Monday, October 22, 2007


Over the last twenty-five years or so, a sort of a movement-within-a-movement has steadily gained strength, to the point where's it's become almost mainstream. It goes by the name of "recasting".
As the Seventies drew to a close and the possible end of Modern Liberalism loomed on the horizon, its adherents faced with dread the coming of any sort of return to traditional American values. By the non-coincidence of the near-total possession of the arts and information media, the Left harked back to their forebears to relearn about the power of making the message and owning the (as it's now called) narrative.
From the start of the Soviet empire, the functional beginning of the Liberal/Leftist/Socialist/Statist movement, taking over the information delivery has been a key element of an ideology that would never, if brought into the light of day, have been saleable to Americans and other free-thinking peoples. There was no effort to conceal the concept of owning the narrative, not in the early years. Socialist propagandists blithely chatted on about how they were going to demolish capitalism (one of the early buzzwords of the Left, which may be loosely translated as "America").
Of course, as repulsive as Socialism is to a people who believe that individuals can, should, and must run their own lives in order to have a workable and free society, it was only a couple of decades before the need to be a bit stealthier with the takeover message became evident.
During an era of rapid advancement in the standard of living, the 1920s, Socialism's lack of progress in gathering in the actual intended benefactors of its beneficence, the unwashed non-elite, non-intellectual grubby masses, may have looked to be a march to oblivion.
The messiness and unevenness of actual freedom converged in a train-wreck that gave the movement new life- the Great Depression. A series of events not well understood in the rapidly-evolving process of capitalism led to a widespread calamity, made many times more calamitous by opening the door for Socialism and the nanny staters to get a foothold that continues to bedevil free enterprise to this day.
Socialism was ready to strike. It had put together a codified plan of considerable breadth and went about implementing it with what must have been glee.
The depredations of the Stalin regime could well mark the very worst point in human history. But ensconced in the isolation of its biggest and most fearsome adversary, the United States, a large number of people remained ignorant of the evil emanating from Moscow and its fellow travelers. Indeed, the New York Times, the most self-satisfied media organization of all, cheerfully dove headlong into enabling and assisting the rearrangement of the the narrative. Journalist Walter Duranty led the way with dispatches from the information battlefront extolling the virtues of the hoped-for world-engulfing wave of Communism that both deliberately concealed the ghastliness of real-life, practical Socialism and continuously sought to denigrate Americanism.
But the Soviet machine was far more peripatetic than just buying and operating a crew of mainstream media reporters and editors. Early on, it determined that crushing Americanism would require the use of marketing in the form of entertainment and so formed operations devoted to injecting Socialism into the American bloodstream painlessly, with the use of the popular arts. Few Americans today are even aware that famous folk signer Pete Seeger has been a member of the Communist Party for decades, and that his music, and the music he has helped to propagate, is that of undoing Americanism in favor of Socialism. Even today, Seeger, once public about his membership in the Party, will not renounce or deny it when pressed. Nor will he say that he has removed himself from it.
It must be mentioned that an aged and possibly slightly repentant Seeger, just recently in 2007, took a baby step or two back from his admiration of Stalin by stating publicly that perhaps a bit of rethinking of the processes of the Soviet machine might be needed.
And forty million hideously-departed innocents thank you, Mr. Seeger, for your consideration.
Meanwhile, try this test sometime, maybe in Chicago somewhere: walk up to someone and say: "Pete Seeger, the folksinger, is an avowed Communist and has worked his whole adult life towards his stated goal of bringing down the American way of life and installing Socialism." See what happens.
That's the power of the narrative working.
So now, when the narrative machine gets into gear and starts an information campaign like, say, the (most recent) attack on radio talker Rush Limbaugh over the "phony soldiers" comment, in which Limbaugh did indeed sneer at persons attacking American policy on Iraq while claiming falsely to be US military combat veterans, and then the Machine recast it into a national story on nearly every Mainstream Media front page saying that Limbaugh was calling any veteran who disagreed with the Iraq invasion to be a "phony soldier" (look it up- it's not what he said), there's no stopping the story.
For goodness sake, even the ancient and wobbling "Doonesbury" comic strip worked the canard today with a casual falsehood right there, on the narrative's mark.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Agenda journalism at the Chicago Tribune

Residing in the Chicago area means being subjected to the Chicago Tribune and its various subsidiaries as the major media voice in the region.
Harkening back to the glory days of Woodstock and Watergate, the crew in the Trib's news shop has gotten ever-less apprehensive about using the force of their position to advocate on behalf of their chosen causes, all of which, surprise-surprise, fall into the Modern Liberal Orthodoxy.
Here's an analysis of a recent faux-news item, in the format of a letter to the editor:

