Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Television and Politics

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Monday evening, I was writing this column as my wife sat watching a Chinese movie, and in another room my daughter was watching “Scooby Doo”. What we all had in common at that moment, is that we were all staring at an electronic screen. Television in its various forms is an integral part of our lives, whether we like it or not. This is most unfortunate in its effect on Politics.

A certain Newsweek writer, whom I do not hold in high enough regard to want to give him attention, has written on the Internet and Politics, throwing out the old notion that JFK was elected in large part because he “mastered” Television, just as “FDR mastered Radio". This writer continued to bubble with enthusiasm about how well various Democrats, especially Liberal ones, have done with popular mediums, as if no Republican knew what to do with a microphone or a camera, or more to the point, as if Style should always trump Substance.

But it would be incorrect to deny Television its victories. Cronkite lied about Vietnam after Tet, and poisoned our effort there. Dan Rather and Mike Wallace have been veritable scorpions in the infant’s crib of public discourse, as far too many people depend on the main channels and networks for their understanding of events, even now. John Kerry got far too close to the White House, and Gore before him, than either man had any reason to hope, and their ally was Television.

We talk about the New Media, but it’s still wearing diapers, folks. The Blogosphere sounds to most people like a sound you make when you sneeze, and the Internet has not established itself for credibility or meaningful discourse. For all the growth, political blogs still amount to less influence than does the National Enquirer, and those blogs which tolerate, much less promote, reader comments and a group forum style of debate on the issues of the day, remain largely ignored, inconvenient noise in the minds of those Celebrities who think our place is to nod eagerly, and of course go out and buy their book. Does Michelle Malkin really think she represents Free Speech, or that closing comments completely has not reduced the freshness of her environment at her blog? I don’t think so, but then she is a nationally syndicated columnist with some eager publishers waiting to put out her work. Does Hugh Hewitt really think that selling t-shirts is a good way to sway Congress on the pressing national issues? Again, I don’t really think so, but I’m not a radio talk show host with his own line of eager publishers to market his latest work. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that Malkin and Hewitt are wrong on their opinion. I agree with them both quite often - except the Illegals issue, where Malkin could really do to lay off the caffeinated beverages while she writes on that subject - but as successful as they are in the Blogosphere, it happened because they made their name in the Old Media to some degree, and pulled their audience over with them. I have not yet found a major Conservative who pulls millions of hits a day, who mainly established himself as a Blogger. It will happen, I am sure, but for here and now it’s important to understand that our medium is still small and generally ignored by those who consider themselves important. We have had some successes, and on moral grounds we are in very good shape, but for now Goliath is still standing, and laughing at the little guy with the sling shot.

So what does this mean for the near future? For one thing, it means every time some so-called Republican attacks his party and his leadership in public, he helps a Democrat replace a Republican, and that is in no way excusable. It means that what voice we Conservative bloggers do have, should be united in its temper and civility, even where we disagree. It means that the old dragon of Television, which sees the death throes of the Old Print Media in the hemorraghing revenues at the New York Times and similar regimes, is afraid for its life, but rather than reform it attempts to destroy what it sees as a rival. This means banal bills in Congress to try controlling the Internet, and with it rein in Free Speech by those whose voice is the most independent. This means that as small as my little bog is, it is seen as a threat by every Status Quo newsroom editor and bureaucrat in D.C.

Fortunately, there is also good news. Blogging is fresh, with a flavor unlike anywhere else, and it carries an honesty which people are beginning to understand has died from the print and broadcast media. And while CBS and other old-guard regimes have started their own blogs, they are even less inclined to allow comments, and thus genuine discourse, than the current Blogging Celebrities like Malkin and Hewitt are willing to grant. Lame doesn’t sell, even for free. And in the end, that might prove to be the Achilles heel for the TV giant. And I will be happy to test that theory. All I need is to keep finding a few smooth stones ...

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

DJ:

I have followed you here. You will not say this, but Polipundit is officially pathetic. Oak Leaf is now a guest blogger, while I cannot barely get an opinion from Lorie or Jayson, and to some extent you.

Hugh Hewitt may have made his name in the 'big' media, but he's dead right regarding November of '06. In the exact same way Poli is wrong. Hewitt says this is not a time to send a message to yor GOP Senator or Representative, and he's exactly right. Poli "impeach Bush" pundit and his types are going to lose us the '06 elections, and Poli doesnt understand how having two more Ruth Bader Ginsburgs on the bench will make immigration pale in comparison.

Harold C. Hutchison said...

Blogging has had its moments, like the time it took down Rather's use of phony memos.

But it's still trying to get there. It's a matter of time, if you ask me. The question is not, "Who will master this technology first?", though.

The real question will be, "Who will come up with the next great ideas for the country?" Mastering a form of media does no good if a person doesn't have something to offer. An absence of ideas will be exposed, be it on radio, TV, or the blogosphere.

DJ Drummond said...

"I cannot barely get an opinion from Lorie or Jayson, and to some extent you."

OK, maybe it's the lack of coffee so far today, but I don't understand that statement. In what way have I not expressed or requested comment?

Cynical Observer said...

I have to admit that I get lost in these "old media" vs. "new media" arguments, because, inevitably these discussions lose the distinction between "news" and commentary, analysis, and opinions on the news.

Bloggers are not news reporters or news gatherers - not yet anyway. We badly need news reporters so that all the analysts, commentators, and opinionators will have something to talk or write about.

The real problem, of course, is that the "old media" has by and large abandoned news reporting, and even any pretense of it, in their quest to become "opinion makers." Seen any real news lately? I haven't. Everything I read and see has already been pre-filtered and selected and spun to fit the media's (obviously biased) agenda. Instead of finding news on the front page of my local newspaper, I find nothing but social and political commentary, or teasers for the entertainment industry (to include sports). This, of course, all started years and years ago, and it just keeps getting worse.

Then along comes the blogosphere. Yeah, there was the singular and unusual event that came to be known as "Rathergate," and a very few other notable exceptions. But for the most part the blogosphere has become a partisan, distorted, agenda-driven screaming match or "ain't-it-awful" pulpit for the extremists.

I'm discouraged by what I see, obviously. I don't have any idea where it will all end up. But until we all realize that without unvarnished news and facts we really have nothing to talk about, and until we further realize that only open, civil and meaningful discourse about the interpretation of those news events will result in anything useful, then we're all lost in the hog wallow that has become the smeared world between news reporting and commentary.

DJ: I've enjoyed your writing because though I don't always agree with you, you are one of the few who tries to provided meaningful, insightful commentary, backed up with detailed background facts, when appropriate.

The Macker said...

Indeed!

Internet blogs, forums and news sites provide real time coverage of news, and enable the reader to self select his own analysts and sources.

The average age of both Network and Cable news viewers is about 60. Young professionals are choosing the internet and bookmarking their favorite sites.

Remember these internet successes:
•Rathergate
•Captain's Quarters on the Canadian Government
•Drudge on Clinton's impeachment
•A blogger on the duplicity of an LA Times columnist

The adult today who can't use the internet is analogous to the adult in days past who couldn't read.

Jeanette said...

DJ,

We quoted from this post on Hang Right Politics and tried to do a trackback to your post. I don't see a place for trackbacks.

Do you know anything about it or could you possibly install haloscan for comments instead of this so when you are quoted you will know it?

Great post today!

Tryptich said...

The blogosphere attracts the best and the brightest of all political stripes and persuasions. Because it is interactive, our beliefs are subject to the crucible of debate. And by attracting the best, and forcing them to debate, cut and parry, we make for a stronger political class.

Only a small percentage of Illinoians heard the Lincoln-Douglas debates. And only a handful then (or now) have read so much as one of the Federalist papers. The numbers who actually bother to read the editorial pages of the NYT, Post or WS Journal are no doubt compariatively small as well when considered against the whole. But have no fear that the blogosphere is making its mark, and is influencing the influential. That alone gives it both credence and staying power.