Bogus news for an increasingly fake medium

The Independent reports (evidently you have to read the press in the UK to learn these things) that the Bush Administration has been using "legitimate" television stations (cough, cough) to run its propaganda.

" Federal authorities are actively investigating dozens of American television stations for broadcasting items produced by the Bush administration and major corporations, and passing them off as normal news. Some of the fake news segments talked up success in the war in Iraq, or promoted the companies' products.

Investigators from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are seeking information about stations across the country after a report produced by a campaign group detailed the extraordinary extent of the use of such items.

The report, by the non-profit group Centre for Media and Democracy, found that over a 10-month period at least 77 television stations were making use of the faux news broadcasts, known as Video News Releases (VNRs). Not one told viewers who had produced the items.

"We know we only had partial access to these VNRs and yet we found 77 stations using them," said Diana Farsetta, one of the group's researchers. "I would say it's pretty extraordinary. The picture we found was much worse than we expected going into the investigation in terms of just how widely these get played and how frequently these pre-packaged segments are put on the air."

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During a speaking visit to an America journalism school recently I talked with students and faculty about the kinds of jobs graduates of the school expected to find. The strong consensus was that most of them would find work in public relations firms, not in traditional news reporting. Perhaps this is one of the ways that the boundaries between news and propaganda are being erased. Even the professionals can't tell the difference.

Automatic Professor Machine lecture restored

L.C. Winner's "Introducing the Automatic Professor Machine" lecture has been offline for a while. It has now been restored as a streaming video, about 23 minutes long. It takes a time to load and the transition between parts 1 and 2 is still a little rough, but its compelling vision of the future of technology-centered education is worth the occasional glitches in transmission

Still happily ensconced as C.E.O. of EDU-SHAM, Inc., L.C. tells me that he's been busy on a U.S. government no-bid contract to restore quality education to Iraq by introducing APMs in a variety of bomb-proof formats: Shia, Sunni, Kurd, Insurgent, and the newly introduced Refugee model (conveniently placed on escape routes for those fleeing the country).

"With our successful efforts in Iraqi reconstruction just about complete, I look forward to launching our new innovations in Glow-Ball pedagogy," he commented from Baghdad recently.

Political tsunami: the election of 2006

I'm beginning to look at the analysis of the 2006 election results. This story in the NYT contains a basic breakdown. (You have to click on the link in the left margin "Survey of Voters: Who They Were.")

Much of the data is encouraging, the breakdown on youth, black, hispanic, voters, etc. The Times story emphasizes that evangelicals stuck with the Republicans. No surprise there. But trends for much of the electorate moved in a different direction.

Women were 52% of all voters and voted 56% Democratic. Young voters 18-29, 12% of the total, voted 61% for the Dems. A new youth revolt against the forces of war, imperialism and inequality?

A first glance at these numbers reveals some very, very hopeful signs. I recall the warmth, enthusiasm and explicitly political message of the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young "Living with War" concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center last August, thinking "this is great, but too good to be true." But it was one of many glimmerings of a tsunami on the horizon. Of course, it will take a lot of work to continue and to build upon these gains.

- Langdon