Time and the end of media as we know it

Time, Time magazine that is, published an opinion piece I found heartening and just a little sad this week.   Sad, because I grew up with the newspaper, heartening because I still am furious over the way Walter Cronkite and his cronies sucked us into believing America was rotten to the core in the Vietnam era.  Everytime I hear that the three major networks lose viewers, I cheer.

Let me tell you why I happened to look at Time just now.  We don’t subscribe to Time.  Several years ago one of our sons signed up for an LSAT preparation course and somehow they gave him a subscription to Time—I’m thinking now it must have been a lifetime subscription because it’s still coming and we haven’t paid a cent for it.  Makes me wonder how many real (paying) subscribers Time really has.

This may be the first article I’ve paid any attention to in all these years and it’s about the end of media as we know it.  


Here is what James Poniewozik (whoever he is) had to say about the END!   Following his litany of bad news about the media:

It’s enough to make journalists wonder, Is this the end?

Yes, probably. And a beginning. Because there was good news for the media in 2008 too, and it had a lot in common with the bad news. For while the media business (the exchange of information for money) was lousy, the media (the conduits of information) were multiplying.

Of course, part of what he is lamenting is that fewer people are able to make a living at news gathering and to that I say, so what!   Many of you so-called reporters have let us down and I won’t be shedding any tears.

With the price of information dropping like a bank stock, no one knows how to make money off the media anymore. Or enough money, anyway: most of the companies firing reporters are profitable.

Then there is this:

Like the car companies, individual media outlets will probably have to learn to be smaller. And they’ll need to see their new-media “problems” as part of the solution. Internet users don’t hate the media. In fact, when given the tools by something like Twitter or YouTube, they want to be the media. People want the vetted information the news media offer–and they want to riff on it, respond to it and even, as in Mumbai, add to it. Journalists should embrace that rather than futilely fight it.

Trying really hard isn’t he to find the silver lining.    And, even in their death throes these “journalists” are still patronizing.

This means offering users more ways of interacting, commenting and contributing. It means seeing new media not as the dumbing down of civilization but as a new way of telling stories and even finding stories. And it means recognizing that the audience is no longer passive–it wants and expects to participate, even as it wants help in making sense of the info deluge.

So, Mr. Ponie…., you and your fellow journalists were thinking the new media was dumbing down civilization.    We are not dumb,  and we aren’t the passive sheep that Walter Cronkite led to slaughter.  Thank goodness for new journalists—bloggers—who are getting to the real stories.   Readers can now gather information from myriad sources and sort out the truth without you college-educated professional journalists helping us make sense of it!

Some additional random thoughts:

* I told you awhile back that after subscribing for at least 30 years to the Washington Post I cancelled my subscription right after the election.  I informed the Post that the final straw was their treatment of Sarah Palin.   But, here we are in January and it was still being delivered, so today I called again, they assured me it would really stop this time and that I wasn’t obligated to pay for those many weeks of a free subscription.  I sure hope they were paying the poor carrier though!

* Rush Limbaugh said today on his radio program that “drive-by media” journalists write for each other basically to show off to each other, they really aren’t thinking about us.

*  Over the last few days I wanted more news on the war in Gaza and where did I find it?  On blogs.  I especially recommend Atlas Shrugs who has really been on top of the story.

*  Another story I wanted to hear more about is one that the Washington Post only covered in a sneering op-ed—- the Obama birth certificate case.   I still do not understand why that story cannot be treated as a straight news story describing both sides of the issue.  Well, today, I was out grocery shopping and there it was, front page coverage, on the Globe.  Yes, a supermarket tabloid, you know the kind of publication we make fun of with story titles such as “My child was fathered by an Alien.”   Please forgive me Globe for poking fun, I’ll never do it again.

Come to think of it, wasn’t it  the National Enquirer that exposed the truth about John Edwards and his love child? 

I’ve never bought a supermarket tabloid, but you know what, I’m going back tomorrow and buy the Globe.   So, Mr. Poniewozik, here is a positive thought,  maybe there will be work for unemployed Time reporters at the Globe.

P.S.  I love blogging, I get a tingling feeling down my leg when I think how I’m getting even with Walter Cronkite for lying to me.

Khat: our next drug problem?

The drug beloved of Somalis and other immigrant groups rated an article in the L.A. Times over the weekend, Khat — is it more coffee or cocaine?  The message:

For centuries the “flower of paradise” has been used legally in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as a stimulant and social tonic.

But in the United States khat is illegal, and an increased demand for the plant in cities such as Washington and San Diego is leading to stepped up law enforcement efforts and escalating clashes between narcotics officers and immigrants who defend their use of khat as a time-honored tradition.

Of course the Khat users invoke the sacred idea of diversity to push their case.

“It is a very touchy subject. Some people see it like a drug; some people see it like coffee,” said Abdulaziz Kamus, president of the African Resource Center in Washington, D.C. “You have to understand our background and understand the significance of it in our community.”

Oh well then. What about cultures that use hashish? Shall we legalize marijuana and hashish for them? And those coca leaf chewers of South America: let’s legalize cocaine.

Some claim it’s like coffee — it makes people alert. But others think it’s less benign.

A World Health Organization report found that consumption can lead to increased blood pressure, insomnia, anorexia, constipation and general malaise. The report also said that khat can be addictive and lead to psychological and social problems.

“It is not coffee. It is definitely not like coffee,” said Garrison Courtney, spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration. “It is the same drug used by young kids who go out and shoot people in Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan. It is something that gives you a heightened sense of invincibility, and when you look at those effects, you could take out the word ‘khat’ and put in ‘heroin’ or ‘cocaine’.”

Khat is illegal in the United States, but not in the United Kingdom where it was decided the evidence didn’t warrant banning it. But there are other problems than medical ones:

The plant’s cost has been linked to family problems, including domestic abuse, said Starlin Mohamud, a Somali immigrant who is completing a dissertation on khat at San Diego State University.

In fact, within the East African community in the U.S., there are many who welcome the khat restrictions.

“I have seen what it does,” Mohamud said. “Families who are trying to make ends meet on a daily basis cannot afford it. It just creates so many problems between a husband and wife to the point where a broken family is going to be the result.”

Ann posted in November about a large shipment of Khat intercepted in Nashville. She quoted from the article:

Police said money used from khat sales often goes to pay for vehicles used in car bombs and other forms of terrorist attacks.

Just another one of the cultural wonders we get from the Somali refugees, courtesy of the State Department.

Hamas and the demonstrations

In a post yesterday I named the groups that joined with ANSWER to hold demonstrations against Israel all around America. One group not mentioned was Hamas. Last night I happened to catch a report on the war in Gaza by Brigitte Gabriel on Michael Savage’s talk show (which I usually turn off). As part of the report she said that Hamas has cells in 30 American cities, and she named the cities. I can’t find anything online about this, but Brigitte Gabriel knows what she is talking about. So I am certain that Hamas is intimately involved in these demonstrations. I don’t know which group or groups are fronts for Hamas — perhaps all of them are. If a reader knows more about this, please let us know.

Sharansky on how the UN and Western nations perpetuate the “refugee” problem

Natan Sharansky, ex-Soviet dissident, ex-Israeli government minister, and continuing perceptive commentator, has an excellent column in the Wall Street Journal today on the Palestinian problem we’ve written about so frequently.

It’s well worth reading the whole thing. Here are some important excerpts:

On the current clash:

On one side, there is the Israeli army. Technologically and militarily superior, its soldiers are motivated by a powerful commitment to their country’s security. On the other, there are Palestinian terrorists whose aim is to kill as many innocent Israelis as possible by unleashing missiles and suicide bombers on civilian centers. Then, when Israel retaliates, they appeal to the world with gruesome images of Palestinian suffering as part of a global campaign to prevent Israel from defending itself.

Sooner or later, the tactics of the Palestinian terrorists work. The voices of protest in response to Palestinian suffering grow louder until international pressure stays Israel’s hand.

On the Palestinian leaders’ policies of using their civilians, especially children, as a weapon against Israel — and the connection with their policies on their “refugees”:

Of course, it is easy to blame Hamas. It is they, after all, who deliberately put their weapons caches in mosques, their rocket launchers in schoolyards, and their command centers in hospitals — all with the explicit goal of maximizing the tragedy of an Israeli response.

