The media disruption that matters

Please indulge me a wee gloat. I’ve been telling you for years that the real people to watch in the disruption of media are the advertisers, or as Jay Rosen would put it, “The people formerly known as the advertisers.” The business of media, after all, isn’t content; it’s advertising, and this is what will eventually destroy media companies insisting that mass marketing has a viable future.

AdAge published an article featuring a speech yesterday by Pepsico’s President of global beverage group Brad Jakeman to the Association of National Advertising’s annual “Masters of Marketing” conference in Orlando, Fla. I wish I could’ve been present, for AdAge described the presentation as “fiery” and “truth telling.” Here’s a pissed-off guy who spends a fortune to sell his products, and we need to pay attention. Here are a view excerpts from the article:

Ad agency models are breaking. Pre-roll ads are useless. Measurement models are outdated. The ad industry lacks diversity. And the phrase digital marketing should be dumped…

“Can we stop using the term advertising, which is based on this model of polluting [content],” he said.

“My particular peeve is pre-roll. I hate it,” he added. “What is even worse is that I know the people who are making it know that I’m going to hate it. Why do I know that? Because they tell me how long I am going to have to endure it — 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 15 seconds. You only have to watch this crap for another 10 seconds and then you are going to get to the content that you really wanted to see. That is a model of polluting content that is not sustainable…”

“The agency model that I grew up with largely has not changed today,” he said, noting that he has been in the ad industry for 25 years. “Yet agency CEOs are sitting there watching retainers disappear … they are looking at clients being way more promiscuous with their agencies than they ever have…”

He said he has been to many marketing conferences and has seen some really creative things, which he said was “awesome.” But he “hasn’t seen our industry really push for incredibly disruptive things,” he added. “We are still talking about the 30-second TV spot. Seriously?”

If you’re truly interested in this stuff (or if your future depends on it), I strongly recommend studying every word he says, for the utter collapse of Madison Avenue is at hand. Companies like Pepsico are now media companies, thanks to technology, and their money is increasingly being spent in house, as Borrell has been tracking for years.

As the old country song says, “You never heard my words before, but can you hear me now?”

Censoring the personal media revolution

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 8.24.35 AMThe great hope afforded Western civilization with the advent of the network is the ability of those being ruled to share among each other outside the filters of command and control, whether economic or the bayonet. This is no small thing, for institutional authority, in part, is founded on the perpetuation of the institution, and this is a self-serving exercise resulting in little regard for those being served. Part of the institution’s job, therefore, is the maintenance of the problem for which it is the solution, and this is done by controlling the narrative associated with the institution’s role in culture.

This forms the fabric of conflict today, because network connectivity is allowing the lower class to challenge historical references in attempts to improve its place in the world. The postmodernist refers to this as “deconstruction,” and so the ruling class must work that much harder to control the narrative that authorizes its rule. This is being played out before us in many ways today, but it takes certain eyes to see it, for otherwise, it simply appears as it’s always appeared – the complex wheels of life in action.

Nowhere is this conflict more obvious today than in the Middle East, and yet, Western journalists seem incapable of calling a spade a spade.

As demonstrated here for years, YouTube is the principal stadium where the personal media revolution is played out. Anyone with a camera is given media company status in a place where people are free to discover whatever they wish. It’s where the bottom of the information pyramid talks to itself and shares its own views of life and interest. Moreover, the structure of the site has always afforded easy unbundled distribution via other sites in the network, including those that we (foolishly) call “social” in order to differentiate them from “real” information sites, whatever that means.

Israel, a state requiring narrative control in order to maintain its justification in the world wants Google, the owner of YouTube, to censor videos that it deems “inflammatory” in which Palestinians reveal a different narrative of events between themselves and the Israelis. Of course it does. This isn’t rocket science; it’s propaganda 101.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has created a new 10-person bureau responsible for finding videos it deems inflammatory and issuing some form of take-down notice to Google. This new bureau was described in an article in Arutz Sheva last week:

The bureau will concentrate on three main issues: The first is finding videos containing inflammatory content and subsequently filing an official request to have the social media sites take down these clips.

The second measure will be the development of an application which will identify keywords such as “knife” and “Jews” in Arabic or other languages, enabling the ministry to track the creators and poster of inciting content.

The third, and perhaps most important, is the actual intervention of staffers in discussions on social networks, where they will be tasked with distributing hasbara materials from the Foreign Ministry.

“Hasbara” is the Israeli term for propaganda.

If Google takes down even one video as the result of this bureau’s efforts, it’ll spawn the development of similar “bureaus” in both the public and private sectors, because much is a stake culturally. At least some of this will occur in the name of “fact-checking,” and that might not all be a bad thing. Unless, however, we’re not seeing it for what it actually is, in which case the work of all who’ve enabled the Great Horizontal will have been in vain.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

FBI Director Says Cameras Increase Crime

Let’s review: One of the “sure bets” for the future is the continuing cultural disruption of what Jay Rosen tagged “The Great Horizontal” – everyday people being connected and able to communicate as media companies across-the-bottom of culture. Every top-to-bottom institution of the West will be disrupted, assuming net neutrality continues to be the law of the land. Of course, the predictable reaction to disruption is to defend, and we’re seeing this in ways big and small.

As I recently wrote, for example, the Israeli narrative machine is finding it harder to maintain hegemony in the face of citizen videos, like this one, that show a brutal and mistaken arrest.

FBI Director James Comey

FBI Director James Comey

Last week, during a forum at the University of Chicago Law School, FBI Director James Comey actually said that police anxiety over ever-present cellphone cameras and viral videos partly explains why violent crime has risen in several large U.S. cities. According to CBS News, Comey said it has negatively impacted relations between police and citizens.

Ya think?

“I don’t know whether this explains it entirely, but I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind blowing through American law enforcement over the last year, and that wind is surely changing behavior,” Comey said.

He added that some of the behavioral change in police officers has been for the good “as we continue to have important discussions about police conduct and de-escalation and the use of deadly force.”

Comey likened the strain between law enforcement and local communities to two lines diverging, saying repeatedly that authorities must continue to work at improving their relationships with citizens. But he added: “I actually feel the lines continuing to arc away from each other, incident by incident, video by video.”

We’ll all just have to adapt, because this is only going to get worse for institutions that depend on information control in order to function. We’re going to require tort reform of some sort to deal with the liability issues that will arise, but mostly, we’re just going to have to function as better citizens, all of us.

We’re also going to be seeing a lot of “what if” stories in the press from various players who have a lot of lose in flow of information at the bottom. The institution of medicine, for example, will fight hard to keep others from what they will call the “practice of medicine” along the bottom, which they will lobby hard to protect. Think of tools, for example, that have the best interests of the patients in mind – like the sharing of individual experiences – rather than those of the institution. Third-party insurance will be impacted, because cost is such a big part of medicine.

So get yourself ready for a bumpy ride and keep the network free. The cries of Chicken Little will surely be heard, because institutions don’t know how to function absent equilibrium.

We’re going to have to learn.

Acts of citizen media

For as long as I’ve been blogging, I’ve been saying that the ability of everyday people to communicate across the bottom of culture is a disruptor that will completely alter the modernist world. This is because those influences that have always spoken from the top-down are no longer the only ones capable of speaking to everyone. The price of participation in the process is no longer reserved only for the elites. Dan Gillmor was the first to really explore this with his brilliant and prescient book “We, the Media.” In his book, Darknet, J.D. Lasica coined the phrase “personal media revolution” to define the phenomenon of everybody functioning as a media company.

I’ve long used the Middle East as an illustration of this, and while the subject truly angers those who unconditionally support Israel, citizen media in the region is making it harder and harder for Israel to maintain the narrative that it is always the victim. In the news today is a report from a human rights organization that describes the matter perfectly. From its press release:

While the Israeli government has to date escaped serious accountability for repeated human rights violations, “citizen journalism”—in which excessive acts of force are caught on camera—now is making it more difficult for the acts to be obscured or brushed aside, says the report.

“Thanks to the courageous acts of activists, family members and bystanders, Euro-Med has collected video footage and eyewitness testimonies documenting numerous, egregious abuses by Israeli soldiers during the last few weeks, which we believe is only the tip of the iceberg,” says Daniela Dönges. “In our report, we name eight of them, because they are not just numbers. They are human beings with stories that must be told.”

Here’s the video itself. It’s not easy to watch.

The Middle East is a laboratory in which this cultural disruptor can be studied, and yet, very few do. That’s because it shakes us to the core and raises the difficult question of the permanence or reliability of anything.

That may be discomforting, but this is only the beginning.

Deconstructing The Associated Press

apThe trade of journalism is facing trouble on all sides these days, mostly because its source of funding – primarily advertising – is going elsewhere. This squeeze is bringing out the worst in people who we used to believe dedicated themselves to the pursuit of truth. Not so today. It’s simply easier to embrace biased narratives than pursue facts, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East, where truth takes a whole lot of work.

But difficulty is simply an excuse, for if I can spot this stuff from my office in Alabama, it ought to be obvious to those still involved in the trade. With that in mind, I need to deconstruct (that tool of the postmodernist) a story by the Associated Press published yesterday that functions as a press release from the Israeli office of information. Oh, there’s a smattering of an opposing point-of-view, but the overall content, writing, and presentation represent the pro-Israel perspective.

The piece is structured in five chunks, so that’s the way I’ll present it here. My commentary will follow each “chunk.”

No end in sight for latest Israeli-Palestinian violence, raising fears of uprising

JERUSALEM – For nearly a month, Israel has been dealing with a wave of Palestinian unrest that shows no signs of stopping. Beginning with clashes at a sensitive Jerusalem holy site, the violence has spread throughout the city, across Israel and into the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Since the Jewish New Year last month, five Israelis have been killed in a shooting, a stoning and a series of stabbings. At least 26 Palestinians been killed by Israeli fire, including 10 identified by Israel as attackers and the rest in clashes between stone-throwers and Israeli troops. Hundreds of Palestinians have been wounded in such confrontations.

The violence comes at a time when prospects for negotiating an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict appear nil.

While Israelis are on edge over the random nature of the current wave of attacks, many Palestinians feel hopeless because all paths to statehood and ending nearly half a century of Israeli occupation appear blocked.

The long-running diplomatic deadlock coupled with the current violence has raised fears that the region is on the cusp of a major new round of Israeli-Palestinian fighting.

Anyone schooled in the practice of propaganda knows that how the message is framed determines where you can go with it. Here, the first paragraph frames the whole piece by announcing that what’s happening is a “wave of Palestinian unrest.” Those darned Palestinians, right? If they’d just stop it, everything would be fine. Moreover, the writer explains that this began in Jerusalem and expanded outward, even reaching the West Bank and Gaza strip.

This is entirely false. The “unrest” is a response to Israeli terror, last year in Gaza and this year in the West Bank, where a family, including a sleeping baby, were killed in a firebombing by Israeli settlers who operate as an armed militia with impunity in the occupied territories.  Then there are extrajudicial executions by the IDF that have become commonplace, the latest being an 18-year old girl at a West Bank checkpoint.

Let’s also make clear here that this “unrest” involves mostly stone-throwers and an occasional stabbing, whereas the full military might of the government is used daily against Palestinians.

HOW DID THIS START?

Clashes broke out at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site over the Jewish New Year, fueled by rumors that Israel was secretly plotting to take over the spot.

The compound is revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, home to the biblical Jewish Temples. Today it houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site.

Israel captured the site from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war, but it remained under Muslim administration. Under a decades-old arrangement, non-Muslims are allowed to visit, but not pray there.

A growing number of Jewish visitors in recent years, coupled with calls by religious Jewish activists for a greater presence at the site, have stoked Palestinian fears that Israel is planning to change this arrangement.

Palestinians fiercely defend the site as both a religious and national symbol. Growing Palestinian fears that the shrine is in danger triggered unrest across the region.

Israel has repeatedly said it is committed to the status quo and has accused Palestinian and Muslim religious leaders of inciting violence.

Two things. One, the presentation of this as being started by a “rumor” is absurd on its face, although it fits the Israeli narrative that Palestinians are psychotic. There’s nothing new here, because Israel has always “wanted” all of Jerusalem. What did happen this year was that Israeli security forces aggressively stormed the mosque prior to the Jewish New Year in order to make it safer for Jews to visit the site. Firing stun grenades and rubber coated bullets, many Muslims were injured, and the Palestinians responded. Each year it appears to get worse. This year, Arab men under the age of 50 were forbidden from entering the Mosque.

Moreover, this mess didn’t “start” in Jerusalem. It’s been ongoing, and the current atmosphere was created by Israeli actions in the West Bank. One simply cannot understand the situation without accepting this knowledge, for to do otherwise is to utterly embrace the Israeli narrative in the region.

IS THIS A NEW PALESTINIAN UPRISING?

While some Israeli commentators have begun to call the unrest a new intifada, or uprising, it is premature to say so.

The violence has some things in common with the second Palestinian uprising. In 2000, a visit to the hilltop religious site by Israel’s then opposition leader, Ariel Sharon, helped trigger what turned into an uprising.

Some argue that Palestinian anger over living under Israeli military occupation for nearly 50 years, the collapse of peace efforts and the lack of hope for gaining independence has made the region ripe for a new bout of violence.

Still, there are key differences. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been an outspoken opponent of violence and has maintained security coordination with Israel to prevent the clashes from spinning out of control.

During the previous intifada, organized Palestinian militant groups were behind much of the violence, often with tacit support from their leaders. Most of those groups have been disbanded or their members jailed. The recent stabbings have been carried out by individuals with no known political affiliation acting on their own.

These “lone-wolf” attacks have made it hard for Israel to find a military solution to the unrest, or to predict how long it will continue.

Firstly, the “uprising,” if there is one, is a Palestinian response to the apartheid state within which they live and the escalating violent actions by the IDF in maintaining the status quo, which, again, includes permitting bands of armed Israelis who simply attack (and kill) whoever they like and for whatever reason in the occupied territories. These acts are carried out with absolute impunity.

The “collapse” of peace initiatives is tied to recent statements by the prime minister and defense minister that there will never be a two-state solution in the region. Hopeless? Well, I guess so.

Oh, and let’s leave the Palestinian “leaders” out of this entirely. The idea that any one person or group speaks on behalf of or “for” the oppressed is a straw man used entirely for propaganda purposes. This is entirely a grass roots response to actual Israeli behavior, which can only lead one to the conclusion that Israel does NOT want peace with them.

HOW HAS ISRAEL RESPONDED?

The stabbings have caused widespread panic in Israel, prompting Jerusalem’s mayor and other politicians to encourage licensed gun owners to carry their weapons.

Israeli leaders say the country’s large number of well-trained military veterans provides an extra layer of security. And after several stabbings, assailants have been quickly shot by either police or armed civilians. But critics say such talk only increases tensions, raising the risk that over-eager gun owners or troops will shoot to kill, even when unnecessary.

In one case caught on video, a young Palestinian man wanted in a stabbing was gunned down by a police officer as an angry crowd screamed for him to be shot. In the video, it is not clear whether the youth was armed, and the police car was far away from him, raising the question of whether the youth could have been subdued without being killed.

The “widespread panic” is a response to how this is portrayed in the Israeli media, especially television, because isolated incidents in various places that are then strung together to support a narrative can be and usually are terribly misleading.

The last paragraph points to just one of the many incidents that Palestinians are using to plead the case of Israeli aggression. The boy (not a man) was running TOWARDS police and away from the Israeli mob. Only in Israel – and against Palestinians – is it acceptable to shoot first, ask questions later, and not be held accountable for it. “Wanted in a stabbing” is not justification for extrajudicial execution. Or is it?

Finally, the headline of this section is right out of the Hasbara playbook. Read it. “How has Israel responded?” Again, the narrative being presented is that innocent Israel is, once again, being forced to defend itself against those who would do it harm. If anything, this is a Palestinian response, but that is completely disregarded in a blatant attempt to present the Israeli narrative as “news.”

WHAT ABOUT POLITICAL LEADERS ON BOTH SIDES?

Both Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could play key roles in ending the unrest, though both have been limited by external pressure.

Netanyahu is under heavy pressure from the public, and hard-liners in his coalition, to take even tougher action. In addition to his tough rhetoric, the Israeli leader has already beefed up the level of forces in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and loosened the rules on when troops can open fire at protesters.

Yet a severe crackdown risks triggering even more violence and international condemnation. For this reason, he has also taken steps to ease tensions, such as banning lawmakers from visiting the Jerusalem holy site.

Abbas is also interested in restoring quiet. But after years of stalled statehood negotiations — paralysis he blames on Netanyahu’s hard-line approach — he is deeply unpopular. Containing the violence and openly continuing the security cooperation with Israel risks promoting the image that he is weak and ineffective.

In any case, it remains unclear how much control either man has when the violence is emanating from the ground up, carried out by angry teenagers who have little hope for the future.

By presenting this as “Abbas versus Netanyahu,” the Associated Press takes us down a well-worn path that leads to nowhere. Netanyahu could conceivably stop this, but why should he? He was just re-elected by, among other things, scaring voters with last-minute panicky statements that “the Arabs” were voting in droves. He believes he operates with the complete support of Israeli citizens, and there’s nothing to indicate otherwise. Abbas has no power among Palestinians and certainly none with Israel.

Netanyahu is exploiting the response of the “occupied” population to Israeli violence by shoving more violence down their throats in order to maintain control. Sadly, the press – led by articles like this from The Associated Press, and especially the work of the New York Times – is assisting him in getting away with it.

If you believe, as some do, that conqueror Israel has the right to write its own history, then I hope you enjoy your bath in the tarpits. In a networked world, one-sided views of history can’t stand up to scrutiny, because horizontal communications allow us access to the very ground floor that is rising up in the occupied territories.

This will not end well for either “side” unless and until the world intervenes.

I’m not holding my breath.

Viewing Oregon’s horror in the mirror

oregonshootingThe Oregon campus shooting yesterday is yet another example of the soul sickness that blankets the U.S. The usual suspects are spouting their usual narratives about what we “should” do, and yet nobody talks about what’s really happening. This is a spiritual problem, and such matters cannot be discussed in public without recrimination. Moreover, nobody’s religion is going to fix it, because in America, religion is part of the problem.

But talk about it we must, for no amount of legislation will remove the deep shame, fear, loneliness, and rage that exist as the omnipresent fruit of our inability to successfully manage our own lives. And yet we try. We try, because we’re told constantly that civilization exists for those who do a good job of managing their lives. It seems to work so well for some, which further reminds us of our own failings. Such are the constant voices in the heads of the have-nots.

When your internal governor is other people’s success, you chase only the wind. And absent an internal governor, human beings are capable of anything, and the more heinous, the more obvious the evil. Yes, evil. It’s real, folks, and no amount of human reasoning can make it go away.

Education is certainly part of the solution, but education in what? Clearly, we’re not teaching the very basics of what it means to be human, and that’s because we can’t agree on what those are. And even if we did, there would be some group somewhere that would object, and so silence is our deadly response.

And so it goes.

Some of my most moral friends are those who self-identify as atheist. This is something that people of religion can’t seem to grasp, for they are too busy targeting atheists as their public enemy. This is but one of the reasons I say that religion is a part of this problem. It’s a problem, because it presents itself as the solution. But religion is a human institution that exists first to support itself, so its message is hypocritical by default, and people sense this.

Moreover, the politicization of fundamentalist Christian beliefs has been the final straw in Christianity’s saltless impact on contemporary culture. It is sadly the sole voice representing the faith publicly today (recent Papal exception noted), a turn-off so repulsive that it’s actually producing the opposite of what – giving the benefit of the doubt – is intended.

I’m willing to look in the mirror in the wake of Thursday’s horror. Are you?