Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains:
Knatz.com / Teaching / Society / Social Order / Media / News /
1998 07 16
That the NEWS is managed, far from impartially
They don’t know themselves
and they don’t want anyone else to know.
1999 09 01
I’ve been present at “news” events and seen them accurately represented on the news a few hours later: The Lippizaners are in town. But I’ve never been present at an event of controversial importance that I then didn’t see (knowingly?) misrepresented in the following hours, years, or even decades: the demographics (who, how many …) of a protest, for example.
2001 04 11
The balance of my original NEWS module follows below. Today I have to insert a far more important example of managed dysinformation than the item that happened to trigger this essay in its first form: the attribution of anti-war protests in the Vietnam era to students. Even a first class intellect like Noam Chomsky caught the bug. The story of how I participated in a march on the United Nations where the police prevented “90%” of the protesters from arriving at the destination so that official crowd estimators could miscount participation is told in Misrepresentation. Briefly here: the advance grapevine for the protest had suggested that academics wear their colors. A lot of Ph.D. gowns and mortal board tassels with their university specific colors appeared in New York’s Central Park Sheep Meadow that day. That evening the news, unable to avoid showing the garb, “reported” that “students” wore their student gear. Sure there were students there. What was being additionally misrepresented though was the volume of faculty present. The Sheep Meadow that day was not Oberlin or Bryn Mawr where sometimes apart from commencement medieval academic garb is worn; everyone in colors that day was a teacher. (Of course any “teacher” worth his salt is also, perpetually, a student. The official news organs, policy apologists, “all” cooperated in the misrepresentation. Now the falsity is “history.”
2003 12 27
I remain dissatisfied that I have still not sufficiently clarified one thing: raised in a culture with news ubiquitous we tend to think of news as something real, something natural: like weather. No: information is natural. Concern about our selves, our fellows, and events is natural; news is more akin to social management than to fact. (I am further chagrined that I have not made time to recompose this subject from scratch. I will.)
1998 07 16
The networks have recently been filling the broadcast spectrum with reports of the benefits of soy-based foods. The other night I see that Winn-Dixie supermarkets have updated their ads to boast how you can buy to-fu and soy milk and soy sauce in their stores. This morning I reread an article from a few issues back in Science News (May 30, 98): recent studies have made strides toward isolating and analyzing isoflavones: soy’s “active ingredient.” With more people surviving with heart disease, medicine has created still another new “epidemic” (when people died quickly from heart problems, there was no epidemic: just naturally dead middle-aged to old people). Now researchers are finding that soy foods can accelerate the effectiveness of some cholesterol-lowering medications, and, in some cases, substitute for such medications entirely. I find the part I’m looking for: the correlation was first documented in the West note thirty years ago.
Now the NEWS is only thirty years note old. That’s progress, I guess: especially when you consider how many people still haven’t absorbed Abelard, Occam, Luther, Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, Malthus, Darwin, Einstein, Godel, Feynman, Feigenbaum, Mandelbrot …
As a college student my trips to the once hated Metropolitan Museum of Art started catching up in frequency to my visits to my long-beloved Museum of Modern Art. There was a guy named Jerry who was always hanging around. He first approached me because I had a fountain pen in my hand as I stood in front of a Monet. It made him nervous and he said so. I put it away and made my notes in my head. But after that, he always came up to me. One time I’m standing jammed between the wall and the Gibraltar-scale buttocks note of Maillol’s Summer.
(not the same exact piece)
“That’s So&So,” Jerry commented. “She was still an art student when she posed for that piece. Phil Gould used to date her when he studied in Paris.”
Phil Gould! The Ichabod Crane of the Columbia fine art department! He looked like a human paint brush! Professor Gould had been my instructor for the Humanities fine arts requirement. How did Jerry know that? I can’t imagine I told him.
Another time I’m standing in front of an El Greco. “That’s not the original,” Jerry says. “Mrs. So&So has loaned it, not given it, to the museum. She took the original back for a party she gave last Friday. Normally she hangs a commissioned copy; right now, we’ve got the copy.”
I’m with the Dutch. “This Rembrandt is actually by Hals. That Hals is really by Rembrandt.” Who was this guy? According to him, a third of the paintings were mislabeled. Soon I’d be running into note him in the Whitehorse Tavern.
One day Jerry spots me at the top of the main stairs.
Been here long?
Oh, a few hours.
What have you seen?
The Cellini salt cellar: I know, I know — it’s attributed to Cellini. The Rodins, of course. Mostly I was in the Etruscan rooms.
What do you like in particular there?
I always visit that big guy with the fierce look and the shield — the guy whose dick is broken clean off.
Jerry tells me that that piece rapidly became famous for being an Etruscan anomaly. Most extant Etruscan sculpture is way smaller than life-size. No wonder, he soon confides: that and another similar piece are total fabrications. He names the artist: something Italian. He identifies the studio in Italy where the fraud was perpetrated. He gives a date in the early ’40s (this was like 1958 or 1959). He names the dealer and the buyer and discloses how it came to the museum.
Later I learn that Jerry was always in the museum because he was their lecturer. So maybe some of what he told me was true. I’d never questioned him — I’d taken everything he told me with a grain of salt. I used to be able to tolerate compulsive liars along with many other types.
Digression? Not at all. Ten years later the New York Times has a front page article announcing that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has “discovered” that two of its most popular Etruscan pieces are fakes. I recognized all the details: the artist, the date, the location, the dealer …
Now everything Jerry had told me became all the more credible. What lost credibility was the New York Times and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
I take the article to have been true except for one little thing: it wasn’t news. At least not new news. Maybe the NYT didn’t know; but the Met did. Or was the Met organized in accordance with Jesus’ words about alms giving:
Let not thy left hand know
what thy right hand doeth
Or is news whatever the free press of a free society deigns to share with the Pollyanna public? Did the Met think it was giving alms? Perhaps the New York Times did.
I am not suggesting that Jerry’s map of the authenticity of the Met’s holdings was perfect. Neither do I imagine the inner offices of the NYT or the White House to “know everything.” But I do know that they know far more than they tell. I also know that much of what they tell they know to be false. A little encouragement would spur me to think of many other examples. (Those that come unencouraged I’ll add as notes.) A moderate budget for research would come up with enough additional examples to put any modern institution out of business (but for the infinite and international indulgence of all the Pollyanna publics). It isn’t just the government and the media: it’s also the doctors and the teachers, lawyers and companies, priests, the police and palm readers … even scientists.
What gets us into trouble
is not what we don’t know;
it’s what we know for sure
that just ain’t so.
If I had a NYT in my hands in the late ’60s, it would have been to read Russell Baker and then to see what the Yankees were doing. Noticing the Met article would have been coincidental. My son doesn’t follow sports and reads no newspapers at all. Yet whenever I mention any “news” to him, he already knows it. It turns out that University of Virginia subscribes to a news service which it piped to his internet account. The news he reviewed there was the same raw information the media themselves rely on. (No longer affiliated with UVA, he now visits National Public Radio.)
(These days I subscribe not to a news, but to an intelligence service: Stratfor.com.)
Try a news pipe. Find AP access. Read what comes into the NYT. Now read what the NYT does with it. Follow the same news story through the rest of the media: note the differences between a Republican rehash and a Democratic. Don’t neglect The Wall Street Journal or the economics magazines. Now follow it through the media of other countries: Das Spiegel, Le Figaro … (Does the Worker still exist? I’m not even sure of the others I just mentioned. But they did. The point remains.) Note which ones don’t follow the story at all. Try to imagine why.
2004 11 01 (dates can get screwed up when I don’t remember whether I put the month first or the year in any particular instance, then I have to guess when I revise things.)
You want to know what’s going on? You want to know about the California black outs before they happen? Go to DieOff.com. Subscribe to Jay Hanson’s Brain Food newsletter. Spend lots of time here at Knatz.com. Visit with Ian Goddard. Oh: and see what Pentti Linkola has to say.
Above I referred to the product of news services as raw data. That’s only relatively true. Nietzsche denied the existence of
(a topic I’ll get back to soon as part of my fundamental Thinking Tools),
insisting that all is interpretation.
OK, just concede that there are spectra between objectivity and subjectivity, data and editorial, experience and description … Let’s assign a unity to the ideal of objectivity and a zero to the imaginary “ideal” of total subjectivity (in reality, the half-life of total subjectivity should be as short as that found for any of the exotic sub-atomic particles): now we can rate (necessarily somewhat subjectively) the “objectivity” of this or that news organ. We could, that is, if we ourselves had reliable data, reliable theory, and some degree of objectivity ourselves. What would indeed be interesting would be to invite all citizens of all countries to follow my suggestion. Invite them further to publish their ratings. (Sound like FLEX?) Now, assign a few independent mathematicians to digest the publications, graphing them according to averages, means, and whatever else seems pertinent. Sub-graph the graphs demographically. Remember, the Chinese as well as Californians would be rating the NYT, Finns and Australians, the Manchester Guardian.
In the movie War Games the young Matthew Broderick played a talented hacker who broke into a military data base. By the end the generals have ID’d him as their villain and, almost believably, like nit-wits, imprison him (remember? yes) in their war room! The generals’ fancy computer gone amuck is showing major US targets to be under nuclear attack and blips them out to signify that they’re “gone.” The war machine is about to retaliate big time but our hero’s conniptions finally stimulate them to confirm the computer’s simulation. They telephone NY or DC or someplace. “We’re still here. What holocaust?” is what they interpret from the phone.
The war room wall showed a computer simulation of the US. The telephone receiver converts electrical impulses into simulations of the human voice. I nudged note my son. “First they believed the computer simulation; now they believe the phone. It’s still just simulations.”
Modern society. Once we had our eyes and ears. Our hands and our minds. Now we have television and newspapers and schools. Everything is digested for us. And not necessarily properly digested. The more artificial our environment, the more numerous our constraints, the more we talk about how free we are.
But freedom needs a separate piece.
(This is one of a few modules on the subject.) Continue to NEWS Scrapbook.
Scrapbook on Media
West: soy foods
For decades now to-fu and soy sauce have been as basic a part of my larder as potatoes, onions, and peanut butter. I mastered chopsticks as a child in a Chinese restaurant in Rockville Centre, Long Island. I was an upperclassman before trying Ma Po To-Fu. Man, oh man. I was in my upper twenties before the wok became my main cooking utensil.
Now the networks are worrying for us how to-fu can be made palatable. Where have these people been? Obviously not to New York’s China Town. Or if they did visit, they probably ordered whatever was familiar from the culinary jokes strewn across the hinterlands under the generic falsehood: “Chinese.” Chop Suey. Fried Rice. … Please.
I once took a group of new acquaintances to BoBo’s on Pell Street. No menus. No prices. Only a half a dozen tables. What foods were fresh that day were announced in Mandarin characters hung in strips on the walls. “Feed us,” was how I ordered for the group. The uncertain and mistrustful looks I got from the party (I was their guest, they had no idea what kind of a bill I was committing them to) soon turned to looks of respectful gratitude. “Best meal I’ve ever had” came as a chorus. And the bill was a mere pittance.
Ma Po To Fu is peasant food. So too is hot & sour soup. The aristocrats could be served polished rice: they were already over-nourished. But the peasants couldn’t afford to mess around. Even served with bleached rice those two dishes can make the palate twinkle and the feet to commence dancing.
Thirty Years: old news
The isoflavone is new; the soy correlation is not.
Even so: how long did it take nutritional “science” to notice American incidents of heart disease compared to Oriental? How long did it take medical “science” to grudge any importance to nutrition at all? Or to exercise?
Even thirty years ago the nutritional and economic value of bean curd was ancient news to anyone not wearing cultural blinders.
Buttocks: erotic proclivities
Yes, I’m an ass man.
A distinctive bosom can send signals from a distance. Up close and personal, it’s their sensitivity (and hygiene) which is paramount, their shape secondary, and their size barely relevant. Extraordinary size can menace intimacy. I once made love to a Julliard student so huge that I needed a chiropractor after trying to kiss her simultaneous to being in the missionary position. I felt like a was parked on a hill with no emergency brake and the transmission and steering otherwise engaged. One FLEX volunteer looked the same standing, but on her back, she was utterly flat chested. Her breasts had flowed down and away on either side toward the sheets. I finally located her nipples somewhere between her ribs and her waist.
Size in the bottom is also, taken in isolation, irrelevant. It’s shape and firmness which count: correspondence and proportion.
But of course our breast fetish is recent and an aberration among primates and other mammals. Entry from the rear has lured males for millions of years; getting the male to approach from the front is a development no more than 250,000 years old, possibly only 150,000.
See Owen Lovejoy’s section of Donald C. Johanson’s Lucy and any of Desmond Morris’ popular books. Piers Anthony, as already mentioned, brings all these things nicely together in his Geodyssey.
Running Into: sexual orientation
When I was a young man more than your average proportion of girls and women found me attractive and made no bones about making it clear. But that was nothing compared to the number of homosexual propositions I received, some of them persistent enough to call for the kind of confrontation I normally avoid.
One time a bunch of us were walking in the Village. A stranger called Anton over. Anton came back all red faced.
“What was that?”
“He wanted to give me a blow job.”
“What?” ! Whoop. Squeal. Bleat. “With Paul
It was easy for me to believe that it was only a matter of time before Jerry would talk of something other than art. But I’m pleased to say he never did. I’d like to run into him again.
Nudged: audience manners
Once upon a time society went to the theater to see and hear themselves as much as the actors, singers, acrobats and musicians. One had a box so that one could talk to one’s companions and neighboring boxes. Opera glasses helped one look down the dresses of the ladies in the central seats. The ladies cooperated in the fashions that invited such tele-scrutiny. There were plenty of intermissions, but many gentlemen didn’t wait for them to move from box to box, gazing and chatting, exchanging cards. The ladies gossiped the while behind their fans. The maidens would have arrived pre-trained to cover everything with their fans but their bosoms.
A king or duke might have listened attentively to Hayden or Beethoven but had either preferred to talk, no one would have shushed him. Amadeus was good at showing the difficulty an independent like Mozart had in understanding that his role was musical servant, not musician. Any of those societies would have suited me as ill as this one.
Of course you are welcome to wonder with me where I or any of our contemporaries would have been placed had we been born in say Victorian England. We somehow always imagine ourselves among the privileged. I don’t know where Princess Di would have been, but JFK, or you and I, would have been lucky to be cleaning spittoons.
I grew up in a culture between the Edwardian and television. My parents’ generation went to the theater as a duty to their class — not the class they belonged to, but the class they aspired to. Shakespeare’s audience would have gawked and made comments during a performance; not my parents’ generation. No: “culture” was like church. You minded your manners. (Again: not your real manners; the manners you aspired to.) The audience was there for the play, not the play for the audience.
Television though is for us. We’re Americans. God owes us everything. You watch TV in your home. Of course you talk if you want to. Just like the duke. Then people started carrying the same habits to the movies. Some pimp sits in front of you with an eight foot hat on, his whore more plumped up with feathers than a tom turkey in display. He shares his wit with the world, offering his dumb sarcasms in a street voice.
Now for my parents generation it was the “legitimate” theater that they imitated their version of their Puritan heritage for. The clerk no more than the car dealer thought to keep a respectful silence at the honky-tonk. They’d sit still for pretentious garbage on the stage yet tell loud stories while Scott Joplin was playing. Had Mozart been there he might have hit them with the ash tray. America’s most distinctive art was born in the whore houses, the only place, as Billie Holiday observed, where white and black could meet in anything like a natural way.
I spent hundreds of uncomfortable hours in night clubs mourning the coarse deafness of those around me. Yet there I was, decades later, whispering to my son right at the climax of War Games. During Superman, I got the usher to make the pimp shut up and take his hat off. These days we live many cultures in one life time.