November 4, 2002


Howard Kurtz takes a look at political prognostication. Seems like everyone in media land, including the blogosphere, is making predictions about the outcome of tomorrow’s election. Here are Rhetorica’s predictions:

1- Citizens will vote.
2- Someone will win in each race.
3- No one will know what it all means.

November 4, 2002

The origins of spin…

NPR takes a look at the phenomenon of spin. Safire’s New Political Dictionary defines spin as “deliberate shading of news perception; attempted control of political reaction.” By this definition, spin is a combination of propaganda and rhetoric. Lee Atwater may have coined the term, but it found its first use in print–“Spin Doctors”–by Jack Rosenthal of The New York Times in an editorial following the presidential debate in October 1984. The NPR article concludes this way:

Jack Rosenthal says spin started to thrive under the conditions created by CNN and news radio, whose 24-hour updates rendered weekly commentary obsolete. With the news cycle shrinking, he says, “You needed to get effects into play instantly. You couldn’t wait to go to your favorite columnist. It had to be instant, so you created your own columnist. Create your own wave of opinion — your own spin.”

November 3, 2002

Stiff Night Live…

I voted for Al Gore. That said, I think Gore’s personal style, if one can use that word in his case, is a political liability. Will his appearance on Saturday Night Live in December help loosen him up in the eyes of voters? Hmmmm. I thought Sen. John McCain did a remarkably good job last month on SNL. Who knew the guy could read cue cards and act at the same time? (The shower scene of the doting husband skit still cracks me up!) Plus, it’s apparent McCain knows how to laugh at/with himself. Can Gore pull off a similar performance? I have my doubts.

Plus, there’s the whole entertainment-political crossover thing that bugs me terribly. But, you, my loyal readers (yes there are at least two of you) already know how much I dislike entertainment’s intrusion into civic affairs. (via Oliver Willis)

November 3, 2002

Why people hate political ads…

Take a good look at this cartoon by Jack Ohman, and you’ll see why it is the polls say Americans dislike “negative” campaign ads.

While it’s obvious that negative ads do little to raise the level of civic discourse, Ohman clearly points out that “positive” ads are just as idiotic. Voters don’t like being treated as if they’re stupid. And that is about all political advertising seems to accomplish these days.

November 2, 2002

The perfect J-school…

Brent Cunningham is searching for the perfect journalism school. Lee Bollinger suspended the search for a new dean of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism earlier this year setting off a flurry of comment on the state of journalism education. Check here for background articles. Where’s my thinking on this? Well, I liked this quote by Jay Rosen, chairman of New York University

November 1, 2002

Peggy Noonan, writer…

I admire Peggy Noonan as a stylist. I enjoy her writing as writing. But Peggy Noonan is not as smart as she thinks she is when it comes to the intersection of language and politics. She remains the author of one of the single dumbest lines in modern political history: “Read my lips, no new taxes.”

Today, Noonan has let the writer in her get the better of the political pundit in her. I can see it now–looking for a way to make a powerful comment on the Wellstone memorial-rally, she says to herself: “Paul would have hated it; I’ll write it from his point of view!” But her column should be political punditry, not Creative Writing 101. The problem is we cannot know for sure what Wellstone’s point of view is or would have been. And, because of the differences in the way conservatives and liberals think, it’s for sure that at best Noonan is guessing based on a skewed point of reference. Worse, Noonan indulges in the fiction that she understands the transcendant–a conceit possible only to writers who know how well they command the style of writing if not its political nuances.

November 1, 2002

Bottom of the ninth…

Howard Kurtz considers the meaning of last-minute political clich

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