Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Digital Dinosaurs

The rabbit died. What rough beast is being born?

THE MSM FOLLIES. Another apples and oranges post, though not really of course. Among the other world-crushing events Drudge was headlining today came this ominous bit of data about network news broadcasts:

New All-Time Lows for Both CBS & ABC Evening Newscasts

Breaking: TVNewser has learned the CBS Evening News has once again set an all-time low last week with 4.89 million Total Viewers and 1.42 million A25-54 viewers. But it was also the lowest (since records began in the 1991-'92 season) for ABC's World News with Charles Gibson. The Gibson program drew 6.42 million Total Viewers and 1.77 million A25-54 viewers.

Both CBS's Katie Couric and ABC's Charlie Gibson were off last week....

Insiders tell us at least one network is looking into the continued impact of the digital TV transition which occurred June 12...

NBC averaged 7.75m Total Viewers Mon-Wed but on Thursday and Friday gave their program a different Nielsen code -- "Nitely News." (The correct spelling is "Nightly News"). This is despite the fact that the network had regular coverage on those days. We're trying to determine if the U.S. Open Golf Championship had something to do with the coding change. Had Thursday and Friday been included, the average would have been lower. On Friday "Nightly" averaged 6.29m Total Viewers. [boldface added]
You might also ask whether the U.S. Open had something to do with the ratings of all three senile sisters in the world of withered crone TV newsreading. Golf is the ultimate old person's sport. It's good for the blood pressure to contemplate all those serenely long fairways and manicured greens. (That Tiger can be a bumptious fellow with his fist pumps and such, but you absolutely cannot fault his manners... Oh? Is the news on now? Well, that last bit was so exciting I think maybe it would be wise to pass up the news altogether and go to bed...)

Sorry if I sound petty, but just how much of a coincidence is it that these ratings 'anomalies' are occurring just when the nation's most aged and out-of-it TV viewers are struggling -- and failing -- to accomplish the hyper-ballyhooed transition from analog antennas to digital reception? Who didn't get sick of the endless, pointless ads on their cable TV services about getting ready for the end of rabbit ears when just having cable meant you had no problem? Who isn't shocked by the fact that it still appears to be a crisis for Henry A. Wallace groupies? Even supposedly technically literate greybeards are apparently at sea.

Tech Q and A: I Am Shocked, Simply Shocked!

Judging by the number of entries in the old inbox this week, it appears we weren't as ready for the DTV conversion as I opined two weeks ago...

Q: On Thursday I was able to receive Channels 3, 5, 8 and 19 with my antenna and analog television. Since hooking up a converter box, I am unable to receive digital signals for any of these stations.

The digital signal is too weak to reach my area in central Tuscarawas County. I cannot get any of the major networks and I'm only a few miles south of New Philadelphia, Ohio.

Why aren't people being told that they may not be able to watch stations they've viewed for 50 years?

A: If it was your project, and your career on was the line, would you be telling people it was going to turn out badly?

Sorry to sound cynical. I think that one of the factors in this whole conversion was the assumption that if current coverage could be replicated, things would be all right.

In other words, the analog system allowed for signal degradation for 10 percent of the time in 50 percent of the households. It was assumed that this would still be acceptable for digital TV.

The difference, however, is that when analog TV is "degraded," it gets a little snowy, but you can still see a picture. You don't lose reception.

With a digital TV, pixelization occurs, audio is lost and the programming becomes unwatchable. [boldface added]

50 years? Isn't that enough time to save up for a new TV? I think the real degradation in TV network news ratings is attributable to the the 65 to 95 demographic at which their advertisements -- Depends, Polident, miracle Alzheimers curesplacebos, Robert Wagner's reverse mortgage scam, and $45,000 Scooter Chairs (free with the help of our Medicaid Fraud Department) -- are aimed. Ratings may yet revive for a while when the federal government finally gets around to installing its free digital converter boxes (2012?) for the old and not too anciently dead who are still registered to vote Democratic, but the trends are not good. Hated Fox News is hammering CNN, CNN Headline News, MSNBC, and CNBC every night:

P2 [Viewers older than 2]  Prime Time
FNC – 2,716,000 viewers
CNN—577,000 viewers
MSNBC – 996,000 viewers
CNBC – 118,000 viewers
HLN – 608,000 viewers

25-54 Prime Time
FNC – 681,000 viewers
CNN – 165,000 viewers
MSNBC –350,000 viewers
CNBC – 46,000 viewers
HLN – 196,000 viewers

35-64 Prime Time
FNC – 1,165,000 viewers
CNN – 220,000 viewers
MSNBC –500,000 viewers
CNBC – 66,000 viewers
HLN –265,000 viewers

Even MSNBC's post-modern lefty twit(ter) maniac Olbermann is getting killed by Fox News's curmudegeonly old coot O'Reilly in Total Viewers and the solid gold 25-54 demographic. Get a load of these numbers, which are actually competing from the cable news swamp with the network biggies who can still rely on their tie-ins to Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, NCIS and CSI, etc.

8PM – P2+ (25-54) (35-64)
O’Reilly Factor Classic —3,246,000 viewers (762,000) (1,357,000)
CNN Money Summit—418,000 viewers (111,000) (131,000)
Countdown with K. Olbermann – 1,201,000 viewers (414,000) (619,000)
CNBC Reports- 116,000 viewers (44,000) (61,000)
Nancy Grace – 859,000 viewers (288,000) (391,000)

The truth is that lefty viewers under the age of 80 are actually getting their news from Jon Stewart's Daily Show and the Colbert Report, which admittedly are to television journalism what the New York Times has become to newspaper journalism, but real lefties don't actually care about 'journalism' anymore. Witness these three funny but contemptuous takedowns by the Daily Show of its political and ideological progenitors, the New York Times, NBC, and CNN:

What was the Times thinking? That they'd be treated as reverently as they treat the corpses who host 60 Minutes? Maybe their rabbit ears were bringing in a signal too degraded to recognize as scornful and dismissive?

Yeah. I've even heard conservatives in years past -- including Limbaugh if I'm not mistaken -- express a certain fondness for Brian Williams. Never felt it. My sense was always that he was NBC's answer to the bone structure of clothes horse Peter Jennings. Beautifully tanned and supercilious pretty boys, the pair of them, and nothing more. But people tell me I'm harsh and simplistic. Although they're never willing to go toe to toe with me on the subtleties of my harsh, simple judgments. Perhaps the scriver is a more difficult vocation than they're willing to admit.

Oedipus slew his father and married his mother. In these vids, Jon Stewart has just done the same and upped the ante by cutting his grandfather's throat too. Pity he exhibits none of the anguish of Ernest Jones's Hamlet. He's just button-busting proud of himself. Like all permanent fourteen year olds. They're responsible for all the ideas he takes for granted and doesn't need to think about. He's inherited their certainty and boldly proclaims his youthful superiority. But there's nothing young about him. His political postulates are thick with age and weighted with many generations of repeated failure. His only innovation is to dispense with facts altogether and go all in with attitude and assumptive, unexamined 'wisdom.' Jon Stewart is Daniel Schorr juiced on YouTube and Twitter. An old old man pimped out for a final fling like Dirk Bogarde in Death in Venice.

Zbigniew has a zbig zbrain.

Which brings me to the "apples and oranges" part of the discussion. Iran. Over the weekend, I saw Fareed Zakaria's CNN show called GPS. His first guest was Zbigniew Brezinski, who's only 104 now and stuffed with insight into the best way to deal with the Islamic Revolution he and his president, Jimmy Carter, ushered into being in the late 1970s.  He noted that there was a generational difference at the heart of the conflict. He said.... well, here's a good summary from someone who was able to watch him without being reminded of the villain in "The Mummy":
Zbig also interestingly brought up the infamous neocons: "And there are those who are supporting the regime, who in many respects are like our neocons -- very similar to our neocons."

Zbig believes that Obama so far has been handling the crisis correctly, and again mentioned the neocons: "he has struck absolutely the right note... He's identifying himself morally, historically with what is happening in Iran. But he's not engaging himself politically. He's not interfering, because that... could be exploited by the neocons in Iran to crush the revolution, to wipe it out."

Referring to those who are criticizing Obama for not being tougher, "One of the paradoxes here domestically is that many of the people who call for the most energetic involvement by Obama in the process, they simply would prefer to have an American-Iranian showdown.

"Whereas, in fact, if there is a change of regime in Iran, there's a greater chance of accommodation."

Looking down the road, Zbig adds, "...once we no longer have a Manichean, black-and-white, good-and-evil type of a regime confronting us in a hostile fashion, it will be easier to deal with the specific problems that we confront."

You see, in Brezinski's model of the conflict, the youthful protesters in Iran are like himself, Jimmy Carter, and the other desiccated retro lefties who are convinced they could negotiate with Satan himself to put an end to evil, whereas the "neocons" who long documented and militarily opposed the evil that is now slaying innocents and aspirants for liberty in the streets of Teheran are absolutely indistinguishable from the Ahmadinejads of this world. The term "Manichean" is to him not only colorless, it's also not even black and white. To identify evil as evil is as fundamental an error as to identify good as good. Liberalism, virtue, wisdom consist of immersing one's self forever in the grays of constant negotiations that never seek victory and never concede the defeat that flows inevitably from reasoning with unrepentant, determined evil.

Let's back up a minute. Youth, age, right, wrong, atrocity, principle, all these are merely pieces on the great chessboard of realpolitik that makes Brezinski's preferred foreign policy queen the voice of "hope and change" for the coming generation. He is prepared to negotiate with Ahmadinejad no matter what that monster does to the Nedas of this world. Because Brezinski is a wise liberal. Like Obama.

