Friday, September 15, 2006

Dog Philosophers

I don’t want to be cynical but I fear I am losing that battle. I went to my trusty source, Wikipedia, to look up the word “cynic” and found that it has a long tradition dating back to the Greeks so that made me feel a little better.

“Cynicism (Greek κυνισμός) was originally the philosophy of a group of ancient Greeks called the Cynics, founded by Antisthenes. Presently the word generally describes the opinions of individuals who maintain that self-interest is the primary motive of human behavior, and who are disinclined to rely on sincerity, human virtue, or altruism.”

I also saw that the early Cynics were referred to a “Dog Philosophers” and felt I was in good company because I do love dogs. And dogs have been relied on by generations of school children to eat their homework. Which I guess is almost what happened at the FCC when Michael Powell was chairman. Seems there was some big report about media consolidation that was eaten by some dogs.

This was uncovered by Senator Barbara Boxer in a hearing on Tuesday. Somebody slipped her the report in some kind of clandestine operation, maybe it was Richard Armitage trying to atone for outing Valerie Plame.

But back to the report. The report concluded what we already know, that is when gargantuan non-local media companies do news they do way less local reporting than local media companies and they have a tendency to focus on “if it bleeds it leads” kind of news, which in turn leads to a greater level of cynicism throughout society. Why Powell suppressed the report, going to the extreme of having his senior managers order that every last piece of it be destroyed, is beyond me.

He, after all, was just the chairman of the FCC, not the NSA or CIA. Of course he did do a stint as policy advisor to Cheney when he was Secretary of Defense so maybe that’s where he picked it up.

Cynicism is further fueled by the fact that the other side of the “aisle” is equally duplicitous. Note the landslide passage of the statewide franchising bill in California. It wasn’t some nasty Republicans out to promote and protect big corporations who got that bill going, but instead some self-righteous Democrats out to promote and protect big corporations. And it’s been noted here before that Democrats have their hands outstretched just as far as Republicans when it comes to taking donations from big media. This fact makes me grimace when I see media reform types slamming the evil Bush administration when they need look no farther than Bobby Rush of Illinois or Fabian Nunez of California.

Then there’s those astroturf groups that have done a great job of cloaking themselves with legitimacy by cozying up to social justice groups. One, Telecommunications Research and Action Center or TRAC, sister of Alliance for Public Technology, is an offshoot of Issue Dynamics whose clients include deep, deep Bell pockets. They recently co-hosted the Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture and Awards Luncheon featuring Amy Goodman. Pretty good gig for an organization whose parent company’s purpose is to make sure at&t, BellSouth, SBC and Verizon get what they want at the end of the day, which of course includes national franchising and the loss of PEG channels. Given that Democracy Now! is seen daily on hundreds of Public access channels across the country Goodman might want to investigate TRAC or at the very least not appear at their sponsored events.

But my favorite quote of the week came when Oregon’s Gordon Smith spoke on net neutrality saying “If you say right up front that you can’t charge this or you can’t discriminate as to customers who bring volume, then you take a tremendous incentive away from investment.” I am wondering where Mr. Smith has been all these years as the internet, free and unfettered, has been allowed to grow and grow, and create revenue and jobs, while these “investors” have been sitting on their hands while gleefully redlining neighborhoods. The issue Mr. Smith, is not net-neutrality but triple play, that’s what drives investment and that’s why there is no roll out in Baltimore or Philadelphia.

That’s enough vitriol from me for one week, you want more you’ll have to produce it yourself. Watch C-Span that should get you going. If not, then my suggestion is turn off the tube, turn off the computer, throw the newspaper in the recycle bin, and put on some Norah Jones. Or better yet, spend some philosophical moments with your dog.

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