Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 20, 2005

Billmon: 04/19 (2)

III. Scoundrel Time

Ann may think her cover photo was unflattering (a crime against humanity would be my term for it) but the write up was pure journalistic cunnilingus – and John Cloud appears to have a very long tongue.

Posted by b on April 20, 2005 at 6:01 UTC | Permalink

Comments

Men think she's sexy?! What men? Inmates?

Posted by: merlallen | Apr 20 2005 6:39 utc | 1

Author is gay - & openly so.

Posted by: jj | Apr 20 2005 6:43 utc | 2

When will someone do the smart thing and do an actual big time media outlet aimed at liberals. When that shows to have an audience (like Air America), maybe the business plans of big media wil ltake that into account?

Posted by: Jérôme | Apr 20 2005 8:21 utc | 3

I think you're right about the headlong rush (by the MSM) to ever greater hyperbole and shrillness, becoming so redundent, that its overall effect has evolved into the kind of drudgery reminesent of Bagdad Bob and patriotic music blaring out of loudspeakers. I suppose the recent success of right wing radio and Fox, and its ability to sell people their own demise, is just to powerfull an aphrodisiac for the boardrooms to resist. So when things for http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bc?s=TWX&t=5y >Time Warner go a little flat it's logical to climb aboard the sinking ship, because the band is still playing.

Posted by: anna missed | Apr 20 2005 9:34 utc | 4

If you want to get past Time's subscription wall, the full story by John Cloud is available at CNN:

here

It's really over-the-top, as I comment here

Posted by: Quiddity | Apr 20 2005 10:53 utc | 5

I get Time home delivered (seldom read it). About 20 years ago they changed the format of Time - creating "regional" editions. Normally, they have at least the same Time cover worldwide, but this week, Ann Coulter is a little too American Parochial.
The Australian edition has a cover story "The Way of the Dragon - How China's growing influence is remaking Australia". Both editions have a picture of a dragon.

Posted by: DM | Apr 20 2005 11:03 utc | 6

Even from here, she smells like the ocean

Posted by: G | Apr 20 2005 14:26 utc | 7

I'm so glad Billmon is back...

Best description of the real media bias I've seen. It's all about the bottom line, and the strange delusiuon that tells publihers and producers that Bush is "popular"...

Posted by: A Hermit | Apr 20 2005 14:42 utc | 8

It's all about the bottom line

No, more complex.

In my opinion, one fairly satisfactory way to explain why rightwing media dominate is to consider what kind of content best satisfies the goal of a generalized commodity form with wide appeal? It's hardly surprising content reducing the analysis of complex social phenomena to us/them, good/evil ideological homogeneity is broadly appealing. Yes, it is about a bottomline, but the kind of mass media content usually produced and demanded is rightwing precisely because the media commodity closes off the dialectical complexity of argument by "reifying," by shutting down interpretation. What the "MSM" do, put another way, is make myths. Leftist analyses are all about, should be about, deconstructing myths, beating back The Truth.

One more thing: as Raymond Williams emphasized: elite cultural hegemony is never total. New, "emergent" forms of mediation can be used to expose the outright fascistic uses of these myths.

Life has been perpetuated through culture, along with the idea of a decent life; its echo resounds in authentic artworks. Affirmation does not bestow a halo on the status quo; in sympathy with what exists, it defends itself against death, the telos of all domination. Doubting this comes only at the price of believing that death itself is hope.--Adorno

Maybe new media will save us.

Posted by: slothrop | Apr 20 2005 15:43 utc | 9

Something circulating on rightwing websites, and what exemplifies in a terrible way the rightwing zeitgeist, regardless whether the piece below is a matter of satire:

History lesson

The division of the human family into two distinct political groups began some
12,000 years ago. Humans existed as members of small bands of nomadic hunter/gatherers. They lived on deer in the mountains in the summer and would go to the beach and live on fish & lobster in winter.

The two most important events in all of history were the invention of beer and the invention of the wheel. The wheel was invented to get man to the beer.

These were the foundation of modern civilization, and together were the
catalyst for the splitting of humanity into two distinct subgroups: Liberals and Conservatives.

Once beer was discovered it required grain, and that was the beginning of agriculture. Neither the glass bottle nor aluminum can was invented
yet, so while our early human ancestors were sitting around waiting for them to be invented, they just stayed close to the brewery. That's how villages were formed.

Some men spent their days tracking and killing animals to BBQ at night while they were drinking beer. This was the beginning of what is known as "the Conservative movement." Other men who were weaker and less skilled at hunting, learned to live off the conservatives by showing up for the nightly BBQ and
doing the sewing, fetching and hair dressing.
This was the beginning of the Liberal movement.

