05 March 2011

Media Appeals Tribunal has fallen and it can't get up

If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you’re misinformed. - attributed to Mark Twain.

Since the last Media Appeals Tribunal update on this blog, the Press Council of South Africa held a few public hearings which are designed to garner the general public opinion on the role of the council. Public attendance was poor, as can be expected from any kind of public hearings that are held during working hours.

Mark Twain
Mark Twain. I'm not sure what his ideology was, but it involved satire and drinking so I like it.

The Red Brigade has issued a warning regarding the ideology (or is that idle-LOL-agy?) I am propagating on this blog (they haven't managed to identify this ideology, and neither have I to be honest), but then only Red Brigade ideology and nothing else would make the Red Brigade happy. Due to their misconception that I am trying to advance an ideology that they do not approve, they have given my No Media Tribunal campaign a Cold War shoulder. This groupthink is part of why their group is ineffective.

It also shows that the press is more cognisant of its role as a potential soap box for ideology than its purpose as a source of information, which is the way I'd like it to be. It also shows the inability of particularly ineffective groups to decouple ideology from a medium that is regarded by many as more valuable when it is viewed as free from ideology. Why do we trust Wikileaks more than Fox News as a source of news?

I have been following the press council hearings by proxy, and unfortunately it appears to me that most journalists are more concerned with providing a soap box for some group's ideology than with doing their jobs. This becomes more apparent if one counts the amount of grammatical errors in news headlines on some South African news syndicate web sites. It also explains headlines like this:

Man tells how dog helped him survive

You can find the full story here:
Man tells how dog helped him survive.

To me, this is a story about an elderly gentleman who fell in a valley and could not get up. His dog was nearby and helped him survive, because the poor man fell and could not get up. But apparently I am wrong.

The Plight of Smiling Dog Men who keep on falling and cannot get up

Apparently, it is not enough to note that smiling dog man fell and could not get up. Most South African readers of this bulletin may not be aware of this with their White Privilege and Protestant Work Ethic (of which the press has the duty to remind us of at any opportunity, particularly the Privilege part but preferably not in such a way that we may construe a causal link between the two), but there's a large contingent of disenfranchised old smiling dog men out there who have no voice in the press.

Therefore, self-regulation of the media is not enough when it results merely in monitoring the factual accuracy of news reports and thereby ensuring that journalists are doing their jobs properly.

Nor is it enough to evaluate news reporting in an objective manner by evaluating complaints against the Bill of Rights, the Press Council constitution and against the information available to the journalist by a respected panel of experts.

Nor is it enough to point out that appeal to the Press Council is voluntary and there is no need to even bother with it if you feel that your case has enough merit for legal action. This is the course that Gold Reef City took against Carte Blanche.

Nay, nay, the Press Council should also ensure that we're aware of smiling old dog men in general who have fallen and cannot get up and that it's most likely due to the injustices of the past that smiling dog men keep on falling and cannot get up, as causation is easier to establish in social sciences than in others, you see.

Ideology schmideology

I would prefer a Press Council that conducts language proficiency tests and critical thinking skills evaluations of all journalists. The level of each of these should be indicated at the bottom of each news bulletin that the journalist in question gets published.

Journalists who score too low should be sent on courses to improve both their writing skills and their critical thinking skills. These ratings should be evaluated twice a year, and the scores should be updated accordingly. Anyone who uses the terms disenfranchised, media diversity, ideology or demographic representation and thinks this has any bearing on journalistic standards or the purpose of the Press Council (which is outlined in their constitution, by the way) should be sent on history and economics courses to purge their skulls of the dump that Karl Marx took in their skull cavities.

That would be great, but the purpose of the Press Council is not to do the jobs that educational institutes should have accomplished by the time journalists are let loose in the field.

Volunteer's Dilemma: Game Theory for Noobs

The Volunteer's Dilemma in Game Theory is best described by a corny mathematics joke.

A mathematician, an engineer and a chemist are at a conference. They are staying in adjoining rooms. One evening they are downstairs in the bar. The mathematician goes to bed first. The chemist goes next, followed a minute or two later by the engineer.

The chemist notices that in the corridor outside their rooms is a rubbish bin that is ablaze. There is a bucket of water nearby. The chemist starts concocting a means of generating carbon dioxide in order to create a makeshift extinguisher but before he can do so the engineer arrives, dumps the water on the fire and puts it out. The next morning the chemist and engineer tell the mathematician about the fire. She admits she saw it. They ask her why she didn't put it out. She replies contemptuously "there was a fire and a bucket of water: a solution obviously existed.

What's the deal with the Volunteer's Dilemma?

If nobody volunteers, the worst possible outcome is achieved.

It only takes one person to volunteer, but everyone sits around waiting for someone else to be the volunteer.

Elizabeth Hurley Liz Hurley Cannes Film Festival
Elizabeth Hurley who thankfully volunteered to star in a new television version of Wonder Woman as Veronica Cale.

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