Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mute Points

No shit, Sherlock. With the latest in the continuing soap opera that the media have created around the Obama Administration, the latest instalment concerns a rogue general getting wasted with his aides and a reporter from a Left-leaning rock publication and pissing on, not only the President, but also the Vice President, the Ambassador to Afghanistan, the highest-ranking civilian envoy and two serving United States Senators, both decorated war heroes and former Presidential candidates and one a Republican.

And here it comes again … a plethora of pundits weighing in on what the President should do, should say, yadda yadda … As much as the way Stanley McChrystal’s words have questioned the legitimacy of this White House, so, too, do all the talking heads from …the LEFT as well as the RIGHT, in their opining of how the President should behave.

It seems as though we’ve just got through last week’s brouhaha of MSNBC in meltdown, than we’re gearing up for another round of political pundits pontificating on what the President SHOULD do or what he MUST say in these circumstances. Bad enough, that the Right demonise him as alien, who doesn’t look like them; worse, that the Left not-so-subtly excoriate him, because he doesn’t act in the way they think such an “alien” should act.

The Left’s cognitive dissonance is a euphemism for something openly uglier for which they criticize the Right. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet … or not, as the case may be.

As for the pundits, I’m sick of people whining about this talking head or that one “speaking for me” or “speaking for the Left” … Pardon me, unless we’re all struck mute, we have voices. And if we need people to speak in public for us, that’s the duty of our ELECTED representatives; and if they aren’t doing them, they need reminding. The day Americans have to have corporate talking heads on television “speaking for them” is the day when the end isn’t far off. These people speak for themselves, their networks and their wallets.

McChrystal’s from the military; the pundits are from the infotainment industry. I’m sure neither Roosevelt, whose third administration gave infamous birth to the military industrial complex, nor Eisenhower, who warned us against the complex’s evil potential, ever had this sort of unholy, if untintentional and indirect, association in mind.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Liar Liar Pants on Fire: Manipulative Media Types - Part II

Keith Olbermann doesn't vote.

True dat. He confessed as much in a post-electoral episode to the ladies of The View in November 2008.

A political commentator who doesn’t vote? Unheard of. OK, there’s no law – in fact, there’s tact – which says a commentator doesn’t have to disclose his or her political persuasion. Some had no need to do so – example: we always knew Bill Buckley was a Republican and Gore Vidal a liberal of the Democratic persuasion.

But then, until recently, we only had a few bona fide political commentators amongst us. Ed Murrow, Huntley-Brinkley, even Wise Uncle Walter, would shudder, rather than admit that they were commentators. Rather, they were newsmen, challenged with the duty of reporting news as fact and showing truth to their viewers, allowing them the respect and licence to make up their own minds about the subjects presented.

Today, everyone and his dog is a political commentator – or strives to be, until they’re caught in an intellectually compromising position, and then they protest that they’re only comedians or entertainers.

And that’s the crime of the 24/7 cable media today: news has got to have an entertainment aspect in order to hold the increasingly immature public’s short attention span.

Thus, Olbermann, a pompous and pedantic man, seeks to emulate Ed Murrow, and succeeds in becoming a narcissistic clown with no respect for his audience.

In the wake of last week’s Presidential Oval Office address, Olbermann resorted, nearly, to visceral carpet-chewing in his over-the-top critique of a speech, to which, it was clear, he didn’t listen in any way.

Olbermann and his colleagues, Chris Matthews and Howard Fineman, spent their analysis period, vicariously, criticising Obama’s message to his constituents – and, specifically, to his constituents directly affected by the Gulf oil spill – on the content of what THEY wanted the President to say to THEM.

It was the height of disrespect, both to the President and to the people in the Gulf. It was tantamount to telling these people that they were patently too stupid to realise what the President was saying was wrong – in the pundits’ opinions – and that they should be displeased and demand that he should have delivered their message.

It doesn’t surprise me that Olbermann should feel this way about his listening public. The French have a saying about people with an inflated opinion of themselves. Roughly translated, the French would say Keith Olbermann “farts above his nose” - meaning, he’s above smelling the whiff of his own bullshit.

I caught his Friday show online, which was being hosted by Laurence O’Donnell, except for the final bit, a Friday feature wherein Olbermann, seated in a comfortable chair, effects to READ a story from the works of James Thurber to his viewing audience. That’s right – a book at bedtime with creepy Uncle Keith.

What more proof that a commentator has absolutely no respect for the acumen of his audience than to have him read them a bedtime story?! What’s next? An invitation to climb into Uncle Keith’s ample virtual lap for a cuddle and a lullabye?

And isn’t this proof positive that, not only the neocon Right – who effected to keep their constituency reduced to the level of frightened children – but also the ueber Left, seek to keep the hoi-polloi in a distinctly puerile state of mind?

Olbermann’s show, at any rate, is like an echo chamber. For the most part, it’s a countdown of his five news items of the day, including someone who ranks as being his “worst person in the world” (again, childish hyperbole), along with the occasional “special comment” – Keith’s special message imparting to his fans his own iconic opinion about a particular incident or agenda. If there be any guests at all, they reflect Keith’s opinion and no divergence. Who said the Rightwing march in lockstep?

Last week, however, Keith made a major mis-step in his gratuitous critique of the President’s speech. Apparently, he received a plethora of messages left on his Facebook page and his Twitter account, in addition to the messages which melted down NBC’s switchboard, that his loyal viewing public were more than just mildly pissed off with Keith’s behaviour.

To say that Keith was mildly put out with the criticism received on the part of his adoring fans would be an understatement. Suffice it to say that he can dish it with the best of them, but – like his fellow Cornell alumnus and fellow narcissist, Bill Maher – he can’t take criticism. He issued a nine-part tweet, following it up with a special comment on his program, essentially bidding his recalcitrant viewers a cold good-bye, reiterating that perhaps they’d been watching his program for the wrong reasons.

Well, I’d like him to clarify what the right reasons are; because, quite frankly, I have a bit of a problem with anyone telling me or manipulating me into any point of view – much less, I have a problem with anyone who doesn’t vote seeking to influence my opinion on any political figure.

We all know the non-voters. We hear them enough in our daily lives – people who always have an opinion about a politician or government, but don’t vote because “all political parties are the same” or “all politicians are crooks” or whatever. Keith says he doesn’t vote because he feels he has to remain impartial. That’s bullshit.

Keith doesn’t vote because he’s simply afraid of commitment to one political philosophy. He’s ueber liberal – one can never imagine him adopting support of any Rightwing politician; but the fact that he doesn’t vote at all, precludes any right he has to criticize a politician from any side of the political coin.

My father had a name for such people. He called them “Pot Luck Peters,” saying that, like people at a pot luck dinner, they had to take the government on offer and lump it; because the act of voting gave a person a voice.

As a “Pot Luck Peter,” Keith takes Obama as he is, just as he had to take Bush; and his complaints, his whinges, his whines and all his special comments, should fall on deaf ears, simply because Keith doesn’t vote.

One should be wary of being influenced by someone who seeks to get others to vote vicariously in his manner, while he sits back and watches his own opinion get propagated as fact. I’m glad a lot of people said they’d turn off Keith. I hope they do.

Keith’s entitled to his opinions as much as he’s entitled to take the corporate penny from MSNBC who pay him for his particular brand of infotainment. But he should make his listeners aware that he doesn’t vote.

Inability to commit is a sign of social immaturity; basically giving your viewing public a polite eff-off because they dared to criticize your behaviour is another childish gesture too.

Time to turn off Uncle Keith and his sinister bedtime stories. Time to think for yourselves.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire: A Trilogy of Manipulative Media Types - Part I

