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The USA is the most corrupt country in the world and I have 10,000 posts that point heavily to that fact…

Time magazine’s Protester cover reminds us of the value of Big Media | Dan Gillmor December 15, 2011

As a PR stunt, Time magazine‘s annual “Person of the Year” exercise works to near-perfection. Each December, for an hour or two, the ever-shrinking publication gets to relive its gloried past, when it was a prime creator of America’s public agenda.

As a journalistic exercise, it’s long in the tooth. Yet it still resonates, and no more so than this year, when the magazine anointed “The Protester” as its #poy2011, to use one of the Twitter hashtag shorteners that is helping to spread the word. It resonates, in part, because it meets Time’s professed standard for its choice. The editors always insist their pick is based on the impact, for good or evil, the person or people have had on the world, but many prior picks have been, at best, debatable.

None raised more eyebrows than the 2006 pick: “You” – when Time literally put a mirror on its cover and told its readers they were oh-so-special. The point that year was to celebrate the way the public was becoming its own media in the Information Age. This year’s pick resonated with the one from half a decade ago, but unlike that one, it was entirely justified.

Time’s choice of Kurt Andersen to write this year’s cover article was smart, even inspired. He is a brilliant writer and observer. Using his own reporting and reams of material from at least 10 other journalists (they get credited at the end of the article), he pulled together the disparate yet connected threads of this still-emerging story. His writing, more than Time’s corporate and editorial pronouncements, gave the piece the gravitas it deserved.

Was the coverage perfect? Of course not. Had I been working on this piece I’d have made even greater use of the edge-in communications from the people on the ground in the places where protesters forced the most significant change.

Even so, the coverage was a reminder of what we in the new media world should keep in mind: what a news organization with deep pockets can do, even now in this age of diminishment for Big Media. Top editors, once they’ve persuaded the financial people, can order a broad, strategic deployment of journalistic resources – especially human beings who are trained to ask good questions and listen to the answers, and then ask some more questions – to bring perspective to a decentralized global movement.

In this case, of course, the perspective emanated from high floors of a corporate office building in New York. Which makes me wonder whether The Protester would have achieved such prominence had the Occupy Wall Street movement not captured national attention this fall.

The people who took over Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan were ignored early on by traditional media organizations. But something else was happening, as Andersen learned: “It was through my Twitter feed that I started noticing that something was going on in my city. The following weekend, I watched the YouTube video of a New York police deputy inspector casually pepper-spraying some random female protesters.”

The New York protesters, and their counterparts in many other cities, tapped into an abiding sense of outrage among Americans who’d realized that Wall Street’s sleaze-ridden institutions, especially investment banks had stolen the nation blind and then been rewarded for it. And then, when Congress considered preventing this from happening again, Wall Street and its corporate and political allies had blocked even that minor repair of a corrupt and broken system. Meanwhile, as the economy tanked and stayed in the tank, the robber barons had continued to rake in their billions in new, still-unearned wealth. And media institutions like Time, which were among the chief cheerleaders for the rise of the corrupt class, took their own sweet time to listen to the protesters who said: “Enough is enough.”

The point at which they could no longer be ignored, I believe, was when police abuse of protesters went viral – because citizen media creators, armed mostly with mobile phone cameras, captured the abuse on video and showed the rest of us, including traditional journalists, what was happening. (The New York Police Department, controlled by a mayor who owns one of the world’s biggest media companies, then assured that journalists would pay attention, by arresting journalists from big media companies whose offense was to attempt to do their jobs.)

The story of the world’s protesters, and the modern media they’ve used and inspired, is not remotely over. But their story is growing in part because old-fashioned media companies like Time are paying serious attention – and discovering that, like it or not, they are participants themselves in the global issues they choose to cover.

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GOP candidates December 11, 2011

As the first votes of the primary season approach, the BBC looks at the Republican candidates hoping to stand against President Barack Obama in November.

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  • Michele Bachmann

  • Herman Cain
    Campaign suspended

  • Newt Gingrich

  • Jon Huntsman

  • Ron Paul

  • Rick Perry

  • Mitt Romney

  • Rick Santorum

Michele Bachmann

The Minnesota congresswoman is an outspoken favourite of the Tea Party who rose to prominence with her strident cable television attacks on President Barack Obama and the Democrats.

Ms Bachmann built her campaign from a small core of staunch supporters and briefly led in the polls in the early caucus state of Iowa before falling into the second tier of candidates.

A devout evangelical Christian, Ms Bachmann has a law degree and worked as a tax attorney. Before her election to the House in 2006, she was a state senator in Minnesota.

On the campaign trail, she refers frequently to her five children and the 23 young women she took into her home as a foster mother.

See a full profile of Michele Bachmann.

Story of the polls

Select a candidate on the left to see poll figures.

Select a poll from the row above to see how figures vary.

On the issues

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Gingrich gambles on immigration November 24, 2011


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Newt Gingrich on illegal immigrants during the Republican security debate

New Republican presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich has risked his recent poll gains with a moderate stance on immigration in the latest TV debate.

The former House of Representatives Speaker said he favoured allowing illegal immigrants who have lived in the US for many years to stay.

His closest competitor, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, was among those who pounced on the remark.

Former frontrunner Rick Perry previously came unstuck on immigration.

Mr Gingrich’s gamble came as he and seven other Republican White House hopefuls sparred on national security at a wide-ranging debate in Washington DC, televised on CNN.

‘Magnet’

“If you’ve been here 25 years and you’ve got three kids and two grandkids, you’ve been paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don’t think we’re going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out,” Mr Gingrich said.

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A sorting of the grown ups from the kids”

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“I don’t see how the party that says it’s the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families which have been here a quarter-century.

“And I’m prepared to take the heat for saying let’s be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship but by finding a way to create legality so they are not separated from their families.”

His rivals seized on the remark.

Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann said: “He wants to legalise 11 million illegal aliens in the United States.”

Mr Romney said that any type of pathway to legal status would be a “magnet” for more unlawful crossings from Mexico.

Texas Governor Rick Perry suffered for saying in a previous debate that anyone who opposed his policy of granting in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants did not have a heart.

‘Highly naive’

Mr Gingrich’s remarks may not play well in conservative Iowa, where Mr Gingrich has surged into the lead in opinion polls.

In January, the Hawkeye State holds the first of the state-by-state nominating contests to pick the Republican candidate who will challenge Barack Obama for the White House in November 2012.

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Newt did himself significant harm tonight on immigration among caucus and primary voters”

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Tim Albrecht
Iowa Governor’s chief of staff

Tim Albrecht, deputy chief of staff to Iowa’s Republican Governor Terry Branstad, said on Twitter: “Newt did himself significant harm tonight on immigration among caucus and primary voters.”

A nationwide poll Republican voters released Tuesday by Quinnipiac University showed Mr Gingrich leading with 26% of support, compared to 22% for Mr Romney. A CNN poll had Mr Gingrich ahead by the same margin.

Mr Gingrich’s lenient stance on immigration is one shared by current Democratic President Obama and former Republican President George W Bush.

In one of the sharpest exchanges in Tuesday night’s debate, Mr Perry and Mrs Bachmann sparred over Pakistan.

Mr Perry suggested severing financial aid to the strained US ally, as “they’ve showed us time after time that they can’t be trusted”.

Mrs Bachmann said he was being “highly naive” because al-Qaeda might obtain Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and set off a bomb in a US city.

However, the Texas governor, excoriated after a previous debate for a disastrous memory lapse, survived the night without a major gaffe.

Huntsman, Romney clash

Herman Cain – whose campaign has been bedevilled by allegations of sexual harassment and who made headlines last week for appearing confused about US policy on Libya – was judged to have had a subdued night.

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Texas congressman Ron Paul clashed with other candidates on the Patriot Act, and on his calls to cut aid to Israel, withdraw troops from Afghanistan and decriminalise drugs.

Former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman was deemed to have had his strongest debate so far.

He displayed his grasp of foreign policy and clashed with Mr Romney in suggesting a more rapid drawdown from Afghanistan.

But much of the US media spotlight of the debate focused on Mr Gingrich.

Six months ago his campaign almost collapsed, but he is now the frontrunner, a spot formerly occupied by Mrs Bachmann, Mr Perry and Mr Cain.

Mr Gingrich, 68, led the 1994 Republican revolution that put his party in control of the House for the first time in four decades and was the author of its Contract with America manifesto.

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Security focus for 2012 hopefuls November 23, 2011


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The possibility of almost $1tn of defence and domestic spending cuts was criticised by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Governor Rick Perry (Footage courtesy of CNN)

The eight Republican presidential hopefuls have traded blows on national security at a wide-ranging debate in Washington DC.

Before an audience of foreign policy experts, candidates were probed on domestic and foreign issues including defence cuts, Iran and border security.

The latest debate put former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the spotlight after a recent surge in opinion polls.

