The Barbwire Molly Ivins Memorial Columniator Hall of Flames as of 8-3-2017
(in order of induction)

Ned Day
Hank Greenspun
Guy Richardson
Bob Brown
Mike O'Callaghan
Travus T. Hipp
Jake Highton


Guest Writings by Prof. Jake Highton

Requiescat in pace

University of Nevada Journalism Prof. Emeritus and longtime Sparks Tribune columnist Jake Highton passed away of a heart attack on 7 Aug. 2017. More information as it develops. May the great teacher rest in peace from work well done and a life well-lived.

Quick Jake Index
All items hereinbelow first appeared in the Daily Sparks Tribune unless otherwise noted. These were posted when the Tribune's website was down for an extended period. Thanks.

MORE: 2013 Barbs and Jibes by Jake

Newspapers will never die

2007 Highton columns & MAIN HIGHTON ARCHIVE

Election trifecta: Titus, Derby and Emerson

Defender of liberty
The glorious First Amendment has been left vulnerable
by the people charged with protecting it

Reno News & Review cover story 10-12-2006

"The Hat" starts badly

Most journalism "scholarship" contemptible

Vain search for radicals on UNR campus

Betrayal of the mighty First Amendment

The First Amendment: Keystone of Freedom

2004-2005 Jake Highton columns

Resources on a century of corporate propaganda

Election trifecta: Titus, Derby and Emerson
From the 10-19-2006 Daily Sparks Tribune
Reproduced by permission.
Copyright © 2006 Jake Highton

Rep. Jim Gibbons, a failure in Congress who is trying to recoup his political fortunes by winning the Nevada governorship Nov. 7, is a plagiarist, a blunderbuss, a reactionary and a McCarthyite.

In 2005, he told NBC News that anyone opposing public financing of the second inaugural of President Bush "obviously is a communist." Then Republican Gibbons railed against "Hollywood liberals," denouncing them as "tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, hippie, tie-dyed liberals." He intimated that liberals should serve as human shields in Iraq.

Crass words, embarrassing words, from a would-be governor. But even worse: it was plagiarized from a speech by an Alabama politician.

Gibbons’opponent, state Sen. Dina Titus, is a Democrat from Las Vegas. She is everything he is not. Intelligent. Forward-looking. Innovative. Nevada is overdue for its first woman governor.

Jill Derby is trying to win a congressional seat in Nevada’s 2nd District that a Democrat has never captured. If the anti-Bush undertow is as powerful as it should be, Derby could seize a traditionally Republican seat and help the Democrats recapture the House.

This would not solve the nation’s myriad problems but would at least put a brake on the excesses of the reactionary forces now holding the White House, the Senate, the House and the Supreme Court.

Derby’s opponent for the open seat, Dean Heller, would be just another Bush clone.

Few members of the Legislature are more deserving of defeat than state Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, of the 2nd District.

Polls taken by the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2001 and 2003 ranked him as the worst state senator in Nevada. But Washington did burnish his résumé in 2005 when a Review-Journal poll elevated him to third worst.

Washington’s poor record includes:

Finally, something is reprehensible about a black Republican. Washington ignores the terrible history of blacks in America. He opposes affirmative action and bashes welfare while progressive blacks talk about reparations for descendants of slaves.

Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.

"The Hat" starts badly
From the 8-31-2006 Daily Sparks Tribune
Reproduced by permission.
Copyright © 2006 Jake Highton

Milton Glick hit the University of Nevada, Reno campus running — the wrong way.

Glick, a week after assuming the UNR presidency, established his priority. Teaching? Research? Academics? Enlightenment?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Anyone interested in looking further into university affairs may go to the Barbwire 1996-97 archives. That interest has never waned, witness Prof. Highton's presence in these parts. You may also use the search engine for university-related keywords.



Glick gave a $100,000 salary increase to Mark Fox, the UNR basketball coach. Not to some of the brilliant researchers on campus, not to some professors of international renown, not to some excellent teachers and not to some influential historians.

No. He rewarded a basketball coach for resisting the lure of Nebraska. Indeed, it might have been a ploy because Fox got a nibble from Nebraska — never an offer.

