December 23rd, 2011
erickstoll

Read This, Not That: How The Media Created The Fall Of Saddam’s Statue

In the New Yorker, Peter Maass examines the close coordination of military and press in creating one of the principal media moments of the Iraq War. 

Propaganda has been a staple of warfare for ages, but the notion of creating events on the battlefield, as opposed to repackaging real ones after the fact, is a modern development. It expresses a media theory developed by, among others, Walter Lippmann, who after the First World War identified the components of wartime mythmaking as “the casual fact, the creative imagination, the will to believe, and out of these three elements, a counterfeit of reality.” As he put it, “Men respond as powerfully to fictions as they do to realities [and] in many cases they help to create the very fictions to which they respond.” In the nineteen-sixties, Daniel J. Boorstin identified a new category of media spectacle that he called “pseudo-events,” which were created to be reported on. But Boorstin was theorizing primarily about political conventions and press conferences, not about events on a battlefield.

The 2004 documentary film “Control Room” featured Al Jazeera journalists who argued that the toppling of Saddam’s statue was merely “a show … a very clever idea,” and that Iraqis had been brought to the square like actors delivered to the stage. Skeptics have also questioned whether the crowd was as large or as representative of popular sentiment as U.S. officials suggested. Might it have been just a small group of Iraqis whose numbers and enthusiasm were exaggerated by the cameras? Did the media, which had, with few exceptions, accepted the Bush Administration’s prewar claims about weapons of mass destruction, err again by portraying a pseudo-event as real? And were lives lost as a result of this error?

Read the full article here.

December 14th, 2011
erickstoll

Read This, Not That: What’s Killing the New York Times?

The editors at n+1 consider the future of publishing in an era of ubiquitous targeted advertising.

Pick up a newspaper or magazine these days and you find yourself judging its health by the quantity of advertising. Harper’s, the Nation, the New Republic—they are pitifully bare of ads. “Page” (online, of course) through an old copy of the New Yorker, look up Edmund Wilson’s essays on the Dead Sea Scrolls, and feel the self-confidence of another age: almost three pages of ads for every column of text. Reading the magazine online brings out an analogy that a physical copy would obscure—the huge ads, dominating the text, remind you of nothing so much as a flashy website.

A big mystery of the internet has been why the online editions of newspapers and magazines can’t make money when, with huge skyscraper ads covering half the homepage, their websites so closely resemble the most successful publications of the past. These aren’t regular old newspaper ads either but what amount to TV ads—all the better, you’d think, since you can click through to buy the product on offer without picking up a phone. What’s more, the New York Times has ten times as many readers online as it does in print (15 million versus 1.5 million)! Amid all the anxiety about the future of journalism it’s easy to overlook the absurdity of the situation: the Times is going bankrupt—while showing more ads to more readers than ever before.

Read the full article here.

December 7th, 2011
chasewhiteside
Read This, Not That: The Real Problem with Fox News
The liberal platitude that Fox News is a propaganda arm for the Republican Party has gone mainstream; even the Obama administration has taken aim. But Terry McDermott argues in the Columbia Journalism Review that Fox’s agenda isn’t political, but commercial, and that the network has simply mastered the format better than its competitors:

Over the course of an average day, all this talking on the three channels adds up to more than half a million words spilled on cable-news air. That’s a phenomenal amount of verbiage—by volume, a new War and Peace every single day. It does not, as you might guess, approach anything like the art and coherence of a novel. Rarely does a single sentence rise to that level.
What are they talking about all the time? Usually, they’re talking about what a particular little morsel of news means. What is that bit of news good for? Whom is it good for? Who’s up, who’s sideways, who’s selling the country down the river? There is a very large measure of performance involved in all of this. The studio hosts typically play some amped-up, over-the-top version of themselves. They bring to mind nothing so much as one of the vibrant monologues from the Howard Beale character in the movie Network: “Television is a Goddamned amusement park! Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers, and football players. We’re in the boredom-killing business!’

Read the full article here.
// Follow Read This, Not That on Tumblr / Facebook / Twitter //

Read This, Not That: The Real Problem with Fox News

The liberal platitude that Fox News is a propaganda arm for the Republican Party has gone mainstream; even the Obama administration has taken aim. But Terry McDermott argues in the Columbia Journalism Review that Fox’s agenda isn’t political, but commercial, and that the network has simply mastered the format better than its competitors:

Over the course of an average day, all this talking on the three channels adds up to more than half a million words spilled on cable-news air. That’s a phenomenal amount of verbiage—by volume, a new War and Peace every single day. It does not, as you might guess, approach anything like the art and coherence of a novel. Rarely does a single sentence rise to that level.

What are they talking about all the time? Usually, they’re talking about what a particular little morsel of news means. What is that bit of news good for? Whom is it good for? Who’s up, who’s sideways, who’s selling the country down the river? There is a very large measure of performance involved in all of this. The studio hosts typically play some amped-up, over-the-top version of themselves. They bring to mind nothing so much as one of the vibrant monologues from the Howard Beale character in the movie Network: “Television is a Goddamned amusement park! Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers, and football players. We’re in the boredom-killing business!’

Read the full article here.

// Follow Read This, Not That on Tumblr / Facebook / Twitter //

Loading tweets...

@rtntnews