Tuesday, February 25, 2003


I've just been named a Senior Fellow at The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. I've agreed to write two papers for the Center; one about the intersection of new technology and terror, the other about media coverage of the Global War on Terrorism.

What free time I have -- after the regular consulting work and column writing -- I plan to devote to the Center. So I'm discontinuing the blog for the time being and perhaps for good. Thanks for reading.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Vast Right Wing Blog Conspiracy

Andrew Sullivan posted an item earlier today excerpting a speech by New York Times executive editor Howell Raines. Said Mr. Raines:

"(W)e report and edit the news for our papers, but we don’t wear the political collar of our owners, or the government, or any political party. It is that legacy we must protect with our diligent stewardship. To do so means we must be aware of the energetic effort that is now underway to convince our readers that we are ideologues. It is an exercise of, in disinformation, of alarming proportions. This attempt to convince the audience of the world’s most ideology free newspapers that they're being subjected to agenda driven news reflecting a liberal bias. I don't believe our viewers and readers will be in the long-run misled by those who advocate biased journalism. But perhaps those of us who work for fair-minded publications and broadcasters have been too passive in pointing out the agendas of those who want to use journalism as a political tool, while aiming an accusing finger at those who practice balanced journalism. I believe as Coach Bryant used to say, 'The fourth quarter belongs to us.'" (emphasis added)

Does he really believe that a vast conspiracy of bloggers is making an "energetic effort" to pollute the minds of his readership with a "disinformation" campaign of "alarming proportions?" Does he really believe that The New York Times is "ideology free?" My guess is that the answer to these questions is: "yes, he really does believe that."

It's not the Twilight Zone, I suppose. But it's not reality, either. No doubt The New York Times has its enemies. But I wouldn't count among them Mickey Kaus and Glenn Reynolds and Jane Galt and Andrew Sullivan. I'd call them critics.

And what's with the Nixonian football metaphors?

The Swirl

We watch "Millionaire" as a family. We Tivo the shows off of the local CBS affiliate and watch them on weekends, playing the game along with the contestants. Sometimes we zap the ads and sometimes we don't.

So imagine our surprise when an ad for 1-800-XXX-GIRLS came up not once, not twice, but three times in between Meredith Viera sets. In its heyday, CBS was known as the Tiffany Network. Now it peddles phone sex on a family show. Not to worry, though. In its most recent survey of America's "most admired companies," Fortune magazine found Viacom "best in its category." It's in the new issue. You can look it up.

And weren't the Grammys, another Tiffany Network production, special? I found Eminem's acceptance speech a bit jarring, given that many of the people he thanked had been gunned down, gangland style, victims (if you can call them that) of Rap Gang Wars. Eminem's security detail at Madison Square Garden made President Bush's Secret Service detail seem small by comparison, both in physical size and in number. Eminem travels in a bullet-proof car. He wears a hood over his head when he goes from Point A to Point B. He does not do this because he is paranoid. He does this because when he is out in public he stands a fair chance of being assassinated. People like Sir Howard Stringer of Sony depend on people like Eminem to deliver unto Wall Street what Wall Street demands.

Who cares if the Rap World glorifies rape and mayhem and murder? And that it can lead to all those things, as surely as tobacco can lead to cancer. Former AOL Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin suffered pangs of conscience when his son, a schoolteacher, was killed by some loser whose pathetic existence was in no small measure guided by Rap. But no one else ever seemed to mind. The Levin murder got a lot of coverage. Some of the big-name Rapper killings have garnered press. But ordinary black-on-black violence is the news media's idea of not news. You can't sell that in suburbia.

What you can sell in suburbia is porno girls, as reported today in The New York Times. Pony, an "edgy" brand (is there any other kind?), has taken to marketing its products to teenagers and young men with pictures of Vivid Girls; whose best work can be purchased behind the curtain at a video rental store. There are magazines out there that would never run these ads. But there are as many that will run them without a second thought.

Don't you wonder where all this is going? Is there a place where it stops?

Where is Iraq?

Well, it turns out that this item:

Secretary of State Colin Powell recently was approached by an Iraqi newspaper reporter and accusingly asked "Isn't it true that only 13 percent of young Americans can locate Iraq on a map?" Secretary Powell stopped, turned, and stated "Yes, it's true. But, unfortunately for you, all 13 percent are Marines."

is not true. Sorry about that. I got it from a friend at the WSJ and now that I think about it, I should have known better.