Nebraska is in a far more prestigious conference, the Big 12, than UNR’s Western Athletic Conference. But Nebraska basketball is second-rate compared with Big 12 powerhouses Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas.

Fox now makes an obscene $500,000. (Oh, yeah. Glick said the $100,000 bonus would come from donors.) Fox went from $175,000 to $400,000 on July 1. Then, just five weeks later, a salary hike on top of a salary hike.

Outrageous. But the opiate of the masses is no longer religion (Karl Marx). It is no longer television (TV critics). The opiate of the masses is now sports. It is a national obsession.

Glick obviously shares that obsession.

His misplaced priority is much of what is wrong with university education. To paraphrase the great Robert Hutchins, president of Chicago University who had the guts to abolish the school’s football team, basketball has the same relation to education that bullfighting has to agriculture.

Nevertheless, the Reno Gazette-Journal approved of Glick’s priority, rejoicing for "the Wolf Pack Nation" and citing Fox’s ability "to put fannies in the seats." (In two seasons under Fox, UNR compiled at 53-13 record and went to the NCAA championship tournament twice. Fox was twice named WAC coach of the year.)

One knowledgeable sports observer estimated the Fox perks to be worth another $100,000.

One perk is a "courtesy car."

Fox said he is very happy to stay at UNR, "an institution committed to the total experience of college athetics (and) getting educated." (Despite a dismal national rate, the graduation rate of UNR basketball players is good.)

Rhonda Lundin, UNR sports information director, said that four of five seniors playing under Fox graduated. The fifth senior has been sidetracked by the NBA but has vowed to get his degree.

Glick wrote in the latest UNR public relations magazine: "We believe our mission as one of the nation’s land-grant research universities is a point of distinction with our focus on teaching (and) research."

The Fox decision belies that mission.

Glick came, saw and conquered. He impressed the university selection committee. He impressed the Board of Regents. He was hired virtually unanimously.

As part of his get-acquainted campaign he has been visiting faculty meetings of departments and schools. To at least one observer, Glick was unprepossessing and singularly unpresidential. An odd choice. He talks too much to be un homme sérieux.

Glick is a short, cocky guy from Arizona State where he was provost. He wears a big, brown cowboy hat. Will it "play" at UNR? Let’s hope not. Will he woo the faculty by his folksiness? Let’s hope not. UNR needs substance, not style.

One faculty cynic said of Glick: "another president enamored of himself — in hats!" Another faculty member refers to him as The Hat, suggesting that he is a cartoonist’s delight.

When Glick appeared before the journalism faculty recently, he wore a cellphone earpiece. Quite rude and insulting. In effect, he was saying: my phone calls are far more important than you mere professors.

One theory about Glick is that he is just the sort of president the system chancellor, Jim Rogers, wants. Not too strong, easily controlled.
And here’s another theory, an item for conspiracy buffs: Fox’s wife, Cindy, is associate athletic director.

In any case, Glick started badly, the worst possible way to introduce himself to the community. But let’s cut him some slack. After all, he’s been president just one month. Perhaps he will surprise us.

And he certainly can’t be as bad, can he, as his predecessor, John Lilley? Lilley was presidential-looking but a lousy president, grandiose and imperious.

Still, observing and listening to Glick briefly is a little like watching the start of a movie. If after the first l5 minutes you find it a bad film, it never does get any better.

Jake Highton is a longtime journalism professor at the University of Nevada-Reno. He is the author of "Nevada Newspaper Days — A History of Journalism in the Silver State." (Heritage West Books, 1990)

Most journalism "scholarship" contemptible
From the 8-24-2006 Daily Sparks Tribune
Reproduced by permission.
Copyright © 2006 Jake Highton

SAN FRANCISCO — The professoriate in general and university journalism educators in particular are among the most cautious people in the country. They are Establishment to the core.

No surprise really. Schools, the media and society indoctrinate them in "correct thinking." Nearly all are bland rather than feisty. Nearly all go along with the status quo rather than point out that the emperor is naked.

The reason is simple. Professors want to stay on the good side of deans. They seek tenure, promotion and merit pay. Radicalism is no way to get them—or to build a career.

Moreover, journalism professors seldom criticize the media because their journalism schools get gifts, endowments and scholarships. If some professor has the temerity to criticize the media, the article is almost never printed in America (except in that marvelous monument to a free press, the Sparks Tribune).

The Cultural and Critical Studies Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, meeting in annual convention in San Francisco recently, rejected my essay entitled The Glorious First Amendment and Its Betrayal. The essay expressed regret that few nations have the First Amendment and lamented self-censorship by the U.S. mainstream press.

The point is not the chagrin of a disappointed lover. The point is that of the more than 200 papers presented at AEJMC, only about 10 were worth reading.

Ah, but the critical studies division did accept papers about Korean cable TV, marketing in Bulgaria, Korean ads for mobile phones and billboard usage in Indian elections. All of the who-cares variety. Division members talk a good game about being rabble-rousers but do little rabble-rousing.

The nation is in the grip of unparalled reaction. But few papers and presenters at the convention even alluded to the disastrous Bush administration. Fox TV, where far too many Americans get their "news," should have been denounced. But, no, that is qualitative research. It is not the quantitative "scholarship" beloved by the AEJMC.

One reviewer who rejected my essay said there was "hardly a word or example in this paper with which he disagreed."

Another reviewer said: "The author does a solid job of summarizing various points about the First Amendment from other authors and weaves together their arguments in cogent fashion…the argument is justified…no significant material has been overlooked…the major scholars are here. We need to have more papers (like this)."

But: no sale despite the praise of the reviewer.

Most journalism professors lack anger and passion. They tease the obvious, emit profound-sounding garbage, measure trivia and contribute little to an understanding of the media. So much journalism "scholarship" richly deserves contempt.

The ruination of the journalism association occurred when the Association for Education in Journalism added mass communication to its name in 1983. This move blessed the chi-squares, who with their mathematical formulas and gobbledygook, turned media scholarship into bogus social science.

Examples from papers presented here: "In an effort to rectify the inconsistencies regarding the relative persuasive effect of gain- versus loss-framed messages"… "This research investigated the impact of normative intensity (i.e., strength of feeling) and crystallization (i.e., level of agreement) regarding communication behaviors"… "This paper uses a Lyotardan-Kuhnian frame to analyze…"

(Frame and framing are the reigning clichés of AEJMC paper titles. As for paper presenters, they cannot utter a sentence without interspersing two or three "you knows.")

The latest rage in newspapering is civic-public-citizen journalism. Under this inanity, every citizen is a journalist. But instead of a discussion of the pros and cons of people journalism, we get learned papers referring to Cronbach and Varimax and formulas "(r=.30, p < .01)" and "F(1,85) = 9.31, p < .01."

The whole concept of civic journalism is absurd. Newspaper editors and editors of the opinion sections are often third-raters. Ordinary citizens can hardly be exemplary.

One ridiculous paper presented by the advertising division: Penetration of Brand Evaluation on Hierarchy of Advertising Effect: a Structural Equation Modeling Analysis. (Just one of many similar silly titles.)

The truth is that journalism schools should not have advertising and public relations sequences nor should AEJMC have ad and PR divisions. Advertising and PR professors do not pursue the truth. They pursue selling and image-building, hardly the missions of higher education.

Amid the ever-proliferating welter of 31 divisions and interest groups, AEJMC has a few good divisions like history, law and newspaper.

But far too many AEJMC papers deal with the absurdities of the Aldine hypothesis, the Habermas theory "of communicative rationality" and "Taylor’s Six-Segment Message" in advertising.

Vain search for radicals on UNR campus
From the 7-6-2006 Daily Sparks Tribune
Reproduced by permission.
Copyright © 2006 Jake Highton

Three myths will never die in America. One: the exceptionalism of the United States. Two: the media are liberal. Three: universities are overrun by leftists.

I made a pitch recently to the journalism faculty at the University of Nevada, Reno, to join the Nevada Faculty Alliance, the campus advocacy group. (Teachers, like newspaper folks, eschew the word union. Union, like liberal, is a dirty word.)

I noted that the NFA defends academic freedom, fights for higher faculty salaries and benefits, lobbies the Regents, the Legislature and the governor on behalf of the faculty, and helps with faculty appeals of evaluations and amounts of merit pay.

My plea was met by vast indifference.

What, professors, who work with their minds, be contaminated by unionism? One faculty member said loftily that the NFA was not on her agenda.

NFA has about 130 members out of about 1,300 professors and staffers on the UNR campus. So much for faculty liberalism — let alone radicalism.

Then there was a seminar on campus this spring discussing the worldwide Muslim furor over the Danish cartoons that satirized Muhammad. The program, under the auspices of the UNR journalism school and the National Judicial College, featured four panelists who interacted with an audience of about 30. The title of the seminar: "Caricatures and Censorship: a Free and Responsible Press?"

Incredibly, the seminar was, in effect, censored. Not one of the cartoons that inflamed the Muslim world was shown. I can understand why the cartoons might not be shown by Establishment newspapers. They were inflammatory, offensive to Muslims.
(The Philadelphia Inquirer did run them, the only major newspaper in America with the courage and wisdom to show its readers what the Muslim demonstrations and trashing of embassies were all about.)

Journalism professor Ed Lenert, lawyer and PhD as his emails always remind recipients, moderated the panel and exchanges with the audience. He explained in an email why the Danish cartoons were not shown: "First, the purpose of the discussion was to go 'beyond the Danish cartoons.' There's been a lot of coverage about the specific cartoons themselves and I didn't want to go over that ground again. Second, I discussed it with the presenters (panelists) and it was felt that we should focus on U.S. cartoons in the context of a free and responsible press."

But the Danish cartoons were the impetus for the session. Why bother having a seminar if you don't show them? Academics are so cautious, nay, even gutless. Rocking the boat is not the academic way.

Dr. Lenert, who holds the august chair of Critical Thinking and Ethical Practice, showed about eight American cartoons. Every one of them should have run. Yet the audience and panelists engaged in deep soul-searching and philosophical agonizing. An amazing number of the cartoons were rejected by a hefty majority of the audience. Even some panelists turned thumbs down on a few cartoons.

Finally, after an hour and one-half of this brow-furrowing, I angrily cried out over the audience microphone: "What this panel needs and this audience needs is a Justice Black or a Justice Douglas."

Dr. Lenert ignored the comment, repeating some silly remark about "black and white." But the session demanded the viewpoint of First Amendment absolutists like Black and Douglas.

Paul Conrad, wonderful editorial cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times, put it well: "A cartoonist should get out of bed mad and stay mad."

That anger is reflected in a comment by Douglas: the very purpose of the First Amendment "is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest...or even stirs people to anger."

Editorial cartoonists, unlike newspaper reporters, make no effort to be fair. Good cartoonists are negative critics, sometimes even destructive.

Thomas Nast, 19th century giant of editorial cartooning, drew mordant and trenchant cartoons. One showed editor Horace Greeley shaking hands with John Wilkes Booth over the grave of Lincoln. Grossly unfair, hyperbolic. But that's how Nast felt about Greeley.

Cartoonists do not possess what the learned Professor Lenert calls a "moral compass." Nor should they. They are artists, not careful, "balanced" members of the professoriat.

Political cartoonists have no duty to be "responsible." They have no duty to be "respecters" of people's feelings. Nor should they ever be squelched in their vision no matter how vicious.

One guy in the seminar audience was bright, philosophical and profound. He said he would not have printed most of the cartoons. Like academics, he would make a lousy editor.

Betrayal of the mighty First Amendment
From the 6-22-2006 Daily Sparks Tribune
Reproduced by permission.
Copyright © 2006 Jake Highton

(Part II of an abridged version of an essay presented at the 4th International Conference on Communication and Mass Media in Athens, Greece, May 22, 2006.)

Perhaps it is a stretch to say that one-half of the world's problems are cause by religion and the other half by media. But it is true that the media are a grievous problem in America.

