New media’s role in Egypt was a little overrated – how much tweeting and facebooking was actually done when the dictator could just shut off the internet?
But could new media’s role in Wisconsin be underrated? From which news organization do you think I’m cribbing this most impressive shot most fully capturing the impact of the latest 70,000+ protest in the snow in Madison? ABC? CNN? FOX?
Correct, none of the above.
This is from the twitter feed of Kevin Kopplin. Not to say mainstream media is completing whiffing on today’s latest outpouring of Democracy (see The Wisconsin State Journal) – just the national media.
If your minimum daily requirement for cliches isn’t fulfilled by ‘the story this photo tells you’, there’s a more metaphorical version later on, plus a literally unbelievable follow-up to the case of the Georgia Congressman who either chuckled or stared blanks when he was asked who was going to shoot the President.
If you’re sitting there wondering if the vast majority of what laughingly pass for ‘news organizations’ in this country consist of people sitting around in the Washington equivalent of 19th Century Parisian Salons, pouring each other drinks with their pinkies fully extended, and wondering how their old friend Buffy down the street is going to cover a given story (like Wisconsin), you are incorrect only in the consistency of the imagery. In fact they are likely spilling the drinks, dabbing their chins with the doilies, and are dressed not so much like FOMP (Friends of Marcel Proust), but symbolically closer to Lord and Lady Douchebag from the old Saturday Night Live sketch.
Media at the moment – especially television – honors the foreign correspondent, the disaster correspondent, and the feel-good correspondent. The all-too-real dangers and terrors of reporting from revolutions is not to be disparaged and is not being so here. Other than the waste of time (“that’s when Porfirio Altamirano learned that a horse, not a dog, can be man’s best friend”) the feel-good correspondent isn’t too much of a blight. But you can also go to New Orleans, have yourself filmed walking around the reeking hulks of a city for twenty minutes, show half the video tape, and proclaim yourself a grizzled field reporter and an edgy political commentator – and your bosses will agree with you and turn it into a promo.
But a complicated, essential domestic political story offers no opportunity for getting photographed helping out poor wet people. It has the perils of alienating right wing viewers (who grow as an audience percentage simply by dint of the reality that the left, and the youth, have been abandoning television as a primary means of information consumption for the last 15 years). I mean, Republicans give cocktail parties too! From a personal-vicarious-thrill point of view, the only time a tv anchor or especially a tv political “reporter” wants to stray too far from New York or Washington is to go to flood-ravaged Madison or earthquake-stricken Milwaukee or rotten-cheese-plagued Green Bay. Television news in this country is much as Shakespearean acting was described in the middle of the last century: Nobody actually brings anything new to it (I here feel compelled to say to my acquaintance Sir Ian McKellen: This Does Not Apply To You). They simply are doing impressions of what they saw Olivier or Gielgud do.
Nevertheless there is a brilliant old Python joke which seems relevant: “On February 22nd, 1966, Dinsdale blew up Luton. Even the police began to sit up and take notice.” There is yet another poll by a right-winger showing that Governor Scott Walker’s trolley has completely jumped the track. No less than the old toe-sucker himself, Dick Morris, has concluded that 54% of Wisconsin opposes Walker’s unilateral move to suspend one of the arch stones of democracy and eliminate collective bargaining for public employees, and only 41% supports it. There are also lots of interior numbers that completely undermine the entire Right Wing attack, like those that overwhelmingly support the kinds of compromises on health care and pension contributions that Wisconsin’s unions have already offered.
Even the tv networks may have to begin to sit up and take notice.
Of course that only applies to those that can tell their asses from their Koch Brothers. Media Matters has the video of another hilarious segment from what used to be Fox News’s only half hour with actual balanced reporting in it, “Fox News Watch.” It has now been transformed, in genuine Orwellian brilliance, into the time Fox devotes to skewering legitimate reporting and trying to convince the sheep that the truth emanates from its bellows and only its bellows. The newest edition features the crazed Eric Shawn and the mercifully sleepy Jim Pinkerton excoriating a television outlet for doing an interview with the man who prank-called Governor Walker (Judge’s Score: 10.0; Degree of Difficulty: 0.2). This is Fox, mind you, the network that canonized little Jimmy O’Keefe for hiding his Oswaldian good looks under a pimp costume that would’ve gotten him laughed off the set of Shaft. Fox? Opposed to giving television time to people pretending to be something they’re not? If they enforced that rule there’d suddenly be a bunch of brunette women and psychologically-challenged men sitting behind their Fox anchor desks saying nothing more than “it’s 23 minutes past the hour.”
And speaking of pretending you’re something you’re not, while I have you here, let’s go briefly back to Georgia and the story of Congressman Paul Broun, covered in the most recent edition of Worst Persons Of The Day. A strangely noble supporter actually got up the other night at Broun’s town hall and at least stopped pretending. “Who’s” he asked, “going to shoot Obama?”
There are only two versions of what happened next. A) As sick laughter filled the room, Broun ignored the proposed assassination and pivoted into an acknowledgment that there was a lot of frustration with the POTUS and he needed to be voted out next year, or B) As sick laughter filled the room, Broun chuckled along with it and pivoted into an acknowledgment that there was a lot of frustration with the POTUS and he needed to be voted out next year.
Here and elsewhere Broun was rightly excoriated for not even McCaining the thing and saying something like ‘we can’t shoot our politicians, period, not at least while Gabby Giffords is still in rehab.’ This message has apparently gotten through the Congressman’s incredibly thick skull because Friday Broun actually said something!
Tuesday night at a town hall meeting in Oglethorpe County, Georgia an elderly man asked the abhorrent question, “Who’s going to shoot Obama?” I was stunned by the question and chose not to dignify it with a response; therefore, at that moment I moved on to the next person with a question. After the event, my office took action with the appropriate authorities.
I deeply regret that this incident happened at all. Furthermore, I condemn all statements — made in sincerity or jest — that threaten or suggest the use of violence against the President of the United States or any other public official. Such rhetoric cannot and will not be tolerated.
That’s dandy, except it’s a day late (actually three) and an assassination threat short, and it doesn’t reflect what actually happened. Broun didn’t move on to the next questioner, he just pretended the man hadn’t asked about killing the President of the United States as if it were a question of logistics or scheduling, and thus legitimized the entire line of thought (if “thought” it even is).
There is only this happy ending: it is nice to see that even Congressman Broun, whose heart is so hardened that he must be centuries old and that process must have begun around the year 1650, has been scared enough to recognize that even the craziest of Congresspeople must say something to the craziest of their constituents about violent rhetoric, even if only out of the realization that when bullets fly, anybody can get hit.
Personal fear is not the most noble of the reasons Paul Broun could get on what should be a unanimous bandwagon, but it’s better than nothing.
Lastly, a brief note about the launching of this blog. I’m overwhelmed and grateful; I am going to have to get some help with the Comments backlog; I am going to be adding videos within a few weeks (including Thurber); and for those who have not gotten the message, I will be bringing the program back to television in late spring on Current TV, weeknights at 8 PM (with re-airs and on-line availability TBD, and yes, we’ll tell you plenty in advance). Your support, particularly since the adventures of last November, has been energizing, and will be returned. Thank you.