Saturday, April 14, 2018

#MeToo: The MSM refuses to take its own medicine

In the wake of the Tailhook scandal, the US Navy underwent something resembling a purge. Careers were ended. War heroes were driven from the service on the basis of media reports which ‘raised suspicions’ or left ‘lingering questions.’ To be named was to be usually enough to overshadow everything else an officer had done.

This expansive view of scandal apparently still prevails in the Navy:

Fat Leonard: the Rolling Blob’s Frag Pattern
Once again, a career is ended on the basis of tangential associations, lingering suspicions, and fear of media reaction.

Or take the damage done to the reputation of Joe Paterno in the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The case against JoePa breaks down something like this.

1. Bad things happened in State College
2. Joe Paterno lived in State College and wielded great influence there.
3. Therefore Paterno must have known about these bad things and should have stopped them.
The logic of this case is shaky and the facts are not as clear as press reports portray them. (See Framing Paterno for more). Yet many of the MSM’s best and brightest looked at this argument and called for the end of football at Penn State and a thorough house-cleaning of the coaches and administrators.

We haven’t seen the same moral fervor directed toward the news/entertainment industry. The standards applied to Penn State and Paterno have not been applied to Hollywood or the MSM in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein/Matt Lauer revelations.

All those people who worked with Weinstein are permitted to issue pro-forma denials “I had no idea” and no more questions are raised.

Jeff Zucker worked with Matt Lauer for years. Yet all he had to do was play Sgt. Schultz “I knew nothing” and everybody was happy to move on.

Zucker wants us to believe he is blind and profoundly uncurious. He also wants us to believe that this is no bar to leading “the most trusted name in news.”

We must have transparency say the same news organizations that are using NDAs to hide the predations of their one-time stars.

'Terrified' CBS executives 'warn employees about violating NDAs ahead of Charlie Rose sexual misconduct expose as they fear being named for ignoring misconduct complaints'
No one in the MSM seems interested in examining how Weinstein was able to use the respectable media to intimidate his accusers and deflect attention away from his behavior.

Harvey Weinstein counted on a complicit media

Friday, April 13, 2018

Sad truth

We obviously are going through an interesting period of semi-literacy, where everybody can write, but few people will or can read.
Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Leftism Revisited (1990)
And he wrote that before the internet, smartphones or Twitter. Imagine how much worse it is today.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Lest we forget

Colin Gray:

So What! The Meaning of Strategy

You probably will not prove able to fight your way out of the waging of the wrong war. To be fair to bold policymakers, one must conclude that often it will not be at all obvious ahead of time just how fickle the gods of war can prove themselves to be. However, it can surely be no secret that a decision to wage war, almost any war at any time and in any environment, will be a gamble. Also, war is different from all else in the human historical narrative.
More from Gray:

Why strategy is difficult

Competence cannot offset folly along the means-ends axis of strategy. Military history is littered with armies that won campaigns in the wrong wars.

Since the future is unforeseeable--do not put faith in the phrase "foreseeable future"--we must use only assets that can be trusted. Specifically, we plan to behave strategically in an uncertain future on the basis of three sources of practical advice: historical experience, the golden rule of prudence (we do not allow hopes to govern plans), and common sense. We can educate our common sense by reading history. But because the future has not happened, our expectations of it can only be guesswork. Historically guided guesswork should perform better than one that knows no yesterdays. Nonetheless, planning for the future, like deciding to fight, is always a gamble.
And always, Clausewitz:

The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgement that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish by that test [of war as an instrument of policy] the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature. This is the first of all strategic questions and the most comprehensive.
No one starts a war-- or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so-- without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

WMD redux

Interesting piece by David Warsh:

Cloak and… Megaphone

The Skripal affair is obviously different. The attempt on the lives of a former Russian spy and his daughter, on British soil, using some variant of a nerve gas developed by the former Soviet Union in the 1970s, has been condemned around the world. It seems to echo the 2006 assassination in London of Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian Secret Service specialist in organized crime who had defected.

But while the British prime minister Theresa May has accused the Russian government of “almost certainly” perpetrating the crime, details of her government’s investigation have been skimpy and, so far, unconvincing. Knowledgeable skeptics have been busy, especially the blogger Moon of Alabama.

Even less apparent has been a plausible motive. Why further sabotage relations with the West on the eve of the showcase soccer matches? Are there no other powerful factions, in Moscow or elsewhere, who might benefit from the further rupture of relations that has ensued? The Russians, of course, have claimed they were framed.
The same question of motive arises in the case of Syria's alleged use of poison gas in Ghouta last week.

