TIME Media

Thank You, Duggars, Your Homophobia Is Really a Public Service

Duggar family - Woodbridge, VA
Reality telvision celebrities, Jim Bob Duggar, center, and his wife, Michelle Duggar make a stop on their "Values Bus Tour" outside Heritage Baptist Church on Wednesday October 16, 2013 in Woodbridge, VA. The Washington Post—The Washington Post/Getty Images

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

When gay marriage is passing in state after state, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is on the bandwagon

You would think that, decades after Anita Bryant went on a crusade to rid gay people from public life, we’d be sick of hearing D-listers call us names and voice their hatred against us in public. The latest to really take a stand against gays is Michelle Duggar, the human baby factory who is the matriarch on the reality show “19 Kids and Counting.” This may sound strange, but I would actually like to thank her for her recent behavior.

The Duggars stirred up controversy when they recently asked for people to post pictures of married couples kissing on their Facebook page and then deleted a picture of a gay married couple kissing. (Hello? Who do you think is keeping TLC in business?) When the news of this leaked, activists directed people to sign a Change.org petition to “end LGBTQ fear mongering by the Duggars” and calls for the show to be canceled because of their behavior. It now has well over 120,000 signatures.

For what it’s worth, this isn’t Michelle’s only recent offense. She also recorded a robocall asking that the people of Fayetteville, Arkansas, vote to repeal a law that stops discrimination based on gender identity. Basically she wants people to be able to discriminate against transgender men and women.

Now some people think that we need to silence the Duggars and those like them. I think we should let them keep going. Nothing defeats complacency like knowing exactly where gay people stand with millions of Americans. Now, it’s not a shock that the overly religious Duggars don’t like gay people. That’s sort of like saying that Paula Deen likes butter. But, when gay marriage is passing in state after state, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is on the bandwagon. There are still large groups of Americans out there who want to rob us of our rights, and if we don’t stay vigilant, we’ll never win the war.

Right now we’re having a bit of success in dealing with pop culture homophobes. In May, HGTV decided to cancel a show they were planning to air featuring David and Jason Benham when it was discovered that they had made some nasty comments about gay people very publicly.

Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty made some very homophobic comments to GQ this January, and was mouthing off once again this May about how gay sex is unnatural. He was suspended from A&E briefly for his behavior and the ratings for the show tanked after his disclosure.

That’s why we need these people to keep talking. There’s no doubt in my mind that there is hatred in the hearts of many people for LGBTQ men and women in this country, but if that hatred just stays in their hearts they’ll be working against us without our knowledge. The louder they become, the easier it is to target them. And when we can target them, well, we’ve seen that we can do things to shut them up. If only we could give them all a pie in the face like Anita Bryant got.

Having loudmouth opponents also serves as an effective recruiting tool for allies to gay civil rights causes. Like it or not, reality stars like the Duggars and especially the Robertsons–whose most recent season finale still clocked almost 4 million viewers–have a huge stage. When they make these sorts of remarks there is always a media firestorm and each time that happens, I would like to think that there is at least one fan out there who thinks, “God, what an idiot.” Hopefully that opens up some minds and shows those out there who may not be very hospitable to the “gay lifestyle” that bigotry is distasteful no matter how it manifests itself.

We don’t get to teach these lessons, show our strength or fight these battles if these people are silent. We need people like Michelle Duggar to be loud in order to get the hard work of activism done. So no matter how much it sucks, we have to just take it on the chin every time one of these yahoos has the bright idea to spout off. Trust me, it’s for the greater good. Every time a reality star says something ignorant about the LGBT community, a gay angel gets her wings.

Oscar Wilde, one of the world’s most public and tragic gay men, said “True friends stab you in the front.” There is no doubt in my mind that there are plenty of misinformed people in America carrying daggers against gay people, including those who have a public forum to discuss those views. Why would we want them hiding that hatred in the shadows when, out in the open, it can be diffused, acted on and used as a teaching tool to get more people on our side. We should all thank Michelle Duggar. She thinks that she’s stabbing gay Americans in the front, but what she’s really doing is bloodying herself.

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie who lives in New York. His work has appeared in Gawker, VICE, New York magazine, and a few other safe-for-work publications.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Opinion

Bill Cosby, Camille Cosby and the Oppressive Power of Silence

What the couple's response to allegations of sexual assault reveal about the scandal

Camille Cosby smiles, uncomfortably shifting in her chair. Staring off camera, switching positions, silent. In the latest contribution to the Bill Cosby saga, we see husband and wife side by side as he addresses the very act of questioning about his numerous rape allegations in an AP interview (above). Mrs. Cosby continues to smile and looks away from the reporter several times, both she and her husband presuming that the cameras have stopped rolling. I will not read into her silence. I will not pull meaning about this woman and her thoughts and decisions other than to say that in the watching, the silence is palpable, wince-inducing and profoundly painful.

That exchange highlights the most meaningful currency in this 30+ year long drama that is just now seeing its climax unfold on the public stage: silence. At every turn, it is the silence that serves as a proxy for power in the story of Bill Cosby, his alleged sexual deviance and the current downward spiral of public opinion. Silence here, as in most cases, represents the power wielded and power taken by those who are seen as, well, powerful.

In Cosby’s story we find accusations of women being silenced for decades by threats, lawyers, fear and a generally defensive public, who until now were uninterested in being awakened from sweet dreams of their TV father.

The NPR audio interview released last week showcases Cosby’s clearly pre-determined response to the softest, almost nervous questions about the rape allegations: deafening silence.

This should not be viewed as the mature response of a well respected, integrity filled man (and in the case of his wife, a beloved, regal woman) attempting to maintain dignity and stay above the fray. It should be seen as what it is: A power move by a someone so arrogant that he thinks he shouldn’t even be asked about the fact that 15 women are accusing him of a horrific crime.

The silence of those publicly associated with Mr. Cosby is also noticeable, as comedians who revere him and actors and actresses whose careers were made by him avoid addressing the not-new bombshell like the plague.

And even in the most recent AP video, as Mrs. Cosby sits idly by, the central tension between Mr. Cosby and the reporter revolves around him pressuring the journalist into, what? Silence. He calmly yet persistently requests the editing out of his own “no comment” response to the reporter’s request for a statement. Be clear: In the actual interview, Mr. Cosby refused to discuss it, saying “I don’t talk about that.” It is that exchange that he wants scrubbed from the record. He even wants his silence silenced.

History teaches us that silence is often the most effective tool of power. It forces others into submission. It attempts to control a narrative. It hides things. And it is often a strategic attempt on the part of the powerful to shame other voices – the victims, the oppressed, the challengers, the inquisitors – into a similar silence.

But right now as Missouri police use military tactics and tear gas to force silence upon outraged but peaceful Ferguson protestors and rich executives threaten female reporters who won’t stop talking with personal attacks pulled from private investigators (see the latest Uber controversy), silence is not ok.

And that is why, despite our national love of Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, silence is not an option. Not for me. Not for his countless fans. Not for a media finally ready to deal with the dirt and thankfully, not for the women who are sharing their painful, private stories. It is time to counter his silence with other forms of power. The power of our common sense to see behind a made-for-TV character. The power of these women to, at the very least, have their voices heard. And the power for all of us to seek truth and justice, however unsettling it may be.

Read next:

TIME Media

Don Lemon Didn’t Just Victim-Blame–He Perpetuated Multiple Rape Myths

Don Lemon in weekend anchor spot at CNN.
Don Lemon in weekend anchor spot at CNN. Robin Nelson—Zuma Press/Corbis

Soraya Chemaly is a media critic and activist.

An interview with one of Bill Cosby's accusers displayed an unethical lack of knowledge about sexual assault

On Tuesday, CNN’s Don Lemon interviewed Joan Tarshis, one of more than a dozen women who have come forward over several years to accuse Bill Cosby of sexual assault. These allegations resurfaced after a comedian pointedly commented on them during a routine. This, in turn, prompted Barbara Bowman to ask publicly in an op-ed in The Washington Post, “Bill Cosby raped me. Why did it take 30 years for people to believe my story?” Former supermodel Janice Dickinson is now the 15th woman to come forward with allegations.

The allegations are hardly new, and the interview could have been an occasion for a serious and nuanced conversation about rape, about how survivors respond to and survive assault and about well-documented techniques used by serial abusers. Instead, what proceeded was appalling. Lemon, in a few brief lines, blamed the victim for not stopping her assault, while also managing to subtly convey a whole series of rape myths.

Lemon’s most repugnant suggestion was this: “You know, there are ways not to perform oral sex.” He went on to clarify that he meant the “using of the teeth” as a “weapon” to stop the alleged assault. Put crassly, “Why didn’t you bite his dick if you didn’t want to perform oral sex?” Lemon continued, “If you didn’t want to do it… In other words, “you really wanted it.”

Lemon’s belief that a woman being raped should simply bite her rapist’s penis isn’t just ridiculous, dangerous victim blaming, but is based on what is possibly the oldest and most enduring rape myth: that “real” rape must be “forced” and corroborated by evidence of struggle. This was the FBI’s definition of rape until 2012.

