Aaron Barlow's blog

From Alexander Woollcott to "Fake News"

  • Posted on: 1 January 2017
  • By: Aaron Barlow

Where does today’s ‘fake news’ come from?

There is no simple answer, but part of it can be traced to the development of journalistic practices and ethics over the course of the 20th century, strictures that the purveyors of ‘fake news’ turn on their heads thanks to technological innovations giving them the ability to make their publications look like real news venues for very little money.

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Just What Is "Breitbarting"?

  • Posted on: 8 June 2012
  • By: Aaron Barlow

[bumped  for relevance by roxy]

Well, for one thing, it is not journalism.

When I wrote "The Pride and Reward of Falsification: Post-Objectivity as Post-Responsibility" for the recent book News with a View (edited by Burton St. John and Kirsten Johnson) centering on Andrew Breitbart and James O'Keefe, I wasn't thinking in terms of a specific, definable strategy, certainly not one that would come to be known as "breitbarting." I should have been.

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The Swan Song of N. Leroy Gingrich (version 2.0)

  • Posted on: 17 February 2012
  • By: Aaron Barlow

May the ghost of T. S. Eliot forgive me. I first wrote this a little more than a year ago. This is a slightly revised version... a little better,

I hope. Let us go then, you and I,
Before Tea Party politics passes us each by
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through Washington's K Street,
The lobbyists' retreats And chicken dinners in one-night swank hotels
Still taking time for whatever sells;
Lobbyists that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question...
Oh, do not ask, ``Why is it? "
Let's take the money and make our visit.

"A Bridge Too Far"?

  • Posted on: 9 November 2011
  • By: Aaron Barlow

Yesterday, after a year of battering by the forces assembled by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and funded by the likes of the Koch brothers, progressive America finally successfully fought back. But the victory is small, and will prove Pyrrhic (as 2008 victories have proven to be) if progressives feel they can now relax.

Adventures in Primaryland: An Ongoing Tale

  • Posted on: 2 November 2011
  • By: Aaron Barlow

The Mitten only held out a position paper when it saw The Primary Voter. It looked good-natured, she thought: still it had VERY long claws and a great many teeth, so she felt that it ought to be treated with respect.

'Cheshire Mitt,' she began, rather timidly, as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only pushed out the position paper a little further. 'Come, it's pleased so far,' thought The Primary Voter, and she went on. 'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'

Post-Investigative Journalism

  • Posted on: 18 October 2011
  • By: Aaron Barlow

Commenting on for story that James O'Keefe has targeted a couple of progressive think tanks for his pranks:

Ryan Girdusky, a spokesman for Project Veritas, the 501(c)3 organization O'Keefe started, declined to confirm whether EPI was the subject of an ongoing investigation, arguing that it would undermine the remainder of the group's work.

"Ongoing investigation"?  Oh, please.  Maybe their idea of "investigation" is something like attempting to lure someone onto a houseboat for a sex sting. Or breaking into a Senator's office.  Whatever it is, it is certainly unlike anything that has ever before been called "investigation."  On his website, O'Keefe prides himself on being an exemplar for "modern-day muckrakers"--but he hasn't the patience to do the real research, the old-fashioned investigation that was the hallmark of the muckrakers of a century ago.

How Not to Be a Journalism

  • Posted on: 9 October 2011
  • By: Aaron Barlow

Patrick Howley, an assistant editor at The American Spectator, gives a master class in how not to commit journalism in a piece posted October 8 on "Occupy" events in Washington, DC.  His article should be read by both those interested in becoming journalists (as a guide to behavior to avoid) and those trying to understand the lurch towards "post-objective journalism" exemplified by Andrew Breitbart and James O'Keefe.

Excerpt: "Beyond the Blogosphere: Information and Its Children"

  • Posted on: 5 October 2011
  • By: Aaron Barlow

Here's a little bit from the book Robert Leston and I have just completed, Beyond the Blogosphere: Information and Its Children.  It will appear from Praeger in December:

In movies, in music, and in other areas, copyright has limited the intellectual commons, and the “intellectual commons contains the raw materials that people use to create works” (Henry Mitchell, The Intellectual Commons, xi-xii). When it is constrained, creation is restrained, which is doubly unfortunate, given the fact that there is no scarcity when the raw material is—or should be—infinitely reproducible. What copyright has done is to create boundaries where none existed or, as some would argue, need to exist. Though there may be justification for boundaries of some nature, the fact remains: copyright as practiced today, whether it is meant to or not, constrains creativity. Many owners of copyright may argue otherwise, that copyright enables creativity, but the evidence says otherwise. Certainly, the beneficiaries of copyright are rarely the actual creators.

The "He Said/She Said" Dodge

  • Posted on: 21 September 2011
  • By: Aaron Barlow

Want to avoid controversy yet continue to style yourself as a journalist?  Use "he said/she said," the surefire way of removing yourself from the debate while retaining a sense of personal gravitas!  Yes, kids, "he said/she said" can save you the trouble of real reporting, for it ties perfectly into the here-today-and-gone-tomorrow news cycle.  All that will remain is another entry on your resume!  So try it today and you will appear serious, keep your topic opaque, and your employer happy.

Jay Rosen, who has valiantly tried to push journalism into a position where it sees responsibility to its readers as the number one consideration--and has been doing so for over twenty years, has renewed his push to rid the profession of "he said/she said" 'reporting.' 

Education "Facts": Brill v. Ravitch

  • Posted on: 14 September 2011
  • By: Aaron Barlow

Recently, I posted a response to Steven Brill's piece for Reuters, "The School Reform Deniers" on my personal blog (it was reposted by Raging Chicken Press a few days ago).  In it, I call into question what he claims as his journalistic impartiality and also question what he resorts to calling "facts."  In the latest issue of The New York Review of Books, Diane Ravitch reviews Brill's Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools in an article entitled "School 'Reform': A Failing Grade."  Not only is she even harsher on Brill than I am, but she fills in a great deal of background.

In Memoriam

  • Posted on: 7 September 2011
  • By: Aaron Barlow

[With the 10th anniversary coming this weekend, I want to re-post something I wrote as soon as I returned to my store from the Brooklyn Heights that morning.]

As I walked from teaching in Brooklyn Heights this morning, someone said that one of the World Trade Center towers had collapsed. We had heard the sirens in class; a couple of students discovered through their cell phones that planes had hit the towers, so I knew that a tragedy was in progress. But I refused to believe that either of the towers could collapse.

I walked to the promenade over the East River where it joins the Hudson, where one normally sees a magnificent panorama centering on lower Manhattan. I wanted to prove to myself that both towers still stood.

"I Can Do Anything You Can Do Better"

  • Posted on: 31 August 2011
  • By: Aaron Barlow

In George Eliot's Victorian novel Middlemarch, set around 1830, just prior to the queen's ascension to the throne, one of the main characters, Dr. Lydgate, comments:

In this stupid world most people never consider that a thing is good to be done unless it is done by their own set.

180 years later, and things haven't changed a bit.