We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

From out of Iraq

I do not depend on the ‘main stream media’ world for my news. I expect that is true of most Samizdata readers as well. There is just the tiniest bit of self-selection effect at work here: you are applying your eyeball time to us rather than elsewhere. That given, I hope you are perusing the Iraqi blogs and papers for their take on the US election. There are many fine Iraqi blogs, but my current favorite is The Messopotamian. Here is his take on yesterday’s events:

Congratulations to all American people and to our Iraqi people for this great outcome of the American Elections. This was a great statement by the American people; a statement showing the quality and backbone of this people and affirming their worth and qualification as world leaders. Now that this matter has been settled in satisfactory manner, in my humble opinion; we should emphasize that this is no time for division and rancor. Senator Kerry has acted in very dignified manner when he did not allow the matter to drag, and has shown his patriotism and sense of responsibility and awareness that the interests of the country at these times require national unity and putting this election campaign behind our backs to concentrate on the momentous tasks ahead. Yes at times of war and conflict, the unity of the nation and putting higher interests above partisan considerations is the mark of a great people.

Read the whole thing. Then keep reading: it is well worth the time.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VKEmail this to someone

10 comments to From out of Iraq

  • J

    Down with primary sources! Truly they are the source of all evil (well, some of it). The fact that a single non randomly selected Iraqi says ‘we are glad Bush is re-elected’ is a very poor indicator of anything much. I can easily find you an Iraqi blog that says the opposite. Big deal.

    The fact that the evil MSM – in this case the Independent (or ‘”al-Independent” for LGF readers), reported an Iraqi opinion poll almost a week ago in which several hundred Iraqi’s were polled, with an outcome of a clear majority in favour of Bush, is much more interesting.

    Sure, that poll will have been massively skewed, either to Iraqis with phones, or ones who live in areas safe enough for people to ask them questions. But, for all that, it’s got far more going for it than anecodotal evidence from ‘my friend in Iraq’.

    Fact is, much of the exciting new, err, blogosphere, amounts to not much more than ‘my friend the…’. This is fine and dandy, but let’s not confuse it with actual research.

    That’s why I’m continuing to read the MSM as well as the, err, other people.

  • ableiter

    Excuse me, I don’t understand. Why do you see a diference between a blogger and the MSM? BOTH are ‘anecodotal’. Maybe that word doesn’t mean what you think it does?
    Main Entry: an·ec·dot·al
    Pronunciation: “a-nik-‘dO-t&l
    Function: adjective
    1 a : of, relating to, or consisting of anecdotes b : ANECDOTIC 2
    2 : based on or consisting of reports or observations of usually unscientific observers
    3 : of, relating to, or being the depiction of a scene suggesting a story
    – an·ec·dot·al·ly /-t&l-E/ adverb

    Unless, of course, you are claiming the MSM is scientific. If so we need to discuss just what that word means too.
    A critical moment in history happened the other day. Some citizen with a cell phone took a picture of a body( the anti Muslim film maker that got stabbed to death) and uploaded it to a media outlet BEFORE THE CAMERA CREW GOT THERE. That is the future of Media. Bloggers will start paying citizens for the uploads from their cell phones. Why embed a reporter when you can get a direct feed from Private Atkins helmet cam? Why send a camera crew to a bank robbery when the hostage can send in the live feed from their cell phone? The MSM is dead. Like any large bodied,small brained animal, it will twitch for a while. But it is still dead.

  • J

    Well, I’m claiming two things:

    1. The MSM reports on scientific findings more often than the SRUM (self-righteous upstart media ;-)). This is possibly because:
    a. Scientific findings are often only available at considerable cost.
    b. Those who do primary research want maxiumum publicity, and that still means MSM.
    c. People less slavishly enthralled by SRUM still like to see scientific findings as opposed to seeing unscientific findings – oh wow – a whole 1 day before the newspapers get it.

    2. MSM conducts its own scientific research. I admit this is not common but it does happen. More importantly, non mainstream, but still ‘traditional’ publishers such as my employer do this. We are in the business of publishing scientific findings. I’m not aware of any upstart challengers to this activity, since it’s actually extremely hard to do.

    I notice with dismay that the MSM is pandering to the SRUM. In much the same way any nut-job with a computer and a knack for choir-preaching now has a popular blog, so newspapers are increasingly doing less “These things happened today” and more “The opinions of someone who we know you are going to agree with”. See Robert Fisk.

    That’s not progress.

  • Dale Amon

    Jon. You should first go back and read what I wrote, and then argue on that basis. I did not suggest ignoring all media. I did not suggest ignoring primary sources. I did suggest that the ‘MSM’, scarequoted as it is currently a buzzword for ‘the big media conglomerates’, is not often useful. Why should I read what CBS has to say about an event in Iraq when I can read the English language translations of Iraqi news, the anecdotes of people living there, the translations of non-English Iraqi newspapers, the original transcripts of DOD press briefings, the original complete 9/11 Report or any other report… and so on.

    In addition, I can have my information vetted through a personal trust network of experts who will inside of hours let me know if something holds water.

    And incidentally: on science I usually get the real information well ahead of any print publications. If I so desire, I can usually get the original ‘pre-print’ complete with all those nasty integrals, from arxiv.

    The point is precisely that MSM is a middleman. It is not primary source. It is a filter and a decider of what primary source it will deign to tell me about, what spin will be given to that primary source, how that primary source hooks into the story of the day or their particular editorial line… well, I’m sorry. I don’t play along with that any more. If I want to get the info on a physics story, I get the paper and discuss it with a physicist. If I want to find out about military affairs, I will discuss it or read the writings of those who were there. If it is in the area of space, I call my friends either by email or phone. Many of the people who make the news in that area are personal friends. So why should I watch a news program about it? Other than to wave at the people I know who are on the screen and perhaps call them on mobile to tell them they are on, I do not see it as a good use of my limited time.

    I simply do not need a middleman to tell me what I should think about an event or discovery. Primary source is precisely the point. MSM is not primary source.

  • J

    “I did not suggest ignoring all media.”

    Neither did I. We agree here 🙂

    “I did not suggest ignoring primary sources.”

    Indeed. I however, suggested that they be viewed as LESS not MORE useful than secondary sources.

    “Why should I read what CBS has to say about an event in Iraq when I can read the English language translations of Iraqi news”

    No reason at all. However, in my definition of MSM, ‘Iraqi news’ is MSM. Perhaps I’m wrong here. It may be that MSM is meant to refer only to the large, established media outlets in the West. I have in the past taken it to mean any large, traditionally operating media outlet.

    I absolutely agree that the ability to complete documents (e.g. the full text of parliamentary speeches etc) is a great benefit.

    “In addition, I can have my information vetted through a personal trust network of experts who will inside of hours let me know if something holds water.”

    This is the really scary bit. Bloggers are rarely experts. But even if we suppose they are it makes no difference. Science and reason abhor experts. I work in medicine. We have things called consultants, who are experts. Much of what they believe has never been backed up by experiments, and this is a supposedly scientific field. Image what it’s like in politics. The more experts you have the worse it gets, because people will naturally start to listen to experts who say what they want to hear.

    Thus, our “personal network of experts” over time becomes more an more skewed, and everyone’s perception of reality is likewise skewed. You can really see this happening in the US political blogging sphere, where people have simply given up trying to think, and just make fun of each other from the pseudo-intellectual safety of lgf or kos or whatever. It’s dire.

    “And incidentally: on science I usually get the real information well ahead of any print publications.”

    That’s clever.

    “If I so desire, I can usually get the original ‘pre-print’ complete with all those nasty integrals, from arxiv.”

    Ah, try doing that with medical science :-). The nature of scientific research in some disciplines is much more suited to no-middleman publishing. In medicine it would be very hard indeed for reasons I can bore you to death with if you like :-). However, the notion that all tradition publishers are just obsolete middlemen is completely wrong.

    “The point is precisely that MSM is a middleman. It is not primary source.”

    I agree, that’s what makes it valuable.

    ” It is a filter and a decider of what primary source it will deign to tell me about”

    Yes, hopefully it does the job of weeding out bad primary sources. This is known as fact checking.

    ” If I want to find out about military affairs, I will discuss it or read the writings of those who were there.”

    This is a prime example of where primary sources are dangerous if over relied on. I have spoken to people who enjoyed WW1. I have an uncle in the US who told me a story about being asked to bomb non-existent targets in Vietnam, and then coming back and filling out fictional damage reports, so that they didn’t have to go and bomb the same non-existent target a second time.

    What am I to conclude from this? Only that some people found WW1 to actually be a pretty tolerable place, and that in at least one corner of the US military, they really had lost the plot in vietnam. Either that or my uncle was exaggerating a bit for the benefit of his audience – I wonder if soldiers ever do that….

    Fact is, just because someone was there doesn’t mean much. I’d rather read the views of someone who’s looked at 500 first hand reports and summarised them, than the views of 3 people who were there.

    “I simply do not need a middleman to tell me what I should think about an event or discovery. Primary source is precisely the point. MSM is not primary source.”

    Sure, you are an expert astro-physicist. That’s fine, I’d agree that it’s a waste of your time to read MSM reports on that area. It’s like me reading MSM reports on computing or something.

    But, you are not (I assume) an expert on the Iraq war. But I’m sure you have opinions. If there’s a soldier who writes a blog, and every day he whines on about how terrible the war is and how bad Tony blair and Bush are, you might not want to read that blog. Do you discount that soldier as being a minority – on the grounds that you read 4 other blogs of soldiers who feel completely differently? As a scientist, I’d hope you take a more rigorous stance than that!

    J

  • Dale Amon

    But that is exactly what ‘MSM’ does! Just look around awhile and you will find photos of the staged ‘victim’ photos and ‘demostrator’ photos. I’ve run across some great wide angle shots of rock throwers outnumbered by photographers; a Palestinian woman in a staged tear-jerker photo by the wall with a dozen photographers taking the photo op.

    There has been Rathergate with the amateurish forged documents touted as real; there has been the careful subselection out of the 9/11 report of just those sentences which support the night’s spin with near total silence on the rest. ‘MSM’ is unworthy of eyeballs because it does not fact check properly. At least in the blogs you will quickly get pointers to the original sources, indications of what was ignored or sidestepped, stories behind the story (with links to original articles); comparisons of politicians current words with past words (and the sources to check your self).

    Long before blogs I had learned a great deal of distrust for media simply from seeing the skewed coverage of events in the space arena and some others with which I was very familiar. With the blog world I often know the story before I see it on the evening news (yes, sometimes I take a supper break around that time) and very often find a gulf between what they say and what I can fact check for myself.

    I certainly was not talking of niche technical media, which is apparently what you are in. These are more often carefully vetted and checkable and have far higher standards and far more capable people working them. In a niche I am familiar with, for example, I would tend to trust a lot of what Craig Covault of AW&ST says; he has earned trust by being accurate. I would also often disagree with him on areas of opinion. Btw, I do not know the man personally, but friends have interacted with him and he is generally respected.

    The problem with ‘MSM” is that it is a very small club of people who think they are somehow special because they write for NYT or anchor CBS and that this gives them the right to insert opinion as fact, ignore facts which don’t fit their spin, and in general get away with murder.

    We’s gonna keep dem boyz honest from har on, y’know?

  • Dale Amon

    As a PS… I’ve also seen the journalist and photographer feeding frenzy in action here in Belfast back towards the end of the bad old days and perhaps a little now and then since. If there are 5 rock and bottle throwers and two police vans, there were times when I think the cameramen outnumbered the troublemakers. They made it international news by keeping the shots tight. This happens all the time, all over the world. Reporters are out there to find a story, or if they can’t create one. Remember the old Hearst quote: “Sir, there is no war here!” Hearst: “Then start one”.

  • Dale Amon

    A PPS: The other beauty of blogs is that I fully expect someone will drop by and give us the exact Hearst quote and a link to the context of it. I believe it was in the run up to the Spanish-American War.

  • EddieP

    The MSM is not dead, but it is undergoing a serious reevaluation of its role. Willingly or unwillingly.

    Blogs need the MSM to feed the fact check machine. Blogs will never have the wherewithal to do the basic digging necessary to report the news.

    It will become a complementary relationship and a dialog. I don’t want the NYT to fail, I want them to regain their reputation as the purveyor of “All the News that’s Fit to Print”

    We should want all MSM to succeed, but to discard manufactured and badly distorted news. There is plenty of room for vigorous OpEd positions, and no point of view is unworthy.

    Having said that, individual MSM organanizations are due to expire if they don’t change their paradigm of the world and their useful place in it.