Friday, May 16, 2008
Are market forces emerging for pundits?
I presented my paper on public intellectuals and the blogosphere earlier today, and received some very useful feedback.
One particularly interesting point in response to my paper is that while my paper focused on bloggers as public intellectuals, it might be the case that bloggers serve an even greater good by engaging in quality control of other public intellectuals. In Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline, Richard Posner argued that one reason for the decline was that increased demand for pontificators was not matched by any market discipline for poor quality. Even if public intellectuals and pundit royally screw up, the public is sufficiently disinterested and disengaged for it not to matter.
To some extent, blogs and YouTube are changing this. Consider the following as a test case. Here's a YouTube clip currently making the rounds of conservative radio host Kevin James on Hardball:Now if James had been that stupid and only those watching MSNBC live had caught it, I'm not sure it would have mattered all that much. Given the proliferation of this clip on the blogs, however, it can have two effects.
First, that many more people see James acting like an ill-informed boob. Which means that the odds of him getting booked on prestige shows shrinks.
Second, as much as Hardball's producers like the proliferation of the clip, I'm not sure how many of these they want to see cropping up. As Josh Patashnik points out on The Plank:
[I]t's not like this reflects very well on Chris Matthews, either. Why is he inviting such an obnoxious moron onto his show? There are plenty of people who could represent the conservative position here with some intelligence and class. Why not try to schedule them?See Michael Brendan Dougherty for a kindred argument.
Of course, if James is asked back onto Hardball or other similar venues after this episode, then I'm wrong.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Glenn Greenwald's rage against the machine
Remember when I said earlier this week that, "Glenn Greenwald might be a good blogger/collumnist, but he's not that great at social science"?
I apologize -- I was clearly in error. Replace "good" with "simplistic and Jacobin" and replace "not that great at social science" with "not aware of the concept of social science." Then that sentence hits closer to the mark.
I want to leave their specific claims behind and focus on what is actually important here. What really underlies the mentality of people like McArdle and Drezner are two pervasive though toxic afflictions -- a drooling, self-loving American exceptionalism, along with a self-interested refusal to acknowledge that there is anything truly wrong with our political and media establishment because they both support and are part of that establishment....Wow, where to begin. Well, let's start with the obvious -- if I dispute someone's empirical support regarding hypothesis A, that does not mean I necessarily think hypothesis A is wrong. It just means that I'm unpersuaded by the evidence as presented. It is actually possible to dispute positive analysis of a topic without adopting a normative position on the same topic. This fact appears to escape Greenwald's grasp.
Second, I haven't shied away from self-criticism regarding Iraq or questions about the torture issue. I certainly have not discussed them at the same length as Greenwald, but I think that's a rather high bar for anyone to meet -- Greenwald's writing style seems to be, "why write ten words when writing a hundred words makes the point in a redundant manner?"
Third, and most important, Greenwald's rhetorical style in his column boils down to,"if you dispute anything I say, then you are objectively pro-torture." This bears more than a passing resemblance to the position rabid pro-war advocates adopted in late 2002 -- that opposition to war with Iraq rendered one objectively pro-Saddam. It was a disgusting tactic then, and it's no less disgusting that Greenwald is using it now. It makes him no better than the ideological adversaries he so despises.
I've defended Greenwald as of late, and I actually enjoyed my prior blog exchanges with him. After his latest column, however, I don't see the point of engaging with him anymore. If Greenwald is incapable of distinguishing between different streams of thought, if he is incapable of distinguishing positive analysis from normative advocacy, if he is incapable of doing anything other than indicting the "establishment" as an undifferentiated mass of lickspittle imperialists, then there's no point in debating him. As Megan put it, "Mr Greenwald's anger at the establishment power structure seems to be rapidly transmuting into anger at the non-Glenn-Greenwald power structure:"
Monday, April 7, 2008
You can't blame the media for everything
Glenn Greenwald is getting a lot of play with this post, in which he says the following:
In the past two weeks, the following events transpired. A Department of Justice memo, authored by John Yoo, was released which authorized torture and presidential lawbreaking. It was revealed that the Bush administration declared the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights to be inapplicable to "domestic military operations" within the U.S. The U.S. Attorney General appears to have fabricated a key event leading to the 9/11 attacks and made patently false statements about surveillance laws and related lawsuits. Barack Obama went bowling in Pennsylvania and had a low score.It's pretty clear what Greenwald thinks this indicates -- it's an indictment of "our nation's coddled, insulated journalist class."
To me, this indicates the following:
1) Comparing NEXIS searches of events where the media cycle has yet to play out with events where the media cycle has played out is a really disingenuous way of making one's point;
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Note to self: do not bring short-shorts to Paris
Elaine Sciolino bids a fond farewell to one of the best sinecures in journalism -- the Paris desk of the New York Times. Sciolino is a fine reporter/observer, and is not afraid to reveal the following embarrassing anecdote:
Don’t Wear Jogging Clothes to Buy a Pound of Butter[Memo from the staff: don't wear short-shorts, period!--ed.]
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
The New York Times op-ed page mimics the blogosphere
They're exactly like a typical blog exchange, in that the debate quickly devolves from Big Questions to minutiae.
Unlike a typical blog exchange, none of the participants have linked/mentioned the others by name. Also, instead of taking a few days to play out, this will take two months.
In that spirit, the hard-working staff here at danieldrezner.com urges its readers to participate in its first ever Mimic the New York Times Op-ed Columnist Contest!!
To enter, just submit, via a comment to this post, the opening paragraph of either Maureen Dowd or Thomas Friedman's op-ed contributions on this subject. Winners will be lifted from comments and promoted to the hilt by this mighty blog.
I just can't write Dowd, but here's my sample Friedman entry:
RIYADH, KSA: If you want to smoke at King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh, you have to brave the 120 degree outdoor heat. I wanted to continue my conversation with Prince Bandar, however, so I took my ice water from the first class lounge and followed him outside. He tapped his cigar ash on the round and said, "What the Middle East needs right now is its own sunny optimist -- it's own Ronald Reagan." I sipped my Evian and told him how the cradle of Reagan's political successes could be found in Philadelphia. Not the one in Pennsylvania, but the one in Mississippi. Let's call it the Philadelphia Story.....
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
And the Joe Bob Briggs award goes to...
Fifteen years ago Joe Bob Briggs wrote a scathing essay on the phenomenon of Sunday morning talk shows -- which, mysteriously, does not appear to be online anywhere (the one line I will never forget: "[Robert] Novak is the only human being in history who, on his IRS 1080 form, fills out, "Occupation: Obnoxious").
Since cable news has become a 24/7 version of these talk shows on every subject imaginable, there's a crying need for a new version of Briggs' kind of satire. So click below and enjoy.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Lou Dobbs is a big fat liar
The most common complaint about him, at least from other journalists, is that his program combines factual reporting with editorializing. But I think this misses the point. Americans, as a rule, are smart enough to handle a program that mixes opinion and facts. The problem with Mr. Dobbs is that he mixes opinion and untruths. He is the heir to the nativist tradition that has long used fiction and conspiracy theories as a weapon against the Irish, the Italians, the Chinese, the Jews and, now, the Mexicans.[What if Dobbs relied on political science research instead?--ed.] He would find even less empirical support.
The farm lobby is cracking up, the New York Times is beating up on Lou Dobbs.... oh, I'm going to enjoy this summer.
UPDATE: Dobbs responds to Leonhardt here. As near as I can interpret it, Dobbs concedes the facts but claims Leonhardt is exaggerating their portent. Then there's this puzzler:
[T]he columnist writes that I suggested that new immigration reform bill would be the first step to a North American union. Nope. What I did say is that the proposed legislation, favored by President Bush and Senator Kennedy and others who are misguided, contains language in Section 413 that, if approved by Congress, would endorse and legitimize the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, which is the foundation of this administration's efforts to create a North American union, and which would further threaten, in my opinion, our national sovereignty.I checked out the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America's website. The front page has yet to update the fact that Vicente Fox is no longer president of Mexico. A good rule of thumb: organizations with outdated web sites aren't threats to national sovereignty.
Here's a link to the SPP "myths vs. facts" page. If Dobbs is scared by this initiative, then he should really just go and buy his shack in Montana right now -- because there are dozens of other arrangements already on the books where the U.S. has ceded more sovereignty.
I hereby triple-dog-dare Lou Dobbs and his supporters -- name me one provision of the SPP that truly compromises American sovereignty.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
The Jonathan Rauch interview
Let me join Andrew Sullivan and Virginia Postrel in linking to this Reason interview with National Jounal columnist Jonathan Rauch. Uneknownst to him, Rauch is partly responsible for the creation of this blog.
Two parts of the interview that stand out. The first reflects Rauch's spot-on take on government:
[R]ight-sizing government, if you mean imposing some preconceived size that you or I or someone else might have, is impossible. Impossible, probably inconceivable and simply not going to happen ever.The second reflects Rauch's wariness of blog triumphalism:
I'm not a fan of the idea that the journalist and the journalist's attitude should be front and center. I think that a good journalist's duty is to get out of the way. The hardest thing about journalism--the hardest thing, a much higher art than being clever--is just to get out of the way, to show the leader of the world as the reader would see it if the reader were there. Just to be eyes and ears. Calvin Trillin, another writer I greatly admired who steered me towards journalism, once said that getting himself out of his stories was like taking off a very tight shirt in a very small phone booth. He's right.Read the whole thing.
Friday, February 2, 2007
Most bizarre man in the street interview ever?
Is it just me, or does this C.W. Nevius story in the San Francisco Chronicle -- about the public reaction to Mayor Gavin Newsom's admission of cuckolding one of his principal staff people -- contain the wierdest man-in-the-street reaction ever to appear in a major newspaper?
Although almost everyone we spoke to admitted to some disappointment, Newsom's firm and unqualified apology played to raves....
Monday, November 27, 2006
Mickey Kaus' dream article
Ken Auletta's New Yorker story on CNN and Lou Dobbs has a Mickey Kaus two-fer -- potshots at CNN president Jonathan Klein and a discussion of how a hard line on illegal immigration has boosted Lou Dobb's ratings!!
Here are the parts of the article I enjoyed the most:
In many ways, Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly, of Fox News, who in 2003 wrote a book entitled “Who’s Looking Out for You?,” are kindred spirits. Dobbs, who lives on a three-hundred-acre farm in a prosperous part of New Jersey, admires his own capacity for compassion and self-effacement....
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Just a little of the old media bias
What does this distribution of cover stories imply about how Americans get their information about the world?
Hat tip: Passport's Carolyn O'Hara
Monday, August 28, 2006
From Mickey Kaus:
If you haven't been called by a booker to appear on TV all year, and you are not called to appear this weekend--even by a cable channel, even by FOX, even on Saturday--it's fair to say that you will never be called.But, but, but..... I just got a new suit!!
[Don't worry, like Mickey you don't need them--ed.]
Thursday, August 24, 2006
The Howard Cosell of international news
I am happy to cross the partisan divide and state for the record that I am in 100% agreement with Matthew Yglesias:
I'm not sure if you guys know who Richard Quest is, but suffice it to say that based on my rather small level of watching CNN International while traveling he's far and away the most annoying television news personality on the planet.Naturally, Quest got his own monthly interview show, ‘Quest’, in July.
And if I was the head of CNN, I'd do the same thing -- Quest's voice, mannerisms, and teeth are so.... grating that the overall effect is hypnotic. Whenever I catch him in my travels, it requires a concerted effort to change the channel.
Wednesday, August 2, 2006
The New York Times, they like to kid
From James McKinley Jr.'s front-page story in the New York Times, "Castro Is ‘Stable,’ but His Illness Presents Puzzle":
News that Mr. Castro had relinquished power for the first time in his 47-year rule prompted expressions of concern from leftist leaders in Latin America and set off immediate celebration among Cuban exiles in Miami.I'll concede that Fidel Castro must possess some charisma and ample amounts of political skill -- he's the longest-serving leader in the world, after all.
Since when, however, does the capacity to give six-hour speeches imply "rhetorical brilliance"?
There are many words that can be used to describe Castro's rhetorical style -- and "brilliance" is nowhere close to the top of that list.
Sunday, April 2, 2006
Blegging for research help
Blogging has been light because I'm putting the finishing touches on a research paper... and there's one small question that's nagging at me. Are any readers aware of surveys done in the past decade of the attitudes of American journalists towards American foreign policy?
The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations has a great quadrennial series of polls about American elites, but the reports do not break out responses for journalists.
I'm also aware of the surveys and research into reporters' domestic ideological affiliation, and the volumnious literature on media bias, but that's no good to me -- attitudes towards domestic policies don't translate well into international relations.
I need to see polling numbers of journalists' opinions about foreign policy priorities, the use of force, and/or foreign economic policy. I vaguely recall reading about a few of these, but my numerous searches have produced zilch so far. So, I hereby delegate this to knowledgeable readers.
[What do they get if they find something useful?--ed. A big, big thank you in the acknowledgments.]
Monday, February 13, 2006
Nobody give me a column!!
Note to self: if someone is ever so foolish as to offer me a weekly column, re-read this Jack Shafer paragraph:
Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make a newspaper columnist. Most columnists start off with a bag full of ideas and endless energy. But the job begins to weigh on even the most talented journalist. He starts writing columns about columns he's written, about his kids, or about the deaths of relatives. He composes columns as open letters to world leaders—or writes from inside their heads. He quotes cab drivers. His columns become more assertion than argument. Finally, he starts picking silly, protracted fights with other media machers.[Yeah, we're not worried about this possibility--ed.]
Saturday, February 4, 2006
Oxymoronic headline of the week
I don't know whether the Malaysian Star or Reuters is to blame.
Friday, January 27, 2006
Tom Friedman faux pas watch!
David Rothkopf is blogging about the Davos Economic Forum for Foreign Policy's web site. I bring this up because Rothkopf caught the ultimate moderator faux pas earlier this week:
Late this afternoon, there was a packed session chaired by Tom Friedman that included Queen Rania of Jordan, Pakistan’s President Musharraf, Afghanistan’s President Karzai, and Hajim Alhasani, President of the Iraqi National Assembly. The topic was Muslim societies in the modern world, but the discussion was wide ranging. There was a uniformly negative reaction to Iran getting nuclear weapons—UPDATE: Turns out Foreign Policy was in error, and it was Karzai and not Friedman who made the faux pas. See here for more.
Monday, December 12, 2005
What's the difference between Time and Newsweek?
So I see that Time and Newsweek have dueling cover stories about George W. Bush, his recent political misfortunes, and his plans for the future. Both of them focus on Bush's insularity, his unwillingness to change course, and his general disdain for critics.
As near as I can discern it, there are four differences:
1) Tumulty and Allen seem to have slightly better sources within Bush's inner circle;Readers are encouraged to read both stories and post their thoughts.
Note to self: avoid Seth Mnookin
Seth Mnookin has a long Vanity Fair story about the Judith Miller saga at the New York Times. Few people at the Times look good, and Arthur Sulzberger Jr.comes off looking like an insecure, incompetent ass. That said, I still think that Mnookin does the biggest number on Miller. The devastating part is below:
Miller, it soon became clear, was not going to be an easy source to deal with. She initially refused to speak with [Times reporter Adam] Liptak because, she said, his story about her release from jail implied that she hadn't gotten a better deal from the prosecutor than the one that was available to her before she was imprisoned. She refused to speak with [Times reporter Janny] Scott because, she told friends, Scott had not bothered to write to her when she was in jail. (She also told people that she knew Scott was "judging" her.) At various points she wouldn't speak with [Times reporter Don] Van Natta either. On Tuesday afternoon, Van Natta approached Miller in the Times's newsroom. Miller immediately gave Van Natta a hug. "I'm so glad you're involved in this," Miller said. "Well, I'd really like to talk to you, now, if you have time," Van Natta replied. "I can't do it now," Miller answered. "I'm running off to go meet with Barbara Walters."Note to self: if Seth Mnookin calls me about anything, answer in full.
Miller now has a quasi-blog -- I'll be curious to see if she responds to this piece. [Actually, Mnookin characerizes judithmiller.org as a website, "contain[ing] self-justifying posts and cherry-picked, laudatory articles"--ed. The man is clearly unfamiliar with blogs.]
Monday, September 23, 2002
Dullest article ever
Michael Kinsley once wrote that the most boring headline ever would be "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative." Here's my suggestion: "Proposed U.N. Reform."