You are currently browsing the daily archive for 23 August 2010.

…but even if he gets it, it won’t be enough.

The Wall Street Journal (via memeorandum) expands on last weeks news that audio-equipment magnate Harman has bought Newsweek for $1 (and other valuable considerations, such as assuming both a gigantic debt and the responsibility for continuing most of the “journalists” in their positions while the magazine continues to lose money). From the story:

Mr. Harman says his plan for Newsweek is evolving, but he has plenty of ideas. He sees an enterprise with some glaring inefficiencies that hasn’t done enough to exploit its name. He envisions a magazine with higher-quality paper, better graphics and subscriber perks like discounts on books written by Newsweek writers.

Harman expands on those themes in the story and interview, but you will look in vain for anything whatever that questions the editorial direction of the magazine. That means he’ll need a lot of luck. Folks attempting to combat a tidal wave by turning firehoses on it need luck in gobsmacking amounts.

People read newsmagazines (and newspapers, and look at teevee news) to get information. If they discover that the information they get isn’t reliable and/or useful — stale or otherwise — it isn’t “information” at all, and they discount that source as a purveyor. Repeated instances of unreliable “news” appearing in any outlet will eventually totally discredit that outlet in the minds of consumers as a source of information. That, not a deficiency in snazzy graphics or a lack of follow-on marketing opportunities, is why Newsweek and most other “news” sources are faltering if not outright failing.

No, it’s not the Internet, although that’s a useful and facile excuse — certainly its influence is large and growing. But regardless how convenient the iPod or “reader” may be, no matter how useful the data aggregators or interesting the polemicists, when it comes down to it print has an advantage no other medium can boast: it can be consumed without batteries, connection to the electric mains, or (usually) eyestrain from the inverted presentation — screens that emit light rather than reflecting it. The Internet may be, in fact is, influential, but it doesn’t attack magazines where they live.

Bluntly: If people go to a TEA Party rally or organizational meeting, they know what went on there from personal experience. If they then read in Newsweek or Time or the New York Times, or see on CNN or MSNBC, an account of that event that diverges materially or completely differs from what they, personally, witnessed there, they do not substitute that account for their own memories, they discount that source as a font of information — and wonder what else they see there that might be false. As more and more people have that experience, fewer and fewer of them are willing to expend resources in gaining access to that source of “data”.

Bluntly: If the Media and governing class declare with one voice that going on three-quarters of Americans are irredeemably racist, the people look in their hearts, find no such motives present, and proceed to assume that those assuming them are at best mistaken, and at worst hostile to them; the result is not to change minds, but to induce media consumers to assume that the source of the accusation is worthless on that subject and suspect on others. At the moment, well over two-thirds of Americans have had that experience; a market containing only the exceptions is much smaller than a general-interest source needs.

And if the magazine’s editorial direction makes it useless as a source of information and perceived as hostile, why would anybody pay for it? –even when “pay” is only expressed as a willingness to take the time to page through the advertisements that are the magazine’s real, immediate support?

If Mr. Harman were to take a tip from Fox News he might have a hope of succeeding. Fox, subject to the constraints every other non-Internet news source labors under, including competition from the Internet, has become far and away the most successful cable news network and bids fair to catch up to the Big Three, simply by allowing occasional questioning of the dogma which the elitist class wishes to be taken as Absolute TRVTH. That translates into enraged attacks on “Faux news” from the elitists, grudging accommodation from the Right, and enormous and growing revenues. The same path is available to Sidney Harman. Probability that he will go that way: epsilon, defined as the smallest possible number which is not zero.

Prof. Reynolds comments on the Philadelphia blogger tax, and quotes emailer Trent Nix, who says in part:

The losers who put [the tax] in place should have their pictures plastered everywhere as enemies to free speech. City politics tend to be the place where the nexus of stupidity and vanity are at their greatest. [my emphasis — RL]

Add “counties”, “school boards”, and “ad hoc tax districts” to “city politics”, and you can strike the “tend to be”, replacing it with “are”. It isn’t hard to see why that’s natural, indeed well-nigh inevitable, once you realize that it’s a matter of having time.

Merchants running viable businesses and people who have real jobs are fully occupied during the day and tend to have lives afterward. You can’t ignore customers in order to dash down to City Hall or Commissioners’ Court, employers trying to get things done are notably unsympathetic to requests for time off to go protest the latest idiocy, and when the Council meeting conflicts with the kids’ soccer practice the kids win every time. Councils arrange things to make it worse — you can pay your taxes or fines starting at daybreak, but[sneer] your representative [/sneer] is only available from 11:00 to 11:30 AM three days a week, and definitely not outside of working/business hours or during lunch break, when they take care of their own business and/or leisure. The after-hours sessions which do occur, declared with self-congratulatory piety as making government available to the citizens, are carefully scheduled for maximum interference with dinner, soccer practice, and the like, or for such late hours as to make it impossible for mere citizens wishing to interfere with the smooth flow of money from one hand to the other to get to work the next day — often both.

The result is that local government is dominated by three groups: the self-important idle rich, people with the work habits of a snake, and obsessed nutcases. Distinguishing the first and last classes falls mainly on dress issues and scope — the weirdo who passionately demands that City buildings be painted cerise and yellow or that all road signs must be at exactly the same height is different from the well-dressed defender of the viewscape his ancestors bequeathed only in the scope of their demands. Both groups can be, and usually are, dismissed as non-contributory or obstructive, except to the extent that the rich guy’s largesse is lavished on the deciders, which generally happens in support of the second group.

