James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

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 and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Archive for November, 2009

Palin’s abbreviated turkey trot

Posted by James McPherson on November 27, 2009

Geographically, at least, Sarah Palin and I weren’t far apart yesterday, as she took a break from her book tour to run in the Kennewick (Wash.) Turkey Trot, a benefit run for the Red Cross. Entry #1072 didn’t wear the snazzy outfit that appeared on her recent Newsweek cover (see yesterday’s post below), opting instead for an orange T-shirt that read “Alaskan Grown.”

As usual, she brought along her young ‘uns (and will no doubt complain that they were portrayed in a bad light, despite the obvious joy they exhibit in the Tri-Cities Herald photo below). Husband Todd wasn’t along because he was home “fixing the roof” (perhaps damaged the last time a media report sent Sarah through it?).

Palin says on the video that Thanksgiving dinner was to be “Quiznos sandwiches,” because a turkey dinner would be “just too much work.” The least surprising part of her run? The fact that Palin quit partway through.

Palin at Turkey Trot

Posted in Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

‘Political porn’: Too-sexy Sarah and Michelle as a monkey

Posted by James McPherson on November 26, 2009

  

In what one critic calls “political pornography,” Newsweek has managed to again aid Sarah Palin’s ongoing campaign for … well, who knows what? The GOP candidate for the Mrs. America Pageant, perhaps? (After all, she’s not likely to face competition from fellow pageant princess Carrie Prejean for a title that requires a spouse, assuming Prejean continues to keep to herself, so to speak).

Newsweek is captivated by Palin, with its Web site now offering a “Palin book club quiz,” a slideshow with almost two dozen photos and at least three articles about her. One of the best is this piece by Julia Baird about “the ‘Palinization’ of Palin.” There’s also a link to this Palin-related blog post, which points out a fact long obvious to many, that mainstream political reporting in general is largely worthless.

David Bozeman, the conservative writer linked above, writes about the Palin cover: “The political junkie in me thought it a great piece of memorabilia. The regular guy in me thinks she looks awesome, and I can’t stop looking at it.” And that’s the problem, isn’t it? People just can’t stop looking at the ongoing train wreck of Palin.

I also thought the cover was silly–mostly because Newsweek (unlike most Americans) considered Palin to even be cover-worthy–though frankly I initially viewed it in a less sexist vein than did many. For one thing, I understood what I assumed to be an allusion to Palin’s “running,” even if she claims not to be campaigning. (She told Oprah that a presidential campaign was not “on my radar,” perhaps odd for someone who can see Russia from her house.)

I was surprised by Palin’s treatment of the American flag, which she seems to be leaning on. That’s no better than her usual method of wrapping herself in it, though perhaps better than a more appropriate GOP symbol–a flag draped over a casket.

Besides, unlike Hillary Clinton (who has been treated even worse, and for much longer), Palin has traded heavily on her looks, a fact recognized at some level even by conservatives such as the one quoted above. That willingness to capitalize on her appearance while acting aggrieved is a common trait for conservative women, of course, especially right-wing babblers such as Ann Coulter (the photo below is from her own Web site, unlike the sexist photo of Clinton), Michelle Malkin, and almost any blonde on Fox News, home of the daily “Pop Tarts.”

Just last week I saw another of those pieces–from a conservative, naturally–arguing that conservative women are “hotter” than liberals. My equally over-generalized and unfair thought, whenever I see that claim: liberal women are more likely to have brains and beauty; conservative women are more likely to have makeup and plastic surgery.

[michelle-obama.jpg]   In the meantime, speaking of brains and beauty, Google has apologized because searches for “Michelle Obama” produced an image (at left) in which the first lady’s picture had been altered to look like a monkey. While the image is reprehensible, I’m a bit concerned about how quickly Google reacted to take it down (though the company claimed it did so because of virus concerns).

After all, the image is hardly surprising considering the level of racist hatred that has been spewed by far-right nimrods during the past couple of years, and I want to know what the idiots are up to. Making the stupidity just a little harder to find doesn’t make it go away. More importantly, I don’t want Google–or any corporation–deciding what’s politically appropriate to view.

