The Best Quotes From Drew Curtis’ ‘How Mass Media Tries to Pass Off Crap As News.’

by John Hawkins | June 20, 2007 7:30 am

A couple of weeks back, I interviewed Fark’s Drew Curtis[1]. Since then, I’ve finished his new book, It’s Not News, It’s Fark: How Mass Media Tries to Pass Off Crap As News[2].

The book is outstanding; it’s light, funny, and it’s an extremely effective critique of the media from someone who’s apolitical. Here are my favorite quotes from the book,

“White House pressrooms (no matter which political party is in charge) toss out a huge dump of bad news around 5:00 PM every Friday. Which as far as I can tell is at least five hours after the media corps has clocked out for a three-martini lunch with no intention of coming back to work until Monday.” — P.10

“The challenge of reporting is to continually come up with new information on the issues on which you’re reporting. This can be extremely difficult if not impossible when dealing with sudden emergencies. Most terrorist attacks fit this pattern. Initially, the media is blindsided by the event. Eyewitness reports start coming in, the vast majority of which are inaccurate. Media outlets don’t have the option to remain silent about breaking news, so having nothing else to talk about, they repeat the rumors. Unfortunately, they don’t realize that people take rumor as fact from mainstream news outlets, or they do realize it but feel they have plausible deniability by reporting rumors as rumor rather than fact.” — P.14

“Media will ask survivors some of the most deplorable questions such as “How do you feel right now?” “Has this changed your life?” and “Do you think you’ll be able to recover and move on?” For most people following these events, the answers are always “Like sh*t,” Yes,” and “Hell no.” — P.15

“Take 9/11. After the shock wore off, Congress, the media, and pretty much every other interest group out there demanded to know how the U.S. government had let it happen. Today no one remembers that on 9/10/2001 no one gave a crap about terrorism. We all thought it couldn’t happen in the United States. We’ll be right back to that attitude in a short while if no more attacks occur, assuming we’re not there already.” — P.55

“If bird flu had killed 1.7 million people last year, everyone would panic. We’d have 72-point-font headlines screaming about the end of the world, riots in the streets, and general societal collapse if Mass Media is to be believed, given its dire bird flu predictions. It turns out that 1.7 million happens to be the number of people killed by tuberculosis in 2004. Three million people would be even worse, right? That’s how many people died from AIDS worldwide in 2004. Nobody is panicking.” — P.56

“…Media Fearmongering stories tend to always cover somewhat unlikely events. Recently I read of an initiative to require car manufacturers to install sensors that alert drivers when they leave a baby in the backseat accidentally. Along those same lines, there is an off switch for the passenger-side airbag in my car, a device that has caused only 30-40 deaths ever. By comparison, more people die every year from drinking too much water. Should Congress legislate safety shutoff valves for faucets? Should they regulate our water to keep us from drinking too much?” — P.57

“An interesting corollary to this media pattern that has popped up in recent years is advertisers getting a TV commercial banned on purpose. This seems counterintuitive, but it works amazingly well. A company intentionally concocts an offensive commercial and has it produced professionally. It then submits it to a TV network to be added into rotation with the other ads. The network then rejects it. Subsequently, the company in question raises a big stink about it in the media and puts the original commercial on its website for download. The result is a huge surge in traffic to the company’s Web site from curious people looking to download the banned commercial in question.” — P.63-64

“Readers assume information carried by Mass Media is true solely because it appears there. While Mass Media asks its audience to treat all media matters with a degree of skepticism, no one actually does. People expect Mass Media to do that for them, but it doesn’t. Whether it should is another issue entirely.” — P.95-96

“The main problem with “Headline Contradicted by Actual Article” is that most people don’t read articles, they read only headlines and move on. Judging from the click-out patterns on Fark, the average person on a given visit to Fark will click on maybe three links out of around two hundred. As for the rest of the links, they read the outrageous tagline, figure they know what the rest of the article says, and move on.” — P.109

“The real bafflement here is why the media even gives these (9/11 conspiracy theorists) coverage. Compare the two viewpoints. On the one hand we have thousands upon thousands of hours of forensic science, intelligence gathering, and contemporary media. On the other, we have none of these. The two viewpoints are not equally valid. We’re not talking about a religious discussion here, we’re talking about an actual forensic event witnessed by dozens of people. Just because a number of people believe something doesn’t make it a legitimate alternative viewpoint. I’m not trying to evangelize here. If someone manages to come up with some new evidence, such as a warehouse where the government is keeping all the passengers from the planes involved in the attacks, a missile fuselage, or otherwise, I’m more than happy to change my viewpoint. I’d rather be right than win an argument. I’m not holding my breath on this one, though. If the US government couldn’t conspire a way to plant weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in order to save face, I doubt they’re capable of pulling off 9/11.” — P.119

“In theory, “Equal Time for Nutjobs” should be harmless. The people being interviewed are obviously out of their gourds. The problem is that a Mass Media mention gives them instant credibility. The media audience automatically assumes that the Mass Media wouldn’t give coverage to anything they knew was patently false.” — P.131

“I fully expect that when I’m a senior citizen, I’ll have to read actual scholarly debates concerning the reality of the Holocaust. I guarantee you the first argument will be “We don’t know anyone who was there, so how can we prove it was real?” It’s already starting; Iran held one in late 2006. The media needs to cut this crap out and stop giving nutjobs a platform to stand on. And don’t give me the “where do we draw the line” argument. Just make a judgment call, already.” — P.132

“Like it or not, we live in a world where people will pay more attention to what a member of a famous boy band says on a technical subject as opposed to real scientists, who in theory should know more about what the hell they are talking about.” — P.137

“It’s going to be a long while before people forget that Hurricane Katrina pretty much destroyed New Orleans. After which, the citizens of that fine city promptly rebuilt it in the same place, ten feet below sea level right next to the Mississippi. What could possibly go wrong? Again, I mean.” — P.151

“‘Mysterious Repeating Sources’ are caused by the fact that news sources do a minimum amount of background research, especially during breaking news. If a piece of information originates with research they did themselves, they tend to do a decent job of fact-checking before reporting it. If it originates with someone else, Mass Media, or other blog-type media, they tend not to fact-check it at all.” — P.200

“Mass Media will respond that media issues are of great importance because they impact the public trust in news organizations. This ignores the fact that most people already believe Mass Media either makes stuff up, is biased one way or the other, or constantly gets information wrong. Finding out that journalists sometimes invent stories just confirms their preexisting viewpoint.” — P.248

“What people are interested in is not, for the most part, hard news. Witness the travesty that is CNN’s most popular articles section. Taking today as a random example, without looking beforehand, mind you, we have a main page story about Bin Laden preparing another attack on the United States. Hey, that’s real news. Most popular: “raw fish, air guitar help trio survive 9 months adrift at sea.” No further comment needed.” — P.251

“People don’t really want to watch or read news that does the right thing. The McNeil-Lehrer Newshour was a great example of this. Quality news, mostly information, and no one watched it. It was dry as toast in a diner at breakfast on Saturday morning. Is there any way to fix this? No.” — P.253

“Local newspapers may be lulling themselves into a false sense of security by thinking they can reverse their subscriber loss somehow, some way. Barring some amazing innovation that no one has yet envisioned, and that’s certainly a possibility, print media subscriber loss will not be reversed under any circumstances. A company depending on unheard-of innovation for its survival is about as effective as you depending on the lottery to cover your retirement.” — P.255

“It is highly likely that it may not even be possible to convert newspapers, radio, and TV to the internet and maintain the same income levels from advertising, because now marketing folks can’t lie about how effective it is anymore. And by drop in income, I don’t mean a loss of 10 percent; we’re talking 90 percent or more. That’s a conservative estimate; it could be much worse.

Pre-internet, Mass Media could charge for ads based on total circulation or viewership whether anyone opened the newspaper to page A5 or actually watched the evening news at 5:42 P.M. Now Mass Media can charge only if the reader actually reads the specific page in question. Fark’s own usage statistics indicate that the average Fark reader clicks on 2 or 3 articles out of 100 main page articles and 200 sub-page articles. The implication here is that people visiting Mass Media Web sites don’t read many of the articles. Putting it simply: On the Internet, Mass Media can no longer charge money for ads no one sees.” — P.262-263

If you like the quotes, you can buy It’s Not News, It’s Fark: How Mass Media Tries to Pass Off Crap As News, here[3].

  1. interviewed Fark’s Drew Curtis:
  2. It’s Not News, It’s Fark: How Mass Media Tries to Pass Off Crap As News:
  3. here:

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