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Thursday, June 17, 2004  

Around the blogosphere

Bush, Iraq and kid gloves

Blogger and composer Richard Einhorn at Tristero is surprised that editorial writers at the New York Times used mild language when saying George W. Bush dissembled about the invasion of Iraq. Understandably, Einhorn would have preferred those nice middle-class men and women at the top of their field be forceful, even bold. He would probably settle for honest.

The New York Times: Bizarro World Edition

Man oh man, the New York Times has truly outdone itself. It seems the editorial staff has decided to go out on a real limb and opine that Bush may have been. . .dishonest about the war rationale. No, he's not a liar. Just, you know. . .dishonest:

Of all the ways Mr. Bush persuaded Americans to back the invasion of Iraq last year, the most plainly dishonest was his effort to link his war of choice with the battle against terrorists worldwide.

No shit, Sherlock.

And what does the Times suggest? Now that countless thousands of Iraqis have died, well over 800 Americans too, and terrorism has increased mightily? Read it and weep, my friends: President Bush should apologize to the American people. . . .

I am not surprised. For all the talk one hears about the liberal media, the media isn't. I don't believe most newspapers have editorialists who are as far to the Right as most of the blogosphere is either. Instead, there is a tendency to hew to a middle-of-the road policy that leans more to the Right than to the Left. Furthermore, this is a situation involving people of power. People who can strike back if displeased with coverage of them. The writers at the NYT slipped on their kid gloves and made sure they fit before they penned the piece. In addition, be prepared for a 'but it doesn't matter' follow-up by at least some of the editorialists now that the admission Bush lied about why Iraq was invaded has been made. After the heeing and hawing, the status quo will be declared not all that wrong.

I speak from experience. My first job out of college was as an editorial writer for a large newspaper. Looking back on the time, I believe I was unqualified for the job. Youth, naivete and opinion writing should not be allowed to mix. But, at least I had a backbone. The editorial writers at the NYT probably lost theirs on the way to success. It is enough to lead a person to re-read Babbitt.

Visit Einhorn's blog to read the rest of that entry.

Outsourcing and 'inherent' abilities

If any of the journalism reviews have analyzed something that has caught my eye, I am not aware of it. It seems to me that there is less international news about other countries in major newspapers now that Iraq dominates foreign news. Though news from Iraq is foreign news, it is focused on the occupation by the U.S. Filling the foreign news hole with articles about the war may have squeezed out pieces about other foreign countries. Domestic news gets first priority at all newspapers. So, if there is limited space, I think non-war related foreign news likely gets left out. Could just be a personal impression. I wonder.

The Wily Filipino, Benito Vergara publishes a blog that chronicles news in Asia, especially in the Philippines, as well as in the U.S. He has been thinking about outsourcing.

We Internalize Storylines

While doing some surfing for yet another long-simmering project completely unrelated to the St. Louis one, I came across this report on outsourcing labor to the Philippines. The customer service / call center business is already well-known; the projection that the "aggregate growth rate" for this particular niche would grow by 50 percent to $864 (million?) doesn't look too farfetched at all.

The description of the Philippines' advantages over other Asian countries is rather interesting, though, as it could be read in funny ways:

In Asia, the country is in the best position to gain a large share of e-services contracts in view of the following reasons: affordable quality human resource; affinity to Western culture; strategic location; hospitable lifestyle and expanding infrastructure.

Or, if you will: low salaries, hostility to labor unions, a legacy of colonialism, and the desperation to do anything for cash

But there I am grousing needlessly about what is apparently a genuine economic boom that actually doesn't stink of sweatshop-style exploitation, so I should be a little more positive. I do like the way the dry and rigorous economist language gives way to culturalist explanations of Filipinos' seemingly natural affinity for, in this case, the animation industry:

Demand for Filipino e-services in this area is also enormous in view of the inherent ingenuity, creativity and artistry of the Filipinos. Aside from their artistry, Filipino animators stand out from the rest of the world for their multi-cultural orientation that enables them to internalize storylines and concepts for better artwork and faster execution.

This isn't unfamiliar either: "inherent" cultural traits are also retroactively employed to "explain" Filipinos' supposed "aptitude" for nursing, housecleaning, singing, and so on -- only a shade removed, really, from physical, i.e., racist, characteristics employed in similar fashion, such as small hands (the better to assemble tiny computer chips with) or more flexible backs (the better to pick asparagus with).

Still, there's something quite resonant about that "multi-cultural orientation," one that could be construed a kind of strategic rag-picking engendered by the colonial experience. And that part about internalizing storylines! It's almost... poetic.

One of the aspects of so-called diversity training that makes me wary of it is that it often relies on the kind of reductive stereotyping Vergara is referring to. That occurs when people are listing the 'strengths' of various cultures, ethnicities and races. The supposedly natural ease (subservience?) of Asians. The alleged superior physical strength (brutishness?) of blacks. The presumed guile (sneakiness?) of Jews. Claims like these are packaged as compliments in that situation, sometimes by not being explicit about precisely what is being praised. But, they rely on reclaiming outdated notions about being able to look at a person, group or country and know what the abilities of the individual or individuals are. Meant to be complimentary or not, that is stereoytyping.

Really related

Richard Einhorn and Benny Vergara are energetic people who maintain fine blogs and careers in interesting and stimulating fields. You can buy Einhorn's recording, Voices Of Light, at Amazon. You can order Vergara's book, Displaying Filipinos: Photography and Colonialism in Early 20th Century Philippines through links on his blog.

5:54 PM