On Wednesday, October 17th, the Tribune ran an unusual article on page two of the front section.
The headline was "Gun range in school is targeted as health, safety issue" and the byline read "By Robert Gutsche, Jr. Special to the Tribune."
The article concerned a school shooting range in east central Wisconsin, in the small city of Sheboygan.
No apparent reason for the appearance of this article as a "news" item was discernable. The events actually cited in the article are almost less than routine, bordering on completely unimportant.
The first thing a reader in Chicago would wonder is "why is this being printed in the news section of the Chicago Tribune, a hundred miles away from Sheboygan?"
A more careful inspection of the article seems to present some clues. From the first sentence, this article is posited as from the viewpoint of one specific person, the mother of a student at this middle school. It also immediately sets a tone of incredulity, based on a supposition of an extraordinary, and bad, occurrence. A tone of wonder is then presented ("I never would have suspected something like that...") to make clearer the point of view of the author, that of the existence of a bad condition or situation.
After throwing in one more indicator of a "problem" ("raised eyebrows") mention is then made of a not-similar air rifle range in Pennsylvania. The article then segues into a broad set of statements by Paul Helmke of the Brady anti-gun group. Interestingly, the writer chooses to use a Helmke quote that is very far from Helmke's normal public pronouncements on the topic of guns, one that appears to be intended to placate those who ordinarily would take exception to Mr. Helmke's public positions. It comes across as a hedging maneuver to defuse the expected derision from those who are all-too-well aware of Helmke’s usual misstatements and deceptions.
We are then brought back to the mother, who, we later learn, is a transplant from Chicago. Some discussion about "cleaning up the range" is brought forth, before the disclosure that the mother in primarily interested in closing the range and ending the programs that its use supports. "Guns and school don't mix" she proclaims, a point of view normally only heard in the most concentrated urban areas, like, say, Chicago. A little more information about the range as a public resource along with a passing mention of some minor, even irrelevant, operational issues is presented, and then the author launches a point of view of his own, barely connected in any meaningful way to the Sheboygan range. We are treated to the standard agenda-journalism cues such as "questions about the range..." and then a laughably strained effort to tie this facility to a school shooting halfway across the state, in a set of circumstances that bears absolutely no connection to the Sheboygan activities beyond the presence of smokeless powder. Then, going all the way to ludicrous, the author invokes the tragedy at Crandon wherein a police officer used a rifle to kill several persons, not in a school, and with no evident tie whatsoever to any public firearms-training program whether in a school or not. This portion of the article is then padded with yet another unrelated school shooting incident hundreds of miles away, again, with no connection to a firearms training setting, course, or range.
Finally, we are hectored by the agenda-journalist's favorite Greek chorus, the well-known but anonymous "critics". These experts insist that guns should not be "entering school doors at all", an absurd point, considering that the presence of firearms in schools has been going on completely uneventfully for hundreds of years in this country (and many others), and it is only very recently, since the beginning of the modern gun-banning movement exemplified by Helmke's tiny splinter group, that there has been any problem whatsoever.
Without even bothering to engage the flaws in that perspective, the reader is finally forced to ask: What is the Tribune doing here? Why are we being handed a thinly-disguised piece of agenda journalism draped around a trivial event a hundred miles away? Is there some connection between the mother and the author of the article? Or someone else, a writer, editor, or supervisor at the Tribune?
The real suspicion is that once again, the Tribune's news shop is using its position as a deliverer of news to advocate, and in this case, in the method being seen ever more frequently in the Tribune and like-minded papers: preparing a battlespace.
There just is no other good reason for an article like this to be placed in the newspaper except to engage in a campaign of advocacy, placing another piece of agenda marketing in a faux-news format to build up a crescendo of noise in support of a specific program. In this case, it's the Tribune's oft-and-clearly stated intention to get firearms banned in Illinois and the United States.
The more sophisticated among media people call it the "narrative", and so this trifle of a polemic appears to be, another piece in a wall of perspective-conforming bits of advocacy, and as is so often the case, advocacy for an unpopular and unpleasant cause.
One has to wonder why the people at the Tribune are willing to trade in the remnants of their journalistic credibility for advocacy. We hear that modern journalists believe that they are there "to make a difference", but the way things have slid off the edge, making a difference would be just plain reporting the news and keeping the agenda to ones' self.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Narrating the News

On Thursday, October 11th, 2007, the Chicago Tribune responded to news reports based on the Pentagon's announcement that all US military services had exceeded their recruitment goals for the recently ended fiscal year. The government did note that there had been a reduction in the percentage of Army recruits with a high school education, from the previously very high 90% to a national-average-equivalent 79%.
It also noted that there was an increase in the issuance of "character waivers", usually used to allow a recruit in who had had minor criminal problems in their past.
However, this excellent news about the robustness of the US military was too much for the Tribune staff, who somehow managed to absorb the preceding facts, throw them into a high-temperature stew of semi- and unrelated facts, plus some factoids and carefully selected expert opinion, and then inverted the whole thing to arrive at the conclusion trumpeted by the headline and subhead:
"U.S. Army lowers its recruiting standards
More enlistees have criminal records, no high school diploma."
There followed a perfect recreation of a Bill Maher monologue carrying on about criminals being inducted and concluded the opening segment of the screed with the ever-mysterious but terribly serious "The startling figures come at a time when the Army is trying to grow amid persistent questions about how the armed forces can increase force size during a time of war without significantly lowering the quality of the recruits."
There is little surprise in a Tribune writer and editor being unaware that the US military is constantly trying to increase force size, wartime or not. It is indeed a "persistent" question, one that goes back to days of raising the Revolutionary Army.
One thing that is remarkable is the evidence that the Tribune has writers and editors are cognizant of the fact that the US is at war at all. Given the amazing dearth of information about the proceedings and process of the war against Islamofacism, it often appears the news shop in Tribune Tower is unaware of it. Surely, if they were, they would consider it "news" enough to report it, by, for example, carrying stories about what it is that our military is actually doing.
The daily got-blown-up items are pretty much the extent of the coverage, unless there's a newly-manufactured "grim milestone" ready to be trotted across the front page.
MoveOn and Democratic Underground don't produce any more twisted and tortured news items than this one, and while it was often thought in the past that much of the Tribune's front-page content was simply the slightly-worked-over emission of Rahm Emmanuel's fax machine, the increasing frequency of stuff like this thing makes it seem as though the source is getting to be the leavings of a Comedy Central fake news broadcast.
For those who are interested in getting to the actual, factual story behind this news item, we refer you to the excellent Mudville Gazette, absolutely the go-to source for news on the war in Iraq and elsewhere. Many consider it the granddaddy of milblogs and the one that set the information transfer world on its ear by finally opening a channel around the gatekeepers by presenting actual, near-real-time fact.
It's little wonder that so many of the Trib's writers project such hopelessness, anger, and just plain BDS over the subject of the war. Without getting anything but well-cooked shreds of disjointed fact-sausages to read, it would be hard to get a serious picture of the very serious events in the war.
Fortunately, the Internet has given voice to independent reporting able to see, comprehend, and transmit some worthwhile percentage of the large scope of things, people like Michael Yon and Bill Roggio and JD Johannes and dozens of others.
Otherwise, when a Tribune writer, working the DNC’s latest campaign, the Blackwater-is-Bush-evil line, gives forth with nonsense like "Blackwater killed scores of civilians" in an incident that included possibly 11 to 17 deaths in a still-unclear incident, there's no way to tell if it's just made up, or just malinformed.
"Gatekeepers", indeed.
Thousands of military and civilian people have cycled through Iraq and written about what they have seen and heard. The fact that the overwhelming majority of it is so far removed from the narrative we see on the Tribune front pages should trouble someone bragging about being a “journalist”. When a million Americans come back from a place and say in unison that “what’s going on there is nothing like what you see in the news”, that’s a crisis of world-threatening proportions.
Or perhaps cashing paychecks and swimming peacefully in the echo chamber is sufficient for a group of people our former-slacker nephew, freshly returned from a tour in Baghdad, now refers to only as “The Liars”. Capitalized.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Inventions and impatience

