February 2007

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Sunday Blogging!

I know that I said I wouldn’t blog on Sunday. But I thought it would be a good excuse to post on the sort of topics that so many of you told me you don’t want to read. So if you only want to read funny stuff, do us both a favor and skip reading this blog on Sundays from now on.

Today’s topic is not about the Middle East, although it might look like it. I’ll just use the Middle East as an example to illustrate my point. My point is that the media never gives me the context I want.

As I have often said, I don’t vote because I am way too ignorant, despite spending a lot of my time reading and watching and listening to the news. No matter how much news I absorb, I am always left with some important questions of context that seem conspicuously unanswered.

Before I give you some examples, allow me to stipulate the obvious. I know that if I researched these questions on my own, I could often find answers. And in some cases I have done that. My complaint is that these things should be included prominently in the news so the ignorant and lazy viewer such as me receives the right context without working too hard. Without proper context, the news is misleading at best, and intentionally biased at worst.

For example, Iran has 25,000 Jewish citizens. The media made a big deal – and rightly so – about the president of Iran’s comments about “wiping Israel off the map,” and of his questioning the Holocaust. For context, wouldn’t you like to know how the Jews living in Iran are being treated? I know I can research that question on my own, but it seems like an important bit of context that was missing from the media reports. I’d like to know if the president of Iran is more like Hitler (i.e. already killing all the Jews he can get his hands on) or more like Noam Chomsky (taking issue with U.S. politics). As a practical matter, you have to assume the Iranian president is a total nut job and prepare for that. But wouldn’t you like to have the full context?

I’d also like to know how the Holocaust death total of 6 million was determined. Is it the sort of number that is so well documented with actual names and perhaps a Nazi paper trail that no historian could doubt its accuracy, give or take ten thousand? Or is it like every other LRN (large round number) that someone pulled out of his ass and it became true by repetition? Does the figure include resistance fighters and civilians who died in the normal course of war, or just the Jews rounded up and killed systematically? No reasonable person doubts that the Holocaust happened, but wouldn’t you like to know how the exact number was calculated, just for context? Without that context, I don’t know if I should lump the people who think the Holocaust might have been exaggerated for political purposes with the Holocaust deniers. If they are equally nuts, I’d like to know that. I want context.

The media also tells us that it makes no sense for a country that’s sitting atop huge oil fields to develop nuclear power. The implication is that Iran is obviously up to no good. But wouldn’t you like to hear an economist confirm that notion, just for context? It’s certainly not obvious to me that making cheap nuclear power for your own country and selling overpriced oil to suckers is a bad economic strategy.

See how different these two reports are:

News Guy: “Iran is building nuclear power plants, which economists agree is a brilliant financial move.”

Or

News Guy: “Iran is building nuclear power plants, which economists agree makes no financial sense.”

The media tells us that Iran isn’t cooperating with the nuke inspectors. Iran says it is complying with the reasonable requests but not the unreasonable ones. Wouldn’t you like to know which requests are considered unreasonable by Iran? Saddam didn’t fully cooperate with the nuke inspectors, and he had no nukes to hide. He probably thought the inspectors were spies, and he might have been right. So for context, wouldn’t you like to know what sorts of inspection requests Iran has resisted? And wouldn’t you like to know how easy it would be to hide the bomb-making factory and still appear to be complying with the nuke inspectors? I’d like to have that context.

The president of Iran says the religious leaders in his country have forbidden the making of a nuclear weapon. Wouldn’t you like to know the track record of Iranian religious leaders in terms of their honesty with important religious decrees such as this one? Politicians lie all the time, but do the top mullahs have a habit of head-faking with fatwahs? I’d like to know. Maybe they lie all the time, but it’s not obvious to me that Islamic religious leaders would take that sort of risk with their credibility. What’s the context?

Again, you don’t have to angrily lecture me that you don’t trust Iran, or that that toughness is the right strategy to deal with them. Iran has provided plenty of ammunition for that viewpoint. I’m just peeved that the media doesn’t give me the context I want.

What would YOU like to know that is conspicuously missing from the news?

Comments

On a serious note, did you ever consider the possibility of someobody creating a nuke in his own backyard?
http://shocking.wordpress.com/2006/10/16/radioactive-boy-scout/

Hello Scott, I hope you are well sir.

I stumbled on this place from a link and saw what you wrote above.. especially with regard to Iran and the Holocaust, and you ended it with this:

"What would YOU like to know that is conspicuously missing from the news?"

Speaking for myself, certainly.. I certainly would.

Frankly though, I'd just like to see an open, honest debate, in good faith, on some of these subjects.

You know, there's people in jail right now for the "crime" of questioning the Holocaust..

There's people being accused of all manner of tratorious nonsense for questioning our course of action in Iraq and our intentions towards Iran.

Our President can do no better than to equate anyone who dares ask a valid question about the events of September 11th with an enemy sympathizer.

I consider this kind of manipulation to be ridiculous and I'm genuinely saddened that well meaning people must suffer such shameless propaganda, flag wrapping and fearmongering when all they ever wanted (And IMO, completely deserved) was a straight answer or a chance to speak their mind.

If you have to spin it to "win" it, which seems to increasingly be the case, then perhaps we'd all be better off with a loss and a lesson learned?

Regards..

Tom Welsh,
Personally I think it makes a great deal of sense for Iran to develop Nuclear POWER even though it is 'sitting on top of all that oil' because it is easier for them to export the oil than it is the uranium (that they are also sitting on top of...) The less oil they use themselves, the more they have to sell. Almost 'logical' :)

No, the problem really isn't them building the power plants; it IS how much closer that makes them to Nuclear Weapons. I'm not thrilled about the idea of anybody who has claimed they want to 'wipe Luxembourg off the map' actually getting the ability to do so. (Does it matter whether its Luxembourg or Israel?)

In this context remember the prophetic words of Ronald Reagan, "Trust but verify". If the Clinton/Carter/Albright team had learned this lesson, we wouldn't be in the mess we are in with North Korea right now. (Remember we only DISCOVERED that the North was building nukes after Bush was elected, in order to have done that, they clearly never complied with the agreement they made with Clinton to begin with. (For Dems, ignorance really is bliss, oh, and for those who have conveniently forgotten the timeline, this was BEFORE Bush labeled them in the 'Axis of Evil' not after, thus the "Bush called us evil" excuse holds NO water).

What is troubling in Iran is they say "trust us" but will suffer no mechanism to verify (and thereby 'earn the trust'). This is inherently suspicious, if not duplicitous, behavior. And that was in dealing with their 'friends' the French and other Euro-peons.

"The media also tells us that it makes no sense for a country that’s sitting atop huge oil fields to develop nuclear power".

That would be the media that are either entirely ignorant, or the media that act as mouthpieces for the administration (or possibly both, of course).

Here's a clue: the USA developed nuclear power when it was sitting on top of huge oil fields. But of course that was OK, because Americans are automatically above suspicion. It's not as if they would ever do anything cynical, such as starting a war purely to enrich their friends.

Nicely done..
You should blog on Sundays more often

6 millio dead?
either way...what about the 60 million killed...the non jews.
i don't see their relatives crying snot and suing governments.
and gas chambers?
read the Leuchter Report.
all history is written, and rewritten, and nothing happens by chance. ask roosevelt.

In Germany, for the biggest tabloid paper named "Bild", some people have set up an independant blog
http://www.bildblog.de
which lists all the mistakes and misinterpretations they can find in the paper, often including interesting background stories and things that were left out in the published version.

dear shirtbloke

you think you know antisemitism and can judge jews but you can't

and why?-you see jews were mistreated from wayback in history
we were exiled from our land by the brutal babylonian army (that by the way smashed jewish babys onto rock just like nazi people did)(now you are probabely saying throwing babys at rocks?-but yes that's what nazi people do because they were brain washed

as a person who saw propoganda films of the nazi government i can tell you that they depicted the jewish community as rats and other filthy animals that carry diseases

we were alaways mistreated in exile
at first it was for the killing of jesus
WHICH BY THE WAY WAS JEWISH
than in exile especially in russia there were a lot of pogroms and massive killing of jews

(if anyone knows the kishinev's pogrom which was in 1913 i believe -(i think i misspelled kishinev but youll anderstand)


there were a lot of pogroms before the holocaust started

again this is a breif memo of what happend to the jews in diaspora

so now do you ubderstand why they closed themselves up?
people don't really join our religion (yes i'm jewish too)

because they believe they are still hated and who can blame those jews that do feel that

they don't let people join their religion because they think something like:it's very hard being jewish we have more rules about what to eat and what not to eat we have to fast in yom kippur we have to preform a brisברית מילה to our children and to top that we are presecuted constantly it's not an easy life being jewish that's why they make it so hard to join the religion to see if that inspite all that you will still believe in one god in omnipotent god that is infinite that lives forever and lived forever(and his holy name that derives from hebrew which i fear to write so i won't reflects it)

people also think we are racist because of the word "goy" in yiddish that derives from hebrew

goy in biblic hebrew means a nation-(any nation)

in yiddish it reffers to the gentile

it's sometimes used as an offense for the nation that surounded us in exile that were mostly unpleasent and mallicious people (that's just an understatement)

if you still don't understand jews here is a nice metaphore for you:

think of smart kid you had in school that was doing great and than some bullies arrived and called him a gick and took his lunch money,
wouldn't he next time fear to talk to anyone because what they might do to him? he'll probabely won't have any friends and wouldn't speak to anyone becaust he sure wouldn't like to be beaten up.
he'll probabely want to be invisible so he will alaways be in far away places that no one ever comes there such as the library -a place where he could feel he is secured from bullies
(that the is the principle on which the state of israel is based of-a shalter to jewish people)


now do you understand jewish people?

The media consistently twists information that it presents to us. Now with the advent of the internet, they are getting called on it, and magazine sales of Newsweek and Time are down. I couldn't believe my eyes when on page 29 of Newsweek (Sept. 11 edition) it claimed that WWII was started by Hitler in 1938. First off, WWII started with the invasion of Poland in 1939, not 1938. So, you can't really rely on the mainstream media for any facts at all, not even a historic date. Secondly, any honest discussion of the start of WWII would also mention that Stalin and Hitler had a pact to partition Poland between the two of them. Stalin took his chunk of Poland later in the month, but the fact is that Stalin was guilty of land-grabbing just as much as Hitler.
Incidentally, that article was written about Ahmadinejad, and contains the usual insinuations and baseless accusations that a media manipulator typically uses to distort and warp public opinion. "The historian Bernard Lewis warned a few weeks ago that Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, could be planning to annihilate Israel (and perhaps even the United States) on Aug. 22 because it was a significant day for Muslims."
1) Absolutely nothing special happened on Aug. 22
2) Ahmadinejad has never threatened to annihilate the U.S.
3) So much chatter is given about "wiping Israel off the map". The last time you looked at a map, did you see a country named Palestine? Guess what, if you looked at a map prior to 1948 you would have seen a protectorate labeled Palestine. Why the concern about Israel being wiped off the map when Palestine already has been wiped off the map?

Here's the link to research done by the Holocaust museum.

Most of the deaths were documented by the Nazis themseleves.
Some of the numbers are based on known populations before.

http://www.ushmm.org/research/library/faq/details.php?topic=03#02

Regarding the number of jews killed during the Nazi genocide: the current state of historical research can be found in the book "Dimension des Völkermords" by Wolfgang Benz. The number is not precise, as towards the end of the war they didn't bother to register the jews anymore that came to the concentration camps, but sent them straight to the gas chamber. But the Nazis did a complete census before starting the holocaust (on IBM machines, and T.J. Watson received an order from Hitler to thank him for his support). From that, the bookkeeping records from the concentration camps, as well as from the records on deportations, a lower bound of 5.7 million and an upper bounds of 6.1 million can be established.

This number does not include any of the other groups of people that were systematically killed by the Nazis: Roma, handicapped people, LDS church members, homosexuals, communists, etc., together something in the order of a million people. Neither are included any casualties of the war, civilians or soldiers, which add up to a terrifying 60 million.

Oh, did you know who else had the dubious honour to receive an order from Hilter? A certain Prescott Bush, to thank for his support in financing the war effort. But I'm sure you knew that already.

I love how vague and sneaky political commercials are coming up on elections here. We have an issue called "Earn and Learn." The commercials talk about how voting for this issue will give our kids better educations by giving more money to our kids.

The never mention that purpose of the proposed amendment is to permit slot machines, add new horse tracks and expanded gaming. I'm not saying gambling is bad, just that it is never mentioned in the adds. The commercials aren't actively lying, I just wish they were mentioning where the money is coming from.

I also think it's interesting that 90+% of the adds I see on TV are attacking the opponent's actions and opinions instead of promoting their own. Sounds like a last-ditch effort to me.

"Theodore Sawchuck" said,
"bottom line-you shouldn't ignore history otherwise you are doomed to repeat it (you don't really want another holocaust do you?)"

It is time that Jews also learned from history. Cornering majority wealth of nations in which they live is bound backfire - haven't they learned from what happened in almost every country they lived in.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Semitism

It would be surprising if same didn't happen in US also soon....

James Aguilar said he talked to ONE economist, who apparently offered informal opinions rather than a studied, professional evaluation (not that there's much difference). James reported what the professor said:

-----

He presented these views as common. I do not know how widely held they are among economists, but they make sense to me. I would challenge the response of the earlier poster who said that economists can't agree on anything. They do generally agree on several major issues:

- Property rights are good
- Instability is bad
- The minimum wage is bad
- Taxes are bad
- Prices are good
- Competitive markets are good
- Prices and competitive markets lead to the most efficient outcome
- Free trade is good
- Free immigration is good

And many others.

-----

Not much of a challenge to my point, really. You can't test how well economists agree if you only talk to ONE economist. A valid statistical sample would require, I dunno, at least 2. More likely, 50 or so. Ask an actuary.

I guarantee you can find economists who will argue in favor of the minimum wage, who will concede that a certain amount of instability is an essential component of growth and progress, and the theory of relativity applies to many of these observations. That is, free trade only looks good to the people in industries that benefit from it, and not to the people who lose their jobs from lack of protectionism. Find out which economists work with the labor unions, and ask one of them about these points.

--Stomper

to Bill Hill who stated:

Also the difference is those Jews in other Middle East countries are Semitic Jews, from the Fertile Crescent. Most of the Jewish population in Israel are East European, mainly settlers from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, pre-WWII Poland, Bulgaria and Romania, as well as descendents of orginal settlers from UK and France (those Edwardian era countries' idea of trying to solve "their" own Jewish problem was to steer their Jews to emigrate to the British mandate in Palestine.) Why does the Knesset speak Yiddish and NOT Modern Aramaic like the home grown Semitic Jews?
----

Are you going to go into that Khazar antisemite BS that you guys spew? I'm "from" E. Europe (Romania), and I look so arabic that ALWAYS get pulled into special security when flying. When arabs see me, they'll start speaking arabic to me, or ask where my parents were from.

The Knesset speaks Yiddish? What the hell are you talking about? They speak Hebrew, arabic and English. Aramaic is a mostly dead language, nobody in Israel speaks aramaic, and haven't do so for hundreds for years. Aramaic? Are you a joke? You must be a troll, nobody could be this stupid, but are you?

"Meow" said
"So according to his "logic", the fact that the majority of American Olympic athletes are black must mean that the black community is manipulating the system. And there was me thinking that they were only there because they could run faster..."

Tell us how many of US Olympic athletes comes from families with more than $100,000 annual income parents? Excelling in athletics is quite tedious work, hence mostly people from lower economic strata attempt Olympic level athletics, this is the same around the world.

Jews are the most "Racist" people in the world. The key factors of racism are the following...

1. Racist people keep their communities closed, rarely intermarry with people of other communities.

2. Racist people keep their religion closed, rarely allow people from other communities to join their religion.

3. Racist people keep their language, they carry on teaching their children own language where ever they go. Most communities stop teaching own language when they migrate to another country, after 3 generations.


When ever Jews raise "Anti Semitic" issue call them "Anti Gentile" and it will even out.


Jews usurping control of "News Media" and "Banking" in countries where they are "micro" minority community is clear case of "Anti Gentilsm"

Right on!!

reporters's disingeneous news reports really upsets me

as a person who lives in Israel and watch occasionally cnn news and sometimes fox news I can tell you that their distortion of facts puts us israelis in a very bad place in comparison to the arab world

it's very hard living here trying not to think about death when your're going on the bus or when you just simply visit a resturant not to mention that the latest war in lebanon wasn't our fault at all but they keep presenting that as if it was.
this way i don't know if it's antisemitism or they are just payed by really rich arab people to show their side exlusively

i can tell tou this lebanon has hijacked to israeli soliders
without any proper reason they bomb their selfs up for allah
they can't be negotiated and reasoned with because they have no reason

FOR THEM IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW MANY MORE PEOPLE WOULD DIE IN THIS UGLY WAR SO THEY WON'T STOP


i certainly wouldn't like to think the media is biased like this

i think reprters should be locked in cages in zoos

AND THAN LITTLE KIDS WILL APPROACH THEM AND FEED THEM BANANAS!!

Sad to say, but I'd just be happy receiving non-miselading informations.
I had someone to make me feel the doubt and then i had to research on my own:
Translation of phrase "wiped off the map"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmoud_Ahmadinejad_and_Israel#Translation_of_phrase_.22wiped_off_the_map.22

I'd like newsmakers not to assume that anyone that does not think as we do is a evil and perverted murderer and to show also their viewpoint.

So for all those crazed Americans squealing that Iran must be up to something nefarious when it says it wants nuclear power cause how could it when it is sitting on all that oil?
well dear dumbasses look up..look waaaay up
Hi! It's Canada here..the worlds fourth largest oil supplier..holy crap right? I know you guys are all so dumb you think it all comes from Saudi right?
Guess what! 52% of all the electricity produced in Ontario (that is the most populous province for those geographically challenged) comes from nuclear power!
So we have oil everywhere..we supply America and China, we make tons of money and yet..we still have nuclear power.

We must be insane!, Madmen must be running this country...aaahhhhhhh!
morons all of you.

The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

Exclusive: Talking to Teheran's Jews
Seth Wikas, THE JERUSALEM POST Sep. 29, 2006

On my first Friday evening here, my friends took me to the large synagogue in Yosefabad, in the center of the city, a neighborhood that is home to a large Jewish population. I found the sanctuary packed. Inside the main gate there were ads for Hebrew lessons and family activities sponsored by the Jewish Association.

There was an Iranian policeman on guard outside, but with the exception of the signs in Farsi, the Hebrew-Farsi prayer books and the style of the women's hair coverings, this could have been an Orthodox synagogue in America.

Excepting Israel, Iran boasts the Middle East's largest Jewish community. The capital contains around 10,000 Jews as well as Jewish schools that serve 2,000 students. Teheran also has a Jewish retirement home with 50 residents, and its Jewish Association owns a number of buildings, including a large library used by Jews and non-Jews alike.
Why are the Jews still here? Answers differed across the generations.

For many older people like my host Fayzlallah Saketkhoo, the vice president of Teheran's Jewish Association, Iran is simply their home. As the owner of a successful carpet and souvenir shop, Saketkhoo has provided well for his three children, and devotes a good deal of time to Jewish Association activities. At his home on Friday night after services, where he showed me his collection of Kabbala books and a large tapestry of Moses splitting the sea, he told me about how he had traveled around the world only to learn that nothing was better than home.

Asked about the future of the Iranian Jewish community, he replied: "Did you see how many children were there tonight?"

He was right. It was hard to concentrate on praying in the synagogue, where at least 300 people had come, because of all the children running up and down the aisles and chattering outside.

But there is a difference between children and young adults. Peyman, Saketkhoo's 27-year-old son, was fond of saying, "Everyone in Iran has a problem," meaning that everyone - Jewish and non-Jewish - wants to leave.

It's not just the political situation, he said, but the fact that with the rise of Ahmadinejad, the economic situation has worsened and poverty has deepened. For college graduates, it is hard to find jobs in their field; Peyman is an architect by training but works in his father's shop. As he and other young Iranians attest, both the political and the economic situation are getting harder to bear.

On the issue of Jewish/non-Jewish relations, Iranians of different ages, Jewish and Muslim, pointed to a unifying national idea.

Iranian culture dates back nearly 2,500 years, to the days of Cyrus the Great and Darius, founders of the Persian Achaemenid dynasty mentioned in the Bible. Throughout Iran, citizens of all religions are proud of their national history, and of the various pre-Islamic leaders and dynasties. Many parents even name their children Darius or Cyrus.

This pre-Islamic culture, even in the Islamic Republic of Iran, is still respected and unifies Iranians of different backgrounds.

Most indicative of this tacit acceptance of religious diversity is a huge picture on the side of a building in north Teheran. Like many pictures in the capital, it commemorates Iranian soldiers who fell during the 1980-8 Iran-Iraq war. But this one is different. It is dedicated to the minorities who served their country, and depicts five Iranians of various religions and ethnicities. Four represent Assyrian and Armenian ethnicities and members of the Christian and Zoroastrian communities. Right in the center is an Iranian Jew, with his name spelled in Farsi and Hebrew.

I found great tolerance when I told people I was Jewish. Israel, however, was a different matter...
(Seth Wikas's full report from Iran will appear in the Yom Kippur supplement published with Sunday's Jerusalem Post.)

