April 19, 2005

Freedom Vanishes

Posted by Michael J. Totten

The single biggest media disaster in the world right now is the Western reporting from Lebanon.

Callimachus explains what's happening here.

It is impossible for me to describe how infuriating it is for me to read that post while hanging out with, and writing about, the democratic opposition here in Beirut.

All the more reason to help the opposition's new Web site Pulse of Freedom get as much attention as possible. If the media won't report what they have to say, they are just going to have to say it themselves.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at April 19, 2005 06:07 AM
Comments

Keep fighting the good fight, Michael.

To what do you attribute the vanishing act?

Posted by: Gerry at April 19, 2005 06:23 AM

"The single biggest media disaster in the world right now is Western reporting"---MJT

Quite right.Thankfully,at least on a small scale,there are some who are taking it upon themselves to actually do something.

Thanks to you personally and all the others who are trying to get 'truer'information out to the world.I can only imagine your level of frustration and justified anger.

But as you aware,it is not just Lebanon that suffers under the boot of media bias,shallowness,and/or sheer stupidity.It is EVERYONE.

MSM---(well you know the rest by heart)!!

Posted by: dougf at April 19, 2005 06:31 AM

Michael - are you seeing MSM reporters in the tent city? Or have they pulled out of Beirut altogether? Just wondering if they are not reporting what's going on or if they aren't there to report it. Either way it's pathetic.

The MSM seems quite bored with Lebanon and will likely drop all coverage soon, unless there's suicide bombings - that's real important news. I checked all the major MSM websites (CBSNews.com, CNN.com, NYT, etc.) and there is one carbon-copy article one click deep on each site with the headline like "Lebanon's Prime Minister Forms Cabinet." The articles have very little information in them and only mention "the opposition" or "oppostion figures" in one or two sentences with no details, and no mention of the tent city. I don't know if the poor reporting is MSM bias or if it can be explained by apathy. (A little of both I guess.)

Posted by: markytom at April 19, 2005 06:48 AM

Markytom,

With the exception of one reporter from The Nation that I've been hanging out with, I have only seen Arab reporters since I got here.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 19, 2005 07:22 AM

Thousands of Iraqis have risked their lives to march in protest against terrorism. The press has ignored or downplayed nearly all of them. If it wasn’t for the efforts of Iraqi bloggers like Zayed of Healing Iraq to document the protests, we would probably never have known about Iraqi opposition to terror.

The New York Times did cover one of those protests, but they buried the story on page 9 beneath a long list of bad news. I guess this inspired CBS’s recent non coverage of their suspected insurgent employee.

Back in 2003, bloggers had a letter-writing campaign to criticize the Times’ non-coverage of this protest, and most letter writers did receive a note of apology from the Times. Of course, the Times continued to publicize terror while ignoring massive anti-terror protest rallies.

Most of the media is values-neutral when it comes to the issue of democracy vs. fascism, but they’re very enthusiastic about maintaining the illusion that they are a legitimate voice of the people.

Bloggers may have more influence then they did way back in 2003, before Rathergate and Eason Jordangate. Writing a blog-influenced letter to the editor, in polite and respectful language might encourage them to devote more space to the democratic opposition.

This site has a pretty comprehensive list of links to online news resources. If you want to know where to send letters to the editor in your area, choose it from the drop down menu and click ‘list by area’. Then find the ‘contact us’ or ‘op ed’ link on the local site.

A blogburst could help too.

PS the Pulse of Freedom site looks great!

Posted by: mary at April 19, 2005 08:39 AM

It seems that reporters follow "hot" stories. Lebanon was hot when all the demonstrations and flag-wavings were happening--it was nice and photogenic, especially with all the women. Now it's not, so on to the next thing.

I've heard it said somewhere that, the more you know about a subject, whatever it may be, the more you realize how poor the press coverage about it is. I think that's what you're experiencing. Keep up the good work, and please stay safe!