First, sexual assault victims frequently respond physiologically with shock. Survivors often describe being paralyzed and unable to process or respond to what is happening to them. It’s a well-documented immobility response common in cases of rape.

Second, rape victims often have to quickly assess risk, as in, “This man is raping me. If I fight, will he beat me up or kill me?” Angering an aggressor by resisting or inflicting pain on him is not a survival strategy that women and children can pursue in equal measure to men. Lemon seems blithely unconcerned with immobility, or the risk of death, being a real effect of assault.

“Forcible rape” is rooted in the idea that some women aren’t “rapeable” and that men are entitled to sex. Historically, in this country, legally unrapeable people included, until relatively recently, black women (who were property), wives (also property), single women (who “give it away”), women who didn’t put up a fight, women who didn’t say “no,” and men. The idea of “forcible rape” is shaped by a history of racism and sexism, and Lemon’s approach to Tarshis’ accusation is common, and legally consequential, despite decades of challenges to its assumptions.

Lemon’s line of questioning was a lost opportunity to inform his audience about how predatory rapists work. Rape doesn’t happen by accident because women get drunk. It happens when predators target them. Incapacitation has been a consistent element in all of the cases leveled against Cosby. Tarshis herself admits that she was stoned during the encounter. Barbara Bowman, Tamara Green, Beth Ferrier and others have all told strikingly similar stories of being drugged and raped. And though it shouldn’t need stating, incapacitated people are not capable of consent.

Lemon also managed to undermine Tarshis’ accusations by pointing out that she “lied.” He explained, “You lied to him and said ‘I have an infection, and if you rape me, or if you do — if you have intercourse with me, then you will probably get it and give it to your wife.’” “She lied” is a persistent, and comforting, rape myth. It’s also the laziest, because it’s so clearly and consistently debunked. False rape accusations, though, are rare and no more common than false accusations for other crimes. Tarshis herself has subsequently gone to great and graphic pains to explain her failed attempted to dissuade Cosby.

The final myth Lemon implied in his interview is one that is rarely stated but that underlies most of the others: a rapist without a knife or a gun isn’t a “real” threat. The only reference to a weapon was to the possibility of a woman using her teeth. No mention was made of the reality that rape is the weaponization of the assailant’s body. Regardless of the fact that most men do not fit the profile of the rapist, we live in a world where girls and women are taught that to avoid rape means, to some degree, to fear men. That fact is the scaffolding of patriarchal oppression.

Ultimately, rape is a crime of status and entitlement. Cosby, who has declined to address the allegations, is a revered celebrity father figure. Longtime fans are flummoxed by the idea that this person, adored and emulated, could be a rapist. Most rapes, however, are perpetrated not by strangers, but by acquaintances, family members and friends. RAINN and the Department of Justice report that 73% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by a non-stranger: 38% of rapists are friends or acquaintances, 28% are an intimate partners and 7% are a relatives. They don’t use weapons to rape; they use authority and power.

Lemon’s words may have seemed few and simple, but the sum of their meaning and history is neither. I admire Lemon’s ability to pack so much rape mythology into just a few minutes of airtime. And, he got paid for it, to boot. But in seriousness, he, and his employer, displayed an irresponsible and journalistically unethical lack of knowledge about sexual assault. Lemon apologized on Wednesday if his comments “struck anyone as insensitive,” but no apology can undo the damage done.

Soraya Chemaly is a media critic and activist whose work focuses on the role of gender in politics, religion and popular culture. Her work appears in Salon, CNN, Ms. Magazine, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, RHRealityCheck, Role Reboot and The Feminist Wire.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Media

HBO Go Is Now on Xbox One

US-ENTERTAINMENT-IT-INTERNET-VIDEOGAMES-MICROSOFT-XBOX
A member of the Microsoft security team watches over the newly unveiled Xbox One videogame console at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, on May 21, 2013. AFP—AFP/Getty Images

It hasn't hit Sony's PlayStation 4 yet

HBO Go is now available on Microsoft’s Xbox One gaming console.

The online streaming service rolled out on the next-gen console Thursday, according to a Microsoft blog post. HBO Go is already available on the Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3, but hasn’t yet arrived on the PS4.

Currently, you’ll need a cable subscription to use HBO Go. However, in 2015, the cable network is planning to launch a standalone online version of its channel that Internet users can subscribe to without paying for cable.

