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 ‘Written elsewhere’ Category

Romney boards Con Ryan Express in desperate bid to get campaign back on track

Posted by James McPherson on August 11, 2012

So, it’s Con Ryan’s Express. For the second consecutive presidential election, Republicans will have a vice presidential candidate who is more dynamic and interesting than the guy at the head of their ticket. No wonder that in his introduction Romney called Paul Ryan “the next president of the United States.”

Unfortunately for Romney this Paul is no saint; the choice offers obvious strengths and weaknesses, along with the Palinesque risk that the presidential race will be more about the GOP’s vice presidential nominee than about anything else.

Like most people, I got it wrong, thinking Romney would likely go with Rob Portman or Tim Pawlenty. I did mention Ryan almost as an afterthought, saying “Maybe Paul Ryan if he still thinks he needs to go right.” Apparently Romney is still more concerned with being viewed as a Massachusetts liberal healthcare pimp than as someone who has spent the campaign trying to hack off his left arm with his right.

The New Republic offers a quick look a quick look at what the party now officially stands for–ending Medicare and Medicaid we know them, privatization of Social Security, killing any semblance of government that works, and the biggest transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to rich in U.S. history. With Ryan, you can add climate change denial and “personhood” legislation.

Faced with the likelihood of defeat, Romney’s choice–like McCain’s choice of Palin–smacks of desperation. Ryan obviously is a lot smarter than Palin (OK, so Romney’s dancing horse is smarter than Palin), but could turn out to be equally polarizing. After all, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, John McCain and probably the Koch brothers all like the choice. But so do Democrats. One of the most notable things about the selection is that for perhaps the first time Romney has managed to please both liberals and conservatives at the same time, rather than having to flip-flop to do so.

In fact, as many did with Palin, conservatives might rue the choice more than liberals do. Ryan wasn’t Grover Norquist’s pick, for example, so perhaps this is another example that Norquist is losing some of his influence with Republicans. And that might be the best thing to happen in this election season, and the most positive long-term development for the GOP.

One might wonder, if Romney is enthused about his choice, why he would make the announcement early (6 a.m. where I live) on a summer Saturday. That’s a time when politicians typically are more likely to roll out bad news than good; Friday afternoon has long been recognized as best for avoiding media attention, because most of the front-line news media won’t be back until Monday, by when news can be a bit stale. That’s why I wrote last month that Romney “should release a deluge of his tax returns on a summer Friday, perhaps during the Olympics, definitely no later than the Friday before Labor Day.”

I suspect that desperation to change the conversation from his own taxes, the fact that even sources such as Fox News and the conservative-leaning Rasmussen poll had Obama leading, and perhaps a desire to make the announcement as low-key as possible (which is Romney’s style, if not Ryan’s) all combined to lead to the decision to make the announcement when he did.

Yes, a 24-hour news cycle tempers the “dead zone” timing a bit, and yes, the selection will now be the focus of the Sunday morning news shows. But the fact is, almost no one except true political junkies–virtually all of whom probably already know whom they’ll vote for in November–watches those Sunday shows. And Romney, of all people, should know that if Americans are turning on their TVs on this summer weekend it will be to watch the Olympics. On Sunday night and Monday morning more people will be talking the closing ceremonies with Adele and the Spice Girls than about Romney and Ryan. In fact, the few Americans who know anything about Ryan may outnumber those who know he has been chosen by Romney at this point.

Like most Hail-Mary passes in football or last-second half-courts shots in basketball, the effort probably will fail to deliver a victory in November, but will give the media and serious viewers a reason to hold their breath for a bit, just in case. There’s no doubt that the race just became more interesting–within the GOP, as well as over all.

Perhaps we’ll even start having a serious media conversation about what policy might look like in a Ryan/Romney–oh, sorry, Romney/Ryan–administration, if only during the vice-presidential debate. Perhaps. But I doubt it. After all, Ryan has a pretty wife and cute kids. And he’s a Catholic engaged in a “smackdown” with nuns. And now “Saturday Night Live” will have to figure out who to portray Ryan pushing granny off a cliff. I’ll bet Tina Fey could pull if off, with the right haircut.