From all appearances Assad's fortunes were on the rise. His forces were gaining ground and the Trump admin signalled that they were not ready to add Syria to the list misbegotten foreign adventures. Moreover, he was about to gain a powerful propaganda win as Syrian Christians returned to their churches to worship on Easter Sunday in areas his forces liberated from ISIS.

If he used gas, then he threw all that away all that. For what gain?

The western media will happily traffic in conspiracy theories when they attack their preferred targets. Hence, Russian "experts" like Masha Gessen are allowed to speculate that Putin and his allies were responsible for terrorist outrages in Moscow. But no one dares suggest that an anti-Assad group would mount a false flag attack in a last-ditch attempt to provoke US intervention.

Grand strategy

I've linked to this lecture several times. It is a great introduction to grand strategy as both a discipline and a feature in US foreign policy.

No surprise then that i am pretty excited about this new book.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

The big Sinclair freakout

Good take here:

The Freakout Over Sinclair Isn’t About Bias. It’s About The Wrong Bias
All the usual suspects (hey Tater!) are up in arms about Sinclair’s rather anodyne branding exercise.

When Dan Rather denounces you and Dick Durbin threatens you… you’re probably doing something right.

I almost expect Team Mueller to leak that they’ve opened up an investigation on Sinclair for conspiracy to undermine the Deciders.

It is telling that this mass freakout began when Deadspin that miserable spawn of Gawker rang the bell. The herd of independent minds that make up the respectable chattering classes immediately started their Pavlovian barking.

The keepers of media ethics had no real problem with Journolist but a short promotional video is the end of free thought.

Well, actually, the Sinclair statement does present a real threat. Narratives are sustained by endless repetition. If local stations stop mindlessly parroting CNN-approved tropes, then the battle for explanation space could be lost.

Sinclair understands that what is good for the journalist guild and the New York Times is NOT good for Sinclair or their viewers. Sinclair has no desire to emulate Newsweek:

This is a case study in agency theory. The stockholders want Newsweek to maximize the returns it pays to them. The best way to do that is to write a high-quality publication that appeals to a broad audience. The writers and editors are seeking career advancement. You don’t get that appealing to the morons in flyover territory with simplistic bourgeois truth. You get ahead in the media by impressing the media elites, the unofficial campaigners, the reality-based community.

So Newsweek, like many publications, increasingly focused on appealing to a very narrow K-Street/Upper East Side/90210 crowd. That trashed the magazine’s reader base and ruined the company, but it made a lot of journolists into Big Names.

The Agents succeed by gutting the Principals. Tis a twice-told tale

Harvey Weinstein counted on a complicit media

That's why we need a different sort of #MeToo

The Frontline investigation into Weinstein and his behavior did not have a lot of revelations, but it did give a voice to several women he preyed upon. Worth a watch.

Watch here.

One very interesting thing did come up. There is a short interview with gossip-monger A. J. Benza who admits that he, in effect, facilitated Weinstein's cover-ups. (He claims that he knew nothing of the sexual assaults, just your usual consensual adultery).

"The gossip industry is run on the barter system. If I've got a story about you and you don't want it printed you say 'Hold it. I'll give you something better' and I'll print the other story and save you."
Benza admits that he engaged in these trades with HW. It seems likely that he was not the only gossip-monger who did so.

This suggests that HW reaped two benefits from his private network of spies. Not only could he use them to unearth dirt with which to intimidate his victims or nosy reporters, he could also use dirt on uninvolved parties. This he could trade to gossip-mongers and throw them off his scent.

HW did not invent this technique. The old Hollywood studios were masters of this game. Rock Hudson's agent played the game to keep his client's personal life private.

So gossip is a sleazy business. Yet, nearly all MSM outlets end up involved in that business. They might be corporate siblings of a gossip-merchant (e.g. NBC and E! networks). Or they might use gossip-mongers as talking heads and "reporters" when they cover entertainment news (see every network morning news show).

Yet this never seems to upset the media critics. Nor have those critics demanded an accounting from those gossip purveyors who helped Weinstein deflect and conceal during his reign of terror. Whose reputation was trashed with information provided by HW's private Stasi?

According to William Safire, the intelligence world has a phrase: "walking back the cat". It means "examining old analyses in light of new information." It might be a good time to walk back the cat when it comes to some of the women whose reputations and careers were damaged in unexpected tabloid firestorms.

How many of those firestorms were started by HW to deflect or deter?

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Rejoice! He is risen!

Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.

And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.

And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.

And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:

And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?

He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,

Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.

And they remembered his words,

And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.

It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.

And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.

Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.

Luke 24: 1-12

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Defending the indefensible

This may be the worst thing written in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida school shooting.

