Ronan Farrow: The Millennial Face of Cable News

By Jonathan Yuan ’14

GTY_ronan_farrow_jtm_131003_16x9_608At age 15, Ronan Farrow, the son of actress Mia Farrow, became the youngest graduate of Bard College in the college’s history, and then went to graduate from Yale Law School at 21.  He then casually went on to win a Rhodes Scholarship to complete his studies at Oxford at the ripe age of 23.  Furthermore, as Time reported, “he [Farrow] was a member of the Obama administration advising on NGO and humanitarian affairs in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2009, and was appointed as Hillary Clinton’s special adviser for global youth issues in 2011.”  He’s also been a regular contributor to The Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, and other publications.

And oh yeah – he’s only 26.

This kid’s basically a walking success story.  The combination of his beauty, brains, and famous mother has catapulted Farrow into celebrity status.  But as we all know, with fame, comes gossip.  As well as his own afternoon television news program…but more on that later.

The media world obviously can’t focus on something as uninteresting as Farrow’s academic and professional successes – it therefore desperately feels a need to dig into his personal life.  The past year has been littered with stories and accusations about the young man’s history and private life.

Everyone can’t seem to stay quiet about the fact that his biological father might have been Frank Sinatra.  As The Huffington Post reported, “Ronan Farrow recently sat down for his first interview since joining MSNBC and he was, of course, asked about his paternity.  His mother, actress Mia Farrow, admitted in October that his father could be Frank Sinatra and not Woody Allen as was believed.  When asked by The Hollywood Reporter’s Marissa Guthrie if he believed the story distracted from his work at MSNBC, he had this to say: ‘Don’t you feel like a quality journalist right now?’”

Furthermore, rumors have been swirling around Farrow’s sexual orientation.  As first reported by Page Six of New York Post, “Farrow…has come under pressure from gays to come out of the closet.  But a friend of his told me [columnist Richard Johnson], ‘He’s not in the closet. He’s been with guys, but he’s also been with girls. He’s open about both.’”

I genuinely cannot believe that “reporters” feel a need to constantly question Farrow’s personal life and take up time that could be better spent with him adding a voice to issues of actual importance – such as American foreign policy and humanitarian work.

But Farrow finally has that opportunity to add his voice to substantive issues in his expertise – the aforementioned fields of politics, foreign policy, and humanitarian work.  This past month marked the debut of his daily afternoon news program, Ronan Farrow Daily.  According to the Hollywood Reporter, Phil Griffin – the President of MSNBC – had been courting the young Farrow since last summer.  Griffin had been recorded as saying, “Within 20 minutes I just knew that he had a certain presence and confidence.  He knew what he wanted to say.  I just had a sense that the guy could do it.  What that thing is that enables people to communicate really well, he had it.”

Before we all scream “nepotism” in unison, I think we should look at the main positive that Farrow brings to the cable news network – a refreshingly youthful voice to a landscape filled with countless O’Reillys, Hannitys, and Matthews’, who largely lack the perspective of the Millennial generation.  Just a look at topics covered on the premiere episode of Ronan Farrow Daily show a range that cannot be found on any other news program.  Entertainment Weekly writes, “The whole show is very clearly being pitched at the college demographic…on the first episode, that manifested itself mostly in youthbait: weed, twitter, Girls.”

And this might not be a bad thing.  For a generation that is oftentimes lacking in the desire to analyze what’s going on in the world around us, milennials may just be sucked into the news via Farrow’s sheer screen presence and star power.

Furthermore, older generations constantly gripe about the idleness of we millennial generation and what better way to prove them wrong by bringing onto a cable news network a 26-year old Rhodes scholar, Yale Law School grad, and former special adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton?

Last Issue of 2013-2014 – Out Now!

Included in the May issue:

Amy Frieder ’15  covers recent examples of anti-Semitism in the U.S. and abroad

Cornell Progressive take a stand against oppression in the Queer community

Sam Naimi ’16 discusses Cornell’s lack of response to the recent hate crime against a  queer Cornell student.

Abby Golub ’14 discusses the importance of the Cornell Farmers Market Bread Club

Giorgi Tsintsadze ’17 discusses the recent ban on Twitter in Turkey

Amanda Aragon ’15 explains the controversy behind GMOs

…and more!

May 2014

On International Affairs: The Rise of the Individual in World Politics?

By Evan Harley Janssens ’16

One man powerEver since the fall of Soviet Communism and the demise of bipolarity, the capability of individual actors to influence the events of international politics has steadily increased. In our contemporary inter-state system, the mechanisms by which individuals pursue socio-political change are to no small degree fostered by the defining structural characteristic of the post-Cold War world: ‘nonpolarity.’ (Such a term was coined by the prolific American scholar and statesman, Richard N. Haass in a lucid essaypublished by Foreign Affairs.) As a consequence of the global, historic spread of information/communications technology, individuals pose a more dynamic threat to the peaceful relations of nation-states in our ‘nonpolar’ international system.

Regardless of the stark differentials of power relative to their adversaries, individual actors have and continue to exact havoc on the status quo of international affairs. Embracing Yugoslav nationalism, Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Archduke of Austria-Hungary along with his wife, precipitating the beginning of World War I and a new Europe. Having declared a holy war against the United States, Osama bin Laden assembled the organization of terrorists who committed the heinous attacks of September 11, 2001, ushering in an era of profound violation of human rights. Although ideological motivations were far from similar in purpose and rhetoric, the extent to which their respective actions shaped the course of modern history is undeniably large in scope. Despite significant disadvantages in terms of material resources, individuals remarkably display a propensity to challenge the distribution of power, and, more importantly, showcase a will to derail the possibility of lasting peace. To clarify, I define peace simply as a condition in which the international system – irrespective of structure (unipolar, multipolar, etc.) – is marked by a minimal level of armed conflict, at least among the major powers themselves, who hold the greatest share of military and economic power, and dictate the parameters of ‘rule-setting’ via international institutional arrangements. By virtue of modern technological advances and permissive structural features of nonpolarity, individuals – in pursuit of political ideals – are presented with an array of strategies to constrain the durability of peaceful relations among states.

Revolutionary fervor and religious zealotry are perennial features of history; they are essential bedrocks of a multiplicity of individual behavior and action in the political arena of international affairs. Rather, it is the manner in which individuals choose to express and realize political convictions that has so dramatically changed in recent decades. How is this so? What are the main enablers of individual empowerment in the post-Cold War international system? I contend that the broad forces of globalization – in tight conjunction with the structure of nonpolarity – constitute two such factors out of many that account, at least partially, for the enhanced capabilities of individuals, in countering the efforts of those who desire peace in world affairs.

Political and socio-economic relations among peoples has undergone an astonishing transformation that parallels (and represents a natural extension of) the rise of market capitalism and expansion of global commerce in the centuries prior to the Peace of Westphalia, and the continuing advance of economic interconnectedness since thereafter. Perpetuated and reproduced by our globalized economic system, technological progress continues to be a source of conflictual ‘unevenness,’ as developing states face the choice of embracing modernity or rejecting its intrusive tendencies toward socio-economic integration, in favor of ‘traditional’ reclusiveness. Without a doubt, outcomes of international politics are invariably subject to the crushing gravitational pulls of global market-based capitalism and financial integration. The consequent reverberations on, and disorderly adjustments of, societies to the pressures of such historic tumult likely constitute an ongoing system-wide parameter for the majority of political activity – within and among states. In other words, incessant shocks to social, economic, and cultural forms of organization necessarily condition the range of worldwide political behavior. For example, the defining procedural and normative underpinnings of dominant forms of political organization – such as democracy – evolve, for better or worse, to the tune of global economic developments. (Indeed, changing ideas in the realm of politics conceivably temper the historical manifestation and expression of forms of economic organization). Clearly, the implications on the content of existing and future political activity are immense, if, say, the procedural and normative meaning of democracy were to significantly evolve. But, the crucial take away concerns the relative share of power held by actors of the international-political system. For most of the history of the modern international political system, the nation-state has, and continues to, be the preeminent organized form of political power. Yet, its enjoyed sovereignty is increasingly disputed by a myriad of actors. Although a sci-fi future of ‘sovereign individuals’ is a distant reality, individual actors are endowed with more opportunities and capabilities to influence outcomes of international politics. Power shifts in response to shifts in structure. Arguably, the contemporary system is one in which such shifts are taking place, albeit at a gradual pace.

