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The Media

Disinformation.com 359

Posted by JonKatz
from the the-web's-great-promise dept.
Sure, we are being lied to by bloated, corporatized media all the time. What else is new? The great promise of the Net and Web has always been more truth: a great, hyper-linked network of diverse, individual expression, a vast, linked alternative subculture. There is hope. You can go to the Disinformation Web Site to see that idea in action, despite the AOL-ing and MSN-ing of cyberspace. This trove -- its content ranges from "The X-Men" and "Space Mutation" to "The Matrix" to pieces on the Real Jesus and Radiohead -- is what the Web is really about. It offers perspectives you definitely won't find anywhere in the mass media. Don't miss Marty Beckerman's "Death to all Cheerleaders 1." (Marty, whose piece became a book, was canned from a daily newspaper for observing that cheerleaders were "a urine stain on the toilet seat of America.")

The site's left-of-center-pieces -- with generous links to other POVs -- vary wildly in quality and usefulness, but you can find some real gems on disinfo.com. Taken together, the stories on this important, possibly even landmark site are a sharp indictment of the humorless and tepid way the popular media screen out opinion and commentary that's different, provocative or original.

We know too well that most mainstream media -- TV networks, major newspapers and newsmagazines, commercial news web sites -- have been corporatized, homogenized and mass-marketed by profit-obsessed corporate execs from Disney and General Electric. They could as well be -- and simultaneously are -- selling them park tickets and light bulbs as ideas and opinions. Newspapers have grown stupefyingly boring, their commentary relegated to snoozy op-ed pages. Cable TV, once the great hope, is becoming a nightmare of fragmentation, eternal argument and dogmatic fanaticism. Except for slight variations -- Fox News' interesting right-wing tilt, for example -- most mainstream news organizations stock to a militantly moderate point of view, veering a wee bit to the right or a tad to the left but never much further.

The target audience of most major media, from your daily paper to Time and CNN, is the appliance-and-car acquiring middle class, who seem to like their politics tepid and lite, the way AOL users like their Net. With media so firmly in the grip of market research, it's tough to know what they might cover if they were left to their own imaginations.

"Disinformation" is, to say the least, different. It was launched in l996 by Richard Metzger, now edited by Alex Burns. It's arguably one of the best-designed and most interesting alternative news and underground culture sites online. Apart from its own content, the site provides a subculture search engine which directs a reader to sites and relevant links. The site's political bias is clearly leftish, but its links are refreshingly open-minded, incorporating ideas, opinions and responses far beyond traditional definitions of "progressive." In fact, Disinformation is really, in many ways, a dogma killer. Despite the editors' viewpoint, readers get drawn into all sorts of opinions and debates any time they pursue a story or essay.

Apart from the excitement generated by a website that circulates about alternative ideas -- ideas the Net helps to keep alive -- Disinformation is beautifully designed. There's a Disinformation store, of course, offering T-shirts and books. There's easy access to stories by popularity and topic -- from activism and aliens to media, mind control, spirituality and technology. For all the ballyhoo and media hype about sites like Slate, with its heavy Microsoft subsidy, Disinformation really seems to get the fusion between interactivity and ideas. It's an exciting place to browse.

From the beginning, the Net was meant to open up information and give voice to different kinds of people and points of view. The Web, with its hyperlinking, took that idea still further. But in the past few years, that notion seems to have grown tired, in between the copyright wars, the dot.com era and the so-called Net slump. It seemed that corporate America -- Yahoo, MSN and AOL -- was devouring the Web whole. That's why sites like Disinformation are so important. They are the real heart of the Web.

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Disinformation.com

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  • Weird timing... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wrinkledshirt (228541)
    What else is new?

    How about this? [cnn.com]
    • Re:Weird timing... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ender- (42944)
      How about this? [cnn.com]

      This story mentions airdropping of leaflets, and I know they were doing a lot of that in Afghanistan itself.

      So my question is:
      Who the hell is going to clean up this mess?!?!

      If *I* were to suddenly drop thousands of pieces of paper over a US city, I'd be picked up and fined HEAVILY for littering. Why the hell is it ok for the US to litter over other countries?

      Despite being a US citizen, I think it's high time NATO or the UN [or whoever] gets around to fining the US for this littering of our planet! And for the many other stupid-ass things this country keeps doing.

      Then again, that's just my opinion...I could be wrong [apologies to Denis Miller]

      Ender
    • Re:Weird timing... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Excellent point.

      PsyOps on the enemies is routine, but since our policies our so fucking sick we need to PsyOp our allies and friends too so that they won't object.

      In my (small, quite harmless European) country, our foreign minister got a nastygram from the US embassy telling him that the USA is displeased with him. He hasn't given enough support for the US "War on Terrorism".

      Hey, fuck you guys! You're becoming more and more like the old Soviet Union!

    • This link perfectly illustrates a problem rising with Anglo US relations.

      The US seems to be drifting to the extreme fundamentalist Christian right. This is causing to become increasingly concerned
      with a belligerent America Foreign Policy.

      Two years ago it was unusual to see a BBC news report examining (questioning) US foreign policy, today it's almost daily. Stomping around like an angry giant is likely to have a counter effect.

      And before somebody goes of half cocked, and marks this down as a troll, remmember the destiny of all free people [not just countries] are inexplicitaly linked. We share a common self interest, so when your friends tell you to reconsider, you should SERIOUSLY reconsider. Because being the worlds only super power does not last forever (Consider British, Roman, Greek Empires, to name a few) Your enemies you make today may just consider you fair game for a very long time, after the issue is settled.
  • by Russ Nelson (33911) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:29PM (#3032224) Homepage
    Gee, Jon, you sound like a cheerleader for disinformation.com (ewww, yuck).
    -russ
  • by MadFarmAnimalz (460972) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:32PM (#3032235) Homepage
    I personally prefer www.fair.org [fair.org]. Disinfo, while interesting, are oftentimes too radical for my taste. It almost seems like they go out of their way to fabricat-err, uncover conspiracy in the name of "no smoke without a fire".

    fair.org is more a kind of media watchdog. I like their work. You might too.
    • by zpengo (99887) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:56PM (#3032408) Homepage
      You know, it's kind of funny how "fair" almost always means "left". :-) It's a good website, and I'm not railing against it, I just think it's ironic that "fair" and "unbiased" news outlets typically have an anti-right agenda behind them!

      (The obvious retort, of course, is that it's only because the right is so unfair...)

      • If you were living under a left wing oriented government, "fair" would most likely be right-wing biased :)

        Don't belive everything you read!

        Read as much as you can from independent sources. somewhere between the lines there should be the real objective news, neither left, righ, pro or against.

        Seldom have I found any piece of news that does not try to influence the way you think, by emphasising some aspects while neglecting others.

        • Seldom have I found any piece of news that does not try to influence the way you think, by emphasising some aspects while neglecting others.

          I've spent a lot of time studying rhetorical theory, which basically assumes that EVERYTHING, from the New York Times to the ingredients on a can of Pork & Beans, is intended to influence and persuade.

          There is no real independent media. There are only news outlets that have different (not more objective) agendas.

          I'm not complaining, just pointing it out as being interesting.

      • Don't forget Accuracy in Media [aim.org], the right's (fairly wacko) answer to FAIR. One man's "corporatized reporting" is another's "liberal media," I guess.
    • If you want non-partisan scrutiny of the media and politics, check out Spinsanity [spinsanity.org], a watchdog of manipulative political rhetoric from both sides. [Disclosure: I co-edit the site.]

      Katz is right that the Internet is making it possible for people outside the mediasphere to scrutinize the media and culture, but he should look more in the direction of the political weblogs. Beyond the celebrity journalist bloggers, there's a new breed of critics coming up and having an impact. Will Vehrs' Punditwatch [blogspot.com] just got picked up on FoxNews.com [foxnews.com], and we just signed a distribution agreement with Salon.com [salon.com]. Both are unimaginable without the Internet.

    • Daily Howler, too! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by UncleGizmo (462001)
      For other media watchdogging, also check out The Daily Howler [dailyhowler.com]. An incomparable site for shredding those pundits who twist the facts to sell you The Truth.

  • by warnerpr (9286) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:33PM (#3032248)
    This is what I get when I try to go there from work:

    "Access to this web page is restricted at this time.

    Reason: The Websense category "Alternative Journals" is filtered.

    URL: http://www.disinfo.com/"

    I guess some how what I would have read there would have made me a worse employee? I am glad they saved my eyes from seeing that!
  • by CDWert (450988) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:33PM (#3032251) Homepage
    This is cool and I have visited their site previously, but some of the stuff just leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Its one thing to wish for untainted information, stive for truth and freedom, and quite another to spew frothing at the mouth about it, hidden in an amongst what appear to be good information.

    AND it is yet even more of a shame when a whole bunch of conspiracy seeking, alien hunting, govermentphobes start giving, us good truth seekers a bad name....

    Wheres the tin foil hat when you sighn up to their site, I thought that wsa a requirment.
    • Exactly...the articles aren't exactly unbiased and research-based. There's a lot to be said for the entertainment value of fringe media, but I think Katz goes overboard in his praise of it, since the web has been saturated with this stuff since the very beginning.
  • by rakerman (409507)
    I think the idea of going to a centralized site for news, whether it's "alternative" news or whatever, is still a bit old fashioned.

    Jon keeps talking about the corporatized net, and the failure of democracy on the net, but I think Blogger and related self-publishing tools are providing millions of people the opportunity to easily get their opinions and information on the net.
    • I think your right in this. I'm sure there are other sites out there like disinfo.com, but the rise of weblogging is where the heart is begining to beat, IMO.

      Take a look at this article [techreview.com].
  • But not always. Yes, the Net was for the exchange of ideas, but when it became available for mass consumption, the average user didn't want to exchange ideas, but to put up pics from their last vacation for their family to see,or host their N'SYNC fansite.

    There are areas for information and areas for pop culture. Now that's why we have Google [google.com], to separate the truly informative stuff from the drivel.
  • by D_Fresh (90926) <slashdotNO@SPAMdougalexander.com> on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:37PM (#3032282) Journal
    ...an extension of the lameness filter that applies to all news stories written everywhere. Just plug it into your browser, eyeglasses, or cable box and boom - there goes Bill O'Reilly, Wheel of Fortune, and "Making the Band."

    Perhaps we could get a waiver for Farscape, though. Production values aren't everything...

    • Actually, researchers have been working on a fascinating new technique that has been shown in preliminary studies to successfully remove lameness in the media.

      It's called a power switch. You guys should try it sometime. The testing isn't fully complete, but initial results are looking good....

  • Adbusters.com
    Indymedia.org
    WhatReallyHappened.c om

    All interesting media, culture, and commerce critique websites.

    For the life of me, I can't understand why Jon Katz would've posted Disinfo, but dog bless him anyway.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Indymedia is full of cooked-up conspiracy theories, anti-Semitic bullshit, and hate-America-first screeds. I've never seen a single bit of useful info there, although they do a great job of highlighting lies like the CNN-fake-Palestinians crap. It's all extremism, support for criminals and murderers, and extreme-left ranting. Forget about it.

      WRH is another anti-Semitic junk site that would blame everything on the Mossad and "international bankers" if they could. Not a single useful reference to be found.
      • Amen to that. The world doesn't need more frothing pansies ranting about the government lying to us and planning conspiracies.

        We all know the government does that stuff. That's what we pay them to do. They handle all the nastiness required to keep a massive nation like the U.S. from collapsing into financial, social, and international ruin, so that we can sit around here and chat about websites and Linux and other "News that matters."

        Yeah, yeah, hooray for the left and all that. Government sucks, legal pot, etc., etc. What's so new and interesting about that?

    • AdBusters went away, dude, and WhatReallyHappened may not be far behind. Sure, there's people out there that want to speak the truth, but noone wants to provide them with the funds to do it with.

      • AdBusters went away, dude

        Try Adbusters.org, and note that Adbusters.com links to the main site.

        Irony dept.: A magazine that has an article entitled "Resistance" about the recent anti-corporate globalization actions around the world has a full-page ad on the back cover... for the U.S. Army.
      • AdBusters went away, dude, and WhatReallyHappened may not be far behind. Sure, there's people out there that want to speak the truth, but noone wants to provide them with the funds to do it with.

        It's adbusters.org [adbusters.org], not ".com". And it hasn't gone away.

    • had one too many bowls of Sugar-Frosted Chocolate Bombs(tm) this morning...
  • . . . ! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by susano_otter (123650) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:38PM (#3032292) Homepage
    God, that "cheerleaders" piece was awful. As reporting, it was incompetent and uninformative. As ranting, it was slow and anticlimactic. If this is the sort of feeble attempt at interesting writing that Jon Katz is urging us not to miss, then I think I'm beginnig to understand why he's so hated around here.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      He's hated because he's obviously an idiot!

      We know too well that most mainstream media -- TV networks, major newspapers and newsmagazines, commercial news web sites -- have been corporatized, homogenized and mass-marketed... stupefyingly boring... Cable TV, once the great hope, is becoming a nightmare of fragmentation, eternal argument and dogmatic fanaticism.

      This paragraph is inherently contradictory. On the one hand we have unacceptable media which homogenized, on the other unacceptable media which is too fragmented (never mind that cable TV channels usually follow a theme rigorously, which isn't fragmented at all, imho). On the one hand, the commentary is too boring, yet on the other it's too argumentative and fanatical. Katz can't decide which he likes less or why. What he does know is he found something likely to rile people up that kind of agrees with his left-of-center politics and that he has a column to write. So here we are. Filtering Katz stories is almost enough to make one log in to Slashdot.
    • agreeing as well (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Shmibbon (523329)
      The only mildly entertaining part were the transcripts, and the whole time I was thinking about how The Daily Show would have done a much better job making fun of them. I love it when they find someone with a completely insane theory, back the person into a logical corner using their own answers, and ask that one question that inambiguously reveals the glaring error in their thought that everyone else can see, leaving them completely silent as those of us watching at home laugh their asses off. And they do that in the middle of making fun of them in ways that the person often doesn't even notice, with over-dramatic narrative and wacky commentary at the end. Comedy genius.

      Yeah, I'm gonna get an Offtopic for this, but as Gir would say, "I love this show."
  • Oh Bah (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lblack (124294) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:40PM (#3032301)
    Disinformation is nothing. If you are looking for the web that was "promised" -- and who promised it, anyway, technofuturists drawing a paycheque on empty predictions -- then you should go to www.google.com.

    What do you want to know about? Type it into the search box. Check your results. Read the ones that are interesting. Alter your criteria. Try it again.

    Use their links to read newspapers from all around the world. Use babelfish to translate a German page to English.

    I have all of the information I could possibly need at my fingertips through a combination of Google, Lexis-Nexis and sites like Everything2 and the Guerilla News Network. I have opposing viewpoints, case studies, major media coverage, independent media coverage, essays and fiction based upon pretty much every major event in the last twenty years. Going back a bit, the completeness level goes down for all but the most major of events, but nonetheless.

    The Internet allows anyone to put anything up. Google allows you to find it. Your brain allows you to parse, to judge, and to collate it.

    The third part of that equation is the important one.

    If you're still using major media to define your worldview, you haven't understood a thing about what the internet has done (nevermind what it was supposed to do or what it should do in the future). I check in with major media sites because they tend to be well laid out. When I actually want the information, all of it, that's when MSN and CNN can kiss my ass good-bye, because they do not and never have provided anything more than sound bites.

    Which is pretty much what Disinfo does, except with a snotty, leftist bent that doesn't do much more than pre-emptively derail most of the discussion that occurs.

    The heart of the web? No. Just another meta. The heart of the web is that anybody with access to a PC and 20 minutes to learn can put a basic webpage up that will be indexed by Google so that somebody like me can stumble across it.

    Google and the WayBack machine are the killer apps of the net. The provider of the content (Disinfo or whomever) don't matter. That's just branding.

    And, hey, wasn't the 'Net going to take us away from all that? Or is it acceptable in the case of clearly lefty-biased sites?

    • Your points are interesting and well-made. I would add a caveat though: google works best with precision. News sites, of course, inform you about what you don't know (with varying degrees of success).
    • by zpengo (99887)
      If you really want opposing viewpoints, just let me know. I can pretty much guarantee that I oppose whatever you believe. That even goes for you lefty pseudo-radical Gen-Xers who fancy yourselves to be rebellious. Come get some.

      Of course, I probably shouldn't be saying that here, the site most known for modding down anything that goes against the party line. :-)

  • by joss (1346) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:41PM (#3032308) Homepage
    One of the things I admire most about America is that you've got your sports groupies in uniform and parading on the sidelines. It's just so organised ! The unarguably subservient status of cheerleaders versus actual players is also a cause for wonder. It's so refreshingly old fashioned. It shows that at some level the country hasn't completely lost it's head up it's own ass in the fad of expecting identical roles for men and women.
    • Lemme introduce you to some cheerleaders I know, they'll show you that the level of athelticism required in college cheerleading and in the higher level high school cheerleading is at least as high as that necessary for playing Football. It's on par with things like ballet and the martial arts. The inequality between cheerleaders and the ppl they cheer for is only a percieved one that exists mostly in the minds of people like you apparently. I see most cheerleaders as being the athletic equal to the people they cheer, just prettier.>:)

      Kintanon
  • It's a slick site, but that doesn't make it the Savior of the Internet, as Jon is making it out to be. What's new on here?
    • Corporate Totalitarianism
    • Marijuana is good for you
    • The Matrix
    • Marilyn Manson
    • The Illuminati
    • Blah, blah, blah...
    It's the same old stuff, over and over and over again....why are we hyping this site over any others? Is it the cool web design? Is it because there's nothing useful or relevant to write about today?
  • yeesh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kisrael (134664) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:42PM (#3032316) Homepage
    That cheerleader piece is really annoying. I agree with only the tiniest fraction of what the Christian Cheerleader Leaders say and stand for, but the guy who's doing the interview is the biggest dork I've read in a while. He sounds like a newish convert to his lack of religion, and like most new converts, he's all guns blazin' and basically a smug asshole. (I don't have religion either, but at least I try to have some dignity about it, even if I think concepts of faith help lead to stuff like WTC.)
  • Well, I was going to compliment Katz on actually writing a meaningful article without totally devolving into marketing speak while doing it.

    Then when I went to check it out, no-wrap was on so I couldn't read it!

    Oh well, Katz, keep it up. If the rest of the story is anything like the intro paragraph, congratulations. You've made at least one /.er decide to keep you on the homepage.
  • It seemed that corporate America -- Yahoo, MSN and AOL -- was devouring the Web whole. That's why sites like Disinformation are so important. They are the real heart of the Web

    Lets see now, you like this site because it gives an opinionated, stinted, and rebellious view of the world, and in the same breath you'll raise a fist to the corporate shambling of AOL and the like who happen to provide content that massive numbers of people enjoy reading.

    Do you actually believe this rubbish? Do you honestly think your opinion matters in the slightest? Theres 6 billion of us out here. We can think for ourselves. Give us content, ditch the pretenious retorhic.
    • And by the way, didn't he just post a piece of tripe a couple of weeks ago that said the web HAD NO HEART??
  • by signal ll (150330) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:43PM (#3032328)
    And just how is Marty Beckerman's taunting a cheerleader different from the "cool kids" taunting "geeks" as was roundly condemned in the Hell Mouth articles? He sounds like a complete jerk to me.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:48PM (#3032360)

    I went and read "Death to all cheerleaders," and
    it's utter garbage.

    I'm sick of this type of satire. It's not necessarily funny or interesting to try to make people look dumb, especially when you're willing to make yourself look dumb to do so. Think Tom Greene. Think "The Daily Show." The death to cheerleaders could be a transcript of a Daily Show interview, it's that unoriginal.

    It's easy to make fun of stuff. It's also pointless and boring unless there is some genuine insight to it.

  • by Tri0de (182282)
    yeah, I should post a review of this book, but let me just say this: it is one of the best tools for blowing minds one could ever want. The perfect bathroom book,due to it being a series of rather short pieces, but loads of phun to leave about here in a big corporation.
    it is a dead tree distillation of much of the best content of disinfo.com. there is something that is both offensive to, and confirming of the pet conspiracy theories of, just about anyone.
  • by s20451 (410424) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:55PM (#3032402) Journal

    The net has never succeeded in promoting free expression of ideas. Instead it has founded enclaves of like-thinking people, who need to have their own point of view reinforced by others. Take Slashdot for example -- a community of people who have similar views about free software and intellectual property law. When was the last time a justification of Microsoft's tactics was posted to the front page, without an immediate rebuttal? Or a repudiation of the GPL? The readership here wouldn't stand for it, because that's not what they are here for ... not free expression, but validation.

    Really, we shouldn't be surprised that the "mainstream" media is boring -- most people don't like to hear views that strongly conflict with their own. This is a consequence of the popularization of the internet, and Slashdot is an example of that in microcosm.

    "Alternative media" sites like disinformation.com are no different. They have their own axioms (the media is lying; the police are out to get you; corporations will enslave the world), their own jargon, and their own orthodoxy. Read an "alternative paper" for a while and you'll see what I mean.

    • The net has never succeeded in promoting free expression of ideas.
      not true, it is about promoting free expression. The fact that like-thinking people have a tendancy to "gather" but that doesn't prevent someone else from creating a site with opposing view points.
      I, like many people, have had my view points challenged on the net, but that only allows me to think about my view points, some times within a context I haven't thought of before. occasionally I have had my view points changed based on something that was pointed out to me on the web.
      The net can't make people view opposing belief, but it gives people the opportunity to do so.
    • Really, we shouldn't be surprised that the "mainstream" media is boring -- most people don't like to hear views that strongly conflict with their own.


