In New Hampshire’s hotly contested 2002 Senate race, Democratic get-out-the-vote phone banks were jammed with incoming calls on Election Day. The Republican John Sununu, won re-election by under 20,000 votes, and Allen Raymond, a Republican Party operative, went to jail for his role in the jamming.
Mr. Raymond has now written a book about his experiences, “How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative.” In it, he paints a picture of the corruption of modern politics that should leave no doubt about the creativity and cynicism of operatives like Mr. Raymond or the need for tough new election-reform legislation.
Networks are built on the assumption that audience size is what matters most. Content is secondary; it exists to attract passive viewers who will sit still for advertisements. For a while, that assumption served the industry well. But the TV news business has been blind to the revolution that made the viewer blink: the digital organization of communities that are anything but passive. Traditional market-driven media always attempt to treat devices, audiences, and content as bulk commodities, while users instead view all three as ways of creating and maintaining smaller-scale communities. As users acquire the means of producing and distributing content, the authority and profit potential of large traditional networks are directly challenged.
I knew it was pretty much over for television news when I discovered in 2003 that the heads of NBC’s news division and entertainment division, the president of the network, and the chairman all owned TiVos, which enabled them to zap past the commercials that paid their salaries. “It’s such a great gadget. It changed my life,” one of them said at a corporate affair in the Saturday Night Live studio. It was neither the first nor the last time that a television executive mistook a fundamental technological change for a new gadget.
To get airtime, not only did serious news have to audition against the travails of Diana or a new book by Dr. Phil, but it also had to satisfy bizarre conditions. In 2003, one of our producers obtained from a trial lawyer in Connecticut video footage of guards subduing a mentally ill prisoner. Guards themselves took the footage as part of a safety program to ensure that deadly force was avoided and abuses were documented for official review. We saw guards haul the prisoner down a greenish corridor, then heard hysterical screaming as the guard shooting the video dispassionately announced, “The prisoner is resisting.” For 90 seconds several guards pressed the inmate into a bunk. All that could be seen of him was his feet. By the end of the video the inmate was motionless. Asphyxiation would be the official cause of death.
This kind of gruesome video was rare. We also had footage of raw and moving interviews with this and another victim’s relatives. The story had the added relevance that one of the state prison officials had been hired as a consultant to the prison authority in Iraq as the Abu Ghraib debacle was unfolding. There didn’t seem to be much doubt about either the newsworthiness or the topicality of the story. Yet at the conclusion of the screening, the senior producer shook his head as though the story had missed the mark widely. “These inmates aren’t necessarily sympathetic to our audience,” he said. The fact that they had been diagnosed with schizophrenia was unimportant. Worse, he said that as he watched the video of the dying inmate, it didn’t seem as if anything was wrong.
“Except that the inmate died,” I offered.
“You don’t understand our audience.”
“I’m not trying to understand our audience,” I said. I was getting pretty heated at this point–always a bad idea. “I’m doing a story on the abuse of mentally ill inmates in Connecticut.”
“You don’t get it,” he said, shaking his head.
What costs more: Global Natural Disasters or America’s War on Drugs?
Well…go on… take a guess.
You know the answer but it seems so absurd. It’s hard to say it.
Eight members of the Iowa Occupation Project and Voices for Creative Nonviolence arrived at Huckabee’s Locust St. campaign office early Monday afternoon, waiting for the former Arkansas governor’s reply to a letter delivered two months ago that sought his pledge to completely withdraw from Iraq within 100 days of assuming office; halt all military actions against Iraq and Iran; fund the rebuilding of Iraq as well as health, education and infrastructure needs in the U.S.; and “…the highest quality health care, education and jobs training benefits for veterans of our country’s Armed Services.”
I guess Huckabee wasn’t much interested in giving an answer because he had them arrested.
But then again, he didn’t seem to be doing all that well inside either:
Huckabee was forced to abruptly end his press conference as the questioning of his motives by an amused press corps only seemed to build.
The words “war on terror” will no longer be used by the British government to describe attacks on the public, the country’s chief prosecutor said Dec. 27.
Sir Ken Macdonald said terrorist fanatics were not soldiers fighting a war but simply members of an aimless “death cult.”
The Director of Public Prosecutions said: ‘We resist the language of warfare, and I think the government has moved on this. It no longer uses this sort of language.”
London is not a battlefield, he said.
“The people who were murdered on July 7 were not the victims of war. The men who killed them were not soldiers,” Macdonald said. “They were fantasists, narcissists, murderers and criminals and need to be responded to in that way.”
The first sign of common sense this year…