The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'murdoch'
Rupert Murdoch's star may have fallen slightly in Britain, but in Australia, it seems, he's still the boss. As the Tories coast towards victory on the back of press coverage, provided by Murdoch's near-monopoly in crucial states, that straddles the line between hagiography and fellatio, the First Mate's influence is being felt not just in what's being said but in what's not being heard: Australia's three commercial TV networks have refused to air an ad criticising the Murdoch press's election coverage, put together by progressive activist group GetUP. Whether it took phone calls from News Corp. to get the ads banned from the mainstream media, or merely the hint that the boss would be displeased, and there'd be consequences, it's clear that one does not challenge Murdoch in his fiefdom.
Meanwhile, Murdoch's tabloids seem to be sitting on reviews of a satirical play about the magnate's rise to power; a minor thing, to be sure, but emblematic of the entitled arrogance of one who claims ownership of public discourse.
(via Zoë, David)
Rupert Murdoch, the patriarch of the Right in the English-speaking world over the past few decades, has bought 5% of VICE, the hipster magazine/record label/documentary producer:
Fox, which was spun off from News Corp earlier this year, confirmed the $70m (£45m) deal, which marks the latest stage in the evolution of Vice from an off-beat Canadian magazine into a global brand frequently dubbed the hipsters' bible.One does wonder what Murdoch's motivation is: is this a purely business decision, that of the last of the old broadcast-age newspapermen seeing his original world's time running out and trying to break into the new paradigm, either from scratch (the ill-fated Daily iPad magazine) or by buying his way in (MySpace, and now VICE)? Or is it Murdoch, the quintessential right-wing ideological warrior, responding to a different shift—namely, the political Right's electoral and opinion-forming base being set to shrink as the scared old people eventually die and their ranks aren't replenished by younger people who aren't sufficiently scared of gays, boats, gays on boats, atheism, socialism, uppity sheilas or brown people to pick up on watching FOX News or agreeing wholeheartedly with the Rush Limbaughs and Andrew Bolts of this world that everything's going to hell. (And if they agree that everything's going to hell, they'd be more likely to pin the cause on being neoliberalism and regulatory capture by sociopathic elites than foreigners, feminism or the decline in traditional values, which is not quite the message Murdoch and his ilk would approve of.)
As such, what if the purchase of a stake in VICE is the first stage in creating a means of selling the values of the Murdochian Right to the sorts of nominally socially progressive trend-seeking young urbanites—let's call them “hipsters”—who typically regard the Tories/Republicans with disdain, or if that's a bridge too far, of instilling a cynical contempt for leftist idealism, that places it behind the (obviously uncool) old Right among those in the know.
The positional good of Cool that is the currency of hipsters and the readership of VICE has a number of paradoxical properties, which emerge from it being not an absolute quest for truth or an ideal for living, but a positional good in the marketplace of status. One of these properties is that anything that's too obviously right on, and thus must, to a novice, be obviously cool is not really cool. (Imagine, if you will, a provincial teenager from a small village somewhere obsessively studying the classics of cool, and then, one day, moving to the big city and gravitating to the epicentre of hipness they have read about—say, to Dalston or Williamsburg, Newtown or Neukölln, or the equivalent in your city of choice. He spends some weeks hanging around bars, posing in his meticulously styled clothes and hairstyle, looking dishevelled and insouciant in precisely the right way, before being noticed and getting invited to a warehouse party. At that party, another hipster (about the same age, equally sharply styled, though having been in town for six months longer) asks him what music he's into, and as he reels off a curriculum vitæ of classically cool and credible bands—say, Joy Division, the Velvet Underground, the Smiths, Neutral Milk Hotel—you can almost hear her eyes rolling back, over the sound of the DJ segueing from Hall & Oates into a hard-wonky mashup of an old Michael Bolton track.) So for cool to function as a peacock-tail-style proof of connectedness, it must be disconnected, at least to some extent, from anything objectively inferable from first principles, and consist at least partially of arbitrary conventions, and furthermore, it must not be possible to fake knowledge by merely going by what is commonly known to be cool and reeling off a list of the classics.
One side-effect of this is that cool is not intrinsically connected to earnestness or principles, whether it's the inherent authenticity of post-punk guitar rock or the principles of the New Left; it can ride with such principles while they're outside of the mainstream (and function as a shibboleth in themselves), but no further. Sooner or later, major recording labels will discover grunge rock and “alternative music” and flood the market with authentically rough-sounding bands; soon after that, the hipsters will cede that territory, abandoning the equation of roughness with authenticity and look elsewhere, an then we get electroclash, Yacht Rock and new waves of Italo-disco made by hardcore punks. The same can go with ideals, no matter how lofty. The cool kids were all vegans who boycotted Nike sweatshops once, but once vegetarianism and anti-sweatshop campaigns went mainstream, they're more likely to be artisanal carnivores with meticulously curated vintage Nike collections. Conspicuously boycotting meat and sweatshop-made trainers is like showing up at a loft party in Bushwick and enthusing about this awesome band named The Pixies whom you've just discovered.
Assuming that someone like Rupert Murdoch wants to sell right-wing politics (or at least cynicism of, and disengagement from, the ideals of the progressive Left) to hip urbanites, the help of VICE Magazine could be indispensable. The wilfully contrarian tone VICE has often adopted is not too far from downward-punching conservative humorists like P.J. O'Rourke and Jeremy Clarkson, and with a bit of guidance could be put to use against overly earnest progressives. Granted, actually selling membership to the Conservative Party (or its equivalent) would be a stretch too far, though it's conceivable that, with a few strategically dissembling attack pieces, a Murdoch-guided VICE could, for example, hole the Australian Greens (whom Murdoch has said must be “destroyed at the ballot box”) below the waterline amongst crucial inner-city demographics. (A piece about how the dreams of “leftist utopians” like Stalin, Mao and Guevara have caused vast amounts of suffering, with an insinuation that that's what the Greens would have in store if they ever came to power, may be enough; similar calumnies have worked remarkably well among older demographics in the Australian.) In Britain, meanwhile, while saying nice things about David Cameron may be a dead loss, subtly building up Boris Johnson could be doable, as could attacking the critiques of Bullingdonian privilege often brought to bear against blue-blooded Tory politicians. Indeed, a sort of “hipster Bullingdonianism”, a celebration of privilege à la Vampire Weekend and rejection of the by now mainstream idea that soaring inequality is bad or dangerous, could be not too far from a Murdochian Vice.
