’ that is specious argumentation to use a tragedy to push a pre-existing political agenda.

        Fuck the legacy media and the parasites that work for it.

        The sooner they get productive employment as grocery baggers or shoe shine boys the better.

        1. having actually worked in the industry for several years some time back, I always thought “journalist” was one of those hyper-pretentious terms that, basically, was a nicer way of saying “out of work reporter”.

          1. A Journalist is a Reporter who has a degree in Journalism, and who tries as hard as possible to keep people from doing what H. L. Mencken (one of the all time great newspapermen) did; turn up at a busy newspaper office and, by dint of talent and determination, get a job.

      3. Who is loose? Teh noone?

        1. OT: Gestures that should be avoided in foreign countries.

          Number 7 is Churchill flipping the UK bird, and probably was a Fraudian Slip.

          1. TFA says he was doing it for most of the first part of the war, so he was probably just doing it wrong.

            1. Actually, it doesn’t exactly say that. Never mind.

  2. Kos founded SB Nation?

    Well, now I have to stop reading Lighthouse Hockey.

  3. More on-topic, I would say that a big part of this is that most journalists are natural-born employees, and that warps their overall worldview.

    The idea that someone could build an audience is completely alien to them. To a natural-born employee, the way you get an audience is by winning all the right prizes at school, and then a big hand reaches down from the sky and picks you up and places you in a position where you have an audience.

    If those giant, pre-existing audiences aren’t around any more, or are declining precipitously, the big hand might not come one day.

    These are the same sort of people who write articles saying that book writing is dying, when more people are selling books to readers than ever before. If the giant hand didn’t do it, it didn’t happen.

    1. “Natural-born employees”. I don’t think I have heard that phrase before, but I like it. I always thought in terms of “risk-averse”, and that applies to so many areas of life other than employment. I have been self-employed most of my life and never could understand all the people who are willing to put up with crappy jobs they do crappily just for a paycheck. I always thought they were just kind of stupid, I never thought of it in terms of not taking responsibility for their own life, waiting for that giant hand.

      As to the article – my biggest bitch about legacy media is their “gate-keeper” role, they decide what the news is. My paper carries a whole page of national weather information, I can see what yesterdays high was and what the expected low is for East Armpit, Idaho and I don’t give a crap. Are the bass biting down on the lake? That’s news I can use but the newspaper never says a word about it.

      With the internet, I get to decide what the news is. I think that’s what the legacy media is mostly pissed off about, they aren’t getting the respect they think they deserve as the high priests of news control.

      1. “Natural-born employees”. I don’t think I have heard that phrase before, but I like it. I always thought in terms of “risk-averse”, and that applies to so many areas of life other than employment. I have been self-employed most of my life and never could understand all the people who are willing to put up with crappy jobs they do crappily just for a paycheck. I always thought they were just kind of stupid, I never thought of it in terms of not taking responsibility for their own life, waiting for that giant hand.

        Read this and you’ll get it…

        http://goo.gl/xd60x

    2. This is a good point.

    3. Fluffy’s comment also helps explain why journalists are mostly reflexively anti-business. Business people not only take risks (as opposed to “employees”), but they are also concerned about what their customers think, possibly behind only their bottom lines. Old-style journalists would not only consider that sucking up to the boss, but pandering to your audience. That was described to me more than once as the difference between what readers WANT to know and what readers NEED to know.)
      The other reason journalists are reflexively anti-business, I think, is that journalism properties are traditionally bad places to work — the pay is lousy, but the hours are long and irregular — and they assume that all workplaces are as bad as theirs.

  4. Does the death of Big Journalism mean those who use only internet ink will get to enjoy those Freedom of the Press protections? It would be a shame to let them go to waste. Hand them off to bloggers (since, like other rights enumerated, they weren’t supposed to be limited to a certain profession in the first place).

    1. No, everyone knows that freedom of the press is limited to movable type operations.

      1. Just as privacy in the mail only applies correspondence through the Post Office.

        1. Or the right to bear arms useful to a contemporary military only applies to individuals when they are part of an organization representing the state.

          1. I would like to see you try to stand up to a tank with a 22.

            Let us have the RPGs, darn it.

      2. Right, Moveable Type! Gotta be a (lame) who’s on first routine in there somewhere.

  5. I think there’s a parallel between what has happened to Journalism, and what has happened in the Arts; a contempt for the opinions of the mass audience coupled with a trend towards academic credentials resulting in a growing irrelevance.

    1. The arts have never been about the favor of the mass audience.

      The arts (for the non artist) have always been about separating the groovy from the nekulturny.

      1. I thought the ‘Arts’ were about separating the Patron (customer) from his money. As some of the articles about Tomas Kinkade’s death show – the critics don’t seem to understand that.

      2. I disagree with you. May I suggest Tom Wolfe’s THE PAINTED WORD for a little background? He’s written about the turning away of the arts elsewhere too, and is worth a read in any case. Also Paul Johnson’s THE BIRTH OF THE MODERN, which covers the period from 1815 to 1830 and includes an account of the beginning of the idea of The Artist as arbiter of all that is Right and True.

        Until the beginning of the 20th century Artists and Writers could and did appeal to the mass market. The reasons for their turning away and its effects are a fascinating study in hubris, bad judgement, intellectual nitwittery, and fashionable blovation.

        1. ^^This^^. See also the famous Milton Babbit Article “Who Cares if You Listen” defending the general awfulness of 20th Century classical music.

          1. Howard Goodall (sp?) has done several good documentaries on music, including 20th century music. He defends the academic music to some degree. I don’t believe successfully, but he makes some good points, and is worth the time to watch. His “Big Bangs” series on the (to his mind) five major advances that put Western music in its dominant position is especially interesting.

            aside; the five are Musical Notation (no other culture has anything approaching it for writing down music. who know?), Equal Temperament (I’ll leave Mr. Goodall to explain that), The Piano, the Opera form, and Recording.

            1. I’d like to watch those documentaries. However, my knee-jerk reaction to his claims is that there is nothing inherent in the Western musical tradition that made it dominant. It was Colonialism and Imperialism that led to its dominance.

              Surely, Goodall known that the Operatic form can be found in many cultures earlier than the West (e.g. Chinese Opera, Persian-Thai-Malay Likay, many classical Indian performance arts, etc.).

              Likewise, the Piano is no more versatile than the Chinese zither, for example. As for Musical Notation, yes, the modern form is unrivaled, but any ethnomusicologist can tell you that it was built on the shoulders of giants, as it were. Indeed, for percussion, the ancient Indian notation is way more sophisticated.

              1. Maybe in 1900 sure. But with mass media, the West no longer enjoys such an advantage. If Chinese Operas were more appealing to people’s ears than Verdi, they would be more popular by now.

                1. 1.3 billion people find Chinese Opera to be quite appealing, John.

                  1. Outside of China. It is not like anyone living in the West couldn’t listen to it if they show choose.

                    1. But that’s not what you originally argued. Point is, demographically, Bollywood crushes Hollywood. As China flexes its soft power, expect Chinese culture to rise in popularity too. Currently, More people around the world listen to Korean pop than American pop music.

                      Again, I maintain that there is nothing inherent in the Western music tradition that makes it superior; cultural popularity lies in demographics and economic power.

                    2. Even if you’re right about the numbers on K-pop, HM, it doesn’t exactly help your general point. Unless you want to seriously claim this is an authentic expression of traditional Korean culture.

                      I missed seeing the girl playing the gayagum, maybe it’s in the video for the extended mix.

                    3. What do you have against attractive women, Mr. Penguin?

                    4. They don’t sleep with me as much as I’d like.

                      FWIW, I think the dominance of Western music is largely the result of our scales. The 12 tone scale gives a flexibility for melodic and harmonic phrasing not seen in the Chinese (East Asian) pentatonic scales, or the Semetic scales, which sound diminished / augmented to Western ears (e.g., Hava Nagila). If Africans or aboriginal Americans had scales with such flexibility, I don’t remember them from ethnomusicology class.

                    5. It’s funny you say that, as I recall African music is traditionally pentatonic, and thus jazz, blues, gospel, and pretty much every other Afro-American music genre. If you look at the popularity of Western music, nowadays, it isn’t Classical chromatic music…it’s rock/jazz/blues and all its children.

                    6. I’m with the Baked One on this. There’s nothing Korean about this at all. CSPS’s assertion was just the dominance of Western music, not the dominance of musical performance *by* Westerners.

              2. I think that the two biggest items on Goodall’s list are Notation (which makes the composition of longer, more complicated pieces possible), and Equal Temperament (which makes it possible to use different keys together, among other things.)

                And how do you propose to separate Colonialism and Imperialism from other forms of societal success? Should we copy the Chinese, who have treated Common people like farm animals throughout recorded history, and still do? Or shall we admit that there is a degree to which we have been successful Imperialists because there were things about or culture that constituted an improvement that people would adopt, in a way that few cultures adopted much from the Mongols (who were among the most successful Conquerors in history)?

                1. And how do you propose to separate Colonialism and Imperialism from other forms of societal success?

                  The use of force. I have no problem with culture spreading and interacting through commerce.

                  in a way that few cultures adopted much from the Mongols (who were among the most successful Conquerors in history)?

                  I wouldn’t be so dismissive of the influence of the Mongols. A quick survey of the histories of Russia, India, and China will show the deep impression Mongol culture left on those countries, two of them being the most populous, and one of them being the largest in land area.

                  1. HM, there’s a big difference between mostly using pentatonic scales and having them be your entire musical universe, especially when it comes to harmonic possibilities. The chromatic scale opens up the possibilities.

                    1. using pentatonic scales and having them be your entire musical universe, especially when it comes to harmonic possibilities.

                      That’s true. It’s not that the Chinese never experimented with the chromatic scale, but that Chinese musicians were culturally pigeonholed. You can blame Confucius for that.

                      Again, my argument isn’t that Western music doesn’t contain properties that make it superior, from the point of view of the composer or musician, to other traditions. I’m just saying that those musical properties are not what has led to its dominance.

                      An analogy would be that in Classical times, the people of Europe and the Near East didn’t use Latin and Greek as their lingua franca because those languages were in any way superior (whatever that means) to Gothic, Syriac, Gaulish, etc. but because Latin and Greek were the mother tongues of the Empire with all of it’s military and economic might.

                    2. If you are willing to grant that there are points of superiority to Western Music, I should think that implied that its dominance was possibly for those reasons. Certainly Mr. Goodall, who is both a musician and a historian of music seems to think so.

          2. …the general awfulness of 20th Century classical music.

            Some exceptions: (YMMV) Vaughn Williams, Elgar, Debussy, Ravel.

            A good case could be made that Eric Satie was one of the leaders in the downfall of modern music composition, but I still think his earlier pieces are beautiful. (Though the one I linked was from the 1800’s.

            1. There are exceptions. And all of those people you mention, along with Gershwin and Copeland, two giants, are shunned by “serious composers”.

        2. Until the beginning of the 20th century Artists and Writers could and did appeal to the mass market.

          I am sympathetic to this point, but the “mass market” has only existed for some arts during some time periods.

          The majority of “art” (including poetry and music here under the broad heading) historically was produced for a small class of patrons, and reflected their tastes and concerns.

          There have always been “mass appeal” arts (the Athenian theatre, Roman public architecture, and Catholic church decorative arts leap to mind) but most of what we think of as “art” was produced for a small, moneyed audience. Kind of like today, actually.

          Today’s art world is more like the historical norm than, say, the music “scene” of the 18th and 19th centuries was.

          1. The first real celebrity artist was Beethoven. The shift happened in his lifetime. Contrast Mozart who was buried in a pauper’s grave to Beethoven who was given a huge state funeral. The age of the celebrity artist had arrived.

          2. Art for a small (and necessarily monied) audience may have a lot to do with technology: the difficulty/impossibility of reaching a mass audience with unamplified live performances, and the absence of recording/playback, in societies without mass transit or much in the way of free time.

            Some of the earliest artists that reached larger audiences did so because decent reproduction technology (engravings for prints, movable type for writing) allowed them to do so in a way not available to music or even paintings.

            1. Andrew Lloyd Weber. Is he not both a giant and a pop artist?

            2. Speaking of prolific, commercially sucessful artists, Thomas Kinkade, dead at 54.

          3. Or one could look at it like this; As prosperity moved down the social classes (and anybody who would trade low-middle class life now for Upper Class life in, say, 1400, is a fool) the audience for the Arts greatly expanded. Artists made money selling prints in a way that had not been possible before. A composer could expect that thousands would hear his work in a matter of weeks from it premier. Writers could affect the thinking of a whole generation (Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Ben Hur, pretty much the whole of Dickens).

            And in the early 20th century Artists TURNED THEIR BACKS on this. They deliberately sought out a world of limited Patronage, but one in which to be a Patron you had to pass muster with the Artists.

            And that world has produced less and less of any importance.

            1. Great point.

            2. only in the world of the arts can the public liking the product be perceived as a bad thing.

              1. Plus academia: you should see the crap some historians get if their books are “popular.”

                1. Many academics live in constant fear that someday society at large will realize that they are almost by definition Luxuries, and stop funding them. It makes for some odd attitudes.

              2. only in the world of the arts can the public liking the product be perceived as a bad thing.

                I blame the hipsters.

    2. I think there’s a parallel between what has happened to Journalism, and what has happened in the Arts; a contempt for the opinions of the mass audience coupled with a trend towards academic credentials resulting in a growing irrelevance.

