Category Archives: TV

I’ll Take Skynet Is Taking Over The World For $800, Alex

Ken Jennings at Slate:

When I was selected as one of the two human players to be pitted against IBM’s “Watson” supercomputer in a special man-vs.-machine Jeopardy! exhibition match, I felt honored, even heroic. I envisioned myself as the Great Carbon-Based Hope against a new generation of thinking machines—which, if Hollywood is to believed, will inevitably run amok, build unstoppable robot shells, and destroy us all. But at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Lab, an Eero Saarinen-designed fortress in the snowy wilds of New York’s Westchester County, where the shows taped last month, I wasn’t the hero at all. I was the villain.

This was to be an away game for humanity, I realized as I walked onto the slightly-smaller-than-regulation Jeopardy! set that had been mocked up in the building’s main auditorium. In the middle of the floor was a huge image of Watson’s on-camera avatar, a glowing blue ball crisscrossed by “threads” of thought—42 threads, to be precise, an in-joke for Douglas Adams fans. The stands were full of hopeful IBM programmers and executives, whispering excitedly and pumping their fists every time their digital darling nailed a question. A Watson loss would be invigorating for Luddites and computer-phobes everywhere, but bad news for IBM shareholders.

The IBM team had every reason to be hopeful. Watson seems to represent a giant leap forward in the field of natural-language processing—the ability to understand and respond to everyday English, the way Ask Jeeves did (with uneven results) in the dot-com boom. Jeopardy! clues cover an open domain of human knowledge—every subject imaginable—and are full of booby traps for computers: puns, slang, wordplay, oblique allusions. But in just a few years, Watson has learned—yes, it learns—to deal with some of the myriad complexities of English. When it sees the word “Blondie,” it’s very good at figuring out whether Jeopardy! means the cookie, the comic strip, or the new-wave band.

I expected Watson’s bag of cognitive tricks to be fairly shallow, but I felt an uneasy sense of familiarity as its programmers briefed us before the big match: The computer’s techniques for unraveling Jeopardy! clues sounded just like mine. That machine zeroes in on key words in a clue, then combs its memory (in Watson’s case, a 15-terabyte data bank of human knowledge) for clusters of associations with those words. It rigorously checks the top hits against all the contextual information it can muster: the category name; the kind of answer being sought; the time, place, and gender hinted at in the clue; and so on. And when it feels “sure” enough, it decides to buzz. This is all an instant, intuitive process for a human Jeopardy! player, but I felt convinced that under the hood my brain was doing more or less the same thing.

Indeed, playing against Watson turned out to be a lot like any other Jeopardy! game, though out of the corner of my eye I could see that the middle player had a plasma screen for a face. Watson has lots in common with a top-ranked human Jeopardy! player: It’s very smart, very fast, speaks in an uneven monotone, and has never known the touch of a woman. But unlike us, Watson cannot be intimidated. It never gets cocky or discouraged. It plays its game coldly, implacably, always offering a perfectly timed buzz when it’s confident about an answer. Jeopardy! devotees know that buzzer skill is crucial—games between humans are more often won by the fastest thumb than the fastest brain. This advantage is only magnified when one of the “thumbs” is an electromagnetic solenoid trigged by a microsecond-precise jolt of current. I knew it would take some lucky breaks to keep up with the computer, since it couldn’t be beaten on speed.

Instapundit:

DID THE SINGULARITY just happen on Jeopardy? The Singularity is a process, more than an event, even if, from a long-term historical perspective, it may look like an event. (Kind of like the invention of agriculture looks to us now). So, yeah. “In the CNN story one of the machine’s creators admitted that he was a very poor Jeopardy player. Somehow he was able to make a machine that could do better than himself in that contest. The creators aren’t even able to follow the reasoning of the computer. The system is showing emergent complexity.”

mistermix:

I’m not a big Jeopardy geek, but my understanding is that players are surprised at how big a role button management plays in winning or losing a round. In the few minutes of the Watson game that I watched, it was pretty clear that Watson was excellent at pressing the button at exactly the right moment if it knew the answer, which is more a measure of electromechanical reflex than human-like intelligence.

To the credit of IBM engineers, Watson almost always did know the right answer. Still, there were a few bloopers, such as the final Jeopardy question from yesterday (paraphrasing): “This city has two airports, one named after a World War II hero, and the other named after a World War II battle.” Watson’s guess, “Toronto”, was just laughably bad—Lester Pearson and Billy Bishop fought in World War I, and neither person is a battle. The right answer, “Chicago”, was pretty obvious, but apparently Watson couldn’t connect Midway or O’Hare with WW II.

Mark Krikorian at The Corner:

I was on the show, in 1996 or ’97, and success is based almost entirely on your reflexes — i.e., pushing the buzzer as soon as Trebek finishes reading the question, er, the answer. (I came in second, winning a dining-room set and other fabulous parting gifts, which I had to sell to pay the taxes on them.)The benefit to society would come if we could turn Alex Trebek into Captain Dunsel.

Jim Behrle at The Awl:

If I owned a gun, it would probably be in my mouth as I type this. I don’t know how the physics of that arrangement would work, but the mood in Chez Jim is darker than Mothra’s hairy crotch. I’ve just been sitting here listening to Weird Al’s weirdly prescient “I Lost on Jeopardy” in the dark, cuddling with a tapped-out bottle of WD-40. Humanity took a hit tonight. Our valiant human heroes made it close, but that Watson tore us new assholes in our foreheads. ALL OF US. That noise you heard driving to work was your GPS system laughing at you. While you were sneezing on the D train this morning your Kindle was giving you the finger. There is blood in the water this morning and this afternoon and forever more. This wasn’t like losing some Nerdgame like chess. Who the hell even knows how to play chess? The horsies go in little circles, right? “Jeopardy!” is the game that makes dumb people feel smart. Like National Public Radio, it’s designed to make people feel superior. And we just found out that people are not superior. No, not at all.I might personally call the whole thing a draw. I read Ken Jennings’ piece in Slate and I can tell the machine was just better at ringing the buzzer than him. If it was truly a battle of Humanity versus Accursed Frankensteinian Monstrosity there should have been one human and one monstrosity. Or one smart human, one machine and me. I could answer sportsy questions. And the rest of the time stay out of Ken’s way. No disrespect to Brad, but this is one fight that ought to have been fought one-on-one. Don’t make humans battle each other to save the world from machines. It’s too cruel. I’d sit back and let the goddamned human expert answer the tough questions. I’d just be there to figure out a way how to unplug the fucking thing when no one was watching. So, here’s the lineup for this Rematch that I demand, formally, right here on The Awl—which I know everyone at IBM reads—Me, Ken and your little Betamax.

And you have to put a little more at stake than just money. For Ken, Me and the Watson. Why did they call it Watson, anyway? Wasn’t Watson just Sherlock Holmes’ butler? And Alexander Graham Bell’s friend who was in the other room and got the first phone call. Why not call the thing what it is: HYDE. Or LILITH. Or Beezelbub of the Underland? Its dark, soulless visage no doubt crushed the very spirit of our human champions. Maybe force it to wear a blonde wig. And talk in Valley Girl language. “Like Oh My God, Gag Me with a Spoon, Alex. I’ll like take like Potpourri for like $800!”

This rematch should happen on Neutral Ground. I suggest Indianapolis. Halftime at the next Super Bowl. This gives Ken a chance to put the pieces of his broken ego back together. And for me to eat some Twinkies. There probably won’t even Be a Super Bowl because of the Looming Lockout, so America will just be watching commercials and various superstars mangling America’s Favorite Patriotic songs. Make IBM take their little Cabinet of Wonders on the Road. Get the military involved to make sure there are no shenanigans this time like plugging it into the Internet or texting it answers from the audience. Also, I want the damned thing to NOT be plugged into the Jeopardy game. It needs to be able to hear Alex and to read the hint on the little blue screen. How much time does it take a human to hear Alex and see it printed out and understand just what the hell the half-idiot writers of “Jeopardy!” were getting at? (Was a Dave Eggers mention really necessary during Wednesday night’s episode? The category was Non-fiction. And it’s obvious that Watson has some kind of super Amazon app embedded in its evil systems. The first 200 pages of Dave’s Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius were pretty good. Everything else is Twee Bullshit. “I am a dog from a short story. I am fast and strong. Too bad you know I die in the river from the title of this short story. Woooof!” I mean, seriously, “Jeopardy!” Get a library card. There are billions of other writers and I’ve seen at least 5 shows in which you’ve used some form of Dave Eggers. )

Ben Wieder at The Chronicle Of Higher Education:

The victory made one group of people very happy.

The computer-science department at the University of Texas at Austin hosted viewing parties for the first two nights of the competition.

“People were cheering for Watson,” says Ken Barker, a research scientist at Texas. “When they introduced Brad and Ken, there were a few boos in the audience.”

Texas is one of eight universities whose researchers helped develop the technology on which Watson is based. Many of the other universities hosted viewing parties for the three days of competition as well.

Mr. Barker says he was blown away by Watson’s performance on the show, particularly the computer’s ability to make sense of Jeopardy!‘s cleverly worded clues.

But the computer did make a few mistakes along the way.

Most notably, Watson incorrectly wrote “Toronto” in response to a Final Jeopardy clue in the category of U.S. Cities. Both Mr. Jennings and Mr. Rutter returned the correct response, which was Chicago.

Mr. Barker says Watson may have considered U.S. to be a synonym of America and, as such, considered Toronto, a North American city, to be a suitable response.

Raymond J. Mooney, a computer-science professor at Texas, says Final Jeopardy is the Achilles heel of the computer.

“If it didn’t have to answer that question, it wouldn’t have,” he says.

Clues in that final round are often more complicated than others in the show because they involve multiple parts.

The phrasing of the question Watson got wrong included what linguists refer to as an ellipsis, an omitted phrase whose meaning is implicit from other parts of the sentence. The clue that tripped up Watson, “Its largest airport is named for a World War II hero; its second largest, for a World War II battle,” left out “airport is named” in the second clause.

Mr. Mooney says it will be some time before the average person will be using a computer with the capabilities of Watson, but he did see one potential immediate impact from the show.

Ezra Klein:

The sentient computers of the future are going to think it pretty hilarious that a knowledge-based showdown between one of their own and a creature with a liver was ever considered a fair fight.

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Filed under Go Meta, Technology, TV

This Story You Will Be Talking About Tomorrow

Mark Joyella at Mediaite:

Sources tell Mediaite Keith Olbermann and MSNBC were headed for a breakup long before Comcast’s rise to power, but clearly something set the divorce into motion quickly today, with network promos set to run touting Olbermann’s role in MSNBC’s coverage of next week’s State of the Union address–and, notably, a Keith Olbermann promo running on MSNBC in the hour after the host signed off and left the network.

MSNBC executives have long planned for the day the network’s star might be sent packing, and the rise of Rachel Maddow at MSNBC–along with the grooming of Lawrence O’Donnell as a potential replacement for Olbermann–appears to have hastened the host’s departure.

While Olbermann and his iconic Countdown have been immensely important in the resurgence of MSNBC, Olbermann’s friction with management has been a sticking point. At many points–including the recent suspension over political contributions–tensions rose so high as to lead to serious discussions inside MSNBC about firing their star.

With Maddow enjoying both immense popularity inside MSNBC and very strong ratings for her Rachel Maddow Show, Olbermann’s invincibility as the heart and soul of MSNBC’s brand became softer. In recent weeks, sources tell Mediaite there have been meetings on the topic of Keith Olbermann and his future at the network. Did Comcast–as many Countdown viewers seem to suspect–order Olbermann out? It appears that the end of the Olbermann era at MSNBC was not “ordered” by Comcast, nor was it a move to tone down the network’s politics. Instead, sources inside the network say it came down to the more mundane world of office politics–Olbermann was a difficult employee, who clashed with bosses, colleagues and underlings alike, and with the Comcast-related departure of Jeff Zucker, and the rise of Maddow and O’Donnell, the landscape shifted, making an Olbermann exit suddenly seem well-timed.

Howard Kurtz at Daily Beast:

Whatever his excesses, he led third-place MSNBC out of the cable wilderness to the point where it overtook CNN in prime time, boosted not only by his numbers but by those of his protégé, Rachel Maddow.

Without question, he was a polarizing presence, and several NBC veterans, including Tom Brokaw, complained to network management that he was damaging MSNBC’s reputation for independence.

At a meeting with Olbermann’s representatives last September, NBC Chief Executive Jeff Zucker and NBC News President Steve Capus said that some of their client’s behavior was unacceptable and had to stop. Griffin said that Olbermann’s personal problems were affecting his work and he looked angrier on the air, eclipsing the smart and ironic anchor they had once loved.

In November, when Griffin suspended Olbermann indefinitely over the political donations, the two sides engaged in blistering negotiations over how long it would last. Olbermann’s manager, Price, warned Griffin that if the matter wasn’t resolved quickly, Olbermann would take his complaints public by accepting invitations from Good Morning America, David Letterman, and Larry King.

“If you go on GMA, I will fire Keith,” Griffin shot back.

The suspension wound up lasting just two days, and Olbermann said he was sorry for the “unnecessary drama” and “for having mistakenly violated an inconsistently applied rule” in making the $7,200 in contributions. But after years of internal warfare, Olbermann had no major allies left at 30 Rock.

There were similar backstage struggles in 2008 and 2009 when top executives tried to get Olbermann and O’Reilly to tone down their personal attacks. O’Reilly, who never mentions Olbermann by name, was assailing NBC’s parent company, General Electric, while Olbermann once imagined the fate of “a poor kid” born to a transgendered man who became pregnant, adding: “Kind of like life at home for Bill’s kids.”

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

I was just on in the opening segment of Olbermann tonight. And I get home and get this press release from NBC saying this was the last episode of Countdown. At first I figured it had to be a spoof email because, jeez, I was on and I didn’t have any sense that any other than a regular Friday evening show was on. But sure enough I pulled up the recording and now I’m watching his final sign off.

I doubt I would have had any heads up or known anything was happening if Olbermann was going to go off the air. But I was a bit more stunned than I might otherwise have been because I was just over there. And I did not have any sense that there was anything any different than normal going on. Everything seemed calm and pretty sedate. I didn’t sense anything different in Keith’s manner or affect (though it’s not like we’re tight and I would have been the person to notice.) There were a few more people than I’m used to seeing in the studio — maybe two or three, seated, who seemed to be there to watch. (Something I don’t remember seeing before.) But nothing that made me think twice that anything odd was going on.

I’m sure we’ll be hearing soon enough what on earth happened here. But color me stunned. And really disappointed.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

Keith Olbermann and I started from the same place, the same school, the same English teacher–Arthur Naething–who changed our lives. I’ve always had a soft spot for Keith as a result, even when he called me one of the worst people in the world (based on a wildly inaccurate interpretation of something I’d written). I’ve criticized him, too, for his melodramatically over-the-top effusions. I’m not so sure what this dispute with MSNBC is all about, but I’m sad that Keith won’t be around (at least, for a while). If there is a place for the nonsense-spew of Fox News, there has to be a place on my cable dial for Olbermann (who, while occasionally obnoxious, operates from a base of reality–unlike some people we know [see below]). Keith is a brilliant writer, and presenter; I always enjoy watching him, even when he’s occasionally wrong. I hope I’ll have the opportunity to do so again soon. In the meantime, I hope he’ll heed the words of the master and “Go forth, and spread beauty and light.”

On another decidedly hilarious front, Glenn Beck has found yet another enemy of the people in a 78-year-old Columbia University professor named Frances Fox Piven. I’ve always thought that Piven’s work was foolish and inhumane. There was a brief, disastrous time in the 1960s when her desire to flood the welfare system with new recipients was the tacit policy of the city of New York, which produced absolutely terrible results–as Daniel Patrick Moynihan predicted–in the 1970s and 1980s. I also remember Piven railing against a brilliantly successful welfare-to-work program called “America Works” because it was for-profit, even though the company only was paid by the government if the recipient remained on the job for six months (and even though the ability to do honorable work gave the women involved new-found confidence, according to study after study of the results). But the notion that Piven’s ideas had any widespread influence, or are even worth commenting on 45 years later, is beyond absurd; it is another case of Beck’s show-paranoid perversity. It seems academic and sophisticated, to those who don’t know any better: Glenn’s soooo erudite, he’s found a secret part of The Plan to turn America into a socialist gulag, hatched by a college professor. The reality is that he’s focused onto an obscure form of left-liberalism that was found wanting a long time ago, as the sociological results of Aid to Families with Dependent Children became known, and better ways to help the poor were developed.

Beck’s essential sin is a matter of proportionality. He has, as ever, latched onto an obscurity, blown it out of proportion–as he did with Van Jones’ stupid but essentially harmless comments about communism–and turned it into a lie. He is an extraordinary liar, on matters large and small, as I’ve learned from personal experience with the man. That Beck remains on the air and Keith Olbermann–unpleasant and extreme at times, but no fantasist–isn’t anymore is a travesty.

What of Olbermann’s legacy? There’s a great deal of crowing on the right about Olbermann’s apparent ouster. But let’s be clear on what he accomplished: He helped clear a huge space on the airwaves for “unapologetic liberalism,” as Steve Benen puts it, when it remained anything but certain that such a space could be created with any measure of success.

The unexpected popularity of Olbermann’s show early on cleared the way for MSNBC to stack its nighttime lineup with pugnacious lefty hosts. Indeed, it was Olbermann who invited Rachel Maddow on repeatedly as a guest, raising her profile to the point where she got her own show. Olbermann, followed by Maddow, proved in the face of enormous skepticism that there’s a huge audience out there for real liberal talk-show hosts to adopt the sort of take-no-prisoners approach once monopolized by the right. Only they accomplished this without descending into the crackpot conspiracy mongering and all-around ugliness of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

Indeed, there’s already talk that CNN might be interested in picking up Olbermann. While that seems unlikely, given CNN’s more staid air, the mere fact that it’s being discussed at all shows how much he helped change the landscape.

Olbermann may be gone, but the space he did so much to help create is here to stay.

Joe Coscarelli at Village Voice:

Though it’s as of yet impossible to answer the question “Why?” in regards to Olbermann’s dismissal, what is on the record is how trying he was to manage. Back in October, there was Gabriel Sherman’s account in New York of the cable news wars with tidbits like this:

But Olbermann can take his eccentricities to extremes. There’s a story that he told his producers to communicate with him by leaving notes in a small box positioned outside his office. Last spring, after David Shuster tweeted that he was guest-hosting Countdown while Olbermann was out sick, Olbermann erupted when a blog mentioned Shuster’s tweet and he fired off an e-mail to him saying, “Don’t ever talk about me and medical issues again.” Olbermann’s executive producer later told Shuster that there’s a rule against mentioning Olbermann on Twitter.

And more of the same in the Times today:

Mr. Olbermann was within one move of being fired in November after he was suspended for making donations to Democratic Congressional candidates. He threatened to make an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to protest the suspension; Mr. Zucker was prepared to fire him on the spot if he did, according to a senior NBC Universal executive who declined to be identified in discussing confidential deliberations.

Many questions remains, but if he’s not in the mood for a vacation, Olbermann does have options, namely radio or the internet. So he should join us and he needn’t worry — here, everyone is an asshole.

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Filed under Mainstream, TV

The Idea That There Are Sexual Images On MTV Is Shocking… Shocking

Brian Stelter at NYT:

MTV executives have a new hit drama on their hands, featuring the sexual and drug-fueled exploits of misfit teenagers. They also have something else — a fear that coming episodes of the show may break the law.

In recent days, executives at the cable channel became concerned that some scenes from the provocative new show “Skins” may violate federal child pornography statutes.

The executives ordered the producers to make changes to tone down some of the most explicit content.

They are particularly concerned about the third episode of the series, which is to be broadcast Jan. 31. In an early version, a naked 17-year-old actor is shown from behind as he runs down a street. The actor, Jesse Carere, plays Chris, a high school student whose erection — assisted by erectile dysfunction pills — is a punch line throughout the episode.

The planned changes indicate that MTV, which has been pushing the envelope for decades, may be concerned that it pushed too far this time.

“Skins” is a calculated risk by MTV which is eager to get into the scripted programming business. The channel, a unit of Viacom, has long tested American standards for sexuality and obscenity on television with shows like “The Real World” and “Jersey Shore.”

Those reality shows have generally involved adults, but for “Skins,” the producers purposefully cast actors ages 15 to 19, most of whom had never acted before.

MTV’s president and other executives declined interview requests on Wednesday. An MTV spokeswoman, Jeannie Kedas, insisted that the future episodes of “Skins” were still works in progress. She would not confirm that MTV executives were fearful of running afoul of child pornography laws.

