If there were actual lefties in the mainstream media, this accusation might make more sense

January 15, 2011

OK, that’s snarky, but I couldn’t help it.

Charles Blow, in this morning’s NY Times (Sat 1/15), makes a reasonable point about the damage liberals have done to ourselves by attributing to Sarah Palin responsibility for Jared Loughner’s attack in Tucson a week ago today.  Reactions to her “blood libel” idiocy aside, it’s probably true that the rush (no pun intended) to pile on Palin almost certainly has damaged the possibility for real reconciliation (we’ll also set aside the extent to which reconciliation with the hard right is a worthy goal).  And it’s very likely, over the long haul, to generate sympathy for her that: (1) her opponents don’t want to give her and; (2) she doesn’t deserve.

My problem with Blow’s argument isn’t that he’s wrong.  It’s that he reinforces the extent to which people see what passes for liberalism in the mainstream media as actual liberalism.  I’m sorry, but with very few exceptions, actual representatives of the left don’t show up on TV.  The usual suspects–Paul Begala, James Carville, Donna Brazille, George Stephanopolous, et al (notice these are all Clinton administration veterans)–are barely even Democrats, much less actual liberals, much less lefties.

So the “polarization” that Blow and others have (correctly) accused the press of reinforcing isn’t really coming from the “poles.”  It’s coming from a mainstream media that barely represents the left end of the spectrum at all, while attributing liberalism to voices that aren’t much less conservative than “conservatives.”

One other issue with his argument that I have to raise–just because….  His claim is premised on the idea that we all jumped on Sarah Palin before we really knew what had happened.  Near the end of the column, he cites a poll in which 42% of respondents say they don’t think “political rhetoric” had anything to do with the shooting.  I’m just curious: what evidence do those 1100 randomly chosen people scattered across the nation have that the rest of us don’t?  That is, other than a handful of tidbits that we’ve learned about Loughner in the last few days, those poll respondents have no grounds whatsoever on which to make that determination that the talk-ocracy didn’t have a few days earlier.  Or put more directly, why is it OK for poll respondents to exonerate Palin/Limbaugh/Beck/O’Reilly based on no more evidence than Palin/Limbaugh/Beck/O’Reilly were accused at first?  If the claim “We don’t know what motivated him and probably never will” cuts one way, it cuts both, doesn’t it?

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Moderates and “Extremists”

October 31, 2010

Just read this piece on cnn.com and it prompted me to post for the first time in, oh, almost two months–

http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/10/31/avlon.rally.sanity/index.html?eref=mrss_igoogle_cnn

I didn’t go to the Stewart/Colbert “rally,” and as I read more about it, I’m glad I didn’t.  Although it sounds like it was probably fun, and while I respect Stewart and Colbert as much as you can respect professional entertainers’ political work, the more I read, the more I realize the rally seems to have reinforced one of the great misnomers (read: bullshit) of this political period.

In simplest terms, the notion that “extremists at both ends of the spectrum” have hijacked our political discourse is crap.  Total and complete crap.  No, that’s an insult to crap.

Yes, there are extreme leftists.  Chances are, unless you’re one of them, you’ve never seen or heard of any of them.  There’s simply no equivalent on the left for the lies, hatred, vitriol, distortion, power-hunger, lies, lies, hate, violence, lies, and violence and hate of Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, John Boehner (who, if he’s not one of this gang sure seems to want to be), Jim DeMint, Tom Coburn, Rand Paul, Andrew Breitbart, James O’Keefe, …  the list goes on and on and on and on.  None.  Amy Goodman?  Who does a radio show that about 43 people listen to?  At least she doesn’t make shit up out of whole cloth to suit her agenda.  Michael Moore?  He’s a clown, and nobody on the actual left much listens to him anymore (if we ever did anyway).  Barack Obama?  You’re an idiot if you think he’s a liberal.

The facts are quite simple.  Our political discourse has been hijacked by bad people who spew whatever shit is convenient at the time in order to scare people into ceding power to them.  It doesn’t matter if the shit they spew is the same shit they spewed last week, or last year, or whether the new shit as antithetical to the old shit.  These people will say anything (read: ANYTHING) to maintain power for themselves and their friends, no matter what the cost to the nation or the world.  And it’s THEM, along with their corporate-media lapdogs, who propagate the myth that “extremism” comes from both directions.  It doesn’t.

We’ve seen this strategy before.  Conservatives are very good at accusing liberals of doing whatever conservatives are actually doing; it allows them to deflect attention from the fact that they’re the ones doing it.  That anybody actually believes the shit they spew is, quite simply, a bonus.  Their primary purpose is to generate noisy, horrible-sounding static; the goal is to make people stop listening.  And it’s working.  Yesterday’s Rally to Restore Sanity was, by most accounts, a pretty much content-free feel-good session from which nothing at all emerged.  Yay.

