Y'all are probably not going to believe this, but when I was in my twenties and living in Washington and hanging with young liberal journalists and activists and budding policy analysts and the like, Richard Cohen was our favorite columnist. No, really. This is apparently what too many years of too many columns does to your brain; you continue to believe in John McCain's reformist credentials.
The New Republic shames its editors and contributors two days in a row. And what a surprise, the topic is Israel. Instapundit has the story but without the badly needed correction. Incredible -- publishing a guy's private prayer on the rumor you heard that it was leaked, without even checking out the story first. I love blogging and all, but I'm thinking perhaps a bunch of people here need a scholarship to J-school. I have an opening in my class. (Oh, and I'm still waiting for my correction.)
Last week, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough issued some derisive comments about bloggers "just sitting there, eating their Cheetos." On Morning Joe, the hosts were discussing Sen. John McCain's incorrect claim that the surge caused the Anbar Awakening -- a falsehood correctly pointed out by noted journalist, and yes, blogger, Spencer Ackerman -- when Scarborough defended McCain's misstatement against attacks by these Cheeto-eating bloggers.
"Let me google Anbar Awakening!" Scarborough mocked, adding this description: "Dust flying -- Cheeto dust flying all over. They're wiping it on their bare chest while their underwear -- you know, their Hanes." What bothered Scarborough was that "a couple of hosts ran this last night and made a huge deal because a liberal blogger [Ackerman] picked it up."
Matt Yglesias asks:
I'm really a bit baffled as to where these anti-blogger stereotypes come from. Spencer's reported from Iraq several times, I published a book recently, Ilan has a master's degree and speaks three languages -- we're not sitting around smearing ourselves with Cheetos. Like a lot of people, we write stuff. And some of the stuff we write is published on the internet. Is that really so weird and discreditable?
This may have been a rhetorical question, but clearly the answer is -- no. And Scarborough doesn't even really think that. Here's Scarborough in February 2005, when he hosted Scarborough Country, discussing the conservative bloggers who went after Dan Rather during the 2004 presidential election, and then after CNN executive Eason Jordan, who resigned after bloggers picked up and flogged his comments that U.S. troops were targeting journalists in Iraq:
SCARBOROUGH: And one thing I'll say to all of you is what Jason just said the bloggers did seems to me what 60 Minutes has been doing for some time. Mike Wallace basically kicks down doors and tries to get at the truth, whether people like it or not. And he's held as a great journalist.
I think somebody's got to keep the mainstream media in check. OK, I know I'm a member of it. I'm just telling you. That's the truth. That's our little secret. Don't tell anybody. That's my little Valentine's gift to you.
Now, coming up next, why doesn't the old liberal media understand that blogs are here to stay and they're serving us all?
Scarborough went on to talk about "the power of bloggers," and blasted "The New York Times, the last bastion of the old media. ... The gray lady of journalism still doesn't get it."
The point here isn't just to bust an inconsistency by Scarborough, but to make the perhaps obvious point that he really doesn't have anything against bloggers, per se; there is no "anti-blogger stereotype." He has something against the viewpoints of particular writers, but uses caricatures about "bloggers" to mask it.
Overall, there is a definite duality of opinion about "bloggers" among many mainstream media types - if bloggers share their politics, they are respectable citizen voices and certainly worthy of mention (See: Drudge, Matt). If not, they're amateur Cheeto-eating couch lumps with no experience and no voice worth listening to. (See: virtually the entire liberal blogosphere).
Take, for example, Tom Brokaw. In our recent Think Again column, we highlighted Brokaw's often-absurd interview with Al Gore on Meet the Press recently, and here's one dilly of a question we left out:
BROKAW: Let me ask you about your personal lifestyle, because it's been the subject of a lot of dialogue on the blogs, as you know. You and Tipper have bought a big home outside of Nashville, and you had it retrofitted ...
Well, it's on the blogs! Never mind that Al Gore's energy use is irrelevant to his challenge to find energy sources that are not carbon-based. It's on the blogs, so Brokaw has to ask it. He must really hold the blogs in high esteem. Ah, but here's Brokaw in December 2007, in an interview with right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt, discussing the Virginia Tech killings: "It's what they read in blog sites, and what they see in video games. It's that kind of stuff that I think is cancerous." And Brokaw has also railed against the bloggers who took down his friend Dan Rather: "What I think is highly inappropriate is what's going on across the Internet, a kind of political jihad," he said.
Again, the point is that Brokaw seems to use "blogs" as a subterfuge to disguise his own biases and assumptions. He made an editorial decision to ask how many lights Al Gore leaves on at night. The power of the blogs did not command him to. At another time, he bashed "blog sites" and "bloggers" as cancerous and jihad-ish because he didn't like what they were writing, not because of the platform they used.
Along these lines, Greg Sargent has noted repeatedly that the mythical power of The Drudge Report is quite misunderstood. I don't have to overview every mainstream reporter or editor who has gushed that Drudge "rules our world" and about the "power Drudge has to push a particular storyline or a broader narrative in the race." (The latter encomium courtesy of The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza) But, as Sargent points out, when Drudge recently ran a banner headline saying "IRAQ LEADER SUPPORTS OBAMA PLAN," his mythical abilities vanished. The headline was up for almost 20 hours before any mainstream outlet ran with the story.
Mainstream media types currently enjoy the lazy escape hatch of dismissing political views or objective facts under the smokescreen of anti-blogger (or pro-blogger) stereotypes. But how much longer will that last - until people understand that bloggers are simply writers, journalists, and thinkers with a new platform, and that the inherent biases and assumptions of the mainstream media remain the same?
This is kind of like bolstering the case that the sun rises in the east, but the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University has studied network news broadcasts since the end of the primaries, and found that "ABC, NBC and CBS were tougher on Obama than on Republican John McCain during the first six weeks of the general-election campaign."
Their research shows that while Obama got more coverage, 72 percent of opinions offered by network news were classified as negative, compared with 57 percent for McCain. In short, it's great to have coverage, but not great to have coverage that constantly asks if a candidate "has problems" with white, blue-collar voters, etc.
The study -- from the normally conservative group down at George Mason -- can be found here.
Two fine pieces from the American Scholar, should you find the time. (You should). Here is Charles Johnson on "The End of the Black American Narrative." And here is William Deresiewicz on "The Disadvantages of an Elite Education."
Eric, re your Think Again column on Gore's excellent global warming/energy speech: I've given up all hope that Americans will ever permit any meaningful discourse about our serious problems. Republicans get elected by pandering to this intellectual laziness. I wish we would grow up and accept responsibility for our way of life, but fat chance.
It was very interesting to read about the outsourcing of intelligence gathering and how it has caused the loss of institutional memory.
It is exactly the same in any business. We businessmen have allowed ourselves to get fooled that the lower cost of outsourcing means efficiency when it is really delaying costs into the future. The day of reckoning arrives and nobody has the expertise to fix things.
Thank you for posting the ANP story on Congressman Kucinich. I'll omit the laudatory comments because you know I respect and appreciate your work. However, I do have an abiding question concerning Kucinich.
I've carefully read the Congressman's articles for impeachment. I don't find a mistake or even a doubtful issue among them.
My question: If these articles are correct why aren't the many intelligent and outspoken writers on the progressive side of the web and media making this the issue of the day? I know what Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Rahm Emmanuel say, but from the point of view of simple justice and what may be left of our Constitution, why is Kucinich and this issue continually marginalized by knowledgeable people as unrealistic or worse just disregarded as unworthy of practical attention?
I trust I'm not aiming at windmills here but I believe at some point we can compromise our sense of participatory governance into irrelevance. How much more jaded "realism" can our culture stand?
If this cynicism is the cumulative effect on our civitas from these last eight devastating years, then the hangover will be far worse than the drunk.
Eric replies: Because it's a bad idea. Not everything that is morally just or intellectually respectable is a good idea. This is one of those, alas ...
Harvey Dent made his first appearance in Detective Comics #66, cover-dated August 1942. Harry Dent was about 12 years old and Harvey Gantt was not yet born at the time.
Eric replies: Thanks for the citation. We had the correction, however, yesterday and blamed it on Mr. Jung. See the item.
I'm not surprised that people would think of George Bush while watching The Dark Knight -- the massive cellphone wiretap is a hint -- but Andrew Klavan's piece is not only silly, he missed the point of the movie. To me, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who sees the parallels, The Dark Knight is a modern-day version of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Batman, like John Wayne's character, is a shadowy figure who does dirty deeds to rid the town of an evildoer (Heath Ledger, Lee Marvin). But -- and here is the part Klavan missed -- Batman and Duke recognized that civilization requires institutions and laws, not vigilantes, so they stepped aside and proclaimed the lawman (Aaron Eckhart, James Stewart) the hero. The president is -- or ought to be -- the representative of laws and civilization. He can't be outside of it. That's what makes these past seven years so outrageous.
Mr. Klavan ought to read Jane Mayer's The Dark Side, which I happened to read right after seeing The Dark Knight. He might come to a different conclusion about "pushing the boundaries."
The only thing George W. Bush has in common with Bruce Wayne (AKA Batman) is that they both inherited shitloads of money.
Now for the vast differences:
1. Batman actually puts his own ass on the line. George W. has spent his whole life hiding behind the skirts of others.
2. Batman refuses to kill.*
3. In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne refuses to be the judge and executioner of an accused murderer -- and it is this refusal that puts him at odds with Liam Neeson's character.
4. Batman has the loyal Alfred on his side. Bush has Dick Cheney.
5. Batman works day and night. George W. Bush spends one third of his time on vacation.
6. Bruce Wayne spends gobs of his OWN money on good. Bush spends gobs of other people's money to do bad.
7. Bruce Wayne puts on a costume to remain anonymous. George W. Bush put on his costume (a flight suit) to glorify himself.
*Disclaimer: I have not yet seen The Dark Knight, but I have seen all the other films, including watching Batman Begins just last night.
A few thoughts on the whole Dark Knight movie, or even the happy Batman version, and our political system.
1. The ancient Roman Republic had a system that empowered a single leader with the temporary power to do what they needed during a time of social crisis. The name of this special Roman position is where we get the root of the noun Dictator ... and the last one so empowered in Rome led to a leader called an Emperor.
2. Gotham needed Batman not because of an external terrorist threat, but because the municipal government had become so corrupt and incompetent they couldn't function. The conservatives might remember this the next time they extol 'W's virtues ... bad government = social unrest, not happiness, freedom and liberty.
3. The whole point of the Dark Knight portrayal is how a "caped avenger" with good intentions and unlimited resources becomes virtually indistinguishable in action from the criminals he opposes when he 'pulls the gloves off'. I also have to wonder how the local government would have functioned with a comparable amount of resources available to Bruce Wayne?
4. Finally, what sorry pieces of garbage want to compare their real life policy/political platform to an imaginary character written in an extremely corrupt industry that has a moral and intellectual target audience of 9 to 15-year-old boys? Oh, right, conservatives.
PS. I know several 9 to 15-year-old boys who are both smart and moral ... they just get really excited sometimes over comic books.
Then they grow up.
I think I might find myself in agreement with Mr. Klavan's assertion that one "sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency." But emergencies don't last 7 years. During that time, responsible administration leaders should develop a plan that deals with the problem without destroying this country's commitment to civil rights.
Anxiously awaiting your take on Bruce @ Giants Stadium. Had the priviledge of seeing last night's 3+ hour show. When I awoke this morning with my head pounding, all I could think was that Bruce is eight years older than I and he has to do that again tonight.
Eric replies: Night two was, I'd estimate, 20 percent better than night one. Everybody remotely considering Thursday, I'd strongly recommend, as horrible a place as Giants Stadium may be.