Put me in, coach


We've got a new "Think Again" column here called "The Costs of Enforced Sexual Ignorance."

It can be a depressing spectacle indeed watching the sideshow that is Hannity & Colmes as it goes into overdrive attempting to smear Democratic candidates, in particular Sen. Barack Obama -- note that in a one-hour show on Monday (5/5/08), there were 26 mentions or video clips of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and 33 mentions of former Weather Underground member William Ayers, according to Nexis. (Accounting for commercials, that's a combined rate of nearly 1.5 mentions every minute). One wonders, of course, what exactly is being seen -- is this journalism? An infomercial for conservatives or, rather, against liberals? Or, if you're not familiar with Fox News, you might wonder: Could this be satirical

are these guys serious?

Hannity & Colmes draws an average of 1.9 million viewers per night. Unsettling, until you find out that Comedy Central's The Daily Show gets about the same -- 1.8 million. The Daily Show also poses similar questions to viewers: Am I watching satire, or -- given the often political content and the nature of the jokes, which often puncture misguided dialogue like that of Sean Hannity -- am I watching a real bit of journalism?

The Project for Excellence in Journalism has attempted to measure some aspects of the show that go toward answering these questions. In examining The Daily Show for an entire year (2007), they found that:

  • The program's clearest focus is politics, especially in Washington. U.S. foreign affairs, largely dominated by the Bush administration's policies in Iraq, Washington politics and government accounted for nearly half (47%) of the time spent on the program. Overall, The Daily Show news agenda is quite close to those of cable news talk shows.

  • The press itself is another significant focus on The Daily Show. In all, 8% of the time was made up of segments about the press and news media. That is more than double the amount of coverage of media in the mainstream press overall during the same period.

  • A good deal of the news, however, is also absent from The Daily Show. In 2007, for example, major events such as the tragic Minneapolis bridge collapse were never discussed. And the shootings at Virginia Tech, the most covered story within a given week in 2007 by the overall press, received only a cursory mention.

  • Republicans in 2007 tended to bear the brunt of ridicule from Stewart and his crew. From July 1 through November 1, Stewart's humor targeted Republicans more than three times as often as Democrats. The Bush administration alone was the focus of almost a quarter (22%) of the segments in this time period.

  • The lineup of on-air guests was more evenly balanced by political party. But our subjective sense from viewing the segments is that Republicans faced harsher criticism during the interviews with Stewart. Whether this is because the show is simply liberal or because the Republicans control the White House is harder to pin down.

The Daily Show, of course, often advances a more serious political discussion than the allegedly news-centered Hannity & Colmes, and it serves as a good counterbalance in that way. Whether it roasts Democrats if they happen to take political control next year is, I suppose, still an open question -- but really, the target of the show's ridicule is essentially incompetence, which has no political stripe. It's just that one political party has owned the market share of incompetence over the past seven years, along with a good deal of the media.

Greg Mitchell at Editor & Publisher notes another disparity in coverage between The New York Times and McClatchy over Iraq, not unlike what was seen in the run-up to the war. He writes:

Michael Gordon, the military writer for The New York Times who contributed several false stories about Iraqi WMD in the runup to the U.S. attack on Iraq in 2002, has written several articles in the past year about Iran's alleged training of Iraqi insurgents -- or supplying them with weapons to kill Americans. He produced another major report on this subject for today's Times - based solely on unnamed sources -- which is at odds with an account from McClatchy's Baghdad bureau.

Note the list of officials quoted in Gordon's stories:

  • "An American official"

  • "But the Americans say"

  • "American officials"

  • "American officials"

  • "The Americans "

  • --"American officials"

  • --"An American official"

More here.

McCain Suck-Up Watch: "The Associated Press' Libby Quaid wrote that Sen. John McCain "dismissed Democratic rival Barack Obama as having zero national security experience," quoting McCain as saying that Obama "obviously has no national security experience, and therefore that's reflected in his judgment on a number of those issues." Quaid did not challenge McCain's accusation, nor did Quaid note that Obama has been involved in several bills and initiatives related to national security." More here.

From TomDispatch:

"Nineteen years ago," Michael Klare -- author of the just-published book, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet -- reminds us, "the fall of the Berlin Wall effectively eliminated the Soviet Union as the world's other superpower." Less than a month ago, Klare writes, the United States similarly lost its claim to superpower status. In a strikingly original analysis of where rising energy prices have put an oil-addicted America, he suggests that the United States suffered its own equivalent of the fall of the Berlin Wall when, last month, oil prices first surged over $110 a barrel, gasoline prices at the American pump crossed the $3.50 a gallon threshold, and diesel fuel soared over $4. The U.S. as a superpower, he concludes, is as all-over as the Soviet Union was in 1989.

"The USA," he adds, "will no doubt continue to stumble on like the superpower it once was; but as the nation's economy continues to be eviscerated to pay for its daily oil fix, it, too, will be seen by increasing numbers of savvy observers as an ex-superpower-in-the-making." The rest of the startling piece is a sharp-as-tacks consideration of just how this happened, how a country whose wealth and strength rested on an abundance of cheap petroleum, was transformed into a "dry hole superpower."

From Middle Eastern "sovereign wealth funds," stuffed with U.S. petrodollars and cherry-picking prime American assets, to a gas-guzzling Pentagon, Klare explores the bleak energy landscape of the former "sole superpower" -- as well as the irony that, as the U.S. sinks in a sea of oil, Russia has been refloated as an energy power of the first order.

His final words: "As a result of our addiction to increasingly costly imported oil, we have become a different country, weaker and less prosperous. Whether we know it or not, the energy Berlin Wall has already fallen and the United States is an ex-superpower-in-the-making."

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Victor Navasky, Christopher Cerf
Hometown: New York City

We were pleased to see your May 5 comments on expertology, but regret that you did not draw on the latest, and recently published, study of the Institute of Expertology, "Mission Accomplished! Or How We Won the War in Iraq: The Experts Speak" by Christopher Cerf and Victor S. Navasky. Had you done so, you would have been able to cite the failed expertise of half of the Op Ed "experts" the Times quoted. Example: "The only prudent and realistic course of action left to the United States is to mount a full-scale invasion of Iraq to smash the Iraqi armed forces, depose Saddam's regime, and rid the country of weapons of mass destruction." Kenneth M. Pollack, former Director for Persian Gulf Affairs, National Security Council, September, 2002.

Christopher Cerf
Victor S. Navasky
Co-Founders, The Institute of Expertology

Eric replies: Please don't fire me.

Name: Brendan Keefe
Hometown: Rochester, NY

I enjoyed the video of your talk at the Strand quite a lot. Thanks for posting the link to it.

I miss seeing you on BloggingHeads.tv. I hope you'll reconsider your position about not going on there. Perhaps you could have Will Wilkerson interview you about your book on his "Free Will" series, rather than doing a standard debate-style diavlog. We could use a few people on that site who aren't afraid to say they're liberals.

Eric replies: We're working on setting up one about the book. Thanks for asking.

Name: John B
Hometown: Des Moines, IA

I ask this question way too often these days, but why is this not the biggest story in Washington right now? When the person most responsible for PROTECTING whistleblowers is instead IGNORING or ratting them out to superiors we have reached a level of perverse criminality that is absolutely mind-boggling. Think back to the days when the incoming Bush administration mockingly promised "the most ethical administration in history." Even at the time it was obvious they were taunting the outgoing administration and had no intention of being held to that. It was creepy, ridiculous, maddening how the press let them get away with it -- without even straight faces. The MSM is still letting them get away with it. And we should respect the talking heads because of their oh, so serious, straight faces.

Name: Ed
Hometown: Arlington, TX

One year ago, my cousin was killed by a sniper in Baghdad. Lord, how much longer ...

Name: RuthAlice Anderson
Hometown: Portland, OR

In today's anti-Hillary column, Dowd wrote: "Obama is like her idealistic, somewhat naive self before the world launched 1,000 attacks against her, turning her into the hard-bitten, driven politician who has launched 1,000 attacks against Obama."

I found the lack of agency in this sentence remarkable given that at least half those 1,000 attacks came directly from Dowd's own pen.

Name: Chuck
Hometown: Kansas City

I also watched some coverage of the Indiana and North Carolina election returns, and was put off by the likes of Pat Buchanan and Bill Bennett giving advice to the "Democrat" party for the general election. Kind of like hiring the Fox as a henhouse security consultant, no?

I've always thought the "genius" of Karl Rove is very simple. In a 2 person race, all you need to do is make the other candidate look worse than yours, preferably by a proxy smear. It worked against Gov. Richards in Texas, vs. McCain in 2000, vs. Kerry in 2004, and for Gov. Siegelman's opponent in Alabama. My hope is the Obama campaign will not hire the same consultants that have allowed this to happen to their candidates over and over. Or bet everything on Ohio or Florida again.

And much has been made of Chris Matthews' comments on Limbaugh's Operation Chaos, calling it unpatriotic, but during the MSNBC coverage Tim Russert acknowledged the e-mails he's received complaining about McCain's free ride on his Iraq/Iran comments and support from Rev. Hagee may yet slow down the Straight Talk Express. After the primaries are over.

Name: Alan Beckoff
Hometown: Hollis Hills, NY

I am the one who had the linked exchange with the NY Times' public editor last year about the disproportionate Yankees/Mets coverage. It may have evened up slightly this season, but I have to admit that the way the Mets are playing, most days I skip the sports section altogether.

Eric replies: Hey, they win 12-1 and are still on the bottom of the page, below a Yankees loss. No justice, no peace ...

Name: Roger H. Werner
Hometown: Stockton California

Although I have lived in Stockton since 1981, I grew up in NYC and was an avid baseball fan until I moved to California in 1974. I recall that the NYC newspapers were always biased against the Mets (except for Newsday). Even when the Mets won the World Series against Baltimore in 1969, the Yankees received the greater total coverage. Back then I seem to recall that the most popular sports section of any New York paper was provided by the Daily News (probably due in part to Dick Young) but if one cared about the Mets, Newsday was the paper to read. The NY Times sports section was not popular in my circle of fanatical sports friends. It is interesting that after 40+ years, Yankee bias remains rooted in the NY Times and the remaining NY papers (except Newsday). Frankly, I can understand a Times bias but how can one explain bias at the Daily News or NY Post since they don't have a national reach?

Name: john
Hometown: Seattle

How could you leave out the greatest baseball song of all?

"Take Me Out to the Ballgame"! And while the Hold Steady may or may not do a fine cover, the only version that matters is the one belted out by the 7th-inning faithful.

I'd also put "Mrs. Robinson" on the list.

Eric replies: No and yes ...

Name: Jeff Weed
Hometown: Little Elm, TX

Dr. A,

How about "Willie, Mickey & the Duke (Talkin' Baseball)" by (former Jim Croce producer) Terry Cashman?

On the not-so-good side, after the death of Harry Caray, the Cubs paraded out a number of celebrities to lead the 7th inning stretch sing-along of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at Wrigley Field. Among the most hilariously awful of these were Mike Ditka and Ozzy Osbourne.

Almost done reading Why We're Liberals -- good work, Doc!

Eric replies: Not a bad song, but I was going by their list ...

Name: Paul Goode
Hometown: Redmond, WA

What about Bruce Springstone's "Take Me Out To The Ballgame"? It's the B-side of the hilarious "Meet The Flintstones" parody.

Eric replies: One of the great songs of all time, actually, both sides. And I heard it performed live, once upon a time. I think the guy died relatively recently, though.

Speaking of Bruce, we all apparently missed this. I would have sprung for the grand if it had been a better cause (and I hadn't seen him last week). I think I goofed, alas.

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