Powered by Google
In This Issue
Editor's Picks
News & Features
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Food & Drink
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Classifieds Home
Real Estate
Adult Personals
Love Q&A
- - - - - - - - - - - -

sponsored link
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
adult toys, movies  & more

Notes and observations on the press, politics, culture, technology, and more. To sign up for e-mail delivery, click here. To send an e-mail to Dan Kennedy, click here. For bio, published work, and links to other blogs, visit www.dankennedy.net. For information on Dan Kennedy's book, Little People: Learning to See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes (Rodale, October 2003), click here.

Friday, January 03, 2003

Kurtz link. The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz links to my Wednesday item on so-called liberal media bias. Thanks to reader NH for calling it to my attention, even though she didn't think much of what I wrote.

posted at 1:07 PM | link

Do they eat babies in China? The news is so mindblowingly horrifying that it can scarcely be believed. But is it true? The Weekly Standard's J. Bottum has a dispatch on the magazine's website today reporting that a Chinese performance artist named Zhu Yu has been photographed eating a stillborn baby. Bottum also recycles an old report from the London Daily Telegraph that a Chinese abortion clinic distributes human fetuses to be cooked up along with the ginger and scallions. Writes Bottum:

We need a word for things that are so wrong, it is wrong even to report them -- actions to which we somehow lend countenance just by entering into a discussion of why they are beyond all countenance.

Well, here's a word for it: "hoax." It's hard to tell whether Bottum believes what he's writing. He tells it straight, but the subhead's reference to "a modest proposal" suggests that his tongue may be somewhere in the vicinity of his cheek.

In any case, according to this About.com site on "Urban Legends and Folklore," the stories about Zhu Yu and the abortion clinic have long since been discredited. There are photos (links are included, though I couldn't get them to work), but writer David Emery says that Zhu could easily have faked them with animal parts and dolls. Emery adds:

The claim that baby or fetus eating is an accepted practice in China (or Thailand, or Japan, or Korea, or Israel, as other variants of this same rumor claim) is more or less a modernized version of an ancient legend known as "Blood Libel." It has typically taken the form of one culture accusing another (or a subculture) of ritually sacrificing infants and in some cases eating them. The Greeks accused the Jews of it, the Romans accused the Christians, Christians accused the Jews again, and so on throughout history.

The respected urban-legends site Snopes.com also debunks the baby-eating story. Be careful when you follow the link, since it's accompanied by a color photo of Zhu in mid-bite. Snopes says Zhu is most likely nibbling on a duck's carcass to which a doll's head has been attached.

Whether Bottum is being disingenuous or is just plain gullible, the uses to which he puts his sensationalistic findings are sleazy, to say the least. He argues that baby-eating is just another step on a road whose signposts include abortion rights and embryonic stem-cell research:

Once upon a time, we built hedge after hedge of protection around the deep things about life and death a culture must maintain. The hedges themselves are not all that important, but when they fall they weaken our defenses -- however much those people who knock them down insist they are only clearing away a single hedge.

Call it performance art, conservative-style: libeling an entire people in order to make a political point. Bottum, and the Standard, should apologize for this miserable piece of work.

posted at 12:48 PM | link

Romney's bogus numbers. Excellent analysis by the Globe's Scot Lehigh on what was wrong with Governor Mitt Romney's inaugural address. By disingenuously characterizing the state's fiscal crisis as the result of overspending, rather than of $4 billion a year in tax cuts by his three Republican predecessors, Romney raised unrealistic expectations on how to get out of the mess, Lehigh observes, writing that "if you focus on false causes, you create false hopes for false solutions."

By contrast, the Herald's Tom Keane and the Globe's Brian McGrory focus on Romney's tone rather than the substance, and thus wind up giving him far higher marks than he deserves. (Actually, McGrory gave Romney higher marks than, say, Pericles or Cincinnatus would deserve.) Their hope isn't entirely misplaced: Romney has made some good Cabinet appointments, and he seems as though he might actually be serious about peeling back a few layers of patronage.

But his lack of honesty about the budget is going to bite him in the hindquarters.

posted at 9:57 AM | link

Er, about that Iraqi-Al Qaeda nerve-gas connection ... Some post-holiday clean-up. Remember that front-page Washington Post story reporting that Bush-administration officials believed a terrorist group linked to Al Qaeda may have obtained nerve gas in Iraq and smuggled it out of the country? Well, here we are three weeks later, and still no follow-up or further details. Not only that, but it turns out that on December 22, the Post's pit-bull ombudsman, Michael Getler, gave the story the hairy eyeball and questioned reporter Barton Gellman's sourcing and equivocations. Wrote Getler:

It is to Gellman's and The Post's credit that all of these uncertainties are laid out. But the effect on the complaining readers, and on me, is to ask what, after all, is the use of this story that practically begs you not to put much credence in it? Why was it so prominently displayed, and why not wait until there was more certainty about the intelligence?

Good points. Thanks to Romenesko for the link. You can click here for my last post on the subject, which in turn includes links to my previous posts.

posted at 9:56 AM | link

Hub Blog on the liberal media. Jay Fitzgerald has written his own take on the liberal/conservative media debate. Fitzgerald, who describes himself as a "moderate conservative," winds up agreeing with me that "the balance of power tilts today towards conservatives." Smart man!

posted at 9:56 AM | link

Thursday, January 02, 2003

The dot-com dupes of the media. Another year has passed, and if you're like most people, your stock portfolio is considerably lighter today than it was a year ago -- a moment when most of us were hoping the market had already reached rock bottom.

On the op-ed page of today's New York Times, James Ledbetter, a former media critic for the Village Voice and a staff reporter for the late, unlamented Industry Standard, offers a smart mea culpa on the business press's role in helping to create the great stock-market bubble of the late 1990s.

Good reading, if you can stand it.

The problem, as always, is that the media's most primal instinct is to act as lapdogs to winners. Yesterday it was the dot-com smartasses. Today it's George W. Bush and the Republican Party.

Back in the heyday of Enron, WorldCom, and AOL, we needed skepticism and we got cheerleading. Now we're on the verge of a war that may prove to be unnecessary, with the devastating, unanticipated consequences that war often brings. And the media, with few exceptions, are failing to ask the tough questions.

Some things never change.

posted at 9:40 AM | link

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

More on the liberal media. Jim Rutenberg has a front-page piece in this morning's New York Times on efforts by a few Democratic activists to build a liberal media to counter the likes of the Fox News Channel, Rush Limbaugh's radio show, and the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times.

Sorry, but it's not going to work. Conservatives might enjoy absorbing talking points from the Republican National Committee, but that's not how it happens with liberals. As I've argued before, there are liberal media -- most of the mainstream media are liberal, as conservatives have long contended -- but they work differently from the conservative media. Telling liberals what to think is like herding cats.

The cutting edge of the liberal media are the Times itself and National Public Radio, the size of whose audience rivals Limbaugh's 20 million weekly listeners. The network newscasts, which can reach a combined total of 30 million viewers a night depending on what's going on in the news, are another outpost.

But the mainstream media, though overwhelmingly liberal on cultural issues such as gay rights and reproductive choice, are moderate to conservative on economics and trade issues. Elite liberal opinion is as contemptuous of organized labor, for instance, as elite conservative opinion is. And the Times has been virtually alone in raising serious questions about the Bush administration's aggressive policy toward Iraq.

The difference between the large, amorphous liberal media and the relatively small but cohesive conservative media is that the latter are ideologically in tune with the Republican Party and loyal to its candidates. The liberal media aren't going to take their marching orders from the Democratic National Committee. Even if they did, their audience would tune out.

posted at 10:51 AM | link

Gag me with a silver spoon. Governor-elect Mitt Romney says he hopes his and running mate Kerry Healey's decision not to take their salaries "sets the appropriate tone" as they prepare to assume office on Thursday. Yes, it certainly does. Nothing like two rich folks engaging in a cheap publicity stunt while rewarding their chief media strategist, Eric Fehrnstrom, and legislative lobbyist, Cindy Gillespie, with salaries of $150,000 apiece.

Romney describes his and Healey's decision to forgo $255,000 in annual salary as "symbolism." Here's what it's symbolic of, Mitt: you've got it, we don't. The subliminal message is that only the rich have the integrity and public-spiritedness necessary to govern, which is a load of crap.

As campaign-finance watchdog George Pillsbury tells the Globe, it would have been more impressive if Romney had taken the $6 million in personal wealth that he dropped on getting elected and spent it on saving some of the social programs that he's about to whack.

posted at 10:49 AM | link

Where's Dave? WBZ-TV (Channel 4) deserves credit for being the only local network affiliate to go live on New Year's Eve, broadcasting the celebration in Boston while also taking the feed from New York. There was just one problem: no Dave! Of all the garbage that was on the tube last night, the Late Show with David Letterman was the one program I was looking forward to. Okay, I'm a loser, but you try going out on New Year's Eve with two kids under 12.

posted at 10:48 AM | link


Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

about the phoenix |  find the phoenix |  advertising info |  privacy policy |  the masthead |  feedback |  work for us

 © 2000 - 2005 Phoenix Media Communications Group