Jon Bershad at Mediaite:

According to the article, some MTV executive watched a cut of the show and suddenly freaked out because they were afraid that they had broken child pornography laws. They rushed to have the episode in question edited. And then…just for kicks I suppose…they decided to call up The New York Times to have them report on the whole thing. If you believe that, well, you’re probably pretty naive (no offense!). While I’m sure there’s a possibility that MTV edited a scene from the show after standards and practices got a look at it, I have pretty high doubts anyone was legitimately worried about getting hauled off to jail. No, this seems like nothing but a rumor designed to get a new show some press.

But what does that mean? Basically it means that MTV is now marketing their show with the promise of potential child pornography and the media is helping them. Not only did The New York Times cover this “story” (on the front page!), but a bunch of other media outlets picked it up. Morning Joe did a whole segment this morning that began with Joe Scarborough asking “Why should I be afraid of Skins?” You know there were some good high fives all around the MTV offices when that sentence got uttered.

Shows like Skins have always gotten by on their controversy and the promise of scandalous content. A few years ago, the show Gossip Girl used a brilliant ad campaign that quoted negative and outraged reviews from the likes of the Parents Television Council. However, actually going out and saying the phrase “child pornography” is just so damned cynical. MTV is basically betting that they will get more viewers if people think there are actual naked 15 year olds on this show. They may be right but, God, is it a creepy way to run your business.

So, no, Skins is not child pornography. In fact, it’s a neutered version of the original British show (which, by the way, was actually pretty darn good for two seasons) since MTV isn’t able to feature profanity or nudity.* People are going to say MTV should be ashamed and they certainly should. Not for airing an edgy show, but for trying to profit off the demand for child porn. And anyone who reports this nonsense should feel ashamed for believing it.

Adrian Chen at Gawker:

Of course, the main reason MTV’s target audience will continue to tune into this lackluster remake of the British version is because of its purported edginess. (Tuesday’s premier boasted solid numbers.) And herein lies the problem: How do you make a super-edgy teen drama while simultaneously reassuring some suit back at Viacom that he won’t be carted off as a kiddie pornographer?

Here’s our suggestion: gratuitous violence. Have one of the kids mow down a bunch of pedestrians in an SUV or something—just make sure she’s fully-clothed while doing it.

Erin Brown at Newsbusters:

“Skins” is hypocritical programming for MTV, which has been praised for its portrayalof the reality of teen pregnancy with the hit show “16 and pregnant” and its follow up series “Teen Mom.” The platform of casual sex and living life without consequences as appears in “Skins” stands in direct contrast to the harsh realities that actual teen mothers face and as Michael Inbar for the “Today” show put it, “the often painful resultsof youthful hookups.”

To further entice indecent behavior among teens, the MTV website for “Skins” has launched a new section called, “Where it went down.” Readers are encouraged to anonymously post on a mapof the world where “every kind of trouble” occurred. The website whereitwentdown.com actually encourages posters to “Browse and share the places where memories were made – and the scattered pieces of nights you can’t really remember. Post the truth about the biggest parties, heartbreak, friends, sex, and every kind of trouble.”

Despite the nasty content, one media critic still found a way to praise the show. “‘Skins’ feels raw and gritty… Only the show’s target audience will know how true its portrayal of adolescence is, but it should make many parents pay closer attention to what’s going on in their teenagers’ lives” wrote Amy Amatangelo of the Boston Herald.

Despite its success, the media need to accurately report the consequence-free filth that this show and this network are promoting. Truthful reviews such as this onefrom James Poniewozik from Time magazine can go a long way in exposing the muck of this program.

“There’s far more flesh, swearing and toking on Skins than on the edgiest CW soap, but what may be most shocking to an American audience is how insouciantly it defies teen TV’s unwritten mandate of consequences. On U.S. teen dramas, you can titillate the audience with bad behavior so long as, at some point, there’s a pregnancy scare or a cautionary drug overdose…Skins, like the movies Superbad and Dazed and Confused, instead admits that teenagers seek out sex and drugs because they feel good.”

Juli Weiner at Vanity Fair:

Given MTV’s history of publicity stunts, the network spokeswoman’s claims of Skins’s legality seem convincing. Recall Snooki’s globe-squatting kerfuffle: the Jersey Shore employee was supposedly going to be dropped in a ball over Times Square at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. At the last minute, though, sphere-ensconced Snooki was relocated to New Jersey, as MTV never received permission to conduct the event in Times Square. The ordeal engendered weeks of press coverage.

For other instances of MTV publicity stunts, look no further than nearly every annual iteration of the Video Music Awards, a broadcast that inevitably includes an unforeseen act of animosity (cf. Bruno and Eminem) or adoration (cf. Britney and Madonna).

James Poniewozik at Time:

I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but the concerns seem to stem from the fact that many of the actors who play teens on the show (as in the original British version) are under 18. So while there’s not live sex on camera—having seen four episodes in advance, I actually found the series’ depictions of drugs more unusual for American TV than its sex scenes—the definition of pornography is trickier when underage actors are involved.

As Stelter notes, a picture of a naked minor can itself be ruled child porn if it’s sufficiently sexualized. But the one scene the piece describes executives specifically being concerned about—a male character shown running down the street naked—is not, as I recall, a sex-charged scene. (It’s played, like a lot of scenes in Skins, for a combination of drama and slapstick.)

It raises scads of definitional questions: Does the fact that the actor is shown (but not shown naked) in other sexual scenes therefore make this scene more sexualized? Does the presence of other sex scenes involving other characters elsewhere in the episodes make the scene more sexual? Would the scene constitute pornography if it were, say, an underage actor running naked down a street in a war movie? Are depictions of teen characters in sexual situations inherently pornographic, or does the use of teen actors drive it over the line? What’s dirtier: two adult actors playing teens having sex, or a teenage actor shown naked in a scene that doesn’t involve sex?

Again, not a lawyer. (And I haven’t seen every episode shot, so it’s possible there is other, unmentioned material they’re nervous about.) But I have to wonder, if MTV’s executives are suddenly concerned about the legal liability, how could it not have occurred to them earlier in the process—especially since the use of teen actors has been one of the show’s best-publicized aspects, and since the show was very directly adapted from a British show that already exists for comparison?

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Filed under Families, TV

Not Exactly A Moment Of Zen

Jon Stewart’s last show of 2010

Jay Newton-Small at Swampland at Time:

In his last show of the year, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart took Congress and the media to task for not making the Zadroga bill a priority. Named for James Zadroga, a 911 first responder who died in 2006 of respiratory disease, the bill would create a trust fund to cover the health care costs of surviving police, firemen, emergency medical technicians and clean up crews who toiled for months in the wreckage of the World Trade Center. The bill passed the House but has been stalled in the Senate due to GOP concerns that it would, in essence, create a new — albeit relatively tiny — entitlement.

(Stewart may have taken outrage lessons on the issue from his buddy Rep. Anthony Weiner with whom he’s shared a South Hampton summer sublet.)

In the wake of Stewart’s show, ABC’s Jonathan Karl ran a story on World News and the cable nets seem to have woken up to the bill’s existence. On Sunday, New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand announced that a revised version of the bill, which reduces the cost from $7.4 billion to $6.2 billion – the measure is offset by closing a corporate tax loop hole – had gained at least some GOP support. Indeed, several prominent Republicans have come out in support of the bill with Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace calling it a “national shame” that the legislation has yet to be enacted.

With Senate Democrats upping the pressure for passage of the bill giving health benefits to sickened 9/11 responders, it’s going to get increasingly hard for GOP Senators to maintain their opposition. That’s because even right-leaning commentators and political operatives are growing mighty uncomfortable with the Senate GOP’s stance.

Case in point: This morning Joe Scarborough ripped into GOP opponents of passing the bill, which is called the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. He said Republicans were taking a big risk, and the crucial point Scarborough made is that this should be a national issue, not a New York one

Matt Negrin at Politico:

Paging Jon Stewart: The White House needs your help.

Robert Gibbs, President Obama’s press secretary, told reporters on Tuesday that he hopes the Comedy Central host can persuade enough Republican senators to vote for a 9/11 health bill so it can head to the president’s desk.

“If there’s the ability for that to sort of break through in our political environment, there’s a good chance that he can help do that,” Gibbs said in his briefing. “I think he has put the awareness around this legislation. He’s put that awareness into what you guys cover each day, and I think that’s good. I hope he can convince two Republicans to support taking care of those that took care of so many on that awful day in our history.”

Stewart has dedicated lengthy segments on “The Daily Show” to the legislation that would help the first responders on Sept. 11.

“It seems, at the end of a long year around the holiday season, a pretty awful thing to play politics about,” Gibbs said Tuesday. “That’s a decision that 42 Republican senators are going to have to make.”

Steve Benen:

I’m glad Stewart’s efforts are garnering attention, because it’s really not an exaggeration to say the bill would have no chance without his coverage. Indeed, major media outlets — at least in broadcast media — almost completely ignored the Zadroga bill every step of the way. When a GOP filibuster blocked the most recent attempt at passage, despite 58 votes in support of the proposal, it looked like Republicans had killed the bill.

But then “The Daily Show” ran a bunch of segments on this, noting not only the legislation’s merit and the inanity of Republican talking points against the bill, but also calling out news organizations for blowing off an important story regarding 9/11 heroes who need a hand.

And sure enough, Stewart’s public shaming paid off — news shows that couldn’t be bothered to even mention the bill in passing started talking about it. The visibility took a story that was entirely overlooked by the mainstream and made it a national issue, which in turn prompted Republican senators to begin talking to Democratic sponsors again.

The New York Daily Newsnoted this morning, “Thanks in large part to relentless television advocacy by Jon Stewart of ‘The Daily Show,’ the 9/11 bill has risen up the agenda.”

It’d be an exaggeration to say Stewart was solely responsible. Other voices in media (including, ahem, the one you’re reading now) were reporting on the importance of the bill several weeks ago, and as soon as the tax deal was settled, Republicans who were at least open to the Zadroga bill were willing to start talking again.

Christopher Beam at Slate:

In the never-ending debate about whether Jon Stewart is a comedian with opinions or an activist who happens to make jokes, he’s always argued for the former. When Tucker Carlson accused Stewart of liberal hackery on Crossfire in 2004, Stewart famously played the joker card. “You’re on CNN,” he said. “The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls.”

It’s true—Stewart leans left, but the jokes always come first. At October’s Rally To Restore Sanity, which many observers considered his coming-out party as the anti-Glenn Beck, Stewart was careful not to cross the line into advocacy. He didn’t even tell people to vote. He’s just not “in the game,” he told Rachel Maddow in an interview in November. “I’m in the stands yelling things, criticizing.”

Last week, Stewart stepped onto the field. The change came after Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would provide $7.4 billion in medical benefits to firefighters, police officers, and health workers who got sick from working at Ground Zero on and after 9/11. Stewart didn’t just mock the 42 Republicans who refused to consider the bill until the Bush tax cuts were extended. He ripped them apart. “I can’t wait for them to take to the floor to talk about why their party hates first responders,” he said. He shredded Sen. Mike Enzi’s argument that the bill would lead to waste, fraud, and abuse by pointing to Enzi’s support for corruption-riddled spending in Iraq. Last week, he did a follow-up segment, “Worst Responders,” in which he called the refusal to pass the 9/11 bill “an outrageous abdication of our responsibility to those who were most heroic on 9/11.” The bill would even be paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes. “It’s a win-win-win-win-just [bleep] do it!” he yelled. He also blasted the media for failing to cover the story, noting that the only cable news network to devote a full segment to the issue was Al Jazeera. He then interviewed four first responders—a fireman, a police officer, a Department of Transportation worker, and an engineer—who suffered illnesses as a result of their work at Ground Zero. The segment had funny moments. But the jokes didn’t come first.

[…]

Stewart would probably argue that pushing for 9/11 workers comp—9/11 workers comp, for Chrissake!—isn’t taking a political stance. It’s taking a stance for decency, heroism, and the American people. Indeed, he called it “the Least-We-Can-Do-No-Brainer Act of 2010.” But stripped of the funny, that sounds a lot like what a politician would say. So did Stewart’s cheap shot about Mitch McConnell crying over the departure of his friend Sen. Judd Gregg—but not, Stewart seemed to suggest, about 9/11. Republicans may have had a flimsy case for blocking the bill, and Stewart rightly mocked the GOP for failing to help 9/11 workers after milking the tragedy all these years, but by shaming them in the name of 9/11 workers, he was engaging in demagoguery himself. It may have been for a good cause, but it was political demagoguery all the same.

Atrios:

If Jon Stewart Can Do It

Then maybe a charismatic fairly popular tall skinny guy with a fancy podium and the ability to get people to point TV cameras at him almost any moment can figure out how to do it.

Glenn Thrush at Politico:

New York Democrats hoping for quick action on a bill to give health care compensation to ground zero workers are about to run into Tom Coburn.

The Oklahoma Republican senator and physician — known in the Senate as “Dr. No” for his penchant for blocking bills — told POLITICO on Monday night that he wouldn’t allow the bill to move quickly, saying he has problems with parts of the bill and the process Democrats are employing.

Another Republican, Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi, said he had concerns with the measure and that it should instead move through the committee process.

“I’m not trying to fight it; I’m trying to get it right,” Enzi said. “There are 30 things that ought to be changed real quick in committee but very difficult on the floor. To finish a bill at this point of time, we’re not going to be able to amend it.”

Mark Joyella at Mediaite:

It’s a huge victory at the very last minute–the lame duck Congress delivering the 9/11 First Responders bill–and a moment in history.On Fox News, Shepard Smith, who railed against the Republicans who blocked the bill in the face of 9/11 heroes, asking “how do they sleep” at night, was on set to report the passage this afternoon.

At times visibly teary-eyed, Smith called it a “compromise of utmost importance for those who put their lives on the line.”

Fox News correspondent Steve Centanni described how the deal got done:

“Everybody saw the writing on the wall, the time was running out, Republicans might get a black eye for not supporting the 9/11 responders if they blocked the bill, and Democrats wouldn’t have a chance to get quite as good a deal if they waited for the next Congress.”

Smith’s coverage of the 9/11 First Responders bill even earned him praise from the most unlikely of quarters–at MSNBC, where Rachel Maddow gave due props for Smith creating a “hullabaloo” about the bill: “All hail Shep Smith at Fox News,” she declared. “And I’m not kidding.”

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Filed under Legislation Pending, TV

A Hostage Situation At Discovery Communications Building

MSNBC:

Police shot and killed a man armed with several bombs who held three hostages Wednesday at the Discovery Communications building. Authorities said the hostages were safe.

At least one device on the man’s body went off when he was shot inside the building in suburban Washington, D.C., Montgomery County police Chief Thomas Manger said. Police were searching the building for other explosive devices.

Manger said no one was believed to have been injured other than the gunman, whom SWAT officers shot about 4:50 p.m. ET because officials “believed the hostages were in danger.” The building in the close-in suburb of Washington was safely evacuated, including the Discovery Kids Place day care center, police said.

An NBC News producer who called the building to find out what was going on had a brief telephone conversation with the man when he came on the line unexpectedly. He identified himself as James J. Lee and said, “I have a gun and I have a bomb. … I have several bombs strapped to my body ready to go off.”

NBC News informed Montgomery County authorities of the conversation as the producer spoke to the man for about 10 minutes. NBC News did not report the conversation until the hostage situation had been resolved.

Michelle Malkin:

There’s been a breaking hostage situation at the Discovery Channel office in Silver Spring, MD all morning. The alleged gunman reportedly has explosives strapped to his body and there have been reports of at least one hostage. The office has been evacuated, including many children at a day care in the building.

WUSA 9, a local TV affiliate, in DC is pointing to this website called “Save the Planet Protest” as the site of the alleged gunman’s unconfirmed demands.

In case the site goes down, here’s the manifesto in full:

The Discovery Channel MUST broadcast to the world their commitment to save the planet and to do the following IMMEDIATELY:
1. The Discovery Channel and it’s affiliate channels MUST have daily television programs at prime time slots based on Daniel Quinn’s “My Ishmael” pages 207-212 where solutions to save the planet would be done in the same way as the Industrial Revolution was done, by people building on each other’s inventive ideas. Focus must be given on how people can live WITHOUT giving birth to more filthy human children since those new additions continue pollution and are pollution. A game show format contest would be in order. Perhaps also forums of leading scientists who understand and agree with the Malthus-Darwin science and the problem of human overpopulation. Do both. Do all until something WORKS and the natural world starts improving and human civilization building STOPS and is reversed! MAKE IT INTERESTING SO PEOPLE WATCH AND APPLY SOLUTIONS!!!!

2. All programs on Discovery Health-TLC must stop encouraging the birth of any more parasitic human infants and the false heroics behind those actions. In those programs’ places, programs encouraging human sterilization and infertility must be pushed. All former pro-birth programs must now push in the direction of stopping human birth, not encouraging it.

3. All programs promoting War and the technology behind those must cease. There is no sense in advertising weapons of mass-destruction anymore. Instead, talk about ways to disassemble civilization and concentrate the message in finding SOLUTIONS to solving global military mechanized conflict. Again, solutions solutions instead of just repeating the same old wars with newer weapons. Also, keep out the fraudulent peace movements. They are liars and fakes and had no real intention of ending the wars. ALL OF THEM ARE FAKE! On one hand, they claim they want the wars to end, on the other, they are demanding the human population increase. World War II had 2 Billion humans and after that war, the people decided that tripling the population would assure peace. WTF??? STUPIDITY! MORE HUMANS EQUALS MORE WAR!

4. Civilization must be exposed for the filth it is. That, and all its disgusting religious-cultural roots and greed. Broadcast this message until the pollution in the planet is reversed and the human population goes down! This is your obligation. If you think it isn’t, then get hell off the planet! Breathe Oil! It is the moral obligation of everyone living otherwise what good are they??

5. Immigration: Programs must be developed to find solutions to stopping ALL immigration pollution and the anchor baby filth that follows that. Find solutions to stopping it. Call for people in the world to develop solutions to stop it completely and permanently. Find solutions FOR these countries so they stop sending their breeding populations to the US and the world to seek jobs and therefore breed more unwanted pollution babies. FIND SOLUTIONS FOR THEM TO STOP THEIR HUMAN GROWTH AND THE EXPORTATION OF THAT DISGUSTING FILTH! (The first world is feeding the population growth of the Third World and those human families are going to where the food is! They must stop procreating new humans looking for nonexistant jobs!)

6. Find solutions for Global Warming, Automotive pollution, International Trade, factory pollution, and the whole blasted human economy. Find ways so that people don’t build more housing pollution which destroys the environment to make way for more human filth! Find solutions so that people stop breeding as well as stopping using Oil in order to REVERSE Global warming and the destruction of the planet!

7. Develop shows that mention the Malthusian sciences about how food production leads to the overpopulation of the Human race. Talk about Evolution. Talk about Malthus and Darwin until it sinks into the stupid people’s brains until they get it!!

8. Saving the Planet means saving what’s left of the non-human Wildlife by decreasing the Human population. That means stopping the human race from breeding any more disgusting human babies! You’re the media, you can reach enough people. It’s your resposibility because you reach so many minds!!!

9. Develop shows that will correct and dismantle the dangerous US world economy. Find solutions for their disasterous Ponzi-Casino economy before they take the world to another nuclear war.

10. Stop all shows glorifying human birthing on all your channels and on TLC. Stop Future Weapons shows or replace the dialogue condemning the people behind these developments so that the shows become exposes rather than advertisements of Arms sales and development!

11. You’re also going to find solutions for unemployment and housing. All these unemployed people makes me think the US is headed toward more war.

Humans are the most destructive, filthy, pollutive creatures around and are wrecking what’s left of the planet with their false morals and breeding culture.

For every human born, ACRES of wildlife forests must be turned into farmland in order to feed that new addition over the course of 60 to 100 YEARS of that new human’s lifespan! THIS IS AT THE EXPENSE OF THE FOREST CREATURES!!!! All human procreation and farming must cease!

It is the responsiblity of everyone to preserve the planet they live on by not breeding any more children who will continue their filthy practices. Children represent FUTURE catastrophic pollution whereas their parents are current pollution. NO MORE BABIES! Population growth is a real crisis. Even one child born in the US will use 30 to a thousand times more resources than a Third World child. It’s like a couple are having 30 babies even though it’s just one! If the US goes in this direction maybe other countries will too!

Also, war must be halted. Not because it’s morally wrong, but because of the catastrophic environmental damage modern weapons cause to other creatures. FIND SOLUTIONS JUST LIKE THE BOOK SAYS! Humans are supposed to be inventive. INVENT, DAMN YOU!!

The world needs TV shows that DEVELOP solutions to the problems that humans are causing, not stupify the people into destroying the world. Not encouraging them to breed more environmentally harmful humans.

Saving the environment and the remaning species diversity of the planet is now your mindset. Nothing is more important than saving them. The Lions, Tigers, Giraffes, Elephants, Froggies, Turtles, Apes, Raccoons, Beetles, Ants, Sharks, Bears, and, of course, the Squirrels.

