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Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Saving the world in Afghanistan, killing the media at home

Posted by James McPherson on March 27, 2009

Barack Obama apparently can’t decide if he’s George W. Bush or one of several former leaders of the former Soviet Union, declaring that we must win in Afghanistan to “save the world.”

Despite worries about those other dangerous folks on our southern border, apparently Afghanistan seems small enough to win (chances are Obama won’t be the first leader to be wrong about that) and far enough away that we can be inspired to worry enough to fund operations there and think Democrats are strong on defense–but not be too scared to pour money into other things.

Americans know they should worry about Obama-the-Conservative’s plan when Fox News and David Brooks both are quick to approve. In the meantime, of course, there’s less reason to believe even fewer Americans will be informed about that issue or any other, as news media continue to die.

Interestingly, CNN highlighted financial costs in the headline and lead of a story about job cuts at the New York Times and Washington Post yesterday–at the same time it was featuring a clueless “iReport” feature titled “Let newspapers go”–holding the fact that the Times cut 100 jobs and would slash the salaries of other workers until the second paragraph. The third paragraph mentions that buyouts will be offered at the Post, which “could not rule out laying off staff.”

Contrast that with a story the same day about Google, for which both the headline and the lead highlight almost 200 lost jobs–leaving the company with 20,000 employees–or about five times as many people as we’ll add to our “world saving” force in Afghanistan.

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9 Responses to “Saving the world in Afghanistan, killing the media at home”

  1. Luis Lopez said

    Jim-

    I’m not sure if the George W. Bush/Barack Obama comparison is an apt one. Sure, there were some phrases in his speech yesterday that are almost verbatim Bush, but the overall proposal is where the differences begin.

    First off, Bush was an advocate of pure democratization of Afghanistan, whereas Obama is opting more for an approach that pushes simply for a stable government in Afghanistan.

    Second, Obama is putting in troops to help train the Afghanis, instead of instituting a Iraq style surge that Bush put into place.

    In my opinion, Obama is more clearly defining what needs to be done in Afghanistan, more so than Bush ever did. He stated that the eradication of Al-Qaeda is paramount, as well as giving Afghanis the capacity to do things on their own terms, without America being a babysitter.

  2. zelda said

    James…………..It’s always been Afghanistan that is the hot spot….all during and way before Bush came along.
    No new news there.
    Obama is clearly not Bush even though the issues he has to face are still there and very real.
    You are such a bleeding heart……for the goofiest reasons.
    You are living in la la land for pete’s sake.Are you a faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar right thinker all the way then?
    I am giving Obama a high mark on this issue………..

  3. […] Barack Obama tells us the fate of the world rests in Afghanistan, and maybe we ought to worry about those crazy drug lords on our southern border. But Secretary of […]

  4. James McPherson said

    I actually believe there’s quite a bit of difference between Obama and Bush, and I definitely prefer the former to the latter, but I don’t think there’s as much difference as most liberals would like to think. I think more troops in Afghanistan might have been a good idea seven years ago, and that there are things we can do to help the stabilization effort there now (assuming we can afford it).

    But I think a mostly-military solution–which I fear Obama will gravitate toward–will be no more useful for us than it was for the Soviets. And I was troubled by his “save the world” language in reference to Afghanistan. After all, if we fail there, that means we’ve failed the world–by HIS definition.

    I could be wrong (such things have happened, and admittedly most people seem to disagree with me), but I think Obama’s move was an error militarily and politically. Thanks, Luis & Zelda–it’s always good to hear from you both.

  5. zelda said

    These issues are so difficult to talk in the “now” about……….it’s a wait and see situation as are all Presidential runs for the most part. We get our tails under the rocker and squall our heads off.The nature of the beast I suppose.
    Maybe if we put our collective positive energy behind our president it will force a positive outcome.Ya think????
    People actually elected(WELLLLLLLLLLLLL???) Bush a second time when he had us in ruins and headed for MORE OF THE SAME! I find that incredible.What the heck was that???????Seems we over looked what was right in our faces…so why not cut Obama some slack?As I said before…..he inherited all this crap……….he HAS to deal with it and there are things in place he has to struggle with. Just imagine for a moment how many people want him to fail..eh??? Do ya think there are slick moles in his advisory group? OH>>>>>yeah.
    Well…….I am not sure it’s humanly possible for one man to handle all this crisis and crappy leagacies he’s been stuck with! In all my 60 plus years I have never seen this country so screwed up.
    I am very worried about the drug cartel problem…….I am aware of the Afghanistan woes……….I am watching China with a creeping fear……….I see where Korea(both) is trying to go……..India sets me slobbering…………etc. etc. etc. Iran and Iraq just make my blood run cold…………I worry that parenting is a lost art……….I worry that teachers are molesting and running off with students. I am aghast at the famicide situations that are seemingly on the rise. I am totally smashed at the suicide rate of our young vets.The homeless issues are terrible…………I myself live on $300.00 a month SSI.I am an artist and no one is buying art when they have to eat and or pay rent etc. etc.
    Heyyyyyyyyyyy…………….the issues go on and on.
    So James……..fix it for me ok? I will push positive thoughts to you 24/7……..and be there when you can’t quite pull off all the answers in other peoples expected way or time.I will have your back as long as there is no evil in your agenda.
    Zelda

  6. James McPherson said

    No intentional evil in my agenda … though I do recognize that my American lifestyle inevitably perpetuates some evil in other parts of the world.

    I also recognize that Obama inherited a mess, and I hope he helps us pull ourselves out of it. One of my biggest criticisms of Republicans under Bush, though, was how they put their guy and their party over country–and especially since Obama has nothing to fear from elections for a few years, I don’t want to fall into the same trap.

    And as screwed up as things are, one advantage to being a historian is to recognize that change is often as painful as it is inevitable, and that we often come out the other end better for the pain. My biggest hope is that it makes us better people, instead of worse.

    On the other hand, I also recognize that I have a somewhat skewed and likely demented view of the world. After all, I figure that every plane I get on has a good chance of crashing, but I keep getting on them–and assuming that if there’s one survivor of the crash, I’ll be the one. 🙂 Thanks.

  7. zelda said

    Evil is and has been alive all over the world since the beginning of time. Your American lifestyle as you put it,is not the culprit solely.So you can’t take the brunt for that my friend.
    I am glad you are hopeful that we will come out of this mess in the US better for it.It’s probably not going to be that cut and dried but certainly part and parcel.
    Bush was a Republican………Obama is a Democrat. Hopefully the core of the party will not allow “Bush-Like” policies to repeat themselves wherever possible.
    I prefer to encourage Obama on the efforts to make change.
    As I said….we will have to wait and see……………….we always do.

  8. […] the Bush strategy (including the use of independent contractors to supplement American troops) in international affairs–endorsing the Spanish judge’s […]

  9. Gabrielle said

    Zelda – you’ll have to forgive James his skepticism a little bit, he is a journalist after all, even if he is a journalist that writes – being skeptical is what they do, and we need them for that 🙂

    You & I, however, put the “art” in “liberal art” – you make art and I write poems. We believe in things first and doubt them after they’ve already proven themselves wrong, and make poems and art about them in both stages.

    “I am an artist and no one is buying art when they have to eat and or pay rent etc. etc.”

    I am one of the ‘hidden homeless’ – as an unintentionally tongue-in-cheek online article I read put it – a broke 20-year-old college student unhappily unemployed & living with her parents. I recently went on a road trip with two friends. We went from Spokane to Seattle to the Olympic Peninsula to Astoria to Fort Stevens to Tillamook to Portland to Spokane in the space of a week. We did it for under $100 per person – and we drove.

    In between restocking for our sandwich supplies, me & my friends stopped to buy books, books, more books, and, in my case, also a dreamcatcher from Seattle.

    Don’t worry.

    People still buy art.

    Even in this economy.

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