Leave those nice rich people alone!

Vladimir Minkov

Vladimir Minkov

Writing for the Jerusalem Post, Vladimir Minkov, tells us that Christians and Jews need to come together for the betterment of the world (Mutual Judeo-Christian spiritual foundation of Judaism and Christianity). He writes that “we” should use the Ten Commandments to “promote and strengthen in the public place where the Jews and the Christians are working together for creating a better world for themselves and the others.” He then goes through each of the commandments, describing their appeal in promoting “the mutual values of life, family, compassionate righteousness, justice, inalienable freedom, universal love and ultimate world peace.”

I’m struck most by his understanding of the 10th commandment. You know, the one that deals with the mind and the desire for more. For Christians, this is the commandment that teaches how impossible it is for humans to actually keep them, for it deals with how we think.

Do not covet the wealth and possessions of the others who have more, and even much-much more, than you have. Theologically, everybody would agree with this. However, the Biblically forbidden coveting appears in many different forms such as condemning the wealth inequality, regulating the minimum wage, excessively taxing the wealthy people, accusing the Wall Street of robbing the Main Street. Asking the government to fix all that is using the government as the cover for your coveting. (emphasis mine)

What? In other words, stop all that fuss about the 1 percent and how they’ve become the defacto self-centered rulers of Western Civilization, just as the unrighteous lords, the barons, and the priests were in the 15th Century. Their gain comes at the expense of others, and “Thou shalt not steal” isn’t limited to legal definitions.

Good grief, no wonder the right is so very often wrong.

Why YouTube Red is the future

YouTubeRedsmI’ve been a subscriber of YouTube Red for the last month, and I’m completely sold on its model and its virtues, so much so that I think this is the one everybody in the content distribution world should be copying. Not only does it provide me with the greatest consumer experience possible, but it actually encourages me to spend even more time with YouTube.

No advertisements. Zero. Zip. Nada. That’s the draw, and it’s one in which everybody wins. The only way in for those wishing to do commerce is to participate as content providers. It is the essential distribution point for content marketing, and some of the best content on YouTube is advertiser content such as movie trailers, celebrity interviews, and much, much more.

And I’m personally thrilled that Google is the one to present this, for these guys figured out a long time ago that a clean and simple product such as free search could open vast doors of wealth in ancillary products and services. Good for them.

YouTube Red overcomes the taxonomy challenge of any publisher who wants people to find their content, whether published today or many yesterdays ago. As David Weinberger has taught us, there is no organizational system that humankind can create that will ever surpass the efficiency of search. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, second only to Google itself.

It also provides the front end for a micropayment service for artists of every stripe, and this thrills me for the future of the arts. The whole thing is what many of us envisioned long ago when we first attempted to understand the magnificence of the network and connectivity. This will continue to evolve, and Google continues to prove that what used to be impossible is actually very doable today. It is a breathtaking time to be alive.

The model of YouTube Red works in ways that I don’t even know yet, and it stands as one of the most important applications for study since the advent of the Web itself. My ability to create an endless stream of music videos that play in the background while I’m doing my work beats any mp3 system anywhere, because the cost to me is just $10 a month. Hell, my time alone is worth vastly more than $10 a month. TV viewing comes without interruptions, assuming the programs I enjoy are available on YouTube, and you’d be surprised at the volume of entertaining videos that exist in its library. In my view, this is where the future of video distribution will take place.

Facebook wants to take some of this away from Google, of course, but Facebook’s big weakness is that so far the ease of distribution of its videos beyond the walled garden of Facebook isn’t nearly what YouTube offers. This will eventually work against Mr. Zuckerberg and his wishes to take over the world. Don’t get me wrong; I love Facebook, but I also love the open Web and the idea that I can provide “my” videos anywhere I wish to make them available, including (at least for now) Facebook.

I’ve written previously that YouTube has reinvented advertising for videos via the Web with its 4-second pre-rolls, but once you experience the same videos without even those, there’s just no going back.

