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What is The Second Draft?
What role does cyberspace play in these concerns?
According to The Second Draft, what historically has been the role of media in democracies?
Why the slogan: Here's the evidence, you decide? Are you clones of Fox?
What makes you think the present situation constitutes a critical challenge for global media?
What is your strategy for dealing with this problem?
What distinguishes you from the million other news initiatives of this early 21st cn?
What tools do you propose to deal with the issues you raise?
What kind of interaction do you envisage with those who come to your site?
What is your position on the post-modern challenge to notions like "objectivity," "truth" and "facts."
Is The Second Draft a right wing or a left wing organization?
What does Chomsky have to do with this?


What is The Second Draft?
We are a media oversight venue for discussing how the media processes the information they gather and present to the public as news. Journalism likes to call itself the “first draft of history,” and in this age when media plays an increasingly powerful role in shaping public opinion, it can not only write the first draft, but play an active part in that history. It seems appropriate then, especially in cases where the media’s coverage has had a particularly sharp influence on the course of historical events, that historians examine this first draft and ascertain just how accurate it may have been. We hope to make an ongoing series of such incidents available to the public, and to encourage our media to produce reliably accurate and relevant material for the free citizens of a global civil society. We hope, thereby, to serve as a pillar of civil society on the threshold of the 21st century, when, especially via the media, globalization penetrates and transforms cultures the world over.


What role does cyberspace play in these concerns?
We believe that cyberspace has, and will continue to transform the nature of the public sphere fundamentally, and that in this new age of information glut, the public will place a high premium of information, analysis, and narratives that are reliably accurate and relevant. We also believe that the availability of such information has always been an essential element of any successful civil society. At this critical moment when the internet has made possible civil society on a global scale, but also created a whole new range of players and means to participate in this global public sphere, we face a challenge of unknown proportions. Among the most worrisome signs of our current situation is the mainstream media's failure to detect some basic deceptions and misinformation coming from other cultures.

According to The Second Draft, what historically has been the role of media in democracies?
History tells us that the "public sphere" in modern, constitutional societies arose from the conversations of people empowered by the new technologies of communication - printing, papers. Especially through newspapers, this public conversation contributed vitally to establishing and maintaining civil societies, dedicated as much as they can at any given time, to the freedom and legal equality of its citizens. In a sense, the emergence of an independent news media and an informed and active public was created the actors who established civil societies as sovereign nations from the late 18th century onwards. Radio, TV, and now the Internet, have all intensified the power and expanded the diversity of this public sphere, drawing new lines between public and private. The internet, in particular, looks like an innovation whose magnitude in its impact on the current world is comparable to that of the printing press on Northern Europe in the 16th century. Websites before 2000 will be like incunabula [books published before 1500, very rare].

We wish to serve, hopefully along with other such organizations, as pillars of civil society in the new global and internet version of that media and that public. We therefore address ourselves particularly to all of us - surfers of cyberspace - who live in this emerging global civil society as fish do in water, or, perhaps more accurately, as hothouse plants.
All societies dedicated to freedom, depend on a media with high standards. These standards serve to guarantee high levels of honesty, capacity for self-criticism, and trustworthiness in the material they make available to the public. Only then, we believe, can policy makers and elected officials make well-informed decisions in dealing with the immense challenges of this incipient global century. In providing this service as best we can, we hope to contribute to making this new century one of peace, prosperity, and responsibility.

Why the slogan: Here's the evidence, you decide? Are you clones of Fox?
It's not a slogan, which it may be with Fox, but a philosophy. We remain committed to this principle because, in our opinion, freedom can only flourish where the people are reliably informed, and trusted to make up their own minds, and where the people prove trustworthy not to make them up too selfishly. As opposed to propaganda, which informs people in order to manipulate their responses, we believe that good news media should inform people and empower them to make up their own minds. It is because the population trusted the chamberlain and the court, rather than their own common sense, that everyone ended up praising the emperor's new clothes.

What makes you think the present situation constitutes a critical challenge for global media?
The job of the media is to give us an accurate sense of what's out there, what's happening. When things like Rwanda can happen - the world did not hear nor respond for the long hundred days when a million people got machettied to death - or Sudan - where millions were and continue to be killed for over a decade without people hearing of it - or the case in question - where a patently false story has done untold damage - then the media is not doing its job. Right now, the trends of our time (Europe and America drifting apart precisely as Islamism becomes increasingly aggressive), seem dangerous to say the least. We believe that an honest media will offer a necessary component of a world where Islam and other religions can live in peace. And in a world where the perceptions of the media play a prominent role in decision-making - especially about things like war and peace - media failure can mean catastrophe.

What is your strategy for dealing with this problem?
To create a site where the issues that arise in specific cases of media failure which prove contributory to the current crisis. Whenever members feel that a given dossier about a news story is a) significant enough in its impact on the global stage, and b) questionable in its preparation as a story, we will host a discussion of the issues, pressure the media in question to produce their source material, and pursue the implications.
We open this site with the first such dossier that has come to our attention. This small but revealing dossier of unedited film footage from Palestinian cameramen suggests that, in their coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Western media fell prey to a widespread deception on the part of a journalistic culture of unrestrained advocacy. We want to then serve as a location for a broad-ranging discussion about this dossier, the larger crisis in the media at this time, and ways to contribute to a healthier media culture in the 21st century.

What distinguishes you from the million other news initiatives of this early 21st cn?
Hopefully, we are not alone in our concerns and our efforts. The problems of global culture will be met not with one perspective or approach, but with many. The issue is not whether news-gathering reflects a particular viewpoint, but how honest and disciplined that viewpoint. We hope that we represent one of many organizations dedicated to supporting civil society and the freedom and dignity of humanity that it seeks to foster, both in the world of news information, and more generally in the world of NGOs.

What tools do you propose to deal with the issues you raise?
We view the internet at 2000 as an innovation in communication at least as potent as the printing press was in 1500, and believe that the next mutations in religious and cultural discourse will rival those of the Renaissance, Reformation, and Early Modern science, this time on a global scale. We stand, therefore, to the cyberspace, as the earliest printers did to the printing press. In particular, the next generation of internet will permit the public to examine the footage from which mainstream media prepare our TV news. As printing made Lorenzo Valla's challenge to the forgery known as the Donation of Constantine decisive, so the internet makes our challenge to the media's inveterate errors viable.

What kind of interaction do you envisage with those who come to your site?
We have presented this documentation in both its raw form in a somewhat edited and clarified form. We invite visitors to view the material, use the tools we provide (maps, rules of thumb for determining time of day), to emit their own hypotheses about the sequence and significance of this material. We will post the results of your contributions (including dissenting views), at various discussion sites (forums*) where you can join in a conversation analyzing these materials. Rather than pre-digest the material, we hope that a broader conversation among cybernauts offers the best guarantee of a thorough analysis of the phenomenon and its implications. In a sense the footage provides evidence of a potential crime, a kind of forensic puzzle. Welcome to the investigation which will unfold over the next several months and years.

What is your position on the post-modern challenge to notions like "objectivity," "truth" and "facts."
We accept the idea that there is no such thing as objectivity in language, which inevitably issues from a subject/speaker. We accept that there is no such thing as a single, overriding grand narrative; and recognize that "grand narratives" often function as a form of domineering discourse that silences other perceptions (aka "hegemonic discourse"). Similarly we understand that there are plural truths, plural paths, and that all "facts" are constructed (factum means "made" as well as "done"). Thus we adhere to what we might call the "post-modern imperative": to listen to multiple narratives.
We do not, however, believe that all narratives are equal, and that we have no right to deem a narrative dishonest if the evidence so suggests. On the contrary, the dignity of difference only appears when we discipline our narratives to the feedback of a free discourse, in which others have the right to challenge any narrative and get a fair hearing. Without such a situation, the public sphere will not long survive.

Is 21st CMG a right wing or a left wing organization? We believe that this kind of thinking is now more harmful than useful. Ideologues tend, under stress, to move from sober appraisal to advocacy and dismissive stigmatization, often in the service of ignoring or exaggerating material to suit the world-view of the ideologues. Today's situation encourages left-wingers to ignore the bad news and right-wingers to welcome it. Defensive left-wingers have refused to listen to anyone with bad news and avidly embrace "narratives" that they think further their progressive goals, even when they backfire. In order to do so, they tend to dismiss anyone who takes the bad news seriously as retrograde neo-cons. Aggressive right wingers have dismissed progressive thinkers as soft-headed tree-huggers, and use the bad news to argue for war and aggression. The result: a conservative movement with limited social imagination that "reality tests" and a progressive movement with an active social imagination that lives in denial. We believe that creative and humane solutions to problems come from well-informed and compassionate thought. So rather than take sides in the current, impoverishing political duality, we hope to prove a forum where good and autonomous thinking and exchange takes place and perhaps new ways of "categorizing people", ways that clarify rather than obscure, can emerge.

What does Chomsky have to do with this?
Chomsky and his co-author Edward Herman have argued that much of the news in the western press - more specifically US press - is propaganda operating as neutral information, that this propaganda serves the agendas of the corporate owners of media outlets, and that reporters often serve, consciously or unconsciously, the interests of the government. Now certainly this mechanism may play a role, even a significant role, in the production of news in the US. Chomsky's great failure is an inability to distinguish between the advances, no matter how imperfect, of western free press with standards of accuracy and honesty, and a really authoritarian press in which propaganda plays the central role. "Manufacturing consent" may involve subtle and pervasive propaganda, but it is - by the standards of honesty and tolerance Chomsky appeals to - far preferable to the products of "coercive consent" in a culture where violence and intimidation back up the will of those in power.
This incapacity (unwillingness?) to appreciate the advances made by modern professional media has contributed significantly to the western media's vulnerability to misinformation coming from cultures where the media has not even begun to make the shift characteristic of - and necessary for - media in democratic countries. In such countries, a critic as remorseless and hostile as Chomsky would not be a darling of academic culture, but a dead man. XXI Century Media Group's website is established with both a profound appreciation of a culture which makes so dramatic and powerful a technology of communication such as the internet available to all, and a passionate commitment to making the quality of the communication as accurate and reliable as possible.
 

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