How Rupert Murdoch has changed the world. Mostly US-centric, though a lot of the points apply similarly across the Anglosphere:
He has ridiculed and raised doubts about global catastrophes, and about science itself, while elevating absurd theories and hyping minor matters. For example, his outlets have played a leading role in dismissing and deriding scientific consensus on climate change, while creating hysteria about false issues like President Obama’s place of birth.
He has undermined liberty: His outlets led the drumbeat for restriction or elimination of certain fundamental rights, including those under the US Fourth Amendment, while at the same time supporting unrestrained wiretapping, the harsh treatment of suspects who may have done nothing wrong, and fueling panic justifying the build-up of the national surveillance state.
He has propagandized for many of society’s worst instincts. Whether it involves advancing subtle racism or stoking greed, Murdoch and his minions have been out front. Fox News and the New York Post are best known for this in the US, but examples of various magnitudes may be found in almost all of his properties.
The latest dispatches from what may be the Fall of the House of Murdoch: the weekend edition of the Guardian has a piece from Marina Hyde, a former Murdoch employee, about the toxic culture of corruption and patronage that permeated the leaden decades of the Murdocracy:
What a country we do live in. My apologies for repeating sentiments voiced in this column many times – as a recovering Murdoch employee, my sponsor insists I share thrice-weekly – but this is a land where a change in prime ministers constitutes the mere shuffling of Rupert's junior personnel. Anyone in doubt as to exactly how dirty a little secret Murdoch has always been is reminded that despite Margaret Thatcher being so close that they repeatedly Christmassed together at Chequers, she does not once even mention him in her memoirs. Not once! Like Voldemort, he must not be named.
[H]istorians assessing this period will find even cabinet papers infinitely less revealing than guest lists. Within the placements of cosy parties in the Cotswolds lie many unpalatable answers. Perhaps they will ask themselves why tragedy-stricken Gordon Brown felt he had to invite a clutch of tabloid editors to the funeral of his baby daughter. If they find that conundrum too ghastly to contemplate, they might question quite why Brown asked the then Sun columnist Richard Littlejohn to his wedding. Fear, presumably. It certainly isn't Richard's charm.The Guardian also has a piece on fault lines within the Murdoch family. Meanwhile, Channel 4 has an illuminating diagram of the network of social ties around Rebekah Brooks, the former News Of The World chief on whose watch the phone hacking is alleged to have happened. Or, as Meg Pickard put it: Rumours have it that email and USB ports have been disabled in the News Of The World offices, presumably to ensure that any of the staff who are being cut loose don't take any incriminating evidence with them.) Not that News will be without a Sunday tabloid; the company registered the domain sunonsunday.co.uk on the day that the scandal broke, and had been meaning to consolidate their titles for a while; the scandal may have just forced their hand.
However, all that may not be enough; Murdoch's bid for BSkyB seems to be in serious trouble, and James Murdoch may face criminal charges on both sides of the Atlantic (the US authorities come down hard on US-listed corporations bribing police officers, as is alleged to have happened, and tend to prosecute the executives).
News International, the British arm of Murdoch’s media empire, “has always worked on the principle of omertà: ‘Do not say anything to anybody outside the family, and we will look after you,’ ” notes a former Murdoch editor who knows the system well. “Now they are hanging people out to dry. The moment you do that, the omertà is gone, and people are going to talk. It looks like a circular firing squad.”And more from Keith Olbermann.
So it looks like the dam has broken and News Corp.'s troubles are just beginning. Though it may be premature to write Murdoch off just yet. He undoubtedly has numerous favours to call in and arms to twist, and there are many nights before any inquiry can take place.
Yesterday's revelations of the ghoulish new lows that Murdoch's tabloid hacks have sunk to, and the promise that deleting messages from a murdered schoolgirl's phone may not have been the worst, seem to have ignited a crisis in Britain's political establishment. This morning, it emerged that News Of The World have been intercepting the voicemail messages of the families of victims of the 7/7 terrorist bombing, like some sorts of grief vampires. Meanwhile, advertisers including Ford, Orange/T-Mobile and npower have started boycotting the News Of The World.
The forces of the Wapping Pact, the alliance forged by Thatcher and Murdoch in the 1980s, and renewed by every prime minister since, have dug their heels in. Murdoch has spoken out in defence of Rebekah Brooks, his CEO, on whose watch the "phone hacking" occurred, and David Cameron, Emperor Murdoch's viceroy at Number 10, has ruled out reversing the government's decision to allow News Corp. to buy the 61% of BSkyB it doesn't own. Other parliamentarians, however, have managed to get an extraordinary parliamentary session called over the incidents, with all parties laying into the Wapping Pact:
Zac Goldsmith, a Conservative, said the Murdoch empire had become too powerful: "We have seen, I would say, systemic abuse of almost unprecedented power. There is nothing noble in what these newspapers have been doing. Rupert Murdoch is clearly a very, very talented businessman, he's possibly even a genius, but his organisation has grown too powerful and has abused that power. It has systematically corrupted the police and in my view has gelded this Parliament to our shame."Cameron is also under pressure to call a public inquiry into the incident. Which he might end up doing, though there will be a lot of pressure to keep the terms as narrow as possible and to ensure that it does not cause too much embarrassment for his masters. Meanwhile, the public outrage builds up; 38 Degrees' petition has over 70,000 signatures, and Avaaz' one (albeit a global one) has, at time of posting, 374,170. Both petitions are due in on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Independent's Matthew Norman writes that this may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to finally break Murdoch's corrupting grip on the British political system:
When Margaret Thatcher made her Faustian pact with Mr Murdoch in the 1980s, granting him his every heart's desire in return for his unwavering slavish support, she hastened the creation of the monster we see revealed in all its gruesome hideosity today. In general terms, she gifted him the preposterous media market share he expertly parlayed into a stranglehold over the political elite. In a country without a written constitution, bereft of checks and balances and devoid of oversight, the levers of power are there to be seized by the most ruthless buccaneer in town. This he did with wonted dark genius, coaxing and cajoling, bullying and bribing, to inculcate the near universally received wisdom that without his approval, no party can be elected or prosper in power for long. Once Thatcher had established the precedent of obeisance, it was rigidly and cringingly adhered to thereafter by Mr Tony Blair, the successor but one she begat, and now by his self-styled heir David Cameron.
Specifically, meanwhile, she politicised the police by using them as a political truncheon at Wapping as with the simultaneous miners' strike. In so doing, she placed them in Mr Murdoch's pocket, where they have snugly remained ever since.
It would take cross-party unity on a scale seldom witnessed outside time of war, with all three leaders agreeing that this, finally, is the moment to take up Vince Cable's rallying cry and go to war with Murdoch to break his dominion. A full independent inquiry into News Corp's internal workings should be as automatic as one into the Met's scandalous collusion by lethargy. So, needless to add, should an instant reversal of the green light on the BSkyB deal. It beggars all belief that the take-over might still be permitted. It will be a staggering, transcendent disgrace, after this, if it is.Could the year of the Arab Spring have brought a belated British Spring, during which a more subtle regime falls from power?
Meanwhile, echoes of the scandal are being felt as far as Australia, where it may threaten a Murdoch-led consortium's bid for a contract to operate a national TV broadcasting network.
In 2002, Surrey schoolgirl Milly Dowler was abducted and murdered. Her family believed for six months that she was alive, on the basis that her voicemail messages were being deleted (and presumably listened to). It has turned out that staff from News Of The World, a Murdoch tabloid, had gotten into her voicemail and were deleting her messages, in order to free up space for more messages and keep the story profitably on the boil:
Apparently thirsty for more information from more voicemails, the paper intervened – and deleted the messages that had been left in the first few days after her disappearance. According to one source, this had a devastating effect: when her friends and family called again and discovered that her voicemail had been cleared, they concluded that this must have been done by Milly herself and, therefore, that she must still be alive. But she was not. The interference created false hope and extra agony for those who were misled by it.
The deletion of the messages also caused difficulties for the police by confusing the picture when they had few leads to pursue. It also potentially destroyed valuable evidence.The editor of the NotW at the time was Rebekah Brooks, who now is Murdoch's CEO in the UK; the deputy editor, Andy Coulsdon, was, until January, Prime Minister David Cameron's media advisor.
In other, unrelated, news, the UK government has approved Murdoch's bid to take over the remainder of cable-TV operation BSkyB. There is a petition against it here.
In today's great political surprise, Rupert Murdoch is set to further tighten his grip on Britain's media landscape and political system, as Tory minister Jeremy Hunt (who has, in the past, spoken approvingly of News Corp.) approved his bid to take over the remainder of BSkyB, Britain's dominant TV broadcaster. There is the usual editorial-independence proviso for Sky News, but nothing Murdoch hasn't dealt with before (see also: The Times, the Wall Street Journal). Furthermore, unlike the US, news channels are governed by rules of strict impartiality, making a Sun-flavoured FOXNews UK ("now with more paedo gypsy asylum seekers!") impossible; well, at least until some future government decides to relax the regulatory regime, for reasons, of course, entirely unconnected to owing favours to sympathetic media proprietors.
All may not be lost, though; Murdoch's bid has attracted a lot of opposition, and even now, while it is not yet finalised, this is continuing. If you're a UK resident and concerned with this, you can write to your MP, and urge them to ask some hard questions in Parliament.
Rupert Murdoch: A Portrait of Satan. Culled from BBC reportage of Murdoch's business dealings over the past four decades, it paints an illuminating picture of the machiavellian media player who is now trying to convince the (largely sympathetic) government to let him have total control of BSkyB.
In major news stories recently:
- Couple who met at university to marry, as the Caledonian Mercury's refreshingly unhyperbolic coverage puts it:
William Windsor (or possibly Wales or possibly Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) and Kate Middleton, both 28, met at St Andrews University eight years ago.
Mr Windsor is a Flight Lieutenant in the RAF – and also a prince.
Wall-to-wall, dewy-eyed hysterical coverage can be found in every other media outlet.
- The latest thing from Apple is not the long-awaited multitasking iPad OS, nor any shiny new gadget, but that iTunes will finally sell the albums of a band who broke up 40 years ago. Granted, the Beatles were significant, but were they really in a whole godlike league above a lot of other artists, such as, let's say randomly, Led Zeppelin or Michael Jackson? (Indeed, I've seen an argument that they were only the second most influential pop group, after Kraftwerk.)
Meanwhile, Fox News broke the news that Apple would be distributing "Manchester's favourite mopheads". I wonder whether that's a mistake or something they deliberately put in to maintain their carefully crafted image of not giving a shit about offending foreign sensibilities.
The rumours of the Australian Labor government's mandatory national internet censorship firewall being dead may be premature: the government is still planning to put the legislation forward in parliament. Of course, the numbers seem to be against them: the independents who hold the balance of power in the lower house will oppose it, as will the Greens in the Senate.
The Coalition, which has among its number many social conservatives who would welcome such a scheme (not least of all its leader, an authoritarian paternalist of the first water), has opposed it, vowing to whip its MPs to vote against it as well. However, now that it no longer needs to woo Labor voters, there is the possibility of the party changing its mind, and either supporting the filter or leaving it to a conscience vote. In either case, a whipped Labor government plus a handful of Liberal/National social conservatives could be enough to get such a filter through both houses, regardless of what the Greens, those uppity independents and the majority of the Australian public have to say.
Of course, the question remains of whether Labor would keep its faith in censorship after it no longer had to deal with a religious fundamentalist in the Senate. One theory is that Labor's pro-censorship zeal is all an act to keep Fielding on-side and get its budgets through, though in this case, it's an act which is approaching its use-by date, if not past it already. (Fielding does not have a vote on any supply bills, which won't appear until the new Senate, with Greens holding the balance of power, is in place, and while he could be petulant and uphold other legislation, it would be a bit pathetic.) Others speculate that the Great Firewall of Australia has now got a purpose beyond placating a few cranky wowsers; one theory is that, while it's ostensibly going to block illegal pornography, suicide instructions and content banned in Australia, its real purpose is to block sites used for sharing copyrighted materials. Though given that the US Government, which is pushing for a War On Copying on the scale of Nixon/Reagan's War On Drugs, has criticised the filter might count against this theory. Any others?
While we're in Australia, News Limited (roughly one half of the oligopoly which controls the Australian media) has declared open war on the Greens, with the Australian vowing to destroy them at the ballot box; the culture war against the progressive elements in Australian society is on again, if Rupert Murdoch has his way. And, with a fragile minority government in power, some are predicting all sorts of hijinks, including possibly a Murdoch-sponsored Tea Party-style right-wing protest movement.
A mobile games company, now owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., has been hiring North Korean companies to code their games, which include a bowling game based around the Coen Brothers film The Big Lebowski.
It's ironic to see Murdoch, that great American patriot, doing business with the Axis of Evil. One does also wonder what was going through the minds of the North Korean programmers working on the game, with no exposure to the internet, the original film or any of the cultural references connected to it. (Apparently the only people with any connections to the outside world at the game development shop were foreigners assigned to oversee things.)
This week in lawsuits: Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. claims that it owns Skype's brand name, or at least the first three letters of it, and threatens to block Skype from trading under that name in the EU; the EU has agreed with News Corp., though Switzerland and Turkey (neither of which are in the EU) have sided with Skype. Perhaps we'll see another Gmail/Googlemail-style situation, in which case Skype chooses some other, more awkward-looking, moniker to trade under in the EU?
Meanwhile, after having digested Sun, Oracle are wasting no time in drawing a line under its open-source-friendly days; not only have they killed OpenSolaris (an issue which could affect dozens of people worldwide) but now they're suing Google for using Java intellectual property in Android, demanding hefty damages and the destruction of all Java-based Google code, i.e., the annihilation of the Android platform. (Of course, they could let it slide for a few billion dollars.) Google contend that the lawsuit is baseless, while Java architect and Sun co-founder James Gosling weighs in:
Oracle finally filed a patent lawsuit against Google. Not a big surprise. During the integration meetings between Sun and Oracle where we were being grilled about the patent situation between Sun and Google, we could see the Oracle lawyer's eyes sparkle. Filing patent suits was never in Sun's genetic code. Alas...If Oracle are successful, they could stand to screw anyone who has ever used Java out of sizeable sums, whilst hastening Java's death as a platform of any credibility. (Unless this is thrown out of court with prejudice, I can see developers deserting Java hastily before Oracle's beady gaze descends upon them.)
Here's Jeremy Deller's say:
This poster (by one Liam Gillick), believe it or not, was not intended to be sarcastic:
Meanwhile, the great satirical cartoonist Gerald Scarfe's take:
Kevin Anderson, recently Digital Research Editor of the Guardian, on the old media's delusional iPad app pricing, in the hope that Steve Jobs' locked-down walled garden will usher in a new era of double-digit profit margins for content owners:
Looking at the iPad app rollout, you can easily separate the digital wheat from the chaff in the content industries, and you can see those who are developing digital businesses and those who are trying to protect print margins and who see the iPad as a vertical, closed model to control and monetise content.Examples of this include magazines like Time charging $4.99 a week (the price of a paper copy) for access to their iPad-formatted content. The price of a magazine, as Anderson points out, includes the costs of printing and distribution, whereas on the iPad it's almost pure profit. Of course, the customers get something for their shekel, namely "Unique interactivity including landscape and portrait mode, scroll navigation and customizable font size":
Oh, I’ve never seen that in a mobile web browser, I say with incalculable levels of sarcasm. That’s like morons in the 90s having Java animation that you actually couldn’t do anything with and calling that interactivity. You think that’s insane and delusional, just wait, it gets even better! No content sharing on the app, which I’m assuming means you can’t bookmark or Tweet your favourite stories, and You’ll have to buy and download the app every single week. There is also no indication that they will charge for their now free iPod app or their website.
Note to Time digital strategists: Sorry caching your site so I can take it with me when I’m on the move isn’t a feature worth your premium pricing. I do that now, and have done it for years, with an open-source app called Plucker and an aging Palm T3. I’m truly sorry. Do you actually use the internet or digital devices or do you just indulge your bosses’ angry fantasies about the good old days?And then there's Rupert Murdoch's inspired unilateral offensive against free news. News Corp. currently charges $2 per week for access to the Wall Street Journal, but aims to extract $17.29 a month from iPad users. Murdoch is also moving aggressively on the web, having announced that, in a few months, both The Times and The Sun will be behind a billgate. Perhaps if The Guardian, Telegraph and Independent go out of business and the BBC voluntarily dismantles its free news service in anticipation of a Tory government, Murdoch can enjoy a lucrative monopoly on the news, though otherwise, it looks like his gamble will fail and The Times, arguably News Corp.'s most prestigious broadsheet, will decline.
Not everybody misses the point, of course; The Financial Times (no relation) and NPR (i.e., the US donation-funded public radio network) apparently get it, and strove to experiment with new ways of engaging with their audience in the digital realm, rather than just seeing how much they can do them for.
In terms of who is positioning themselves for the future by delivering value to their audiences and experimenting with business models, it’s clear. If any company thinks that the iPad will allow them to rebuild the monopoly rent pricing structure of the 20th Century, then you’ve really fallen prey to the Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field, and you’ve blown yet another chance to build a credible digital business. However, I’ve got a game you might want to check out, Final Fantasy.
MySpace's legendary contempt for its users comes to the fore once more: recently, they bought Imeem, an online music service that let users embed streamable playlist widgets in their web sites, allowing users to (legally) stream music. As soon as they did so, Imeem was shut down, replaced with a notice telling people to use MySpace. As for users' embedded playlists? Well, they've been replaced with obnoxiously garish ads for downloadable ringtones.
The latest TV show planned for US cable network FOX has the working title of Smile, You're Under Arrest, and involves wanted criminals being tricked into elaborate fantasy scenarios, at the end of which they are arrested:
One of three set-ups just shot in Arizona features the cops luring a criminal to a movie set with the promise of making him an extra and paying him a couple hundred dollars. An elaborate film set is staged and filming begins on a faux movie. The set-up continues as the director then gets mad at the lead actor, fires him and replaces him with the law-breaking extra.
The scene escalates with the fake director introducing the mark to a supposed studio mogul and continuing to create this dream-comes-true sequence. Finally, all the participants are revealed as officers of the law, and the criminal is apprehended (before signing waivers to let the footage be used in the show).
“If it were a regular person you’d feel bad for them, but they are all wanted by the law,” Darnell says. “It’s Cops as comedy and no one’s ever tried it before.”How did FOX manage to get a police department to divert resources to such a programme? Well, the department involved is the Maricopa County Sherriff's Office, run by Sherriff Joe Arpaio, whose spectacularly harsh treatment of offenders has made him the darling of America's more brutally-minded. And now FOX, who are no strangers to brutality, are going to make him more of a star. Perhaps watching Jack Bauer torture Arabs doesn't do it any more or something.
I half-wonder whether this is part of a strategy leading up to Arpaio getting on the Republican Presidential ticket for 2012. There were rumours that FOX was going to buff Sarah Palin's image by giving her a national TV talk show, though if she looks too much like damaged goods, they could want another conservative firebrand who appeals to the culture-war conservatives.
(via Boing Boing)
MySpace's legendary contempt for its users has now extended to deleting the Atheists & Agnostics group with 35,000 members, apparently because its existence offended some religious hardliners.
“It is an outrage if Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and the world’s largest social networking site tolerate discrimination against atheists and agnostics-- and if this situation goes unresolved I’ll have little choice but to believe they do,” said Greg Epstein, humanist chaplain of Harvard University. News Corporation, Murdoch’s global media corporation which also includes Fox News, purchased MySpace in 2005.The group has now been undeleted; here is more on the incident from the group's moderator, Bryan Pesta:
We were deleted two years ago due to complaints from a group called the "Christian Crusaders." They would search Myspace for profiles they found offensive, and then mass complain to customer service. Their strategy was to send so many emails to customer service that someone, somewhere at Myspace would delete the profile or group.
(via Charlie's Diary)
As the Australian election approaches (capsule summary: the Tories look set to be wiped out, much as they did in the previous two elections), the ABC's Bob Ellis (presumably a leftwinger who evaded the purges) claims that Rupert Murdoch's polling organisation manipulates its own results by timing its polls, technically without actually doing anything fraudulent:
Newspoll is not called 'the Fox News of statistics' for nothing. Like Fox News, it serves Rupert Murdoch. Like Bill O'Reilly, it tells him what he wants to hear. And what does Rupert Murdoch want to hear? Well, that the voters are very volatile, for one thing. The Labor numbers go up to 58 before the Great Debate, then down to 54 after it. On the weekend when, in the greatest gatherings in human history, the West protests against the Iraq war, and it's known that most Australians oppose it, the vote for Howard goes up. When he's found to have lied about Children Overboard, the vote for Howard goes up. When Howard seems on his last legs, he gets the good news he needs. From Newspoll, the preferred Murdoch pollster.
And like Newspoll you ring no mobile phones, thus eliminating or minimising, the Labor-leaning, or Green-leaning, under-38s. Like Newspoll you ring homes on Friday night, when the under-38s aren't home, but the old, the ill, the friendless, the poor and the mad are, the Howard battlers, the Menzies limpets, the One Nation crazies in socks and sandals. And you make them one-third of your figure.
How is I know, or I suspect, this is what they do? Well, I noticed the Labor vote always plummets, according to Newspoll, at the beginning of the Christmas holidays, and soars at the end of them, and it has for the last ten years. Is this because people think of John Howard over the plum pudding and decide that they love him? No. It's because the Labor vote, or the prosperous, educated Labor vote, aren't home. They're at the Sydney Festival or on a boat on the Hawkesbury or in a hotel in Byron Bay or a pensione in Venice whereas the old, the ill, the friendless, the poor and the mad are at home, as usual, waiting for Newspoll to engage them in detailed conversation. And so it is the Labor vote goes down at Christmas, and up again after Australia Day.
(via The Poll Bludger)
A new report from the World Cancer Research Fund claims that eating bacon increases the risk of cancer. The Sun wastes no time in responding:
Clever, Rupert. Very clever.
In the landscape of the user-generated web, MySpace stands alone. Not because of any technical superiority or leadership; in fact, the site itself gives off a strong whiff of inelegance and half-bakedness. It stands alone, quite literally, by refusing to play nice with rival websites. MySpace is a jealous god, whose first commandment is "thou shalt have no other sites before me". Hence its "blog" functionality has no RSS feeds or permalinks, it doesn't ping or query other sites, and don't even think about APIs or mashups. MySpace may be mentioned in the same breath as "Web 2.0" (much in the way that, say, Lily Allen is "underground hip-hop"), but it is strictly Web 1.0; very Old Testament.
Up until now, MySpace's lack of interaction has been a passive one; users could embed third-party content from other sites in their pages. But now, MySpace has started blocking links to rival sites like photo-sharing site PhotoBucket.
What doesn't make sense is Fox's assumption that the MySpace stronghold (81 percent of the social networking market) can withstand a backlash from developers and users who prefer a more open environment -- even one that hosts ads and the Flash-based widgets that MySpace says are a security threat. In the end, MySpace is just one mass migration away from becoming Tripod.
The company's efforts to circle the wagons and push offending third-party widgets from its site comes at an interesting time. Its closest competitor, Facebook, has unannounced (but confirmed) plans to open its site to third-party widgets for the first time. Ultimately, the two sites could come to resemble each other, but which will users prefer?MySpace users are a stoical lot, willing to put up with having their spaces plastered with flashing, buzzing ads and to make do with late-20th-century levels of functionality in the age of the dynamic mashup; however, some are speculating that as Murdoch tightens his grip and attempts to get value from the $580 million he spent on the site, users will realise that MySpace is not their space but the online equivalent of a tightly controlled shopping mall and move on to more open sites.
