Journalists and Twitter

Someone on Mastodon had a link to an article, “Journalists (And Others) Should Leave Twitter. Here’s How They Can Get Started,” with an interesting (and valid) pull quote:

“This should have been a pivotal moment in media history — an inflection point when journalists realized how dangerous it is to put their fates in the hands of people who claim to revere free speech but use their power to control it…thanks to a combination of journalistic cowardice, inertia and calculation, business as usual prevailed.”

The article keeps its hands wrung over journalists – of all principled people – obeying the rules about what is acceptable on Twitter now:

Beyond that, thanks to a combination of journalistic cowardice, inertia and calculation, business as usual prevailed. Today, some journalists remain banned, or restricted. The journalists whose accounts were fully restored are back to tweeting, though some remain banned and/or restricted. Their organizations never stopped using the platform even when their employees were being restricted.

My thought is: why not? Why would these fine upstanding people care now? The only thing that’s changed is the nameplate of their corporate master: it went from a proxy for the FBI to Elon Musk, and honestly, the slop they feed upon should be tasting about the same as it did.

What’s new here, after all? If they posted something against the acceptable narrative two years ago, they’d have been muted and banned, if not cancelled. They knew it. So they stuck to what the egregore told them to say, in the way they were supposed to say it (“add a little individuality, please, so the rest of the egregore thinks you’re a rebel, thank you – now get a tattoo so you’ll be unique just like everyone else!”).

Now there’s a new lord and master; maybe it’s a little less of an egregore than it was (one thing I have to give credit to Musk for is not being as susceptible to groupthink as so many seem to want to be.) But it’s just a different master, with slightly different rules, and apparently less locked-down than what the old masters preferred; Musk actually allows people I don’t like to say things I don’t like! How dare he!

And this is supposed to be more restrictive? Because now the things you can and cannot say are different? Journalists should have howled when their narratives were being tuned for them, no matter whether their careers benefitted or not. The tuning is the problem, not who did it or what the tuning’s results were.

Journalists who were fine with the FBI dictating their content but not Musk… I get it, I empathize, but let’s be real here: those aren’t journalists any more. They’re shills. They’re paid spokesmen, soulless and vain, at this point, no matter what they tell themselves, no matter how much gravitas they can muster as they issue their sales pitches for The Party.

It doesn’t matter what side they’re on. They should be celebrating the cacophany. Sure, they might not like the restrictions, but … so what? The restrictions aren’t new. They’re just different. They’re protesting the changing of their muzzle, when what they should have been doing was protesting the existence of a muzzle at all.

And most of them chose to strap their yokes on, willingly.

Blackface, Journalists not being “Journalists”, AI Title Generator – 2019/Feb/11

Things I’m thinking about lately


This thing about blackface among Virginia political leaders is.. interesting and frustrating.

Look: blackface is problematic. At some point, the culture matters, but it’s always been about poking fun of African-American people – it’s never been good. Ever.

But now we’re seeing another witchhunt, and some of it has implications beyond what its natural purview should be.

Remember a few years ago, when a girl wore a Chinese dress and was slammed for “cultural appropriation”? We’re looking at that being the natural extension here, again.

We’re looking at something that says that a little girl who dresses up as Serena Williams – the tennis star – is crippling her future, by opening herself up for an accusation of “blackface.”

That’s not even silly. Some of the accusations going around in Virginia center around a dance contest where someone dressed up as Michael Jackson, makeup included.

That’s homage, not insult.

I’ve no interest in defending someone being racist, but we need to remember that the absolutes here are disastrous.

The Media Screwed Up – Color Me Surprised

Catlin Flanagan published “The Media Botched the Covington Catholic Story” in The Atlantic. It’s brutal, vicious, and right on point. Included are these two absolute smashing quotes:

By Saturday, the story had become so hot, and the appetite for it so deep, that some news outlets felt compelled to do some actual reporting.

…and this overlong paragraph, that would be devastating to any journalist who had the guts to read it …

How could the elite media—The New York Times, let’s say—have protected themselves from this event, which has served to reinforce millions of Americans’ belief that traditional journalistic outlets are purveyors of “fake news”? They might have hewed to a concept that once went by the quaint term “journalistic ethics.” Among other things, journalistic ethics held that if you didn’t have the reporting to support a story, and if that story had the potential to hurt its subjects, and if those subjects were private citizens, and if they were moreover minors, you didn’t run the story. You kept reporting it; you let yourself get scooped; and you accepted that speed is not the highest value. Otherwise, you were the trash press.

Journalism has been absolutely wrecked by outlets screeching for clicks instead of keeping to their purpose of informing the public. It’s what got Trump elected. It’s amplifying hatred of the other – when “the other” is the fellow who doesn’t agree with everything you say politically.

I hope journalists are paying attention.

Speaking of paying attention…

AI Article Title Generator

BJ Campbell wrote a paywalled article on Medium, called “AI Article Title Generator.” In it, he suggests a business whose sole goal is to optimize titles for clicks, with said articles only having to be tangentially related to the titles. It’s sarcastic… but right on. I’ve thought of similar things, sadly, but not enunciated them… and had I said them, I wouldn’t have said them as eloquently as BJ did.

I write terrible titles, because I’m not trying to maximize traffic through clicks. I’m trying to write information, so I try to write titles that say what the article in question is actually about.

Since I tend to write composite editorials – like this one – that means my titles tend to be really boring. C’est la vie.

Blogging, getting wordpress running properly on Ubuntu

Things I’m thinking and feeling:

  • I really don’t “blog” all that much. I record, I guess, and that’s sort of a “web log,” but I really don’t expose much of my innermost feelings – it’s like observations with a mirror in the way. I’ve always been that way when I write. Always.
  • Today I’m going to try something different.
  • I feel horribly sad today. Not really empty, not really morose, just… not even tired, but mournful, and I don’t even really know what it is I’m mourning. Maybe it’s memory, all the memories I feel like I could have had but don’t, maybe it’s the memories I do have but shouldn’t. Maybe I’m mourning the fact that I don’t know if I’m what I should be. But today, Me, I’m down. I’m not feeling bad, I’m just down.
  • I finally fixed some problems with my WordPress installation. When I upgraded to Ubuntu 18.04 on my server, apparently some PHP plugins didn’t get installed/migrated/somethinged – I went to a page on installing the LEMP stack on Ubuntu, installed the system dependencies, and lo and behold, things started working better again. Annoying, because this stuff’s been broken for a long time. Now if WordPress would only track the same hits that I see in access logs…
  • After a long dry spell, I’ve been writing poetry again. This is a good thing, but as usual my poetry is inspired by my mood, which is not a good thing. Oh, well. Maybe some of it will be worth publishing.
  • I also finally have been grinding my way through some new-ish music. Hurray.
  • I wonder if CNN – or any other news source, really – would be improved if you removed all the adjectives and subsidiary clauses. Some important information would get lost, but honestly? Most of the adjectives and subordinate clauses are used by the “journalists” to insert their opinions into the news, to sanitize it for the tribe most likely to read that particular bit… or enrage the tribe for which the bit isn’t targeted.

Journalists: No adverbs, no adjectives, please

I’m not a journalist; I’ve never taken journalism classes. I’m sure there’s a world of journalism out there about which I am completely ignorant. But if I had one piece of advice for journalists, it would be this: please avoid adverbs and adjectives. Please.

I don’t want to hear how Trump went to Texas. I don’t want to read “Trump went needlessly to Texas” or “Trump, who is awesome, went to Texas.” I just want to hear that he went to Texas. I’m not a moron; I can think for myself whether it was needless or whether Trump is awesome.

Just tell me the facts. Nothing more. If you are really desperate for adjectives, report that someone else used them: “FEMA Director Fanny McBlab said that she felt that President Trump’s trip to Texas was poorly timed, as it might interfere with…” or “Trump Press Secretary Jan Moutheson reported that Trump’s trip to Texas would spur economic growth in a region that has no actual services to provide.”

I can think for myself whether FEMA Director Fanny McBlab has a valid opinion or not. Same for Jan Moutheson.

But, journalists, when you say that the trip is needless or that Trump is awesome, you inject yourself into the news. You make it about you.

Stop it.

About yourself, be silent. If you’re a Trump supporter, great; I don’t need to be able to tell from your reporting. If you despise the guy, fine: I don’t want to know from what you tell me as a newscaster.

No more adjectives. No more adverbs. Just news. Just facts.