Why Americans Hate the Media

Why has the media establishment become so unpopular? Perhaps the public has good reason to think that the media’s self-aggrandizement gets in the way of solving the country’s real problems

In the late 1980s public-television stations aired a talking-heads series called Ethics in America. For each show more than a dozen prominent citizens sat around a horseshoe-shaped table and tried to answer troubling ethical questions posed by a moderator. The series might have seemed a good bet to be paralyzingly dull, but at least one show was riveting in its drama and tension.

The episode was taped in the fall of 1987. Its title was “Under Orders, Under Fire,” and most of the panelists were former soldiers talking about the ethical dilemmas of their work. The moderator was Charles Ogletree, a professor at Harvard Law School, who moved from panelist to panelist asking increasingly difficult questions in the law school’s famous Socratic style.

During the first half of the show Ogletree made the soldiers squirm about ethical tangles on the battlefield. The man getting the roughest treatment was Frederick Downs, a writer who as a young Army lieutenant in Vietnam had lost his left arm in a mine explosion.

Ogletree asked Downs to imagine that he was a young lieutenant again. He and his platoon were in the nation of “South Kosan,” advising South Kosanese troops in their struggle against invaders from “North Kosan.” (This scenario was apparently a hybrid of the U.S. roles in the Korean and Vietnam wars.) A North Kosanese unit had captured several of Downs’s men alive—but Downs had also captured several of the North Kosanese. Downs did not know where his men were being held, but he thought his prisoners did.

And so Ogletree put the question: How far would Downs go to make a prisoner talk? Would he order him tortured? Would he torture the prisoner himself? Downs himself speculated on what he would do if he had a big knife in his hand. Would he start cutting the prisoner? When would he make himself stop, if the prisoner just wouldn’t talk?

Downs did not shrink from the questions or the implications of his answers. He wouldn’t enjoy doing it, he told Ogletree. He would have to live with the consequences for the rest of his life. But yes, he would torture the captive. He would use the knife. Implicit in his answers was the idea that he would do the cutting himself and would listen to the captive scream. He would do whatever was necessary to try to save his own men. While explaining his decisions Downs sometimes gestured with his left hand for emphasis. The hand was a metal hook.

Ogletree worked his way through the other military officials, asking all how they reacted to Frederick Downs’s choice. William Westmoreland, who had commanded the whole U.S. force in Vietnam when Downs was serving there, deplored Downs’s decision. After all, he said, even war has its rules. An Army chaplain wrestled with how he would react if a soldier in a morally troubling position similar to Downs’s came to him privately and confessed what he had done. A Marine Corps officer juggled a related question: What would he do if he came across an American soldier who was about to torture or execute a bound and unarmed prisoner, who might be a civilian?

The soldiers disagreed among themselves. Yet in describing their decisions they used phrases like “I hope I would have the courage to . . .” and “In order to live with myself later I would . . .” The whole exercise may have been set up as a rhetorical game, but Ogletree’s questions clearly tapped into discussions the soldiers had already had about the consequences of choices they made.

Continue reading all at the Atlantic.


condoms and guns


Confessions of a Corporate Spy

What do you think it means to be an expert in “hard-to-get elicitation”? It means people tell you things. A competitive intelligence consultant discusses things that can help a business–at the expense of another.

When I strolled into a Talbots near closing time on a Wednesday night, I wasn’t expecting Phipps Plaza in Atlanta’s ritzy Buckhead neighborhood to be so dead. Perfect for me. Less so for the store manager. I entered keenly aware of how completely out of place I must have seemed–a heavyset thirtysomething black guy in Walmart dress slacks, trying to look casual while fondling Hil­lary Clinton-esque blouses. If I were on staff, I might have briefly considered the possibility that I had come in only to knock over the place while things were quiet.

And I would have been about right.

I’m a competitive-intelligence researcher. A spy, of sorts. I don’t break the law. But I always feel like I’m right on the edge of it, never mind my rigid ethical standards. The information I secure is given freely and obtained legally, and I don’t lie to get it, but in the back of my mind I’m always thinking, You probably don’t want me to know this.

I found myself on this perverse shopping trip for a smart green pleated skirt because a company had hired me to learn the sales targets and promotional activity from Talbots store managers. I had been recruited to attempt face-to-face social engineering–basically wheedling out the information in person.

Read all of this HERE.



Read and enjoy much more at Hope n’ Change.


Why Social Movements Should Ignore Social Media

There are two ways to be wrong about the Internet. One is to embrace cyber-utopianism and treat the Internet as inherently democratizing. Just leave it alone, the argument goes, and the Internet will destroy dictatorships, undermine religious fundamentalism, and make up for failures of institutions.1

Another, more insidious way is to succumb to Internet-centrism. Internet-centrists happily concede that digital tools do not always work as intended and are often used by enemies of democracy. What the Internet does is only of secondary importance to them; they are most interested in what the Internet means. Its hidden meanings have already been deciphered: decentralization beats centralization, networks are superior to hierarchies, crowds outperform experts. To fully absorb the lessons of the Internet, urge the Internet-centrists, we need to reshape our political and social institutions in its image.

They arrive at this reform agenda in a rather circuitous way. First, they assume that the Internet has a logic that is currently at work re-shaping a bevy of digital platforms and industries. Here is how Clay Shirky—the thinker who has done the most to popularize the McLuhanesque idea that the Internet has a coherent logic—explains why we are so worried about privacy and Facebook: “Facebook is . . . our current target for our worries about privacy in exactly the same way that the music industry obsessed about Napster [and] the newspaper industry obsessed about Craigslist, which is to say: the logic of Facebook, the logic that Facebook is exposing, is, in many ways, the logic that is implicit in the Internet itself; Facebook just happens to be its current corporate avatar.”

Read on HERE>


Concise and brilliant. From Right Wing News.



Holograms seen as tools to teach future generations about Holocaust, retell survivors’ stories

Stories of Holocaust survivors retold by holograms

For years, Holocaust survivor Pinchus Gutter has told the tragic story of watching his parents and 10-year-old twin sister herded into a Nazi death camp’s gas chambers so quickly that he had no time to even say goodbye.

Read more at Newser.


Baseball Recovered from a Civil War Battlefield

civil war baseball

From April 6-7, 1862, Americans slaughtered one another near a small log church in Tennessee called Shiloh. The nation suffered more casualties those two days than in all previous wars combined. It was a horrible shock to the divided nation–and there were worse to come. Giles Hellum, an African American employee of the Union army, found this baseball on the field. Slate’s Frank Ceresi writes: During the War Between the States, the game was played on the battlefields and even in wartime prison camps. Baseball was, after all, portable, and even amid the horrors of war, soldiers sometimes found opportunities to play on the vast open fields where they needed only a bat, a ball, and a few willing participants. […] The artifact is a “lemon peel ball,” looser and softer than today’s baseballs, and it is hand-stitched in a figure 8 pattern with thick twine.






Heading back to the doctor this morning. My back is still hurting like a bitch! Physical therapy did not work, as the exercises they gave me seem to make me feel worse. Aleve is not doing that much to knock out any pain. But massage and heat seems to help me quite a bit (have a massage/heat pad). Plus the moist heating pad is good also. But damn, woke up this morning and the worst morning so far! So wife called the clinic and they got me in.


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