Only news that meets the establishment standard reaches the bulk of the American people. Leftist publications like The Nation and The Progressive constantly criticize U.S. domestic and international policies but have skimpy circulations and nil impact. Ditto for the truth-telling Truthout.com on the Internet.

Amy and David Goodman in their book The Exception to the Rulers, write: "This is not a media that is serving a democratic society…This is a well-oiled propaganda machine that is repackinging government spin and passing it off as journalism."

Soviet censorship was overt. U.S. censorship is covert: self-censorship.

Time and again the media refuse to print or air stories that are counter to the government viewpoint: Into the Buzzsaw confirms the subtitle Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press.

The book deals with stories that were neither printed nor aired. Essays indict CBS, Fox and CNN for the coverups and censorship – and pusillanimity.

Another huge problem is newspapering is third-rate editors. They are too respectful of authority, too deferential to power. Walter Pincus, national security reporter for the Washington Post, often had page one stories buried on page 17. Reporter Chris Hedges tells how often he had to fight two wars at the New York Times: one against Washington officials and the other with his editors.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reaped an astonishing 17 Pulitzers in 18 years. But Michael Shapiro noted in a Columbia Journalism Review article in March that former owner Knight-Ridder ruined a great paper by "endless meddling, cutting and demands for ever greater profits from its corporate masters."

The paper was no longer committed to good journalism. Instead, it was beholden to greedy stockholders.

Then there is the problem of phone balance. At Fox News Service, a rank cheerleader for the Bush administration, a conservative will be interviewed along with a rightwing Democrat. The liberal view is ignored – to say nothing of the leftist view.

The usual he-said/she-said journalism seldom leads to the truth. This bogus balance reminds you of the Churchill remark about giving "Jesus and Judas equal time."

The Downing Street Memo in 2005, which made it clear that Bush cooked the intelligence books for an Iraq war he devoutly wished, got little attention on the American networks. But while that major story was largely ignored, ABC News ran 121 stories on Michael Jackson and CBS News 235 during the two months the memo was newsworthy.

The Times went into paroxysms about the fiction of reporter Jayson Blair. But it said little about stories that really mattered: the Weapons of Mass Destruction and the mushroom clouds breathlessly reported by Judy Miller.

Miller gave he allegiance to government sources rather than to the American people.

Reporter Kenneth Bunting of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer noted recently how the long and well-documented Rolling Stone article by Robert Kennedy, Jr., accused the Republicans of widespread cheating with the vote during the 2004 presidential election.

But, Bunting pointed out, "the silence of the American establishment media has been deafening."

At the behest of White House officials worried that disclosure might do extensive damage to the Bush re-election campaign, the Times delayed for one year its explosive story about the National Security Agency spying. The Times was working for the White House, not the American people.

Another story the Times refused to print could have defeated Bush in 2004: bulgegate. During 2004 presidential debates, Bush was wearing an electronic cueing device. The paper of record refused to run the story.

(Former University of California journalism dean Ben) Bagdikian remarked angrily to Extra!, a publication of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, that "I cannot imagine a paper…turning down a story like this before an election. There was credible photographic evidence not about breaking the rules but of a total lack of integrity on the part of the president, evidence that he'd cheated in the debate."

Why this self-censorship, this refusal to run explosive stories, this burial of important stories among the lingerie ads? Establishment values and thinking. Reporters and editors are deeply engrained in American society. Schooling, religion, newspapers and television mold them in the mainstream viewpoint.

Journalists are Americans. It is their country. They too are patriots. No wonder the U.S. media are so often so weak when it counts most.

The First Amendment: Keystone of Freedom

From the 6-15-2006 Daily Sparks Tribune
Reproduced by permission.
Copyright © 2006 Jake Highton

(Part I of an abridged version of an essay presented at the 4th International Conference on Communication and Mass Media in Athens, Greece, May 22, 2006.)

The First Amendment is the most glorious thing about the United States. It is the cornerstone of liberty and freedom.

Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, dissenting in a 1951 case, wrote: "I have always believed that the First Amendment is the keystone of our government, that the freedoms it guarantees provide the best insurance against destruction of all freedom."

The First Amendment is a radical statement. Its command is absolute: no law. The amendment contains perhaps the finest 45 words ever strung together.

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut has written that the First Amendment "reads more like a dream than a law." He added: few countries have "been crazy enough to include such a dream among its legal documents."

Far more nations should be "crazy enough." It remains a shame that most countries do not have a First Amendment or its equivalent.

Take France, a nation which often has far better values than the United States. In 2004 a French court fined a magazine $375,000 for a review in which a wine critic called Beaujolais Nouveau vin de merde (shit wine). Wine is almost sacred to the French. That is why the judge in the case said the critic "seriously abused the freedom of speech."

He ruled: "By debasing Beaujolais to the point of scatology, and likening it to excrement," the writer for the wine magazine had "seriously abused the freedom of speech."

The U.S. First Amendment protects such "abuse."

Other French cases seemingly clog the courts. A French comedian was fined $5,300 for "inciting racial hatred" when he gave an allegedly anti-Semitic interview. Brigitte Bardot was convicted of inciting racial hatred for portraying Muslims as "cruel and barbaric" in her book A Cry in the Silence. She was fined $6,050.

Take Austria. A court in Vienna recently sentenced a British historian, David Irving, to three years in prison for denying the Holocaust. Irving was terribly wrong. But three years in jail for being stupid?

Take Italy. An Italian judge ordered Oriana Fallaci to stand trial on charges that she defamed Islam in her 2004 book The Force of Reason. She wrote that the Islamic faith "sows hatred in the place of love and slavery in the place of freedom."

An Istanbul court sentenced a newspaperman to six months in jail for daring to criticize a penal code provision barring writers and scholars from "insulting Turkish identity." Another Turkish court tried five newspaper columnists for "insulting" the country's courts. The "Istanbul Five" attacked court rulings trying to block an academic conference on the Armenian genocide, a verboten topic in Turkey. (The Ottoman Empire slaughtered thousands of Armenians in 1915, some estimates ranging up to one million.)

Singapore outrageously prosecuted the International Herald Tribune because it told the truth in an article on the flawed asiatic judiciary. It is ever thus in dictatorial regimes. The last thing the Chinese government wants is a First Amendment.

The United Kingdom could use a First Amendment. British libel laws are harsh, making it difficult for the media to criticize celebrities, powerful people and powerful institutions.

The press is far freer in America than it is in Britain which has an Official Secrets Act. The act forbids former intelligence officers from leaking to the press or publishing books about anything they did or about any event that took place while they were in government service.

Such a law would be unconstitutional in America. As one of the British law lords said about another official secrets case: "In a free society, there is a continuing public interest in seeing that the workings of government are open to scrutiny and criticism."

In America, critics are entitled to be abusive without being fined or jailed. What all too few Americans understand about the First Amendment is that it protects opprobrium, hatred, insult — and stupidity.

Justice William O. Douglas rightly said: the First Amendment is not designed to dispense tranquilizers.

Or, in the words of novelist Salman Rushdie, himself the target of a fatwa death sentence for writing his truth about Islam: "The moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible."

The United States is and has been a badly flawed nation. The widely accepted notion of American exceptionalism is absurd. But there is no gainsaying the wonderful First Amendment.

Jake Highton is a longtime journalism professor at the University of Nevada-Reno. He is the author of "Nevada Newspaper Days — A History of Journalism in the Silver State." (Heritage West Books, 1990)


People vs. Corporate Con Job

The Orwell Diversion by Alex Carey

Review of Alex Carey's Taking the Risk out of Democracy:
Propaganda in the US and Australia

ORDER Taking the Risk Out of Democracy
Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty
By Alex Carey
Edited by Andrew Lohrey
Foreword by Noam Chomsky
University of Illinois Press

CNN's Lou Dobbs' new book "Exporting America" quotes Carey

More Guest Columns
Travus T. Hipp
Orland T. Outland
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Andrew Barbano is a 37-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

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