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 the ‘History’ Category

Refuting Tim Allen about Donald Trump

Posted by James McPherson on August 17, 2020

This is a very long refutation of an inane “Tim Allen” meme. I hope you find it educational, and maybe even entertaining in a couple of spots. But it is very long, so feel free to skip it, to share it, or to save it for later.)

Perhaps you’ve seen the long meme that pathetic Trump supporters have posted ad nauseum on social media, the one in which “Tim Allen” gives us some pro-Trump things to think about. I’ve seen it several times, and generally ignore it as just another dishonest Republican rant. But the meme appeared on my feed again tonight, and I decided to take a closer look. Below is my point-by-point counterargument. All words by the “author” are in quotes.

“These are not my words but definitely some things to think about!”

At least the person posting this is admits up front that s/he doesn’t really know much, is too lazy or ignorant or dishonest to do any actual research, is too cowardly or dishonest to voice a firm opinion of his/her own, and/or thinks it’s cool to quote a TV actor. In fact, judging by the punctuation (!), being a uninformed quoter of a celebrity is exciting.

“From: Tim Allen”

Oh, damn. You really believed it was written by a sitcom actor? No, some guy who happened to have the same name as the actor apparently copied-and-pasted it from various sources. Typically clueless but gullible Trump supporters then made the natural (for a Trumper) leap, making the post go viral.

“Here are some interesting points to think about prior to 2020, especially to my friends on the fence, like moderate Democrats, Libertarians and Independents and the never Trump Republicans and those thinking of ‘walking away’ from the Democratic party.”

Well, “interesting” is a matter of opinion, I guess. Still, I don’t believe any Democrats are “walking away” – the whole “walk away” movement was founded and driven by desperate Republications who recognize that record numbers of people have abandoned the GOP since Trump was elected.

“Women are upset at Trump’s naughty words — they also bought 80 million copies of 50 Shades of Gray.”

Actually, women whom I know – along with most men – are “upset” that Trump is a self-confessed abuser of women, probably a rapist, perhaps a pedophile, and is obviously sexist (and racist, meaning he especially hates/fears women of color). In addition, Fifty Shades of GREY has sold more than 150 million copies; I have no idea where the “80 million” came from, how “Allen” knows how many of those women bought, or how many of those women were wives thinking that reading about being bound and beaten during sex had to be an improvement over having sex with Republican husbands.

“Not one feminist has defended Sarah Sanders. It seems women’s rights only matter if those women are liberal.”

What were feminists supposed to “defend”? The constant lying before she killed the White House Daily Briefing? Besides, I doubt that “Allen” knows or reads many feminists.

“No Border Walls. No voter ID laws. Did you figure it out yet?”

Figure out what? There are some stretches of border wall, but of course almost every sentient being – including most of those people who actually live on the border – know there are better ways to cut down on illegal immigration. You don’t even have to lock children in cages. In addition, there are many voter ID laws, just not at the actual polling place, where it should be unnecessary.

“But wait… there’s more.”

Sadly, “Allen” finally gets one right. There is much more. And it’s as bad as what came before.

“Chelsea Clinton got out of college and got a job at NBC that paid $900,000 per year.”

Actually, that figure is badly inflated – by a full 50 percent of her actual salary of $600,000 (a realistic contract for someone on network TV with the kind of access she has). Besides, one of the Bush daughters also got a TV gig. Trump spends more than that on golf trips – and unlike with Clinton’s salary, WE actually pay for Trump’s trips. Worse, we pay Trump himself, the most corrupt president in history.

“Her mom flies around the country speaking out about white privilege.”

Isn’t that a good thing?

“And just like that, they went from being against foreign interference in our elections to allowing non-citizens to vote in our elections.”

Aside from the amorphous “they,” this makes no sense. No one favors letting non-citizens vote. Republicans have proven repeatedly that they want to suppress the legal vote as much as possible.

“President Trump’s wall costs less than the Obamacare website. Let that sink in, America.”

But wasn’t Mexico supposed to be paying for the wall? It shouldn’t cost me a damn thing. Besides, I don’t mind paying more to make American lives better than I pay for making a smaller number of immigrants’ lives even more miserable. In addition, the sentence is probably a lie, since it includes no numbers, but I’m getting tired of wading through this garbage so I’ll let someone else look that up.

“We are one election away from open borders, socialism, gun confiscation, and full-term abortion nationally.”

Pure bullshit, of course, reflecting total ignorance of both the legislative process and the Constitution. The only way most of those things could happen is if we turn the nation into a fascist state, as Trumpers seem content to do.

“We are fighting evil.”

Yawn. Is that like fighting fire with fire?

“They sent more troops and armament to arrest Roger Stone than they sent to defend Benghazi.”

Again with “they.” Stone was arrested, tried, and convicted with Trump in office. Incidentally, four people died in the Benghazi attacks. So far Trump’s “response” to Covid-19 has probably killed at least 100,000 more Americans than would have died if Hillary Clinton had been president.

“’60 years ago, Venezuela was 4th on the world economic freedom index. Today, they are 179th and their citizens are dying of starvation. In only 10 years, Venezuela was destroyed by democratic socialism.’!!!”

The “author” included the punctuation marks, without citing an actual source, along with three (!!!) exclamation points. Why, I don’t know. Maybe the numbers are right; maybe not. If the point is to examine the results of “democratic socialism,” however, a better comparison would be almost every nation in Europe, most of which have higher standards of living than we do. And all their citizens have health care.

“Russia donated $000 to the Trump campaign. Russia donated $145,600,000 to the Clinton Foundation . But Trump was the one investigated!”

Read the Mueller report, or at least a summary of it. Also look up the definition of “in-kind” donations. And maybe the definition of “golden shower.”

“Nancy Pelosi invited illegal aliens to the State of the Union. President Trump Invited victims of illegal aliens to the State of the Union Let that sink in.”

Weirdly, the post fails to mention that the five “illegal aliens,” Pelosi invited to the State of the Union Address had all worked for Donald Trump, and were there to highlight his hypocrisy and corruption. But considering the state of the nation and of Trump’s presidency, should the reader really be reminded of things, “sinking,” especially twice in one post?

“A socialist is basically a communist who doesn’t have the power to take everything from their citizens at gunpoint … Yet!”

Yawn. This tired cliché has been disproved repeatedly throughout the world – including in the United States, where “socialism” gave us Social Security, Medicare, public education, most of our highways, rural electrification, and a host of other things that Americans now take for granted.

“How do you walk 3000 miles across Mexico without food or support and show up at our border 100 pounds overweight and with a cellphone?”

You don’t. But you’d actually have to give a shit about human beings to spend the time you spent writing this to actually look something up.

“Alexandria Ocasio Cortez wants to ban cars, ban planes, give out universal income and thinks socialism works.”

Most of that sentence is untrue. Besides, other than being a strong Latina toward whom to direct a dig, what the hell does OAC have to do with the presidential race?

“She calls Donald Trump crazy.”

As did many of the Republicans who now kiss his ass. They were right then; she’s right now.

“Bill Clinton paid $850,000 to Paula Jones To get her to go away. I don’t remember the FBI raiding his lawyer’s office.”

There’s apparently a lot you don’t remember, including a years-long investigation which – unlike the Trump impeachment hearings – actually involved millions of documents and testimony by Clinton and others in the White House.

“The same media that told me Hillary Clinton had a 95% chance of winning now tells me Trump’s approval ratings are low.”

They were right then, and probably are right now. Clinton did “win” what the polls actually measured – the popular vote – and by about the same percentage that the polls predicted.

“’The problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money’— Margaret Thatcher”

Nice quote, but so what? Thatcher was Britain’s version of Reagan, except smarter and in a dress.

“Maxine Waters opposes voter ID laws; She thinks that they are racist.”

Many studies have supported exactly that. You should read more.

“You need to have a photo ID to attend her town hall meetings.”

Probably because she gets countless death threats from gun-loving, fascist-worshipping, Trump supporters. If one shoots her, don’t you want to be able to catch who did it? Speaking of town hall meetings, what happened to the White House Daily Briefing?

“President Trump said — ‘They’re not after me. They’re after you. I’m just in their way.’”

Actually he didn’t say it; he tweeted it. But it’s exactly the sort of thing that we would expect to hear from a paranoid coward who needs blind loyalty to carry out his fascist abuses.

“Now, go Back & Read this Again like your Future Depends upon it, Because it Does.”

No, thank you. Aside from the random punctuation and capitalization making my head hurt, one can only wade through so much bullshit once. And though actor Tim Allen is a conservative, he also seems to be relatively intelligent. I assume he would be embarrassed to be connected to such a dishonest, poorly written piece.

Posted in History, Journalism, Media literacy, Politics, Women | 1 Comment »

First thoughts on Notre Dame

Posted by James McPherson on April 15, 2019

The fact that we don’t know what caused the ongoing disaster at the Notre Dame Cathedral isn’t keeping conspiracy loons from blaming Muslims, Jews, or others. And of course Donald Trump couldn’t wait to offer a stupid tweet.

But hey, if we’re going to entertain conspiracy theories, do we know if Steve Bannon has an alibi?

I’m sad to say I’ve never had the opportunity to visit Notre Dame, and what I knew about it before today came as much from variations of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” as from anything else. In fact, I actually did a guest sermon about Quasimodo for my church a few years ago on Quasimodo Sunday (the Sunday after Easter).

Notre Dame has been through a lot in its history, including bombing and decapitations of statues by ignoramuses who couldn’t tell the difference between French kings and Biblical kings. It will undoubtedly be rebuilt, though of course some its treasures will be lost forever.

Posted in History, Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

My 9/11 story

Posted by James McPherson on September 11, 2016

9-11

On Sept. 11, 2001, the first day of a new school year at Whitworth, I was getting ready to teach my first freshman seminar about media & society when the attacks came. Whitworth gave faculty the option of cancelling classes, but I decided that having an afternoon forum for discussion would be good for my freshmen and me.
Like most Americans, I spent the morning following the events of 9/11 on both television and my computer. Yet I remained strangely unmoved — perhaps partly because of my former training and experience as a reporter, but even more, I think, because of the unreality of it all.
Part of my brain just couldn’t process the pictures of a jetliner full of people slamming into a massive tower full of people, let alone the pictures of those two giant towers crumbling to the ground. And maybe the numbness of shock explains my relative lack of emotion.
Yet as a media scholar I suspect that part of my brain recognized what people at the scene kept saying: “It’s like something out of a movie.” Yet in the movies, we had often seen the sound and visuals “done better” than what live television had to offer — more “realistic”-looking explosions, from multiple angles, with music helping tell our brains how to feel.
So, though I am not proud of the fact, on that morning I couldn’t seem to make myself feel the emotions that I thought I should. Frustrated with the media coverage and myself, I walked outside into a beautiful fall day, though a door near which an American flag already flew at half staff. At the base of the flag were bright yellow flowers, planted to greet returning students and their parents. And there, a bee flitted among the blossoms. I stood and watched that lone bee, a tiny creature unaware of the events that would forever change all of our lives, doing what it was born to do.
“Well,” I thought. “Life goes on.” And then, standing there alone in the middle of campus, away from the media deluge and 3,000 miles away from New York or Washington, D.C., I began to cry.
Those tears weren’t the last I shed tears related to 9/11 — those came a little while ago when I read this story aloud to my wife. Insects play a role in Adam Langer’s story, too, and my wife and I have outlived a couple of dogs that looked like the author’s.
We all are witnesses to things we cannot fathom. And sometimes inexplicably, life goes on.

Posted in Education, History, Media literacy, Personal, Politics | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Fear not about race or guns: a BEAFRAID solution

Posted by James McPherson on August 17, 2015

Photo from Twitter @OathKeeper101st

Photo from Twitter @OathKeeper101st

I have refrained from pretending to be someone of another race, at least since picking the losing side in childhood games of “cowboys and Indians” or envisioning myself as Bob Gibson while pitching in Little League baseball games. Still, that obviously can’t prevent me from commenting on issues of race or gender.  (Examples on race can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Examples relevant to gender here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.)

So, with the wisdom that is inevitably inherent to all white, middle-class, middle-aged American men, and after careful consideration of recent problems involving racial divisions and gun fights in America, I have managed to come up with an idea that is bound to please beleaguered African Americans and gun lovers throughout the nation.

Actually, I must credit the gun-toting, freedom-loving, birther/truther Oath Keepers for prompting the idea. You may have heard of the Oath Keepers because of their recent unwanted-by-law-enforcement incitement help in Ferguson, Missouri. As described by that liberal rag the Washington Post, “The men — all of them white and heavily armed — said they were in the area to protect someone who worked for the Web site Infowars.com, which is affiliated with talk-radio conspiracy theorist and self-described ‘thought criminal against Big Brother‘ Alex Jones.”

As the National Rifle Association has regularly reminded us, our problem isn’t too many guns; it’s too few. My modest proposal: a group of heavily armed African Americans who would show up at random events to make sure order is being kept. I’ve even come up with a name for the group: Blacks Exercising Armed, Free, Responsible, American Interventional Defense. That’s BEAFRAID, for short.

You’ll notice that I made sure to get the words, “free,” “responsible,” and “American” in the name to enhance the credibility and trustworthiness of the group.

The Oath Keepers have apparently been thinking along similar lines themselves, supposedly offering to arm 50 Ferguson African American protesters with AR-15 rifles. That’s a start, and at $800 or so each, a significant investment. I wonder if they’ll also provide the ammunition. Or if they’ll be able to find 50 black guys willing to openly pack firearms while surrounded by white guys with guns and badges.

Obviously we need to think bigger, with a permanent, heavily armed African American paramilitary force ready to step in wherever the potential for unrest exists. Just think of the places the presence of BEAFRAID could be useful. Some that come immediately to mind: Confederate Flag rallies, NRA meetings, the 2016 Republican National Convention, Rush Limbaugh’s next wedding.

A couple of potential problems come to mind. The first is money. But “life NRA member” Donald Trump is rich and always looking for a good cause or something that will bring him media attention. When his presidential run inevitably ends, perhaps he’ll help out. He may also want to buy the domain name beafraid.com.

The second potential problem is leadership. As a white, middle-class, middle-aged American man with great ideas and at least a couple of black friends, I would naturally be an excellent choice. Unfortunately, with a full-time gig as a professional corrupter of young minds, I don’t have time to do take this on. But I think Rachel Dolezal might be available. And she has her own guns.

Posted in History, Legal issues, Personal, Politics, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments »

Why I tweet

Posted by James McPherson on February 25, 2015

Drawing by Stuart McMillen

Drawing by Stuart McMillen

The title above is of course a variation on the title of one of my favorite essays, George Orwell‘s “Why I Write.” Joan Didion liked the title, too, borrowing it for one of her works.

“There’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space,” Didion wrote in a sentence that might have characterized social media at least as well as anything Orwell came up with. That is, assuming there’s any longer such a thing as “private space” — which brings us back to Orwell all over again.

Orwell’s best-known work is 1984, a book that may have killed him. Like many other great (and countless not-so-great) writers, Orwell “had always thrived on self-inflicted adversity,” and his death at age 46 came not via evil government agents, but via illness aggravated by trying to beat deadlines.

Orwell might also have argued that he was far from alone in his appreciation of adversity; as pointed out today in a Washington Post piece about an Orwell review of Mein Kampf, Hitler knew “that human beings don’t only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene… they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flags and loyalty-parades.” Considering the number of mindless Americans and ignorant politicians who now apparently favor getting involved in another ground war, Orwell obviously had a keen understanding of people.

At least since the 1985 arrival of Neil Postman‘s Amusing Ourselves to Death, one cannot meaningfully discuss 1984 without considering another dystopian view, that of Aldous Huxley‘s Brave New World. Postman, in the forward to his book (a forward so brilliant that it has been illustrated via a Stuart McMillen comic and a YouTube video), compares the two worlds.

He notes that in Brave New World “people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think,” and that the sheer amount of information would become so great that “we would be reduced to passivity and egoism” while “the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.” It may seem incredible that Huxley was writing before the arrival of television. At least as impressive is the fact that Postman wrote his book warning about “a trivial culture” before the arrival of the Internet or smart phones.

Few things exemplify this trivial culture better than the social media with which many of us spend much of our time. After I finish this blog post, I’ll post links to it on both Facebook and Twitter, where it will compete for attention with information about lying “news” anchors, war in the Middle East, Congressional inaction, vaccines, various health scares, funny cat videos and countless other messages.

