WHATS THE MATTER WITH BASHING! The Palin-bashing wont get us that far, Michael Lind sagely says: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2011
Dismay from Hollywood: Its Oscar weekend! That said, we agree with TNRs David Thomson (click here)you should see Just Go With It because its so gruesomely bad. (Thomson: This is so bad you need to see it.)
We were so intrigued by the films bad reviews, we went to see it two weekends ago. We didnt find it as tasteless as some reviews said, but we found it instructively awful. The absolute, total, complete lack of effort will absolutely drain your soul, as some reviewers have said, Thomson included. But the lack of effort may teach you a lesson: A culture in which people earn giant, humongous dollar awards is a culture thats bound for the dumpster.
Thats true about cable hosts, of course, along with Hollywood writers and actors. At some point, the more you pay, the less you get. The squalor isnt restricted to Wall Street. Doubt it? Go see this movie!
David Brooks, to the right of OReilly: Paul Krugmans new column is very important. But first:
Consider two letters about his colleague, the fading David Brooks.
For unknown reasons, Brooks work has seemed weaker and weaker of late, even as his pique with Krugmans work has seemed to grow. This morning, two letter-writers flag a groaner from his most recent column.
On Tuesday, Brooks wrote about Scott Walker; he called the governors critics amusingly Orwellian. According to Brooks, Whatever you might say about Walker, he and the Republican majorities in Wisconsin were elected, and they are doing exactly what they told voters they would do.
Governor Walker is doing exactly what he said! Today, two letters correct that claim. If anything, the letters are a tad too kind to Brooks:
Sorry, but nowhatever one thinks of Walkers current proposal, he didnt campaign on the promise to end collective bargaining. How far off-track has Brooks now gone? Last evening, on the Fox News Channel, Bill OReilly was careful to make this point, contradicting Laura Ingraham again and again.
Oof! From Mr. O, we got the straight dope. From columnist Brooks, not so much!
Why is Krugmans column important? Good God! Because he constructs the larger narratives voters simply havent received from liberals down through the years.
In our view, Krugmans column does have a few problems. In the following passage, we think his account of the past few weeks is somewhat bollixed. But good lord! Right at the start of his column, Krugman describes Naomi Kleins 2007 book, The Shock Doctrineand in this passage, he describes a war the public must hear described:
Within our political culture, powerful interests relentlessly bash the unions. In September, NBC News devoted an entire week to bashing our teachers and their fiendish unions, while the progressive hosts on the cable arm sat around diddling themselves and laughing about Sarah Palin (see below). When have high-profile liberals/progressives looked for ways to tell average people about the way the world really works? Kleins book is a great place to startthough its never discussed on the cable arm, where Klein herself almost never appears. Its a thrill to see her book, and this ongoing war, described in this mornings column.
Average people of the right and the left get looted in the war Klein describes. Progressives should look for ways to spread this news across those tribal lines.
PART 3WHATS THE MATTER WITH BASHING (permalink): In Michael Linds view, liberals and progressives spend too much time mocking the likes of Glenn Beck. Last Tuesday, he explained this view in his weekly piece at Salon.
We think he made some very good points. Then too, we think he sometimes made those points rather poorly.
Who is mocking the Beck types too much? At the start of his piece, Lind named two names. We think he got one name wrong:
In the rest of his piece, Lind explains why he thinks this constant mockery isnt the best use of center-left time. We think his views are well worth noting. But lets start with the names he called out.
Theres no question about it! Nightly mockery of Palin/Beck/Bachmann is a key part of the MSBNC play book. (Limbaugh/Sean/BillO are regulars too.) That said, it seems to us that Rachel Maddow pushes this button less often than the channels other major hosts. Chris Matthews does love playing such cards, in the most simple-minded way possible; where once he mocked and trashed Hillary Clinton, he now delights in mocking and trashing those two conservative women. And OReilly-bashing was a foundation of Keith Olbermanns Countdown program. Now that Lawrence ODonnell has inherited Olbermanns 8 PM slot, he too makes this sort of thing a nightly treat for viewers. And Big Ed Schultz relentlessly pounds these reliable bozos too.
If you watch an evening of liberal cable, youll surely see these familiar types getting mocked and pounded. Is something wrong with this sort of segment? Not necessarily, no. But Lind lists four major drawbacks to the drumbeat of Beck/Palin/Bachmann-bashing. We think one or two of his points are weakbut several of his points are quite strong.
Does the constant bashing of Beck/Palin/Bachmann make other far-right Republican conservatives [like Paul Ryan] look moderate? Possibly, though that doesnt seem like the major problem to us. Does it make liberals look like snobs? Given the way these segments tend to get done, you can bet your sweet bippy it does! (More below.) Is the nightly bashing of Palin a reactive strategy that gives the initiative to the right? Not necessarily, but we think Linds presentation of this claim is worth reading:
Does MSNBCs nightly Palin-bashing provide a certain kind of viewer with his or her greatest pleasure in life? Presumably, this helps explain why this is such an integral part of the channels game plan. But at the end of that passage, Lind begins to make the strongest part of his argument.
We agree with Lind; Palin-bashing is no substitute for a liberalism that tells its own story, on its own timeline. As he continues, he makes his fourth complaint about these attacks. Some of his references are somewhat obscure; some of his claims are hard to establish. But we think this passage moves us toward the target:
Have liberal punditshas MSNBCdecided to narrowcast to college grads? We have no idea. But Lind is certainly right on one pointthe populist right has done a lot of explaining in the past forty years, while the left has been hapless and silent. In almost every area of American life, the public discourse is substantially driven by the ludicrous claims and misleading narratives which have been aggressively pushed by the think-tanks of the right. Plainly, the left does need its own village explainersthe left needs narratives and understandings that will help average people make better sense of the political wars around them. With our side so much in need of such tools, it can be disheartening to watch the cable warriors burn so much time on the latest silly statementespecially when so much of this work is done in such blatant bad faith.
Is Palin-bashing done in bad faith? You can bet your bippy again! Olbermann constantly embellished the things he claimed that BillO had saidthough he never mentioned BillOs attacks on Tiller the baby killer until after Tiller was murdered. And ODonnells attacks on the Beck/Palin crowd have often been a study in silly, rube-running bad faith. Last week, he used the ugly attack on Lara Logan as the latest excuse to gin up a pleasing complaint against BillO (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/17/11). Just last night, he played his viewers for semi-fools when he started his bashing of Beck:
In just a few short months on the air, ODonnell has become a master of feigned outrageand a master of slick self-promotion. In fact, there is no sign that Beck had bent to the pressure of [ODonnells] criticism; as ODonnell later semi-noted, it was really ADL chief Abraham Foxman whose criticism Beck had addressed. But of one thing you can be sure: If you watch ODonnells show each night, youll get a nightly dose (or three) of Palin/Bachman/Beck/Sean-bashingoften about some trivial matter. You will rarely see any real attempt at any real village explaining.
The progressive world badly needs explanations; if those narratives ever emerge, they will involve the endless dissembling driven by major figures like Limbaugh. We have often urged progressives to look for ways to tell average voters that theyre being deceived by trusted figures like Rush; that cant be achieved by the silly vamping presented on cable each night. Anyone with an ounce of sense can see that cables nightly bashing is really an entertainment function. And make no mistake: When simpering figures like Gail Collins devote so much time to bashing Bristol Palin, the world will see that conduct for what it isfor the simpering snobbery of an upper-class pseudo-liberal world.
Please give us narratives, Lind was saying. Give us frameworks of understanding! This is how he ended his piece, which made good sense overall:
We might not make Lind our program director, but he makes very good overall sense. What narratives might connect across tribal lines? Isnt it time we all asked?
The snickering wont get us real far. As the phenomenologists might exclaim: On to the things in themselves!