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 ‘war’

Howard Zinn and other dead warriors

Posted by James McPherson on February 1, 2010

A late mention, as I’ve been away: noted historian Howard Zinn died last week.

In honor of Zinn, I offer his speech on American’s “three holy wars”:

Feb. 8 update: I just came across an NPR bit from a few days ago discussing how the network was criticized for including a nasty quote from David Horowitz as part of its online obit of Zinn. I agree with some of the criticism–that Horowitz’s comments didn’t add anything particularly meaning ful, especially for NPR listeners (thought they did help further illustrate the stupidity of Horowitz)–but can’t help but think that Zinn might have appreciated the “alternative view” of his own history.

Posted in Education, History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Can a Christian lesbian Latina superhero save us?

Posted by James McPherson on March 18, 2009

An interesting report today discusses the value of comic book superheroes for the American psyche in dealing with tough times such as economic depression and war. “In our own times, the public is turning to costumed heroes again in record numbers,” CNN reports. “Movies based on comic books are box office leaders; comic books themselves remain a strong and growing industry.”

Well, maybe. But you may have noticed that just a week after a big opening, “Watchmen” dropped by a somewhat remarkable 67 percent, falling faster than Superman if he’d smacked into a plane full of Kryptonite.

“Watchmen” was bumped from the top spot in the ranking by a Disney remake of “Race to Witch Mountain.” Considering that film, and the fact that the comic book characters who have been popular in recent movies are old favorites, it seems to me that moviegoers are seeking comfortable nostalgia more than reassurance from superheroes.

I have to admit that I haven’t read a comic book since I was a kid. I don’t read graphic novels, and know next to nothing about Manga. But if we really need superheroes, perhaps its time to update them. Maybe they should be multi-racial, not just multi-colored. Maybe more women (though Congress and the superhero community seem to have the same shortcomings in that regard). Maybe crime-fighting Christians. Or lesbians. Or, considering the state of the economy, accountants. Or all of the above.

Since inordinate numbers of old superheroes seem to have derived their powers from nuclear accidents or scientific experiments gone awry, perhaps the return to science by the federal government–and the effort to reduce reliance on oil–also provides new hero-creation possibilities. Somehow I don’t see a superhero being created from wind or solar technology, however, or even “clean coal.” But maybe I just lack comic imagination.

On the other hand, maybe the misadventures of the Bush administration should have taught us that traditional superheroes can’t always save us, that might can’t always make right, and that it’s time for us to put away the comic books and grow up.

Friday update: Come to find out, a Christian lesbian Latina superhero already exists in comics: Renee Montoya, aka “The Question.”

Posted in History, Media literacy, Science, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

More evidence of the conservatism of the American press & politics

Posted by James McPherson on December 10, 2008

This, of course, is the main theme of my recent book–that the mainstream media and American politics have become more conservative over time. Though the book came out before the recent election, I had predicted there and elsewhere that Barack Obama would be a good candidate. Part of the reason for his success, of course, is his own conservative nature, as expressed through his campaign and his appointments–a conservatism almost guaranteed by his educational background.

One of the most troubling expressions of that conservatism for me has been his expressed policy toward Afghanistan. That nation might become for Obama what Iraq became for George Bush and Iran was for Jimmy Carter: a distant nation that Americans care little about but which uses an inordinate amount of U.S. resources in exchange for little perceivable benefit.

Unfortunately, as Fairness and Accuracy in Media’s Gabriel Voiles notes, Obama’s view has become the conventional wisdom in the mainstream media. The problem with conventional wisdom is that it is so often wrong, whether it suggests that Republicans are more patriotic or better for the economy (which has been stronger in virtually every way under Democrats) or that Democrats are more peaceful (until recently we’ve had more wars and longer wars, under Democrats) and better for the environment (Richard Nixon signed the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act).

Posted in Education, History, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

McCain camp desperate, silly and sad

Posted by James McPherson on August 24, 2008

Affirming my observations of recent weeks that the John McCain campaign steadily becomes increasingly silly, increasingly desperate, and–despite recent polls–decreasingly likely to win the upcoming presidential election, the campaign is doing what it feels it must to have a prayer of victory.

Previously noted by many is how McCain now panders to the Religious Right figures whom he once termed “agents of intolerance.” At the same time that he engages in increasingly unchristian behavior, even to the point of adding to his own lies by refusing to criticize obvious lies from a man who has been one of McCain’s harshest critics. Nonetheless, his most recent ad must make “straight talk express” fans cringe when they hear the candidate intone, “I’m John McCain and I approved this message.”

This ad (the first clip below) asks why Hillary Clinton isn’t Barack Obama’s choice as running mate, and states that she was kept off the ticket “for telling the truth.” While that message might work with a few PUMAs, it seems likely that even many of them might be turned off by such blatantly pandering on the part of a man who consistently has done little on behalf of women–even if they believe that anyone in the McCain campaign knows the inner workings of their opponent’s operation.

McCain himself, it seems, once would have been embarrassed by such a commercial. Doesn’t he have some other means of attack other than to put his own face and voice in an ad that not only doesn’t say anything about himself or his candidacy but which actually promotes a losing candidate from the opposition party? Of course he obviously likes those folks, since he pals around with two-time loser Joe Lieberman. But isn’t McCain’s new language more befitting of Jon Stewart or bloggers than of a candidate for president? And does his new ad suggest that McCain like to replace sidekick Joe Lieberman with Clinton (a good idea if she’d go for it, but she’s far too smart for that).

One problem, I suppose, is that McCain has relatively few positive options because his own campaign message to voters might be boiled down to: “I was tortured before most of you were born (though if we do the same things now to scary Muslims I would no longer call it torture), I hate war but think we ought to engage in a lot more of it, I’m old, I’m cranky, and I disagree with almost everything else I said a year ago, back when I was still voting in the Senate–so elect me president before I die or before my rich wife leaves me for one of my lobbyist friends.”

Another somewhat silly McCain ad came out on the same day that Barack Obama announced what most followers had considered inevitable for days if not weeks, that Joe Biden would be the Democratic nominee for vice president. That commercial (the second clip below) shows Biden criticizing Obama and complimenting McCain. The only problem with the ad is that it merely reflects the kind of rhetoric that happens in political races all the time–in fact, the third clip below is a version that might be used against McCain if he chooses Mitt Romney to be his running mate. Biden’s rhetoric also reflects the give-and-take nature of the Senate, reflecting why I was somewhat surprised when two Senators won their party’s nominations.

Obviously a current senator will become our next president, while another will go back to serving with Clinton in the Senate. Perhaps that’s why McCain is being so complimentary to her now–he figures she can remind him where things are in the Capitol once he gets back there. 

Posted in Politics, Video, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments »