Wednesday, November 23, 2005

CNN Trying to Use Tecnobabble to Get Out of Trouble

Personally, I don't like Dick Cheney. I don't dislike him, but I don't like him either. I also don't think the big X that kept flashing was meant to be seen by the public either (as they say "I think there is no there there"), but CNN's response is garbage. It is a response that uses the mystery of media production to its benefit, but never addresses the "root cause" of the event.

I quote:

"this was a technical malfunction, not an issue of operator error"

"but was inadvertently projected onto the screen by a malfunction in a "switcher" device, they explained."

They go on to talk about how a switcher is a device and not a person. This is true. Here is a page that briefly discusses switchers.

As you can see they are devices and not people, and can even be "software based" devices. I know because I used to use a switcher when I was a student at USC. I worked for their distance education program and was a switcher operator for various class room courses. When you operate a switcher you have multiple television screens where you manipulate a design that may or may not be shown to the viewing audience. Only one screen will actually show what the audience sees and it was a common pasttime among the various operators to play around with the screens not being used. I wasn's an Engineering student, and most of the courses were Engineering, so I would play around. I was lucky...none of my playing around was ever broadcast with the class. With others that wasn't true, they would sometimes accidentally hit a button and BOOM the image would broadcast and the phone would ring with questions about why such and such is being displayed.

I think this is what happened during the CNN broadcast, some techie was having fun in the back room (good for him or her) and something happened. Either they pushed a button or there was a software glitch, but anyone who knows anything about computers knows that "garbage in...garbage out" is the mantra of the day. Unless big Xs were appearing all over the place, the glitch wasn't the X. According to the article, "a place-holding marker used by technicians to cue up graphics." (Emphasis mine.) The glitch might have been why the X flickered on and off, but it wasn't why it was there. It might have been there as a place holder as CNN claims they use Xs for, but the X was likely put there intentionally by the operator. Not necessarily for nefarious reasons because it is entirely possible they were prepping queues for image inserts.

But come on! Be honest and don't try to go all, "you don't understand the hermetic alchemical technical machinations required to make a television program" on us. That is a cheap argument rooted in a desire to obfuscate meaning rather than admit wrong doing, even if it is an accident and there is "no there there."

Switchers are machines, but they have operators. Unless they want me to believe that CNN is entirely automated, in which case it is time to begin the Butlerian Jihad against the thinking machines.

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