Supporting the Liberal Media

You asked why I said “support” various media outlets when it’s just a subscription and here’s my best answer.

By subscribing and paying money for media you are directly supporting the work they do.  The NYTimes, Guardian, Wasthington Post, and Boston Globe, and many other establishments work very hard to provide useful and insightful information to the population of the world.  Most obtain the majority of operating costs via advertising, but by subscribing not only do you get perks like access to their archives and in some cases like Slate’s Prudence column, you get fun things to read ahead of others.  By being a subscriber you are also showing your support of the serious work these news outlets do.  That in itself is way to find your own voice and to better understand the world around you.  

Then there is the added bonus of not having to hear about the world from talking heads.  The days of Cronkite, Rather and Jennings are long gone.  They have been replaced by talking heads that only care about ratings.  Much like Max Headroom, these talking heads serve only to feed you what the sponsors wish for you to know.  Those sponsors are those who also wish to control the state and they do so by donating generously to politicians.  Think I’m crazy?  Take a look at what advertisers show up next time you watch the 6pm local/national news block.  How many of those corporations are donors to politicians?  An easy way to find out is to just do a web search.  Random example: see an advert for Brawny paper towels?  That means the Koch brothers have approved that news station. 

And let us not forget the narrative frame work of the original TV Series Max Headroom “In the future, an oligarchy of television networks rules the world. Even the government functions primarily as a puppet of the network executives, serving mainly to pass laws — such as banning “off” switches on televisions — that protect and consolidate the networks’ power. Television technology has advanced to the point that viewers’ physical movements and thoughts can be monitored through their television sets. Almost all non-television technology has been discontinued or destroyed. The only real check on the power of the networks is Edison Carter, a crusading investigative journalist who regularly exposes the unethical practices of his own employer, and the team of allies both inside and outside the system who assist him in getting his reports to air and protecting him from the forces that wish to silence or kill him.”  

If you get your “news” fed to you by a talking head with heavy rations of adverts at regular intervals you aren’t really engaging and thus you aren’t absorbing useful information.  Sure you may have a vague knowledge that priests in Boston systemically abused young children but you will not know the details of what happened to whom and how it all came to the public’s attention.  (Of course with the Oscars winning documentary _Spot Light_ millions are now aware of the role the Boston Globe played in bringing this very important story to the world’s attention.)  Yet there are many such ground breaking stories that simply cannot be covered by a 30 or 60 second interval–and that is all network news gives us now.  

Then there is the matter of those network news programs.  They are formulaic down to the last detail.  Each story has the same pacing and overall arc.  Something happened, a reporter is on the scene, maybe they cut to an interview with citizen John or Jane, a question is asked and left to linger, more footage of the event is shown and some closing statement is made.  Back in the station the talking head reads a few news items, if it is a two person team they banter back and forth good naturedly.  Then they tell you what is coming up next after the commercial break.  Cut to a few minutes of commercials complete with promos for what is coming up next on the national news.  Then back to the talking heads with perhaps some weather and sports. Finally a human interest story if there’s time or perhaps a serious attempt at investigative journalism—maybe tonight it’s about a slum lord who is being taken to court.  All told though you just spent 30 minutes of your life watching a lot of commercials and learning very little about the world.  You could have picked up a news paper or gone to a news website and spent half that time and come away more informed—and not subjected to 10 minutes of commercials.  

At the end of the day it comes down to a simple question, do you directly benefit from media outlets such as the Boston Globe, Washington Post, NPR and many others?  Yes, yes you do.  Even if you do not read every section of the Sunday Times or you just peruse a copy of The Atlantic, if you read their reporting you become more informed about the world around you.  When you become more informed you yourself are better able to make connections between various points of information instead of relying on talking heads telling you what to think.  When you become more informed you become more selective about what you read and watch.  Case in point, I won’t even go to a clickbait site that tries to entice me with some celebrity gossip story, nor would I ever read an article from the ultra-conservative Washington Times without reminding myself that it is backed by the Unification Church and thus has an agenda of its own.  Thus as you read and become more informed, you understand why nonpartisan, liberal media (using the definition of liberal as “Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry”) is so important.  Then even if you do not support such institutions directly via subscriptions you understand that the work these journalists do is integral to having a free society.  

We are lucky.  We have some the financial ability to subscribe, so we support the following media outlets:  The New York Times, The New Yorker, Slate, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, The Washing Post, The Boston Globe, The Guardian, and NPR/PBS.  

—-I wrote this originally to send to my father who found my use of the word “support” instead of subscription jarring.  Much like a guy I met while overnighting up in Sausalito couldn’t get over my use of the word partner to describe my heterosexual conforming relationship in which we have been together for 10 years but are not married.

Social Media and Propaganda

A few days ago a friend posted a link to a story about the Standing Rock protest site that and how the tribe is working to clean up the mess left behind by the many protesters who have since left.  (

I piped up and said I found it interesting that I couldn’t find other non-fox or alt-right sites carrying the story.  Said friend found the original AP story ( and I read and compared.  I found it very interesting that both articles talk specifically about how the tribe is dealing with the mess and that one of the contributing factors was and still is the harsh weather.  The AP article was posted 1/31 and it reads logically as straight news, but the Fox one from 2/2, as it is merely a transcript, reads frenetically and makes far less sense.

When I see a post by a friend on FB, I often read the linked article.  I then ask why does the person who shared this think it is worth reading and I look for other sources covering the story.  In this case, all the sites I first found buried the first story and were heavily biased treating the subject mater in a disparaging manner:  effectively also saying “look at these hypocrites.”  Then I found another series of articles reporting that 76 Standing Rock protestors were arrested on Wednesday (2/1) .

Then I started thinking.  Of the two issues: people still protesting the now approved pipeline and being arrest, or the fact that the tribe is handling the cleanup on their own, which is more important in the long term?  Yet, in the case of my friend, which issue was brought to their attention by network surfing habits?  If you haven’t seen/read or heard of the article over at which covers exactly how our media consumption habits serve to strengthen and not challenge our preconceptions you really should.

Then there is the matter of the loaded words that were used when my friend posted the original link.  The keyed in to the derogatory feel of the original article and then when questioned about used the term “left” to disparage main stream media.  This made me sad.

The definition of liberal which is now a synonym for left: (

adj. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.

adj. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.

Add to this now the 20 year history of the demonization of mainstream (now considered left) media and the rise of what is essentially the post-truth era where alternative facts abound.  A lot has been written and discussed regarding these, but I’ll just push forward two items regarding them for reading.

First the salient points made in an interview of Charlie Sykes (a “conservative” media member/radio show host) back in August of 2016:
And the NYT op-ed he wrote on the same topic:

From the later perhaps the best quote is actually a requote:
“The Russian dissident and chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov drew upon long familiarity with that process when he tweeted: “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.”

My take away from the exchange is that everyone should ask themselves is a news story you read really worth commenting upon and sharing?  Regardless whether it is valid and not fake news, how important is said issue in the long view?  How biased is the source you are sharing?  Are you buying into another facet of a propaganda machine designed to divide, exhaust, and conquer?  Are there twenty there more important issues about which you personally care more?

I personally think much of our time would be spent pursuing two things:  first look at a lot of cute cat videos, then go read up on the many view points and stories surrounding say the current immigration ban which deeply affects many people, myself included.  Then after you read and digested as much as you can, share the best article and include your own thoughts on the matter and why you think said article is worth reading. Then go find some more cute animal videos to watch.

Social Media Challenge

As the New Year approaches and I try to clean up my to-do list of all the not quite done stuff, I noticed that yesterday FB suddenly became more interesting.  People stopped reposting so much random crap and click-bait Instead they were generating their own content.  It was very pleasant and I think we need more of this.  To that end, my “NY Resolutions” will be to limit the amount of crap content sharing I do and to increase the amount of meaningful content I create.

I will thus make it my habit to:

A) Post at most five links to something someone else has created/posted/shared per week.

B) Refrain from any selfie taking unless said selfie is integral to a crafted post* (i.e. I will write a short description of why I am posting this image.  Is it a shot of Agent Smith and I riding on a tractor?  I will tell you why we’re on the tractor and include any other pertinent details.)

C) Vacation posts will be exempt from rule B, but that still doesn’t mean self-editing isn’t important. Thus only ONE picture of me holding a giant octopus/space alien/dangerously sharp instrument of torture/etc will be posted.

D) Make constructive updates: IE I will not post “I hate life and that Darth Vader Wannabe”.  I will instead include a short description of whats going on in life and thus avoid the whole passive/aggressive attention seeking ploy which is only resolved after 5 people comment/ask what is going on before I finally respond.  (Of course if I have been posting regular about job  interviews and one morning I make a short post that “I can hardly contain myself!” friends will understand, but that’s because context already exists.)

E) If I find humor or discover something thought provoking out there in that big expansive world, or if I myself create something humorous or thought provoking, I will share it and not expect any of my friends to comment and pat me on the back for my awesomeness.

F) Try to encourage friends to do the all of the above as well as let’s face it, the people I really enjoy connecting with on social media are the friends who do more than share boiled cabbage recipes, post the same funny videos that  five other friends just reposted, and take stupid “Which Harry Potter Broomstick are You” quizzes.  I, and I suspect many others, like reading about each other’s lives and trying to connect with far flung friends and acquaintances. So instead of bemoaning the death of hand written letters and the commodification of our personal lives, I will thus accept the state of things and technology in a constructive fashion.

* By crated I mean actually taking a few moments to formulate my thoughts so that any friend/contact reading said post will not have to ask for clarification.