Settling upon superlatives is a fascinating exercise. Sifting through all the knowledge in the history of the world (well, that's what you'd have to be doing, wouldn't you?) to arrive at a conclusion of momentousness ought to be a fine mental workout.
It would be hard to both be serious, and certain. But that doesn't take away from the value of the exercise; it just hauls one up a few inches short of the goal line of positiveness.
A favorite topic for this cogitation is The Most Important Invention Of All Time. Sometimes I think I may have moved a bit closer to conclusion, but not often. What I do know is that time and again, my default answer is the telephone.
Most inventions are something more on the order of evolutionary. A progression of thinking and improved mechanical technology allows an advancement to come together.It might be argued that the telephone is like that as well, an evolution of the telegraph. But it seems that there's a break- an enormous one- at the actual real-time transmission of a human voice.
It's not hard to picture a clear division in human history at the point telephony became possible. After that point, instantaeous interactive communication became possible, in the method most comfortable and efficient to humans, the spoken word.
At this later remove, it's becoming harder to solidly imagine the lack of the possiblity.Long distance travel is a good illustrator. A person traversing the Atlantic in the 15th century had no grasp of being able to communicate with another person back at home, at least, not beyond simple imagination. It could hardly have occurred to our sailor to be able to discuss something that way, with an active exchange and vocal inflection and instant absorption. The world view that would result from that would certainly have to be far different from ours. A person alive today has every expectation of a capability to converse with practically anyone else on the planet (so it seems), and in very short order.
If nothing else, conciseness would be expected to be an early casualty, eh?
It's hard not to take this a bit further and suggest that the instantaneousness of it all would necessarily breed impatience. I don't know if Joe Average 2007 is more quantifiably impatient that Joe Average 1807, but I can't escape the conclusion that he is.
The next communications step, television (can there be a word for that- say, "televisional"?) is a whole different concept, with a whole different reordering of world-view, and maybe not one that really would increase the impatience quotient.
But then follow along to the Internet...

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


From time to time, Your Correspondent will take it upon himself to advocate for good causes. At this very moment, one very good one indeed is in a fundraising process and may well deserve the Esteemed Reader's attention.
WDCB, the radio station of the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois is doing their semi-annual fundraising drive. I dare anyone of almost any musical taste to spend a week listening to it and not come away downright grateful such a resource exists.
At their website, there's a "Listen Live" link so that their programming is available around the planet.


It seems it's hard for people who aren't very familiar with Chicago to understand the real essence of it. One might argue that the Second City complex is the most important thing, but I can't agree.
It's the fixed-ness, to coin a term, pronounced "fix-edd-ness".
Most folks in the western world think they understand corruption. And so they may. But unless it's Chicago corruption they've experienced, I respectfully suggest they don't get the full load.
The corruption here is so deep, so foundational, so inbred and ingrained that it's hardly recognizable to the denizens of northeastern Illinois. There's no assumption that corruption is not present in the public business, not ever. I don't mean the simple, pass-a-few-bucks or hire-a-friend's-spouse kind. Those exist but are almost superflous to the real, structural stuff.
When the government, say, of the large city, goes about building a football stadium for a private, for-profit corporation, in likely violation of the law, and at the taxpayer's very unwilling expense, there's not really any suspense about the outcome. It's going to happen, and a select group of vendors and suppliers is going to get highly lucrative contracts to make it happen.
If a buddy of the Man's wife needs a nice boutique business to rake in a few extra mil, then there's always the O'Hare Cash Cow. A quick couple of words and a giant non-competitive contract appears, ink dry.
Another guy needs some land to make a nice little development happen and so hires a fixer, sometimes called a rainmaker in fancier places. Suddenly, an old piece of taxpayer-owned real estate worth a million or two gets sold for one dollar. Yes, one dollar.
If there's a popular, even beloved, transportation asset that happens to be despised and (yes,) feared by the Man on the Fifth Floor, it's not a big deal for it to disappear.
Just wait for dark and send in the bulldozers.
The only surprise was that of the Man himself, that the subjects objected. He was truly miffed that they talked back.
For a long time, it was expected that a couple of aldermen every five years or so would be making the trip to the lovely Federal country club in Oxford, Wisconsin. Expected.
Hillary Clinton is a Chicagoan, despite having grown up in the adjacent bedroom suburb of Park Ridge. That Arkansas image is just a shawl that served for a few years on the way to the Big House.
She thinks like a Chicagoan, and acts like one. The casual corruption that has surrounded her since first getting near the power handles is something another Chicagoan perfectly well expects. Make a million on a shady commodities deal? Of course. Sell some prez-pardons for cash for the starving brother? It's a good thing.
But what seems to mystify so many onlookers is the statist thing.
That's my polite term for the love of control, the Utopian fantasy of an all-controlling State always doing the Right Thing.
Coming from a region where the goverment has a firm grip on the doings, comings, and goings of practically everything worthwhile, there's no evolving necessary to turn out to be a full-fledged statist. But of course the Man builds awful stadia and wrecks good airports. It's the natural order of things.
We'll be getting a chance soon enough to find out what this really means. The cause of the nanny state is about to get a huge boost.