TIME Newsmaker Interview

Univision’s Jorge Ramos Calls Obama’s Immigration Actions a ‘Triumph For The Latino Community’

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Jorge Ramos’ Sunday-morning show, Al Punto, often draws more young viewers than its English-language competitors Photograph by Charles Ommanney for TIME

The most influential Latino news anchor is taking a stand and wants you to notice

Shortly after President Obama scheduled his Thursday primetime address to announce new executive actions on immigration, his top White House communications advisor, Dan Pfeiffer, took to Twitter to boast. “Great timing,” he wrote, noting a rather glaring non-coincidence.

As it turned out, Obama had arranged to start speaking at the very moment Univision, America’s largest Spanish-language television network, planned to begin broadcasting the 2015 Latin Grammy Awards, one of the network’s biggest shows of the year, with a 2014 viewership of nearly 10 million.

Indeed, Univision promptly announced that it would delay the start of the live event to take Obama’s remarks, in translation, ensuring the President a massive platform in the most crucial political demographic, even as many of the English-language networks said they would skip the address. The chances are high that the leading lights of Latin pop music will follow up his words tonight with on-stage celebrations of the President’s actions.

The White House, not to mention its Republican rivals, long ago learned the power of a network most American cannot even understand. And at the center of that network is one of the most aggressive and influential newsmen in America, Jorge Ramos, who I profile in this week’s TIME magazine. (The full article is available to subscribers. Subscribe here for the print and digital versions; it costs just $40 a year.)

It is an exciting time for Ramos, who in recent years has remade himself as a bilingual journalist agitator, fighting for his audience to get immigration reforms in the United States and political reformation in his native Mexico. “It’ll be a triumph for the Latino community,” Ramos wrote to me in an email yesterday, after the President’s announcement was set. “It’ll demonstrate our newfound power. This is not something that we got; this is something that we fought for.”

For Ramos, the importance of the move was difficult to overstate. “This will be the most important immigration measure in 50 years—since the 1965 change in immigration law. In terms of numbers, it’ll have a wider impact than the 1986 amnesty,” he continued. “Although, it’ll be temporary, Republicans will have a very hard time rejecting it and not being seen as anti-immigrant or anti-Latino. Also, this will have a tremendous impact on the 2016 presidential campaign.”

If you don’t know who Ramos is, you probably will soon. He is the host to Noticiero Univision, a nightly Spanish language newscast; Al Punto, a Spanish-language Sunday political show and America with Jorge Ramos, an English language news magazine on Fusion. (His Univision news shows regularly beat their English language rivals among young viewers.) He writes a bilingual newspaper column that published internationally, and appears regularly as a pundit on English-language cable networks, like CNN and MSNBC. Polls among the U.S. Latino community rank him as the most trusted and influential Hispanic in America, beating all other political leaders, and his Q-score among Latino audiences places him between soccer magus Lionel Messi and the pop starlet Shakira.

You can read more about him, his activism, and his troublemaking approach to journalism in the magazine. But I have posted below some lightly edited excerpts from one of our interviews. We spoke about the scandals in Mexico, his past interviews with Mexico’s current President and some allegations that have been hurled against Grupo Televisa, the Mexican media giant that is one of the owners of Univision. We also spoke about the difficult balance he strikes between journalist and advocate.

TIME: So if you say that if [Obama grants legal status to] two million, the White House is being too timid. How do you know? What are you basing that on?

JORGE RAMOS: It’s very simple. We have at least eleven million people who are in this country as undocumented, without papers. So if you’re only going to help two million, it is not enough. It is clearly timid and wouldn’t be bold enough. Of course you will change the lives of two million people. But it is not what is expected from the community. And we’ve got to say that. The problem has to do with the expectations. When Obama came to power in 2008, right before the election, he promised us that he was going to introduce immigration reform during his first year in office.

What is the outer edge of how far you would be willing to go as a journalist who wants to advocate for his audience?

The limit is, I am a registered Independent. I would never say to whom I vote. I would never pressure anyone to vote for one party or another. That would be way too much.

What is your role as one of the few journalists from Latin America who can actually get [interviews with Latin American political leaders] interviews on television, and then ask whatever question you want? Do you feel an accountability role for those countries? Are you serving those populations too?

Well what I can tell you for instance is I feel with much more freedom to ask those questions. Because I can come back to the States and enjoy complete freedom of speech. If I had stayed in Mexico, instead of coming to the United States, I am absolutely convinced that I would have been a censored journalist. And a very sad one. Because I wouldn’t have been able to ask the same questions that I ask from this side of the border. There’s no question about it. There’s no question that I have more freedom than many journalists in Mexico who are criticizing the Mexican president.

