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Why Should Aliens Look Like Their Spaceships?

By Taylor Marvin

I recently watched the 2013 film Ender’s Game, which brings to mind a science fiction pet peeve. In the film, humanity faces off against an insect-like alien culture, whose spacecraft mirror their appearance. This is a common motif in science fiction. In Star Trek: Enterprise’s third season, a reptilian alien species’ ships recall their scaled and spiked appearance, and the robotic attackers deployed by the alien invaders in the 2007 computer game Crysis resemble their creators. Across science fiction, the vehicles of particularly “exotic” aliens — that is to say, not human-like — frequently feature an “organic” design scheme of curved lines and bright colors that brings to mind the aliens themselves.

Of course, this is partially due to the constraints of visual media. Directors want audiences to be able to link spacecraft with the alien culture that built them, so deliberately draw visual similarities between the two. Writers and artists also often wish to suggest that aliens are alien, and craft spaceships as far from real-world designs as possible.

But there’s a problem with this logic. Humans are fleshy creatures, but our spacecraft don’t resemble chunks of meat in various shades of brown. Why should aliens, particularly aliens who build their vehicles out of metals and composites, just as we do, be any different? Why should alien spacecrafts’ visual aesthetic recall their creators’ bodies, while humanity’s do not?

This isn’t to say that aliens would be unable to learn about humans from our vehicles. The design of a fighter aircraft, for instance, reflects a human species whose individuals tend to be about five to six feet tall, who get most of their sensory information from swiveling visible light sensors mounted on top of their body, and who are unable to be upside down for long periods of time. More speculatively, perhaps alien attackers would draw cultural information from the fact that the combat air vehicles that fly off the humans’ bigger sea vehicles tend to be more brightly decorated with subcultural markers than the air vehicles that take off from the ground — though I’m not sure how helpful this information could be to an alien attacker.

All this is to say that while intelligent aliens would likely think and behave extraordinarily different from us, there are only so many ways to build a solar sail or fusion rocket. Particularly when limited by the universal constraints of physics and weight optimization, it wouldn’t be surprising for an alien spacecraft to roughly resemble human designs.

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Friday’s Reading List

By Taylor Marvin

Sano di Pietro, "Saint Anthony Leaving His Monastery," 1435. Via the National Gallery of Art.

Sano di Pietro, “Saint Anthony Leaving His Monastery,” 1435. Via the National Gallery of Art.

What I read this week:

Brushing off Obama’s accurate reference to a “regional power,” Russia strives to shore up diplomatic support among its BRICS compatriots. This appears to have been somewhat successful — though yesterday’s UN General Assembly resolution condemning the Crimean referendum vote invalid easily passed, Brazil, India, China, and South Africa all abstained.

Ukrainian military families in Crimea face the agonizing dilemma of whether to stay in the newly Russian territory — and thus risk future retribution should Crimea ever return to Ukraine — or flee, abandoning their homes and often families.

There are ominous signs that Vladimir Putin may be planning an invasion of Ukraine beyond Crimea, which would notably could allow a contiguous land-grab stretching to Transnistria. For his part President Obama has strongly warned against any Russian move.

Flush with oil revenue, African states are going on military spending sprees that include top-flight Russian air superiority fighters, expensive aircraft useless for the low-intensity wars most common in the continent. Why? Most likely, prestige.

“Not much has changed” in the chaotic Rio de Janeiro slums the Brazilian government struggles to exert its control over (via Brazil Characters Lab).

Does the media’s tendency to sensationalize violence harm Guatemalan democracy? (Via Natalie Kitroeff.)

From earlier in the week, more links at Political Violence at a Glance.

Americans Shouldn’t Be Embarrassed For “Only” Speaking English

By Taylor Marvin

In a recent piece for Thought Catalog, Chelsea Fagan criticizes Americans’ poor foreign language skills. Under a headline deeming American’s monolingualism “embarrassing,” Fagan argues that learning another language has never been more convenient, foreign language ability opens individuals’ eyes to the world, and that Americans are mocked by foreigners comfortable in many languages. Many of Fagan’s points are correct — bilingualism does widen horizons and broaden perspectives, and is of course essential to aspiring specialists in a variety of fields — but the argument that Americans’ second language abilities are some glaring flaw ignores both economic realities and the intersection between foreign languages and privilege.

While millions of immigrants bring their native languages to US society, English is overwhelmingly the working language of American culture and the main language of 80 percent of Americans. Roughly 20 percent of Americans speak a language other than English in the home, and though it is difficult to say exactly how many Americans speak a second language, a 2001 poll found that a quarter of Americans can hold a conversation in a language other than English.

Most ordinary Americans find English alone adequate for their daily lives — the key word being “ordinary”; language skills and area studies in the military, diplomatic and intelligence services, and development field is another question. Americans’ second language skills compare poorly to regions highlighted by multilingualism boosters. Looking only at English, the English Proficiency Index rates much of northern Europe as very high or highly proficient in English (though note that there are caveats about this measure), and second-language English speakers are increasingly common around the world.

But of course, a simple comparison between Americans and the perception of multilingual Europeans ignores the simple fact that English is increasingly the global common language. While French was the language of 18th and 19th century diplomacy and German of late 19th century international science, the global reach of the British Empire and then United States has given English an unprecedented international presence: while English has roughly three and a half million native speakers, nearly two billion people have a useful command of it. In many societies, English is the second language to learn, and brings enormous practical benefits; Fagan is correct when she notes that “speaking two language is the bare minimum in so many places,” and that second language is often English. In many globalized fields like international business, science, and academia English is fast becoming mandatory — an imperative that many academics from Brazil, where English proficiency is not common, seeking to teach and study abroad are learning the hard way. In many other multilingual societies, bilingualism is mandated by the legacy of colonially-imposed multiethnic states that necessitate a common — and often colonial — lingua franca.

In contrast, there is no single second language for Americans to learn, and, most importantly, the majority of Americans don’t have to. This is a powerful disincentive, which extends to other English-speaking countries: “The incentive to step outside the comfort of the mother tongue is weak when you already speak the world’s lingua franca,” admits even the pro-second language British Council. Though multilingual Americans enjoy a small earnings premium, it’s telling that most of the benefits of learning other languages that Fagan lists are more focused on self-improvement than immediate practicality. Broadening perceptions, better understanding foreign news, increased opportunities to travel, and reading literature in the original language are all valuable, but it’s reasonable that many Americans working or studying forty hour weeks judge them not worth the time commitment foreign language competency requires. It’s certainly not embarrassing that their priorities — or more concretely, what they choose to do with their free time — are not the same as Fagan’s.

Ultimately it is simplistic to compare Americans’ second language proficiency with that of a selection of bilingual societies. Bi or trilingualism is common in northern Europe because the small overall number of, say, Swedish or Dutch speakers mandates English proficiency, and many northern European societies are functionally bilingual, which allows parents and society at large to pass on second languages at a young age. In other regions English proficiency is increasingly common because the language brings immediate economic benefits. The life-affirmation rewards Fagan lists simply cannot compare to these tangibles — as the lack of, I imagine, Argentines learning Russian to read Tolstoy illustrates.

If Americans fail to learn foreign languages it is not because they are somehow less worthy or innately open-minded than Europeans, but instead because of demographics and social structures difficult for individuals to overcome. Non-Americans who mock monolingual Americans are as misguided and narrow-minded as Americans who demean Europeans’ lack of a dozen aircraft carriers.

The relationship between privilege and bilingualism and language more generally is complex: native bilingualism in the Untied States is associated with racial discrimination; bilingualism and European lingua francas in the developing world are often integrally linked with the legacy of colonialism; the globalizing benefits of the international English requirement in technical professions is a product of American hegemony. But despite this relationship, Fagan’s list of the benefits of multilingualism are grounded in economic privilege. Brushing up on Portuguese for an upcoming trip to Portugal is great — but many, many Americans will never have the disposable income for international travel, much less the time to invest in acquiring a second language, particularly one not widely spoken in the US. Studying abroad, immersion often essential to second language proficiency, is unavailable to many American college students from working class households. The online language learning program Duolingo is a great, free resource, but it is no surprise many overworked and underpaid members of the American middle class don’t choose to spend their evenings studying French, or place as much value on personally breaking the stereotype of the monolingual American — stereotype-breaking that is, essentially, a luxury.