This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1159193339587&pagename;=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

[ Back to the Article ]
Copyright 1995-2006 The Jerusalem Post - http://www.jpost.com/

The news is reported by people just trying to work their way up the food chain at the paper or station. They don't care about informing you, just making it look like they did. It's really infuriating to watch the news when you know the real story. My daugher was involved in a horrible accident and every "fact" reported by news was wrong. Even the most basic details were wrong. At one point they reported that her EEG showed no brain activity, when we called them to ask where they got this information they said someone called it in. With no admission of their mistake on the next news report they said she had made a "marked improvement". I refuse to watch the local news because I know that it's most likely false anyway. The nurses in the ICU told us that this is very common. When you know the real story it's scary how incorrect what is said in the paper or on the TV really is.

Thanks.
For saving my time and sparing me of the frustations reading your obsessed midwest blogs. I read your blogs to allow me small breaks from the drag at work, not to carve out my brain and pound on it. Now that these are restricted to Sundays, I'll have better working days.

Regards.
Gentle Giant.

To Scott: I knew something bothered me in most news reports but never took time to analyse that. Thanks to you, I don't have to: you nailed it.

To those who argue that there is no financial sense for Iran to build nuke power plants, since they are sitting on large volumes on natural gas, consider that this country IMPORTS large volumes of gas from the neighbouring Turkmenistan to avoid the costs of building infrastructure to deliver gas to its northern regions.

James Aguilar, you missed what you yourself wrote about economists: "They do generally agree on several major issues:" By that statement you admit they are not in agreement, only that they "generally" agree. Which means they still are in disagreement.

Which is not to say that economics doesn't have its purposes. Only that it should be taken with a BIG grain of salt, since it is not a true science. (Real science is able to make accurate predictions about what will happen based on and understand on what has happened. Economists do not agree about what HAS happened, do not agree about what IS happening, and do not agree about what WILL happen, therefore they are a bit like astrologers.)

Watching "trends" is more a function of statisticians.

Scott,

I talked to my economics professor about your question on nuclear energy in Iran. I've had the same question, but I've never known how to approach it. My professor set me straight.

He said that Iran pursuing nuclear energy is a bad idea for several reasons. The greatest of these is that most of the cost of natural gas is the transporting of it from place to place. Since Iran has a large amount of natural gas resources at its disposal, it would be financially more sound to exploit that resource than to build nuclear power plants. He also said that building a nuclear plant on an active fault line is a terrible idea.

He presented these views as common. I do not know how widely held they are among economists, but they make sense to me. I would challenge the response of the earlier poster who said that economists can't agree on anything. They do generally agree on several major issues:

- Property rights are good
- Instability is bad
- The minimum wage is bad
- Taxes are bad
- Prices are good
- Competitive markets are good
- Prices and competitive markets lead to the most efficient outcome
- Free trade is good
- Free immigration is good

And many others.

In either case, thanks for encouraging me to ask the question! I at least feel enlightened. This issue of hidden contexts is important -- probably somewhere, someone is writing about this on a blog. The trick is to find that signal in the midst of all the noise.

Yours,
James Aguilar

[I've read that the economics of transporting natural gas could soon improve dramatically with new technology for safely compressing it or chilling it or something along those lines. Ask your professor about the trend lines. -- Scott]

I'm a journalism major at the University of Maryland, typing this before a journalism class. After the class, I'm going to go do some reporting.

You're in the minority, Scott. Most readers I've talked to care less about the amount of useful information (though I agree that your examples should find their way to news articles) than whether or not it looks pretty.

about the holocaust-so many jews did die in such horrible ways (that i won't describe here)that the nazis didn't probabely bother to count them all.while other died from the poor conditions in the camps ,other were killed by shooting and other by gas. the amount of jews was so huge that they couldn't count them all there's no possible way that they could

as a jewish person that his grandparents were tortured and their relatives killed brutally i'd like to say that the number itself doesn't matter

IF YOU KILL A PERSON YOU KILL A WHOLE WORLD WITH HIM

and furhermore i can tell you that the nazis planned on killing all the jewish communities around the world and there are evidences to approve it, one of which is the wansee meeting in that meeting (that was a hush hush business-even hitler himself didn't show up so no one would suspect that he had something to do with the massive killing of jews)there were charts displaying the amount of jews in far-away places such as Moroco (if i'm not mistaken)and Albania which means they wanted to "cleanse" the world from jews.

bottom line-you shouldn't ignore history otherwise you are doomed to repeat it (you don't really want another holocaust do you?)we should acknowledge what happened there even if it's horrible and not comprehensible so NO ONE WOULD HAVE TO EXPERIENCE WHAT MY GRANDPARENTS DID
WEATHER IF HIS JEW GENTILE BLACK OR WHITE
WE SHOULD ALL LIVE IN PEACE WITH ONE ANOTHER
AND AGAIN IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW MANY EXACTLY JEWISH PEOPLE DIE BECAUSE OTHERWISE YOU'RE SAYING THAT YOU'D ONLY CARE IF A HUGE AMOUNT OF PEOPLE DIED WHICH IS AN IGNORANT WAY OF THINKING BECAUSE THEY WERE ALL PEOPLE THEY WERE NOT CATTLE AND THEY ARE NOT CATTLE THEY WERE ALL HATED AND FOR NOTHING AT ALL!!!!

AMERICA SHOULD ACT NOW!! BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!

INSTEAD OF INVADING IRAQ IN CLAIM THAT THEY ARE A THREAT TO THE WHOLE WORLD WHEREAS WE KNOW IT'S ALL ABOUT OIL THEY SHOULD DEBUNK IRAN FROM IT'S WEAPONS COZ THEY ARE THE REAL THREAT TO THIS WORLD AND THE DEMOCRATIC WAY OF THINKING


PEACE OUT (SORRY FOR ANY SPELLING MISTAKES)

Hi Scott,
I am not pro- or anti- on Jewish questions. I do find myself living in Hungary (that is in Eastern Europe for your American readers) where I enjoy visiting towns and villages around the country. It is striking that there are frequently memorials with what look like accurate lists of the names of all the Jews taken away by the nazi trains; and the paltry numbers that lived to tell the tale (usually zero survivors in most communities here). With a bit of detective work there are to be found the old Jewish cemeteries, which indicate there really were significant communities in each town, now completely overgrown as the very few old local Jews are no longer able to keep them cleared.
The evidence for genocide is evident - as to exact numbers, the documentation exists (the nazi machine was very bureaucratic), but without counting it myself, the evidence I have seen puts the 6 million in the right order of magnitude.
David


Well, Israel is already 'wiped off the map' as far as the Middle East goes, and all of the nations there would like to see their local practice as being international.

Buy a world map anywhere in the Middle East and you won't see Israel on it; just a rather larger Palistein.

That of course includes Saudi Arabia. Who we love, support, sell weapons to, and buy oil off, despite their lack of democracy and basic human rights. Incidently they and the UEA were apparently the only two nations to acknowledge the Taliban as a legitimate government.

I have given up on watching the news. 75% of it has no influence on my daily life, whereas say doing 30 minutes overtime instead of sitting in front of the TV will have considerably more influence on my life and standard of living. Furthermore, on the occassions that I have been at the heart of news stories, the published truth was a gross misinterpretation of the actual facts. So given that to my mind, 100% of news stories have been misreported, why read more fiction.

Plus of course the news upsets me. I can do without hearing things that depress and upset me on a daily basis. I know horrible things happen in the world, but I don't want to know about them and be moved to tears about it when I'm eating dinner with my girlfriend.

The news has almost stopped being 'news'. It has stopped giving you the facts so that you can make your own mind up, and has instead started telling you what to think and what opinion to hold. More and more, the newspapers bear headlines like 'Evil rapist charged'. Well, if he's charged, our legal system assumes he's innocent until proven otherwise. Is it really the job of the media to vilify a potentially innocent man and tell the public that he is evil?

Tell me about it. Not only is the news not "deep" enough, not providing enough context, but the media frequently focusses on the trivial. Here in the UK, news of North Korea's nuclear test was pushed off the front page by news that a British politician made a personal statement (with emphasis that the opinion was his own and not related to his work) that he found it hard to communicate with Muslim women wearing face-concealing headscarves. In the light of threats of a very tense nuclear standoff, the British media is bickering over what this politician might have meant by his comments.

The national media in the U.S. has become infamous for its irrelevance. The Big Three (MSNBC, CNN, and Fox) constantly regurgitate the same news repeatedly. When JFK Jr crashed into the ocean, the Big Three stopped covering all other news for about 48 hours and obsessed with this Kennedy brat. And the media has become obsessed with celebrity news and "human interest" stories; they seem to believe we really care about what Paris Hilton had for breakfast this morning. This is why I've stopped watching all national news and get the bulk of my news from the Internet.

And geographical coverage? The only time Latin America or Africa get U.S. media coverage is if there's a coup, a massacre, or a natural disaster. Australia? The last time Australia got U.S. media coverage is when Steve Irwin died. Otherwise, you wouldn't know that Australia existed from watching American T.V. The American media is so obsessed with Europe and the Middle East.

Regarding Jewish media dominance, if you really believe it to be so fanciful, consider this: Why is it that despite all the major outbreaks of genocide during the 20th century, the Jewish holocaust alone gets the lion's share of publicity? I'll bet that if the CEOs of Viacom and Disney were of Armenian ancestry, we would hear more about the Armenian holocaust (when the Turks massacred 1 million Armenians in two separate waves).

"Hey pt. Global warming isn't really that complicated, or at least our part in it. Basically, the amount of CO2 we release into the atmosphere has a negligible effect on the Earth's temperature. The only reason I can think for all this trying to reduce CO2 output is politicians pretending to care about the environment."

I agree but there must be a better motivation...

Mt Pinatubo in Indonesia produced in 1 year the equivalent of 20 years of Human co2 production.(you won't read this in mainstreem media!)

I think the environment has become an industry with peoples carees, proffits and livelyhoods on the line....

Great. Now you actually need to tell us how Iran actually treats its Jews, because you were also too right about my laziness concerning looking it up myself, or scanning your comments for an answer.

"ShirtBloke" claims that when the participation of a particular community (by which he apparently means racial group) in a profession is greater than its percentage in the general population, this must be the result of nepotism or manipulation. The example he gives is that more than 3% of newscasters are Jews.

So according to his "logic", the fact that the majority of American Olympic athletes are black must mean that the black community is manipulating the system. And there was me thinking that they were only there because they could run faster...

I'd like to avoid your recurrent condescention. Can you limit that to Sundays as well?

DarthMommy got it right; I know a lot about the Marine Corps, General Aviation, and Chemistry, and I have never read a story in the mainstream media about any of these three things that wasn't riddled with inaccuracies. I really think that it's because domestic reporters are for the most part ignorant, lazy, and stupid. I think that the true measure of this is the incredible intellectual downsizing of the print media (like Time, aka People Lite), and certainly the broadcast media. There remains only one publication worth reading, and that is "The Economist". Problem is, to do it justice takes six or seven hours. But it's so damn good that you feel as though you are cheating yourself if you fail to devour the whole thing.

I worked for a newspaper for two years, so I think I can sum this up. 1)Most articles are written by the Associated Press, or the local writers essentially plaigarize from the AP, so the slant is already present when it gets printed. (Note: the wire services' articles do not differ substantially from one another. Try reading the same topic on Yahoo news and go to each of the different wires. It'll be the same article.) 2)Journalism and education majors are the dumbest of those who qualify for college, as shown by the AP itself in a 1998 study of how SAT scores relate to major. 3)Journalists therefore do not know how to recognise bias or slant, and, having been trained in their major courses by liberal professors, they do not believe that a liberal bias exists. 4) Journalists, being dumb, do not have the critical thinking skills necessary to evaluate bias, nor do they know how to figure out the background of a story that would be needed to put the facts into proper context. 5) Even if they were smart enough, they are too lazy (see other comments) to do so. [Everything Lewis Grizzard ever wrote about journalists is true -- they are lazy, often drunkards, and vicious to boot.]

The AP is run by politically correct idiots who do not know what context is (nor do they have any manners: the New York head office is staffed by the rudest SOBs I've ever had the misfortune to encounter!). In every story sent by the AP about college enrollment in Georgia, for example, they'll talk about the number of blacks enrolling in Georgia colleges, and then mention the percentage of blacks in the state. This is disingenuous. Proper context would be: what percentage of blacks in Georgia are college-bound seniors? what percentage of black college-bound seniors are enrolling in colleges out of state? what are the actual numbers of college-bound seniors in the state, and how are those numbers broken down by race? Not that race really matters, of course, but if the AP is going to write a story about race and college admissions, then you need to have a _proper context_ in which to evaluate the story. But then you would find that there probably *isn't* a real story there.

If there is a conspiracy in the media -- which there isn't -- but if there was, it's not the Jews. It's a conspiracy of the stupid and lazy people in the AP bureaus across the country, who write the same type of inane drivel they were taught by their stupid, lazy professors in journalism school.

Full disclosure: I was an English major and worked as a copy editor.

Scott - great post.

Re: Iran & Nuclear power stations

All Iran has to do is to ask George which one of his buddy's construction companies wants to build a NPS and it will all blow over.

It's Monday, yet the post is still here. That whole not reading on Sunday suggestion doesn't seem to work. :)

gr8hands,

What you point out correctly is a clear case of “bias”. It happens, but it also happens the other way. What BabyEatinDingo (I believe rightly) points out is that these incidents do not support ‘conspiracy’ theories (Jewish or otherwise). What Bernard Goldberg points out in his book ‘Bias’ is that the editorial body of CBS and every other ‘major’ news outlet is so uniformly liberal that decisions get made with a leftward slant without the need for any ‘far reaching’ or ‘controlling’ conspiracy, this all happens without communication with Howard Dean, James Carville, George Soros or Bill Clinton. Equally wrong (even if significantly less common) is the situation you describe where editors slant stories rightward under the veil of “news”, but this too happens without the direction of Karl Rove, Scooter Libby and/or Dick Cheney.

What you and others need to be careful of is being so far left (or for some, too far right) that EVERYTHING you see is ‘rightwing’. Here is a simple test. If you believe Bill O’Reilly is a conservative, you are too far left. (The opposite is also true, if you believe O’Reilly is a liberal, you are probably too far right.)

[Since you have run away from any position on the ‘Holy Cop Killer’ thread, I’ll take that as your admission that you were wrong all along, and in the face of superior evidence and logic you have surrendered.]

9 million sizzling singles await.

That's what the news is about

-HAL

charles hillestad,
Excellent, Excellent post and other than the order (I think 9 should be 1, but hey, it's not a Top Ten list) There are only a few additional points I would add.

I would rewrite 4 to read:
4. THOU SHALT HONOR REQUESTS FOR PRIVATE CONFIDENCES UNTIL THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IS SHOWN TO BE "UNTRUE" OR "FELONIOUS"

It's ok to protect a source, even a public official, so long as they are BOTH telling you the truth and not committing a crime in telling you to begin with. (disclosing a secret)

And a corollary to 9 (which I think should be 1) Thou Shalt provide equal coverage to any retraction or correction as was provided to the original story..

I have studied extensively both sides of the 'holocaust' issue and find good arguments on both sides. It should be noted that none of the 'deniers' deny that lots of Jews were killed during the war. Now, as to which side is right; it would seem, for a 'free-thinker' like myself, that the side that has to use the hand of government to suppress the views of the opposing side is the one that has something to hide. In much of Europe (not just Germany), you get 5 years for 'Holocaust Denial'. Smells fishy to me.

Context I'd like to see: every politician's statements should be compared to their historical statements.

Regarding the "Holocaust", it's not the point about how many died, it's what happens to people when they question the assertion. People are in jail for just questioning the purported number.

While BabyEatinDingo brings up some good points, I have to point out that MANY times during the previous presidential election cycle, I read a particular article off the AP, but when it got to our local paper, certain sentences or paragraphs had been edited out.

The paragraphs always contained information critical of bush, his background, his awol activities, critiques of the republicans, etc.

Any article critical of democrats was included without edits.

When I pointed this out in a letter to the editor, it was not printed, or even acknowledged from their email auto-reply.

So, it is clear that some editorial staffs do in fact make a slant -- which is much easier at the very end of the story cycle, just before it goes to final layout. THAT is where the real bias occurs.

Why does the UN keep sending peace keepers into Africa, and the don't actually keep any peace? The media should be doing more to tell me why. Why are millions getting killed and raped while peace keepers are there?

You are probably right in ignoring the news. Not only do they not give context, what they says is of little relevance anyway.

For instance, the media insists on telling us Democrats are ahead in the polls including right up to exit polls on how people actually voted. Apparently, that means nothing however in any state with a Republican Secretary of State or a county using Diebold voting machines.

I'm sure the "vote" totals have already been prepared in the upcoming elections in many of those locales and are just waiting for November 2 to be announced.

Dear Mr. Adams:

In addition to lack of context, you could also mention lack of followup to find out what happened later, lack of “track record” disclosure as to how many things the reporter or pundit has stated in the past that proved to be completely wrong, lack of information on what has been deliberately edited out of the story, lack of disclosure of how much time was spent on the particular story counting research, and usually lack of any revelation of at least the admitted bias and conflicts of interest the reporter/pundit might have. Below are a few others.

Title: “JOURNALISTIC ETHICS 101”
Alternate Titles: If God had sent Commandments to Journalists instead of Moses
or
What the Reporters Must Have Been Sleeping Through in Journalism School**

1. THOU SHALT UNDERSTAND THAT NOT EVERYTHING IS PERMITTED TWO POINTS OF VIEW. If someone declares the sun will rise in the west, it is not sufficient to simply quote someone else who dutifully says it will rise in the east. That does not make the resulting report “fair and balanced.” A true journalist has an affirmative duty to either point out the obvious that there is not the slightest history of that ever happening or, better yet, do some investigative reporting quoting from astronomy textbooks to point out that the sun does not “rise” at all. It merely appears to do so because of a spinning earth. Either way, the reporter ought to exercise common sense by mentioning it is patently impossible to for it to even appear to rise anywhere except by looking due east in the morning. In court, this is called taking Judicial Notice.

2. THOU SHALT PRINT FIRST THE QUESTIONS NOT ANSWERED. When politicians and PR flacks answer questions that were never asked or don’t answer at all, either keep asking the original questions until answered. Or, better yet, print as part of the story the questions that were not answered.

3. THOU SHALT NOT JUST PRINT PRESS RELEASES. All statements of politicians, self proclaimed authorities, self anointed messiahs, CEOs and PR flacks of any sort should be assumed to be either deliberately false or at least ignorantly wrong until proven to be true by verifiable evidence established beyond a reasonable doubt through outside reliable sources.

4. THOU SHALT HONOR REQUESTS FOR PRIVATE CONFIDENCES EXCEPT WHEN IT COMES FROM A PUBLIC OFFICIAL. The only statements made by insiders that should be protected by reporter privilege should be those made about the organization itself, not about outsiders who happen to be criticizing the organization. In other words, sources should be free to label themselves, but never others. As a corollary, neither the word “liberal” nor the word “conservative” should be considered curse words.

5. THY NEWS DEPARTMENT SHALT TELL THY MARKETING DEPARTMENT TO STUFF IT. Individual ownership of media entities and major campaign contributions by such owners and their reporters within the past 12 months, at a minimum, ought to be regularly revealed at the start of each article or news broadcast. It's called disclosure of potential conflicts of interest. Beside, if reporters can’t find crimes committed by their own bosses, then they aren’t doing their job.

6. THOU SHALT NOT SEND THE ENTIRE WORLD’S PRESS CORPS TO COVER ONE SEX TRIAL. Like education, often the public needs to hear news not involving bleedings, bedrooms or bombings, whether they want to hear it or not. Either that or at least confine such B,B&B; “news” to the entertainment pages.

7. THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY COMPETITORS’ ACCESS TO POWER. All perks of any sort given to reporters should be considered automatic conflicts of interest and reported in any story by the recipient reporter. Pundit columns should always be clearly marked as solely the opinion of the pundit. Perhaps their expertise, if any, or lack of it on a subject should also be disclosed. In fact, the total number of reporters and staff working on the particular story should be reported at the bottom so that the public can decide how well a subject is covered. Better yet, the amount of time spent on a particular story should be reported.

8. THOU SHALT ALWAYS REVEAL WHEN THE OFFICIALS ARE ANGRY OR ARROGANT. It should be reported as news who is excluded from access to politicians and news sources. Who interviewees refuse to talk to speaks volumes all by itself, not to mention revealing the ethics and moral courage (or lack thereof) of the interviewees who duck reporters. As a group all reporters should refuse to interview anyone who attempts to pick and chose who will be doing the interviews.

9. THOU SHALT NOT DECEIVE THE PUBLIC. Being first with a report is never ever as good as being right about the report. And, being right about a report is never as good as being complete. Moreover, Journalism will never be a genuine “Profession” unless reporters are both licensed to practice like doctors, lawyers and accounts and risk losing such a license when they disobey journalism ethics. Those reporters convicted or fired can be free to write of course. It just should not be with the title of “Reporter” anymore.

10. THOU SHALT CONFINE EDITORIAL OPINIONS TO THE EDITORIAL PAGES WHERE THEY ARE DISCLOSED AS SUCH. Nuf said.

If you are waiting for economists to agree before you can understand Iran's drive for nukes, or anything else for that matter, you will be waiting a long time. Economists can't agree about economics. Economics is an art, not a science, because there are too many implicit assumptions that all economists do NOT share.

In math, we all agree on certain basic assumptions, so we all should get the same answers when we apply the same mathematical functions to the same data. In economics, however, we are trying to calculate likely outcomes (just "likely", not "correct") based on certain assumptions about what large groups of people will do with their money. Moreover, economics then applies unreliable data to these questionable assumptions. Sure, economists use lotsa complex mathematical functions, but GIGO.

