Wednesday, August 31, 2005

 

The Conservative Media

Once again, a reference to that great neo-con shibboleth, "the liberal press," has challenged some readers.

Yes, yes, a majority of reporters are liberals, or voted Democratic. Ah, the core, the foundation, the cornerstone of the conservative myth.

What about their bosses, editors? Conservative or Republican, by two-to-one.

And their bosses, publishers? Conservative or Republican, by approximately five-to-one.

Talk radio? Fuggedabouddit. There are anywhere from 1200 to 1500 conservative, right-wing, or religious-right talks shows on radio. At last count, there was exactly one liberal one. Two, if you consider NPR's low-key broadcasts to be "liberal."

As Ted Rall says, right-wingers are the gatekeepers of the talk TV medium. No liberal hosts a national show on either broadcast or cable television.

Of the dozen top newspaper editorialists, the top three are conservative, and seven overall are identifiably conservative. Liberals? Only one of the top 12.

Avowedly conservative television networks? One for the conservative/Republicans (Fox), none for liberals.

Avowedly conservative major newspapers? One for the conservative/Republicans (The "Rev." Sun Myung Moon's heavily subsidized Washington Times), none for liberals. (Yes, yes, I know, the New York Times is supposedly liberal. Gimme a break. It's just serving a liberal audience, is all. There's nothing liberal about it in principle, in terms of its mission or charter.)

Here are the only possible ways anyone can possibly interpret the media in the United States as "liberal":

  1. If they don't know what "liberal" means.
  2. If they don't actually expose themselves to the media. I.e., read.
  3. If they're playing politics. The right has flogged liberals for so long with "the liberal media" that it's loathe to give up that cudgel.
  4. If they're so far toward the looney right that everything and everyone is to the left of them. Or,
  5. If they think every liberal viewpoint expressed in the media is the result of bias, and no conservative viewpoint is.
So where do liberals lead? Only one area: the funnies. Cartoons. There are still more liberal and lefty cartoonists than right-wing ones. (This hardly counts, though, because it's only natural. To be a cartoonist, you have to have a sense of humor. Ba-dum.)

The U.S. media is overwhelmingly conservative. The "liberal media" is a hoary, antique myth, a paper tiger. It doesn't exist.


The Quotidian Meander.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

 

American Weirdness and Europe-Envy

This will engender knee-jerk "love it or leave it" reactions from some, but I have to confess that I sometimes wish I were European. Perhaps it's a version of the grass-is-greener thing, but it often seems like Europeans are just more...sensible, by and large.

Something like 65% of Europeans are atheist or agnostic, for one thing, versus the weird combination we have here of people who both a) profess religious belief and yet b) are almost wholly ignorant of it. Seventy to 85% of Americans (depending on whose poll you're reading) say they are "practicing" Christians and 45-55% claim to be "born again," yet only 14% can name more than half of the Ten Commandments. The vast majority cannot answer simple Biblical questions like "Who was Lot?" Or, "Where did Jesus go on Palm Sunday?"

This reached an amusing reductio ad absurdum in one of Jay Leno's "Jaywalking" segments on his Tonight Show. Jay asked a young woman--a professed Christian--what the holiday right before Easter was called. The woman said she didn't know, so Jay gave her a bit of a hint. "C'mon, it's the Friday right before Easter. It's a really good holiday. A really good Friday." Our Christian still didn't have clue.

I would have thought that even the average American Zoroastrian (if there is such a thing) could answer that question correctly. Weird.

Even weirder, the current evangelical "movement" takes a hard-line stance against secularism--and yet is itself almost entirely a secular movement. This obvious fact appears to be completely lost on evangelicals themselves. Not only is it almost wholly a political movement, but it barely even adheres to the teachings of Jesus. For instance, the great project of the Evangelical community at the moment is a great mass apologia for business success and monetary prosperity. Which is fine--except that it directly contradicts the teachings and preachings of Jesus. And then of course there's the whole family values thing. What did Jesus actually teach? Leave your father and mother and follow the Lord (or words to that effect--I'm reaching waaay back to childhood Sunday-School memories here). Hardly in sync with the religious right's family values orthodoxy, one would think. That's probably lost on evangelicals too.

But I bet a lot of Europeans get it.



The Quotidian Meander.

Monday, August 29, 2005

 

The Middle Monkeys

As the subtitle of this blog indicates, I'm a "writer from another field." My other field--well, my only field, since politics normally isn't my thing (I'm only trying to do my duty as an American citizen here)--is photography. I've been involved in photography in one way or another for most of my adult life, if you can call it that. (Ba-dum.)

Curiously, every now and again, I get a message from somebody who reads my photography writings and then somehow stumbles on my political views, who then ostentatiously declares that he will no longer read anything I have to say about photography. Here's a typical one, from an anonymous poster called "Shutterbuggy" on the DPReview.com Canon forum:

"I'm not a ranter and don't engage in ad hominem. I've read your column on Luminous Landscape. I want to say thanks for alerting me to the presence of you blog. After reading the statements regarding President Bush, I won't need to find the time to read your column in the future."

Well, it's nice that he's not a ranter. What he is, unfortunately, is a monkey. The middle one, I think. I refer, of course, to the three monkeys Saul Bellow talks about in his fine picaresque novel The Adventures of Augie March:

"Monkey was the basis of much thought with us. On the sideboard, on the Turkestan runner, with their eyes, ears, and mouth covered, we had see-no-evil, speak-no-evil, hear-no-evil, a lower trinity of the house. The advantage of lesser gods is that you can take their names any way you like. "Silence in the courthouse, monkey wants to speak; speak, monkey, speak." "The monkey and the bamboo were playing in the grass..." Still the monkeys could be potent, and awesome besides, and deep social critics when the old woman, like a great lama--for she is Eastern to me, in the end--would point to the squatting brown three, whose mouths and nostrils were drawn in sharp blood-red, and with profound wit, her unkindness finally touching greatness, say, "Nobody asks you to love the whole world, only to be honest, ehrlich."


(Just as an aside, now that's what I call a sentence.) The hear-no-evil monkey seems to be a hallmark, or at least a leitmotif, of some conservatives. They will not hear dissenting opinions, will not countenance inconvenient facts. They are resolute about shielding themselves from any information that diverges from what they want to hear.

But not only that, it seems. As Shuttermonkey says, he's not going to read my photography column in the future. This seems a harsh standard to hold the world to! What, is he going to ignore the advice of his plumber if the man voted for Gore? Find a new dentist if the dentist donates to the ACLU? What if he's selling his house and the buyer's real-estate agent tells a Bush joke--would he walk away from the table? "Not gonna do it"?

This may surprise some readers of this blog, but I regularly read conservative viewpoints. I read William F. Buckley and David Brooks (recently hilariously described as "the affirmative-action hire at the Times"), and I'll even read Ann Coulter, if only to learn what my own individual hell would be like if I believed in that sort of thing.

It's true that I don't ordinarily subject myself to Rush Limbaugh, but that's not because he's a big fat idiot, only because he's such a goddamned liar...that guy will say anything. But I'm not afraid of hearing him, either. It's not like I've never heard him. Heck, I've even read Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson, a book that is beautiful as well as being mostly wrong. I don't cover my ears, in other words.

I wonder if "Shutterbuggy" has ever read Marx's criticisms of capitalism? Does he ever take in a Paul Krugman column, or click over to huffingtonpost.com? Has he read Mark Crispin Miller's Cruel and Unusual to see what the other side is up to?

Doesn't seem very likely, does it.

Unfortunately, that's very typical of a certain breed of conservative. They're simply, purposefully unaware. I have a bumper sticker on my car that says, "If you like Bush, you're not paying attention." I truly believe that. I truly believe that the main run of traditional Republicans who [allegedly] re-elected W are simply not aware of what he and his cronies are doing. They're just talking amongst themselves; their "news" regularly gets twisted into propaganda and then subjected to endless repetition in what former Republican strategist David Brock dubbed "The Republican Noise Machine" until they simply can't believe it's not true. They haven't even heard of how the voter rolls in Florida were cooked before the 2000 election. They think that Paul Wellstone's funeral was full of campaigning, based on an endlessly repeated five-second clip from the event. They think the media is still liberal, for heaven's sake--in the face of nearly overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I even had one conservative friend say to me recently that he was unaware of a single documented instance of George W. Bush actually lying. I suggested, in my usual gentle way, that he might want to avail himself of one of the many books documenting just those instances, starting with, oh, say, David Corn's helpfully-titled book The Lies of George W. Bush....

The evidence is out there. The information exists. But when you refuse to listen to anyone's opinion on any subject because you're afraid you'll come within earshot of an opinion that doesn't agree with your own preconceived notions, well, you've made yourself pretty safe. Your mind doesn't even have to be closed, because very little even makes it that far.



The Quotidian Meander

Thursday, August 25, 2005

 

WWJD?

Pat Robertson, a.k.a. Rev. Strangelove, a.k.a. Our Best Argument for the Continued Separation of Church and State, is now calling for the assassination of foreign leaders. I'm sure you've heard.

Yes, yes, I know. This is all so obvious: Robertson is a fraud, a charlatan, and the people who believe in him are weak-minded and unintelligent. Yatta, yatta.

But would it be too much to ask for a guy who advocates Christianity and the Bible to at least stay within the broad boundaries of Christ's teachings? I mean, the man has supposedly read the Bible. Allegedly, he knows what Christ says in it. Can't he just sorta kinda maybe slightly color within the lines of the book report? Sheesh.

Wherever Jesus is, I'm sure he rolls his eyes whenever Pat Robertson opens his mouth.



The Quotidian Meander

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

 

Bush Still On Track

George Bush is still on track to achieve two years of vacation before his eight years of "service" have ended. On August 18th, he surpassed the previous Presidential record for time off during an 8-year term.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

 

The Great Ambivalence

I've been pondering for a while about the phrase "Support Our Troops," which I think is currently the most ambivelent phrase in the English language. It has several strong meanings, but no distinct single one. Here are a few things it might be saying:


This last one seems particularly asinine to me, I must admit. They're fighting for our freedom? In what possible way? But never mind that.

I really do sympathize with the human factor, though. Real people are over there fighting every day, and enduring constant risk. Why? Simply because our leaders asked them to. To not appreciate that is not only rude, it's cruel.

Soldiers can't question their orders. That's unpatriotic. And illegal.

It's not illegal for a citizen to question policy, however. In fact, it's an obligation.

The bottom line for me is what you might call "roots American." It's a matter of plain decency. When a democracy asks its citizens to die for it, we ought to have a good reason for asking--and we ought to give them a good (and clear!) reason for dying.



The Quotidian Meander

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