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Posts tagged: Mediapunk

The Rise and Rise of Television Torture

Klint Finley

Hansel at Interpet This writes:

But this prevalence of torture that you see in otherwise very comparable shows is not limited to Fringe. It is everywhere in American entertainment now.

Everywhere you see it it promotes the lie that torture works. It does this very effectively. Because usually we, the audience, already know that the person being tortured has the information. They just will not give it up. In real life of course torture is not like that. In the hundreds of torture scenes that have been acted out in popular media only a handful show the victim making things up, and saying whatever they think the torturer wants to hear in order that they stop torturing them. Which is the reason why torture is not a useful tool. The process would be: Torture someone, they tell you something, you double check that story, maybe torture the people they implicate, then you find it out that there story was incorrect, go back to torturing them. Just one round of that might take days or a weeks. Which would make for boring TV.

Full Story: Interpret This: The Rise and Rise of Television Torture

(via Metafilter)

See also:

The politics of the man behind “24.”

Scalia: Fictional TV show justifies legal torture

Columbia Journalism Review Profile of Evgeny Morozov

Klint Finley

The Columbia Journalism Review has a good profile of Evgeny Morozov. I had no idea that he was so young, or that he’d undergone a conversion a few years back:

He began writing about the political situation in Belarus for Transitions, a Prague-based NGO that encouraged the adoption of new media by independent journalists in the former Soviet bloc. In 2006, Transitions hired Morozov as its first director of new media, a job that had him traveling widely—at age 22—to train journalists and bloggers throughout Eastern Europe.

“Thinking that you are living through a revolution and hold the key to how it will unfold is, I confess, rather intoxicating,” Morozov would later write. Much of his work from this period is preserved, and it’s fascinating to watch a YouTube video from 2007 that shows a chubby kid holding forth in a thick accent about how digital media might transform the sclerotic and indecent politics of his region. Asked by a peppy interviewer what he sees as the “most innovative” development of recent years, the young Evgeny rattles off a list of possibilities that makes him sound a lot like the “cyber-utopians” he would soon make a career out of skewering. “Definitely crowdsourcing,” he says. “Definitely applying the logic of the open-source software movement to broader ideas, to broader processes.” Another video from the same conference shows him giving a buzzword-filled presentation called “Putting Community at the Core of Innovation in New Media.”

Here’s Morozov today, talking about the guy in that video: “I was 23 and in a room with people in their 40s and 50s, all of them editors and journalists, and I was talking some nonsense and they were all buying it. The degree to which both sides were unaware of just how stupid the entire setup was just makes you very scared.”

Full Story: The Columbia Journalism Review: Evgeny vs. the internet

I find Morozov really difficult for reasons I can’t quite explain. I think the big issue is that he’s so hyperbolic. It’s not enough to pick apart someone’s ideas, they need to be potrayed as not just wrong but as a dangerously stupid and/or fraudelent. But I think Morozov does this because, generally, the people and ideas he criticizes receive hyperbolic praise. He’s trying to counteract some of that. Still, the fire and brimstone routine doesn’t come off well in my opinion — especially given how moderate his opinions actually are as he reveals in his more sober moments.

See also:

My own confessions of a recovering solutionist

Evgeny Morozov: How the Net aids dictatorships

Compassionate Takedown of Pickup Artististry

A Hard Look At the Non-Profit Behind Glenn Greenwald’s New Publication

Klint Finley

Unfortunately this will go behind a paywall in about 15 hours, read it while you can:

The world knows very little about the political motivations of Pierre Omidyar, the eBay billionaire who is founding (and funding) a quarter-billion-dollar journalism venture with Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill. What we do know is this: Pierre Omidyar is a very special kind of technology billionaire.

We know this because America’s sharpest journalism critics have told us.

In a piece headlined “The Extraordinary Promise of the New Greenwald-Omidyar Venture”, The Columbia Journalism Review gushed over the announcement of Omidyar’s project. And just in case their point wasn’t clear, they added the amazing subhead, “Adversarial muckrakers + civic-minded billionaire = a whole new world.

The authors then launch into an examination of what hte Omidyar Network has funded, which includes:

-SKS Microfinance, the microlending company that terrorized its debtors into committing suicide in India
-DonorsChoose, a fundraising site for public schools that was aligned with the makers of the anti-teacher union propaganda film Waiting for Superman
-Hernando de Soto, the “Hayek of Latin America” who was once drug czar for Alberto Fujimori, the former president of Peru now in prison for crimes against humanity.

Not mentioned is Change.org, the fake non-profit accused of exploiting people’s anger under the guise of being a non-profit.

They conclude:

And the reason that matters, of course, is because Pierre Omidyar’s dystopian vision is merging with Glenn Greenwald’s and Laura Poitras’ monopoly on the crown jewels of the National Security Agency — the world’s secrets, our secrets — and using the value of those secrets as the capital for what’s being billed as an entirely new, idealistic media project, an idealism that the CJR and others promise will not shy away from taking on power.

