When I Worked for Fox News

by Barbara Fischkin

I once wrote a political column for Fox News. My point of view was liberal and at times decidedly leftist.

This is true-true and not fake news.

The notorious Fox was then a media baby, albeit an enormous one. At its American launch in 1997, it already had 17 million cable subscribers. Millions of Americans looking for a conservative alternative to CNN and company.

Two years later I was hired, as a freelancer, to write an opinion column for a nascent website: Fox News Online. Back then, the television screen ruled. The website was an experiment, to see if the Internet was real. I was told I could opine as I wished, as long as the facts backed me up and I was not libelous or incoherent. A cartoonist was assigned to illustrate my words.

When I was first approached about writing this, I thought it was a practical joke. A dear friend and former newspaper colleague showed up one morning in our family backyard and told me to stop calling her every morning with my take on national and world events. “Write it,” she said. “I will pay you. Two hundred bucks a column once a week. Eight hundred a month.”  Not a lot for Fox News, even then. But I needed the money. Needing money is one of my hobbies. Read more »

Living in a performative world: The Imaginary Audience and the Personal Fable

by Mark Harvey

I’ve mostly escaped the selfie photo culture, not out of some virtuous modesty, but because I generally look like a confused mouth-breathing moron in photos. So selfies are more of an indictment for me than something I want to post on Instagram. If I photographed like a Benicio del Toro or George Clooney, all bets would be off. And before I offend and get canceled by any mouth breathers, I am part of the mouth-breathing family due to a deviated septum. At full rest, I sound like one of those artificial lungs in hospitals.

But, my God, there are a lot of people roaming the world who are convinced their friends and followers could use just one more shot of them doing the Bon Jovi fingers on a beach in Cancun. Everywhere you go couples, individuals and families are setting up little super-model sets angling for just the right light, just the right 4” jump off the beach, and just the right expression communicating spontaneity or expensive vacations or being included with the cool crowd.

Instead of going somewhere to enjoy the locale, near or far, social media has turned millions into location scouts ever seeking a good post. Maybe that’s why Mark Zuckerberg changed the name of his company to Meta. What’s more meta than dedicating half your awareness to how you’ll look in a photo? Read more »

The ‘Soft’ Impacts of Emerging Technology

by Fabio Tollon

Getting a handle on the various ways that technology influences us is as important as it is difficult. The media is awash with claims of how this or that technology will either save us or doom us. And in some cases, it does seem as though we have a concrete grasp on the various costs and benefits that a technology provides. We know that CO2 emissions from large-scale animal agriculture are very damaging for the environment, notwithstanding the increases in food production we have seen over the years. However, such a ‘balanced’ perspective usually emerges after some time has passed and the technology has become ‘stable’, in the sense that its uses and effects are relatively well understood. We now understand, better than we did in the 1920s, for example, the disastrous effects of fossil fuels and CO2 emissions. We can see that the technology at some point provided a benefit, but that now the costs outweigh those benefits. For emerging technologies, however, such a ‘cost-benefit’ approach might not be possible in practice.

Take a simple example: imagine a private company is accused of polluting a river due to chemical runoff from a new machine they have installed (unfortunately this probably does not require much imagination and can be achieved by looking outside, depending on where you live). In order to determine whether the company is guilty or not we would investigate the effects of their activities. We could take water samples from the river and attempt to show that the chemicals used in the company’s manufacturing process are indeed present in the water. Further, we could make an argument where we show how there is a causal relationship between the presence of these chemicals and certain detrimental effects that might be observed in the area, such as loss of biodiversity, the pollution of drinking water, or an increase in diseases associated with the chemical in question. Read more »

Down the Rabbit Hole With Schubert and Hawley

by Michael Liss

The Machine has me in its tentacles. Some algorithm thinks I really want to buy classical sheet music, and it is not going to be discouraged. Another (or, perhaps it is the same) insists that now is the time to invest in toner cartridges, running shoes, dress shirts, and incredibly expensive real estate.

Swinging over to the relative peace and quiet of my email box, I find an extraordinary number of politicians bidding against one another for my attention. It’s a little like Christmas come early: “Now, Stringer, now, Helen, now Andrew and Adams! On, Williams on, Loree! on, Kallos and Weprin!” Every single one of them vibrates with intensity, assuring me that he or she is ready to serve me, my family, my community, and the world. Oh, and, by the way, brother, can I spare a dime?

I need my dimes right now. I’m not moving to a deluxe apartment in the sky, and I’ll buy more dress shirts when the world gets back to normal and I ditch this pandemic-related beard. So, back to Schirmer’s Selected Piano Masterpieces (Intermediate Level). I know my sin. My daughter and I were talking about the accompaniment in Schubert’s Lieder and I (foolishly, without going into a private viewing mode) did a quick search. This was more than two weeks ago, and The Machine will keep at me until it is convinced I absolutely, positively, won’t give in. Machine, if you are reading (and I know you must be), please trust me, I can’t play the piano, and I definitely can’t sing. I’d be happy to post something to YouTube to prove it. Or ask my friends to confirm—after all, you know who they are. Read more »

Reading a Riot

by Gautam Pemmaraju

Over two weeks ago, on August 11, a sizeable gathering of over 15,000 gathered at Azad Maidan, a public ground in Mumbai, to protest violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar/Burma and those of the northeastern Indian state of Assam. It was in early to mid July that violence broke out between sections of the multifaith indigenous Bodo people and migrant Bengali Muslims in Kokrajhar, Chirang & Dubhri districts of Assam displacing over 400,000 people, and earlier, 87 people were reportedly killed in ethnic clashes between Rohingya and Buddhists in Rakhine. The crowds were responding to a call by Raza Academy, a 25 year old Mumbai based organization, that has been actively mobilizing Muslims in the city protesting slights against their religious sentiments – from anti-George Bush public protests, announcing a cash prize of 100000 rupees for hurling a slipper at Salman Rushdie at the Jaipur Literary Festival early this year, seeking the revoking of a visa to the Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, to protesting the presence in Mumbai of the Canada based Pakistani cleric Tahirul Qadri, accused of apostasy and of thanking Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, for providing state security for his public gathering in Ahmedabad. (See Faisal Devji’s interesting piece on the Rushdie/Jaipur Lit Fest episode here).

Mob-violence-mumbai11A group of no more than 2000 people were expected to gather, but unanticipated crowds filled up Azad Maidan, and reportedly, a group of rioters, armed with sticks, rods and swords, which had infiltrated the congregation, went amuck at around 3.15 PM, setting fire to TV OB Vans, police vans, public transport buses, besides attacking policeman and media persons. The violent mob, gathered at the gate of Azad Maidan, had begun to raise angry slogans against the media for not adequately reporting the ‘atrocities’, displaying images of ‘atrocities’ against Muslims. These images, which had been circulating across social media, were in no small measure, immensely provocative. In the violence that ensued, two Muslim youth were killed in firing, and 54 people were injured, mostly police. There have been allegations that some policewomen were sexually assaulted.

Read more »