The first Republican nominating contest will be on 3 January 2012 in Iowa.

Mr Gingrich is the latest in a series of Republican contenders to join former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at the top of the polls.

Analysts say the conservative Republican base is dissatisfied with the prospect of Mitt Romney as their nominee, and has been searching instead for a known conservative candidate capable of taking on Barack Obama in November 2012.

With few of the candidates boasting significant foreign policy experience, the latest debate offered a new challenge for the leading contenders.

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Real, substantial differences between the candidates were exposed. There was something of a sorting of the grown ups from the kids”

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Mr Romney criticised the defence cuts triggered by the failure to reach a deficit-reduction deal and mounted a strong defence of Israel, while Mr Gingrich and Texas Governor Rick Perry both spoke out on the emotive issue of immigration.

Ron Paul – a consistent anti-war voice – called for an end to US military adventures overseas, and former China ambassador Jon Huntsman, trailing in the polls but with with foreign policy experience, said troop levels in Afghanistan should be cut quickly.

Mr Huntsman found more speaking opportunities than usual, but Herman Cain, a confident voice on domestic economic issues, was less prominent than in recent debates.

‘Too nuclear to fail’

The likelihood of almost $1tn of defence and domestic spending cuts, now in prospect after Congress’ failure to reach a deficit deal, was roundly criticised by most candidates.

Mr Romney said the potential costs of Mr Obama’s healthcare bill matched the level of cuts to the Pentagon budget.

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“We need to protect America and protect our troops and our military and stop the idea of Obamacare,” he declared.

Mr Perry, once seen as Mr Romney’s chief rival but whose campaign gaffes have seen him lose support, said Defence Secretary Leon Panetta should resign in protest at the cuts his department could face.

Mr Gingrich, though, took a contrasting view. “It’s clear that there are some things you can do to defence that are less expensive,” he said.

On Pakistan, Mr Perry and Michele Bachmann sparred over US involvement with Islamabad.

Mr Perry said he would “not send them a penny” as the country has shown the US “time after time they can’t be trusted”.

Ms Bachmann cautiously said she would continue sending aid to Pakistan, because they were still sharing intelligence. Pakistan, Ms Bachmann said, was “too nuclear to fail”.

But Mr Romney described Pakistan as being in need of urgent development. “We need to bring Pakistan into the 21st Century – heck, into the 20th Century.”

Afghan pullout debate

There were few sharp exchanges between candidates in the debate, which was staged and moderated by CNN.

In a rare back and forth, Mr Huntsman and Mr Romney argued about the planned US troop drawdown in Afghanistan.

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We need to bring Pakistan into the 21st Century – heck, into the 20th Century”

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Mitt Romney
Former Massachusetts governor

Mr Huntsman said US troops should come home sooner than planned, with some acting as trainers to the Afghan army and a “drone presence” maintained in the country.

Mr Romney disagreed, arguing that leaving Afghanistan early would leave it open to more violence. The two former governors also argued over the president’s role as commander-in-chief.

On Iran, Mr Gingrich said Tehran’s leaders could be gone within a year if fuel supply to the government was restricted. A peaceful change of government in Iran would be vastly preferable to a war or military strikes, he said.

Mr Romney also said that his first international trip as president would be to Israel, to show US support for its long-term Middle Eastern ally.

On the question of the Arab Spring, Mr Huntsman said the US “did itself a dis-service” by acting too soon in Libya.

“Our interests in the Middle East is Israel and preventing from Iran from going nuclear,” he said.

Mr Perry, who declared support for a no-fly zone over Syria earlier in the day, appeared to soften his line somewhat, saying it was just one of several actions that could be taken against the Assad regime.

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Herman Cain’s low tech counterpunch | Paul Harris November 5, 2011


The Americans for Herman Cain advert ‘High Tech Lynching’. Video: YouTube


Who

Herman Cain, who, to paraphrase the famous Dos Equis beer advert, is probably the most interesting man in the world (or, at least, in the race to be the GOP nominee in 2012). Cain’s campaign has transformed from an outlandish effort at self-promotion to a genuine(ish) contender to become the nominee. After revealing himself to be a fun, charismatic presence in the debates, his poll numbers have put him in top position in Iowa and a few national surveys.

Though still dismissed by most insiders as a book tour disguised as a campaign, Cain himself is more serious than ever before. He is no mere “flavor of the month”, because, as he says: “Haagen-Dazs black walnut tastes good all the time.” (Though it should be pointed out Haagen-Dazs black walnut was, in fact, a flavor of the month.

What

There is nothing like a crisis for revealing the truth about a candidate or a campaign. Cain’s current woes – being mired in a scandal of sexual harassment – have proved no different. It has shown two things. First, Cain was woefully unprepared for his first barrage of hostile press on a serious story. He blathered and changed his mind and recollection almost by the hour, fueling criticism by those who say he is not serious.

Second, most Republicans do not seem to care two hoots about it. His poll numbers remain steady (and impressive), and money is pouring in.

Into which comes this ad. It was posted online on a website called AmericansForHermanCain.com and produced by a political committee called the 9-9-9 Fund, after Cain’s now famous flat tax plan. So, in theory, it has nothing official to do with the Cain campaign. But it is a murky world, let’s face it. This ad is clearly an attempt to leap to Cain’s defence and turn the scandal to his advantage by attacking the Republicans’ favorite foe: the Evil Liberal Media (or, everyone but Fox News and Rush Limbaugh).

When

It was posted online Friday and has already been widely viewed and reviewed. This cleverly exploit’s Cain’s popularity. By weighing in on the story of the moment, and a character as simply fascinating as Cain, the ad will get vast amounts of play for virtually no expense. Especially as the ad itself is made up only of news clips. No one broke the bank making this video. They did not need to.

Why

As NFL coaches say, offense is sometimes the best defense. This ad is a serious punch back at Cain’s perceived critics in the press – and I say “perceived” purposefully. After all, the allegations are real and certainly pertinent to any candidacy. Just imagine if one B Obama had faced such accusations in 2008. Does anyone really think Fox News would have ignored the story and chided those who followed it up as being racist? Of course not.

But, then again, we are dealing with reality here and the reality is that Republicans love to hate the media they believe hates them right back. So this ad wants to portray Cain as victim himself. He is being bullied by Evil Liberals who cannot stand the idea that there is such a thing as a black conservative and that he is doing well in the polls (there may actually be a lick of truth in that idea somewhere, but not the way this ad sees it).

It is an effective strategy, though. Cain is now the victim and Republicans get to rail at a familiar enemy. This ad basically is aimed at getting the campaign back on course and steering it away from a nasty storm of sex allegations and towards the familiar territory of throwing rocks at such clearly Orwellian organisations of Communist doublethink as Politico and NBC.

How

“Don’t let the left do it again” read the first words we see. The word “left” is big and spelled out in Communist red, just in case anyone forgets the world’s lefties brought us Stalin and the gulag archipelago. Clearly, these recent dirty tricks against poor Mr Cain must come straight from Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book.

“They can’t argue with Herman Cain on the merits, they can’t argue with Herman Cain on policy,” explains a helpfully black political pundit on Fox. Ignoring that that is precisely what many people – including the rest of the entire Republican field – have been doing for weeks, the ad then plunges straight into its main point. “Now we’re getting a ‘high tech lynching’ of the beautiful man Herman Cain,” says a disembodied female voice, which sounds like she was a caller into a radio talk show. The key words here are “high tech lynching” – the phrase used by US supreme court Judge Clarence Thomas, when he complained his own problems with sexual harassment accusations were used by racially motivated liberals to keep him from being appointed. But the voice sounds a bit jarring and so does the phrase “beautiful man”, unless the ad is trying to suggest Mr Cain might be just a bit too sexy for his own good (I don’t think it is).

Then, we get Limbaugh in a voiceover emotionally bewailing the fact that the mainstream media is indulging in “the ugliest racial stereotypes” in covering the story. Let’s just take a moment to reflect that El Rushbo used to play a song called “Barack the Magic Negro” on his show. (If you really want to know – and I hope you don’t – you sing it to the tune of Puff the Magic Dragon.) Anyway, moving swiftly on, we watch as the ad reels off its enemies in the shape of media logos from the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Politico, ABC and that well-known haven of Trotskyites and Maoists, NPR. It also slams leftist black figures like Al Sharpton and Cornel West for racially attacking Cain (again, there is a real point to be made here, but not like this ad).

Finally, we arrive at the ad’s point: Thomas himself and his famed “high tech lynching” defence. “It is a message,” Thomas is shown saying at the ad’s end. “Unless you kowtow to an old order, you will be lynched, destroyed and caricatured, rather than hung from a tree.” Wow. Strong stuff. I thought it was about the fact that two of Cain’s former employees got hefty settlements in return for non-disclosure agreements over allegations of sexual harassment by their boss. But I guess that’s just me.

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