Monday, December 15, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

Army of Spin

"The foreign media image of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish government has shattered over the past 18 months, and in response Turkey has ramped up an aggressive international information blitzkrieg. The campaign is made up of two fundamental elements: condemnation of allegedly duplicitous Western coverage, and a concerted effort to communicate the government’s message internationally. The onslaught is intense and the tone is becoming increasingly bitter. The words of a recent piece by Ibrahim Karagul, the editor-in-chief of the pro-Erdogan newspaper Yeni Safak, reflect the mood: 'What we have been experiencing for the last two years is a global struggle. This is why they have declared war against Turkey and its calculations for the future…. If you have plans to be a great country then you will find the whole world opposing you.' They may sound ludicrously bombastic, but such sentiments are widely shared among senior government officials. Convinced that the foreign media is a propaganda weapon deployed by the West, many call on patriotic Turks to rally behind the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the name of national sovereignty. This sense of embattled defiance is important to understand, and reveals much about the resentful mindset gripping the state. Joel Simon, director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), wrote earlier this month about his recent meeting with President Erdogan, who, he said, surprised him by striking a 'combative posture,' denouncing foreign media coverage as (in Simon’s words) 'biased, intrusive, and tendentious n recent public speeches, Erdogan has repeatedly denounced 'foreign media groups' as well as the local “treason networks' alleged to be collaborating with them. Needless to say, this is a long way from the democratizing, self-confident Turkey that many in the West hoped was emerging just a few years ago." (ForeignPolicy)

Can Power reconcile her ardent human-rights interventionism with the “composite calculus” that must guide American policy?

"On July 17, 2013, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee met to consider the nomination of Samantha Power to be America’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. She was an unusual choice. Although she had been a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and served on the National Security Council as the senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights, she had never been a diplomat. At forty-two, she would be the youngest-ever American Ambassador to the U.N. Power was best known for her book  'A Problem from Hell:' America and the Age of Genocide.' An indictment of what she called Washington’s 'toleration of unspeakable atrocities, often committed in clear view,' it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003. For her conviction that America has a responsibility to halt or prevent the suffering of civilians abroad, she had been caricatured as the Ivy League Joan of Arc. She had written (in this magazine and elsewhere) with unqualified assurance. As a speaker, she was a performer of the first order,' Leslie H. Gelb, the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, told me. 'No notes, the fingers and the arms always flashing in the air, and a voice going from a whisper to a shout. She was pure theatre.' In a 2002 interview on 'Conversations with History,' a television series filmed in Berkeley, Power described a hypothetical need for a 'mammoth protection force' to police a peace accord between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But after she began working as an adviser on Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign, in 2007, his critics quoted that interview in accusing him of harboring hostility toward Israel, and Power disavowed her comments. In a departure for a journalist, she quietly asked the host of the interview to remove the video from the Web, though portions of it still circulate online. To repair the damage, she subsequently approached Shmuley Boteach, a celebrity rabbi who ran for Congress in New Jersey, Abraham Foxman, of the Anti-Defamation League, and other prominent defenders of Israel, who endorsed her U.N. nomination. She knew that during her confirmation hearing her record, her vision of America’s role in the world, and her transformation from an activist to a political figure would receive intense scrutiny. Tom Nides, a former Deputy Secretary of State, told her that her chance of being confirmed was twenty per cent, at best." (NewYorker)

"She has a spot in Democratic leadership, a swelling alliance of liberals in Congress and a rabid following in the Democratic Party. The question is: What does Elizabeth Warren want to do with all that power? Groups on the left are trying to draft the Massachusetts liberal into the presidential race, viewing her as the perfect populist counterweight to Hillary Clinton in 2016. Warren has steadfastly refused those overtures, and allies take her at her word that she isn’t planning to run. Meanwhile, her influence in the Senate is on the rise, partly due to a new position in Democratic leadership that makes her a liaison to groups on the left who have grown frustrated with the party’s direction.Warren has signaled she won’t be a shrinking violet in the post, last week defying Senate leaders and the White House to lead a revolt against government funding legislation that included a provision that rolled back part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. While the uprising ultimately failed, the fight showed Warren has real clout. 'When she gets involved in issues, she makes a real impact right away,' said one financial lobbyist. 'When she gets involved in an issue, it spooks other members. … It’s just not worth it sometimes to be against her.' Warren was already a rock star among liberals before she arrived in the Senate. She first gained recognition as an outspoken critic of the financial industry at Harvard, and rose to White House adviser when her brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, became reality in the Dodd-Frank law. Associates and observers of Warren believe she will spend her new political capital on the issues that brought her to Washington in the first place — defending consumers and the middle class and fighting the power of Wall Street." (TheHill)

"It's a wonderful life on Wall Street, yet here is a holiday wish list to make it even better. 1. The financial sector rids itself of anyone with even the faintest reason to believe that he or she is unusually clever.All those who have scored highly on standardized tests, or been invited to join Mensa, or finished in the top quartile of any graduating class will be banned. Most of our recent financial calamities -- collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps on subprime mortgage bonds, trading algorithms that prey on ordinary investors, the gaming of rating companies' models, the rigging of the Greek government's books so the country might disguise its true indebtedness -- required a great deal of ingenuity. Lesser minds would have been incapable of causing so much damage. Of course, it's not easy to prevent clever people from working in finance, or from doing anything else they want to do. Perhaps now more than ever, clever people are habituated to being paid to ignore the spirit of any rule -- which is one reason they have become such a problem on Wall Street. Upon seeing a new rule they do not think, 'What social purpose does this serve, and how can I help it to do the job?' They think, 'How can I game it?' If it pays to disguise their intellects, clever people will do it better than anyone else. Without further regulation, our entire society would soon be operating in the spirit of the Philadelphia 76ers: Kids tanking the SAT, parents choosing high schools that guarantee failure, intellectual prodigies scheming to gain entry to Chico State. No single rule, by itself, is capable of protecting the rest of us from their intellects. We'll need more rules. 2. No person under the age of 35 will be allowed to work on Wall Street. Upon leaving school, young people, no matter how persuasively dimwitted, will be required to earn their living in the so-called real economy. Any job will do: fracker, street performer, chief of marketing for a medical marijuana dispensary. If and when Americans turn 35, and still wish to work in finance, they will carry with them memories of ordinary market forces, and perhaps be grateful to our society for having created an industry that is not subjected to them. At the very least, they will know that some huge number of people -- their former fellow street performers, say -- will be seriously pissed off at them if they do risky things on Wall Street to undermine the real economy. No one wants a bunch of pissed-off street performers coming after them. To that end ... 3. Women will henceforth make all Wall Street trading decisions. Men are more prone to financial risk-taking, and overconfidence, and so will be banned from even secondary roles on Wall Street trading desks -- though they will be permitted to do whatever damage they would like in their private investment accounts." (Michael Lewis)

"What can’t Shonda Rhimes do? She’s the executive producer of the hospital drama Grey’s Anatomy, the political thriller Scandal, and the legal potboiler How to Get Away With Murder, which air in contiguous time slots on ABC. The network hasn’t packed three programs by a single executive producer into one night since 1982, when Aaron Spelling’s series T.J. Hooker, The Love Boat, and Fantasy Island aired back-to-back-to-back on Saturdays. All three Rhimes dramas, including the freshman Murder, are popular hits, which is why ABC recently extended its deal with Rhimes’s production company, Shondaland, to keep her on the hook through mid-2018. She’s a master juggler, subcontractor, and impresario who seemingly has yet to succumb to the kind of focus problems that have bedeviled other multitasking showrunners. She created Grey’s and Scandal and oversees Murder, which is the brainchild of Peter Nowalk, a longtime writer and producer on her other programs. Rhimes is as hands-on as a TV producer can be while keeping tabs on multiple shows and having something like a private life. Each workday, she drops her daughter off at school, then heads back to her house, where she tracks the real-time cutting of Shondaland shows via a closed-­circuit feed of editors’ workstations. She also holds in-person or virtual story conferences, reads and writes and rewrites scripts, confers with network executives, and who knows what else. The notion of Rhimes as an NSA-level master of surveillance — the eye in prime time’s sky — would be intriguing even if her shows weren’t good. But they are good. At their best, they’re proof that brazenly commercial pop culture can be at once silly and serious, entertaining and artful, disreputable and significant. Scandal and Murder, in ­particular, are models of how to make network TV a social-media event, designed to be watched, commented upon, and unpacked as it’s happening onscreen. Every week between 9 and 11 p.m., when Scandal and ­Murder air new episodes, you see normally blasé-snarky Twitter feeds light up with OMGs and WTFs. The shows manipulate viewers like puppet master Olivia Pope yanking the D.C. media’s strings and make old TV formats new again." (NyMag)

Harry Benson, Tatiana Smith, and Hilary Geary Ross.

The city is now really getting into the season. The events on the social calendar are more casual and relaxed (not so much black tie), and smaller (the New York version). Last Wednesday night, for example, Hilary Geary Ross and Harry Benson were doing a booksigning for their new Palm Beach People down at Bulgari on 57th Street and Fifth.

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