Protest is American
: From the looks of things, Atrios is right about this. Let’s not bring back the worst of the ’60s.
Posts from February 2004
Protest is American
The road to peace
: German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer proposes a plan for peace in the Middle East:
“The Middle East is at the epicenter of the greatest threat to our regional and global security at the dawn of this century: destructive jihadist terrorism with its totalitarian ideology. This brand of terrorism does not only pose a threat to the societies of the West, but also and above all to the Islamic and Arab world.” …
“In order to succeed, the European Union and the US should, in view of this major challenge to our common security, pool their capabilities, assets and projects to form a new transatlantic initiative for the Middle East.”
Fischer proposes expanded economic ties to the MidEast and possible a free-trade zone. He calls for bringing in Arab countries to “create a binding agreement calling for them to disarm and renounce violence.” Don’t we all wish. Fischer said:
“We cannot counter the threat of this new totalitarianism by military means alone. Our response needs to be as all-encompassing as the threat. And this response cannot be issued by the West alone. If we were to adopt a paternalistic attitude, we would only inflict the first defeat upon ourselves. Instead we must formulate a serious offer based on genuine cooperation, an offer to work together with the states and societies of the region.”
The question, of course, is just how much military force will be needed. And no one knows. We’ll only know if we’re wrong.
: At the same conference, Rumsfeld came out shooting in defense of offense:
But he repeatedly defended the get-them-before-they-get-us doctrine in an age when terrorists are threatening to acquire and use biological, chemical and nuclear weapons as “something that has to be weighed and considered by all of us” given the possible catastrophic consequences….
Conference participants this week said they sensed that tensions had eased….
In this climate, many officials here expected a tempered, if not conciliatory speech on Saturday from Mr. Rumsfeld, who is still regarded by many Germans and French, in particular, as a villain for his dismissive remarks about “old Europe.” Instead, Mr. Rumsfeld, feisty and unyielding, appeared eager to put a potential adversary on the defensive as he laid out the administration’s rationale for the war in the absence of any illegal Iraqi weapons.
“Think about what was going on in Iraq a year ago with people being tortured, rape rooms, mass graves, gross corruption, a country that has used chemical weapons against its own people,” he said in response to a question, his voice rising, his hands chopping the air for emphasis.
He then turned the question back on the audience. “There were prominent people from representative countries in this room that opined that they really didn’t think it made a hell of a lot of difference who won,” he said, nearly shouting. “Shocking. Absolutely shocking.”
Yes, them’s fightin’ words.
The good news here is that Fischer is advocating a doctrine of democratizing and modernizing the Middle East. The bad news is that we’re no closer than ever on how to accomplish that.
: Go to the comments on this post and read the lengthy quote from Rumseld.
: FoxNews says Janet and Justin have been invited on the Grammys if they give a one-sentence apology. One wonders what the sentence is: “We are so, so, so, so, so, so f’ing sorry!” And who gets assigned to check all of Janets snaps and zippers?
Mark my words that some star (Lil’ Kim, for example) will expose more than Janet did. Either that, or they’re doing to import the nuns who police proms to put shawls around the more nubile stars.
Is political reporting really reporting?
: I’m wondering whether political reporting is really reporting (as I get ready for an ETech Emerging Democracy panel Monday). Here’s where it starts:
I downloaded both and listened to them in the car.
At the time said that Edwards had a killer stump speech (I wasn’t that wowed; more on the speech later). With Dean toasting and Kerry leading, I was also eager to hear what he had to say and how he said it (I was, if not impressed, relieved by that I heard).
I’ve covered campaigns and primaries so I know how it works with the stump speech: It’s repeated over and over and over. But right after listening to these speeches, I was struck how — even weeks later — I heard sound bites with the exact same words and cheer cues in radio reports on the campaign.
This hammered home how useless it often is to trail around after the candidates hearing the same thing day after day so you can act as if you’re on top of the news when, in fact, there’s no news.
This also hammered home the idea that thanks to one guy and an MP3 recorder, all of us could get on the bus. We were there.
