There’s a red cloud hanging over us

1 03 2017

I am once again yelling at the media.

Back in the day—waaaay back in the day—I used to regularly berate journalists, pundits, and politicians who happened across my t.v. screen or radio. I’d slap the newspaper or crunch it between my hands. I’d carry on arguments and yell rebuttals and gesticulate and swear and occasionally throw soft objects at whatever device was relaying the offending message.

I once smeared a butter pat on the t.v. in my dorm floor’s lounge (I cleaned it up).

It got to be a bit of joke among my friends, but it was never schtick to me: I’d honestly get pissed off and let loose. They might have thought it funny or stupid, but I was dead serious.

And then, at some point, I stopped.

I don’t know why. Maybe when I got rid of the t.v. and thus no longer watched the news I fell out of practice. Maybe I figured out that I was not required to listen to bullshit and thus turned off the radio/t.v. rather than get into a fight with the voices coming out of it. Maybe I just gave up.

Well, I’m back, and so is the yelling. Well, not yelling so much as muttering, and I’m not back to full-bore argumentation. No, I’m dropping such bon mots as “motherfucker” and “asshole” as I flick through my Twitter feed and suggesting “go fuck yourself” to whichever Trumpeter is weaseling on the radio.

I’m not proud of this, but I’m not quite chagrined, either. Swearing may not work to hold back the pile of radioactive horseshit Trump and his GOP enablers are shoveling at us, but it does remind me that I haven’t given up, that I shouldn’t give up.

I do think I’ll leave the butter be, however.

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Can’t write a letter, can’t send a postcard

8 12 2016

I’m still (mostly) avoiding articles on that One weird trick! which won Trump/cost Clinton the election, mostly because I don’t trust anyone right now who is confident in her conclusions.

As I mentioned in my original election post-mortem, I think there are a number of variables which factored into Trump’s win and Clinton’s loss, and that the particular ordering of those variables likely shifted from state to state. Further, given that information is still coming in—any bets on what will ultimately be Clinton’s popular-vote lead over Der Donald?—we don’t even have all the pieces to begin trying to assemble these puzzles.

What can be done, however, is analysis of each of those pieces: how much did Clinton’s sex matter? what was the role of economic anxiety in voting? what is ‘economic anxiety’? etc.

And, of course, what was the role of the media? Well, that may only be theorized, never truly known, but one can at least look at the coverage, it’s shape and tone—which is exactly what the Shorenstein Center did.

This is only one study, of course, but it highlights the role of the negative in press coverage:

Negative coverage was the order of the day in the general election. Not a week passed where the nominees’ coverage reached into positive territory. It peaked at 81 percent negative in mid-October, but there was not a single week where it dropped below 64 percent negative.

Even those numbers understate the level of negativity. Much of the candidates’ “good press” was in the context of the horserace—who is winning and who is losing and why.

Negativity in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but

The mainstream press highlights what’s wrong with politics without also telling us what’s right.

It’s a version of politics that rewards a particular brand of politics. When everything and everybody is portrayed as deeply flawed, there’s no sense making distinctions on that score, which works to the advantage of those who are more deeply flawed. Civility and sound proposals are no longer the stuff of headlines, which instead give voice to those who are skilled in the art of destruction. The car wreck that was the 2016 election had many drivers. Journalists were not alone in the car, but their fingerprints were all over the wheel.

There’s a lot more at the link—a lot more—so g’head and read it all.

Media folk will have to figure out for themselves what, if any, professional standards they wish to uphold in their campaign coverage, but it’s also damned clear that candidates must prepare themselves for another worst- (or even worst-er-) case scenario in plotting their own messaging strategies and tactics.

I have precisely zero advice on what those strategies and tactics should look like. Trump received a great deal of negative coverage, which (apparently?) didn’t hurt him; Clinton was also covered negatively, and it (apparently?) did hurt her.

Man, it’s tough even to figure out the affects of the coverage: how much did it really matter in any direction? I tend to agree with Rick Perlstein that it sure as hell didn’t help, but beyond that? Dunno, and dunno if anyone does know: I’m guessing there will be all kinds of regressions run over the next few years to try to tease out some kind of answer.

In the meantime, it might be worthwhile for current and would-be Democratic politicians to start dry-running different tactics right now to try to determine what works vis-à-vis the media—and if nothing works, what then.

Because they—we—have to be prepared. Even if it only matters on the margins, well, elections are won and lost on those margins.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: If you complain once more

15 04 2015

By the Fata Morgana, what is Peggy Noonan ingesting?

