People want to eat but they won’t join the hunt

Hunting Dog

Most people wear your web site, twitter feed or facebook page like they wear a jacket or drive their car. When they want to use it, they do. When they don’t, it is out of sight and out of mind.

People who work in the online space are in a very rarefied space. They live and breathe online all day long and delude themselves into thinking this is reality. When they go outside their front door, life dilutes the online world by about 1:10,000,000,000,000 parts per billion.


The killing of Osama bin Laden

As the media launches it’s way into the play-by-play analysis of the Osama bin Laden raid, I’m left here struggling to figure out how I feel about the whole thing. I have come to the conclusion that I feel the same about bin Laden’s death as I do about the towers coming down on 9/11.

Brace yourself; it’s not anything an American living in a Red State will ever admit in public.

I do not feel fear. I do not feel joy. I do not feel any great swell of Americanism that compels me to rush out into the street shouting “U-S-A, U-S-A!” at the top of my voice or run to WalMart to buy the largest flag I can find and fly it from the highest flagpole.

I do not feel like anything life-altering has happened.

I do feel a bit ashamed that we are celebrating the death of someone, even if that someone chose to live his life committing evil and fostering evil and hatred. I do not feel happy or sad that Osama bin Laden is dead but I do feel sad that we are celebrating it with the same sort of cheering one reserves for the Super Bowl.

I feel dismayed that we have created an entire generation that has grown up in fear of terrorism and suspicious of each other instead of steeped in optimism and hope. Osama bin Laden did not do that to us; we did that to ourselves to win elections and to grab the reins of power.

I feel a massive tug of manipulation as the media work desperately to shape the “national mood” to fit a narrative instead of reporting it. I feel this event — like the 9/11 event — is being treated by the media like a book tour, a movie premiere or a CD drop complete with PR spin. They raise questions and then answer them, then treat the answers as if that was the news. Then, they report on what they heard based on what they said.

I feel like we’re being told how to feel by the warm-up guy in preparation for an upcoming election show. If we play our part, we’ll be rewarded with attention. If not, we’ll be ignored as fringe. Problem is, there is a lot of “fringe” out here.

I wish media would have stuck to a headline “Osama bin Laden Dead” instead of “Killed.” “Dead” states a face whereas “killed” injects opinion, conjecture and value judgments.

On Sept 11, 2011, the rest of the world was besieged by earthquakes, landslides and massive flooding. I know this because I had access to the AP Newswire all day at the Dayton Daily News. I had to ignore those stories and search instead for some angle, some news on the 9/11 story. These other stories went almost unreported for nearly a week as media crafted new narratives each day around the 9/11 story. And when that failed, CNN ran taped loops of the towers coming down and reconstructed timelines, much as they are doing now with the raid plans.

On May 1, 2011, tens of thousands of citizens in the South are still homeless as a result of horrific tornados. Fires rage in Texas. Oil still washes up from the Gulf. Gas prices are out of control at $4.19/gallon locally. Health care cost continue to rise at twice the rate of inflation. Housing prices continue to fall. Wages are stagnant. Unemployment is still high.

I think we need to start not only thinking for ourselves, but feeling for ourselves as well. I think we need to start embracing real feelings about things that matter more deeply rather that co-opting boogie-man feelings media report we should have.

Photo source:

Is this thing on?

Flag primping before a press conference

Flag primping before a press conference

In a word, yes. This thing is always on.

The photo to the right was tweeted out by Jim Long who is a “veteran, Washington, DC based, network news cameraman currently working for one of the original three broadcasters” (@newmediajim) He frequently sends out photos of the stuff that happens behind the scenes while waiting for news conferences, set ups, stuff like that. Anyone who has ever worked behind the camera knows that those blocks of time are tedious beyond tolerance.

I appreciate the glimpses. And the Foursquare checkins with bagels and coffee, but that is an entirely different addiction. He assures me he is seeking professional help.

What was striking about the photo is the flags that will be seen by the television viewing public all puffed up and patriotic behind whomever is speaking in the next hour or so were unceremoniously carried into the room in a bucket, like something one would shlep to a beer party on the beach. To the people setting up the room, the bucket ‘o flags was secondary to the actual staged set.

Only it wasn’t because this thing was on.

And now every time I see flags puffed up behind a Washington DC news conference, I will see the bucket ‘o flags. Chances are, you will too.

The “behind the scenes” has become part of the show. FootnoteTV wrote this post about creativity and how seeing the puppet master destroys the puppet show (my paraphrasing.) I do this all the time with literature and unsuspecting writers like Saxon Henry (@saxonhenry) by digging into why a story ticks and then trying unsuccessfully to stuff all the pieces back together. It gets rebuilt, but like taking apart a finely crafted clock to see how it ticks and then putting it back together, the chimes never quite sound as rich.

I guess my point is — if I have to admit to one — is the set up of the stage is now also part of the show. For the flag set up, the staff should construct a special box where the flags are carried in with ceremony, and assembled and puffed up* as part of the production. And then when the press conference is over, the same ceremony gets performed again in reverse. Everything that happens on this side of the door should be assumed to be on camera.

This thing is on. Always.

*Ok, gonna spoil it even more. The flags are fluffed and filled out by forming and placing wire hangers in the flags. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.


Why we are engineered for another 9/11; the TSA is working backwards

The media and blogosphere is going nuts with this recent hulla-balloo over the TSA pat-downs and full-body scanners. In news segment after segment, after the guest tirades about lack of privacy, dignity, pornography scan and whatever else is the convenient bumper sticker claim of the hour, the anchor eventually asks the guest, “What would you do differently?”

The question generally sends the guest into a sputtering mutter and the anchor then makes his/her point, “See? You have nothing. This is the best system we have even though it is imperfect, so sit down and shut up. We all want to be safe.”

Only that’s not really true.

All the TSA did after 9/11 is replace a patch-work of private security guards of questionable authority with standardized, uniformed TSA agents with unchallengeable authority and a McDonald-ized set of procedures. All airports must be set up a standard way. All interactions with passengers must be conducted in this manner with this script. All escalations are handled by a supervisor, here’s how passengers proceed through, here is how to wand, etc, etc.

When there is a procedure and a script, employees to fill the jobs are easy to find, easy to process, easy to train, cheap to pay and cheap to replace. It is like changing out a bolt in a piece of machinery. That is how we approached the job at hand; fill 65,000 jobs in less than a year. Instead of asking ourselves why we needed 65,000 TSA agents, we just marched forward to replace the patchwork system we had into a uniform one.

It’s how we handle anything that needs mass-processing in this country. And it is prone to malicious injection because it is standardized and predictable. A smart man who happens to be a retired Dayton police officer told me something right after 9/11 I’ll never forget. He said the minute we go to a national police system is when we become vulnerable. We may find it easier to communicate and coordinate, but it is easy to inject a virus and mole into a system. It is almost impossible to do the same with patchwork.

What I would do differently
Inject unpredictability into the airport environment. That helpless lost young man you helped who couldn’t remember where he parked? TSA agent. That pretty chatty girl who was in the elevator who wanted to know where you were flying off to? TSA agent. That grandmother whose cell phone battery just died and she asked to borrow your cell phone to call her niece? TSA agent. That frazzled businessman who was running late for his flight and wanted to know what time it was? TSA agent. That college student who thought your iPad was really cool, where did you get it and can I see it? TSA agent. That blind man with the dog at the duty-free store who asked you if he was holding a bottle of Absolut? TSA agent. The dog too. That hipster who liked your shoes and where did you get them? TSA agent.

All watching you, all asking you questions to determine how you react in situations that are unpredictable. And all either clearing you or escalating you before you reach security and even after you pass through.

And we all pass through metal detectors set up really high and we put our loose stuff in bins like we did before. We are waved through by cheerful uniformed guards but it is all just a show. Only the passengers who have been escalated past a certain comfort point are channeled through a special “high risk” area where their tickets, documentation, luggage and person is more thoroughly searched. Most of us blithely proclaim the United States is the most free country to walk around in. No planes are highjacked, because we all trust each other. That is how we live with freedom in America.

Or at least that is what the TSA wants us to believe. Just like Walt Disney makes everyone believe the streets on the Happiest Place on Earth are never littered with trash.

We would need less than half of the thousands we employ already with the TSA. We would have to commit to hiring and training people to be really good actors and profilers (not racial profilers) and we would have to be willing to inject new scenarios and outcomes every day into the airports. We would have to pay these people well. We may even be able to save a few from a life as a greeter at WalMart (who can spot a lie better than someone who has raised a teen-ager? AARP, you listening?)

We’d have to be committed to the real security of human beings by applying a human solution, not a blind faith in technology with a promise of automated safety. A system is predictable and predictability can be injected and highjacked.

What about putting people in charge again scares us most?


Real election reform ideas

This is a very strange election cycle. I think a lot of people are floating ideas ahead of the 2012 presidential election that will be mind-blowing and head-spinning. 2012 may see the electorate perhaps as divided than we were during the American Civil War. I fear some may even take to arms to settle disputes of ideas.

We need to stop this trend of stoking up the people to anger just so 535 men and women can either stay in power or gain power. With the current state of the media competing with Lady GaGa, The Jersey Shore and the Housewives instead of rational thought, I don’t see a change in the trajectory. I really hope I’m wrong.

In the hope that reasonable people are reading and are also as nervous as I am with the mood of this country, I offer two options for some election reform.

For every day or portion of the day an incumbent is campaigning, they may not draw a salary or benefits from their elected positions
These people are interviewing for a job they hope to keep. The taxpayers paying them is like me demanding a day’s wages from a prospective employer for interviewing with them for a job I need to convince them I am qualified for. If they don’t get paid for campaigning, maybe the campaign season will be shorter and the actual work we elected them to do will be done more in earnest.

The only TV ads that are allowed are one where the actual candidate is speaking into the camera in his or her own words.
All other ads can be run, but they MUST carry a huge disclaimer throughout the entire broadcast of the ad that says “This is an opinion only. Facts have not been independently verified.” Even if the ad contains facts, unless the candidate is facing the camera and willing to put his/her words on the recorded record, it should be labeled opinion. Free speech means you can say what you want, but you can’t make up your own facts.

These are just a couple ideas from one of the unwashed, fading middle class voters out here in Pro-America who is getting very tired of the rancor, hate and anger but knows that to ignore it would be more dangerous to liberty than getting more involved.


So like sheep, these media types

Lifted from BBC

Do social sites like Facebook connect the world or isolate people? Undergraduate Soraya Mehdizadeh of York University claims to know the answer and has researched this question for a senior paper that was published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. And because it was published and her conclusions fit a media narrative that demagogues find attractive, it got a lot of press coverage. Here. And here. And here.

It’s official. Facebook users are narcissistic with low self-esteem. Men like to brag and women like to show off their best side. And this is news? When did Facebook change this basic human behavior?

Let’s ignore the fact that many college students today are not embracing Facebook as they once did, opting instead for the more private and exclusive circle of text messaging for their real friends. Or that the fastest growing segment of users of Facebook are over thirty-five. Or that she only looked at 100 college students at one college in Canada. Facebook statistics are readily available to any news media organization that wants to independently verify the legitimacy of a study.

I think a study like this says more about our thirst for entertainment at the cost of truth. I think a journal that publishes a study this flawed and subjective says more about the quality of the publication rather than the study. And I think it says a ton more about the quality of the school that allows a study like this to be published by a student who has supposed to have finished a course of study that has an obligation to teach her observational and deductive reasoning skills that qualifies her to practice medicine on living people in several years.

But the relative ease at which news organizations were duped into reporting this study as news without questioning the science behind it speaks more to the sloth of journalism and greed of for-profit news organizations than it does for answering the questions the study claims to have discovered. It is astounding that professional news media glom onto a headline masquerading as a study and propagate it out across the AP, UPI wire as if it were news fit to print.

But then, I am making all these assertions based on the paper abstract and first page alone. That was all that was displayed on the website without paying for it. I’m certain the media did not spring for access and judging from the depth of their stories, even if provided a free copy, they did not read past the first page.

Does Facebook connect or isolate people, was that the original question? Who the hell cares. What I do care about is that of the fifty-three friends I have in my Facebook collection, if Facebook were to go away tomorrow, I’d still know how to connect with them. And I think that most people would also know how to connect with the few dozen Facebook friends who really are their friends. So I think that Facebook perhaps makes it easier to remind me of their place in my life while simultaneously making it easy to feel I can always reach out, so I seldom do. But their photo in my friend box reminds me of them. And I hope mine does the same for them.

And I haven’t changed my profile picture in forever. A social media forever, anyway.

Editor’s afterthought:
After publishing my #letsblogoff, I clicked through my usual reading material and by way of Chris Brogan, I rediscovered Mark Horvath (@hardlynormal). What follows on his blog is a huge testament to how social media spaces are not only connecting people, but transforming lives and giving homeless people hope. I warn you, before you click off to his site, you may feel a bit humbled and dare I say, sheepish at your own observations of what social media can do. I know I did. Thank you, Mark, for reaffirming that we are all in this together. And now his site,

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about “Do social sites like Facebook connect the world or isolate people?” To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

Shifting words to maintain the “incumbent” narrative

Did you notice it last night as the primary election results were coming in? The media narrative of “anti-incumbent” is not meshing with the reality, so the use of “incumbent” is being quietly shoved under the rug for words like “establishment,” “experienced,” and “DC-insider.”

The media was wrong in their prediction of this huge anti-incumbent wave sweeping the country, angry voters demanding change, etc, etc. but they won’t admit it. They stubbornly hang onto the theme they set and push valiantly through, changing the lexicon ever so slightly.

Did you notice? You should have. You should be asking “why?” You should be asking why media is predicting and producing a news cycle rather than reporting and analyzing.

And when the final results are in from the general elections and they don’t match the narrative then it was an “upset.” I guess it is all entertainment after all. Very expensive entertainment, but…

Am I wrong?


Hello? Can anyone hear me? Koran burning over here

No, I’m not really burning a Koran nor would I burn a Bible, Torah or rip up a picture of the Pope. I wouldn’t even fling elephant poo on it, hang it in a museum and call it art. Why? It’s not that I don’t reserve the right to express myself in these ways — because in America, I do — but because they are deliberately intended to show disrespect to other people’s beliefs about themselves. Doing these things is only intended to send a message of disrespect to others, not as an expression of my free speech.

But that is not really my point. I just said all that because I believe it to be true, but also to stave off any nutjob who wanted to come over here and pee all over my carpet just to show he can. Whoopdeedoo, you found the comment box.

My point is just one small contention with one assertion President Obama made in his press conference today. He stated (40:22):

This is a way of endangering our troops… I hardly think we’re the ones who elevated it. In the age of the Internet, something that could cause us profound damage around the world.

With all due respect, Mr. President, I disagree.
Continue reading “Hello? Can anyone hear me? Koran burning over here”