The question, however, is what defines power to a neoliberal mind? We’re going to take a wild guess here and say: The State.

So brace yourself, you’re about to get something you’ve never seen before: billionaire-backed journalism taking on the power of the state. How radical is that?

Full Story: NSFW: (Don’t worry, this site actually is safe for work)

It reminds me of this bit from Mark Fisher:

The autonomist critique of authoritarianism and Stalinist bureaucracy is something that we shouldn’t forget. Any credible leftist politics now has to take the problem of anti-authoritarianism very seriously. At the same time, however, we have to recognise that the situation is very different from the context in which autonomist ideas first emerged in the 1960s and 1970s. Then, the Communist Party and the trade unions were very powerful; Stalinism was still an oppressive presence.

None of these things are true today. Whatever the merits of autonomist anti-statism, it has to be acknowledged that anti-statism is now hegemonic. There’s a congruence between the language of neo-anarchism and David Cameron’s Big Society, which is not to say that the discourses are identical. But one problem with anti-statism — particularly when coupled with localism, as it often is — is that it makes any defence of institutions like the NHS very difficult. The drive of the original autonomists was to escape existing institutions, whereas I think our aim today should be to produce new institutions.

The Silent History: The strange novel that makes you travel to read it

Klint Finley

The Week reports, back in October 2012:

An ambitious new e-book pushes the boundaries of interactive fiction by requiring readers to visit specific locations to unlock new parts of its story
If you want the full experience of The Silent History — a new e-book available on the iPhone and iPad — you’d better get ready to do some traveling. The Silent History is “part medical case study, part mystery novel, and part-real-life scavenger hunt,” says Sarah Hotchkiss at KQED, and the e-book aims to personalize its narrative for each reader. (Watch a trailer for The Silent History below.) The Silent History is divided into two parts: Testimonials and field reports. The testimonials, which are divided into six volumes of 20 chapters each, are automatically unlocked as the story unfolds each day. But the field reports require an unprecedented level of interaction: They can only be read by traveling to specific locations, and readers are encouraged to write and contribute their own localized installments.

Full Story: Yahoo News: The Silent History: The strange new e-book that makes you travel to read it

(Thanks Skry)

The Myth of the War of the Worlds Panic

Klint Finley

War of the Worlds New York Times headline

From Slate:

The supposed panic was so tiny as to be practically immeasurable on the night of the broadcast. Despite repeated assertions to the contrary in the PBS and NPR programs, almost nobody was fooled by Welles’ broadcast.

How did the story of panicked listeners begin? Blame America’s newspapers. Radio had siphoned off advertising revenue from print during the Depression, badly damaging the newspaper industry. So the papers seized the opportunity presented by Welles’ program to discredit radio as a source of news. The newspaper industry sensationalized the panic to prove to advertisers, and regulators, that radio management was irresponsible and not to be trusted. In an editorial titled “Terror by Radio,” the New York Times reproached “radio officials” for approving the interweaving of “blood-curdling fiction” with news flashes “offered in exactly the manner that real news would have been given.” Warned Editor and Publisher, the newspaper industry’s trade journal, “The nation as a whole continues to face the danger of incomplete, misunderstood news over a medium which has yet to prove … that it is competent to perform the news job.”

Full Story: Slate: The Myth of the War of the Worlds Panic

Why One Librarian Banned a Book

Klint Finley

Scott R. DiMarco of the Mansfield University of Pennsylvania campus library writes:

The story begins with two staff members and one librarian who enthusiastically created and ran a week of interactive programs for banned book week. The turnout was tepid. A panel discussion on the subject drew six people. Five were librarians and staff members. The sixth was Dennis Miller, our public relations director, who recently published his second novel, One Woman’s Vengeance. As we talked about various books that are still being banned at different locations around the country, Miller said, “You should ban mine. It has sex, violence and adult language.”

He was joking, but his statement emphasized that as long as one book can be banned, any book is a target.

Two of my staff members and one librarian thought it over and came to me a couple days later, suggesting that we should, indeed, ban it during Banned Books Week. We talked over the ramifications and I agreed. We contacted Miller, an ardent opponent of censorship.

He agreed to participate.

Full Story: College and Research Libraries News: Why I banned a book: How censorship can impact a learning community

OMNI Prepares to Reboot

Klint Finley

“The greatest science magazine of all time will be back soon,” according to the Twitter account Omni Reboot, which links to omnireboot.com and omnireboot.tumblr.com.

This reboot follows the annoucement that an OMNI art book and gallery tour is on the way. The new site appears to be backed by Jerrick Ventures, which runs Geek Room, and the Guccione Collection.

It’s an interesting situation given that no one knows who actually owns OMNI at this point.

Interview With Coilhouse Editor/Parlour Trick Musician Meredith Yayanos

Klint Finley

Meredith-Yayanos

In To Views interviewed Meredith Yayanos, the editor/founder of the late great Coilhouse magazine and one-half of the chamber music duo The Parlour Trick:

What do you see as the main strengths and weaknesses of the medium you work in?

The allure of wordplay, yum yum. There’s that delicious brainmeat frission that happens when you read or craft just the right turn of phrase. But the medium has its weaknesses, too, in that words… well, they fail. A lot. Words fail me every day. All the time. Because they put me at a remove from more atavistic sensations, connections, communications. Which is why I love music so much– the ribcage-expanding, gut-and-capillary level reaction it can trigger. Music is my magick. Also, the visual resonance of art and design: when I lean both my body and my brain into a piece of music… I see landscapes and I feel textures. And then that’s when the most unfailing words come– stories that have steeped in sounds and images.

How has technology impacted upon the work you do?

Immensely. In too many ways to count. Coilhouse Magazine couldn’t have existed without the global network we all built together online, and the kinship that sprang up from it. More generally, I’d say that many of the most wonderful collaborators I’ve worked with, across multiple mediums, are thanks to BBSs and chat rooms, and later on, social networking sites like Livejournal, Twitter, Tumblr. Every day, no matter where I am in the world, I can interface with authors, fashion photographers, editors, musicians, and filmmakers… all thousands of miles away. With a good pair of headphones and an Apogee One, I can (and have) recorded full-length film scores on my laptop in the midst of traveling internationally. I’m about to email this interview to you while I’m at ten-thousand feet in an airplane. I have cherished loved ones that I’ve never met face to face, and it’s a non-issue, because we’ve found ways to share our art. This world, and my subsequent work, is largely post-geographical, and I find that miraculous.

Full Story: In To Views: Meredith Yayanos

I hadn’t realized it, but the new Parlour Trick album is available on Bandcamp.

LA Times Writer Apologizes, Sort Of, For Attacks On Journalist Who Exposed CIA/Crack Connection

Klint Finley

Nick Schou writes about Jesse Katz’s “apology” for ruining Gary Webb’s life:

The New York Times, Washington Post and L.A. Times each obscured basic truths of Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series. But no newspaper tried harder than the L.A. Times, where editors were said to have been appalled that a distant San Jose daily had published a blockbuster about America’s most powerful spy agency and its possible role in allowing drug dealers to flood South L.A. with crack.

Much of the Times’ attack was clever misdirection, but it ruined Webb’s reputation: In particular, the L.A. Times attacked a claim that Webb never made: that the CIA had intentionally addicted African-Americans to crack.

Webb, who eventually could find only part-time work at a small weekly paper, committed suicide.

No journalist played a more central role in the effort to obscure the facts Webb reported than former L.A. Times reporter Katz. […]

“As an L.A. Times reporter, we saw this series in the San Jose Mercury News and kind of wonder[ed] how legit it was and kind of put it under a microscope,” Katz explained. “And we did it in a way that most of us who were involved in it, I think, would look back on that and say it was overkill. We had this huge team of people at the L.A. Times and kind of piled on to one lone muckraker up in Northern California.” […]

As Katz admitted to Mantle, “We really didn’t do anything to advance his work or illuminate much to the story, and it was a really kind of tawdry exercise. … And it ruined that reporter’s career.”

Full Story: LA Weekly: Ex-L.A. Times Writer Apologizes for “Tawdry” Attacks

See also:

Webb’s original “Dark Alliance” stories from the San Jose Mercury News.

The Crack Up, Webb’s 1998 follow-up for Orange County Weekly.

Revisiting the “Crack Babies” Epidemic That Never Happened

Klint Finley

The New York Times owns up to contributing to the crack baby scare:

This week’s Retro Report video on “crack babies” (infants born to addicted mothers) lays out how limited scientific studies in the 1980s led to predictions that a generation of children would be damaged for life. Those predictions turned out to be wrong. This supposed epidemic — one television reporter talks of a 500 percent increase in damaged babies — was kicked off by a study of just 23 infants that the lead researcher now says was blown out of proportion. And the shocking symptoms — like tremors and low birth weight — are not particular to cocaine-exposed babies, pediatric researchers say; they can be seen in many premature newborns.

The worrisome extrapolations made by researchers — including the one who first published disturbing findings about prenatal cocaine use — were only part of the problem. Major newspapers and magazines, including Rolling Stone, Newsweek, The Washington Post and The New York Times, ran articles and columns that went beyond the research. Network TV stars of that era, including Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather, also bear responsibility for broadcasting uncritical reports.

Full Story: The New York Times: Revisiting the ‘Crack Babies’ Epidemic That Was Not