Category Archives: Media Criticism

More (Good) Bad Publicity

I’ve tried to keep this a Rall-free zone, but Jane Skinner on Fox News just had on the publisher of the magazine who ran the latest outrage about the greedy firefighters (I think it was Bob Guccione? but I’m not sure), and he was of course defending the stupid thing.

His story:

a) Good satire sometimes offends;
b) He found it very funny;
c) He had no intent to offend anyone by running it;
d) We must draw a distinction between depicting greedy firefighters in the present, and those same firefighters projected ten years into the future, and anyone who can’t do that is hypersensitive.

I agree with (a).

I believe (b) (or at least I have no reason not to believe it–there’s no accounting for taste or sense of humor). To me, it was utterly humorless, and anyone who found it funny is warped, but then there’s no reason, based on that interview, to think that he’s not.

I don’t believe (c)–I think he’s lying.

But the real crux of the issue is (d). In addition to being utterly unfunny, it was utterly pointless.

Good satire has a germ of truth. If his point was that the money flowing into charities is being misspent, there are many appropriate targets at which to aim satirical barbs (like the Red Cross, or United Way). But I’m not aware of any misappropriation or inappropriate expenditures of funds by the NYFD, past, present or (especially) future.

If in ten years, there are some activities by the NYFD that even vaguely resemble what are described in the cartoon, then it might be funny then (or at least as funny as it’s possible for a Rall cartoon to be, which is, if history is any guide, not at all).

But to run it now is not only pointless, it is obviously meant to be simply iconoclastic and cruel, under the thin guise of satire.

But then, consider the source.


Matt Welch has a nice little rant about the disgusting practice of journalists letting their subjects edit their own stories. Fair enough.

But something that I’ve never understood is most journalists’ unwillingness to even allow their subjects to review and comment on the stories prior to publication. If they would do this, there would be many fewer boneheaded articles being written (particularly on matters scientific, but also matters simply factual) by journalists who don’t know what they’re talking about. I’m not saying that they should have to make changes, or accept editing–just that they should be willing to accept suggestions and use their own judgment as to whether or not to make the changes.

If I were writing an article, I would certainly want to get as much input as possible before finalizing it and avoid making myself look like a fool. I don’t understand why journalists don’t have that attitude. Is it something in the water in J School?

This problem extends, by the way, to movie directors. I see many stupid, incredible scientific blunders in many movies that are simply pointless. They don’t make for a better story, they don’t advance the plot, the movie would be dramatically just as good if they get the science right instead of wrong. And it wouldn’t make people like me think that they’re fools.

And it’s not even a matter of not having the expertise available–I’ve seen really stupid films made, supposedly with consulting by NASA. One suspects that they listen to the advice, shrug their shoulders, and then do it the way they want anyway. They’re, after all, the artists–what do those science geeks know?

Unfortunately, there probably aren’t enough people (like me) who care for the market to work and punish them sufficiently to get them to change. But the problem is, even if most people don’t mind (or notice) that things don’t make sense, it simply continues to reinforce scientific ignorance and innumeracy on the part of the populace.


Tim Blair bludgeons poor Margo Kingston today (though, unfortunately, probably not into submission).

Margo is truly a national Ozzie wonder, like Ayers Rock, or the Barrier Reef, or vegemite, and he’s lucky among all of us anglospherians to have her. We have our Ralls, our Salters, and they have Heather Mallick Up North, and Fisk across The Pond, but somehow, you just can’t beat the non-stop, vacuous platitudes of Margo.

However, while I realize that she’s a rich ore to mine, he should have broken it up into installments–one can only take so much unprecedented idiocy at a single sitting. One has the frightening thought that he could probably do this every day for a month and never run out of material.

Distaff (And Distressed) Whistleblowers

Will Vehrs says:

…look for any number of follow-up articles on the relative honesty of women versus men, profiles and interviews with the distaff whistleblowers, and maybe even a comparison with the women of the Clinton years, such as Susan McDougal.

Of course, Susan was practicing omerta. But, actually, of course, there were female whistleblowers galore during the Clinton years, most notably Linda Tripp, who, while most well known for her involvement in l’affaire Lewinsky, revealed lots of unrelated unseemly and probably even illegal activities. There was also Jean Lewis, RTC investigator in Whitewater (they went after her private emails). And the doctor who was practically drummed out of the military because she questioned the Ron Brown autopsy. Not to mention Gennifer Flowers, Dolly Kyle Browning, Kathleen Willey, etc.

Of course, in contrast to the brave souls exposing Enron improprieties and illegalities, whistleblowers (particularly female whistleblowers) on the Clinton Administration were not heralded by the media–they were vilified, via the “nuts ‘n sluts” whispers emanating from the White House and parroted by an adoring press.

I continually found it ironic that the feminist movement was so eager to defend a president who not only eviscerated their hard-fought legislative victory in workplace sexual harassment, but used women, both figuratively and literally, as toilet paper…

More Krugman Bashing

Mark Steyn has started going after Krugman today.

While I agree that Andrew Sullivan has been ODing on the story, that’s probably out of frustration at the fact that no one in the “mainstream media” seems to think that it is a story…

And to Matt Welch and Jeff Jarvis–I don’t “scream about media bias until blue in the face.” My face remains a healthy fleshy color. I simply calmly point it out as a fact…

More Media Bias Confusion

In his failed attempt to debunk the notion of media bias, Jeff Jarvis misses the point entirely. He does, however, unwittingly make the point of Goldberg, and those of us who do claim bias:

…journalistic integrity — or bias — is the product of the consciences of individuals far more than of the conspiracies of institutions.

Exactly. Media bias exists, but it isn’t caused by editorial pressure, or some kind of conspiracy, so most of what Jeff says is utterly irrelevant. It is caused by the intrinsic staff composition of the major media organs. Most reporters and editors are liberal, both by their nature (many go into journalism to “change the world”) and training (most journalism professors, like most humanities professors, are liberals to one degree or another of extremity). Also, if you’re not a liberal, in the social circles that journalists hang out in, you will not get invited to the right parties, or get access to the best sources. How else to explain that 89% of the Washington press corps voted for Bill Clinton in 1992?

It’s not a conspiracy–it’s just an emergent trait of the profession. Jeff doesn’t see it because he is immersed in it. Fish are similarly unaware of water.

Why Are Funerals News?

I’m listening, with half an ear as I work, to the funeral of the guy killed in hostile fire in Afghanistan, on Fox News. It seems to have turned into a lengthy sermon. It sounds like I’m listening to something on Sunday morning on some double-digit VHF or UHF channel, instead of Friday afternoon on FNC.

I have no objection to such a thing at the funeral, if the family want it, but do the non-Christians among us really have to be subjected to it (yeah, I know, I can switch the channel)?

I just think that funerals are not news, at least not any more. I thought that Barbara Olson’s service was beautiful, but I still questioned its being telecast live. We’re only making a big deal about this one because there have been so few casualties, and none due to hostile fire, until this one. But if this were a real war, we wouldn’t have enough television bandwidth to broadcast all the funerals. The fact that he died is news. I’m sorry for his family, but his funeral isn’t.

Quagmire Is Back In Vogue

Time to resurrect the Quagmire Watch. Murkiness is out, after a brief rein, and quagmire is back in. The only catch is that even a journalist isn’t dumb enough to apply it to Afghanistan anymore. So they simply change the venue, to Iraq where, according to the handwringers at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the mother of all quagmires awaits us. (And while we’re at it, hats off to Saddam, the father of the mother of all cliches…).

Camelot Finally Over?

I haven’t been watching the news today. Has anyone mentioned that today is the 38th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination? Certainly pre-911, it would have been a lead. Perhaps we finally have a day that eclipses November 22. If so, it’s another beneficial side effect of a devastating event…