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June 05, 2003
Chris Lehmann has a nice essay in Reason on the recent spate of movies (Malibu's Most Wanted, Bringing Down The House, and Head of States) that suggest that the best way for preposterously white characters to keep it real is to imitate preposterously black ones.
At the risk of sounding uncomfortably like Michael Medved, I'm going to add that it's not just black people that Hollywood presents as the solution to the ongoing problem of affluent white inauthenticity: close-knit Latino families, inscrutably wise Asians, homey small-town whites, poor European relations, affectless teenage misfits, and drug-and-disease-free street hookers can be just as therapeutic.
Or to put it another way: would I love to see a movie or TV series where a loving family of rich Beverly Hills producers moves to, say, rural Iowa, to teach the meth-addicted, unemployed, adulterous locals how to attain true happiness? Yes, I would.
Posted by Greg Beato at 09:14 AM
June 04, 2003
The Big Lie
Here's Hugh Hewitt, showing all the integrity of a Tammany Hall ballot-counter as he assesses the state of the blogosphere: "The Big Four are Instapundit, Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus, and The Volokh Conspiracy. These four sites are usually visited by news junkies many times a day because they are staffed by bright people and continually updated, and thus they can guide the chattering class to a breaking story or even a hitherto ignored story."
What makes the Big Four the big four? Hewitt doesn't really explain, but it's certainly not traffic. Consider, for example, the traffic of Volokh.com. Yesterday, it attracted approximately 8500 visits. In comparison, Atrios recorded approximately 21,000 visits yesterday. And DailyKos.com recorded approximately 16,000 visits. Josh Marshall, whom Hewitt disparages in the piece, doesn't make his traffic statistics public, but my guess is that Talkingpointsmemo.com attracts more visitors than Volokh.com does as well. And certainly Eric Alterman does too.
So why doesn't Hewitt include any of them in the Big Four? Since they've driven stories in the same way that the Big Four have, there's really only one reason: they're not ideologically correct.
Meanwhile, Hewitt piles stupidity onto disingenuousness when he asserts that "the first generation of bloggers are individualists, and unlikely to coordinate their activities."
Error one: Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds, Mickey Kaus, and Eugene Volokh are not the first generation of bloggers.
Error two: it is precisely their tight coordination that has made the Big Four popular. Volokh.com gets around 50% of its traffic from Instapundit.com. And the reciprocation between Instapundit.com and Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan is very strong too. When Kaus moved Kausfiles.com to Slate.com in May 2002, he got a significant traffic boost, and he passed that boost on to Instapundit.com by linking to it on a regular basis ever since. Similarly, Andrewsullivan.com is currently the biggest identifiable source of traffic to Instapundit.com.
Ultimately, what the so-called Big Four have done best is (a) leverage their ties to Big Media to get traffic, and (b) share that traffic with each other.
Of course, since the elite liberal media is more receptive to the ideas and preoccupations of conservative bloggers than liberal bloggers, the Big Four have also been fairly successful at, as Hewitt puts it, "[guiding] the chattering class to a breaking story or even a hitherto ignored story."
Posted by Greg Beato at 11:07 AM
An Army of None
Sure, you can become a member of the vast liberal conspiracy by selling millions of record albums or movie tickets, but how else can you sign up? Ana Marie Cox ponders this question at The Antic Muse.
Posted by Greg Beato at 10:11 AM
June 02, 2003
Vast Left Wing Conspiracy
Like bowling and pornography, conservative media criticism is a wonderfully repetitive art: every time a viewer abandons the CBS Evening News for a Dharma and Greg rerun, conservatives spin the defection as proof of the public's dissatisfaction with the liberal catechisms that media elites try to pass off as objective journalism.
But of course the truth is less binary than that. With so many options to choose from, today's news media consumers have the ability to escape more than just liberal biases. If you're bored by news infused with a serious bias, you can watch Comedy Central's The Daily Show. If you can't stand the capitalist bias that causes so many print publishers to charge for their publications, then the web's the place for you. If you're fed up with the centrist, corporatist biases that keep the elite liberal news media remarkably free of liberal viewpoints, then you've probably turned to the web as well.
For some reason, however, the notion that TV news networks and daily newspapers are losing their audiences for not being liberal enough never seems to get much play. And yet look at what's happening on the web: hundreds of emphatically liberal websites and blogs are attracting substantial audiences. Every weekday, for example, as many as 20,000 people visit Atrios to read his latest swipes at conservative malfeasance and hypocrisy.
In its apparently never-ending effort to trick people into believing that it's not all that liberal, however, the liberal media has paid little attention to such developments. For the past year, for example, media outlets like CNN, NPR, Time, The New York Times, and many others have done stories on the phenomenom of blogging. But while a Nexis.com search shows that the two most popular right-leaning blogs, Instapundit.com and Andrewsullivan.com, have each received hundreds of media mentions since May 2002, their left-wing counterparts, including Atrios, Talkingpointsmemo.com, and DailyKos.com, have received much less attention.
The same is true for many other left-oriented websites that aren't generally identified as blogs. Alexa.com, which tracks web traffic, ranks Cursor.org, Buzzflash.com, Counterpunch.org, Whatreallyhappened.com, and Commondreams.org higher than Instapundit.com, and yet such sites are almost never mentioned in the mainstream media.
Perhaps because of this lack of coverage, even many liberals don't seem particularly interested in what's happening on the web. In January, the New York Times reported that some rich Democrats were thinking of starting a liberal cable network. "Across the board, we need to muscle up," former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta told the Times. "That means from the Congressional operations to the party committees to the think-tank world to, most significantly, beefing up our capacity to communicate with the public in all forms of media, not just through obscure Internet Web sites but on television and radio."
As backward-thinking as Podesta sounds, there are statistics that support his perspective. According to a recent Pew survey of 999 Internet users, only 17% of respondents described the Internet as a "principle source" of their war news. In comparison, 87% said that TV was a principle source of their war news, and 22% said that radio was. (Survey respondents were allowed to cite up to two principle sources.)
Along with more users, TV and radio tend to attract more advertisers too. So instead of worrying that they're about to plunge tens of millions of dollars into the next money-sucking dot-com, investors can at least dream that they're creating the next highly profitable O'Reilly Factor or Rush Limbaugh Show. Indeed, thanks to the lack of genuinely partisan liberal news media, some industry mavens actually believe such programming can deliver major financial rewards as well as ideological ones. In February, when a company called AnShell Media announced its plans to create liberal programming for talk-radio syndication, its chief executive Jon Sinton described the endeavour as "a tremendous business opportunity."
Even more surprisingly, Clear Channel Communications, which in addition to organizing pro-war rallies and boycotting the Dixie Chicks, also runs a radio network of over 1200 stations, recently revealed an interest in producing liberal programming. Apparently, there are only so many conservative talk-radio stations a single market can sustain, and with Clear Channel owning so many stations now, it only makes good business sense to at least flirt with the idea of diversification.
Ultimately, however, anyone interested in creating a liberal network for ideological as well as mercenary reasons should consider the fact that while imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, innovation's what attracts buzz, what gets people excited, what creates acolytes instead of mere consumers. Conservatives didn't build their communications empire by simply bankrolling me-too entries into established media. Instead, they pioneered new forms of media - take-no-prisoners talk-radio and emphatically partisan TV news - that many people found more compelling than what was already available.
Currently, blogs and other forms of independent web media are the new talk-radio: informal, flexible, personal, and participatory, they engage people in a way that more institutionalized forms of media find it difficult to match. And, thus, with little fanfare and less funding, a liberal network of sorts has already arisen on the web, not through the efforts of influential party operatives scheming in back rooms or well-funded corporate visionaries, but rather through thousands of individuals eager to help disseminate information and express their opinions.
Which is not to say that influential party operatives and well-funded corporate visionaries can't leverage the hundreds of thousands of people who are visiting liberal websites each day. Indeed, it would be great if they did. As powerful as the liberal web is, it could be even more powerful with more resources and just a little bit of organization.
Imagine, for example, if one hundred of the most popular liberal websites joined together to create a virtual ad network. Overnight, politicians, advocacy groups, and various other entitities would have access to a platform capable of reaching hundreds of thousands of liberals at once. And in return, the participating sites would have more money to fund their publishing efforts.
Ultimately, it's a win-win-win situation where even the conservative ideologues would benefit. For years now, they've been passionately defending the public against a liberal media juggernaut that doesn't really exist: think how much fun they'll have taking on the real thing!
Posted by Greg Beato at 08:54 AM
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