Some of these liberal men eventually evolved into women. The rest became known as "girliemen."

Some noteworthy liberal achievements include the domestication of cats, the trade union, the invention of group therapy and group hugs, and the concept of Democratic voting to decide how to divide the meat and beer that conservatives
provided.

Over the years conservatives came to be symbolized by the largest, most powerful
land animal on earth, the elephant. Liberals are symbolized by the jackass.

Modern liberals like imported beer (with lime added), but most prefer white wine or imported bottled water. They eat raw fish, but like their beef well done.

Sushi, tofu, and French food are standard liberal fare. Another interesting
evolutionary side note: Most of their women have higher testosterone levels than their men.

Most social workers, personal injury attorneys, journalists, dreamers in Hollywood and group therapists are liberals. Liberals invented the designated hitter rule in baseball, because it wasn't "fair" to make the pitcher also bat.

Conservatives drink domestic beer. They eat red meat and still provide for their women. Conservatives are big-game hunters, rodeo cowboys, lumberjacks, construction workers, medical doctors, police officers, corporate executives, soldiers, athletes, and generally anyone who works productively outside
government. Conservatives who own companies hire other conservatives who want to work for a living.

Liberals produce little or nothing. They like to "govern" the producers and decide what to do with the production. Liberals believe Europeans are more enlightened than Americans. That is why most of the liberals remained in
Europe, when conservatives were coming to America. They crept in after the Wild
West was tamed, and created a business of trying to get more for nothing.

Satire, sure. But also "commonsense."

Posted by: slothrop | Apr 20 2005 15:57 utc | 10

Time magazine will never trump their famous line about Stalin: something like "brutal yes, but effective"

Posted by: citizen k | Apr 20 2005 16:29 utc | 11

Saw the cover. Now here's another picture for Tom Delay to hold up with one hand! There are few people on Earth I despise more than Ann Coulter. Her senile red baiting is purile garbage.

Posted by: diogenes | Apr 20 2005 17:23 utc | 12

bagnewsnotes also comments on the Time story.

an old and literate friend remarks

Going even further back, Luce and an old college pal of his whose name escapes me invented the whole idea of the weekly news magazine; they ran it at a loss for several years, with Luce a very hands-on (not to say megalomaniacal--see the Charles Laughton character in "The Big Clock") boss insisting on his own peculiar "Timestyle" which the New Yorker writer Wolcott Gibbs unforgettably parodied as "Backward ran sentences until reeled the mind."* Luce saw himself, I think, as an updated version of Hearst, running a media empire that included "March of Time" newsreels shown in movie houses, Life--another original idea, the magazine for what my dad called "people who read the pictures and look at the print"--and Fortune, which hired a *lot* of Reds and recent ex-Reds during the Thirties. (I've never heard a convincing explanation for this--probably part going where the brains were, part networking--but it's true.)

But after the war the Luce publications did indeed move to the right. To a certain extent the Catholic Church--to which Clare Booth Luce very demonstratively belonged--played the same role then that the evangelicals are playing now, promoting an ideological mix of piety and anti-Communist politics via connections with the veterans' groups, Eastern European ethnic organizations, and a significant chunk of labor (by a completely understandable turn of historical luck, a lot of CIO unions were led by Irish Catholics--Joe Curran, Phil Murray, Mike Quill et al.--who were leaned on very heavily in the key year of 1948.) Luce wrote editorials proclaiming "The American Century" that Wolfowitz & Co. would be happy to reprint over their own signatures.

The Luces in literature: Dawn Powell's novel "Turn, Magic Wheel" is a thinly disguised portrait of them (very unflattering.) Clare Booth Luce's play "The Women" was a success on Broadway and as a movie, with Joan Crawford. Also in the early 50's she launched her own magazine, Flair, which was an early attempt to be trendy; the covers had a square cutout through which an inside-page graphic could be glimpsed, the writers were upper-middlebrow darlings like Truman Capote, and the newsstand price was A WHOLE DOLLAR at a time when the New Yorker cost two bits. It folded after a few issues.

What I find interesting is how the pornographic lens -- every metaphor a sexual metaphor, every slur a sexual slur -- has overtaken the public discourse; both Billmon's critique and the original article by Cloud rely heavily on sex for metaphor and simile; putdowns are framed in images of "unmanly" sex or of Coulter as an "unwomanly" woman, or in Cloud's coy-salacious text in images of "liberals" as "womanly" and conservatives (including Ann) as "manly" and "hot", etc.

Bagnewsnotes comments The sad account starts with the interviewer supposedly getting Ms. Coulter drunk. From that point on, there are lines about "moistly liberal formulations"; and how talk show opinions must "come violently fast and cause as much friction as possible"; and how it's impossible to watch Ms. Coulter and not be "sluiced into rage or elation." Hella gender encoding going on here -- similarly with the "strap on vets for truth" satire site, where the ad feminam attack is the assertion that Coulter (lanky and a bit horsey in appearance) is "not really a woman."

