Friday, March 16, 2012

Did Mike Daisey Tell a Doozy?

Or Does "This American Life" Have Trouble Telling Fact from Fiction?

Mike Daisey is the monologuist best known for "The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," which details, among other things, the often-squalid conditions under which the smartphones, computers and iEverything that enable us to continue to exist are made.
Daisey's on a national tour for his acclaimed production, which focuses on the perils of life at Foxconn but the profits that are subsequently amassed in Cupertino and beyond.
"This American Life" recently aired an excerpt from the play, which seemed like the kind of thing you'd hear on the program.
However, host Ira Glass was all agog today in a Facebook post that screeched: "We've learned that Mike Daisey's story about Apple in China - which we broadcast in January - contained significant fabrications. We're retracting the story because we can’t vouch for its truth, and this weekend's episode of our show will explain the errors in the story."
Glass is actually devoting the whole show to picking apart "Steve Jobs," as this press release details.
Now, while I would certainly expect there to be a strong factual current running through Daisey's narrative--and Apple has given him ample material to work with--I would not expect that he's merely distilling facts gleaned from newspapers and Wikipedia to keep audiences entertained. It is done in a theatre after all. However, that notion is apparently lost on Glass.
As Daisey points out on his blog:

My show is a theatrical piece whose goal is to create a human connection between our gorgeous devices and the brutal circumstances from which they emerge. It uses a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell its story, and I believe it does so with integrity. Certainly, the comprehensive investigations undertaken by The New York Times and a number of labor rights groups to document conditions in electronics manufacturing would seem to bear this out.

From the sound of it, Daisey will be a lot more careful about whom he gives clips to:

The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue. THIS AMERICAN LIFE is essentially a journalistic ­- not a theatrical ­- enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations.

Of course it does. Why Glass fails to realize this is a head-scratcher. He might be too busy playing with his new iPad to realize the distinctions.
Granted. This was the most downloaded podcast in the show's history, some 888,000 to date. And a performance "TAL" was to host of "Steve Jobs" in Chicago next month has now been canceled. This was more than passing interest for Glass. But still.
Not that Glass is a stranger to drama. "This American Life" is usually presented in a series of acts.
On this weekend's show Act I can be entitled "What the hell were we thinking?"

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Daily Caller Catches a Case of the Stupids While Sticking Up for Limbaugh

Claim That Stock Dropped After Company Stopped Advertising on Rush Is Beyond Moronic, Even for Neocon Apologists

By one recent count, at least 40 advertisers have bailed on Rush Limbaugh following Slutgate. Despite the fact that his royal boorishness has uttered what sounded like an apology (though because he's on radio we can't see if he had his fingers crossed), many companies are heading to the sidelines, at least for now.
Among them is Carbonite, a company that automatically backs up computer files and helps you recover then if they're lost.
Limbaugh may be chastened, but the Dittoheads, as his most fervent listeners (trust me, nothing to be proud of) like to call themselves, are undeterred. Among the apologists is Jeff Poor, who writes for neocon online mouthpiece The Daily Caller founded by Tucker Carlson.
Poor wanted to show that Carbonite paid a price for its folly of leaving Limbaugh. Yet, in the process did a piss-poor piece of journalism, if you want to call it that. The premise of what Poor wrote is that after Carbonite announced its decision on Saturday, it went on to get thumped at the NASDAQ Monday and Tuesday.
The piece, which was unsurprisingly picked up by Fox Nation, doesn't come out and say outright that the stock plunged because of the rush to leave Rush. But Poor wouldn't have bothered with the article if that's not what he and his minders had in mind. The headline "Investors flee Carbonite after Limbaugh announcement" says it all. The only problem: Poor offers nothing to back up that statement. Which is why the story has to be finished before the headline is written. Of course, why let the truth get in the way of a good headline that's bound to get you to the top of search results, right?
The Carbonite stock went down, but there is not a scintilla of evidence that it was because of Limbaugh. If you recall, Tuesday was a bad day for the market. Perhaps it was a worse day for Carbonite, which ranked 18th on the list of biggest decliners for the day. But Limbaugh? Please. If Poor had bothered to do even a sliver of research, he'd know that Carbonite has been on a losing streak. Its $8.35 closing price on Tuesday put it near its 52-week low. The company's been losing a healthy chunk of money. Its 2011 earnings were minus 84 cents a share, which was actually good as analysts were expecting it to be as bad as minus 89 cents a share.
In other words, when the stock market is going to have a bad day, so is Carbonite. And it has nothing to do with not sponsoring the motor mouth of midday radio. If anything, that was a smart busines move.
By the way, Carbonite stock closed today at $8.61 up 3.1 percent. Forgive me if I refrain from holding my breath waiting for Poor to write that story.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Rush Limbaugh Lines Up for Sponsor Spankings, But He'll Come Out the Winner in the End

Advertisers Will Give Loudmouthed Lunkhead a Time-Out, but He Has Too Many Listeners at Stake to Ignore

Sometimes it pays to be a flaming asshole.
And nobody knows that better than Rush Limbaugh. Sure, he's been singed by his own words as a small parade of advertisers bail on the right-wing voice of lack of reason after he called a Georgetown law student a slut for testifying about birth-control policy.
And, yes, Limbaugh, is sorry, truly sorry, for also calling Sandra Fluke a prostitute. For now, though, advertisers are calling bull on Rush. For now, he'll need to be contrite by filling time with more of his usual odious venom where ad spots would otherwise be.
And regardless of whether you believe Limbaugh is sincere (and Ron Paul doesn't), all the outrage over his boorishness won't add up to anything in the long run. That is, unless Limbaugh loses listeners along with the advertisers.
You see, Limbaugh doesn't get paid in the neighborhood of $40 million for nothing. For three hours a day, he's on nearly 600 stations with a listeners that have been estimated as high as 20 million, though that total is hotly disputed. Whatever the number, it's a lot and likely still enough to make it the most-listened to radio program in the country. Which is why we care even two craps about what he said. And it's also why he still has a job and why Premiere Radio Networks, his syndicator, hasn't looked for an out in his contract that runs through 2016.
So, amid his sackcloth and ashes routine comes the reality that the advertisers will feel they can't afford to not be part of the bombast. And for what?
Sandra Fluke will be a footnote. And Rush Limbaugh will still be an asshole.

Abe Rosenthal and the Circus

Legendary N.Y. Times Editor Didn't Need His Reporters Pure, Just Uncorrupted
On a recent Freakanomics podcast, Stephen Dubner was chatting about bias in the media with New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal, son of legendary editor A.M. Rosenthal, (left) who ran the news report at the Gray Lady for more than two decades.
Rosenthal the younger told the story about how his father hired a reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer, only to fire her after he found out that she had slept with a source while working there. The old man was asked why would he care about something that happened in Philadelphia. His response was a classic, though probably typical of Abe Rosenthal: I don't care if you fuck an elephant as long as you don't cover the circus."