Just as proficiency in English in other societies is often tied to economic and social status, Americans’ monolingualism is linked to the global English-speaking privilege that lessens the incentives to learn other languages. American would be a better, more inclusive place if more of its citizens spoke foreign languages, but it isn’t embarrassing that comparatively few Americans buy the luxury good of a second language.

Friday’s Reading List

By Taylor Marvin

Master of Calamarca, "Ángel Letiel Dei." Via Wikimedia.

Master of Calamarca, “Ángel Letiel Dei.” Via Wikimedia.

What I read this week:

A horrific police killing in Rio de Janeiro has brought renewed criticism of Brazil’s urban policing.

On the Russian annexation of Crimea: See Fred Kaplan on the severity of Putin’s move, Steve Saideman on a reinvigorated NATO, Paul Pillar on Putin’s recent speech and challenge to Americans’ ideas of their own exceptionalismKimberly Marten on Putin’s turn towards ethnic Russian nationalism, and Janine Davidson on Russian military culture’s view of NATO and the risks of war.

For their part, mapmakers face the timeless dilemma of judging how to update their wares, a decision that is almost always politicized (via Daniel Larison).

And, in a reminder that the US and Europe are not the extent of the news-consuming world, how is the Crimea crisis playing in Latin America?

Returning to the subject of Brazil, how the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 — a mystery prestigious fighter fleets are not helpful in solving — shows that real air forces spend acquisition funds on boring stuff (via Errol Cavit and Graham Jenkins).

How Chinese citizens view America — “meat is cheap, but the price of vegetables is higher” seems to nail it.

From Tuesday, more linkage at Political Violence at a Glance.

Keeping Up Appearances in Damascus

NASA photo, via the Marshall Space Flight Center.

NASA photo, via the Marshall Space Flight Center.

By Taylor Marvin

The Syrian government today announced plans to create a national space agency, supposedly aimed at scientific research. The announcement was met with disbelief among many commentators. Why would the Assad government, which is locked a deadly war that threatens the regime’s survival, devote resources to a space program? Perhaps more importantly, how could a government busily engaged in slaughtering its own citizens have any concern for space research at all?

It’s possible that the vague Syrian “space program” is a cover for rocket and missile research, as the inherent dual-use nature of civil rocket development programs make them useful for concealing military research. However, given the severe resource constraints facing the embattled Assad regime, I’d guess that this program will never return much actual research, military or otherwise. Instead, it appears to be another entry in the series of bizarrely banal announcements by the regime, following Bashar al-Assad’s praise for South African leader Nelson Mandela last December and the regime’s 2012 pledge to restrict genetically-modified foods to protect public health.

Like these previous announcements, grand proposals for a Syrian national space agency are unsurprising. To win the war the Assad regime needs to project strength, whether this strength is illusionary or otherwise. For the Assad regime to defeat the rebel insurgency it must convince both rebels and fence-sitting Syrians that the government’s eventual victory is assured, and there’s no point in resisting if the regime is going to win anyway — the “minds” side of the famous phrase. High-profile shows of strength also serve to discourage foreign donors from costly support for the rebels, whether in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, or the West. Just as a farcical commitment to diplomacy means benefiting from the implicit international acknowledgement of the Assad government’s sovereign role, high-profile shows of normalcy and stability are a valuable strategy.

The problem is that relevant shows of strength — like defeating rebel forces or capturing cities — are militarily difficult to achieve. So the Assad regime strives to project an illusion of normalcy that signals to both Syrians and the outside world that it is secure and confident. Countries that are locked in stalemated civil wars do not announce space programs. The Assad regime wants to show the outside world that it is confident of its prosperous future — a future that requires winning the war — so it does the opposite. As long as a space program doesn’t consume resources that could be better, from the regime’s perspective, devoted to the military, press announcements and disbelief among outside commentators is a small price to pay for keeping up appearances.

Friday’s Reading List

By Taylor Marvin

Luis Paret y Alcázar, "Historical Costumes," 1780. Via the National Gallery of Art.

Luis Paret y Alcázar, “Historical Costumes,” 1780. Via the National Gallery of Art.

What I read this week:

Tom Pepinsky on the politics of the, well, “the” definite article that once commonly preceded the words Ukraine and Crimea in English, and the implication that “the Ukraine” is the name of a region while “Ukraine” of a state.

Also on the politics of language, the privilege of speaking English in the international development field, via Rachel Strohm.

