Tag Archives: Twitter

The ugly truth on an ugly issue

Look, I get it. I’m racist, you’re racist, the GOP is racist, Obama is racist, Twitter’s racist…perhaps we’re all, as Avenue Q informed us, a little bit racist. In fact, I think it’s pretty safe to say that everything is racist. Did anyone see Transformers 2? I heard it made some money, and a few swipes at blacks. Has anyone ever watched Lou Dobbs? I heard he might not like Latinos. How many times have you seen a movie that featured a black guy as the funky sideshow, the Asian as the sly, intelligent one (or just Jackie Chan) and the white guy as the gorgeous hero?

Everything’s racist, prejudices are so ingrained into our society that there’s little that we can do to completely expunge ourselves of that. Most of it is subconscious, the subtle tightening of our grip on our backpacks when walking through urban black communities, making the passing assumption that the Korean kid in class is going to be instantly brilliant or casual references to “Mexi-packing” or equating frugality with those of Jewish heritage. Not to deny that it’s not a problem, but there comes a point where there’s simply nothing more to be accomplished by continuing to bring up race issues.

This comes from a completely utilitarian standpoint, so it forgoes the whole, “but if it’s wrong, we’ve gotta fix it!” mentality plenty of folks have. But I’m sorry Jimmy Carter, you fell right into the Republican party’s hands by accusing Obama’s opposition of opposing him because of his race. Yes, the subtext of baseless and tawdry racism was more than evident during the 9/12 protests.

I mean, come on! How stupid can you be? Is anyone going to be swayed by this inane image, carried about during the 9/12 event? What does it offer to the debate other than a ridiculous amount of ignorance and a breathless lack of tact?

I mean, come on! How stupid can you be? Is anyone going to be swayed by this inane image, carried about during the 9/12 event? What does it offer to the debate other than a ridiculous amount of ignorance and a breathless lack of tact?

But calling out those on the right who gleefully stew in their own 1800’s-style opinions on race does nothing but embolden them, and it gives the impression that Obama is trying to use race as an excuse to tar and feather all of his opponents by pigeonholing their opposition into one ugly category (even though he himself hasn’t really done much of that, and I’d doubt that Carter is a well-respected adviser to the current administration, unless peanut-related issues are now vital to national interests).

Admittedly, the race issue is still the skeleton in the closet, but dragging it out accomplishes nothing. It sets the health care debate back, it distracts from environmental policy, it grabs attention away from Afghanistan and it just bottles up the right and shakes them up, irritating them even more than they already are. As morally detestable as it may be, let the race issue sit on the back burner for now, get some legislation done, stow some accomplishments away and maybe then, once some curable ills are remedied, we can solve racism.

But don’t count on it.

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Filed under Culture wars, Government, Media, Morgan, Obama

Don’t stop ’till you get enough (coverage)

It is not the death of Michael Jackson that is being universally mourned by the world. To many, his death occured admist the decade-long period of constant ridicule and allegation of child abuse and bodily reconstruction. To others, he died in the same way that cultural icons tend to, no longer relevant, with only a back-catelogue providing them with any shred of decency as most people moved away from his accomplishments as an artist. There were still a great many supporters, a sizeable contingent of people who still clung to every track he released after his retreat into reclusion (as scarce as they may have been), but their numbers and their sorrow is enveloped in this massive outpouring of lamentation that has posessesed the media (the Internet in particular, as it’s estimated that at least 30 percent of all Tweets have something to do with Jackson).

Instead, we are weeping not over the passing of Jackson as a man, but as a figure, as a symbol. With his passing goes the last nearly universally popular cultural icon. This is a man who has sold over 750 million albums worldwide, behind only Elvis and the Beatles and arguably, Bing Crosby. He was a man perfect for the two eras he succeeded in, his childhood charms and alarming talent captivated audiences bathed in bright organges and yellows in the 70’s, and his careful blend of musical experimentation, visual scope, raw sexuality and promotion came to symbolize culture during the 80’s.

Jackson in death is not a person, his lack of interaction with anybody after so many years of accusations turned him into a seldom-seen joke, instead he’s your parent’s high school years, the red jacket your uncle still has in a closet somewhere, the first African American to see widespread cultural success without any racial baggage or that guy who completely altered his appearance before plastic surgery became commonplace.

It’s easy to ridicule the media overdoing the coverage of his death, and to be sure, said coverage is going to be lengthy, tacky and arduous, but this is one of the rare instances in which, though it’s not the best thing in the world from a logical standpoint, there’s little use condemning it due to the sheer glut of emotion attached to his passing. In death, many people temporaily transend their earthly failures and are remembered not for their failings, but for their successes. As an artist, Jackson was beyond compare, as a man, he may very well have been a completely deluded peodophile. Let the media have its droll coverage, there is obviously a ridiculous demand for it.

When it comes down to it, Jackson’s completely unexpected death has reminded countless people not only of their own morality, but of their impending cultural irrelevance, as their idols and superstars die off around them while disparate, niche-driven performers spring up in their place. We mourn Jackson’s death, to a degree, but we mostly mourn the sad reality that like Jackson, the world will move past our best efforts to stay relevant, and unlike Jackson, most of us don’t have that back catalog of brilliance to ensure our memory after we’re gone.

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Filed under Culture wars, Hollywood, Media, Morgan, Music

Twitter!

We here at the Pendulum aren’t immune to jumping on the bandwagon, so take a peek at our new Twitter, I’m sure it’ll have all of the wit and brillance of the blog, only ridiculously shortened and littered with tinyurls…

The blog staff tries to figure out this whole "Tweet" and "56k" maddness. Most of the time we're just trying to remember our passwords.

The blog staff tries to figure out this whole "Tweet" and "56k" maddness. Most of the time we're just trying to remember our passwords.

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Filed under Elon, Media, Morgan, Technology

Passing half of the torch

As a good friend of mine said about a month ago, if anyone suggested the idea of a library in this day and age, a sort of communal stomping ground where books and in many cases, DVDs, CDs and even video games (something I’ve never been able to understand) were available for no charge, with the only limitation would be a system of time limits and fines if said limits are exceeded coupled with the scornful gaze of the librarians when you try and check something out only to find that you owe $5 for renting “Derailed,” they would immediately be kicked around by publishing and media companies as a nutcase. How dare this chap encourage the further mooching by Americans off of their wealth of informative and cultural products? It’s bad enough having to deal with the likes of Limewire (I’m sure there are still a few people using it) and the multitude of torrent sites, but to have a brick-and-mortar haven for freeloaders to simply come in with a card and come out with a cartload of media, well that would just spell the end of everything, wouldn’t it?

I’m not going to go into the history of how libraries came to be, and just why they’ve remained despite not making very much economic sense (since we all know the social and cultural importance of institutions is unimportant), instead I’d like to shift the topic toward public ownership of media. What’s going on in Iran right now is revolutionary, not just because of the political messages being sent through the streets of Tehran, but also due to the way in which it’s being covered. The networks have barely any coverage of their own, the papers have minimal reach within Iran’s borders and filling in this gap is a breadth of amateur coverage. Nobody has to buy a paper or turn into a channel to discover what’s going on in Iran, and while this has been true with pretty much every news event of the past few years, never before (save for the initial coverage of the London bombings several years ago) has the majority of the coverage originated from amateurs.

A little birdie told me all about Iran...

A little birdie told me all about Iran...

Blogs and aggregate news sites are mooches, taking the reporting that other agencies slaved over and repackaging with a link and a few deft comments (sounds familiar, no?) but now there’s a undercurrent of these sites not doing their own reporting, but instead being the main conduit of the common man covering the events around him. Whereas before there needed to be a reporter on the scene, given an enormity of importance, folks will carry on with the reporting as they see fit, leaving the rest of the media in a reversed position. Anyone watching broadcast news over the past week knows that the media is just commenting on reporting that originates from non-reporters, instead of the blogs leering over Fox and Friends and blabbering about a report they did.

Yes, there are massive limitations here. With the lack of a journalism background comes a lack in objectivity (not in the commenting that television hosts do, but in the gathering of information and coverage of events, which is a critical differentiation to make) and little patience for uninteresting matters that don’t draw much attention on a national scale. This is where “big media,” newspapers in particular, can swoop in and completely take control of localized coverage, something that many companies are already trying to do.

Despite its obvious awkwardness about having to use YouTube clips as the basis for their programs and not being ahead of the information-gathering pack, the media, there is a bit of hope to be found in this double-sided Iranian revolution. It might come to be that in situations where amateur journalists can have the will and the access to thrive, the media can cut many of their costs, letting the average Joes to take up the bill on the group while they serve not as the gatherer, analysit and judge of every bit of information, but instead as a service provider, setting up a portal through which amateur reporting can be seen and then coupled with both professional reporting (albiet on a smaller scale) and the professional (a term used loosely here, given the quality of cable news) commentating and debate that only a large media company can provide.

Think of it like this: Whereas before the likes of CNN were rock bands that served as their own managers and owned the venues they performed in, they might now be better suited for merely owning the venues and occasionally peforming, allowing smaller acts performing similar numbers to share the spotlight for most of the set.

Bringing it back to the library comment, just by making cultural and information-based goods free doesn’t mean that you’re immediately crippling their production. Instead, the media now has to provide people a reason to tune into them or buy their products on top of being a source of information that, as Iran has proven, can be readily obtained through more personal, cheaper venues. It’s all about adding value to a product, the value in owning a book is in convinience, being able to toss it about without worrying about damages, not having a time limit attached to its completion. The value in news may not simply be tied to having the best reporters in the field, but rather, in recognizing the best mix of professional and amateur material and serving as a conduit through which people would be compelled to purchase the product through the sheer quality and quantity of options.

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Filed under Books, Business, Culture wars, Media, Morgan, Technology

Working for the Clampdown

Democracies are such a problem. Sure, they provide a solid basis for capitalist enterprise, grant people greater control of the government and give a nation greater credibility on the world stage. But oh, when failure and discontent festers in the minds of the voters, what are the poor strongmen in the palaces of power to do? They can’t just let themselves be voted out by popular will, nor can they win an election by the slightest of margins. They must keep hold of their scepters and make it seem as though they have a mandate, to keep those snippity upstarts from mustering the gall to question them.

For Iran’s ruling parties, specifically Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President (-cough-) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the problems democracy creates for despots have come to a boiling point. The country is embroiled in a multitude of protests after the presidential election, in which the government (Iran has no independent agency that verifies election results) ruled that Ahmadinejad had taken the election with 66 percent of the vote, despite a lengthy series of logical and statistical reasons why such a result is highly debatable (which are detailed in this excellent article).

Ahmadinejad carefully decides whether or not he recieved 66 or 65 percent of the popular vote.

Ahmadinejad carefully decides whether or not he received 66 or 65 percent of the popular vote.

I’ve made snide remarks about Twitter in the past, what with its stupid character limit and apparent lack of usefulness in comparison to other web applications, but the uprising against the Iranian government has been by and large covered via people going onto Twitter and other similar Internet resources and informing the world about just what’s going on. Many of the major news outlets have devoted large amounts of their coverage to these reports, especially as they’re faced with an increasingly tyrannical Iranian government trying to take control of everything being covered in their country (the Associated Press’ problems with allowing non-governmental Iranian news sources access to materials are covered here).

Even though reports are now coming in that Internet speeds are drastically decreasing nationwide, either due to increased use or for more dubious reasons, the movement for reform in Iran, led by presidential candidate (and to some, President) Mir Hossein Moussavi, has done an incredible job utilizing the web, to the extent at which I don’t go to the BBC or CNN first for information about the protests and the backlash, I head to the blogs (with The Guardian’s liveblog being first and foremost) and to, amazingly, Twitter. It’s through online resources that I’ve gained much of my knowledge, and though it all must be viewed with a grain of salt (a ton of people are now going wild about a supposedly leaked document from the Iranian government proving the elections results were fraudulent, especially now that the man who supposedly leaked them has been killed in a suspicious car crash, but the document has yet to be completely verified).

It would be nice to think that these protests will lead to immediate change and a swift alteration of the guard in Iran, but the government is simply too powerful, with too many resources and too few morals to be taken down so easily. What this contested election does mark is the begining of the end of the current Iranian regime, and an indication that tanks and explosives aren’t needed for democracy to flourish in the Middle East. All there needs to be is a strong voice, a call for change and a government incompetent enough to view the pursuit of nuclear power as more important than the nation’s economy. And it doesn’t hurt for there to be media that isn’t forced to work with those clamping down on free speech to spread the good word out to millions at home and overseas.

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Filed under Culture wars, Government, International, Iran, Media, Morgan, Technology

Failing to close the Atlantic humor gap

The epic struggle of the eight people who think Twitter is more than a glorified away message, trying to convince the rest of the plump world of their 140-character dominance.

The epic struggle of the eight people who think Twitter is more than a glorified away message, trying to convince the rest of the plump world of their 140-character dominance.

The Guardian has pretty much sucked the April Fool’s wind out of my sails, beating any ideas that I had for a post celebrating the most fiendish holiday of them all.

My cranky attitude toward Twitter is well-known, and The Guardian pleased me to no end with its announcement of a switch to a Twitter-exclusive publishing model.

Just look at how effective The Guardian was in reporting past events in Twitter!

1927
OMG first successful transatlantic air flight wow, pretty cool! Boring day
otherwise *sigh*

1940
W Churchill giving speech NOW – “we shall fight on the beaches … we shall never surrender” check YouTube later for the rest

1961
Listening 2 new band “The Beatles”

1989
Berlin Wall falls! Majority view of Twitterers = it’s a historic moment! What do you think??? Have your say

1997
RT@mohammedalfayed: FYI NeilHamilton, Harrods boss offering £££ 4 questions in House of Commons! Check it out

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Filed under Media, Morgan

George Stephanopoulos enters seventh grade

Sen. McCain attempting to copy and paste for the third straight hour.

Sen. McCain attempting to copy and paste for the third straight hour.

Remember when you were in middle school, you just became acquainted with the internet and you discovered AIM? At first it was the coolest thing you had ever seen – imagine it! Being able to talk to people when they were far away, not having to press your ear against a rank phone earpiece, it was a miracle of technology. Sure, there were hiccups. Emo away messages came into vogue and littered the internet with Dashboard Confessional lyrics, bizarre buddy icons rotated in and out of our profiles, it was wonderful until everybody grew up and delegated their pseudonym of faaavrefann87 to the back row.

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