So what would economists have to look at to determine whether nuclear power is a smart move for Iran? Projections about future oil revenue as a starter. How far into the future?

Well, first we have to project how long the theoretical nuke plant(s) will operate, at what capacity, and at what cost -- that includes initial construction costs as well as projected operating costs (i.e., labor, maintenance. etc.). Have they even disclosed a plant design, planned capacity, or any construction cost projections yet? Plant capacity projections may in turn require projections about future Iranian power demands. And how will the availabilty of electricity affect the projected demand for electricity? Will Iranians buy more electrical appliances?What are our projections for Iran's electrical infrastructure? Will Iran install and maintain the wires and cables needed to distribute electricity from a central source, and how much will that cost? Fuel for local generators can be transported now, without all that additional infrastructure.

So assuming we nail down all these nuke plant projections with concrete numbers, then we can go back to our projection about future oil revenues (having now established a number for the interval of our projected oil revenues). How much has Iran got in the way of recoverable reserves? By recoverable, I mean capable of production at some cost less than their market value -- so Iran's volume of available reserves necessarily fluctuates with the market value of the oil, as well as projected production costs. By reserves, I mean proven reserves (which are fairly accurate projections about the amount of oil hidden underground), and not guesses about unproven reserves -- though petroleum engineers disagree about those numbers all the time.

We can only answer your question by making long term projections about the market price for oil. Heck, there are plenty of people who went broke trying to project the short-term behavior of future oil prices.

Now, go back through what I just wrote and substitute "educated guess" for each time I used some form of "project." When you start piling guesses on top of guesses, then you get economics. The most accurate way to project an economist's opinion on any given subject is to look at who is paying the economist's bill.

So instead of waiting for an economist's opinion, ask a few factual questions, such as:

1. Has Iran prepared an economic analysis (however questionable) to explain why an oil-rich country needs nuclear power? If Iran has not even tried to manufacture an economic justification, then the rationale seems awfully thin. If Iran has some sort of formal economic rationale, then you have to look at the data and assumptions in that report (or at least, see what other economists say about it).

2. Does Iran already have the infrastructure to transmit electricity from a central point, or does Iran "currently" (heh) rely on neighborhood generators like the residents of Baghdad? Is Iran meeting present electrical demand, or does it actually need more capacity?

3. I Iran acquiring materials and conducting research consistent with nuclear power or nuclear bombs? The two do operate differently, and they do require different materials. For that matter, why does Iran need to "research" nuclear power generation. Isn't that already well known? Aren't there a number of contractors who could design and build a plant without fresh research?

I'll grant you that a media report which included answers to these questions would be more useful than a report which does not. Your central point remains sound. I just don't like to rely on economists.

Now watch me get flamed by economists. :-)

--Stomper

What would I like to know? FACTS.

It's painful to listen to the news dribble on for 30 seconds about something and not actually say anything. No Facts whatsoever about the incident. Try listening next time and you'll see.

I like these kinds of posts.

When I first read "Paradigms Lost", I was not as appreciative of foot notes, end notes- supporting material in general. Now, by and large, I ignore the newspapers and television because the content is largely unsupported and the vehicle it is delivered by is profit-based.

It's funny how often the phrase "When did ignorance become a point of view?" pops into my head. Or, maybe, not really very funny at all.

There are a few comments in here suggesting the ever-present conspiracy theory, that the "Jewish-controlled media" is somehow responsible for the content of every newspaper, every TV show, every movie, etc.

I've worked for major media companies my entire adult life. And, yes, there are often Jewish people in the upper management positions of those companies. At my current company, there are several Jewish people in the upper management and on the board of directors. There are also several Mormons, several Catholics, at least one Muslim, one Buddhist I know of, and a lot of people whose faith (or lack thereof) isn't something they choose to make public.

But, really... it wouldn't matter if they were all Jewish, all Mormon, or all kitten-eating archvillains. A conspiracy to control the output of the media would require, frankly, far more COMPETENCE than any media company is capable of.

My current employer has about 75 reporters in the newsroom, along with about 10 editors (of the type who control content, as opposed to the type who check for typos and grammatical errors, do page design, select photos, or other tasks that get a job title of "editor" but don't involve editing).

The idea of anyone being able to micromanage those people to control the "slant" of every story they write is ludicrous. It'd be nice to believe that they're all writing whatever our [insert religious or ethnic world-controlling group here] overlords are requiring them to write, because it makes a nice neat hypothesis, but the sad fact is that just getting stories written and produced on deadline takes every bit of the energy and skill of everyone involved. There's no time or talent to go through every story and "spin" them to give them the slant our [whatever] overlords want.

It's always easy to assume an evil conspiracy, but I learned a long time ago that evil is far less likely than incompetence, and incompetence is far less likely than sheer laziness.

If a reporter doesn't report the version of the "facts" you'd like or that you believe, it's not because they're evil... it's simply because they're too lazy to do any more research.

[What would happen to a reporter who wrote a story that everone knew would gravely offend some well-organized group -- whether Jewish or gay or African-American? Would it get published? -- Scott

Mr. Adams,
I am in agreement with about 93.7% of your posts, but on the implied question of the accuracy of reported numbers of Jews exterminated, we differ.
The SS was a bureaucratic organization obsessed with record keeping, and many of these records have survived. These records show that 5.1 million Jews were documented to have been industrially murdered, another (very roughly) 500,000 to 800,000 were killed by einsatzgruppen and partisan warfare, and about another six-and-a-half million non-jews were killed by the SS.
You can refer to "Der Orden unter dem Totenkopf" (The Order of the Death's Head" by Heinz Hoehne published (translated) in 1969 by Ballentine Books.
Please, however, continue puncturing conventional wisdom, bureaucracy, and pomposity.
Thanks,
Bill Hill

Reporters and their editors are lazy and the publishers/producers want as much space/airtime as possible to sell advertising. The NEWS and INFO is out there but it is buried, not on purpose in a ha ha ha they'll find it way, but we've all become accustomed to sound bite information dissemination.

If you want more information, you have to work for it nowadays, it can be spoonfed or directed to you

As to your examples of events and numbers that seem taken for granted and /or spurious:
1)The numbers, names, evidence are there to support the 6 million PLUS figure for the Holocaust (BUT that number ALSO includes homosexuals, Gypsies, handicaps/cripples, cartoonists, etcetera, and they weren't Jewish)

2)The Jews in Iran (and Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, and other Arab and Gulf nations) are not harmed because they swore oaths and signed statements they do not believe in Zionism. Only in Iraq were and are they STILL hassled, but Saddam and his crew hassled everybody and those insurgents today will attack just about anyone, but get more points for scoring off members of Chaldean Oryhodox Church and local Jews.
Also the difference is those Jews in other Middle East countries are Semitic Jews, from the Fertile Crescent. Most of the Jewish population in Israel are East European, mainly settlers from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, pre-WWII Poland, Bulgaria and Romania, as well as descendents of orginal settlers from UK and France (those Edwardian era countries' idea of trying to solve "their" own Jewish problem was to steer their Jews to emigrate to the British mandate in Palestine.) Why does the Knesset speak Yiddish and NOT Modern Aramaic like the home grown Semitic Jews?

I know it's a side-issue to the main point here, but my understanding is that news without bias is really boring to read (and sometimes can cause major angst to the recipient). The cattle need to be reassured that the news they are hearing fits their world-view of who's a good guy, and who's a bad guy, and the commentator handily provides that by villifying where appropriate, praising where appropriate, suppressing parts of the story that may not fit so well, and if neccessary not reporting on whole stories that the punters won't find interesting.

Moo.

Scott, I agree with you 100% on this one. The media never gives you the whole story be it TV, Radio, Newspaper or Internet. Every news agency has its own bais. Watch a story on Fox news then watch the same story on NBC and you will see what I mean. I think this is the main reason why TV news has been dropping in popularity and talk Media and blogs like yours are gaining in popularity. The people want to know all the facts so that an intellegent decision can be made. But I do not think that will ever happen, the reason the news media thinks they are gods, controlling the public like a puppet master.

Not many presidents in the world are like Noam Chomsky. Like him or dislike him, but the guy definitely has a brain, and he knows an awful lot about linguistics. What heand of state can say as much?

If nuclear power really was cheap, it might make economic sense for Iran to develop it and keep selling their oil to us suckers for a huge profit. But nuclear power is most expensive power source around. Even with us having to pay high prices for oil and natural gas, it's still much cheaper to use those for power generation than nuclear.

Of course, you can't use crude oil to generate power, it needs to be refined. And Iran, despite all it's oil, has very few refineries. They actually have to import gasoline. This lack of common economic sense may lead them to conclude that nuclear power would be cheaper. I have to believe it would be cheaper for them to build their own refineries and use their own oil. But that would not attract the attention of the whole world, which is what their leadership really craves.

Another one, unrelated to the previous post :)

With regard to the President of Iran, does anyone else see the closed loop in how he and other enemies of the US are described.

Step 1. Claim that Enemy A is planning to develop weapons which might be used to attack the US or their interests.
Step 2. Receive question "Why would anyone plan to attack the US? If anyone did they would receive the very special attention of the world's remain superpower, possibly with extra super spicy nuke flavour."
Step 3. Explain that the only sort of person who would try to attack the US would be mad person, therefore Enemy A must be mad.
Step 4. Receive the whining liberal question "Okay, agree with you that only seriously unbalanced people would plan to attack the US and think they would get away with it, but why do you think that Enemy A is planning to attack the US?"
Step 5 (sounding exasperated). Explain condescendingly that it's because Enemy A is clearly mad, and most likely evil as well.

End result, Enemy A is not only dangerously aggressive, but also insane (and probably evil) and therefore we should send in the troops before they develop WMDs.

Now usually you would like to see evidence of the development of weapons which might have been used to threaten US interests, but heck, they are just minor details. And the people who really matter watch Fox anyway and they all know that Saddam had nukes and chemical weapons up to his eyeballs and has been swapping kiddie porn with that Democrat fellow from Florida. All the others are bleeding heart pinko liberals, seduced by the siren call of wimpy PBS/BBC World truthiness.

cheers,

neopolitan

Regarding the holocaust ...

I visited Anne Franks house (the diary girl) and in the attached museum they had a copy and translation of a document from the Nazis themselves about the number of Jews (to be) killed. They were the minutes of a conference at Wannsee on the Jewish problem and the suggested "final solution".

In that document they listed the number of Jews scheduled for elimination. The projected total was 11 million, but included 5 million in Russia which they didn't get around to taking care of (Stalin did his best after the war, along with numerous other purges of people he didn't like).

The figures are not quite right, since the Nazis didn't take control of some other countries where Jews were located, such as Sweden, England and Ireland. But the number approximates 6 million.

Interestingly enough they didn't seem to have plans to eradicate Jews from Africa or Asia (including what is now Israel). And there is no mention of the US. Perhaps there was no plan at that time for occupation of those regions and they didn't consider non-European Jewry to be their problem.

Don't take my word for it, a translation of the document is available here ... http://www.auschwitz.dk/Wannsee.htm

Note also that this document is from 1942, there is evidence to support the contention that the Nazis didn't initially plan to kill all the Jews, just get rid of them somehow. Having them die at concentration camps was not considered to be such a bad thing. From the document linked above "Under proper guidance, in the course of the final solution the Jews are to be allocated for appropriate labor in the East. Able-bodied Jews, separated according to sex, will be taken in large work columns to these areas for work on roads, in the course of which action doubtless a large portion will be eliminated by natural causes."

This seems to be at odds with the claim that there was sanctioned liquidation already happening. Perhaps they were squeamish about putting their plans on paper, but they did already have a large pile of bones around which you would imagine would make them more squeamish.

Anyways, the Holocaust was planned, it happened and even if they only cold bloodedly caused the death of 600,000 people of Jewish decent (or even 1+0,000) rather than the more spectacular figure of 11,000,000, it was a terrible thing. Quibbling about figures is pointless. Denying that anything happened at all is just ridiculous.

cheers,

neopolitan

(BTW, I think the figure lies much closer to 5-6,000,000. Something that does make me wonder from time to time is why almost no-one makes a fuss about the 20,000,000 or so Stalin killed (figures range from 1 to 100 million) and the 35-77,000,000 Mao Zse-Dung killed or the 0.5 million killed over four months in Rwanda (not many compared to 6 million but that was still a death rate close to 4000 people per day.)

I was under the impression the 6 million figure was was derived by deducting the number of pre-war European jews from the number of post-war European jews.

I hate it when the news mentions the cost of things. For example, I remember a story about how the Australian navy saved a couple of canoeists a few years ago from the Indian Ocean. The news said this cost the Australian navy 100 thousand dollars (or something like that). This was because a war ship was diverted to save them. I would like to know how they came up with that figure. Did they simply add up the cost of all the fuel used and the wages of each crew member etc. Surely the war ship would have been sailing around anyway, and the wages of all the crew would have been paid for anyway. What I really wanted to know was now much EXTRA the exercise cost the navy on top of what they usually spend on that warship a day. I bet it wasn't much.

It's just bad reporting.

The Nazi Master Plan called for the deaths of 6 billions jews. Not 5,999,999,999 or 6,000,000,001.

It was because 6 billion was Hitlers favorite number.

"economists agree"

Surely you're kidding?

I'd like to know the financial and political context of the news item relative to the owner of the "news". So, I'd really like to know if the owner of (say) Fox will make money when the president starts a war and the channel supports him. And I'd like that context attached to each news "report". I suspect we'd get rather a lot of context if we did.

We get the News we ask for, if it was important enough to us to get accurate and full information then they would provide it as it would sell newspapers. We are more interested in sound bites, over simplified stories and general celeb garbage. Look in the mirror and place the blame where it deserves to be

I want to know how the American foreign policy works. What is the manifesto, moto, rules or whatever. What is the official policy summary?

"We the people shalt only bomb those people that we deem not worthy of our values... and have less than 50 mil population... and have no weapons of mass destruction... and are weaker then us... and don't have a strong loby in congress... and if the circusmstance is that its more profitable to tax corporate arms suppliers than corporate natural resource suppliers benefiting from the country in question... and if they are non-christian... and we don't have a trade agreement... and they haven't breeched the trade agreement... Slim pickings... OK they don't have to breech the trade agreement."

TO find out how the 6 million figure was arrived at, try readin Michael Shermer's Denying History. Basically, they took the number of Jews from before the Holocaust and after and the official Nazi records. Either way, you come up wth roughly six million. It's a bit more complicated, but the book explains in detail how we know any sort of historical facts.

It is not about knowing the missing portion of the news. It is all about attaining the illusion of knowledge. When you think you dont know, you probably dont know anything. And when you think you know, you probably dont even know the half of it.

The accuracy of jews sent to concentration camps is fairly accurate to the tens of thousands, as both the jewish and nazi's kept immaculate records of families and the holocaust, the variance is probably more to do with the Jews that were shot in teh streetsnear the end, or the few who were not recorded.

http://ramblingsofanofficeworker.blogspot.com

Good post, but for only one reason - I learnt a new word....
recuse - "The process by which a judge is disqualified from hearing a case, on his or her own motion or upon the objection of either party."

Thanks Cos

We hear a lot about "Anti Semitism" in the news media.

Has any one thought about the reality, except in Israel Jews are a minority in every nation they live in. In USA "Jews" are just about 3%.

When participation of a particular "community" exceed percentage of their numerical strength in specific activity segment like - Education, Media/Publishing, Finance/Banking, Business - that is possible only through "nepotism" and has nothing to do with merit. When this happens the wealth aggregation in the hands of particular community happens and eventually the rest of the society turns against them.

Theoretically jews should be only 3% of the "News Casters", if they are exceeding this then they are manipulating the system.....

The people who control "News Media" and "Banking" controls a nation. If Jews control news media and banking in America then they are the rulers...... rest of the Americans are their slaves........

I love WCE's "truth is a fractal". That's (fractally) true. You would need to get an awful lot of facts each time. Of course I would like to have real facts and a balanced presentation of issues. Problem is you need time for that; you need, e.g. newspapers, and TV news just don't have that time; they were probably trying a bit at first, but I guess they just went along with the accelerating flow of events and gave it up. I can't bring myself to believing that each majot channel has a conspiracy planning committee that tailors each piece of news that goes out. Of course editorial boards (or whatever they're called in TV) do a lot of censorship based on the personal biases of their members, of what they perceive will please their audience and their particular sponsors and shareholders; however I think the main problem is that there is just not enough time to allow for a balanced presentation of issues. When you go to 24 hours info channels, you find, from time to time, some slots with a more in-depth view of things, but mostly, it's just a series of one-sided opinions that you're presented with. Same with radio information. Most of it is crap and useless. I just try to get some location and context information on what I hear, and then try to do a bit more research; but then, I rarely have time myself...

Most of what you see is based on what brings in the best ratings, but the media is heavily manipulated, take the invasion of Afghanistan to get Osma, dispite there being no reports of him being in the country. The invasion of Iraq despite the fact it didn't have any WMD's, and the proposed invasion or Iran because its going to build a big nuclear bomb (despite the fact nuclear power is a cheaper alternative to burning oil they could be making millions with).
Aafghanistan Iraq and Iran in that order said they would begin selling Oil in Euros not dollars, a move that could topple the US economy, the dollar being backed by nothing but oil (As all middle eastern companies were part of an agreement that the US would protect them if they sold oil in dollars, extortion at its best?)

If too many countries got it into their head to sell oil by the Euro not the Dollar the main support would be gone, hence a deprission, although because it is an american depression mainly I am looking forward to what it will be called, Return of the depression, Leap of the Stock Brokers 2 and so on.

Grasping the implications of one change in a worldwide sense is a mindnumbingly huge task, but it is done on a daily basis.

What do I think the media miss out and that should be important?

Nothing.

If they reported things as they were there would be a lot more panic in this world.

http://ramblingsofanofficeworker.blogspot.com

if you are interested in getting (rather than just questioning) information about the holocaust, you should visit yad vashem, the holocaust remembrance museum in jerusalem. if you can't make it to jerusalem, you can visit http://www.yadvashem.org . there, among other things, you will find a database of names and bio information that is being compiled about holocaust victims. so far, they have compiled over 3 million names. understandably, it will not be possible to compile all names, as some families and communities were completely eliminated.

Wow Scott.... It's like, you can see into the future, or something, and stuff (relating to today's nuke testing revelations).

Very true Scott. I receive both the American and European news, and I have to say the european ones are much more informative and formatted as documentaries whereas the american ones are becoming more and more like cheesy action movies. Sure, it makes the american news more exciting in some way, but you're really spoon-fed the opinion you're supposed to have.

One interesting thing about the holocaust numbers: of course, it is in the interest of the victims to get their number as high as possible (same concept in rallies where protest organizers claim X people showed up and police claim X/10). If you go to Boston, there's a monument with the serial numbers of supposedly every victim of the holocaust. Look carefully, and you'll see they constantly repeat the same numbers over and over again. The monuments look impressive until you notice the fraud.

I couldn't agree more - I hate the fact that we so often only hear one side of the story or a snippet out of context. I want like you the infomation to enable me to make an informed decision!

200 comments on a Sunday... people is obviously asking for this type of posts...
I'm not going to read them all. I didn't even read the hole post... but I need to say: finding out that media is always not saying what you need to see the hole picture is pretty clever... so, not voting because you "are silly" is a stupid thing to say... Yes yes, you saying silly things, so we can agree you are silly, but you are fastly going all the way round. Please vote next time.

Jim said:
[Al Jazeera is an excellent source of news not only for the Middle East but also the world. It ranks alongside BBC for accuracy and non-bias. In fact, I honestly believe--using ALL of my professional judgement--that Al Jazeera is superior to BBC. Try studying its website. I think you will agree.]

Wait, youve gotta be kidding, right?
Your talking about the the same al jazeera that portays jews as monkeys and pigs, right?

Hahhaahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahhahhha. ha!

Hehheh. heh.

"Professional judgement"???!!!
Are you like the Grand Wizard or something?

One of the greatest things is that getting one's news from the Internet provides one with the context and alternate viewpoint that television news lacks. If the Dilbert blog provides a liberal hippie douchebag viewpoint on something, you can count that one of the first ten comments on an article will be the redneck troglodyte conservative viewpoint to balance it out and tell Scott why he's wrong.

Likewise, the War on Terrorism board provides not only the CNN viewpoint, but also the al-Jazeera viewpoint, the Fox News viewpoint, and a slew of more and LESS moderate takes on any issue you care to name, from the legal ramifications of the suspension of habeas corpus to the relative artistic merit of Paris Hilton's newest music release.

Forget nuclear power or space travel. The most significant invention of the 20th century was the Internet.

I suppose the LRN for the Hollocaust is measured by what you count as victims...

Do you only count Jews in the Concentration camps, or those who were exicuted as well by the Einsatzkommando as the Germans rushed through the USSR?

Do you only include Jews, or do you also include Gypsies, gays and other minorities who were killed in exactly the same manner as the jews in concentration camps?

People actually think the BBC is a viable alternative to Stupid News? The same BBC who recently covered such important stories as "Air conditioning sales go up in the summer months" and "people like to vacation in caravans"? For the AC story, they actually went to the trouble of interviewing people who had bought AC units during the heat wave and found out, no doubt with their stellar reporting skills, that people liked being cooler. Wow! How did I make it without knowing that?

i don't know, and/or care if this has been said before or discussed in the comments herein, but if the jews got and entire country for their deaths, us gays should at least have gotten an island or continuing with the tendency to give them the land smack-dab in the middle of where they hate em. i demand a big ranch in the middle of texas to be given to us to call Gayland! it'd be wonderful if we could be neighboring gwb's ranch.

you're making an assumption that the media is here to inform you and not a commercial business designed to sell advertising... Hype brings in the viewers, which brings in the $$. gotta keep the 'one sided' stories going to press

I want your post put into context, and clarified.

Scott,
You're smart enuff to know that you should be voting and that your weak excuse is an unacceptable rationalization. While your main point about the media may be correct, it does not even come close to being a reason to leave the decision to people that are even less informed than you. Register to vote today. 79 million people did not vote in the last presidential election. That says a lot about this country, none of it good. You are a hilarious person and a national treasure. You are also a role model to a few dozen of us, and you are probably convincing people that they don't need to vote if you don't.

One quick thing...

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist recently made statements in support of the inclusion of members of the once-evil now apparently not-so-evil Taliban in the Afghani government.

I would love to see a poll or live interviews with women in Afghanistan asking them their thoughts about Senator Frist's statements.

But then again, this is why I don't watch teevee news. The info on the teleprompter is too little and usually too late.

Newspaper "reporting" is simply one method of influencing public opinion: This can be achieved by appearing to be fair and objective while subtly leading the reader between the lines to reach the desired conclusions,it can employ a sledgehammer technique,playing upon the readers basic hopes and fears,to unleash patriotic fervor,righteous anger or whatever emotional reaction the "reporter" is shooting for,or it can utilize various mixes and combinations of these two extremes.
In no way is the aim of newspaper reporting an objective presentation or enlightenment of its'readers.

OK - The Holocaust: While the Nazis were generally obsessive about keeping records,when the Hungarian Jews were sent to Auschwitz in 1944 most of them,apparently,went from the trains directly to the gas chambers without being registered in the camp itself. This may also have been the case in all of the transports to Belzec and Treblinka which were,unlike Auschwitz,strictly extermination camps.
Now,if this means that the figure of 6 million is inaccurate it hardly lessens the crime - it would be just as heinous if the figure was 1 or 2 million,but maybe the reasoning was that a definite number,not subject to revision or approximation would be more believable.
One aspect regarding the camps that is somewhat puzzling is that,whereas with the mass shootings by the Einsatzgruppen in Russia there is a lot of photographic evidence,there is not one photograph(published)of people entering a gas chamber or even grouped close to a gas chamber. The "Auschwitz Album" shows pictures of "selections" at the ramp in Birkenau and even a line moving towards the gas chamber(unidentifiable) in the distance and photographs of the buildings housing the gas chambers but nothing that shows any aspect of the "operation" itself. Odd and frustrating as it gives the Holocaust deniers something to grasp on to.

my new mantra: don't trust the media for your news ... the problem is that you suddenly will never know what exactly is going on in the world.

Hi ,

I would like to know US spending in Afganistan and its use.How much was paid by US to Mujahidins and how much to Pakistan ?
Out of same money or ammunitions how much was used against USSR and how much was against US ?
Out of money given to Pakistan ,how much was used against India in training millitants and buying RDX.
Out of it how much was actually used against India and how much against other countries.

Prasad

To name a few of the most respected and popular Jewish Newscasters, there are Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, Ted Koppel, David Horowitz, Barbara Walters, Wolf Blitzer, and of course Ari Fleischer. [I have not been able to determine the racial heritage of "The most respected man in America," Walter Cronkite.]

---Moist Robotic Drone

interesting...news reporting as a scientific effort(backed be evidence,facts) ..instead of a literary one...wondering if a news reporter needs to go through an end of the year audit to check the percentage of truth in his articles...we could grade them on that basis...i guess right now the only thing that counts is how sensational the article is...

anyways, my 2 yens worth....

Less sound bytes. Often they are taken out of context and misleading.

When they report that - 20 insurgents were killed in Afghanistan today - I feel I need to know if any other people were pissed off by this and are now signing up to have a go? I'd also like to know how many insurgents do we have to kill before the war is over and everyone can go home?

Then maybe I could join in celebrating these deaths of foreigners in a country I have never been to and have no understanding of whatsoever.

For at least some of those examples, part of the problem is lack of freedom of press and speech in countries like Iran. It's just difficult to get the real context when it is so easy for them to sweep such things under the rug.

One problem with wanting more information on which to base opinions is that you'll never actually get enough to be absolutely correct.

"Truth" is a fractal. It has an indeterminate number of dimensions. The closer you get to it, the more there is to know. It's like the "Coastline of Britain", where the length you measure is a function of the scale at which you observe it. You'll get a different number with a yardstick, walking the coastline yourself, than if you measure it from photographs taken fron a plane a mile up.

Ask someone who's been divorced why the marriage didn't work out, and wait for his one-liner answer. Then ask him again, why it *really* didn't work out, and prepare yourself for an all-night monologue/diatribe. Then do the same with their ex-, and you'll hear only the slightest overlap in the two accounts. Neither may be lying, but the truth itself has many dimensions to it, and you'll never get a complete answer, no matter how patiently you listen.

News stories are the same way. Every 30-second soundbite has a thousand-page approximation that still leaves most of the real story out.

Ok, I understand you don't have the context necessary to make a perfect decision. Do you think Congress has that context? A significant percentage of voters? The president himself? Seems to me like every one of them has to make a choice based on what seems to be the best option. What happens if Congress waits till it has all the necessary context? They veto, veto, and keep vetoing (which might not be so terrible with the current president). And what happens if all the voters who feel they lack the necessary context abstain from voting? You have a moronic few thousand people who believe they've seen the divine light guiding our entire nation. And then they elect our sitting President, who, well, can't say the word context.

The "media" has NEVER given enough information:
1) It takes up a lot of space/time.
2) It takes a lot of effort and time to do the research.
3) It does not enhance sales/viewership/listenership.
4) It does not contribue to the bottomline.

Facts are generally boring. So, to make them more attractive, the media uses adjectives, thus obfuscating the facts.

Even you, Scott, do it.

Here is a challenge, in one of your next blogs, just give the "unadulterated" facts (and all the facts) for an argument. It will take a lot of time, it will be a long post, and it will be boring.

Remember, the media is NOT there to tells us what is going on (not even PBS or the BBC). The media is there to make money (including PBS and the BBC). As is Scott Adams.


I wish the media would explain the difference between adult stem cells (which are currently being used to treat people) and embryonic stem cells (which have produced nothing but tumors in over 20 years of research)!

Why is the left pushing for government funding for their death research? Because private enterprise has determined that EMBRYONIC stem cells are too unstable to be productive.

We need to put our resources into further researching ADULT stem cells. That's where the promises lay.

I agree on your post, however, from what I have seen people are always biased on these kinds of topics. Also, if you do the research to provide always the right context it will take much more effort per note and it will not "sell" that well. Not to mention that they could provide a false context.

So what I would like to see is some kind of repository of factual data and references to it. It would be great if you could check if the information you heard in the news is factual, something like wikipedia style. That is no easy task.

BBC Radio 4 are running a series of programmes about Iran at the moment, "Uncovering Iran".

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/iran/

Radio 4 programmes tend to migrate to the BBC World Service but you can listen to Real Audo streams via the web.

(a number of other posters have recommended The Economist as a news source, I'd go along with that.)

Scott:

YOU are an economist. Do you think it makes financial sense for Iran to develop nuclear power???

[Probably yes. But I don't have all the data so I can't be certain. -- Scott]

Really?! I wonder what your criteria is based on what you know. Does this mean that it makes a limited amount of sense or that it makes a ton of sense, but based on sketchy data. What more data do you need? We're always willing to look this up for you

As others have mentioned, statistics are the easiest way to introduce bias into a news report. The average viewer has no idea how to interpret statistics or how to spot bogus statistics.

Example:

News: "The number of deaths due to have doubled in the past year!"

Reality: The number of deaths due to increased from 1 to 2 and the number of possible deaths was 1000000.

I would like to know how many civilians in Afgahnistan die for every Canadian soldier that is killed there. Also, how many Afgahni soldiers die whenever the news here reports a Canadian soldier has died.

I have always, always wondered what requests Iran is ignoring. I'm glad I'm not the only one thinking "Hmm, it would be nice to know what they're refusing and what they aren't, and why that makes them all lunatics."

Carter Castor tells a couple of untruths:

"He has been very clear that when he says he wants Israel wiped off the map what he means is he wants the dissolution of a state that turns non-Jews into second-class citizens."

No he hasn't.

"Under Israel law, only Jews can hold office. He wants a *gasp* democracy in Israel where anyone can hold office, and if it the popular consensus that it should remain Jewish, awesome."

There have always been plenty of Arab MKs in the Israeli Knesset. They are certainly NOT barred from office.

"As for the treatment of Jews, I would rather be a Jew in Iran than a Muslim in Israel. They have full citizenship and enjoy the same rights as their Muslim brothers."

This is also rubbish. Arabs in Israel enjoy full citizenship. Jews in Iran have had a mixed deal. They were severely persecuted after the revolution. There is a Jewish politician there and two small Jewish communities. Previously Iran had a MASSIVE Jewish population that was loyal to the Shah. The remaining Jews get on OK when they are not being incarcerated. Their neighbours are mostly friendly.

I have to agree with Duane to an extent. I know that bullying you into hard political research so you can vote for the good of America yada yada won't work. But you COULD bully your loyal readers into doing the research for you, and then you could make proclamations from on high. Okay, I'm just as lazy as you, and the same applies to many of your readers. But there are people here who seem to delight in looking stuff up. Use them.

And yes, I would like context too. I would love to know whether the scientists that pronounced cheeseburgers are good for you were testing on (a) regular people (b) starving people or (c) just having a nice dream. Because every day you hear something new which is good or bad for you, which has usually been reversed a year or two later.

TV news exists to keep the viewer on-channel so the advertising will be received. It has no other purpose but to entertain, even dishonestly, the viewer, and only just enough to deter a channel change.

This explains why editors 'sex up' news copy for the air. Every time somebody is hit by a bullet, they are 'caught in the crossfire'. Every time a car speeds, it is 'careening'. (Careen means to lean. A drunk can careen without moving his feet.) Whenever there is shooting, somebody 'opened fire'. ('Open fire' is the command to start shooting, and to keep shooting until the command 'cease fire'.)

It explains why uncertainly is pushed to the extreme. The report with be about "as much as" but not "as little as", about "as many as", but not "as few as". Any correlation is proposed to probably be causal, as in "this may" blah-blah-blah.

Now, when you think about it, notice how much printed news is taking inspiration from TV news.

Posted by: duane | October 08, 2006 at 03:11 PM

EXCELLENT POST!

Every word of it.

You assume that it's even possible to have all the information you need to provide proper context. I doubt that's true.

The best you can do is go with the information you do have and be prepared to switch courses as new information comes to light.

Mine is simple I want a financial wealth index for each world leader and governing party and this should be reported in the finance sector of the news, so we here quotes like,
"The Bush index went up by 50 basis points with the speculation of declaration of war on France"
The Bush 100 (the us executive branch and family members) remained steady today.

Extend this to all parties and you have information on who is winning and who is losing and hence why capitalist (or dictator for some other countries) picked that option.

Scott

Hey Alex,

Mark Foley is a republican, that's why the republican congressmen that knew what he was doing sat on ... kept it to themselves for the last few years.


Scott,

They don't give context for at least 2 reasons ... the story wouldn't be nearly as dramatic/shiny/scary etc. and the other reason is 'propaganda' .. I don't watch TV, or listen to the radio, because I like my entertainment to be agenda/propaganda free.

I'd like to hear more about Darfur, and less about Tom Cruise. That is all.

Great blog, and a topic which has also been on my mind lately. In my part of the world we have state elections in several weeks. Most people I know vote on the basis of "news soundbites" for say the fortnight leading up to the election, plus the morning newspaper analysis on voting day if they're really keen. This idea sends shivers down my spine because as far as I can tell, the politicians do what they please for a few years at a time and then try to produce favorable soundbites in the weeks leading up to the election to win votes. Not an ideal setup, in my opinion.

PS The middle east topics did get tiresome (to me) but any other "unfunny" topics like this one are welcome!

I would like to know whether Mark Foley is Republican or Democrat, because Fox hasn't been very clear on that.

I don't worry about getting content on TV news. I don't watch TV news. Or listen to the radio.

Those that apologize about spelling mistakes, type your comment in a word document. Then copy/paste it into the comment box. Then if it gets lost in cyber land as it sometimes does you can just copy/paste it again. Or sit there and cuss because you didn't do that.

Many of the comments I leave here are in a document called Scott’s Blog. His subject is shown, but not all the content, then my comments.

All news includes spin, and that spin represents political opinions and bias in the news.

Consider your examples, "Economists support Iranian nuclear plants" versus "Economists question Iranian nuclear plants".

Which economists? Why should "they" get to say whether these plants make financial sense? Have they each studied the same set of facts? Is the "consensus" universal? Why isn't the headline, "Some economists support, others question financial implications of nuclear energy".

If every economist around the world agreed (yeah, right) about the finances, why do they get to determine whether it's a good thing or not? "Economists, environmentalists at odds over nukes".

The writer wants to place his (or her) own mark on the story. To attack the President at every turn, for example, if they think that a slim win makes him less legitimate in their own opinion, and try to change the future outcome in favour of their own opinion.

Journalism has largely given way to columnists (and some who rewrite press releases as news stories), yet most news outlets try to pretend bias doesn't exist where it clearly does.

As you are an economist, you should know that economists never agree on anything.

Remember you're dealing with places on the Bell Curve where there's people who don't know the whereabouts of Wyomin, much less Iran; people who's sense of history involve superbowls and survivor, much less the depopulation of German and Polish Jews and anyone else the SS didn't like, during the holocaust
...but not on THIS thread, of course.

We had the pleasure of meeting an expat Iranian Jewish family a couple of years ago when I bought the husband's car. He'd invited us into the house where, to my suprise, I noticed several Jewish artifacts or religious items.
Now, I'd been around the guy long enuff to have already realized that he was Iranian, so I was already thinking shi'ite Muslim.
No, he said that he and his family were all Jewish, and that they'd immigrated to the West in flight of severe oppression of the Jews in Iran.
He was very clear that it is dangerous to be Jewish in Iran, and further, that there is institutionalized segregational prejudice embedded in the system, a la "White" and "Colored" drinking fountains.
He gave me an example: his kids were not able to avail themselves of education. Those services don't exist for Jews in Iran.

They seemed like friendly people, and quite sane~ on the same page.
I still have the car and we love it.


The Nazis used IBM punch-card computers to carefully document almost every murder they committed, that's how they know the number.

I have a lot of respect for you, because your comics indicate you have a keen grasp of the inanities of modern life and people's behavior, yet here you are saying that you don't vote because you are ignorant and that the media doesn't give you enough context with its reporting which upsets you because to get the right context you would have to work too hard. I am shocked and appalled. You seem to not recognize that you are living in the world you comment on everyday.

It would seem that fear of making a wrong decision keeps you from making any decision and that is just what politicians want. Smart people making intelligent, informed votes are much harder to manage than people who are swayed by sound bites and attractive smiles. Heck, smart people in general are harder to handle than regular folks, but its the smart people that drive us forward. As a smart person, you have a responsibility to drive us forward. I'm not saying you have to get out there and lead voter registrations and splash your opinions all over the media like various Hollywood celebrities, but you have an obligation to the rest of us less smart people to do the best job you can. Sure you will never have perfect information, and in some cases, you won't even have good information, but you are smart and you need to make a decision. The only bad decision is no decision because then that means that the majority of people, who are not as smart as you have made it for you. People in large groups do stupid things. Persons one-by-one accomplish great things.

One great thing you can do is change the thing you complain about. Except that your complaint really doesn't make any sense. There isn't enough context. Sure there is, it's just not the context you want. You want answers to your questions and I want answers to my questions and apparently the rest of America wants to know whether our politicians wear boxers or briefs. I must dig out the information I want. I have absolutely zero influence on the world around me, so I adapt to it. I want to make the right choices and I want to feel good about those choices so I know that I can't only rely on what I see on TV and that all information is biased in some way. So, I think critically about everything I take in. You must do the same. No one said democracy was easy and that fact alone causes most people to drop out. Don't be one of those people.

However, you have the opportunity to actually get the answers you want and maybe make it so more information that you want does come to you more easily. You have what they call a bullypulpit and you can cause a change in the way media and politics work in the US. Jay Leno and David Letterman did. Before them, politicians did their thing and the talk shows joked about it later. Then politicians got invited on the show to talk about serious matters and joke around. Now, politicians have to be charismatic, charming, informed and funny. It's not a big change, but two guys did it.Bill O'Reilly changed things. He made it okay for journalists to have opinion and axes to grind and now he has a host of imitators grinding away. I say that wasn't a change for the better, but it was a change that politicians still can't cope with. Once again, smart people are harder to handle than ordinary folks.

John Stewart almost singlehandedly is changing how news is presented. The Daily Show's pieces are funny and pointed. More often than not, they also eviscerate the mainstream media. Stewart himself makes no bones about what a joke conventional media outlets are. You might think no one is listening, but they are. Even though his audience is comparatively small, it is influential and it is having an impact, because change doesn't happen all at once and spontaneously. Change is led by a few people, who are maginalized and ridiculed until eventually the majority see that change has already occurred and they move swiftly to adapt. The news is changing and most people don't know it yet, but in ten years they'll look back and think it was obvious.

Colbert is doing more of the same, but his show is more blatant and probably much more damning. He mocks traditional politics and news reporting and makes us laugh along, but at the same time drawing us a picture. See how ridiculous this rhetoric is? See how crazy it is to talk like this? See how they've fooled us? Americans are not dumb, you just have to connect some of the dots for us. The new media Stewart is slowly sculpting is the same one Colbert is taking a chainsaw to. I can't wait to see the result.

You could be in on this. Use your greater voice to demand what you want from the news and watch and see what follows. Media outlets are always trying to guess what the people want. Guess what? You may not know what they want, but you sure seem to know what they're thinking and that might just be good enough.

I thought it was 6 million Jews killed, but 11 million people in total killed in the Holocaust. I don't know how those numbers were gleaned and glossomed.
Do you hate people who make up words?
I think it's interesting that so many of us, Scott and I included, are so angry but about completely different things. My brother-in-law practically wants to die because of the way people drive. He's hanging by a thread.
I get furious by morons using pesticides and herbicides, which is not even on my brother-in-law's radar.
Scott clearly is very angry at people too, for his own reasons.
So many of us are writhing in anger about things that other people don't even think about, let alone homicidal or suicidal about. Like grammar.
Interesting. To me.

My complaint is that these things should be included prominently in the news so the ignorant and lazy viewer such as me receives the right context without working too hard. Without proper context, the news is misleading at best, and intentionally biased at worst.~ Scott

Amen Brother Scott.

I have been wanting to see some truthful reporting about the everyday lives of war torn countries now that we have so thoughtfully liberated them.

How there are so many bodies floating in the rivers now that the fisherman no longer bother to retrieve them because then they would have no time to fish.

How the drinking water facility had 2 mangled bodies stuck in a pipe and they were selfishly bleeding into the water supply.

How mothers are afraid to leave their homes to shop for groceries.

How teachers are targeted for assassination so people are afraid to send their children to school.

How the people respond to the question from our soldiers "have you seen any foreign fighters?" with the answer, "yes, you".

This information is finally starting to surface. But, as you have noted, doesn't make a big splash from the talking heads on tv. You have to really, really, really, look to find the truth of what is going on.

And, as you also you noted, most of us don't really want to know the truth so we aren't looking real hard.

The truth? We can't handle the truth.

Faith-based public policy initiatives should be given context in this age of information and reason.

Questions could include:

Is basing public policy on the Bible any better for the public than basing it on the Koran or on the Iliad? If so, how is it better, and can you prove it Mr. Bush?

How does the war with Iraq square with guidelines within Christianity, such as, "Though shalt not kill."?

What faith based policies have governments had in the past that now seem ridiculous? More specifically, how do present-day faith-based policies compare to policies such as segregation and witch burning?

To BillF: the Mensa guys are supposed to be more intelligent than the average human, but that doesn't directly qualify us for ruling the world. Or does it?

Actually there was something of a paper trail:
"As the Third Reich embarked upon its plan of conquest and genocide, IBM and its subsidiaries helped create enabling technologies, step-by-step, from the identification and cataloging programs of the 1930s to the selections of the 1940s. "
http://www.ibmandtheholocaust.com/

The answer is simple. Stop watching CNN, FoxNews (I don't care if the women are hot - that's not why you watch the news), MSNBC, and switch to PBS (It may be more boring, but it gives out more facts) and if you can get it, BBC World, which surprisingly, will teach you that the world revolves around the sun, and not as the aforementioned stations informed you, around America.

Just to talk about Iran for a while, here it goes:

The President of Iran has about as much power as the Queen of England, and when he makes statements, they carry about the same weight. Yes he denies the holocaust, but this is a minority view in the government and should not be taken to represent the views of the administration. His statements on Israel are a bit more representative though. He has been very clear that when he says he wants Israel wiped off the map what he means is he wants the dissolution of a state that turns non-Jews into second-class citizens. Under Israel law, only Jews can hold office. He wants a *gasp* democracy in Israel where anyone can hold office, and if it the popular consensus that it should remain Jewish, awesome. I think this is a very fair view given that we have a stated goal of bringing democracy to the region. We just don't want it in Israel because of a numbers game. As for the treatment of Jews, I would rather be a Jew in Iran than a Muslim in Israel. They have full citizenship and enjoy the same rights as their Muslim brothers.

