response to Conor

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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79 Responses

  1. Nob Akimoto says:

    I was under the impression that as private entities, cable networks should be well within their bounds to ban people from accessing their platform to express their opinion…Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      Sure. They are well within their bounds. That doesn’t make Conor’s argument that they should ban talk-radio hosts correct, however.Report

      • Nob Akimoto in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        There’s no fundamental right to be an obnoxious jackass on national TV. There just isn’t. Paying the price for lacking in civility seems to me, an apt, soft (that is a non-coercive) means of punishing people who are part of a particular class of pundit as a social good.

        Communities and by extension members of the community (or even a media corporation) should have the right, and in some cases probably have the obligation, to say “this is beyond the pale, we’re not going to air your views until you can meet a minimum standard of civility.”

        Now, if it were the GOVERNMENT doing it, that would be another matter entirely.Report

        • E.D. Kain in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          Agreed – no fundamental right at all. That’s also why you can turn off the tv or change the channel.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          For my part, I fully support their right to say “this is beyond the pale” and kick whomever off the air.

          Looking at the pundits to whom this has happened, however, I am seeing Ashleigh Banfield (she’s from Canada!) and Phil Donahue (for whom I have a major soft spot).

          There are two reasons these folks got canned. The first is idealistic and betrays that I am truly a softy. The second is the real reason (and, probably, the only one).

          1) People wrote letters. They wrote letters and said “I am offended. Take that yahoo off the air.”

          2) Numbers went down.

          My advice is to be the change you want to see. Write a letter. Call your best bud and get him to write one. Mention your ethnicity and age group. Say you will no longer watch and if you purchase anything advertized during the shows, it’ll be by accident.

          Also, find out who you know that might have one of those little Neilsen boxes. If you know someone, become their best friend. Bribe them to leave their television on C-Span and invite them over to your place to watch whatever shows they feel like watching.

          Get enough people to do this, and a change will happen.


    • Sorry, to follow up a little on this.

      How often to Limbaugh, Levin et. al allow reasoned discourse to happen on their shows? It seems to me that there’s something of an odd entitlement complex. What makes it okay for them to demand that cable networks (which they ROUTINELY Trash on their own shows) must give them a platform for which to spout off their views to the wider world?

      Talk radio seems to take a perverse delight in bashing the hell out of CNN and making lots and lots of money in the process…so why should CNN give these people air time? What air time do these obnoxious gas bags give to people who disagree with them besides to shout them down and play at the very limits of human decency?

      In addition….As much as the notion does occassionally frighten me when I think about it, I’d wonder if maybe setting a lower bar on defamation/slander/inciting speech/fighting words for media personalities wouldn’t be suc a bad thing.Report

    • Dave S. in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      Right. Chris Mathews finally got tired of Anne Coulter’s hijinks and stopped booking her, if memory serves.

      It’s not so much “banning” as “not inviting them to appear,” and the difference in terms is important. “Banning” implies that the bannee (sic) has a right to appear, when in fact no such right exists. Under such circumstances, the relative intellectual dishonesty of the pundit may be determined by how quickly said pundit screams “Censorship!”Report

      • E.D. Kain in reply to Dave S. says:

        Fair point. Individual hosts should exercise their right to invite whoever they want or not to – but it seems silly for entire stations to set up blacklists of people based solely on perceptions of intellectual dishonesty. Again, by that criteria, you’d lose most of your guests. But yes, Mathews should be under no obligation to talk with Coulter or anyone else.Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    I fully support the idea of boycotts.

    The problem with boycotts is that, in the case of, say, Fox, it’s not like the people most opposed to, say, Hannity will be able to seriously say “hey, I watch your station when I need news, but Hannity is a bridge too far, I’m going to CNN.”

    The people who find Hannity a bridge too far were probably watching CNN before the (expletive) demonstrated his (expletiveness) to the world.

    Maybe they could pull a “I love Shep Smith and wish he would come out but I can’t watch your network at all, even Shep Smith (WHOM I LOVE!!!!!!) while you’re giving a seat to Hannity.” That might work.