The mirror image that springs to mind is how US liberal cartoonists portrayed Bush Sr wearing a purse [an East Coast Rich Boy, hence a Sissy]. Or the endless wellspring of cartoons and jokes during the Cold War about "Russian women" being ugly, mustached, huge, tough, etc -- "Their Women" are not Real Women, Our Women are, so neener neener neener. The implication for American women was that it was their patriotic duty to be feminine and gorgeous, just to show those damn Reds whose system was better :-)

Gender is so rigid a system that it seems the first rock we reach for, instinctively, when we want to throw something, is the accusation that the other person either (a) has transgressed their assigned gender role and hence is Bad/Ugly/Queer -- high school kids yell "Fag", "Sissy," "Dyke" when they can't think of anything else to yell at someone they hate -- or (b) should be assigned to the despised female/receptive underclass (similar to (a) but more specific). In the case of Coulter, Billmon's text assigns the media to the despised underclass, suggesting that it services Coulter and other rightwingnuts sexually.

The metaphor of sexual service -- whoring -- is used to suggest all negatives: hypocrisy, slavishness, untruthfulness, avarice. [Protestants still occasionally call the Roman Church the "Great Whore of Babylon."] Of course the MSM -- or the Roman Church -- is not a hungry 14 year old on the streets of some big city, which is how the average prostitute makes his/her start in "the business" -- the metaphor is far from accurate -- but we conveniently ignore that :-) Here I pick not on Billmon specifically as an individual but as a current example in our shared reading space, of the way "metawhores" are used phatically in both righty and lefty discourse -- there are websites dedicated to "exposing the Media Whores" and words like "presstitute" are in common use.

It seems eternally the case that any woman who becomes highly visible in the public sphere whether as a lefty or righty, unless she successfully assumes the mantle of Mom or Saint (Golda, Evita respectively), will be castigated by the political opposition first and foremost as a sexual creature, in sexual terms -- racist Chinese responded to Rice's recent visit with web sites describing her as a "black bitch" and "Bush's black whore," iirc. To some extent unpopular males are similarly accused of (a) homosexuality, (b) inability to get it up, (c) having an ugly wife, (d) being dominated by their wives (Clinton in the fulminations of the wingnuts). It appears that the insult-sexual is ever-ready to hand, even easier to hurl than a cream pie... I remember during the Davis recall campaign (how Ahnold got to be Governator), that one of the anti-Ahnold jokes (whose full text I can't remember any more) concluded with the punchline -- in a heavy German accent -- "Ja, my Villie is Tiny." "Nyah Nyah, Mr Muscle Man has a teeny dick," in other words.

Funny how these tropes never die out: "your women are ugly," "she's not a real woman," "you're not a real man," "your dick is tiny," and so on. If we could understand the barking of baboons, maybe that would be what they're saying as one troop challenges another across the savannah...

Another interesting thing is how the sexual lemon meringue just never seems to stick to the conservatives -- heard much about Gannon lately? We never heard the end of Monica and Bill, but no one seems to care what (or who) Gannon was doing in his connection with the current White House crowd.

Posted by: DeAnander | Apr 20 2005 18:00 utc | 13

http://www.usforacle.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2005/04/19/42650d149c0ab>Gitlin:

"The news media are actually an emotion machine," he said. "The business of the news media is to draw attention. Period." He added that "News organizations sell this attention to advertisers" through "sensation (in news) and flattery of the audience" in order to keep the attention from drifting away.

"The business of getting attention is where the revenue comes from," he said.

Basically, another way of saying what I said above: The media commodity, while closing-off interpretation and reducing the content to an allegory, opens up audience uses of these messages to what seem like unpolitical, entertaining, endlessly "personal" forms of demand. In this sense, Coulter is emblematic of the view "the Truth is there are no truths, only opinions." What better media commodity is there? What more ultimate reification? In fascism, politics are aestheticized. There ya go.

Posted by: slothrop | Apr 20 2005 18:04 utc | 14

Slothrop,

I think thats right, but who could look at Keen paintings 24/7?

I think the initial success of this new "aesthetized media" has a lot to do with the novelity of it all -- content aside, just the spectacle of these blowhards on the TV screen in an emotional tizzy over political issues has a high titilation factor in itself, add content, and this one way street -- ad infintum race to the bottom (I'm more rabidly patriotic than you) starts to resemble the porno industry where more is never enough. At this point, either a jaded boredom with it all sets in, or the boundaries of what's considered "normal" are extended to include this behavior, in which case we're in big trouble (and we'll all have to live by the sea).

Posted by: anna missed | Apr 20 2005 19:45 utc | 15

I think it IS all about money: supply and demand. Right now demand is hot for a right-wing viewpoint, so that's what the media supplies. In the past demand was for a left-wing viewpoint and the media supplied it. The wonderful thing is, it never lasts. People will get fed up with the right-wingers (just as they got fed up with the left-wingers) and the media will follow demand back to the left. I think Bill overestimates the power of the media to shape demand:

"With their massive market power, however, the mega-monsters also have the ability to shape consumer appetites – creating, in effect, a demand for the kind of content they want to supply."

It may be true in the short run, but in the long run most people don't stray far from the center. Most people actually aren't as stupid as the far left/right suppose.

As for what content the mega-monsters "want" to supply, well: most of them will supply whatever sells. They're not so stupid, either.

It's amusing if you step back and look at it without getting caught up emotionally.

Posted by: Chris | Apr 20 2005 20:16 utc | 16

Billmon,
Well if its good enough for Howie Kurtz to have a conservative brownose then I can have a liberal one.

You sir are "The Shit"
The, as in: THE; most accurate, literate and satisfying commentator out there. PERIOD. point finale

I can only dream of the day when real liberal pundits with real opinions and insights are allowed to represent my views on TV. For now the internet is our fortress of solitude. But we can all dream ... God Bless.

Posted by: Scott McArthur | Apr 20 2005 20:32 utc | 17

the media will follow demand back to the left

Please, give a mass media, "MSM" example of "left" content. New media are of course mass media, and there are many examples of left content. But, you'll be hard-pressed to find even individual examples of content confronting class rule. Some exist, but not many. Stanley Aronowitz has written a lot about this.

There are reasons why rightwing content dominates; specific reasons.

Posted by: slothrop | Apr 20 2005 20:35 utc | 18

slothrop, you are so right. And you are close upon a terrifying point, as well.

The rightist rush of the MSM is very much driven by these flocking patterns around real and percieved market dynamics. The problem is that in this case, the market dynamics in question have an artificial engine!

Most of us here, I assume, are at the very least partial to Keynesian economics. Well consider, what is the $2 billion/yr tink tank industry?

As long as they can maintain the impression that there is demand for this, ah, storyline, the MSM will continue to spill it out.

Of course the untfortunate fact is that advertising works. And think tanks are nothing more than gussied up ad agencies.

Posted by: chimneyswift | Apr 21 2005 2:29 utc | 19

Perception is reality. The right thinks the media has a left bias, and the left thinks it has a right bias. You could argue it has a corporate bias, since it depends on corporate advertising, but this is just another aspect of profit bias. I have found that my right-wing friends and my left-wing friends can look at the same article and both will claim "media bias" against their own point of view. The NYT can print an article mildly critical of the Iraq war; the right will scream "media bias" because any criticism of the war is by their definition biased; the left will shout "media bias" because it's not critical enough. It's laughable.

The idea of the public as "sheeple" blindly following along with whatever the media is selling is a favorite argument of both the left and the right.

Just my opinion, and opinions are like assholes: everyone's got one and they all stink.

Posted by: Chris | Apr 21 2005 3:37 utc | 20

Jerome--

There's already some hedging goin' on me thinks....after all, if I'm not mistaken a number of the stations that have picked up Air America are owned by Clear Channel.

Posted by: RossK | Apr 21 2005 4:58 utc | 21

@deanander -


"every metaphor a sexual metaphor, every slur a sexual slur -- has overtaken the public discourse"

This bears repeating "every metaphor a sexual metaphor, every slur a sexual slur."

Yes, de does find the nail with the hammer.

Some time I will remember the joke that I heard from an ivy league engineering college student tell about her research visits to US military installations to test out computer simulations. Something about how everything looked like a target.

I'm in the mood for a solution. Just posted over at RossK's local blog, in my neighborhood, at Pacific Gazette.

We have an election coming here, May 17th.

Posted by: jonku | Apr 21 2005 7:24 utc | 22

What I find interesting is how the pornographic lens -- every metaphor a sexual metaphor, every slur a sexual slur -- has overtaken the public discourse; both Billmon's critique and the original article by Cloud rely heavily on sex for metaphor and simile; putdowns are framed in images of "unmanly" sex or of Coulter as an "unwomanly" woman, or in Cloud's coy-salacious text in images of "liberals" as "womanly" and conservatives (including Ann) as "manly" and "hot", etc.

You know, DeAnander, there really isn't a need to contextualize and deconstruct everything. Sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar -- and a media whore is just a media whore.

Posted by: | Apr 21 2005 14:34 utc | 23

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