Just Above Sunset Archives

Why conservative news stuff is more interesting...

Home | Odds and Ends | Music Notes | Book Notes | Sidebars | Culture Wars Lost | Culture Wars Won | Gay Marriage | Jesus Flogged Repeatedly | Photography | Quotes | Links and Recommendations | Archives | Daily Commentary (weblog)

Quick Hit 3 - Why Conservative news stuff is more interesting.
Added Issue 1, Number 5, 29 June 2003 
Neo-Conservatives have no shame?
This week Fred Kaplan has a pretty good piece in Slate on the current state of affairs regarding Iraq - no weapons of mass destruction showing up at all and our troops being picked off on an average of one each day, and the locals a bit grumpy about not have much of any basic services yet.  Electricity would be nice.  And we still haven't convinced most of the rest of the world we're just cleaning things up to make the world a better place.  See "Delusions of Empire - How is Paul Wolfowitz keeping a straight face these days?"  Wednesday, June 25, 2003  SLATE.COM
Actually, this a pretty good overview of the neo-conservative theory that we can change the world by intervention and occupation some places, and by threats in other places, or whatever the theory is.  Kaplan doesn't buy it.
Kaplan's core premise, however, that the "currency of intellectuals is measured in the worth of their ideas" may be flawed.  It seems to me gross readership, or gross audience matters far more than the actual idea put out there.  Think Rush Limbaugh.  It really doesn't matter what you say. 
The term Kaplan uses is "insouciant arrogance."  All it all it seems the bulk of the current "right side" discussion now is on how to run our empire.  We are an imperial power, the only one current.  Fine.  Done.  The only question now is how to do a better job at managing this new empire.
Of the neo-cons Kaplan says:
If they so badly miscalculated the ease of controlling a country that (as Donald Rumsfeld often reminds us) is the size of California, then how do they intend to change the planet?  More to the point, how do they continue to offer advice on the subject while keeping a straight face?
Yes, the problem as Kaplan argues, "seems to be that the key assumption was not only that the American military is strong enough to overwhelm enemy armies decisively and rapidly (which turned out, at least in Iraq's case, to be truer than many critics cautioned), but also that swift victory on the battlefield would translate, almost perforce, to an orderly "regime change" and an emulation - if not outright adoption - of our socio-political values."
Anyway, Kaplan does review the many items published recently on how best to run our empire.  Good stuff.
So when you are watching conservative news shows on Fox News, or reading the conservative press, The Washington Times, do you wonder how this business about things going well, and going just as planned, can be maintained?  Of course both Fox News and The Washington Times will not claim to be conservative or liberal, only fair and balanced.  And I sometimes claim I'm thin and elegant and a great jazz musician.  Doesn't make it so.

_____ below is previous comment...
In last week's MAILBAG a friend commented on what makes news, well, news.
As for his two main points regarding stories having legs, well, the first point seems to be that you can actually buy legs.  Use a search engine on the net and look up stuff on Richard Mellon Scaife.  He bankrolled almost every effort to discredit and remove Clinton.  The estimates range from ten to seventy million dollars, depending on the source.  This is chump change for the Mellon family.  And as I've pointed out, the two main news/commentary sources on the far right, NewsMax and Townhall, have only one major underwriter - him.  There is no equivalent on the liberal side.  So if you want to promulgate "liberal" views then find yourself someone who shares your views who happens to have really, really deep pockets.  But that's unlikely, isn't it?  Amassing scads of money seems to be a passion of the politically conservative only, except here in Hollywood.  Liberals just don't seem to take getting filthy rich very seriously.  They don't believe in it.
One other point he makes about money - what I am troubled with about commercial news - is that there you have to run stories that hook the viewer into returning again and again, so you can prove to your advertisers that they do just than, so you can sell more air time, so you can stay in business.  Such marketing underwrites your efforts at "more serious" but "less addictive" news, of course.  But folks really do like juicy murder and mayhem stories.  As with the OJ Simpson stuff, throw in interracial sex too - a handsome, proud black stud and the long-haired blond woman who married him?  This sells those spots.  The trick is to not let your marketing, to all those nosey busybodies who want more and more of this stuff, and always seem to want a bit more about Michael Jackson's most recent nose, overwhelm the other news.
But I agree on what is his most substantial point.  Liberals just don't have the "attack mentality" to hammer away at the Bush administration until something cracks and pieces start to fall off.  That's what makes them what they are.  Thinking back on the Watergate business in the seventies, there wasn't much outrage, initially, and that story really had no legs at all -- but the guys at the Washington Post kept hammering away at the issues.  None of the other majors were doing much at all on it.  The Graham lady funded that effort.  She's gone.  Ben Bradlee stood behind his reporters, knowing the ownership of the paper was behind him.  He's gone now.  And now these days what media mogul, beside Rupert Murdoch, spends money on doing what he or she thinks is the right thing.  They all listen to focus groups and marketing consultants.  If a Daniel Ellsburg showed up at the New York Times tomorrow with another something like the Pentagon Papers, they'd send him off to peddle it to the Village Voice or Commentary.  They wouldn't touch that kind of stuff now.  And anyway, Howell Raines has his hands full right now as it is, what with his young black reporter who liked stealing other people's copy and making things up - if you've followed the media news in the last few weeks.  The New York Times isn't going to do anything risky or controversial for a long time.  Wouldn't be prudent.  And then there are the constant mergers.  The Tribune Group out of Chicago purchased the Los Angeles Times a year or two ago, and the paper has since turned into not much more than pleasant pap.  The concentration is now on "life style" and such stuff.  But the graphics and layout are really much better than ever before.  Oh well.
As I mentioned, it was the bloggers (all those web logs) that brought down Trent Lott by keeping that story alive and doing incredibly detailed research on his past comments.  They kept a conversation going.  And the Bill Bennett gambling thing was pretty much a story broken first on the web and then picked up by the traditional media.  Why is this?  Probably because no one owns the web - and web logs and political sites are really dirt cheap to build and maintain.  And marketing isn't much of an issue.  Hell, not a whole lot of folks have ever figured out how to make any money at all on the web.  So that's the place where "liberals" might find comfort.  The Bush AWOL thing is resurfacing here and there and slowly gathering momentum -- as are a few other things, many actually, that might trouble the current administration.  And being worldwide and having no center, it's damned hard to control or censor what being said on this web of hundreds of thousands of nodes.  Even if our government wanted to launch an effort to restrict, filter and censor the content on the web, it almost impossible to do that, technically.  And anyway, it doesn't exactly "belong" to the United States.  Or any country.
But then again, there are no effective controls on the web - and there are a lot of "facts" out there that aren't exactly facts.  Copy editors?  None.  Fact checkers?  None.  And copyright is seldom even considered by anyone out there.  It's the Wild West.  But it is the one place were the conservative money can be matched -- by nerds with a purpose.  Scary?   Yep, it is.  But life is an adventure, no?
29 May 2003