Thursday, July 14, 2011

Arab Democracies, Modern Media Discourse (Link Round-Up 7/15/11)


All The News That's Fit To Press Release
Newsrooms shrink, public relations firms grow
Michael Schudson, a journalism professor at Columbia University, CJR contributor, and author of "Discovering the News," said modern public relations started when Ivy Lee, a minister's son and a former reporter at the New York World, tipped reporters to an accident on the Pennsylvania Railroad. Before then, railroads had done everything they could to cover up accidents. But Lee figured that crashes, which tend to leave visible wreckage, were hard to hide. So it was better to get out in front of the inevitable story.

The press release was born. Schudson said the rise of the "publicity agent" created deep concern among the nation's leaders, who distrusted a middleman inserting itself and shaping messages between government and the public. Congress was so concerned that it attached amendments to bills in 1908 and 1913 that said no money could be appropriated for preparing newspaper articles or hiring publicity agents.

But World War I pushed those concerns to the side. The government needed to rally the public behind a deeply unpopular war. Suddenly, publicity agents did not seem so bad. Woodrow Wilson picked a former newspaperman, George Creel, to head his new Committee on Public Information in 1917. The group cranked out thousands of press releases in support of the war and started a speakers bureau that eventually grew to 75,000 people, all giving morale-boosting talks across the country.
*I currently intern at a subsidiary of one of the largest PR firms in the world.

Schmarvard
So while going to Harvard constitutes an invitation to join the American upper class, this invitation is pretty useless if you’re living in Canada. I often think about how I was given this invitation—this tremendously valuable thing—and I just kind of threw it away. I’m not sure how I feel about this.
The Enemy Of My Enemy Is Still My Enemy
As new Wikileaks reports indicate, despite the help of Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q Khan in building Iran's post-revolution nuclear program, some top Pakistani officials do not want Iran to become a nuclear armed power. The Pakistani leadership, wishing for their country to remain the only nuclear Islamic state, cooperated with George W. Bush's efforts against Iranian nuclear development.

This is unlikely to change anytime soon. Pakistan, for all its rapprochement with Iran, considers it to be a rival in Afghanistan.
Evolution Theories Evolve
Is there a fourth "domain" of life?
For now, Eisen’s undecided on where giant viruses fit into the tree of life. They could have branched off early, he says, “but I think it is equally plausible that even the big viruses have stolen their cellular-organism-like genes from hosts of some kind.”
One way to cut down on the uncertainty would be to fill in more branches on the tree of life. It’s easy to forget that for all the millions of species scientists have discovered, there are millions–maybe tens of millions–more that are waiting to be found. Right now, scientists are forced reconstruct the tree of life by comparing species that are separated by hundreds of millions or billions of years of evolution. The more species scientists add to the tree of life, the closer those comparisons will become. And there’s no telling what sort of strange branches the tree will turn out to have.
Party Time
Will ultraconservative Salafists benefit the most in the Egyptian election?
Before Egyptians took to the streets to topple former President Hosni Mubarak, the only option for a religious vote were candidates from the Muslim Brotherhood, who ran as independents in Egypt's parliamentary elections. Despite the regime's attempts to restrict its participation in the political system by banning parties organized along religious lines, it was the best-organized Islamist movement in the country. These days, the Brotherhood has moved to the center and shows signs of fracturing, with members branching off to start their own political parties. The emergence of Salafi parties has broken the Brotherhood's monopoly on the religious vote and created an opening for more fundamentalist views.
The history of Syria's failed Baath Party ideals
Between 1947 and 1949 an odd group of idealists and hard realists in the American government set out to intervene in Syria. Their aim was to liberate the Syrian people from a corrupt autocratic elite - and allow true democracy to flourish. They did this because they were convinced that "the Syrian people are naturally democratic" and that all that was neccessary was to get rid of the elites - and a new world of "peace and progress" would inevitably emerge.
What resulted was a disaster, and the consequences of that disaster then led, through a weird series of bloody twists and turns, to the rise to power of the Assad family and the widescale repression in Syria today.

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