Later On

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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

The New York Times Is in the Tank for Crypto

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I’ve noticed this, too. The NY Times rather too often has feet of clay — the effects of privilege and poor priorities (“access is everything” does not provide good guidance). Robert Kuttner writes in The American Prospect:

In a recent post, I noted in passing the oddly soft coverage of the collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried in The New York Times. The Times managed to compare the woes of FTX to a bank run, to blame Bankman-Fried’s competitors for undermining his credibility, and to take his professed charitable intent at face value.

Since I wrote, the Times coverage has only gotten worse.

A piece on the interconnections between Bankman-Fried’s exchange (FTX) and the investment company he controlled (Alameda) soft-pedaled the outright illegality of his making trades with customer funds. To hear the Times tell it, “Alameda’s need for funds to run its trading business was a big reason Mr. Bankman-Fried created FTX in 2019. But the way the two entities were set up meant that trouble in one unit shook up the other as crypto prices began to drop in the spring.”

But that’s not what happened. When customers demanded their money, Fried didn’t have it, because he had been using it and losing it, illegally, for his own trades.

And this: “Alameda’s methods borrowed many aspects from traditional high finance. It was a quantitative trading firm, similar to Wall Street hedge funds that use mathematical models and data to inform decisions. It used ‘leverage’—or borrowed money—to fuel its trades and make bigger returns.”

Note the alibis, and the passive voice. The subhead tells the reader “things got out of control,” as in Nixon’s infamous “mistakes were made.” The comparable Wall Street Journal piece ran rings around the Times version, explaining the interlocks and the sheer illegality.

More from Robert Kuttner

But the most appalling recent Times piece was . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 November 2022 at 4:58 pm

Media-opoly

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From a Mastodon post:

Aired only once in 1998 on the live SNL show for which it was written and effectively banned and never aired again.

I wonder why.

Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2022 at 3:11 pm

Demographic Cleansing Of Ad Industry

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An interesting post in the Ad Contrarian:

A milestone in marketing stupidity has been reached.

According to a September report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor, a majority of consumer spending (51%) is now done by people over 50.

These people are the target for 10% of marketing activity.

On the other hand, marketers spend five times as much money marketing to millennials, the moronic obsession of every marketer on the planet, than any other group.

How can such obvious stupidity exist? The answer is in the unapologetic malpractice and bigotry of the marketing and advertising industries.

There is almost no one over 50 left in the advertising business. They have been the target of demographic cleansing — and eliminated from agencies.

The result is a generation of advertising people with enormous self-regard and no hint as to the true nature of “the consumer” they are all so sure they know everything about.

The ugly truth is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2022 at 4:59 pm

The depth of the damage and corruption due to Donald Trump and his enablers is coming to light

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Heather Cox Richardson provides a brief summary of what is emerging from the various investigations into what the Trump administration did:

Today the Biden administration opened the website to apply for relief from student debt, a policy that is expected to benefit 43 million Americans directly and others tangentially as debt relief frees up family resources. The administration also announced that the Food and Drug Administration’s final rule concerning Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy went into effect today, making hearing aids available over the counter and thereby lowering costs for the devices by as much as $3,000 a pair.

The administration has also recently achieved a historic diplomatic victory by brokering an agreement between Israel and Lebanon, two countries that have been formally at war since 1948, to establish a maritime boundary.

But all that news got drowned out by the continuing drama coming from the Republican Party. As Republican political strategist Sarah Longwell wrote in The Bulwark today, the Republican Party is facing an “extinction event,” having been taken over by former president Trump to become the right-wing MAGA Party. As Longwell wrote, “In the Republican party as it is currently constituted, political power emanates completely and totally from Donald Trump.”

Longwell explains that Republicans have been stuck in a “Triangle of Doom,” in which Republican base voters want their media to confirm their biases. Fringe media outlets confirming those biases gain traction. In order to reach voters, Republican politicians have to go on those fringe outlets, and that, in turn, normalizes fringe media. Over time, this triangle radicalized the party until 70% of Republicans now believe the lie that Democratic president Joe Biden didn’t win the 2020 election.

“Say goodnight,” she writes. “The party’s over.” All but the MAGA Republicans have left. “The Good Republicans are gone,” Longwell writes. “Probably for good.”

Today, Fox Nation began a mock trial of Hunter Biden, with reality TV personality Judge Joe Brown saying that “something’s way wrong here, way wrong,” and suggesting that the legal investigations into Trump and the lack of them into the Bidens give the appearance that Trump and Biden “don’t live in the same country.”

Hunter Biden is not in the government, of course, and is not under indictment; Trump and the Trump Organization are embroiled in a number of lawsuits that suggest the former president and his associates saw government service not as a way to improve American lives but as a way to make money. Ginning up a show trial for Hunter Biden seems an attempt to rile up the base and undercut the many legal issues in the news concerning the former president. But such a show trial is also a fundamental rejection of the rule of law, suggesting that the law is simply a political tool to use against enemies rather than a body of laws before which we are all treated equally.

There is a reason Trump supporters are trying to undermine the rule of law. In New York, Trump’s wealthy friend and financial backer Thomas Barrack is on trial for selling his access to Trump to the leaders of the United Arab Emirates in exchange for investment money. The U.S. government says that Barrack fed confidential information to UAE leaders while permitting them to shape Trump’s speeches and policies. In the first three years of Trump’s term, Saudi Arabia and the UAE invested about $1.5 billion in Barrack’s real estate company.

In Northern Virginia the trial of Igor Danchenko for making false statements to the FBI, led by John Durham and other holdovers from the Trump Justice Department, suggests the Trump administration played fast and loose with national security in an attempt to undermine the Russia investigation. Witnesses in the trial have testified that  . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

18 October 2022 at 3:58 am

What counts as a bestseller?

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The question here seems closely related to the previous post, another example of “What do we know? and how do we know it?”

Aside: Some things we know because (a) someone told us and (b) we decided to believe it — and language usage is very much like that. For example, I read long ago, probably in Fowler, that “?” and “!” are marks of intonation, and thus do not necessarily end a sentence (as does, for example, “.”). Thus, to show intonation, instead of “Do you want coffee or tea?”, one can write “Do you want coffee? or tea?” (In that example, “or” is not capitalized because it clearly does not begin a sentence.) I was told that “data” is the plural of “datum,” and I decided to believe it, so I write (and say) things like “The data show…” and not “The data shows…”)

As Jordan Pruet explains at PublicBooks.org, “bestsellers” are not, as one might think, the books most frequently purchased. He writes:

In 1983, William Blatty—author of The Exorcist—sued the New York Times.1 His lawsuit alleged that the Times had incorrectly excluded his latest novel, Legion (a sequel to The Exorcist), from its bestseller list—the coveted ranking that purports to show the books that have sold the most copies that week in the United States. According to Blatty’s lawyers, Legion had sold enough copies to warrant a spot on the list, so its absence was due to negligence or fraud, for which Blatty was entitled to compensation. The Times countered with what might sound like a surprising admission: the bestseller list is not mathematically objective; it is editorial content, which is protected by the First Amendment. The court ruled in favor of the New York Times.

The Blatty case draws attention to a fundamental truth about bestseller lists, one that often gets forgotten amid the drama of their weekly publication: they are not a neutral window into what the public is really reading. Rather, they reflect editorial decisions about how and what to count. Changes on the list might reflect changes in counting procedure, rather than changes in the market. Despite their lack of neutrality—or, perhaps, because of it—these editorial and counting decisions can have a big effect on which books and authors get the honor of appearing on the list; in turn, they shape the public’s perception of what it is reading and what it should consider reading next.

In this piece, I want to explore one way such decisions have affected the Times list over its almost 90-year publication history: the separation of sales by book format (hardcover, paperback). In the 1950s and 1960s, the fact that the Times exclusively publicized hardcover sales meant that some of the most popular novelists of the time rarely appeared on the list, because they made most of their sales in paperback. Today, the Times publishes distinct lists for different formats, and the content of these lists often reflects status hierarchies associated with different genres and communities of readers.

It turns out, then, that “bestseller” is a more complicated category than you might at first think. Though its name seems to refer to something very straightforward, there are all sorts of weird historical factors and counting choices that affect whether a book might make the cut. Given the influence of the Times list, it’s worth examining the effects of the choices made when assembling it, and what they can tell us about the kinds of information about books we consider valuable.


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The occasion for this analysis is the recent publication of . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2022 at 1:09 pm

Republicans cannot grasp reality

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Republicans have for so long been estranged from reality that they are now unable to recognize it. Example.

Written by Leisureguy

5 October 2022 at 12:35 pm

Gift links not so good as I thought

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I just learned that gift links expire after two weeks. I thought they were permanent. Now I find my posts are sprinkled with links that work only for subscribers. Rats.

Written by Leisureguy

3 October 2022 at 11:30 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Media

Israeli Forces Deliberately Killed Palestinian American Journalist, Report Shows

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Israel too often disproportionately reacts to provocations — for example, by murdering a journalist who reports on the problems Palestinians face. Alice Speri reports in the Intercept:

Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed by Israeli forces in May while reporting from the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, was deliberately and repeatedly targeted, along with her colleagues, despite being clearly identified as a member of the press, a new report released Tuesday concludes.

The report, a collaboration between Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq and the U.K.-based research agency Forensic Architecture, confirms the findings of half a dozen earlier independent reviews of the incident, including by the United Nations, which have found that Israeli forces were responsible for Abu Akleh’s killing, with the U.N. noting that the bullet that killed her was “well aimed.” But the new report, which includes a detailed digital reconstruction of the incident based on previously unseen footage recorded by Al Jazeera staff at the scene, in addition to witness testimony, open-source video, and a drone survey of the area, offers the most conclusive account yet of what transpired that day.

The report directly contradicts the final conclusions of a review by Israeli authorities issued earlier this month, in which officials conceded there was a “high possibility” that Abu Akleh was “accidentally hit by [Israel Defense Forces] gunfire.” In that report, Israeli officials claimed that the IDF soldiers were firing toward “suspects identified as armed Palestinian gunmen, during an exchange of fire in which life-risking, widespread and indiscriminate shots were fired toward IDF soldiers.”

But the new reconstruction clearly shows that there were neither armed gunmen nor shots fired in the minutes leading up to Abu Akleh’s killing. Instead, the reconstruction shows that Abu Akleh’s and her colleagues’ “PRESS” insignia was clearly visible from the position of the IDF shooter; that the shooter had a “clear line of fire,” indicating “precise aim”; and that the firing continued as the journalists sought shelter. After Abu Akleh was hit, a civilian attempting to provide aid to her was fired upon each time he tried to approach her.

“This is literally the last nail in the coffin of what the army is arguing,” the Forensic Architecture researcher in charge of the investigation, who asked not to be named because of fear for their safety when working in the region, told The Intercept.

“We can prove conclusively that there was no one — zero persons — in between the occupation forces and Shireen,” they added. “There were no bullets, in sound or visually, so it’s not that the army was responding to anything. We can also show using visibility analysis that we’ve done in our model, that the shooting only happened when they were within the visible range of the army, which means that it was fully intentional.”

The IDF did not immediately respond to questions about how the new evidence contradicts its claims.  . . .

Continue reading.

Once again, we see an organization and a military deliberately trying to cover up a bad thing (in this case, the unprovoked murder of a journalist).

See also:

Written by Leisureguy

23 September 2022 at 3:45 pm

“What I Learned About Media Rage After Getting Fired From Fox”

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Chris Stirewalt, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and previously political editor of Fox News Channel, writes in Politico:

My first meeting in Roger Ailes’ boardroom of doom was on Election Day 2010.

At the time, I was the network’s new political editor. Republicans were poised to deliver a serious walloping to President Barack Obama and roll back the Democrats’ doughty majorities in both houses of Congress. The GOP was in a position to score major wins in governors’ mansions and statehouses from coast to coast.

The second floor of the News Corp headquarters on Sixth Avenue in New York was a hive of excited optimism. With Republicans looking forward to big wins, we knew viewership would be enormous that night. I was invited to the regular afternoon executive meeting for the first time so I could lay out the expectations we had on the Decision Desk and the politics team for what would transpire that night. I had only been with the company for about four months, and I was sweating it hard as I sat there at the far end from Ailes at a conference table roughly the size of a World War II aircraft carrier. The meeting was packed. Not only were executives from New York crowding in, but people like my boss Bill Sammon, who would have ordinarily joined the afternoon meeting by phone, were attending in person.

It felt like a steam bath in there, and I was running on about two hours of sleep and too many energy drinks. I had been up all night finishing the cards that we would use on the desk and the anchors would use on-air for quick reference guides on each race. They all had to be perfect (they still weren’t), but I couldn’t make my colleagues look foolish quoting my bad data. Plus, these were the five-inch by eight-inch little life rafts that I could hold on to as I tried to run the rapids of the many, many calls we were going to have to make that night. How many Republican votes in 2004 in Ozaukee County? When did the incumbent win his first term? What did the last polls say? Didn’t her husband used to have that seat?