I just wish that more Americans, and the media they depend upon, would focus more on issues of substance. But the odds of that remain slim, despite a Pew study that the general population is smarter than the media on this issue.

Happy Thanksgiving. One of the things we can be most thankful for is that Palin isn’t a heartbeat away from the presidency–even if, as I suggested yesterday, I’m less impressed with the current Commander in Chief than I am with his wife.

      

Posted in History, Journalism, Media literacy, Politics, Women, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Obama saves turkey, not soldiers or landmine victims

Posted by James McPherson on November 25, 2009

Some 34,000 troops face the prospect of celebrating their last Thanksgiving at home–or their last Thanksgiving, ever–as President Obama will apparently announce a plan Tuesday to send them to the bottomless pit of Afghanistan.

Naturally right-wing wackos such as Glenn Beck and Dick Cheney (aka Glenn the Weeper and the Grim Reaper) say that sending more troops into harm’s way earlier would actually be a way to support the military. (I haven’t linked to the info about Cheney, because frankly I wish he’d just shut up and crawl back into whatever hole he was hiding in during most of his vice presidency).

Of course American soldiers and Afghans won’t be the only ones who will be blown up during this holiday season (though one turkey has been saved). Millions of people–many of them in countries no longer at war (unlike the U.S., which is virtually always at war, though few of its citizens suffer beyond economics as a result)–face the possibility of being among the thousands killed each year by landmines scattered in fields throughout the world.

More than 150 countries have signed on to an international convention that bans the production, stockpiling and use of land mines. International organizations expressed concern last summer about the fact that Iraq (a signer of the ban) had an estimated 20 million mines (and 2.66 million kid-killing cluster bomblets, an American specialty) spread throughout various parts of the country. Iraq’s mines that will take decades to clear.

So who hasn’t signed on to the landmine ban? The U.S., of course. The Obama administration announced yesterday that it would not change George W. Bush’s policy because “we would not be able to meet our national defense needs nor our security commitments to our friends and allies if we signed this convention” without mines and cluster bombs. Apparently Obama likes Tuesdays for announcing decisions about propagating of mass murder.

To be fair, the U.S. isn’t the only nation refusing to sign onto the treaty–others include the enlightened nations of China, Russia, Pakistan and Myanmar. And India, which saw its prime minister and Obama proclaim their “growing partnership” at a black-tie state dinner last night. Wearing black seems appropriate (though in India the traditional mourning color is white).

The dinner came almost exactly a year after deadly attacks in Mumbai–perhaps the last time that Twitter actually provided a useful service (though apparently it also helped terrorists track down victims, as discussed tonight on the PBS program “Secrets of the Dead“). Sadly, the current presidential administration seems dedicated to pursuing the kinds of policies produced by its predecessor, guaranteeing an increasing number of those kinds of “secrets.”

Posted in History, Journalism, Legal issues, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Kill ’em now or kill ’em later: Fort Hood’s more than 500 dead–and counting

Posted by James McPherson on November 6, 2009

Obviously yesterday’s killings at Fort Hood were a tragedy, with at least 13 people dead, so far. Still, I can’t help but think about the fact that if the dozen soldiers killed (one victim was a civilian) had died a couple of weeks from now–after they were in Iraq–the deaths would barely be a blip on the media screen.

One thing they have in common with their fallen comrades abroad is that they’ll now pass through Dover Air Force Base. I wonder if President Barack Obama will show up to “honor” their deaths.

Keep in mind that Fort Hood has lost more than 500–again, that’s more than five hundred–of its soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, with some about to be deployed for the fourth time. That’s in addition at least a dozen “suspicious deaths” at the base in recent months.

So yes, the latest deaths are tragic–but just a small part of an ongoing larger tragedy that will continue to play out for years to come.

Same-day follow-up: A student reminded me this morning (thanks, John) that as Rolling Stone reports, Fort Hood isn’t the only American military base with similar problems.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »