30 December 2011

Breaking News: LIES - The First and Last Word

All You Need Is A Headline...

When I worked in the music business we were concerned with 2 things in a well-written song: The Hook and Dynamics
  • The Hook was of course the title/chorus/theme.
  • The Dynamics were the ebb and flow of the song, the spaces between the sounds. Think Beach Boys.
Part of the decline of communication in our society is the satisfaction we all have with sensationalism. A short, sharp, shocking Hook, disguised as news or commentary can get the reader and make the point, especially if the story that follows is three paragraphs max. And the point is a stick in the eye.

There need not be any substance, Dynamic, or even Truth to the postings on line or in papers. All that matters is the headline. Get 'em! Snag 'em! Breaking News! Kardashian Marriage-Divorce headlines --. Kim Jung Il's funeral (with no mention of the dissolute oldest son, nor the "overly effeminate" middle son). -- Blonde Girls Disappearing – Politicians Up A Tree.

An example of this sort of sensationalism-based-on-nothing occured recently when a "blogger" wrote a post entitled "Dovonan: North Korea is a Monarchy, Cuba IsWealthy".

Beyond the typo created by fevered fingerwork - Donovan not Dovonan - the story attempts to discredit Speaker of the House Chris Donovan as he campaigns for Congress. The intent of the writer is made clear by adding the Tags or Labels of "Castro, Chris Donovan, Palin", and a weirdly constructed accusation that implies Chris Donovan is ill-equipped for higher office. You know, like Sarah Palin.


The premise of Don Pesci, the author of this tripe, was that during an interview at On The HORN (Hartford Online Radio Network), which can be heard via CT News Junkie, Donovan made wildly incorrect statements which have exposed his lack of knowledge regarding international matters.

Called out by blogger Jonathan Kantrowitz, Pesci offered a correction on his accusation that Donovan said "Cuba is wealthy". Turns out Pesci mis-heard the recording - Donovan said "Cuba is NOT wealthy."   OOps. That of course didn't stop him from writing a piece based on his earwax.

As for the claim that Donovan is not ready for prime time because he referred to Kim Jong Il as a King, that is accurate - someone is a king if they are the male ruler of an inherited position and serve for life.

Nonetheless, Mr. Pesci's comment at his own site ends "Don’t worry about Donovan; he’ll get up to speed eventually."

Not quite an apology, but Pesci certainly got what he wanted: The Headline and The Final Word.


Terry Cowgill said...

I linked to your essay on my aggregation site this morning:

I thought it was only fair since I had linked to Pesci's piece earlier this week.

Ironically, you're both wrong. Donovan never said Cuba is a wealthy nation, as Pesci has acknowledged. But the Kim dynasty is not royalty -- not even close.

Monarchs and royal families have a cultural and historical legitimacy that the Kim family never had. Kim Il Sung spent 26 years in exile and could barely speak Korean anymore when he was installed by Stalin as the leader of the DPRK.

Donovan referred to Kim Jong Il and the Kims as a king or kings several times. And of course, there is no guarantee that Kim Jong Un will "serve for life," as his "reign" hinges on the support of the DPRK's powerful military.

Pesci's larger point about double standards is spot-on. If Palin had referred to the Kims as kings, the headlines would be flying. I ask you this: if Andrew Roraback had said what Donovan said, would you be defending him?

Tessa Marquis said...

Thank you for your comments.

My point is really that only the Headlines matter anymore. All we have is Hooks and no Dynamics.

Andrew Who?

Ben Wenograd said...

Responding to Terry;I'm not so much a fan of kings to grant them the presumption of "cultural and historical legitimacy". Calling Kim Jong Il a king is no compliment, and Donovan calling him that is no blunder. Besides, once you admit that it is a "dynasty", monarchy is really not much different.

If he had called him a "thug", would you have called him out on that too because that implies lack of state power?

Terry Cowgill said...

JK, I agree with you about the headlines. Misrepresenting stories with sensational heads is something I avoid, but I suppose it's inevitable on some level. Roraback is the Republican Donovan will likely face in the general election next November.

Ben, I agree that the "cultural and historical legitimacy" of monarchs is tenuous but I do think it's greater than the legitimacy of a dictator installed by a mass murderer, as Kim Il Sung was. BTW If Donovan had called Kim a thug, I would have cheered him. I know lots of thugs who wield "state power."

I spent two weeks in South Korea last summer and have read extensively on the history of the Korean peninsula. I have never in all my intellectual wanderings heard anyone (layman or scholar) characterize the Kims as "kings."

I think Donovan committed a blunder; you don't. That's fine.

Tessa Marquis said...

Small clarification: That was me up above, not Jon Kantrowitz. by "/jk" I meant "just kidding", in reference to snarking Mr. Roraback.

Small comment: I have a friend who is a Taiwanese immigrant, after having emigrated from the Mainland as a child. His English is not so hot and he once referred to Chairman Mao as "The Emperor of China". For what it's worth, perhaps Chris Donovan is Taiwanese?

Again: /jk (with apologies to Jon Kantrowitz)

Terry Cowgill said...

Ok, got it Tessa. Seems like every day I learn a new online shorthand for something. :-)

Ben Wenograd said...

Ok, Terry, not to beat a dead king, but since you trumped me with your visit to Korea, I had to take one more shot at it. Do a quick quick google search on "king of north korea" and you'll see that Chris is not alone. (sorry about the lack of links - not sure how to do it on blogger)

for example: "With some analysts now comparing the Kim Dynasty to a monarchy, these are the men South Korean experts believe to be the key "regents" behind the young king's throne." from The Telegraph

Or as Leslie Gelb put it in the Daily Beast "In 2010, the Dear Leader, as Father Kim was known, made Jong-un, supposedly somewhere around 28 years old, a four-star general. It’s good to be the king, and North Korean generals apparently did not complain." (yeah, I know, somewhat metaphorical, but extra points for the Mel Brooks references)

And finally, the headline of the Asia Society Blog: Lintner: North Korea's King is Dead, But the Military Still Rules (the author, Bertil Lintner, is described as the author of Great Leader, Dear Leader: Demystifying North Korea under the Kim Clan.