Archive for the 'TV' Category

What’s more powerful: Blogs or the mainstream media?

What’s More Powerful: Blogs or the Mainstream Media?

A funny thing happened the other day, for those of you who missed it. I had just come home from a long trip to our friendly neighbours to the South and I posted a quick little blog post to let my regular readers know that I’d returned. My plans were to wake up the following day and write the blog post that I’d planned to write on the occasion of my 100,000th hit which I received sometime on Christmas Eve while I was away.

Well, it turns out that I missed my 100,000th hit (which took 1 year, 1 month and 4 days to achieve).

And my 200,000th hit (which took about 16 hours to achieve).

And my 300,000th hit (which took about 14 hours to achieve).

So I figured that now was as good a time as any to reflect on blogs as an institution by comparing the power of blogs to the power of the mainstream media.

A quick comparison of the reach of blogs versus the mainstream media results in some interesting findings.

Let’s start with just this blog here, which is as far from being a widely read blog. In the past 48 hours, this blog received approximately 240,000 hits. While it is impossible to draw direct comparisons because some of those hits were undoubtedly repeat hits just as it is also true that some of people will leave their television set on while they are not paying attention or have left the room. But, ignoring those caveats, what does that compare to in terms of the viewership of mainstream media broadcasts?

Breakdown according to the 2006 year-end Neilsen Media Research report.

240,000 is a greater reach than the total viewship of the following top-rated TV programmes (in 2006):

THE ABRAMS REPORT on MSNBC (238,000 average viewers)

MSNBC LIVE on MSNBC (207,000 average viewers)

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT on Headline News (170,000 average viewers)

THE MOST on MSNBC (196,000 average viewers)

ROBIN & COMPANY on Headline News (198,000 average viewers)

CNN HEADLINE NEWS on Headline News (190,000 average viewers)

PRIME NEWS W/ ERICA HILL on Headline News (184,000 average viewers)

MAD MONEY on CNBC (158,000 average viewers)

THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON on MSNBC (128,000 average viewers)

BIG IDEA WITH DONNY DEUTSCH on CNBC (138,000 average viewers)

COVER TO COVER on CNBC (118,000 average viewers)

THE SUZE ORMAN SHOW on CNBC (118,000 average viewers)

Now, keep in mind, that’s just this relatively insignificant blog.

When we expand our search, we see some interesting statistics. Even if we ignore all independently hosted blogs, as well as all blogs hosted at blogspot and other popular blog hosts and focus only on all the blogs hosted at WordPress.com (including this blog), it isn’t even a contest.

Bill O’Reilly’s popular programme The O’Reilly Factor averages 2,094,000 viewers per night. O’Reilly’s programme runs 5 days a week (when he’s not defending himself against sexual harassment charges from his co-workers). Assuming O’Reilly takes two weeks off per year, that translates to approximately 523,500,000 total viewers per year (keeping in mind that those who watch his show regularly would be counted separately for every time they tune in)

Here is the data on only the blogs hosted by wordpress for the month of November alone:

416 million pageviews for blogs hosted with WordPress.com, and another 169 million on blogs hosted with WordPress.org. Total: 585 million pageviews. (source)

So all of the blogs on just one of the blog hosting sites, in one month alone exceed the total annual viewership of Mr. O’Reilly’s #1 ranked television programme by 62 million.

When we compare the two in terms of annual reach, we see the following results.

blogs-versus-oreilly.png

So the question remains as to how long the mainstream media can continue pretending that blogs are insignificant? I believe I’ve shown the evidence to the contrary to be abundant.

Reality Check: What you’re not supposed to think about

“655,000 Iraqi civilians have died. Who are the terrorists?”
-Rosie O’Donnell from The View comparing U.S. activities with Islamic terrorism

Since Rosie O’Donnell has recently “got quit” from her job on The View (or rather, had her pre-existing plans for departure greatly accelerated) because of uttering this sentence, it is worth taking a second to explore the veracity of Rosie’s statement.

If we take the total confirmed attacks by Al Queda against the West (broadly understood) we have 5 acts of terrorism in total.  The 1993 WTC Bombing which killed 6. The 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole which killed 17. The September 11th attacks which killed 2974. The 2004 Madrid bombings which killed 191. And, lastly, the 2005 bombings in London, England which killed 52.

So, Al Qaeda has claimed a total of 3240 fatalities in the West.

Now America’s activities abroad are far too numerous to either delineate or to quantify, so, for simplicity’s sake, let’s limit it only to US involvement in the country of Iraq since the enactment of UN resolution 667 in 1990 up to the present.

The Gulf War and the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq throughout the 90s up until 2003 killed a total of approximately 1,000,000 (source).  And, from 2003 up until the present, according to the best and most thorough statistical project undertaken the U.S.  has killed approximately 651,000 in the Iraq War.

reality-check-us-versus-al-qaeda.pngSo, the U.S. has claimed a total of 1,651,000 (approximately — interesting how we don’t bother to count their fatalities isn’t it?).

Keep in mind this figure pertains only to the fatalities since 1990 and that this pertains only to fatalities the U.S. caused in the country of Iraq.  We could have just as easily included U.S. involvement in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, Argentina, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, The Philippines, Iran, Lebanon, Somalia, South Africa, Cuba, Venezuela, Columbia, Brazil, and a host of other countries which undoubtedly would have made the data more interesting, but I think this makes the point.

Let us put this into perspective another way.  If a U.S. politician stood up and said that he’d kill 100 Iraqis for every one U.S. soldier killed, he would be considered a moderate since the U.S. has killed on average over 500 Iraqis for every one Westerner killed by Al Qaeda.

Now this isn’t intended to get into a debate over motivation or reasons for engaging in these horrible killings.  Everybody has reasons for the things they do and anybody can justify their actions (at least to themselves).  But, objectively, it is more than obvious that Rosie O’Donnell statement was actually conservative and an underestimation.

But, there are some things we (the people who are hated for our freedoms) are not supposed to think about and this, apparently, is one of them.

On the futility of governing pop-culture

Who ever said capitalists were intelligent?

McDonald’s and a cabal of capitalists have been pushing the Oxford English Dictionary for some time now to remove its official listing of the word “McJob” in their publication.  But, AFP wires are now reporting that that’s not enough for McDonalds et al.  They now are seeking to actually ‘flip’ the definition of McJob (an irony in and of itself) from it’s current definition of:

“an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the expansion of the service sector.”

And they want the new definition in the Oxford English Dictionary to read something along the lines of:

“a job that is stimulating, rewarding and offers genuine opportunities for career progression.”

Now, it is no secret that capital has for years saught to subsume pop-culture and trends under its aegis.  However, what McDonald’s et al are ignoring is the fact that to the extent that capital succeeds in this goal, it does so not by dictating and governing from above what ‘popular’ ought to look like, but by so-called “cool hunting” and the subsuming of what is already pre-existingly popular into a corporate programme.

When capital or any heirarchical structure attempts to artificially manufacture from scratch what ought to be ‘popular’, the results are often ridiculous (and painful) as demonstrated by this ad by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario:  

(WARNING:  For those of you who don’t live in Ontario or who have never seen this ad, I must caution you – watching this may cause seizures, dimensia, decreased IQ and/or temporary insanity.  Proceed at own risk!) 

The capitalists seeking to change the definition of ‘McJob’ therefore are ignorant of two things.  First, obviously, the Oxford English Dictionary does not, like the ‘Newspeak’ dictionary makers in Orwell’s 1984, actually make-up definitions and construct the English language.  It merely reflects the pre-existing usage of the English language.

And second: you may be able to co-opt culture jamming, as the raging success of MTV and “cool hunting” demonstrates, but you cannot govern popular culture from above as these executives are foolishly attempting to do with “McJob”.

As insipid and asinine as many of us may consider the bulk of pop-culture to be, it nevertheless is one of the very few phenomena (along side activism and dissent) in our culture which finds its genesis in genuinely grassroots movements.

And that is a dynamic power which no capitalist and no government can either suppress or govern.

Movie Review: “Bobby”

william_h__macy6.jpgThe new-to-DVD Emilio Estevez picture “Bobby” is a fictional re-telling of approximately 25 characters surrounding the early June assassination of Democratic Presidential Candidate Robert F. Kennedy.

From the get-go, I had high hopes for this picture.

Among the reasons for my high hopes were, firstly, the highly pertinent character of the Vietnam-era when compared with the current era.  Secondly, there was the depth of casting which was, at times, almost comical in terms of the sheer number of celebrities taking part in the ensemble cast.

William H. Macy.

Christian Slater.

Martin Sheen.

Helen Hunt.

Laurence Fishburne.

Anthony Hopkins.

Demi Moore.

Sharon Stone.

And just when you think you’ve seen the last celebrity appearance, you’re confronted with a long-haired Ashton Kutcher and then just as quickly with other stars such as Elijah Wood.

But the amazing cast and the impressive performances just couldn’t distract from one simple, yet important fact:

The movie idolizes Bobby Kennedy when, given the anti-war motif of of the film, it shouldn’t have.

Throughout the movie, interesting (and accurate) parallels are drawn between our time and 1968.

-Racial unrest and a Democratic Party primary with contenders arousing hopes of a new breakthrough in terms of racial equality.

-New balloting procedures involving ‘chads’ (that exact term, popularized after the 2000 Florida election controversy, is actually mentioned in the film).

-An unpopular war.

-A sitting, pro-war president.

One needn’t be a student of Thucydides to draw on the intended parallels.

But the problem is that, while the American Democratic Party has been in the process of Lionizing the Kennedy name for the past 40 years, there really is little merit for these laurels.  What is more, the logic of focussing what is in the final analysis, an anti-war movie, around RFK merely serves to obfuscate his position with regards to that war.

Estevez selectively choses clips from video archival footage of RFK answering questions on Vietnam to suggest that he was the anti-war candidate who valliantly campaigned against the war.  However the facts are far from this fiction.  The true anti-war candidate, the one who got into the race as a dark horse candidate and who actually was the stuff of Hollywood underdog stories was Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy, not Bobby Kennedy.

He was the one who started the campaign against the pro-war LBJ and, shockingly, came within a hair of defeating the sitting president in the New Hampshire primary.

It was this surprising finish which served, in part, as a catalyst for LBJ’s decision not to run again for re-election and which brought Kennedy into the race for the Democratic nomination.

So, ultimately, all the orchestral pieces overlayed with snippets of RFK’s speeches; all the best acting; and all the best actors cannot erase the fact that the movie idolizes the wrong guy all the while glossing over the contribution of the true anti-war candidate who took a principled stand on the issue:  Eugene McCarthy.

Chomsky on self-deception and other fun topics

This video contains an excellent discussion between Robert Trivers and Noam Chomsky on self-deception that is absolutely fascinating and, given the recent revelations in the U.S. about the Bush administration, is very worth taking a look at.

It’s relatively short and a very easy listen, so I encourage everyone, even those not familiar with Chomsky or Trivers’s work to take a look.

What I found especially interesting about this exchange is their discussion of the nature of the process of internalizing information in what can be termed self-propagandization.

While neither Chomsky nor Trivers directly mention the work of either Hungarian Marxist philosopher Georg Lukács or French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser (possibly because the latter has fallen out of favour in academic circles since the 1970s), the shadow of these two philosophers on the topic discussed above is unmistakable and worthy of brief discussion.

Continue reading ‘Chomsky on self-deception and other fun topics’

New Paulitics resource: The Propaganda in Action Series

I’m back from the insanity that has been my life for the past few weeks.  So, for those of you who’ve been wondering whether anything’s happened to me (you’re not alone, my parents have been wondering the same thing), I’ve just been in an interminable universe of essay writting and research.

propaganda-in-action-big.pngAnyway, it’s become apparent that there’s a big demand for my Propaganda in Action series, so I’ve created a new widget in the sidebar resource section as a place to keep all of the installments in the ongoing Propaganda in Action series together in one place. 

I’ve really enjoyed all the feedback and suggestions on this series so far, so it’s a safe bet to assume that there will be more installments coming out in the future.

Click here for the new Paulitics resource: the Propaganda in Action Series

Richard Dawkins answers a question

In keeping with the deliciously heathen & atheistic track I’ve been on as of late, I’ve been getting my daily dose of Richard Dawkins when I came across this video clip.

How much would it suck to be the student who asked this question?

For those interested, the other installments of heathens-‘r’-us, are:

Is organized religion still good for society?

Geology makes baby Jesus cry…

In defense of Atheism (with the complete, 2-part BBC documentary of Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion)

Proof that organized religion stops critical thinking

Creationism is Bullshit! & The Bible is Bullshit! (with complete episodes of Penn & Teller’s television program Bullshit!)

Creationism is Bullshit! & The Bible is Bullshit!

For your viewing pleasure, here are two episodes of Penn & Teller’s TV show “Bullshit!”. The first episode is “Creationism is Bullshit!”. The second is “The Bible is Bullshit!”

Now, I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan of Penn & Teller’s brand of Libertarianism, however their irreligiousness and their magic shows, I can definitely get behind.

In terms of the first video on Creationism, I think the episode was great, but could have been so much better had they interviewed Elliott Sober.

If you want to read the absolutely definitive work on why Intelligent Design is neither a scientific theory nor a viable alternative to evolution, I strongly recommend you read his chapter in the book Blackwell Guide to Philosophy of Religion (edited by William Edward Mann).

Sober’s piece uses pure logic and mathematics to prove that the arguments of Intelligent Design theorists like Michael Behe (who does a lot of work on so-called ‘irreducible complexity’) are exemplars of a poverty of thought.

If you don’t have time to read Sober’s article (lazy bastards! lol), I’ll relay my favourite part of the chapter.

Basically, he proves, using Beye’s Theorem, that the argument for God’s existence based on Irreducible Complexity (or arguments based on other observed phenomenon such as ‘cosmic design’) are tautological, circular and useless.

For you math people in the crowd, basically it goes like this:

sober-intelligent-design-argument.gif

Now if you didn’t follow that, don’t worry, I probably wouldn’t have either. But read the chapter and then you can impress your friends by throwing that out there.

Anyway, without further adieu, I give you the glorious sacrilege:

Penn & Teller: Creationism is Bullshit!

Penn & Teller: The Bible is Bullshit!

 

Propaganda in Action: The release of the British sailors

The systematic propaganda consumed especially in North America on the so-called Iranian hostage crisis (the sequel, not the one in 1980) was discussed in detail here.

However, with the release of the British prisoners, we have been hit with a whole new wave of hypocritical propaganda designed to shift our opinion and gloss over history.

Virtually all news agencies have covered the “ordeal” experienced by the British sailors and marines.

In the US: 

CBS news spoke of “harsh interrogation” in “stone cells” and repeated the claim that they  were “operating under a U.N. mandate in Iraqi waters” as a fact (source).

The New York Times, that putative bastion of leftism, ran a story with the headline “Britons Say They Feared for Lives in Iran Captivity”. In this article, the NY Times recounts the “most frightening” story of the “ordeal” as occurring on the second night when all of the sailors and marines were placed in a room blindfolded and one of the sailors vomited in such a manner that one of his colleagues felt that his throat had been slit (source).

The Kansas City Star carried an article in which they describe that the British sailors and marines were “isolated in cold stone cells and tricked into fearing execution.” (source).

In Canada:

The National Post ran with a story headline reading “British sailors describe ‘ordeal’ in Iran” and describing “constant psychological pressure” and moreover, The Post wrote that the British Sailors and Marines were kept in isolation which is actually demonstrably false and not in keeping with even the Briton’s account of events (source).

CTV ran with the story describing that the Britons were “threatened” (source).

And lastly, in the UK: 

The Guardian ran a story with the headline “Freed Britons Say ‘Confessions’ Coerced”, as if that was somehow a surprise or unexpected (source).

But here’s what we didn’t read:

#1) There was STILL no discussion about the fact that the US probably caused the capture as retaliation for ambushing and kidnapping Mohammed Jafari, the head of the Iranian National Security Council and Minojahar Frouzanda, the head of the intelligence division of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as well as the kidnapping of Iranian embassy official Jalal Sharafi.

#2) Even more importantly, the British Captain of the expedition, Chris Air, admitted to Sky News 5 days before the hostage crisis even began that they were spying and gathering intelligence on Iran just as the Iranians had alleged (source). 

Continue reading ‘Propaganda in Action: The release of the British sailors’


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