Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Only Morning in American Was In "Morning Glory?" (Big-Time Media Liars Abound!) & Finally Someone (Ratigan) Mentions Lost Opportunity Cost!

I absolutely adored the silly movie, Morning Glory, and one of the reasons (besides Rachel McAdams' unexpected star turn) was this startling bit of repartee inserted in the bubble-headed dialogue that they shared at a crucial movie moment. (Speaking of the article below written almost eloquently by James Wolcott, don't the midterms seem as far away now as the stolen 2000 election?) (Emphasis marks and some editing inserted - Ed.)

In Morning Glory, last year’s most underrated movie comedy, go-getter breakfast-show producer Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams, divine), in a burst of exasperation, explains the facts of life to journalistic warhorse Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford, face furrowed with mental indigestion):

“The world has been debating news versus entertainment for years, and guess what? You lost!”

Which hasn’t stopped the losing side from singing the chain-gang blues. Civic-minded souls in journalism, academe, and the mushroom farms of C-span panels can still be heard lamenting the infestation of news and politics by showbiz values, a war between informed debate and pole dancing that they (unlike Ford’s Pomeroy) recognize as a lost cause, hence their elegiac tone, the dead fly in their lemonade.

The days when the words “Hollywood actor” framed Ronald Reagan like bunny fingers as an ID tag and an implied insult seem far-off and quaint: nearly everybody in politics — candidate, consultant, pundit, and Tea Party crowd extra alike — is an actor now, a shameless ham in a hoked-up reality series that never stops. (Only Mitt Romney doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo, his polished-leather insincerity unsalted with irony or anything remotely self-aware.)

Mourning the fall of the judicious savant (or solon) and the rise of the preening jester is pointless, foolish; elite opinion has failed this country so miserably that it has no moral or intellectual standing left, only its club-member privileges.

Think back on the Iraq war and the W.M.D.’s, the Terri Schiavo circus, the iguana contortions of John McCain under the guise of maverick integrity, the Wall Street meltdown and bailout—TV satirists and late-night hosts drove much deeper nails into the marrow of what was happening than the editorial pages of The Washington Post, that prison morgue of Beltway consensus.

A new political-entertainment class has moved into the noisy void once occupied by the sage pontiffs of yore, a class just as polarized as our partisan divide: one side holding up a fun-house mirror to folly, the other side reveling in its own warped reflection.

The rival sides massed their forces on the Washington Mall before the midterm elections, summoning ignorant armies that didn’t so much clash by night as give each other askance looks across distant afternoons. On August 28, 2010, Fox News messiah Glenn Beck hosted a “Restoring Honor” revival meeting featuring sexy guest star Sarah Palin, much as Bob Hope would roll out Raquel Welch in white go-go boots on his U.S.O. tours to give our fighting men a morale lift in their khakis.

Even in a clown era, Beck is an unlikely crusade leader. Round and beige, he resembles one of the squeamish pod sperm awaiting launch instructions upstream in Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex.

Like radio god Rush Limbaugh, Beck combines the roles of pedagogue and demagogue into a single luncheon meat, slathered in blather. But where Limbaugh stays on track in the radio studio, taking a single theme and pounding it flat, Beck is a grab-bag collage artist of half-baked ideas and lore, grafting bits of history and chunks of speculation into a clanking Frankenstein monster with Barack Obama’s face sewn onto Karl Marx’s head and one arm raised in permanent Nazi salute “liberal Fascism” as an evil action figure.

Easily excitable, Beck expresses himself on a glandular level, maudlin tears springing from his squeezable head as he finds himself overcome by the dark prospects his prophecies reveal. But his big-top showmanship, like Limbaugh’s, is unquestioned, and he was able to draw an estimated 87,000-plus star-spangled fans to the Mall, despite their trepidation at being in a city so abundant with black people.

Two months later, Beck’s inspirational call was answered by Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear,” a political-vaudeville gala featuring music by the Roots and John Legend, Colbert prancing around in an Evel Knievel jumpsuit, and capped with a secular sermon by Stewart that castigated the media for the melodramatic polarization of our politics — “the country’s 24-hour politico pundit perpetual panic conflictinator” was what he called this spew machine.

So earnest, incisive, and eloquent was Stewart’s peroration (reminiscent of the end scene in Scrooged, when Bill Murray’s cynic gets sincere) that one liberal blogger saluted him as “our first Jewish president,” mensch in chief. Others were less wowed. Bill Maher, the more libertarian lone-wolf host of his own HBO series and another high-ranking member of the political-entertainment caste, considered the Stewart-Colbert rally a Kabuki show of empty calories:

“If you’re going to have a rally, you might as well make it about something.”

