Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Clicks Actually Not the Most Important Media Audience Measurement Statistic

Journalists always brag on number of clicks, if they get them.  But it is not necessarily the most important statistic.

The Charleston Daily Mail until recently had the address .  To someone not paying attention, this could have been easily confused with    This is the home of the Daily Mail, far and away the most viewed news website in the world.

Obviously there had to be some spillover traffic with people looking for Daily Mail who actually ended up accidentally at Charleston Daily Mail.  So why didn't the paper based in the West Virginia state capital simply rest on their laurels of massive numbers of clicks?

To explain why they made the change, deterring the accidental visitors, Charleston Daily Mail editor Brad McElhinny explained  on Twitter that "they depressed time spent on site figures as they navigated away immediately."

As it would be difficult for the Charleston Daily Mail to find a way to take advantage of the accidental traffic from readers of the Daily Mail,  this move seems to make sense.

What Has Russia Lost So Far In Sochi Debacle?

Russia for centuries has remained obsessed about its image.  It demands and craves respect as a modern, powerful nation, but also struggles with images of what it considers to be embarrassing backwardness.  The Sochi Olympics should have advanced Vladimir Putin's plan to move Russia back to the forefront.  Instead, even before the first event, it is a public relations nightmare.

The first rule of public relations?  Put the best foot forward with the media.  That also may be the second, third, and fourth rule.  This Deadspin assemblage of reports and tweets puts Russia in the worst possible light.  The land of the bear does not come off as strong, resilient, and capable.  Sochi is "a hilarious adventure," looking less like competence and more like a bad prat fall flick. London's Daily Mail shows even more horrors, as well as a picture of the Russian president.

A reporter from one of the world's most prestigious sports-only publications must climb out his window because the hotel is locked down.

Another gets a terse warning not to use the water "because it contains something very dangerous."  Her picture of the water looks like ginger ale or urine.

Whatever happens next will not unring the bell.  When the media of the United States, Europe, and Japan were dumped into accommodations with broken doors, urinesque water, no lobbies, and mysterious bodily fluids, they gleefully reported all the issues.  Being reporters, they dug and quickly found corruption, waste, and abuse of power mostly connected back to Putin. With 70,000 workers on the ground, Sochi may well be ready for the athletes.  But the media sent home jokes and ridicule.

If Russia wants to break free of stereotypes and establish a better image, it should stop reverting to stereotypical images like Potemkin Villages.

For a nation seeking respect, ridicule is the deepest cut.

The obsession with its image in the West dates back to Czar Peter the Great in the late 1600s and early 1700s.  He demanded that Russia modernize along Western lines.  Being a very tactile intellect, Peter worked to bring visible changes, such as factories, newspapers, and western styles of clothes.

Peter established some westernism, but failed overall.  He did not understand that the successes of the West sprang not from copying others, but from a liberty that birthed inquiry and development.  Since then, Russia has vacillated between Slavic nationalism and Westernism, but has only rarely thought to embrace freedom to inspire innovation.  It often finds itself playing catchup in the most visible ways, while lagging behind in others.

That is not to say that other countries have even patterns of growth and development.  Certainly the United States does not.  But most Americans do not see the perception of the world as damaging to economic development or national security in the same way as many Russians.

And Russians have reason to be concerned.  They must compete with Western Europe's manufacturing economy, the shale gas revolution in the United States, keep a close eye on an increasingly nationalistic China, and figure out how to spur diverse growth and expand its population.  Russia has over twice the land of China and one tenth of its population, all the while holding territory that the Chinese still consider their own. It also has innumerable ethnic groups within its borders, many of whom resent Moscow's rule.

Putin's nationalist bluster covers glaring weaknesses and concerns.  So far, the Olympics that were supposed to serve as a crowning achievement have undermined the image of Putin and Russia alike.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Bizarroworld of College Campus Life and Vaclav Havel

Last year, New York City Police commissioner Ray Kelly cancelled a scheduled talk at Brown University. Students opposed to the city's "stop and frisk" procedures successfully disrupted the event through protest.  According to The Daily Beast this was one of several events halted by the actions of small, but well organized student groups.  Brown University claims to prize " the intellectual exchange that is sparked by a diversity of views and experiences" but caves into left wing rage.