The humans? The planet does not need humans.

You MUST KNOW the human population is behind all the pollution and problems in the world, and YET you encourage the exact opposite instead of discouraging human growth and procreation. Surely you MUST ALREADY KNOW this!

I want Discovery Communications to broadcast on their channels to the world their new program lineup and I want proof they are doing so. I want the new shows started by asking the public for inventive solution ideas to save the planet and the remaining wildlife on it.

These are the demands and sayings of Lee.

Another D.C. tv news affiliate, WJLA, says that police scanner traffic indicates that the gunman is an “Asian male” and possible ex-employee of Discovery.

David Weigel:

This is the kind of thing that sparks a three-part reaction in the opinionoverse.

1) Investigation. Who is this guy? Right and left partisans immediately worry that it’s one of their team (defined loosely — a white liberal might worry that it’s a Muslim radical who’ll prove Frank Gaffney right).

2) Revelation. The identity of the perp is discovered — in this case, we find that it’s an anti-human population activist. Everyone pretends that their previous theories about what might be happening were never really serious.

3) Polarization. The people whose ideology most matches the perp cry loudly that he is crazy and has nothing to do with them. The people whose ideology is antithetical to the perp’s — in this case, conservative skeptics of environmentalism — subtly hint that the perp is too representative of the other team. Oh, sure, they’re not saying that. But every time someone goes crazy on the other side, they get blamed, so it’s only fair.

In 24 hours or so, a few articles will be pitched and sold about the political meaning of the story. Everyone else will forget about it and feel vaguely dirty for having thought so hard about it at all.

Max Fisher at The Atlantic with the round-up

Andrea Nill at Think Progress:

Lee’s immigration screed bears a troubling resemblance to views and policies espoused by anti-immigrant groups such as NumbersUSA, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Progressives for Immigration Reform, and others. Just this past month, FAIR released “The Environmentalist’s Guide to a Sensible Immigration Policy.” The report connects immigration to “pollution, sprawl, congestion, and ecological degradation,” complaining that “so-called environmentalists pretend as if this connection does not exist.” As usual, FAIR prescribes an overall reduction in immigration as the solution to the country’s environmental woes (in slightly more diplomatic terms).

It’s not a coincidence that many of these are amongst the same groups that have always supported changing the 14th amendment to deny “anchor babies,” or the American-born children of undocumented immigrants, citizenship — long before the debate entered the political mainstream this summer. Read more about Lee and the anti-immigrant environmental movement at the Wonk Room.

Mark Hemingway at The Washington Examiner:

The question is, to what extent will the media note that this violence was spurred by a radical left-wing environmental agenda, or that eco-terrorism is not a new phenomenon and is arguably the America’s biggest domestic terrorist threat?

Then again, maybe the gunman is just angling for a job in the White House. Consider the book Ecoscience, written by Obama’s “science czar,” John Holdren:

Even more troubling: Over the weekend, a blogger at Zombietime.com unearthed a book written over 30 years ago by John Holdren, President Obama’s “science czar.”

The book, Ecoscience, was co-written with neo-Malthusian prophet of doom and scientific laughingstock Paul Ehrlich. In it, Holdren advocates a series of bizarre and horrifying measures to deal with an overpopulation threat that never materialized.

Among the suggestions in the book: Laws requiring the abortion or adoption of illegitimate children; sterilizing women after having two children; legally requiring “reproductive responsibility” to those deemed by pointy-headed eugenicists to “contribute to general social deterioration”; and incredibly, putting sterilizing agents in the drinking water.

Naturally, these population control measures would be enforced by “an armed international organization, a global analogue of a police force.” Very recently, Holdren was still listing the book on his C.V.

Sound familiar?

Mary Katherine Ham at The Weekly Standard:

His username is also connected to a meet-up group for Daniel Quinn devotees called the “Friends of Ishmael.” A man named Lee, with a misterfifteen e-mail adress  seems to have started his own chapter in San Diego in 2006, called “World Guardian Voices.” The site for his group is archived here, with a notice of an upcoming meeting at a Borders book store to talk about global warming and overpopulation.

He even offered his e-mail address for anyone who’d like to “schedule a speech.”

Lee’s MySpace page offers similar rants, and an odd array of pictures, mostly of owls, apes, Darth Vader, and Bugs Bunny. He lists among those he’d like to meet, “Environmentalists, scientists, readers of Daniel Quinn, and people who want to work toward a real change.”

Allah Pundit:

Max Fisher of the Atlantic somehow read this post to mean that I think (a) Lee was a liberal and (b) because liberals relentlessly politicize “lone nut” incidents involving right-wingers, conservatives should do the same to them. (His tagline in summarizing this post at the Atlantic is “Hang This Attack Around Liberals’ Necks.”) On the first point, I don’t know if Lee was a down-the-line doctrinaire liberal or not; my point was simply that the green concerns that motivated him are typically identified with the left and therefore many people will conclude that he’s some species of liberal. By the same token, when someone bombs an abortion clinic, no one waits to find out the bomber’s opinion on, say, Iraq and federal spending before identifying him with the right. It’s the motive that defines the suspect politically in incidents like these. As for the second point — and I’m frankly amazed that anyone might have misunderstood it — what I’m saying is that liberals and environmentalists shouldn’t be blamed for this. Don’t politicize the incident by hanging the actions of a lunatic around their neck. What I meant up top about reminding them of this the next time they politicize something done by a right-wing nut was merely how this proves that there are crazies of all stripes and that I didn’t try to score a cheap political point against them today when the opportunity presented itself. Is this really that complicated?

Ann Althouse

Instapundit

Won’t Al Gore please stop it with his extremist, eliminationist rhetoric before he inspires still more violence?

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Filed under Crime, Environment, TV

And Tying It All Up With A Pretty Bow, Reality Television

Jon Bershad at Mediaite:

Earlier this week, three alleged terrorists were arrested in Canada. As investigators looked into their history, a truly bizarre piece of information surfaced. One of them, Khurram Sher, had appeared on Canadian Idol, a show which is exactly like American Idol except for having super polite judges. We’ve got the clip of his appearance in which he sings a song by fellow public menace Avril Lavigne and (SPOILER AND HORRIBLE PUN WARNING) bombs horribly.

The Jawa Report:

Best terrorism story evah? It’s like watching a real life Da Ali G show. Only, you know, funny.

Weasel Zippers:

His way of redeeming himself in Allah’s eyes for singing a chick song while doing the robot and moonwalking on national TV?…

Allah Pundit:

Three possibilities: (1) He was auditioning as a goof and figured his new persona would make it extra goofy, (2) he gambled that a “humble immigrant” trying his darnedest would have a better shot at advancing to the next round than a tone-deaf physician, or (3) he was already a jihadi sympathizer at the time and operating under deep, deep — deep — cover. To paraphrase Mediaite, the last place you’d look for an Al Qaeda plot is a guy on a talent show “doing the robot while singing a song written for teen girls.” And a moonwalk. Don’t forget the moonwalk.

