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]

Samizdata quote of the day

Every decent person who understands why America has a constitutionally protected press wants to see the press succeed. As the only unregulated private sector industry in America, the free press’s entire existence is based on afflicting the single most comforted institution throughout human history: centralized authority. Afflicting and comforting anyone else is secondary. The truth—and a genuine commitment to its pursuit—must take precedence, even when it runs contrary to the interests of whoever is deemed afflicted or comforted. Journalism humbles itself in finding truth in a complex world. Activism pursues its ends with righteous certainty. Journalism is the work of describing and understanding reality; activism is the work of refashioning it. Journalists act as impediments to the acquisition of power; activists pursue power.

Robert Showah

25 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • pete

    Someone show this quote to the girls of Rochdale and Rotherham, or to Savile’s victims art the BBC.

    Most journalists keep quiet when those in power want them to.

  • Bulldog Drumond

    Most journalists keep quiet when those in power want them to.

    Did you actually read the linked article? That’s because too many journalists are actually doing activism rather than journalism.

  • This is not actually true. Freedom of the press refers to the people’s freedom to publish. We do not want to see ‘the press’ succeed. The press is a machine it has already succeeded and has been superseded by better technologies.

    But more and more, we are seeing the perverse incentives of a media industry, which thrives on chaos and thus, if it can cause more anxiety amongst the people, it will, because that means more people will tune in. It isn’t just activism. There are perverse incentives at play here, likely at least as bad as being ‘too big to fail’.

  • Felipe Grey

    I am personally quite happy to see the ‘news’ no longer controled by a cabal and coalition of ‘journos’ with political connections.

    Who remembers D Notices now?

    But the Guvmint n Press will still always try to suppress stuff that makes them look bad. By fair means or foul. Both will go to the Utmost to spin news and events in their favour.

  • Vinegar Joe

    40 years ago when I was a reporter (small town Southern newspaper)…….I was having trouble with the corrupt son of the corrupt county supervisor…..the son was the head of the county Democratic party and was riding around town with boxes of votes from a recent election…….was refusing to turn them over to the state election commission. My boss (owner and editor of the paper) told me not to worry: “We always have the last word.”

  • bobby b

    “My boss (owner and editor of the paper) told me not to worry: “We always have the last word.””

    Did you?

  • Ellen

    The person who really gets the last word is the typesetter. But it’s the printer who sends it forth.

  • lucklucky

    Politics is a religion that replaced other religions and journalists are today priests. That is why the State do not ceases to grow in power.

  • Vinegar Joe

    @bobby b Yes, we did. It helped that we were the only newspaper in the county. 😉

  • Regional

    The so-called Free Press is highly regulated by Left Wing activists, every one has to be of the same mindset, no dissent is tolerated.

  • The person who really gets the last word is the typesetter. (Ellen, July 6, 2018 at 11:19 pm)

    A fact that people remind the Grauniad of from time to time, by calling them that. 🙂

    Of course, that is only true because the typesetters had a union back then; no-one at the left-leaning paper dared correct even the most egregious typo other than by requesting a properly paid-up union member to do it.

    🙂

  • bob sykes

    Showah is deliberately lying in his teeth. The American press is nothing other than the propaganda arm of the left. Fake news, fake journalists, fake Americans. The American press is the enemy of the American people.

  • Annuit cœptis

    Showah is deliberately lying in his teeth.

    Don’t be an ass. Is same true of Fox News? Washington Times?

  • RRS

    In times past, the term “journalism” applied to the craft of relating daily or periodic events to the contexts of past or ongoing life.

    Today the term is better seen as a label for “waging influence” often for indeterminant objectives.

    The relationship to context is generally lost to the way and intensity with which influence is sought.

  • Fraser Orr

    Two things struck my reading this. First: “[the press are] the only unregulated private sector industry in America” is a quite terrifying statement. I don’t actually think it is true, but the fact that it is believable, that is to say that we regulate EVERYTHING is horrifying beyond words.

    Second, the press is most certainly not unregulated. Most people get their press from the TV or cable, and both are heavily regulated by the FCC. And, of course were it not for recent changes introduced by Trump, The Federal government wants to regulate the Internet too for our own good. They call it “net neutrality”, because “we are from the government and we are here to help you.”

    Our present situation here in the USA reminds me of that complaint Jefferson made against the British Government from our recently celebrated Declaration of Independence: “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.”

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

  • Fred Z

    “Journalists act as impediments to the acquisition of power;”

    Oh really?

    Journalists impeded the Hillary Clinton campaign? Did they?

    Let me fix it: “Journalists act as propaganda arms for the acquisition of power by people of whom journalists approve, usually for the most idiotic reasons, journalists being generally lazy, stupid and dishonest people.”

  • Eric

    As the only unregulated private sector industry in America, the free press’s entire existence is based on afflicting the single most comforted institution throughout human history: centralized authority. Afflicting and comforting anyone else is secondary.

    No. A thousand times no. The free press’s entire existence is based on letting the public know what’s happening. That’s it. It’s not their job to afflict or comfort anybody. That “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted” attitude has done more to damage the reputation of the institution than anything else. If the press wants public support for an environment conducive to unfettered reporting, they should stop giving people the impression they see themselves as a political power block in their own right.

    Is same true of Fox News? Washington Times?

    To a certain extent, yes. Even conservative leaning outfits look to The New York Times to decide what constitutes news, and that’s half the battle. Also, as far as Fox goes, it’s made a pretty sharp turn to the left recently. Murdoch’s sons aren’t anything like their father, and Roger Ailes was the person most responsible for the sort of populist conservative bent they used to have. I think the idea is they can maximize their audience by moving just to the right of the nearest competitor.

  • Paul Marks

    The Constitution does NOT protect special people called “journalists” – at the time of the United States Constitution (and for a century afterwards) anyone could create a newspaper or write for one (if the owner hired them). There were no “Schools of Journalism” and no special caste of “journalists”.

    When my fellow conservatives complain of a “activist journalists” and demand “proper unbiased journalism” they are falling into the Progressive trap.

    Newspapers, television stations and so on SHOUJLD be “activist” (should push a view of the world) – but there should be real “DIVERSITY” – not the modern definition of “diversity” (a quota for three legged, green, transsexuals from the planet Mars – and so on), but diversity of OPINIOMN. Different newspapers and television stations (and so on) giving DIFFERENT views of the world.

    Denounce “bias” and demand “objective news” and you walk straight into the leftist trap – for they will decide what is “fake news” and what is “bias” and what is not “objective”. For example the British “broadcasting standards” – which give a monopoly of television to the left.

    Stop denouncing “activist journalism” – and start setting up newspapers, magazines, television sites and INTERNET sites that have conservative and libertarian world views – and allow this OPENLY to define their news coverage.

    No more “School of Journalism” ideology.

    Meanwhile the British government is working on even more censorship of the internet – and the head of “Sky” and the Sun newspaper agree with Mrs May and co. They do not understand – they have not got a clue.

    “We must ban Hate Speech” say the fools (and worse than fools).

  • Fraser Orr

    @Eric, regarding Fox News, I don’t agree at all. If you look at their commentators they are almost supine in their adoration of President Trump. I think Sean Hannity wants to have his babies. Tucker Carlson makes it his business to eviscerate loony leftists (I don’t recall a similar evisceration of loonie rightists), and Laura Ingraham is as utterly pro Trump and Rachel Maddow is anti.

    Which isn’t to say it doesn’t offer a useful counterbalance, and frankly it is one of the few sources of news that isn’t so dripping in contempt for Trump that you can read it and get useful information.

    But sharp turn the the left? I don’t t think so.

    And BTW, I strongly agree with Paul. Stop complaining about “leftist bias in such and such”, start your own news channel. Or, and this is something I still don’t quite get — all the concerns over left wing bias (including the one point I’ll agree on the “left turn” thing — Tucker Carlson’s call for trust busting Google), I don’t understand why a viable libertarian/conservative/or just plain “free speech” alternative to google/gmail/youtube/twitter/facebook hasn’t arisen. They aren’t all that hard to set up, and it seems a market pregnant with explosive possibilities. If you are willing to take 10% of the profits of google in exchange for giving users back their privacy — why wouldn’t someone do that?

  • RRS

    WHAT is this “Privacy” of such concern?

    Is it composed of differing elements; some derived by “analysis” of uses of facilities?

    Whilst they are about to undergo some drastic changes in “techniques” currently; consider U.S. “Super Markets,” which attempt to analyze buying patterns, floor traffic, most “effective” space, allocation of (and charges for) shelf space and exposures – do those involve “privacy?”

    There does not seem to be the same rising hue and cry to deal with the issues of “privacy” in the hugeness and continuing monopolizations (centralizations) of Administrative States.

    What is privacy?

  • Alisa

    I don’t understand why a viable libertarian/conservative/or just plain “free speech” alternative to google/gmail/youtube/twitter/facebook hasn’t arisen. They aren’t all that hard to set up, and it seems a market pregnant with explosive possibilities.

    Google aside, the reason is the network effect. That said, there are alternatives, but it will take time for them to become viable and competitive, so I’d advise patience, plus using such alternatives whenever possible and encouraging others to do so, to contribute to and speed up their growth.

    In any case, this is an aside, because the post is about news reporting, not social networks, search engines or email services.

  • Alisa

    Recommended, from what I have seen so far:

    https://www.theknifemedia.com

  • Fraser Orr

    Alisa
    In any case, this is an aside, because the post is about news reporting, not social networks, search engines or email services.

    Yes, but the question bears on the subject matter — namely why are the news media that most people use so dominated by one point of view? Yeah, I know about leftie college professors, but ultimately it is a similar phenomenon — the network effect. There are a gazillion news sites in the long tail, but why do some dominate entirely? And why are they mostly leftie? All the broadcast networks are leftie, two out of the three main cable news networks are leftie (though Fox gets more viewers than the other two put together interestingly) and of the top 15 circulation newspapers only three or four are not in the tank to some degree for the democrats.

    But this is a network effect too, right? If you get your news from leftie sources then your views tend to be pushed left, and of course in the world where people want to live in echo chambers this is a self reinforcing thing.

    Of course if the democratic party weren’t such a bunch of ineffective idiots and utter radicals they’d be able to use that to their advantage. But there seems to be no adults left in the party to restrain the utter loons from driving the agenda. You might not care for Trump, but he is no radical, in fact he is not particularly ideological at all — he seems more of a pragmatist to me. (Witness the situation with free trade which I think is much more complex than the simplistic analysis to which it has been subjected.)

    But back to cookie D’s. I just read the latest idea from Senator Durbin, who I am embarrassed to say represents my state in Congress. His idea? Sacrifice some seats in the senate to overthrow Trump’s USSC nominee. Perhaps he doesn’t realize that if the nomination goes down, but R’s get more seats in the senate, they can just have a do-over in January, but this time with a larger majority because of Dummy Durbin’s strategy. (See what I did with the nickname there? I could work for Trump as his speech writer!)

    OK, so you were dinging me for going off topic, and I guess I just wandered even further off topic… It is Sunday and I am supposed to be working. So looking for any excuse to keep my nose from the grindstone.

  • Alisa

    No dinging intended, Fraser – honest! 😀 Seriously, my point was not about the topic, it was purely technical – which is what the network effect is. I embedded the link again, because you seem to have missed my point, which is:

    Yeah, I know about leftie college professors, but ultimately it is a similar phenomenon — the network effect.

    But this is a network effect too, right? If you get your news from leftie sources then your views tend to be pushed left, and of course in the world where people want to live in echo chambers this is a self reinforcing thing.

    No, those are not cases of a network effect, not in the sense I meant. They are cases of bias, group-think, etc, but that is a different issue.

    Say you and I are friends, you tend to watch Fox News, and I tend to watch CNN. This makes us differently biased, but as long as we maintain our friendship, we can discuss issues based on our different sources of information and different biases. The information flow between you and me still exists, whatever the end results.

    Conversely, you and I are still friends, but I am using Facebook to post links to news items, express my opinions and those of others, etc. You however choose to shun FB, and are using Minds instead (which is one of the potential alternatives to FB and Twitter). Additionally, recently I underwent a conversion, and am now as “right-wing” as you are – watching Fox News, reading Breitbart, etc. Now, although the two networks (FB and Minds) are not entirely isolated from each other, you and I are still effectively operating in two different universes. The ultimate point is that the FB/Twitter universe wins, because most of your friends, including me, are on FB/Twitter and not on Minds – not because of our ideological bias against Minds (I like the politics of the Minds founders much more than those of Zuckerberg and co.), but because of the mechanics of the network effect, where the bigger network always wins solely due to the larger number of its users. Yes, something can tip the scale from the Big Networks to the smaller ones, but it has to be something very drastic which apparently has not happened, yet.

  • “I don’t understand why a viable libertarian/conservative/or just plain “free speech” alternative to google/gmail/youtube/twitter/facebook hasn’t arisen. They aren’t all that hard to set up, and it seems a market pregnant with explosive possibilities.”

    At a certain point, companies realize their ROI on lobbying in D.C. far exceeds anything they can make in the free market. Thus they lobby and gain, among other things, barriers to entry. We (libertarians, conservatives, and likely many more) have thought that we can just out-compete some of the bad actors in the market. NO. This is illusion. The only time it works is when it is not recognizable as a threat to the existing order. This is why we see changes based on technological advancement. But if it is a known industry, there is no such luck.

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