The article goes on to explain how liberals who "accept basic norms of fair play" have been shoved aside by hate filled leftists who see the world as totalitarian and aim to impose those values on campuses.  Its author explained how, as a staunch left wing student, he wanted to see a Marxist reviewer savage Dinesh D'Souza's accounts of campus tyranny.  Instead he was shocked by the reviewer's agreement with the conservative thinker.  American liberals and conservatives disagree on much, but they do generally agree with the principles expressed in the Bill of Rights.

Angry campus leftists, however, loathe experiencing speech that is not their own.  But instead of avoiding it, they work as hard as possible to prevent it.

This happens also at the student level.  National Review this morning posted a piece on "microaggression."  Dr. Derald Sue, Columbia University psychologist, explains that it is speech or actions perpetuated by a majority against a minority individual in everyday life.  This includes slights, discomfort, and anything else that may make the recipient feel "socially marginalized."  Last November, according to the article, a group of students filed a complaint against a professor.  He committed "microaggression" by correcting a capitalization error.

Fordham University has actively moved on this issue, training faculty on how to avoid microaggression and encouraging students to describe instances of abuse.

When asked, Sue said that microaggression lay in the eye of the recipient.  If a person feels slighted, they are, in other words.

Colleges and universities were established for two purposes, to expand the mind and train for useful occupations.  Campus speech policies, giving into hateful protesters and cancelling speeches, giving credibility to silliness like microaggression will close the student mind, not expand it.

Vaclav Havel in the late 1970s penned "The Power of the Powerless."  The Czech dissenter and playwright looked to describe to a westerner the reality of life behind the Iron Curtain.  He said that this was not the classical dictatorship of an individual or a small clique.  Eastern Europe suffered from the dictatorship of bureaucracy.  Although few were slaughtered in the same way as in Stalin's time, innumerable small punishments could be wielded.  Each could drastically affect employment, social position, education, or something else important to the person.  No one would risk offending the system, which he described as "post-totalitarian."

Havel said that in such a situation "the social phenomenon of self-preservation is subordinated to something higher, to a kind of blind automatism which drives the system."  Those caught in it are not regarded as individually worthy, simply a collective reason for the institution to exist.

The most basic revolt against the numbing of this system is what Havel calls "living within the truth."  One ignores orthodoxy and ideology, "rejects the ritual and breaks the rules of the game." The consequences of living within the truth? "The bill is not long in coming. He will be relieved of his post . . . his pay will be reduced . . .his superiors will harass him . . . his fellow workers will wonder about him."

Within most colleges, those who break the rules of the game could go before the social justice Star Chamber.  Guilt or innocence decided by a stacked committee, very little right of true due process or appeal.

Willingness to let people live within the truth means that someone's sensibilities may be offended.  Better they learn in college that the real world doesn't and shouldn't care about offending you.  Better that real and perceived slights be ignored, confronted, or forgiven depending on the situation.  Better than individuals, especially on campus, experience an atmosphere of free speech and inquiry, rather than help perpetuate an intellectual environment with the placidity and quiet of a graveyard.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Appeasing Iran Seen As a Step Towards More Mideast Nations Pushing For Nukes

Obama's lack of a foreign policy has so far resulted in a chaotic Libya, contributed to an unending Syrian civil war, discouraged Israel, and encouraged the terror linked Muslim Brotherhood.  Instability and unpredictability mark not only the behavior of groups in the region, but also US policy.

Experts told the Washington Free Beacon that this could bring disastrous consequences.  First, Iran aspires to Great Power status.  Although it lags in productivity and capital, nuclear weapons would raise it above its neighbors.  A state that once launched masses of its own citizens in suicide rushes at modern weapons cannot be trusted to be predictable with these weapons in hand.

Should Iran obtain them, other powers will as well.  Saudi Arabia most certainly will develop its own.

Other countries will adapt. Turkey has already negotiated pacts with Iran.  The NATO member, once an imperial power in the region, borders Iran.  Fear of its growing influence will doubtless pull states into its orbit.

This is the predictable result of a weak and disoriented foreign policy on the part of the United States.

There may be no solution at this point.