    As for outright banning people, I don’t know of a mechanism outside of a boycott that would result in Fox telling Hannity to take a long walk off a short pier.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Jaybird says:

      Boycotts are fine. I have my own personal one going on right now, against talk radio and television in general.Report

    • mw in reply to Jaybird says:

      I have developed a different approach. I live under the self-imposed discipline of a kind of personal fairness doctrine. I permit myself to watch or listen to partisan blowhards only if I allocate equal time and attention to their doppelgänger from the opposite spectrum. Some of these are easy. If I watch a Michael Moore movie, I have to listen to Rush for two hours. They dominate different media, but are practically identical in fidelity to the truth. The Olbermann/O’Reilly pairing is easy, although lately Olbermann is making O’Reilly sound reasonable by comparison. Maher and Miller are equally unfunny. Ed and Dobb for insufferable pomposity. You can set up your own pairs.

      Beck has been a problem for me though, I can’t seem to find anyone to match up with his particular brand of incoherent insane rage, so I can’t watch him. Maybe I have to take a different direction with Beck – just go with another propagandist that has an emotion based quasi-religious following – say Al Gore.Report

  3. Louis B. says:

    Every ideologue has used truth as an excuse for muzzling dissent.

    The minute we start thinking it’s okay to muzzle political opponents, all is lost.Report

  4. E.D. Kain says:

    Also wouldn’t it be just a tad hypocritical to ban Limbaugh but pay Dobbs a salary?Report

  5. EngineerScotty says:

    A question comes to mind:

    Are we discussing banning (boycotting, whatever) guys like Rush and Hannity from appearing as hosts, or excluding them from guest spots as well? E. D. suggests if this standard were applied, we’d never have interviews of politicians again. I’m rather certain that Conor is not suggesting that politicians of whatever stripe–who we all agree are “biased” (its their job)–are inappropriate interview subjects. Indeed, the utterances of politicians and others in the sausage factory are primary sources, and of primary importance to the whole process.

    However, certain pundits are rabid partisans. Certain others are “intellectually dishonest” in that they engage in the behaviors Conor describes. There is a great deal of overlap between the two, and a significant fraction of that overlap is indeed found in talk radio, a medium presently dominated by the political right.

    Whether or not such individuals should be allowed to sit in the host’s chair is obviously up to the individual networks. Unfortunately, none of our major TV news networks has seen fit to draw the line.

    (One other point: It’s common practice for folks in the punditocracy to interview each other–the example of Tweety interviewing Coulter was given above. Assuming the topic is “politics” as opposed to the guest itself–is this practice very useful? While multi-party analysis shows such as Crossfire are useful; having political discussions within the interview format, where the “subject” is a news media personality as opposed to a primary source, strikes me as patently useless–and at worst, a cheap way of dressing up mere chit-chat to look like journalism).Report

    • This is in regards to banning guests from shows.Report

      • EngineerScotty in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        In that case, see my final paragraph above. While I won’t call for a “ban”; having Matthews interview Limbaugh, or Limbaugh interview Olberman, or Olberman interview Hannity, or Hannity interview Maddow, or Maddow interviewing Malkin (catfight!) might be entertaining–but seldom do such interviews have any real news value, regardless of whether or not you like the host. At least so far as the topic is “the issues”.

        Now, when the topic strays from the issues, and the interview subject is actually the subject of the interview, then things get interesting. Stewart’s legendary takedowns of numerous pompous media personalities are great stuff. But listening to Olbermann and Matthews banter back and forth about healthcare is–to me, at least–uninteresting. I’d rather hear Olbermann or Matthews interview politicians, insurance executives, doctors, patients, economists, and other people who can add facts or expert anslyses to the debate (even if they are biased, which many of them are), then each other.

        In other words–quit the coffeehouse chatter, and go do some actual, you known, reporting.Report

  6. Kyle says:

    “Banning is simply not practical or ethical, however shallow, loud, or obnoxious we find these shows and their guests.”

    There’s something very paternal about bans. In effect it’s saying even though people want it, clearly they aren’t smart/rational/classy enough to know that they shouldn’t.

