Wednesday, June 22, 2005

WHY GOD MADE TABLOIDS. This Herald front doesn't quite rise to the level of the drunken toga party during a late-night House session several years ago. But it will do. Dave Wedge writes:

While the unfinished state budget sat back at the State House, the parade of representatives at the Hyannis public course began at 9 a.m. sharp, with several reps taking trips to the driving range, putting on sunblock and lacing up their golf shoes. Several unidentified players were spotted drinking beer in their carts.

DURBIN GETS IT. Even if some of his defenders don't. From the senator's apology yesterday:

Mr. President, I have come to understand that was a very poor choice of words. I tried to make this very clear last Friday that I understood to those analogies to the Nazis, Soviets and others were poorly chosen. I issued a release which I thought made my intentions and my inner-most feeling as clear as I possibly could.

Let me read to you what I said. "I have learned from my statement that historical parallels can be misused and misunderstood. I sincerely regret if what I said causes anybody to misunderstand my true feelings. Our soldiers around the world and their families at home deserve our respect, admiration and total support."

Mr. President, it is very clear that even though I thought I had said something that clarified the situation, to many people it was still unclear. I'm sorry if anything that I said caused any offense or pain to those who have such bitter memories of the Holocaust, the greatest moral tragedy of our time. Nothing, nothing should ever be said to demean or diminish that moral tragedy.

Now let's get back to the real issue: the well-documented abuses - including torture - that have taken place at Guantánamo and other detention facilities, thus damaging American moral authority in the eyes of the world. (Via Andrew Sullivan.)


Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

So rather than do anything that could reasonable be called 'work' this a.m. I've hopped around some leftish and rightish websites on Gitmo.

Two things come to my mind:

1} The truth probably lay somewhere in the middle. People are alarmingly willing to make sweeping, resolute statements one way or the other based on flimsy hearsay - leading me to

2} Why aren't media pundits beginning to take a look at the inherent inanities of a 2 party system where the middle tends to get excluded by the tacit collusion of the two extremes?

It seems to me, and certainly there's ample room for disagreement, that politics has really devolved to its lowest point in the past, say 30 years.

More energy is spent in the press, and on the congressional floors merely defending extant positions and essentially, well - cheerleading.

Lastly, to the extent Americans want to get the troops out [or maybe more reasonable, set a deadline] I'm not quite sure why the citizenry has been so lulled into the misconception that Congress and the Prez has to do it.

Why can't private citizens demand a referendum on the issue?

A few million signatures presented to Congress would not only be hard to ignore, it would arguably be illegal, or at least, go right to the philosophical heart of what democracy is supposed to be.

Enough goddamned partisan cheerleading and vapid rhetoric.

Let's put politics aside and figure out how to force our government to get us out of this mess within the year.

Chairman v. 2.2 said...

I am both disappointed and disturbed by Sen. Durbin's spineless flip-flip, both for its moral and political implications. I have taken Dan to task for distorting Durbin's actual words in the same manner as the Washington Times did, but it appears that the Senator can't stand the heat.

It was only a couple days ago that Durbin dismissed predictable GOP demands for an apology (don't they ask for an apology of some sort every week?) by saying, "This administration should apologize to the American people for abandoning the Geneva Conventions and authorizing torture techniques that put our troops at risk and make Americans less secure." I thought Durbin said these words because he believed them, and I still maintain that they are accurate.

Apparantly, though, Sen. Durbin doesn't mean what he says --or else the Republican Noise Machine has again proven itelf too intimidating for even a blue-state Democrat. Note by comparison that none of the Republicans who compared Democrats to Nazis have ever apologized. Nor was there much demand from other Democrats or the media professionals that they apologize.

Tom DeLay never apologized for comparing the EPA to the "Gestapo;" Pat Buchanan never apologized for denying the Holocaust or praising Hitler; Jesse Helms & Strom Thurmond never apologized for years of outlandish, racist remarks. Dick Armey never apologized for calling Barney Frank "Barney Fag;" the Club for Growth never apologized for its TV ads that morphed Tom Daschle into Saddam Hussein.

Indeed, folks like Grover Norquist have vowed, defiantly, to continue comparing the Estate Tax cut to the Holocaust!

The result? Every one of these Republicans benefitted politically while Democrats like Durbin --who apologized when he was correct-- look like flip-flopping, weepy, weaklings who are afraid to fight.

You can be sure that video of Durbin's remarks will appear in GOP ads despite any apology, and that they will promote him as "the Senator who believes US troops are Nazis."

What's worse is that by apologizing Durbin has removed the legitamate issue of torture beyond public scrutiny. On this count, Dan, you are even more wrong: the way today's media-driven political culture works, once you apologize you can never get back to the real issue.

As President Clinton noted after the 2002 election, it's better to be "strong and wrong" than to appear weak.

Anonymous said...

Jaysus, how about just appearing honest? I would guess most reasonable people Durbin went to far. I don't know that that means he should apologize, but at very least he should clarify, and perhaps rely more on argument than analogy.

AnthonyG said...

Ah, Mr. Chairman you're wasting your breath trying to convince so-called "progressives" like Dan Kennedy to fight for what they believe in rather than merely summarize what they believe in.

He simply doesn't understand how today's world of politics, media and marketing work -- "a battle for eyeballs" as Intel's Andy Grove put it, not a battle for hearts and minds.

In an earlier post to you, our erstwhile host noted just how "reasonable" he is, observing that he wasn't among those Righties calling for Durbin to be censured. Of course, unlike his right-wing counterparts Dan didn't call for DeLay, Santorum, et. al. to be censured when they compared Democrats to Nazis either...

Today's conservative commentators sell their viewpoint liberals explain their viewpoint; conservatives advocate their view exclusively while liberals say "I suppose I see your point too."

To quote Dickens, there are only two types of people in this world: beaters and cringers. Dan is clearly resigned to being a cringer. Let's only hope his successor at the Phoenix is unafraid to fight.

Dan Kennedy said...

Anthony - Mark Jurkowitz has an enormous amount of intellectual integrity. So you're likely to be disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Chin up, Dan. Pretty soon most of these comments will boil down to quotes from "Revenge of the Sith" at which point you'll be sunning yourself in the Caymans, collecting 7%.

- er, well that's the rumour.

Anonymous said...

Right on, DK. I would add that if you, in fact, don't "understand how today's world of politics, media and marketing work(s)"(sic), you have done a masterful job of snowing The Trustees of N.U. I may disagree with you politically but I'm not enough of a dolt to diss your abilities. Mark J. shouldn't have much trouble with a guy unaware that "erstwhile" would indicate that you have already left.

Anonymous said...

I was the subject of what some folks are calling torture, I had bags placed over my head, stripped searched, pushed around by some really mean people, held in small boxes at times and subject to loud noises, sometimes called music. Not allowed to sleep or eat and if caught put in those small boxes that I mentioned. This went on for several days till I escaped.This was done at the Air Force survial school at Fairchild AFB. You folks must remember our guests at GitMo are not nice people. The are illegal combatents. During WWII these types were shot on the spot.
When they start getting bamboo spikes under their finger nails you can talk to me about torture.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Paul: do tell how many of the following you experienced at Air Force survival school:

1. Sodomy with broomsticks & chemical lightsticks
2. Biting by military dogs
3. Simulated drowning
4. Hanging from hooks by your wrists for hours and days
5. Women wiping menstruel blood on you
6. Lit cigarettes pushed into your ears
7. Being chained to the floor in 100-degree heat with speakers blasting in your ears until you pull your hair out, urinate and deficate on yourself
8. Repeated beatings to your legs until the muscles are pulpified
9. Forced masturbation and sexual contact with other men.

If Iraqis did any ONE of these things to Americans, we'd call it torture.

Our governmnet shouldn't do it and historically we haven't because:

a) It doesn't work - tortured people tell you whatever you want to hear to stop the torture

b) You inevitably kill and torture innocent people.

c) It turns places like Gitmo into what Sen. Biden correctly called "the greatest propaganda tool that exists for recruiting of terrorists around the world."

AnthonyG said...

Now, DK I've never doubted your integrity or intellectual capability, just your toughness for the current political reality.

You've always been thoughtful, honest, and even-handed. But in a world in which the Right is attacking you with hard-core marketing and psy-ops techniques, that's become a Sucker's Bet.

America is a capitalist, free-market, competitive, consumerist, mass-merchandising culture. Conservatives have adapted to that reality far more effectively than liberals by converting all of their journalists into salesmen, their organizations into channel programs, their academics into marketing rep's and their politicians into media-savvy opinioneers.

They don't spend time deconstructing why the Democrats' Coca-Cola tastes less satisfying to the tongue than their GOP Pepsi; they just promote GOPPepsi with the latest, quickest neuromarketing techniques and poll-tested sales pitches. And of course they ridicule Coke. And pressure retailers not to offer Coke.

A crappy deal? Yes, but that's how it is; you either fight where you are or become extinct.

Progressives still ascribe to the illusion of idealistic '60's-style mass-rallies with inspirational speeches, earnest teach-ins, an educated public, and sober academic discourse in which all sides get to present their arguments in turn and the best argument wins.

You, Dan, are of this paradigm which isn't lacking in integrity, but merely outmoded. With every conservative news outfit and commentator mass-marketing their politics while progressives & centrists like you explain yours in a fair debate, it's just a matter of time before progressive ideals are marginalized into irrelevance.

It's time for the fighters to take over.

Anonymous said...

Rule #1- When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

Anonymous said...


The simplest explanation for the current plight of "progressives" and liberals would seem to be 1} astounding arrogance, and 2} less popular ideas.

Due respect, I think your analysis is symptomatic, looking at the marketing of ideas rather than the ideas as such.

In fairness, I take your point that conservatives have been better at rhetoric and sound bites and such, but that sort of thing only resonates when the rhetoric and underlying ideas of the other side have left a bitter taste.

Case in point: while personally, I'm very much for gay marriage, I've been amazed at the sheer arrogance of liberals who can only preach about "rights" and don't spend any time essentially commiserating with the concerns of the 'reasonable conservative' who, for example, might support equivalent civil unions, but gets hung up on {judges} changing an eons old "institution" steeped in religious tradition.

If your approach is to simply call these people homophobes, or what not, don't then complain that the only reason your side's ideologues are getting spanked is due to inferior marketing.

Anonymous said...

Belch, burp & fart.
Gasbaggery run rampant.

AnthonyG said...

Mr. JVEinstein, now you're getting to the heart of the matter, but I respectfuly disagree.

Make a list of the top 10 or so issues and you'll see the progressive/Democratic position is more popular than the right-wing Republican position, whether it's preserving vs. privatizing Social Security, keeping abortion legal vs. criminalizing it, spending more on stem cell research vs. restricting it, paying down the deficit vs. permanently ending the Estate Tax, ANWR & coastal drilling vs. developing clean energy, raising the minimum wage, etc.

Even ideas which the Republicans managed to enact are and were unpopular with a majority of Americans: No Child Left Behind, income tax cuts favoring the rich, bankruptcy "reform," the Terri Schiavo bill...

On Iraq, too, a solid majority of Americans preferred continuing inspections to invading. And a majority now believes the invasion was not worth the cost in lives and money.

What the Right does, however, is use its very well-prepared and well-coordinated network of professional salesmen and activists --on talk radio, blogs, cable TV, in think tanks, televangelsist shows, direct mail, and in political ads-- to sell (not discuss) their policies in what amounts to a carpet-bombing of the airwaves [David Brock describes the mechanics of this in The Republican Noise Machine].

The fact you cite gay marriage illustrates just how effective the Right is at manipulating public discourse. It's not an issue Dem's made a priority, but it's a polarizing issue with very high negatives. So Republicans, not Dem's, have pushed relentlessly to keep it in the news (as they do with polarizing individuals like Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton).

Republican bloggers and commentators see themselves as advocates and participants in advancing the conservative political agenda, not merely fair-minded observers as most liberals do. Conservatives relentlessly use every inch of bandwidth to flog gay marriage rather than, say, discuss Terri Schiavo's autopsy (which you'll notice, has seen no coverage in Media Log either :-)).

Can you imagine the media firestorm the Right would have generated if the Schiavo autopsy had concluded her brain damage might have been reversable, or that she could have sipped water from a cup? It would have been the top story for a week.

Similarly, have you noticed how little the Right talks about privitizing social security since polls have found it wildly unpopular? They know to keep their mouths shut about issues that hurt their cause.

But progressives --including our illustrious host-- have failed to capitilize on these issues with the same media savvy, fighting spirit and will to win as the Republicans Right. And liberals are too quick to criticize and abandon their fellow soldiers when they come under fire.

Unless this changes and progressives match the Right in their psychological tactics and marketing aggressiveness, the progressive cause faces extinction.

Anonymous said...

Anthony, if aggressive=
you have already won.

Anonymous said...


While I think you certainly have some good points, I suppose where I'd quibble, at heart, is here:

Republican bloggers and commentators see themselves as advocates and participants in advancing the conservative political agenda, not merely fair-minded observers as most liberals do.

Now - I can't think you really mean that. Groups like and such are very anti-establishment, and it's not merely the extreme 5%. It's a broader spectrum of the left, and understandable as the other side is in power and has at least as many bad policies as good.

But its like using the term "gasbaggery" without explication - it's rhetoric, not polemic. The reason I can't watch Fox News is they mix in so many bare assertions with their more objective analysis/reporting. Just saying that the other guy isn't playing fair, even if true, doesn't mean that you are.

Take the example of how you described the Social Security debate. Personally, I don't know much about it other than, in essence, it is supposedly the highest single tax most citizens pay, and the ratio of worker to beneficiary gets less and less sound. Reagan at al. created much of the current mess by borrowing from surpluses - had it been banked or cautiously invested, we'd be in a much different situation.

I suppose, in a nutshell, why I'm such a staunch "radical moderate" isn't because i'm unable to form informed viewpoints that might end up being Left or Right depending, but I'm fairly sick and tired of each side arguing with caricatures of the other side's arguments. It becomes this silly game which is the definition of empty rhetoric.

I'm probably right of you on some issues. But I want to be able to opt out of Social Security not because I hate old people, or resent paying into a pot to provide a sdafety net but because it is my money and all told my taxes combine to take over 50% of my income {when you account for state, city, sales, excise, registry, FCC, and other taxes} and to the extent the program is for my retirement - I am not certain I'd ever actually retire, and I could really, really use that money now, faced with massive credit card debt and massive loans for college and now, foolishly law school.

If I'm not strongly "pro-choice" its because i think, semantics aside, it is objectively killing a living "something" and merely asserting it's not human presupposes the very conclusion a reasoned debate is supposed to reach. Having a little background in developmental psych, I also wonder to what extent a fetus might experience pain. Having 'looked into' so-called partial-birth abortion, unless there were some fact pattern where an abortion had to be performed that way on a late-term fetus to save the mother's life {not just 'health' which liberals have relied on to be vague enough of an exception to swallow the rule} - it strikes me as utterly barbaric, plainly murder, and when liberals can't be bothered respecting these reasoned [if not exclusively correct] views, it just makes me want to vote against them...

I mean, I don't think that the liberal and progressive views are merely opposites and equals - the liberal point of view by nature is more considerate and fostering of progress than the rather uncreative conservative ideology, but goddammit, man - it's more irritating when Lefties are smugly close-minded. You guys are supposed to know better.

Lastly - and to engage in tautology, the reason why Hilary is so damned hard to like is its hard to like Hilary. Being smart, in Arkansas for so long, contributed to a largely unconscious, supercilious style. She honest to God would overcome 75% of her image problem if she simply spoke her mind, floated moderate compromises, and explained why she believes what she believes. to the extent the RW Conspiracy strategizes against her, she could simply invite her critics to live television debates.

Ah, but such a lonely word...


Anonymous said...

Michael Miner's column (
on the coverage of Durbin's speach is a must-read. Excerpt:

Readers who believe what they're told to believe would have been foaming. But other readers like to make up their own minds, and they must have noticed the missing fact -- namely, what the FBI agent had said in the e-mail Durbin read to the Senate. The Tribune didn't report that. (On Saturday it would get around to it.) Here's the entire passage:

"On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. . . . On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor."