P.S.: If you’re too young to get the reference to “Von Ryan’s Express,” it’s a film from 1965, before Paul Ryan was born.

P.P.S: Ironically, if the Christian Right gets its way in November, for the first time ever there won’t be a Protestant president, vice president, or member of the Supreme Court.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Religion, Science, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

Batcrap craziness

Posted by James McPherson on July 20, 2012

Batman: “No guns.” (In keeping with the superhero’s longtime no-gun rule.”)

Catwoman: “What fun is that?”

I guess we could ask the folks who attended the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colorado, huh?

As I’ve written in what became my most-read post, I generally avoid using profanity. But one reason I generally oppose it it because its overuse has made appropriate use almost meaningless. Almost. And today is one of the exceptions, because there has perhaps never been a more appropriate day or week for the term “batshit crazy.”

This week gave us Rush Limbaugh suggesting that the name of a movie character (a name that originated in a 1993 comic book) was a liberal plot against Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Then, of course, Rush lied about it the next day.

Next we had John McCain–the McCain we used to remember before he sold his soul to try to win the last presidential election–chastize Michele Bachmann for her latest Muslim plot nonsense. But we know that Bachmann is as batty as Limbaugh.

And though we all know that the blogosphere has become a nutty and nasty place, it was surprising that a negative review of the latest Batman movie would inspire batshit-crazy fans of a comic book character to make death threats against “Rotten Tomatoes” reviewers.

But all of that pales in comparison to today’s news about a costumed gunman killing at least a dozen people at a midnight opening of the latest Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.” It didn’t take long for ABC to commit the first stupid reporting error, and of course the shooting has dominated the cable news networks all day. (It’s probably not such big news in Syria, where having a dozen killed by violence would be considered a good day.)

And so now we’ll have another few days of liberals pointing out the obvious, that easy access to guns in America makes these events far too common here and that conservative talking heads such as “shoot-them-in-the-head” Glenn Beck (however well he may cry about it afterward) and Rush Limbaugh, along with batshit-crazy extremist groups promote violence. Some conservatives will blame mass murder on gay marriage. If all else fails, blame it on violent movies or video games. It’s all so predictable, and too few will acknowledge that many factors are involved.

Perhaps less predictably, truly batshit-crazy NRA types, which Colorado has, may suggest that the carnage would have been reduced if other people in the theater were armed. Oh, wait–batshit-crazy Malkin  and batshit-crazy Texas Congressman Louis Gohmert have already done that. Gohmert also blamed the attacks on “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs”–as did the American Family Association, despite the fact that the killer reportedly was a “brilliant student” from a “church-going family.” Shades of Pat Robertson; life is just too scary when we realize what our demons have in common with the rest of us, I guess.

So, how long until someone (other than a batshit-crazy blogger or two) suggests that the killer is an Obama operative trying to help the president push through gun control, even though we know that it’s now easier to buy a gun and you can carry it in more places than before Obama was elected? Besides, we Americans love our guns. We really love our guns. If the shooting of a Congresswoman and the killing a a cute white girl or the slaughter of college students won’t spur a serious debate about American gun laws, this certainly won’t.

In fact, perhaps part of the “The Dark Knight Rises” should be rewritten.

Batman: “No guns.”

Catwoman: “In America? That’s batshit crazy!”

Next-day addendum: Above I asked how long it would take someone to suggest that the shootings were a government plot to help promote control. Not long at all, as it turned out, thanks to 9/11 “truther” Alex Jones, perhaps the most bat-shit crazy conspiracy theorist in America.

Sunday addendum: Batshit-crazy Truth in Action Ministries spokesman Jerry Newcombe chose today to go on the radio and “remind” listeners that some of the dead shooting victims were bound for hell. Say hello when you get there, Jerry.

Also, a question for any who care to answer: Why do so many conservatives apparently think it should be easier to carry a gun than to cast a ballot?

Tuesday addendum: Batshit-crazy Larry Pratt, executive director of the Gun Owners of America, has also suggested that the Aurora killings are part of a gun-control plot, bringing familiar bogeyman, the United Nations, into it.

Posted in History, Legal issues, Media literacy, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments »

Any Portman in a storm for Romney VP?

Posted by James McPherson on July 16, 2012

In honor of Romney, the Honeymooners’ great “poloponies” scene.

OK, so I couldn’t resist the pun above (previous headlines show that I rarely can, much to my wife’s dismay)–but I do think that Ohio Sen. Rob Portman might be the best of Mitt Romney’s boring choices for running mate. Portman is so boring, in fact, that when a friend ask me a few days ago whom I thought Romney would pick, I completely forgot Portman , responding: “Maybe Tim Pawlenty as the safe (boring) pick. Maybe Marsha Blackburn or Kelly Ayotte or Susan Martinez to shake things up a bit. Maybe Paul Ryan if he still thinks he needs to go right. My pick as the one most likely to help, though I don’t know if he’d do it (or if anyone can help enough): [Mike] Huckabee.”

I haven’t paid as much attention to the VP process as I did four years ago when I recommended Sarah Palin and Joe Biden as VP picks (and no, I don’t think the campaigns were reading my blog and following my advice–if they had been, John McCain would probably still be sending me hate mail).

The New York Times reports that Romney has apparently made his choice, and may announce it this week (Same-day note: The Romney campaign denies that a decision has been made, though in Romney’s case he might have changed his mind, anyway.) The timing, Slate points out, “would give the Republican a chance to change a political conversation that is currently focused squarely on Romney’s time as head of Bain Capital.” The Times seems to think that Pawlenty will be the nominee.

Pawlenty would be no big surprise. He has been consistently overrated as a presidential candidate, the Republican equivalent of Democrat Dick Gephardt–a dull, Midwestern white guy who offends no one but whom, as the Times article suggests about Pawlenty, “lacks a fiery presence and the ability to excite a crowd.” On the other hand, an NBC piece handicapping potential candidates notes about Portman, “While ‘boring’ has an upside, it also has a downside, too. A potential Romney-Portman ticket has been dubbed ‘boredom squared.”

Though it might take some attention away from the Bain mess and other problems associated with being rich, I think naming the VP nominee this week would be a mistake for Romney. For one thing, he’s about to leave for the Olympics–and anything that connects Romney to the Olympics could be good for him. Well, perhaps anything not involving prancing ponies. But by the way, aren’t the new Olympic uniforms, made in China and boasting a prominent polo player logo, a perfect symbol for Romney’s America?

For another thing, few people are paying attention to politics right now, anyway. (That’s also why Romney should release a deluge of his tax returns on a summer Friday, perhaps during the Olympics,definitely no later than the Friday before Labor Day.) Americans have short attention spans–one reason that Portman’s previous job as George W. Bush’s budget director probably wouldn’t hurt him or Romney with the electorate. But Romney likely won’t take that chance, or go for any of the even more daring options. And it probably won’t matter, anyway.

Posted in History, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 34 Comments »

First Internet photo? Photoshopped women, of course

Posted by James McPherson on July 10, 2012

So the first-ever Internet photo hs been found, reports Mother Board. Not surprisingly, it was a photoshopped photo of women. Call Julia Bluhm.

Somewhat surprising, considering most of what seems to show up nowadays on the Web, all of the women are fully dressed. And none of them are holding the camera.

By the way, I hadn’t known before this article that the first email came way before the parents of some of my students were born. The first YouTube video came seven years ago, and is posted below. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it didn’t involve cats.

Posted in History, Media literacy, Video, Women, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Affordable Care Act and the GOP’s really big lie

Posted by James McPherson on July 2, 2012

Washington Post chart

Defeated by the Supreme Court, Republicans and their conservative allies have apparently decided that their best strategy to try to overcome the Affordable Care Act is simply to lie. Now they’re calling it the biggest tax in U.S. history. And, as you can see from the Washington Post chart above, they’re lying.

Rush Limbaugh is lying (yeah, big surprise). Sarah Palin is lying (OK, that’s expected, too). Mike Huckabee is lying (especially disgraceful for a former pastor who claims he can teach history) Sean Hannity is lying. James Pinkerton, also of Fox News, is lying. Conservative author Edward Klein is lying. The Washington Times is lying. The Daily Caller is lying. My cardboard cutout Congresswoman, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, is lying. House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority leader Eric Cantor and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell all lied. Alaska Tea Party loser Joe Miller is lying. Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummus is lying. California Congresswoman Mary Bono is lying. Louisiana Congressman Jeff Landry is lying. Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn is lying. Tennessee Congressman Scott DesJarlais is lying. Georgia’s Republican governor is lying. Congressional candidate Ben Quayle, son of a former vice president, is lying. Forbes apparently wants to lie, but can’t decide. New York Congressional candidate Dan Hollaran is lying. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance is lying. Naturally, conservative bloggers are lying and lying and lying and lying and lying and lying and lying and lying.

Republicans now claim that Barack Obama knowingly lied when he said the individual mandate upheld by the Supreme Court, but that’s a little tougher to prove. Not only to legal scholars disagree about whether it is a tax or not, even Mitt Romney, Obama’s 2012 challenger, apparently agrees with Obama on the issue. (Of course this is Romney, so he may disagree with himself any time now.)

We know that politicians lie, generally to get elected. But rarely do they lie as blatantly or as widely as Republicans are lying now in reaction to a Supreme Court decision. And the problem is, their supporters don’t care. As Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts wrote:

Falsehoods are harder to kill than a Hollywood zombie. Run them through with fact, and still they shamble forward, fueled by echo chamber media, ideological tribalism, cognitive dissonance, a certain imperviousness to shame, and an understanding that a lie repeated long enough, loudly enough, becomes, in the minds of those who need to believe it, truth.

That is the lesson of the birthers and truthers, of Sen. Jon Kyl’s “not intended to be a factual statement” about Planned Parenthood, of Glenn Beck’s claim that conservatives founded the Civil Rights Movement, and of pretty much every word Michele Bachmann says. It seems that not only are facts no longer important, but they are not even the point.

Or, as I noted when interviewed by the New York Times for a story about right-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart: “There are no standards of fact anymore for a lot of people. We have gone from selecting sources of opinion that we agree with to selecting facts that we agree with.” Republicans clearly  hope you’ll buy their lying “facts” about health care in America.

And if you want to see how much you’ve been swayed — or simply left ignorant — about the real effects of the health care bill, you can take a simple 10-question test. I missed one, which, sadly, still made my score “better than 97% of Americans.” Sigh.

Posted in History, Legal issues, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments »

Pre-Memorial Day 2012 presidential election projection: Obama wins handily

Posted by James McPherson on May 23, 2012

“The 2012 presidential election is going to be close. Very close. Incredibly close. Like Al-Gore-vs-George-W.-Bush close.”

That’s how Chris Cillizza, a Washington Post political pundit whose work I respect, started a post for his highly respected blog, The Fix, yesterday. He is far from alone in his proclamation that the election will be tight; similar statements in recent weeks have come from the likes of the Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times,  U.S. News and countless talking heads on cable news programs. On the other hand Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi says most journalists think Obama has it won, but have good reason to say otherwise:

It’s our job in the media to try to drum up interest in this. We have to sell advertising, we have to get viewers and get ratings. We can’t just come out and say that this thing is over six months before it happens. So, there is a strong incentive among all pundits, including me, to come out and say, ‘this could happen, that could happen.’ Romney has a legitimate chance. It’s just a subconscious pull that works on all of us in the media that drives us to make those kinds of comments, I think.

You can use the links above to read the various arguments for yourself, and I responded to Cizzilla in the comments section of his blog yesterday, but today I decided it was worth expanding here why I think Cillizza and those other “close elections” folks are wrong. The 2012 presidental election won’t be close, and unless something significant happens to change the tide Obama will win.

I know this is too early in the process to make such pronouncements. After all, despite what Fox News and MSNBC would have you believe, most people won’t pay any serious attention to the campaigns until at least the conventions this summer, or later. (Some never will pay much attention, but will show up to vote regardless, a whole other issue.) A lot can happen between now and November. We might go to war in Iraq, or see things turn dramatically worse in Afghanistan. Worldwide economic collapse or some form of disaster may make U.S. elections irrelevant. The U.S. might be embarrassed in the Olympics, which Fox News will blame on Obama. Stephen Colbert might agree to be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential candidate. Joe Biden might kiss Jeremiah Wright on the mouth while standing on an American flag and holding a Qur’an. Congress might do something constructive. Space aliens might attack–or simply give their support to Romney. Less likely, Romney might figure out a way to talk to regular people. So, in fact, no one KNOWS what will happen in the election.

