This emerging battle should be fun to watch.  Rupert Murdoch’s son in law Matthew Freud launched an on the record  broadside against Roger Ailes and Fox News for the “horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to.”  See link.  As the article notes, this follows reports (which were denied) over the summer that Murdoch Sr. was himself sometimes embarrassed by the content of Fox News.

Similar questions regarding the journalistic standards of Fox News have been raised by many commentators, the Obama administration and this blog.  See here, here and here.  But the ugly reality is that Mammon is king.  The market wants the tabloid-like opinion driven “news” peddled by Fox which financially is comfortably beating all its other rivals.  Mr. Alies is safe on his perch as the propaganda arm for anti-Democratic Party and anti-Obama political forces for the foreseeable future.  See another opinion on the matter here.

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Posted on 13-11-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

A cautionary tale about Ashleigh Banfield, one of the few reporters who did not peddle the Bush administrations spin and actually did her job, journalism and questioning war coverage.  The speech in question is linked here.  For that she lost her job.  Its another example of why cable news in the United States is generally unwatchable and why it is probably a good idea in the Internet age to diversify news sources to include other countries.  Al Jazeera is often dismissed as propaganda here, but they sometimes cover issues and trample over sacred cows in a manner the so called free American media does not always do.  If anything, it provides perspective for why everybody abroad does not always attribute the noblest motives to American actions.

When Walter Cronkite died recently the talking heads on TV and in print gushed about his editorial report on Vietnam on February 27, 1968.  Sadly with the corporatization of main stream media where the profit motive trumps the duty of the Fourth Estate to report the news accurately, Cronkite today would have been drummed out of a job as quickly as Banfield.

It is probably summed by by the otherwise respected David Gregory’s defensive burden shifting last year when he essentially said that the media’s job is to mindlessly report what the administration is saying and not to challenge them when they peddle bullshit.  Quoted from the link above:

From the May 28 edition of MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews:

CHRIS MATTHEWS (host): Let’s take a look at what McClellan had to say here about the media.

Here he is, faulting the press. He wrote, quote, “If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq. The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war should never have come as such a surprise. In this case, the,” quote, “liberal media,” close quote, “didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”


GREGORY: I think he’s wrong. He makes the same kind of argument a lot of people on the left have made. I tried not to be defensive about it. I’ve thought a lot about this over a number of years, and I disagree with that assessment.

I think the questions were asked. I think we pushed. I think we prodded. I think we challenged the president. I think not only those of us in the White House press corps did that, but others in the rest of the landscape of the media did that.

If there wasn’t a debate in this country, then maybe the American people should think about, why not? Where was Congress? Where was the House? Where was the Senate? Where was public opinion about the war? What did the former president believe about the prewar intelligence? He agreed that — in fact, Bill Clinton agreed that Saddam had WMD.

The right questions were asked. I think there’s a lot of critics — and I guess we can count Scott McClellan as one — who thinks that if we did not debate the president, debate the policy in our role as journalists, if we did not stand up and say, “This is bogus,” and “You’re a liar,” and “Why are you doing this?” that we didn’t do our job. And I respectfully disagree. It’s not our role.

This attitude also sums up why traditional media outlets are faltering before blogs and internet based journalists who do show the same deference to power and why John Stewart of Comedy Central may be one of the most trusted newsmen in America (cautionary disclosure, it was an unscientific online poll).

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Posted on 30-10-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

Previously posted on the administration calling out Fox.  Its been amazing to see the mainstream media rally to Fox’s defense and pretend that what the Obama administration is doing something new…except that the Bush administration did the same thing to MSNBC this last year.  But the reason for this post is the absolutely brilliant, must see video from Jon Stewart skewering Fox.  Enjoy!

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
For Fox Sake!
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis
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The “Main Stream Media” has disapprovingly noted the Obama administration calling out Fox News as the media arm of the Republican party.  See here, here, here, here and here.  Not unexpectedly Fox News howled in outrage and liberal blogs cheerfully detailed the hypocrisy of Fox’s complaints when it cheered on the Bush administration calling out NBC News and MSNBC.  Very few media members noted that the underlying charge that Fox News is “opinion journalism masquerading as news” is essentially true.

A couple of good reads from the Economist’s Democracy in America blog today comparing Fox News to what is happening in Russia, Italy and Thailand, and Slate’s Jonathan Weisberg noting that the Fox response to the administration shows the inherent bias in its coverage.

I agree with the final point in both articles.  Cable “news” is now unwatchable.  Opinion shows dominate the peak hours and off-peak hours are filled with a bunch of documentary shows.  Even CNN Headline News which a decade ago provided 24 News coverage is now filled with shows that masquerade as news.  The Internet would be a refuge for finding news, but alas even the AP has decided to muddy its role as a wire service by falling for the opinion journalism lure.

More than ever, developing a filter to separate the wheat of news from the chaff of opinion is essential.  Paraphrasing the legal principle of caveat emptor, let the  unwary news reader beware.

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Posted on 09-10-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs, Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Just how big a military is threat is Iran? Recent columns by Juan Cole raise this pertinent question as usual parties beat the war drums. With a military budget estimated around 7.4 billion dollars, the Iranian military is dwarfed by Israeli military expenditures of over 13-19 billion dollars. The American military budget is over 500 billion dollars.

Even the military budget of China which was projected as the next great military threat in the 1990s by the Cox report has a budget nine times smaller than the United States (at the official exchange rate). The current United States military budget is larger than the next 13 countries combined. With this in time it is time to give some perspective on the nature of the military threat the United States faces.  For a comparison chart of military budgets go here.

Commensurate with its expenditures, the United States does have global military obligations and some other powers like China and India have only regional aspirations. America’s actions as the gendarme of the world unfortunately have been encouraged by the post-cold war freeloading by the European NATO allies who showed themselves singularly incapable if handling their own backyard brawl in Yugoslavia and the Kosovo. The rest of the world (except for occasional French intervention in its former colonies and recent Nigerian assertiveness in West Africa) has failed to intervene in various African tragedies unless the United States took the lead.

The reality is that the United States has not been threatened conventionally by any power since the fall of the Soviet Union. This makes the overblown hype about the nature of the opposition in every war the America fought since 1990 more disturbing, particularly when the opponents have been repeatedly shown to have feet of clay.

Saddam Hussein’s million man army was useless against superior American firepower. The vaunted Yugoslav military folded once Clinton sent in ground troops. The build up to George W. Bush’s war in Iraq after 9/11 was even more egregious because Saddam Hussein’s military capabilities had atrophied after Desert Storm.

At this point no conventional opponent comes close to challenging the United States. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted on 26-09-2009
Filed Under (History, India, Politics & Propaganda) by Rashtrakut

Many successful rulers and administrators have often failed to grasp the importance of good public relations.  As a result, an otherwise competent or successful tenure in office has been marred by rising unpopularity. Others have excelled far too well on the propaganda side of governance until the inevitable disclosure that the emperor wore no clothes. Very few rulers have managed to find a fine blend of the two and the very success of the public relations campaign makes an honest appraisal difficult.

This is the first in a series of appraisals of rulers through history and whether their reputations are deserved, undeserved or over inflated.

The Emperor Ashoka is a fine example of this. The Wikipedia entry on his life contains a list of the usual platitudes about his reign and how his reign was a golden age of peace and prosperity. The only problem is that almost all the extant data of his reign comes from pillars and rock inscriptions placed by Ashoka across his vast empire. The third Mauryan emperor knew the value of propaganda. Read the rest of this entry »

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