Archive for journalism

Doing the math on coverage of the Tea Party versus coverage of OccupyWallStreet

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 29, 2011 by spinoza1111

It’s becoming obvious to many that the media ignored the #OccupyWallStreet protests at first and is still somewhat reluctant to cover events nation-wide.

This fascinating graph shows the coverage of the Tea Party in 2009 versus that of OWS in 2010.

What is most striking is that the red line (the coverage of Tea Party events in 2009) is an almost perfect “logarithmic” curve…a curve generated by the equation y=log(x)+K where K is usually zero and always constant. Whereas the blue line (the coverage of Occupy Wall Street in 2011) is close to zero until late September 2011 and then becomes a linear increase (y=x).

A logarithmic curve starts out promisingly if you’re interested in increasing the value of y: almost exponentially (y=x**2). But then it flattens out to y=K where K is a constant. For example, there are a lot of primes close to zero (2, 3, 5, 7, 11…) but later on, as Gauss proved, they converge to a roughly constant rate.

But the coverage of the Tea Party events doesn’t have to increase and can stay at a constant level, or it may collapse at some future date.

The interesting fact is that the Tea Party coverage so neatly conforms to y=log(x) whereas the OWS coverage is ragged and more natural-looking.

We can hypothesize: the TP coverage is push coverage, where editors decide to cover, whereas OWS is pull and driven by events (such as police rioting and attacks on innocent people) and reporters who’ve been themselves on the scene and beaten by police.

“Push” coverage can be expected to manifest a more mathematical pattern because editors form a small set of like-minded people.

In prestige newspapers, the readership of which is declining but older and wealthier, the TP rallies reinforce the rather low haute bourgeois opinion of the petit bourgeois: that such clerks and jerks are useful idiots at best and guaranteed to raise a laugh what with their highly symbolic guns, misspelled signs, and crazed expressions. Editors at the Times and other media have probably assigned increasing numbers of reporters and authorized an initially increasing number of stories on the Tea Party hoping to divert their readers.

Whereas OWS was just another boring left-wing demonstration and precoded as some sort of hangover from the Sixties, an era that the truly au fait claim as theirs, when they showed their virtue, but which they’ve outgrown in a gesture like that of Sergei Prokofiev’s rejection of high Modernism or TS Eliot’s conversion. Therefore the coverage bumped along the bottom until around Sep 25 when rioting policemen maced innocent women.

Editors are still loth to cover OWS and still need coverage that meets the criteria “if it bleeds it leads”. But not only are beat reporters pushing coverage. “Talkback” and “comment” sections of modern Web based editions are also creating pressure. On the New York Times they are running about 99% in favor of the representatives of the 99%.

Here, a ranking of online comments (by number of approvals) attached to Gina Bellafanti’s disgusting 23 Sep article patronizing the protesters, most of which were posted after the women were Maced, shows again 99% in favor of the spokespeople for the 99%.

The “Sixties” are used by people not even there as a point of reference and in a way that displays ignorance and intellectual flaccidity. Gina Bellafanti was born in 1965 yet feels like a real journalist when she writes that a female protester looks like Joni Mitchell.

The message, from people not born early enough to actually experience the 1960s, is that “we”, the au fait, the gratin, the nomenklatura, got over “all that” and that “they” are merely copying “Joni Mitchell” like deluded fools. But in actuality, the au fait, the gratin, the nomenklatura were not part of the movements of the 1960s and instead more or less cowered at Princeton delaying coeducation until 1972 whilst students at state colleges put their bodies on the line.

Actual information, knowledge and I daresay wisdom is receding from the au fait, the gratin, the nomenklatura at the speed of light and their focus on a particular protest or critique is becoming inverse to its worth as they are sucked into the black hole of what George Soros called (in 2005) the “bubble” of American supremacy.


Letter to International Herald Tribune re political names and journalistic malpractice

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on September 25, 2010 by spinoza1111

These letters are of an unpublishable genre, since they are long (if you go as far from decency and common sense as has American political language, it’s a long and winding road back home) and each one accuses IHT journos of malpractice.

Edward G. Nilges
Lamma Island
Hong Kong

24 Sep 2009
International Herald Tribune

To whom it may concern:

Although I live in Hong Kong, I am somewhat familiar with developments in Chattanooga, Tennessee as described in “US mayors confront growing threat: recall” (Michael Cooper, IHT 24 September 24).

