Posts from November 6, 2004

The final Maher: Sullivan v. Chomsky & Maher

The final Maher: Sullivan v. Chomsky & Maher

: As is my habit, I watched Bill Maher a day late. It’s the season finale coinciding with the Democratic finale.

: Former Sen. Alan Simpson lectures Bill Maher for making fun of not only the religious right but also of gays. It turns downright nasty. Maher was trying to be nice to Simpson. But Simpson, in his curmudgeonly way, was also trying to lecture the left, telling them what I say below: You’ll never win an election if you make fun of people who go to church.

: Susan Sarandon starts going off on her dumb paranoid drool about election fraud. “Come on, he lost. He lost by a lot of votes,” says the sensible Maher.

Maher asks whether “all the show people stumping for Kerry did more harm than good.” Good question. Doesn’t matter what Sarandon’s answer is.

: Maher says Andrew Sullivan having a must-read blog inspires him to get on the internet. Maher used to blog.

: Andrew says that the Hollywood left did their best to win the election for Bush and galvinized the center of the country by patronizing to them. Same message below (and shortly above). “People are tired of being demeaned. Don’t demean people and then expect them to vote for you.”

: Sullivan says people in the middle of the country felt “they were being written out.” Maher replies: “How were they written out? They’re running everything?”

: Sullivan does very well on this show; he’s the best guest Maher has. He should be on TV regularly — as in, paid to be on TV.

: Maher talks to Noam Chomsky, who’s being professorially glib.

“The invasion of Iraq was simply a war crime,” Chomsky says to Maher’s audience’s hooting.

Maher treats Chomsky with a gentleness he gives no guest: “Why do you think we did Iraq?” When did Jay Leno take over the show? Why for Chomsky? Fill in your answer here.

Maher says the world is not better off without Saddam Hussein; he said the people in his rape rooms are better off but the world is not. Even Chomsky won’t pull back that far. Chomsky says the world is better off without Saddam Hussein.

: Sullivan reacts: “Welcome to the world view of the far left in which the United States is the source of all evil… That is why you lost the election.”

After purring for Chomsky, Maher yells at Sullivan.

Maher tries to say that Chomsky has a different definition of freedom and democracy. Sullivan says quite rightly that’s wrong: There is either freedom and democracy or there is not.

Sullivan: “You don’t have to believe to the United States is perfect to believe it is a force for good in this world.”

He says listening to Chomsky denegrate the United States as he does is wrong and is “one of the reasons the left has lost.”

He challenges Maher: If Sullivan is supposed to condemn the Jerry Falwells and haters of the right, should he not condemn Chomsky as a hater of the left?

“You treated him like a folk hero. You didn’t ask him a single tough question.” Amen, Andrew.

It can happen to you II

It can happen to you II

: My friend Hossein Derakhshan, the pioneering Iranian blogger, reveals that he is under death threat:

U.S. election aside, hot topic of the last couple of weeks in Persian blogosphere has been a blog called “Islamic Army” in which its anonymous author has threaten a big list of Iranian blogger for their “insults” to Allah, Prophet Mohammad and other Shia Imams….

They now have picked particular posts from my Persian blog, in which they think I’ve insulted the God, and other sacred concepts of Islam and therefore, quoting from a Quranic verse, I deserve to be killed….

I never took them seriously before, but this time I’m a bit concerned, because they seem to be a different group who have possibly liked the original blog and have tried to adopt their message and to prepare enough evidence for the original claims, at least about me….

This is real and it is frightening.

See the tragedy of Theo Van Gogh, murdered because he dared to criticize Muslims.

It can happen to Van Gogh. It can happen to Hoder. It can happen to anyone. Even you.

: Hoder writes this, ironically, on the fourth anniversary of the vibrant, revolutionary Persian blogosphere.

: I spent more than an hour last night watching the vlogs of Theo Van Gogh. I don’t speak Dutch. Doesn’t matter. What I see here is a charming, liked, funny man full of life and talent. And he is gone because he dared criticize Muslims.

Imagine if Jon Stewart were gunned down because of a skit or Jay Leno because of a joke. That is what happened here. It is an atrocity. And it didn’t happen in Iraq. It happened in Amsterdam.

It could happen here.

: This sounds familiar:

Deputy Prime Minister Gerrit Zalm, announcing a review of security after a government meeting on Friday, spoke of

Paying the price

Paying the price

: Mark Cuban is fined for a blog post.

Whose values II

Whose values II

: The NY Times op-ed page today reflected the post I wrote Thursday on the bogus impact of “moral values” on the election as measured by the bogus exit polls (proving only that print punditry has a helluva lead time):

: Gary Langer, head of polling for ABC News, said he fought against including the “moral values” question in the joint exit poll because it was so vague and it was the ultimate mom-and-apple pie question: Who’s against moral values here?

Pre-election polls consistently found that voters were most concerned about three issues: Iraq, the economy and terrorism. When telephone surveys asked an open-ended issues question (impossible on an exit poll), answers that could sensibly be categorized as moral values were in the low single digits. In the exit poll, they drew 22 percent.

Why the jump? One reason is that the phrase means different things to people. Moral values is a grab bag; it may appeal to people who oppose abortion, gay marriage and stem-cell research but, because it’s so broadly defined, it pulls in others as well….

Moral values, moreover, is a loaded phrase, something polls should avoid. (Imagine if “patriotism” were on the list.) It resonates among conservatives and religious Americans. While 22 percent of all voters marked moral values as their top issue, 64 percent of religious conservatives checked it.

: David Brooks, on whom I tend to be binary, writes a very good column on the bull that is “moral values” as an issue.

If you ask an inept question, you get a misleading result.

The reality is that this was a broad victory for the president. Bush did better this year than he did in 2000 in 45 out of the 50 states. He did better in New York, Connecticut and, amazingly, Massachusetts. That’s hardly the Bible Belt. Bush, on the other hand, did not gain significantly in the 11 states with gay marriage referendums.

He won because 53 percent of voters approved of his performance as president. Fifty-eight percent of them trust Bush to fight terrorism. They had roughly equal confidence in Bush and Kerry to handle the economy. Most approved of the decision to go to war in Iraq. Most see it as part of the war on terror.

It’s a simple and clear analysis. He then says, “The fact is that if you think we are safer now, you probably voted for Bush. If you think we are less safe, you probably voted for Kerry.” I disagree there. That assumes that terrorism is the only issue. If it were, he’d be right (and I’d have voted for Bush). But there were many issues and each of us weighed them differently. That’s why all efforts to explain an election over one issue are wrong. So he’s oversimplifying the opposition, slightly. But he’s also right about the opposition oversimplifying the victors:

But the same insularity that caused many liberals to lose touch with the rest of the country now causes them to simplify, misunderstand and condescend to the people who voted for Bush. If you want to understand why Democrats keep losing elections, just listen to some coastal and university town liberals talk about how conformist and intolerant people in Red America are. It makes you wonder: why is it that people who are completely closed-minded talk endlessly about how open-minded they are?

This is why I wrote my post-election peace pledge and my letter to Democrats: Insulting the people who voted for Bush is no way to win the next election.

: Nick Kristof says it’s time for Democrats to be more open and he’s right. He also says our model should be Labor under Tony Blair and he’s way right. He’s way wrong in a minute….

As moderates from the heartland, like Tom Daschle, are picked off by the Republicans, the party’s image risks being defined even more by bicoastal, tree-hugging, gun-banning, French-speaking, Bordeau-sipping, Times-toting liberals, whose solution is to veer left and galvanize the base….

Mobilizing the base would mean nominating Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008 and losing yet again. (Mrs. Clinton has actually undertaken just the kind of makeover that I’m talking about: in the Senate, she’s been cooperative, mellow and moderate, winning over upstate New Yorkers. She could do the same in the heartland … if she had 50 years.)

So Democrats need to give a more prominent voice to Middle American, wheat-hugging, gun-shooting, Spanish-speaking, beer-guzzling, Bible-toting centrists. (They can tote The Times, too, in a plain brown wrapper.) For a nominee who could lead the Democrats to victory, think of John Edwards, Bill Richardson or Evan Bayh, or anyone who knows the difference between straw and hay.

He’s way wrong in thinking that Edwards, Richardson, or Bayh are the people to re-energize the party. They are dull and safe. They don’t have vision. Clinton (Hillary) is a centrist who has a vision and can energize the party. She’ll piss off the opposite fringe, but that won’t matter.

He also says that the Democrats need to work hard not to be the obstructionist party over the next four years. Again, I agree. I disagree with his particular prescription for how to do that, but that’s all a matter of politics. The moral to the story is the same.

: Finally, Steven Waldman of Beliefnet looks like a bit of a fool quoting the “moral values” poll results as if they mean something, surrounded by those who show how it doesn’t.

: The Democrats must find the path to:

1. Not insult the victors by acting as if they’re all a bunch of right-wing religious nut jobs if they voted for Bush. They are your neighbors.

2. Not obstruct progress in the country by insisting on only attacking the administration instead of finding ways to work with it.

3. Not hold to ideology and become the (small) party of exclusion. I know what that felt like during this election; just because I supported some of what Bush did, I was seen as a disloyal unDemocrat and I swear there were some who would rather have held onto their orthodoxy than get my vote. That’s no way to win elections.

Bush or bust

Bush or bust

: Nola.com reports that a voter had to take off her shirt to vote. Well, people have taken off a lot more for a lot less in New Orleans.

Debbie Dupeire was so intent on helping to re-elect the president Tuesday that she shucked her Bush-Cheney T-shirt and voted in her bra after being told that state election law prohibits displaying a candidate’s name in a polling place.

: I was out helping at the church rummage sale today when I got email on my Treo from Glenn Reynolds begging for the greater good of blogging for the picture to be put on the story so all could see (because Nola.com is one of my day-job sites). I emailed the indefatigable editor of Nola.com, Jon Donley, right there from the church (which almost matches the time I blogged an FCC fine against Howard Stern from the choir loft). Jon wasted no time copying the picture from a photo gallery to the story. And there you have it. Who says blogs don’t improve news?

Up the creek

Up the creek

: Twice this morning on the Today show, a guest talking about the fight over Outkast using Rosa Parks’ name complained that the lyrics also included the phrase “up shit’s creek.” He didn’t bleep himself and call it crap creek. Today didn’t (and couldn’t) bleep it. He did it once and nothing was said; he did it again and Lester Holt moved it along; at the end, Holt apologized for the language.

Oh, no, the country is going to fall apart.

Calling the moral values police.

Once the indecent indecency bill is signed into law, NBC could be fined millions of dollars for that one word twice said. And the guest could be fined into bankruptcy for these two incidents of too-free speech.

Access isn’t power anymore

Access isn’t power anymore

: An important change has come to the relationship of media to power to people:

It used to be, until very recently, that the press had access to power and that, in turn, is what gave them power.

But now those in power have cut off the press’ access. See how the Bush White House has successfully reduced leaks and whispers and locked down its control. See how FCC Chair Michael Powell tried to refuse to take phone calls from citizens when he appeared on Ronn Owens’ show (but Howard Stern broke through).

This same thing happened much earlier in show biz; I witnessed it when I was at People in the ’80s: When the stars realized that their faces and stories sold magazines, the power shifted from journalists, who controlled access to the audience, to flacks, who controlled access to the stars. The stars were now worth more than the audience.

So now access is locked down. Reporters can’t get to those in power except when they want to spin. Magazines can’t get to stars except when they have something to promote. Business reporters have trouble getting to corporate heads, who now hide behind SEC rules to control access.

At the same time, the internet means that media no longer controls access to the audience. Politicians, marketers, celebrities, anybody can now bypass the media and go directly to the people and the people can respond.

Nobody has access.

So now everybody has access.

This means, you see, that you and I have almost as much access as the big-time reporters (read: nearly none). And because we can write blogs and get read in the halls of power and quoted in media, we have access to power through a side door. And with the internet, we have access to audiences we can build overnight; they’re not huge, but they’re growing.

Jay Rosen writes about this — more eloquently and intelligently, of course — in his post-election post about changing roles in news:

: Washington journalism likes to imagine itself the Administration’s great adversary, but most of the time it relies on access journalism– not the adversarial kind. “Sources make news” is the first tenet in that system, and that gives sources power. But access journalism makes less and less sense when there is no access, and sources rarely deviate from the party line. The White House press corps has always been based on access, so much so that the alternatives to it have almost been forgotten. I think there will be pressure to abandon the whole dream of press access under Bush, and re-position some forces accordingly.

: Interesting, then, what Daniel Weintraub of the Sacramento Bee said at PressThink this week: “When my colleagues complain about a lack of access to Schwarzenegger at his media events, I ask, is that kind of access really critical to our doing our jobs? Is it our job to get close enough to describe the color of his tie, or his interaction with a voter, or is it our job to deconstruct the governor’s (or president’s) policies and proposals, their effect or potential effect on the public, their cost and consequences? Sure it’s great to have an interview with the man, or fire away questions at a press conference, but I think good journalists are capable of informing the public without the benefit of these tools.” He’s thinking of alternatives to access because he’s already realized it: Arnold is post-press in his political style.

We rethink what access matters. We rethink the power that access accords. We rethink our jobs and what reporters should really be doing (just because 15,000 reporters get access to the political conventions, does that mean they should go?). We rethink the ability of the rest of the people — us — to have access to news and information and viewpoints and audience and power.

: That’s only one of Jay’s points. He also summarizes the important changes that have come to the scene during this election, including the likely growth of opinionated, even opposition press. More on that later.