    Not to get on the faux populism bandwagon here but I do think it’s worth exploring whether the talk radio pundits/polemicists are stand-in representatives for an aspect of humanity we find unattractive or actual contributors to a baser political dialogue and more fractured community?Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Kyle says:

      Paternal is exactly the right word. I do hope some of those smart CNN editors will come save me from those mean ol’ talk show hosts though. Without their editorial wisdom I just don’t know what I’d do!Report

      • EngineerScotty in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        It’s not about saving you–only you can do that.

        It’s about saving themselves and their institution.

        Otherwise, I’m going to complain about the inherent paternalism of CNN not giving equal time to, say, Noam Chomsky. They should let any gasbag have a microphone; to deny their audience access to the wise words of Uncle Noam is, you know, paternalistic. 🙂Report

      • Nob Akimoto in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        It’s a question of shame.

        If CNN is so shameless that they think it’s okay to go around exploiting these sorts of demagogues and polemicists (like say FNC) then that’s their choice. But it speaks ill of them as a news institution (though perhaps not as a media institution) when they do so.

        It’s not really paternalistic when someone says they no longer want a sort of person on their property. In fact to suggest that it is itself smacks of paternalism in a way. How far away is that really from the Fairness Doctrine?Report

    • PD Shaw in reply to Kyle says:

      “There’s something very paternal about bans. In effect it’s saying even though people want it, clearly they aren’t smart/rational/classy enough to know that they shouldn’t. ”

      A quick glance at the most recent Pew studies on the media appear to indicate that people who watch cable news are “younger, more educated and more knowledgeable about current events. ” They also like to get news from the internet.

      So, yes, I don’t think people consume cable news in the fashion projected.Report

  7. lens says:

    I’d just like to point out one sentence of your essay that immediately jumped out at me:

    “Misinformation will accompany us wherever we go.”

    This seems almost transparently tautological. Your argument in the first paragraph is as follows: 1) yes, these people are probably liars. 2) yes, I think it is bad to have liars on T.V. 3) this is how the world works. 4) no one should try and change it. So, your argument against trying to stop liars from showing up on our screens is that liars already show up on our screen!

    In your second point, you feign ignorance at the fact that there are different degrees of falsehood. I think Conor was exasperated with the sheer quantity of dishonesty that spouts from these particular pundits. You’ll notice that he didn’t include people like Gingrich or even Buchanan on this list, even though “lots of people think [they’re] intellectually dishonest.” Liken it to a speed trap: lots of people drive by going 10 miles over, but when someone blazes by going 95, they’ve got to be stopped.

    For your third point, I’d invoke Julian Sanchez’s one way hash argument. Specifically, this paragraph:

    Give me a topic I know fairly intimately, and I can often make a convincing case for absolute horseshit. Convincing, at any rate, to an ordinary educated person with only passing acquaintance with the topic. A specialist would surely see through it, but in an argument between us, the lay observer wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell which of us really had the better case on the basis of the arguments alone—at least not without putting in the time to become something of a specialist himself. Actually, I have a possible advantage here as a peddler of horseshit: I need only worry about what sounds plausible. If my opponent is trying to explain what’s true, he may be constrained to introduce concepts that take a while to explain and are hard to follow, trying the patience (and perhaps wounding the ego) of the audience.

    In an argument between someone who values intellectual honesty and someone who doesn’t, the dishonest person can “win” (in the eyes of most laypeople) through the sheer audacity of her lies.

    Though you walk it back a bit in your update, your last point follows into the same tautological pit as your first. Because cable talk shows have always been a show of punditry, we should avoid any measures that might help suck some of the vacuity out of the discussion.

    Avoiding some of the more egregious liars would be a good thing!Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to lens says:

      And so who do we propose to be the judge and jury over the lines to not cross? My argument is not that “no one should try to change it” but rather that a ban is the wrong approach. Again, change should be bottoms up not top down. Ratings speak louder than corporate censors.Report

      • EngineerScotty in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        They’re called editors, E.D. It’s a time-honored profession in the field of journalism.Report

        • So the “editors” of CNN should ban everyone that Conor thinks is intellectually dishonest?Report

          • EngineerScotty in reply to E.D. Kain says:


            The editors of CNN ought to ban anyone who they think is intelletually dishonest. Conor, of course, is free to exclude comments from his blog that he thinks are intellectually dishonest; but unless CNN sees fit to hire him as an editor, Conor’s opinion (or your or mine) is merely advisory (which is probably a nicer way of saying “irrelevant”).

            Part of the job description of “editor” is upholding the institutional credibility of the organization. The problem, of course, is that the audiences don’t seem to want to be informed; instead they want to have their biases reinforced. Conservatives watch Fox and condemn MSNBC, liberals do the opposite. While I think Fox is a more frequent and egregious offender than MSNBC, neither organization, in my view, upholds terribly strong standards when it comes to the sort of analyses permitted on the air.

            And the fact of the matter is, certain pundits (both on the right or on the left) are more intellectually sloppy than others. Some of them are outright liars. I don’t have a bright-line test to separate the two, and neither–I suspect–do you. That doesn’t preclude Matthews’ boss from making informed decisions concerning what guests Tweety has on the air, or what subjects they discuss–keeping in mind that editors frequently have lesser degrees of control on live interviews than they do on printed items.

            Ah, hell. Who am I kidding? Cable news isn’t concerned one whit about being useful or informative. The better networks are only concerned about being inflammatory, and the worst offenders are outright shills. Which is why I seldom watch it.Report

          • Katherine in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            It’s not about what Conor thinks or “intellectual” dishonesty. If someone is dishonest – as in, repeatedly making false statements, misquoting others, etc. – they should be kicked off.Report

      • Sully Fick in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        And, the ratings have spoken. Fox is dominant. No one else is even close (though, MSNBC does seem to have closed the gap for short periods of time).

        But, once people start down the Orwellian rabbit-hole of Fox News, how do they ever come out? There is no sign that Fox’s ratings are suffering, and they are the most egregious example of falsehoods promoted by a network. In fact, they are so successful that first CNN and then MSNBC have tried copying their partisan playbook.

        When honesty is at stake, America can be counted on to race – as quickly as possible – to the lowest form of half-truths and outright lies. (My own version of Churchill’s quote).

        Familiarity breeds contempt. How accurate that is. The reason we hold truth in such respect is because we have so little opportunity to get familiar with it.
        – Mark Twain


        • E.D. Kain in reply to Sully Fick says:

          Yeah, but Republicans also now count for 21% of the population. Everything is cyclical in any case. We can wring our hands at the absurdity of it all, but it won’t do us any good.Report

          • Sully Fick in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            Well, I definitely see it differently than you do.

            Cronkite was partisan – his broadcasts reflected his own views of the world. Yet, he is (was) light-years from Limbaugh or O’Reilly or Beck. If Cronkite broadcasted today, imagine what they would call him (if he could even get a job as a pretty-face talking head today).

            It’s not cyclical. It has been getting worse for a long time.

            Once upon a time, a newspaper called the Washington Post took huge risks to reveal some very shady things going on in the White House. A few decades later, that same Washington Post supported the lies and distortions coming from the White House, which resulted in a war based on lies. Same thing from the paper of record.

            This isn’t just about disagreements or partisanship. These huge corporations control what most people see and hear, and that can lead to some really terrible things.

            I do have to admit, though, that you stick to your “let the marketplace decide” position quite well. I just think it’s very naive and downright dangerous.Report

          • EngineerScotty in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            Us on the left (or the center-left in my case) prefer to get our news fix from the Internet; which is why (I suspect) conservative programming dominates TV news well in excessive of conservatism’s mindshare among the electorate.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Sully Fick says:

          Let us agree, for the sake of argument, that Fox Dominance of the marketplace is, in fact, a problem.

          What solution do you propose that you would not mind being used against good, honest, trustworthy newsfolk who are doing their best to give it to us how it is?Report

          • Sully Fick in reply to Jaybird says:

            I do not propose any solutions, for there are none that are viable.

            This country values the free market over almost everything else (i.e. only God comes before the market); entertainment over education; bailing out m/billionaires over the poor; war over peace; stealing from the future over doing the right thing now; the status quo over change; etc.

            And, the number of “good, honest, trustworthy newsfolk who are doing their best to give it to us how it is” is insignificant (if one does not count local reporters for small local papers).

            This country sold out the truth a long time ago. No one wants the real truth – they want to believe what they believe (and will usually seek out those sources that agree with their views and dutifully ignore all others). We are all guilty of it.

            The moment that crystallized this for me were the drumbeats of War in 2002 and 2003.

            There has never been a just one, never an honorable one—on the part of the instigator of the war. I can see a million years ahead, and this rule will never change in so many as half a dozen instances.

            The loud little handful—as usual—will shout for the war. The pulpit will—warily and cautiously—object—at first; the great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, ‘It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it.’

            Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the anti-war audiences will thin out and lose popularity. Before long you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men who in their secret hearts are still at one with those stoned speakers—as earlier—but do not dare to say so.

            And now the whole nation—pulpit and all—will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open. Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.
            – Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger


            • Jaybird in reply to Sully Fick says:

              For my part, I make a serious distinction here:

              When I say that I don’t think that the government ought to do something, that should not be seen as me saying “such-and-such isn’t a problem or troubling” and it should not be seen as me saying “the marketplace will solve the problem”.Report

              • E.D. Kain in reply to Jaybird says:

                Certainly. There is nothing to say that the marketplace will solve the problem at all. There is also nothing to say that anything will solve the problem.Report

              • Sully Fick in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                And, yet, the only thing you advocate is to let the market solve the problem. At least, in this article and in your comments to it.

                However, I do appreciate your clarification that the market MIGHT not solve the problem.

                In my opinion, the only thing that solves these kinds of problems is greater breadth and depth of education and exposure to different ideas, discussion of those ideas, thoughtful and reasoned discourse, etc.

                Hey, isn’t there some new technology thingy that allows people to voice their ideas and opinions? Innertubes, or bogs or something like that? 😉Report

              • E.D. Kain in reply to Sully Fick says:

                Hey, isn’t there some new technology thingy that allows people to voice their ideas and opinions? Innertubes, or bogs or something like that? 😉

                And isn’t that an expression of the market? And your choice to go read blogs rather than listen to Rush – an expression of the market?

                I couldn’t agree more about education, however. Education is at the heart of everything. We can only expect good, rational individual decisions if we first give our children the tools to make those decisions properly.Report

              • Sully Fick in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                And isn’t that an expression of the market?

                No, the Internet is a Marxist paradise and the opposite of free market theory (just look at the trouble so many media companies have with a viable business model on the Internet).

                And your choice to go read blogs rather than listen to Rush – an expression of the market?

                Definitely not. It is only a matter of choice. Choice != Free Market example.

                My understanding of Free Market theory is that supply and demand set prices. The only part of Free Market theory in the Internet is the lack of regulations (although the giant corporations are trying to change that). I don’t see how all choices can be considered an example of the free market at work.

                We can only expect good, rational individual decisions if we first give our children the tools to make those decisions properly.

                That is very true. In fact, here’s a thought experiment:

                One could probably make an argument that an un-educated public is in the best interests of giant corporations. Further, one could stipulate that it would be even better if the public received most of its education from those giant corporations. If those giant corporations control most of the media, what will ever slow or deter these corporations from the continual, incremental dumbing of America?Report

              • North in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                Sally I must respectfully disagree with your Choice!=Free Market. The Free Market is all about choice. To apply this to the internet we simply have to plug in the numbers. Supply and Demand together in a truely free market will dictate price. In the internet the supply of available information sources is as close to infinite as you can see in the world today. There’s a vast array of options and if you somehow don’t like any of them you can very easily turn into one yourself. Demand remains a finite number. Divide a finite number by infinity and you get something damn near zero. So the fact that the cost of information on the internet is pretty much just the cost of getting a computer, some juice and a connection suggests to me that the free market is thriving there. On the other hand I don’t see any features of marxism thriving on the internet myself, maybe a class free world or something but the free market has never been dependant on class despite what Marxists claim.Report

              • Sully Fick in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                Free market theory states that when there is a surplus and prices are low, it discourages others to start “selling” the good/service. So, if the price is 0 (or very close to it), Sellers would be forced to stop “selling” that good/service until supply and demand reach equilibrium.

                However, the Internet has done just the opposite. The “selling” price started at ~0. Fifteen years later the “selling” price is still ~0. This either means that the free market has failed to reach equilibrium after 15 years, or the supposed supply/demand equilibrium is a fantasy in the real world. Either way, it disproves quite elegantly that Internet news/information/opinion follows free market principles.

                Instead, we’ve seen a steady increase in blogs. Why?

                My answer: Because it is empowering. It puts you on the same footing as the huge media empires. It is possible for you to reach the same number of (or even more) people as the New York Times. And, you don’t even need to be providing new content (see: Drudge, Matt).Report

              • North in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                Perhaps Sally, or perhaps because the barriers/cost to enter this market are also virtually 0 and because it’s kindof fun everyone does it. The free market principle works on more things than money. On the internet I’d submit that attention/views/voice is the “money” of the internet. And that internet “money” very strongly follows free market principles.Report

  8. PD Shaw says:

    I find the whole discussion creepy, but I’m confused about what is being proposed.

    I assume that news-entertainment industry is making money doing whatever it’s doing. As point of evidence, I believe MSNBC has increased its rating share by mimicking Fox from the Left.

    That said, what is the process by which certain individuals are banned? It has to be the government, no? Or are we merely talking about gnashing our teeth and waiting for the gods to answer?Report

  9. E.D. Kain says:

    I should add that I think it’s really up to each individual host to set the tone of their own show – either by not inviting people they don’t want on, or by establishing the proper decorum. You don’t see this happening on PBS with Jim Lehrer, for instance. You didn’t with William F Buckley either. You do see it with someone on the left like Bill Maher, though. It’s all about how you want to set the tone for your own show and in the end it’s your responsibility, as host, to set that tone. It’s not the guests job. Again – the Stewart approach – the debates can get heated, but at best they’re some of the most substantive anywhere on television, even when the guests are total hacks as they sometimes are.Report

  10. E.D. Kain says:

    Sully –

    And isn’t that an expression of the market?

    No, the Internet is a Marxist paradise and the opposite of free market theory (just look at the trouble so many media companies have with a viable business model on the Internet).

    Not at all. The internet is a bastion of pure capitalism at its best. There is nothing Marxist about it – nothing centrally planned, nothing owned by “the workers.” Rather lots of sites, like this one, are simply owner-operated. They provide a good for free, yes, but they do so voluntarily. Other sites are quite profitable, though the media is taking a hit. That is more a sign of a shift in a specific industry to a new business model, though.

    And your choice to go read blogs rather than listen to Rush – an expression of the market?

    Definitely not. It is only a matter of choice. Choice != Free Market example.

    My understanding of Free Market theory is that supply and demand set prices. The only part of Free Market theory in the Internet is the lack of regulations (although the giant corporations are trying to change that). I don’t see how all choices can be considered an example of the free market at work.

    No, choice is the essence of markets. To rewind a bit, say you were to go to an actual market. There were stands of apples and stands of oranges. Your choice determines what you purchase based on what is available to choose. If you and everyone else keeps wanting apples but nobody buys the oranges, pretty soon you have more apple stands than orange stands. Choice is supply and demand. The internet has begun to set certain prices on certain goods at basically free, but that is still a determination of choice.

    We can only expect good, rational individual decisions if we first give our children the tools to make those decisions properly.

    That is very true. In fact, here’s a thought experiment:

    One could probably make an argument that an un-educated public is in the best interests of giant corporations. Further, one could stipulate that it would be even better if the public received most of its education from those giant corporations. If those giant corporations control most of the media, what will ever slow or deter these corporations from the continual, incremental dumbing of America?

    Well, maybe the internet for one. Who knows? Libraries? Parents being more involved with their kids?

    Why, do you suppose the government might do a better job?Report

    • Sully Fick in reply to E.D. Kain says:

      I think we are each seeing different aspects of the same thing – The Blind Men and the Elephant.

      For me, it seems remarkable that Capitalism is taking so long to adjust to the new business model of the Internet. 15 years is not enough time for the Free Market?

      Part of the basis of my view of a Marxist Internet is that the barriers to free speech have been removed because the media is not controlled by a small group of capitalists. The profits (small though they may be) do not go to that small group. “Workers” have been empowered and decoupled from the Capitalist dogma of those in power. And, I think most people (“workers”) view the Internet as “theirs” (owned by them) not “someone else’s” (owned by someone else).

      Regarding “actual markets of apples and oranges”:

      The appeal and success of blogs is because there are apple stands that now give away apples and orange stands that give away oranges. The ones suffering are the stands that are still trying to SELL apples/oranges. That sure seems like the Capitalists are losing (to me, anyway). And providing something for free is antithetical to Capitalism.

      Yes, people make choices. Yes, the market operates because of choices. But, any and all choices are not about the market. I chose my wife – over all other women. Does that vindicate free market theory? To me, the answer is a definitive no. If the answer is not no, then it seems that you view every choice that a person makes as vindicating free market theory.

      Why, do you suppose the government might do a better job?

      Well, the government regulates monopolies and tries to break them up. You have voiced some opinions that you think monopolies do not add value to society (though, with some exceptions, perhaps). If media is controlled in a small enough group, wouldn’t your opinions about monopolies apply (i.e. that government should step in)?

      Beyond monopolies, we now have a small number of giant corporations controlling most of the media (not counting blogs). They also have other interests, besides providing news/commentary/opinion, and they could change their news/commentary/opinion to increase their profits elsewhere (and might already be doing so). Who else besides the government is capable of stopping that?

      With that said, it is certainly possible that the government is NOT capable of fixing it, either.Report

      • Sully Fick in reply to Sully Fick says:

        To clarify further, I think our disagreement (simply put) is that you trust the market to solve the problem of the market having too much influence. I do not trust the market at all. It is not rational. It does not self-correct. It does not work in the best interests of society. All it does is enrich very small groups of people, no matter the choices everyone makes.Report

      • North in reply to Sully Fick says:

        Gotta disagree again Sully. In case you haven’t noticed there are many many companies (free market) happily reaping fine healthy profits off the internet. Porn and gambling for instance are flourishing, growing and producing profits and goods like never before. And those profits are going to the owners of those porn sites, not their workers. Yes the information media is suffering but the internet was a body blow to them. Similarly the invention of the automobile was a terrific blow to the transportation buggy making giants of the day but in time they either adapted or vanished.

        You seem to feel that barriers to free speech are somehow inherent to the free market. I can’t see how that follows. You might say that not everyone had the impact on the national discourse as the New York Times in the old media but that was merely because of scarcity of resources. The internet hasn’t brought about some Marxist equalization of outcomes; it’s very unequal in fact. or or even have far more clout in the internet than does my live journal site or some other low traffic location. And they get it because people choose to go there.

        I’d be very interested to hear what features or characteristics of the internet are Marxist in nature. When I look across the internet I see ferocious competition, the punishment of failure, the rewarding of success and so on. Good websites flourish with more viewers and poor websites languish and turn into graveyards. In many cases the score isn’t being tracked with money; it’s being tracked by influence or attention or bandwidth but those things are just as free market capitalist as money can be and if you accumulate enough of them the money comes too. A communist internet would have to be controlled and to be equal. I would think that on a communist internet anyone could post to any blog. And probably there would have to be some controller program on every user choosing for them which website they got to view at any given time to make certain that all of the opinions were being evenly viewed. To each website according to it’s’ need. From each website according to it’s traffic! Bloggers of the world unite!!Report

        • Jaybird in reply to North says:

          The equivalent of “bloggers” providing “free content” are putting a dent in profits for one of those business models.

          From what I understand, the business model in question relies heavily on the “cater to the people who need the product quickly” business model. When someone needs a product RIGHT NOW, they are willing to pay a bit more than someone who will shop around.

          Well, the equivalent of bloggers, if you will, are meeting the demand for a good chunk of the people who need the product RFN. Once the initial demand is met for product, the residual demand is not sufficient to result in a sale of the product delivered by the equivalent of professional journalists.

          If you know what I mean.Report

        • Sully Fick in reply to North says:

          Well, let’s see. The discussion started by E.D. saying that my choice to visit a blog rather than listen to Rush was an example of the free market at work and I disagreed.

 or did not begin with the influence they have now. They gained it slowly, over time. And this was only possible because of the inherent equilization of outcomes that the Internet provided. As you say, the NYTimes had much more influence in the old media, but less now. The NYTimes had many advantages over small bloggers, but there are some huge bloggers now that were originally very small.

          But, you lose me when you dump “money” from free market theory and replace it with “influence”. I’m not aware of that version of free market theory. Is there a supply/demand equilibrium with influence? Is it a zero-sum, or can influence be “created”? Can I replace “money” in free market theory with anything I want, or can free market theory only use “money” or “influence”? What about “power”? “Control”? “Access”? I’m beginning to think that Free Marketers think that every choice proves that the free market is working (and making everything better, too!). I never thought Free Marketers thought this, but I could have been wrong about that.

          And, I don’t recall saying anything about communism, so I’ll leave that part alone.

          As for Marxism (in regards to me choosing to read a blog over listening to Rush, which is what this was about):
          – I see conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, and it has benefited the proletariat and brought about social change in a Marxian regard
          – Capitalism has been challenged by the Internet and is still trying to gain “control” of the Internet. The Internet allows “workers” to control their value at all times. Capitalists do not control the means of production or the means of determining value of work.
          – “workers” have reduced (or eliminated) alienation from their Internet “work” (though, an argument could also be made that this also occurs in “regular” work, since workers can “surf the Net”)
          – bloggers seem to have common cause against the bourgeoisie (the “workers” have united to take power away from them – linking to each other, supporting new sites, cross-blog discussions, etc.)
          – Piracy is rampant has taken control away from Capitalists and given it to the proletariat. I’m not condoning it, I’m just pointing it out.

          Gambling and Porn – the two great pillars of the Free Market! I love that.Report

          • North in reply to Sully Fick says:

            I guess I feel similarily lost to you when you state that class is something that is inherent to the free market. I’m not aware of the free market itself requiring class in order to function. I suppose with concrete goods like say toasters or land there could be identified a worker/proletariat/bourgeoisie but I don’t see that there’s ever been such distinction in the non-material goods realm where the internet now exists. The market of ideas has always had a certain zero sum easily pirateableness to it. Now technology has just allowed it to flower.

            Well yes, they were quick examples, but the market in online art is thriving. Custom pictures for instance, paypall, loofa sponges, amazon books.. capitalism and the free market is thriving furiously on the internet without so much as a proletariat whisker seeming to pop up.

            And yes, opinion sites and news information sites are competing furiously with each other. The winners grow and flourish based on their relative performance with each other. While they’ve certainly grown the information pie greatly there’s definitly still an element of zero sum to it. And yes they can often can and do monetize (advertising for instance) though they haven’t done it too heavily yet. I look at the internet and I see the free market (the free market of ideas for instance) writ all over it and inherent to its activity. I’m missing the Marxism inherent to the system. Well except that it’s pretty much class-less?Report

    • greginak in reply to E.D. Kain says:

      And I took government regulation to make the toobs open for everybody so the free market could take over.Report

      • Sully Fick in reply to greginak says:

        I agree, but it took a lot more than government regulation to even “make” the toobs. The entire existence of the Internet, the original infrastructure, and all research and development, exists because the government created it or otherwise paid for it. Then gave it to the free market to play with, and the free market still can’t find a viable business model for modern media (other than the supply/demand equilibrium of a price of $0).

        And, it sure looks like that supply/demand equilibrium is pissing off Rupert Murdoch!Report

  11. Bob Cheeks says:

    I like Rush!Report

    • Sully Fick in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

      Gambling in Casablanca? I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

      You’re winnings, sir.

      Oh, thank you very much. Everyone out at once!


  12. Tim Kowal says:

    To be consistent, any left-winger who cites the World Health Organization should also be put on the chopping block.Report