Fly on the wall
Posts from June 17, 2004
: David Weinberger, probably the gentlest folk I know in this world (unless there’s a bad side I haven’t gotten on yet), writes an essay that rings very true with me about not being a pacifist anymore: “Then, one day I was writing a dialogue about the morality of pacifism, and I lost the argument with myself.”
My story isn’t the same but isn’t all that different. I made myself a pacifist early in life (after being a Civil War fan in the third grade but well before I was Vietnam draft bait; watching Vietnam on TV certainly had an impact). I wrestled with the same angels David wrestled with (what about Hitler? oh, that’s now a hypothetical). And then I faced the demons of September 11th and gave up my pacifism, publicly, in front of the few readers I had here a few years ago. Different paths. Similar feelings.
Assigning citizen journalists
: When I saw a story the other day about a media outlet encouraging citizens to send in photos of tornadoes, I wasn’t the only one who was worried that this might endanger those citizens.
: First, go read the Bill Clinton report, below. I hate it when something that took a lot of work scrolls off the screen. Isn’t it pathetic to plug and link to your own post? Yes, it is. Anyway…. Here’s one more thought that came out of what Clinton said…
The right was clever, no brilliant, to bypass the news — which they felt was stacked against them — to use other media and even entertainment to sell their political cause. Now the left is fighting back and so it’s interesting to look at the scorecard:
: Radio — still owned by the right, of course. Is Air America an inroad? Not if it doesn’t survive past the election. But Clinton said its getting audience last night and, of course, Al Franken says so.
: Books — shifting. Clinton said that during his presidency, most political books were from the right and they filled the best-seller list. Now the left is gaining with Franken, Moore, Clinton, and Clinton. There are still loads of conservatives selling well — start with O’Reilly. But now it’s a battleground. Only thing is, the audience for books themselves is tiny. The hidden agenda (besides earning advances) is going on book tours and getting publicity on TV, I think.
: Movies — owned by the left. Well, of course, they’re a product of left-wing Hollywood, aren’t they? There’s Fahrenheit 9/11, The Hunting of the President, The Day After Tomorrow in theaters now. What am I missing on the right? Who was the last big right-wing star after John Wayne?
: Music — always been the left. But I don’t think that’s effective today; it’s no longer and has not been in ages a medium of lyrics and the rebellion these days is often generic: anger at the Man rather than this Man or that Man.
: TV — outside of the news (let’s not get into that), isn’t TV rather apolitical? Oh, sure, there’s your random anti-Reagan miniseries and the message snuck in here and there. But I think this will be the next frontier of political entertainment. See Al Gore’s new network. It won’t be as overtly political as Air America, they say, but it will have a world view, of course. And I’ll be you’ll see some efforts to create the Norman Lear or the anti-Lear in politically hued sitcoms and dramas.
What do you see?
The mass market is (still) dead
: McDonald’s has discovered that the mass market is dead. The mass market started dying with the inventions of the remote control, cable, Internet, and VCR. But it’s still news when McDonald’s wakes up and smells it. I saw the other day (sorry, lost link) that McD’s is even using body paint on scantily clad women to push coming to McDonald’s late at night.
Steve Hall has a quote from a McDonald’s exec:
“Any single ad, commercial or promotion is not a summary of our strategy. It’s not representative of the brand message,” he said. “We don’t need one big execution of a big idea. We need one big idea that can be used in a multidimensional, multilayered and multifaceted way.”
That befuddled Steve. I think it means:
The mass market gives way to a mass of niches.
The No. 1 hamburger chain has cut its spending on prime-time commercials from two-thirds of its advertising budget to one-third over the past four years and plans to move further away from a one-stop strategy to draw consumers. The money has gone to “all other media” …
“We’re looking at the landscape very differently,” said Dave Burwick, chief marketing officer at beverage company PepsiCo . “Online will be bigger … print and outdoor will benefit from where we’re going. We’re taking dollars directly out of television.”
: UPDATE: Seth Godin reacts to the McDonald’s news:
I worry, though, about two things:
1. changing the marketing without changing the underpinnings of the business is almost always a bad strategy. If all the people, the systems, the real estate, the factories and the menus are organized around monolithic marketing, slapping a little brand journalism on top isn’t going to work awfully well.
2. The marketer doesn’t get to run the conversation. It’s not really brand journalism that’s happening, you see. It’s brand cocktail party! You get to set the table and invite the first batch of guests, but after that the conversation is going to happen with or without you.
My frustration is not with losing server space. I am a fortunate person who has access to abundant server space and bandwidth. The fact that Dave Winer took away my access to his server space has absolutely nothing to do with my read on the significance of this event. My frustration is with those who should know better not recognizing that the Cluetrain issue here is about links: That when someone does something, either innocently or with malice, that disrupts the efforts one has made to allow others to find “your stuff” on the web, then they have done something that says, “you don’t exist.”
: “I don’t wake up in the morning hating Kenneth Starr. I wake up in the morning feeling sorry for people who believe they are in possession of the whole truth… And I think you should, too,” President Bill Clinton told a large crowd tonight after the premiere of The Hunting of the President. “If you want to be forgiven, you have to extend forgiveness, even to people who aren’t smart enough to ask for it.”
It was an angry — at last — yet calm and philosophical Bill Clinton who stood on stage at NYU tonight, at an event sponsored by The Week, as he lectured the audience about the “historical context” of the film they had just watched. The film was based on a book that connected the dots about the — yes — vast, right-wing conspiracy that tried to bring Clinton down. It rehashed the troopers and Paula “with the hair and the nose” and Gennifer and Whitewater and the McDougals and Vince Foster with the bullet and, of course, Monica and showed who was behind it all. Just watching Ken Starr, that destructive prig, brought up the taste of bile again. But Clinton doesn’t hate Ken Starr, remember. He said that Starr et al “were not independent agents, they were instruments of a grand design.”
I found it odd, maybe sad, perhaps distasteful, no, maddening to see Clinton — whom I admire, let me be clear (or as we say, transparent) — coming out after the rehashing of all that, even if it was done by his defenders. Yet Clinton saw it as an opportunity for a history lesson.
To find “the roots of this,” he started in the ’60s. “The rise of the right in America basically began in the 1960s in all the turmoil over civil rights and the war, aggravated by the women’s movement and the gay rights movement and the controversy over Rowe vs. Wade.” With the end of the Cold War, he said, the right “didn’t have an enemy anymore and needed an enemy and I had to serve as the next best thing. I think it’s really important you understand that.” He kept repeating, “I think it’s really important that you understand,” the prof letting us know this will be on the exam.
He said the “anti-government movement” and the religious right “thought they had found a permanent way of holding onto the White House by characterizing the Democrats as weak elitists… And we helped them, frankly. Our party made a lot of mistakes.” He said the right considered Carter’s victory in 1976 “an aberrational result of Watergate” and that the “anti-government-values crowd basically believes that the most important thing to do is to have the right people in power and concentrate power in their hands….”
But then he want back further. He said that “in every hinge point in history we have a fight like we have now.”
“Our founders gave us a mission… to form a more perfect union. That was both a humble statement and a bold statement. It was humble because they recognized as flawed human beings, we will never be perfect… It was bold because it embodies the 18th Century idea of progress. It could always be more perfect…. But we always fight about this. At big times of change, it requires us to define, defend, and expand the union.”
Now Clinton goes way back. “The personal animosity I engendered, maybe that’s because there’s something about me they just didn’t like… But the time that most parallels that in the history of the country was the beginning of the republic.” When the country was formed, he said, the only things we agreed about were getting the English out and Washington in; we didn’t agree about the national economy or national legal system. “No one had really defined what it meant to be an American.” We debated and grew the union. Then slavery and the union ripped at us; we fought and expanded. Then monopoly business versus government controls; we debated and grew the union. Then the Cold War, then the information age, then the growth of American diversity and a worldwide economy. “The people on the far right have their view and they’re pursuing it as they think they should. We can win that fight because when you look back at American history, we have always decided to expand and extend. So I think you should feel optimistic and you should be very grateful — at least I am — that the American people, every time they get a clear shot and see what’s really going on, they go forward.” This, he said, is what we “will debate as we move to a new concensus about what it means to be an American in a 21st Century world.”
Then, coming back to today, he says, “The reason the last [presidential] election was 50/50 is we haven’t decided where we’re going yet.” He said there is “an honest disagreement in America today.”
Harry Evans got on stage and said we were all assigned 4,000 word essays on presidential politics.
: Clinton’s Golden Rules: “The effort of this was to show that I was bad people. I don’t think we have to show that they they are bad people. We have to say that we’re right and they’re wrong.” And: “I don’t believe we need to get into that kind of demonization. I think the evidence shows our way works better.” And: “They don’t think they’re bad people and I think it’s a mistake for us to treat them the way they treated us, because if we do, then they own us, they turn us into the kind of Pavlovian creatures they turn their voters into.”
: On that conspiracy: “Hilly was once hooted and derided when she called it a vast right-wing conspiracy.” He said that when she came home after that, he questioned only the word conspiracy. “Conspiracies are normally secret,” he said.
: On Susan McDougal: “The star of this movie and my personal heroine was Susan McDougal,” Clinton said — it was the first thing he said after coming on stage — and she got a standing O, just as he had. “If you like what’s in the film about her wait till you read what I wrote about her in the book…. Susan McDougal was a victim of abuse of power. She was simply a political pawn. And there were many more like her.”
: On the special prosecutors: “I asked for the derned thing…. I was such a naive fool, I thought people actually wanted to know the truth. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. I lost money in a land deal… That doesn’t exonerate me from the stupid personal — and wrong personal — mistakes I made… All this started when the press said they wanted to know the truth about what went on, they actually wanted to know the truth.” He said his counsel, Bernie Nussbaum, begged him not to approve the appointment of a special prosecutor. He believed Fiske, the first appointee, a Republican, would find the truth and it would be over. But “Fiske was replaced [because] he was too fast and too fair and he had to go.” He was replaced by “somebody who was more results oriented, as they say.” Ken Starr, he said, “saw himself as throwing the infidels from the temple.”
: On the press: “The mainstream media basically was in the tank with Starr by and large until the issuance of the Starr report. And I give them this: There was a dramatic sea change then.” And: “Media forgot briefly what they did in Watergate. What they did in Watergate was stop an abuse of power… They thought the game was get the President, not stop the abuse of power… But they got over it.”
: On the New York Times: He said he certainly had problems with their coverage of Whitewater and Starr at first but “the New York Times was the first great establishment institution that got it wrong to at least have a conscience. They did finally say that Kenneth Starr should resign.”
: On the new media age: “The press changes in the information age, too.” In the old days, he said, there were three networks and “they all had enough market share… to afford to send older, very experienced, very seasoned journalists to Vietnam and say here’s what we saw… The newspapers had enough money to have a correspondent in Paris and Beijing.. .to write thought pieces. It was a different world. They’re in a much more competitive world today and the lines between all media are being merged and the traditional lines between news and advocacy are being blurred.”
: On politics and media: Well, the right has radio. But the left has movies. Take Moore. Take this. And, Clinton says, the left is making inroads back into other media. “Look at what MoveOn.org did this year. Look at what Air America is doing. Al Franken is beating Rush Limbaugh in a couple of markets with that little tiny network.” [Note: Anybody have those ratings books?] “When you’re up against something you can either sit around and whine about it or get up and do something about it.” He said the right used to produce more books but now the left is, and he sure hopes his is one of the big sellers.
: On religion: “What separates us is that we haven’t tried to have our politics driven by religion…. That’s the historical context of the film and that’s why the film is so important.”
: On sanity: Harry Evans asked how Clinton “sustained yourself in this ordeal.” Clinton replied that “most days it bothered me more what was happening to other people…. My friends stayed, the administration stayed, and the American people stayed. That made it a lot easier… I said if I give up on this I will compound my error [agreeing to a special counsel]. When I realized there was no limit to what they could do I realized there was not alternative but to suit up and take the field.”
: On the election: “We’ve got a 50/50 chance, maybe better, that we’ll win the White House next time.” He said the Congress may shift to the left but only by a few votes. “I think you need to worry more about the concentration of this right-wing view of government, particularly in the courts….”
: I didn’t go to the after-party. Nor did I get to hobnob with celebs, though I did see Salman Rushdie and Mike Myers and seats reserved for Uma Thurman, Glenn Close, and Moby. It’s late. Notebook’s empty. Good night.
: UPDATE: Micah Sifry does not partake of Clinton nostalgia. Way doesn’t.