When Durbin said this sounded like the work of totalitarians, it's curious that no senator stood up to tell him, "Don't be silly. The rap music's the giveaway. Only freedom-loving Americans torture like that."

AnthonyG said...

To JVEinestein:

I'm not sure why you cited activist groups like -- I'm talking about mainstream professional journalists and bloggers, like Dan here.

The fact is that the Dan Kennedy's, Michael Kinsley's, EJ Dionnes, Jim Braudes, Alan Colmeses, and other self-described "progressives" are nowhere near as aggressively partisan or politically savvy as their right-wing counterparts like Howie Carr, John Fund, Bob Novak, Jay Severin and Sean Hannity.

Part of this is organization: the Republican Right --journalists and Republican staffers-- has been meeting every Wednesday for years to coordinate message. Another Part of it is an accepted "Team Ethic" to work unofficially for Republican Party interests by sticking to the script; the latter includes Reagan's eleventh commandment to never criticize a fellow Republican.

Most "good guy" progressive commentators simply don't get this principle and how they hurt the causes they believe in by publicly criticizing progressives in a world where conservatives never criticize their own.

The net result is that the Right can effectively control public discourse by drowning out contradictory information and viewpoints. Their message is louder because all their people speak with one voice and don't contradict each other.

Regarding the issues: You still haven't refuted my original observation that most Republican/conservative policies are, in fact, opposed by a majority of Americans --whether we're talking mandatory school prayer, criminalizing abortion, permanently cutting the Estate Tax, No Child Left Behind, privatizing Social Security, ANWR drilling or banning the importation of cheaper drugs from Canada.

Dan Kennedy said...

Anthony - You're on to something, but the biggest difference is very simple: most liberal journalists are journalists first. Most conservative journalists are conservatives first, and oftentimes not journalists at all.

I mean this not to criticize conservatives, but to explain something very real. Conservatives tend to come into journalism from other walks of life, and see their roles as to be as partisan and activist as possible. Liberals tend to come up through the ranks as straight news reporters, and adhere to the rules and customs of the business even after they move over to the opinion side.

That's why even though most of the mainstream media are vaguely liberal, at least on certain cultural issues, the activist right-wing media are able to drive the conservation.

The solution is not for liberal commentators to stop being professional journalists. The solution is for the mainstream media to stop giving in to right-wing attacks, but instead to identify and expose them.

AnthonyG said...


Your solution assumes precisely what I'm saying is a thing of the past: a journalistic world in which everyone agrees to an honest, fair fight in the public interest. The Right knows they cannot win arguments to privatize social security, criminalize abortion, eliminate the Estate Tax, or to invade Iraq by competing in a fair, rational debate.

So they've decided to systematically subvert the world of professional, objective, public-interest journalism by carpet-bombing the airwaves and print media with partisan propaganda. They employ both mass-merchandising and psychological warfare techniques.

They're also attempting to suppress or dismantle what few institutions exist that might allow "professional" journalists who might expose their actions, such as universities and PBS.

Your advice "...for the mainstream media to stop giving in to right-wing attacks, but instead to identify and expose them."
only works in an honest debate when everyone agrees to a fair fight, but not in our media-driven society in which one side consists entirely of political activists using soundbytes, disinformation and mass-marketing techniques.

That's because by the time you "identify and expose" right-wing attacks, the damage is already done. That's what happened to Clinton's health care plan, the smears about Al Gore's "exaggerations," the WMD disinformation campaign, and the Swift Boat Liars.

The only option is for progressives and centrists to build our own Noise Machine as loud, aggressive, extensive and well-organized as the Right's. We'll also need to match their Team Ethic of not criticizing our own. But the first step is for progressives to recognize we're not in a debate, we're under attack...

On a side note -- I'll be sure to introduce myself to you one day and shake your hand, as we will surely cross paths here in Boston. Best of luck to you in your new gig...

Dan Kennedy said...

Anthony - It's now been three days since I officially shut this blog down, so I suppose I shouldn't keep responding. Let me just say that we should continue this conversation whenever I set up my new blog, which I will announce at some point during the summer at