A regular spot to share some ideas about what’s good and what’s not on the interwebthingy. But, you know, it’s your life, so feel free to agree, disagree or ignore what follows.
What caught my attention last week
Harry Potter and The Deathly Politics
Anthony Gierzynski is a political science professor at the University of Vermont. He’s been doing research into whether people’s media experiences have an effect on their political outlooks.
Reading the [Harry Potter] books correlated with greater levels of acceptance for out-groups, higher political tolerance, less predisposition to authoritarianism, greater support for equality, and greater opposition to the use of violence and torture.
Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish has been hot for a long time on the increasing use of “sponsored content”, whereby media outlets present “articles” that have actually been written by a commercial partner.
So here’s the breaking news: when you whore out your editorial pages to advertisers, and do your best to merge your own editorial copy with advertising and p.r., readers think less of you, stop trusting you and start suspecting the ethics and source of everything you publish.
Is it happening here? Yes it is. Stuff, for example, has long run “sponsored content” from a range of organisations. (At least it is clearly labeled as such, although there is an argument about whether the labeling and visual presentation sufficiently alerts the reader to the distinction.)
Possibly the most egregious local example so far is the revelation in Dirty Politics that the Whale Oil site has been running supplied content as its own work. Peter Griffin from SciBlogs has a useful summary:
for the first time, we are able to connect the dots between some of the main players and their financial backers and the way they attempt to discredit scientists commenting on major public health issues such as obesity and smoking.
The LittleDavys in 1688
Lapham’s Quarterly runs a great little series called ‘Voices in Time’ that re-publishes old, old stuff. A 1688 French view of the nature of children:
Idleness, indolence, and laziness, vices so natural to children, disappear as soon as they begin to play; they are then lively, attentive, exact observers of rule and order, never pardon the least slip, and several times begin again one and the same thing, in which they failed.
– George Orwell on Evelyn Waugh
The Paris Review also makes a virtue of re-publishing old stuff, notably their interviews with writers. My favourite is this 1962 meander with Evelyn Waugh as he wears white pajamas, smoking a cigar, propped up in bed in the Hyde Park Hotel.
Are there any books which you would like to have written and have found impossible?
I have done all I could. I have done my best.
What I’m Trying To Ignore Next Week