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Archive for the tag “mainstream media”

Newsweek jumps the shark

Newsweek has really jumped the shark this time. They’ve just run an article on “the new faces of the religious right”, and they seem to have got it all wrong. Among the people they have included is Jim Wallis, regarded by most on the religious right as a dangerous leftist, and certainly one who has been active in trying to move American evangelicalism leftwards — at least closer to the centre even if not to the actual left.

Faces of the Christian Right – Newsweek:

Who speaks for the religious right? That used to be an easy question to answer: on matters of faith and politics, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson were towering figures: opinionated, controversial, and vastly influential. But with Falwell’s death in 2007, Robertson’s outlandish comments about the 2010 earthquake in China and Hurricane Katrina, and Dobson’s gradual retirement, it’s harder to pinpoint a similar council for the second generation of the movement, which is more strategically, denominationally, and ideologically diverse. Many of the new leaders don’t subscribe to the (figuratively) bomb-throwing tactics their forebears did.

And accompanying the Newsweek article is this picture of a Dr Verwoerd look-alike. No doubt that is a suitable picture to illustrate the “right”, as Verwoerd’s right-wing credentials must surely be impeccable, but Dr Verwoerd was hardly “religious”. He hardly ever talked about God, and the closest he ever got was some vague references to “Providence”. Newsweek doesn’t tell us who is in the picture — the closest thing to a caption is “Phyllis Redman / MCT Landov”, which is rather uninformative. That guy doesn’t look like a Phyllis to me.

But Jim Wallis and “Religious Right” surely don’t go together.

But perhaps in the weird contorted American political imagination they do. Many Americans appear to believe that Nazism = Socialism and that Hitler was a Socialist. If they can believe that, I suppose they can believe anything, even about Jim Wallis.

And Jim Wallis is the only one on Newsweek’s list of names that was even vaguely recognisable. I knew of Jim Wallis through an American Evangelical acquaintance, Dick Peace, who worked in South Africa 40 years ago, and when he returned to the US told me that there were some American Evangelicals who were not politically apathetic, as most of them were back then, but that some were trying to promote interest in social justice, and referred us to Sojourners, which was founded by Jim Wallis. The following decade saw the rise of the American religious right, which promoted the cause of social injustice, and was hardly to be linked with Jim Wallis.

The American religious right has been influential to some extent in Africa, and its ideas have been disseminated through videos and visiting speakers and the kind of religious books sold in secular bookshops, and have resulted in the formation of Neopentecostal denominations that promote those ideas, sometimes contextualised for Africa.

At one time I used to receive the Sojourners e-mail newsletter, but I gave it up because it did not have a global perspective, but seemed to be almost entirely concerned with American domestic politics, and kept referring to the names of people who were obviously farmiliar to their audience, but most of whom I had never heard of.

But for those familiar with and interested in American parochial politics and religion, the Newsweek article has been analysed and deconstructed at Um, Wallis represents the new Christian right? | GetReligion:

That Newsweek piece is abysmal. My favorite quote? “It’s not as sexy as praying with the president.” [In the bio of Melissa Rogers] Since when is Palin an “evangelical rock star”? [In the bio of Marjorie Dannenfelser] The bit about Cizik is wildly inaccurate – he never backed gay marriage. [In the bio of Jim Wallis]

This guy makes young journalists everywhere look bad. The arrogant sarcasm running throughout this piece is inexcusable; it’s not even appropriate for the op-ed page!

WikiLeaks ditched by MasterCard, Visa. Who’s next? –

Mastercard and Visa are planning to suspend the use of their cards on Wikileaks until the situation is resolved. I suggest that the rest of us suspend the use of Mastercard and Visa on our Christmas shopping, or anything else, until the situation is resolved.

WikiLeaks ditched by MasterCard, Visa. Who’s next? –

Last week, WikiLeaks was evicted from Amazon cloud-based servers, reportedly under pressure from US politicians. A couple days later, PayPal followed suit – effectively depriving WikiLeaks of a flood of micro-donations from supporters around the globe. Now reps for MasterCard and Visa have said the companies will halt payments to WikiLeaks until a full investigation into the practices of the site has been completed.

Meanwhile, Avaaz has a petition you can sign here.

And they say

The massive campaign of intimidation against WikiLeaks is sending a chill through free press advocates everywhere.

Legal experts say WikiLeaks has likely broken no laws. Yet top US politicians have called it a terrorist group and commentators have urged assassination of its staff. The organization has come under massive government and corporate attack, but WikiLeaks is only publishing information provided by a whistleblower. And it has partnered with the world’s leading newspapers (NYT, Guardian, Spiegel etc) to carefully vet the information it publishes.

I see that Tony Blair has been recalled by the Iraq War commission in the UK to answer some questions he evaded before, partly as a result of Wikileaks. I don’t think Wikileaks revealed anything that we didn’t already know or hadn’t already guessed, but all those people who are telling us how righteous they are for trying to impose democracy of the rest of the world while trying to suppress media freedom in their own countries need to have their bluff called.

So remember:

  • Don’t buy your Christmas prezzies on MasterCard or Visa
  • Pass this on

Until the situation is resolved, of course.

Aircraft engine failures: strange reporting

There were two incidents recently reported of airliners’ engines failing at or just after take-off. One was given wall-to-wall coverage in the international media, while the other got barely a mention in the local press.

Qantas: No Crash / Explosion | Plane Lands In Singapore:

‘Qantas flight QF32 was en route from Singapore to Sydney, the number two engine has shut down, so as a precautionary measure we are taking it back to Singapore,’ a Qantas spokeswoman said.

Qantas said the airliner landed at 11.45am local time.

DFAT confirmed the flight had landed safely at Changi Airport and that no passengers or crew had been injured.

And then there was this: Daily Dispatch Online:

ELEVEN passengers were injured yesterday during an emergency evacuation after an engine of a 1Time aircraft exploded at OR Tambo International Airport.

The 128 passengers on board Flight 119 to Cape Town at around 10am heard a “loud boom” minutes before take off.

So which one got bigger coverage — the one in which there were no injuries, or the one in which 11 people were injured?

It was the former. I listened with amusement as a reporter interviewed a passenger on the Qantas flight, where there were no injuries. The reporter was desperately trying to get the passenger to say that he was frightened, and that it was a frightening experience, but the passenger refused to play ball. He wasn’t frightened. Yes, an engine had failed, but the plane in question had four engines, and the other three were still working, the plane was still flying, and the pilot was still in control — what was there to be frightened of?

The other story, in which 11 people were injured, mainly, apparently, because they made an emergency evacuation, got far less coverage. And one wonders why. Ususally the media are interested in injuries, so why less interest in this case?

Could it be because of the manufacturers of the aircraft and the engines? Could it be that the media have a vested interest in boosting some manufacturers and denigrating others? Especially when one learns a couple of days later that the value of the shares of one manufacturer of aircraft engines has dropped drastically. They couldn’t be trying to manipulate the markets, could they? Perish the thought.

But it does make one wonder.

Have you seen my wife, Mr Jones?

I just watched on TV the last rescue worker who went to help the trapped Chilean miners being brought to the surface, and no doubt millions of other people were watching the same thing.

It reminded me of the Coalbrook mine disaster 50 years ago, when the attention of the nation, if not the world, was focused on the drama of attempts to rescue the more than 400 miners trapped by a rockfall in the Clydesdale colliery. It was pushed off the front-page news by the attempted assassination of Dr Verwoerd and the Sharpeville massacre a couple of months later.

And of course it also reminded me of one of the BeeGees’ best songs:

I keep straining my ears to hear a sound.
Maybe someone is digging underground,
or have they given up and all gone home to bed,
thinking those who once existed must be dead.

In South Africa, as I remember it, the news was full of the fate of the trapped miners, and the desperate attempts being made to rescue them, but unlike what happened in Chile, all rescue attempts failed. A contemporary issue of Time magazine came up with some aspects of the story that didn’t make the front pages in South Africa, where, at that stage in our history at least, mining and media interests were closely allied. SOUTH AFRICA: Delayed Reaction – TIME:

Like some modern Moloch, South Africa’s mining industry has long come to expect its regular sacrifice of human lives. And even though in good years South Africa has 15 times as many fatalities per ton of coal mined as the U.S., the fact that most miners are black men has kept the subject from becoming too important in South Africa. But three weeks after the Coalbrook rockfall entombed 411 blacks and six whites in the worst mining disaster in the nation’s history (TIME, Feb. 1), the Union finally was working up a real case of public indignation.

And the Time article goes on to say

For South Africans one awkward test of compassion still remained. A relief fund for the survivors had climbed past the $300,000 mark. In South Africa there is no racial equality even in death; compensation laws grant a white miner’s wife a pension for life of up to $93 a month. But a Bantu widow gets only a lump sum payment, which, if prudently invested, would give a return calculated at $9 a month. At week’s end keepers of the fund were trying to decide whether or not to apply a similar ratio (Time, Monday, Feb. 22, 1960).

Society has changed for the better since then — or has it?

The media tell us of the huge international effort that went into saving the trapped miners in Chile. But there has been very little publicity given to the question of who pays for it. The answer is, no doubt, that the bulk of it will be paid by the taxpayers of Chile and the other countries that helped.

And that leads to two further thoughts.

First, I wonder about the people who begrudge the spending of any taxpayers’ money on things like health care. Are they fuming? Are they throwing things at their TV screens in indignation of this massive instance of “armed robbery”? Yes, that’s what some American ideologists call it — the money used to rescue the miners, they firmly believe, was taken from them at gunpoint.

And secondly, when all these huge international resources are concentrated on rescuing 35 miners in Chile, even more resources are being expended on sending drones to kill 35 villagers in Pakistan.

In the words of another song, almost contemporary with the BeeGees’ one, “It’s a strange strange world we live in, Master Jack.”[1]


[1] Dave Marks, who wrote Master Jack, was a real-life miner, and the song is said to have come from his experiences when working on the mines.

Brit media attacks on Catholics sink to a new low

I have often been struck by the biased and tendentious reporting in the British media — such as the attempts of the Daily Mail to link every crime report from South Africa with the football World Cup. But this report in The Guardian surpasses even that.

Catholics angry as church puts female ordination on par with sex abuse | World news | The Guardian:

It was meant to be the document that put a lid on the clerical sex abuse scandals that have swept the Roman Catholic world. But instead of quelling fury from within and without the church, the Vatican stoked the anger of liberal Catholics and women’s groups by including a provision in its revised decree that made the ‘attempted ordination’ of women one of the gravest crimes in ecclesiastical law.

The change put the ‘offence’ on a par with the sex abuse of minors.

Hat-tip to PamBG’s Blog: If you can’t abuse a child, ordain a woman instead.

Nowhere in the Guardian article is “the document” identified. There is no possibility of reading it for oneself to see what it says. All we are given is The Guardian‘s spin on it, and the reported reactions of various people to it, though it is not clear whether they had seen “the document”, or whether they were just reacting to The Guardian‘s spin.

I don’t know whether I would agree with the content of “the document” because I haven’t seen it, and the article in The Guardian doesn’t give enough information about it to enable one to identify it and try and read it — it is as if they want to ensure that readers are exposed only to their spin on it.

To paraphrase Martin Niemoller,

First they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t protest because I wasn’t a Catholic.
Then they came for the Muslims, and I didn’t protest because I wasn’t a Muslim.

And then they came for me, and there was no one left to protest.


Someone who commented has pointed me to what appears to be “the document” referred to in the article in The Guardian — it is Substantive Norms. And having read the document it seems to me that the article in The Guardian is not merely a piece of exceptionally shoddy journalism, but is wilful and malicious misrepresentation.

Brit politicans’ expense claims and censorship

For the last ten days or so the media have been full of the scandal of British Members of Parliament’s claims for expenses, something that puts our own Travelgate scandal of a few years ago in the shade.

But it seems that some MPs have fought back, and have accused the media of stirring the pot for sinister reasons of their own. And this has led to media censorship of an MP’s blog.

St. Aidan to Abbey Manor: Fightback MP silenced – what do you think?:

Well, if you can find anything libellous at the cache of Ms Dorries blog, you’re more perceptive than I am. Here is what I think is the offending passage (if you’ve read her blog, it could be any one of several, e.g. reposting a ‘Private and Confidential’ letter the Telegraph sent just hours before splashing her personal finances all over the next issue), which I’m posting because

a) this is a free and democratic society, and if MP’s have to have their expenses open to scrutiny then their arguments should be open to scrutiny too.

b) I dislike censorship, whether it’s happening to Dave Walker, Nadine Dorries or anyone else. Hey, even people I dislike. Most of them.

Dave Walker posted cartoons on his blog about the mismanagement of the SPCK Bookshop chain when it was taken over by a couple of American businessmen, who then tried to bully Dave Walker into silence because he had exposed their unethical practices.

This looks even more sinister, however Craig Murray – Support Nadine Dorries’ Freedom To Blog:

It is now confirmed that Nadine Dorries blog has been taken down by her webhosts after threats by lawyers acting for the creepy and anti-democratic Barclay Brothers. I particularly dislike them because they destroyed the Scotsman, which was once a good newspaper.

Nadine Dorries had accused the Barclay Brothers of outing the sleaze about MPs in their Daily Telegraph as part of an anti-democratic plot. The same accusation was in this Independent piece at 2am yesterday. The Independent has edited it out.

It almost inclines one to believe in conspiracy theories. Let’s do away with elected government, and have the world ruled by the media for their own profit. Big Brother, in Orwell’s novel, was an evil dictator who took over the reins of government and controlled the media and everything else. But Big Brother has now been reinvented by the media as a “reality” TV show, and popularised, and suddenly The Daily Telegraph is Big Brother, and British MPs are the “housemates”.

The Daily Telegraph used to be known as the Daily Torygraph, but the opinion that it is trying to suppress is that it is actually trying to score votes for a couple of parties way to the right of the Tories.

G20 summit

Watching Sky News reporting on the G20 summit.

What’s it all about, according to Sky News then?

  1. The police
  2. The police
  3. The police

Seems that Britain really is a police state.

It reminds me of a book I read nearly 40 years ago:

Halloran, James D., Elliott, Philip & Murdock, Graham. 1970.
Demonstrations and communication: a case study.
Harmondsworth: Penguin.
The demonstration against the Vietnam War in
London on 27 October 1968 was overwhelmingly
peaceful, yet the press and television
coverage concentrated on the tiny violent
minority. The authors have analysed the way in
which the news media determined the quality of
the event and then were compelled to find
incidents to fulfil their prophecies. This
analysis is a study of the structure of our
understanding of “news”, of what counts as
“news” and why the media are committed to
reporting not what happens but what they think
should happen.

Seems that nothing has changed. The media continue to manipulate the news.

Blogging in decline?

It seems that blogging is in decline. According to the MyBlogLog and BlogCatalog thingies in the side bar many people who used to visit this blog no longer do so. Well, that’s probably just because I write boring stuff. But it seems to be happening elsewhere as well.

A while ago there was a bold new attempt to provide links between blogs and the mainstream media in the form of Twingly. This would enable one to see at a glance who had blogged about a particular news item, which was quite useful. I hoped it might grow and spread to more newspapers, but the only one that I knew that adopted it was The Times in South Africa, and even they seem to have dropped it now. Perhaps it’s the worsening economic situation, and The Times and other media are retrenching. But even if that is the case, the fact that links to the blogosphere are the among first to go is significant. Two years ago people were predicting that the mainstream media were in trouble, that blogging was taking over. Now, it seems, the blogosphere is no longer perceived as a threat.

The process is even more advanced in Usenet newsgroups, where participaation has dropped enormously, and what remains is usually just cranks and fanatics. But beven the bloggers are disappearing, or flocking to join the ranks of twitterers.

So the better our tools for communication become, the less we are able to make use of them.

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