After four straight days and nights of data obsession and rehearsals, I had to now appear to be a normal human in front of a room full of New Yorkers to whom I assume I appeared to be a sweaty bumpkin.

By the way, TV networks rehearse election nights with dummy numbers. The Decision Desk makes calls based on the pretend results to simulate the workflow and pinch points of the big night. If you’re making 100 calls, the hours between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. are bound to be chaotic. Then the election night team uses the practice calls to test the graphics, lighting, anchor and guest positions, and communications. After six cycles of working with that crew at Fox, we really learned how to make it hum by the end of my time at the network. But in 2010, I was clueless.

So there I was, exhausted, tweaking on taurine and looking around the room at people who had been with the company from the beginning. I was feeling very self-conscious. There was even one guy who dyed the temples of his hair white like Paulie Walnuts from The Sopranos. The smell of aftershave and coffee was making me queasy. But I was the only one feeling that way.

The mood was jocular, and Ailes was having fun doing what he liked best in the world: busting balls. The language of Fox News in those days was definitely locker-room swagger. Men and women alike tried to match Ailes’s tough-guy energy. His top lieutenant, Bill Shine, carried it off perfectly. He grew up on Long Island, the son of a police officer. Shine didn’t talk too much, but he made the words count. And like Ailes, he never missed a chance to crack on someone, usually in an avuncular way. Razzing people over their teams, their neighborhoods or whatever was at hand was the language of belonging on Ailes’s crew. Bill O’Reilly was the avatar for these folks: suburban New York, Roman Catholic, traditional values but not necessarily socially conservative — the New York Post, not the New York Times.

I was definitely out of place. I had never been to New York as an adult until I started going up for Fox. I knew about as much about the TV business as a horse knows about making a saddle. It’s possible I was wearing a bow tie. As the execs went around the table offering the boss their updates, I rehearsed my lines in my head. Sammon teed me up, and I started racing through time zones and expected times for calls and generic ballot trends until Ailes interrupted to say, “What’s your number?”

The number, of course, was how many seats I forecast Republicans to win that night. “Our best guess is 64 seats, sir.” Ailes, mouth set like a bulldog and eyes staring through the back of my head, said, “Dick Morris says it could be one hundred. Why is yours so low?”

I figured Ailes, a smart man, knew that Morris, a network contributor at the time, was a joke. Morris had not yet reached the comic heights in his pronouncements that he would in 2012 and beyond, but the former Clinton advisor turned Republican Pollyanna was already pretty clearly making stuff up.

In 1874, after Republicans lost the whole South at the end of Reconstruction and during a financial panic and with a scandal-plagued GOP administration in the White House, they lost 96 seats. Obamacare was unpopular and all, but there just weren’t enough competitive seats on the post-1994 map to make such a number possible.

Morris said goofy stuff like that, I assumed, because it got him on TV. Sean Hannity in particular would bring Morris on to say that the red wave was a Krakatoa-sized tsunami that would change politics forever. They, and some other analysts who I previously thought were more principled and smarter than Morris, used the same routine for the 2012 presidential election. That time they made preposterous claims not only that Mitt Romney was obviously going to win, but that it would be by a landslide. The best I could say for Romney in that cycle was that he had a path to a narrow victory by picking off a couple of Blue Wall states if he could turn things around in Ohio, where he had been sucking wind all summer. But a landslide? Pish posh.

That 100-seat number in 2010 was just hype to juice ratings, and Ailes had to know that. Right? He was messing with the new guy. Right?

But I wasn’t sure. I didn’t say what I thought: Morris is feasting on the carcass of journalism like a lamprey eel on a dead nurse shark. But maybe Ailes believed the hype. I instead carefully explained how I had worked with the all-stars in our then-great Brainroom to check every seat and every estimate to make sure we were on the money. Ailes left me with “You’d better hope you’re right …” and I walked out in the herd of suits in a haze.

I had just disputed the maximum leader of Fox News and talked down Republican chances in a room full of people flying high on the thought of a ratings bonanza. I would eventually learn to say what I was thinking, lampreys and all. It served you better with Ailes, who in those days appreciated honest disagreement on his team. It was partly his scorpions-in-a-bottle management style, but also that he genuinely seemed to think it was better to air out disagreements. Bust balls or be busted.

I sat on those House races like a mother hen all night until  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 September 2022 at 6:36 pm

How the Right operates

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From a reference given in the Heather Cox Richardson column in the previous post:

Click the link and read the thread.

Written by Leisureguy

5 September 2022 at 9:45 pm

Free Speech on Trial

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Matt Stoller writes in Big:

Today’s issue is about how a subtle form of speech control works in 21st century America, as seen through two ongoing antitrust cases. The first is a merger trial where the government is trying to block the combination of publishing giants Penguin/Random House and Simon & Schuster, and the second is a lawsuit where conservative video service Rumble is suing Google for monopolization.

In both, dominant firms are trying to gain or protect market power, and in doing so, end up with too much power over the public square. It’s not intentional, but monopoly power fosters centralized control of what we can discuss.

Speech and Concentration Creep

In the 1998 romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks star as two business rivals who hate each other in ‘real life’ but connect and fall in love anonymously over the internet. Hanks plays Joe Fox, a tycoon who owns a Barnes and Nobles-style corporate book chain, trying to crush the small store owned by Kathleen Kelly, played by Meg Ryan. After a noisy but adorably silly protest, the movie ends with Kelly losing her store, but getting Tom Hanks as a soulmate. It’s a delightful film, a Nora Ephron-written classic.

What’s interesting about this movie from an anti-monopolist standpoint, however, is not the romance, but the politics. The movie is almost aggressively apathetic about concentrations of power. We tend to look at corporate concentration as a relatively recent phenomenon. Big tech emerged in force in the 2000s, that’s when offshoring to China happened in force, and the key major ruling ending monopolization cases didn’t occur until 2004. But here’s a movie showing that almost 25 years ago, before all that, consolidation was so well-known as to be a relatively unremarked central plot element of a popular film.

You’ve Got Mail is also a movie about a specific industry, publishing. Indeed, in many ways, the book industry has been a canary in the coal mine for concentration in the American economy. Books were the very first industry dominated by Amazon, but it isn’t just the retail giant. Every part of the book business, from retail stores to distribution to printing to retail to audio and ebooks to publishing houses, has been consolidating for decades. In the movie Tom Hanks is kind and charming; in real life, Barnes and Nobles used its power over shelf space to act as the industry bully, until Jeff Bezos came along and turned market power into performance art. Then, ten years ago, Penguin and Random House merged, allowed by the Obama administration’s antitrust enforcers. The book business is an increasingly cruel and lawless world, not a romantic one. . .

Continue reading. Interesting stuff.

Written by Leisureguy

10 August 2022 at 11:44 am

Norman Lear: “On My 100th Birthday, Reflections on Archie Bunker and Donald Trump”

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Norman Lear writes in the NY Times (gift link, no paywall):

Well, I made it. I am 100 years old today. I wake up every morning grateful to be alive.

Reaching my own personal centennial is cause for a bit of reflection on my first century — and on what the next century will bring for the people and country I love. To be honest, I’m a bit worried that I may be in better shape than our democracy is.

I was deeply troubled by the attack on Congress on Jan. 6, 2021 — by supporters of former President Donald Trump attempting to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. Those concerns have only grown with every revelation about just how far Mr. Trump was willing to go to stay in office after being rejected by voters — and about his ongoing efforts to install loyalists in positions with the power to sway future elections.

I don’t take the threat of authoritarianism lightly. As a young man, I dropped out of college when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and joined the U.S. Army Air Forces. I flew more than 50 missions in a B-17 bomber to defeat fascism consuming Europe. I am a flag-waving believer in truth, justice and the American way, and I don’t understand how so many people who call themselves patriots can support efforts to undermine our democracy and our Constitution. It is alarming.

At the same time, I have been moved by the courage of the handful of conservative Republican lawmakers, lawyers and former White House staffers who resisted Mr. Trump’s bullying. They give me hope that Americans can find unexpected common ground with friends and family whose politics differ but who are not willing to sacrifice core democratic principles.

Encouraging that kind of conversation was a goal of mine when we began broadcasting “All in the Family” in 1971. The kinds of topics Archie Bunker and his family argued about — issues that were dividing Americans from one another, such as racism, feminism, homosexuality, the Vietnam War, and Watergate — were certainly being talked about in homes and families. They just weren’t being acknowledged on television.

For all his faults, Archie loved his country and he loved his family, even when they called him out on his ignorance and bigotries. If Archie had been around 50 years later, he probably would have watched Fox News. He probably would have been a Trump voter. But I think that the sight of the American flag being used to attack Capitol Police would have sickened him. I hope that the resolve shown by Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, and their commitment to exposing the truth, would have won his respect.

It is remarkable to consider that  . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

27 July 2022 at 12:43 pm

The audacious PR plot that seeded doubt about climate change

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Dishonesty and bad faith are endemic in business and politics — and doubtless in all large swaths of human relations — and those will be what will destroy us. Ignoring reality is a strategy for failure because reality endures.

Jane McMullen reports for BBC News:

Thirty years ago, a bold plan was cooked up to spread doubt and persuade the public that climate change was not a problem. The little-known meeting – between some of America’s biggest industrial players and a PR genius – forged a devastatingly successful strategy that endured for years, and the consequences of which are all around us.

On an early autumn day in 1992, E Bruce Harrison, a man widely acknowledged as the father of environmental PR, stood up in a room full of business leaders and delivered a pitch like no other.

At stake was a contract worth half a million dollars a year – about £850,000 in today’s money. The prospective client, the Global Climate Coalition (GCC) – which represented the oil, coal, auto, utilities, steel, and rail industries – was looking for a communications partner to change the narrative on climate change.

Don Rheem and Terry Yosie, two of Harrison’s team present that day, are sharing their stories for the first time.

“Everybody wanted to get the Global Climate Coalition account,” says Rheem, “and there I was, smack in the middle of it.”

The GCC had been conceived only three years earlier, as a forum for members to exchange information and lobby policy makers against action to limit fossil fuel emissions.

Though scientists were making rapid progress in understanding climate change, and it was growing in salience as a political issue, in its first years the Coalition saw little cause for alarm. President George HW Bush was a former oilman, and as a senior lobbyist told the BBC in 1990, his message on climate was the GCC’s message.

There would be no mandatory fossil fuel reductions.

But all that changed in 1992. In June, the international community created a framework for climate action, and November’s presidential election brought committed environmentalist Al Gore into the White House as vice-president. It was clear the new administration would try to regulate fossil fuels.

The Coalition recognised that it needed strategic communications help and put out a bid for a public relations contractor.

Though few outside the PR industry might have heard of E Bruce Harrison or the eponymous company he had run since 1973, he had a string of campaigns for some of the US’s biggest polluters under his belt.

He had worked for the chemical industry discrediting research on the toxicity of pesticides; for the tobacco industry, and had recently run a campaign against tougher emissions standards for the big car makers. Harrison had built a firm that was considered one of the very best.

Media historian Melissa Aronczyk, who interviewed Harrison before he died in 2021, says he was a strategic linchpin for his clients, ensuring everyone was on the same page.

“He was a master at what he did,” she says.

Before the pitch, Harrison had assembled a team of both seasoned PR professionals and almost total novices. Among them was Don Rheem, who had no industry credentials. He had studied ecology before becoming an environmental journalist. A chance meeting with Harrison, who must have seen the strategic value of adding Rheem’s environmental and media connections to the team, led to a job offer on the GCC pitch.

“I thought, ‘Wow, this is an opportunity to get a front row seat at probably one of the most pressing science policy and public policy issues that we were facing.’

“It just felt enormously important,” Rheem says.

Terry Yosie – who had recently been recruited from the American Petroleum Institute, becoming a senior vice-president at the firm – remembers that Harrison began the pitch by reminding his audience that he was instrumental in fighting the auto reforms. He had done so, in part, by reframing the issue.

The same tactics would now help beat climate regulation. They would persuade people that the scientific facts weren’t settled, and that alongside the environment, policy makers needed to consider how action on climate change would – in the GCC’s view – negatively affect American jobs, trade and prices.

The strategy would be implemented through an extensive media campaign, everything from placing quotes and pitching opinion pieces (so-called op-eds), to direct contacts with journalists. . .

Continue reading. The report includes a link to a video, which can be viewed only in the UK, that provides more information:

Big Oil v the World

Drawing on thousands of newly discovered documents, this three-part film charts how the oil industry mounted a campaign to sow doubt about the science of climate change, the consequences of which we are living through today.

Watch now on BBC iPlayer (UK Only)

It is thanks to the efforts of such PR professionals and the industries that funded them that we face the climate catastrophe that is our future.

A quotation commonly attributed to Vladimir Lenin (though not found in any of his works): “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which to hang them.” Though Lenin may not have written or said those words, it certainly seems true that capitalists will embrace their own destruction so long as they make money from it. In this, they resemble alcoholics who embraces illness and death so long as they can drink, cigarette smokers who continue smoking even while fighting lung cancer, and gambling addicts who will continue to play until all their money is gone and their credit is exhausted and their lives are ruined. In other words, capitalists are addicts who are willing to destroy anything for their fix, and now they are well on their way to destroying our livable world.

Written by Leisureguy

25 July 2022 at 10:04 am

The Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh: Tracing a Bullet to an Israeli Convoy

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Raja Abdulrahim, Patrick Kingsley, Christiaan Triebert, and Hiba Yazbek have a compelling (and chilling) report (gift link, no paywall) in the NY Times:

The journalists thought they were safe.

Several blocks away, a gunfight between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian men had just stopped. Hoping to interview witnesses, the group of reporters headed down the street toward an Israeli military convoy. Among them was Shireen Abu Akleh, a veteran Palestinian-American television correspondent.

Suddenly, six bullets flew toward them, and they ran for cover. Ms. Abu Akleh crouched next to a carob tree.

Seven more shots rang out.

“Is anyone injured?” a bystander, Sleem Awad, yelled, before seeing Ms. Abu Akleh slumped facedown on the ground. “Shireen! Shireen!” he shouted, having recognized the well-known journalist. “Oh man, Shireen!”

Palestinian officials said Ms. Abu Akleh was intentionally killed early on May 11 in the West Bank city of Jenin by an Israeli soldier. Israeli officials said a soldier might have shot her by mistake but also suggested that she might have been killed by a Palestinian gunman. The Israeli Army’s preliminary investigation concluded that it was “not possible to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire.”

A monthlong investigation by The New York Times found that the bullet that killed Ms. Abu Akleh was fired from the approximate location of the Israeli military convoy, most likely by a soldier from an elite unit.

The evidence reviewed by The Times showed that there were no armed Palestinians near her when she was shot. It contradicted Israeli claims that, if a soldier had mistakenly killed her, it was because he had been shooting at a Palestinian gunman.

The Times investigation also showed that 16 shots were fired from the location of the Israeli convoy, as opposed to Israeli claims that the soldier had fired five bullets in the journalists’ direction. The Times found no evidence that the person who fired recognized Ms. Abu Akleh and targeted her personally. The Times was unable to determine whether the shooter saw that she and her colleagues were wearing protective vests emblazoned with the word Press.

A Palestinian-American correspondent for Al Jazeera, Ms. Abu Akleh, 51, was a household name in the Middle East. She had reported on the Israel-Palestinian conflict and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank for more than two decades. Now, she was the latest casualty.

Her killing drew global outrage, and for Palestinians it came to embody the dangers and frustrations of living under Israeli military occupation. Palestinian deaths rarely attract international scrutiny, and soldiers accused of crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank are rarely convicted.

Ms. Abu Akleh had come to Jenin that day to cover Israel’s ongoing military raids on the city.

In the weeks leading up to that day, a wave of Palestinian attacks had killed 19 Israelis and foreigners, and some of the attackers had come from the Jenin region. In response, the Israeli military launched a series of raids into Jenin, sometimes to make arrests, and the soldiers were often met with Palestinian gunfire.

As the sun was rising on May 11, another raid was kicking off.

At about 5 a.m.,  . . .

Continue reading (gift link, no paywall).

Written by Leisureguy

20 June 2022 at 6:58 pm

The (Almost) Bulletproof Plan to Take Down America — and How to Stop It

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Dave Troy writes on Medium:

There is a nearly foolproof plan underway to crush the United States and bring it fully under fascist rule. In recent months, this chorus has been on repeat:

  1. “Federal overspending has pushed inflation to new levels.” This claim, which is in fact difficult to back up with facts, connects two facts in a misleading way. Yes, the Federal government, under Trump and Biden, authorized significant stimulus spending to help with the severest effects of the pandemic. These efforts were mostly successful. And while there has been significant inflation over the last year, there isn’t much evidence to suggest that COVID stimulus did in fact lead to inflation.
  2. “Gas prices are too high, hurting everyday people at the pump. And it’s Biden’s fault.” Yes, gas prices are very high — in every country in the world, where Biden is not president. Regardless of whether gas should be as cheap as it was (we need to get off of it entirely), we certainly are dependent on it now. So this has important real-world effects for everyday Americans, but importantly the costs of all goods. Including food. But oil and gas companies are realizing record profits, suggesting that high prices are not a result of supply shortage, but rather discretionary profit-taking.
  3. “The Fed needs to raise interest rates to keep inflation in check, since it lost control of the economy.” Arguably, near-zero interest rates were not a great thing for the economy anyway, and we saw a lot of speculative bubbles (like the entire crypto market, more on that later) arise from this policy. But the Fed can raise interest rates to 10% and it won’t make a damn bit of difference to fuel prices, which are actually behind the inflation.
  4. “Wow, the Fed sure is raising interest rates aggressively and nothing is getting better… this is going to kill the economy.” This is because the inflation is coming primarily from profit-taking in the energy sector and supply chain imbalances, things that will remain unaffected by interest rate hikes. We are being goaded into treating a symptom that will explicitly not address the disease.
  5. “Looks like Joe Biden’s overspending led us right into a recession, just like we said it would. Mass unemployment can’t be far behind.” Nevermind that unemployment is at all-time lows… this recession that Biden caused is certainly going to lead to doom and gloom! Good thing the oil and gas companies made record profits throughout all of this — but let’s not mention that!

These false assertions, repeated ad infinitum from every possible media outlet, will guarantee that Democrats lose control of Congress in November. Whatever else people think will motivate voters, pushing fuel and food prices to the point of civil unrest will make it impossible for any other issue to matter. November will be a referendum on energy prices and food prices. Banks are already planning for civil unrest, according to a report obtained by the Byline Times.

This is all, well, really bad, and is going to lead to a lot of pain. But it could have been worse. Parts of their otherwise solid plan to push the economy into disarray are not going to plan.

Here’s what they hoped would also happen: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 June 2022 at 3:47 pm

Daniel Taylor Was Innocent. He Spent Decades in Prison Trying to Fix the State’s Mistake.

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The report by Steve Mills in ProPublica has this as the blurb (emphasis added):

He was in police custody at the time of the murders, but a dubious confession led to his wrongful conviction while Chicago police and prosecutors turned a blind eye to inconvenient facts that eventually exonerated him.

Land of the free, eh? The report, well worth reading, begins:

When guards first brought Daniel Taylor into a room at the Stateville Correctional Center outside Chicago, we were strangers. It was 2001. I was a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. He was an inmate serving a life sentence.

He had written to me earlier. His was one of the dozen or so letters I’d get from inmates each month — each in an envelope red-stamped with a note saying they were from an inmate at the Illinois Department of Corrections, as if to warn me about their contents. But his letter stood out. He had been convicted of a 1992 double murder, he wrote, but he had records that showed he was in a police station holding cell when the murders were committed.

Even in Chicago, which was fast becoming known for its miscarriages of justice, it was stunning.

Over more than a decade, I talked with Taylor scores of times on the telephone. I visited him in prison. And with Tribune reporters Maurice Possley and Ken Armstrong, I investigated his case as part of a series of stories on false confessions, then followed it until he was exonerated in June 2013.

That it took some two decades for Taylor to be exonerated and win his release spoke to many things, but none more so than the frailties of the criminal justice system and Taylor’s fierce persistence.

Taylor had a kindness and openness I liked immediately. He was candid about his troubled childhood growing up in foster homes and shelters, about leaving school and about life on the streets. Some three months before the murders, he joined the Vice Lords street gang, largely because his friends were in it. He had been arrested a handful of times for such minor offenses as mob action and theft.

Over the years, we got to know each other better. More than anything, I came to admire his  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2022 at 5:29 pm

Social media as agents in the breakdown of shared understanding

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The above image is from an interesting and useful article by the Center for Humane Technology. The article begins:

In our last newsletter, we unpacked why technology is never neutral. Social media is no exception. Social media doesn’t simply reflect society; it shapes society. 

The world we see through social media is distorted, like looking into a funhouse mirror. These distortions are negative externalities of an advertising-driven, engagement-maximizing business model, which affects people and relationships in myriad ways.

8 WAYS SOCIAL MEDIA DISTORT REALITY 

  1. The Extreme Emotion Distortion 🥵 occurs as users have access to virtually unlimited amounts of personalized, emotional content, any user can find overwhelming evidence for their deeply held beliefs. This situation creates contradicting “evidence-based” views, resulting in animosity and fracturing of our collective sensemaking. 
  2. The Information Flooding Distortion 🤯 happens as algorithms and bots flood or curate the information users see based on their likelihood to engage with it, resulting in users believing that what is popular (e.g., hashtags, comments, trends) is public consensus, when in fact it can also be manipulated distortion. 
  3. The Micro-Targeting Distortion 🔬 happens as . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

THE IMPACT

These distortions don’t just affect individuals. Over time these distortions warp society’s perception of reality, breaking down our ability to find shared understanding.

Shared understanding is needed for . . .

It’s important to note that the article is not simply a jeremiad. It includes:

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE

We can uphold open society values by enabling . . .

The whole thing is worth reading.

I highly recommend subscribing to their (free) newsletter, The Catalyst.

Written by Leisureguy

15 May 2022 at 5:49 am

How Postwar Italy Created The Paparazzi

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Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2022 at 3:59 pm

Inside Starling Lab, a moonshot project to preserve the world’s most important information

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Interesting project — and important, as more and more of our history and culture becomes digital or digitized, and as AI-assisted alteration and fakery become better and easier. Katharine Schwab writes at Fast Company:

hen the British army liberated the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in April 1945, they found horrors so shocking that a journalist’s eyewitness reports to the BCCwere held for days because their veracity was in doubt.

“We lived among heaps of bodies,” says Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, a survivor of the camp whose firsthand experience at both Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz is now memorialized in a 130-minute video testimony. In the 1998 video, she tells an interviewer from the USC Shoah Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the memories of genocide survivors, about how playing the cello in the Auschwitz orchestra helped her endure one of the most horrific atrocities in human history.

Lasker-Wallfisch’s recollections have now become the first test case for an ambitious project to preserve the foundation’s archive of 56,000 audio-visual testimonies through a radical means: the blockchain. While most oral histories are stored in more traditional ways—on hard drives, for example, or in the cloud—the digital file of Lasker-Wallfisch’s testimony is also being archived using a decentralized web protocol, creating extra redundancies in an effort to preserve her account on the internet for the long term. Right now, her testimony lives on dozens of different servers. One day, it may live on thousands.

The foundation’s move to the blockchain is in partnership with Starling Lab, a nonprofit academic research center that’s on a mission to use decentralized ledgers to help preserve historical data of importance to humanity. Its lofty goal is to restore integrity both to data and to the internet itself—starting with some of the most precious information we have.

For the past three years, the lab’s founding director, Jonathan Dotan, has been developing a set of technologies, called the Starling Framework, that aims to maintain the integrity of a piece of information as it is captured and stored. Now, the lab is working with the USC Shoah Foundation to upload the nonprofit’s interviews from survivors and witnesses of 14 genocides and episodes of mass violence to a decentralized storage system. Each testimony is first checked to make sure the file’s data hasn’t degraded over its lifetime. It’s then given a unique content identifier—called a hash—that refers to both the image and its corresponding metadata, which includes where and when the testimony was taken. The storage system that Starling uses, called Filecoin, is built on a blockchain that requires data providers to constantly prove that they hold the same data that they were originally tasked with storing—ensuring that information hasn’t been tampered with.

A low-resolution copy of the foundation’s archive has already been uploaded to four Filecoin data providers. Starling and the foundation are currently in the midst of uploading a high-resolution copy to 20 storage providers—a 15-week-long process. (Starling and the foundation are also experimenting with how new testimonies can be embedded with a content ID and stored on the blockchain as they are filmed.)

The ultimate goal, says Dotan, is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2022 at 11:54 am

Barbara Ehrenreich Is Not an Optimist, but She Has Hope for the Future

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I just came across a New Yorker interview in which Jia Tolentino interview Barbara Ehrenreich, and I thought it was quite good. It appeared two years ago — March 21, 2020 — and it begins:

Barbara Ehrenreich was born in Butte, Montana, where her family had lived for generations, in 1941. Most of her male ancestors lost fingers working in nearby copper mines. But her father attended night school, then won a scholarship to Carnegie Mellon; the family moved to Pittsburgh and rose into the middle class. Ehrenreich studied physics in college, got a doctorate in cell biology, and, in the late sixties, alongside her husband at the time, John Ehrenreich, she became involved in health-care organizing and antiwar activism.

In the decades since, Ehrenreich has tried, as a writer and an activist, to forge a bridge between the working and middle classes. She published her first two books—one on chemistry and one, co-written with her husband, about student protest—in 1969, and started attracting a wide audience in the nineteen-seventies, when she began writing for the influential feminist magazine Ms. She’s now published more than twenty books, including the 2001 bestseller “Nickel and Dimed,” about the daily indignities of low-wage work, and “Natural Causes,” a 2018 polemic about the wellness industry and the illusion of control. Her latest, “Had I Known: Collected Essays,” which brings together work from the past four decades, examines health, the economy, feminism, “bourgeois blunders,” God, science, and joy.

I recently visited Ehrenreich at home, in her fifth-floor condo outside Washington, D.C. Like her, the place was no-nonsense but welcoming. There were magazines on side tables, and shelves piled with books. She had broken her arm the previous weekend—“attacked,” she said, “by a laundry basket,” which she’d tripped over in the dark—and had enlisted a publicist at Twelve Books to pick up sandwiches and drinks for us. She asked over e-mail if I had any dietary preferences or restrictions, and I said that I valued all sandwiches but preferred one without mayonnaise, a choice that later became the subject of discussion. After selecting a turkey sandwich with mustard—Ehrenreich had chicken salad—I sat down with her in a small sunroom overlooking the Potomac River, with a peaceful view of our nation’s stressful capital. Ehrenreich nestled into a wicker love seat, propping her feet up, her right arm balanced gingerly in a sling. Later, as the coronavirus began shutting down the country, we spoke again, over the phone. These two conversations have been combined and edited for length and clarity.

I saw that you tweeted, “Got up this morning and self-quarantined, just like I do every morning.” The writer’s life has prepared us both for this.

Yes, and they’re saying that old people shouldn’t be outdoors, so there we go.

Coronavirus has illuminated a lot about the limits of individualism, and our lack of a safety net. Is that where your mind has been?

My mind has been full of grim and rageful thoughts, many of which are about the lack of paid sick leave. We turn out to be so vulnerable in the United States. Not only because we have no safety net, or very little of one, but because we have no emergency preparedness, no social infrastructure. In other places—Barcelona, for example, where my son is now—there’s much more of a community feeling in how you face disaster. We have a little bit of it—Rebecca Solnit has written beautifully about the subject. But we don’t have enough. From the prehistoric perspective, people have gotten through a lot of stuff by coöperating and sticking together. We built cities, we irrigated fields. Whether we’ve lost that capacity, I don’t know.

There’s an underlying argument in your work, I think—in “Blood Rites,” for instance, your book about war, from 1997, and “Dancing in the Streets,” your book about collective joy, from 2006—that we are wired for solidarity but molded for competitive betrayal. You’ve also written about how solidarity can manifest both constructively and destructively—about how the rush of solidarity that accompanies war is not so different from the rush of solidarity that accompanied the birth of the socialist movement, say.

Solidarity can embody so many things—fascism, religious fervor. I don’t trust it inherently. I’m thinking a lot more about this dialectic right now because of a book I’m supposed to be working on—that’s what you saw me doing when you walked in—about narcissism. We want, we crave connectedness, and yet it can turn against us in awful ways.

What was the impetus for writing a book about narcissism?

Oh, you know—across the river. It is a rich topic, though I hate to say it that way, looking at the news right now and thinking that Trump, maybe the biggest narcissist that we have in the world, could be defeated by this speck of RNA and protein. And, as a species, humans are so narcissistic. We forgot that the animals with fangs and claws once dined on our predecessors. We forgot that the so-called defeat of the infectious diseases, in the early twentieth century, was never actually a defeat. We have to understand that our place in the scheme of things is not very high.

Coronavirus seems to be spotlighting the question that underlies everything right now: whether survival—of climate change, let’s say—will be something we negotiate individually or collectively.

The question is really: How many people do we expect are going to make it? The Silicon Valley view is that it’s about three hundred and fifty of us. The left point of view has to be, “We stand shoulder to shoulder and try to get through this.”

Do you think that’s—

Awesome?

Or naïve, or something? Mathematically, it is daunting.

I just became a grandmother for a third time. I can’t not think that some of us will survive.

When your third “grand-dot,” as you put it, was born, you tweeted, “The universe starts all over again.” And you’ve said that having your first child prompted a political and personal transformation. In “Witches, Midwives, and Nurses,” which you co-wrote with Deirdre English a few years after your daughter was born, you argued that women, for most of history, had been doctors without degrees—that learning and practicing medicine was women’s heritage, and that the gender imbalance in the medical field at the time, with ninety-three per cent of American doctors being male, was deeply unnatural.

Having my first child made me into a real feminist. It was the sexism of doctors, the whole system. With my first pregnancy, the doctor at this hospital clinic—I couldn’t afford private care—did a pelvic exam to see if I was good to go and have the baby. When it was over, I peeked up and said, “So, is the cervix beginning to be effaced?” And he looked at the nurse, and said to her, “Where did a nice girl like this learn to talk like that?”

I would say that that’s when I transitioned to raging feminism.

I imagine “Nickel and Dimed” was another turning point in your career.

That was a complete change for me. I thought of it as a kind of excursion into reporting. I’m not really a reporter, so I had no idea what to do. I just went out and got the jobs, and then after a few days I figured, well, I’ll just write down everything that happens during the day, during the shift, after.

What about in terms of the book’s success? It’s sold a million and a half copies.

Oh, yeah, because then I made money. I made money running around the speaking, lecture circuit for years, which combined well with activism for raising wages, to the dismay of the people and the administrators who invited me.

There was this one college that invited me to give a speech to all the incoming students. I was contacted before I came by some workers at the college asking if I could meet with them to discuss their organizing drive. I said, “Sure, let’s have dinner when I get there.” And I did. Maybe six of them. The word of this meeting got to the president of the college, who then did everything he could to sabotage me. Right before the talk, he told me I had twenty minutes, whereas before he’d said forty. And one other thing, can I be nasty?

Please.

He had a limousine pick me up at the airport and drive me back to the airport—a stretch limo, the kind where you can’t even talk to the driver, you’re so far back. Then he complained about my being a diva to the press, implying that I’d insisted on this limo.

When you were writing that book, who were you writing for? And who did your publisher think you were writing for? You’ve noted before that you received a pretty small advance—to the point that, when you were later diagnosed with breast cancer, you had to borrow money from family and friends.

I have a hard time, as a writer, picking an audience. I mostly just write whatever I’m comfortable with. I remember, writing “Nickel and Dimed,” thinking maybe I was using words that might not be familiar to some people—like “glossolalia,” speaking in tongues. And I thought, Hell, I feel like using it, you can look it up too, dammit.

I think the book struck such a nerve because the biggest media outlets rarely depict the actual textures of working-class life. About a decade later, you founded the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, which funds and co-publishes stories about inequality in mainstream outlets—often written by people who are themselves receiving the sharp end of the stick. What inspired that? And do you see the project as having to do with the downward mobility of the journalistic profession?

Well, in 2009, I was appalled by the New York Times’ coverage of the recession, which was all about people on the Upper West Side who could not afford their personal Pilates trainer anymore. So I approached them and said I want to do some things about people who had already been struggling when the recession began. They agreed. I got space in what was then the Sunday Review section and got to work. In my mind, to do this I had to go to different places around the country, see different people. So it was costing me money, and, at a certain point, I realized that what they were paying me was so much less than what they’d paid me five years earlier, when I did a column for the same section of the paper. It was forty per cent of that.

And I thought, Geez, I’m losing money on this, but I guess I made money on “Nickel and Dimed,” I can afford it. And then I thought, What kind of bullshit is this? Only rich people can write about poverty? That’s when the idea of E.H.R.P. came to my mind.

Speaking of the Times, I was reading an old David Brooks column, from 2006, in which he wrote, “Liberals have adopted an overly negative view of reality. Barbara Ehrenreich’s books are well and good, but if you think they represent the broader society, you’ll get America wrong.” The underlying argument of the column was that things were going pretty well, actually—that the poverty rate, at about a quarter of the American population, was just fine.

Class insularity in the media élite is a huge obstacle—people who, when they see a working-class person, it’s probably the FedEx guy. I can’t tell anyone how bad that is if they haven’t already noticed. The other problem is that publications are afraid to offend advertisers, who tend not to want their ad for diamonds to be facing a page about indigent women with cancer.

The journalism professor Christopher R. Martin recently wrote a book called “No Longer Newsworthy” that’s about this problem. He writes about how, throughout the twentieth century, newspapers shifted their coverage of labor issues from the perspective of the worker to the perspective of the consumer—talking to and implicitly sympathizing with the woman who was inconvenienced by a bus strike, rather than the bus drivers who were striking. I wonder if you think this is a problem in coronavirus coverage so far.

Do you think it is?

Sure—there’s more about cruise-ship passengers who are quarantined than about the cruise-ship workers who have to sanitize spaces, and lots of talk about online ordering and few interviews with warehouse workers and delivery drivers who have to shoulder the risk.

I’ve been thinking about Typhoid Mary, who woke people up to the fact that they had a biological connection with people they barely looked at. Maybe this will be an opportunity to remind us of our dependence on everyone else. But I don’t see that happening yet.

I wanted to ask you about a term you coined, with your first husband, in 1977: the professional-managerial class, or the P.M.C. It’s become a popular term among the young left, and a big point of contention. The P.M.C. are people whose economic and social status is based largely on education rather than capital ownership: teachers, managers, lawyers, doctors, and culture workers of various kinds. These professionals make up about twenty per cent of the country’s population, but a person reading the news and watching TV might think they make up ninety per cent of it. Many of these professions began with missions of social improvement, but in practice the P.M.C. have largely reinforced an existing order rather than lifting up the people they represent or teach or care for. You originally asked whether the P.M.C. could actually align itself with working-class interests rather than continue to seek control. Then, in 2013, you wrote a follow-up, in which you observed that the P.M.C. lay “in ruins”—that its members were either placing themselves in increasingly direct service to capital, being disempowered by corporate control, or spiralling down the ladder into hourly wage work. You asked, “Should we mourn the fate of the P.M.C., or rejoice that there is one less smug, self-styled elite to stand in the way of a more egalitarian future?” Do you have an answer to that question, and has it changed?

I would say mourn. What’s happened to the P.M.C. has been a disaster that’s sort of localized. Like in journalism, in all the creative occupations, there’s no stability unless you’re a superstar of some sort. Law. A lot of software jobs have gone. I can’t rejoice. And what puzzles me about the young folks is their use of P.M.C. as a slur.

That puzzles you?

Yeah.

When people use it as a pejorative, they mean the massive non-radicalized faction of it, right? They’re echoing your analysis—which I found to be a pretty useful framework for parsing, let’s say, the divide between Clinton supporters and Sanders supporters in 2016.

I should explain that the concept of the P.M.C. did not flow from long meditations about Marxist theory. It came from things that were happening in groups I belonged to, the way in which you could not keep together the blue-collar and P.M.C. people. The P.M.C. people were so goddam rude.

How so?

This may sound trivial, but it’s not to me. We had a meeting—this was the New American Movement, one of the predecessors of the Democratic Socialists of America—that was hosted by this blue-collar couple, Pat and Ed, who set out a really nice spread of cookies and little sandwiches at their house. And our two self-important P.M.C. members walked in and completely ignored the offering of food and just launched into a tirade against me, because I’d brought these blue-collar people into the group and they were “diluting the politics.” I was just like, “Fuck you. One of them is a practicing nurse and the other one is a locksmith. Because you guys are professors, you think you can do this?” Exposure to P.M.C. contempt for working-class people really is what did it. I began to think, “What’s going on here?”

That contempt still exists, don’t you think? And that same “fuck you” feeling—and the degree to which P.M.C. disregard for the working class has been the story of the Democratic Party’s failures—is why the term is used in a derogatory sense.

But I also like the definition of the working class that the professor of economics Michael Zweig has suggested: people who lack authority in their professional lives. That definition accounts for the ways that people who might have belonged to the P.M.C. people are aligning with the working class in part because of some shared experience of professional disempowerment. There are recent movements—the teacher’s strikes, the Google walkouts, organizers including Uber drivers as tech workers—that seem to reflect this.

In the seventies and eighties, when I was very involved with health workers, beautiful things would happen when the doctors aligned themselves with the struggles of aides and orderlies—saw them as people they would make change with. For example, if you want to understand what’s actually happening with patients, it’s the person who cleans the rooms who might know more than anyone else. That’s the terrible thing about capitalism: not just its exploitativeness but its refusal to let information flow uphill. That’s how we get things like Boeing, where the engineers know that things are really fucked but no one listens to them. And we make that mistake again and again.

How did you hold on to a working-class identity, when so many people who go to fancy universities and get advanced degrees do not? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2022 at 2:43 pm

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