Archive for November 12th, 2006

Matt Taibbi Rules Our World… Or Should.

I had completely missed Matt Taibbi’s brilliant election night diary until Christy at FDL linked to it. There were two passages in particular that I thought nailed the essential, underlying, soulless evil of our current mass media.

Passage #1:

There were really only a few genuinely interesting things that happened on this election night, but all of them were blown off by the TV goons because they didn’t fit into the winning-and-losing sports narrative. The Sanders win was one story, but another very interesting one was the Kent Conrad/Dwight Grotberg Senate race in North Dakota. This one was never in doubt, as Conrad completely wiped out Grotberg, but what was interesting was that both candidates agreed not to run negative campaigns and went to great pains to comport themselves like gentlemen in their public appearances. In a world where social responsibility actually played a role in editorial decision-making both candidates would have been extolled at length on the networks and celebrated for their positive contributions to the political atmosphere — but given what a catastrophe a return to dignified campaigning would be for the TV news business, it’s not at all surprising that these guys didn’t even get their own blurb in the CNN baseline crawl.

I like to think I’m something of a political junkie, and yet I had never even heard about this until just now. Taibbi is exactly right that in any kind of sane and responsible media, this would have been worth a mention: What does an all-positive campaign look like? How does it affect the election dynamic? How does it affect turnout? Does it favor one party over another? No-one cares, apparently.

Passage #2:

Meanwhile, Jeff Greenfield on the Democratic talking points (change, new direction, Baker-Hamilton): “They look to be very focus-group-tested for maximum appeal.” He says this approvingly. An ancient fantasy rises from my subconscious: I start looking for the “Instant Leatherface” button on the TV remote that will trigger the entrance onto the CNN news set of a crazed chainsaw-wielding figure…Would pay any mount of money to see Greenfield drop his earpiece and run off the set away from a screaming Leatherface, loafers sliding on the studio floor as he races away in panic. No luck, though.

A friend of mine a few weeks ago wrote me a letter suggesting that reporters come up with a list of press behaviors worth banning before the 2008 elections. One good one, I think, would be commending candidates for successfully manipulating voters and the media with crude fakery and bullshit. In other words, anytime a panel expert like Greenfield says something like “McCain’s handlers have clearly done a great job at getting their man to sound more genuine in rural areas,” he should have to do thirty hours of community service, ladeling out soup somewhere to paraplegics or something. “They look to be focus-group-tested for maximum appeal” seems worth a double sentence. Anyway, anyone who has ideas for other press traits worth canning, please drop me a note — maybe some of us reporters can draw up a voluntary treaty to sign.

It’s all about the horse race and the gamesmanship; substance and policy don’t matter. Glenn Greenwald is absolutely right when he says that not only do these people believe in nothing, but they actually consider such empty cynicism to be admirable and sophisticated.

I pray that the Republican Party’s hemorrhaging credibility takes the media’s credibility with it, but that’s probably too much to hope for. The only way is if the media makes the same kind of mistakes the Republicans made, like overreaching, or getting caught redhanded at their malfeasance. Preferably both.

Also: I would like an “Instant Leatherface” button, please. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

6 comments November 12th, 2006 at 04:37pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Media,Politics,Wankers

I Got What I Wanted (I Hope)

As I continue to luxuriate in the post-election afterglow, I think back to a post I wrote almost six months ago:

One of the most simultaneously comforting and frustrating notions held by us liberals is that if those salt-of-the-earth, heartland Middle America voters really knew what Democrats and Republicans stood for, or if they really knew what our Republican politicians and their supporters were getting up to, the GOP would end up like a right-wing version of the Green Party. And while I think this is true, I don’t think it goes far enough. American voters also need to understand the game that the Republicans and their corporate media are running on them: Campaigns that rely on smears, fears, homophobia and xenophobia; news and opinion that consistently advance Republican narratives.


What I want to see the Democrats do this time is refuse to play the Republicans’ game, but call them on it instead. Rather than simply saying, “We do too hate terrorists and gay people just as much as the Republicans! More, even!”, call the Republicans on what they’re doing. Say, “The Republicans have failed and dishonored this country in every way imaginable, and all they can do is campaign on hate and fear. Do they think you’re that easy to distract? Is this all they think you care about?” Americans love to congratulate themselves on their bullshit-detecting abilities, and therefore hate being played. Unfortunately, they hate admitting that they’ve been played even more, which is why so many still cling to the idea that the Republicans actually want what’s best for America, and why the Democrats have to make it very explicit and impossible to dismiss or ignore.

Ultimately, what I want to see is the Republicans’ distraction-and-boogeyman strategy blow up in their faces. I believe that the day that Americans see it for the sham that it is and reject it, is the day that we finally start to get our country back.

The Democrats didn’t exactly nail it 100%, but they took some huge steps in the right direction. They called the Republicans on their hatemongering and hypocrisy and corruption (with a huge assist from the Republicans themselves – thank you, Messrs. Allen, Foley, Hastert, Ney, DeLay, Cunningham, etc.), and they didn’t shy away from the war.

More importantly, it looks like the American people finally Got It. This time around they rejected the narrative that the Rovepublicans have been pushing since 2002, and without it, the GOP has very little left to run on. It’s like the moment in V (no relation to The Shadowy And Mysterious One) when the aliens’ true reptilian face is revealed, and everyone realizes that they’re not here to help us after all.

*happy sigh*

1 comment November 12th, 2006 at 01:24pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Elections,Politics,Republicans

When You’ve Lost The Sportswriters…

Every once in a while, the NY Daily News’ star sportswriter, Mike Lupica, dips into politics. And he does not like George W. Bush one little bit, nosiree:

DALLAS – Even here, where George W. Bush can’t even get Republican judges elected, they remind you it was baseball that started to put this President on the map, as much as his last name. They remind you that this President was nothing more than a failed oilman 20 years ago when he came up with the money to become an investor in the Texas Rangers baseball team. Not only did he become a partner with the Rangers, he became the point man for a classic land grab of modern American sports around the building of The Ballpark in Arlington, Tex., promising development around that ballpark that they are still waiting for in Arlington.

Oh, you should go back and read about what Bush and his partners were going to do for their fans and for the community. There were going to be theme parks and the tourists were going to flock there like armies and of course none of it happened. Even then, he was capable of saying anything.

George W. Bush put up $600,000 for the Rangers and when the team was sold a few years later he walked away with $15 million and all of a sudden he wasn’t the kind of Thanks, Dad son that someone like James Dolan is at Madison Square Garden, he was the “former owner of the Texas Rangers,” on a fast track to being the governor of Texas. Now he is the lame-duck President of the United States, a President the country tried to vote right out of office last Tuesday.

Now it is almost impossible to remember that moment five years ago when he stood on the mound at Yankee Stadium before Game 3 of the 2001 World Series and threw out the first pitch and didn’t just make the Stadium cheer, but made the country cheer.

What ballpark would cheer him that way now?


And as much as any swing of the bat made that week by Scott Brosius or Tino Martinez or Derek Jeter, whom the headlines would call Mr. November, the President of the United States provided as much of a moment as any of them by standing on the mound in a jacket that hid the bulletproof vest underneath it, and delivering a perfect strike to a backup Yankee catcher named Todd Greene.

…[T]he country was still afraid about what might happen next. This President chose baseball, where it all really started for him, to stand on the pitcher’s mound, out in the open despite how the place was crawling with Secret Service and the NYPD that night, to say, here I am, and here we are.

Five years later, just five, on a week when a midterm election was covered and over-covered the way we cover and over-cover sports events in this country, where it seemed to have everything except Chris (Boomer) Berman of ESPN, here was that same President, beginning to move toward the door now, sounding like some general manager in sports trying to save himself the way they all do, by firing his manager.

Or some college president trying to cover up a scandal that has occurred on his or her watch by firing the football coach.

Here was that same president, the one who made the country cheer at that World Series talking about a “thumping” and acting as if it had happened to somebody else. It turns out he is no better at running this country, six years into this, than he has been at anything else in his life. At least he made himself money as a baseball owner. As a President, he has spent over $300 billion on his war in Iraq alone.

Now his policies and his failures in his office and the lightweights with which he has surrounded himself have produced an election as historic as the country has seen. This election was a referendum on him, on a war that has left more than 2,000 Americans dead and 10,000 wounded and nothing else. His response to all that? It comes right from sports, the kind of desperate, obvious response we get in sports all the time. Bush threw one of his top managers, Donald Rumsfeld, under the nearest D.C. bus. The President who fired that strike five years ago at a ballpark, another dramatic photo op from him, then did what George Steinbrenner used to do at the Stadium in the old days, when the Yankees couldn’t do anything right and he was about as popular with Yankee fans as the President of the United States was with the country this week:

He fired somebody else when the one he should have been firing was himself.

Ouch. Maybe Mike needs a blog or a DKos diary or something…

1 comment November 12th, 2006 at 09:22am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Media,Politics,Sports

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