As for Nuclear Power, I think this is an incredibly forward thinking move on the part of the government. It is a recongnition that the economy is going to be moving away from oil-based energy, and by getting a head start now, they can be a bigger player in the new energy economy than if they simply drained their oil till the pipes go dry and then sit around saying "Damn. Now what?" Economically, it is absolutely the best move they could make for the long term.

As for weapon inspections, again, well, let's put it this way, Iran is more in compliance with UN Inspectors than the U.S. A few years ago, a few Canadian inspectors for the U.N. decided to excerise their rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and inspect U.S. facilities that had never received inspection. Considering the Bush administration's policies are in direct violation of the NPT, this seems like a good idea. Yet they never got to visit a single site. Whose the rogue state now? How do we have the power to order others to submit to inspections when at the same time our facilities go uninspected. That being said, Iran has been remarkably compliant. Most of the griping comes from people who believe that they have sites that they aren't telling us about. If they don't have them, they are in a bad position. How do they submit secret sites they don't have to inspectors? But without inspectors at the non-existant sites, the U.S. administration can still accuse them of hiding things.

Let's put things in context Scott. Imagine you are an Iranian. Your brother was killed by WMDs used by Saddam with the blessing of the U.S. back when Rumsfield was shaking his hand. Before that, your parents lived under a brutual dictatorship sponsored by the US. Now, your country has the chance to be a player in the new energy economy, and the U.S. is the major figure working to deny you your basic rights under the Nuclear Non-Profliteration Treaty, while at the same time supporting the right of Israel to have undisclosed nuclear weapons without signing the NPT. You watch on television as Bush refered to your country as "part of an axis of evil". You read in the paper about the Bush administration drawing up plans to use tactical nuclear weapons against your country where bunker busters can penetrate far enough, and you wonder if they understand the irony of nuking a country for allegedly trying to build nuclear weapons.

I'm not saying the Iranians are the good guys in the fight, but if there are good guys, it's sure as hell not us.

But even if the media did provide you with context from professional economists or historians, how would you know that they weren't simply providing you with the nutjobs who support their points?

I think it makes financial sense for Iran to develop nuclear power. But not the type that allows the making of the materials they can make bombs with. As I understand it, there is such a nuclear power now.

Scott,
You shouldn't be blaming the news media, you should be taking the responsibility yourself. The news media refuses to provide context because it doesn't make them money. If they have to work harder, it costs them more, and since you and everyone else who watches the news doesn't insist they work harder, they won't.
If you want context from the news, you have to demand it in a way that makes financial sense. Otherwise, you're justifying your own laziness by projecting it onto others. And whatever applies to you, applies to everyone else who is shirking the primary resposnsibility of a citizen of a democratic country - the responsibility to be a wise voter.

There are a few things I'd like to know,when the news shows warn us about potential new risks from things we use or consume every day, like pencils or milk or whatever. I'd like to know:
1) Whether this is actually a new risk, or just a newly discovered risk
2) How risky this is, compared to say walking down the street and maybe getting hit by a bus
3) How risky it is, compared to the results of NOT using whatever it is. If I stop drinking milk because it could hurt me, am I more likely to develop a calcium deficiency than I was to get hurt by whatever microbe they thought might be in the milk?

Vote.

You are more informed than a large number of voters. You're less informed than a large number of voters, as well - though I bet the second number is much smaller than the first. But NO voter is fully informed about everything. Neither is any member of Congress, for that matter.

Democracy is not based on the concept that voters know everything. It's based on the concept that government by the consent of the governed is on average much better than government by a king, dicator, oligarchy, or even by a small group of technical experts. And guess what, Democracy has a much better track record than any of those kinds of government.

Democracy doesn't work as well when people recuse themselves from elections on the grounds that they don't know enough. Especially when smart, reasonably informed people do it.

There are a lot of feedback mechanisms in the system. For example, politicians pay more attention to groups of people who vote in higher numbers, even if individual members of those groups voted for someone else. More old people vote than young people, so government takes care of the desires of old people more than of young people. Another example, if some set of people is uninformed but the *vote*, government and media will care more about the fact that these people are uninformed. Everyone's going to try to "inform" them, and on balance, they will be better informed. And, of course, not voting serves as a kind of excuse for not making decisions or figuring out what you think you need to know, but on the flip side, voting helps you learn those things, because you pay more attention to the results of your votes - you have more personal investment in those results. You might care more about how a certain representative performs, if you voted for her or against her, than if you didn't vote.

All these feedback loops aren't just individual, they're system. Individuals make a lot of mistakes, but on the aggregate, large masses of individuals (with all their mistakes) produce better results, on average, than the one among them who makes the fewest mistakes. Democracy is systemic, and it produces better results the more people participate.

Voting is just a part of participating, but it is an important part. Vote.

No shame in not voting, in my opinion. There are many valid reasons not to vote. We have the right to vote, not the moral obligation to vote. In fact, I would argue that the knee jerk voter is far more troublesome than the non-voter.

Hey Scott, are you mad? Do you really mean that you think journalists should actually do some work?? Well, that stopped being the case about a hundred years ago, as soon as it became much easier to just report what the government says.

The points you raised here are the ones that prompted me to nominate and vote the mainstream media the weaselist business.

Media is a megaphone for sellers. It sells advertising. It sells skilled PR. It sells biased 'research'. It sells think tanks. It sells great influence over public opinion and public point-of-view in exchange for bundles of money.

Those bundles of Money grossly distort the world of media, which is the world that most people live in, most of the time. It is biased in favor of business, in favor of consumption, in favor of shallow materialism and of instant gratification and, as a result, we have a society biased towards those things. Long-term thinking, poverty reduction, environmental sustainability, non-material satisfaction and other motivations and goals are not commercial, and so figure far less in media than new cars and cheap holidays; power-mongers and murderers.

Speaking of murders, a high-profile Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya was shot and killed in her Moscow apartment elevator yesterday. The BBC is all over it, but don't count on finding much context there. My research assistant, Google turned up a lot of dots that I'm still connecting. Dot 1: Chechneya; dot 2: 25 million Muslims live in Russia; dot 3: George Soros --well back to Google.

Mainstream News = the dumbing down of America - they want it that way. The "they" are the people who want to get on with their own agenda, particularly world domination and they don't want us to get in their way. We're just supposed to shop and work.

Wow, really insightful post. I couldn't agree more. It's their JOB to research news and they make us do it!

Personally though, I don't get my news from TV. I use RSS feeds and get it on my desktop. It's more convenient and usually more in-depth.

As for inspections in Iran, their coverage of it makes it impossible to have an informed opinion. It's less than useful. Propaganda at best. I'm going to have a good laugh when we invade Iran to find nukes on the pretext of no inspections, and we don't find any. Then I'll cry.

Anyway, I hate the news.

If you want to know what the media does to a story, take anything you really know about - (an event you attended, a company you work for, a neighborhood you have lived in, etc.) and read or watch the reports.

Why should anyone care to properly inform a person who doesn't vote? If you don't participate in your government even by that small amount gradually you'll lose all influience over your government, and it will gradually arrange a state of affairs where you are actively discouraged to become involved - say by letting mass media become centralised in a few, trusted, hands piece by piece.

It doesn't require any kind of conspiracy for this to happen, just simple self interested policies and politics gnawing away over time. And if you don't vote your opinion is never going to have an effect on it.

Exactly right. I am amazed how so many people can have such strong opinions and be so sure about any political issue when there are so many bits of information left out (on purpose, through ignorance, who knows?) and so much bias in the media and twisting by our politicans. There are thousands of unanswered questions and half truths and lies.

I get so frustrated because I want to hear both sides of the story from the sources thenselves. I never will.

Do our leaders, who make decisions that affect the entire world, and my life, get the full and true stories? Or are they also making powerful decisions based on an illusion that they understand all the variables?

Voting is a problem for me too,

Very thought provoking post Scott, thanks.

One thing that I'd like more context on is the social security trust fund. Most politicians claim that the program is fully funded and won't begin to draw down until 2015 and won't run out until 2040 or so.

But since the "trust fund" contains no assets, only IOU's, the only way to maintain social security payments after 2015 is to reduce spending in other areas or raise taxes.

I'd like some context on how much taxes must be raised or what programs need to be cut in order to preserve the current program.

It is funny how upset people get when they find out you don't vote. Perhaps you could dedicate a blog on the issue.

I used to think my vote could count until it was proven that my vote cannot count. I used to think that it could come down to just my vote deciding the winner. For example, it might be possible that my state (Florida) would be the deciding state and it would be a close count. Then my single vote would decide who the president would be.

But I found out that they can't count every vote. They can only get to within maybe plus or minus 50,000 votes in all of Florida. If it gets closer than that they go into panic mode and have to recount the votes. Why would they get a different answer if they recount the votes? This tells me that they don't ever have an accurate count and my vote can never decide the winner.

Also, if you register to vote you get picked for jury duty. They tell you that they use your driver's license to do that but that is a lie. I had a PO box address on my driver's license but my jury duty notice came to my street address.

Since I normally don't respond unless I disagree with you, I thought this would be a good post to respond to since I completely agree with you for once. Is it too much to ask of our journalists that they provide enough information to validate some of the things they are saying rather than ask us to simply accept them? This goes for both the traditional media and such outlets like Fox News.
As for context I would like to have from the media, we are in the midst of a weird governors race in Texas. Everyone is throwing around numbers about border security. One candidate wants 100 million dollars to put 10 thousand border security agents on the border. One says we need 85 thousand border agents. Why can't someone explain where these numbers come from? One candidate wants 85 million dollars for "education." Another says we need 120 million dollars. If I am to vote for a candidate couldn't someone go into these numbers and explain if one is being a cheapskate or if they are both just making up numbers for fun?

The media lies by omissions or implications.

Example: Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, pre-1995. Two teenage girls were trail riding with their bicycles. They lost control on a down-slope, hits trees and died from massive chest injuries.

An important fact that was mentioned only once: neither bike had brakes.
Irrelevant fact that was included in every followup story: neither girl wore a helmet.
By omitting the first fact and repeating the latter one, the implication is the the girls could have somehow survived. I don't know of any case where a helmet protects against chest trauma.


Statistics: if 'x' will double your chance of having something horrible happen, what was the original chance?
A statistic means nothing if you don't have the actual numbers. Yet another lie by omission.

Have you been to Auschwitz? Have you seen the barracks that reach to the horizon? Have you seen the multiple large gas chambers, the glasses, suitcases, dentures, hair ... in just this one camp?
Please do not make such statements lightly, as a public figure you have some responsibility!

You are totally right.
There is a problem with news in the US.
http://outspoken-putin-critic-shot-dead.blogspot.com/

The mass media doesn't present the sort of information you're asking for because there isn't a mass market for it. I'd love a newspaper or website that provided the kind of journalism you're asking for, and I'd be willing to pay money for it, but I'm not sure how feasible the market plan is. In the meantime you're stuck either researching for yourself or just not knowing.

On another point, saying that you don't vote because there's too much you don't know is either intellectual laziness or moral cowardice. There will always be information you don't have about every subject; refusing to make decisions on those grounds is a piss poor excuse. Like everybody else, you're expected to make the best decisions you can with with the information you have available; if we did otherwise we'd always be caught in a state of inaction.

Hell, you got married without having all the information, so you're obviously not completely against making big decisions. If "informed decision making" were truly a guiding principle in your life, you'd never make big (or small) decisions because all the information is NEVER available.

If you don't want to vote, fine, don't vote, but please spouting a lousy excuse for not doing so.

George Orwell has to be excused, because much of the technology required to run the world of 1984 hadn't been developed at the time he wrote his book.

What he did get right is that we do have cameras everywhere keeping an eye on us "for our own good", monitors on all our communications, just in case we are terrorists, biometric monitors at all the boarders to keep tabs on anyone who is silly enough to enter or leave the country and television screens everywhere, blurting out the officially sanctioned information for the masses, otherwise known as the news.

Ian

So you don't vote because the media doesn't provide you perfect background information even though you admit the ability to find it yourself. And the fact that you don't cast a mostly-informed vote to counter the many uninformed ones makes you feel better how?

I find that the media more often incorrect, plain and simple, than merely misleading. There's money to be made by keeping people in the dark.

You'd probably be better off to just never read traditional news and just infer all of your information from science journals, Adbusters, and Al Jazeera.

Bill F said: I'd like to know why the really smart people, like the Mensa minds, aren't running the world instead of drawing comics and posing for porn.

Maybe they are smart enough to know it's more fun to draw comics and pose for fun than to run the world.

Obviously journalists are just as lazy as the rest of us - they can't be bothered to look up the facts.

I'm currently reading "FREAKONOMICS" by Steven Levitt. Great book for taking a look at the real facts behind public opinion. Some commonly accepted "facts" really aren't facts at all.

I once saw an opinion poll cited in the back end of a paper that ranked Journalists well below Used Car Salesmen in terms of public trust. The article surprisingly admitted that this opinion poll wasn't getting much press coverage.

Another fun story: A New England newspaper reported a seal-clubbing rampage in Canada a couple years ago. The story was very graphic and detailed, from an eye-witness point of view. When it came to light that the incident never happened, the reporter admitted that she'd heard a rumour that the event was going to take place but never actually went to investigate. Too lazy, just like the rest of us.

Nice post first of all. Context, I think I agree with dude that context can be just as misleading. I think what you want is thorough investigative journalism that questions accepted premises. Good luck, I think we'll always have to do that in our own head, and know the news only hips up to what's current and it's for us to investigate, and not come to premature conclusions. I mean eventually you have to take a position, but for the most part you don't what you can affect is in your immediate environment, and you have enough information "news" to make the correct choices, but sadly we don't. And it's not for lack of context. It's just pure laziness, or perhaps it's more malicious than that?

I think Google news could be vastly improved to provide the type of service that you request. There should be a system where the news is forced to tell the viewer all relevant and related news.

Just like Amazon.com gives you suggested gift ideas, google news should be able to take out important key words and link them to related news.

Another solution could be the power of the wiki. Get all sides of the story out and let all related parties give their side of the story.

A google news wiki forum... that's what we need.

I'd like to know what the proportionate ratio of Iraqis killed in Iraq is to Americans killed in America. And also, what the ratio of Soldiers dying in Iraq is to Soldiers dying in America. And also the ratio of what Iraqis dying in Baghdad is to Americans dying in DC or NYC. Just another note of context to play with.

I am sure that someone has already pointed this out but the 6 million dead in the Holocaust is just Jews. All other totalled, the number is closer to 10 or 12 million, according to my covert sources. These numbers, iirc, were "determined" by the German government during the Holocaust. They were very Prussian and organized, and kept very careful detail of all the people they killed, but they were not people, they were numbers.

A huge reason that we no longer have objective reporting in the news and particularly in politics: Ronald Reagan repealed the FCC mandate that equal time be given to opposing sides of an argument. Many of you are too young to remember when it was required that both sides of an issue were entitled to be heard on the television and radio air waves. Before that, the air waves were considered to be the property of the people of the country, and there were strict regulations about media ownership so that it was not limited to a few people with the most money.

I also remember when banks paid 5% interest compounded daily on regular savings accounts.

Regulation of industry is not always a bad thing.

I still vote.

***The media also tells us that it makes no sense for a country that’s sitting atop huge oil fields to develop nuclear power.***

Which is interesting in the context of America, a country sitting atop huge oil fields that developed nuclear power...

Cheersm
Graham

Journalism is about selling newspapers or advertising space. It has nothing to do with providing knowledge.

Scott,
Glad to see the return of Sunday blogging and I don't give a damn if it's not "funny". I think many of the things you bring up right, wrong, or otherwise, are interesting things to think about. Your comments on free will are a good example, I'm not certain I agree with you (though I do think your recent thought experiment regarding it was based on assumptions not in evidence, your questioned assumed mental "circuits" can only ever complete one way; going by everything I've ever read about neuroscience, we have no idea if that is the case.)

Anyway, to the topic at hand. I agree, there is a huge problem in what information gets delivered to the public. The reasons behind this are many as the the symptoms that result (and often feed back into the problem). As much as we would like it to be otherwise, it's not possible to tell every detail of a story. You might say, 'well I don't want every detail, I want every relavent detail.' Now we get to the problem of what details are relevent. For example, you ask about how the 25,000 Jews in Iran are treated.

I assume (yeah, I know assumptions are dangerous but I'm American and so it's my self-given right to be an ass), that officially, any Jews in Iran are treated well enough so long as the follow Iranian laws (including the religious ones regarding how women should dress etc.) I assume this because the current political climate dictates that if the world learned of genocidal tendencies in Iran, there'd be a multinational coalition marching in immediately. Do I think the Jews in Iran are well liked? Nope, but I do think they're tolerated because anything else would invite more scrutiny than the current nuclear stand-off.

Thus, your question about their treatment to me is irrelavent, there's only one way in which the Jews could be treated without attention being specifically called to their treatment. Your question about the mullahs and the 'ban' on nuclear weapons I agree is relevent. Did the mullahs specifically ban nukes, or specific types of nukes, or did they just ban bombs over a certain size. Further, as you alluded to, religious leaders in Iran are basically politicians.

So who's concept of what is relavent should the media adhere to, your's, mine, or someone elses entirely. Of course the question of relevence is not the only problem. There's also the fact that the news media like it or not, is governed by money. There are still some real journalists with a sense of what the news should be, but their hands are often tied by people with more zeroes at the end of their paychecks. Unfortunately, there are also those that go into journalism because they want to be on TV, not because they want to inform the public. As others pointed out, the stories that get covered and how they get covered is often decided by what will attract the most viewers.

My personal feeling is that until the public as a strong majority demands proper journalism, it's not going to happen. There's no incentive for the media to change it's course right now, it's too expensive. This requires a massive effort to re-educate a lazy public of what you describe as, "moist-robots," need their present beliefs reinforced and not information that may challenge their beliefs.

As to your question of the accuracy of the 6 million number, the best of my recollection is that it is based on the meticulous record keeping of the Nazis (boy did they love their paper trails). Where I learned this I don't recall, but if I questioned the veracity of the source I would remember that. Now I don't think 6 million is accurate to within 10,000 individuals, but it is in the ball park of about a quarter million (probably closer than that, but I'd rather err on the side of less accuracy than be accused of declaring greater accuracy than is factually correct). How deaths were included in the count I'm not as certain. To me, logically yes those systematically killed in camps, or in transit to camps are included. Jews within Nazi occupied terroritories that were killed resisting would be included. Soldiers of foreign countries killed on the battlefield who happened to be Jewish would not be included. Again, I have no actual idea if this is the reality of inclusion in the count.

A commenter asked about the Jews only accounting for six of fourteen million deaths at the hands of the Nazis. The question isn't one Jews vs. not Jews, it's Jews vs. any other subset of humanity targeted by Hitler's "Final Solution." While Jews account for less than half of the total deaths, as a group they accounted for more deaths than any other individual group. Six million Jews vs. 800,000 homosexuals (NOT A FACTUAL NUMBER, JUST MADE UP FOR ILLUSTRATIVE PURPOSES.)

Anyway, I have to get to my to-do list for today, so go ahead and disagree, flame, refute, or whatever anyone wants to do in response to my comment.

Scott,

I once drove a news reporter to a state capitol to get an interview. The person balked, so no interview. Nobody in the office would say a word. Eventually, "I" was interviewed on my opinion, and the news article said "A source close to the capitol, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said . . ."

To get context, all sources must be on the record, or else it has no validity.

You have been misquoted in your own blog! By people that can just copy and paste! It's clear that happens in news articles.

Watch the Babylon 5 episode "The Illusion of Truth" where you see what happens and is video recorded, and then get to watch the final result on their news program.

The media actually went to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that it was okay that just because something was in quotes in an article, it didn't mean the person actually said it. (check out Masson v. New Yorker)

As for asking economists what they think, that's a bad idea. Since they are never in agreement when they have identical information, it is clear they are merely stating their opinions, rather than fact based science. (And yes, I know you, Scott, have a degree in Economics. I, too, took some economics courses, but stopped when it became clear they weren't using what I felt was good science or math to arrive at their conclusions.)

I also feel the news media should not be interviewing religious people about patently non-religious matters. Why should their opinion be sought in the No Child Left Behind issue? Or Stem cells? By being religious, it's clear they aren't the best of scientists.

Please read Dr. Michael Shermer's book, "Why People Believe Weird Things" and particularly the last chapter, "Why Smart People Believe Weird Things." It is very enlightening.

Nothing specific, I just want the journalist to keep asking the important questions until the politicians answer truthfully or crack under the pressure of concealing the truth. Either way we, the citizens, win. Keeping those high paying gigs as "reporters", I fear, prevents the sort of professional bravery necessary for that to happen. Maybe the high profile reporter jobs need to go to the people with the least to lose. Do we really need celebrity reporters to get the news out?

The simplest answer is to stop watching TV and start reading: newspapers, magazines, books, in plural. No one has all the information and no one source is going to report all of the information in one place. Does every office/work situation end up as a Dilbert cartoon? No. And that is for a variety of reasons, only one of which is that not everything is a joke. You get my point?

As for not voting because you don't have enough information, that is a huge load of NONSENSE. And a wimpy excuse for laziness. You make a decision with the information that you have. And then you vote. No excuse for not voting. None!

You work for a newspaper syndicate and you don't have any reporter friends that you can ask these questions?

What's the context behind that tie that points up. Is that a phallic symbol?

Excellent point.

Here's the BIG context:

The West is fatally dependant on cheap Mid-Eastern oil. Until and if we ever find alternative, we will inextricably confront the cultures of the countries that sit on top of the oil.

The majority of the public will not accept a solution that requires privation and sacrifices, until there is a gun to their head (figuratively speaking).

