Is it just me, or is anyone else growing increasingly annoyed at the growing frequency the word ‘shtreet’ is shpreading across the airwaves like some viral, contrived shtick?

With a big emphasis on contrived.

For some on-air anchors, reporters or commentators it may be a matter of poor teeth. But for others, it comes across as ‘somefing’ that smacks of poor contrivance in an effort to ‘git their cool on’ in the Obama inauguration afterglow.

On channels such as MTV, VH1, BET and so on where the lexicon of the day has been driven by the ‘gangsta’ music culture, the evolution wouldn’t be that different from how ‘fab’ entered our lexicon after The Beatles arrived in 1964. However, when it starts popping up, suddenly out of nowhere, on news channels and journalistic programs where the elecutional bar is usually raised a lot higher, a lot of otherwise articulate personalities are reduced to dumbed-down panderers of trendy ‘rapspeak’. And there are no race cards being played here – because people of every color or hue have been doing it.

It wouldn’t be as annoying, perhaps, if other words starting with ‘str’ were given the same treatment; then at least you could write it off to corroded canines, battered bicuspids or immense incisors.

But when it’s the only ‘str’ word in a few paragraphs that contain other cleanly articulated ‘str’ words, the contrivance becomes as annoying as the bad English, and just as annoying as enduring a generation of ‘valley-girls’ who’ve matured into the demographic of reporters fronting those ‘inflection-affected’, cookie-cutter ‘live’ stand-ups with the contrived sense of urgency in every local market around the country, or spouting commentary on talk shows at a zoloft-fueled cadence (punctuated by the Madonna/Tyra Banks ‘eyelid flutter’) that sounds like an ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks record’. WhatEvuuuuuur . . .

The latter is a social phenomenon spawned by a 1983 movie. The former shtick seems to be accelerating because of the ‘black is the new black’, jump-on-the-Obama-bandwagon momentum, and is evolving into the mainstream from the ‘wiggerization’ phenomenon that evolved out of the gangsta music scene.

It’s a free country, and people are free to make their own choices of what they want to wear, how they want to look and how they want to speak.

But when it comes to intelligent tv and radio news consumers, (of which I humbly hope to be considered among), who don’t like the news f**ked with, contrary to the machinations of news ‘doctors’ everywhere, this latest trend, (especially the contrived part of it),  just sounds shtupid.



In the latest edition of TIME magazine, the former Managing Editor of the magazine, Walter Isaacson (current President & CEO of the Aspen Institute, and former Chairman & CEO of CNN) offers what he calls ‘A Modest Proposal’ on “How To Save Your Newspaper”. It chronicles a dilemma that has confounded traditional media ever since new media started to go mainstream – how to monetize content online, and how to compete with free content. No easy task as a a younger generation of tech-savvy computer users became conditioned to ‘beating the system’ and getting everything from mp3 songs, to dvd rips of movies, games, software and porn for free. Why? Because they could; it was the cool thing to do and nobody could catch them, at least until the RIAA went on its legal rampage over pirated music.

Throughout the evolution of free consumerism, I remember one of the major news magazine programs doing what they thought was a ‘hip’ exploration of the issue, and questioning some college students about the torrent-fueled downloading of music from Napster, LimeWire and other ‘free’ services. The question, “don’t you think this is stealing?” was asked, but the expected replies were never challenged or followed-up on. And in the peer-driven culture of college, everyone just nodded their head in agreement with the answer, “no, because everybody is doing it” . . .  the sort of personal absolution employed by earlier generations to excuse much more morally reprehensible mass misdeeds, because they knew deep inside, there was no excuse.

For a generation of overindulged, ritalin-fueled technophiles whose social DNA has been programmed and dulled by mass media, too much weed and a lack of emotional consequence for their zillions of computer game homicides, they just don’t get it.

If the news magazine interviewer had posed the following allegory, he might have arrived at different responses: “How is it you can afford to have a computer and an Internet connection? Oh your father’s paying for it. And how is it you can afford to go to college? No kidding, your father again. And what does your father do for a living? Ah, he’s an artist and owns a gallery. So if everyone started coming into the gallery and taking a painting  he’s done and walking out without paying for it and then scanned copies for their friends, how long do you think you’d be able to stay in college, or have an internet connection for?

The other part of the allegory is that in the current economic climate, no one is even going to the gallery, let alone paying for anything there. And the ironic exclamation point would be if the father was a musician who could no longer afford to send his little crook to college because of the illegal downloads.

But whether the intellectual property thieves get it or not, it’s become a bit late for the lesson to stick. What put a dent in illegal music downloads, was the real threat of traceable downloads and subsequent prosecution. Isaacson also acknowledges Apple’s iTunes store’s simplicity of aggregation, commerce and micro-payments as being a relatively painless way to transition from stealing to paying. The threatened prosecutions instigated the shift in the ‘digital values of music consumerism’, while Apple made the transition to paying easier.

