James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘pornography’

Music dies; parents watching Super Bowl nearly do the same

Posted by James McPherson on February 2, 2009

CNN reminds us that it has now been 50 years since “the day the music died,” coincidentally in the same state where many presidential campaigns throughout history have crashed and burned. Buddy Holly was the most important of the musicians who died in the crash, which also claimed teen singer Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper Richardson (and would have killed one of my personal favorites, Waylon Jennings, if he had not given his seat to a flu-bitten Richardson).

Holly brought us songs that included “That’ll Be the Day,” “Peggy Sue,” “Oh, Boy!” and the last song he ever performed, the ironically titled “Not Fade Away.” The crash brought perhaps my favorite rock song, of all time, Don McLean’s “American Pie” (the meaning of which isn’t totally clear; McLean famously said, “It means I don’t ever have to work again.”), sung by Garth Brooks and a cast of thousands at Barack Obama’s Inauguration Concert.

I was at an impressionable age for music when the song came out (I turned 13 shortly after that) and a big fan of 1950s music in general (despite being only only six months old when Holly died). A few years later even modified McLean’s chorus to fit my first car (a 1966 Valiant): “Bye, bye, Miss American Pie; drove my Plymouth to the limit but the limit ain’t high. The others drinkin’ whiskey, and I guess so was I. If my ol’ man finds out then I’ll die.”

The song is also very long, meaning it never got as much airtime as I thought it deserved–and less after pre-programmed corporate radio meant fewer DJs who needed bathroom breaks. But you can see an early live YouTube video of McLean performing “American Pie” below.

On another media topic that brings to mind the words, “O, Boy!” and “Not Fade Away” (a song later recorded by the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, the Supremes, the Beatles, Deep Purple and Rush, among others), parents in Tucson have to wishing they could erase from memory the surprise images that appeared during yesterday’s game. Some residents of the Cardinals’ state saw what had to be the longest 10 seconds of any Super Bowl party in history.

Despite the fact that viewers saw the unzipping of pants in this case apparently not because of a “wardrobe malfunction,” but instead through the act of a hacker, cable executives are probably just hoping they can avoid a lawsuit.

That’ll be the day.

Posted in History, Legal issues, Music, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Web vs. bed: choosing surfing over sex

Posted by James McPherson on December 16, 2008

A story this week suggests that, according to a Harris poll commissioned by Intel, many people would forgo  sex before they’d give up the  Internet.

The story, based on an Intel news release, says most people find the Internet to be essential to daily lives. A CNET poll cited in the same CNN story offers this odd note: “Results as of Monday from CNET’s related online poll showed that 30.5 percent of respondents would give up sex for one year, while 26.1 percent would do without Internet access for a year. Almost 40 percent of voters didn’t want to sacrifice either.” Given no restrictions as a choice, it’s less than half?

Does this mean–despite Fox News content on any given day–that we are less sex-crazed than Web-crazed (after all, another Harris poll shows that 80 percent of us now use the Internet)? Or that Internet porn has displaced real-life sex? Would this explain how an avatar affair can lead to divorce?

Probably none of the above. Though the titillating story made CNN’s front page and probably will get a lot of attention–and generate lots of discussion about Internet addiction, American priorities, etc.–the two surveys have  several obvious flaws. The most obvious is that that both were conducted online.

In other words, those answering the questions were using the Internet at the time they answered. Probably none were having sex at the time they answered. We also don’t know how those  people are using the Internet. As anyone with an inadequate pop-up blocker can testify, many are apparently going online for sexual content.

And we can’t tell how many of those who answered are already going long periods of time without sex. Those most involved with technology may be least inclined toward human interaction of all sorts, though it may be impossible to determine which leads to which.

Regardless, most of us with Internet access are plugging in multiple times per day, while even a good good sexual experience, according to yet another study, takes less time than does a meaningful Web search.

According to the CNN story, a fourth survey does suggest that giving away big-screen televisions could promote abstinance, at least in the short term. Perhaps not surprisingly, that was more true for men than for women. No word on whether that survey was conduct during football season.

Posted in Media literacy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The benefits of Chinese Rolexes, moving pyramids and expandable breasts

Posted by James McPherson on August 12, 2008

Politicians lie, and as long as the falsehoods come from the ones we like, we accept them gladly. If it’s our own candidate spinning the yarn, we adhere to the Fleetwood Mac strategy: “Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies.”

Iran recently used Photoshop to lie about a missile launch. China now admits faking its Olympics fireworks display, which seems a bit odd considering that fireworks would seem to be the last thing China would have to fake. What’s next–we find out the Giant Pandas are really Disney-style animatrons, or that the 360-member Mormon Tabernacle Choir is bulking up its performances with extra taped voices?

Still, even the fireworks deception is not a huge surprise. For one thing, China has long been known as a great place for fakes: Rolexes, designer clothing, DVDs, etc. For another thing, especially when it comes to the media, real just isn’t real enough.

While we overlook political falsehoods, we are more upset (and should be) because we all know the media lie (the problem is, we typically don’t know when). They may be lying now, in a sense, to make the presidential race appear closer than it is. Magazines airbrush every model, deleting acne and often enlarging breasts. National Geographic moved a pyramid, and CBS digitally dovered up an NBC logo with its own. (See a great range of such lies, with photo examples, here and here.) Smut peddlers use the same techniques to create fake pornographic images of movie stars and–more troubling from both ethical and legal perspectives–children.

But with the exception of the last example, one might ask, “so what?” After all, we are a nation of liars. We can’t seem to help ourselves. The biggest problem isn’t that people lie to us, in my view. A more serious problem is that we cannot recognize lying when we encounter it.

An excellent Columbia Journalism Review book review of Farhad Manjoo’s latest book, True Enough: How to Live in a Post-Fact Society, summarizes how Manjoo discovers and points out that thanks to “selective perception” we are largely incapable of distingishing truth from fiction. We all have our own “facts,” and we’re sticking to them.

That inability to discern truth from falsehood is perhaps the best reason for a liberal arts education, or at least a few classes in logic and media literacy. Since most Americans will get none of those, however, perhaps we should be thankful for the obvious prevalence of lying. As we increasingly encounter falsehood, recognizing that it comes from all angles, perhaps health skepticism will increase.

Trusting nothing is a start, better than trusting everything or better than trusting a select few media sources. Learning what to trust, and why, is a goal worth striving toward. No lie.

Posted in Education, History, Journalism, Media literacy, Politics, Video, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

American Family Association shows you what not to watch

Posted by James McPherson on May 21, 2008

In its ongoing campaign to “protect” the family, the AFA is protesting a gay kiss in the soap opera “As the World Turns.” That’s not news, of course; the AFA is consistent in protesting what it calls the “Homosexual Agenda.”

What is different in this case is that the AFA wants you to see it for yourself. So far I don’t see any ads for California’s gay wedding industry linked to the site, and there’s no way to tell how popular the video clip has become, but it will be interesting to see if the organization decides to employ the same methods in its fight against such things as pornography, popular films and “Oprah’s new church.” If so, AFA Web traffic is likely to go way up.

Posted in Media literacy | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »