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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

watch it: “Michael Moore: Greed Killed the Newspapers”

Not just greed:

via Fishbowl LA



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  • Alli

    Even as a liberal, there are a lot of things I disagree with in that video. To put all the blame on our failing education system purely on the Republicans is a bit silly, because what does that say about the Democrats? It basically means we stood by and let them do it, which isn’t any better. I’m also not sure you can say that our education system has directly killed newspapers. I think the access to 24 hours news services on both cable and the internet has done that.

    The one thing that is staggering, however, is the number of illiterate people in our country (which explains so much). I had no idea it was that bad. Why aren’t people more outraged over our education system? Why do we spend so much time freaking out about prayer in school, when PEOPLE CAN’T READ! It blows my mind.

  • Well, we Americans really didn’t seem to care that much about school violence until the Columbine incident in the late 1990s and that was an even more important issue than illiteracy. (After all, it’s a bit hard to learn if you spend most of your time trying to avoid being beaten, stabbed or shot.)

    But then we’ve been migrating from a culture that once revered learning and literacy to a culture that basically sneers at it for quite some time now. And it would be nice to think that it was all part of some Republican master plan but that theory just makes me wonder whether or not Barzini’s Law* is more to the point here. If not Hanlon’s Razor.**

    * Barzini’s Law–Nations, organizations, institutions, bodies, or single human beings are never as powerful, intelligent, far-seeing, efficient, and dangerous as they seem to their enemies.

    ** Hanlon’s Razor–Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

  • AJP

    We, as Americans didn’t (and shouldn’t) care very much about school violence because it is vanishingly rare. Students are safer now (and were at the time the Columbine incident happened) than at any point previous in history. People think that things are really violent, but that’s a consequence of a nationwide media with news channels that have 24 hours a day of air to fill. Statistically, your kids are safer in school now than they were in the 1970s, or 1950s, or 1930s, or, well, you get the idea.

  • Chuck

    This guy is just embarrassing. A one trick pony – Big buisness is bad.

    Michael s reasoning is hard to deal with because it is just so twisted and distorted it’s hard to find a place to start.

    It’s like having an debate with someone where you carefully layout several paragraphs of arguments for why a thing is a certain way only to have them respond with “No it isn’t…poo poo face”.

    From 1940 until now we have had roughly the same amount of D presidents and R presidents, 34 years to 36 years. And during that time mostly D congresses. Yet he seriously tries to make the point that R’s have been in control and R’s want people to be stupid.

    Are these the same R’s that run the evil big corporations? Really? These R’s want to hire stupid people to work in their corporation. Stupid finance officers, stupid HR, stupid lawyers. stupid workers. and stupid marketing and sales?

    With about half the population being R’s and the other half being D’s how come we don’t see R’s with bumper stickers that say “dumber is better”.

    Go talk to your R friends and find out if they were able to get their kids out of that nasty prep school and into dumb-ass school.

    And MM’a theory on the death of newspapers, please, the big bad newspaper corporation got rid of the pointless reporters to make more room for pictures because of all of the dumb stupid people could not read the big words.

    But does this fountain of knowledge stop to explore what else was happening in the 80’s and 90’s that might have contributed to the plight of the newspapers.

    Hey Michael, have you ever heard of cable TV, CNN, how about that little computer fad that cropped up, let’s see, what was it called, on yes, the internet. Why wouldn’t a newspaper want to publish pictures in color, especially when the growing competition from cable uses color moving pictures, and sound, and instant man on the scene reporting.

    Speaking of the illiterate masses, how is it that the blog-o-sphere is so giant when no on can read or write. What are all the kids texting if they can’t read or write. What about personal websites, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and you name it. How does any of this work especially considering it depends mostly on reading and writing.

    Is all of this some giant Republican Capitalist plot? Or is Michael Moore either stupid or lying.

    I don’t think MM is stupid, and I don’t know why he would want to lie. Unless…just maybe saying these things helps to sell him and his movies.

    Ahhh, the true Capitalist spirit is alive and well, and he does it on the backs of the stupid and uneducated, nice going Michael.

  • MaryAnn

    What are all the kids texting if they can’t read or write. What about personal websites, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and you name it.

    Excellent question. How many of those texts and blogs and tweets contain any ideas of substance or any original thoughts?

    “Functional illiteracy” doesn’t mean people don’t know how to read or write at all. It means they’re not interested in reading or writing anything that means anything beyond that which brings them momentary amusement.

    It also doesn’t mean that people are stupid. But it does mean that people do not want to think for themselves, and are content to let others tell them what to think.

  • Grinebiter

    How many of those texts and blogs and tweets contain any ideas of substance or any original thoughts?

    Not to mention being wildly misspelled and ungrammatical. But here’s a thing, and it’s nothing to do with either MM or the political parties: you know how hardly anyone can distinguish homophones any more — the Mongol hoards rampaged, the car’s breaks failed, visit my web sight (or cite) etc.? To my horror, I increasingly catch myself perpetrating homophone errors in e-mail, although not (so far) in MS Word; and I am old-school and really know my English. It makes me wonder, almost seriously, whether there is a brain virus you can catch from the Internet…… Eeek. At the very least there is something about the medium that makes it easier, even if you damn well know what is what.

  • Jolly

    “Functional illiteracy” doesn’t mean people don’t know how to read or write at all. It means they’re not interested in reading or writing anything that means anything beyond that which brings them momentary amusement.

    Umm…no. Functional illiteracy has zip to do with what people choose to read and everything to do with what they’re capable of reading.

  • bitchen frizzy

    –“Functional illiteracy has zip to do with what people choose to read and everything to do with what they’re capable of reading.”

    No. They go hand-in-hand. Reading skills develop through practice. Less practice, less skill.

    Someone who learns how to read; i.e., learns the alphabet and how to sound out words, is capable of reading a lot of things but won’t be literate until he or she practices.

  • MaryAnn

    Also: If you *can* read but choose not to — as many Americans choose not to read anything more challenging than the listings in TV Guide or a fashion magazine — then you might as well be illiterate.

  • bitchen frizzy

    In discussions like this, I’m usually arguing that things aren’t really any worse than they used to be, and people tend to idealize the past.

    On the subject of literacy in the U.S., though, I see firsthand too much distressing evidence of cultural decline to dismiss it as imaginary.

    Just the other day, I went to buy my niece a birthday gift, and – bless her soul – she wanted books. Since she has a genuine interest in reading, I thought to get her a children’s classic. So I go to Barnes and Noble to pick up a copy of “The Wind in the Willows.” What I find in the children’s/young readers section is an abridged (that is, dumbed-downed) version. I finally find the novel, but it’s in the literature section along with the fiction for adults. When written, “The Wind and the Willows” and a lot of other classics were children’s stories. Now they’re thought to be over children’s heads.

  • AJP

    But “might as well be illiterate” is notwhat is being identified as the problem here. It is functional illiteracy – which is defined as an adult who is unable to read as well as a 4th grader.

    Frankly, if there is currently a problem with functional literacy, rather than some nefarious political plot, I’d be much more inclined to blame the myriad of educational fads that infected the education system since the 1970s that emphasize teaching kids self-esteem rather than, oh I don’t know, reading.

    And one thing I notice about Moore’s diatribe is that he doesn’t mention his sound bite driven movies as being part of the problem, even though sound bite driven media is apparently a part of the nefarious political plot to dumb down America.

  • bitchen frizzy

    –“Frankly, if there is currently a problem with functional literacy, rather than some nefarious political plot, I’d be much more inclined to blame the myriad of educational fads that infected the education system since the 1970s that emphasize teaching kids self-esteem rather than, oh I don’t know, reading.”

    Yep. And godless commie liberals had as much of a hand in that as the vast right-wing conspiracy did.

    Which is to say, it’s not a development that can be conveniently blamed on whichever political party you’re not.

  • Grinebiter

    Yep. Speaking as a card-carrying evil European godless commie liberal, I agree, it was my lot wot dunnit, on both sides of the pond.

    The whole self-esteem business is bad science. For the product of low self-esteem is not aggression but depression; aggression is the product of unstable high self-esteem (or what, in another context, Ninja called entitlement). The exaggerated concern with status and dissing is what we get when we inculcate a contentless self-esteem instead of pride in real accomplishments; it is what we get when we make the schoolday primarily about socialisation, that is, the primate hierarchy, rather than knowledge and skills.

    Overpraising is, I am told, actually demotivating; kids interpret being praised for “effort” as code for their having reached their ceiling or not really being any use. In the real world, we don’t get points for effort. Either you can land the plane or you can’t……

  • Chuck

    This is a great time of change. That change is being driven by technology. One technology supplanting another. The printing press is just a tool, a piece of technology. That technology is having to face the emergence of new technologies that are in many ways superior. Instant video and audio of any event anywhere in the world, in color, stereo, in the palm of your hand. That’s hard for the paper printed word to compete with. But yet the printed word marches on, as it does right here before your very eyes. It is still a very efficient way to communicate ideas, only the media used to transmit these letters has changed.

    The need for the press and the people who support the press has been greatly diminished. Instead we have the network and the people who support the network. In return for this change people everywhere are now empowered to express their opinions.

    We live in a world full changing technologies, just ask the record companies about that. But these technologies are not just limited to physical devices, writing and reading after all are also technologies. They are tools, a set of agreed upon rules that let us communicate. Protocols, not much different than the protocols that deliver this web page. Isn’t reading and writing also subject to new technologies, to new rules?

    The kids who “text” have redefined the rules of reading and writing to fit the new media in their hands. Is this stupid, or brilliant? It might seem like a bastardization of English and grammar but it works for the media in use.

    Reading and writing have been with us for so long that it seems to be totally indispensable. I hope it is, because it would be a shame to lose it. But who is to say that a much better technology for transmitting ideas isn’t just around the corner.

    As far as who has had a hand in the collapse of our education system? Look at our schools as a whole. Are the people who run them more conservative, or more liberal? On average, what do you think? Which political party has enjoyed the support of teaching unions? Which party tends to support the “new” teaching methods and curriculum’s? Interesting questions, with answers that might be uncomfortable.

  • Grinebiter

    But who is to say that a much better technology for transmitting ideas isn’t just around the corner.

    As long as the coming direct brain interface between me and thee doesn’t involve Microsoft……..

  • alan.wins@sbcglobal.net

    –“The kids who “text” have redefined the rules of reading and writing to fit the new media in their hands. Is this stupid, or brilliant? It might seem like a bastardization of English and grammar but it works for the media in use.”

    The trend under discussion goes far beyond “bastardization of English and grammar.” I’m no more concerned about use of shorthand for texting than I am about bad handwriting. Neither is it simply a problem of print media being replaced with electronic media.

    –“Are the people who run them more conservative, or more liberal?”

    Both. Neither. It’s intellectually lazy – dishonest, even – to assign blame to one group. For every liberal school board member that’s more concerned about what children are learning than how well they’re learning it, I’ll present you a right-wing religious zealot who wants Creationism taught as science.

    –“Which party tends to support the “new” teaching methods and curriculum’s?”

    Both. To counterbalance Grinebiter’s example, I give you the No Child Left Behind act, which also reinforces the notion that if children don’t all achieve equally, there’s something wrong with the system that must be fixed by dumbing it down as much as necessary to ensure every child meets the highest standards.

  • Jolly

    No. They go hand-in-hand. Reading skills develop through practice. Less practice, less skill.

