Monthly Archives: July 2009

TV News and the Myth of Public Opinion (Kinsley vs. Borneman)

Fourteen years ago, the underrated (or at least undervalued) Michael Kinsley reported in The New Yorker (“The Intellectual Free Lunch,” February 6, 1995, reprinted in his collection Big Babies) on a reputable survey that found that “75 percent of Americans believe that the United States spends ‘too much’ on foreign aid, and 64 percent want foreign-aid spending cut.” (“Apparently,” Kinsley added as an aside, “a cavalier 11 percent of Americans think it’s fine to spend ‘too much’ on foreign aid.”)

The same people were asked how much of the federal budget went to foreign aid, and “The median answer was 15 percent; the average answer was 18 percent.” But “the correct answer is less than 1 percent: the United States government spends about $14 billion a year on foreign aid (including military assistance) out of a total budget of $1.5 trillion.” When asked about how much foreign-aid spending would be “appropriate,” the median answer was 5 percent of the budget; and the median answer to how much would be “too little” was 3 percent, i.e. over three times the actual amount spent.

Kinsley then adds, “This poll is less interesting for what is shows about foreign aid than for what it shows about American democracy.… Read more »

Recommended Reading: Hoberman on IN A LONELY PLACE

Recommended Reading: An excellent piece about In a Lonely Place, and Nicholas Ray more generally, by J. Hoberman in this week’s Village Voice. My only (minor) quarrel is with the following phrase: “An ex-Communist who was never persecuted, and must have wondered why…” From Bernard Eisenschitz’s definitive biography, one can pretty clearly surmise that Ray was protected from the Blacklist by Howard Hughes, for whom he was a sort of patch-up man, semipermanently on tap — something he must have been perfectly aware of. [7/17/09]… Read more »

The Ayatollahs Have Spoken

“Michael Jackson’s unforgettable memorial proved a moving high point in a saga that has captivated the world,” reads a headline in the July 17 issue of Entertainment Weekly. Since that’s (unsurprisingly) their lead story, this must mean that the Jackson memorial, whatever and whenever it was, must have qualified as entertainment — and that anyone and everyone who wasn’t captivated and entertained by it doesn’t belong to the world.

An interesting and highly diverse demographic — including, among others, me and my best friends, all the members of the Taliban, and, I presume, most of the people in China. I wonder if we could start a new religion based on this common ground. [7/11/09]… Read more »

Recommended Reading: Interview with Jia Zhangke by Dudley Andrew

Just because it isn’t available online doesn’t mean that Dudley Andrews’ interview with the great Jia Zhangke in the Summer 2009 issue of Film Quarterly isn’t the most aesthetically and politically eye-opening piece I’ve read so far anywhere about this filmmaker. And the fact that 24 City is on the cover, also illustrating James Naremore’s second annual ten-best piece for this magazine (which isn’t online either), should serve as a further incentive. [7/05/09]… Read more »