Many lawyers, some doctors, owners of fast-food franchises, and above all real-estate agents[1] have in common that their income is not dependent on day-to-day trudging. When they are obliged to work, they almost always work hard and with single-minded focus, because the outcome of that work is a big payoff — but between such spates of frenzied activity they have plenty of leisure to devote to “other interests”, especially when such interests coincide with their own (or can, if properly nudged). Street vendors are forbidden, or taxed and regulated to the same end, and this is justified by solemn intonations of public health and/or traffic obstruction issues, but the real reason is that they cut into the profits at McDonalds; you can’t park your pickup or RV in front of your house or take effective measures to make your home energy-efficient, because real-estate hunters (mainly but not exclusively female) insist that anything Victoria regens couldn’t have seen daily is unsightly and Reduces Property Values; the reason you have to drive thirty miles to the airport has nothing to do with the possibility of crashes and everything to do with new property owners’ insistence that long-established practice must yield to their comfort and convenience; and any lawyer worth his salt is delighted to see ill-maintained, impenetrable thickets of laws, regulations, and restrictions, because his income derives from finding a way through just such growths.

Comfortably ensconced in office, insulated from any concerns but their own by the ability to set office hours and conditions for approach — and, nowadays, by “security concerns” mandating isolation from the ill-mannered and ill-intentioned mere public — the office-holder delights to find him- or herself wined, dined, and flattered by applicants, able to distribute largesse to grateful recipients at no personal cost, and boosted in ego by the gratifying ability to give orders and have minions and “constituents” scurry to comply. Sound familiar? It should. “All politics is local” is not a complimentary characterization.

Warnings to  not get cocky over poll results from many of the usual suspects apply here, in spades. The only way to end, or even modify, this vicious cycle is for people outside the [sneer]normal political process[/sneer] to get involved. That goes for lefties, too. If the stuff you like gets implemented by a corrupt process, it doesn’t advance your goals, it discredits them.

By an unexpected™ twist of fate, that might just be a realistic possibility for the first time in, well, maybe ever. “Funemployment” and business failure has left a lot of us (notably myself; please hit the tip jar) with time on our hands, and there is no better use for it than to devote it to infiltrating the haunts of the petty power-mad and pissant tyrant wannabees. It’s an opportunity, folks; when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Get involved, with your Party’s precinct organization and your City or County Government’s machinations. No, you won’t make much difference, and that can be disheartening — but if you aren’t willing to try to make some difference, you are definitely part of the problem, not part of the solution.

The elitist ruling class and the sycophants and wannabees have doubled down. No need for a linkfest here; memeorandum has a good-enough lineup. Cordoba House must be built! Justice, ethics, morality, the souls of the Founding Fathers and Martin Luther King, and the very voices of the stars demand it!

Dissenters to that Universal Opinion [haark spit] have not been few. In my little corner of the dextrosphere alone, Goldstein and friends, Dan Riehl, Collins and his co-bloggers, Patterico, and a host of others have weighed in, and I’ve provided my own commentary. Even the esteemed and well-nigh imperturbable Prof. Reynolds has reacted with some irritation. More importantly, sentiment on the issue has not budged within polling accuracies.

The result has been some remarkable screeds. One hopes, for the sake of the IT department there, that the editorialists at the New York Times don’t speak aloud as they type. Replacing keyboards and screens contaminated by floods of saliva is expensive, tedious, and gag-inducing. Thunderous, raging denunciations of the nearly three-quarters of Americans who are, in their estimation, at minimum racists and more likely despicable h8ers of All Things Good and Wonderful are the norm, closely followed by wistful, more-in-sorrow regrets that the Vision of the Founders has been so betrayed. The two sorts of polemics have in common out-of-context observations,  determination to elevate extremists to “movement leaders”, and specious reasoning that resolves after linguistic analysis to a tight little loop:

Q: Why do people oppose Cordoba House?
A: Because they’re racist haters.
Q: How can you tell they’re racist haters?
A: Because they oppose Cordoba House.

The bombastic, spittle-flecked expressions of bigotry, stereotyping, and self-elevation to positions of moral and ethical superiority neither justifiable nor defensible induce, in me, a disgusting nostalgia for the Good Old Days, when red-faced white supremacists, outraged to the point of aneurism, denounced blacks and “pointy headed liberals” in terms stylistically and logically identical, albeit using different specifics.

It is clear, now, that they have long since ceased to defend Imam Ra’uf and his supporters, and segued into defense of themselves and their pretentious self-elevation to Omniscient Arbiters of All Things Ethical and Moral. Those defenses, couched as they are in terms so insulting, dismissive, and disrespectful of the both the feelings and the rationality of Americans, do not discredit the denounced, they discredit the denouncers. The proper response to such clear examples of precisely the motives and behaviors they pretend to denounce has two forks.

Breitbart and Reynolds, among others, lead the way down one path, which is to simply ignore the self-styled Arbiters. Neither of those leaders of the dextrosphere has commented on the matter as a news or policy item recently; it’s below their notice. Breitbart does provide commentary referring to the journalistic aspects; correctly, the commenters he supports do not address the substantive question of the mosque, but the output and motivations of those accusing mosque critics of vile intent.

The response I urge upon you is the other fork: Point, jeer, and guffaw. Their “reasoning” is specious and self-referential, their conclusions cannot be reached even if the bigotry and stereotyping that substitutes for apprehension of the facts were valid, and their self-image as Good and Wise Arbiters is so obviously unjustifiable as to be laugh-worthy. If you cannot ignore it, the proper response to a New York Times editorial is simple:


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August 2010