Monday, July 23, 2007

Excuse me...

Creeping journalism.

SURVIVING WITH HONOR. I didn't get at all involved in the controversy over JetBlue's decision to fund the Kos Convention. I did observe that Roger Simon of Pajamas Media seemed to be taking a mild view of it -- and that a few conservative bloggers took him to task for it. I must say, though, that I did a double take when I read this portion of his most recent defense of his position. After repeating his point that agitated rhetoric makes money by attracting readers and viewers to niche media markets, he says:

This economic motive is augmented by ideological loathing of the type practiced broadly by the likes of Kos and O’Reilly and more subtly – but perhaps more lethally – by pseudo-objective outlets like The New York Times. Everyone is playing to his or her audience. But the loser is that audience. It is we the citizens.

With this polarized media atmosphere, it is small wonder that the President and the Congress have the pathetic poll numbers they do. Our leaders present themselves to us through that media and, in a very real sense, are part of it. They are one and the same. The Congress is a media personality. Much of what they do is media defined. It is one big show, much like sports. And we citizens have been reduced to fans, chanting “Our team is red hot, your team’s worth diddley-squat,” just as we did in junior high. But the games and the issues are real.

Meanwhile, we are left with a polity that is virtually dysfunctional, lost in their own electoral ambitions and outmoded ideological preachments and not talking to each other. We have a Left with no response to a misogynistic/homophobic religious fascist enemy that abhors separation of church and state and a Right willing to use their religious values to shut down the US Congress over the fate of one woman when they could not possibly have any true medical knowledge of her situation.

Talk about irony. [emphasis mine]

Yeah, let's talk about irony. I confess my first reading of the boldfaced portion of his post was as a reference to the right wing in this country as it is characterized by the left. And actually that is the left's response to Islamofascism -- to ignore it altogether while imputing precisely its evils to their domestic political opposition. Irony in spades. As one commenter suggested, the Terry Schiavo tempest pales in comparison to the ideological dislocation represented by the leftist media's hateful transference of such opprobrium from the enemy to fellow citizens. That's why those on the right can't put sufficient stock in Simon's well meaning platitudes to reach across the aisle and "just get along" with the Democrats. We know they want to inflict as much damage on us as they possibly can, legislatively, culturally, and personally. They're as open about that as the Islamofascists are. Appeasement is a sucker's game in both conflicts.

Of course, anyone can see what's underway here. Simon and his PJM venture are getting a taste of the perks of media credibility. He may even have reached the point of getting his telephone calls returned by some of the more influential media stars. It can't hurt a burgeoning reputation for even-handedness to position one's self between O'Reilly and the DailyKos. I wish him luck with that.

But I'd also like to draw attention to a few other things that are broadly if not specifically relevant to the issue on which he's chosen to adopt such a superior tone.

Simon's JetBlue Argument

I repeat that I don't care what JetBlue does. To me it just seemed like one more strikingly bad business decision, which is something that company is starting to get a reputation for after a promising guerilla start. I never much cared about Ben and Jerry's obnoxious poilitcs either. I confined myself to never buying their products. I'll never fly JetBlue, though less for their Kos affiliation than for their tendency to strand airline passengers willy nilly all over the country.

Still, the argument that those who are genuinely indignant about legitimizing leftist radicals in this fashion should shut up and be polite about it is hauntingly similar to the leftist claim that fighting Islamofascists just makes them mad and is therefore counterproductive. Comity is not on the liberal agenda. Yelling about their newest gambit -- a la O'Reilly -- is actually the mildest of responses available and the quickest way for a stupid business to learn the market's first and cruelest commandment: Thou shalt not piss off thy potential customers.

Aside from that, it's equally silly to pretend that large corporations are going to make showy investments in right-leaning organizations. In all probability, a higher percentage of media conglomerate executives are conservative than are their journalist employees in network news organizations. Has this resulted in any moderation of the leftist bias of CBS, ABC, or NBC? No. And it won't. Elite media lords also believe their most discriminating customers are liberals. Who's going to stick his head into the boardroom to tell them different?

Cozying up to the Left

I'm sick of people decrying partisanship as if that were the real problem. It isn't. The problem lies in the positions the partisans are taking. On the left, we are not seeing positions that any reasonable believer in the American experiment can afford to compromise with. The majority party in the congress is doing everything in its power to secure the military defeat of a U.S. army in the field, in a strategic theater of operations. At the same time the majority party in the U.S. Senate has recently voted (with only one dissent) not to protect freedom of political speech in the one mass medium they don't control AND they are using Senate procedural tricks to prevent passage of a law that would preserve the freedom of American citizens to speak with impunity to authorities when they suspect their lives might be in danger from terrorism. And dare I mention that the only product of their tenure in the majority thus far has been an endless succession of small-minded investigations intended to uncover their hidden Holy Grail -- an excuse, any excuse, for impeachment of the President of the United States.