    Sure, they’re related. But MaryAnn’s definition has little to do with the standard definition (being able to read at a level that allows one to function within society).

  • bitchen frizzy

    I couldn’t google up a standard defiinitin of functional literacy. It’s a pretty elastic term, so I won’t argue the semantics much. It seems that the literary standard depends on how you wish to define “function within society.”

    Plenty of completely illiterate people hold jobs, pay rent, and raise kids. If that sets the standard for functioning within society, then nobody is functionally illiterate.

    MaryAnn is aiming higher than that. Too high or not is subjective.

    Does “functioning in society” mean being an informed voter? Being able to understand tax forms and instructions? Being able to understand the wording on a ballot? I think we can all agree that being literate is much more than being able to read and write, but where the line is in the grey area between depends on who is drawing it.

  • Grinebiter

    @Alan: But I’m seeing the same thing on my side of the pond, where we don’t have Creationists or the NCLB Act. Okay, then, I take it back about your side :-)

    What are my local conservatives saying? They want “back to basics” education, the Three Rs rather than the Three Ps. This does risk returning to rote learning, we need to find a balance.

    In the “good” old days to which they want to return, those who couldn’t hack academic education learned essential and beneficial trades and thus kept the college types fed and sheltered, but so many of our occupations are now dead or outsourced. The idea seems to be to give the entire population a theoretical education, and I don’t think it’s going to work.

    (Datapoint: in my country the nurses felt they were not getting enough respect in relation to doctors, so they reckoned they needed to make their training more academic. They put Phenomenology on the curriculum! So now you get nurses trained to regurgitate (a one-volume encyclopaedia’s take on) Husserl rather than change dressings. I agree that nurses needed more respect, and pay, but this is not the way to do it.)

  • Chuck

    –“Are the people who run them more conservative, or more liberal?”

    Both. Neither. It’s intellectually lazy – dishonest, even – to assign blame to one group. For every liberal school board member that’s more concerned about what children are learning than how well they’re learning it, I’ll present you a right-wing religious zealot who wants Creationism taught as science.

    It’s MM who assigning blame to a party.

    Otherwise I think I agree.

  • Paul

    “The person who does not read has little advantage over the person who cannot.” -Mark Twain

    The conspiracy theorist in me thinks our capitalist masters don’t want their own kids to be stupid, they want their customers to be stupid, but don’t realize that an anti-intellectual culture will, eventually, bite them on the ass because a kid who learns Bible science isn’t going to be a useful intellectual worker, but they don’t really care because nowadays they can just pay some college kid in India a tenth of the wage for programming anyway.

    That part of me also believes that each company enhances it’s profits by raising prices and lowering wages, without realizing that as all of them do it, they undermine their consumer base because their collective workers are their collective consumers. Hence, the present economic crisis of underpaid people giving up and trying to save. We only got away with it this long because of credit cards, etc.

    Note that these do not have to conspiracies in the sense that Fat Cats get together to make a big plan; the logic of a system can create the appearance of intention when it’s just people making short sighted decisions within the parameters of a system that have unintended consquences.

    However, I was just reading an article (on the web, of course) that disagrees with the idea that Americans are dumber. It is not that Americans have changed, but rather the medium of communciation has changed in such a way to include unintellectual Americans. In the 19th Century, most media was essentially designed for literate people with long attention spans. But with the invention of movies and TV, you don’t need a long attention span or even literacy, and the Internet takes this one step further, by giving voice to the semi-literate masses. Now the Intellectual class is surrounded by the hounding voices of the unlettered Mob, and they don’t like it at all.

