Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Manufactured News

So here’s a neat bit of manufactured news for you. One of my students works at the Harlem branch of the New York Public Library, which in a very old building on 125 street and Amsterdam. The building is owned by the city but is not handicap accessible. It does not have a ramp. At least it does not have a traditional ramp. My student, who weighs close to three hundred pounds and is built like a nose tackle, is the ramp. Whenever anybody in a wheelchair needs access they have him carry the person and chair inside.

Now of course I think the City should spring for a ramp. So does everybody at the library. So, apparently, does the evening news. One of the local stations sent a camera crew out to the library to shoot a story on the lace of handicap access—a good subject for an expose. They had the local city councilman there talking about how he’s tried to get the NYPL to build a ramp, and they interviewed passers by. So far so good. But then they got to the goy in the wheel chair.

This guy was running around in a motorized wheel chair and, according to my student, was an active part of the shoot. He had apparently come with the camera crew. They took several takes of a shot where he rolled by the front of the building, and then several more of him rolling up to the staircase and looking up pitifully toward the door, longing to somehow get inside. My student says he swears he saw a tear rolling down the guy’s cheek.

This was manipulative. It was deceptive. It was obviously a manufactured bit. This was no longer news: it was scripted drama masquerading as news. When they interviewed the guy, he told of how he comes to the library often but he can’t get inside, to which my student said “Bull: I’ve never carried him inside. He’s never been there.”

So what is the responsibility of the news organization here? Are they breaking faith with their viewers, who expected news to be actual news? Or are they trying to right a wrong by dramatically highlighting the problem? Some of my students think what the evening news did in this case was fine. One even said “In this case the end justifies the means.” Most of them, however, thought the TV station should be held accountable for deceiving its viewers.

Should a news organization manufacture news?

Anna Nicole yet again

Somebody said that Anna Nicole's death is the dark flip-side of Princess Dianna. I couldn't agree more. Neither the people who wept openly about Princess Di nor the freaks who are freaking out over Anna Nicole actually knew the women. They have no real idea if Di was as nice and sweet as she was or if Anna was really as weird. From watching The Queen (which is after all just a movie), you'd get the idea that Di was a selfish, childish, destructive little bitch, while the people who actually knew Anna Nicole described her as sweet, loving, competent and caring.

And now that we know that Anna Nicole died of an accidental drug overdose, do you think Fox News can finally shut up about her? No, me neither.

The post must be just crushed that the ME's report was so steadfast in it's proclaimation that there was "no evidence of fould play." They wanted it to be murder so bad they asked the question on the front page the day the story broke. Not being able to let go, they put quotation marks around the word "accidental." A pathetic, sad druggie ODing on pain meds is hardly the salcious story the Post wants. A nice Juicy murder always boosts circulation. But hte post need not worry: indictments were handed down by the Sean Bell grand jury last week, and they'll be able to exploit that tragedy for a couple more years now.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Beefcake at Thermopoly

I saw 300 this weekend, along with a lot of other people. 300 pulled in $70 Million and apparently "shocked" Hollywood. There are a lot o fissues raised by this extremely cool looking comic book movie--how do you film a Graphic Novel and remain true to the original? Does 300 spell the death of properties and scenic artists the way tat Last Starfighter herralded the end of modlers and computer generated modle effects? Do women just want to see muscle men in speedos?

I'm going to review 300 on at, but there is something worth noting on this page: As with the other sword and sandle movie I reviewed last week, Conan the Barbarian, this is an extremely conservative film. The batle of Thermopoly has an important place in the Eurcentric ideal, in conservative politics, and in military history. I read somewhere resently that it is the first bttle you study at West Point. It shouldnt' be lost on us that this was a battle in which "the hordes of Asia" (which in this case meant the Middle East) were attacking "the civilized world." It wasn't the first version of orientalism in Western legend--that would be Troy, and the threat was certainly real. This film version has a valient king defying public opinion and his nation own law to send a small force of brave heroes to resist the invading army from what is now Iran. The paralells to the Iraq war, and the current conflict with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, can't be ignored. Considering how imensely popular this movie has proven to be, it can't be good news for advocates of diplomacy.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

This is news

According to the AP, the city council of Lago, Fla voted last night to fire the city manager, who has been on the job for 14 years and has apparently been good at it, becuase he announced he was about to have asex change opperation. The mayor and one other councilmember cast dissenting votes. Those voting for the ouster said that the man had lost all integrity and couldn't be trusted. I think you know how I feel. They're a bunch of biggots and they should be ashamed of themselves but, like most biggots, they won't be.