Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘media

The Context of All Things

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It would be more comforting if Murdoch were an ideologue, but what the Banksy Simpsons sequence points to … is less the desire to promote an ideology than to contain all ideologies for the purpose of profit, with entertainment being the preferred container. What Murdoch seems to want to be is the context of all things, the ultimate Manichean media shell. Inside, left v. right, tree hugger v. petrol head, local v. transnational. Outside, profit, the void, and Murdoch, looking down.

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October 13, 2010 at 6:21 pm

It Was Forty-Five Years Ago Today

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It was forty-five years ago today.

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November 22, 2008 at 3:41 pm

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Saturday Politics

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On the politics front, the new GOP line (apparently) is that Sarah Palin isn’t ready to be president after all—yet.

I’m certain that over the next couple of weeks the press will be pounding her and the campaign wanting to know where the access is. There’ll be a lot of process stories about why isn’t she talking to reporters. There’ll be a lot of noise that voters, frankly, don’t really care about—and as frustrated as the press is gonna be it’s a smart move by the campaign because, like I said, voters don’t really care about these process stories, but if she goes out and makes a mistake, that is something that [voters will] care about, and that’s something that will haunt [McCain] for awhile, so I think this is a smart move.

GOP strategist Todd Harris goes on to say that she’ll be getting prepped for as long as two weeks before she talks to anyone in the media. The Jed Report says it best:

This has got to be one of the craziest messaging decisions ever: Harris is conceding that Palin’s not even ready to be a vice presidential candidate, let alone be president.

Kevin Drum, too:

The McCain campaign is scared to death. They knew nothing about Palin before they announced her, they relied on a cursory vetting process that has turned out to be shot full of holes, they realize now that she has no settled views on any issue of national importance and could blurt out anything at any time, and they’re terrified about what might crop up next. So they’re keeping her in the deep freeze.

Has it really come to this? The absolute lack of confidence McCain has in his own pick to be vice president is mind-boggling; the absurdity of this past week truly marks a singular event in the history of our Republic, and if things go wrong it’ll be probably be used (alongside Florida 2000) to mark the start of its final decline.

This is monarchism, not democracy. A candidate for office needs to be accountable to the voters, not to a vague mish-mash of identitarian buzzwords. If we as a nation passively accept the Palin candidacy, if we demand nothing more than this from the Republicans or from ourselves, then American democracy is simply dead.

(Of course, a candidate should also be trusted to talk about something other than their own love of self, but we’re sitting by and letting John McCain fail that test, too.)

In more positive news, at least Joe Biden continues to win my respect. Give ’em hell, Joe.

This Won’t Fly

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McCain surrogate floats the idea that Sarah Palin will never talk to a reporter or face a question from the press. I don’t have much respect for the media, but I know that they won’t stand for this, and rightly not: this is a democracy, not a monarchy. We deserve to see her without a script.

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September 5, 2008 at 4:41 am

Ready on Day One

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When will Sarah Palin face a reporter or answer even a single question? She won’t be on any of the Sunday talk shows this week. She hasn’t made one appearance before the press.

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September 4, 2008 at 7:08 pm

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Global Warming and the Media

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The sudden hyping this week of Bjorn Lomborg’s Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming (see the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Colbert, just in terms of links I’ve seen this morning) usefully highlights a few important features of our current media environment. First, of course, is the advertising function of nearly all non-breaking-news coverage. Second is a bias that might well be called the glorified middle—all debates are presented as having two sides (roughly mapped across the center-Democrat-right-Republican axis) in which the position directly in the middle is always the truth. The Wall Street Journal column in particular foregrounds this tendency explicitly as a kind of natural law:

In this world of Republicans and Democrats, meat-eaters and vegetarians, dog lovers and cat lovers, we have a new divide. On one side are global-warming believers. They’ve heard Al Gore’s inconvenient truths and, along with the staff of Time magazine, feel “worried, very worried.” Humanity faces no greater threat than a warming Earth, they say, and government must drastically curb carbon-dioxide emissions. On the other side are those who don’t think that the Earth is warming; and even if it is, they don’t think that man is causing it; and even if man is to blame, it isn’t clear that global warming is bad; and even if it is, efforts to fix it will cost too much and may, in the end, do more harm than good.