    Having said all that, I do think our educational systems needs a complete over hall so it will be focused on the students instead of ease of paperwork. I think when kids are given textbooks, they should go through them at their own pace, pass tests when they can, and then move on. The teacher should be there not to give lectures but to help kids get over hurdles they can’t on their own. Most of my friends and I could have cut at least four years off our public school experience; the only classes I needed a teacher for before high school were French and music. In high school, I needed them for math, German, and AP classes. I also think the shop classes should be expanded, so a kid could graduate with the ability to get a job as a plumber or electrician or whatever, and those jobs pay pretty well, too. I think it was also Mark Twain who said, “If you honor your philosophers no matter how foolish and dishonor your plumbers no matter how smart, soon neither your theories nor your plumbing will hold water.” But I paraphrase.

    I can only dream.

  • AJP

    I couldn’t google up a standard defiinitin of functional literacy. It’s a pretty elastic term, so I won’t argue the semantics much. It seems that the literary standard depends on how you wish to define “function within society.”

    For what it is worth, it is pretty clear that Moore is referring to a national survey done by the U.S. government in which the definition of “functional literacy” was “the ability to read at a 4th grade level or better”. The figures he is citing match up with those found by the survey in question.

  • Grinebiter

    But with the invention of movies and TV, you don’t need a long attention span or even literacy, and the Internet takes this one step further, by giving voice to the semi-literate masses. Now the Intellectual class is surrounded by the hounding voices of the unlettered Mob, and they don’t like it at all.

    Well put, sir.

    Funny coincidence, I read your words, did some work, then sat in a certain place where I slowly read one of my country’s intellectual quarterlies. Started an article that looks as if it is going to say exactly the same thing — but naturally at inordinate length. :-)

    I like what you say about classes. At university I was astounded at the procedure whereby a person (who lacks actor training) reads aloud a textbook, or his notes for the textbook he intends to write, so that an audience (who lacks shorthand skills) can attempt to transcribe his words, with a frantic scribbling that entirely precludes comprehension. This had to be the most inefficient mode of communication ever invented.

    In those days before the invention of the photocopier, duplication was arduous (stencils, yech), so there was some excuse. But it was also that very, very few lecturers had any presentation skills at all, while being sovereign against insomnia. You see the same thing with (spit) PowerPoint presentations — the suits project the text on the wall then proceed to read it aloud, long after everyone has read it for themselves. If that is what the conservatives want to return to, they can stuff it. But OTOH we have to stop this “everyone has won and everyone will get prizes” business. Whether in shop or art or English or philosophy, we need to be allowed to tell a kid or youngster that he hasn’t hacked it and needs to do it over.

  • That’s interesting, I have a watch and only when I wear it, it starts to work, but i have to wind it first and if i keep it on for a week or what ever amout of time, it still working.

  • It’s funny how some of the weirdest posts on this site seem to come from people who insist on using the name of a commercial/corporate blog as an alias.

    Granted, I realize that a lot of people browse this site while at work, but isn’t there something a little sad about someone lacking so little courage in his or her convictions that he or she can’t even link a reply to his or her own blog?

  • Grinebiter

    @Paul. I finished that article, and the gist of it was that the Internet has led to anonymised invasion of the public space by what used to be purely oral conversations among the like-minded, where the point is not to acquire knowledge or influence one another, but merely to proclaim and cultivate the group bond against The Other. Think family dinners, pubs, canteens etc. Such ritualised quasi-conversations always existed, but not occupying the same space as the discussions of the clerisy and the political elite.

  • I finished that article, and the gist of it was that the Internet has led to anonymised invasion of the public space by what used to be purely oral conversations among the like-minded, where the point is not to acquire knowledge or influence one another, but merely to proclaim and cultivate the group bond against The Other.Think family dinners, pubs, canteens etc.

    Not to mention the average discussion on this site…

  • Grinebiter

    A P.S. on education. Not school this time, but a training course in the use of a certain Gizmo by certain Government Services, about which I am just reading i.c.w. my work. The participants get to evaluate the course, how impressed or satisfied they are with it, but I see no sign of the trainers getting to evaluate the participants, how well they have in fact learned to use the Gizmo. Is it just me, or is this also symptom?

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