Tuesday, June 08, 2010

I almost wasted my entire morning at cracked.com

...and that was the point, as it's lately felt that the piles of toxic flaming stupid are going to kill us all, and that at best, I might prolong the Darwinian angst.

I'm not sure whether to be relieved or annoyed at finding something I really HAD to blog about, something dear and relevant and essential to what I try to do, with a delicious sauce of irony ladled over top. It's no doubt telling that the only place anyone could be rewarded for publishing a succinct article about how to detect bullshit in the Mainstream Media is likely Cracked.com.

But here it is, 6 Subtle Ways The News Media Disguises Bullshit As Fact. I found it on digg. and the thing that tipped the balance from amused apathy to actual writing was that one of the "examples" cited chose to respond there. The article itself is an amusing retelling of Journalism 101. To the author, a mildly lucrative five finger exercise that brought them, if fortunate, the price of a case of better than average beer. Who - including the author- would think it's impact would be taken seriously by one of the offended parties?

But that's the magic of our new media, and the direct interaction between writer and reader. The real fun comes when the emperor insists that he is too wearing clothes!

The number one example given us by was one that is, one of the great cardinal sins of journalism: Guessing the motives instead of reporting the facts.

To illustrate, the author picked two particularly unsubtle examples.

How Can This Be Used For Evil?
Let's take a look at the same event, as reported in two different outlets:
"Obama Pledges to Press Ahead on Goals."

"Obama Tries to Boost Beleaguered Democratic National Committee."
The first headline presents what Obama actually did. It's factually true; Obama did in fact pledge to press ahead on goals. Then you have the second, which gives him a motive and adds a backstory: the Democrat party is "beleaguered" and his supposed pledge to press ahead on goals is just an attempt to boost a political party.
Now, some may say that the first one is just blindly repeating the politician's talking points, but the second is flat out mind reading. For a more ridiculous example, a newspaper in California sent a Freedom of Information Act Request to several tech companies to find out how many minorities they have working there. A few companies (including giants like Apple, Google and Yahoo!) refused the request. Headline?

"Steve Jobs Tries to Cover Up Apple's Racial Profile."
Damn! When's the next Klan meeting, Steve Jobs?
You can read more from C. Coville at her site Bloodslides.Livejournal.com.

Well, needless to say, this article was fairly popular on digg, no doubt due to "diggerals" who keep trying to impose their damned elitist "critical thinking," "science" and "evidence" on god-fearing real Americans.

There was a need to respond to such obvious misrepresentation of the craft of an honest reporter, thought the typist of the latter article, thinking he was being unfairly mocked.

  • 1 Reply — best has 2 diggs
  • Below viewing threshold.   Hide
    This article contains big factual errors *in its #1 example*. Trying to slam my headline ""Steve Jobs Tries to Cover Up Apple's Racial Profile," the author erroneously states that Apple simply refused a Freedom of Information Act Request from a pesky newspaper, so there's no attempt to cover anything up.

    In fact, Apple was never sent a FOIA request, nor did it every "deny" one. It's absurd to think it would since FOIA applies to the government not the private sector.

    What *did* happen is that Apple fought for 18 months to prevent the release of taxpayer-owned data about its workforce on the grounds that a racial breakdown was a competitive trade secret. This claim was called "absurd" by FOIA expert and University of Pacific prof John Sims. Stanford Law's Richard Ford was among those calling on Apple to release the data for its value in studying broader race issues in America.

    Given the extraordinary effort Apple went to to prevent the release of Labor Department aggregate data by quashing a FOIA request to which it was not a direct party, and given its absurd reasoning, I said it was trying to cover up its racial profile, which is quite literally what it was trying to do. It doesn't want its racial profile known and fought for
    18 months to keep it that way.

    If Cracked.com wants to hold my post up as the worst example of media manipulation it should at least do so on the basis of actual information about what actually happened and not laughably false assumptions. More on what ACTUALLY happened here , decide for yourself if Apple tried to "Cover Up" its racial profile.http://www.mercurynews.com/top-stories/ci_14382477 ...
    2 Replies — best has 45 diggs
    • Dugg by friends: BerkanaKaiserArny
      Oh cry me a river, you ass.

      Your article's title, "Steve Jobs Tries to Cover Up Apple's Racial Profile," not only implies that Jobs is a racist, but that HE WAS SOLELY RESPONSIBLE for this "cover up," which you never actually point out in the article. You never once provided us with any actual evidence that Jobs was doing some sort of shady racist business.

      Also, the article you linked said that Google, Yahoo, Oracle, and Applied Sciences did the same thing, yet rather than cover all of these companies, you focused on Steve Jobs. Why? So you could make a crack about how all the executives were white? You realize that there's more to "diversity" than skin color, right?

      But I digress. The whole reason that your article was mentioned was not because of its content. It was because the title painted Jobs as a racist engaged in some sort of conspiracy when there was much more to it than that. The author's point still stands, you just missed it completely.
      1 Reply — best has 7 diggs

Perhaps this new media stuff is working out after all. Or perhaps irony isn't any deader than it ever was. I did, indeed laugh out loud.

This is a perfect illustration of the great unwritten commandment of journalism. "Never buy the slant of the rag you work for." Why? 

Dude, are you a journalist, or an editorialist? A journalist is paid to be able to tell the difference between shit and shinola. An editorialist is one who's paid far, far better to to conceal the distinction, or better yet, imply that only commies, paedophiles and anti-Semites think there is any difference.

You see, the distinction is one of integrity. You may have to take a paycheck from someone like Hearst, Murdoch  or Conrad Black in order to keep enough whiskey in your cupboard - but for the journalist, the whisky is the medication required to do the job, while for the editorialist, it's the reward at the end of the day for having done it.


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