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Slacker Friday | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

Well-chosen words on music, movies and politics, with the occasional special guest.

Slacker Friday

I've got a new Think Again called "The Mainstream Media Opens the Doorto Hate" here.

CHARLES PIERCE
NEWTON, MA.

Hey Doc:

"Can you hear that singing?/ Sounds like gold./Maybe I can onlyhear it in my head."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "The Day The Old Man Died" (AlbertCastiglia)--I want you all to go out to all the different points ofthe compass, to wherever your congresscritters are meeting with theirconstituents, and I want you to yell at the top of your lungs how much Ilove New Orleans.

Part The First: Before we start on Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu,I would like someone to point out to me one positive contribution of anykind made to the world we live in by this journalistic pustulance. Anyone? Kirchick? Bueller?

Part The Second: As you might be able to guess by reading a certainbook, I am a great fan of this idea. However, I do wonder if our best public relations strategy is to celebrate the bicentennial of a presidency that included the Royal Marines' torching the White House. Just asking.

Part The Third: What are we going to do about this epidemic ofTimes on Times crime?

Part The Fourth: I know I am sometimes hard on the cats 'n kittensat Ye Olde House Of Mulch For Brains, but this, dear children, this issimply whoring for access.

Existential Question No. 92.87: what occurs when you "find your voice"only to discover that you're spouting insane gibberish? My guess? You end upeating your own lips.

Part The Fifth: You weren't funny. You were puerile and embarrassing, and you would have been puerile and embarrassing in 1999 on cable TV, in 1969 on broadcast TV, in 1939 on radio, in 1859 in a newspaper, in 1779 in a pamphlet, or in 2099 B.C. on the walls of a cave. Hell, you would have been puerile andembarrassing if Johann Freaking Gutenberg was standing next to you,taking dictation and personally setting the movable type. "New media" is not anexcuse. You weren't funny. Ask around.

Part The Sixth: My friend Dan Kennedy dug this little nugget out of the bowels of the NYTat the inspiration of Amy Goodman's Democracy Now!. There is simply no doubt that the actions of the informant in this case are criminal, let alone terrifying. No avalanche of move-along platitudes from this White House will change that fact. Constitutional law? Really? Put up or shut up, professor.

Part The Last: The outbreaks of distilled Crazee at the varioushealthcare town halls have summoned up--correctly, to my mind--memories of the mobaction that shut down the Miami-Dade recount in 2000. In doing so,they've brought back a question that puzzled me at the time and that has notbeen cleared up yet to my satisfaction. The Miami mob was made up ofpolitical and congressional aides brought across state lines for the expresspurpose of disrupting an orderly election process. They did so quite publicly.How was this not a Voting Rights Act violation? (I know, I know. The BushDOJ wasn't going to bring it, and the Democrats were too cowardly to do so).

Theoretically, then, and I ask the lawyers in the extended Alter-familyfor guidance here, wasn't this pretty open and shut? Avengers, assemble.It is distressingly common knowledge how unremittingly awful the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries are. In a political sense, it's almost beyond question that they are both huge fish in very small barrels. The dumbest politician who ever lived could run against these guys and win. Huey Long would have eaten them blood-raw, and Lyndon wouldhave sprinkled them on his oatmeal. We are not governed by the dumbestpoliticians who ever lived but, alas, neither are we governed by theKingfish or LBJ. Which is why I am so confounded why the currentadministration is squandering the best chance healthcare reform willever have, in no small part because the administration's political skills onthis issue have been a godawful mix of the timorous and the hamfisted.

And I am beginning to wonder whether or not Rahm Emanuel is really thetwo-fisted political savant he's made himself out to be. (And the memoryof the way he worked through his media acolytes to hijack credit for the'06 midterms away from Howard Dean only deepens my concern.) In fact, theonly anecdotes I've heard about what a bare-knuckled, ruff-tuff guy ol' Rahmis concern public tantrums, his getting in the grills of variousprogressive Democrats, elected and otherwise, and batting around the other poorbastards in the Clinton White House. It certainly explains hissweet tooth for the likes of Heath Shuler--now a congresscritter, still chuckingthem to the wrong team--and, through that, the Obama White House's moronicinsistence on cooperating with crazy-asses. I think Rahm has broughtsome weird kind of 1990's Stockholm Syndrome into the new century, infectedthe White House political apparatus with it, and now it's having real-worldconsequences on people's lives. You're in charge, foof. Earn your check. (h/t to Bob Cesca for that last link)

p.s.--Sticky Mickey Kaus links to this piece from the Sarlacc-ish money-pit out of which Rupert Murdoch recently pried himself. The Gooey One calls this a "pretty thorough debunking" of the charges that the various assemblages from the firm of Batshit And Crazee LLP are about as spontaneous as the Rose Parade. Look, the guy accused of astroturfing denies it. Unpossible! Sweetheart, get me rewrite.

p.p.s.--More news from the May Procession through fantasyland. I'd really like to know where this woman buys her mushrooms.

Name: Mike Buettner
Hometown: Miami

You're absolutely correct--this whole thing with Gates, Crowley andnow Obama, is not, and was never, about race. Objectively, the onlything to come out of it is the realization that, as with most thingsafter the fact, there's enough bad behavior on all sides to goaround. Gates picked a fight (for whatever reason), Crowley took thebait and went one better with the arrest and then Obama, playing therole usually reserved for the Vice President, spoke out withinaccurate, or at a minimum, incomplete, information. The result?More background noise to drown out any attempt to have meaningfuldialogue about one of this country's most divisive and confoundingissues. Racism is real and it's out there--but this was an example ofgrown ups acting like children--petulant and spoiled and stompingtheir feet when things didn't go their way.

Name: Michael S. Haugen
Hometown: New Richmond, WI

Your piece in the Nation was disappointing because you diregardedthe complexity of "Gatesgate" which includes both race AND class anddeconstructed it into a simple post-racial class thing. One of thereasons I read your stuff faithfully is that I know that I will getthe full range of the complexity of the issue even if I don't likeit or the analysis disagrees with my preconceived "wannabes". Haveyou had any second thoughts about equating your experience as anangry white guy with the cops with that of a Black man challenged inhis own home?

Name: Ben Jenkins
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Yup, definitely disagree with you to the strongest degree about Gates& Crowley.

And this is a pretty simple matter.

Crowley falsified evidence in his arrest report; stating that the 911caller Ms. Whelan had specified that the men were black. She had doneno such thing, Crowley added this detail, and then staunchly defendedit, and it was a fabrication. That alone shows you the race angle.

What people see when they say the whole incident was about race isthe obvious connection that some white guy dressed in casual clothingand carrying a cane trying to 'break into' his house would neverelicit a phone call to 911. It would elicit offers of help from theneighbors and onlookers, most likely.

This really doesn't have anything to do with what you experienced inyour arrest at all. No need to force the comparison.

The question "is Crowley a racist?" is not so easy to answer. But didthis incident on the whole, have to do with race? Of course.

Name: Don Cybelle
Hometown: Rochester, NY

Hi, Eric,

Does anyone have any idea why The New Yorker's Kelefa Sanneh chose topromote Michael Savage, of all people, with a trivializing puff piece(in the August 3 issue)? Apparently, in Sanneh's view, Savage isquite charming and eccentric, and all those "immoderate" (Sanneh'sword) quotes from Savage compiled by sites like (your former abode)mediamatters are simply "misleading." The article can't be readunless you want to fork up money for a New Yorker subscription, buthere's Eric Boehlert on the subject this week: http://mediamatters.org/columns/200908030038

As Boehlert points out, there's not a significant opposing voice inthe entire piece, and while Sanneh tosses in a token Savagecontroversy or two, he ignores a slew of majorly damning evidence toplay up Savage as pretty much a lively, lovable, garrulous kook.Maybe Sanneh is much wiser than the rest of us, but speaking as a gayman (and practically every minority has a long list of ugly Savagerhetoric to draw from), I must have missed the simply "immoderate"tone when Savage opines things like: "The gay and lesbian mafia wantsour children. If it can win their souls and their minds, it knowstheir bodies will follow. Of course, it wants to homosexualise thewhole country, not just the children. This is all part of the warthat is going on. Maybe you don't want to face up to it, but it's avery real war." (quoted from Savage's book, Savage Nation). Maybe Ijust didn't parse that statement correctly when I saw it as one ofthe vilest pieces of bigoted garbage to pollute a New York Timesbestseller in, well, ever? I guess I just need to relax like Sannehand enjoy Savage's folksy, rambling charm?

What in the holy heck has happened to the New Yorker? What editor read Kelifa Sanneh's article and didn't think it needed, at the very least, some major context and counterpoint? All I can say is a magazine that's going out of it's way to downplay and even cover up some of the worst racism, religious bigotry, and homophobia on the air in order to attempt some sort of weird, fond character sketch of the purveyor of that bigotry is definitely not the New Yorker I onceloved to read.

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

As offended as I am by Lou Dobbs and his ilk--and if I had anyassociation with CNN, I would end it out of embarrassment and thehope of salvaging some degree of my integrity before Dana Milbankmakes fun of me--I sometimes am almost as offended by organizationsto which I belong and/or have contributed sending me emails saying,"Sign Our Petition Telling CNN to Make Lou Dobbs Stop," or words tothat effect. These guys do have a First Amendment right to be stupidand dishonest. But free speech is not without consequences. If I walkup to someone on the street and exercise my right to tell him that Ithink he is a moron, and he tells me that I am a moron, I cannot denyhis free speech right.

But what so many miss is what actually matters to CNN, Fox News, andother purveyors of hate. Money. It's this simple. Record Dobbs, orO'Reilly, or Beck, or anyone else you dislike. Fast-forward throughand make a list of the advertisers. Email each advertiser to say thatyou will no longer use that company's products until it stopsadvertising on this program. Get every one of your friends who agreewith you to do the same. And get them to do the same with theirfriends. In other words, organize an advertising boycott. It's legal.You don't HAVE to buy anything that is advertised on there. And then,when they are losing money, they will pull their advertising to avoidoffending anyone. And CNN and Fox will respond. Fast.

Anyone remember CBS getting rid of Don Imus? Did CBS act in responseto complaints? No. CBS responded when advertisers began pulling out.

Name: Brian Donohue
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

I continue to be astonished at Maureen Dowd's psychic powers. More onthat here, but thechief irony of it all is that the art of "cold reading" should findsits Master in such a warm, flame-tressed Mystic. Wonder if she canchannel the dead...

Name: Fred Leonhardt
Hometown: Portland, OR

Terry from Cheyenne disses Doo Wah Diddy Diddy. Ditto for DiddyWah Diddy.

Name: Stanley Goldstein
Hometown: Chicago, Il

Eric,

The person who wrote that you were almost perfect is obviously quiteeasily impressed.

Name: K. Witter
Hometown Bloomfield, CT

Eric,

As a born-n-bred New Englander, I can't help point out that theresemblance between the Brooks Brothers Brigades and this Norman Rockwell poster is uncanny.

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