A web-based sports news site is bypassing Rupert Murdoch's Sky TV's exclusive rights to broadcast the Cricket World Cup by displaying a computer-animated reconstruction of the match, from public domain information gathered by employees. The process resembles a modern version of the studio reconstructions of cricket matches on radio broadcasts before television (where announcers would "call" the match from descriptions, tapping microphones with pencils to create the sound effects), only this time, it's legal rather than technological limitations that are the motivation. And they look likely to get away with it:
Cricinfo, which is owned by Wisden, the company behind the Wisden Cricketing Almanac, uses data gathered by employees to simulate the action. The involvement of humans in the process is crucial, says Kim Walker, Head of Intellectual Property with Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM.
Wisden said that it had carefully consulted lawyers before going ahead with the simulations in this week's World Cup. "Cricinfo 3D is based on public domain information gathered by our scorers who record a number of factors such as where the ball pitched, the type of shot played and where the ball goes in the field," said a Wisden statement. "That data is then fed as an xml to anyone who has Cricinfo 3D running on their desktops and the software generates an animation based on this data."
(via Boing Boing)
What News Corp. doesn't want you to know about MySpace. It turns out that the grass-roots indie-hipster youth web sensation is actually nothing of the sort, but actually the product of a shady spam/adware company:
The whole site is, in essence, a marketing tool that everyone who registers has access to. Users constantly receive spam-like messages from said bands, business, and individuals looking to add more "friends" (and therefore more potential fans, consumers, or witnesses) to their online identity. A testament to this strange new social paradigm is the phrase "Thanks for the Add," a nicety offered when one MySpace user adds another as a friend. Best yet, to use the site, members must log in, causing them to inadvertently view advertisements, and then read their messages on a page with even more advertisements. In the world of MySpace, Spam is earth, air, fire, and water.
3. Tom Anderson did NOT create MySpace. Most users don't know that Tom Anderson (pictured) is more of a PR scheme than anything else--the mascot designed to give a friendlier feel to a site created by a marketing company known for viral entertainment websites, pop-up advertising, spam, spyware, and adware. As MySpace's popularity grew, the MySpace team moved to create a false PR story that would best reflect the ideals and tastes of its growing demographic. They wanted to prevent the revelation that a Spam 1.0 company had launched the site, and created the impression that Tom Anderson created the site, and the lie worked. According to Anderson, the bulk of his initial contribution is as follows: "I am as anti-social as they come, and I've already got 20 people to sign up."Which goes some way towards explaining the numerous irritating, spammy, user-hostile design decisions all over MySpace. If this article is true, then being acquired by Murdoch may have even made MySpace less evil.
A Times columnist's take on France24 and those silly French people:
Since, alongside the news , the new state-funded France 24 channel sees itself as an ambassador for the French "art de vivre" (French for "way of life") and for its "savoir faire" ("rural snail-tasting festivals"), the channel launched at 7.29 GMT yesterday evening -- presumably in order to allow staff and viewers to first knock back a couple of reviving Pernods after their return from the traditional Gallic post-work/pre-dinner bout of hanky-panky ("mouchoir-pouchoir").
That means that at the time of writing, we don't actually know what the opening headlines were. But we might guess they were something along the lines of, "Iraq, c'est encore un grand mess, n'est-ce pas?" (literally, "That George Bush is a dork, isn't he?"); And "L'Angleterre evidemment a une équipe de cricket qui joue comme un bunch de garçons de Nancy -- pas, obvieusement, notre Nancy en Lorraine!"); though maybe not, "Et maintenant, les actualités chaud directe de Rwanda ...").
France 24 is basically a TV channel for a nation that is annoyed that it has failed to persuade the rest of the world to speak French rather than English (apart from -- and this really embarrasses them -- the word gauche, which is the universally used term for "Donald Rumsfeld").Aside: I wonder which variant of English France24 will use: whether it'll be broadcast in the Commonwealth English of their ancient adversaries and fellow EU members across la Manche, or the American English of their former revolutionary protegés and historical friends, recently seen eating Freedom Fries and putting "First Iraq, then France" bumper stickers on their Hummers.
Exonerated non-murdering celebrity O.J. Simpson takes time out from his relentless pursuit of his wife's killers to film an interview for Fox TV confessing how he would have done it—had he done it, and to release a book titled If I Did It, describing his hypothetical murder of his wife in "chilling detail". Indicentally, both the book and the interview are being released through News Corporation.
Another hypothetical situation: if somebody murdered your beloved life partner and tried to frame you for it, and you, a grieving, innocent party, were only exonerated after a long court case under the harsh glare of the unsympathetic media, how much would Rupert Murdoch have to offer you to put your name to a fictionalised confession of how you would have murdered the one you loved, and how desperate would you have to be to take it?
After buying teen-angst-journal/band MP3 site MySpace, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation lost no time in censoring journals and user profiles to remove links to non-Murdoch-owned video sharing site YouTube:
"This is soooo like Fox and News Corp to try and secretly seal our mouths with duct tape," wrote "Alex" to Blog Herald.
The protests gathered pace, and when 600 MySpace customers complained and a campaign began to boycott the site and relocate to rival sites such as Friendster, Linkedin, revver.com and Facebook.com, News Corp relented and restored the links.
However, MySpace managers promptly shut down the blog forum on which members had complained about the interference. An online notice said the problem was the result of "a simple misunderstanding".Why anyone would choose MySpace as their journal site is beyond me; the site's social-software functionality is very primitive, and looks cheap, the interface being absolutely spammy with intrusive advertising. Though, sadly, it is said to be the industry-standard place for unsigned bands to post MP3s, especially with mp3.com having been killed off years ago.
It looks like they're remaking The Prisoner. The new series is not going to be set in Portmeirion and is not going to have "the arty 'pop' feel of the original". Given that the remake is being done by Sky One, (News Corporation's mass-entertainment network and "the chavs' favourite channel" according to media troll and self-styled chav Julie Burchill), we can probably expect something between 24-style patriotic action thrillers and celebrity-sexploitation reality TV; in other words, unsubtle, lowbrow, cheap and of little interest to those who liked the original series.
More details of Tony Blair's special relationship with another superpower -- namely, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation -- have emerged. On Thursday, Blair was heard telling Murdoch that their mutual foe the BBC's coverage of Hurricane Katrina was "full of hatred of America and gloating.
"Tony Blair... told me yesterday that he was in Delhi last week and he turned on the BBC World Service to see what was happening in New Orleans, and he said it was just full of hate at America and gloating about our troubles," the chairman and chief executive of News Corporation said.
It must be a different BBC than the one I've seen. Perhaps Blair tuned into the Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation, the al-Zarqawi-boosting, freedom-hating fountain of anti-Western propaganda that only Little Green Footballs readers seem to be able to see?
It's a good thing that the Beeb has won its 10-year charter; otherwise, it would look like Blair and Murdoch were sharpening their knives.
Also in the same report: an extract from the diary of one of his former spin doctors claims that Blair gave News Corp. the power of veto over Britain's European policy. Or, "the things we do to keep The Sun onside".
An entry in a diary kept by Lance Price, who worked for the PM between 1998 and 2000, said: "We have promised News International we won't make any changes to our Europe policy without talking to them."And here is a summary of things Downing Street allegedly had removed from Lance Price's diaries, including the claim that, while he publicly claimed to be sending troops to Iraq "with a heavy heart", the Smiler relished doing so, looking forward to his "first blooding". Whether or not he also strangles puppies in his spare time to relax is as yet unknown.
An image that has been floating around recently:
News Corp. buys MySpace, which was the next Friendster/Orkut and/or where all the angsty emo teenagers moved to after LiveJournal became too full of grown-ups. Murdoch paid US$580m for it. No word on whether MySpace.com is going to start showing prominent flags, "We Support Our President" banners and/or ads for Ann Coulter books (or, in Britain, a "Chav And Proud" logo in Burberry check).
(More seriously, News Corporation is known for its fine-grained news-management deployed strategically to influence elections. Perhaps their acquisition of a social-network site, and building up an internet division, could be used to enhance this on an even finer level. Imagine, for example, if they have a system capable of predicting a user's political sympathies, based on their social contacts, web links, and/or keyword analysis of their comments/journal entries. Those with political opinions in line with News Corp. strategic goals could be served with ads and/or news content designed to stir them into activism, whereas those with opposing inclinations could be fed toned-down versions of news articles and ads for escapist entertainment designed to depoliticise them. The possibilities are endless.)
The Sun announces, grudgingly, that it will support Tony Blair in the election, directing its readers to vote Labour. Which conjures up images of Sun readers marching like shellsuit-clad zombies from the council estates to obediently do Papa Murdoch's bidding and give the election to his anointed candidate.
It's a factoid often stated that The Sun decides British general elections, which makes pleasing Mr. Murdoch more important for candidates than pandering to the whims of the general public. Another, less conspiratorial, interpretation, is that The Sun always backs the most likely winner of an upcoming election to maintain its populist credentials. (Telling people to vote the way the majority would have voted is easy; whether Sun readers would compliantly bloc-vote for, say, the UK Independence Party if instructed to do so is another matter.) in which case, support for Labour was inevitable (the Tories still being too much the pantomime villains of British politics to win, and all third parties being equally irrelevant in a first-past-the-post electoral system).
The folk belief that The Sun decides elections appears to come from the 1992 election, where The Sun backed the Tories and engaged in a spot of post-election triumphalism.
But Murdoch, it emerged, was furious with the claim that his newspapers could swing elections.
Funny, because there is evidence to suggest that that's exactly what News Ltd.'s media assets did in the 2004 Australian election.
The News Limited 2004 Marginal Seats Guide is an internal News Limited document giving statistical details on the 30 most marginal federal seats. It gives a small but significant insight into News Limited's strategy for manipulating public opinion so as to achieve a very specific outcome from the coming 2004 federal election.
Is such fine-grained news management something the Murdoch empire only practices in Australia, or is it applied in Britain and/or America as well? If the former, is it because Australia's highly concentrated media environment makes such things possible to an extent that Britain's diversity of proprietors (most of them shockingly biased, but for different parties or beliefs) does not?
Say what you will about The Sun (and I think they cater to humanity's basest instincts; them and the Daily Mail and such), their headline today about a pyjama-clad Michael Jackson arriving late at his trial was inspired.:
Last night, Murdoch cable channel Sky One aired a programme titled Chavs, a documentary of sorts, written and presented by Julie Burchill, on chav culture. I tuned in to see if it was going to be interesting or insightful, shedding any light on this phenomenon. It turned out to be more an op-ed piece, with Burchill, ever the contrarian, proudly hoisting the Burberry flag, declaring herself to be a chav and accusing those who have a problem with chav to be classist snobs.
Burchill's arguments hinged on one assumption: that chav and working-class culture were synonymous. (A piece of background: Burchill is the most self-announcedly "working class" public figure since Damon Albarn.) By her reasoning, all cultural figures of note from Mozart to the Mods were chavs, and the anti-chav camp only had horsy aristocrats and the likes of Prince Harry among them. Oh, and wearing in-your-face quantities of gold jewellery bought on QVC, drinking cheap lager and smoking like a chimney are just wholesome working-class ways of enjoying life, and those who would begrudge them that are hateful snobs and/or resentful of those who made it without middle-class privilege.
The fatal flaw in Burchill's argument is in the definitions; she plays fast-and-loose with what she means by "chav", switching between it meaning any happily working-class person at any time in history and the loutish subculture it commonly denotes. She also whitewashes the meaning to fit her argument, not mentioning the pseudo-criminal posturing (i.e., the combination of baseball caps and hooded tops, initially worn by muggers to avoid identification by CCTV cameras, now part of inner-city youth uniform) that's part of chav (or, indeed, the recent finding that 1 in 4 teenage boys is a serious or habitual offender), and sweeping things like drunken violence and football hooliganism under the carpet. It's not surprising that chav can start to look defensible and even pluckily admirable when you airbrush out all the negative parts of it.
Chavs was more of a snappily-edited tabloid opinion piece than anything else, and was also light on analysis, preferring to stick to simple assertions and soundbites. For example, while it asserted that the Mods of the 1960s were chavs (that is, if one ignores the difference between sharply-tailored suits and tracksuit pants), it failed to point out the one deeper connection between the two movements, i.e., that both appropriated (images of) black American culture (the Mods with soul and the "White Negro" ideal, and the chavs with their adoption of bling-bling and thug posturing from commercial gangsta rap).
It was also interesting to note that The Sun now has a "Chav and Proud" logo on its pages. It looks like the anti-anti-chav-backlash-backlash is beginning.
It looks like both of Australia's newspaper groups have thrown their weight behind Howard, with Graham citing a Crikey newsletter stating that the Fairfax board have reportedly overruled their editors and ordered pro-Howard editorials (and there being some reportage of the Fairfax press also spinning news stories to make Latham look bad). News Ltd., as everyone knows, is staunchly pro-Tory, and allegedly has a sophisticated news-management strategy in place, minutely adjusting and filtering their coverage of issues for each demographic to ensure that the key electorates vote the right way.
- Counterspin is a blog giving good coverage of the Australian federal election.
- MediaLens is a site said to expose the biases of the mainstream media, consisting mostly of variously paranoid pieces by the various Chomskys and Pilgers of this world; still, it has some interesting pieces there, such as its excoriation of the Guardian's rehabilitation of Blair, and an interesting piece alleging that a renowned biotechnologist was sacked and harrassed on orders from Blair, ultimately originating at Monsanto.
- Limited News has PDF files giving Murdoch's electorate-by-electorate news-management strategy for handing the election over to Howard. Or something like that.
A piece on how The Sun, Murdoch's original no-brow right-wing tabloid, is unifying propaganda and porn, by having the Page 3 girls give right-wing opinions about the Iraq war and political correctness and such whilst flashing their breasts. Perhaps, if this is successful, Americans can look forward to topless newsreaders on FOXNews? (Or perhaps not, given how US conservatives freaked out and demanded tougher decency laws after the Janet Jackson thing.)
Rupert Murdoch has hinted that his papers may switch allegiances to the Tories in the next UK general election. If they do so, it will be an interesting test of exactly how much influence the Sun has over who forms the government.
Looking at the temporary page on the Ninetynine web site; apparently there is a video for The Process, but it's in streaming Windows Media only. (The XML-like file linked to also says it's copyrighted by Festival Mushroom Records, which sounds a bit odd, given how the band like to own all their own masters, unless News Corp. commissioned the video themselves or something.) Anyway, whuffie to the first person to send me a HTTP, FTP or BitTorrent link to a file of the video. (Preferably in MPEG4 or some good-quality format. Windows Media 9 and below is OK as long as there's no DRM involved; i.e., as long as mplayer on Linux will play it.)
And here are their Australian tour dates:
Fri 19th Sept - Annandale Hotel w/ The Devoted Few + Disaster Plan. - 8:30 Start $8
Sat 20th Sept - Pop Frenzy Presents.. @ The Taxi Club, 40 South Dowling St, Darlinghurst w/ Disaster Plan - 9pm Start
Sun 21st Sept - All Ages Show @ The Club House, Jubilee Park (under land bridge) Glebe w/ Pure Evil. 2pm - Donation
Fri 26th September - Rob Roy Hotel w/ Pink Stainless Tail (CD Launch) + Jihad Against America
Sat 27th September - Rob Roy Hotel w/ Love of Diagrams + Because of Ghosts
And apparently there's vinyl of The Process coming out too. (Which stands to reason, as labelmates Architecture In Helsinki have been doing the vinyl thing too.)
News Corp. has fired its first salvo in the campaign to neutralise the BBC: the chief executive of Murdoch's BSkyB satellite broadcaster delivered a speech outlining his proposals for reining in the BBC and stopping its extraordinary abuses of power. Under the proposal, the BBC would be forced to sell off popular programmes to commercial operators, and would be prohibited from purchasing imported programmes. I wonder whether we will see Britain's politicians, eager to win the Sun's backing for the next election, scrambling over themselves to "independently" adopt proposals similar or identical to this.
This Friday is Fair and Balanced Friday. Use said phrase on your website to protest Murdoch's attempts at censorship through copyright. (via Charlie's Fair and Balanced Diary)
Britain's Independent Television Commission is investigating claims that Rupert Murdoch's Fox News is biased. Apparently, for some quaint reason, such things are still frowned upon in Britain, to the extent that if the claims are found to be true, Fox News could be forced off Murdoch's Sky satellite TV network in the UK (something for which there is ample precedent). Unless, of course, they get their sponsored politicians and/or their good friend Tony Blair to relax the "archaic", "anti-competitive" impartiality laws (which, given enough money, can probably be proven to contravene some international free-trade agreement or other).
Apparently US/French relations are rotten on both sides of the Atlantic: with a Times (i.e., Murdoch) poll showing that 1 in 3 French is barracking for Saddam, presumably just to spite the Freedom-Toast-eating conquest monkeys and the ancient Anglo-Saxon foe. Which is probably not too unlike in concept all those Scottish/Welsh/Irish football fans who support "whoever's playing against England". (via MeFi)
Some memes just keep going:
Seen on a mX dispenser (that's the free murdoch full of celebrity stories,
consensus-reality-reinforcing propaganda and other pinkness and horror) in
Museum Melbourne Central station:
War is peace, freedom is slavery, but business is business: Murdoch's people have learned that, if you want any chance of access to the world's largest market, you bend over when the Chinese Government says so, or when you think it'll appreciate your doing so. Case in point: Murdoch fils James, in charge of dealings with China, gave a speech in Los Angeles, denouncing the Falun Gong movement, condemning Western media bias against Chinese government policy, and saying that Hong Kong's democracy activists should accept the reality of life under a strong-willed "absolutist" government. ("absolutist" sounds like a particularly psychoceramic strain of Ayn Randism, but is presumably a way of saying "totalitarian" without the negative connotations; sort of like the Reagan-era coinage of "authoritarian" for US-friendly right-wing dictatorships, as opposed to the truly evil "totalitarian" left-wing dictatorships.) (via Lev)
Pinkness and horror: Just saw a piece in the local murdoch complaining about the anti-mainstream bias in the media; about how this bias means that much-loved Australian crooner John Farnham gets very little radio play despite topping the sales charts, and how arts correspondents have little to say about Australian national storyteller Bryce Courtenay, whilst presenting lunatic-fringe culture like rap and grunge. I found it amusing.