Internet-revolution_0It is hard to dismiss the many observable benefits of information technology, which accrue to individuals who wish to exploit the fruits of modernity for political purposes. Bolstered by online network systems that cheaply expedite international exchange of ideas and information, higher rates of literacy are more readily attainable for a larger percentage of the world’s population. In turn, information technology contributes to ‘political awakening’ for the individual who is, perhaps, brutally repressed by her own government, or mired in a vicious cycle of poverty. Those who are dissatisfied by civil politics, and feel offended by ‘secular values’ will find an impetus to politically act in an environment of social disarray. The attainment of broadband Internet access, and the utilization of social networking to rally one’s political cause is also a pertinent feature of the individual’s sovereignty to effect rapid change. To some degree, the ‘Arab Spring’ popular revolutions attest to this shift in power towards the politically motivated masses. The push and pulls of globalization are powerful, volatile forces, which at once augment individual choice, and collectively act as a potential springboard for retaliatory action against modernity.

In regards to those who employ political violence against civilians to further their strategic goals, the effects of increased interconnectedness are most clear. However, the implications for inter-state peace are less lucid. As one scholar put it: “The impact of globalization means that terrorist acts will be easier to plan and conduct, weapons will be easier to acquire and transport, and the enemy will be easier to reach than in the past.” For instance, modern financial capital markets are complex institutions that, in theory, magnify a terrorist’s range of possible activities to inflict damage on peaceful relations among states. Worldwide capital flows across national economies open avenues of opportunity for those who employ terrorism. The acquisition of remote-controlled robotic vehicles by terrorists is likely to increase as drone technology becomes less costly and more available via international goods markets. The aforementioned outcome is more likely to prevail than the acquisition and deployment of a nuclear weapon. It is difficult to remember an instance in history in which state leaders rationally sponsored the deliberate sharing of nuclear technology to a radical extremist group. Such an action would surely entail international condemnation, rendering a swift response from the major powers to punish the outlaw state, especially if the weapon detonated. Nevertheless, nuclear proliferation is still a weighty concern, as the spread of nuclear weaponry to North Korea by the Khan network, originating from Pakistan, surely indicates. Over time, global finance could facilitate the strategic efficacy of organized terrorist actors.

Thus, an interconnected world implies a growth in the capability of the individual. But, are individual actors more likely to deter the realization of peace among sovereign states than in recent past? Interconnectedness and technological advancement has had the dual effect of strengthening the centralized, bureaucratic nation-state. Computerization enables states to deter and prevent terrorist strategies via covert surveillance and intelligence operations on land, sea, air, and cyberspace. Many states now boast formidable arsenals of weaponized assault drones to stamp out vulnerable terrorist organizations. Also, states are rapidly developing cyber-security defensive systems to counter threats of individual cyber warfare. Therefore, in absolute terms, it seems as if individuals are more capable of threatening inter-state peace relations. It is reasonable to assume that the probability of an occurrence of a successful terrorist attack has increased. (Probability, in this sense, is not strictly frequentist probability, since the occurrence of a successful attack is an intrinsically uncertain and incalculable event, such as the outbreak of war or influenza). But, the effects of information technology on state capacity may have cancelled out, or surpassed, the benefits received by individuals from broad technological advance. It would be unwise, however, to assert that the expanded ‘tool kit’ of individuals does not have any bearing on the maintenance of peace. For the nature and scope of threats to peace have widened considerably over time, and it takes just one successful attack to inflict catastrophe á la 9/11. For instance, the capability of contemporary Islamist militants, operating within the context of a global jihadi movement, is heightened in comparison to that of the localized ‘Black Hand’ terrorists of the twentieth century. Irrespective of the relative intensities of their ideologies, the former’s potential for destruction on an international level is certainly greater than that of the latter’s penchant for violence.

Globalization has supported another key component bolstering the power of individuals to alter peace: the ‘nonpolar’ structural alignment of international politics. In our contemporary system, nonpolarity reigns. Power, of varying kinds, is dispersed, rather than concentrated, among a variety of actors – many which are not nation-states, such as corporations, supranational organizational bodies, and individual terrorist leaders who spearhead transnational militant movements. The free flow of goods, money, and information across national borders, associated with economic globalization, has had the cumulative effect of decreasing the role of the state in such matters, since it has little control or awareness of such commercial transactions and ideational interactions. Inter-state cooperation regarding the international economic arena is reduced. By corollary, individuals (among other actors) are empowered in a nonpolar world. Individuals who utilize terrorism as a tactic are particularly strengthened, since a great many “use the Internet to recruit and train,” navigate “the international banking system to move resources,” and take advantage of  “the global transport system to move people” (Haass 2008).

Multilateral efforts to counter individual threats will likely face significant hurdles in the near future, because, in a nonpolar system with a plethora of actors, mutual interests are harder to cement. Alliance-building and cooperation on global issues, like terrorism, is difficult since nonpolarity lacks “predictable threats, outlooks and obligations, all of which are likely to be in short supply” in the aforementioned structure as compared to those in the past that had constrained the possible ranges of state behavior in a more rigid fashion (Haas 2008). Surely this characteristic of nonpolarity lends an advantage to the individual seeking political change via radical violence. Elements of nonpolarity are derivative effects of economic interconnectedness. Both of these complex features of the contemporary inter-state system contribute to the enhancement of individual power. Therefore, it may follow that the potential for deleterious individual action on the peaceful order of international politics is greater than in the past. The magnitude of such an increase in power is certainly debatable.

Individuals threaten the peace of our international system in a myriad of ways in the post-Cold War era. I have argued that the global, historic proliferation of information technologies, in tandem with the structural entropy of nonpolarity, constitutes a principal reason for the recent, and ongoing, phenomenon of the dispersal of power in the hands of individual actors. This is not to argue that individuals are the central threat to contemporary inter-state peace, or that the nature of international politics has fundamentally altered. Rather, by virtue of their greater share of power, individuals are bound to play an increasingly essential role in the advancement, or deterioration, of peaceful relations among nation-states.

April Issue – Out Now!

Included in the April issue:

Carter Brown ’17  analyzes the potential ramifications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Betrearon Tezera ’14 discusses the role of women in the global “green economy” movement

Amy Frieder ’15 covers the Cornell Organization for Labor Action and the club’s current campaigns

Jonathan Jaffe ’15 discusses the role of the CEO in the modern corporation in light of the firing of Mozilla’s CEO

Amanda Aragon ’15 explains the controversy behind the Keystone XL pipeline

…and more!



March Issue – Out Now!

Included in the March Issue:

The Cornell Progressive comes out against the privileging of monogamy and Jessie Palmer ’14 explains DASH’s presence on campus

Vrinda Jagota ’15 reflects upon her experience abroad in Paris as a woman

Amanda Aragon ’15 covers the drawbacks of the new SAT

Jonathan Jaffe ’15 discusses NYPD discrimination against Muslim-Americans

…and more!