What does the Obama administration’s preferred “small footprint” outlook even mean?

Via ICG, a February report on Moroccan efforts to suppress protests in Western Sahara.

On the difficulties — actually, it isn’t really that hard — of balancing disapproval of US foreign policy without becoming a “dupe” for Russian aggression and authoritarianism. Additionally, support for the “people who work at RT … ” theory for the pro-Kremlin network’s conspiracy theories:

The modal career arc of an American RT reporter appears to be an ambitious but not terrible bright 20-something aspiring journalist who, faced with the alternative of grim local-news reportage, leaps at the chance to make two or three times the pay while covering world affairs, sort of.

In contrast to early questions, given the wider Argentine Church’s complicity in that country’s military dictatorship, Pope Francis may have saved many during the “Dirty War.”

Vice President Joe Biden visited neighboring Chile this week for the inauguration of Michelle Bachelet, who held her first term in the presidency from 2006 through 2010 and faces many challenges in her second term. Also see a striking pair of photos Patrick Iber highlighted on Twitter this week.

Cairo’s struggle to reclaim the city’s informal areas.

And further linkage, from today, at Political Violence @ a Glance.

 

Would a Ukrainian Nuclear Deterrent Have Prevented the Crisis?, Continued

By Taylor Marvin

Returning to the question of whether Ukraine should have kept the nuclear weapons it inherited from the Soviet Union, John Mueller raises an interesting point in his book Atomic ObsessionAlong with Belarus and Kazakhstan, following the breakup of the USSR the new state of Ukraine found itself in possession of a formidable tactical and strategic nuclear arsenal. Under international pressure, all three of these new countries returned their weapons to Russia. Mueller highlights an interesting influence on this decision:

From the beginning, the leaders the new countries seemed to grasp that the weapons would be of little value to them. In considerable part, their patterns of thinking traced those of the many other technically capable states that have been content to follow a nonnuclear path … In Ukraine, and particularly Belarus, the experience with enhanced radiation levels that followed the meltdown of the Chernobyl reactor in 1986 generated a special hostility toward—or wariness about—the weapons, something like a “nuclear allergy.”* [p. 123]

The costs and difficulties associated with the weak, newly-formed Ukrainian state retaining Soviet nuclear weapons has been highlighted in recent discussions sparked by the Russian invasion of Crimea, as has the challenges of safeguarding the nuclear weapons of up to four Soviet successor states rather than only one. However, I have not heard the influence of the Chernobyl disaster — which, remember, occurred less than half a decade before the disintegration of the USSR — mentioned in these discussions. I suppose this is odd, because Japan’s experience as the only target of nuclear weapons use is frequently highlighted as a reason why the country has not elected to actually acquire its own nuclear deterrent, though it has the technical capabilities to quickly do so. If Ukraine’s experience with Chernobyl, which was located on Ukrainian soil though much of the fallout from the disaster fell on the then Byelorussian SSR, informed its decision to give up nuclear weapons, it is a powerful reminder of the impact of emotions and memories on foreign policy decision-making.

*Mueller cites Mitchell Reiss’ Bridled Ambition: Why Countries Constrain Their Nuclear Capabilities here, which I have not read.

Would a Ukrainian Nuclear Deterrent Have Prevented the Crisis?

By Taylor Marvin

A Ukrainian Tu-22M is scrapped in 2002. DTRA photo, via Wikimedia.

A Ukrainian Tu-22M is scrapped in 2002. DTRA photo, via Wikimedia.

Could Ukraine have forestalled the Russian Federation’s invasion of Crimea if it had kept the nuclear weapons it inherited from the Soviet Union? Writing in the National InterestTed Galen Carpenter returns to this argument. Noting the “undercurrent of worry that the Crimea intervention may be just the first move in a campaign by Vladimir Putin either to detach much of eastern Ukraine from Kiev’s control or to oust the new Ukrainian government and bring all of the country firmly into Moscow’s orbit,” Carpenter places blame for Moscow’s action on the early-1990s push to ensure that Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan gave up the nuclear weapons the breakup of the USSR orphaned in their territory and returned them to Russia, the designated Soviet inheritor. Again citing John Mearsheimer’s 1993 Foreign Affairs piece that argued in favor Ukraine retaining nuclear weapons, the argument follows that given the power imbalance between Ukraine and its eastern neighbor, nuclear weapons would have been the Eastern European country’s best hope of resisting Russian revanchism.

As I wrote last week, even if Russia had allowed a former SSR to retain Soviet nuclear weapons (and handwaving away two decades of divergent Ukrainian-Russian relations) it is unclear if a Ukrainian nuclear deterrent would have prevented the Russian seizure of Crimea, the immediate site of the current confrontation. After all, the same strategies Russia employed to forestall a conventional Ukrainian military and international diplomatic response to the invasion would have made a nuclear response unlikely, as well. Russia initially infiltrated deniable troops to seize key strategic points in Crimea, and then brought a large number of soldiers to the peninsula. Before the wider world realized that Russia had indeed invaded and started discussing how to respond Russian Federation forces had already dug in, and would be extremely difficult for the Ukrainian military to dislodge. In addition, while the upcoming referendum will not be a free and fair reflection of the will of the Crimean people, annexation by Russia appears to enjoy some genuine support in the ethnic-Russian-majority autonomous republic, complicating both Ukrainian and international condemnation of the invasion.

By the time a nuclear-armed Ukraine had realized that Russia had indeed violated its territorial integrity, a nuclear threat would have lost what little teeth it ever had. Compelling Russia to leave Crimea would be even more difficult that deterring it from entering. Given the bloodless Russian invasion, Russia’s historic ties to the peninsula, and the pro-Russian outlook of the Crimean people, even an enraged government in Kiev could not credible threaten to use nuclear weapons against military targets in Russia in an attempt to compel Russia to leave. Importantly, by exposing itself to a Ukrainian strike Russia would place the heavy burden of actually making the decision to escalate to nuclear warfare on the Ukrainians, and thus likely ensure that they would not actually play their nuclear card. Even handwaving away Russia’s far superior conventional and nuclear forces, a Ukraine that actually used nuclear weapons against Russia, avoided a response in kind, and successfully forced its withdrawal from Crimea would be far worse off — a pariah politically, diplomatically, and economically — than one that lost Crimea.

Moscow’s calculus would be far riskier in a world where Ukraine possessed nuclear weapons. But again, it is unclear in my mind if this risk would have deterred seizing Crimea, especially given the status Putin has invested in Ukraine, status that necessitated some form of face-saving. What is true is that a crisis would be far, far more dangerous in a world where both Ukraine and Russia field nuclear weapons but Ukraine cannot credibly threaten to respond to the permanent loss of Crimea with a nuclear attack on Russian targets, a point Carpenter acknowledges.

Sure, Ukraine’s ability to deter Russian aggression is important, as is upholding the general “no annexation” norm of the post-war international order. A Ukrainian nuclear force would also largely put to rest fears that Russia intends to peel off Ukrainian territory beyond Crimea. But by writing that Ukraine and the United States are paying the price for the “myopia” of encouraging Ukrainian nuclear disarmament, advocates of a nuclear-armed Ukraine are placing greater value on these considerations than avoiding the — admittedly unlikely — prospect of a Russia-Ukraine nuclear war that would likely kill millions of people.

Would this risk be worthwhile?

Friday’s Reading List

By Taylor Marvin

Abraham Bloemaert, "Head of an Old Man." Via the National Gallery of Art.

Abraham Bloemaert, “Head of an Old Man.” Via the National Gallery of Art.

What I read this week:

How Putin distorts the rhetoric of the Responsibility to Protect to justify Russia’s mission in Crimea.

Ray Kwong passes along a humorous guide on bluffing your way though conversations on Crimea.

A 1940s French board game on tactics for successful colonialism.

What is behind Brazil’s timid approach to protests in Venezuela? Also on Brazil, questions about the South American giant’s approach to state-building in Africa (via Daniel Solomon).

A long New York Review of Books piece on the prospects of Scottish independence (via Peter Beinart).

Anyway, if Scotland leaves the UK, how should the Union Jack change? I’m partial to Number 4, personally.

While outdated now, on Monday morning I complied a long list of news and analysis on the Russian military intervention in Crimea.

Why Does RT Host Conspiracy Theories?

Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 8.39.10 AMBy Taylor Marvin

The ongoing crisis in Crimea hasn’t brought only Russian foreign policy into the news. It has also thrust RT, a network funded by the Russian government and formerly called “Russia Today,” into prominence. Despite RT’s slick image and array of young, fluent English-speaking hosts, many international observers have noted that RT’s coverage of Russia’s invasion of Crimea, um, differs from other news organizations.”Though the station is frequently cartoonish,” Dan Murphy wrote earlier this week, its positive coverage of the Russian military intervention in Ukrainian territory “is nonetheless a reflection of how the Kremlin sees the world and/or wishes it to be.”

But leaving aside RT’s value as a window into the worldview the Russian government seeks to advance, I’d like to focus on the ineptitude Murphy highlights. Early this week RT host Abby Martin closed her show by apparently going off-script and denouncing the Russian invasion.

Martin’s message attracted wide attention on social media, with Glenn Greenwald acidly commenting that the Kremlin-owned RT hosts more dissent than private US news media did during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. However, RT segments where Martin denounced water fluoridation and questioned whether the 9/11 attacks were what they seemed — in other words, classic conspiracy theories — quickly surfaced. Martin has also claimed that there is no difference between RT and US corporate media, a view which is somewhat defensible but marginalizes the highly-relevant fact that RT directly answers to the autocratic Russian state in a way US private media does not.

Martin’s statement was followed by the Wednesday on-air resignation of another American RT host, Liz Wahl. Despite Wahl’s public recognition of the “many ethical and moral challenges” of working at RT, her and Martin’s actions strengthen, rather than weaken, RT’s mission as a propaganda arm of the Russian government. After all, a real propaganda network wouldn’t allow such dissent, right? Disconcertingly, this view is already being repeated by some Western commentators.

But why does RT host conspiracy theories, anyway? After all, RT’s mission is propagating a sympathetic view of Russian political aims internationally. Unlike Martin and Wahl’s denouements of Russian foreign policy, hosting stilly conspiracies sabotages this mission, because it illustrates that RT is not a trustworthy news source. Instead, we would expect that RT do everything it can to conceal what it really is by mostly broadcasting unbiased analysis, so only dedicated viewers are aware of its biases. RT’s Iranian analogs, Fars News and Press TV, broadcast their bias through cartoonish ineptitude, but this seems to be due to incompetence; a general incompetence RT’s polish seems to contradict. Notably, even if taking the most cynical possible view of US government-funded broadcasters, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty do not host conspiracy theories.

So why the conspiracy theories? A few, um, theories of my own:

  • RT doesn’t care. Perhaps RT feels that broadcasting conspiracy theories doesn’t sabotage its mission of disseminating pro-Russian viewpoints. After all, RT doesn’t demonstrate any real commitment to subtlety anyway, so maybe it makes no effort to conceal its true type at all.
  • All bad press is good press. Maybe RT producers green-light broadcasting 9/11 conspiracy theories because they judge that all coverage critical of the United States, even discredited conspiracy theories, furthers its mission.
  • Lack of oversight. It’s also possible that RT’s overseers don’t exercise particularly close oversight over its segments. As long as stories dealing with Russia and US foreign policy stick to the script, perhaps producers and hosts are otherwise allowed creative freedom. It’s also possible that RT itself attracts unconventional thinkers — cough, cough — who are susceptible to conspiracy theories and otherwise unable to find a job in mainstream media, though I would suspect that given the difficulty of succeeding in the broadcast news industry RT’s staff are no different than their more successful mainstream peers.
  • Know your (receptive) audience*: It has been suggested that online confidence tricks like “Nigerian prince” scam emails contain many spelling errors or other implausibilities as a means of filtering out all but the most gullible early on, before the more labor-intensive stages of the scam. Perhaps RT follows a similar logic, deciding that an audience who values and shares stories on conspiracy theories are more likely to accept the narrative RT is actually interested in promoting, while driving away less credible viewers.

My familiarity with RT is basically limited to occasionally watching Robert Farley’s appearances on Alyona Minkovski’s show (Minkovski has since left the network, and is now at HuffPost Live). Does anyone more familiar with RT broadcasting have a theory?

Finally, it is worth noting that the groupthink tendencies and access-driven nature of US media is a real concern, and recognizing RT’s nature should not be seen as an endorsement of the dominant US broadcast news culture.

*I added this fourth possibility as an update.