I'd like to know why the ONLY country ever to use a nuclear weapon in anger is allowed to "police" the rest of the world to stop them developing their own.
Now, either EVERYONE destroys ALL of their nukes and allows international inspectors to police their nuclear power plants, or we should allow everyone to build nukes at will. Sure, it's scary to think that some crazy nut job will lob one at us, but then again, I'm just as worried about the current guy at the helm of the country with the largest stockpile of them.


Last thought, from me (I think) on this.

I'd love if each news report would be presented with every possible spin. It is impossible to leave any "spin" out of news, since simple word-choice and syntax plays a role in presentation and reception.

For example, when hearing a report about abortion rights, I love to hear the following phrases used to describe the same person:
+ Unwed mother.
+ Single mother.
+ Divorced mother.
+ Pregnant girl.
+ Pregnant young lady.
+ Pregnant woman.
+ Pregnant hooker.
+ Pregnant escort.
+ Pregnant rape victim.

Maybe they should all be used, in one line. Then I could decide for myself that I should take pity on the single mother instead of having the media decide that I should despise the pregnant hooker.

Scott, it's not so much what I'd like to know. I'd just like all the guests to be labeled properly. They are "Republican strategist" or "mideast policy expert" or whatever. I would like to see them all labeled "media whore". It would save me the mental effort of substituting whatever they label them with "media whore". In fact, forget Tivo and Slingbox... If one of you tech entrepreneurs out there wants to make millions, make a little box that substitutes the captions the news channels give these people. Maybe hook it up to a databsse. Here's the operative PHP-ready SQL statement:

Select 'Media Whore' from Captions where name = '$name';

I don't know how many Jews where killed in the holocaust, I just know that my moms maiden name used to be quite common among European Jews and now only her brother and her parents have that name.

Scott - agree wholeheartedly on the missing context. One of the things that always bugs me in the UK - I don't if it's the same elsewhere - is the way corporate profits get reported. Usually it's an extremely large business - a big bank or retail chain - that has made an extremely large profit. The reporting usually has a (not very) sub-text that this is too large and we're being ripped off somehow. Well maybe, but the math to show whether this might be so would be some measure of return on equity - this could get reported as "economists say returns look reasonable" or whatever. Instead the math they do report is what the profit is profit per second -
"$1bn a year - that's $32 a second". And the point is?

At the exact time you proclaimed you don't vote I suddenly lost interest in ANY political opinion you will ever have or state to have or to have been having.

It feels awkard, like a catholic priest with views on sex.

Still like anything else you write on every other topic, though.

At the exact time you proclaimed you don't vote I suddenly lost interest in ANY political opinion you will ever have or state to have or to have been having.

It feels awkard, like a catholic priest with views on sex.

Still like anything else you write on every other topic, though.

Journalism started circling the drain when Edward R Murrow quit doing it, around 1960. Woodward and Bernstein weren't all they cracked themselves up to be. Example: They knew for a fact that the FBI already knew all the Watergate details before 'Deep Throat' leaked some of it to them, and that the FBI was never going to uphold the law, but instead was running damage control for the White House.


With recent school violence in the news (especially for we Pennsylvanians), I'd like to know the following;

1 - Have school violence incidents increased in relation to class/school/student-population sizes or are we seeing more violence simply because there are more students (and more media coverage)?

2 - Are their ANY records of a school-violence incident being thwarted by ANY new school safety procedures?

Where I work, I just witnessed a person being allowed to enter the building after answering a question via a door buzzer-system. "Please state your name and the purpose of your visit." His answer was "I'm here to drop off some flowers for a student." Is this enough to stop a crazed gunman?

Here's an example where context would help: The latest poll shows teenagers are not taking drugs.

What's missing? The poll was done by phone from New York City, 8am-5pm Eastern Time, on school days.

Now, if you're a kid at home when you're supposed to be in school, and a stranger calls and askes you about your drug use, what are you going to say? Do you know for a fact this isn't someone from school calling to entrap you into an admission of truancy and evidence enough to break the lock on your school locker to search it and find drugs so they can later you when you do return to school? Do you know this is not some friend of your parents' calling?

Context is essential to insight.

Yay!!! Sunday blogging!!!

-Moist Robot® 2006

It would be nice if someone kept track of US "foreign aid". I made an attempt to total it up once:
http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig5/walker1.html

... but it turns out that the majority of it is disguised and off-the-books. (Of course the official foreign aid has gone to such wonderful causes as Pol Pot, which makes me wonder how the unofficial aid could possibly be any more evil).

It would seem to me that to vote intelligently, you have to know exactly which dictators are being supported with your hard-earned cash.


On Terrorism:

The current administration likes to brag that no terrorist attacks have occurred on U.S. land since 9-11-2001. I'd like to know:
1 - How many REAL ones have been thwarted since then (not just the ones where a bunch of guys were talking about getting some weapons)?
2 - How many REAL attacks were planned BEFORE then?
3 - Has the ratio for planned/thwarted/accomplished really changed much in the past 5 years?
4 - How was the ratio for planned/thwarted/accomplished attacks during previous administrations?

The last question would be the very "telling" question. If our government had thwarted a big pile of attacks before 9-11, using the old non-police-state methods, I'd be really interested to know why we needed things like "the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. A.C.T." to fight a "War on Terror."

Re: What would YOU like to know that is conspicuously missing from the news? My topic is the minimum wage: If the minimum wage is say for example $10/hr, what happens if an individual is only able to produce $5/hr worth of work?

So you want all context, all of time, in all articles, because you don't want to look it up yourself? And, of course, you'd read all that context each and every time.

I'd like to know why the ONLY country ever to use a nuclear weapon in anger is allowed to "police" the rest of the world to stop them developing their own.
Now, either EVERYONE destroys ALL of their nukes and allows international inspectors to police their nuclear power plants, or we should allow everyone to build nukes at will. Sure, it's scary to think that some crazy nut job will lob one at us, but then again, I'm just as worried about the current guy at the helm of the country with the largest stockpile of them.

A letter I sent through the White House Website on Sept 4, 06

Hello Whitehouse staff,
I am a 29-year-old professional in southern California. I put forth a profound effort to be an informed, responsible citizen, read the news, learn about history, etc.

There is a question that has been plaguing me for a long time now. Why is the issue of terrorism, and all of the gratuitous rhetoric about it, never talked about in the necessary context?? Rhetoric like this without context is blatantly juvenile propaganda. It is requisite that the rhetoric spewed by our faithful leaders be responsibly in context, in this case that radical Islam derived organically from suffering and outrage caused by U.S. efforts to dominate Middle Eastern governments, culture and economics dating back decades. Why and how could a nation like ours stoop to such lows as manipulating and distorting the context of these peoples' sufferings at the hands of our foreign policy? As an American citizen I demand that the discussion be righted, made honest by the admission of our leaders of their mistakes and treacheries against basic human rights, like providing the means for the Shaw of Iran to crush it's people, for this nations own selfish purposes. As a tax-paying citizen I do not want blood on my hands and I demand that our leaders submit to the natural and moral order by owning up to the wrongs committed in the name of the American People. Then, only then, may there be a possibility for anyone, and any of these horrible dramas playing out, to move forward toward a better place. It is not my intent to lecture, this should be just plain and simple common sense.

So to restate my question so that it does not get lost, why is the issue of terrorism, and all of the gratuitous rhetoric about it, never talked about in the obligatory context??

Sincerely thank you,
Joey

Scott,

The "news" on tv is not there for the purpose of keeping you informed. It is there to sell crap to people. You may notice that a 30 minute "news" program consists of 10 minutes of commercials, and about 20 minutes of watching an attractive talking head as it reads a teleprompter. This talking head has no idea what it is reading and if someone were to mess with the telepromter so it reads ... " I suck big moose peckers"... well you can imagine watching Katie Couric read that without batting an eyelash. It's all about the ten minutes, Scott. Selling diet pills to fat women, hair loss gel to men, and pills to anyone who'll buy em...

Cosbert is freakin' brilliant.

I think the Internet will alleviate this problem. One of the main reasons why major American news sources leave important questions unaddressed is that they are funded by advertising, so there's great pressure for news to be entertainment and little incentive for it to be informative. The Net, on the other hand, is an interactive medium that allows for immediate and constant feedback. Its democratic powers will not prevent the reign of stupidity, but with more voices being heard, there's less of a chance that stupid ideas spread.

I admit I'm being optimistic - the news media is quite popular, which implies that people like it the way it is. Even worse is the likely possibility that most people prefer their news out of context because that makes it easier to have it conform to their worldview. My hope is that people only do this out of frustration and laziness, and will relish the access of information opportunities that new technologies provide.

Once when I was reflecting on the nazi purges of World War II, a friend reminded me that the 6 million number is only for the extermination of Jewish people. Add in the Roma, non-Jewish Poles, and others considered undesirable by the Nazis, and the total climbs towards 11 million. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_Holocaust#Death_toll)

I'd highly recommend the Economist weekly magazine. It does a far better job of giving context than most magazines, and tends toward facts rather than ideology. It also does a good job of worldwide news, not just the US and Western Europe.

http://www.economist.com/

You should vote. If you are so afraid of placing the wrong vote because you feel you are too uninformed vote with your gut. This scares the hell out of politicians and forces them and the media to be more concise.

I would like to see how the Main Stream Media comes up with what should be reported.

Scott,

This was an excellent post. I couldn't agree more. I am so sick of hearing talking points and sound bites on the news.

Scott,
Very good point, what I have long been bothered by, ever since CNN took the air (ok, cable…) and MSNBC and FOX both follow in the same model, is that they can only seem to deal with a few stories a day, even though they have 24 hours to do nothing but news. They will pepper these same 3 stories with Jim Smith and his new book about The Free Will of Central Park Squirrels, and in between the car chase in LA and the Fire in Minneapolis, we get Bar-B-Q tips from Emeril. Its not that they don’t have time to cover a story more in depth, it IS that they don’t respect us enough to do so.

I actually have a couple of suggestions for how to change this (it may not be a complete fix, but it will serve as a step or two in the right direction.
1) Eliminate the “Journalism Degree Program” from all universities. NOT the school of journalism, just eliminate the ability to get a ‘degree’ in journalism.
You want to be a journalist? Get a degree in History/Political Science/Interior Decorating…whatever.. AND a MINOR in journalism… Too many ‘so called’ journalists know ‘how to tell a story’ they just have no clue as to ‘what story to tell’. Since they didn’t learn history, they have no idea what the historical impact of a stained blue dress might be or what impact bookmark might have on political campaign. (What is a ‘bookmark’? it’s a “Page Bent Over”) (as a side note, I think the same is true of teachers any more, they know how to teach, they haven’t clue as to WHAT to teach)
2) All journalists, editors, anchors, etc. etc. (EVERYBODY in the ‘news cycle’) should go through SPORTS. Now this may sound ridiculous at first glance, but think about 2 examples I’ll provide.
A) Look back at the posts for Holy Cop Killer on this blog (http://dilbertblog.typepad.com/the_dilbert_blog/2006/10/holy_cop_killer.html) and the various articles that are posted (linked to) from this thread. A lot of the argument was caused by incomplete, inaccurate and unprofessional reporting. Now think about what this story would have looked like had it been written, produced and published by ‘Sports reporters’ (note, obviously not the ‘event itself’ but the ‘coverage of the event’). There would have been a diagram on the map [stick John Madden’s voice in your head for this, “Now Freeland was pulled over here by the first officer (telistrator lines start appearing…)HERE… Then after he shot the Dog from this angle, he fled into the woods like this… The when SWAT arrived they formed up like this in a standard line formation…With a defensive net here and here the SWAT team moved in and they find Freeland HERE (big X) etc. etc. NOW THAT WOULD BE JOURNALISM] The online/print story would have included a box with a picture of the perp’s gun and it’s ‘vital statistics’, another box with the SWAT officers gun’s, maybe their range scores to show how accurate they normally are.. All this is the stuff that CONTEXT is made up of and that would have been the way to tell this story.

B) A real example (sort of…) I watch Fox & Friends in the morning, as a group they are fun to wake up too. (OK and the women of Fox Are HOT, but that was another topic) Just before the beginning of this year’s NFL season (and yes this was something of a ‘set up’ but still shows an interesting point…) and the crew for the FOX Networks NFL Sunday ‘took over’ the set of Fox & Friends and started interviewing some “hard news” guest (I think it was congressmen) . Now this poor politician was stuck between Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long with Joe Buck and Jimmy Johnson on the outside and Terry and Howie just hit him with questions he was just not prepared to deal with (and should have been, they were GOOD questions, they were, in fact, “context” questions), they weren’t on his ‘talking points’ and he was lost. Fortunately for the politician, it just looked like farce, which it sort of was, but it does show that you take a couple of washed up football players turned sports casters and suddenly you can have some good journalism going on. For those who don’t know, Tuesday morning from 6 to 7 on Fox & Friends “First Edition” the guest host is Giants running back Tiki Barber, and he is showing signs of turning into a first rate journalist, you can see that he actually ‘gets it’ when doing a news story.

So, make young journalists, cameramen, producers, directors, copy editors etc. go through SPORTS first, maybe they will carry the concept of CONTEXT into hard news when they get there.

Wikipedia is a partial to answer to this problem, an answer that is becoming more satisfying all the time. Current and on-going news events are very well covered on Wikipedia, and they start from the beginning including a moderate level of context (certainly more than typical journalism) with links to the appropriate deeper context.

See for example:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmoud_Ahmadinejad_and_Israel
and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jews_in_Iran#Current_status_in_Iran

Obviously, these articles could be improved considerably, but it's big a step in the right direction.

Scott, the content of mass media is set by folks whose #1 priority is making their media appeal to a larger mass of people. You, and other folks who want context, are a small mass of people. The mass media managers have figured out that most folks are on one side or the other of the issue. Mass media is produced on each side, so that everybody is happy. You, you're not happy. Not too bad, there aren't a lot of intellectuals to offend.

Scott:

YOU are an economist. Do you think it makes financial sense for Iran to develop nuclear power???

[Probably yes. But I don't have all the data so I can't be certain. -- Scott]

I just want the truth and facts, rather than speculation.

Since I have proof that they lie on the TV news, why would I ever listen to them? (My proof? They declared me DEAD on the news. I called them up and told them "The reports of my death were greatly exagerated" They said that they knew and didn't care).

I just wanted to say that Ned makes some very good points about journalism and the holocaust.

The news organizations don't report the truth because consumers do not want to hear the truth. Consumers want to be able to tune into a show that they know will validate their existing beliefs and prejudices, not challenge them. People today are lazy thinkers and find it easier to adopt the pre-packaged belief systems laid out for them by political and economic machines, and they watch the shows, listen to the broadcasts, and read the publications that *support* their adopted set of beliefs.

There is no marketing demographic for "Truth Seekers". Companies are unwilling to invest their marketing dollars presenting their carefully crafted BS to a bunch of logical, critical thinkers who simply will not be swayed by production values and evocative images.

Sadly we are now seeing the realization of a long, long decline that is completely obvious to those who take even a moment to consider the media. Go back and watch "Network" and see that 30 years ago people were already aware of the entertainment-ization of news.

Where are the hard-nosed journalists of today? Where are Woodwards and Bernsteins, where are the 60 Minutes lions (now toothless and streaming on Yahoo), where are the principled anchors like Walter Cronkite who won't spout the party line in the name of ratings?

Maybe Christiane Amanpour? Maybe certain reporters at local affiliates? Maybe members of the blogosphere? However, the efforts of the few hard reporters left are lost in the deluge/cacaphony of near-truths and infotainment.

I also don't vote, for the same reasons Scott expresses, which is that voting is simply picking a product based on a marketing campaign.

Maybe Consumer Reports needs to branch out into reporting about geopolitics?

A note about oil: I read that that Iran has quite limited refining capabilities, and that though it exports large amounts of oil it actually imports large amounts of fuel. Now of course it might make a lot more sense, and you certainly look much less evil, for them to just work on using their oil, but nuclear power is more useful to them with their large supplies of oil than it might seem.


I'd like to know what evidence and/or research asserts that converting other nations to Democracies results in a more stable world.

I'd like to know why the really smart people, like the Mensa minds, aren't running the world instead of drawing comics and posing for porn.

I'd like to know why people always seem to think that the problem is the other guy.

You buy the news like it is. That's why it's that way. Though CNN's not going to run down to the gun range to do any research at all about guns before they perpetuate the (pick one) myth about gun use, your demands would create another outlet that will do just that. Just as the influence of the Big Three has waned, so has the influence of "conventional" "news". It just hasn't gotten to the point where conprehensive analysis can be found in one place. Wikipedia's only part-way there.
Google is a better news agency than CNN, unless you want to find out who did what moments ago.

They used Nazi records, as well as registers of the people before their deaths to estimate the number of people killed, but as you say it is still give or take 10,000. But also, everyone seems to forget that 11 million people were killed in the Holocaust, the figure of 6 million is the number of Jews killed. The others were mainly gypsies, gays, various different ethnic groups and political enemies.

I couldn't agree with you more. Since "reporters" want to call themselves "journalist" now, I expect more complete facts and background. Also, news sources don't want readers going to other sources for info as that hurts their advertising income. And when print and broadcast news uses taglines such as "all the news that’s fit to print", "fair and balanced", "coverage you can count on", the implication is that the article is complete with all the relevant info. I often feel that I'm being lead to a conclusion instead of being informed so as to make my own.

Loved this blog, it really gets some good thought going.

Hey pt. Global warming isn't really that complicated, or at least our part in it. Basically, the amount of CO2 we release into the atmosphere has a negligible effect on the Earth's temperature. The only reason I can think for all this trying to reduce CO2 output is politicians pretending to care about the environment.

I'd like to know where studies come from. What I mean is; about a year ago I saw a news article saying how 95% of teenagers thought sex before marriage was bad. Then at the very bottom in words so small u can hardly read them it said "We surveyed 1200 people age 16-19 at CHURCH" I think that kinda stuff makes a big difference. I didn't get the story exactly right but I gave you the general idea.

Scott - I'm sure there will be a few who say, "hey, I thought he was the History Channel braggart? Now he's the Journalism expert? Jeeze Louise!" But maybe this will make sense anyway.

I graduated from one of the better state-college journalism schools, back in '73 - this was right before Woodward-Bernstein changed the face of the media forever. Pre W/B, we were taught to tell the whole story, objectively, and without bias. I once got reamed (big time) for covering an anti-war rally that I had also organized and led (made it easy to interview the leader ) - I thought the article was objective; so did the Atlanta Constitution, which picked it up and ran it - but my prof knew I'd organized the event and cut me a new one because he said there was no way I could be REALLY objective. In retrospect, he was right. Part of his larger message was simple: You have to provide full context in order for readers to draw their own conclusions.

With W/B, all that changed. Suddenly, reporters were supposed to be advocates for a "good cause" - and when you're an advocate, you are NOT going to provide full context - that will only "confuse" readers who you seek, not to inform, but to persuade. Sadly for the journalistic profession, the W/B style became the prevailing norm. So, after working for newspapers and local TV news operations, I gave up reportorial work for PR (in PR you are expected to advocate for a client - somehow, it seemed more honest than continuing as a reporter who pretends to be objective but is trying to "con" readers into believing his point of view).

Enough about me - you are right that the media does not try to provide perspective. A few publications do, but most don't. Our saving grace is this: if you read publications on both the Left and the Right, you'll get a balance - each will give you part of the story, and if you're smart and persistent, you'll be able to piece together the whole story. Lots of work - damned few of us are willing to do that - but it is at least possible.

Now about the Holocaust. I'll re-don my History Channel hat here and tell you that, as with so many bureaucratic dictatorships (which is what Hitler's regime was - he was a socialist - his party name was "National Socialist Workers Party" - and as such, he was top-heavy in bureaucracy ... read "Rise & Fall of the Third Reich" or the autobiographical writings of Hitler's production minister, Speer, for examples) ... as a bureaucratic dictatorship, they were obsessed with keeping records. Detailed records. Sure, some were destroyed by fearful Nazis near the end (some were bombed out of existance by the allies, some were captured and destroyed by Soviets who didn't much care about this kind of thing, since they were executing their own people even more efficiently than Hitler), but since these records were all produced in triplicate, and since some of those bureaucrats could have taught squirrels all about hiding nuts, we have remarkably detailed records on damn-near everything. In the case of the Holocaust, we have names, dates, etc. - we know which train most of the executed Jews took from home to camp - we know when they were arrested and when they were executed. We know a lot. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has a lot of this information, as does the Holocaust Museum.

That 6.5 million number is a round-off, for sure, but it is based on remarkably complete information. Nobody will know for sure exactly how many died, but we know:

a. We know for sure that X number died, based on surviving records
b. We know that Y percentage of the total records survived
c. We know how to do the math, multiplying X by Y and coming up with 6.5 million

That's an aside to your larger point, Scott, which is spot on target. But I thought you might like to know the answer to this particular question.

And finally, BRAVO for the Sunday blog - I read yours religiously (secularly?) and Sundays were always a bit empty - no kidding - without your though-provoking, occasionally funny, often aggrivating but always worthwhile blogs.

I just wish your comment form had a spell-checker - this early on a Sunday, I know my spelling sucks on toast. But if you'll ignore this minor problem, I hope you'll find my info here useful to your inquiry.

Ned the ex-Journalist/occasional History Channel guy

Did I just see in your post that you don't vote?!?! Shame on you Scott! I love your comic and all, but if you don't choose to exercise your right to vote, I don't want to hear any whining about who's in office, and all. Not voting just says you don't give a crap.

Context, even more than news, is apt to being manipulated and bent by the political views or agendas of news organizations and commentators.
I think you're better off doing your own research on the subjects that interest you.