I don’t usually read Noonan—Charlie Pierce and Wonkette provide sufficient wrap-ups—but I caught an excerpt of her column in which she complains about the unfairness of the media:

Two points on the general feel of the 2016 campaign so far.

One is that in the case of Mrs. Clinton we are going to see the press act either like the press of a great nation—hungry, raucous, alive, demanding—or like a hopelessly sickened organism, a big flailing octopus with no strength in its arms, lying like a greasy blob at the bottom of the sea, dying of ideology poisoning.

Republicans know—they see it every day—that Republican candidates get grilled, sometimes impertinently, and pressed, sometimes brusquely. And it isn’t true that they’re only questioned in this way once they announce, Scott Walker has been treated like this also, and he has yet to announce. Republicans see this, and then they see that Mrs. Clinton isn’t grilled, is never forced to submit to anyone’s morning-show impertinence, is never the object of the snotty question or the sharp demand for information. She gets the glide. She waves at the crowds and the press and glides by. No one pushes. No one shouts the rude question or rolls out the carefully scripted set of studio inquiries meant to make the candidate squirm. She is treated like the queen of England, who also isn’t subjected to impertinent questions as she glides into and out of venues. But she is the queen. We are not supposed to have queens.

I honestly thought Pierce and the nasty good folks at Wonkette were exaggerating when they referred to her, uh, louche style, but now I’m wondering exactly how many lotuses she eats prior to laying down in front of her keyboard.

Marco Rubio had a pretty great announcement in that it made the political class look at him in a new way, and a better way. I have heard him talk about his father the bartender I suppose half a dozen times, yet hearing it again in his announcement moved me. I don’t know how that happened. John Boehner is the son of a barkeep.

I. . . it’s. . . Good goddess, who writes like this?

Okay, sorry, I got distracted by the vapors wafting off of her. . . thoughts. The real point in bringing this up is to bang away on one of my favorite pots: Fairness doesn’t matter in electoral politics.

It doesn’t matter if Noonan is correct in her assessment of the mild treatment of Clinton (she is not) and that GOPpers will be subject to the cruelest and most unusual punishment by the media (if only), because fairness itself doesn’t matter.

I get the complaints, I do—I hated Ronald Reagan and thought he skated from the ill consequences of his policies, and considered the press’s treatment of Al Gore juvenile (and I still don’t understand how Joe Biden gets away with what he does)—but in the long march to the presidency, the agita over media slights or mis-magnifications is itself misplaced.

Sure, it allows you (if you are Peggy Noonan) to fill column space with psychedaelia, but the candidates themselves can’t get bogged down in the media mire: whining about the news-meanies isn’t going to get the non-tribal voter to the polls.

And that’s the whole point of the campaign: to get the folks on your side to show up, and to prod those who aren’t on the other side (and maybe a few who are) to drag their asses to the polls and pull the level or draw the line or punch the screen for you.

Who knows, maybe in Noonan’s marmalade-sky world, slurring about fairness makes its own tangerine sense. But on that hard, hard campaign trail, it doesn’t matter.

Winning matters. That’s all that matters.

~~~

h/t Shakesville





God cries three times a day

12 03 2013

I don’t get it.

I mean, I do: the Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God, aka, the Pope, is the head of a church with approximately a kabillion and 3 followers and Demeter-only-knows how much land, cash, bullion, baubles, and breweries.

He’s got some pull in the world, I’m trying to say. (Anywhere else, I got nothin’ to say.)

Still, when I peer over the elbows of fellow 4-train travelers to scan the double-page spreads in their newspapers on the papal conclave, I think, Huh.

This seems more like Oscar coverage, or Fashion Week: a Celebrity Conclave for old men in red hats.

There are the reports on what Il Papa will wear (white, to go with the smoke, I suppose), what are the odds of Ouellet or Scola or Turkson (cf. the Sweet Sistine), will the new man (duh) be more of a manager or a spiritual leader because (heads nodding all around) what the papacy needs is someone to lift up the faithful while simultaneously cracking down on corruption in the Vatican and also getting rid of all of the abusers and their enablers and reaching out to victims and bringing light and love to the world.

That’s all.

If you threatened to withhold my morning coffee I’d agree to write out (as soon as you gave me back my java) all of the reasons why the Papal kaffeeklatsch Conclave is a substantive matter worthy of all of the media attention (and live blogs of what’s smokin’ in the Curia’s Faraday cage); I might even toss in for extra credit a meditation on why this matters to a heathen like me.

But, honestly, the media coverage strikes me as nothing so much as furrowed-brow gossip, and the event itself as just another version of Meet the New Boss. . . .

*Sigh* Some days I am a terrible social scientist.