The lesson of the 'Broward Coward'
A myriad of journalists have said many stupid and dishonest things in the wake of the shooting. Leave it to the Boston Globe to defend the School Resource Officer who refused to intervene and then double down by mounting a full-throated defense of cowardice in general.
He begins by using discredited research which he then distorts to defame the Greatest Generation.

IN 1947, SAMUEL Lyman Atwood Marshall published a small book with shocking findings about the citizen-soldiers that had just helped save the world. Only one in four infantrymen in the Greatest Generation had actually fired their weapons during combat, the journalist-turned-soldier declared in the book "Men Against Fire." The book set off a scandal: Why were there so many cowards?
So much dishonesty in one short paragraph.

To begin, SLA Marshall was a fraud who falsified his research. (Kingsbury admits this far down in his column but then treats it as no big deal). Second, Marshall's famous "1 in 4" factoid relates to individual engagements not the entire wartime experience of the soldiers involved. Lastly, not even Marshall and his acolytes ascribed the failure to shoot entirely, or even largely to "cowardice".

While he has a soft spot for cowards, Kinsbury really, really hates the idea of an armed citizenry.

Indeed, if the country's weapons makers had their way, we'd all carry guns that we might - or might not - bring ourselves to use if the moment came. Maybe students, too.

Would universal lock-and-load empower heroics? Surely. But would the fear of being labeled a coward compel reckless shooting? Just as certainly. Trump's plan would also make it the duty of classroom teachers to open fire, with the implicit threat that they'd be branded cowards if they did not.

Arming teachers or average citizens forces them to sign the same social contract - protect society or die trying. Should it be the duty of every teacher to shoot down an armed intruder if the situation arises? Would teachers be heroes if they succeeded in their counterattack? Would they be cowards if they wouldn't or couldn't?
Like so many in the MSM Kingsbury condescends to those who believe in armed self-defense. They are not rational men and women who have made a considered decision to be armed. No, they are dolts who are at the mercy of gun-makers and their advertising.

He also presents a false choice. Ending the "gun-free zone" absurdity does not compel teachers to become nascent SWAT operators who must " protect society or die trying." It simply allows teachers so inclined to have the option of defending themselves and their students if trouble finds them. Fewer defenseless soft targets. More hard targets.

And note that he cites that favorite trope of the Eloi - more armed citizens will mean more "reckless shooting." They've been trotting this idea out since Florida started the renaissance in CCW back in the 1990s. And yet, as the number of CCW-holders increased over the decades, the violent crime rate dropped.

A few observations from David Gelernter:

This is from his 1997 book Drawing Life:

History is inspiring. Bravery is inspiring. It is shameful we no longer teach this to our children.
These quotes are from a 1998 article in the Weekly Standard, "Unresolved Evil":

What matters is our communal response to the crime. Evil is easy, good is hard, temptation is a given; therefore, a healthy society talks to itself.

Such ritual denunciations strengthen our good inclinations and help us suppress our bad ones. We need to hear them, and hear good acts praised, too. We need to hear the crowd (hear ourselves) praising good and denouncing evil.

Goodness is unnatural, and we need to cheer one another on.

Mass Murder: What can be done?

Monday, March 26, 2018

The MSM succumbs to mass psychosis

Or, perhaps, shameless propaganda. It’s hard to be sure.

The Trump/Russian collusion narrative is an odd thing. It is sustained by screaming headlines and breathless tweets. Most of the time the substance of the stories fail to live up to the hype.

And then there are those stories which seem irreconcilable. While each may be plausible, they seem to contradict one another. That is, while either may be true, it is absurd to believe that both can be true. Yet outlets like CNN expect us to do just that.

On one hand we are supposed to accept that Putin is a bloodthirsty totalitarian who has brought High Stalinism back to the Kremlin. He is a rogue autocrat so bent on political murder that he is willing to kill defectors in the West despite the inevitable repercussions to East-West relations.

At the same time we are expected to believe that people high up in the Russian intelligence apparatus are eager to blab about secret active measures. Despite Putin’s brutal record, these “deeply knowledgeable sources” display so little fear that they are happy to help foreign spies and ex-spies compile dossiers that reveal these active measures.

Those spies, ex-spies, operatives, and ex-operatives also manifest a cavalier disregard for source protection and operational security.

From PowerLine:

Steele reported that the friends of Vladimir Putin apprised him of Russia’s efforts to intervene on behalf of Donald Trump in the presidential campaign. Why, you might ask, would the friends of Vladimir Putin entrust Christopher Steele with the goods on Russia’s alleged efforts to intervene on behalf of Donald Trump in the presidential campaign?

I have not seen a good answer to that question and Mayer doesn’t really offer one other than that everybody loves Christopher Steele like she does. And of course there are obvious reasons why knowledgable Russians would not deliver true intelligence to Steele. As Eric Felten puts it in the excellent Weekly Standard article “A doozy of a dossier”: “Given the relative trivialities that can get one beaten to death in a Russian prison, these senior officials would seem to have exhibited an extraordinarily cavalier attitude toward their own health and well-being.”
Does anyone at the WaPo or CNN think about issues like this before they start hyping their latest scoop? Do they care about the truth?

Or have they succumbed to the Cult of Truthiness in their Trump Derangement?


The problem of the press in five tweets

Monday, March 19, 2018

Strategy and management

A brief article on a subject dear to my heart:

Two Worlds of Strategy
There are two worlds of strategy and most people are only aware of one. There is the world of corporate strategy articulated and taught in places like Harvard Business School. There is the world of military strategy articulated and taught in the various service war colleges. These two worlds never interact in any meaningful or sustained manner.
One of the primary reasons why so many people are unfamiliar with both worlds of strategy is that intellectual leaders of both worlds studiously ignore each other. Scholars who live in the mainstream of the field of management ignore military strategy. To illustrate this assertion, all one has to do is look at one year’s worth of Academy of Management Review, one of the most prominent management journals. In 2006, for example, Academy published fifty-nine different articles on a broad variety of management topics and these articles cumulatively contained 5,288 citations that were derived from a wide range of academic fields. .... What is interesting in this case is that not one single citation of more than five thousand citations derived from the field of military strategy.
I've tackled this topic a few times.....

Strategic problems and the problem with strategy

Waiting for our Clausewitz

Clausewitz (II)

The Gawker story and our decadent media

This edition of the Federalist Radio Hour is a revelation. I can't wait to read the author's book.

Unraveling The Insane Story Of Gawker, Hulk Hogan, And Peter Thiel: Author Ryan Holiday examines the nearly unbelievable conspiracy of how Hulk Hogan and few secret individuals were able to dismantle the infamous Gawker.
Also learned something newsworthy while listening:

The lawyer who got the hush money for Stormy Daniels also tried to shake down Hulk Hogan.


Just the Daniels camp is using CNN right now against Trump.

More here:

The Insane Backstory Behind The Lawyer Who Shook Down Donald Trump (and Hulk Hogan)
This would be a great topic for Reliable Sources. But I doubt we will ever see that.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Polarization, confirmation bias, and media malpractice

The press claims to hate it, so why are they making it worse?

This article makes a key point about modern marketing which has serious implications for political debate and the health of the republic.

How The Principle Of Triage Can Benefit Your Brand

The second group, can be broadly described as rejecters of the brand. Even heavy spend against this group will have minimal effect, because of the problem of confirmation bias.

This bias, first described in 1954 by the psychologists Albert Hastorf and Hadley Cantril, suggests that we interpret messages through a lens of our existing feelings. So if we dislike a brand, any message will be interpreted negatively, through a lens of cynicism.

Advertising, as a relatively weak force, will struggle to over-turn these misconceptions.
An interesting experiment which shows how this plays out in voters’s minds:

Along with Jenny Ridell I ran an experiment in the UK to understand if the bias was still as powerful today. We surveyed 1,004 nationally representative voters about their views on raising sales tax by a penny to fund 10,000 extra nurses.

The results were then split by political affiliation. The twist was that half the respondents were told it was a Conservative policy and half Labour.

When Labour supporters thought the policy came from Labour there was strong support: 14 percent completely agreed. However, support plummeted to 3 percent when it was described as a Conservative policy.

Similarly, among Tories the policy was four times more popular when it was positioned as coming from their party.

The results show that voters interpret policies through a lens of their feelings for the party. If they dislike a party they’ll interpret any policy through a negative filter.

As can be seen from the scale of the effect this is not an insignificant factor: policy is far less influential than existing party affiliation.
So it appears that once an issue is presented within a red/blue, left/right framework, people become locked into their positions and less susceptible to persuasion.

See additional discussion here:

Changing Minds
This is one more reason why CNN’s “Town Hall” in the wake of the Parkland school shooting was a terrible idea. We had not learned many of the highly relevant facts. CNN made little attempt to provide background information. The ideological framework (“gun grabber” vs. “gun nuts”) ensured that many, if not most, viewers would discount any new information they encountered.

As noted previously, the business model of cable news and internet publishing is a big driver of this High Heat/Low Light “journalism”.

Media's Shifting Business Model
While this sort of programming is good for ratings and cash flow, it seems hazardous to the health of the nation. It increases polarization while at the same time it limits our ability and willingness to understand the complexity of the issues that confront us.