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 ‘YouTube video’

Born Again American offers Leary patriotism

Posted by James McPherson on January 26, 2010

Almost as if in answer to my post yesterday about where the power currently lies in America (hint: not with the people), today I received a link to an interesting video and Web site, both titled “Born Again American.”

Because of its religious-sounding title and because the link came to me from a generally conservative source, and because the video sounds like a country song and includes the words “my bible and the Bill of Rights,” I almost dismissed it fairly quickly as just another bit of right-wing propaganda. That dismissal would have been a mistake, though I do have mixed emotions about the group’s focus because of how easily patriotism sometimes seems to drift into xenophobia, and because I suspect so many listeners will hear “my bible” as “the Bible.”

As it turns out, the organization was founded by noted liberal Norman Lear, who produced “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons,” and “Maude” (among other programs) on television and helped found the Civil Liberties-devoted organization, People for the American Way (which includes a “Right Wing Watch“). The singers on the collaborative “Born Again American” video include a Muslim, a Jewish cantor and the Harlem Gospel Choir. Performers include several whites and blacks, at least two Latino Americans and one Chinese-American. (Perhaps notably, however, there seem to be no Native Americans.)

According to the Web site, Born Again Americans “is committed to the rebirth and re-expression of citizenship through informed and thoughtful activism. It is an initiative of Declare Yourself, a national non-partisan, non-profit (501(c)3) organization dedicated to increasing young voter participation and civic involvement.”

I’ll post the video below, but still encourage you to check out the Web site for yourself. There’s good information for both supposed liberals and conservatives who care about civil liberties and citizen activism.

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

MTV: Moronic TeleVision

Posted by James McPherson on December 22, 2008

MTV, which became almost unwatchable at about the same time Jerry Springer somehow became cool, is undergoing another major programming shift, according to Variety. According to the article, because of a ratings slide, the once-revolutionary network “is embarking on a major programming overhaul, with 16 new unscripted series over the next 4½ months.”

MTV first aired Aug. 1, 1981, meaning it now finds itself older than the audience it wants to attract. In fact, there are few things more sad than somone pushing 30 who is trying to hang with people who just hit the legal drinking age.

Occasionally the network does try to act its age, as with some of its political activities. But now MTV execs, who recently have brought us such classics as “Paris Hilton’s My New BFF,” “A Double Shot at Love” and  “My Super Sweet 16“–three shows that seem to be designed to prompt America-haters  to fly planes into buildings and which the CIA might consider as a suitable alternative to waterboarding–have decided that there’s a shortage of reality television shows on cable?

In memory of what once was, below is the first video that appeared on MTV –The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.” And in memory of music videos in general, largely replaced on televison by YouTube, below that video is The Wrong Trousers version of the same song (a version that has received about 1.4 million fewer hits than the Buggles’ video).

Posted in History, Media literacy, Music, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Obama ready for prime time: half-hour infomercial airs tonight

Posted by James McPherson on October 29, 2008

Next day update: Reader Luis Lopez pointed out in the comments that you can already find the infomercial on YouTube. Thanks, Luis. For convenience, I’ll post the video here. Yesterday’s post continues immediately after the video.

Tonight Barack Obama will be on almost every television network that matters, talking to Americans for 30 minutes less than a week before the election. I suspect the message will be mostly positive and optimistic, with just enough policy ideas to demonstrate that he has some. I’d like to see him announce some cabinet appointments, but that would be viewed as too risky for someone with the lead he holds.

The New York Times announced this morning that, based on a one-minute preview “heavy with strings, flags, presidential imagery, and some Americana filmed by Davis Guggenheim,” the address will be “a closing argument to the everyman.” (So much for John McCain’s ongoing “Joe the Plumber Tour.”)

Unless Obama decides to use the opportunity to announce that he and Joe Biden plan to leave their wives and marry one another, or that he and Osama bin Laden once smoked dope together while plotting the overthrow of the U.S., I can’t imagine that in this particular race–shaping up to be a possible landslide–the half hour will make much difference.

The commercial may reassure some prospective Obama voters (and may look to others as if he’s trying to run up the score), though because of rain the mostly white male audience tuning into Fox for the World Series won’t be there as a lead-in. And by the way, despite the myth that John McCain has repeated on the stump, Obama’s ad was never going to delay any World Series game.

I think the address is a good idea. Recognizing how little meaningful information can be shared via political ads, modern pseudo-debates, or interviews with newspeople who tend too often to be either cowed or too interested in furthering their own careers, I’ve been a proponent of political infomercials for some time. I even wrote letters recommending them to the Democratic National Committee and other groups before the 2004 election, and suggested them again via this blog in early June of this year.

Other presidential candidates have tried similar commercials in the past. Those candidates include losers Adlai Stevenson and Ross Perot (who did well for a third-party candidate), and the successful John F. Kennedy (also the last successful young presidential nominee, and the last to hold his Democratic Convention speech outdoors). If tonight’s program goes well, and offers information that voters can use, I suspect we’ll see more such infomercials in the future.

Regardless of the effect, Obama’s message will provide media scholars and political pundits with analytical fodder for years to come.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Video, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Straight Talk Express derailed, falls off “bridge” to become mired in mud

Posted by James McPherson on September 13, 2008

It’s an old story, of course: Politicians lie. But usually in presidential campaigns the candidates let their surrogates take on the most egregious fabrications, staying somewhat above the fray themselves. John McCain and Sarah Palin seem to be the exception, cheerily tramping through the mud on their way to a lead in national polls.

The lies range from tales of the infamous “bridge to nowhere” (see video below) to taxes to health care to immigration (bilingual lying!) to sexism to Alaskan oil production to pig lipstick to kindergarten sex education to Cindy McCain’s drug theft problems to even the findings of  FactCheck.org. In the words of the Associated Press’ Charles Babington, “The “Straight Talk Express” has detoured into doublespeak.”

Considering how much admiration I once had for McCain, I am troubled that he has become not just a typical campaigner but even worse than most. The campaign he has chosen to run is costing him other one-time fans, as well, while supporting the latest Obama camp claim that McCain “would rather lose his integrity than lose an election.”

The lying has become so bad that even the women of “The View,” a morning show watched mostly by stay-at-home wives, feel compelled to question McCain about it. His response: Lying, of course. Unfortunately Barbara Walters, long one of the most overrated journalists in America, helped McCain out by following up his lie with a trivial lipstick diversion rather than confronting him with the truth.

I don’t think McCain and Palin can lie their way to the White House. But a part of me fears that too many voters don’t care about the lying even if they recognize it. If those voters happen to help McCain win, they deserve what they get–four more years of Bush Administration nonsensical tough talk and bumbling policy. Unfortunately all of us may get an even more conservative and out-of-touch Supreme Court that will last for a generation.

Same-day update: Apparently the McCain/Palin camp also misrepresented her “world travels,” falsely claiming she has visited Iraq. And in a lengthy story about Palin today, the New York Times reports: “Interviews show that Ms. Palin runs an administration that puts a premium on loyalty and secrecy. The governor and her top officials sometimes use personal e-mail accounts for state business; dozens of e-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that her staff members studied whether that could allow them to circumvent subpoenas seeking public records. ” She appears, as one of my colleagues noted recently, “Dick Cheney in a dress.”

Next day update: To John McCain–When you’re on the same side as Karl Rove and even he calls you a liar, maybe it’s time to dial it back.

Palin’s bridge to falsehood:

Posted in History, Journalism, Personal, Politics, Video, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

McCain’s best potential debate line

Posted by James McPherson on August 2, 2008

The McCain campaign has released a new Web ad titled “The One,” featuring Barack Obama and Moses (as played by Charlton Heston). I found the ad mildly amusing, though of course virtually everything in it was taken out of context. The GOP obviously has figured out that with no meaningful issues, negative campaigning is their only chance of victory–that’s why almost all of their advertising talks far more about Obama than about McCain. It’s sad that the “straight-talk express” has run so far off the rails.

I do look forward to the debates, when McCain can tell Obama: “I knew Moses. Moses was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Moses.”

Below you can see the original version of that retort, from the 1988 vice presidential debate of two decades ago.

Posted in Politics, Religion, Video, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

“Love me like Barack, part 2”

Posted by James McPherson on July 22, 2008

A brief follow-up to yesterday’s post: Today McCain’s Web site (which he may or may not be able to access himself), has a section titled “The Media is in Love with Barack: Pick the Best Song for their Devotion.”

Aside from the poor grammar (“media” is plural, people, but if you’re going to make it a singular at least be consistent!), the idea and the videos are cute. I’ve posted both below. As of now, the first one is leading 86 percent to 14 percent, though that may be a vote of 43-7. Unfortunately for McCain, some of his leading supporters are as computer illiterate as he is, and the mainstream media likely won’t pay much attention to this, either–especially with Obama continuing his world tour (see today’s CBS “exlusive” here).

The two CNN headlines on the page now regarding McCain are titled “Ticker: McCain parody pushes pills, walker” (about a Vanity Fair spoof of the recent New Yorker cover) and “VP buzz swirls around McCain” (which I noted yesterday that I thought was a manufactured issue). Even Fox News is ignoring the ploy on its Web site, though it’s too early to tell if the talking heads will mention it.

Posted in Journalism, Politics, Video | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Barack Obama, Muhammad Ali, Mos Def, Zalmay Khalilzad & Keith Ellison: Which doesn’t belong?

Posted by James McPherson on July 16, 2008

The answer to the above question, of course, is Barack Obama–who, despite the fact that apparently a quarter of the American population is still dumb enough to believe that Obama was raised a Muslim, is the only non-Muslim on the list.

The question is relevant because of what Obama pointed out with Larry King last night. The New Yorker cover that has drawn so much attention is a cartoon, not particularly noteworthy for what it says about Obama, but because it is “an insult against Muslim Americans.” Obama admitted that he has not been as diligent as he should have been about pointing out that there is nothing wrong with being a Muslim in America.

George Bush and Dick Cheney apparently agrees, though they’d probably never say so publicly because fear-based politics remain their only tenuous thread to American support. But Bush appointed Khalilzad as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq (one of few effective Bush appointments regarding Iraq), and Cheney once awarded Khalilzad a medal for outstanding public service.

Mos Def is widely popular and a musician and actor, though he likely won’t be receiving any awards from the Bush administration. You can see a sample of why below in a song that includes the lines, “I don’t rap for dead presidents. I’d rather see the president dead.” (Warning: Some people will find the language offensive.)

Muhammad Ali is one of the most-respected sports figures in the world, and was chosen to light the Olympic torch for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Two years ago Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison became the first Muslim elected to Congress. They are just a few among the many famous Muslims in and outside of the United States, including doctors, politicians and others, who have made significant contributions to American lives.

Many of them, like Obama, even pledge allegiance to the American flag.

Posted in History, Politics, Religion, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »