In Which I Criticize CBS for Doing Something Good

March 18, 2007

For this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, CBS is broadcasting all of the first three rounds on its website, for free. Except that it isn’t. Due to blackout rule – which, er, CBS made up (and, to their credit, explain forthrightly on their website) – users cannot see any of the games being broadcast by their local CBS affiliate. This is due – again, helpfully explained by CBS’ website – to the local CBS affiliates’ having “exclusive rights” to the broadcast of whatever it is they happen to be broadcasting at any given moment. And good for them.

The thinking behind this decision is straightforward enough: CBS pays a lot of money for the NCAA tournament broadcast rights; affiliates pay a lot of money to CBS for the exclusive rights to content, including the tournament; hence, the affiliates want people watching that content to be watching it through them, to maximize eyeballs and therefore maximize advertising revenue. Inherent in the assumption driving the blackout policy, then, is that there is a more-or-less finite number of possible viewers for the content. Any viewer watching the small, grainy window on their computer (a PC running Internet Explorer) is one not watching the local CBS station, so it only makes sense to give them access to content they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

This works great for someone who either doesn’t much care which game they’re watching, or someone simultaneously watching the TV and the PC. But let’s posit that there’s another kind of viewer – let’s call them ‘JKD’ – who doesn’t own a television and without access to the content online, might not watch it at all. Obviously, CBS and its affiliates are within their rights to say to this hypothetical user, “Screw you – buy a TV”, or force them to a local bar (though when CBS got in the biz of encouraging bar patronage isn’t clear to me). But why would they want to do that? Seriously – why? What’s the margin in, having constructed a method and venue for expanding access to content – for expanding total possible audience past what existed previously – then introducing an artificial and relatively arbitrary barrier preventing some or much of that possible new audience from accessing relatively arbitrary categories of that content?

I’d offer that, while CBS has introduced this great new service they don’t really understand what they’ve done. Which is odd, especially given how basic what they’ve done is. But since I’m a helpful guy, I’ll tell them what it is they’ve done: they’ve put television on their website. Really! It’s pretty cool. It also makes a lot of sense, given that CBS is primarily in the business of producing and distributing content that is television, that their website feature…content that is television.

It’s kind of dawned on TV people recently that the Internet isn’t really going away – that it’s in fact something that a lot of people do rather than watch television, and that rather than using their websites to convince people using the Internet that they should stop doing so at particular times of day on particular days of the week and instead watch television, it’d really much easier to bring their primary product to those people. It’s refreshing, the lack of obtuseness.

Except as the strange and arbitrary blackout rule demonstrates, they really don’t quite get it, yet. I’m not exactly sure why, but then I’m not and never have been in the business of running a television network and am, after all, just Some Guy With a Blog and without a television. But wouldn’t that make me a perfect customer? Evidently yes, but only to a certain point.

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On Discourse

March 6, 2007

Digby:

I think that one of the reasons the conservatives are mostly hanging tough with Coulter is at least partially due to what she specifically said. She used the word “faggot” to describe a Democrat. This is the premise that forms the entire basis of the Republican claim to leadership and lies at the bottom of the media’s continuing ridiculous assumption that the Republicans are more natural leaders than Democrats. For forty years the Republicans have been winning elections by calling liberals “faggots” (and “dykes”) in one way or another. It’s what they do. To look too closely at what she said is to allow light on their very successful reliance on gender stereotypes to get elected.

Al Gore needed to be taught how to be an “alpha male.” He doesn’t “know who he is.”
John Kerry “flip-flops” like a flaccid penis.
John Edwards is “the Breck girl.”
Howard Dean was “hysterical.”
Barack Obama is “Obambi.”
Bill Clinton was “a pervert.”
Hillary Clinton is a lesbian.

The underlying premise of the modern conservative movement is that the entire Democratic party consists of a bunch of fags and dykes who are both too effeminate and too masculine to properly lead the nation. Coulter says it out loud. Dowd hints at it broadly. And the entire press corps giggles and swoons at this shallow, sophomoric concept like a bunch of junior high pom pom girls.

Tim Grieve:

Appearing on Fox News Monday — she bailed out on CNN — Ann Coulter said that nobody should have been offended when she called John Edwards a “faggot” at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “‘Faggot’ isn’t offensive to gays; it has nothing to do with gays,” Coulter said. “It’s a schoolyard taunt meaning ‘wuss,’ and unless you’re telling me that John Edwards is gay, it was not applied to a gay person.”

 Glenn Greenwald:

That is just the basic dynamic of garden-variety authoritarianism, and it is what the right-wing, pro-Bush political movement is at its core — far, far more than it is a set of political beliefs or geopolitical objectives or moral agendas. All of it — the obsessions with glorious “Victory” in an endless string of wars, vesting more and more power in an all-dominant centralized Leader, the forced submission of any country or leader which does not submit to the Leader’s Will, the unquestioning Manichean certainties, and especially the endless stigmatization of the whole array of Enemies as decadent, depraved and weak — it’s just base cultural tribalism geared towards making the followers feel powerful and strong and safe.

…Ann Coulter comes in and plays such a vital — really indispensible — role. As a woman who purposely exudes the most exaggerated American feminine stereotypes (the long blond hair, the make-up, the emaciated body), her obsession with emasculating Democratic males — which, at bottom, is really what she does more than anything else — energizes and stimulates the right-wing “base” like nothing else can. …

Observe in the superb CPAC video produced by Max Blumenthal how Coulter immediately mocks his physical appearance as soon as she realizes that he is a liberal. And the crowd finds it hilarious. That is what she does. She takes liberal males, emasculates them, depicts them as “faggots” and weak losers, and thereby makes the throngs of weak and insecure followers who revere her feel masculine and strong. There is no way that the right-wing movement can shun her because what she does is indispensible to the entire spectacle. What she does is merely a more explicit re-inforcement of every central theme which the right-wing movement embraces.


Giuliani 2008 Quote of the Day

March 1, 2007

Sayeth Digby of Ruldoph Giuliani:

The Freepers are more concerned about the marriage to the second cousin than the adultery, divorce and cross-dressing, which I find surprising. They seem like the types to be quite tolerant of in-breeding.

Oh, snap.


Quote of the Day

February 25, 2007

Frank Luntz, from an Op-Ed in the WaPo:

It is unfortunate that the Republican Party is currently dominated by hyperpartisan, gut-punching professional politicians and expert technicians whom I wouldn’t want to face at the dark end of the electoral alley. They specialize in the flawless execution of “wedge” politics.

Geez, Frank, how do you think that might’ve happened?


Giuliani 2008

February 19, 2007

In the past, now-near-Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani has said the following:

“We don’t care about the root causes of terrorism. When you act in a way that kills innocent civilians, you have just excluded yourself from civilized countries.”

Amadou Diallou.

Of course, what Giuliani means when he says “you” is “non-white people” and when he says “innocent civilians” he means, mostly, “white people.”

Giuliani is a dangerous authoritarian. In addition to excusing the murder of an innocent man, he also excused the torture – and later led character smears of –  Abner Louima. His statements on terrorism show that this is all of a piece: that to his mind there are good people and bad, and that the bad deserve whatsoever the good decide to do to them. A funny kind of morality, but there you are.

Digby is right (as per usual) that Giuliani would be a perhaps uniquely dangerous successor to George W. Bush:

All that “unitary executive” power in the hands of a wingnut prosecutor with little respect for the bill of rights is a truly dangerous propect…

George W. Bush knew almost nothing of the world when he became President, and has managed to get the United States into two destabilizing wars (so far). Giuliani knows little about the world other than the fact that it is a place full of people who deserve to be punished – that it is made of “civilized” peoples and then those who are not “civilized” and who must be “excluded.”

This isn’t a man who should be President – especially not now.


Quote of the Day

February 18, 2007

“…watching interior designers compete is a little bit like listening to comparative literature grad students debate the relative merits of Hegel vs. Deleuze. We hate them a little bit more with each word.”

here.


Politics is “Amusing” to the Press

January 25, 2007

In a chat at washingtonpost.com today, Michael Fletcher makes an unwitting but very revealing comment sprining from President Bush’s (latest) use of “Democrat Party” to refer to the Democratic Party:

Toronto, Canada: Is using “Democrat Party” instead of “Democratic Party” dog-whistle language aimed at the Republic, I mean Republican base?

Michael Fletcher: Funny. I find that whole controversy amusing. But it really does get some people riled up.

The controversy is “amusing” to Fletcher, the observer from on high, though it does get “some people” (people, presumably, not as mannered as Fletcher – dirty fucking hippies perhaps) riled up. Haha, a great laugh.

As Hendrik Hertzberg detailed last year,

“Democrat Party” is a slur, or intended to be—a handy way to express contempt. Aesthetic judgments are subjective, of course, but “Democrat Party” is jarring verging on ugly. It fairly screams “rat.”

Luntz, who road-tested the adjectival use of “Democrat” with a focus group in 2001, has concluded that the only people who really dislike it are highly partisan adherents of the—how you say?—Democratic Party. “Those two letters actually do matter,” Luntz said the other day. He added that he recently finished writing a book—it’s entitled “Words That Work”—and has been diligently going through the galley proofs taking out the hundreds of “ic”s that his copy editor, one of those partisan Dems, had stuck in.”

This is no mystery. “Democrat Party” is, as Hertzberg says, a slur intended to inflame Democrats. And it does. These are the facts, the facts of modern American political discourse: Republicans do many things intended primarily to annoy Democrats. Fletcher, a political reporter at one of the United States’ most prominent and influential newspapers (one that conservatives still assail as part of the “liberal media“), finds this personally “amusing”, the corrollary to which is that it is inconsequential – nothing to truly be concerned with – blown out of all proportion – by “some people.” Those people being Democrats, whose proper role in Fletcher’s universe is, presumably, to sit by and be insulted by Republicans while the news media laughs.