Three men are charged in a plot to build IEDs and funnel money to terror groups in Afghanistan. Assuming that the charges are true, this clip is stark evidence of how quickly radicalization can happen.

Unrelated…

Suzi Parker at Politics Daily:

Can Bristol Palin dance?
We might find out if she ends up as a contestant on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” the second biggest show on television behind “American Idol.”
Bristol, 19, the oldest daughter of Sarah Palin, may be tangoing on season 11 of the dance competition. She could be appearing along with David Hasselhoff, Audrina Patridge, The Situation and Brandy in the upcoming season, which premieres Sept. 20. ABC would not confirm any guest stars for the season. The official lineup will be announced Monday.
Earlier this summer, Bristol and her on-again, off-again fiancé, Levi Johnston, were rumored to be shopping for a reality television show. Johnston and Bristol are the parents of Tripp, who was born in Dec. 2008. Bristol is reportedly taking her Tripp with her to Los Angeles where “Dancing With the Stars” is filmed.
Glynnis MacNicol at Mediaite:

All true according to sources! Phew. It is going to be a banner year. Maybe this is Bristol’s revenge on Levi for his philandering — the two were rumored to be starring together in their own reality show, up until they split and it became a Levi solo project. One thing I can say with assurance is that Steve Krakauer will be excited, ideally this line-up will result in Levi getting into a jealous feud with The Situation over Bristol.

Cassy Fiano:

Meanwhile, can you just imagine the liberal heads exploding if Bristol does well on the show? Oh, boy. I hope she’s ready for the vitriol that’s sure to be aimed her way. On the other hand… it’ll be worth watching just for the hateful “ZOMG BRISTOL IS WINNING ITS A CONSPIRACY!!!!1!!11!!” commentary alone.

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Filed under GWOT, Political Figures, TV

Some Television Coverage Of Their Own?

Eddie North-Hager at the University of Southern California:

Even the ESPN Ticker gives women short shrift – 96.4 percent of the information scrolling along the bottom of the screen was dedicated to men’s sports.

The finding is part of a 20-year study of sports coverage released by USC sociologist Mike Messner and Purdue University sociologist Cheryl Cooky. Though it was not surprising to discover that men’s sports gets more coverage, it was eye-opening when researchers found that women’s sports accounted for less than 2 percent of network news and ESPN’s SportsCenter.

“There’s a message that sports is still for, by and about men,” Messner said. “When will the news catch up?”

Just as surprising is that as more women than ever participate in all levels of sports, coverage of their gender is drastically declining. In 2004, network affiliates dedicated 6.3 percent to women’s sports. Last year it dropped to 1.6 percent.

“News programs are supposed to be a window to the world and there is a journalistic responsibility to reflect that,” said Messner, an expert in the sociology of sports.

In 1971, 294,000 high school girls played interscholastic sports. Today 3.1 million play, much closer to the 4.4 million boys who play high school sports.

Yet network affiliates ran 60 stories on NCAA men’s basketball in March 2009. There were no stories about women.

It’s not that ample coverage of men’s sports leaves no time for women. The researchers found that newscasts routinely air light sports features, such as a story about a hamburger with 5,000 calories and 300 grams of fat sold at a minor league baseball park in Michigan.

The discrepancy is important, Messner said, as it reinforces the stereotype that sports proves men are superior to women, that the women’s product isn’t the same quality or would not have the same mass appeal. Messner points out those arguments have been used before, such as when African Americans weren’t considered good enough to compete in Major League Baseball.

Fred Bowen at The Washington Post:

So if you love women’s sports, what can you do? First, support women’s teams and go to the games. Ask your parents and friends to go to the games. Get tickets for the Washington Mystics or the Freedom soccer team. And don’t forget all the wonderful local women’s college teams.

Second, watch women’s sports on television whenever you can. Women’s teams need all the fans they can get. Television news shows and newspapers are businesses that cover the most popular sports. In Washington, TV stations, radio shows and even KidsPost talk about the Redskins because so many people watch the games and are interested in the team.

Finally, don’t give up. Recently, I read the book “When the Game Was Ours,” about basketball legends Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Author Jackie MacMullan mentions that Game 6 of the 1980 NBA championship between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers was not on live TV. It was on tape delay late at night.

Thirty years ago, even the men’s NBA was not a big-time sport. It took years for the NBA to become so popular. Maybe with a little help, the same can happen with women’s sports.

Christina Hoff Summers at The American Enterprise Institute:

But the heavy focus of news and highlights shows on men’s sports is not only fathomable but obvious—that is where the fans are. And that is where advertisers expect to find customers for “male” products such as beer, razors, and cars. Men’s professional sports are a fascination (obsession is more like it) to many millions of men, because they offer extreme competition, performance, and heroics. Women’s professional sports, however skilled and admirable, cannot compare in Promethean drama.

Even women prefer watching male teams. Few women follow the sports pages and ESPN, but many enjoy attending live games—featuring male athletes. According to Sports Business Daily, 31 percent of the NFL’s “avid fans” are women.

Nyad and the USC study authors demand that television cover women’s sports “fairly and equitably,” but the study never once mentions the word “attendance.” Shouldn’t fan interest in the games drive the media stories? Economist Mark Perry, my colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, looked at the numbers. For the 2009 season, the NBA got 92.3 percent of the total attendance for pro basketball (NBA plus WNBA), while the WNBA got only 7.7 percent of the total attendance (see chart below). But according to the USC study, the WNBA received 22.2 percent of the coverage. Perry’s conclusion: “So women’s pro basketball got a hugely disproportionate share of media coverage. Total attendance at NBA games was 12 times greater than attendance at the WNBA games, but media coverage was only 3.5 times greater for men than for women.”

Rod Dreher:

I’m not a sports fan, but it seems pretty clear to me that almost nobody wants to watch professional women’s sports. The question is why. I suppose the feminists would say that the market actually is there, if only the people who run TV sports would notice. Really? You think that people who really only want to make money, and don’t care how they do it, are turning their nose up at an opportunity to exploit an untapped market? Highly doubtful. The more interesting question is why, in a sports-crazy nation, people — even many women — only really care about male sports.

Conor Friedersdorf at The American Scene:

Sports journalism has changed a lot since 1989, and contrary to what the USC study implies, anyone who wants to follow women’s sports is actually a lot better off now due to niche media that both offers coverage of practically any team one would want to follow, and helps explain why mass market programs like Sports Center and network news sports shows cover teams or athletes with niche audiences less — if you’re interested in the WNBA, you can buy a package through your cable company to get all the games, follow the season on ESPN.com, join a fantasy league, etc.

As a high school athlete, and a recreational athlete still, I’m totally behind the move to give girls an equal opportunity to benefit from college athletics, and if I have daughters one day, I’ll encourage them to play sports by installing a basketball hoop on the driveway and buying them surfboards. Upon going to college, I’ll want them to have an equal opportunity at getting an athletic scholarship. But there isn’t any reason why network news and ESPN should give equal time, or anything approaching it, to women’s sports — they should follow market demand (and when they depart from it, they should televise less golf, a sport with a tiny audience of very rich consumers).

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Filed under Feminism, Sports, TV