      So, you don't think the fact that huge corps like Microsoft, Disney, and Time-Warner/AOL directly influence what their paid journalists can say and not say? How many articles critical of Microsoft are you going to see on msn.com, despite the fact that they may be extremely popular(lots of people love to dis MS and AOL, for example)


      I really can't think of any reason for MS, AOL, et. al. to be so interested in buying big media outlets other than the fact that they want to influence what people think. There are certainly other more profitable businesses to be in, and news is certainly not the area of expertise for tech companies like MS and AOL. They are in it to influence public opinion(and for free advertising). The bias generated by this arrangement is overwhelming. I personally cannot completely trust a site like msn.com to report fairly on issues like the Microsoft antitrust case, and thats just one example.


      I agree most people are going to gravitate towards infomation sources that they agree with. Heck, the people here on /. never fail to slam Jon Katz, even though he clearly has superior writing skills compared to the other editors(because he's not "one of us"). But you can't discount the fact that the big players are basically buying public opinion and directly influencing the course of media with their money.

      • Well, I don't see that it necessarily follows that media empires are owned mostly to influence public opinion. I think AOL, MS et al. see that computers are ready to become entertainment devices, and entertainment requires content, so it's a natural move for them to own the content. Even if the bias argument is accepted, MS and AOL are competitors, and would therefore balance each other's bias out, at least in theory.

        While I believe that people don't like to be exposed to opposing viewpoints, I also believe that people can think critically, even when reading views that support their own. I have faith that the average person would read with skepticism a pro-MS article on MSNBC, the same way that Slashdotters make critical points in posts to otherwise pro-free-software articles. Maybe I'm just a hopeless optimist ...

    • But the people are BORING, REPETITIVE, and UNORIGINAL. If you put out 10 million viewpoints, as I've found at slashdot, you'll find two ideas, left and right. Period. No matter the subject or the posters of the subject, you'll find people on the left or right (or some combination thereof). When you repeat the process 10 million times, you'll always find people on the left/right of the graph. How many Abortion viewpoints you gonna listen to before you realize its just a simple trade-off of fetal rights vs. mothers rights? Or Operating systems? Or text editors? Or philosophies?

      The problem isn't that the net is boring, or failing to give voice to the 10 million people. The problem is that people are boring, and the thought that if we had 10 million ideas, that one of them would be good enough to compromise on, is ridiculous.

      -Ben
      • Actually I believe in father's rights as well, so my viewpoints on abortion don't fit into your neat little package.


        The root of the problem is, however, that in any argument the tnedency is to go to an extreme to make a point rather than to express the moderate view that you really hold. Especially in a medium like a web log it's difficult to maintain a moderate stance, because doing give the appearance of weakness in your viewpoint. Take a stroll through threads in past slashdot articles, find one that's based on a moderate post, and watch how quickly it degenerates to extremes.

  • Isn't slashdot an example of disinformation?

    Its regurgatated storied from these "bad" sites.

    Not to mention the bias.

    The fact is, everyone is human, everyone has a bias. News will always have a bias, unless news is delived from TWO people. Two people with opposite biases.

    Sure, you can say money is the reason that information is bad. But the internet kills most of that idea, doesn't it?
  • by Masem (1171) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:55PM (#3032405)
    The problem with any independant media group is that of credibility. News media groups like CNN, AP, and Reuters have spent years in the business building their reputation of credible reporting, and for the most part, if it's reported on one of those outlets, I'll trust that sources are sufficient credible to be true. However, even with local news outlets or sites such as Jon describes, there's no history or experience that they can necessarily proof to me, and so while they may truely be credible, I will have my doubts until it can be proven otherwise. And I still have my doubts; I have friends that will quote stories from these sources that sound very much over the top and of course will never be shown on national news. They're not the level of incredibility as with tabloids, but they are very questions, and wondering what sources they used and how credible are they; the continued use of anonymous or unrelieved sources doesn't help. Compare this with most national news stories that have access to key national figures and can get the word straight from their mouth, by-lines and all.

    Now true, I will grant that the first aim of the mainstream media is to make money, and thus, they are going to select the news stories that will attract the highest viewership. Which means if they have to drop details to keep people falling asleep and candycoat issues without stretching the truth, they will do so. There does exist some indy media that is less worried on the profit and more worried on the truth, and will report in greater depth than typical newsblurbs. However, again, the target audience for these indy media are not the population at large, but generally intellicuals that want more information than the mainstream can give them. Then of course, there is the indy media that goes on as little information as possible to stretch the truth as decribed above.

    As from MIB: "A person is smart; people are dumb", and all that the national media is doing is catering to people. Indy media, in most cases, is trying to cater to persons. The same thing with AOL; AOL and most big content creators cater towards people - independant sites (such as /.) cater towards persons, and just as with the media, some of these indy sites are good and details, while some are poor and over-the-top. That's what you get when you limit the scope of your audience and worry more on the content than about the profit.

  • I'm glad the Anchorage Daily News has some standards. The article was junk, basically just a diatribe and an illustration that Marty has some major issues to work out. Frankly, it's one of the most slanted, juvenile pieces of "journalism" I've ever read.

    Just what "award" has Marty's writing won, anyway? "Best Yellow Journalist, Mrs. Freckam's Third Period English Class?"

    Though, I'd have been more impressed if the Daily News had actually run his article through an editor before publishing it, and sent it to the circular file then.

    Jon Acheson
  • by brennan73 (94035) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:57PM (#3032413)
    From Disinfo's main "Paranormal" page:

    "It is interesting to see how the Internet's development has been hand-in-hand with the mass proliferation of inter-dimensional information. The reptilian phenomenon is of the astral or imaginal realm. The process of our coming to grips with the possible existence of reptilians, and fully comprehending the dimension of the mind, has the potential to trigger a larger awareness of our own multidimensionality, our spirituality and our relationship with Creation."

    Yeah. I been thinkin that for years.

    I just can't be bothered to sift through crap like this to possibly find something somewhere in there worth reading. Generally, when I hear something like:

    "links are refreshingly open-minded, incorporating ideas, opinions and responses far beyond traditional definitions of 'progressive.'"

    I consider it code for "they'll print any damn thing, even if it's silly, badly written, and completely devoid of usefulness." And sure enough, that's usually the correct assumption.

    Some of this stuff, I'm sure, is ignored by the Man because it challenges the status quo. But for much of it, well, there's probably a good reason why it's never been picked up by the mainstream media: it sucks.

    -brennan
  • Marty... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bleckywelcky (518520) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @01:02PM (#3032449)


    Did anyone actually follow the link, read, and then take Marty's work serious at all?

    Initially, I read the header:

    Marty Beckerman is an 18-year-old humor and opinion columnist living in tropical Anchorage, Alaska. His award-winning writing has appeared most frequently in The Anchorage Daily News, though occasionally manages to pop up in finer national publications.

    and thought, wow this is interesting, a young adult doing some actual work as a columist and apparently being successful... But then I actually read part of the body of his work labeled You Just Can't Lose when Jesus is on Your Cheerleading Squad.

    After reading the first page of his column, I stopped and returned to the top of the page to make sure I read this correctly:

    Beckerman's first book, Death to All Cheerleaders: One Adolescent Journalist's Cheerful Diatribe Against Teenage Plasticity was published September 2000 on Infected Press.

    What sort of crack addict book company would publish the crap this kid is writing... well Infected Press I guess, but the question was rather hypothetical, heh.

    This kid is not a columnist, nor does this work represent that he is able to relay any sort of humor. Although, it appeared that he was attempting to do some sort of column with some investigative reporting included in order to back up... the... uh... opinions? or something I guess... that he had. The column started off ok, not of very high quality but decent enough to continue reading. But there are various points in the column when you can realize that this guy is actually just a jackass trying to rant a few loose viewpoints. Here, he starts off asking about the modesty in the cheerleader's dress, and then before the topic has even been finished he throws in an inflammable remark-type question that the guest responds to anyhow (Marty = MB, Guest = Rose):

    MB: You dress more modestly?
    Rose: Yes.
    MB:
    Rose: Right.
    MB: They're like, knee-level instead of mid-thigh, or what?
    Rose: No.
    MB: By the way, how does Jesus tie into cheerleading again?


    Where did this guy get his interviewing skills? Seems like he pulled them out of his ass. Note to self: Never pull interviewing skills out of Marty's ass, you can get better ones out of your own ass.

    He then goes on to ask completely ridiculous questions in what apparently is supposed to be a semi-serious interview:

    MB: Would you ever, like, consider taking one of the girls' pompoms and painting it green, and then setting it on fire so it would be like the Burning Bush or something?
    Rose: No. We're not extremists.
    MB: But that would be hilarious, wouldn't it?
    Apparently, Rose thinks she is too good for my question.


    This could maybe be classified under humor (section: lame) but what is it doing in an interview within an investigative opinion column? This is ridiculous.

    The first page then ends with this portion of a second interview with the president of another Christian Cheerleading Organization:

    "So obviously both cheerleading and religion have come under scrutiny and criticism over the years," I say. "How would you respond to people who might themselves say 'Death To All Cheerleaders And There Is No God?'"
    "They would say what?" Coleman inquires.
    "You heard me," I inform. "They would say cheerleading is worthless, and then go preach glorious Atheism."
    "Anytime you get students involved in anything extracurricular, that's meaningful. You get them off the streets. Cheerleading is a character-builder, and there's a lot of positive things you can learn from athletics. As for faith, I think you have to walk the walk."
    It's at this point in the conversation I realize I'm completely bored, and proceed to hang up the phone. Fuck walking.


    You can finally sort of see where this kid is coming from: a place of no direction, morality, or ethics. He starts out with an inflammable question, hoping to get a repsonse he can poke at. But, when he is faced with some actual facts and serious views about life in the response, he cowers away and avoids all contact.

    I gave this guy a tad of my attention, believing that he might have some serious views on things... boy was I wrong. Don't let this guy pull a fast one on you - don't read his column (and possibly any other columns). He is, simply put, a jackass not worth paying attention to.

    • This kid is not a columnist
      no, he is a columnist, he just sucks.
      It's important to remember just because some is a ci=olumnist(or reporter, or doctor, etc..)doesn't mean there any good. It doesn't mean they know more. we must stop putting people on a pedistal because of some title they have.
    • Re:Marty... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by SPK (8321)

      Even worse:

      Yes, this was another piece of J. Katz drivel, but he went out of his way to misrepresent matters even more that usual. Either that, or he just failed to research his material.

      Our friend marty has his own website [martybeckerman.com], where one can read about the piece Katz mentioned. As for Marty's books, Marty was not published by some established press; he created his own "label" and "self-published". This is one step above claiming that I've published many articles because I've posted to slashdot [slashdot.org] and have my own website.[1]

      Nice job, Job. Keep up that high-quality journalism for which we've all grown to love you.

      -SK

      [1] I do have respect for authors who choose to self-publish and share their work with the world. I'm working on a similar project of my own, but it would have been much more reponsible for Katz to say something like "Marty's self-published volume 'xxx' (Infected Press, 2000)".

  • a bit juvenile... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hashhead (560057) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @01:07PM (#3032470)
    I've checked out disinfo a couple of times before - occasionally interesting but overall gives the impression of being quite juvenile - is it because they're simply young, or is there a deeper geek-autism-PDD link here? I wonder sometimes...

    Anyway, the 'Media Patrol' over at cursor.org [cursor.org] is much more my cup of tea - it draws a lot on the mainstream press (American and foreign) but does so in a way to point out the deeper issues and expose the spin that major media puts on things.

  • Two words ... (Score:2, Informative)

    adequacy.org [adequacy.org].

    Their articles are so well written that many people actually take them seriously. Unfortunately, I can't compare it to disinfo at the moment, because it (disinfo) seems to have been slashdotted.

  • Wide Range? (Score:3, Funny)

    by ptrourke (529610) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @01:13PM (#3032512) Homepage

    its content ranges from "The X-Men" and "Space Mutation" to "The Matrix" to pieces on the Real Jesus and Radiohead.

    That's a range? Basically sounds like Newberry Comics to me.

  • While it's great to point at sites like disinfo and such as great sources of non-mainstream AOL/MSN media, are these sites able to cover the cost of their existence for their owners? I think that is the bigger challenge to the 'net than competing between mainstream and fringe media.

    Adcritic was great... but then it couldn't pay for the bandwidth and services it was offering because nobody wanted to help pay for it.

    Will these sites and sites like these soon fold because, with added popularity or a decrease in popularity, the owners aren't able to afford to keep them live?

    Where is the business plan that can turn fringe media into an effective business model? Last time I checked, the only business model that was able to effectively *sell* content online was the pr0n industry.
  • by argStyopa (232550) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @01:17PM (#3032532) Journal
    Let's see, we don't like mass media because the information they present is filtered, edited, spun, and content-stripped away until there's little left besides indoctrinary pablum fit for the lowest-common-denominator viewer, John & Joanne Q. Public.

    But we LIKE disinformation.com because the information they present is filtered, edited, spun, and content-stripped away until there's little left besides indoctrinary pablum fit for the lowest-common-denominator "independent thinker", John & Joanne Q. Public.

    Oh yeah, sure. That's a HUGE improvent.

    Granted, disinfo.com is much more of the category of "oh look at me, I'm a free-thinker not beholden to mass-media" club, or perhaps the "look I'm different like everyone else" category. IMO you're just sucking at a different tit, and fooling yourself that it's more 'significant' because it's not mainstream. Well, sorry, that only means its got fewer error-checking hurdles.

    The 'real' web is what you make of it, not what someone shoves in your face as 'important'. I choose my content, and I find my own primary sources. I refuse to see ideolgue-flavored ranting as an example of the best the web can be, rather, it's an example of the crap that one has to wade through to GET to the good parts.

    And by the way, in re Marty's rant about cheerleaders: maybe we will never know if there is a higher power, but it certainly IS relevant, or does he disagree with Pascal's logic in the matter?
    • And by the way, in re Marty's rant about cheerleaders: maybe we will never know if there is a higher power, but it certainly IS relevant, or does he disagree with Pascal's logic in the matter?

      Pascal's Wager is a bad argument for belief [update.uu.se]. There are a ton of resources out there debunking it, but my favorite is that, considering the possible consequences of belief in the wrong God, atheism may actually be a better bet than theism.

      The Secular Web has an index [infidels.org] that provides a pretty thorough analysis.

      -brennan
  • The one problem with this type of site is that morons (like my parents) actually believe what they read and turn it into chain letters of protest.

    *growl*

    -Sara
  • by Sinjun (176671) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @01:22PM (#3032560)
    The great promise of the Net and Web has always been more truth

    In the words of Mike Haggar, have my ears gone insane? All the Web has ever offered as it became popular are 10,000 different versions of the truth. As wrong as The Media can get things sometimes, it's simply fantasy to think that the Internet has it any better. In fact, it's probably worse because at least in the mainstream media their profile is high enough that when misinformation is caught, it is brought to light and reputations are tarnished. I know this has happened to some of the news shows on the tube. On the Web it's every man for himself and there is no penalty for misinformation. It always worries me when people say, "Guess what I read on the Internet..."

  • by banuaba (308937) <drbork AT hotmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @01:25PM (#3032580)
    As someone who observed Beckerman's firing from the ADN (Anchorage Daily News) first hand, I must disagree with Katz's statement that he was fired for calling cheerleaders "a urine stain..." That piece passed the scrutiny that the editors desk gave all of the younger writers (the ADN had a number of reporters under the age of 18. they would write a weekly feature (sort of like a kid's page, but a little better) and if they were good, as beckerman was, some of them would get offered columns, usually on mondays)
    Beckerman was fired because he was a rude little bastard. He'd badmouth his bosses infront of god 'n everybody, he was rude to the copy editors, he would miss deadlines. He was just a bad employee, and using his death to cheerleaders piece as an excuse for why he was fired is just a ploy.
    • Disinfo is a good site, but not deserving of the heaps of KatzPraise that linger before our eyes.

      What about Katz's AOL'ing of Slashdot?? Dumbing down the general tone of our discussion is all it is good for. This "Article" on disinfo is more suited to a Blogger than Slashdot. "Gee, look at this website..." is just Blogging.

      Perhaps it could be considered an article, Katz does share with us some of his thoughts on Disinfo, making it something of an Op piece.

      Then we come to some of the glaring errors in the Katz piece. The comment above shows that Katz either "constructed" this background from 1) The "About The Author" section in the front flap or web page, 2) Sending an e-mail. No fact checking, nothing resembling Journalism.

      Disinfo carries enough oddball conspiracy theories, bizarre rumors, and outright (Wait for it) disinformation on their site to make them as reliable a news organization as The Onion. Disinfo makes Attrition.org look like a moderate monthly.

      Which brings me to another point: Why has Katz so conspicuously avoided mention of any other site?? If this did not start off as a Blog for disinfo, but more an examination of freedom on the Net, why were more sites not mentioned?? Dis info is not the only site of it's kind, and many would argue, not the best either.

      This article has the tone of my mother after stumbling onto Ralph Nader's homepage, "Ooooh! I'm reading something "strange"...."

      ~Hammy
  • Anatomy of a School Shooting [cnchost.com] by Dave McGowan

    just a little too far left and conspiratory for me. i am sure this book is great of the masses of disaffected and mentally unstable loose in society, but if this is the ilk of what this site presents....
  • Oh I see (Score:2, Funny)

    by Phayyde (192873)
    Jon Katz IS Marty Beckerman. Once again, we've all just been trolled by the master.
  • cheerleaders were "a urine stain on the toilet seat of America."

    Would that make JonKatz, "the urine stain on the toliet seat of Slashdot"? Or would that be his choice of topics to write about? Wasn't there a poll to end the stupidity that is JonKatz on Slashdot. I want news for nerds, not essays from some clueless dork that would his dot com from his backslash.

  • Sexual frustration (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AlphaHelix (117420)
    What amazingly transparent adolescent sexual frustration. "Oh, women find me abhorrent, so I'll vent my spleen on the American symbol of desirability." No wonder they don't let more 18 year olds write for newspapers. JonKatz has done it again, ladies and germs: he's found profundity in an intellectual vacuum, and proferred it to us as something worthwhile. Slashdot is really going down the tubes these days.
  • by pclminion (145572) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @02:21PM (#3032939)
    This seems oxymoronic to me. If a culture is vast, how can it be a subculture? It seems that as the net grows larger and more pervasive, the net culture will start to become the culture. Whether this is good or bad I leave as a question for the reader.

    As for the "information" being disseminated on disinfo.com, it sounds pretty useless to me. The X-Men, Space Mutation, The Matrix, Real Jesus, Radiohead? How does this qualify as an alternative culture? It's just the standard, blank-stare, low-IQ pop culture that the USA, and increasingly other parts of the world, are already swamped with. We need less of this tripe, not more.

    Also, I'd like to point out that the net can itself be a source of disinformation, particularly if you are trying to do scientific research. The net is full of bullshit scientific claims, proofs, and experiments, to the point where it is much more productive to just go to the library and get the information from the best source: peer-reviewed journals. The net has a long way to come until it's truly a source of unbiased, variegated, and correct information.

    Once again, Jon Katz takes aim and misses...

  • by Strange_Attractor (160407) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @02:23PM (#3032957) Homepage
    JonKatz, Feb 6 [slashdot.org]:
    Where's the heart of the Net now?

    The odd truth is that there probably isn't one.

    Good job, Jon - I guess you found it in the last 13 days.

  • Dangit, disinfo's /.'d.

    It never ceases to amaze me how few principles people actually stick to when moneys involved. Here is a site (and I was going to quote before it went down) based on the premise that popular media is being deceptive in order to make money. And the first thing that happens when I goto it is some little window pops up an advertisement for a @disinfo.com email address.

    Of course, the background was black and the text that said "For only $39.95 a year" was about #010101. In fact, it took like 30 seconds for me to actually figure out what it said since it was a silly animated gif.

    So this bastion of truth is trying to trick me into buying an email address using methods that surely wouldn't pass the FCC standards for commerical advertising (FCC has no standards for the net, but it does for TV). Right. Thanks again Jon.
  • Holy crap, I'm starting to question the sanity of Slashdot. While it's well documented that "we are being lied to by the corporate media," the solution to this is not a website which is less accurate and less well-researched than the mainstream media itself. If you are interested in investigative reporting that is too uncomfortable for the US press, check out projectcensored.org [projectcensored.org] as a start. Also, learn foreign languages and read non-english papers. But for fuck's sake, don't read disinfo.com and expect them to do all the work for you. The actual "information" on there is only slightly more accurate than astrology. Seriously, it is alternative news for idiots looking to reinforce their predjudices. If you find one piece there with serious investigative reporting that presents credible evidence for its thesis, please reply to this post.
  • Just a little inside info on Disinformation.com:

    I have fairly personal expereience with the owners of this site as, at one time, ran a entertainment & news magazine ( of the dead tree variety ) called, oddly enough Disinformation Magazine here in Vancouver, Canada. We also ran a related website under the domain we registered, www.disinfo.org. We started up Jan 25, '99. the following Febuary, The Disinformation Company ( parent of dismagazine.com ) served us with a cease and desist order for the use of www.disinfo.org and the name Disinformation magazine. Upon doing some research and getting legal advice we found that we the trademark for which we were being hastled was only applied for in Canada, not granted. and only a month before we recived a cease and desist order. Since we had been publishing for a significant amount of time before the trademark was appied for, we could beat the order under with proof of prior use. It is under Canadian common law. But, since we were cash strapped, we came to a very one sided arangement with our tormenters. Disinformation payed us 500 US for our domain and after significant hasstles and delays, paid for the registration of www.dismagazine.com

    We have since moved on to other, non profit things, but are pretty weary of these guys.
  • Its now clear why this article was posted. Mr Katz is referenced in their book as a wise point of view on the Columbine incident.
    The good news is, slashdot is also mentioned a couple of times.

    Quick review of the book: mostly tired old conspiracy theories. There are indeed some interesting articles. You just need a lot of tolerance to conspiracy gobblygook to get to them.
    Like digging through manure to find truffles or something. Noam Chomsky's opener is pretty good. The wild ramblings about suicidal and megalomanical Howard Bloom entertained me. Most of the conspiracy bits like the one about JFK make you feel real ripped off.

You can not win the game, and you are not allowed to stop playing. -- The Third Law Of Thermodynamics

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