Showing posts tagged newspapers

Noam Chomsky’s Teeth

(from CounterPunch)

One day the great brain went to the dentist for a check up after several years of neglect. During the examination, the tooth doctor noticed extreme wear on the enamel of Chomsky’s molars.

“Noam, do grind your teeth?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Well, the enamel is taking a real pounding. Perhaps you’re doing it at night. Can you ask your wife if she’s observed anything?”

Chomsky goes home Lexington, near the MIT campus and tells his wife Carol about his encounter with the dentist. That night and the next, Carol stays up after Noam has fallen asleep, keeping a close watch for any nocturnal grinding but notices no unusual dental machinations.

However, Carol did observe a furious gnashing each morning at the breakfast table as Noam read his way through the New York Times.

Chomsky taught two generations how to read the paper of record, how to detect the warps in its stories, the subtle biases and false constructions, the decisive elisions of context, and servility toward elite power. What Chomsky could do not was to teach us how to stop reading the New York Times. 

As a result, thousands of activists around the globe reach for the Times (or the Guardian or the Washington Post) each morning, with red pens in hand, begin marking it up and grinding the enamel off their teeth.

… the role of the print and broadcast media, which are almost always eager to trumpet sensational claims of the extraordinary and then, when the claims are shown to be bunkum, criminally negligent in acknowledging that fact.

This is frequently compounded in the modern era by the perversion that has grown up of the old idea of journalistic balance: the new faux balance seeks to find a mid-way point not between two realities, but between a reality-based viewpoint (right or wrong) and one that is demonstrably false. The result in the minds of the audience - and who knows, maybe in the minds of the pundits too - is a fallacious perception that facts are somehow subject to debate.

Yes, of course, the interpretation of facts is very often open for discussion, but the facts themselves are not. The attitude that everyone’s opinion is equally valid, no matter the level of expertise or ignorance - and certainly not matter what the reality actually is - is lethally dangerous in some areas…

And it’s getting worse.
This is a photo of the famous 1971 Rolling Stone editorial conference. At the back, in the middle, you can see Jann Wenner sitting on the ground and Hunter S. Thompson wearing some sort of gown standing beside him. Tim Crouse is at the front left, and Joe Ezsterhas is the beardy mook second in from the middle right.

This is a photo of the famous 1971 Rolling Stone editorial conference.

At the back, in the middle, you can see Jann Wenner sitting on the ground and Hunter S. Thompson wearing some sort of gown standing beside him. Tim Crouse is at the front left, and Joe Ezsterhas is the beardy mook second in from the middle right.

Tonight, we went to a talk by Robert Fisk at the Minella Hotel, just across the road from my house.

Fisk is a Middle East journalist of great renown who is probably most famous for somehow getting to interview Osama Bin Laden, on three separate occasions, in 1993, in 1996 and again in 1997. He also annoyed John Malkovich, for some reason, who said in 2002 that he wanted to “just shoot” him.

When I got my chance to have my old, hardback copy of The Great War For Civilisation signed, he notice that the cover was not in great shape. “I can see why you brought it in a bag!” he said.

"Yes," I answered, "it’s been through the wars with me." He looked at me. "No! Not ‘the wars’! I mean, you know, with me. It’s been with me since I bought it."

Then I asked him if he brought the brutal, upsetting videos he had with him the last time I saw him, and he said he didn’t, which is probably for the best, as I wanted Andrea to be interested, not repulsed.

Here is a selection of quotes from the night:

"Saudi Arabia is a fake state… [If I were a Saudi King], I’d rather live in Clonmel than Riyadh!”

"I mean why don’t they just rename the New York Times - U.S. Officials Say?" (On the deeply suspicious content sourcing in most mainstream newspapers.)

"Peace treaties don’t travel." (On being asked if the Northern Ireland peace process or the experience in Tunisia could help the Palestinians.)

"Sweden! Where everything is perfect and nothing goes wrong." (On mentioning Sweden as being a paragon of governance. He was possibly being sarcastic. I’m honestly not sure.)

"While they are physically in Baghdad, they might as well be in Co. Mayo." (Trashing hotel journalism, with which Iraq war reporting was heavily infected.)

Any of his books are highly recommended, and go see him if you can.

Daft Punk did a thing at the Grammy Awards last night! Good for them.

Now let us have a brief tour through some of the lazier areas of contemporary music journalism.

So this one time, the South African division of Reuters converted 50 Cent.

So this one time, the South African division of Reuters converted 50 Cent.

As with most medicines, the things that are good for us in small doses can become toxic in large ones. Writ large, the intimacy that we value so highly is cronyism. The valuing of the personal is an impatience with ideas. The tolerance is indifference. The love of the local is also a clientelist political system in which the sense of a national polity almost disappears.

The adaptability that has allowed communities to absorb large-scale immigration also manifests itself as mass emigration when times are tough. The Irish success at social networking can lead to the idea that you can get around anything if you know the right people.

- Fintan O’Toole, Irish Times Weekend Review, 26 October 2013, perhaps unwittingly hitting on the Aristotelian model of community.

In the beforetimes, in the long long ago, Aristotle wrote that “man is a political animal”. This is frequently misinterpreted to mean that man is naturally interested in representative democracy as we currently understand it.

What he meant was that humans are designed by nature to actively engage in the particularly Greek way of organising people, the polis. Because this word polis is the source of our ‘police’, ‘policy’, ‘politics’, and every city that ends in ‘-polis’ or ‘-pol’, there has historically been some confusion about this quote, ascribing to Aristotle motives and intentions that he cannot have had.

In yesterday’s weekend edition of The Irish Times, they had a little vox pops thing, asking the question, “What words have most inspired you?”
My father added his own comments to some of the suggestions and left it on the table where I have my tea. If you can’t read it, here are the relevant inspirational quotes (and his comments in parentheses):
"There’s always a solution." (Death)
"You’ll only regret it if you don’t try it." (homos)
"There’s a crack in everything, and that’s where the light comes through." (or water)
"Be bold enough to enjoy life now." (pay later)

In yesterday’s weekend edition of The Irish Times, they had a little vox pops thing, asking the question, “What words have most inspired you?”

My father added his own comments to some of the suggestions and left it on the table where I have my tea. If you can’t read it, here are the relevant inspirational quotes (and his comments in parentheses):

"There’s always a solution." (Death)

"You’ll only regret it if you don’t try it." (homos)

"There’s a crack in everything, and that’s where the light comes through." (or water)

"Be bold enough to enjoy life now." (pay later)

I sent a sternly-worded letter to the Irish Times about Neil Young's farcical negative reviews. They printed it

"OMG Barry you forgot to block out your name and address! Anything could happen!"

Yeah, you people can’t even be bothered to send me a message on tumblr. I think I’m safe. 

Related: Leave Neil Young alone