Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What Is the Context?

Anything can seem to be true if there is no surrounding context -- which makes any observation and statement true or false, valid or invalid. Take anything out of context and that statement becomes meaningless -- so of course, that is a tactic heavily used in political discussions -- to make any point seem “valid.”

But rather than spend the extra time to create the context, as many “professional” writers do as a separate task, good writers provide that context in their very observation -- integral to to action of their focus. This is the integrated point of view by which the observer is also the observed -- rather than the observer apart from what he observes -- if such a thing were actually possible.

In that claim of being "objective," one creates the separation of the observer from the observed -- and because of that, can project all their own inadequacies, prejudices, resentments and pettiness onto the world and everybody else, while claiming to be completely “objective,” which has no reality beyond that insistence that one regard the author as such.

So rather than the claim that one is “objective” or not, which is at face-value absurd, what the reader should be looking for is the reporter’s awareness of their own biases and prejudices -- just as it is obvious to those who are most aware of these subtleties. With diligence and practice, they become much more obvious as deliberate attempts to deceive and manipulate -- which these practitioners just think is what everybody does, because they have so little insight into their own actions and motivations.

People get that way because they’ve never learned to view themselves alternatively -- as others might. They are convinced that the one way they see the world is the only way it can be seen -- and their teachers reinforce that “correctness,” and nothing else. And so such people grow up thinking they see the world rightly -- and that to see it any other way, is just incorrect -- because everybody in their crowd believes that also.

This of course, is mass conformity (indoctrination) -- rather than the truth and validity of anything , which they are convinced, they possess exclusively, as all the others in conformance with their point of view -- which in the popular media and culture, is the “liberal” or “liberated” point of view, without realizing that is all they have been taught to know -- as though they chose that rightness for themselves.

That’s how people can make such wrong choices thinking they are unquestionably right -- because everybody else around them, agrees that is the proper thing to do, and all their upbringing in life, is to surround themselves with people who think exactly as they do -- and that for them, is being enlightened, worldly, sophisticated and liberal. The alternatives, is that which they will not allow themselves to consider for a moment -- that there could be any other way of thinking or regarding the world, which is to have a perspective of knowing that the observer is also the observed.

If one could do that, one has the proper context for observing things truly, accurately, validly -- but not to have any awareness of this consideration, is to have no understanding of anything at all -- which leads to tremendous chaos in "government." So this quality in being able to tell this difference, is what people should look for in great leaders -- rather than those who merely confirm all one’s prejudices, no matter how liberal and objective they think they are.


At June 20, 2007 11:45 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Greed is Safer Than Power-Seeking
Forbes ^ | 6/20/2007 | Paul Johnson

Able, industrious, imaginative and creative people— the top 5% of mankind—divide into two broad categories: those who make money and those who make trouble.

It’s a matter of opinion which do more harm and which do more good. The Bible—both Old Testament and New—tends to criticize the successful moneymakers. Many of us know the text about the rich man and the eye of the needle. But not all the wise agree with scripture on this point. Samuel Johnson posited: “There are few ways in which a man can be more innocently employed than in getting [i.e., making] money.” And John Maynard Keynes, the most influential economist of the 20th century, commenting on the tendency of the clever and strong-willed to bully, said: “It is better that a man should tyrannize over his bank balance than over his fellow-citizens.”

It is striking that the hugely wicked are quite innocent of avarice. Hitler never showed any interest in money. Stalin left his salary envelopes unopened: When Stalin died, the little old desk in his modest office was found stuffed with them. Mao Zedong, over the course of his career, killed 70 million people, but toward the end of his life Mao failed to recognize a current banknote. These three monsters weren’t obsessed with wealth; they were obsessed with power.

Then there are the troublemakers, whose activities take endless forms.

--Writers, for instance, spin words that force people to think, debate and question the existing order and way of doing things. A key term in the vocabulary of praise, whether for plays, novels, poetry or works of philosophy, is “disturbing.” It is assumed that people are naturally complacent and need to be disturbed. But the process is inevitably troubling.

--Lawyers, another important group in this category, are—or profess to be—concerned with justice. Their objective is to create and operate a system of rules that curb natural instincts and subject all human actions to standards of fairness. Clever lawyers become enthusiasts, and enthusiasm creates trouble—witness, for instance, the vendetta the U.S. Department of Justice has pursued against many successful businessmen post-Enron.

--Politicians make up a third group. Men and women enter politics, or so they say, to improve humanity’s lot. Politicians are activists, busy at devising schemes of change and seeking to enact laws to make those changes compulsory. Their schemes tend to expand the power of government, thereby contracting the area in which individuals exercise their own judgment.

The 20th century saw an immense increase in the authority of government and the human actions it regulated. The process seems to be accelerating in the 21st century. In the decade during which New Labour has ruled in Britain, for example, more than 3,000 new criminal offenses of one kind or another have been added to the books, many involving such previously unrestricted activities as smoking or the voicing of opinions (now often designated as “hate crimes”). All this is troubling.

--The self-appointed benefactors of mankind, a fourth and increasingly important group, constitute organizations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. They are even more prone to enthusiasm than are politicians and are buoyed by a sense of mission and high-principled idealism that often make them a little careless about the accuracy of their assertions. For many their causes are a substitute for traditional religion, inclining them to martyrdom and self-sacrifice in the extreme. These are the quintessential troublemakers of our age.

Whether such people help or hinder their fellow mortals in search of a better life is, again, a matter of opinion. I recall, more than 60 years ago, the explosion of the first atomic bomb. I was 16, and soon thereafter I entered (and won) a school essay competition on “The Consequences of Atomic Energy.” My theme was the huge improvement that would be brought about by the harnessing of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

That improvement has not, on the whole, taken place. What I failed to allow for was the birth of an entirely new group of wellintentioned enthusiasts whose particular troublemaking activity is directed toward nuclear power stations. These agitators have been remarkably successful in preventing their construction. As a result, the world has drifted into an energy shortage that has raised the cost of living, particularly for the poor. It has also aided in the revival of Russian power and ambition under Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime.

Here is just one example of troublemaking as opposed to moneymaking: The new moneymakers of China and India have caused an increased demand in energy that producers are straining to meet, and the troublemakers in the West have intensified the crisis.

Stirring the Pot

Of course, we need troublemakers. The ancient Egyptians thought Moses was a troublemaker. The Romans thought the same of Jesus, and the Popes the same of Martin Luther. Jean- Jacques Rousseau, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud—they all made trouble for those of settled opinion. All the same, I’m glad the majority of able and vigorous people opt for making money. It makes the world an easier place for the rest of us.

At June 21, 2007 8:33 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Journalists dole out cash to politicians (quietly)

BOSTON - A CNN reporter gave $500 to John Kerry's campaign the same month he was embedded with the U.S. Army in Iraq. An assistant managing editor at Forbes magazine not only sent $2,000 to Republicans, but also volunteers as a director of an ExxonMobil-funded group that questions global warming. A junior editor at Dow Jones Newswires gave $1,036 to the liberal group and keeps a blog listing "people I don't like," starting with George Bush, Pat Robertson, the Christian Coalition, the NRA and corporate America ("these are the people who are really in charge").

Whether you sample your news feed from ABC or CBS (or, yes, even NBC and MSNBC), whether you prefer Fox News Channel or National Public Radio, The Wall Street Journal or The New Yorker, some of the journalists feeding you are also feeding cash to politicians, parties or political action committees. identified 144 journalists who made political contributions from 2004 through the start of the 2008 campaign, according to the public records of the Federal Election Commission. Most of the newsroom checkbooks leaned to the left: 125 journalists gave to Democrats and liberal causes. Only 17 gave to Republicans. Two gave to both parties.

The donors

These companies had newspeople giving money to politicians, parties or PACs.

The donors include CNN's Guy Raz, now covering the Pentagon for NPR, who gave to Kerry the same month he was embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq; New Yorker war correspondent George Packer; a producer for Bill O'Reilly at Fox; MSNBC TV host Joe Scarborough; political writers at Vanity Fair; the editor of The Wall Street Journal's weekend section; local TV anchors in Washington, Minneapolis, Memphis and Wichita; the ethics columnist at The New York Times; and even MTV's former presidential campaign correspondent.

‘If someone had murdered Hitler ...’

There's a longstanding tradition that journalists don't cheer in the press box. They have opinions, like anyone else, but they are expected to keep those opinions out of their work. Because appearing to be fair is part of being fair, most mainstream news organizations discourage marching for causes, displaying political bumper stickers or giving cash to candidates.

How the analysis was conducted

Traditionally, many news organizations have applied the rules to only political reporters and editors. The ethic was summed up by Abe Rosenthal, the former New York Times editor, who is reported to have said, "I don't care if you sleep with elephants as long as you don't cover the circus."

But with polls showing the public losing faith in the ability of journalists to give the news straight up, some major newspapers and TV networks are clamping down. They now prohibit all political activity — aside from voting — no matter whether the journalist covers baseball or proofreads the obituaries. The Times in 2003 banned all donations, with editors scouring the FEC records regularly to watch for in-house donors. In 2005, The Chicago Tribune made its policy absolute. CBS did the same last fall. And The Atlantic Monthly, where a senior editor gave $500 to the Democratic Party in 2004, says it is considering banning all donations. After contacted about donations by a reporter and a former executive editor, this week Salon banned donations for all its staff.

What changed? First came the conservative outcry labeling the mainstream media as carrying a liberal bias. The growth of talk radio and cable slugfests gave voice to that claim. The Iraq war fueled distrust of the press from both sides. Finally, it became easier for the blogging public to look up the donors.

As the policy at the Times puts it: "Given the ease of Internet access to public records of campaign contributors, any political giving by a Times staff member would carry a great risk of feeding a false impression that the paper is taking sides."

But news organizations don't agree on where to draw the ethical line.

Giving to candidates is allowed at Fox, Forbes, Time, The New Yorker, Reuters — and at Bloomberg News, whose editor in chief, Matthew Winkler, set the tone by giving to Al Gore in 2000. Bloomberg has nine campaign donors on the list; they're allowed to donate unless they cover politics directly.

Donations and other political activity are strictly forbidden at The Washington Post, ABC, CBS, CNN and NPR.

Politicking is discouraged, but there is some wiggle room, at Dow Jones, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report. (Compare policies here.)

NBC, MSNBC and say they don't discourage or encourage campaign contributions, but they require employees to report any potential conflicts of interest in advance and receive permission of the senior editor. ( is a joint venture of NBC Universal and Microsoft; its employees are required to adhere to NBC News policies regarding political contributions.)

Many of the donating journalists cover topics far from politics: food, fashion, sports. Some touch on politics from time to time: Even a film critic has to review Gore's documentary on global warming. And some donors wield quiet influence behind the scenes, such as the wire editors at newspapers in Honolulu and Riverside, Calif., who decide which state, national and international news to publish.

The pattern of donations, with nearly nine out of 10 giving to Democratic candidates and causes, appears to confirm a leftward tilt in newsrooms — at least among the donors, who are a tiny fraction of the roughly 100,000 staffers in newsrooms across the nation.

The donors said they try to be fair in reporting and editing the news. One of the recurring themes in the responses is that it's better for journalists to be transparent about their beliefs, and that editors who insist on manufacturing an appearance of impartiality are being deceptive to a public that already knows journalists aren't without biases.

"Our writers are citizens, and they're free to do what they want to do," said New Yorker editor David Remnick, who has 10 political donors at his magazine. "If what they write is fair, and they respond to editing and counter-arguments with an open mind, that to me is the way we work."

The openness didn't extend, however, to telling the public about the donations. Apparently none of the journalists disclosed the donations to readers, viewers or listeners. Few told their bosses, either.

Several of the donating journalists said they had no regrets, whatever the ethical concerns.

"Probably there should be a rule against it," said New Yorker writer Mark Singer, who wrote the magazine's profile of Howard Dean during the 2004 campaign, then gave $250 to America Coming Together and its get-out-the-vote campaign to defeat President Bush. "But there's a rule against murder. If someone had murdered Hitler — a journalist interviewing him had murdered him — the world would be a better place. I only feel good, as a citizen, about getting rid of George Bush, who has been the most destructive president in my lifetime. I certainly don't regret it."

Conservative-leaning journalists tended to greater generosity. Ann Stewart Banker, a producer for Bill O'Reilly at Fox News Channel, gave $5,000 to Republicans. Financial columnist Liz Peek at The New York Sun gave $90,000 to the Grand Old Party.

A few journalists let their enthusiasm extend beyond the checkbook. A Fox TV reporter in Omaha, Calvert Collins, posted a photo on with her cozying up to a Democratic candidate for Congress. She urged her friends, "Vote for him Tuesday, Nov. 7!" She also gave him $500. She said she was just trying to build rapport with the candidates. (And what builds rapport more effectively than $500 and a strapless gown?)

'You call that a campaign contribution?'
Sometimes a donation isn't a donation, at least in the eye of the donor.

"I don't make campaign contributions," said Jean A. Briggs, who gave a total of $2,000 to the Republican Party and Republican candidates, most recently this March. "I'm the assistant managing editor of Forbes magazine."

When asked about the Republican National Committee donations, she replied, "You call that a campaign contribution? It's not putting money into anyone's campaign."

(For the record: The RNC gave $25 million to the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004.)

A spokeswoman for Forbes said the magazine allows contributions.

Briggs also is listed as a board member of the Property and Environment Research Center, which advocates "market solutions to environmental problems." PERC has received funding from ExxonMobil and other oil companies, and tries to get the industry's views into textbooks and the media. The organization's Web site says, "She exposes fellow New York journalists to PERC ideas and also brings a journalistic perspective to PERC's board. As a board member, she seeks to help spread the word about PERC's thorough research and fresh ideas."

Americans don't trust the news or newspeople as much as they used to. The crisis of faith is traced by the surveys of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. More than seven in 10 (72 percent) say news organizations tend to favor one side, the highest level of skepticism in the poll's 20-year history. Despite the popularity of Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann, two-thirds of those polled say they prefer to get news from sources without a particular point of view.

‘My readers know my views'
George Packer is The New Yorker's man in Iraq.

George Packer
The New Yorker's George Packer, a Democratic donor: "My readers know my views."

The war correspondent for the magazine since 2003 and author of the acclaimed 2005 book "The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq," Packer gave $750 to the Democratic National Committee in August 2004, and then $250 in 2005 to Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett, an anti-war Democrat who campaigned unsuccessfully for a seat in Congress from Ohio.

In addition to his reported pieces, Packer also writes commentary for the magazine, such as his June 11 piece ruing Bush's "shallow, unreflective character."

"My readers know my views on politics and politicians because I make no secret of them in my comments for The New Yorker and elsewhere," Packer said. "If giving money to a politician prejudiced my ability to think and write honestly, I wouldn't do it. Fortunately, it doesn't."

There are more who gave
Not every donor is identified

There appear to be far more than 144 donating journalists, but limited its search to:
— Federal candidates, PACs and parties in the records of the Federal Election Commission, not the separate state campaign records.
— The period January 2004 through the first quarter of this year.
— Donors in news jobs, not corporate executives or publishers, who are allowed by nearly every news organization to donate.

Campaigns are spotty about reporting the occupation and employer of donors. The law requires only that campaigns make a good-faith effort to request the information from donors.

Our first search of the records used job titles: "editor," "anchor" and so on. Because often no job title is reported, we also searched using the names of news companies. Smaller companies were not checked; for example, we checked only the company names of the 200 largest newspapers, out of more than 1,400 dailies in the nation.

Small donations may not be in the records. Many candidates report only donations of $200 or more. Reporting of smaller donations is optional but is becoming more common with electronic filing of campaign reports to the FEC.

Then, with a list of about 300 apparent journalists, we tried to contact them all. The list published here includes only those who either confirmed that they made the donation or did not respond. Many journalists who changed jobs since the donations were not contacted and are not included here.

The final list represents a tiny percentage of the working journalists in the nation. Daily newspapers alone employ about 60,000 full-time journalists. Approximately 30,000 work in television news jobs and 10,000 in radio news.

Click here to see the full list of donors and what they had to say.
His colleague Judith Thurman wrote the New Yorker's sympathetic profile of Teresa Heinz Kerry, published on Sept. 27, 2004. Ten days later, the Democratic National Committee recorded Thurman's donation of $1,000. She did not return phone calls.

Their editor, Remnick, said that the magazine's writers don't do straight reporting. "Their opinions are out there," Remnick said. "There's nothing hidden." So why not disclose campaign donations to readers? "Should every newspaper reporter divulge who they vote for?"

Besides, there's the magazine's famously rigorous editing. The last bulwark against bias’s slipping into The New Yorker is the copy department, whose chief editor, Ann Goldstein, gave $500 in October to, which campaigns for Democrats and against President Bush. "That's just me as a private citizen," she said. As for whether donations are allowed, Goldstein said she hadn't considered it. "I've never thought of myself as working for a news organization."

Embedded in Iraq, giving to Kerry
Guy Raz does work for a news organization.

Guy Raz
Guy Raz of CNN and NPR, covering the war, giving to John Kerry, all in the same month.

As the Jerusalem correspondent for CNN, he was embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq in June 2004, when he gave $500 to John Kerry.

He didn't supply his occupation or employer to the Kerry campaign, so his donation is listed in federal records with only his name and London address. Now he covers the Pentagon for NPR. Both CNN and NPR forbid political activity.

"I covered international news and European Union stories. I did not cover U.S. news or politics," Raz said in an e-mail to When asked how one could define U.S. news so it excludes the U.S. war in Iraq, Raz didn't reply.

Margot Patterson not only covered the war and gave money to stop it — she also signed a petition against it.

(More at link above)

At June 26, 2007 9:39 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

(D) The Honolulu Advertiser, Chris Neil, wire editor, $500 to John Kerry in June 2004. The wire editor selects national and international news stories.

Update: Neil said that he was relieved of his duties as wire editor, for the rest of the 2004 election, after editors heard from a reader about his donation. The paper had published an article, which he had edited, explaining how to look up campaign contributions on the Internet. He was reinstated to that position after the election, but recently moved to another role, as a general copy editor.

Neil said the issue of whether or not journalists should make donations is complicated. "I will not categorically say that it should be allowed, but I'm leaning that way. Which is better? For the views to be known, or not known? The reverse is there's a lot of bias in the media that's hidden -- and that's more valuable to a politician than a campaign contribution."

At November 15, 2009 9:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...




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