Posted by: neo-neocon at April 19, 2005 08:40 AM

Any good Western editor knows - if you spend too much time talking about Lebanon, or Iraq, or Kyrgyzstan, or Mexico or anything important, you will lose your audience very quickly. Is Fox doing any better on this than CNN? Sorry, it seems obvious, and very sad, but people really would rather hear about Michael Jackson, "Desperate Housewives",Terry Schiavo, spoiled athletes, etc. Most people have stressful lives - they're looking to be entertained. In a free market that's what they're going to pay for, everyone knows international news simply doesn't sell. On top of which, Lebanon really is a very small place. In order to make the Lebanese fight for Democracy relevant to Americans you need to provide the context of the whole transformation of the Middle East. That means providing history, geography, economics and a multitude of factors you can't fit in a 2 minute news broadcast or one column news story. So don't be disheartened by the lack of coverage - if anything the fact that there is now a world wide web and American volunteers spreading the news means the Lebanese are getting more American support than they ever could have dreamed of 30 or 40 years ago.

Posted by: Vanya at April 19, 2005 09:43 AM

Does this surprise anyone?

The MSM sells what people want to buy. Americans seem to buy conflict, war or evil over Good News, any day. The Blogsphere doesn't need to worry about ratings, so they can afford to cover stuff that doesn't sell well.

There is no constitutional right to a fair and balanced media. There is only the right to a free media, its up to Americans to support the good media outlets and dump the bad ones.

The MSM isn't evil, it's corporate. It's not concerned with the good of mankind, it's concerned with the bottom line. Affect their bottom line and watch their reporting change.

Posted by: Unnamed at April 19, 2005 10:56 AM

Glad you caught his post. From his comments at the other site?
Btw, can you do a live broadcast with Joumanna taking questions? You donate some money to get to ask her a question about Lebanon?
LOL.... (you know its funny)

Mike

Posted by: Mike at April 19, 2005 10:59 AM

Something I've been wondering for a while... what will the protesters do if the Syrian government does not take action by April 30? I didn't see any mention of this, after a few minutes hunting around.

Posted by: Paul Brinkley at April 19, 2005 02:15 PM

Paul Brinkley: Something I've been wondering for a while... what will the protesters do if the Syrian government does not take action by April 30? I didn't see any mention of this, after a few minutes hunting around.

Dude, I can't answer that question. This is not a free country here. I'd like to tell you, but I can't.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 19, 2005 02:51 PM

Keep up the good work Michael. As Sam Donaldson said yesterday "Broadcast news is dead." He's correct. The rest of the MSM isn't far behind. Don't worry about them. Keep doing what you are doing and the world will learn about it soon enough.

Posted by: spc67 at April 19, 2005 05:17 PM

"The MSM sells what people want to buy. Americans seem to buy conflict, war or evil over Good News, any day."--Un-named

Does that explain the coverage(or lack of same)from the BBC or from the CBC in Canada(where I am confined)?Neither of these propaganda organs depends on ratings to survive,as they are more or less organs of the State.

In fact,I believe that CBC news has the LOWEST ratings of all network offerings in Canada, but persistently presents an agenda driven view of reality to their minimal audiences.And trust me that agenda has NOTHING to do with the possible freedom and advancement of the ME,Lebanon included or not.

And they don't rely on sex and violence to attract the bottom feeders.Beneath them,don't you know.The lead story on the main news program recently was the reliance on bottled water in a Canadian city.The LEAD story.And need I mention the abysmal ratings of CBS under Dan Rather?If viwers were all that mattered surely some other different approach might have been tried to rake in some more cash.

While some of the MSM may be market driven,many more are simply biased/clueless propagandists.That they are propagandists for a bankrupt world-view simply makes the offense worse.

Posted by: dougf at April 19, 2005 05:32 PM

What dougf says is true. Always remember, people DON'T want what the MSM is peddling to them. Most people HATE being lied to. Most people, in fact, despise what the MSM is doing.

The MSM has no corporate agenda. The world of the MSM is insular and insane.

Posted by: Kay Hoog at April 19, 2005 07:16 PM

maybe we just don't give a shit about operation ay-rab freedom?

Posted by: igor lollerkoff at April 19, 2005 09:57 PM

market forces my ass. If market forces influenced Liberals, then all movies coming out of Hollywood would be G rated/family oriented because those are the movies that make the most money BY FAR. But Liberals want to be "edgy", so we get "edgy" movies even though they don't make squat for money. Don't get me wrong, I like R rated movies, but it's not the market that influences these Libs. They want the respect of the Liberal peers, so they'll keep making "edgy" underground movies with dark themes that don't sell tickets.

Similarly, coverage of terrorist bombs in Iraq doesn't sell copy, but the MSM will report it at every opportunity. Any good news out of the ME will be ignored if it doesn't further the agenda of the Liberal media.

Posted by: TeamAmerica at April 20, 2005 05:59 AM

ALL TIME TOP 10:

Rated R: 1
Rated PG-13: 6
Rated PG: 3
Rated G: 0

"Family" Oriented: 2
Action: 6
Religious: 1
Romance: 1

Number of "G" movies in top-100 movies of all time (gross box office): 9
Number of "R" movies: 12
Number of unabashedly "edgy" movies with dark themes that sold enough tickets to get in the top 100: 2
Top movie this week: The Amityville Horror
Number of times you've been right so far: 0

I'll bet on corporate Hollywood making more money than TeamAmericawood any day.

Posted by: FC at April 20, 2005 07:37 AM

FC,

next thing you'll tell me is that "FC" stands for "Fact" Check. LOL!

From USAToday,

In 2004, five of the 10 top-grossing films were rated PG, including the year's biggest film, Shrek 2, which took in $441.2 million.

But only four R-rated movies even cracked last year's top 25.

PG: $23B 110 films

http://www.dove.org/research/USAToday_family-film-04.htm

Libs are so "edgy". I respect them.

Posted by: TeamAmerica at April 20, 2005 08:42 AM

FC,

here you go, the complete post:

From USAToday,

In 2004, five of the 10 top-grossing films were rated PG, including the year's biggest film, Shrek 2, which took in $441.2 million.

But only four R-rated movies even cracked last year's top 25.

PG: $23B 110 films

Posted by: TeamAmerica at April 20, 2005 08:44 AM

fuck, it keeps deleting part of my post.

try again:

Box office in billions
(Number of films released)

PG: $23B (110 films)
PG-13: $4.4B (187 films)
R: $21B (540 films)

Source: MPAA, National Association of Theatre Owners

Posted by: TeamAmerica at April 20, 2005 08:45 AM

But that's why you're there Michael, because the MSM isn't...

And as we know, since there aren't any Americans being effected in Lebanon, and America can't be blamed for anything bad happening there, the MSM has no interest in what's happening.

Maybe if, you know, an American got a papercut during the pro-Democracy rallies, the MSM could turn it into some dire warning about how Americans are being harmed during the rally...

Posted by: Keith, Indianapolis at April 20, 2005 10:48 AM

What I love about TeamAmerica's argument is the notion that, if things he doesn't like are pervasive, it can't be because people actually like those things - no, it's because there's a tiny cabal of people in charge of a particular industry forcing out products that Americans don't like and don't buy. Conspiracy theorists need not apply; the job's already taken.

I wonder, then, where all the money comes to produce all of these movies that are so wildly unpopular, when no one wants to watch them. I also wonder, then, what that says about the free market: TeamAmerica is essentially saying that the free market is a fantasy, and that our economy does not work on the principle of supply and demand.

But then, that idea seems to pop up fairly frequently: false piety. When people complain about the decline of "values", a word that has lost all real meaning in current political discourse, and then turn around and shop at the giant pornography stores popping up all over the mid-west (you know, wholesome Red State country), that's false piety. When priests molest children, that's false piety. When self-proclaimed "values czar" William Bennett turns out to have a gambling problem, that's false piety. When Americans complain about trashy TV and violent movies, and then spend $10 a ticket to go see those movies or $1000 a year to get cable so they can watch those shows, that's called: false piety.

Posted by: The Commenter Formerly Known as Proud Conservative at April 20, 2005 10:58 AM

TeamAmerica, what are you trying to prove? Most R-rated movies are small indy films. Yeah, they don't make a lot of money. Do you think a small indy G film would make any money? It would typically make even less money because there's not a niche market for it. Hollywood typically cranks out as many G rated movies as the market can absorb and then a few more. The main audience for Hollywood films is teenagers - how many of them are sitting around complaining about the excess violence and swearing in today's PG-13 movies? We get plenty of G rated entertainment pumped into our homes through a little device called a television. When Hollywood makes an R movie it is trying to get the money of various niche groups who want, yes want, more edgy entertainment. It's funny how many so-called conservatives immediately look for conspiracies whenever free markets don't produce the results they want.

Posted by: Vanya at April 20, 2005 10:58 AM

FORMERLY PROUD: "TeamAmerica is essentially saying that the free market is a fantasy, and that our economy does not work on the principle of supply and demand."

VANYA: "It's funny how many so-called conservatives immediately look for conspiracies whenever free markets don't produce the results they want."

Ok, so edgy Libs have carved out their niche. A fair point.

So my question is thus, why don't they carve out similar niches in their news reporting? Why consistently make R movies and report bad news, when there's money to be made in good news too?

Answer: because they don't want to, it goes against their Lib agenda. That's the only explanation.

Posted by: TeamAmerica at April 20, 2005 11:43 AM

TeamAmerica,

You wrote:
So my question is thus, why don't they carve out similar niches in their news reporting? Why consistently make R movies and report bad news, when there's money to be made in good news too? Answer: because they don't want to, it goes against their Lib agenda. That's the only explanation.
Let's talk about movies: you are asserting that liberals consistently make R movies, despite the fact that they could be making G movies and earning money.

The Disney Corporation, for example, produces some of the best-known family-friendly movies, right? The Disney Corporation also owns a number of subsidiaries, including some that produce soft-core pornography and Bruce-Willis-starring action movies.

So, I assert that the market works as thus: sometimes there is a demand for a product, and a corporation creates a product to fill that demand. Other times, a corporation will have an idea for a new product that the public then demands.

Either way, the principle works like this: corporations want to make money and people pay for the products they want. Though you have stated that there is only one explanation, I believe there is another one, one that does not require, again, a belief that there is a cabal of liberals who have taken over "the media", whatever that means, and who are only producing one product.

Imagine the following scenario: a cabal of liberals runs every ice cream company in the world. They have decided, for their nefarious liberal purposes, to only produce and sell vanilla ice cream. You, intrepid entrepreneur that you are, do some market research. Your findings are startling: sure, people like vanilla, but every once in a while, they'd like some chocolate. In fact, you quickly calculate, if you started your own company producing and selling chocolate ice cream, you would earn a tidy sum meeting a currently unmet demand for flavors other than vanilla.

Are we really to believe that in our capitalist free market that if there were money to be made, someone wouldn't have feverishly figured out a way of making that money?

Are you implying that there is something particular about liberals - that they are very powerful, for example, or very intelligent, or perhaps conspiring with one another in secret - that has allowed them to dominate the entertainment industry? Or are you implying that there is something particular about conservatives - that they are very weak, or stupid, or lacking in entreprenorial spirit - that prevents that from tapping this apparently untapped market?

Posted by: The Commenter Formerly Known as Proud Conservative at April 20, 2005 12:31 PM

Actually there is a provider to the "niche" red-meat conservative news market. It's called Fox News, and from what I understand (I don't watch it) it isn't covering the Lebanon story either.

I tend to agree with Vanya. It's all economic. It's easier to send reporters to a short explosive story like the Michael Jackson story, than send them to a long developing story whose eventual outcome is uncertain - who knows, Lebanon might just end in some messy, undramatic compromise.

Posted by: VinoVeritas at April 20, 2005 12:46 PM

Are we really to believe that in our capitalist free market that if there were money to be made, someone wouldn't have feverishly figured out a way of making that money?

TCFKAP:

funny, vanilla is precisely what the MSM is.

But what I'm saying is that journalists tend to be Liberals who go into the trade in order to "make a difference", not entrepreneurs seeking to make a profit. Has little or nothing to do with market forces, and that's precisely why they're going broke and losing readers. So your own market-based analysis proves you wrong-- they aren't following the market.

But Fox News IS following the market, that's why it regularly DOUBLES CNN's rating, and even beats the major networks from time to time now.

People are discovering to their delight that chocolate tastes a lot better than vanilla. But the vanilla ice cream peddlers, instead of trying to capture the chocolate market AS WELL, as all good market-driven investors would, prefer to go bankrupt because they're not really in it for the profit. They're in it to "make a difference."

Posted by: TeamAmerica at April 20, 2005 12:57 PM

TeamAmerica,

I know this one will generate a lot of criticism from a lot of people, but I don't think the political leanings of journalists (for the most part) matter any more than the political leanings of the employees of our respective, delicious-ice-cream producing corporations.

Most journalists are employees of corporations. The legal business of a corporation ("legal" as in CEO's can be fined or removed for failing to do so) is to maximize the long-term profits of the corporation's shareholders. Michael Eisner thought he could do that by selling both porn and movies for kids. Considering Disney's market share and value, he was right.

So, the existence of Fox News sort of, just a little, knocks a giant gaping hole in your idea, namely because someone believed there was a market for news with a conservative tilt and attempted to market that product. There was demand, someone created a supply, the beauty of the market.

Since most media outlets are owned by a small handful of corporations, it would seem to follow that one corporation might own both conservative- and liberal-leaning news outlets. In the same manner as Disney's diversification, news-selling companies do exactly what you're complaining they don't: capitalize on demand in the market.

For the record, when Time's cover story is a puff-piece on Anne Coulter, who has celebrated in the deaths of her political opponents and hoped for terrorist attacks against innocent civilians, and when its "Blog of the Year" is run as an extension of the Republican Party's PR machine, it becomes harder to believe in the dreaded liberal "MSM". For the record, when Fox News has a viewership that overwhelmingly self-identifies as conservative while CNN, the NYT, and WaPo have customers who split almost evenly (about 55-45, generally) between the two, it becomes a lot harder to view the "MSM" as biased and Fox as "Fair and Balanced". For the record.

Posted by: The Commenter Formerly Known as Proud Conservative at April 20, 2005 01:15 PM

The legal business of a corporation ("legal" as in CEO's can be fined or removed for failing to do so) is to maximize the long-term profits of the corporation's shareholders.

TCFKAP

So far the CEOs have not had to become involved. As CEOs, they're not usually in the business of micromanaging stories as long as the profits were decent. And profits have been decent because the MSM was a monopoly and journalists could get away with peddling their monocromatic message. No more. With declining profits as a result of their hands-off policies, the CEOs have now taken notice. They've made the appropriate calls and the editorial boards are being forced to respond. Reluctantly.

Ann Coulter on the cover of Time is evidence that the CEOs have taken notice. But you better believe that the employees and managers at Time are furious about it. Notice the fish-eye lense they used for her unflattering picture. I won't buy it just for that reason.

Posted by: TeamAmerica at April 20, 2005 01:33 PM

Michael Eisner thought he could do that by selling both porn and movies for kids. Considering Disney's market share and value, he was right.

When has Disney or any other studio produced "porn"? Are you talking about R-rated movies with nudity, or actual porn? I had thought that the porn industry was a completely separate entity.

Posted by: Steve at April 20, 2005 01:35 PM

Unless you are able to demonstrate to me, factually, that despite the number of corporations that sell media (not nearly as large as I'd like - but still greater than one [1]), I'll consider this conversation over. I'm sorry, I really don't think I'll be able to argue with someone who starts making things up.

Either you know something I don't know, or you're making it up. Please, in all honesty, enlighten me if the former is true. Shut up if it's the latter.

And as for the Ann Coulter fish-eye cover: does anyone else out there remember when conservatives were the biggest swinging dicks in town? When thin-skinned, wussy, liberal girly-men didn't stand a chance against brave, powerful conservatives who didn't have time for political correctness because being offended was for chumps? Lord, I long for those days when a supposedly-unflattering cover photo wouldn't send a conservative into a fit of the vapors.

Posted by: The Commenter Formerly Known as Proud Conservative at April 20, 2005 01:40 PM

Steve,

"Pornography" is probably isn't the right word. Disney owns, among others, Miramax. Disney, through its subsidiaries, distributes soft-core pornography and other family-friendly fare as "Pulp Fiction" or "Kids".

Posted by: The Commenter Formerly Known as Proud Conservative at April 20, 2005 01:43 PM

Either you know something I don't know, or you're making it up.

I see. When you blow hot air it's "analysis". When I do, I'm "making it up." Works out well for you.

You say the market drives them. And if they were prospering instead of declining I might believe you. But instead, they're going bankrupt. AND their news is slanted.

Again, they're going BANKRUPT. How much more do you need to know? They're not driven by profit.

Team America wins again. Game over as far as I'm concerned.

Posted by: TeamAmerica at April 20, 2005 01:53 PM

I think I just learned an important rule of life: never trust someone who declares him- or herself winner of anything.

TeamAmerica, I would be happy to show you what I know about Disney. I would have to scrounge around a little harder for media ownership stats.

But what you're saying is this: that you have some sort of proof that the "media" is a monolithic monopoly, which implies that you know something about media ownership trends that I don't. You also claim that something - what, CNN? the NYT? - is going bankrupt, which implies that you know something about trends in corporate profit and bankruptcy rates that I haven't heard. I really haven't. If it's true, by all means, show me. If not, well, you know how it goes. Put up or shut up.

I'm also confused by the notion that a bankrupt corporation is not somehow driven by profit. If, for example, CNN were going bankrupt, would that imply that TimeWarner doesn't care about profits?

Posted by: The Commenter Formerly Known as Proud Conservative at April 20, 2005 02:57 PM

This discussion is probably getting a little silly and overblown, but a moment's reflection should be enough to show that it is not liberal bias that is responsible for a dearth of good G movies. Was it liberal bias that inspired some cretins to make "The Cat-in-the-Hat" edgy by throwing in fart jokes and crotch kicks to a Dr.Seuss film? No, it was greed. Older kids are jaded and won't go see G films, but you need those older kids. As a recent Weekly Standard article points out: "Theater owners are in three different businesses: showing movies; showing advertisements--previews, which must be shown as part of their contract, don't generate any revenue--and selling popcorn and soft drinks. The only business that makes a profit for them is the third, so it makes sense to cater to teenage males, who gobble the most popcorn and slurp the most soda. This demographic is reputed not to give a hoot if the picture is fuzzy and dim, as long as they can see the explosions." This demo also wants its fart jokes and crude humor. This is why there will be no renaissance of G films unless someone finds a way to take all purchasing power away from teenagers.

Posted by: Vanya at April 20, 2005 03:35 PM

"I'm also confused by the notion that a bankrupt corporation is not somehow driven by profit. If, for example, CNN were going bankrupt, would that imply that TimeWarner doesn't care about profits?"

K-Mart didn't want to go bankrupt either; businesses either adapt and survive, or don't and don't. TimeWarner cares about profits, sure; but as every failed businessman can tell you, caring isn't enough.

Posted by: Mark Poling at April 20, 2005 04:16 PM

Teamamerica says that G rated movies make the most money, BY FAR.

To prove this, he compares the money made last year by PG, PG-13 and R rated movies, and finds that PG-13 films make the most money (USAToday, that bastion of liberal media, forgot the decimal points after the "2"s. Oops!)

The article he points to leads with the line "For the first time in two decades, PG-rated films outperformed R-rated films in theaters"

Conservadissonance!

Posted by: FC at April 21, 2005 03:00 PM

Top 20 Grossing Movies by Rating

Year G PG PG-13 R

2004 1 6 10 3
2003 1 3 11 5
2002 1 6 13 0
2001 2 4 10 4
2000 0 3 12 5

Source: MPAA, National Association of Theatre Owners

Posted by: TeamAmerica at April 21, 2005 07:54 PM

Michael - I just saw Andi J's comment at the SOA site - the article from the Daily Star. What's going on? Should people still make donations?

Posted by: Caroline at April 22, 2005 06:06 AM

Just saw Jim Hake's response. A little vague. Being the midnight tax filer and X-mas eve shopper type I am - just now made my donation. But that was a hurtful article. SOA should seriously nip this in the bud NOW.

Posted by: Caroline at April 22, 2005 10:39 AM

Caroline,

Ignore that article. It's totally wrong. The people we're helping HAVE to deny they're getting assistance from us. This is the Middle East, and American support is a lightning rod here.

Unfree countries are swirling with lies. Sometimes the good guys have to lie too. This is one of those times.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 23, 2005 11:06 AM

Michael - thanks for responding. That's kind of what I figured. I just hope the article didn't hurt donations. I enjoyed the video BTW! Too bad the SOA site requires so much personal info to post comments. I get the feeling you'd get more comments there if it didn't. Anyway, keep fighting the good fight and stay safe...

Posted by: Caroline at April 23, 2005 02:37 PM
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