What it will take to send the rightwing extremists back where they belong is simply to shut them off.  I don’t mean that those of us on the left should ignore their existence.  I do mean that we have an obligation to put their hate-filled shit in its proper context at every turn.  Don’t debate them head-to-head because they never, ever listen; and neither do they have any actual commitment to the positions they take, so changing their minds isn’t really a goal.  Instead, we have to make sure that the larger swath of the public, who isn’t firmly committed to left or right (they call themselves “moderate,” while I call them “uncommitted,” but that’s a topic for another day), doesn’t hear the shit unchecked.  Call out the lies.  Call out the flip-flops.  Don’t let their hypocrisy, hate, and lies slip down the memory hole.

If leftist extremists EVER have the kind of bully-pulpit the right currently does, we can talk about finding the “center” and extremism from “both sides.”  Until then, the insistence that it’s coming from both sides is simply right-wing propaganda.


Politlcal bloggers, trust, and “news”

July 29, 2010

The following post on today’s Daily Kos calls for some additional reaction, I think…

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/7/29/888579/-Breitbart-was-the-problem,-not-bloggers?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+dailykos%2Findex+%28Daily+Kos%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher

Apparently, a couple of genius anchors at CNN are blaming open access to the internet for the Shirley Sherrod “incident” rather than asserting (correctly) that Andrew Breitbart is a lying scumbag, and worse failing to recognize their own complicity in creating the scandal because they (and Fox, and MSNBC, and all the rest of them) didn’t bother to do any verification or fact-checking before they ran the story.

The Daily Kos post handles the first half of that well, reminding readers that Breitbart’s ill intentions don’t mean the internet is bad.  But Kos doesn’t address the other half of the problem, which is the reckless way that the MSM took up the story without finding out ANYTHING about it.  I’m appalled but not surprised (one of the lingering effects of the GWBush administration is that those emotions are permanently detached in my psyche) that CNN wouldn’t even stop to consider that maybe they made the mistake here–not just taking Breitbart seriously enough to pick up the story, but–up against his history of fabrication and manipulation–running it without taking ANY responsibility for its accuracy.

Or put more directly, “the most trusted name in news” lost any trust I might have had when two of its spokespeople so utterly and completely misrepresented their own culpability in the damage done to Shirley Sherrod, the administration, the NAACP, and so on.  That’s not to say none of those groups (except Sherrod, who I find pretty much blameless throughout) have made mistakes of their own.  But notice that even Tom Vilsack and the Obama administration aren’t blaming “the blogosphere” for what happened; they realized they screwed up, and owned up to it.

Keep in mind one important factor here.  The NEWS outlets are the only group involved in this situation who willingly take on the charge of accuracy in reporting.  Sure, the NAACP overreacted and “got snookered” (to use their term).  Sure Vilsack (with or without the administration’s urging) flipped out in fear that the administration was going to be pilloried by Fox and their friends.  But for CNN’s claim to be “most trusted” is based on THEIR OWN claim that they actually do the work of investigating, checking, and verifying stories before they run them.  What else would “trust” be based on?  Who cares if they report everything first if it’s wrong?  Who cares what anonymous sources come to them when those sources aren’t telling anything resembling the truth?

We expect NEWS to be verified, and CNN is quite simply avoiding their own culpability by pretending that this was anybody’s fault but their own.


Town Hall meetings

August 11, 2009

So today, for the first time, I saw Obama supporters step over the line in an attempt to respond to Freedom Watch and the Tea Baggers’ disruptions at town hall meetings.  What CNN didn’t comment on, when they showed the clip, was how totally furious the Obama supporter was.  And I don’t think it was the security that was not-very-gently leading her out the door.  She seemed like she was headed straight for the conservative contingent, and wanted to tangle with them.

Probably best that she wasn’t able to; it sure wouldn’t be very helpful for the first blood to be drawn by somebody who’s ostensibly on the same side I am.  I don’t want any blood drawn, of course, but the fury emanating from the right on this issue isn’t much different from the fury that emanates from anti-abortion activists; seems like the right has adopted that page from the playbook.  Infuriate your opposition, and then jump up and down celebrating when one of us acts on it.  Lovely.

I appreciate what the Dems are trying to do as they respond to this madness in their own meetings–to call the tension out, make a point of asking for some decency (civility is just too much to ask for these days, I guess), and do the best they can to keep the meetings moving while assholes try to shout them down.  It makes the assholes look really bad, as if they didn’t already.  Unfortunately, the people who need to be convinced that the assholes are assholes won’t be convinced even by direct evidence.  Not sure what to do about that.

By the way, a public shout-out to CNN, who hasn’t handled this whole mess very well.  But today, Rick Sanchez actually got on the air and explained to viewers that most of what the Freedom Watch people and the Palinites are spewing is just wrong.  I’m not sure it’ll make a huge dent in the problem, but at least somebody tried.  It’s a start.