Tuesday, February 28, 2006

What World-Class Journalism (Writing) Looks Like


Don’t mis-underestimate Dubya

The Bush family has an uncanny knack of knowing where the future will happen, says Jaithirth Rao

Posted online: Wednesday, March 01, 2006 at 0000 hours IST

As we prepare to welcome the leader of the world’s most powerful republic, it behooves us to make sure that we grapple with facts, not just biased opinions. It is unfortunate that so much of the information about the US is derived by our elites from the eastern seaboard, Left-leaning media who are on the opposite side of the American political spectrum from George W. Bush and who therefore have a vested interest in opposing and disparaging him.

The images of Bush they have succeeded in planting internationally are that Bush is dim-witted, a simple-minded religious fanatic, a supporter of a rapacious plutocracy. None of these are based on facts. But like all propaganda, there is a feeling that repeated often enough, loudly enough, it’ll become the accepted truth.

Let us take a look at the facts. The Bush family is as elitist as they get in America. Bush’s grandfather was a Republican senator from Connecticut. His son, George Bush Sr, took the decision literally to move the family “west”. This may seem like an accident. But what an intelligent and fortuitous accident it was. They moved to the southwest just as this part of the US was gaining demographically. The likelihood of a president of the US bobbing up from Connecticut, with its declining population, is pretty low. Texas on the other hand has been for the last 35 years on the rise economically and politically. The Bush family moved to Texas just as the state was moving from over a century of Democratic domination to becoming a bastion of the Republicans. Incidentally, a branch of the Bush family represented by the president’s younger brother has moved to Florida, another state with burgeoning demography and a flourishing economy. The family’s uncanny ability to anticipate the future and “move” to where the future will happen needs no better proof.

President Bush attended Yale and Harvard Business School. Critics will of course make snide remarks that this was on account of family connections. While that may help to some extent, to be dismissive of his attendance of top-class academic establishments would arguably be one more silly under-estimation of the man. Despite representing what is viewed by many as a political party committed to the white Protestant cause, Bush has reached out to the Hispanic community with intelligence and sensitivity. If nothing else, this represents another wise anticipation of demographic inflexion. The Republican Party would condemn itself to irrelevance if it fails to co-opt the growing Hispanic population. At considerable risk to his popularity with xenophobes within his own party, Bush has proposed a Guest Worker programme which is immigrant-friendly and responds to the concerns of the Hispanic voter. His ability to re-fashion himself as a “non-elitist” or to convert a marginal first term victory into a decisive one in the second round are not acts of the politically inept. Those who think of him that way seriously “mis-underestimate” him!

Bush has shown a broad-mindedness and inclusiveness in his appointm-ents that completely demolishes the argument that he is merely a mouthpiece for evangelical Christians. He may be a sincere, pious, believer in his faith, but he’s consistently stood for the separation of church and state and for the inclusiveness of all groups. This may be for principled reasons or because he his politically smart. The net effect has been positive. His executive and judicial appointments embrace Catholics (also new entrant into the stable of Republican supporters), Jews and African-Americans. Note that both his secretaries of state (the senior-most cabinet members) have been African-American. His surgical approach to Senator Trent Lott when he resurrected long-forgotten racial antagonisms is a classic example of heightened sensitivity.

In foreign policy, Bush has the reputation deservedly or otherwise of cold-shouldering Europe (or is it just Old Europe?) and reaching out to China and India. Again, one sees the same knack of grasping the future rather than swimming in the glue of the past. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and he have created an Indo-US CEO forum. Contrast this with Chirac’s clumsy response to the Mittal-Arcelor deal. China is the economic powerhouse of the future and India is headed the same way. Bush’s visit to China highlighted this despite the dozens of reservations and differences on Taiwan and other irritants. He was warmly received by the Chinese elite, an important lesson for his Indian counterparts.

As a betting man, the very fact that Bush is positive about India means that it is quite in order to go long on the Indian stockmarket. His ability to spot the trend has a tested track record. It is equally important to pay attention to the fact that almost instinctively he is on our side on a variety of issues, be it the approach to Islamist terrorism or the approach to nuclear power as a viable, even desirable energy source for the world. He has maintained a clear distance from ecology fundamentalists who would deny India nuclear fuel and at the same time hector us not to burn high-sulphur coal. How exactly are we supposed to provide for an energy-starved population who do not aspire to remain permanently poor?

The one argument I find most entertaining is that he is doing all this for the good of the US. Of course he is. That is what makes his approach so credible and self-sustaining. He has been elected by Americans to further their interests and that’s what he is doing. If he can find that doing business with India makes sense within that agenda, it seems to me that we have all the elements of a relationship not based on frothy rhetoric but on sound convergence of interests. It is in this spirit of intelligent practicality, conscious of our vital interests that we should “do business” with this pragmatic Texan.

Jaithirth Rao is chairman and CEO, Mphasis


At February 28, 2006 8:18 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

That's why China and India will rise.

The level of thinking is powerful and clear -- unlike the sorry example of thinking offered by the United States mainstream press -- that is totally puerile and dysfunctional. That's where America has fallen behind the most as a global competitor, and why the newspapers (mainstream media) are failing. They're pure crap and worthless.

At March 01, 2006 7:34 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

This kind of experience is pandemic now:


Secretive and Smug
By R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.
Published 3/2/2006 12:07:52 AM

WASHINGTON -- So we hear this week that President George W. Bush is taking delight in the spread of the "alternative press" (read conservatives on the Internet, in talk radio, in print, and at Fox) and the gentle detumesence of "mainstream media" (read liberal media, or more precisely Democratic media). Well, I join him in his satisfaction.

I have spent much of my life with journalists, beginning in competitive swimming and moving on to politics and culture. Usually, even in covering sports, the journalists have been liberal Democrats. I recall a Sports Illustrated writer who used to come out to Indiana to cover my world champion teammates on the Indiana University swimming team. He was a very agreeable fellow, but two decades later he ended up as campaign press secretary during Al Gore's first run for the White House. Well, that is the way things have been in American journalism. From journalism one drifts into Democratic politics. From Democratic politics one drifts into journalism, often TV journalism. Think of Chris Matthews, Tim Russert, and George Stephanopoulos.

Some of these journalists are very dreary duds. But others are lively. The best are energetic, curious, often intelligent, occasionally well-read. Yet I have often sensed something off-putting about them. It is as though they were members of one of those weird California cults. They seem friendly enough. On occasion they are feverishly friendly, but then one senses something else, a secretiveness, a smugness, and in many instances, a peculiar conformity. Journalists are forever breaking into dry discourses on their "journalistic ethics."

I find that odd. Why are they so sensitive about their ethics? Is it because their ethics are so elusive? Most of the time when I find myself in a journalistic controversy I do come away with the conviction that the ethics of the mainstream journalist -- the liberal Democratic journalist -- are, well, rubbery. Consider a controversy I found myself in last month. I chaired a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference, featuring a debate between former Justice Department official Viet Dinh and former congressman Bob Barr on government surveillance. It was an intelligent give-and-take. Conservatives are divided on this issue, revealing again that there is variety of opinion among conservatives, a variety of opinion one rarely encounters among liberals. I judged the audience pretty much equally divided, as did Barr and Dinh.

A report on the debate by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post proved to be clearly inaccurate, even mischievously inaccurate. Consequently, as it was a panel I presided over, I wrote a clarifying letter to the editor, sending a copy to the paper's Ombudsman. Mainstream media have created the quaint position of the Ombudsman, out of concern for journalistic "ethics." My letter has never been printed, and the Ombudsman's response was another example of the liberal journalists' weirdness.

Here is the unpublished letter:

Dana Milbank's report of the Conservative Political Action Conference's debate on civil liberties, moderated by me, is inaccurate in matters large and small. Large: it is not true that "the crowd was against" former congressman Bob Barr's libertarian criticism of the Bush Administration's surveillance policies. Both Bob and I considered the audience pretty evenly divided. There exists considerable disagreement among conservatives on this issue, as has been widely reported. Small: I am not "a conservative publisher" but rather the editor in chief of The American Spectator, a position I have held for nearly 38 years. As such, I have been interviewed by Milbank in the past, and my last name has not one "r" but two. Milbank botched my middle name as well.

The American Spectator's publisher is Al Regnery whose name is easier to spell.

The Ombudsman's odd response was to e-mail me that she was sending the letter to her "national editor to see about correcting your name." Of course, the burden of my complaint was that Milbank was playing sophomorically with the facts of the event and misleading his readers "in matters large and small." That is what mainstream media and Ombudsmen in particularly are supposed to be concerned about. Several days later in the paper's "Corrections" section here is what was printed:

The Feb. 11 Washington Sketch misspelled the name of R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., the editor in chief of the American Spectator.

As I say, there is often something smug and secretive about these journalists. The above "correction" hid the real issue regarding the Milbank report. Even its identification of me was cryptic, evading the initial misidentification of me. Such Byzantine maneuvering goes on all the time in the "mainstream media," which is why they have lost the trust of so many Americans. Once a news organization has lost the public's trust it has very little to offer.

R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator, a contributing editor to the New York Sun, and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His latest book is Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House (Regnery Publishing).

At March 02, 2006 5:55 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

What the lead article for this thread illustrates, is that world-class journalism is not being done by traditional mainstream journalists -- but by the alternatives, who speak with obvious authority on their subject matter. That comes across, while the usual editorial is just as obviously written by somebody talking off the top of their head, who is basing his arguments on other people’s insights, opinions, and their superficial understanding -- and really doesn’t have a sensitivity to the real dynamics of the issues.

This same paradigm shift is taking place in all the mediums of information, communication and education -- the media, schools and universities -- which has traditionally and conventionally controlled these activities for largely their own benefit and self-aggrandizement. Therefore the quality of such writing and thinking as presented as an example, are not likely to be produced by the media, schools and universities but are likely to be absent and suppressed -- because they undermine the authority of the institutions and personalities that wish to maintain their own authority and expertise -- by eliminating and suppressing the truly best.

One is only allowed to be good up to the limit of the expertise of the editors, school teachers, and university professors -- and anything beyond that is discouraged, suppressed, punished -- because it disrupts and challenges the present hierarchical jurisdiction over those activities. In the old world of difficult access to the means of publication and forums, those challenges were difficult, expensive and otherwise problematical -- inherently in the distribution of physical means of that exposure. That is obviously not the limit anymore -- in the age of electronic information and communications.

So a dying mode is meeting and witnessing its own passing and succession -- too entrenched, intimidated and paralyzed to rise to the challenge to compete on the new level. Its extinction is thus ensured -- but before they go, they will try to assure their own lifelong entitlements to sustenance, under generously favorable conditions, in whatever manner possible.

The unfortunate dynamics of those industries in demise, is that they are heavily-unionized and dominated by seniority rules in a shrinking pool -- and thus new talent is unavailable to them by their own design, and are the first eliminated among them. They have a shrinking gene/talent pool when the challenge calls for the greatest recruitment of all the possibilities and talent as the only thing that can save them -- which they’ve assigned to the other side, as their mortal enemies and competition.

Any society has to secure the best talent available to their side -- rather than exclude and punish them, hoping they will defer to the old status quo of seniority over talent and ability. That’s a huge problem for all the status quo institutions -- that have flourished under a different set of realities that now put them at a fatal disadvantage.

That is the ultimate story of progress and evolution. It’s not likely to be the news you learn about from them.

At March 03, 2006 9:07 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Speaking with authority, here are excerpts from the President’s address to the people of India. The editorial staffs of the local newspapers delight in disrespecting the President as lacking eloquence, yet I’m still waiting to see something of brilliance in their own writing to demonstrate their own imagined moral and intellectual superiority.

Intelligent people don’t go around calling other people “stupid;” that’s what stupid people think intelligent people do.


“India in the 21st century is a natural partner of the United States because we are brothers in the cause of human liberty. Yesterday, I visited a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, and read the peaceful words of a fearless man. His words are familiar in my country because they helped move a generation of Americans to overcome the injustice of racial segregation. When Martin Luther King arrived in Delhi in 1959, he said to other countries, "I may go as a tourist, but to India, I come as a pilgrim." (Applause.) I come to India as a friend. (Applause.)

For many years, the United States and India were kept apart by the rivalries that divided the world. That's changed. Our two great democracies are now united by opportunities that can lift our people, and by threats that can bring down all our progress. The United States and India, separated by half the globe, are closer than ever before, and the partnership between our free nations has the power to transform the world. (Applause.)

The partnership between the United States and India has deep and sturdy roots in the values we share. Both our nations were founded on the conviction that all people are created equal and are endowed with certain fundamental rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion. Those freedoms are enshrined in law through our written constitutions, and they are upheld daily by institutions common to both our democracies -- an elected legislature, an independent judiciary, a loyal political opposition, and, as I know well here in India, a lively free press. (Applause.)

In both our countries, democracy is more than a form of government, it is the central promise of our national character. We believe that every citizen deserves equal liberty and justice, because we believe that every life has equal dignity and value. We believe all societies should welcome people of every culture, ethnicity and religion. And because of this enduring commitment, the United States and India have overcome trials in our own history. We're proud to stand together among the world's great democracies.”

At March 03, 2006 9:38 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Note the clarity in all these examples of world-class communications -- of clear intent to share information and goodwill. Contrast it with the typical editorials and selected commentaries and letters in the newspapers blowing smoke to hide what they have to say, know and don‘t know, but want you to think. But they’re getting so nuanced and obtuse that it no longer matters what they say because it is all so twisted and contrived that they themselves don’t know what they’re saying or want to say -- but to repeat the latest mantra from MoveOn.org and other propaganda machines that promote hatred and disrespect of the American way of life.

So all that comes through anymore from those mainstream outlets is the resentment, bitterness, envy that they aren’t the President of the United States, as their grade school teachers told them was their entitlement. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be the best at whatever calling life has brought to them. That state of mind and all it implies, is what is communicated and not just the words -- which at many publications now, they just count and don’t care otherwise if they mean anything or not, as long as they all have the “right“ format.

I guess somebody should tell them that the jargon they are so fascinated with, is designed to keep the wider audience out -- so that nobody bothers to listen to what they have to say anymore. Therefore, increasingly, their editorials take on the tone of these political rants that communicate their own despair at realizing that nobody cares what they have to say.

At March 03, 2006 9:57 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

That’s the whole “secret sauce” to understanding the communications and information revolution of these times. Words are now used to communicate -- rather to impress. And that is what one largely sees in the traditional mainstream media editorials -- this trying to impress rather than simply doing the best they can to communicate -- which is impressive in itself, and the manifestation of intelligence.

Even worse than the proponents of AP style are the academics -- who are still operating with that mentality, and don’t even impress the reporters anymore. They’ve become completely irrelevant and absent from the community dialogue -- except to organize their students in protest rallies as a sign of their “clout.”

Most of the vibrant and dynamic intellectual activity has moved on to the exploding alternatives -- while the traditional institutions of culture become backwaters -- merely protecting their shrinking turf. So they go to their legislators hoping there are laws that can be passed to stifle all that energy and creativity -- and funnel it through their customary roles as the gatekeepers of culture and society. But drowning men cannot save other drowning men.

I think that at one time, the keypunch operators looked out on the landscape and delighted that they alone controlled the future of information and communications that all had to flow through their hands.


Post a Comment

<< Home