: Is political reporting really reporting when most of the material that’s reported is available to all of us on the Internet?
We can hear what the candidate says in his stump speech.
We can read the candidate’s stand on his web site.
We can analyze the same polls the reporters analyze (to make bad bets on the horse race).
So what are the reporters really giving us we can’t get online?
They can hear the party line in the spin zone — but that’s not useful and it’s not really reporting.
: Come to think of it, political reporting isn’t really reporting, for reporting is all about getting information the audience can’t get. But we can get everything of note a political reporter can get from the comfort of our couches. Except one thing…
: Political reporting misses the real story. It needs to turn around and look the other way. The story isn’t up on the stump; that’s the obvious, easy stuff. No, the story is out in the hustings.
The real story is the voters.
What do the voters think of the candidates? (Nobody reported that story on Howard Dean worth a damn, or they would have known he wasn’t the front runner when they said he was.)
What are the issues that really matter to the voters? (As opposed to the issues the candidates and pundits think matter.)
How much does the campaign really matter in voters’ lives? (A lot less than any politician or pundit thinks.)
That’s the real reason to be out on the road: To hear what the voters have to say, to listen.
You can get what the candidates have to say online.
And come to think of it, you can start to hear what the voters say online, too.
: We in blogs have been missing the story, too. We all paid attention to the Dean blog when the real story online is out in the blogs of the voters; it’s one way (still imperfect) to hear what the people (not the pundits) are saying.
But the campaign isn’t over.
Considering that we have access to the same information field reporters and newspaper editors have, I now don’t think it’s hubris to think that weblogs can beat the pros at campaign reporting — since it’s not really reporting.
But the harder story to get is what the voters are saying. Can we do a better job of that online than the pros can do in print? Let’s see.
: Chris Lydon is going to be on Minnesota public radio daily starting Monday morning. His aim is to get us all to listen to the stream and call in (and blog). Details here.
: The Washington Post discovers — again — that blogs are more than “‘what-I-had-for-lunch’ journals.” Take away the gee-whiz-aw-shucks-golly-gee-what-do-you-know tone and at least local bloggers get attention for the power they are gaining.
Mr. Vast Wasteland
: I’ve never liked Newton Minow. The one-time head of the FCC is famous for calling TV a “vast wasteland” in 1961. The problem I had then was that, even though Minow opposed government censorship, he still put himself in a position to judge (and cancel licenses for) media of which he disapproved. I don’t want anyone in government doing that. I want the marketplace to do that.
Well, Minow pops up again — yes, he’s still alive — to resurrect his old harrange in the brouhaha over The Boob. He argues in the Chicago Tribune that we should bring back the National Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Standards and Practices. Again, he’ll argue that this isn’t censorship because the companies would do it (though under the threatening disapproval of Minow’s many-generations-later successor, Michael Powell).
I still don’t like it and don’t buy it.
The marketplace will take care of The Boob. If CBS loses money because advertisers and viewers object, they will find ways not to lose money the next time. I still say the nation is obsessing in an unnatural way on that moment; it’s still just a breast, people. But if the majority doesn’t want breasts then business won’t give them breasts.
But the bigger point is that cable — with its lack of a code — has proved Minnow dead wrong.
HBO started as the network that lived to do nothing but show naked breasts. As a TV critic, I complained loudly about that — not that I had anything against breasts (haven’t changed that tune) but because they thought the occasional flash passed for mature programming when what the mature audience wanted was intelligent programming.
And what has happened since? A spectacular flowering of quality content on cable. Yes, it also has the occasional breast and f-word. So what? It also has better TV than the regulated airwaves ever have or ever could produce.
Creative freedom — freedom from direct or indirect government imposition of standards and practices — allowed that; the marketplace supported that.
So you’re wrong, Newton Minow. Go back into your hole. TV is much better today and no thanks to you.
: Can’t resist adding this note from the comments:
Interesting OT aside: The SS Minnow from Gilligan’s Island (which ran aground etc) was named after Newton Minow, according to the commentary on the Gilligan’s Island DVD set.