Slacker Friday

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

Have I mentioned how much I admire you people who have an extra ticket for the 9/25 rehearsal show? I'll be happy to say so in person ... (I teach in Brooklyn until 6 on Mondays and cannot make the 9/24 one, thanks for asking).

From TomDispatch:

On the day after Republicans, in the Senate, again largely failed to join Democrats in a vote to constrain the President's war in Iraq, Ira Chernus, professor of religious studies and author of Monsters to Destroy: The Neoconservative War on Terror and Sin, offers a gripping explanation for why the Bush administration's recent "surge of words" has, at least briefly, staunched the President's loss of support on the American home front.

While the Democrats may focus on facts and realities in Iraq, Chernus shows why their message doesn't do the trick, why the "good old-fashioned American yarn" the President and his top officials continue to tell (even if, most recently, through the mouth of General Petraeus) about a "band of brothers righteously defending themselves against evildoers who will annihilate us if we don't annihilate them first" still captures just enough bedrock American yearnings to keep his domestic opponents at bay.

"A good plot," writes Chernus, "raises the right question, one that keeps people in the theater because they care deeply about the answer. In the battle of narratives, this administration, no matter how crippled, still knows what the right question is." Democrats raise the question: Can inept Iraqi politicians succeed in getting their act together, when brave Americans give them the time to do so? Republicans, on the other hand, "build dramatic tension by raising a very different question, which really does matter to a sizeable part of the American audience: Does our nation have the 'character' or the 'stomach' -- Dick Cheney's favorite word -- to keep on fighting evil until something that can plausibly be called "success" is conjured out of the dusty air of Iraq?"

In this canny piece, Chernus concludes: "All theater, all storytelling, rests on the power of illusion and the willing suspension of disbelief. Bush and the Republicans have repeatedly given millions of doubters a chance to suspend their post-Vietnam disbelief in traditional tales of American character; the Democrats have given millions of doubters a chance to suspend their disbelief that the will of the people can make any difference whatsoever. The two parties join together to give the whole nation a chance to believe that a fierce debate still rages about whether or not to end the war. That political show we can expect to go on at least until Election Day 2008."

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

"I need a fix, 'cause I'm goin' down."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "It's Gonna Be OK" (Jesse Moore) -- Once again, I have neglected to take Roger Ailes hostage in order to force him to give me three hours on Fox News Channel to tell America how much I love New Orleans.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but has anybody checked to see if Harry Reid is, you know, actually alive? Conscious? Ambulatory? Clothed and in his right mind? Put a mirror under his nose for a second, will you? If you're keeping score at home, the Democratic majority of the World's Greatest Deliberative Body this week failed to get the WGDB to pass a bill to give overstretched soldiers what amounts to their statutorily required stateside respite. It also found itself unable to endorse the general concept of habeas corpus, thereby putting the WGDB somewhere up the track behind John Lackland of England on the subject of civil liberties. It also then -- with six more votes than it was able to muster for soldier's relief, and with 22 Democratic senators forming a eunuch chorus -- resolutely got pissed off at a newspaper ad. This last, while infinitely more trivial, will be infinitely more significant, for a number of reasons:

1) It manages to put the Democratic majority in the Senate on record as whacking around some of the party's most dedicated activists and most enthusiastic donors.

2) It gives a win to a rodeo clown like John (Box Turtle) Cornyn.

3) It gives the elite political press another chapter in the story it's been chewing on for the past 20 years -- that the Democrats are nervous about their left-wing base, which will enable the cats 'n kittens to ignore the fact that the Republican base, which has been driving the crazy train since the turn of the century, holds positions embraced in many cases by a whopping one-third of the population. (Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani were down in Florida this week, for pity's sake, proudly pandering to the lunatic dead-enders in the Terri Schiavo case as though that wasn't one of the biggest political fiascos of the past 20 years.) It prevents them from being forced to write about gutted civil liberties and exhausted soldiers, neither of which most of the elite political press give a rat's ass about.

4) It was utterly unnecessary. First of all, it's pointless to respond every time someone flings poo out of the conservative monkeyhouse. It's what happens in a monkeyhouse. You duck and walk away to go watch the penguins. Secondly, it has been argued that the MoveOn ad was a "tactical" mistake. In what way? What tactical advantage did the Republicans gain from it? Every damn poll since General Petraeus set all the dogs and ponies to dancing shows that nothing he said moved the needle an inch in terms of support for the war. The country, you should pardon the expression, had MOVED ON. Certainly, Republican poo-flinging wasn't going to change that. The country hates the war, hates this president, and isn't particularly fond of his party. It hates the Democratic Congress because that Congress doesn't hate the war, the president, and his party enough. The "controversy" existed only in the minds of useless political hucksters. Now, though, with the assistance of damned near half their caucus, the Democrats have managed to make a tactical blunder out of this affair a week later, cheesing off valuable friends, being laughed at by what is a despised minority party everywhere except Washington, D.C., and currying favor with a political elite that will never, EVER, give it any kind of credit for its abject self-abasement. It is an altogether remarkable feat.

I'd like to point out that, given everything that's gone so very wrong in this country over the past seven years, the last thing we need right now is another f**king O.J. trial? Mother of God, all week, my electronic cable television has been full of the Undead from the last one. (Nice to see that Jim Moret is still with us, and that Marcia Clark apparently outsourced her plastic surgery to the Borglum family.) And, of course, there's a whole generation of television "news" drones for whom the previous O.J. trial was a formative cultural event, and who are positively giddy to have an O.J. trial of their own to cover. And in Vegas! Whoo-hoo! There aren't enough tackhammers in the world to drive enough nails into my eyeballs if this gets rolling again.

Congratulations to the GOP for being able to muster up six whole U.S. senators to vote in favor of Magna Carta this week. There's your campaign slogan -- The Republican Party -- Proudly Plantagenet Since 1215.

Of course, Arlen Specter was no surprise, since he signed the original.

Thank you.

You're too kind.

P.S. -- I have been inexcusably remiss in not thanking Sal for his Katrina Anniversary Mix, which is tasty indeed.

P.P.S. -- It's all about setting the rotation up for the playoffs, so am I worried? Nah. Besides, elsewhere in the sporting world, Sam's home. Up the Kingdom!

P.P.P.S. -- Considering the number of Americans who died trying to liberate the place in TWO world wars, in the first of which its liberation was sold to the country as a primary casus belli, shouldn't I have been able to learn from the American media that Belgium is, like, falling apart? Thanks, BBC. I can't say I'm not intrigued by the fact that there soon may be a country called Walloon in the U.N., though.

P.P.P.P.S. -- And then, five guys in HazMat suits showed up to remove J-Pod's and Jonah's keyboards. And "phooey" is spelled with a "ph," you freaking dolt.

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas

No big surprise that the media have missed big parts of the story about Danny Boy.

First, one of the best books of media criticism in recent years was Bad News by Tom Fenton, the longtime chief foreign correspondent for CBS, back when it had a news division with real correspondents. Fenton said he spoke with the "Big Three" anchors. Tom Brokaw said he had offered to give back his salary, or part of it, to pay for more reporters and producers, and the corporate overlords told him the money would go back into the pot for them to spend. Rather told Fenton something similar happened at CBS, but wouldn't elaborate. Like you, Eric A., I don't have a lot of sympathy for Dan on financial issues, but let's face it: "60 Minutes" ruined broadcast journalism when Don Hewitt proved that news could be profitable. Ever since, the networks have been pushing the money end instead of the quality end. There WAS a golden age, and it was when Cronkite and Chancellor and Brinkley were anchoring and the reporters had some depth and brains.

Now let's consider why Dan doesn't deserve an ounce of sympathy. First, he actually states that he narrated a report he had nothing to do with preparing. That's a real journalist.

But it gets better. When Rather took over as anchor of the CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite wanted to contribute to the broadcast. Understandably, CBS wanted Rather to establish himself and make the broadcast its own, but he and the network teamed up in a systematic effort to keep Cronkite off the broadcast, even when he could have helped on big stories. And Rather joined his producers in making an "A-list" of correspondents who could appear because they were stars, including his then-friend, Bernard Goldberg, who had not yet gone off the rails. So, for Rather to sue CBS for keeping him off the air is a lovely bit of disingenuousness.

Name: Josh Silver
Hometown: www.freepress.net

Eric:

A quick update from the field ... last night, Chicago hosted the 5th of six official FCC hearings on media ownership. Free Press and our local allies once again turned out a big crowd that was some 95% opposed to further media consolidation. The hearing is a precursor to Bush-appointed FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's expected move to eliminate the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban. Our newly-revamped campaign coalition at www.stopbigmedia.com has successfully prevented him from moving the rule thus far. Our job is continuing to ensure the kind of headlines we're seeing this morning: Chicago Tribune "FCC Urged to Restrict Media Consolidation"; ABC News7: "Concerns raised about media ownership in Chicagoland" (click for video).

Free Press organizers have been working the event for weeks, hosting workshops and ensuring strong turnout. The end play: maintain enough public pressure that Martin postpones the ruling until late next year, when the elections will prevent anything from happening until 2009. The key issue will be minority media ownership - on which we've done a series of groundbreaking research reports. Last night, Commissioner Adelstein called for a task force to be created to address minority ownership before making any new rules. The task force has already been endorsed by Sen. Robert Menendez and Reps. John Conyers and Hilda Solis.

On September 12th, Free Press filed a FOIA request to uncover whether industry lobbyists or White House politics unduly influenced a recent Justice Department filing against Net Neutrality - the longstanding principle that prevents phone and cable companies from discriminating against Web sites and services.

A DOJ filing on a matter like Net Neutrality is extremely unusual ... until you realize that back in June, the Bush Administration invited one of AT&T's key lobbyists, Ed Gillespie, to serve as White House counselor. A few weeks after that, BushCo expanded AT&T's resident lobbyist's role to include most of Karl Rove's portfolio. Just days after Gillespie took over that role, the DOJ intervened into the FCC's request for comments on Net Neutrality, weighing against Net Neutrality. At the same time, the new acting attorney general -- who's filling in while they try to replace Alberto Gonzales -- is a longtime AT&T lawyer who's been trying keep the courts from looking into the telco spying controversy. The level of corruption is staggering, and we eagerly await the FOIA results.

National Association of Broadcasters President David Rehr continues his neck and neck battle with Voldemort and Dick Cheney for "most evil" guy of the year. After successfully killing "free airtime" proposals for political candidates, consolidating radio and television to historic levels, and all but decimating all minority ownership of US media, Rehr & Co. are now fighting innovative use of broadcast 'white spaces' that could connect millions of Americans with the Internet, and close the digital divide.

Every area of the country has set aside unused public airwaves for broadcast television. These empty spaces on the public airwaves could be used to create wireless Internet networks to compete with the cable/DSL monopoly, drive down prices and increase connections speeds. We will be in a pitched battle this year to see that the public airwaves are used for the public good.

Next up:

  • September 26: Free Press policy director Ben Scott testifies at the Senate Small Business Subcommittee on Net Neutrality. We don't expect any legislation on that issue this fall, but we're keeping the pressure up, and building our public interest/industry coalition in preparation for next year.
  • October 3: Working with a right-left coalition of publishers, have successfully initiated a House subcommittee hearing on the recent postal rate increase. We are aiming to have Congress create some relief for news magazines that have been adversely affected.

Name: Jim Reuss
Hometown: Cheyenne, Wyoming

Is my memory faulty, or do I remember some Bush politico insinuate that the cost of oil would actually go down as a result of invading Iraq? Something about $20 a barrel? If the Altercators would help out, I'd appreciate it.

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