The iTunes store also offers movies , TV shows and software (albeit the latter restricted to the iPhone), but illegal movie downloads continue to suck the ‘long’ out of the ‘tail’. Perhaps similar prosecution threats are needed on those fronts to force a similar shift in ‘digital values’.

In the responses to Isaacson’s essay at Time’s ‘Tuned-In’ blog, some responders say newspapers and other content producers need to emulate the iTunes model by modularizing content. One of the more disruptive features of iTunes was the ability to buy just the tracks you liked from an album, rather than having to buy the whole album. On the one hand, it disempowered artists who saw their albums as a conceptual whole, but empowered consumers who didn’t want to be forced to buy what they sometimes saw as ‘filler’.

The same holds true for online content, whether aggregated or originated.  Consumption models have changed because of iTunes, and producers of content need to mold new models that provide the freedom of editorial choice today’s time-challenged information consumers are looking for. The evolution of digital widgets to distribute self contained website links for content, products or services in more compact form may evolve a a new model for commission-based distribution that also involves the consumer – a sort of digital Amway.

But if the advertising downturn continues to the point that it erodes the financial foundations of free-content web properties, then the lemmings may be forced to migrate from the land of the free to the home of the paid if they want anything of value. The metrics may be so meagre, though, that until the payment model gains more traction, it would be hard for a lot of sites to be able to afford to pay those content creators who are educated and experienced enough to know the differences between ‘there, their, and they’re’. Unless the current economic climate forces that talent to settle for less.

An important point made in Isaacson’s piece, is the observed disconnect between kids who have been conditioned by the phone companies to pay up to 20 cents when they send a text message, yet balk at “paying 10 cents for a magazine, newspaper or newscast.” Part of the reason may be the additional observation of the $20 to $30 consumers are already paying monthly for their Internet connection, leading one responder at ‘Tuned-In’ to wonder if the ISP’s should be forced to pay content creators in the way cable companies do, so that the cost of the content consumption is absorbed into the monthly broadband bill. Somewhere, the twain will have to meet.

But this pontification will close with the perplexed wonderment of why all those lemmings don’t realize the most obvious strength in their numbers: B-O-Y-C-O-T-T. Whether it comes to gas prices, broadband prices. or airline ticket prices, all it would take is a few well organized boycotts to shake the branches of these deeply rooted pricing monopolies. Perhaps it would give a whole new definition to ‘price-fixing’.

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Related Links:

It has been over five years since I first suggested the crazy idea of charging people for the content that we create. I wrote a book called “Selling Content” to illustrate that very point. I have written articles and blogs preaching the importance of charging for our content if we are to survive. In most cases it fell on deaf ears or on those who were quick to tell me why it will never work. Moving from a business that count customers to a business that find customers who count should be the essence of our new publishing model.
Well, tomorrow, TIME magazine runs a cover story on How to Save Your Newspaper by Walter Isaacson. The article by Isaacson states that the way magazines and newspapers are dispensing their content for free makes no sense. He says, “This is not a business model that makes sense.” I say, Amen. Read the entire article by Walter Isaacson here. The irony of course, is that I am doing the opposite of what Mr. Isaacson and I are preaching: letting you read the article for free.

From Samir Husni’s Mr. Magazine Blog

First, the updates on the ongoing Freedom of Speech Circus that is swarming around Dutch politician Geert Wilders and his attempts to accept an invitation to speak at the House of Lords in the UK:


Few Attend UK Screening Of Wilder’s Film – Friday, February 13, 2009

The film Fitna was shown in the British upper house of parliament on Thursday despite the British authorities’ refusal to allow its maker, Dutch rightwing populist MP Geert Wilders, into the United Kingdom. Only around 30 people attended the screening, five of them members of the upper house. All 743 members of the upper house were invited, as were the 646 members of the lower house, none of whom attended.

Read the full story.

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Anti-Islam Dutch Lawmaker Sent Back To Netherlands Amid UK Ban

-Thursday, February 12, 2009

An anti-Islam Dutch politician banned from entering Great Britain was sent back to the Netherlands after he traveled to the U.K. anyway.

Upon Geert Wilders’ arrival at Heathrow Airport, he was presented with a letter from Britain’s Home Office saying that his opinions “threatened community security.” The right-wing lawmaker had been invited by a member of Parliament to show his anti-Islam movie “Fitna,” which calls the Koran a “fascist” book and accuses Islam of being a violent religion. On Wednesday, Wilders dared the “weak and cowardly” British government to arrest him when he got there.He criticized the travel ban as an attempt to stifle freedom of speech and traveled to Britain on a point of principle.

Wilders was told by the British Embassy in a letter Tuesday that he could not set foot in the country.

Click here to read the letter from the British Embassy.

Britain’s Home Office would not comment specifically on the ban, but it said it “opposes extremism in all its forms” and would work to “stop those who want to spread extremism, hatred and violent messages in our communities from coming to our country.”

The U.K.’s Lord Malcolm Pearson, who invited Wilders to Britain, told the Daily Mail newspaper that the screening of the film would go ahead Thursday “with or without Mr. Wilders.”

Click here to read more on this story from the Daily Mail.

Click here to watch ‘Fitna.’

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Anti-Islam film's maker blasts UK over ban

Anti-Islam Film’s Maker Blasts UK Over Ban

Controversial Dutch filmmaker Geert Wilders condemned as “crazy and cowardly” Britain’s refusal to let him enter the country Thursday. Wilders, a Dutch lawmaker who produced a much-criticized film about Islam last year, flew to London for a screening of the movie despite being told a day earlier he would not be admitted.

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Now the ‘musing’ . . .

“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error. . . .

. . . the opinion which it is attempted to suppress by authority may possibly be true. Those who desire to suppress it, of course deny its truth; but they are not infallible. They have no authority to decide the question for all mankind, and exclude every other person from the means of judging. To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty. All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility. Its condemnation may be allowed to rest on this common argument, not the worse for being common . . .

~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

The Hypocrisy of Political-Correctness Run Amok . . .

If an American politician had produced a video showing UK armed forces in Iraq or Afghanistan with texts from the Bible, such as “Thou shall not kill”, or “Love thy Neighbor”, would he/she also be barred from accepting an invitation to the House of Lords?

Extremist Islamic leaders are allowed to have their hate-mongering, anti-American rhetoric broadcast across media outlets in the western world, and yet they are allowed into the United States of America to discuss their beliefs. As a ‘for instance’ – Iran’s Ahmadinejad, a leader who has publicly denied the Holocaust and called for the destruction of the state of Israel – and yet he was given the prestigious forum of the United Nations from which to espouse his beliefs.

Yet any challenge to these extremist views or anything tied to Islamic beliefs is automatically branded as ‘inciting hatred’ , at a time when dialogue on the sociological, political, and psychological impacts of the expansion of Islam is badly needed.

How is that the Iranian President is allowed to assert from the same forum that  “the rights and dignity of the American people are being sacrificed for the selfish desires of those holding power”? Talk about the proverbial ‘pot calling the kettle black’.  Yet any western politician is not allowed to voice the same assertion against leaders in Muslim countries without, again, being accused of being racist or inciting hatred.

At least the United States, unlike the UK’s action against Mr. Wilders,  did not quash Mr. Ahmadinejad’s right to express his beliefs in a free and public forum, and have them opened up to challenges and contrary beliefs and opinions.

If Mr. Wilders is guilty of anything, (and there is nothing in his film that is untrue) it is poking a metaphorical stick into the complacent sides of the same  types of political ‘lemmings’ who ignored Churchill’s warnings of Nazi Germany’s extremism, and the swelling red tide of corrupted Communism. The guilt also extends to the fact that he is publicly stating what many people are privately feeling but too afraid to speak out about lest they be condemned by the extremist elements in Islam as the next Salman Rushdie, or be accused of being racist because of wanting dialogue on encroaching cultural migrations.

And how is Mr. Wilder’s ‘artistic’ expression any different from artistic/political statements juxtaposed in similar fashion in past songs such as Simon & Garfunkel’s “Silent Night” montage, or Tom Clay’s “What The World Needs Now”? You can compare all three, but be warned, the Wilder’s film contains graphic images (many of which were not shown on western media where coverage was often ‘sanitized’).

Global emigration patterns, and transplanted ethnic rivalries have provoked cultural and religious controversies and clashes in many countries, and it’s time political leaders pulled their heads out of the sand (or darker personal places) and lead the way by example to sensible and open dialogue, as President Obama is pledging to do.

The antiquated and often barbaric beliefs and practices of Islam, whether they be, among others, the public stoning of women, the genital mutilation of young girls, and the general subjugation of women’s rights, have no place in the modern world. Those who dare to speak out on, and draw attention to, these crimes against humanity should not be muzzled or threatened. They should be allowed to act as catalysts for broader discourse in public forums. In nations such as Saudi Arabia where the hateful anti-American teachings of some Muslim schools has been well documented, students are, as the quote from John Stuart Mill implies, deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth” because there is no alternate viewpoint or opinion.

And when the original words of the Prophet Muhammad are perverted to try and justify actions such as the 9/11 attacks, then any attempt to silence freedom of speech in a public dialogue on such actions or issues is no less perverse.

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Additional commentaries:


It’s not only within Europe that there’s controversy over censorship of remarks about Islam.  The editor and publisher of one of India’s oldest english language newspapers have been arrested on charges of insulting Muslims. Ravindra Kumar and Anand Sinha of The Statesman, were arrested after republishing an article from a British paper titled “Why should I respect oppressive religions?”. Manar Joshi of The Mail newspaper in Delhi told Newsline’s Hermione Gee that the government is setting a dangerous precedent with these arrests.

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