It is well known in communities from Hong Kong to Chattanooga that the boundary between business and government has been dissolved in such a way that local governments are now run in the interests of the largest businesses of the community, which use the theodicy that they are the only entities that “create jobs” (something that is just false given the Tennessee Valley Authority and Hong Kong’s public housing).

Ordinary people know that the Tai-Pans and good old boys enter and exit government through a revolving door because they know Wing Nut Ho or Billy Joe Bob personally or in local news.

However, elite journalists are “educated” which means they are able to reify and they think that reification is a Good Thing, because education confuses reification with concept formation. Journos think abstractly in terms of “politicians” and “businessmen” and, with the pseudo-scientific ease so prized in academia, imagine these sets must be neatly disjoint ceteris paribus and if the creek don’t rise.

This explains the “Tea Party” phenomenon as a myth that as a myth can become something real, even as Fascism bootstrapped its small initial base of support.

Diverse groups in Chattanooga call its mayor corrupt; this means that he occludes the line between governing in the people’s interest and crony capitalism, and is neither fish nor fowl. Some of them do so from a Tea Party and conservative ideology, others from a traditionally liberal perspective, still others from an environmental perspective, and even more from a perspective that’s just fed up.

A default cynicism being another thing being learned in elite universities, it becomes impossible for the journo to imagine what words mean. “Government” “as such” means in a decent society governing in the interests of the governed, but this becomes unimaginable if along with your learned liberalism you also learn to smirk a lot and be a “realist”. But this means you have no words to ask for what the people of Chattanooga want. They want what as recently as the 1940s was called “good government”.

“Good government” was mocked by tough minded macho journos (who learned machismo by way of Hemingway rather than a real job or in the Army, unlike their less fortunate fellow Americans) as “goo goo” which codified the Progressive movement of the turn of the 20th century as a thing for women and “little old ladies in tennis shoes” as opposed to the tough-minded liberal of that era, who then morphed into the neocon.

But, in another case of over-education in malarkey, Cooper does not describe Littlefield as corrupt; instead he slyly implies that Littlefield is not corrupt by leading in with a completely different mayor who Cooper knows/believes isn’t corrupt. The reliance on a failure in logic on the part of the International Herald Tribune’s “educated” readers is astounding, since Cooper clearly means Littlefield to be “like” the California mayor who was raising taxes to provide a better water supply.

The malarkey here is “journalistic objectivity” renarrated as “don’t speak truth to power”. Refraining from saying that Littlefield is corrupt, or actively implying that the other mayor is an Honest John, doesn’t even meet the test of “objectivity” used in polite society, where “objectivity” is renarrated as “not offending anyone”.

For in fact it is offensive to citizens’ groups to call them, in effect, liars and boneheads. If you defend the politician they are attacking you might not be “speaking truth to power”, but you’re not objective using your rule about not being offensive.

Nor are you objective if you identify only one group, the Tea Party, which has made a small contribution to dissidence in Chattanooga. It becomes the over-amplified label of people who in fact and on Facebook are simply not Tea Baggers.

Modern journalism hides the merging of business (that is, the interests of the rich), and government. It makes unsayable the fact that a corrupt government is nothing more than a mailed fist inside of a velvet glove…inside a mailed fist in some cases. It also fails to mention that “business” means “the interests of the wealthy”.

This creates a myth which feeds on itself, because people can only use the language created, which creates the call for an end of “government”. They can only affiliate with the groups that the journos name, and here it’s the Tea Party, a one-size-fits-all movement like a gimme cap. People without elite educations aren’t permitted to affiliate with anything else. They are herded by the language of elite journalism into a kraal labeled Tea Baggers.

There is no grassroots liberalism because the educated elite have learned all too well that language is malleable and spin is all. To speak as a “Progressive” means being unheard. And another name for inarticulate rage is, of course, Fascism.

If you’re wondering where the grassroots left populism went, the populism of William Jennings Bryan and Henry Wallace, it’s been deprived of a voice by an elite which itself is not so much educated as certified. Elite journalism is concealing its existence, because liberalism is thought by the liberals themselves to be too valuable to waste on ordinary people.

But it’s all over Facebook like kudzu.

Edward G. Nilges

Edward G. Nilges, “Jeanne d’Arc Ecoutant sa Voix after Charles Rude”, pencil, ink, wash, computer-modified, approx, 5 x 10 cm June 2008.

A “rain” of rockets my ass!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 13, 2009 by spinoza1111


Edward G. Nilges
Lamma Island
Hong Kong

13 March 2009

International Herald Tribune

To whom it may concern:

“In a city where rockets rain down, Israeli children get a safe place to play”, by Ethan Bronner [IHT 13 March 2009], constitutes journalism as hostage-taking and child abuse.

It is hostage taking because Israel had alternatives when, owing to its economic blockade of Gaza (an act of war still in effect), Hamas began firing rockets. Alternatives included the relocation of the non-essential inhabitants of Sderot and other towns in range, or a high-tech anti-missile system that would have been a test bed for the United States’ own anti-missile defences.

The United States and Israel demonstrated the ability to “take out” the more powerful Scud missiles used by Saddam Hussein in 1991. No word here of any such effort being made against smaller rockets. Why?

The article is child abuse because the publicists behind this journalism reason that to demur from the article’s framework would make the dissident the Wicked Grownup who haunts the postmodern collective subconscious and who bakes children into pies. Because people abdicate their common political sense they are haunted by Hannibal Lecter, and grownups, who should know better, who should be constructing antimissile shields or relocating children as was done in London in 1940, prefer acting, and here writing, like children.

A maximum of five rockets a day falling upon impermeable shelters that the children of Gaza cannot afford is not even metaphorically a rain of rockets. High tech ordinance made for war-fighting against an evenly matched enemy, used in densely populated areas pour encourager, is indeed a rain of blood, terrorism, and a war crime.


Edward G. Nilges

Is the New York Times ignoring a major, breaking climate story?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 15, 2009 by spinoza1111

This is the second blog of a breaking meta-story: the New York Times has effectively ignored a major climate story, in which it’s been revealed that the situation is far more grave than expected. There was a reprint of the Associated Press story in yesterday’s Times, buried in the Science section, which is no longer on the Web site, unless you search for it. I think the Times has lost credibility for burying this story, which its reporters, including Andrew C. Revkin, don’t seem to fully understand in all of its dimensions, including its sociology.

I’ve gone out for a long run to the Aberdeen channel side of the island on which I live. The New York Times Web site still has no significant content, apparently, on Christopher Fields’ warning that climate scientists have in fact underestimated global warming over the past seven years.

Instead, one Andrew Revkin
assures us that climate is very complex, which it is, but which does not imply that the predictions of climate science are inaccurate with the same margin of error on either side of the predicted values!

Christopher Fields’ report of an error on one side of the prediction, that indicates that predicted carbon release is offset by a higher value, would seem to entail a sociological point.

This is that in excess of their natural built-in caution, scientists have been intimidated and haven’t taken enough of a stand, because of the bullying that they’ve been subject to by the oil companies and other interests, and reduced their values to safe, cautious, “scientific” measures.

This sociology means that the UK’s climate may at this time permanently changed to a climate more characteristic of North Asia than the historical past of Shakespeare’s “emerald isle”.

Its unprecedently severe winter weather, and the return of frozen Dutch canals, were last experienced during the “little Ice Age” of the 17th century, a climate event which contributed to the Thirty Years’ war and the English Civil War.

The UK is an emerald isle because of a current in the North Atlantic which may have already shut down. Note that in a similar fashion to economic data, where Americans didn’t know that they were already in a recession in early 2008, the natural caution of people making actual observations, and the threat of bullying by oil interests and right-wing commentators, is delaying numbers and observations, about the UK’s climate and other phenomena.

In fact, the scientific honesty of people like Christopher Fields will be used against them by the half-educated thugs of media and politics who pretend to be right all the time. At the far right, the error will be interpreted to mean that its equiprobable that there’s no problem…when Oklahoma is experiencing killer tornados in February.

We may, in fine, already have our tits in the wringer. And while it’s busy bewailing the death of the newspaper, the New York Times is dropping the ball. Its coverage of the bullying “war” on the children of Gaza (which may also be a product of climate change: a war over water by the strong on the weak) and now this climate change self-censorship means that the New York Times is rapidly and as I write becoming the house organ of a rapidly diminishing comfortable class of Americans.

Here’s the comment I posted at Revkin’s comment site.

You may find this “skepticism” easy to write and fashionable. The fact is that as of this morning (15 Feb), the BBC World Service is reporting that according to a leading member of the intergovernmental panel on climate change, the seriousness of the change has in fact been underestimated, based on new data on carbon release between 2000 and 2007.

This was released yesterday by the Associated Press: I cannot find the story in the Times.

Christopher Fields was speaking in a sense “ex cathedra”. What I mean here is that despite the lazy saws of self-professed “skeptics” whose “skepticism” is unearned because it is ignorance in some measure, there are levels of language which the New York Times seems here to ignore.

An excessively privatized media has carefully made it au fait to treat all views as opinions at the same level of authority, with the interesting exception of the views of rich thugs in banks and wealthy politicians. The result is that an official scientific warning, NOT that global climate is a complex system (which it is, which we knew, which you don’t have to tell us), but that the caution built-in to the climate change scientific apparatus, built-in in part by threats from conservative commentators and the energy industry, means that we’ve underestimated the danger.

It means that the war on Gaza was basically an environmental war for water and air by the strong on the weak, and that the end of the world will be Orwell’s “boot stamping on a human face”, because the temporarily comfortable have been licensed by college degrees to relabel their laziness and their ignorance, “skepticism”, and to write snotty and content-free columns that take the place of hard news.

Is a major story being ignored on purpose?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on February 15, 2009 by spinoza1111

As of its update at 1:10 AM Eastern Time, the New York Times appears to be ignoring a major story released by the Associated Press about nine hours before that.

Christopher Field, speaking officially, has told a conference in Chicago that the effects of global warming are increasing dramatically and in such a way that they must be addressed this year. “Feedback” effects, including the addition of carbon to the atmosphere by loss of permafrost, are stronger than expected.

The New York Times is apparently ignoring the story although it broke in Chicago. The Chicago Tribune is also ignoring this story.

However, it was this morning the lead story on the BBC World Service.

Since I get my “daily briefing” from the BBC, have a paid subscription to the online New York Times, and I daily read the International Herald Tribune, I have noticed an increasing lack of “fit” between frameworks and what’s considered a story between US media and world media. Although the BBC refused to carry an appeal for the people of Gaza, its coverage has been balanced, showing consistently a difference between the rocket attacks on Israel and the massive attacks on Gaza.

To the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times, Chris Field is “just” a science nerd who is running his mouth, giving his opinion. Their journalists have no ability to make a simple distinction between an official statement of a scientific body, a scientist speaking officially at some risk, and ordinary language, and they justify this laziness by claiming a tolerance that they do not exhibit at all when it comes to the question of what’s news.

I am familiar with the used of the dismissive category of the “nerd” in a variety of different fields, where the people who do their homework, whether as climate scientists or mere computer programmers, are made to appear to the man in the street as naively retrograde by a debased Hollywood-media elite.

Again: the Platonism of higher education, its bias in favor of the uninstantiated Idea, has created a generation of people who actually believe that Ideas can be manipulated at a grand high “executive” level, which “doesn’t mistake the forest for the tree” while sweeping on to the grand fallacy and the death of the tree.

It operates as a “structuralism”: this is to say that the language game operates at any differential of perceived power. Relative to the editors of the Tribune, the climate scientists meeting in Chicago were perceived as a bunch of nerds doing their thang, so a low-wattage science nerd, herself scared witless for her job, was sent to the meeting.

It is of course a Hollywood fantasy that she’d come back to the newsroom, and say, “stop the presses”. The dream factory, in Adorno’s words, produces dreams that do not dream. The cinematic dream, of living in dark times and making a dramatic difference, is reified into a commodity thereby producing its very own antibodies: in the vortex, “a crowd of people turned away”, alienated from alienation but still, well, alienated.

Instead of the Field story, we read on the New York Times site that a rise in jobless is a threat to the United States.

What the hell is this framework?

A rise in misery is an absolute evil which we do something about because it’s the right thing to do: yet to the Baby Boomer nomenklatura, people more like Hilary and less like Barack (who want Barack to be one of them), we should only worry about what affects us.

As an expatriate, I am familiar with another class of expats. They are very strange people for, having money, they fly all over the world…without knowing any geography, and without learning any either. I was on a flight from Chicago to China a few years ago: we went due north from O’Hare and although this was clear on a display nobody knew or seemed to care why we would do so, since my immediate neighbors, high-level corporate types, don’t “do” maps.

There are many things about which I am ignorant. For one, I have never been comfortable or satisfactory in using a foreign language, even French, with any facility.

But I have never learned that it’s a Good Thing to tune out. As an art student, I agreed with Mies: God is in the details. But the New York Times and Tribune are putting their readers, I think, in a coma.

Well, I’m gonna Do Something about global warming. I already observe a Buy Nothing day every week.

Furthermore, given the danger to the environment, we need to ask ourselves if the depression is a bad thing or the mercy of God. If we could provide a safety net for the truly needy and have a socialistic depression in which the rich “suffered” the most, this might save the Earth!

Be sure you have enough to live on for six months without a job and try to keep at least 500.00 in accessible cash. Don’t stockpile, because stockpiles run out and provide targets for theives. Instead, plan on cooperating with your neighbors. Sure, learn how to use a gun, but only in societies where gun ownership is widespread and your gun is legal.

A note on writing and drunk chaps

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2009 by spinoza1111

Advice to those few people who know how to construct a correct sentence: this may not be your only job, but it is more than half the battle, no matter what the Simple English boys say.

“Write just enough” is like a sign in a 747 cockpit: “don’t crash this plane”. Today’s teacher is not confronted with overcomplex writing (where you cannot be overcomplex without mostly correct grammar). No, she has to read mindless, oversimplified, TV-brained crap written by Little Darlings whose Mummies and Daddies can afford Princeton but who have never had to draft a sentence diagram. She has to be *au fait* with the crap in wikipedia to make sure that the LDs haven’t copied that garbage, the creator of which, Jimmy Wales, is going to find his hairy ass in the slammer real soon now for operating a for-profit, slave labor scam as tax-exempt, but I digress.

Writers, in short, need not take tuition from journos on writing insofar as the former are bona-fide, Honest to God writers. Why? Because there never was a prelapsarian journalism, innocent of the hot breath of a thug like Murdoch down the dyspeptic journo’s shirt collar. Ed Murrow smoked four packs of Camels a day because he had to count himself lucky to be able to whore himself out to CBS, and his more honest friend William L. Shirer was unemployable because Shirer wouldn’t compromise.

By definition, journos oversimplify and whore themselves out because their reader doesn’t have the time to understand the issues presented. A newspaper is only a first draft of history.

I mean, how do you telll who the journos are? Easy. They are the drunk chaps, especially here in Hong Kong. And why are they the drunk chaps? Because they must square the circle. They must do good work in an environment where no good deed goes unpunished.

This is well known in countries where the press is controlled by law, but it also occurs in countries with a free press. Lookit what happened to Dan Rather in our oh so free USA for reading the names of the Iraq dead on air!

Context is all. Earl Lovelace, writing his novel of Trinidad, The Dragon Can’t Dance, uses a long sentence, piling on participles and gerunds to make a Port of Spain carnival vivid. Winston Churchill, assuring the British that Britain would stand alone in a weary twilight struggle after the fall of France, created a word-picture of the weariness in a long and run on sentence, in which he mentions fighting on beaches, in the hills, in the Cotswolds, and, knowing Winston, on Horse Guards parade, smoking his famous Havana, reloading his machine pistol, and in general dying hard.

Whereas a long sentence is inappropriate in scientific and technical writing. But note that “measuring” verbosity by counting words exposes the whole flaw with the sciences of man: they make one-dimensional that which is not one-dimensional, like a Mercator map. If you keep your sentences simple, there are more of them, since ideas do not form a countable set: they form a tree or mathematical graph, and there is no one way to measure such a structure.

C. S. Lewis knew that the sciences of man, to mix a metaphor, crucify actual men on a bed of Procrustes, because to get it right in Francis Bacon’s way, you have to get it wrong, applying moron math to phenomena which are not in any way isomorphic to integers or even real numbers. You, the scientific magus of the Renaissance with your stupid pointy cap, are by definition perpetrating fraud.

In fine, being told how to write in general when you know how to write is (1) common and (2) offensive, unless you are working with a great and good editor like Dan Appleman of Desaware and Apress, or the redoubtable Lee The with whom I worked at Fawcette. These guys can tell me how to write since for a specific market they know the ropes and I don’t. Plus I needed the money.

[At one point during the development of my book “Build Your Own .Net Language and Compiler”, I wrote “but, I digress”: Dan’s editorial comment: “yeah, you digress”.]

In all too many contexts, the charge of “verbosity” is an excuse for the incuriosity of a George Bush. We know where that got us. In many situations the very existence of literacy, coming from an unexpected socioeconomic arondissement, is “verbose”.