Color me happy and amazed.

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.

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.

The Handwriting on the Wall is Now Shouting

A few headlines and items in the news point to the continuing decline of legacy media, now especially television, and yet nobody is reading the tea leaves properly in terms of what to do. This will only hasten the inevitable end.

First up, Ad Age asks Where Did Everybody Go? TV Premiere Week Ratings Sag As Young Viewers Vamoose. This doesn’t really require comment except to say I told you so. Yeah, I’m going to be pissy here.

Next, the New York Times reports Fall TV Season Opens Onto a Shifting Ad Landscape.

The current television landscape is a challenging one for advertisers. Ratings are down but the amount of programming is sharply up, along with the number of streaming options available, many of which allow viewers to skip commercials altogether.

Now, as advertisers consider the best ways to spend their money, the excitement that once greeted the beginning of the fall television season has given way to anxiety. Industry analysts and advertising executives said the upfront market — the annual ad sales period that begins in May with lavish presentations by the networks — was unambiguously weak this year.

Then a remarkable (for its lack of focus and leadership) Wall St. Journal interview with the head of the IAB, Randall Rothenberg, on ad blocking, viewability, and click fraud, none of which he deems a really serious problem for digital advertising.

And, finally, the first of a two-part series by industry watchdog promotional group, TVNewsCheck on digital, Digital Turning ‘Broadcast’ Sales Upside Down.

The digital advertising revolution sweeping through the media world has reached local TV, upending the lives of broadcast salespeople, requiring them to do more and learn more, while sometimes earning less.

In markets of every size, stations and station groups are creating and offering a host of new digital products to prospective and long-time clients to keep pace with the invasion of digital and other media on their turf.

The broadcasters are re-emphasizing training, creating new digital-only positions, hiring digital specialists and even establishing whole new units to sell digital products and consulting services that often have little or nothing to do with selling traditional TV time.

Sorry, one more: TVNewsCheck also reports: FCC’s Lake: Time For Exclusivity Rules To Go.

The comments on some of these articles suggest that at least some people within the industry understand what’s going on. The problem is the industry itself can’t and won’t talk about the elephant in the room – culture is advancing horizontally every day in what is now clearly a revolution against the established way of doing things. Unless we accept this, we will continue to flop around like fish on the dock gasping for oxygen when none is there. Death will come sooner than most think, and I will not be happy when it occurs, because it all could have been prevented.

Marketing in the traditional sense is done. Put a fork in it. It truly is the fish out of water, for the rules of marketing all apply to a mass, and that is quickly going the way of downtown shopping. And here’s the important thing: the people formerly known as the audience are REJOICING! This is what media and advertising people simply won’t accept, because it means the end of their money trees. Instead, they’re pleading with Washington for relief. Mr. Rothenberg’s comments to the Wall St. Journal are oozing with denial, including his assurance that the “sky hasn’t fallen.”

There is a real issue. I’m not worried because the marketing and media value chain has shown remarkable resilience. There is a natural human need to have businesses proposition you with goods and services and vice versa. You need to have that communication. I’m really not worried about whether advertising will be able to find its way through digital channels. I am concerned — very, very concerned — that costs of ads will go up and up and up from this unethical obstruction.

“There is a natural human need to have businesses proposition you with goods and services?” This is delusional, and that’s being kind. As Dave Winer wrote last week, “Advertising is unwanted.” It’s especially unwanted when it’s friggin’ everywhere as if it has some special right to be! One-third of prime time is commercials! One. Third. Why do these people think that viewers are ignoring or skipping them? Why do these people think the same users are blocking them online? Mr. Rothenberg (and others) would be well advised to read what Dave his written here and what The Cluetrain Manifesto published 15 years ago.

Times are changing, folks, but that’s a dead horse I’ve been beating for far too long.

Headlines like the above are like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. The industry rejected me and my message, and you’d think I’d find a little joy in watching my prophecies come true. I don’t.

I’m very angry, and I’m very sad.