      This is a pretty darn good point. Also, much like the art world, the biggest problem with the legacy media today is that their product absolutely sucks.

      Read some issues of the Washington Post back when it was a truly great newspaper during the Watergate era, and then compare it to the sad garbage they put out today. You will shake your head in amazement and disgust and wonder just what the in the world happened.

      1. The British Newspapers seem to be making money. The “legacy media” dying seems to be an American problem. Their product stinks and they have created a dogmatic boring culture that no one wants to read.

        1. Not surprising, look at how often we link British newspapers here. They often do a better job of covering US news than the papers here do.

          1. They cover stories because they are interesting not because they fit the narrative. It is hard enough to get readers. If you refuse to cover a large number of stories and issues because they don’t fit your ideology, you are left with a lot of boring stuff.

          2. I think its actually because they do a better job of covering emaciated 20y/o starlets.

            1. Unfair. They’re also a rich source for Sarcasmic’s chubby chaser links.

          3. That’s true. They also (judging by the links here) do a better job stalking American celebrities at the beach.

            By the way, how do you get that job? Do you just sell your photos to the Mail on a freelance basis, or do they send their favored correspondents to the beach?

        2. Something I learned from reading the autobiographical works of H. L. Mencken; the idea that there was a time when most American cities supported two or more profitable newspapers is largely a myth. There was usually one newspaper that made money (and had the contracts for printing government public notices) and one or more that were supported as platforms for local political aspirants. All newspapers had a point of view, and everybody knew it. Journalistic Detachment and Unbiased Media are myths that do everybody a serious disservice, since trying to write biased stories that SOUND neutral results in the kind of pap that fills the New York Times.

          What we need is not unbiased media, but point of view media driven by people of convictions who can WRITE!

          1. And the convictions need to be varied. No matter how well they write, if they all think the same thing and are afraid to think anything else, they are going to be boring.

            1. And they actually stop thinking at some point. For example, Maureen Dowd (OK columnist not journalist) had a column this week decrying the “most divisive [Supreme] Court in history.” What makes it divisive? She disagrees with it. I don’t know what that is, but it ain’t thinkin’.

              In the UK, most of the papers seem to have coherent worldviews that back their stories even if you don’t agree with the worldview.

          2. Also, people who have the conviction that point of views can vary, but facts can’t.

            1. facts do vary.

              1. Only to some of us, LM.

        3. the British papers are less dominated by one of the Teams; there are sheets that lean one way or the other. Here, the vast majority of papers tilt left, and it is through that prism that “news” is presented. The Brits seem far less worried about a paper being painted as conservative or liberal or something else. The US media loves to pretend that the only tilt is the one that occurs in the handful of papers that lean right.

          1. Ha! The two most prominent, The Fraudian and The Daily FAIL are pretty much lockstep.

            The UK Telegraph, OTOH, covers US news better than the rags in the US. Brit rags are more concerned with the UK’s overall image, and Great Britain in particular.

    3. The mass audience didn’t exist until the industrial revolution and the contempt came shortly thereafter.

  6. “edifice complex”

    Very nice, Matt. Very nice.

  7. “like a pack of crows”

    A group of crows is called a murder, not a pack.

    1. Ah, I’ve always liked the odd group terminology – a gang of elk, a band of gorillas, a pride of lions, a pustule of pedants……

      1. A pantheon of Reasonoids.

        1. A derangement of Reasonoids?

            1. A registration of commenters?

              1. Win.

        1. A flock of seagulls?

        2. A murder of crows. My favorite plural.

        3. A quarrel of Starlings?

          1. An abandonment of orphans?

            1. A shitload of assholes.

  8. http://abovethelaw.com/2012/04…..olarships/

    Eli Mystal, what is three or four points of discrimination?

    1. Especially when it represents something like the difference between the 90% and 77% percentiles. What an abject moron.

      1. Mystal is a piece of work. He spends most of his time blogging about how everyone who didn’t go to Yale like he did is a moron. Come to find out, he couldn’t hack it as a lawyer and walked away from his job to blog for ATL defaulting on his student loans. But all of us third tier trash who make a living and pay our debts are beneath him.

        1. If that post is an example of his reasoning ability, it’s no wonder he couldn’t hack it.

          You didn’t get “shafted” by some Latino kid who got an “unfair advantage” over you, you got out-competed by all the white people who can break 160 without breaking a sweat.

          Because there are white kid spots and non-white kid spots, but that’s totally not discriminatory?

          Actually, I went to law school with a “Latino kid” whose dad owned a major construction company in San Antonio, went to private school his entire life, spent more money on the clothes he wore in a given week than I spent on every piece of clothing I owned, and who got in to law school with a GPA/LSAT that wouldn’t even get a “white kid” wait-listed.

          The year I entered law school, enough “white kids” were passed over between the first “black kid” admitted and the second “black kid” admitted to form an entire entering class. And this was a big-ass entering class.

          1. I went to law school with some fairly well off black people. And the irony was, there was one black guy in my class who was a retired Master Sergeant in the Air Force. He had come from the projects of Chicago. Was absolutely one of the smartest and best people in my class. The rich black kids couldn’t stand him. Go figure.

          2. I will never forget when we read the Bernard Geotz case in criminal law. All of the black students got their outrage on except him. He said “I have been on both sides of the screw driver (the kids in the Geotz case had screwdrivers)” and then went on to explain exactly why Geotz had a right to feel that his life was threatened in that situation. God they hated him for that.

            1. he did not grow up holding the victim card. As a military guy, he was in a culture that is largely merit-based. Yes, there are some exceptions and quotas and the like, but for the most part, folks move up on their ability. I suspect any silver spooner hates that notion.

          3. If that post is an example of his reasoning ability, it’s no wonder he couldn’t hack it.

            No kidding. First, he concedes that the floor for white applicants is higher than the floor for favored minorities.

            Then, he blames the applicants who don’t get in because their floor is higher.

            And he leaves in a fog of “two generations of affirmative action are not enough penance for white people to pay.”

            Fuck me, but if your program doesn’t work after two generations, maybe your program sucks, or you have misdiagnosed the problem?

        2. He’s a Mets fan. ‘Nuff said.

    2. “Comments are hidden for your protection”.

      What the fuck?

  9. QUESTION:

    Now that the dreaded White Indian and all of his/her/its puppets has/have been defeated (knock on wood), can we PLEASE, GET RID OF THE 900 CHARACTER LIMIT?

    1. They raised it to 1500 which helps a lot

    2. And Smilies. We need Smilies. Perhaps custom monocle and spat wearing ones.

      1. You and those smilies, SIV! I’d much prefer the mythical blink tag, the HTML equivalent of the Holy Grail. I’ve heard much ado about it over the years, yet have never seen it.

        Unlike, The STEVE SMITH!

        1. Once you see STEVE SMITH, it’s already too late.

    3. Are you sure? He isn’t the only long-winded blowhard that posts here. I, myself, tend to ramble on a bit unless restrained.

      1. Do you people really want me to offer my full opinion on a dunphy “cops-are-right-even-when-they-kill-because-they-followed-orders-and-departmental-policies” without a character limit?

        Do you really want that?

        1. If you make your points cogently and pungently, certainly. That’s why I read Mencken. Well thought out vitriol is worth the time to read. Nothing I’ve read on the Web quite matches J’Accuse, but some come close. Go ahead, brighten my day!

  10. Van Jones explains why the movement failed

    I saw the misfires: how the White House didn’t really understand the grassroots movement; the grassroots movement certainly didn’t understand the grassroots movement,” Jones said on Morning Joe yesterday. “And there was this ‘hope’ bubble that collapsed . . . [we’re in a] post-hope Democratic Party.”

    http://campaign2012.washington…..sed/468296

    No Van. There never was a grass roots movement, just a few well placed morons talking to each other.

    1. ^This.

      There was media desperation for a “transformative” mass movement to exist. There was no real mass movement.

      They’re so desperate to relive the 60’s that they cried wolf. The “hope” bubble that collapsed was post-midlife-crisis hippie hope.

      1. And even the 60s wasn’t as grass roots as they like to remember. The last real no kidding grass roots movement that had a real affect on the country was probably the temperance movement. There was a grassroots movement. It was in every state and wound up getting a constitutional amendment passed.

        1. Van Jones aspires to more than living the hippie lifestyle, no?

        2. The same people who bitched about authority and “the man”… now demand authority, and ARE “the man”.

          Dig the irony.

          1. Oh, and fuck Van Jones. Toss him in a pit with Rick Santorum and a pack of rabid Pomeranians.

            1. Strip him of his name and fame and make him live in one of the hellholes whose leaders he praises as a common worker would be the Dantesque just deserts for that motherfucker.

              1. just deserts

                RC’z Law FTW!

          2. Indeed; what happened to “don’t trust anyone over thirty”?

            1. Now it’s 75. You know, inflation.

        3. And even the 60s wasn’t as grass roots as they like to remember. The last real no kidding grass roots movement that had a real affect on the country was probably the temperance movement. There was a grassroots movement. It was in every state and wound up getting a constitutional amendment passed.

