Category Archives: journalism

On Bullshit

Philosopher Harry Frankfurt, in his 2005 work On Bullshit, presents a definition of, and perhaps an example of, bullshit. Not to be outdone, noted vacuole Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Flapdoodle: Handy Pull Quotes for the Working Thinkpiece Writer, shows how you can have a successful career based on nothing at all, as long as your flapdoodle provides handy pull quotes for the working thinkpiece writer. Well-known pronunciation shibboleth Thomas Pinker, in his book How to Have Perhaps Even More Influence than Gladwell by Writing a Large Book which No-one has even Read, has conclusively demonstrated how to have perhaps even more influence than Gladwell by writing a large book which no-one has even read.

The reader, in her 2017 work Milking It: How I Got Sick of Blog Posts Which Flog One Idea to Death, may observe that she has grown sick of blog posts which flog one idea to death. The present author’s work in progress, The Use of a List of Imaginary Books as a Vehicle for Satire is an Established Literary Technique Dating Back to Rabelais (at Least), argues that, on the contrary, the use of a list of imaginary books a a vehicle for satire is an established literary technique dating back to Rabelais (at least).

He also admits that the abandoned draft of his blog post “An earnest and depressing argument that if the Trump administration shows anything, it is that the language of political journalism has become a desperate manipulation of clichés and idées reçues in a hopeless attempt to avoid dwelling on an atrocious reality” is an earnest and depressing argument that if the Trump administration shows anything, it is that the language of political journalism has become nothing but a desperate manipulation of clichés and idées reçues in a hopeless attempt to avoid dwelling on an atrocious reality. It’s not a fun read.

The Tragedie of King Murdoch

As faithfully reported by the Australian media

MURDOCH DIVIDES KINGDOM
It’s not just politics: it’s business

EN GARDE! MURDOCH FLIES IN COL ALLEN AND RETINUE OF PARTYING KNIGHTS
Sure to win support among marginal evil daughters

“OFF, YOU LENDINGS”
MURDOCH RAVES NAKED IN STORM
“Canny move” say media insiders

Why you shouldn’t bother reading The Economist

One of my resolutions for this year is to convince everyone to stop reading The Economist, so here goes.

Get a bottle of Worcestershire sauce, and print out this web page. Cut out the following sentence:

Governments should be wary of the perils of over-regulation.

Now pour some Worcestershire sauce on the piece of paper. There you go, I just saved you ten bucks. (If you didn’t already have a bottle of Worcestershire sauce, too bad.)

Still not convinced? Read this Crooked Timber post on everyone’s favourite anonymous neoliberal blather and the Great Famine.

Smoking v News: a comparison

Smoking, 2002 Reading political news, 2012
Habit adopted as an undergraduate Habit adopted as an undergraduate
Supports fantasy of self as edgy, independent thinker Supports fantasy of self as edgy, independent thinker
Marketed as part of a mature, sophisticated lifestyle Marketed as part of a mature, sophisticated lifestyle
Tenuous political rationalisation: something something libertarian don’t tell me what to do Tenuous political rationalisation: something something civil society politically engaged debate
Political reality: paying corporations to poison me Political reality: paying corporations to anger me
Intended outcome: retention of cool, with-it stance, with concomitant illusion of youthfulness; maintenance of feelings of control over one’s mortality Intended outcome: retention of cool, with-it stance, with concomitant illusion of not-quite-middle-agedness; maintenance of feelings of control over one’s society
Actual outcomes, short-term: tired all the time, constant respiratory health issues, bad breath, interrupted workflow, looking ten years older than one’s actual age, crankiness Actual outcomes, short-term: tired all the time, constant mood disorder issues, bad conversation, interrupted workflow, acting ten years older than one’s actual age, crankiness
Actual outcomes, long-term: cardiovascular disease, cancer, death Actual outcomes, long-term: cardiovascular disease, and given the current state of the Australian media I wouldn’t be willing to rule out permanent IQ loss or brain damage

I haven’t smoked since 2004, which makes me hopeful that I can stick to my resolution to kick my addiction to political news.

Alexander Cockburn

Sad to hear the news that Irish-American journalist Alexander Cockburn has succumbed to cancer at the age of 71. To borrow one of his metaphors, it was exposure to Cockburn’s journalism at a tender age, via a chance discovery of his 1988 anthology Corruptions of Empire, which inoculated me against the error of thinking that his friend Christopher Hitchens had an admirable prose style.

Here is a collection of his articles. It’s nice to see that this includes a piece about the excesses of New York dining. Most of the obituaries I’ve read are strictly about his political work, but Cockburn is one of the funniest and most acute food writers I’ve ever read, and I’ve never forgotten his gloss on a recipe for cold fish curry:

Short of lowering one’s naked foot slowly into the weeds at the bottom of a pond it is hard to imagine a more depressing experience.

Fairfax

Despite the fact that I haven’t bought their products for five years, Fairfax is still associated in my mind with the idea of a “quality newspaper”, a cultural formation (intrepid, intelligent reporters at the bottom, wealthy but small-l-liberal proprietors at the top, cryptic crosswords somewhere in between) which was always a bit of a romanticised myth but which is now clearly doomed.

I want to say “well we’ll just have to do without it, it’s not like they’ve been helping much for the last two decades” but that would just be me trying to act tough. I miss quality newspapers.

Dawn

NASA gets close look at asteroid Vesta

The motion, about equal to the pressure of a sheet of paper on the palm of your hand, is so gentle it would be useless on Earth.

But in space, where there is no counteracting gravitational force, momentum builds up over time.

A: no counteracting gravitational force: an old misconception that in space there is “no gravity” as opposed to “everything is in free fall so whoops there goes my pen”, but!

B: is so gentle it would be useless on Earth. Useless? Then why aren’t all the bits of paper on your desk drifting up to the ceiling, Mr Smarty-Pants Journalist?