I have alluded previously to the fact that I thought Obama would win handily in 2012, whether he deserves to or not. I pointed out that the GOP Congressional victories of 2010 would likely help, and with tongue firmly planted in cheek, my reasons have included bad graphic design by the Romney folks and horse racing’s Triple Crown. Now I’ll offer some more serious reasons that nervous folks shouldn’t waste beautiful summer days agonizing over presidential politics. (If you still want to get worked up about politics, get involved locally or at the state level, where you might actually make a difference.)

Lots of people can provide arguments for why Obama might lose, and some on talk radio and on blogs act as if an Obama defeat is a certainty. But today I’ll take the opportunity to point out that it’s not just me who thinks those people are misguided–EVERYONE who has meaningful data seems to think Obama will win. Yahoo! predicted back in February that Obama would win in a landslide. Those who say Romney will be our next president seem to be basing their “predictions” on wishful thinking, such as that expressed by usually wrong Weekly Standard editor William Kristol and washed-up political hack Dick Morris. Let’s look at some electoral maps.

If you count states that are certain to go for either candidate, along with those that “likely” will, 270towin.com has Obama gaining 217 votes, Romney, 190, with just 130 undecided. The undecided votes represent just eight states, which explains why both candidates have been (and will be) spending so much of their time in Ohio, Florida, Virginia and North Carolina. That 217-190 count sounds close, and it is–but that seems to be the best possible picture for Romney at this point, other than the interactive map offered by the Washington Post (with analysis by Cillizza). That map gives Obama 196 “solid” and 41 “leaning” electoral votes, compared to 170 and 21 for the challenger, with 110 undecided.

Other maps give Obama an even bigger margin. For example, Real Clear Politics has Obama leading 227-170, with 141 (11 states) as toss-ups. In that case the president needs just 43 more electoral votes, with numerous different ways to get there. Romney needs 100, virtually guaranteeing that he needs to win both Ohio and Florida–and still needs a lot of help elsewhere. Electoral-vote.com has Obama winning easily, with 253 votes already declared “strongly Democratic,” 32 as “weak Democratic,” and 73 as “barely Democratic.” The Intrade Prediction Market (likely to be wildly inaccurate at this point because of limited participation) has it 250-146 for Obama, with 142 outstanding. And “Blogging Caesar“–who seems to be a conservative and who claims to have an outstanding prediction record–at electionprojection.com has Obama by a landslide, 303-235.

Again, it’s early and much could change. But if anyone has real numbers or meaningful data that seem to predict a Romney win, I haven’t come across them. And Obama seems to have more options to reach 270 electoral votes than Romney does. If you have evidence to the contrary, I hope you’ll share it. Closer elections are more interesting, which is why the media have an interest in acting as if this one will be tight. And because close elections make it easier to raise money, neither party will tell you before election day that this one seems to be wrapped up.

Still, as even a Fox News contributor pointed out a couple of weeks ago, “The bottom line is that President Obama’s path to electoral victory seems clear.” So there you have it–feel free to ignore the summer “close election” hype. Rather than sending your hard-earned 10 bucks to a presidential candidate, use that money to take your kids out for ice cream.

Memorial Day update: Here’s another “poll of polls” that indicates it will be tough for Obama to lose: polltrack.com.

Posted in History, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

Wall Street protests: It’s about time

Posted by James McPherson on October 12, 2011

OK, so Fox News, which likes Tea Party Protests as citizen activism so much that it falls all over itself to promote those protests, isn’t nearly as fond of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Considering Fox’s pro-big business, pro-Republican slant, that’s no surprise. (And naturally, being Fox, the story was placed next to one titled, “Feds Arrest Lone Wolf in ScarJo Nude Photo Probe.”) Besides, the protests aren’t getting as much attention as they should from other media, either.

