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November 30, 2006

Ellison is a Muslim?

We all know who Keith Ellison is by now and we know that he is the first Muslim to be elected to the United States congress. He is also the first African American to be elected to the house of representative from Minnesota but it seems that the media is only concerned about the man’s religion. It has been pointed out over and over again that if he wins he would be the first Muslim to do so. Even as I was watching his victory speech, I noticed that the reporters kept mentioning the fact that Keith Ellison was a Muslim and little reference was made about his race. And I wondered why did it matter whether he is a Muslim or not?

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Doctors' Secrets

In Newsweek’s November 20th issue is an interesting article that was actually hidden on the bottom third or a page. In the Periscope section of the magazine is an article hard not to notice entitled “Drugs: Family Docs Join The Drug War?. The article is fairly harmless, as a mere suggestion, or possibility for the future. But what does this really mean for the doctor patient confidentiality agreement, a bond that we may soon cherish. The article simply points out doctor’s intervention in alcoholic’s health by a face to face confrontation with the patient about health concerns.

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Casino Royale

I recently read an interesting discussion on a website (www.imdb.com) about the new James Bond movie, Casino Royale. While this isn't by any means an accredited source, the fact that so many people felt so strongly one way or another really struck a chord, especially after Tuesday's discussion about multiculturalism. Apparently, there are some rather vociferous individuals who believe that the underlying premise of the movie is about racism. Many people cite the fact that the villians in the beginning of the movie were African American, and that another character was simply put in as a "token black" character. Additionally, they object to the sophistication of the terrorists, saying that based on the fact if they were black or some European portrayal, the complexity of weapons, and planning varied, an insinuation about the inherent "characteristics" of differing races.

This reminded me of Pinker's book actually, and how rationality and politics don't always coincide. For the aforementioned argument, the opposite could be made, that the makers wanted to incorporate a multicultural feel by employing people to represent different areas of the world equally. We see everything through a prism, where ideas and images are filtered through first, and so one person's prism might catch one tread, one wave that another would completely miss. So are we to encourage people to make things that are so flat, so one dimensional that there is only one interpretation? Can said interpretation exist?

November 29, 2006

Is the movie Happy Feet happy?

I was reading US Today this morning and came across the article "Preschoolers and penguins: Propaganda paws?? by Michael Medved. The article was about the movie Happy Feet and how parents are saying that the movie is “one of the darkest and most disturbing movies I have ever seen?. The article discusses the important issues that are addressed in the movie and that children should not be exposed to this information. The article then starts analyzing the children’s book “And Tango Makes Three? that is about two male penguins adopting a lost egg. This story is based off of two male penguins that did the same behavior in the New York City’s Central Park Zoo. Partents and critiques are worried that these messages are too dramatic for young children, and that the movie and the book are making parents frightened about the information their children are learning.

I saw “Happy Feet? and it was no more violent or disturbing than any other Disney movie where the mom always dies or there is some very scary bad thing that is going to do some harm. I think that because these topics are pushing parents religious and personal boundaries, or is it that parents have extremely large boundaries and are not opening themselves to the truth about our culture today. This can be connected with Wolfe’s “quiet faith? and our discussion on Tuesday. Should these books and movies be banned from the viewing and learning of our children? I think that the movie sent a strong message that we are hurting our earth, but in the end, the humans found a solution and the movie ended happy. Maybe our children should be learning about these issues at a young age, perhaps everyone will become more aware of our earth after seeing the movie “Happy Feet.

Seperation of Church and State in France

I was in the group that read the article about France banning obvious religious wear from public schools, specifically Muslim head scarves. Everyone has an opinion on matters such as these, but in the end deciding the issue requires interpretations of previous related laws. Many people argue that banning religious symbols is justified because of France's policy on separation of church and state. Others argue that this ban would create an intolerant society, which would go against France's goal of multiculturalism. I was inclined to agree that France would be stepping over bounds of tolerance by creating this ban. Later I realized I based this conclusion on an American interpretation of the sound bite phrase 'separation of church and state.'

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I am offended by stuff

I also read the article on the peace sign Christmas wreath. Has it really come to this? That we can be offended by anything and everything that happens? I’m not sure what the Homeowners Assn. Is trying to accomplish by banning peace signs from people’s homes, but it seems rediculous. I remember a few years ago, a guy ended up getting kicked out of his home for having some fake pink flamingos on his lawn.
Small communities which are governed by homeowners always seem to take the conformist or assimilation approach to multiculturalism. Diversity is an ugly word to Homeowner Associations. How someone’s feelings torwards a wreath made national news, I’ll never know, but it goes to show how much energy people put into analyzing the symbolic representations of objects rather than just taking them for what they are. It’s a wreath. If someone wont take down their peace sign wreath, its not harming anyone.
We must realize that often, when we feel offended, we are simply looking too deep into things. We must learn to take the big picture into considderation and ask weigh the pros and cons because “I am offended? is not a valid excuse to tell someone that they are wrong. If you really want to be on TV, cure cancer.

November 28, 2006

Is That What You Really Think?

In a recent article "Voting with the Heart," in Scientific American, the work of Charles Taber, a political scientist at Stony Brook University, on subliminal cueing and its impact on political responses is assessed. Test subjects were asked to give either a positive or a negative response to a target word as quickly as they could. These target words remained on the screen after the subliminal cue had been flashed, and all had unambiguous good or bad connotations. Separate from the association test, the participants were surveyed on their political views. When cued with words corresponding to issues the test subjects supported, their response times were shortened, even though the target word had nothing to do with the issues. As well as examining the effects of cues on specific issues, cues of groups pertaining to the views of the subject were used, and had the same result. More insidiously, when the cue words were simply "we" or "they" the impact was the same as when using explicit groups or issues that the subject identified with.

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November 25, 2006

What's so big about blogging?

Blogging has been all the craze in the last couple years with its popularity continuing to rise. Until this class I had never ventured into the blog world and therefore had no idea the fad it had become. A story on CNN.com reported that there is approximately 57 million blogs already available with about 15,000 more becoming available each day. Blog topics range from banana bread to war in Iraq and many people have started to use blogs as news sources. The CNN story also gave a “how to guide? to starting a blog of your own listing the key ingredients as (1) finding a platform, or subject to write about, (2) having a large ego, and (3) saying something controversial. After reading these to be the guidelines it makes me wonder how accurate these blogs are, especially when being used as news sources. The more I read these blogs the more skeptical I become. Of course many of the major news sources like CNN use correspondents as their blog authors but many times it is just an average Joe-blow writing some of these articles. Just because I could write a blog about the elections doesn’t make me a credible source. Many people argue that blogs give these everyday people a voice and an outlet to express their opinions but these opinions are not always accurate and should not be taken as fact.

As I was watching the elections on CNN on the 7th during their broadcast every now and again they would cut to a group of bloggers sitting in a coffee shop waiting to create their blogs in response to the elections. CNN also outlined these bloggers to be a strong influence helping specific candidates to win, such as Joseph Lieberman. This reminded me a lot of the Boyd article that we read for class that was entitled “The Web Rewires the Movement.? The article discussed how the web has changed the face of campaigns and national support, and blogging fits into this change perfectly. Bloggers can put a spin on a story to increase support for a candidate as well as decrease support for another. The internet has become more common among Americans creating a large market for internet news sources, blogging being one of them. According the national survey data that we used for out survey reports in class about 6% of people use the internet as a news source, however, as the newspaper readers continue to wane and the use of the internet continues to rise, one can only imagine that the blogging sources will continue to rise as well. I cannot see the popularity of blogging declining anytime soon and until then this blogs will continue to be influential to candidates, campaigns and the general public alike.

October 31, 2006

Comfort of Consensus

When writing up my survey paper I came across a rather interesting question: When it comes to consensus, is that consensus a product of a majoritarian opinion, a veritable consensus in the idealistic sense, or is it a “consensus? because it’s a norm- something we’ve been taught to respond to in a prescribed manner? For example, in our present society, it is regarded as highly irregular and downright “wrong? for a man to have any romantic inclination to a young boy, but in Ancient Greece, it was at one point regarded as the highest form of love attainable. So who is “society?? Is it the media, the prism through which we receive all of our information, or is it our individual interactions with people? Or is it both? Who is to say that events such as adultery are necessarily bad? Are they bad in all quarters? Is it just another presentation of self that Goffman postulated? That it’s so ingrained that we cannot separate “ourselves? from this presentation?

Political Participation Once again

In deciding who to vote for this election season, I have spent a lot of time contemplating issues and talking to friends about effective policies that I could support through a candidate. Albeit I am not up to my own standards for knowing what’s going on in the world of government, I listen to the radio and when someone says something that is really illogical or flat out wrong I start paying close attention. Recently, I have been plagued by people calling me and sending me letters that just make me more ticked off. It all stems from the fact that these people try to convert me to a stance that is completely contrary to the hours of thought I have put into constructive ideas and the diligence I have deliberated in dealing with notions that are directly contrasted by institutions of science. I can’t get away from the fact that of all the people I know who try hard to understand issues in depth and constructively support or reject certain policies, there are about thirty or forty to not think about things beyond what is the first thing to be put in their head. I got a call two days ago from a person trying to get me to vote for specific candidates, and when I tried to engage in a conversation about public policy with this person they didn’t know what I was talking about! I’m not so disenfranchised that I know what Tim Pawlenty’s stance on the health care system is, that’s the field I hope to go into, I should know something about it.

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October 30, 2006

Where's Weapons

So the U.S. military accidentaly lost over 400,000 firearms including semiautomatic pistols, rifle, and rocket propelled grenade launchers. First, they didn't know where they are and have no clue whrer they are supposed to be. Not only did they lose the weapons, but they don't even know who has them. So, now we have the chance to be killed by our own weapons if they were given to some insurgents. This is not good for the President and his cabinet right during elections. First Mark Foley, now this. Anyway, the $133 million lost in this msihap was paid for by taxpayers too. Only 10,000 weapons actually have serial number confirmation. Now, the government is issuing a statement of having every gun registered including Iraqi police and militia. i want to know who was the person who could have made this abysmal error? How could almost half a million wepons just disappear, and why are there not traces of paper work for most of the weaopns? I also wonder what affect this will have on the upcoming elections. Will it weaken the Repulicans more or will it lead on and backfire in the Democrats' face somehow?

Political Ads

The negative political ads have got to stop. It is difficult to turn on the TV or radio and not be subject to the campaign bashing. I find the ads completely annoying and do not see what role these negative political ads play. I took a walk on the web and found a book written by John Geer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University, titled “In Defense of Negativity? about this very issue. I checked out the book review at: http://www.hendersonvillestarnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061027/NEWS0206/610270407. Geer has done a great deal of research on negative ads starting with the 1960 election to current. To put it brief Geer says negative ads keep parties accountable and bring awareness to their weaknesses. Being that this was just a book review no hard evidence was provided but Geer believes the negative ads don’t turn off voters. He believes it may turn some off but also may activate others.

Just by pure utter annoyance I was not able to put any rational thought to the negative ad concept. After reading Geer’s review and looking at other information regarding the subject on the web I’ve been able to put some thought to the ads. Candidates are operating in a small window of time and having to campaign to a large number of people on all spectrums of political involvement so it is understandable different tactics have to be used. Obviously the negative ad technique is working but I don’t think any research can tell exactly how or why. Geer wants us to believe that the negative ads are actually providing factual information that may be useful in our candidate research. Many politicians in power often have to make decisions that may not be very popular with the public but had to be made in the best interest for the economy or public defense for example. These decisions are then altered and used against the same politician in the next election in the lasted campaign bashing ads. It would be interesting to read Greer’s book to find out what hard evidence exists on this topic.

October 17, 2006

Media and Perceptions

Lately there's been a lot of talk about North Korea, and I thought it was nice to see a positive example of the interaction the media can have with politics and with the edification of the people. Google made available this documentary about the children of North Korea and the extreme famine and poverty in the country. (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6951629397402742053&q=north+korea) What's nice is that they show both the "official" story/ facade that North Korean leaders insist are the truth and then another truth where millions have died.

Another recent example is with ABC news, where Diane Sawyer went to the capital Pyongyang to broadcast live. It will actually be showed in its entirety tonight. Unfortunately if you read Sawyer's blog, http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=2576728, she was not able to go anywhere without Pyongyang's approval. It still gives you an interesting look at North Korea and their complete control of the people, even those just visiting. In her live broadcast, Sawyer at one point praises the government for their willingness to let her into the country during a time of great "strife," and marvelling at their magnanimity.

October 3, 2006

A New Awards Show

This thursday the 15th annual years best American commercial awards will be given out and recieved by companies and the advertising brains behind the ads. Upon reading this in Monday's Star Tribune I was shoked not only that they actually give awards and hold ceremonies for ads, but also that this is the 15th year of their decade and a half run. My shock soon turned to disgust. I wonder if the large companies that can afford expensive ads compete with one another, or if a local or state commercial gets nominated once in a while. If it is the "superbowl" style mini movies, I could only imagine that there is a monopoly of about three different companies that would hold and win titles every year, beer/liqour companies, technology/computer companies, and network "teasers". As long as these big corporations are featured, does that mean that they also sponsor an event like this, selling their beer, showing new models of their new product, even maybe showing their next commercial coming out as a prize to their loyal fans?
"Ten or 15 years ago, 'entertaining' was a dirty word to use about comercials" says Matt Miller, "It was about sales. Now, however, you see huge levels of entertainment value in ads because the viewer has so many choices. You need to do something to keep them from changing channels."
Matt!!!!! What the hell is wrong with you, do you walk around wearing a shirt or holding a huge sign saying "yup, I love propaganda". If the commercials today arent about selling a product, there wouldnt be any commercials, of course they are about sales. The bigger the slush fund for a commercial, the hope is for a bigger slush fund for the upper managers of the company. I also think it is pretty crazy that people such as Miller and others like the organizers of this event, and of course the people who will be wasting their thrursday night attending this event, are actually so brain controlled that they get entrertainment from watching a commercial. I like cars but I dont go watch car salesman sell them. The fact that our society has fallen to the level where ads are entertaining, and perhaps even more entertaining than the program they are heavily shoved into.

Reviewing the Positive aspects of the internet

After class on Thursday I returned to my apartment and went about my daily routine. I made myself some coffee, checked my email, and then preceded to read the New York Times. Considering that I am a poor college student, the only way that I have access to the New York Times, or any paper for that matter, is through the internet. I could say that I would prescribe to a newspaper, but I know that I wouldn’t go through with it probably out of fear of having anymore bills to pay off and maybe in part due to sheer laziness. But, the internet is a part of my everyday life. I spend a large chunk of my free time devoted to updating myself on the most current news. It has become a hobby of mine, something I don’t even think about anymore. But, if I didn’t have access to the internet, I strongly believe that I would not be as well educated or as involved in current issues in our society as I am today. This got me thinking back to our discussion that we had in class regarding the pros and cons of the internet and whether it is good for civic participation or not. While I completely understand the negative aspects of the internet, I feel that there are so many positive points that we tend to overlook, including Putnam.

Going back to my nice little adventure on the New York Times website, I was noticing all of the links that you can click on when reading the newspaper. These included audio clips, related articles, past articles on the same issue, and so many more; something you could not get when reading the regular newspaper. In addition, another website I frequently visit is the national public radio website. One can listen and re-listen to issues that have been discussed over periods of several months. These include top news stories, book reviews, music reviews, personal opinions, and so much more. I don’t feel the need to go on much longer about all of the added features that online websites provide because I’m sure we are all well aware. It is just interesting to look at and then go back to reading Putnam and all of his criticism on the media and the internet. While I understand his argument, I do feel that there are a lot of positive aspects that play a large role in contributing to civic involvement that he his failing to note.

October 2, 2006

Damage Control

Have you read about the G.O.P represntative for Florida? It seems that Sen.. Foley has committed a very big mistake by having his instant messages screened and made public somehow. It reports that he is having an affair with a teeneager, though it says nothing about her actual age. Still, I think it's just funny after reports from his lawyer and his constituants about his excessive depression or his alcohol abuse, the media still goes for the jugular. I wonder if there is going to be anything followed up if he wins the election. Most political stories go on for about a month at absolute most because of the ability for damage control by his peers. The media trying to get at him is kind of similar to the baseball steroids in the fact that they can create any rumors and they'd report on them. It's still necessary to look into this by all means; however, i just think it's weird how being in the public eye makes you so vulnerable to criticism that you must be perfect otherwise they'll exploit Idiosyncrasies, no matter how large or small.

September 28, 2006

Societal Influence on the Media

In Tuesday’s class, I tried to explain a point I thought was interesting, but I guess I was not clear enough. Hence, I decided to talk about it in this blog:

Last week, I saw the cover of Time magazine, which featured the face of the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The close-up portrait of his face is enough to explain the relationship between Iran and the United States. On the cover, Ahmadinejad looks like a soulless-human. Actually, he does not look like human at all. Rather, he looks devilish, and very threatening to all humans. Although I must say that I do not want to get into the issue of nuclear proliferation, especially the current situation with Iran and North Korea, I want to point out how society influences what the media produces, even though we (especially in Tuesday’s class) focus on the other influence: media’s on society.

My aim in this blog, therefore, is to discuss the ways in which the media is influenced by sociological factors that govern those same people that are the consumers. In Tuesday, we discussed how the media is owned by a handful of corporations. To me (may be I was too slow, or it was too early for me to understand, but) it seemed like the class discussion on media as corporations suggested that the media is above society’s influence, such as current politics. An author is a product of his/her environment, and the influence of this environment can never be separated from his/her work. These collective ‘authors’ we call media, therefore, are not spared from the factors that govern the society they are part of, no matter how big of corporations they are. I understand the business aspect of the media which we discussed in class. In fact, the media is a business entity which aims to increase its profit in every way. However, we must not forget that the media is itself a product of its society.

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Addicted to television

During class on Tuesday we had a discussion talking about how many people are addicted to television, and how it can be so negative for civic and social participation. Some students argued how it was incredibly biased and others pointed out that there are too many unnecessary advertisements. In some European countries, the government owns quite a few of the television networks. In Sweden, for example, the government owns many of the television networks and has strict laws prohibiting advertising to a certain age group and they also have very few commercials. That’s not the case in the US. If the government owned some stations here, would there be less of a bias on news stations or TV in general? Some students also argued that watching TV could in fact help social participation, because friends get together, watch shows and talk about them. According to Kathleen Jamieson of the University of Pennsylvania, “Although heavy use of media interferes with both political and civic engagement, the overall effect of media use is favorable for each outcome.?

Putnam, on the other hand, feels strongly that mass media has a negative effect on today’s society. He points out that television viewing has gone up 50 % since the 1950’s. Putnam stated that “…husbands and wives spend three or four times as much time watching television together as they spend talking to each other… ? (p224). Here I think he is too quick to jump to conclusions. I don’t think he takes into account how much life has changed since then. Today, mass media consumes our lives. Whether it is good or bad for civic and social participation is up for debate.

September 27, 2006

do media monsters devour diversity?

The article “do media monsters devour diversity?? goes against most liberal beliefs about how the consolidation of media leads to less diversity. Diversity, according to the article, expressed through format, demographics and ideas is actually facilitated by media conglomerates in some respects. For example, it explains that competing stations in the same market will cater their programs to the majority whereas if those three stations were owned by the same company, there would be no reason for competition but incentive to diversify instead in order to accommodate different audiences.
This was a very insightful article on the issue of corporate monopoly. It makes us realize that diversity in content is not an issue because corporations are acting on their own personal interests. If the trend of merging corporations continues instead of trying to find ways to battle the giants, it would be more effective to get a better understanding of how the interests of independent and/or local business could fit the interests of corporations or vice versa.

Book Clubs

Since the launching of Opra Winfrey's book club, it seems like books are getting very popular again. If you were to do a search on book clubs in yahoo or google, it would bring you pages and pages of search results from online book clubs to websites on how to start a book club. In a sense books are becoming a big part in socializing. Many people start their own book clubs so they can socialize with their friends or neighbors. In part with discussing about the book itself, many of these occasions or meetings are made into something very elaborate with people bringing in food and drinks. Besides starting their own book clubs, some people strictly follow the books on Opra's book club. They will read the same book and go online to Oprah's website and talk about it with others on the message boards.

I remember watching the shows when Oprah did on books that would be put into her book club & the audience would go wild. The whole atmosphere in the studio was very upbeat. I remember thinking to myself that people were actually excited about reading books. Even though book clubs have been around for a long time, I believe that Oprah has revitalized the whole concept of book clubs again. Before she launched her book club, I don't recall people having much interest in books or book clubs as much as after she had launched it. Some factors that largely contributes to this would be TV & the internet. Even though Putnam is blaming TV for people's lack of involvement in the community, without the broadcast & publicized of Oprah's show none of these things would have had such a huge inpact on people. You can say that there is a trickle effect where TV has actually play a good role by allowing people to create book clubs of their own & eventually into socializing with others. I also disagree with Putnam's notion that there are the same amount of people in reading groups today as in the past. I mean maybe we think there is a boom in reading clubs because it's so publicized in the media, but you can't ignore the fact that there are also online clubs and discussion forums where people are joining. The internet allows people to socialize and interact with others of the same interest without having to leave the comfort of their home. In answering Putnam's question about whether the flow of information from the internet fosters social capital & genuine community, I say that it does to an extent. The online groups that people belong to on the internet are in a sense as real as it can be, sometimes better than what they can find in reality.

Fox News Controversy

I found an article on Wikipedia that seemed quite interesting in reference to the Fox News Channel controversies in regards to being bias. Did you know that Rupert Murdoch, the Chairman and CEO of the news corporation and the Fox News Channel owner was a publisher of the conservative New York Post newspaper and the conservative magazine of opinion, The Weekly Standard? This is one reason why the controversies against the channel might have gotten started, because Murdoch is a conservative and has implied his views into the company, prints and medias. As for the on-air broadcasters and the reporters out in the field, they are asked to use certain positive language when it comes to discussing pro-life viewpoints, the war, taxes, etc. in which were found in company memos during the investigations. According to the article, in 2004, 35% of the viewing audience were Republicans versus 21% Democrats and 68% of the Fox cable stories mostly contained personal opinions, giving the Republican party the news that they want to hear. Lastly, the Fox News Channels have a few good slogans in which may seem ironic according to the biases of which they are accused: “Fair and Balanced?, “The Most Powerful Name in News? (or as one viewer states, “The Most Bias Name in News?), and “We Report, You Decide?. Steger states that corporations need to play the "rules of the game" which they can't ignore such as, the trends in media and the pressures of media. It seems that Fox News Channel had ignored the latest media trends and pressures to go about their own way of broadcasting and reporting the news which was most convenient for them and mirrored the Republican party.

September 26, 2006

Why the future of TV is LOST

I found an interesting artcle in the new TIME Magazine titled "Why the Future of Television is LOST." The article is about the TV series LOST. It is acclaimed as being one of the first TV shows for the "Post-TV Generation." It talks about how the new generations have grown up in this fast pace society where TV has always been there. Now with Internet and other souces of technology to utulize people's time TV producers have had to come up with new shows to keep up with the changes and lack of interest with TV. The interesting thing about LOST is that it has many conspiracy surrounding the storyline which has got people using the internet to post blogs and host websites talking about various theories. In one episode their was something known as the "Smoke Monster" and when people would Tivo this episode and watched the monster in slow motion they could see a series of images relating to certain characters that flashed by in fractions of a second. These images could not been seen unless you used slow motion.

I found this very interesting and thought about how Putnam was talking about TV disconnecting people. I believe that in the last few years that TV is connecting more and more people with the help of other technology like the internet. People are hosting "TV Parites" and having friends come over to analyze shows like LOST or another huge hit Grey's Anatomy. After the show is over they get online and start chatting and blogging with people across the world about what happened and coming up with theories. "Part of watching this show is talking about it," says Nicholas Gatto, 14, "It doesn't just end at the credits" (TIME 80). TV producers of the show have also read these blogs and have changed or altered the show by setting up some of the theories and proving them wrong. It is sort of like making the show interactive with the audience. In summary, I think this article is one perfect anatagonist to Putnam's idea of TV being a source of disconnect. I think these "TV parties" are going to be a new trend but for how long will they last? What is next for TV shows in the future? Will the impact of shows like LOST change the trends that Putnam has brought to the forefront about TV?

The article is in TIME Magazine October 2, 2006 issue; pages 79-82.

SENSATIONAL news!!!!!!

A few days ago I was looking at the Star Tribune online and the “front page? top story was titled something about a “mother slain while children hide in closet.? (I really should have bookmarked it because now I can’t find it.) It was a very sensationalized headline, however gruesome the crime may have been. As we just discussed in class today, the question that came up in my mind was one of the necessity of this story on the front page. Although it is a tragic event, it is something that seems to happen daily in this large city of ours. Is it possible that other topics such as politics, economics, health car and education may be more relevant to more people that a crime in one neighborhood? I feel that because these things apply to such a large sector of people in our society that they should be left for the front page and the individual stories left for the inner pages. Because crime is also a relevant factor in our society it still needs to be reported on, however individual cases such as this do not merit front page worthiness.
One reason this may have been put on the front page, however, is because it could be considered a conversation starter. For the newspaper this is good because it increases the times their paper is mentioned, and for people in general it could be considered a builder of social capital in a way. It is the kind of story people tell other people and have discussions about. Although it could be seen as a social capital builder, does this really encourage healthy, strong bonds between people or is it just a reason to gossip? I would venture to state that this is an “empty? conversation started and no real social capital could be gained or retained from it.

Louie Armstrong is corrupting America

Since the tragedies of 9/11/01, there have been many cases in which people feel that their rights and freedoms have been trampled on in the name of safety. One such case occurred when radio giant, Clear Channel released a list of songs which were to be banned from their radio stations for fear that they may remind people of 9/11 and may be traumatising to the families who lost loved ones that day. Though it seems odd that when war is in question, most media outlets would like us to remember 9/11, funny how that works. However, as the songs were revealed, people noticed that many of the songs had nothing to do with 9/11 but were simply banned by Clear Channel because those who made the list did not agree with the political message in the song. Some songs had no political message at all and it makes sense to believe that the folks at Clear Channel smoke a lot of crack. Here are some songs banned to keep us safe from the memories of 9/11:

All songs by Rage Against The Machine
AC/DC "Dirty Deeds"
Alanis Morissette "Ironic"
Dave Matthews Band "Crash Into Me"
Bangles "Walk Like an Egyptian"
The Beatles "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "Ticket To Ride", & "Obla Di, Obla Da"
Elton John "Rocket Man"
Jerry Lee Lewis "Great Balls of Fire"
Cat Stevens "Peace Train"
Edwin Starr/Bruce Springstein "War"
Van Halen "Jump"
Pat Benatar "Hit Me with Your Best Shot"
Louis Armstrong "What A Wonderful World"
(check out the full list at: http://www.f---edcompany.com/extras/clearchannel_email.cfm)

Damn you Louie Armstrong! The point of this blog is to illustrate that the link between politics and corporations can often become too close , to the point where corporations are used as tools for political corruption. It is scary to think that a political agenda can overcome the interests of the consumer. Political corruption becomes even more frightening when it leaks into corporations which control large sections of the media. As Jim Morrison once said, “ He who controls the media, controls the mind.?.

Media Ownership

Here are the websites on media ownership I mentioned in class:

  • Media Reform Information Center

  • Columbia Journalism Review: Who Owns What
  • Additionally, there's a really interesting article by Joshua Gamson and Pearl Latteier from Contexts magazine a few years back called "Do media monsters devour diversity?" (Note: if that link doesn't work, go here, click on "Contexts" and then find the Summer 2004 issue. The article starts on p. 26). Surprisngly, their argument is that, at least in terms of diversity, consolidation of media ownership doesn't hurt - and may in fact help - diversity in television programming. It's not required, but would make great material for a blog entry if anyone wants to take it on...

    September 25, 2006

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks about the U.S.

    The United Nations held their general assembly last week, and two of the main events were speeches made by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Each of these political leaders addressed the United States directly and indirectly, Prsident Chavez even went so far as to suggest that President Bush was the devil incarnate. At the forefront of the concerns of the Iranian president were the nuclear aspirations of Iran, and the U.S.'s stance in the recent conflict in Lebanon. President Ahmadinejad directly challenged President Bush to a live televised debate, to which the White House offered no response. On Wednesday, September 20th, a live interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN provided more insight into the Iranian President's opinion's and motives. Ahmadinejad repeatedly stated that Iran wished for peace and cooperation with the U.S. , which presented a few issues in my mind. With the possibility of conflict with Iran increasing, and the United States poor standing in the eyes of the middle east, I believe now is the time to explore other foreign policy options.

    When watching the interview with President Ahmadinejad, I could not help but notice that his proposals seemed deceiving, and his propositions of peace were anything but benevolent. This all seemed harder to swallow when considering Ahmadinejad's denial of the holocaust, and his call for Israel to be "wiped off the map". I do, however, believe that this presents a unique opportunity to reverse our faulty foreign policy. President Bush has stated that he will not negotiate with Iran until they agree to halt their nuclear program (the same for North Korea). This intuitively seems counter-productive, and will not lead to anything but standoffs and sabre-rattling. Iran will not agree to halting their nuclear program, because having that ability makes them a player on the world stage. The means to produce nuclear weapons will give them recognition in the international community and force people to listen to them. I do not believe that Iran is so foolish as to attack the U.S. if they were to attain nuclear weapons, but rather, if they possess them they have leverage to negotiate.

    Continue reading "Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks about the U.S." »

    September 13, 2006

    (Front Page) IS LINDSAY LOHAN MARRIED? (page 12B) minnesota soldier killed in Iraq

    The other day I was perusing through a copy of the Star Tribune, and I happened to notice a tragic and shocking event behind the colorful advertisements and front pages devoted to Hollwood break-ups and engagements, major league sports, and fashion trends. Another U.S. soldier was killed in Iraq, and even more noteworthy, the first Hmong from Minnesota. This was not the first time that I had noticed that the death of another of our country's finest, a reminder of the sacrifices made day in and day out by those on the front lines, had been demoted to the back pages. I made these same observations when I served as a soldier in Iraq, and when I got home immediately thereafter. The initial shock and repudiation has faded, but every time I have to scan the entire newspaper for the news that should serve as a glaring reminder to the American public of the cost of this war I begin to question the underlying motives behind the blissful ignorance.

    Surely, it can be stated that the American public has a short attention span, and furthermore, a low tolerance for casulties. I would, however, like to delve deeper into this problem ( the aforementioned neglect of reporting on the Iraq war), and suggest that the apparent complancency on the part of the media outlets (who serve the interests of the American public) in reporting on the Iraq war is subjected to racial and class-based discrimination.
    An overwhelming number of the members of the U.S. military come from the lower class of American society. In addition to that, the military has a disproportionate number of minorities among it's ranks. It may seem like a far stretch of the imagination, but it is worth looking into to suggest that maybe the public's apparent uneasiness with stomaching the casulties of their nation is based in other aspects (i.e. Vietnam), but is exacerbated by the racial and class differences between those serving, and those in power.

    http://www.startribune.com/462/story/661544.html

    Response to "Reflections of Society within the Music Industry"

    The author of the blog post "Reflections of Society Within the Music Industry" argued that "mainstream music has always reflected intrests of of the majority of it's audience..." He referenced protest song musicians such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young during the Vienam war era, arguing that since it was a time of large community activism, these musicians emerged. The author goes on to say that musicians now are only about appearance and sex, reflecting a shallow society that would not perform any acts that would not lead to instant personal gratification. I agree to a certain extent, however, I believe he missed certain major points.

    Continue reading "Response to "Reflections of Society within the Music Industry"" »

    September 12, 2006

    9/11 Miniseries on ABC

    Last night (Mon. Sept. 11) I watched approximately 1-2 hours of the second half of the 9/11 miniseries on ABC. Basically this miniseries was supposed to be a dramatization. Even though I read the "disclosure statement" that said it was a dramatization when it first came on, I assumed it would be portraying mostly accurate events. As I watched, I saw things that made the Clinton administration (as well as the Bush administration) look pretty bad. Today, I read in a few different stories on CNN.com that many of the events portrayed in the miniseries were not accurate. http://www.cnn.com/2006/SHOWBIZ/TV/09/08/review.television.911.reut/index.html I also found out that just days before it aired, scenes were edited because of the inaccuracy.

    Continue reading "9/11 Miniseries on ABC" »

    Reflections of Society within the Music Industry

    Putnam raises the point, as others in the class have mentioned, that more and more people do not wish to bring political topics into everyday conversations because Americans are becoming more individualy focused. I believe that a similar phenomenon can be witnessed within the music industry. Mainstream music has always reflected the interest of the majority of it's audience, so it would make sense that if a country was concerned with war, artists might write protest songs, where a society that is highly individualized would not. In the wake of the Veitnam War, we saw the rise of artists such as Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and The Sex Pistols, all with politically driven lyrics. Today, during the Iraq War, we see more artists being used as corparate tools to sell skin cream and breast inplants. Rather than focusing on topics such as war, hunger, and political injustice, mainstream artists like Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears, and Nelly seem to have a message that is more focused on individualized topics like sex, smoking marijuana, and uh...sex. This is a reflection of the individualization of our society.
    This individualization of song content in mainstream music underlines a disturbing trend that reflects many people's reasoning for becoming involved in community organizations. People seem to think more along the lines of, "What's in it for me?" rather than seeing a bigger picture or asking "How can I make the world a better place". It is important to note that music is not causing individualization but rather it is reflecting it. So, assuming that mainstream music is still a reflection of mainstream society today as it has been in the past, we can tell from examining the music industry, that America is becoming more focused on individualized issues rather than problems that encompass the entire society. This may explain a dropoff in community involvement and political activism.

    September 10, 2006

    Mini-series causes political problems

    A 9/11 mini-series, yet to be broadcast is deeply troubling the political world. The mini-series, entitled “The Path to 9/11? portrays the Clinton administration’s pursuit of Bin Laden. It is currently undergoing editing by ABC because of multiple scenes that are overly fictionalized, and make the Clinton administration seem careless in their pursuit of Bin Laden. One interesting aspect of the mini-series is the consultant on the mini-series, Thomas Kean, also co-chairman of the 9/11 commission, and not surprisingly, a republican. He has been accused of being driven by bribes from ABC or his own politics to portray the Clinton administration in a negative way. Two aides to Clinton, even wrote a letter stating that Mr. Kean’s actions were, “destroying the bi-partisan aura of the 9/11 commission.? The Democratic Party is so afraid of the new mini-series that it gathered over 100,000 signatures in 24 hours against its broadcast.

    This mini-series wouldn’t have caused such problems if American’s didn’t take TV as seriously as they do. According to Mr. Kean, the mini-series is still a mini-series, not a documentary. However, as made obvious by the reaction to the mini-series, it may be all the same to the American public. The debate over this mini-series shows clearly how great an influence television can have on American society. Americans continue to sit glued to the TV for more and more hours each day, absorbing all the stuff that is spewed out at them, no matter what it is. American’s dependence on televised media has possibly made the American public too easy to influence. It seems that fads are constantly shifting and changing, largely due to what’s being broadcast on the TV. Could political trends also be dictated by what is shown on TV? Or is this all just being blown out of proportion?