On Thursday, according to The Huffington Post, President Obama hosted a small lunch for a select group of Progressive media types.
Amongst the guests were Susan Collins of the New York Times, Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post, and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. I wonder if Rachel’s main course included a healthy serving of crow, considering the luncheon took place 24 hours after the President effected the establishment of a $20 billion escrow account, as well as $100 million from BP for clean-up expenses in the Gulf as well as a cover for wages lost on the part of those people whose livelihoods were affected by BP’s negligence/incompetence, and 48 hours after her celebrated attempt at biting satire by establishing herself as “Fake President Obama” in a mock-up Oval Office, for the purpose of instructing the President (and the nation) on what, precisely, Rachel had wanted the President to say in his Oval Office address.
Suffice it to say, that, in Dr Maddow’s opinion, the President’s address was distinctively below par, and what she had wanted him to say, was infinitely better.
Yes, I know it was meant as satire, but Rachel’s forays into satire lately have fallen a bit flat.
Still, she was invited to this luncheon, which had probably been planned a long time before the Oval Office speech, and the President is good-natured and thick-skinned enough probably to have ribbed her about her effort, with good grace, and maybe even gave her a tour of the real Oval Office, itself. He seems to be that sort of soul.
But I hope she did have to swallow a bit of crow that afternoon and that a little bit of egg stuck to her face, especially considering that, 24 hours after her attempt, the President had shown, without a shadow of a doubt, that however vague and directionless his Oval Office speech appeared to be on Tuesday evening, by Wednesday afternoon, we were given no doubt that there was intended and well-planned action behind the narrative.
Sometimes, it doesn’t pay to second-guess a President, just as sometimes it’s necessary for a President, the gambler-in-chief, to play his cards close to his chest, especially regarding the 24/7 cable news media.
Rachel is young, clever, ueber-intelligent and with a high level of political acumen. She’ll learn from this, and she should. In fact, she’s probably the only person, certainly the only woman, in that cable news equivalent of Animal House with any kind of either personal of professional integrity, and she deserves better.
In fact, near the end of what I hope will be the President’s second term, perhaps he and Rachel will meet for an interview and share a laugh in the real Oval Office about her attempted foray into the fake one.
One noticeable absentee from the luncheon was the self-styled Queen Mother of the Progressive Movement, herself. In fact, near the end of what was really a very short, concise article (by HuffPo standards, anyway), was a pithy sentence, which simply stated, “Huffington Post founder and editor-in-chief, Arianna Huffington, was invited to the luncheon, but could not attend due to scheduling commitments.”
Who, in their right mind, turns down an invitation for lunch with the President at the White House? Certainly not someone who had righteously railed against the too-big-to-fail financial CEO’s who let it be known earlier this year that they were too important to travel to Washington for any sort of negotiation with the President. Huffington, rightly, called them out for being distinctly disrespectful – not that she hasn’t, on many occasions, herself, been openly and scathingly disrespectful of Obama as President of the United States.
Her recent assessment of the President was that he was a “Nowhere Man”, in a low, sarcastic and inaccurate criticism of the fact that, in her estimation, the President paid far too much attention to honouring Paul McCartney at the White House, when he should have removed all White House operations, physically, to the Gulf for the foreseeable future.
If she were, indeed, too busy to lunch with the President, not only was that the height of disrespect, it was also amazingly hypocritical, considering her slating of the financal fat cats.
But I don’t think she was too busy or double-booked for this event. I don’t think she was even invited.
A media whore like Huffington would kill for the opportunity of sitting down at a table to eat with the President and monopolise the event. Her site would be filled, for days thereafter, with a plethora of photographs:-
- Here’s Arianna being greeted by the President, upon her arrival at the White House. See how he bows from the waist.
- Here’s Arianna at the table, seated at the right hand of the President.
- Here’s Arianna on the sofa with the President. See how her hand lingers on his knee.
You get the picture (pun intended).
After days of photos, there would be an infinity of blogs, replete with Presidential name-droppings:-
“I told the President, over lunch on Thursday …”
“I’m pleased that he President appears to have listened to what I said …”
“The President told me …”
“As I was saying to the President …”
But, no … Arianna had a conflict of schedules, and couldn’t attend, even after making continuous and gratuitous Obama-bashing part and parcel of her meme, almost since the President assumed office in early 2009.
Seen from that angle, his reeks of disrespect. The action speaks volumes in saying that this President is such a disappointment as to be totally insignificant and unworthy of this grande dame’s attentions; and, subtly, by extension, he should be singularly unworthy of her dittoes’ attentions too. It was a dismissal.
Yet, it seems, a worm of deceit is turning, because many of the people commentating on the article, regular readers of her aggregate, saw through the deception.
Arianna wasn’t invited. She never had been.
It was a lie.
Thursday evening, I received an e-mail from a close friend, who lives and works amongst the great and the not-so-good in Washington. Considering the fact that, living in England, I’m five hours ahead of the East Coast, it would have been about 3pm when he sent the correspondence.
Knowing I’m not the greatest Arianna fan, he thought he’d rib me by saying he’d seen her that afternoon. Arianna, on Thursday, was indeed in Washington, DC – eating lunch in The Palms, an ueber-posh, ueber-expensive steakhouse on 19th Street … alone.
Maybe she does consider him an irrelevance, and maybe she did decline the invitation; but maybe, in view of the fact that a lot of her criticism and shilling has bordered almost on a point of sedition, it was the White House, who thought she was irrelevant. Maybe the “Nowhere Man” saw fit to remind her that exactly what the word “nowhere” means, in terms of influence, or perceived influence.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Make Mine a Double Standard

Early in 2009, shortly after the President’s Inauguration, Glenn Beck took to the airwaves to warn people that soon the President would be coming for their guns; yes, indeedy, he’d be sending the police after people’s beloved guns. So urgent and heated was Beck’s warning that one poor, deluded man took his precious guns, went to the local copshop and blew away five policemen, before turning the gun on himself.
Immediately, cries arose from the Left that Beck, or his employer, Fox News, should be prosecuted. Although Freedom of Speech contains strictures against incitement to crime or riot, Beck’s diatribe did nothing of that sort, directly. In this regard, Beck is the master of the soupcon of suggestion. That’s his schtick. He didn’t tell the victim to take his guns and defend the Second Amendment, he planted a suggestion, and the fellow acted upon it.
Later, we witnessed the killing of a security guard at the Holocaust Museum by a white supremacist, and people, rightly, reckoned that this was a Rightwing reaction to a black man in the White House.
Still later on, we were introduced to the rather ludicrous Tea Party, with their “Don’t Tread on Me” peculiar interpretation of Jeffersonian democracy and their misunderstanding that their cries against perceived socialism might incorporate their Medicare, Social Security or disability allowances. When they appeared with their mis-spelled signs and pictures of Obama as Hitler or an African chieftan, we knew exactly what they meant to say when they cloaked their racism in terms like “socialist,” “communist,” or “Nazi.” And we were rightly offended.
So offended, that when Glenn Beck actually turned the tables and declared Obama a racist with a deep-seeded hatred of white people, no less an intellectual powerhouse (not) than Arianna Huffington, with her intense and expert knowledge of the Constitution, demanded that Beck be denied his First Amendment rights, irrespective of the fact that those same rights that allow Beck to declare the President of the United States a racist, also allowed this faux neocon disguised as a Progressive-for-Profit the right to demand that the Vice President of the United States resign in protest of the President’s as yet (then) undisclosed plan for the war in Afghanistan and lead a protest movement – something just about an inch short of sedition.
Such were the outcries, as the fundits from the Right got more and more outrageous, culminating in Glenn Beck’s disgusting parody of the President’s daughter a few weeks ago.
As stated, quite rightly, people vehemently protested against such behaviour from the Right.
But, what happens when someone not identified with the Right makes an incongruent statement?
Imagine several scenarios.
Imagine Rush Limbaugh in a broadcast, referring to President Obama as “President Sanford and Son.”
There would be hell to pay from the depths of the sofas of the sedentary Left. Blogspaces would implode. The cable news network – most likely CNN and MSNBC, for Fox would strategically ignore it – would obsess about it for weeks. Limbaugh, for the umpteenth time, would be Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person in the World.” There would be calls for Limbaugh, at most, to be taken off the air, at least, to apologise. Of course, neither result would occur, but the Left, quite correctly, would never let Limbaugh forget about that verbal faux pas.
Or, imagine Beck opining that when he knew there was a black President elected, he wanted to see a black President in action, watch him swagger into the boardroom of some corporate CEO, with a gun on his hip, ready to kick ass and demand if this mothafucka didn’t wise up, he’d get shot in the leg. In other words, present a white person’s grossly exaggerated stereotype of a ghetto justice-dispenser and market that as how the President should behave as a black executive.
Once again, the infotainment media would be rife with protest from all sections and factions of the Left, from the moderates to the loonies. And, again, they’d be right to be offended. Such a stereotypical depiction by Beck would be as offensive as the Tea Party’s mock-up post card of the White House watermelon patch.
But, although both of these aforementioned incidences occurred, it was neither Rush nor Beck who uttered the words, and this, perhaps, is the reason why you’ve heard no comments, no protests, no outrage from the Left.
They were spoken by Bill Maher.
Three weeks ago, in a meltdown episode of Real Time, when Bill’s faux atheism was revealed by quirky conservative atheist, S E Cupp, he ended the program with his signature editorial, this time criticizing the President as a backward-looking, underachieving, bumbling black man, out of his depth in governing a country. By pointedly referring to Obama as “President Sanford and Son,” Bill channeled the ultimat 70s image of a man so laid back and incompetent, he couldn’t even manage a junkyard.
Instead, Bill called for corporate mogul, Steve Jobs, to govern America, the same way he managed Apple, and thus, move the country foreward. Never mind that the editorial had been based on a commencement speech the President had made or that one sentence from that speech had been removed and spun centrifugally by Bill and his writers in order to obtain a totally different meaning than originally intended, the “Sanford and Son” reference drew a gasp from the audience, but nothing from anyone else on the Left.
Huffington strategically left this part of the editorial off her aggregate. Olbermann said nothing. Bill’s icon, Chris Matthews, a man who sometimes admits that he “forgets Obama is black”, was curiously mute.
In the program which aired on May 28th, Bill admitted in his opening monologue the real reason why he was disappointed in Obama. Obama, he said, was too professorial. When Bill voted for a black President, he wanted a black President delivered. An articulate rapper, with a ghetto mind and sense of justice, who kicked ass at the point of a gun worn on his hip. That’s the man he voted for.
Well, sorry, Bill. I didn’t vote for a stereotype, I voted for the person best qualified to do the job.
I was actually grateful that Bill as much as admitted his cognitive dissonance in this regard, because I think this has been a disconnect with a great many so-called Progressives with regard to Obama and his cool, calm, demeanor. They voted for John Shaft and, instead, they got a cross between Carlton from The Fresh Prince and Dr Cliff Huxtable. And, so, like Bill, they didn’t get the man whom Bill referred to in his post-Electoral editorial as a “kickass black ninja.”
Stereotyping is a form of racism too.
This time, various fans of Maher made protest about this remark, but from the mouthpieces of the Left … crickets. Lots of excuses, mind you, from his dittoes … Bill’s a comedian … it’s supposed to be funny.
Sorry, Bill’s a comedian only when his mouth doesn’t engage with his brain and he says something that backs his ass against a wall. That’s when he reverts to “I’m a comedian” mode.
Witness: “If u get a flu shot, u r stupid.” (But that’s a joke, funny ha-ah.) Sorry, not even close.
And, sorry, again, but stereotyping isn’t funny. Not for African Americans, not for women and not for any ethnic minority.
Which leads me to another anecdotal incident.
Imagine, if you will, Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh attending a public function, during Jewish Heritage Week. Imagine a Jewish broadcast unit with camcorder and microphone, calling one of them over and asking for some thoughts or message to the Jewish community during this week. Imagine either man saying his message would be for the “Jews” to get out of Palestine. Get out of Palestine and “go home.” When asked to qualify where, exactly, “home” was, imagine either Beck or Limbaugh, replying, “Germany. Poland.”
There would be a shitstorm of protest from the Left. Beck’s remaining sponsors would fold up their merchandise tents and slope away. Limbaugh would be vilified.
Helen Thomas, octagenarian doyenne of the Left, knew very well what she was saying when she uttered the above sentiment, and she knew how it would play. The new babes of the ueber Left would associate “Palestine-Left Bank-Gaza” and have her back. But this has nothing to do with either the Left Bank or Gaza, and it happened a few days before the initial Gaza flotilla incident.
Thomas would have been 28 when the UN created the State of Israel from a territory heretofore known, loosely, as Palestine. Prior to that official act, the British government, big guns in the Middle East, during their raj, set the wheels in motion for the establishment of a Jewish state with their British Mandate for Palestine in the 1930s. She certainly would have remembered that, also.
Thomas, a professional wordsmith, was honing her art at its best, using the utmost double entendre to convey subtly that she really didn’t approve of Jews being in the area formerly known as Palestine at all and that the few elderly who’d made the actual transition from holocaust to Haifa, as well as any of their descendents, and various other assorted immigrants, should just go back from whence they came – even if that meant going back to places where they were labelled personae non gratae, tortured, imprisoned and displaced.
We on the Left freely label people in Arizona “Nazis”. Some of the people still alive who remember the formation of Israel had first-hand experience with real Nazis.
Within the past week, and many times before during the Netanyahu government, Israel has done a fair enough job touting herself as her own worst enemy in the eyes of the world. Criticizing that would have been justifiable, but being clever and inching across a message that the country doesn’t deserve to exist at all, not good. Just as Pat Buchanan’s suggestion that the status quo prior to the Civil Rights amendment was preferable to the present day.
Bill Maher is as constant in his unwavering support of Israel as he is in his equally unwavering support of the death penalty, both ideals giving the lie to his touted Progressivism. It will be interesting to see if he touches upon this incident with Thomas in his show this week, and to see how it plays against his own much-stated belief in freedom of speech, which is about as valid as his Progressive politics … not.