Do you think [Mexican President Enrique] Peña Nieto lied to you when he said I’m not a millionaire?

I don’t know. But my role is to question him. And my role is to make sure that he’s not lying. And if he’s lying, that he’s accountable for that. And this is new.

In one of your columns recently you suggested that it wouldn’t be a bad idea if the Mexican legislature to try to take him from office?

But no one is doing that, no one is doing that.

You were suggesting it, no?

I’m reporting that there are thousands of Mexican who want Peña Nieto to quit, no? To resign. So here’s what I think our role as journalists—Congress is not investigating Peña Nieto. The Attorney General is not investigating Peña Nieto. Most of the media in Mexico are not questioning Peña Nieto. So somebody has to do it. And I think it is our role to do that. Precisely to do that. And I have the opportunity to do it from the United States to question what Peña Nieto is doing, what President Maduro is doing in Venezuela. With much more freedom than Mexican and Venezuelan journalists. I mean there is no freedom of speech in Venezuela. So how can you question President Maduro from Venezuela?

Do you think Televisa played a nontransparent role in the election of Peña Nieto?

What I can say is that Peña Nieto spent much more, much, much more than all the other candidates. And that millions of Mexicans question if he won fairly, no? And that’s – and that might be even an understatement. And that’s why Peña Nieto I think right now is having serious problems. Not only with his complete failure when it comes to security issues. And a questionable house owned by his wife. But also in terms of being legitimate in front of millions of Mexicans who don’t think that he won fairly.

My favorite line from [your book] Lo Que Vi is where you say that the joy of being a journalist is that you can preserve the restlessness and rebelliousness of youth.

That’s beautiful. I’m 56 and I still have the privilege of acting as a young reporter. Which is beautiful. Because when you’re young, young, you’re questioning everything. As a journalist you are forced to question everyone all the time. And therefore stay young, no? And that’s the beautiful part. And then, what I found fascinating about our profession is that you can actually talk to those who are never used to being questioned. And look, it’s only—we consider it only philosophically as journalists that it is truly our role to question those who are in power. And I think our most important social responsibility is to make sure that they don’t abuse their power. And I think this comes from being brought up in a very close, censored society like the Mexican society. But then, if I apply the same model here to the United States, then I very early understood that my role was to represent a minority. To represent Latinos, and especially to represent immigrants. For many different reasons. First because I’m an immigrant. I mean I can’t avoid that.

In one of the Fusion pieces you did on the border, you were standing next to the fence and you said it reminds you of the Berlin Wall. Why?

Because it is incredible, that nowadays you have open borders in Europe. And that’s a taboo issue here in the United States. I mean you can go – a few months ago I went from Spain to France, I paid 6 Euros at the border. There was no police, no agent, no one stopping me. And here in the United States, we can’t even discuss the possibility of something like that. I’m not arguing for open borders. But it’s a taboo issue.

Do you feel that your responsibility at Univision or here is to challenge your audience as well? The representing them and talking about DREAMERS and talking about what Boehner’s obstructing. Do you try and do stories on the other side of immigration? Like the unions being upset that wages on jobs are going down in meat packingplants because there’s undocumented workers working in them?

Of course, yeah but I think we have to concentrate on the really big issues. And the really big issues is that you have a community that is underrepresented politically. You have a community with eleven million people who are living in the shadows and in fear. And we only have three senators. We are 17% of the population. And we only have three senators.

And two of them don’t say what most of the population [says on immigration].

Exactly. So I think that explains why our role on Univision and on Fusion is different than what you would expect from NBC, ABC, or CBS, CNN and Fox News. Because a population who has no voice, or very little, or very few voices, needs to express themselves. I mean who is going to speak for all of the immigrants in this country? I mean who is going to tell John Boehner that he is blocking immigration reform? I mean, who is going to say that? It was – in an ideal world, one Latino senator and many members of congress of Hispanic origin would have gone to Boehner and told him in his face, you’re blocking immigration reform. That didn’t happen. So it is our role to do that.

Democrats [have] said—and you know these people and they’ve said it to you—that you’ve been unfair to the President because he’s the greatest President ever for the Latino community if you look at his push for minimum wage which disproportionally helps [Latinos], Obamacare covering Latinos disproportionately, economic progress, there are some measures that Latinos are improving, coming out of poverty quicker than others. What do you say to that criticism?

