Thursday night we welcome Jay Rosen and James Fallows to Virtually Speaking. While the conversation will go, as always, where it will, there are three areas I am hoping to talk about, all of them related to how media narratives get framed, sometimes in ways that are downright weird, or even perverse. This is particularly appropriate, because both guests have written extensively about these issues. For me, James’ Breaking The News was seminal in my understanding of the weekly news cycle, and helped inspire the Virtually Speaking Sundays program as a counterpoint to the Sunday morning news shows setting the weekly narrative.
The first story we’ll talk about is the TSA screening story. It was striking how quickly this story became about the extreme right wing launching an attack on the TSA as a means of undermining the Obama administration, and even acting against unions, because sometime in the future the TSA may unionize. I found this very strange; I’ve been writing online about security theater in civil aviation for years. James Fallows, who has also been writing about this issue for years, had a similar reaction, which was especially amusing, because back in March we had James and security expert Bruce Schneier here at Virtually Speaking to talk about…security theater at American airports and on American airplanes. So we are going to talk about how folks like Bruce, and James, and myself, were turned into unwitting tools of the Koch empire‘s attack on Obama–at least according to the Nation Magazine, and a remarkable number of my Twitter friends. Jay Rosen was on this story as well–noting in his Twitter stream, in close to real time, that the Nation article represented an editorial failure, in smearing unfairly the most widely publicized case involving the body scanners, James Tyner. Publisher Katrina Vander Heuvel ultimately issued an apology for the Nation’s coverage of Tyner. But the shift in narrative, away from civil liberties, and toward an artificial left/right frame persisted.
The second issue I hope to discuss is James’ cover story on coal and the future of energy use. This story made very clear that a reality-based approach to the world’s energy future necessarily involves a role, a very large role, for coal. This story threw a monkey wrench into the dominant left wing narrative, which led to some interesting responses from those who felt like James was providing cover for a deadly industry.
Then we will turn to wikileaks. Again, I would like to start by talking about the direction the media narrative took. There was a rapid shift away from the cables’ contents, and what they meant about American foreign policy practices to what digby called “Icky Assange.” Jay had an interesting video focusing on the deeply disruptive nature of the attacks, while James was also addressing the impact of the cable releases.
We are saving WikiLeaks for last because we could easily fill the hour with just that discussion. I have posted other background links earlier. The zunguzungu post is particularly interesting. And you should check out the transcript of his interview with TIME’s Richard Stengel.
(12/9/10, 7pm EST)
Checking my twitterstream as I prepared for tonight’s program, I see Jay put up a post about one aspect of WikiLeaks and traditional journalism that I wanted to raise tonight.