Frankly, though I’ve made fun of Tea Party folks a time or two or three, I’ve also supported their efforts — while pointing out that the “party” is as unfocused as supposedly are the Wall Street protesters. But probably no meaningful protest starts with talking points. In fact, not only liberal media but even a Forbes writer, who might be expected to be pro-Wall Street and anti-protests, has pointed out that the protesters’ ideas are more cohesive than the intellectually lazy (or dishonest) folks at Fox and on conservative blogs would have you believe.

As I’ve noted elsewhere, I think public activism is generally a good thing even if it’s sometimes a bit messy. And the fact is, the Tea Party protests and the Wall Street protests are coming from the same place–frustration and anger among a populace that has been too often ignored by the powerful. I would point out that the “powerful” in this case include the media and corporatist Democrats.

No one can predict what, if anything, will happen as a result of the anger. But even if those in politics and the national media have failed to adequately notice, it’s been a long time coming. And as noted by the Los Angeles Times: “The only thing really surprising about the Occupy Wall Street movement is that it didn’t happen sooner. The United States has a long history of friction over policies that enable an elite to thrive at the expense of ordinary people.”

Next-day addition: Despite what the two groups have in common, it seems that Tea Partiers are less popular than the newcomers (though that may change–as one GOP candidate after another keeps proving, to know someone doesn’t necessarily mean to like them more). And the decreasingly relevant Tea Partiers. who should be seeking allies, seem to be saying “get off of my lawn.”

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

Back to the future: From Goldwater to Tea

Posted by James McPherson on September 14, 2011

Looking through drafts of blog posts that I never finished, I see that nearly two years ago, on Feb. 18, 2010, I started a post with the tentative title of, “Paleocons may hurt GOP in the short run, save it in the long run.”

My thought at the time was that Republicans were generating some nutty ideas–and some loony candidates such as Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell–but that the “grown-ups” would eventually regain control of the party and sanity would be restored.

Events since then have demonstrated otherwise, of course, with the recent debt ceiling debacle being merely the latest example. And whatever you may think of Barack Obama’s jobs bill, the fact is that if it was made up entirely of ideas created by Republicans, those Republicans would then feel obligated to spin on their round heels to then oppose what they had proposed.

In fact, the current situation may be a return to something much earlier in American political history–the rise of Barry Goldwater, about whom I wrote at some length in a book. I credit the failed Goldwater campaign with providing much of the impetus for a new conservatism. Goldwater’s campaign was doomed, but the energy of that campaign helped bring us Ronald Reagan and eventually the 1994 Republican Congress.

Likewise, Republicans may be working toward producing another sacrificial candidate in Rick Perry, shifting a party that would now too inflexible for Goldwater or Reagan even further to the right. Barack Obama may be the luckiest presidential candidate ever, getting to run twice against Republicans who can’t win despite Obama’s serious flaws.

It’s still early, and we’ll find out much more about Perry as his GOP competitors continue to bash him. But if Perry is the nominee and then loses to Obama, does anyone think those who have drunk the Perry tea are going anywhere, or that Obama will be any more successful in dealing with the next Congress than he has been in dealing with this one?

One key difference exists between the 1950s-60s rise of neoconservative and that of today. That earlier version was a party of ideas, highlighted by the genius of William F. Buckley and a host of thoughtful conservative publications. Unfortunately those publications have generally become as shallow and shrill as most of the rest of what now passes for rhetoric in America. And big ideas of the sort tossed around gleefully by Buckley can’t be examined via the likes of Twitter or Facebook.

Posted in History, Journalism, Personal, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

My first NYT quotes, and a wacky conservative reaction

Posted by James McPherson on June 26, 2011

I made the New York Times for the first time today, and hadn’t even noticed it until this blog got a pingback from a conservative blogger who chose to criticize me–not surprisingly, doing so inaccurately. (I’d been interviewed by the Times once before, but that time had my quotes end up on the cutting room floor., just like the time I was interviewed by C-SPAN.)

The Times piece, written by Jeremy W. Peters, is about conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, to whom Peters cogently refers as “part performance artist, part polemicist.” Neither my comments nor the article were particularly harsh in regard to the guy famous for distortion of stories about Acorn and Shirley Sherrod.

In fact, Breitbart himself commended Peters to Sean Hannity just a week ago, saying the author had defended him from liberal bloggers  during the Netroots Nation blogger conference. And the conservative Media Research Center complimented Peters for another article about Breitbart earlier this month, so the journalist could hardly be considered a Breitbart basher.

In fact, the person most critical of Breitbart in today’s article is… Andrew Breitbart, whom Peters quoted as saying: “I admit it. I’m from LA. I still am shallow. Don’t anyone think otherwise.”

My most critical comment (in the article, at least): “I think his actions show that if he’s not willing to distort, he is at least careless with the facts.” I was more critical of his followers (and by inference, at least, those who are similarly committed to left-wing bloggers): “There are no standards of fact anymore for a lot of people. We’ve gone from selecting sources of opinion that we agree with to selecting facts that we agree with.”

My only other quote in the article: “On the right, [Breitbart] is seen as an investigative journalist along the lines of Woodward and Bernstein.” Scathing, huh? Well, scathing enough to have a right-wing blogger criticize me in a silly and inaccurate post titled “NYT uses Blumenthal crony to attack Breitbart.”

The post was short, but  managed to get several things wrong. I followed up with a polite correction in the comments–which the blogger refused to approve, instead  following up with another short snide comment of his own. So for what it’s worth, I’ll go ahead and correct the record here.

First, blogger Moe Lane stated that I “wrote a book with Sid  Blumenthal.” Though I’m happy that Blumenthal wrote the foreword for my latest book–at the request of the publisher, Northwestern University Press–some time after I wrote the book (and in response to what’s in it), I have never met him, talked to him, or corresponded with him, let alone co-written anything with him. Lane’s reference to me as a “Blumenthal crony,” while in fact fairly complimentary, is in fact ludicrous.

Besides, I didn’t want a liberal to write the foreword in the first place, since the book is a scholarly work about the rise of modern conservativism. I had recommended that NU Press try to get George Will, Pat Buchanan or William F. Buckley to read and write about the book.

Lane also writes that “a perusal of McPherson’s blog indicates that, for somebody supposedly interested in objective journalism, he likes to call people names and babble about conspiracy theories.” As I pointed out to Lane–and frequently here–I’m hardly someone who would qualify as “supposedly interested in objective journalism,” since I don’t believe there is such a thing.

Though I don’t disput that sometimes I “call people names,” the post to which Lane links to prove the point is probably more critical of Barack Obama than of anyone else. And of course regular readers here know that I “babble about conspiracy theories” to make fun of them–as I clearly did with the one Lane linked to but apparenlty didn’t bother to read closely.

On the plus side, both Lane and Peters included the title of my book. And perhaps Oscar Wilde was right when he said, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” Even more to the point is the line attributed to Irish writer Brendan Behan, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.”

Posted in Journalism, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Corsi & WND find new ways to fleece flock

Posted by James McPherson on March 29, 2011

Jerome Corsi and WorldNetDaily publisher Joseph Farah obviously make a perfect ethical match. Both use wacky conspiracy theories to make a living off of the gullible.

Their latest effort will probably further demonstrate the old adage about the 60-second birthrate of suckers, though it’s tough to believe that either Corsi or Farah–let alone the two in tandam–has much credibility left.

But Corsi, who actually sued his former publisher for distorting the New York Times bestseller list to pimp his previous book is now working with the “Christian” publisher in an effort to raise money from “readers” to do exactly the same thing.

The most telling lines of the WND piece (which actually promotes commercials for the book rather than the book itself): “WND needs to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to air these commercials on television networks and stations throughout the country. …  Farah also urges everyone concerned about the cover-up to make a donation in any amount – from $5 to $5,000. (Bigger donations can be accepted by special arrangement by emailing Farah personally jfarah@wnd.com.)”

It is interesting that conservative writers who bash the New York Times in their books then apparently think readers should trust the Times’ bestseller list above all others when they’re marketing those books. 

We’re left to wonder when Donald Trump will produce a book published by WND–assuming he’s not already in negotiations to buy the whole operation.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Religion, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »