October 16, 2002

’02 really about ’04…

Howard Kurtz says the ’02 campaign is really about the ’04 campaign because the press is more interested in the big contest. He says:

At this point, the next White House contest is personality-driven: Will Al challenge George again? Will Joe break his promise to Al? Will Dick leave the House for another try? Is John from North Carolina a fresher face than John from Massachusetts?

The current campaign, by contrast, is issue-driven: Will Iraq trump the economy? Can the Democrats exploit Social Security privatization? Does anyone still care about prescription drugs?

No wonder many media outlets seem more interested in the election two years down the road than the one at hand, which by the way will determine who controls Congress.

Hmmmm…are those really issues Kurtz identifies, or are they personality-driven press master narratives? Notice how he frames the questions in the second paragraph. He personifies Iraq by asking if it will trump the economy–a conflict with drama and characters. Then, can the Democrats exploit privatization? What about what Democrats (or Republicans) propose and the effects those proposals might have on citizens if enacted? As for the final question: Well, perhaps seniors care. Maybe we need to put some senior reporters on that beat. It seems Kurtz is urging reporters to look for the personality-driven drama in the ’02 campaign.

October 15, 2002

Do-nothing campaign…

Howard Kurtz takes a look at The Do-Nothing Campaign.

October 15, 2002

Feeding the fear…

Are the news media feeding the fear of the beltway sniper? One might ask: How can they help it? Joan Ryan speculates:

Some journalists say they’re keeping the public informed in the hopes someone out there connects the dots and identifies the killer. (It ultimately worked with the Unabomber, when his brother recognized familiar phrases in the bomber’s published manifesto.) So public-interest coverage makes sense for Washington-area media. But the national news outlets can’t make the case that a viewer in, say, Los Angeles might help capture a killer 3,000 miles away.

It’s all about entertainment, feeding the beast called market share. And while this serial killer gets so much air time, even on the political shows, other important news gets squeezed out.

The beltway sniper is certainly big news in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. And, to an extent, the sniper is big news nationally. But should this killer be getting nearly 24/7 coverage from the all-news networks? Where’s the balance?

October 14, 2002

White House news control…

White House Keeps a Grip on Its News That the Bush administration is tight-fisted with information is no surprise. The first president Bush also controlled the flow of information to an extent that annoyed reporters. Subsequent studies of the first Bush presidency have cited such secrecy as a problem that ultimately had political costs. Bush Jr. has added a new twist: Ari Fleischer.

October 4, 2002

Dearth of “left” bloggers…

When it comes to blogging, it appears that the left is choking on the right’s dust. Why? I have an answer, or, rather, George Lakoff has an answer in his book Moral Politics. The short, over-simplified version is: The political right has, over the past 30 years or so, developed a consistent message in keeping with a conservative moral vision. The left, in keeping with its own moral vision, has a more difficult time creating a unified message. Why? Read Lakoff’s book or this web site.

September 26, 2002

Trust me, I know what I’m doing…

Michael Kinsley offers his assessment of Bush’s argument for war against Iraq. I want to avoid getting into a pro-con war argument here. Instead, I want to focus on a portion of the argument Kinsley offers. He says that because we lack information about how the administration is drawing its conclusions, we are not

“capable of answering the actual questions at hand: Is Saddam Hussein an imminent threat to our national and personal security, and is a war to remove him from power the only way to end that threat? So, we must do with a surrogate question: Based on information we do have and issues we are capable of judging, should we trust the leaders who are urging war upon us?”

Kinsley suggests the ulterior-motive arguments for war (revenge for father, “Wag the Dog”) are mostly “entertaining but silly.” He deconstructs the Bush arguments for several more paragraphs before concluding that:

“You would think that if honest and persuasive arguments were available, the administration would offer them. But maybe not.”

Let’s forget for a moment that war is rarely begun on the basis of sound and reasonable argument (honesty is often ignored, too, re: Iraqi soldiers removing babies from incubators). Kinsley’s conclusion is trumped by his own previous question. Arguments are important, but the information that supports those arguments is far more important. An argument without reasons (deduction) or examples (induction) is mere assertion driven by pathos and sold with ethos. Are we the people capable of judging whether to go to war based on the information we have? The answer is clearly: No, because we lack information. But that in itself is not necessarily an argument for or against going to war. A more important question Kinsley raises is: How much say can/should/do we the people have in decisions about going to war?

September 25, 2002

Bollinger’s dream team…

What can Lee Bollinger’s dream team be expected to do? Many people are asking that question. Interesting reading. Check here and here for background.

September 25, 2002

TV “news” and journalism…

This article partially illustrates why I think “television journalism” is an oxymoron.

September 23, 2002

Nixon “Checkers” speech…

Today is the 50th anniversary of Nixon’s “Checkers” speech, correctly called a “masterpiece” of television by the Orlando Sentinel. Quite simply, this speech changed everything. Here’s a copy of the speech. It’s well worth reading.

September 21, 2002

Orwell and “regime change”…

Josh Marshall takes a look at the term “regime change” today and speculates about what George Orwell might have thought. Marshall is cogent as usual.

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