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, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving–even if you’re not a white middle-class American

Posted by James McPherson on November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving.

Above is a classic 1951 expression of what some of the things we have to be thankful for today as Americans (assuming we’re not those Native Americans typically cast as Pilgrim Squanto/Tonto helpmates in the traditional Thanksgiving saga, before William Bradford and other Colonial forefathers were expressing thanks that they could kill so many Indians.

Below are some highlights of the video, along with my related comments:

Expressing thanks for the “free public library,” public education and “hot water out of the tap”?

Sounds like socialism to me.

Thankful to “be able to go to any church I want”? Even one that’s not Christian? Hmm.

“For living where schools–all schools–open their doors to a guy who wants to learn”?

Well, a white guy, anyway, here in 1951.

“Thankful that my children have the privilege of being born safely, and of growing up healthy and strong”?

Not as privileged as kids in Canada or Australia or New Zealand or virtually any European nation, but much better than if they were poor or non-white Americans.

“Glad Dad doesn’t have to work slave hours, that there are evenings and Sundays and vacations when we can all be together”?

And so thank God for the unions that brought us those things?

Thankful for “a place we can be together in privacy” and “knowing the knock on our door is nothing to fear”?

At least for most white middle-class Americans, before the Patriot Act.

“And I’m thankful for my newspaper … more valuable than any amount of money, because in it the editor’s got the privilege of printing what he thinks, and I’ve got the privilege of agreeing with him or not, however the facts strike me.”

Hallelujah.

“And finally, I’m thankful for being able to believe, in spite of everything, that somehow, some way, the unity we’ve got here in the Johnson family will someday spread to men and nations throughout the world.”

However delusional the thought: Amen.

Posted in Education, History, Politics, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

More evidence that watching Fox News or NASCAR may make you dumber

Posted by James McPherson on November 22, 2011

When it comes to knowledge of world affairs, “no news is better than Fox News,” according to a study by researchers at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Sadly, that’s old news. Even sadder, as columnist Kathleen Parker (once considered a conservative, though now even Ronald Reagan wouldn’t qualify) has pointed out, the relative ignorance common to heavy watchers of Fox News is driving today’s Republican Party. Or, as Paul Begala has termed it, “the Stupid Party.”

I hesitate to paint with a brush so broad, though I have previously noted some activities by conservatives that seemed at least unenlightened. But presumably these are some of the same folks who actually booed the First Lady over the weekend at a NASCAR race (an action that the voice of the GOP, Rush Limbaugh, actually defended).

Think for a minute–as much as some people hated George W. Bush, can you imagine any of those folks openly and proudly insulting Laura Bush? In fact, to find such boorish behavior toward a First Lady you have to go all the way back to … Hillary Clinton. The worst example? Another Democratic First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson.

And when people are working as hard as the current crop of GOP candidates to look stupid, it’s difficult to conclude otherwise. Perhaps it’s simply a Wall Street plot to get Obama re-elected, despite all the reasons he shouldn’t be. See a couple of the more humorous recent examples–or at least they would be funny, if these weren’t people seeking to lead the free world–below.

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

Judy Shepard’s ‘Remembrance Day’

Posted by James McPherson on November 11, 2011

“Remembrance Day” was another term for “Armistice Day,” commemorating the Nov. 11, 1918, cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I–the war some then called “the war to end all wars.”

Those folks were wrong, of course. We can’t seem to get enough of war, so Armistice Day–signifying the partial end of one in a long and unending series of wars–needed a new, more all-inclusive name. Veterans Day isn’t enough to close the stock market (perhaps you should invest in war stocks), but there will be a cool college basketball game on an aircraft carrier. How long before an announcer says a team or player “came out firing” or “dropped in a bomb,” do you suppose?

In the meantime,  yesterday was yet another “remembrance day” for Judy Shepard. She spoke to a big crowd at Whitworth University, sharing the story of her son, Matthew. He was beaten to death 13 years ago because he was gay.

Judy Shepard has been talking about “the meaning of Matthew” in person, on the web, and through her writing ever since. The fact that she was invited to speak here, and was so well received, made me proud yet again to be associated with such an enlightened Christian institution.

Though as a society we obviously have a long way to go, Shepard has seen changes in the treatment of gays–less fear in the eyes of her audiences, a country in which most Americans now support gay marriage, and of course the repeal of the ludicrous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The repeal means that today is the first Veterans Day in which openly gay service members can rightfully be honored for their sacrifices–including sacrifices that their heterosexual brothers and sisters in arms were never asked to make.

Perhaps one day we’ll live to see a day in which we don’t call upon our young people to die on our behalf, either at home or abroad. Now that would be an Armistice Day truly worth celebrating.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »