The Dilbertization of discourse
What's the nature of professionalism? What does it mean to "act professionally?"
My dictionary defines "professional" as one engaged in a specified activity as one's main paid occupation rather than as a pastime. In other words, the primary definition of "professionalism" is pecuniary. It's a link with money. Specifically, how to get it and how to keep on getting it.
Professional is often contrasted with "amateur." Particularly where the latter term is use pejoratively as in, "He's just an amateur."
For we radical environmentalists, whose warnings and arguments have been ignored, maligned and ridiculed since the Reagan Revolution dawned three decades ago, the Gulf of Oil disaster evokes a wicked brew of emotions and attitudes.
On the one hand, we feel the pain and horror of the unfolding environmental disaster as acutely as those who occupy the bioregion. We radicals have spent our entire lives fighting to protect the wildlife and natural features of the Gulf and every other coast, shoreline, riverbed or stream bank, wherever they've been threatened, which is everywhere. Despite the ennui that comes from witnessing first-hand decades of unrelenting ecological degradation, we still feel the pinch every time a special place is lost.
We can't help but revel in the never-ending spew of vitriol and venom aimed at BP, one of the planet's most contemptible corporate polluters. We delight in watching the arrogance and hypocrisy of the drill-baby-drills and political pimps -- like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and U.S. Senators Mary Landrieu from Louisiana, John Cornin from Texas and Lamar Alexander from Tennessee -- exposed with such laser-clear light.
There are many disturbing similarities between the United States’ disastrous war in Vietnam and the growing tragedy of Afghanistan: a corrupt ally unworthy of American bloodshed; a population historically adept at repelling invading forces; a promising presidency weighed down by runaway war spending.
But one difference between Vietnam and Afghanistan is even more disturbing than the similarities. In this war, we Americans are not being asked to take responsibility for the violence waged in our name.
This time, there is no draft to put my teenagers at risk of unwilling sacrifice. This time, we have yet to concede the domestic damage caused by a trillion taxpayer dollars spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
I sit on something called the Monroe County Economic Development Commission -- a (mostly) advisory commission to the county government's fiscal body, the county council, on matters of local economic development. In fact, I'm currently the commission's president -- a title that carries no additional powers or responsibilities but, like so much born of the state legislature, exists for existence's sake.
Every year around this time the economic development commission reviews the status of all of the county's tax abatements. A tax abatement is simply a grant by the local government to rebate all or a portion of a property owner's property taxes, in the hope of fostering some degree of economic development that wouldn't exist otherwise.
And every year we try and take some measure of whether or not that spirit of development is holding.
I was talking politics the other day, talking politics with a real politician. He and I, both amateur radio operators, were making a pilgrimage to Dayton for that city's annual "Hamfest" and the two-plus-hour drive each way afforded lots of opportunity to gab radios and realpolitik.
Much of my interest was on the recent party primaries and what the results, particularly in the far more interesting Republican contests, might mean about national sentiment and the situation going into next fall's elections. Was the hyper-reactionary "tea party" movement real? If it was real, had it peaked too early? Where was it all going?
On April 6, 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does not have the authority to prevent Internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or controlling Internet traffic.
National media outlets reported the story in a timely and accurate fashion. The court decision was described as a victory for Comcast and other ISPs -- and a blow to advocates of "net neutrality" -- the long-standing principle of Internet regulation that ensures web users equal access to all Web sites.
Unfortunately, there hasn't been much follow-up on this decision. Nor have the consequences of the court's ruling received press coverage or analysis. Instead, Tiger Woods' appearance at the Masters Golf Tournament and the roll out of Apple's i-Pad dominated the week's news cycle.
Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of traveling to Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill. to deliver the keynote address at EIU's 35th annual Communication Day event. Throughout the day, I spoke with students and faculty about my research and, more specifically, how I make use of alternative media in my teaching.
Throughout the presentation, I used examples of alternative media, from short clips featuring Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, to the work of self-styled video activist Ava Lowery. I wrapped up my discussion about alternative media in the classroom with a public service announcement (PSA) about the detrimental effects of radio payola on creative expression and public culture. Students from DePauw University produced this PSA a few years back.
During the Q&A session, EIU students asked some thoughtful questions about the current state of journalism and what, if anything, could be done to improve journalistic performance.
This is the time of year when classroom responsibilities overwhelm my journalistic passions, and my writing tends to be more reflection than exposition. And let me tell you, nothing spurs reflexive contemplation like finding yourself in polar opposition to someone whose life work has profoundly influenced your own.
In my case, that someone is Dr. Philip J. Landrigan from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, whose research at the Children's Environmental Health Center there first caught my attention in the late 1990s when I was a senior environmental writer at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). When I began exploring the links between toxic pollution and autism 17 months ago, a 2006 study Landrigan co-wrote titled "Developmental neurotoxicity of industrial chemicals" was the first link that Google produced when I searched for "autism and environment."
Nearly a year and a half later, I am persuaded that mercury and/or other chemicals in vaccines are among the industrial chemicals that caused the autism epidemic of the past two decades. I do not believe that vaccines caused the epidemic, but my work has convinced me that neurotoxins in them contributed to it. And in some children, they did cause autism. The question for them isn't whether, it's how, and it demands an answer.
This is the second of two columns that explore the relationship between popular movements and the news media. Read Part 1 -- "Made for each other."
If the Tea Party movement is the spoiled stepchild of the American news media, then the 911 Truth movement is the mad woman in the attic of U.S. journalistic culture.
As I suggested in my previous column, the Tea Party's notoriety and popular appeal is fueled by press coverage that is, by turns, wildly enthusiastic and wholly uncritical. In contrast, American news workers have long ignored, shunned or ridiculed the 911 Truth movement. Likewise, relatively few international news outlets have taken the 911 Truth movement seriously. Until now.
Democrat Evan Bayh is exiting the U.S. Senate in the same capacity he has served the past 12 years -- an embarrassment to his constituents, his party and an affront to democracy.
The Indiana senator's surrender will be remembered for two sound bites: He said he has loved serving Hoosier citizens, but he doesn't like Congress anymore. Less noticed but far more newsworthy was the antidemocratic manner in which he announced his retirement.
Bayh's claim that he loves serving the people of Indiana was a jaw-dropper for anyone remotely familiar with his political history. As a neophyte reporter at the Bloomington Herald-Telephone in 1986, when the son of former Sen. Birch Bayh was elected Secretary of State, I quickly learned what Evan Bayh was about -- Evan Bayh, and Evan Bayh only.