          I can only guess that by “the 60s” you are (accurately) referring to the following: Hippies, free love, drug culture, authority-questioning, anti-Vietnam protest. And if you are, you are correct that it wasn’t grassroots only in the narrowest, hair-splitting sense of the term in that it didn’t originate in Bumfuck, Missouri but rather in the universities and in San Francisco. But it did originate among the common people and it spread like a forest fire out of the political and cultural centers to the hinterlands in “every state” (since that is your criterion). Take it from someone who was in Bumfuck, Iowa watching it happen.

          Yeah, it was a grassroots movement. It was a grassroots movement that for better or worse (I vote worse) had a much more profound and much more lingering effect on the country than the temperance movement could have dreamed of doing.

          1. and man, it sure worked out well didn’t it? All those authority-hating fools now ARE the authority and their decision-making capacity may well be the 9th wonder of the world. Has history ever seen a stupider generation?

            1. Why I said “I vote worse”. Oh, and yes – the current young generation is stupider and probably as well was the generation that gave us the Great Depression.

        4. Sorry John, the 60’s antiwar movement was grassroots. I was there, not a participant, but a critic. Much like the Tea Party, soon opportunistic media and politicos jumped to the front of the parade. Temperance was likely the same – it’s human nature.

          1. Everybody wants to be on the winning team. Also the reason so many more New York Yankees and New England Patriots jerseys are sold than most other teams.

            Oh, and fuck the Yankees and Patriots. Fuck both of them in their stupid, gaping assholes.

        5. The last real no kidding grass roots movement that had a real affect on the country was probably the temperance movement.

          The temperance movement was perhaps the most perverse alliance ever formed in American politics.

  11. fluffy says, More on-topic, I would say that a big part of this is that most journalists are natural-born employees, and that warps their overall worldview.

    Yes, but perhaps he is being too kind. How about, most so-called journalists are power worshipers?

    They become agitated and offended when the common folk show disrespect for the objects of their pious toadying, or when the heterodox make fun of their liturgical routines. They resent independence, because they have invested so much in their own servility.

  12. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…..r_embedded

    the Hipster games. Looks better than the real movie.

  13. I theoretically belong to the journos’ club yet, like Samson in the temple, hope the whole edifice comes crashing down. The allegedly respectable New York Times helped destroy the reputation of Wen Ho Lee, before 9/11 even made patriotic hysteria fashionable. Almost all media outlets banged the war drums urging the invasion of Iraq. There was that Harvard study a couple of years ago showing how American newspapers routinely referred to waterboarding as torture … until the US government started doing it. Left- and right-wing media outlets BOTH fell over themselves in their rush to write editorials defending the TSA’s mass-molestation policies as being for our own good.

    Every newsroom in America has at least one editor or reporter with Jefferson’s quote above his desk: newspapers without a government is better than a government without newspapers. But that quote is old-fashioned; the new American journo-default quote reads more like this: “Government cock will not suck itself. That’s what a free and independent media is for.”

    I hope they all get herpes cold sores.

    1. “Almost all media outlets banged the war drums urging the invasion of Iraq”

      Excuse me? Where did this happen? I remember wondering at what point the Media would admit that the invasion of Iraq wasn’t doomed to be a replay of Gallipoli. Actually they didn’t mention Gallipoli. They mentioned Vietnam, but talked about it as if it were Gallipoli, except they probably don’t know what Gallipoli was, other than a so-so film.

      1. the anti-Iraq sentiment was driven by the most visceral of Bush haters. Too many people knew that every Dem from Bill C on down had waxed on about Saddam’s capacity for WMD, his previous use of them, and the need to do something about it. It was Clinton who put ‘regime change’ as US policy toward Iraq, long before W and hanging chads and all that.

        The few lone wolves against Iraq included the likes of Pat Buchanan and maybe Dennis Kucinich, and a few Dems who could safely vote to oppose the resolution to use force. The Vietnam narrative began when the war lasted longer than a day and a half, and the imbeds got tired of eating MRE’s.

        1. That isn’t how I remember the mass media. Congress, yes. The Democrats in Congress were frightened A) that they might be the target of the next attack and B) That if they didn’t go along with attacking somebody somewhere they might actually have to get real jobs. The Media? Not so much. The mass media were lined up for the attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan to be military disasters, and frankly looked flummoxed when they weren’t. Lacking anything resembling thorough knowledge of military operations (and what little they did know was wrong) they were unable to see that a modern, well equipped, well lead army could have that much advantage over an army almost explicitly designed for holding parades and repressing peasants. But they waited patiently, counting up the American dead (as if any battle in the Civil War had not killed more americans in a few hours than either of Bush’s war fronts did in a year), and doing everything they could think of to cast the war in a bad light. Where they failed to do so it is mostly due to ineptitude.

          1. Yep, that whole “banged the war drums” notion is total revisionism and utter nonsense.

            There was deep, widespread resistance in the media to the prospect of war with Iraq. The revisionism started taking root in the mid-’00s, part of the left’s growing madness during the Bush years. It was typical lefty bullshit.

            The left is fueled by a romantic sense of righteousness. That romance is heightened when you can be portrayed as a lonely enlightened soul raging against the machine. That’s why the “media war drums” thing eventually got inserted into the leftist script. It beefed up the drama and enhanced the self-righteousness.

            1. “It beefed up the drama and enhanced the self-righteousness.”

              And made them look even sillier to those few of us who can remember for longer than a 30 second soundbite, if that be possible.

    2. I hope they all get herpes cold sores.

      What, no references to them sucking Satan’s sulfurous balls? You’re slipping, Jennifer!

      Also, don’t make me RX Valtrex to these, as Fluffy puts it, “Natural Born Employees.”

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  15. my best friend’s step-aunt earned $12724 the previous month. she has been working on the computer and bought a $413700 house. All she did was get blessed and put to use the clues laid out on this web page (Click on menu Home more information)http://goo.gl/7NndV

    1. Lamb,
      You need to get acquainted with white indian. You two can bore each other silly.

      1. Hey man, lay off. My neighbor’s great-grand niece in-law made $11,965 just by getting blessed up and shoving rusty power tools into her vagina for eager webcam viewers.

        1. and folks say today’s youth have no work ethic.

          1. or creativity.

        2. See. Capitalism ain’t dead…yet.

        3. Define “blessed up.”

          1. Sort of like what happened to Mary.

  16. Haha. Andrew Sullivan just got his ass handed to himself by a right-wing Christian fundie leader and a left-wing Christian funfie.

    What a nice way to start Easter.

    1. No, a nice way to start Easter is at church, you fucking heathen. I’m a minister so I know these types of things.

      Come down to my church and we’ll show you that Easter is more than just surfing the internet, plucking the candy eyes out of hollow chocolate rabbits and murdering innocent villagers.

      1. Easter is more than just surfing the internet, plucking the candy eyes out of hollow chocolate rabbits and murdering innocent villagers.

        [citation required]

        1. hollow chocolate rabbits

          Boy, whatta cheepskate! I only pluck the eyes of solid chocolate bunnies.

          What’s next, cap l? Styrofoam Peeps? And I shudder to think of what you have done to debase Cadbury eggs and other chocolate eggs…

          1. Have you ever looked inside of a Cadbury Cream Egg? Those things come pre-debased, eww.

            1. The only good part of a chocolate rabbit are the ears.

        2. Look pal, the everlasting light of The Creator of the Universe is my citation!

      2. Easter is about finding a comely young woman and fucking her as vigorously as possible, in honor of the fertile rabbit, who we honor by eating its likeness in chocolate form. And with fucking.

    2. Haha. Andrew Sullivan just got his ass handed to himself by a right-wing Christian fundie leader and a left-wing Christian funfie.

      What are you talking about?

  17. But . . . but . . . The Volt is AWESOME despite what those nasty right wingers say about it.

    Outside, a row of sporty Volts gleamed in the bright sun. On the market for a little more than a year, the Volt is a different kind of hybrid, containing both a 400-pound battery and a 9.3 gallon gas tank. The battery gets around 40 miles per charge, but “range anxiety” isn’t the problem that it is for owners of a purely electric car. When the Volt’s battery runs out of juice, the car shifts to gasoline. It is really quite ingenious.

    Yes: there is a douche at the Times that actually wrote that.

    1. He also makes the argument that the Volt has nothing at all to do with Obama (forget the fact that it wouldn’t be getting made without hundreds of billions of tax dollars bailing GM out), and that any criticism of the Volt is just Koch juice. Only a parenthesized mention of the $7500 tax credit (while his readers have surely made the argument that our problem is a revenue problem, rather than a spending one), and none of the tens of thousands of other tax subsidies that go towards the manufacturing of the “car”; those simply couldn’t be a reason why some have objections. Any criticism of that piece of shit is just Koch nonsense.

      1. speaks to the general point of the article in this thread re: the legacy media: it’s own version of water torture where people are repeatedly force fed the “correct” thoughts and are left intellectually incapable of separating fact from opinion.

        What would really be “ingenious” is a hybrid that was popular among the masses and did NOT require a govt subsidy to coerce folks into buying it.

    2. a douche at the Times

      No need for the redundancy, guy.

    3. “the Volt is a different kind of hybrid,”

      FIFY.

    4. a row of sporty Volts

      Anyone who writes that phrase has zero credibility as a human being.

      1. “Sporty” compared to his grandmother’s electric wheelchair.

        1. As someone who hates minivans, I can tell you that no family could possibly own a Volt. Four seats and small trunk. What do you suppose happens to the range when you start stuffing kids and their stuff (to the extent you can) into it? I really like Bob Lutz, but he’s flat out wrong.

  18. “After all, their business success relied on forcing customers to buy things they didn’t want.”

    Ha, this brings back a memory from the long ago that I thought I’d completely forgotten: the ritual every Sunday, of taking the inches-thick stack of paper, and immediately sorting out the sections and inserts that went straight to the bin, and creating the much thinner version of the paper I would like to have bought in the first place.

  19. God it feels good to read a no-holds barred optimistic article on Reason. I’m tired of being outraged.

    Thanks Matt, I’ll be shamelessly ripping this thing off for my next New Media class essay.

  20. “[M]uch thinner version I would like to have bought in the first place.”

    I.e. the comics, and, if you still have cereal left, sports. Everything else sprawls sadly in a grey heap on the kitchen table while you check the news online.

    1. What about Parade, Parade? Where else can I get terrible advice combined with logic puzzles in a single column by a self-described genius?

      1. Why hate on Parade? It’s like making fun of a retard doing calculus.

        1. That’s a distinction without a differential.

        2. Parade is better than USA Weekend.

  21. Interesting story out of South Carolina contrasted with a similar story in Illinois.

    Interesting difference in how a hardcore Team Blue state and a hardcore Team Red state handle a similar situation.

    1. I hate Illinois, but it seems like the two states are treating the self-defense aspect of these events exactly the same.

      The Illinois guy was arrested for being an ex-con in possession of a weapon. That’s not really a red state / blue state thing, because the most pro-gun rights red states tend to also be the states that strip felons of their citizenship rights the most thoroughly.

  22. Matt,

    You wrote: “So Nate Silver launched 538.com (named after the number of votes in the Electoral College), and through sheer intellectual rigor and superior numeracy went on to outperform all comers in the political prediction business that year.”

    All comers? I beat Nate Silver’s predictions, finishing (easily) within the top 1% of the Wall Street Journal’s 2008 prediction market contest (RIP). Betting a straight-Silver ballot in 2008 would have put you somewhere near the 98th percentile. You could see my marginally superior forecasts arrogantly posted in the comments section to Nate’s original blog (when it was still viewable).

    Hence, the Times hired Nate b/c hundreds of thousands of people read his excellent blog, not b/c he was the most accurate forecaster available. Otherwise, the Times would have hired me or one of the other commenters w/ an even higher accuracy %.

    1. Is ^^this^^ what public masturbation looks like?

      Or is this?

      1. beat all comers/ masturbation

        i get it

  23. “History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.”

    I think that was in reference to his history of WWI. One of his antagonists (Lady Astor maybe) said about that same effort “Winston is writing an auto-biography – The World Crisis”.

  24. Alt text: “What is Donald Verrilli doing on this set?”

  25. As we snark, scores of unknown, geeky amateurs are posting really smart analysis and forecasts on their rinky-dink lil blogs and facebook pages. No one will ever care b/c no one will read ever them…despite the indisputable fact that several of them will outperform the professionals. Sometimes, after the fact, people will see these correct predictions but instead of being impressed, they’ll ascribe it to cheating or luck/the law of large numbers.

    But if something silly goes viral, its author can get a book deal/ screenplay contract/ column at NYT because that person has ‘demonstrated’ the ability to attract eyeballs. Accuracy is not the criterion; readership is the driver.

    I like Nate Silver. He is a smart dude who often writes good things.

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  27. Legacy journalism is being killed by it’s own attempt to add value. Over time (particularly post-Watergate), the media began to presume that it could succeed by adding analysis to its factual reporting. But, the fact is that reporters have no particular advantage in the generation of analysis. By and large, they simply aren’t very good at it. Meanwhile, their production of analysis undermines their actual generation of reporting.

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    1. How much did the neighbor make, since she knows about this? How much did you make? Do I need to get lucky or get blessed?

  29. Man named Octavius ends up with 8 arms. What are the odds?

  30. Obama’s advertising on Reason? Really?

  31. Journalism remains an excellent career choice, provided you can afford to work for little pay to even no pay at all. It helps to have rich parents or a rich spouse to do it. The delightful trend of the unpaid intern has helped this trend along nicely.

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