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Moyers, Greenwald and Rosen on politics and the media
February 7, 2009 12:23 PM   Subscribe

Politics, the Press, and the Public. Bill Moyers speaks with Glenn Greenwald and Jay Rosen about the role of the establishment press in America’s dysfunctional political system.
posted by homunculus (18 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I watched John Stewart cover this and I thought it was just reprehensible, like he is just flailing and does not know how to criticize a President who is not Bush. My reaction was, who cares, but when you take a tempest in a teapot to be as serious as a hurricane, and outrage is the only knee-jerk reaction we're capable of, discourse suffers and how is the audience to know the difference between this and actual scandal? Anyways bless Bill Moyers for getting at the actual story here, as usual.
posted by kaspen at 12:36 PM on February 7, 2009


I think the basic problem is that the media is run by millionaires for millionaires (advertising clients). It's got to appeal to people in order to get people to watch and buy the stuff they see advertised, but lets say you're the CEO of Pfizer, since it seems like 90% of the ads on cable news shows these days are for drugs to cure old-people-problems.

Anyway you're the CEO of Pfizer and there's a new law in congress that would, say, allow medicare to negotiate with drug companies over the prices paid on drugs. If you've got one of those old-people problems that law would be beneficial to you, but it would be bad for the Pfizer CEO. If the network covers the new law positively, it would piss off the Pfizer CEO and cause a loss in revenue, on the other hand if it covers the law negatively it might piss off a few viewers who are especially clued in, and lose a slim slice of revenue, but not nearly enough to make up for the loss of the advertising account.

That's easy enough to understand, but what also counts is that people in the media world also want to suck up to those in power. So for example, when Phil Donahue was opposing the war in Iraq on MSNBC, he got axed because MSNBC wanted to ingratiate itself with the Bush administration. That way, bush admin people would come on for interviews and that meant better ratings (at the time).

The also have an interest in drumming up controversy and a sort of "fake balance". Just look at the coverage of the stimulus debate, a bunch of Crazy republicans got on TV and spouted a bunch of nonsense. If the media had ignored them, as they should have, and told the truth, it wouldn't have been as 'exciting'. Another problem is that the people who actually do the interviews are not experts.

Oh and one other thing. The people who get into the higher reaches of punditry, to the point where they get editorials and actually get to speak their mind are the ones who worked for years at kissing ass on the DC social scene so their biggest loyalty is to that scene, and they want people kissing their ass and they want to continue kissing ass and getting closer to power. It's like some neurotic highschool.

One of the thing that upset them about the blogsphere was the fact that now new voices could get in without riding the suck up wagon for years and years. It was a threat to them because they couldn't be controlled through social pressure.
posted by delmoi at 12:39 PM on February 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


I watched John Stewart cover this and I thought it was just reprehensible, like he is just flailing and does not know how to criticize a President who is not Bush.

John Stewart covered Glenn Greenwald on Bill Moyers? Or do you mean Stewart's coverage of the Bailout was reprehensible? Are you saying Stewart should have been tougher on Obama? Why? What should he have criticized him for exactly? (I think there are plenty of mistakes that Obama has made, particularly not making a much higher "opening bid" on the stimulus. he probably expected that the bill would get larger as it went through congress, which is what usually happens)
posted by delmoi at 12:43 PM on February 7, 2009


Sorry, to be specific, I was reacting to Stewart devoting the bulk of his time the other night to deriding Obama's taking responsibility and simply apologizing. It didn't strike me as either necessary or funny, and while I certainly don't want Obama to above criticism, I'm wary of commentators, and especially Stewart himself, being stuck in a constant juvenile hate-on for the office of President. I thought the whole Daschle "controversy" was pretty pointless, and that the furor over it simply serves to build resentment against Obama in those who aren't fully paying attention.
posted by kaspen at 12:51 PM on February 7, 2009


I think the basic problem is that the media is run by millionaires for millionaires (advertising clients).

This, plus it's a business. A mega-business, so they go by the old 80-20 rule. Lowest common denominator, manufactured controversy-of-the-week, etc.
posted by DU at 12:58 PM on February 7, 2009


I'm wary of commentators, and especially Stewart himself, being stuck in a constant juvenile hate-on for the office of President.