Yeah, conservatives overreacted to Terry Schiavo. That's got to be right up there with an institutionalized conspiracy to commit treason and subversion of the government. Maybe if Pajama's Media has enough productive debates and dialogues with the left, we'll find some common ground in the middle. Conservatives will agree that families can pull the plug on inconvenient relatives, and Democrats will agree to go a little slower in betraying the national security of the U.S. and removing the speech and religious rights of the home-grown "misogynistic/homophobic religious fascist enemy that abhors separation of church and state." Then, maybe we can all work together to build the non-smoking, non-meat-eating Luddite utopia we should all be striving for, where every terrorist has a dream-team legal defense like O.J., where nobody but some of the smarter folk in media and government make any more money than a physician in Canada, and where nobody drives from place to place in a car bigger than a golf cart or more impact-resistant than a Miller Lite can.

To those on the inside of the new media this may all appear to be a game consisting of performers,"fans," and oh yeah, some real issues. To those of us watching from outside, it's not a game or a pristine issue debate, but a war for the preservation of American civilization.

Count me out. Where should I mail my pajamas to make the resignation official?

UPDATE. Sorry, but I had to add more after reading this exchange. Mostly, Simon's commenters weren't happy with his post for reasons similar to my own. Then came David:

David :
"Our leaders present themselves to us through that media and, in a very real sense, are part of it. They are one and the same."

That might be the most insightful comment I've read about the current political environment in years... keep going down that road.

Jul 23, 2007 08:43 AM

Who got an immediate response:

Roger L. Simon :
Thanks, David. You made my day.

As for those who worry that I like the Daily Kos, you should reread the above post. I think it's paleo-idealogical drivel.

Jul 23, 2007 09:01 AM

Perhaps needless to say, he ignored ALL the critical comments.

Problem is, the point David singled out for praise is the least accurate statement in Simon's post. When it comes to the Bush administration in particular, our leaders are not "one and the same" with the media. (One could make a slightly different case with regard to the Clinton administration and the upcoming Hillary administration, but that's not where we are at the moment.) The mainstream media are far closer to Daily Kos than they are to the schmucks who have managed communications for the Bush White House. And sadly, even the Republican leadership in Congress is closer to the Daily Kos than they are to the Bush White House -- that is, they invest all their beliefs about voters in popular memes that are derived from dishonestly conducted polls and the sense of immune privilege they experience from being surrounded by sycophant staffers and ravenous lobbyists.

The tragedy of the past few years is that the only meaningful contingent which has not grasped Simon's cynical point is the Texas lunkheads in the Bush administration. We posted about them all the way back in November 2005.

George W. Bush doesn't like to fire people. It's his greatest weakness. If he wants to prevail in his most important policies, however, it's time he overcame that weakness. Pictured above are the first three heads that must fall: Dan Bartlett, Strategic Communications Planning; Scott McClellan, White House Press Secretary; and Nicolle Devenish, White House Communications Director...

By any possible standard of competence in communications, these people are miserably and irredeemably inept. If they were merely obedient soldiers executing the instructions of the big boss, they should have resigned en masse long ere this in protest at being deprived of the opportunity to exercise their good judgment. If they actually concocted the communication plans that responded to the crises listed above, as seems more likely in the court of the Great Delegator, they should be drummed out of the profession -- hollow square, buttons ripped off, swords broken -- the works.

In fact, this is an area where I do have relevant professional expertise. For 10 years I was a consultant on internal and external communications to Fortune 100 companies, as well as a speechwriter for the highest ranking corporate executives. From first to last, the Bush White House has made nothing but mistakes in its communication strategies with the media, the Congress, and the people. The mainstream media and the Democratic Party, however, have succeeded by default in the tarring and feathering of the President to a degree I almost can't imagine.

Roger L. Simon is flat wrong in implying that the big media game he describes includes the President and his staff. They are playing in a different arena, called real life. Make no mistake. I hold George W. Bush centrally responsible for not detecting the problem and remedying it. The malefactors also include Karl Rove, who is also not competent by any standard I know.

But for Simon to contend that the most important wielder of power in our nation is also a corrupt and cynical packager of messages designed to keep ordinary Americans out of the loop is absurd. This is where his professional credentials come up short. He's a novelist and scriptwriter, not a communications professional.

The truth is, it's entirely appropriate for politicians to use state-of-the-art communications technologies and techniques to press their case on important issues. The Bush administration hasn't done it, probably because they thought sincerity and integrity of purpose would be sufficient. They were wrong. But it's despicable for Simon to indict them for a crime they've never shown the talent to commit.

What I'm feeling about now is disgust. Roger L. Simon is in the process of becoming a star of the new media. Where is his declaration of the principles he will adhere to as he increasingly becomes a membr of the insider club he simultaneously deplores and seeks to placate?

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