To put it even more simply, Brezinski depicts the "manichean" view of neocons as "old" and his own bitterly cynical and corrupt accommodation with obvious evil as "young." Are you listening, Jon Stewart? This cold-hearted zombie intellectual is supporting the policy of a president you worked your ass off to elect because you thought he cared about the little people so much that he would defy the power structures that treat little people as dispensable pawns. Now your messiah president is content to sweep the pawns off the board to pursue a negotiation strategy that has never worked. Mercy, humanity, and peace have never been arguments accorded a moment's notice by Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Jong Il, Ahmadinejad, or Yassir Arafat. You can't talk psychopathic killers out of killing.  The determination to hold talks with such people, including Castro, Chavez, and other tyrants, can't help but call into question the mentality that yearns for it so. Why does Obama seem to prefer such company to western leaders like Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel, and Sarkozy, whom he consistently insults? Are despots and self-proclaimed messiahs the real blood brothers of government? Is no one even allowed to ask such questions?

Which is the question that completes the circle. Obama seems to have a particular hard-on about Fox News. While the rest of the media adores him, Fox News does a so-so job of trying to ask journalistic hard questions. To a lot of us, they seem far too much on board with hope and change, too, but if you want to dig deeper, look at what the critics are saying:

"I've got one television station that is entirely devoted to attacking my administration," Obama told John Harwood, who had asked him how he felt about coverage of his administration. "That's a pretty big megaphone. You'd be hard-pressed if you watched the entire day to find a positive story about me on that front."

Fox News (which Obama pettishly declined to name) is indeed a big megaphone -- big and getting bigger. And that's no accident. As I've written before, Fox is big because it speaks to an audience that doesn't feel its concerns represented elsewhere on TV (and, yes, because Roger Ailes is a pro at producing slick, loud, button-pressing programming in general). For Obama to turn his back on that audience because he doesn't feel like he gets a fair shake from Fox would be a mistake. He all but acknowledged that himself during the campaign, when he finally granted an interview to Bill O'Reilly after being hounded for months.

That's not to say Obama has no grounds for complaint. Anyone who watches Fox for a few minutes can tell that its default attitude towards him is skepticism. [boldface added]

Skepticism is "grounds for complaint"? By the president of the United States of America? Under what definition of freedom of the press is "skepticism" an acceptable basis for condemnation by the president of the United States? I thought that was the undisputed mission of the press. To keep the powerful honest by asking wave upon wave of relentlessly skeptical querstions. Not any more? Since when? Rhetorical question. Since about 2 pm on Inauguration Day, 2009.

There's a reckoning coming. Somewhat like the reckoning underway in Iran. With just as uncertain an outcome. You want a metaphor? The traditonal mainstream media are the elders of the Iranian Islamic Revolution -- the Guardian Council, the Revolutionary Guard, and in the case of Obama, the "Supreme Leader." The lefty blogosphere and the Daily Show and the Colbert Report are the Basij, the unofficial assassins beholden to no standard of decency as they enforce the morality of the ruling ideology. (Shoot the infidel woman in the heart and deny it afterwards: she's just a whore from AlaskaTehran.)

Most of it is an exercise in cultist insanity. But note how much the pundit observers agree on one key truth that keeps eluding western sympathizers. Even the young ones aren't rising up against the idea of a revolutionary Islamic Republic. They just disagree about what the correct definition of that is. In our terms, they're not "manichean neocons," none of them. They're all true believers. It's just that what they truly believe varies, depending on their education, sex, internet friends, and material aspirations. Their "Supreme Leader" is their particular vision of Obama. They don't want to be us. They don't want to be without a Supreme Leader. They just want him to cut them a break.

And neither do American leftists. All of them have bought into the Supreme Leader concept too. They yearn for the Obemessiah Republic. The old ones who still hang on the yellowing words of CBS, ABC, and NBC network news are thinking of Obama as FDR, the Supreme Leader they remember from World War II, if not from his eight feckless years of economic failure before that. The younger crowd have an even hazier idea of who the "Supreme Leader" might be, an uneducated half-awareness of a time when, if you haven't read enough books, it's possible to believe that a man on horseback could kiss every boo-boo in your personal life and make it better without you ever having to suck it up and do something on your own.

It's a generational thing. As all the Iran pundits keep saying. One difference. Even the opponents of the Islamic Republic of Iran acknowledge that the 70 percent of Iranians who are under 30 are literate. They have the capacity to learn. The 40 percent of Americans who are under 30 are not literate. Not even close. Of course, their parents and grandparents (uh, that would be the network news anchors) don't have a clue about that, which partially explains their blind imbecility as well as the certainty that their entire form of news delivery will die within a decade.

The prospects are bleak. For Iran. And for the United States. The only hope for Iran is that the youngsters realize their religion is fundamentally incompatible with anything that could be called freedom. Won't happen. The only hope for America is that the youngsters will remember that rebellion against parents is far less important than rebellion against the infinitely greater powers of government, which eat out your heart even as they stunt your talents. Just sitting there gets too easy. Won't happen.

Unless. Unless the native instinct for rebellion among young people subliminally alerts them to the fact that slavish adoration of Obama in the condescendingly elitist mainstream media is a red flag to be reacted against. If the ancient assholes are for it, there has to be something wrong with it.

But all the anchors and newspapers are certain to die before the kids absorb that lesson. Which means we're all pretty much f***ed.


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