Jon Stewart has always said their first mission is to be funny. He has also said that some people weren't going to like the show anymore if Obama got elected, because their first mission won't change. Trying to pin the blame on him for his "coverage" is missing the point.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:01 PM on February 7, 2009


> America’s dysfunctional political system

No man who is correctly informed as to the past will be disposed to take a morose or despondent view of the present.
posted by jfuller at 1:18 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry for the derail in bringing Stewart into this, the video itself is really cogent and worthwhile, I only mentioned the Daily Show because that was my only media exposure of this particular apology flap which Moyers used to frame his conversation of the media's narrative resisting and excluding any threatening undertexts.

I don't have a problem with valid criticisms of Obama, I definitely don't have a problem with John Stewart if and only if he is funny, which I assert in this instance he was not. It looked to me like he was exhibiting the same stubborn resistance to disruptive or atypical perspectives as the more flagrant members of American mainstream media, which is all the more criminal since so many, myself included, look to him like a coalmine canary to let us know when shit goes amiss which other sources suppress.
posted by kaspen at 1:19 PM on February 7, 2009


Sorry, to be specific, I was reacting to Stewart devoting the bulk of his time the other night to deriding Obama's taking responsibility and simply apologizing. It didn't strike me as either necessary or funny, and while I certainly don't want Obama to above criticism

Stewart wasn't really criticizing Obama, he was showing the contrast with bush in a humorous way, and most people would read that as a complement "Dude you're so honest and self-critical! LOL!" That's not a criticism, It's a joke.

It's also kind of the opposite of what you said earlier which was "like he is just flailing and does not know how to criticize a President who is not Bush." It sounds like your actual complaint is more like "he does not know how to do anything but criticize the president"

Anyway, I liked it. Obama has been irritating me to no end with this bipartisan stuff, frankly. I was livid during his one-day defense of Daschel, that guy was a sleaze and I'm glad he withdrew.

The idea that we should have 'respect' for the president and withhold our criticism is idiotic. Obviously I'm going to be much more measured since we're in the same party, but he needs to be criticized when he makes mistakes.


Finally, you're not the sole arbiter of what is and isn't funny, I thought the segment was pretty funny. If you've got such a stick up your ass you can't laugh at jokes about Our Hero, that's your problem.
posted by delmoi at 1:35 PM on February 7, 2009


I was livid during his one-day defense of Daschel, that guy was a sleaze and I'm glad he withdrew.

Yeah, good riddance to Daschle, though I'm one of those who think Geithner is worse and I wish he had withdrawn too.
posted by homunculus at 1:49 PM on February 7, 2009


How is it that the American political system counts as "dysfunctional"? Somalia, that's dysfunctional.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:54 PM on February 7, 2009


I tell you what I think is dysfunctional: Commerical TV and radio is sensationalist garbage, but public shows like this are as dry dry dry as dust. Is there no middle ground?
posted by dydecker at 1:58 PM on February 7, 2009


public shows like this are as dry dry dry as dust
i think the real problem is, people expect to be entertained while they're absorbing critical information. watching smart people talk about important stuff is engaging enough without fast cuts and a pumping baseline. people need to be less tolerant of having their intelligence insulted and more able to concentrate for more than five minutes.

... i'm a dreamer, i know.
posted by klanawa at 2:08 PM on February 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


Finally, you're not the sole arbiter of what is and isn't funny, I thought the segment was pretty funny. If you've got such a stick up your ass you can't laugh at jokes about Our Hero, that's your problem

Same to you buddy! Christ, we're equally entitled to comment, and I wasn't calling Stewart, Your Hero, a trite hack, merely saying that I felt that particular joke fell flat. And I have stated repeatedly I am all for reasoned criticism of any person or president, especially one we invest so much hope and potential over-idealism in. If I misinterpreted Stewart's intentions I'm sorry, and I'm open to that possibility, but at the time it looked to me like he was senselessly rubbing salt in an entirely frivolous wound.

