Don't stop thinking about tomorrow ...


We've got a new "Think Again" column called "Hatred for Sale" here.

George Zornick writes:

Tim Russert reads his job description: "But in an interesting way ... it's a role I think the media can play in really trying to keep pushing this back to this big debate on big issues and not get caught up in a lot of this minor squirmishing [sic] that goes on and videotape that gets released where we just run wild with it and sit back and say, what happened? Why did we not cover some of these big differences like Iraq, like Iran, like negotiating around the world, like health care?"

That is an "interesting way" for the media to work, indeed. As the head of NBC's Washington bureau and host of one of the most popular political shows in the country, Russert is well-positioned to act on this revelation, and time will tell if he does.

I note, though, that on May 15 Russert acknowledged that Sen. John McCain was basically getting a free pass from the media, but promised that "when Senator McCain is back in the media's light, he'll receive the same scrutiny."

But then there was this:

NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert, who in February stated that "the story about Senator [John] McCain and lobbyists and ethics and money -- that continues," again ignored the issue of "McCain and lobbyists and ethics and money" on the May 25 edition of Meet the Press, despite numerous recent, related developments bearing on that issue.

And this:

On Meet the Press, Russert allowed GOP strategist Murphy to falsely claim that "Rubin mischaracterized," "paraphrased" McCain

And that's without even getting into the reporting of his Washington bureau. Once again, we're waiting, Tim...

Eric adds: I noticed on The Daily Show this morning that Tim Russert said he would "love" to be an inner city high school teacher this morning. Well, let's pause on that thought for a moment. What a wonderful world it would be indeed if Tim were to give up MTP and the millions he earns making it and take a job teaching in inner city high schools, and the teachers whose beginning salaries start in the high twenties went to work schmoozing with politicians and stuff. Heck, you could probably hire a thousand of them for what Timmy, George and whoever is on CBS pull in. Some of these guys might like to practice some real journalism too. Now that would be a switch. I wonder how many of them, if given the opportunity to moderate a Democratic debate, would demand, like Gibson and Stephanopoulos, over and over, that the candidates pledge themselves to cut taxes for the five percent of Americans who earn $200K or more a year... I wonder how many would ask about Bill Ayers or Louis Farrakhan or flag pins. I wonder if, like Timmy, they would demand of Barack Obama and Colin Powell, but no one else, that they speak up about the pronouncements of Harry Belafonte. I wonder ...

One journalistic error corrected, only 4,927,621 left to go: "[Y]esterday on Hannity & Colmes -- after almost four months of silence -- a Fox anchor finally gave [Karl] Rove his proper title. While Rove was slamming Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) as a 'weak' candidate, Alan Colmes, the liberal co-host of the show, interrupted and noted that Rove was a McCain supporter who informally advises the senator." Here.

Rove had been appearing on the network since February to discuss the election without ever disclosing that he was working for one of the candidates. If anyone actually thought Rove was objective anyway they're nuts. Still, kudos ...

Today's Think Again column discusses the inflammatory misinformation on illegal immigration pushed by like of Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck. One particularly nutty claim that Dobbs likes to make during his prime-time, nationally televised broadcast on CNN is that there is a secret plan to build a NAFTA Superhighway four football fields wide that would run through our heartland, connecting Mexico to Canada, and would be the precursor to a North American Union that would cede America's sovereignty to this new North American order. (No, really.)

Anyway, if you're in the mood for a laugh, check out this video of Media Matters' Paul Waldman, author of the study cited in our column, pressing Dobbs on his show to actually provide evidence that such a plan exists. High comedy ensues.

Naïve, my ass, says my buddy Fred ...

This week on Moyers:

There's nothing new in Scott McClellan's book about the propaganda campaign or the role of the press in selling the war, so why is it such big news? Journalists Jonathan Landay and John Walcott of McClatchy Newspapers and Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher analyze the reaction of the administration and the media to McClellan's book. Landay and Walcott were part of an award-winning team of journalists at Knight Ridder (now McClatchy) that consistently challenged the administration's case for war, and Mitchell is the author of So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits-and the President-failed on Iraq. The program reviews how the press is handling other important stories today.

From TomDispatch:

Put some scare quotes around this one: Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and TomDispatch regular William Astore considers the latest military plans to garrison cyberspace. The Air Force, he writes, has now set up its own Cyber Command, redefined the Internet as just more "air space" fit for "cyber-craft," and launched its own Bush-style preemptive strike on the other military services for budgetary control of the same. If that's not enough for you, it's now proposing a massive $30 billion cyberspace boondoggle that will, theoretically, provide the Air Force with the ability to fry any computer on Earth.

"Using the latest technology," he writes, "our cyber elite will 'shoot down' enemy hackers and saboteurs, both foreign and domestic, thereby dominating the realm of cyberspace, just as the Air Force is currently seeking to dominate the planet's air space -- and then space itself 'to the shining stars and beyond.' "

Of course, between militarized dreams and reality lies a great gap of non-performance. Astore suggests that the Air Force is likely to fail in its attempt to send its Cyber Force successfully into cyber-orbit. As he puts it: "Judging by my past experience with large-scale Air Force computer projects, that $30 billion will turn out to be just the tip of the cyber-war procurement iceberg... Shackled to a multi-year procurement cycle of great regulatory rigidity and complexity, the Air Force is likely to struggle but fail to keep up with the far more flexible and creative cyber world, which almost daily sees the fielding of new machines and applications... It is difficult to imagine a culture more antithetical to the world of computer developers, programmers, and hackers."

And "boondoggle" may be the best news. After all, as Astore comments, if the Air Force "should somehow manage to defy the odds and succeed, the future might be even scarier." Think: Arms race in cyberspace.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: George Adase
Hometown: Wheeling, WV

I just finished Why We're Liberals and immediately joined your Media Matters mailing list. Thank you for a well written, easily read, expose of the pseudo-conservative establishment and for shining a light on the truly positive attributes of the long stifled liberal movement in America. I just hope my fellow West Virginians wake up from their self imposed red state delusion sometime soon and help to vote for regime change by putting Barak Obama in the White House. Thanks again for keeping up the good work and fighting the good fight.

Name: John B
Hometown: Des Moines, IA

Well, the battle royal is done, we have a (presumptive) Democratic nominee. Now it would be nice to do something Democrats aren't always very good at, getting that nominee elected. By now it's pretty clear that having the smartest candidate or the best platform doesn't mean much. Winners are picked in large measure on an emotional level. Right now the emotions of the majority of the electorate are mostly against the GOP (for good reason, obviously) but that doesn't mean those emotions couldn't be turned against Barack Obama and toward John McCain by November. To prevent that it behooves Liberals to get better at something Conservatives are very good at. Not unfairly destroying opponents, although that's a Conservative stock in trade. I'm referring to fending off attacks.

Fortunately the Conservative shock troops stay relentlessly focused on a few talking points and pound on them well past the point where they've become useless. The narratives are already made, Liberals just need to have the resolve to beat them back as relentlessly as they're repeated. Don't be surprised and do be prepared when the story becomes 1) Obama is weak because he wants to talk to unfriendly governments. The way Israel is already talking to Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria, or the way the Bush administration is talking to North Korea. 2) Obama is a dangerous Socialist who wants to make fundamental changes in American government. Changes that are desired by substantial majorities of Americans. 3) An Obama administration will increase taxes dramatically on regular Americans. True, if you consider regular Americans to be large corporations and those in the top 10% income range, as well as ignore that Republicans rely on expiration of the Bush tax cuts to pretend their fiscal policies aren't creating a budgetary catastrophe. 4) Barack Obama has been in the vicinity of and even spoken to dangerous individuals like William Ayers, a community activist and college professor never convicted of a serious crime. I once lived next door to a guy who made Meth in his garage, so I must be a drug dealer, and could probably get within 6 degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon, which by Conservative standards makes me a movie star.

Don't imagine the So-Called-Liberal-Media won't fall for this nonsense. They most certainly will if we aren't willing to call them to task every single time they repeat the lies of the Right.

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric --

I agree with the merits of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" that you mention. And the historical point about the overturning of miscegenation laws is a shrewd one, this development probably couldn't be anticipated by William Rose (screenwriter) or Stanley Kramer (director) at the time of the shooting.

I have to disagree about Katharine Houghton's portrayal of Joey Drayton, though. Her character has never made sense to me because she plays Joey as an adolescent ditz. Given the gravitas of Poitier's Dr. Prentice, the couple just isn't a very persuasive match for reasons entirely exclusive of race. His being a doctor seems to be fairly standard code for making him a viable mate for her, as it was in "Within Our Gates" (1919) or in "Pinky" (1949). And within corresponding code, her race and class seem to be sufficient for establishing her merits. But the limits of Houghton's role doesn't weigh very heavily on the plot, as she's pretty quickly shuffled aside in the drama as the more accomplished actors assume the center of our attention.

Incidentally, there's an unintentionally ironic moment in that cab ride that you mention. After the couple kisses, under the glare of the white cab driver through his rear-view mirror, Poitier wipes his chin with a handkerchief. Look closely and you'll see that this gesture is not the result of a sloppy kiss but of Houghton's makeup rubbing off on Poitier's darker skin. Given the racist belief of the times, in which blackness was thought to "rub off" on a white person in an interracial relationship, this scene unwittingly dispenses with that notion. It also marks an interesting point from which to measure the distance traveled from 1967 to Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever" in 1991 and "Bamboozled" in 2000.

Name: M. George Stevenson
Hometown: Bronx, NY

When I was in graduate film school in the mid-'90s, rather than a desert island list of favorite films with an arbitrary cutoff number, I proposed what I thought was a sterner challenge: name the film you would choose if you HAD to watch the same film every day for a year and said mine was All About Eve.

Most of my fellow students, who were generally a good 10 years younger than I am, chose a Star Wars era pic (usually a Lucas, Spielberg or John Hughes) and a few took up my challenge and, in the main, didn't see my point. I assured them that, in time, they would.

Today, as the parent of a 9-year-old, I'm seeing many of their choices on an almost daily basis. This has only further convinced me of the rightness of my choice: Is there anything in all of Lucas, Spielberg or even John Hughes as creepily touching as Anne Baxter's "applause" speech? Or as cruelly revealing as George Sanders' appreciation of Bette Davis in the same scene ("You're maudlin and full of self-pity. You're magnificent!")

While it isn't the greatest movie ever made by a long shot, Joseph L. Mankiewicz' perfect realization of his most penetrating screenplay is still, for my money, the apogee of corporate artistry -- a unified vision realized by a conglomeration of contributors in the service of commercial success.

Name: David Macaray


A few years back (on the occasion of Kate Hepburn's death) I wrote a piece for the LA Times criticizing "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," calling it, as I recall, one of the "worst celebrated movies in history."

To me this soft and gooey film shamelessly pulled its punches at every turn. Poitier was not only brilliant, handsome, humble, courteous and rich, he was presented as saint-like -- a philanthropist and humanitarian. My god, what's not to like? By the end of the movie I wanted to marry him myself.

They even had Poitier's parents objecting to the marriage, which was a nice touch, lest anyone accuse this cloyingly genteel couple of being "racially ambitious." Ground-breaking? Please. It was a terrible movie.

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