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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Posts Tagged ‘muslim’

Obama the conservative, America’s decline, and stock market yo-yo

Posted by James McPherson on November 21, 2008

Though only compulsive gamblers, business junkies and the masochists are following the day-to-day fluctuations of the stock market, those fluctuations have reminded us that the market sometimes seemingly jumps or dives for little apparent reason. A stray comment from the Fed chairman is enough to make the Dow act like a kid’s kite encountering wind shear.

Today CNN reports that today’s gains came apparently as a result of reports “that President-elect Barack Obama will nominate New York Federal Bank president Timothy Geithner as his new Treasury Secretary.” I don’t know anything about Geithner, and I’m increasingly convinced that no one knows much about the economy. But the suggestion that Obama’s possible actions can help the market do give some support to my earlier contention that his election might save the country from economic collapse.

On the other hand, seeing the conservative (even neoconservative) nature of Obama’s possible appointments–including, apparently, Hillary Clinton–I’m more inclined to see his presidency as another step in the decline of America’s power–not because he’s a Muslim, a Communist or a New Dealer, but because at heart he’s a conservative. For their part, Asians won’t be surprised by the power shift.

Monday update: Geithner is the guy–or one of them–and the market continues to boom under Obamamania. No one knows how long it will last. Probably just long enough for me to shift more of my retirement funds back to stocks.

Posted in Journalism, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

The New Yorker’s Obama cover

Posted by James McPherson on July 14, 2008

Finally, something the Obama and McCain camps can agree on.

“The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Sen. Obama’s right-wing critics have tried to create. But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree,” says an Obama spokesman.

“We completely agree with the Obama campaign, it’s tasteless and offensive,” said McCain’s spokesman.

As Politico says, the cover of the issue that goes on sale today “certainly will be candy for cable news.”

Judge for yourself, then I’ll offer my take. Note the Muslim attire, the Afro, the fist bump, the AK-47, the picture of Osama bin Laden over the Oval Office fireplace, and the burning flag.

You can find a lot of comment in the responses at the Huffington Post and elsewhere, but as someone who has often misjudged what would be appropriate or funny, I find myself sympathetic to the New Yorker, which stated, “”Please note that it is satire–we are poking fun at the scare tactics and misinformation that some have employed to derail Obama’s campaign.” I would have perceived the cover as appropriate political satire–at least before reading the articles inside. Others agree, and some people think it may even help Obama in the long run.

On CNN’s “Reliable Sources” yesterday, Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page  said the cover “is just lampooning all the crazy ignorance out there.” On CNN’s American Morning, liberal talk-show host Laura Flanders and conservative talk-show host Joe Pagliarulo agreed with one another that the cover was not critical of Obama, and that his campaign could and should have used it as an opportunity to criticize his real enemies–the ignorance of much of the electorate and the media that help perpetuate that ignorance.

A stunning example: A Newsweek poll released Friday still shows: “Twelve percent of voters surveyed said that Obama was sworn in as a United States senator on a Qur’an, while 26 percent believe the Democratic candidate was raised as a Muslim and 39 percent believe he attended an Islamic school as a child growing up in Indonesia. None of these things is true.”

But I’d be more sympathetic toward the New Yorker–which, frankly, I suspect would prefer Obama over John McCain–if the magazine hadn’t run the cover photo at the top of its Web page exactly between a teaser headline for “the Campaign Trail” subtitled, Hendrik Hertzberg, Ryan Lizza, and Jeffrey Toobin on flip flopping” and Hertzberg’s piece discussing Obama’s real and exaggerated “flip-flops.” And the main article, by Lizza, is generally negative. And yes, the Hertzberg article also discusses many of McCain’s flips, but groups them in a single paragraph at the end of the story. The magazine prompts Alternet’s Don Hazen to ask in an excellent article today, “Why are the New Yorker, Salon and other liberal media doing the right’s dirty work?”

Still, I tend to agree with Flanders that the photo “isn’t a jab at [the Obamas], terrorist or any other kind. This is a jab at the media. … It should be cause for our conversation to focus on the kind of fear mongering that the media and people on the right have engaged in.”

Hazen expands on that problem: “Unfortunately the impact of this image will extend far beyond the reading audience of the New Yorker; cable news and the right-wing media noise machine will amplify the derogatory image to millions more. And the New Yorker of course will reap enormous publicity, clearly translating to increased sales and notoriety for the brand, and for corporate owner Conde Nast–one of the largest and most powerful media companies in America.”

As for Flanders’ hope, good luck with the media indicting themselves in that discussion.

Posted in Journalism, Media literacy, Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Ignorance and the electorate

Posted by James McPherson on July 7, 2008

My conservative buddy and I share one thing in common–both of us are consistently surprised by the ignorance of many people on both sides of many political arguments, and even more surprised at how willing many of those folks are to prove how little they know. One example, a variation of which shows up repeatedly on conservative blogs, is this one, which I came across today on a Fox New blog (I changed nothing, including spelling):

“Why isn’t anything being mentioned about Obama raised as a musilum achooled with terriorists and the FACT that during a democrate ralley he ‘REFUSED’ to salute the flag or say our anthem??????????? Please advise me. And the people want him as a President!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Versions of that comment continue to circulate via email. Aside from the fact that you “say” the Pledge of Allegiance and “sing” or perform the Anthem, if people keep spewing the same ignorance (admittedly, Fox News anchors did the same before being forced to “clarify” the false report)–despite the fact that credible sources on both sides (including even the less-credible Bill O’Reilly)–have repeatedly disputed these lies, what hope do we have that they’ll understand the intricacies of policy debate? It’s no wonder there are so many folks who consider anyone with an education (even a high school education, judging from the comment above) to be elites.

Four recommendations I’d humbly offer for would-be political pundits:

  1. Read at least ten times as much as you publicly write (even if you have to move your lips and trace along with your finger while you read, it will pay off in the long run).
  2. Get your information from a variety of sources, conservative and liberal.
  3. Not every thought need be quickly shared (to paraphrase a quote attributed to many: “Better to keep one’s mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt”).
  4. Exclamation marks do not enhance an argument, even if you add an extra dozen.

Obama leads the Pledge of Allegiance

Posted in Media literacy, Politics, Religion, Video, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »