Tag Archives: media

“Free Speech”: Who’s Listening?

By Jim Selman | Bio

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12-Step Program for America: Step 2

By Jim Selman | Bio

Anyone familiar with 12 Step programs knows that the literature generally characterizes the ‘ism’ or addiction as a disease of ‘self-centeredness’. This is basically a way of saying that the behavior (that is, the alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, etc.) are symptoms—not causes. The nature of the problem is that people become trapped in a ‘self-referential’ relationship with the world, live in various states of denial, and pursue increasingly self-destructive behaviors until they ‘hit bottom’. At that moment, they can begin the process of recovery—assuming they will take the first step—to acknowledge that they are out of control and powerless and that their life is ‘unmanageable’.

I suggest that the relationship between the ego and the individual (the self-centeredness) is similar to the relationship between culture and an organization or society. They are both manifestations of a paradigm that creates self-referentiality. Self-referentiality, in itself, can be useful: it is what allows us to learn from our past experiences and allows us to choose what is meaningful to us. But it can become dangerous—even fatal—when reality changes and we find that

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Second-Guessing

By Jim Selman | Bio

Over the past few years, I have written about how life in our society is increasingly becoming a ‘spectator sport’. I am again reminded of this as I listen to week after week of pundits second-guessing President Obama and other leaders as if their points of view are a) true, b) somehow contributing to a civil public discourse, and c) honest and not contrived to produce controversy or provoke conflict and drama. I am not naïve: I am aware that the media is in the business of creating and satisfying audiencesand that drama, conflict and controversy sell more than relatively straight-forward information. Personally, I’ve managed to disconnect from the mainstream media channels about 90%, but even so the conversations are persuasive whether we’re getting them first or second-hand. If my observation about all of us is valid that we’re becoming spectators rather than being active participants in the democratic process, then the question becomes what can we do about it? As an example, a majority of us voted for a President and before the ink was dry we began to hear daily ‘score cards’ about his ‘popularity’ and is he doing a good or a bad job. Mostly we’re second-guessing his decisions and undermining his (or anyone’s) capacity to lead. Imagine what it would be like if you got married and then had a daily report by all your neighbors of how the marriage was going and how you were doing as a spouse. Either you’d have to stop listening or you’d end up reacting to the feedback to the point where you are a pawn of public opinion and no longer an actor in the relationship. I admire any leader’s capacity to balance sage advice and counsel from those committed to making things work and their ability to ‘screen’ out all the ‘devil’s advocates’ who have no other commitments than to destroy whatever possibilities may exist for change and/or to forward their own points of view.  Lately there is a back-and-forth argument about whether the President is being tough enough on Wall Street. Frankly, I don’t know what his longer-term game plan is, but I would bet the story isn’t finished. He is fighting wars on a dozen fronts. He must pick his battles. He must be strategic. If any president were to declare war on Wall Street, it is not clear who will win and, as has been the case with healthcare, we will, in all likelihood, lose the opportunity to correct and clean up the mess we’ve created.

There is very little (if any) benefit to second-guessing our leaders. If we have personal priorities and requests, there are lots of ways for them to be communicated. There are lots of forums for discourse and debate that are not daily ‘spectacles’.  We remember the story of Emperor Nero watching Rome burn. We forget that, for years before it burned, the population was drawn to the Coliseum to watch the gladiators live or die. They voted on the life

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Media Monotony

By Jim Selman | Bio

There is a maxim in critiques of the media that the content of programming reflects what the audience wants. I find this hard to believe. Surely, even the most ardent Michael Jackson fan must tire of ‘experts’ dissecting the autopsy, second guessing why he died and manufacturing hypothetical scenarios of what his will might or might not say. John Daley had a hilarious segment of would-be experts and reporters in a frenzy seeking some ‘degree-of-separation’ with the famous man: “I met someone who knew someone who met him once at an airport….” Daly followed this with a spoof of a reporter walking through an empty house pointing to where (supposedly), Jackson’s furniture used to be.

Until recently I assumed that this kind of coverage was simply banal and that one could simply turn it off. Unfortunately, all the channels now seem to follow the same programming formats—a breaking story followed by days of drivel with experts ‘counterpointing’ each other on whether Rush Limbaugh is really gay or whether Sarah Palin is really going to make a play for the presidency in 2012. Could it be that it is less costly to cover one story ad nauseum rather than maintain

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G-20, Gee Whiz

By Jim Selman | Bio

I am not an economist and I don’t know what to think about all the ‘unprecedented’ claims coming from the joint communiqué of the G-20 summit. I hope it works. But, hey, a trillion isn’t what it used to be! As a guy who has been around enough to be a little bit wary of political claims of bright horizons, I wonder if the world’s leaders are really united to correct past excesses and grease the financial system enough to restore confidence in the future.

After all, isn’t that what this is really about? I don’t mean just the repairing all the economic machinery, but ordinary people’s confidence in the future? Can our kids look forward to having children of their own with some expectation that they can raise them in a manner that is reasonably close to how they were raised? If we believe the pundits, the prospects are grim.  President Obama is doing his usual eloquent job of trying to be straight with the electorate

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Mindless Media

I am having a hard time finding anything good to say about the news
media in North America these days. I hate to think this, but perhaps I
am becoming a curmudgeon. For example, I was impressed by the rapid
coverage of the tragedy in Minneapolis with the bridge collapse. Within
minutes of the occurrence, CNN, NBC, FOX and CBC were ‘on it’. We had
heard about all there was to hear within a few hours, and then we
witnessed some pretty good coverage of the rescue efforts.

But going into

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Politically Correct

There is value in distinguishing ‘politically correct’ ways to speak about people who might otherwise be ignored in our collective ‘blind spot’. Such speaking can highlight inequity and discrimination and raise our awareness of those areas where our actions and our values don’t line up—where we aren’t walking our talk!

I also think there are areas where nitpicking labels can be overdone and even undermine the point that needs to be made. It’s one thing to eliminate sloppy and pejorative

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Spectator Society

Once again we’re subjected to endless all-channel coverage of events that, while notable, do not justify round-the-clock, mostly prurient commentary. The tragedy at Virginia Tech has spawned copycats at Johnson Space Center and other schools around the country. Most are simply threats, but it just takes one ‘for real’ to fuel the media frenzy.

As we know, the news channels keep a stable of ‘experts’ on hand to give their views on every imaginable subject. Retired Generals give armchair

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Victory over OJ Day

Today they announced that the OJ confession book won’t be published
and he won’t get the limelight on Fox Television. This is a great
example of the kind of change that can come about when enough people
‘take on’ the system or the culture and take a stand. It is to Rupert
Murdoch’s credit that he was listening.

I think it is important, however, to take note that this doesn’t have to be a one-time, one-event happening. I have been suggesting that if enough of us take

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