The Wall Street Journal Supports Bigotry

August 11, 2010

from thad@thefutureofpublishing.com <thad@thefutureofpublishing.com>
to onlinejournal@wsj.com,
wsj.ltrs@wsj.com,
d.bernard@wsj.com,
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date Wed, Aug 11, 2010 at 2:48 PM
subject Cancel subscription immediately

To Editors and Managements of The Wall Street Journal,

I have valued your paper for decades, and faithfully subscribed online for perhaps ten years. It was always expensive but I did not question the value.

With considerable regret I wish immediately to cancel my subscription to the Wall Street Journal and to be refunded any unused portion of the money I’ve given you for my current subscription. I was wrong to assume that what I was offered in the past would be a reliable indicator of your product today.

On the one hand you still offer superb reporting, such as the recent series on Internet e-commerce and privacy led by Julia Angwin. Regardless of one’s perspective on the issue, as I wrote when it was published, the series is a model of thorough investigation, excellent reporting, and optimal use of the online medium. With that series you have opened the eyes of many about a very important issue, and changed the nature of the debate. I commend the publishers of the Journal for supporting Ms. Angwin and her team. One is proud of the press at such moments.

Meanwhile you run a regular series of columns by Karl Rove. I nearly jumped from the subscriber ship then, but at least no one mistakes him for anyone but who he is. It’s regrettable to provide a platform for that mean-spirited fellow, but, I tried to remind myself, voices like his should also be heard. That his hiring coincided with a change of ownership at the Journal was a red flag. I now understand the flag’s meaning.

Yesterday’s piece by William McGurn tossed out the journalistic line between church and state. I now see that your new owner has purchased a respectable platform to broadcast his misanthropic diatribes. A top executive of the company that owns a once-fine newspaper is using it to make hatred more palatable.

I was drawn to the headline: “Are Americans Bigots?” Seeing it posed as a question I hoped to read an intelligent two-sided examination of the topic. What confronted me instead was weak rhetorical nonsense.

As a dual Canadian/American citizen, who lived for 15 adult years in the U.S., I know that Americans are not bigots. And so the recent bigotry displayed by my fellow citizens has surprised and disappointed me. As they are not bigots, I’ve been pondering what impact politicians and the media have had in inciting them to uncharacteristic expressions of hatred. Just before I stumbled on this piece I read Lexington’s commentary on the New York mosque in this week’s Economist. Compare it to Mr. McGurn’s commentary if you will. I can only imagine you blushing.

I thought to myself, who is writing this stuff; have I stumbled onto a Karl Rove column in disguise? Couldn’t be: it was insufficiently venal. That is when I discovered that he is “a Vice President at News Corporation who writes speeches for CEO Rupert Murdoch. Previously he served as Chief Speechwriter for President George W. Bush.” Oh, I see.

Does Mr. McGurn truly think “moving the (Muslim-backed) center a few blocks” will silence these polarized and angry voices? Surely not, when a well-respected, large circulation daily implies that their hate-filled utterances have legitimacy because they emerge from the mouths of decent “American people.”

Hatred spreads faster than good will: it is currently the most-commented article on your site.

You have put me in a position where my tacit support as a subscriber makes me feel culpable. While I acknowledge your right to publish what you see fit, I have the right to withdraw my support.

Respectfully,

Thad McIlroy
The Future of Publishing
thad@thefutureofpublishing.com
www.TheFutureofPublishing.com

UPDATE: September 12, 2010

A major story appeared over the weekend in the U.K. regarding WSJ owner Rupert Murdoch. The full story is available on The Guardian, perhaps the most respected U.K. daily.

The WSJ as of 9/12/2010 has only this to report on the inquiry:

British legislators authorized a sweeping inquiry into illicit snooping on politicians and celebrities by tabloids, as one lawmaker called for media tycoon Rupert Murdoch to testify over allegations one of his newspapers illegally hacked into cell phones.

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U.S. Plans Cybershield for Utilities & Companies

July 8, 2010

The Wall Street Journal broke the story today, starting off with “The federal government is launching an expansive program dubbed ‘Perfect Citizen’ to detect cyber assaults on private companies and government agencies running such critical infrastructure as the electricity grid and nuclear-power plants, according to people familiar with the program.”

Perfect Citizen! Don’t you just love it. “I wanna be a perfect citizen.” A perfect cyber citizen.

Johnny, if you don’t clean up your cyber citizen behavior you’re grounded.

cyberwar

That aside, what intrigues me about the report is that last week’s The Economist had a compelling briefing on the threat of cyberwar (the story is not yet behind its cyber firewall). Because I’d read the Economist editorial and article before today’s announcement, I’m not alarmed by the “big brother” angle that predictably has so many fulminating (already over 500 Google links to “cyber ‘perfect citizen’ ‘big brother'”). So was The Economist put up to the story? Or did U.S. government officials realize that after The Economist has already sold the threat to 90% of key U.S. (and international) decision-makers, it would be an opportune moment to leak the story?

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Are You Futured Out?

March 10, 2010

A blog entry on Richard Curtis’ very good E-Reads site struck a strong chord with me today.

Curtis writes:

Until now, most folks returning from the annual (O’Reilly’s) Tools of Change conference have come away inspired and energized as the flint of old thinking met the steel of innovation. But this time publishing industry blogger Don Linn reported symptoms of future weariness. “We are in the midst of a bucketload of ‘Future of Publishing’ conferences and there is an element of conference fatigue setting in,” he writes. “There’s not much new under the sun: In the 2- 1/2 days I was there, I didn’t see or hear anything startling or revolutionary that hasn’t been discussed in other conferences or even at previous TOC’s.”

I did not attend TOC, so of course cannot offer any comments on the event, but I am beginning to suffer a serious case of future fatigue. The media continues its feeding frenzy on every trivial piece of tech news that it can uncover, largely, I believe because it has always perceived publishing in all its forms as the most important subject known to mankind. Earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. Yeah, ok, a few headlines, but what about this: “Google Reaches Books Deal With Italy.” I’ll confess: didn’t even glance at it.

The media appears to subscribe to the lyrics of a song (that I can’t seem to locate on Google). The two key lines go:

“The only thing more interesting than me…
Is me.”

My foolish dream is that the big fat tech companies, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Intel et al., would jointly declare a 12 month moritorium on heavy-duty R&D and marketing expenditures and offer a portion of their billions to tech workers around the world, who would receive, for example, $40k plus cost-of-living expenses, and would commit to working in third-world countries helping to improve infrastructure, sanitation, education, health care, and a long list of other crucial problems. The money would be paid monthly to the workers; if you quit early, that’s the end of it. If you work the full year and if your supervisor rates your efforts at a minimum of 7.5/10, you receive a $8k bonus.

Oh well, enough of my fantasy. Back to reading the endless blogs, Publishers Weekly and The Economist, and thinking about how most publishing technology is only barely managing to improve this world we inhabit.

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