The problem, as has been pointed out by many, is that the media is not a non-profit organization. What we need is a rich philanthropist to pay for the dissemination of unbiased, fully contextual news. Hey Scott, you have the billions that would require, Right?

The fact is that back in the old days, only rich informed "" guys voted. Nowadays the majority of voters are poor uninformed everybodies that get their news from comedy central. Hence, the media really controls the way the world goes nowadays. The problem is that everybody trusts the media and they don't even have integrity in reporting stuff in a nuetral context.

After the 2004 presidential elections, President Bush called his majority win a mandate, and the media jumped all over the fact that he only won by 10 or 20 percentage points, but when I looked it up it turns out that only three presidents have won by more. The media might should have contextualized that. Also obesity statistics bother me, I'm not sure how they decide if your obese or not. Espescially when they're calculating millions of obese people. I don't know. I'm just a simple layperson. I'll vote for whoever has the most television ads like always.

I always puzzled over the Holocaust.

The personal stories, of course, were immensely moving and gave you a sense of Nazi depravity; however the single truth that struck me more than anything was that here was an entire state which used every tool at its disposal to eliminate a race of people - for no particular reason.

This was not the result of a people unified with a singular ideology. Most simply 'did their job' without questioning it. The scariest thing about this fact was that if you had interrogated each of these soldiers etc, it was not an overriding fear of punishment from above {although certainly this was a large factor}, nor was it from any personal hatred of the Jews (Germany had one of lowest anti-semitic populaces in Europe and the Americas), mostly they did their job, because they didn't think not to.

For example, when the Euthanasia policy came to the attention of the Catholic Church - they spoke out against it, and it was subsequently dropped (or, at least, significantly scaled back) in Germany. - This was a proactive approach by the Catholic Church, a brave stand which the took. Why then, did they not speak up for the Jews?

Some argue it was because the Church is innately anti-semitic etc. However this is not, in my opinion, the case.

It all comes back to the same point; the Church protected the Disabled etc, because they were the Bishops flock. It WAS HIS job to protect them. And Jews were not his flock, so he simply didn't see it as his job to say anything, no matter how much he disapproved.

So when it came to the Jews, no voices were heard. Largely because it was no-ones job to speak.

It was genocide by an abdication of responsibility and restraint.

The first victim of the Nazi regime was therefore, reason itself.

It is ironic that as an American, for the best and most complete news of my own country, I go to the BBC website... The BBC *is* a fine news source, but something is fishy when other countries get more complete news of what this country is doing than our own news services provide.

I would like news people to spend at least an hour researching each story. For example, when they cover Bush's speech about what intelligence we've gotten from "alternative interrogation methods" I would like them to point out how many of those things he sighted were actually listed in the 9-11 report as being things we found out from just normal intelligence work rather than torture.

The context I would like to hear about Iran is the same people who say Iran isn't doing anything illegal are the same sources that said Iraq didn't have WMD's. The people who say they are a threat are the same who said Iraq was.

Welcome to the Umpire League.

You want the truth, but the truth simply can't be arrived at by watching the news or even by reading a few stories here and there.

Getting at the truth takes a lot of study and constant upstream swimming.

Frankly, most stuff that passes for news these days is just entertainment, political posturing or a drive for ratings playing dress-up. Truth doesn't sell well anymore, so it's in the discount rack and will soon no longer be available.

Cheers

An example of context: The media are praising the Amish of Nickel Mines for their 'Christian' example of forgiving the murderer of their daughters rather than seeking revenge. If ordinary Christians did this, it would be surprising, yes.

However, the Amish are different. If an Amish man rapes an Amish girl, the crime is not reported to the civil authorities, nor is the punishment severe. Any physical punishment would be a crime in itself by civil law. Shunning won't work because it could drive the culprit out of the Amish community. The worst he'll get is a severe talking-to.

Now, in the context that the Amish will cover up a crime rather than deal with it, they don't look so honorable, do they?

My brother in law is in Iraq right now and he has seen insurgents hold women and children in buildings with them so that when we send guys in to get the guys that are shooting at them and then meet heavy resistance so we shoot a mortar in the building. All the american media reports is that our soilders killed a bunch of women and children. They never say that we didn't know they were there or the the bad guys were holding them there, just so they could get that kind of report. They media usualy forgets to mention that our guy were going after the guys who keep shooting at and bombing them.

Scott,
Well thought out, except for the minor fact that if the correct context was supplied the new outlets would have to:
1) work harder
2) Give up most of their distorted stories showing only one side that are aligned with their top brasses political leanings.

One sentence for you on the context thing: Never going to happen.

Sorry, because I'd like to see it too.

I would like to know why the media never reports the promising research on adult stem cells, instead focusing only on embryonic stem cells. At least now they specify they are talking about embryonic stem cells. A few years ago they just said "stem cells" without even acknowledging there was more than one option.

Here is the NIH synopsis:
http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/basics4.asp

I would like to know why billions of dollars are going into embryonic stem cell research when growing organs from them will have the same problem as organ transplants today: rejection by the host. If you take an adult stem cell from the person who needs the organ, grow the organ and put it back into them, tissue rejection is not a problem. The person will not have to go on anti-rejection drugs the rest of their life. But instead, all we hear about is embryonic stem cell research. It's controversial, and therefore newsworthy, but aren't exciting scientific possibilities newsworthy as well?

I do believe that religion and politics have got in the way of so many clear cut things, I am a Unitarian and we believe that anyone can come together and follow their beliefs in a way that allows everyone have their view but at the same time, RESPECT OTHERS VIEWS. This is what is wrong (in my opinion). American news does appear to be very bias showing the side of the story that the republicans (and democrats, they pretty much the same) want you to hear. They say that any non English speaking nations are evil, well the vast majority, including France and many Americans tend to believe that.

I’m in Ireland at the moment, and although the main TV stations are state funded I felt on international matters I got a more unbiased story of say Iraq, North Korea etc, as I did from the likes of CNN etc

The last view I would like to air is that recently the news reader on BBC wore a cross on the program and there was outcry from minority groups, I feel this is political correctness gone mad. People who immigrate to countries with different beliefs to their own should expect this and they should be more understanding of this. I for one minute am not suggesting that these immigrants should ditch their beliefs but at the same time should not ram them down the throats of others and expect them to change even though they are the hosts, who offer these immigrants a better life.

Anyway that’s my rant for now

Barry

I can help you with the Holocaust number one though it involves more reading, but its good reading! Check out Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It? by Michael Shermer (http://www.amazon.com/Denying-History-Holocaust-Happened-Foundation/dp/0520234693/sr=1-1/qid=1160318484/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-9276456-5915233?ie=UTF8&s;=books) It goes through all the major arguments the deniers use, their logic, and then attempts to recreate their findings which is nearly impossible to do. One of the big questions it deals with early on is the number of victims, which most deniers believe is highly exaggerated. They use a pretty thorough process to prove that the 6 million is a close number plus or minus a couples hundred thousand due to bad records to serve as a neat number to use for media purposes. (Its much easier for the chimps to say instead of 576,000,000.)
Hope that helps!

I'd like to know how the "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) act gets treated like a scientific system for measuring school improvement.

Here are some clues against -

1. The foundational philosophy of the law is that "We reject the bell curve." That means it's based on a cultural construct (egalitarianism) rather than a scientific system (the analysis of normal distribution)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normal_distribution

2. It's based on a Texas system that only worked because the numbers were falsified. Search Google for "Texas Miracle."

3. Some schools make "adequate progress" by state measurements, but not by federal measurements while other schools in the same states make the federal measurement but not the state's. Most researchers would call that "a lack of internal validity." (Internal validity is whether the measurement system makes sense as a tool. External validity is whether the values being measured reflect world reality.)

4. NCLB doesn't track individual student achievement. It tracks schools - so a school can improve its score if it finds a way to avoid measuring a student, for example by expelling low achievers.

Here's another NCLB question -

1. The regulation of a local school by the federal government is only constitutional if the local goverment cedes that authority.

2. NCLB says "if you don't submit, we'll cut funding to your state."

3. The cost of implementing NCLB in the states is greater than the Federal expenditure. Most states submit anyway, but not all.

3. The states that didn't submit got a stern warning, and then the federal government realized that in education NO LOCAL FUNDING by federal budgets exists. Schools are funded by state income taxes, property taxes and sales taxes. The only way the education department can cut funding is by cutting its own budget. Federal bureaucracies don't often do that. So there was no funding cut.

4. AND NOW the bill is up for renewal and Bush wan't to "stay the course."

There's the context. Here's the question - will any lawmaker be honest enough to say that the emporer is naked?

The main problem with news programmes is the length of time they use to cover each piece of news. I rarely watch the news, But I'm willing to bet that the average piece gets under 8 minutes - nowhere near enough to convey any information. Even 24 hour news channels simply repeat the same 5 minute segment many times over a long period of time. For most news stories - even important ones which can decide who people vote for - all the masses get is a five minute piece that is usually shown in the few days after, without in-depth information. Also, many people watch only the channel that shares their political affiliation and thus never hear things for the other point of view.

Also, the six million holocaust figure is misleading. Truth is, noone knows how many people died. However, most historians seem to agree at least 6 million jews were killed... but it may be many more. The Nazis were not as organised as made out to be, and with the advances of the Allies thousands of records were destroyed by the Germans. Almost all of those involved in the genocide ended up dead or as Soviet prisoners of war, and the numbers in Hitler's death camps does not count the millions of Russian and German civilians who ended up dying from starvation and cold, or those who perished in the ghettoes.

The news media is a profit making business and only invests in reporting to the level they can make a profit. In other words why provide you with complete context when you will still watch/read with just superficial reporting and sensational headlines.

There is NO financial incentive for the media to do a through job. The people they hire have never worked in the real world and have not developed critical thinking skills. This mix of moronic reporting and the need to make a profit result in the media reporting you described.

The bottom line is that we get what we pay for with the national media and that is not much. You must do you own reserach or be lazy and get insufficient information.

I've always been curious to see whether or not the process for making a nuclear bomb is identical to making a nuclear reactor. Do they use the exact same kind of uranium? Or are they so alike that if someone is doing one, we've no idea whether or not they're doing the other? Also, I've always wondered how we can find out exactly what our (american) tax dollars are doing. I pay most of income to my government, and I have little to no idea what they do with it, though I have a sneaking suspicion they're using it on things I wouldn't buy if I was drunk.

Quoting Still working it out :
"YOU'RE NOT PAYING FOR THE MEDIA. DON'T EXPECT IT TO WORK FOR YOU."
Just ask yourself who pays for the media...

I'd just like some news organizations with some spine. Politicians lie all the time, and if a news organization looks up some old recordings and says, "Woah, he's lying about that," they're called biased. They're reduced to just reporting about what politicans say or giving adds for oxy-clean in the form of news broadcasts.

So I'm left thinking that Jon Stewart is the is the most respectable journalist around. Thank god I can't vote.

Actually, you'll find the Nazis took detailed records of the deaths and individuals in concentration camps, with typical German efficiency and organisation. These records are available to historians and researchers interested in the topic. They merely have to make a request to the Germans in charge of the records to have access to them.

Not to mention the many times when they will repeat what a politician says without bothering to check the facts.

TODAY, JOHN KERRY ACCUSED THE PRESIDENT OF KILLING COUNTLESS IRAQIS AND SPARKING TEH JIHADIST MOVEMENT. YOU CAN TAKE OUR SILENCE TO MEAN THAT WE AT CBS AGREE.

And of course the report in the Times that reported that the Iraq war is helping the jihad; it said that large numbers of Iraqis had fought Americans because of the war. How many? Ten? Thirteen? One hundred thousand?

I'd like the news to explain why the handicapped get the best parking spaces. I mean really, I was there first.

What's scary is the difference between the news in the US and the UK, and how quickly we (the UK) are becoming more like our American cousins in this respect.

While the UK news will try to lead with the most important international and national stories (and then tack on a token attempt at some local news) the US news seems interested in local stories, then national stories, then "human interest" stories and then have a brief gloss over of international news, with the grotesque catchphrase "Could it happen here?"

Most of all, there never appears to be any commentary on whether a major figure has told the truth. A news story in America will appear as "George Bush has said that Iraq has WMD and we must invade", followed by a talking head saying that George Bush is correct, followed by a human interest story. In the UK, such a story would usually be followed by experts telling us whether George Bush or Tony Blair's wild accusations can be justified.

We get the news from people who majored in journalism. When they were in college they just drank a lot of beer. Now they are just lazy.

I hate when they leave a really obvious question unanswered. In the news recently was a story about an airliner that went down in South America. The news story said there might have been a midair collision. That is all they said. The obvious question is "What piece of information makes you think that?". Do you have debris of two aircraft on the ground? It turns out that another airplane did hit the one that crashed. There were real people who landed with a slightly damaged airplane. I checked dozens of news stories on the web and they all left out this crucial piece of information. A few days later my question was answered.

I've been grinding my teeth over lack of context in Canadian reporting on the war in Afghanistan. I suspect that there are many reasons for this, but in Canada, generally a lack of sophistication in the reporting of foreign affairs, a lack of experience in war reporting, and media concentration that has essentially pacified our media. The media doesn't seem to be able to handle context any longer. Neither do its consumers. Maybe it's the TV. I don't know, but it's profoundly troubling.

Before I go I want to take issue with your use of the Holocaust as an example of something one would generally want to investigate as a study in context. Frankly, I don't really care whether the number is 6M or 5M or 7M or 4M or 8M or even 2M, when you add or subtract different groups or slice and dice the numbers in different ways, and I'm baffled as to why, with so many current issues of such profound importance, one would want to spend any time reflecting on exactly how many millions perished 60 years ago at the hands of whom and for what reason and by what method and because they were a member of what group. This has been litigated, appropriated, expurgated, disseminated and 'examinated' from dawn to dusk for generations.

Enough already. Millions died because they were Jews.

Today, others are dying. And many of us do nothing, perhaps because we have lost context. If there's a debate that needs to happen - it's that one.

Context is cool, but it is also freqeuntly slow and/or impossible to get within a decent media timescale. Any expert studie (say the feasability of building nuclear reactors in Iran) would demand a long a through studie of the socio-economic factors, availible technologi, and would therefore be absolutely irrelavent (as news) by the time it was done. I'm not saying that it couldn't be done better (I've been exposed to FOX news, how can that even qualify as news?), it certanly could, but in most cases a through precis study of the problem in question would certainly not be done for months, possibly years.
I guess that in the end the problem is that the news is primarily reported by reporters who do not per se know what they're talking about, because they have spent their time developing liquistical skills and nice studio hair. Those who work with the area in question are busy, boring unavailible or simply unkown to the news media.

Of course there is allways the expert problem: experts work with what they love- to any road engineer and entire country is only as good as its infrastructure, and you'd hardly spend your life learning biotechnology if you didn't believe in it as a viable solution to some problems. Uh and you also have to get the experts to argree.... not allways a walk in the park

Any time the government does something based on a supposed "fact." For instance, the invasion of Iraq. Rumsfeld told us we knew EXACTLY where the WMDs were, and later denied saying it. Most of the country goes on about how the US clearly knew there were no WMDs, but how does the public come to that conclusion? What I want to know is whether we actually had a good reason to believe he had them. All we're able to get though is one biased viewpoint. It sucks.

As far as Iran's nuclear intentions go. I read in the IEEE spectrum which is a professional magazine for electrical engineers, that Iran's nuclear program is legal, the only thing illegal about it is that it was not made public. The reason given by Iran is that we are biased against it and would do anything to keep it from progressing. Coming from Iran (and probably a handful of other countries like Cuba) I think that is a pretty strong argument.

As far as Iran's nuclear intentions go. I read in the IEEE spectrum which is a professional magazine for electrical engineers, that Iran's nuclear program is legal, the only thing illegal about it is that it was not made public. The reason given by Iran is that we are biased against it and would do anything to keep it from progressing. Coming from Iran (and probably a handful of other countries like Cuba) I think that is a pretty strong argument.

My complaint also deals with the middle east. The media seems to take an arbritrary event as the "beginning" and events that occur before that are rarely discussed while events that occur after it are magnified, usually to the west's advantage.

For example, in dealing with Iran, our history with them seems to begin only at Iranian revolution and US embassy seizure, while all the details of our relationship with them prior to that is rarely mentioned and assumed to be irrelevant. Thus, the perception of that event is skewed due to lack of context. With Iraq and Sadaam Hussein, the event was the attack of Kuwait and the first Iraqi war. But lets not go into detail of the US/Iraqi relationship during the 80s. Better left unsaid.

There are systemic problems with the media and we should acknowledge them. Good post.

You obviously neglect to weigh the overwhelming weasel factor in all of this. Context is often left out for a reason. Most statistics are a crock (I love that quote "There are three kinds of lies -- lies, damned lies, and statistics." which I believe is attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, but don't quote me!) Bias is everywhere and the whole truth is literally unverifiable.
For hints of 'truthiness' in any media news event (especially in politics)I personally always look at who stands most to gain financially in any side of a situation (the Iraq War, for example, and the real reasons we are even there). Money is a great weasel motivator.

Try subscribing to The Economist, Atlantic Monthly, and The New Yorker rather than Spiderman and USA Today.

When TV becomes truly interactive, during a football game I'd like to be able to mouse over a player and see his salary and police record.

What I want to see in the news that is conspicuously missing?

Less tragedies.
More statistics.


Excellent post. A blanket "yes" to all your questions. Sadly, the media has evolved (devolved?) into a profit driven industry that hides behind "freedom of the press" as a sacred right while avoiding its corresponding responsibility to provide in-depth, unbiased analysis & context - or even to simply tell the truth.

Why? Well, basically it's because the public doesn't demand more thorough coverage and doing so would only increase costs without increasing revenue. In short, they do it because it makes good business sense. It will continue as long economic forces do not force them to change.

As for your question, I'm sure this fits into a larger category of journalists not doing their homework, but I would like to see the media look into political candidates' backgrounds BEFORE they get elected. Way too much "stuff" comes out after the damage has been done.

Re LRN's from WWII, in addition to the one about 6 million Jews, I have also read that the Nazi's killed 14 million people in total in the Halocaust. Unless someone pulled that number out of their ass as well, that means that more non-Jews were murdered than Jews. So why isn't the Halocaust seen as a human tragedy, rather than one for a single race?

Lemme see if I've got this right. You are better informed that a lot (I'd suspect most, but I'd like to be proven wrong on that count) americans. Yet you use it as an excuse *not* to have your voice heard, preferring to leave important decisions like, say, who runs the country, almost entirely in the hands of people who are in all even less well informed than yourself? And you consider this decision *logical*???

I have to say that, while I agree whole heartedly with your point in this, there are other factors to take into account. For example, how much of that context would make the current government look bad? I'm fairly sure that politicians (especially powerful ones) frown on TV companies making them look bad in the news. And then there's the matter of time and scheduling. Putting all that useful context into the news would cut into the vitally important advertising time between each 5 minute section of actual TV. And then you've got the fact that there's so much news to cover. It wouldn't be feasible on normal news to put the context in.

On the other hand, I think you've found the perfect solution for stopping the people on the 24hr news channels repeating themselves over and over again until something new comes along...

Where I live near Westchester County, NY, there is a significant movement on the part of both local democrats and republicans to have the Indian Point nuclear power plant shut down. People in favor of it being shut down report that it's "had more safety violations" than any other operating plant. I'd like context. I want to know, specifically, what the voilations are and what impact they could have. Are those safety voilations things like there's not enough water available in the event of an emergency to keep the thing from melting down? or are they things like the exit signs are not written in the correct font?

To me the problem comes pretty much from the journalist trying to do what they are supossed to do and failing each and every time, press is not supossed to tell us what's true and what's not true, they simply should give us information and facts and then with those facts we should choose what cause we'll support. Now the problem with them and the reason why they pretty much stink at doing their job is that they deliberately hide all the information that does not support whichever posture they prefer, giving us cutted facts which left us with two options, either we believe and support everything they stand for or we ending up like Scott, without enough information to choose a side.
A possible solution will be going on Greg direction and start reading news from sources with different approaches like Al-Jazeera, but I bet you that those news will again have the same issue, then again leaving us with a worst scenario, we would be given (at least) two points of view that pretty much contradict each other and we will be left with the job of deciding wich parts are true in all the sources we collected and then making again the decision of which position to support. That, in my humble opinion, is something really hard to do considering all the news that we watch everyday around our world, and you'll probably agree that we all have too much to do as to accomplish it.

BTW, by journalist I meant what journalist really are, people who get paid to write stuff that fully combines with the editorial line of the media enterprise they work for, I know that from all the jobs in the world you journalist own the one with least freedom.

So I guess Scott, you'll never vote ...

You are totally right. The news is very biased and gives only the information that 1) they know and 2) will sound good and keep people's attention. It fits in the theory that every decision in our country is somehow based on fear and the media is using that when giving information (like the number of child kidnappings has gone down in the last decade, and of kidnappings 98% are done my a family member or close friend, but the media hypes it so much, people live in fear of their children being taken off the street at random).

Personally, I would like more information too, but does the media even have that information? Are they expecting us to make informed decisions based on their incomplete work that they present as 100% truth? When did it become such a crime in our culture to answer a question with "I don't know"?

Excellent Post Scott. I agree that the news here is very lacking, and takes too much of a political side to be newsworthy. Many U.S. journalists have traded in their integrity for fame, to make money and stay employed.

But we always can count on you. Here is a big sphincter smooch. :-X

Hopefully the president of Iran will turn into something like Hitler. Meaning he wipes out France this time.

You don't vote?! And you use a lame excuse like "I don't get it"? Shame on you.

The reason that, eg., every report of an airplane crash is impossibly wrong in detail, is that they're not trying to get it right.

If the reporter by chance knows something about aviation, they'll rewrite the report to dumb it down and make it wrong.

That's because technical detail turns women off, and women (the 40% who are soap addicts) are the target audience, because these women will come every day whether there's news or not, as long as they're not bored; and men won't. Women pay the bills, in the news biz, so they edit it for everybody.

Anything that isn't soap opera friendly is boring, and cut out.

Men would like to hear cool reasons for crashes that affirm the balance of forces that make flight work, but men don't count because they're only accidental visitors. (The best crash reason I've seen reported was a Texas commuter plane where it was determined that the stabilizer stalled when the bottom layer of skin came loose; that reporter was let go pretty fast.)

Best of all is scaring women. ``Can it happen here? Tune in at 7.''

Well... if some media content calls it's self news, but is useless... why do you keep spending your time reading / listening to / watching it? Anyone who actually consumes the tripe put out by NBC ABC CNN FOX CBS or say Pat Robertson's CBN is either a complete frickin' nut job and/or has more of a stomach than I have for consumation of sh*t. Except Married With Children. That show was kind of funny. But it didn't call it's self 'news' either.

Well, I guess (yes, guess .... this is not scientifically researched), the news channels are not willing to put in the cost of effort (time, money, other resources) to actually research and present the context as you would like it for every major news story.
So its more like "Iran is building nuclear power plants, and trying to research whether it is a wise more financially would be bad economics for us, your favorite dumbed-down news channel, YSLE".
Sometimes, the news channels do rope in "experts" to give context on really important stories. This makes it worse because often the expertise (and probably intent) of the experts is suspect.

Ironically, when you refer to the statement "wipe Israel off the map", even you are missing more context than you realize. This was a classic case of "Added in translation" from the original Farsi. Consequently, this incorrect-translation-turned-soundbite was reported in our Western media as being equivalent to a declaration of war...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmoud_Ahmadinejad_and_Israel
http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/jonathan_steele/2006/06/post_155.html
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article12790.htm

That's a little like milking a squirrel because you need butter.

The news media give us the quality and quantity of information that we ask for. They are in a very competitive business for goodness sake and know what makes money. The intellectually curious can attempt to investigate the background and context but need to apply the principle of caveat lector (reader beware) to avoid the fruitcakes. I have found that over-long posts (sorry Scott), the use of "every right-thinking person" as a source and a lack of grammar and humour are useful symptoms. The use of CAPITALS!!! confirms the diagnosis

I want to know about the facts relating to global warming + C02...
I remember 1st year chemistry at Uni, they told me:
PV=nrt, pressure x Volume = No of Moles x Boyles constant X the temperature...

now while I've forgotten Boyles constant and I don't think I every fully understood the whole molarity thing, as best as I remember, as the temperature increases less Gass can remain in a solution...Hot day, fish gasping at the surface because O2 is lacking...

What I want to know is: If the globe is warming, (for whatever reason) wouldn't the C02 come out of solution from the ocean..? thus increasing the atmospheric Co2 concentration...Perhaps we're seeing a symptom in rising Co2 levels NOT the cause...

I want context regarding the people I'm asked to have sympathy for each day. I want to know if their misfortune is directly related to their own behavior. For example: Is the person that has some terrible disease someone that makes some effort to take care of their health. Or has this person spent the last 20 years in a chair, watching TV, eating and drinking crap. Another example: Is the person that lives on the ocean and lost their house to a storm someone that works and pays taxes and makes some effort as a member of a society. Or has this person always lived off the system, and spends their time having kids so they can continue to live off the system. Knowing the context will eliminate the guess work when I'm trying to determine where to set the dial, sympathy or apathy.

I don't particularly want the news to make information available (there would be too much), but I do want easier access to the sorts of things I should be able to find out. I want news to have internet versions of the story, with links to sources and such.

I was examining local elections (for a local council, in the UK) trying to figure out what, precisely, the elected people for those roles *do*. What power do they have to make decisions, and what power do they not have. I think it's something like a US mayor, only by committee - do you know what a mayor can and can't make decisions about?

I attended a local-council debate thing, and the arguments essentially went "I will fight for X!" "local councilpeople don't have any power over X!" "Er, well, I'm in favour of it anyway!" Even the people trying to get on the local council don't know what they can and can't do, and the one who somewhat knew (having been previously elected) couldn't tell me where I could find details. Mostly it seemed to be that they don't actually have the ability to do anything at all.

Great to have you blogging again on Sunday!

But, to be honest, I'm just waiting for you to discuss the new season of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA!!!

If you want an interesting way to discuss the Iraq situation, the premiere was one of the best pieces of commentary I've seen lately.

But why aren't there any sexy male Cylons! Give us women watchers some eye-candy!!!

I don't know about TV and radio in the USA or indeed anywhere else, but in the UK we do sometimes have deeper coverage of just one or two news items, both National and International, in programmes such as "Newsnight" and "Panorama" for instance, on the government's tax-supported channel, the BBC. Independent terrestrial and satellite broadcasters also cover such stories with a similar level of context. Documentaries are frequently broadcast on topics ranging through science, politics, social matters, consumer interest, the arts, and lifestyle interest. Those newspapers formerly known as "broadsheets" often parallel these broadcasts, particularly in their bulky weekend issues. I imagine many other nations provide similar coverage. Throw in the Internet, and I can be as well informed as any other ordinary UK citizen not privy to that which our Establishment would rather I were not so well-informed about. Most of the time, as a concession to futility, I prefer not to know, watching instead utterly implausible films of action heroes saving the world for democracy, and Spongebob Squarepants.

If you buy the printed edition of the NY Times you barely cover the cost of the printing. Free to air is, well, free. You pay for cable, but the cable news networks get hardly any of that.

YOU'RE NOT PAYING FOR THE MEDIA. DON'T EXPECT IT TO WORK FOR YOU.

I used to shared your frustrations until I found blogs and realised the media does not work for me. They work for their advertisers and the really rich guys who own them. They are going to to say enough to keep you watching, listening and reading. Anything they say beyond that is up to their owners and advertisers. And what is required to play the game of buying access to politicans with stories that suit the politicians.

Today I try to get around the problem by giving implicit credibilty ratings to the news sites i read. I read a small number of news sites and get all my news through them and read just about everything they publish. Every now and then they do a story on something I know more about than they do. This gives me a chance to check their credibility by comparing their reporting with what i already know. I can see which way they're biased (everyone is biased) and how careful they are about facts and if they leave out important context. If they're not good enough i stop reading them completely and find another site to replace them with. I can't read someone if i can't trust them. This is actually a little frustrating as i no longer read some interesting sites, but that's what i do. Its the only way i have found to get over the problem you have above.

I'd like to know how any opinion expressed on a comedy site: Dilert, "Daily Show" etc is more objective than "fair and balanced" real news.

ah, you poor americans with your dumbed down, hilariously biased and blinker news. The good ol' BBC recently did an article on Jews living in Iran, turns out they're treated perfectly well (or at least as well as anyone living there).

I want to know the environmental cost of recycling. A year ago, my town went from weekly trash pickup and no recycling to weekly recycling pick up and track pick up every other week. We're supposed to rinse out the cans and jars we put out in the recycle bin. When people complained about the smell and flies, we were told to double bag our rubbish. So do the benefits of recycling make up for the petrol and pollution from sending a fleet of trucks around town, the extra garbage bags being used, and the water used to rinse out the recyclables?

Two points.

The news media all lie all the time, especially in this country(UK). If you are relying on them to help form your opinion on how you should vote, then thank god you don't!

Tweleve to fourteen million people died in Hitler's death camps, six million of whom were jews. The nazi's were good at keeping records of numbers, that is why the inmates at said death camps were each tattoed with there own number. The two million discrepancy is the normal variance you get when dealing with numbers this big. When talking of numbers I am always reminded of the words of Jacob Bronowski

"This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods."

Auschwitz, 1973

Well, they could do that, but then you'd get a book instead of a paper everyday, and you'll need a bit more than 24hrs for the 24hrs networks to actually cover the news. The media can't educate you about everything, you have to get off your lazy ass, just as far as your computer (hey! you're already there!) to do some research yourself.

Pfft... Americans.

Also:
Jews (and Christians) can live peacefully under Muslim law, as long as they know their place as second grade denizens and don't try to promulgate their religion too much. This is true, of course, of Iranian Jews also. Note, however, that most Iranian Jews have left that country shortly before and after the revolution there, because, well, they don't like being second grade denizens.

Next. The number of Jews killed in the holocaust is based on the following calculation: take the estimated number of Jews in Europe and other Nazi-controlled parts of the world in the eve of the Nazi's rise to power, and substract from that the number of Jews who were left at the end of the war. Yes, that means some Jews who have died of old age are probably counted in. I assure you their "old age" was somewhat hastened by being locked in disease-ridden ghettoes. You know what? Fine. Let's say only 3 million Jews died in the holocaust. Is that in any way better? Thank you.

Recently there was, in the Israeli media (woo-hoo! and, hey, look, it's been talked about elsewhere as well - http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/khomeinis-old-letter-revives-iran-nuclear-debate/2006/10/05/1159641462838.html), reports of a letter by the original Ayatollah who started the Iranian revolution, saying that Iran should try and achieve nuclear power. Since the Ayatollah is the supreme religious figure for the Iranian muslims, I guess what Ahmadinjad said is bull.

Good grief Scott! You're daring to doubt the veracity of the holocaust numbers? Suggesting that the numbers could be exaggerated by even just one will get you hate mail and accusations of anti-semitism. I don't envy you your mail bag in the next few weeks.

If you need tips on dealing with racist misunderstandings, you could talk to Jack Straw, leader of the UK House of Commons. He recently said that he asks muslim women attending his surgeries if they wouldn't mind removing their veils, as he finds it easier to talk to people if he can see their facial expressions. This was immediately blown up to "Jack Straw demands muslim women remove veils" and has caused much heated debate in the past few days (see news.bbc.co.uk1/hi/uk_politics/). There have been angry rants on radio and TV, editorials in all the newspapers, and people have been attacked in the street, with those attacks branded racist, and 'caused by' Straw's comments. We're currently at the stage where other politicians from Jack Straw's own party are publicly saying that he was wrong, and women should be allowed to wear the veil, even though he didn't suggest that wearing a veil was wrong.

I hope the same thing doesn't happen to you.

Regarding the size of the holocaust, your go-to guy on that sort of statistic is R. J. Rummel. Here's the wiki page on his rather morbid speciality topic: democide.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democide

Here's a table with somewhat less round death numbers in various categories - he puts the deaths specifically of jews at 5,291,000; toss in the homosexuals (220k) and gypsies (258k) as well to get to something that reasonably rounds up to 6 million. Which is a subset of the genocide total, which is a subset of the war total (that would add in combat deaths too).

(table here http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/NAZIS.TAB1.1.GIF )

A relevant quote gives some hint of the error range: '"By genocide, the murder of hostages, reprisal raids, forced labor, "euthanasia," starvation, exposure, medical experiments, and terror bombing, and in the concentration and death camps, the Nazis murdered from 15,003,000 to 31,595,000 people, most likely 20,946,000 men, women, handicapped, aged, sick, prisoners of war, forced laborers, camp inmates, critics, homosexuals, Jews, Slavs, Serbs, Germans, Czechs, Italians, Poles, French, Ukrainians, and many others. Among them 1,000,000 were children under eighteen years of age.'

(source http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/NAZIS.CHAP1.HTM )

I understand the Nazis were excellent recordkeepers so in some places the record is quite solid. Though, of course, there was a war going on at the time...

The book with his sources and calculation methods is titled "Democide: Nazi Genocide and Mass Murder"


[Here's a link to a sight that refutes the deniers of the Holocaust. According to this site, the Nazis did not keep accurate records of the victims unless they were going to use them as slave labor. This source also indicates that the 6 million number is based on how many were "missing" in Europe after the war. -- Scott

http://www.shamash.org/holocaust/denial/answers.txt]

Illegal immigrants are represented as being the devil's spawn in the UK tabloids.

I'd like to know how many really do come here a year, how many end up working and paying their taxes and how many go home every year as well. Whenever the UK send a couple of hundred home, I'd like to know what percentage that is of the total asylum seekers of that year/month. Is it 1%? Is it 95%? I'm sure I'm forgetting other important contextual facts.

We only ever hear about those those that get a free house, car, satellite tv, boat, summer house, cancer treatment, benefits for their 12 kids and 3 wives, while at the same time they support Muslim extremists who plan to destroy the great nation that is ours... [sigh] A bit of context would be extremely welcome honestly.

But at the same time can we really come to unbiased exact figures about most of these issues? I mean, look at official statistics ... give the same set of data to two opposing lobby groups and they will find exactly what they need to support their point of view.

I think that if the news had to treat a particular story right to the end so that all viewpoints are represented and all relevant contextual data is given to the viewer, the news would only cover one story per night.

Scott--

Here's a solution to your not having context. Another problem is--and you obviously didn't know this--is that you don't have all the details either. You are receiving via the USA news media ONLY Israel's side of it in value-loaded words. In other words, Palestinians are always terrorists or militant--but never freedom fighters or people with justified grudges.

Al Jazeera is an excellent source of news not only for the Middle East but also the world. It ranks alongside BBC for accuracy and non-bias. In fact, I honestly believe--using ALL of my professional judgement--that Al Jazeera is superior to BBC. Try studying its website. I think you will agree.

ALL ARE ENGLISH SITES AND THIS LIST INCLUDES PALESTINE PLUS IRAN AND IRAQ (NOTE THAT JEWS HAVE A PRESENCE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE IRAQI LISTS--THEREFORE, IRAQI SOURCES ARE SUSPECT.)

All sites have been reviewed prior to posting with a professional eye resulting from a life career in USA journalism. The quality is amazingly high—better than Associated Press in most instances. In fact, AP copied verbatim a WAFA (Official Palestinian News Agency) posting released hours earlier without giving credit to WAFA. You also will find a high number of Western-locale news in the al Jazeera text files that never appeared in USA news feeds.

AL JAZEERA—Arab owned and operated television news network. Similar to Telemundo, which is Hispanic owned/operated, and BBC, which is British-government regulated even for content. Check out their text news stories—very high quality.
http://english.aljazeera.net/HomePage

OFFICIAL PALESTINE NEWS AGENCY –aka WAFA. Based in Cyprus. Palestinians tell their version of the news without an Israeli censor or the Mossad in control. (Did you know that in Israel the news is so controlled by the government that Western news media have to preferentially hire Jew reporters and editors, and can hire non-Jews only if an Israeli isn’t available for the position? Fact.)
http://english.wafa.ps

PALESTINE NEWS (Independently Compiled and Edited for non-propaganda by non-Palestinians) This Western news service BASED IN THE USA practices editorial approval before passing Palestinian news.
http://www.einnews.com/palestine

SAME SOURCE AS ABOVE FOR IRAN-ORIGINATING NEWS
http://www.world-newspapers.com/iran.html

OFFICIAL IRAN NEWS SERVICE (Based in Iran)
http://www.irna.ir/en

IRAN PRESS SERVICE (Privately owned. Based in USA)
http://www.iran-press-service.com/index.shtml

OMNIBUS SOURCE FOR PALESTINIAN NEWSPAPERS AND NEWS SITES (Part of a world-wide news service for small nations and is independently compiled by non-Palestinians. No editing or restricted reporting of Palestinian sources regardless of type of medium—print, electronic or Web.)
http://www.world-newspapers.com/palestine.html

SAME SOURCE AS ABOVE FOR IRAN
http://www.world-newspapers.com/iran.html

SAME SOURCE AS ABOVE FOR IRAQ (Be aware of obvious Jew influence at the bottom of this list of news sources.)
http://www.world-newspapers.com/iraq.html

SURPRISE!! THERE IS ONE HONEST ISRAELI NEWSPAPER WE KNOW ABOUT. Its website is a crap-shoot because it is frequently unavailable. (Just as David Irving’s was because of Jew blockage on the Web until they finally bankrupt him and sent him to prison for denying the Holocaust.--He says he didn’t deny it.) Try the site, it may work.. (This probably is as honest as a Jewish newspaper in Israel can get, but still leaves a lot to be desired for unbiased/unslanted news.)
http://www.haaretz.com

NOTE: Most American news media today are owned or run by Jews--just as they dominate Hollywood, America’s television and radio and most of its entertainment industries. Bellyache all you want to about these facts—facts!---being stated openly (we all know how Jews hate to be revealed publicly) but facts are facts and truth is truth, and this poster will not be false to either.

Sinner!

While we're putting things in context, I'm curious as to a) why you're up so ridiculously early on a Sunday morning. In fact, by my caluclations it is in fact still Saturday night and b) what is it about Sunday, specifically, that makes it a good day for non-funny blogging?

On a more serious note - most of the movements in both art and literature in the past 70-something years have been based on the idea that it is not possible to put something in context without first defining a shared reality. T.S. Elliot and those fellows all decided that we no longer shared a common mythology that allowed us to talk about things without having to first define what things we were talking about.

The idea that started with existentialism and traveled all the way through to post-modernism is that the artist must create a shared world in order for the reader/viewer/etc to understand the meaning of the work.

Now I'm not suggesting that news stories qualify as art. But if we take as granted that there is no common context, and that without explicit defining and world building we cannot arrive at a common context, it makes sense that the news media don't answer the questions of context you raise.

They simply can't.

There is a problem with news in the US, when it finds that news shows have just as little substantive covering of news, as do _Fake_ News shows on comedy central:

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20061004-7908.html

When "news reporting" is only regurgirating what people have said, without putting it into context, and without any kind of additional information to judge the correctness/falsehood/applicability/... of the claims, it's pretty much worthless - but it is cheap to produce, and apparently a lot of people like to watch just that. Because there are actually some of those other types of news (those that have background reporting), they're just not as entertaining and they don't fit the 30 second snippets of regular news shows (which incidentally sems to match the average amount of attention span of viewers).

The kind of news you are proposing is good (and necessary) for a democratic country, unfortunately it doesn't sell well enough. So, who could be the people willing to pay for (as in subsidize) it?

Somehow, it makes alot of sense....and rather frightening too...

I agree that I'd like more political context, but I'd also like financial reporting to spread things a little too. For example:

Whenever a large company in the UK reports good results all the media talks about how the huge profits are going off to support 'the shareholders' of the company. People than start talking about how the government should tax the profits and 'do good' with them. I'd like to see the media break down the profits a bit, they're always quoted 'gross' i.e. Before tax is taken, but the amount of tax is never discussed. There's also never any mention of the fact that most shares in UK companies are owned by other companies who use them as investments for pensions, insurance and other investments. Meaning that 'the shareholders' are mostly the people who seem to be calling for the money to be diverted away from them into government coffers.

It's particularly galling that such news items are often side by side with items about the 'pension crisis' without anyone pointing out that company growth and profits is what drives the growth in investments that support pensions.

Dave

School security.
How to protect our kids from the crazies out there (temporary crazy or permenent crazy, I don't care, just protect the kids.)
While our attention is overseas what's happening at home?
Congress (well, some congressmen) are taking advantage of the kids. How do we really protect them? A bunch of old men supposedly in charge?

Scott - go back to bed and get some decent sleep. You're married now. Focus a bit on your kids and keep them safe! You owe them that!

I'd like to know why Americans make such a big deal about their so-called democracy, when the people's vote actually doesn't count for anything? I'm talking specifically about your electoral college. Remember what happened in the last elections? So you saying that you don't vote isn't actually relevant.

Regarding your other comments, outside of America, much of the world (yes, I know I'm generalising) thinks that GW is as much of a nut job as anyone else leading a conservative or radical country.

Regarding the Holocaust, it may well have been 6 million Jews, but everyone forgets the infirm, the homosexuals and other people deemed "sub-human" by the Nazis. Some people put those numbers at another 2 million, making 8 million in total.

It's all about context, but making the news moderate and contextualising stories is not newsworthy. When you have CNN and Sky and local networks trying to get viewers, the news content (and therefore context) doesn't matter anyway.

This is why I read the Dilbert Blog when it comes to news stories. At least it's no more biased than the real thing.

I think you are not using the media in the right way. Not every news story can or should give you all that is known about the holocaust for example. That is not the way it works. The media is not a substitute for books and academic research. The media reports on current events and you will have to research further to get all the facts on any given subject.

Assessed Accuracy

There are many, many reporters, politicians and other fakers that claim that they understand a subject and know what is going to happen. However there is never any objective evidence of their accuracy. Sure they might get it right occasionally, and I'm sure they will waste no time in telling everyone they were smart - but what's their overall success rate? Otherwise the best policy it to make loads of statements and only 'remember' the times when chance got it right. That can be combined with an assessment of how much they lie (not only get it wrong, but know they are getting it wrong on purpose - count it as double).

I'd like to see a continuously updated value by the name of every reporter, politician, economist and pundit, telling me how much of loon they really are. If Fox can put (D-FL) by the side of a name, they can put Bush (3%), Hannity (5%) or Scott (1%).

How I can find and kill the gang members who murdered my dog tonight.

very interesting thoughts.

you are right that it is concerning that most people do not have access to this sort of information from the media and that something should probably be done about this.

however the internet provides us with the opportunity to find this information out for ourselves. it is not ideal that people should have to go out and research for themselves as many people will not bother, i myself don't know the answer to many of your questions and probably many others that go un-asked but at least we have been provided with the means to get answers, something that wasn't available in the past.

peter

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