Yet Hamas is not the only Palestinian group at fault. In 2005, shortly after the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, I met with the chief of staff to the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. My question to him: Now that we have uprooted thousands of Jews and empowered Gazans to be masters of their own fate, can we hope that within a year’s time there will be fewer refugees in the camps? “Absolutely not,” he said. “The refugees will be relocated only in the context of the final status [agreement]. How can we move them if we do not know where they will live? Maybe they will live in Israel.”

…the Palestinian Authority, the most moderate among Palestinian political groups, would not consider easing their own people’s plight in the wake of Israel’s compromise. This is because the suffering of the refugees is essential to their broader political struggle.

And this strategy is very successful in much of the West:

Soon after my meeting with Mr. Abbas’s chief of staff, I met with the ambassador of one of the West’s most enlightened countries. I asked: Why are the Palestinians not willing to help their own refugees? “I can understand them,” he answered. “After all, they don’t want the refugee problem to be taken off the agenda.”

This reflexive “understanding” for the Palestinian leaders’ abuse of their own people is the heart of the problem. For decades, the international community has actively assisted in building the terrorists’ unique system of control — over where Palestinians live and in what conditions, and over what they think — by allowing terrorists to turn the refugee camps into the center of the Palestinian war machine. Instead of working to relieve the refugees’ misery, the United Nations has dedicated an entire agency, UNRWA, to perpetuating it. For the rest of the world’s refugees, the U.N. works tirelessly to improve their conditions, to relocate them, and to help them rebuild their lives as quickly as possible. With the Palestinians, the U.N. does exactly the opposite, granting refugee status to the great-grandchildren of people displaced in 1948, doing nothing to dismantle the camps, and acting as facilitators for the terrorists’ goal of grinding an entire civilian population under their thumb. Nowhere on earth do terrorists get so much help from the Free World.

Asylum seekers head for Israel

Update January 12, 2010: Israel will build barrier along border with Egypt, here.

Update January 2, 2010: Israel’s African refugees keep coming, here.

Update November 29, 2009: Israel setting up asylum process for refugees, here.

Update October 20th: A million refugees are trying to sneak across Israel’s border from Africa, here.

Update July 4th:   Israeli government taking a larger role in dealing with asylees and refugees, here.

This is not a story about Gaza, for once. But the lesson is similar: Israel getting the short end of the stick because it tries to treat people decently, as it did when it evacuated Israelis from Gaza and turned over thriving greenhouse businesses, only to be rewarded with a constant barrage of rocket attacks.

In this case, Israel is a better deal for asylum seekers than Egypt, so it  has thousands of would-be migrants from Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and other African countries going through Egypt and trying to enter Israel via the porous border between Egypt’s Sinai Desert and Israel. (Israel captured Sinai from Egypt in the Six-Day War but gave it back as part of the peace agreement between those two countries.)

The article in Egypt Today that recounts this is too long and complicated to summarize here, but the points I want to highlight are these:

Israel has thousands of African migrants already, and does not want to absorb any more. Check out this map of the Middle East to see one reason why. Israel is that tiny little sliver of yellow on the Mediterranean coast.

Israel is trying to work with Egypt to stop the border crossings. Egypt appears to be trying to solve the problem by shooting some of the people who try to cross. This doesn’t sit well with human rights groups, and doesn’t prevent more people from crossing.

Egypt used to be a desirable place for refugees, but is no longer because of a deteriorating economy and changes in policy by both the UN agency and Egypt’s government. Egypt’s constitution grants every foreigner the right of asylum, but is not living up to that promise (a pretty foolish promise, but there it is).

Here’s a point that we will be hearing more about, I’m sure.

The UNHCR budget is dependent on donor countries, and given the dire economic situation in many parts of the world, some donors are redirecting funds.

More chaos to come. And here’s a brief point that deserves a much more thorough treatment. The asylum seekers in this article are not groups of displaced people. They are economic migrants for the most part. They come from countries that have been devastated by war and political tyranny. Most importantly, the traditional social systems of these countries have been destroyed. We see two results of this here: First, when there is economic hardship, there is no organic, traditional safety net so people have to look for solutions apart from their own nonexistent social group. Second, the societies are so atomized that there is little feeling of belonging, sometimes even of belonging to a family. People become atoms, drifting around on their own and “free” to do whatever they want. They are free to migrate to alien lands in search of a better life. As chaos in the world increases, this fragmentation of societies increases, increasing the chaos in an ever-worsening spiral.