I’ll post links on those social media sites despite the fact that I have regularly denigrated “anti-social media,” especially Twitter (also here, here, here, here and here). I have proclaimed that I would avoid Twitter, and for five years or so I did. But this past weekend — in what may prove to be the dumbest Sunday decision since the Seahawks failed to give Marshawn Lynch the ball at the end of the Super Bowl — I began tweeting at @JimBMcPherson.

“Why?” Three reasons: First, much of the news is being reported (and sometimes misreported) via various media organizations first via Twitter, so it relates to my job to my job as a journalism professor. Second, I found when I was making contacts for a recent off-campus study program that some media professionals probably would have been easier to reach via Twitter than they were through other means.

And finally; as I’ve managed to demonstrate here on my blog and on Facebook, I’m an egocentric fool who often thinks his thoughts about media and politics worth sharing. In that, I am like Orwell, who offered as his first reason for writing:

Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all — and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.

Orwell offered three other reasons; I also agree with those (and will let you read them for yourself) before noting in his final paragraph, “All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy.” Perhaps so, though he adds, in conclusion:

One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane. I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed. And looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally.

My own writing may be driven primarily by ego. But for better or worse, what I write — even in 140 characters — rarely lacks a political purpose.

Posted in History, Media literacy, Personal, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

The VaGUYna Monologues

Posted by James McPherson on February 20, 2015

angry man sad womanMy Facebook feed this morning provided a link to a Washington Post opinion piece by Michelle Goldberg that laments the fact that “while digital media has amplified feminist voices, it has also extracted a steep psychic price. Women, urged to tell their stories, are being ferociously punished when they do.”

That punishment, for feminist women writers, regularly includes threats of rape and/or murder. Not surprisingly, much of the criticism they get is for how they look, rather than for their ideas. “Some,” Goldberg notes, “particularly women who have the audacity to criticize sexism in the video-game world — have been driven from their homes or forced to cancel public appearances. Fake ads soliciting rough sex have been placed in their names. And, of course, the Twitter harassment never stops.”

Many people seemingly can’t resist proving the very point they oppose, so about half of the first several Facebook comments simply reinforced — often with sexist, obnoxious language — the idea that many men can’t deal with feminism. (Many of those same guys seem incapable of coherent thoughts, let alone coherent sentences).

I then commented, “And… the comment parade of sexist male idiots has begun. Guys, you’re not helping.” The negative responses to my comment (tempered by many positive comments and more than 120 “likes,” thus far), were as predictable as they were pitiful. I’ve copied and pasted some if them below (as written, to avoid have to use “sic” repeatedly to signify that the error was in the original).

James, have a vaGUYna much?” [Thanks for the title, Eric, though I’ll twist the meaning a bit below.]

Who want’s to help anyway? Sexist feminists?

Go sit on the toilet when you pee, okay?

A tamed white knight appears.”

I’m for women’s rights I just don’t like women whining about how tough it is. Really?! I thought you could roar? I guess not.

Most men do not spend a lot of time worrying about feminism, but when they do they realize that feminist extremists have taken feminism beyond reasonable expectations.

feminism makes women look like mentally unstable lesbians and you even have feminist leaders talking about a male holocaust… and these people who talked about the male holocaust teach their literature in gender studies classes…

“‘Feminism’ is sponsored by the ones oppressing women. Boom” [Whatever the hell that means.]

Go wear a burka, get a forced marriage and get some real problems.

These idiots over here that pass for strong women couldn’t handle a days hardship that most third world women have to face on a daily basis. These feminists first world problems pale in comparison to the real problems of women the world over.” Because apparently death threats aren’t “real problems” for

Feminist be like ‘I got PTSD from someone disagreeing with me!!'”

You assume all anti feminists are male. James, YOUR not helping you sexist male idiot.

feminist concept of a man helping women achieving social justice = ‘whatever you say is right my feminist goddess. I am ashamed of being a man and display natural manly behaviours.  I’ll be your personal dog and attack every primitive barbaric male who dares doing or saying something that bothers your highness, meanwhile losing touch with manly friendships, my masculinity and those women out there who are actually looking for a man, and not a castrated politically brainwashed creature.’ NO THANKS”

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t support equality, but I do know many people tired of benevolent (what these ‘guys who speak in support of equality’ are) sexism, as well as the malevolent sexism that is waning towards woman and increasing towards men.

Male feminists may actually be the worse, because in their benevolent sexism, they start threatening men and women who disagree with the constant demonization of men.”

how can you say that being sexist makes you an idiot? are you the ideological fountain of the universe you male betrayer” For that one, I responded simply, “I said nothing about causation, Jimmy — simply pointing out what is in this case correlation.

The comments directed at me, of course, are very mild compared to some of those aimed at women on both the Facebook page and on the article:

If a threat has no bearing on reality then it doesnt matter what the threat is. Sorry, but you feminists are just so fragile. Words can’t hurt you.”[For the record, that comment did not come from Anthony Elonis.]

Feminist writers only care about themselves and making money off of womens issues but don’t help women at all! Feminist have done more damage than good!  Look at the U.S. military they have allowed sexual assaults to go on for decades and have ignored it!” [And no, I can’t figure out what the last sentence had to do with either the first two sentences in the comment or the article.]

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” [But of course many of these folks think women should stay in the kitchen, except when they’re in the bedroom, shopping for groceries, or cleaning other rooms in the house.]

They sound like quitters that can’t handle criticism. I have also noticed that a lot of what falls under feminism isn’t really feminism at all, but comes off more as a defensive, man-hating agenda.”

Well, some feminist deserve it. The elitist ones, but the ones who genuinely want equality, dont deserve it” [Remember, this is about threats of rape and murder.]

Here i thought the message of feminism was ‘look at how awesome and powerful i am sans men….’ but a few internet comments are giving them emotional distress?? Sounds like gas. Take some Maalox and deal with your actions, sweetheart.

….and they have only themselves to blame.” [Again, this is about threats of rape and murder.]

For me, one of the most noteworthy aspects of the attacks is that almost all of them come from men engaging in “mansplaining” — or what might justifiably be termed “VaGUYna monologues.” Speaking of women’s bodies, of course, most of those who make laws regarding abortion also are men.

Naturally some folks pointed out that many women also oppose what they understand to be feminism (and many oppose abortion, as well), while also arguing that men are also threatened. (Hey, I get that.)

But even if the abuse were anywhere close to equal, I fail to see how abuse of one group justifies abuse of another. And as for the argument about how “some women” feel, so what? Just as no feminist I know would argue that every man is evil, none would argue that women can’t also be ignorant. For example, here’s how “Jeanne” responded to my Facebook comment:

Sad that I stood picket with my Mom at age 11, I am now 58, for equal pay at a factory where she worked. I wouldn’t wipe my butt on so-called feminists of today. Make me sick. Equal rights does not mean more rights. Grow up. Not all men are predators. Funny how loudly many of these women protest, however, I’ll wager most of them have read those abusive books, ’50 Shades of Gray,’ and are now either breathlessly watching the stupid movie or planning a ’50 Shades of Gray,’ party, or planning a ‘Girl’s’ night out to go see the crap. Shut up.”

First, while the abominable 50 Shades of Grey was weirdly popular, I suspect Jeanne would lose her bet about how many feminists chose to read/watch it. Second, there was nothing in the Post article or my comment asking for “more rights” vs. “equal rights.” Third, no one claimed that “all men are predators.” And finally, though “Mom” may have picketed for equal pay almost 50 years ago, she probably didn’t get it — despite the best efforts of feminists whom her daughter now denigrates.

 

Posted in Education, History, Personal, Politics, Women, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Stupor Bowl — enjoy it while you can

Posted by James McPherson on January 28, 2015

seahawk bandaide logo

On Sunday I hope to see my favorite professional football team win a second consecutive Super Bowl. So it feels odd that a column on the front page of my local newspaper this week would have me considering when professional football will end up like boxing, another American sport that glamorizes brutality.

Say what? Pro football is the most popular sport in America, with both viewers and gamblers, while professional boxing now barely hangs on. The National Football League’s championship game typically is the most-watched television program of the year, which is why companies this year paid an average of $4.5 million for 30 seconds of advertising. (Though GoDaddy has made more money from ads it supposedly couldn’t run than from ads it could.) We take football far more seriously than we do a lot of other far more important topics.

In short, if football is dying, some might say, give me the disease.

And maybe I’m nuts. After all, I have suffered multiple concussions and take a bit of weird pride in the fact that I was once knocked unconscious in a college football practice (yes, practice) by a guy who is (at least for now) the head coach for the Cincinnati Bengals. But if I were a gambler, I’d bet that next year’s Super Bowl — the 50th — will be the high point for pro football before an inevitable downward slide.

Unless some prominent Republican politician’s kid gets killed on the gridiron, I don’t expect football’s decline to be sudden. There’s too much money involved — perhaps most importantly at the college level. As long as doddering alums will pay big bucks to relive their college days by cheering for nonstudent athletes clad (if only for a year or two before they go pro, get hurt or flunk out) in the alma mater’s colors, major universities will continue to pay football coaches far more than their presidents. And even if colleges start paying their players, the reason many of them play in college is for the chance to turn pro.

Still, the column by Los Angeles Times writer Bill Plaschke helps demonstrates why I believe pro football may be peaking in popularity. At some point we will have to come to terms with the fact that our favorite sport kills and maims too many people, most of them kids. There’s a reason that, as Plaschke points out, even “Iron Mike” Ditka wouldn’t let his own son play football today.

Like football today, boxing was once one of the top three sports in America for viewers and gamblers,  Aside from the corruption that came to characterize the sport, those of us old enough to remember Muhammad Ali battling Joe Frazier could no longer in good conscience watch the bloodshed — especially after seeing what the sport did to the wit and vocabulary of a man who could have been the rhetorical model for Richard Sherman. (Even as young sportscasters now emulate others who copied Howard Cosell, perhaps without knowing who Cosell was.)

We’ve now seen the corruption that football madness can engender, even at the high school level. It’s much worse in college, and of course this year has been a bad one for the NFL. People still have a somewhat favorable view of the league, but disgust or disinterest has set in for many. As scandals and awareness of the bloodshed both increase, people will find other entertainment options.

I don’t know what might replace football in popularity. I’d hope for baseball, but basketball is more likely. Mixed martial arts, soccer, golf and auto racing all have rabid fans, but not enough to convince the rest of us to buy expensive apparel and plan our weekends around events.

Maybe we’ll give politics or community affairs or education more attention. Perhaps we’ll read more. Maybe we’ll go back to actually engaging in activities ourselves, rather than simply watching others do so. But probably not, unless those activities involve some form of video gaming that we can do while drinking beer, eating pizza and burgers, betting big money, and yelling at the screen.

In the meantime, of course, most of us will keep watching football, rooting for laundry, hoping “our guys” crush the competition without anyone getting killed in the process. Go Hawks!

Posted in History, Journalism, Personal | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A simple question regarding race and fear

Posted by James McPherson on December 12, 2014

Cop & klan

My question, of course, is based on events in Cleveland (well, there and elsewhere in Ohio), South Carolina, Florida, Phoenix, Michigan, Las Vegas, Portland, New Orleans (again), Oakland, Southern California (again and again and again), New York City (again and again and again and again and again), and too many other places to mention. Not to mention the more common indignities suffered regularly by people of color.

I wrote all but this sentence about a week ago, and couldn’t decide whether to post it. But reading this and this and this and this and especially this and this made me decide to go ahead.

And here’s a historical reminder from someone who isn’t a cop, but who plays one on TV about what discontent with the legal system can lead to — the sort of thing that disturbed even those right-wing gunslingers  (and their allies) who often act as if almost everyone should be armed:

Addendum: An interesting article about the science that turns most of us into racists.

Posted in History, Politics, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Eggs. Or Samuel, Utah and James.

Posted by James McPherson on September 12, 2014

I sat on a metal chair in a small room, chatting with James Garner. I remember thinking that the last time we’d met the chair was made of wood, and in a different corner of the room.

Garner was surprised when I mentioned the death of Utah Phillips, saying that they were friends and had eaten eggs together but that he hadn’t known about the other man’s passing. He asked about the cause of death, seemingly concerned about his own mortality, and I filled him in on the details.

Then my alarm went off, and I awoke, realizing instantly that I’d conflated details about Phillips with the life and death of Sam Day, Jr. And since Garner was also dead, I’d never be able to correct my error. Maybe they’re all friends now.

I got up and went to play basketball, forsaking sleep for exercise in hopes of outliving three men whose work I admired: one I knew, one I met only once, and one I never met but managed to mislead in a dream. And because I feel guilty about that, I promise that every word above is true.

Except the part about the eggs. Though I’ve tried, I can’t remember what James Garner said he ate with Utah Phillips. Still, eggs feels right.

Posted in History, Personal | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Elizabeth Warren is running for president

Posted by James McPherson on April 23, 2014

elizabeth warrenThough I rarely produce journalistic scoops these days, here’s something that you can say that you read here first: Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts will run for president in 2016, despite what she told ABC just a couple of days ago. Even if Chris Cillizza states flatly, “Elizabeth Warren is almost certainly not running for president in 2016.”

Giving her the benefit of the doubt, perhaps even Warren herself doesn’t know that she’ll be a candidate in 2016. And though I’m often blown away by her intelligence and her grasp of economic issues — and so I shouldn’t suggest that I know something she doesn’t — here are six reasons that I know she’ll run:

First, she wrote a book. And not just any book, as Mother Jones’ Andy Kroll pointed out yesterday, but “a campaign book.” Not a major policy work, but an autobiography, “nothing explosive, but juicy enough to feed the Washington media machine.” A book that “can, at times, read like an extended stump speech.”

Years ago, in my book about the post-World War II rise of conservatism in the U.S. (and previously on this blog), I compared Barack Obama’s campaign to those of earlier candidates. I wrote that Obama “wrote a popular book that might be compared to conservative icon Barry Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative. Obama’s The Audacity of Hope offered an image for the nation’s political future, calling for in one reviewer’s words, ‘a mode of liberalism that sounds both highly pragmatic and deeply moral.'”

A second reason I believe Warren will run is that we’re seemingly seeing her everywhere. Some of the most effective Senators — such as Hillary Clinton, for example — become what are known as legislative “work horses,” keeping their heads down and doing the hard work of legislating. Others become “show horses,” speaking out not only in public hearings but whenever they can on television. Do a search on YouTube for “Elizabeth Warren.” The result? “About 221,000 results.”

Third, Warren not only seems to be everywhere, but she also has something to say. As I wrote about Obama, in my book: Both Obama and Ronald Reagan “found themselves in demand as speakers inside and outside their parties. Though Reagan had a sharper wit, a folksier manner, and a more practiced delivery, both he and Obama spoke on behalf of their values in direct, positive and personal ways that connected with listeners.” Warren may be smarter than either of those men, and manages to tell us horrible news about financial institutions  in a way that makes it seem as if there might be an answer.

Fourth, Warren herself is the answer for the problems she raises, problems that most Americans can identify with. Without her, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would not exist. She rightfully should have been that agency’s first director, but Obama chickened out from appointing her, convinced that opposition from banks and Republicans would be too strong for her to be confirmed.

Fifth, as just pointed out, banks and Republicans don’t like Warren. That makes her appealing to Democrats who don’t happen to be bankers, and helps her raise money. Even if she were wishy-washy about the idea of running, she’d be getting a lot of pressure to run.

And finally, a sixth reason we should expect Warren to be a candidate: Her timing will likely never be better. Many said that Obama was running “too soon,” that he should wait four or eight more years to run. I think that his presidency — and the nation — has suffered in some respects because of his lack of experience. But as I have noted, we actually seem to prefer inexperience in our presidential nominees. Someone such as John Kerry or John McCain or Hillary Clinton who has served for a long period of time in government has a record that can be used and distorted by opponents.

Besides, if not now, when? If a Democrat should happen to win the presidency in 2016, that person would probably seek re-election in 2020. The earliest that Warren could run in that case would be in 2024, after she had already served a dozen years in the Senate (assuming she won a second term; if she lost a Massachusetts Senate race she couldn’t be a credible Democratic candidate afterward).

So, there you have it. She’s running. And if I’m wrong, well, I’ll be just like every other political pundit, hoping no one remembers later.

 

 

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Women | Tagged: , , , , , | 28 Comments »