MEDIA

Scritti Politti: February 10, 2009

03/13/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Ah, journalism! How are we going to save it? Gently suggest they produce a better product? HAY-YELLS NO! As of this moment, I'm backing the Alex Balk plan, because why not? Behold Balk's idea:

My proposal is a form of micropayment subsidy that enables the continued existence of information-gathering and analysis so vital to our political literacy. A small fee will be added to the bill every individual or corporate entity is charged each month for Internet service. Those fees will be disbursed to newsgathering entities at the end of each month to pay for the kind of reporting which, despite the cost outlay required, rarely proves profitable.

Here's the best part: These monies will be apportioned based on the amount of clicks given to completely frivolous articles. (Call it a "tax on stupidity.") Can't get enough information about your favorite celebrity's current romantic travails? Who can? We all live vapid, soulless lives whose meaninglessness we can only endure by an obsessive prurient interest in the activities of people we see on the TV. It's human nature! But under my plan, clicking through to these stories will result in pieces of actual utility receiving some kind of funding.

Obviously, this strategy is not without its flaws. Who decides which stories are the mouthbreathing moneymakers and which stories are the worthy but boring cash-receivers? I'm proposing an advisory panel made up of 6 noted internet experts (Kanye West, Tim Berners-Lee, Jay Rosen (so long as he promises to never show up; dude seems like he would just go on and on), the junior member of Rick Rubin's accounting team who secretly writes Hipster Runoff, the kid who made Tumblr, and me) and 3 representatives of old media to be named later, although one of them should probably be Bill Kristol, because you never have to worry about him putting much thought into anything, which saves time.

Balk's got a whole payment plan thing going on, too, which he excerpts for your perusal. I think it's definitely worth trying. I would definitely start promoting Sunday Styles pieces in greater depth, and hey, I'd be all a-click on the horrible new Radar Online site, banging away at my mouse like Nick the Bartender in It's a Wonderful Life: "Get me! I'm givin' out wings!"

Halfway Up The Hindu Kush: Spencer Ackerman sizes up the latest opinion polls out of Afghanistan and finds that public support for the United States is waning. The one thread of good news is this: "...the Afghans don't appear to take the jump from "everything sucks and I don't trust the U.S. to keep me safe" to "the U.S. is an illegitimate occupying force that I will not support." Nearly 60 percent say the Taliban is the biggest threat to Afghanistan, but only 8 percent say U.S. forces are. Feelings about attacks on U.S. troops are transactional, dependent on where there haven't been airstrikes that kill civilians: it's 44 percent in areas where the U.S. has recently launched airstrikes, and 18 percent where it hasn't." So, there remains a "window of opportunity" to reverse these trends.

We Are Western European Scum: OH NOES! Mitch McConnell says that if the stimulus bill passes, America could well be on there way to suffering the same fate as...uhm...Western Europe. Where people live longer and stuff! I've never gotten this argument! Why doesn't McConnell double down and use Eastern Europe, or the Balkans, or Cuba, or the 'Stans, or something. I'm just not able to dredge up a whole lot of antipathy for Belgium, sorry. And I have a great well of pity for anyone who can.

The Casket Cause: Playing off a question from last night's press conference, Senator Frank Lautenberg is urging President Obama to stop keeping our fallen soldiers hidden: "I respectfully urge you to work to bring an end to the misguided policies of the past that seek to hide the sacrifice of our soldiers and the public recognition and pride that should accompany it."

Inside Baseball On Steroids: Washington Post blogger Joel Achenbach says Washington Post reporter Michael Fletcher asked the best Washington Post question of any Washington Post employee present at last night's Obama press conference. Washington Post! There! Those words have now lost all meaning!

Daily Dose Of Delight: Ben Greenman, satirical libretto penning genius, is back with another hilarious edition of "Fragments From..." in the New Yorker, with "Fragments From 'Madoff! The Musical!'" It has the appropriate ending, trust me.

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