Well that he just didn’t keep his promise in the most important, symbolic issue for Latinos. When you have a community in which one out of two members is a foreigner, and you don’t deal with that issue as you promised, of course you’re going to be criticized. But I think I’ve been – as a journalist more than being objective, I think my role is to try to be fair. I try to be fair with both democrats and Republicans. I criticize fiercely President Obama for not keeping his word. For delaying action on immigration. And I’ve criticized fiercely Republicans for blocking immigration reform. They will lose the White House if they continue doing that. So I think, in that sense, I’ve been fair, or if you want, unfair to both.

TIME Media

Spotify Streams Will Soon Be Included on the Billboard Charts

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This photo illustration shows the Swedish music streaming service Spotify on March 7, 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden. Jonathan Nackstrand—AFP/Getty Images

1,500 streams will count as a sale

Streams from music streaming services like Spotify will soon be included on the charts that rank music album sales.

Billboard and Nielsen SoundScan will begin including streams in the rankings of the Billboard 200, the album charts that are the weekly benchmark for success in the music industry, The New York Times reported Wednesday. The new ranking formula will equate 1,500 streams from an album on services like Spotify, Beats Music and Rhapsody as a sale. Online downloads of ten or more individual tracks by consumers will also be counted as an album sale.

The inclusion of more digital services will likely help move acts that appeal to younger audiences further up the charts. Legacy acts whose audiences mostly buy CDs, however, could be negatively affected.

The music charts are increasingly being influenced by online music services. Last year, Billboard announced that it would begin including music streams in its Hot 100 ranking of the most popular singles.

[New York Times]

TIME Media

Apple Reportedly Making Beats Music a Pre-Installed iPhone App

Apple Said To Be In Talks To Purchase Beats Headphones Company
Beats headphones are sold along side iPods in an Apple store on May 9, 2014 in New York City. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

The change could come as soon as March

Apple is, unsurprisingly, planning to use the massive reach of the iPhone and iPad to put its newly acquired Beats Music streaming service in front of more people.

The company is planning to make Beats Music one of the pre-installed iOS apps in an upcoming software update, according to the Financial Times. The move could happen as soon as March.

Apple acquired Beats for its headphone and music streaming businesses for $3 billion earlier this year. While the headphones are a bona fide hit, Beats Music is thought to have a tiny user base—founder Jimmy Iovine pegged the number of subscribers at 250,000 in May, whereas rival Spotify has 50 million monthly active users, 12.5 million of whom pay for an ad-free experience.

Making Beats a default iOS app would instantly give it exposure to hundreds of millions of potential new users. But the strategy isn’t fool-proof—iTunes Radio is now a default offering in iOS, but it’s done little to upset Pandora as the king of Internet radio.

TIME Media

Nielsen Ratings Could Become a Major Headache for Netflix

Danielle Brooks, Uzo Aduba, Samira Wiley, Vicky Jeudy, Adrienne C. Moore
(L-R) Danielle Brooks, Vicky Jeudy, Uzo Aduba, Adrienne C. Moore, and Samira Wiley in a scene from Netflix's Orange is the New Black Season 2. Jessica Miglio—Netflix

Streaming service may lose leverage if viewership data is widely known

House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black are wildly popular hits that prove Netflix can make shows that compete with the best of cable programming…right? That’s been the narrative around the streaming service over the last year, but hard proof has been harder to come by. Netflix has never provided concrete data validating that its shows are watched by large numbers of viewers.

Soon Nielsen, the standard-bearer for TV ratings, may change that. The TV ratings company revealed to the Wall Street Journal that it’s planning to begin tracking viewership of online video services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video in December by analyzing the audio of shows that are being streamed. The new ratings will come with a lot of caveats—they won’t track mobile devices and won’t take into account Netflix’s large global reach—but they will provide a sense for the first time which Netflix shows are the most popular. And if the rest of the media world latches onto these new ratings as a standard, Netflix won’t be able to ignore them.

Ratings are important on traditional television because they help networks attract advertising. Netflix doesn’t sell ads and has argued that it therefore shouldn’t have to disclose its ratings. “It creates a benchmark that is irrelevant to the business but sexy and exciting to write about and puts a lot of performance pressure on shows that otherwise will be great shows over time,” chief content officer Ted Sarandos said at a conference in 2012. A Netflix spokesperson declined to comment.

But TV ratings are about a lot more than selling ads. Netflix viewership data would give traditional TV networks a better sense of how popular their shows are on the platform and, perhaps more importantly, how essential they are to the overall Netflix experience. This could affect negotiations for licensing programming, especially as more content companies such as CBS and Comcast launch their own streaming services. Networks already regularly leverage the popularity of their programming to extract higher fees from cable operators in very public spats, so they’d likely have no problem pulling Netflix into a similar scrum.

Ratings also help attract talent in the traditional TV world. HBO has risen to the top of the premium cable heap by continually serving up shows that are both critically acclaimed and extremely popular. If Netflix’s original shows are revealed to be watched less than those on TV, it might be harder to attract a David Fincher or a Kevin Spacey to the streaming service (even Fincher and Orange Is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan don’t know how popular their Netflix shows are).

Finally, regular ratings could introduce further volatility to Netflix’s already bumpy stock. The company’s share price tumbled more than 25% after it missed its own subscriber growth forecast in October. Investors might be further scared scared off if there were signs that the company’s growing stable of expensive original shows were not as popular as they believed.

Of course, there are ways Nielsen ratings could work in Netflix’s favor. If the company’s shows really are huge hits, that just lends more credence to its narrative as a television disruptor and could help convince more Hollywood stars to work with the streaming service. It’s also possible that Nielsen’s methodology, which is rather vague at the moment, won’t be considered accurate enough to be taken seriously. The company just recently acknowledged that it was reporting inaccurate ratings for the broadcast networks for seven months this year. And Viacom’s CEO has said he wants to adopt different ratings standards because he thinks Nielsen has been too slow to adapt to shifting consumer habits.

Either way, Netflix will probably have to contend with questions about the Nielsen figures from media executives, analysts, and reporters for a quite a while. It’s an unknown variable in their growth story that they’d likely rather not deal with. As the calculating Frank Underwood once said, “There’s a value in having secrets.”

TIME technology

Uber Rides into New PR Storm Over Digging Dirt on Hostile Press

Senior VP told celebrity guests the company should hire investigators to expose details of critics’ private lives

Ride-sharing app firm Uber has just ridden into another major PR storm after one of its senior executives suggesting the company should dig dirt on hostile journalists.

The comments, made by Emil Michael, the company’s senior vice-president for business, give further ammunition to critics who accuse the company of being arrogant and unethical.

Michael made the remarks at a dinner Friday at Manhattan’s Waverly Inn attended by luminaries such as actor Ed Norton and publisher Arianna Huffington. While he obviously thought he was talking off the record, a Buzzfeed editor who was invited to the dinner by journalist Michael Wolff says that that wasn’t communicated to him. And he promptly spilled the beans.

According to Buzzfeed, Michael “outlined the notion of spending ‘a million dollars’ to hire four top opposition researchers and four journalists. That team could, he said, help Uber fight back against the press — they’d look into ‘your personal lives, your families,’ and give the media a taste of its own medicine.”

Buzzfeed has been aggressive in covering what it sees as Uber’s cultural shortcomings, recently highlighting an apparent initiative by Uber in Lyon, France, to partner with an escort agency.

That episode had prompted the PandoDaily blogger Sarah Lucy to accuse the company of “sexism and misogyny” and announce publicly that she would boycott the service. Buzzfeed reported that Lucy was top among the targets of Michael’s anger, saying that she “should be held ‘personally responsible’ for any woman who followed her lead in deleting Uber and was then sexually assaulted” by a driver from a different taxi service.

The company didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment by Fortune, but the BF article carried the following statement from Michael:

“The remarks attributed to me at a private dinner — borne out of frustration during an informal debate over what I feel is sensationalistic media coverage of the company I am proud to work for — do not reflect my actual views and have no relation to the company’s views or approach. They were wrong no matter the circumstance and I regret them.”

Buzzfeed also quoted Uber spokeswoman Nairi Hourdajian as saying that “the company does not do “oppo research” of any sort on journalists, and has never considered doing it.”

She also distanced herself from Michael’s comments about Lacy specifically.

The partnering initiative with the escort agency in Lyon, meanwhile, has quietly died a death.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

 

TIME language

Words of the Year: How the Pithy Tradition Began

Student Using Dictionary
A spelling bee champion looks up a word in the dictionary in Detroit on April 30, 1963 Underwood Archives / Getty Images

Oxford has announced 'vape' as their 2014 pick, continuing a tradition that's a quarter-century old

In the summer of 1990, as President George Bush was grappling with going to war in the Persian Gulf and Nelson Mandela was traveling the U.S. seeking support for the end of apartheid, a man named Allan Metcalf had an idea.

A professor of English at MacMurry College in Illinois, Metcalf has also been executive secretary of the American Dialect Society for more than 30 years. Because his duties include planning the annual get together for the word-obsessed academics who make up the Society’s membership, Metcalf was busy arranging logistics for that year’s meeting in Chicago.

The attendees are types who religiously scour everything from periodicals to the banter of their college students for neologisms, shifts in slang, new concepts or funny portmanteaus — linguistic changes that almost always reflect something bigger than themselves. Language is a mirror, Metcalf thought, so why not make something of a moment when all those people, who have been staring in the mirror all year, are in the same room?

“I was thinking, every year TIME Magazine chooses a person of the year, and they choose it not by some computer program but rather the editors and readers making suggestions about who was influential. Why couldn’t we choose a word of the year?” Metcalf says. “If anybody’s expert on what’s important in our language, that would be members of our group.”

The members of that group agreed and on Dec. 19, 1990, at the Barclay Hotel in Chicago, history was made. On that day, about 40 people selected bushlips as the New Word of The Year (a portmanteau of Bush and lips, the word was a little-known term for insincere political rhetoric, created to deride Bush’s failed promise, “Read my lips: no new taxes”). Of course, Metcalf was not necessarily the first human to ponder the notion of declaring a word of the year; a TIME reader wrote a letter back in 1945 suggesting that atomic hold that title. But today’s annual foam party for word-nerds, which has institutions throwing out selections from October through January, has roots in the St. Clair Room of the Barclay Hotel.

For the first decade or so, Metcalf says, the “WOTY” ritual—an acronym used by the growing band of linguists who watch for candidates like Ahab for white flukes—was fairly small affair. That started changing when the American Dialect Society joined their meeting with the Linguistic Society of America’s in 2000, and again in 2003 when Merriam-Webster proclaimed its first WOTY to be democracy. Oxford University Press joined the parade in 2004, announcing that chav (a pejorative name for type of British youth) was their Word of the Year. Then, in 2010, Dictionary.com entered their own float with the simple, politically charged word change. Institutions with lower Q scores make the march too, like Collins English Dictionary (which chose photobomb as their word this year) and Chambers Dictionary (which selected overshare).

As close readers may have noticed, the ritual has not only exploded but also shed a tricky qualification since its inception in 1990. In the beginning, the American Dialect Society decreed that any nominee had to be new. That rule proved flawed over the years, as attendees would pluck a new word from the masses only to find out it wasn’t actually new at all (Not!, 1992′s selection, was eventually dated back to the 1800s) or that, like bushlips, the term was a passing thing that should have been wrapped in the next day’s newspaper rather than put on a pedestal.

By the 1990s, that rule had been dropped, freeing the Society’s members to select words like mom in 1996 (as a nod to the “soccer mom” voter who emerged as a key demographic in that year’s election) and occupy in 2011, recording a year in which a movement against classism took to the streets around the world. It also led to Metcalf penning a book, Predicting New Words, in which is presented his “FUDGE” system for identifying words with staying power.

Institutions have found ways to distinguish their selections amidst the delightful frenzy. Merriam-Webster relies largely on spikes in lookups, rather than making editorial choices, which is why they often end up choosing less-trendy words like last year’s science—a word, as Editor-at-Large Peter Sokolowski said, “lurking behind” big headlines. The people at Oxford University Press, which is monitoring English from South Texas to South Africa, position themselves as thinking more internationally and have often selected one WOTY for the U.S. and another for the U.K., like 2012′s GIF and omnishambles. And Dictionary.com, while taking lookups into account, looks to the news stories of the year and searches for a term that can serve as connective tissue.

Then there remains the American Dialect Society, which exists to study the English of North America—the only outlet to have a public, live vote that will count the hands of anyone who shows up (not just members of the Society), which now entails funneling hundreds into a room where people make nominations and give speeches for or against candidates. It’s a real good time, Metcalf says, which is just what he hoped for in the summer of 1990. “The main thing was I thought it would be fun,” he says. And now, he notes, since their vote happens in January, they’re typically the last to make their choice. “We like to think that we were first and we are the last,” he says.

For every institution, there’s an element of free publicity, sought or not, that comes with announcing a word of the year, a line that will hook reporters (this writer included) every single time. But that’s not just because WOTYs are clickbait. It’s a moment, as Oxford’s Casper Grathwohl says, to remind people that lexicographers are working hard, all year long, to catalog the immense historical record that is our language. And words of the year are a little bit of poetry that come out of a pithy tradition of reflection, regardless of whether, when we have the benefit of hindsight, the selections prove to have bottled up the zeitgeist of a year or mostly hot air.

“There are a lot of windows into thinking about where we are as a society,” Grathwohl says. “Coded in the language we use is a lot of information that we are communicating without directly saying it … When we select the word of the year, it allows people to dig underneath the surface of the words we use to think about what’s there.”

Read about Oxford’s 2014 Word of the Year: Vape

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