Janet Malcolm, covering the event for The New York Review of Books (how odd — New York Review correspondents so seldom venture outdoors), found Stewart’s sentiments commendable but his rhetoric mushy and the entire event too aglow in its own huggable goodness. “We were at a giant preen-in,” she wrote.

Despite such criticisms, optimists took heart that the Stewart-Colbert rally attracted twice as many congregants as Beck’s (more than 200,000 was the estimate), which seemed like a victory for tolerance, rationality, and comedy over flag-waving, flabby-jowled demon-hunting. A few days later, however, came the midterm elections, and optimists could be heard hyperventilating into paper bags, overcome with panic attacks over the Republican gains.

It was Beck’s militia that had the momentum and lit up the scoreboard, the cool blue of sanity no match for the red-hot farrago of doomsday rhetoric. A blogger named David Seaton provided the keenest insight into the tactical superiority of Beck’s home-brewed surrealism.

“To understand what Beck is doing, to understand him, you must suspend your capacity for rational thought and just let the emotions wash over you and try to take note of them as they assault your endocrine system,” Seaton wrote. As America enters the downward slope of empire — its debt mounting, the disparity between wealthy and poor continuing to chasm, the environmental ravages becoming irreversible, high unemployment becoming the cruel norm — the Richie Riches have a vested interest in misdirecting people by blaming the powerless for the sins of the powerful.

Incoherence isn’t a bug in Beck’s software program, it’s the primary directive.

Seaton: “That is what the Tea Party, Fox, etc., is all about: keeping people from thinking straight. The idea is to play on people’s emotions: fear, hate, racism, xenophobia, just to keep them from doing the math.

The Teabaggers, Beck, [Gingrich] and Fox [News] are often criticized for not making any sense. This is not a failure of communication or an error on their part. That is the object of the exercise: to make rational thought difficult or impossible due to emotional overload.” (My italics.)

The gap between those who grasp this and those clinging to the floating driftwood was dramatized in a Rolling Stone panel discussion in which renegade journalist Matt Taibbi flat out called the Tea Partiers “crazy,” much to the tea-pinkie dismay of David Gergen and pollster Peter Hart.

You simply can’t write off such a large slice of the electorate as mental patients, Gergen demurred. (Gergen’s the Perry Como of demurral.) Sure you can, Taibbi replied. “I interview these people. They’re not basing their positions on the facts—they’re completely uninterested in the facts. They’re voting completely on what they see and hear on Fox News and afternoon talk radio, and that’s enough for them.”

This disinformation addiction puts the political satirists on the left at a disadvantage—how do you poke fun at nonsense that’s intended to be nonsensical, an ideological crack pipe blowing smoke into millions of brains?

Swiftian satire clicks only for those already compos mentis.

And thus, the reason it was wise to get rid of decent public education before the expensive clown show came to town. Please read all of Wolcott's eloquent take on the magic and outcome of intended dumbification. You won't regret it.

And speaking of "dumbification," let's take a look at just one big-time media liar's response to criticism that his misrepresentations of (well, almost everything) events has been a factor in leading to the stalking of political figures like Representative Gabrielle Giffords. It's stunning (his lack of scruples and ability to continue to lie on a major TV channel where they want you to believe them about the stark market malarkey). From our buddies at Crooks and Liars (emphasis marks added - Ed.):

Neil Cavuto is tired of the introspection. Evidently he's also tired of history books.

[Side note: Be sure to catch the, um, startling segue at the end of the video. This came at the very end of Cavuto's show. It'll make you laugh. - Ed.]

Neil Cavuto has had enough, and doggone it, we should just quit the introspection and blame the crazy. Because you know, John Wilkes Booth didn't have talk radio, or chalkboards, or Fox News, or MSNBC, but he still shot Abraham Lincoln.

Yes, he really said that, which means to me that he also hasn't cracked a history book in a long, long time.

Forget Cavuto's effort to make us think insanity happens in a bubble outside the world we live in. His John Wilkes Booth analogy falls on its face right out of the gate, because John Wilkes Booth may not have had talk radio, but he did have access to the Secret Service, and the high echelons of the Confederacy.

John Wilkes Booth was a spy for the Confederate cause. As an actor, he had access to people and places others might not have and used his skills to shuttle information back to Confederate generals throughout the war. He wasn't crazy; he was a traitor.

This was what he believed:

"This country was formed for the white not for the black man. And looking upon African slavery from the same stand-point, as held by those noble framers of our Constitution, I for one, have ever considered it, one of the greatest blessings (both for themselves and us) that God ever bestowed upon a favored nation."

Not all that far off from some things we've heard in the past two years, is it?

Booth's association with the Confederacy was not recent, either. He had functioned as a double agent at the hanging of John Brown. He donned a militia uniform and assumed the role of guard, to make sure there were no attempts to rescue Brown ahead of the hanging. That was in 1859.

Throughout the war, he was an ardent sympathizer and spy, and when he saw an opportunity, he aimed his gun and assassinated the President of the United States because he (violently) did not agree with him.

Not because he was "nutcase." This wasn't an "isolated incident."

What an unfortunate analogy for Cavuto to make. I can't think of one more inappropriate than that one, given Booth's role and attitude toward Lincoln. Booth was as sane as the rest of us. He was simply angry that the North had prevailed - so angry he plotted and succeeded at assassinating Lincoln.

And why did he choose Booth? Because there was talk radio and hate talk when JFK and RFK were assassinated? Because there is talk radio and hate talk now? Because there are many, many similarities between the toxicity of today's airwaves and those of the 1960's?

But no. Instead he chooses one of the most sane and rational assassins in American history to argue his case that Saturday's shooting was just another lunatic gone crazy.

These are the people who are winning.

Think about it.


And, finally, someone (Dylan Ratigan) mentions "losing the opportunity cost of all the great ideas that should be coming from the proper deployment of that 23.7 trillion in capital," which we reap from allowing the rich to buy elections so they can give themselves tax cuts. Kudos, Dylan!

If you allow weak, outdated players to take control of the government and change the rules so they are protected from the natural competition and reward systems that have created so many innovations in our country, you not only steal from the citizens on behalf of the least worthy but you also doom them by trapping the capital that would be used to generate new innovation and, most tangibly in our current situation, jobs. We are losing the opportunity cost of all the great ideas that should be coming from the proper deployment of that 23.7 trillion in capital. Everything from innovation in medical delivery systems to accessible space travel, free energy to the driverless car; all of these things may never come to bear because those powerful individuals who have failed, been passed over by technological advancements, innovation and flat-out smarts, have commandeered our government to unfairly sustain their wealth and power. Unfortunately, they use our wealth and laws not only to benefit their outdated, failed companies, but also spend a small pittance of their ill-gotten gains lobbying and favor-trading with politicians so the government will continue to protect them from competition and their well-deserved failure. The massive spike in unemployment, the utter destruction of retirement wealth, the collapse in the value of our homes, the worst recession since the Great Depression have all resulted directly from the abdication of proper government. Even with all that - the only changes that have been made, have been made to prop up and hide the massive flaws on behalf of those who perpetuated them. Still utterly nothing has been done to disclose the flaws in this system, improve it or rebuild it. Only true rules-based capitalism ensures constant adaptation and implementation of the latest and best practices for a given business, as those businesses that don't adapt fail, and those who deploy the latest innovations to their customers benefit, prosper.

Fun fact reported last year by CNN which is becoming more and more obvious (as if it were ever a mystery):

Political, religious and sexual behaviors may be reflections of intelligence, a new study finds. Evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa at the the London School of Economics and Political Science correlated data on these behaviors with IQ from a large national U.S. sample and found that, on average, people who identified as liberal and atheist had higher IQs. This applied also to sexual exclusivity in men, but not in women. The findings will be published in the March 2010 issue of Social Psychology Quarterly. When we see the tea baggers how can there be any question that they are bringing down the average intelligence of their side? Even beyond them, it is hardly a surprise that there is some tendency for intelligent people to be the ones who accept ideas beyond those which are more conventionally held. The more intelligent might come to different answers as to belief in God, but it is the more intelligent who will even consider such questions as opposed to following what they have been taught. There’s no question that there are intelligent people who are conservative and religious. However, being conservative at present by the American definition generally means accepting many claims that are factually untrue, believing a revisionist history of the United States, accepting “Voodoo Economics” in place of actual economics, and rejecting modern science. While there are clearly limitations to this study, there really should be no question that there will be a tendency, even if not absolute, for intelligent people to tend to be more liberal.

When many in the conservative movement reject intelligence as elitism and pride themselves on their know-nothing attitude, this can only lead to the results seen. These results are also not surprising as numerous studies have demonstrated that more educated people are now voting Democratic as opposed to Republican.

Education has become the strongest predictor of partisan preference over the past decade. The correlation to both political and religious views is consistent with polls showing that frequency of church attendance also predicts support for Republicans. Studies have also showed that scientists support Democrats over Republicans by large margins.

Read the essay if you want to know about the sexual exclusivity part.

Suzan ____________________

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