What I also love about this is the way the ever-shifting denialism (and, really, psychological denial) of the “anti-” side is misrepresented not only as a coherent position but as the rational, skeptical corrective to the-sky-is-falling “believers” in global warming.

I’m also amused by the way in which the need to binarize all disputes and then split the difference necessarily pushes the presentation of the global warming side further and further towards the apocalyptic fringe. Before a few years ago—and An Inconvenient Truth naturally played a huge part in this shift—the debate would have been between those who accepted the scientific evidence of climate change and those who didn’t, with Bjorn Lomborg clearly falling on “our” side. Now that the reality of anthropogenic global warming is widely accepted, the “truth” of the argument (and thus the middle point of the line) has to shift left—and since the line is always the same length we wind up with a debate that is now presented as the wacky environmental fringe vs. everybody else.

The third bias, of course, is the consumerist bias that tells us that not only do we never, ever have to change anything about the way we live our lives but that to ever do so in even the slightest way would mean the utter extinction of every pleasure that makes life worth living. If Bjorn Lomborg says we can have our cake and eat it too, well, God bless him, now we’re talking. Like the other biases, this one pollutes discourse in real life as well: it’s the same reason I feel such intense social pressure to apologetically present my vegetarianism as some random personality quirk rather than sort-of-maybe-kind-of a good idea.

And the fourth tendency is the one Ryan highlighted in his much-discussed (at least by me) David Graeber post not too long ago: the lassoing of values discourse by the political right creates a situation in which Lomborg’s suggestions to supplement or replace Kyoto-style protocols with alternative-energy and anti-poverty programs—an argument that more or less corresponds with what I think we can (and should) pragmatically do in response to climate change, by the way—can be taken up as “proof” against the global warming “side” in a political climate where none of those anti-poverty programs are ever going to be enacted, either, precisely because of the same political movement that doesn’t think that the Earth is warming; and even if it is, that doesn’t think that man is causing it; and even if man is to blame, it isn’t clear that global warming is bad; and even if it is, efforts to fix it will cost too much and may, in the end, do more harm than good.

Meanwhile, in actual science coverage, via those dirty hippies at Daily Kos, climate change threatens to turn the Mediterranean into another Dead Sea.

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September 13, 2007 at 12:23 pm

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TIME has an excerpt from Al Gore’s new book, The Assault on Reason. Via Atrios.

In the world of television, the massive flows of information are largely in only one direction, which makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part in what passes for a national conversation. Individuals receive, but they cannot send. They hear, but they do not speak. The “well-informed citizenry” is in danger of becoming the “well-amused audience.” Moreover, the high capital investment required for the ownership and operation of a television station and the centralized nature of broadcast, cable and satellite networks have led to the increasing concentration of ownership by an ever smaller number of larger corporations that now effectively control the majority of television programming in America.

In practice, what television’s dominance has come to mean is that the inherent value of political propositions put forward by candidates is now largely irrelevant compared with the image-based ad campaigns they use to shape the perceptions of voters. The high cost of these commercials has radically increased the role of money in politics—and the influence of those who contribute it. That is why campaign finance reform, however well drafted, often misses the main point: so long as the dominant means of engaging in political dialogue is through purchasing expensive television advertising, money will continue in one way or another to dominate American politics. And as a result, ideas will continue to play a diminished role. That is also why the House and Senate campaign committees in both parties now search for candidates who are multimillionaires and can buy the ads with their own personal resources.

Admittedly, Al is guilty of romanticizing the historical public sphere. I’m not certain how “well-informed” the citizenry has ever been, or that information has ever really flowed in more than one direction—and to whatever extent the historical public sphere did work it accomplished that feat by disenfranchising nearly the entire population.

But Al is certainly right about the way the power of the image crowds out all other criteria in national politics, to the great delight of the corporate powers who control what we see. This sort of thing makes (and has to a large extent already made) democracy impossible.

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May 17, 2007 at 2:24 pm

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