Posts from July 28, 2004

A nation undecided, not a nation divided

A nation undecided, not a nation divided

: I think the reason the JibJab animation of Bush v. Kerry singing “This Land is Your Land” has become such a hit and struck such a nerve is precisely because it doesn’t take sides: It’s quite balanced in its amusing disdain for the foibles of both candidates. That, I believe, represents the views of most Americans: We’re each evenly divided trying to decide which we can bear better.

Moore critics under every rock

Moore critics under every rock

: Scott Simon — to me, the caricature of an NPR host and listener, a professional nice guy, a presumed (by association) liberal — slices into Michael Moore and his credibility in the Wall Street Journal:

Trying to track the unproven innuendoes and conspiracies in a Michael Moore film or book is as futile as trying to count the flatulence jokes in one by Adam Sandler….

In the New York Times, Paul Krugman wrote that, “Viewers may come away from Moore’s movie believing some things that probably aren’t true,” and that he “uses association and innuendo to create false impressions.” Try to imagine those phrases on a marquee. But that is his rave review! He lauds “Fahrenheit 9/11” for its “appeal to working-class Americans.” Do we really want to believe that only innuendo, untruths, and conspiracy theories can reach working-class Americans?

Governments of both parties have assuaged Saudi interests for more than 50 years. (I wonder if Mr. Moore grasps how much the jobs of auto workers in Flint depended on cheap oil.) Sound questions about the course, costs, and grounds for the war in Iraq have been raised by voices across the political spectrum.

But when 9/11 Commission Chairman Kean has to take a minute at a press conference, as he did last Thursday, to knock down a proven falsehood like the secret flights of the bin Laden family, you wonder if those who urge people to see Moore’s film are informing or contaminating the debate. I see more McCarthy than Murrow in the work of Michael Moore. No matter how hot a blowtorch burns, it doesn’t shed much light.

Good for you, Mr. Simon.

Obama speaks

Obama speaks

: I just watched Obama’s keynote on MSNBC. He is good: a star made. He gave an eloquent and positive expression of liberalism. And I am glad that someone is speaking positively about America at a time when we need that, when we are under attack for being America and when we are too often attacking ourselves.

A rose by any other name

A rose by any other name

: Identity is an element of trust. Identity is also the keystone in the virtue of the age: transparency. Identity matters.

So it’s good that Duncan Brown Gray Black (I’m still confused) has revealed himself to be Atrios.

If you want us to trust what you say, then the least you can do is put your moniker where your mouth is not only so we know that you stand behind what you say but also so your public can judge what you say in the context of your experience and expertise and perspective.

Note what Glenn Reynolds says about Black today:

I PROMISED HIM THAT I WOULDN’T OUT HIM a long time ago, but now Atrios has been unmasked as a guy named Duncan Black who, among other things, works for David Brock’s Soros-funded Media Matters operation. Nothing wrong with that, but if I were working for, say, Richard Mellon Scaife, I think somebody — like, say, Duncan Black — would be making something of it.

Right. Identity matters.

At the Aspen Institute, various of us said that news organizations should put up bios of their writers (and editors, I’d say) on their web sites so the audience can learn more about them. Identity. Transparency. Trust.

Note also that Amazon has just instituted a “Real Names” program for its reviews. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Earlier this month, the Web retailer quietly launched a new system, dubbed Real Names, that encourages users to append to their product reviews the name that appears on the credit card they have registered with Amazon. A logo saying “Real Name” appears beside such customer comments.

Amazon still allows reviewers to sign their comments with pen names, effectively concealing their identity from other Amazon users. But even these reviewers need to supply a credit card or purchase history. Previously, users could easily open multiple Amazon accounts from which they could post multiple reviews of the same product. The new system is intended to block that practice….

More broadly, the new rules attempt to address a perennial problem posed by the anonymity of the Internet: How to identify people who post comments online, be they would-be book critics or people with a bone to pick about a certain product.

Identity and transparency and trust matter for politicians and for journalists and it especially matters in this personal medium.

We’ve discussed anonymity many times in the comments here so we don’t need to launch that again. I just say again that I give more credence and attention to those willing to put their names behind what they say. And for some of those who return frequently to snipe from behind the veil of anonymity, I have taken to ignoring them.

Throw the book at ’em!

Throw the book at ’em!

: ChangeThis is touting its manifestos before they’re published (as PDFs) and is apparently going with the 9/11 Commission strategy for defense against terrorists: libraries.

We signed on Jessica Stern, who is a lecturer in public policy at Kennedy and served on Clinton’s NSC.

Instead of studying the roots of terrorism from an office in America, Jessica went to the source–Pakistan, India, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and Indonesia. For five years she interviewed terrorist groups, from extremist seminaries in India and Pakistan to refugee camps in Lebanon to Christian cults in Texas.

She found that terrorism has become a way of life, a profession, that no amount of bombing can change. The War on Terror needs to be a battle for terrorist’ minds, not for their camps and ammunition depots.

That’s right. If you load up a car with books from the library, you can’t fit in a bomb.