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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

A Little of the Old In And Out

In: Twitter. Is it possible to calibrate the exact percentage that a particular form of social media is faster than, say, CNN on the occasion of breaking global news? That would be a useful metric, to be sure. The first thing that this blogger reached for upon hearing of the death of Osama bin laden was Twitter on the cell. CNN, by contrast, was simply background noise until the President went on live. The Corsair's Twitterfeed on Sunday night was a rich personally curated carousel of commentary from friends, media types and news organizations. This is, of course, a far more engaging alternative to just watching CNN, which humorlessly reported the same three or four facts over and over until the President finally took command of the platform.

On Twitter I was able to ferret out additional facts about the use of the intelligence community and the actual military operation, things that might take a while to be vetted on the fly by a cable network of the calibre of CNN. Such is the mystery of how a media pioneer eventually becomes a lumbering dinosaur.

I also was able to interact with friends and gleen the humorous Tweets of Paula Froelich and Paper magazine's Mr.Mickey. How can a cable network compete against my pals? From the New York Times:

"Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, some CNN watchers had already heard the news. Unconfirmed reports — that turned out to be true — of Osama bin Laden’s demise circulated widely on social media for about 20 minutes before the anchors of the major broadcast and cable networks reported news of the raid at 10:45 p.m., about an hour before Mr. Obama’s address from the White House.

It was another example of how social media and traditional media deal with the same news in different ways and at different speeds. Just as CNN once challenged newspapers and evening newscasts with a constant stream of images from the Persian Gulf war, Twitter and Facebook have become early warning systems for breaking news — albeit not always reliable ones.
Twitter saw the highest sustained rate of posts ever, with an average of 3,440 per second from 10:45 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Eastern time."

The reference to CNN, which seems to be getting lost in the social media universe is particularly acute. It was an amazing social media whirlwind of a weekend, beginning with the Royal wedding and ending at the reports of bin Laden's death. And no social media platform benefitted more from these international events more than Twitter.

Out: TV. Television viewership is dropping -- not by much, but it is still eye catching. In a recession -- or, as the experts tell us, a recovery (wink-wink) -- one would think that television viewership (as opposed to, say, moviegoing) would be up. Why do less people have TVs when movie tickets are almost $20 a pop?

This kind of dovetails into my current media obsession/argument that television -- particularly cable and broadcast news shows -- need to become more like social media (for further reference see "In: Twitter" above), incorporating its methodology into their increasingly irrelevant format.

Peter Kafka on AllThingsD lays out the situation thusly:

Americans watch more TV than ever. Except for the Americans who don’t have TVs at all any more: Nielsen says the percentage of American homes with TV sets has declined to 96.7 percent, from 98.9 percent last year.

The numbers will kick off another round of debate about cord-cutting, cord-shaving, and cord-nevers–young ‘uns who grew up watching Google’s YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, etc., and have never found a reason to get a TV.

Indeed it will. The drop is small enough to be almost negligible if media navel gazing wasn't such an exact science in places like a blog such as this. Then again it is not inconceivable that this drop is made up largely of young people that have decided to opt out of making a television purchase altogether. Then it would be a very significant drop, a possible beginning of a downward trend. And such a trend would be enough to turn even the steeliest television executive's blood frigid.

In: New Jersey, Blue State. The President is visiting New York City's Ground Zero on Thursday to give comfort -- symbolic and literal -- to the families of the victims of September 11, and, ancillary to that, psychic comfort to the entire tri-state area which also suffered psychologically from those attacks.

One of the outcomes of Thursday's victory lap will be a securing the tri-state area for the 2012 election. New York and Connecticut are firmly in the President's camp. David Plouffe, the President's '12 strategist knows this. New Jersey, however, elected the popular Governor Chris Chrystie, dislodging Jim Corzine, and a strong argument could be made that New Jersey is trending purple, a possible battleground state. This would cause Plouffe sleepless nights because he knows -- as does everybody else -- that the President cannot win a second term if he doesn't win a due-or-die state like New Jersey.

All questions hereafter regarding the President's viability in the Garden State after Obama gives his speech at Ground Zero will evaporate.

Out: Pakistan. To paraphrase Norman Mailer: Why are we in Afghanistan? Called the graveyard of Empires because of its peculiar geographical location, its unusually brutal topography and a history of destroying hubistic nations, Pakistan is draining America of its treasure at an astonishing clip at a period in which we are the most vulnerable economically. Two reasons stand out sharply as to why we are in that godforsaken place: One, Osama bin ladin and two, the Taliban might -- or so they tell us -- overtake Pakistan, a nation with nuclear weapons that America cannot allow to go rogue. Since Osama bin Laden is no longer a factor, all eyes are on that quixotic US-Pakistan relationship.

How does one explain such a strange, toxic but perhaps necessary bilateral relationship? Lara Logan on CBS has been very strong in covering the growing criticism of America's relationship with Pakistan for the last two days. This blog has always argued that instead of shoving American dollars down the gullets of the paranoid generals of their security apparatus, we should be empowering lawyers and judges, who are well-liked and trusted by the majority of people in Pakistan. It is not inconceivable that Pakistan's ISI views America as wholly allied with India -- the world's largest Democracy and their mortal enemy -- and could be hellbent on misleading us in the War on Terror while simultaneously draining us of as much cash as possible.

This blogger cannot think of a more perfect excuse to get-the-fuck-out-of-dodge and declare victory. We may never get another chance at exiting. As argued by George Friedman of STRATFOR:

"The U.S. mission in Afghanistan, as stated by Obama, is the destruction of al Qaeda—in particular, of the apex leadership that once proved capable of carrying out transnational, high-casualty attacks. Although al Qaeda had already been severely weakened in Afghanistan and has recently focused more on surviving inside Pakistan than executing meaningful operations, the inability to capture or kill bin Laden meant that the U.S. mission itself had not been completed. With the death of bin Laden, a plausible, if not altogether accurate, political narrative in the United States can develop, claiming that the mission in Afghanistan has been accomplished." 

If we were to leave Afghanistan it would put a tremendous burden on Iran, India, China, Pakistan and Russia to deal with that problem. And with the exception of India, which really doesn't deserve the headache, this blogger cannot think of a better constellation of troublesome nations worthy of the distraction of dealing with with the problem of the graveyard of Empires.

Better Them -- India excepted -- than Us.

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