And America's discourse is dysfunctional, unless you mean functional in the sense of "functional alcoholism", like being able to merely survive under arduous internal conditions. I wish we could actually be talking about the point of this FPP, which I found really insightful in the way it talked about the religion of the media being one of savviness and how they will accept the most extreme ideologues so long as they do not question their underlying narrative that they know what is really going on in Washington and the world as a whole. I mean, I'm sorry Delmoi, but your jumping down my throat here I think is just another instantiation of the violent polarization of discourse in America. Like if I'm not with you, who so clearly has it all figured out, I might as well be with the terrorists or neo-conservatives or what have you. I'm sorry if I was ambiguous in bringing Stewart into this, but your reaction seems to display just how uncooperative your discourse is to narratives which appear competitive to yours. My point is, we're on the same "team" here, I agree with your above descriptions of the economic constraints on the media landscape... so do we really need all this hostility? If Obama means anything, and he doesn't have to herald anything to you in particular, but at least his election should mean that the right path now is to be able to reach out and actually enter into dialogue with each other instead of spouting vitriol.
posted by kaspen at 2:38 PM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Before it became the juggernaut it is today, The Daily Show tended not to skewer politicians directly. Rather, the show was a parody of the press, usually venturing into political issues (e.g. Clintonian curvature) only by proxy. And then Columbine, and then 9/11, with their respective Faces of Death tape-loops, and what started out as Talk Soup with a desk became something altogether more relevant.

Then came Iraq: The press rolled over, and The Daily Show called them on it. Did the press take notice and shape up? Of course not.

When the mainstream media took notice of a whole generation (who don't remember a time when the news media weren't worthy of ridicule) flocking to Comedy Central to learn about current events, the only lesson derived therefrom was that, as klanawa aptly put it, people expect to be entertained while they're absorbing critical information. The "critical information" is apparently less important than rhyming, alliterative, and/or pun-laden headlines. In their quest for ratings, the 24-hour news networks began, without the slightest appreciation of irony, to imitate a parody of themselves. Fuck "the good of society," just give 'em what they want; no medicine, just the spoonful of sugar.

Suddenly The Daily Show was the most prominent of a select few outlets for real criticism of the Bush administration. Soon enough, that press-as-proxy, now a frustratingly unfunny and increasingly irrelevant lost cause, was eschewed in favor of direct political commentary.

What will that mean to a show whose audience suddenly worships their president more than they do Jon Stewart? A lot of toes in a lot of water, methinks.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:02 PM on February 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


So according to Paul Krugman all the bipartisanship in the senate will cost about 600,000 Jobs. A small price to pay to sooth a few D.C. egos.

Does anyone know if bills that come out of conference can be re-filibustered in the senate?
posted by delmoi at 3:19 PM on February 7, 2009


I'm sorry Obama didn't think bigger. I realize this stimulus bill is the biggest in our history in terms of dollars, but it needed to be even bigger. Or it needed to be ALL spending and no tax cuts. There are no do-overs here. This bill is going to be like using a bandaid on someone whose arm was just torn off by a shark. Will it help? Sure. But there's still going to be a ton of blood gushing out around the bandaid.

Slashing aid to states was simply insane. Good luck teachers and firemen and policemen and libraries and trash guys and sewer guys, and on and on. Lotta jobs gonna be lost, or states will do what CA is doing and cut the work weeks down involuntarily. Peoples' checks will go up (yay tax cuts) then back down even more (boo, lost work days).

And what's up with Steele? Is he retarded? "There's never been a government in history that's created a job!" Says the guy leading a pile of Republicans EMPLOYED BY THE GOVERNMENT. I guess he doesn't consider these real jobs: teachers, firemen, cops, astronauts, city planners, trash collectors, soldiers, etc, etc, etc, etc. Almost 1 out of every 3 jobs in this country is linked to government either directly or indirectly. My significant other worked for 34 years, paychecks paid by the government, pension secured by and paid for by the government. Steele must have cottage cheese for brains...or else he thinks we do.
posted by jamstigator at 6:37 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this - it was interesting and a really good compliment to the Moyer's Buying the War episode. As deeply amazed I was that the press got the pre-war WMD story wrong (not being skeptical of governmental claims, not giving airtime to dissenting expert opinions, ignoring the massive protests), it's been even more shocking to me at how the press seems not to understand just how wrong they were - that it wasn't just a case of a few bad Judy Miller apples but a fundamental issue.
posted by Staggering Jack at 6:17 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


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