Fox’s Ailes on propaganda

Know thy enemy.

Think Progress:

Lesson 1: The Public Won’t Support You, Unless You Do Things “Harshly”: Soon after 9/11, according to Bob Woodward, Ailes sent a “back-channel message” to President Bush, suggesting that he needed to take “the harshest measures possible” in retaliation for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He added that “support” for war “would dissipate if the public did not see Bush acting harshly.”

Lesson 2: The Public Does Not Need To Know The Full Reasons For Going To War: In 2003, a University of Maryland study found that “those who receive most of their news from Fox News are more likely than average to have misperceptions” about basic facts related to the war. 80 percent of those who relied on Fox News as their primary news source believed at least one of three lies: the discovery of alleged WMD in Iraq, alleged Iraqi involvement in 9/11, and international support for a U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Lesson 3: When Things Go Bad, The Public Doesn’t Need To Know: “Fox spent half as much time covering the Iraq war than MSNBC during the first three months” of 2007, “and considerably less than CNN.” Fox News “were obviously cheerleaders for the war,” said CNN U.S. President Jon Klein. “When the war went badly they had to dial back coverage because it didn’t fit their preconceived story lines.”

Global village idiot

The above video clip happened live during an Italian evening news broadcast I was watching a few weeks ago. Don’t worry about the language, it’s not necessary to know Italian to understand what’s happening. This goes to show what an echo chamber the news is. Rather than the news coverage itself being important, instead the appearance of Gabriele Paolini in the background making funny faces becomes the news. Who is this guy? Paolini is regionally famous for hijacking live news coverage by repeatedly jumping into the camera’s frame. He had disappeared for a while, because apparently he had been institutionalized. Now that he’s free, police have to monitor live newscasts to make sure he doesn’t disrupt them.

Paolini has a cause, which is to promote the use of condoms. But when I was first confronted by this character (and later learned there is another less-dispruptive publicity seeker who simply makes sure his face is always in the camera frame), I thought maybe this was the work of a brilliant prankster. Apparently not, just a well-known village eccentric, which goes to show that Rome is still intimate enough that it’s possible to be a local celebrity for being the weirdo who interrupts the news. I’m just glad it’s still possible to disrupt the slick dissemination of infotainment.

I suggest you enter Paolini’s name into YouTube (OK, I did it for you- click here) and you will be amazed by the numerous clips documenting his interventions, the funnier being when a news reporter kicks him in the nuts, and another when he jumps in front of the camera during the World Cup. The man has no shame, that’s why we love him so. Go Paolini!

Television delivers people

One of the best things I like about watching this version of Richard Serra and Carlota Fay Schoolman’s “Television Delivers People” (1973) is the distortion of an old video tape from broadcast TV. This video inspired a show currently running at The Whitney:

Television Delivers People
on view December 12, 2007 – February 17, 2008

Television Delivers People brings together single-channel video works from the 1970s to the present that examine how an individual viewer is shaped by television’s structure and content. These videos also suggest the possibility of an active approach to viewing which remains relevant even as the physical experience of viewing changes. The exhibition takes its title from Richard Serra’s video Television Delivers People (1973), which pairs a Muzak soundtrack with a scrolling list of statements describing the manipulative strategies and motivations of corporate advertisers imbedded in television. Works from the late 1970s and early ’80s by Dara Birnbaum and Joan Braderman extend Serra’s media critique by using strategies of appropriation to deconstruct specific television genres and programs. Videos by Michael Smith and Alex Bag adopt a performative approach in responding to television, acting out characters whose lives are shaped by cable and its endless programming choices. The exhibition also includes videos by a number of young artists who have created experimental narratives reflective of a dense internet culture, where diverse content from television, film, and music is immediately accessible and available for manipulation and response. Curator: Gary Carrion-Murayari

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TV’s ideological paradigm


I’m reluctant to use the term “mass media” because so much of what we call “mass” is actually being composted by the blurring distinction between consumer and producer, and the transition from the one to many paradigm of media broadcasts to the many to many model of networks. Nonetheless, both ecologies still exist simultaneously and we could say that TV exhibits the old broadcast model the most of any medium, though it’s changing every day, the writer’s strike being at the cusp of the new space that TV is entering into.

Up to now I’ve thought of mass media as having one primary ideological impact, which is the idea that reality is inherently false and the only way to transform it is through buying into the commodities system. However, in the article clipped below, Robert K. Blechman illustrates an equally persistent theme in televised content: the pitting of antisocial against social behavior. The goal of television is, in a sense, to constantly normalize and reign in abhorrent behavior. Mary Ann Doane argues that it also tries to stave off catastrophe by containing it through the medium. A good example is how immediately after the planes crashed into the Twin Towers the news agencies edited film-like trailers that constructed a narrative sequence to make the event movie-like, and therefore more psychologically acceptable.

The subject of Robert’s article is the contradiction between the moral condemnation of performance enhancing drugs and the simultaneous promotion of performance enhancing everything that is exemplified by TV. This is an aside, but I noticed that for a while the trendy word of marketing was “unleash”: unleash your inner whatever, which I thought was such a thoughtless and ultimately stupid mindset that culminates in misadventures like the Iraq war. It’s a bad thing when our leaders feel obliged to “unleash” their ideology on the world, let alone attack dogs on torture victims. Anyhow, as a diehard baseball fan (yes its true!), I have been intrigued by the Roger Clemens soap opera (he was called out in a major report on performance enhancement drugs in baseball). I never liked Clemens and thought of him as the Hummer of baseball, an arrogant, shameless self-promoter that reminded me so much of President Bush. I imagine as Clemens fights for his public image (I wouldn’t be surprised if his Wikipedia page is going through some major rewrites at the moment) with denial after denial (in fairness, technically he is not guilty of anything), I’m left with a sense that our culture has become a steroid culture: beefed up but sick at its core, ill-tempered and in a kind of enraged denial that only the worse kind of coke addict could exhibit. As such, I think its useful to observe how these patterns play out across the board, and I think Robert’s article does a fine job of that.

From Robert K. Blechman’s blog, A Model Media Ecologist:

So we have a basic opposition within the content structure presented by American television. On the one hand we have advertisements, where the performance enhancing drugs or productsmust be used, and on the opposite end we have sports where the performance enhancing drug must not be used. In between we have differing interations of this primary opposition, with entertainment and news content reflecting multiple variations of this use/don’t use opposition.

The point is that we aren’t concerned with the effect of drug use, or the unfair advantages performance enhancing drugs might give to advertising, entertainment or news personalities. We are concerned with the advantages performance enhancing drugs might give to professional atheletes. In their case, the use of any drug is itself a violation of the rules which state that, though any given athelete might already represent an outlier of norms concerning physical strength and ability, they shouldn’t do anything “artificial” to enhance their already considerable talents.

Update: A funny confirmation of my thesis:


A backdoor media literacy resource

Sometimes you have to thank the media gods for providing free resources to deconstruct their world. So welcome to Super Bowl Monday Planet: Firebrand, a ridiculously conceived Website that can be likened to a content-free television network, i.e. all ads, now shows. But if you are like me and are infinitely curious and attracted to ads like we are to a car wreck on the freeway, then Firebrand is pure unadulterated consumeristic voyeurism. Forget the strange premise that people will watch ads for entertainment value. We have a free media literacy download site!

You can download any commercials onto your computer and use them for teaching about media. Firebrand supports a number of formats, including iPod, iPhone, Windows Media and Quicktime.

OK media lit folks. Have at it!

From the Website:


We love commercials. We submit, with rare exception, that they?re the best stuff on TV. In under a minute you get the best directors, the sickest special effects, the funniest writers?what?s not to love?

We love commercials. 1984. Mean Joe Green. Whasssup? You know you love them, too. So let?s gather ?round the best of them. Sort them. Judge them. Share them. Love them.

We love commercials. The eye candy. The laugh out louds. The did-you-just-see-thats. The most loved, the most emailed, the ones we still talk about today. Let every day be Super Bowl Monday.

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