Sunday, June 23, 2013

Angry Liberals in America

MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell is staring at me with the uncontrolled intensity usually reserved for serial killers and time-share salesmen. "We know how to get the country back to work. The government needs to lead the way."

He folds a napkin in what looks like some expensive oyster bar, but is probably just a television studio backdrop. "The government has to get us back to work."

O'Donnell already has a job. His job is to yell angry things on MSNBC. Most of his listeners also have jobs or at least they have parents.

MSNBC is not a news network for the unemployed. It is a news network for aging liberals still addicted to listening to angry liberals yell about George W. Bush.

On the television, O'Donnell, doing his best imitation of a strangler, wrings his hands and leans into the camera. Lean Forward, the ad, sandwiched between a drug ad that features smiling families at a picnic while the announcer soothingly tells you all the ways it can kill you and that multiracial Cheerios ad that General Mills hopes to use convince a new generation of consumers that racial progress is more important than good taste, tells me.

The ads are more soothing than the angry MSNBC segments that they bookend. And soothing is code for upscale. Even Lawrence O'Donnell angrily leaning forward in his imaginary upscale oyster bar where there are no other people smells of that same soothing patina of a moneyed world where nothing can go wrong except minor servant problems.

Strip down MSNBC to its skivvies and you find an angry NPR. It's as if all the NPR people have given up speaking in their supercilious voices and after a few drinks at a cocktail party began holding forth on everything wrong with the canap├ęs.

MSNBC is chock full of anger, but like Lawrence O'Donnell choking down his fury in an imaginary oyster bar over the inability of some people to understand that the government has to get us back to work in the fifth year of a liberal administration that promised to do just that, it's an anger that makes no sense.

Liberals like to mock conservatives as a bunch of angry white men, but there are more angry white men yelling at the camera in two hours of MSNBC than in two days of FOX News.

It's not the kind of yelling that unemployed men do when they get a call from the bank telling them that there will be no loan modification. It's the prissy raised voices you hear at Starbucks when the Chris Hayes lookalike is shocked to be told that the java isn't locally sourced and that if he doesn't like that he can take his MacBook Air and finish his Great Unamerican Novel in some other coffee shop with free Wi-Fi.

MSNBCers don't quite yell. Instead they tighten up, grind their teeth and treat viewers like the waiters in their oyster bar who got their order wrong. They aren't going to yell, but they make it clear that they are furious and the only thing keeping them from turning red and breaking down in a screaming fit over nothing is that they suspect deep inside that the only response to their innermost volcanic venting will be a shrug. What angry leftists who grew up convinced of their snowflake specialness fear is that their anger will not change the world. That like a squalling infant in his third rate news network crib, no one will even care.

That is liberal anger, the privileged wheeze of entitled brats who do for politics exactly what their younger counterparts do for music with Pitchfork Magazine. It's not righteous anger, but snob rage, the frustrated fury of the aesthetes of the Hill who hate what is on your iPod, your Kindle and your news feed.

"Republicans," they spit with the venom of a Mohammedan rug merchant matching wits and saliva with his camel on a hot desert day.

"Tea Party. Ted Cruz. John Boehner." These are the dread curses of the MSNBC set and are spoken like obscenities over an overturned car, like a starving urchin cursing the thief who stole his last loaf of bread, like a man sitting in an empty oyster bar speaking the name of the waiter who took his order an hour ago and then never came back.

These are the tales of the tribe that leans forward cupping hands around the smartphones that tell them who their enemies are and how they wronged them in the days of Nixon, the great betrayal of Bush v. Gore and the latest horrible plot just uncovered by the intrepid fabricators at Media Matters.

The tribe has few identities. It isn't big on religions and nations. The borders of the United States are an outdated detail to them and the only ancestry that interests them is the stark divide between white and official minority. What they have are tastes. Their tastes in music, movies, food and politics are more than interest or enjoyment... these things are their identity. The things that they love in a way that they could never love people... give them meaning.

The left is a creature of trends, it pops up in trendy places as the alternative and it is always changing and spawning alternatives to itself. It is always trying to be edgy as it can before it settles down to the pudgy displays of choked down anger of the man who does not quite dare to yell at a waiter on display nightly on MSNBC.

There is a lot of anger on MSNBC, but it is mostly misdirected anger. It is the anger of men who want to yell at their wives and sons but instead gibber at viewers in empty oyster bars that are as fake as their economics. It is the petty anger of men who have put so much of themselves into their hobbies because their shallow egotism permits them no more human a connection and tolerates not even the slightest slights against the objects of their impeccable tastes. It is the anger of an old elite that has become foolish and deranged and does not really know why it is angry anymore... except perhaps because it is dying.

Liberalism in those northeastern circles used to be a matter of good taste. There is nothing good about it anymore. It has become a suicide pact for angry lonely men who wait in imaginary oyster bars for a waiter who will never come, for an Age of Aquarius that will never be born and a transcendence of government that will never arrive no matter how they twist their hands, tug at their red napkins and lean forward.

Liberalism has become sick with its own disease. It is as dogma-ridden as any Red drinking sour beer in 1920s Chicago. It has nothing to offer to anyone except the ideological denunciation of thought crimes and the attendant superiority of being on the right side of the guillotine. And it has the misplaced self-righteousness of those who are busy pretending that they are angry about what is being done to other people, rather than their own egotistical anger with which they confront their sense of futility.

Liberalism, like all trends, seeks novelty, it burns brightest among the young, it plots to escape from history through the engine of progress only to discover that the mortality that is the greatest fear of the intellectual mayfly outlives the schemes of men.

The left personifies vanity. Its activists and advocates envision an escape from time only to drown it. Anger is their engine of change, but their anger makes only a little light and a little heat before it burns out leaving them alone in a cold dark oyster bar with history behind them, leaning forward into oblivion.



The media and the Obama administration are linked at the hip

All sorts of personal ties -- But that doesn't influence their reporting, of course (!)

The mainstream media might just be owned and operated by the Obama Administration-lock, stock and barrel. They are married at the hip, quite literally, and often have relatives within the Administration.

The Washington Post names names in a recent piece entitled, "Media, administration deal with conflicts." Conflicts of interest, that is.

But the Post takes an unusual approach to the conflicts. It says the media are unconcerned and can police their own behavior. Does this sound familiar? Eric Holder, anyone?

"So what to make of all the family ties between the news media and the Obama administration?" writes Paul Farhi for The Washington Post. "According to the news media, nothing much at all," he writes (emphasis added). "News organizations say they've worked out the conflicts-real or potential-involving their journalists. But that hasn't stopped a few eyebrows from being raised."

Consider the words of Richard Grenell, a political consultant who in an appearance on Fox News noted that top networks ABC, CBS and CNN have intimate family ties to the Administration. "CBS News President David Rhodes and ABC News President Ben Sherwood, both of them have siblings that not only work at the White House, that not only work for President Obama, but they work at the NSC on foreign policy issues directly related to Benghazi," said Grenell.

CNN's deputy bureau chief, Virginia Mosely, is married to Tom Nides, who was appointed by Obama to work under Hillary as Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources. This means that the Benghazi scandal causes some familial angst. What better (or worse, depending on your perspective) reason to go soft on reporting than because your own family is involved?

"Conservatives have suggested that these relationships may play a role in how the media cover Obama, specifically in their supposedly timid approach to reporting on the White House's handling of the terrorist attacks last year on American facilities in Benghazi, Libya," writes Farhi.

Clearly, ABC, CBS, and CNN cannot be trusted to tell the whole story on Benghazi. But the bias doesn't end there.

It is commonly known that David Plouffe, Obama's former campaign manager, has joined Bloomberg News as a commentator, and former senior advisor to the president David Axelrod was hired by MSNBC. (The President went so far as to joke at the latest White House Correspondents' Association dinner that "... David Axelrod now works for MSNBC, which is a nice change of pace since MSNBC used to work for David Axelrod.")

What is less well known is that 14 or more journalists have joined the Obama Administration and taken key posts there. "Those inside the administration hit 14 this month when the Post's Stephen Barr joined the Labor Department," reported the Washington Examiner last February. "That's a record, say some revolving door watchers, and could even be much higher: The [Washington] Post reports that "dozens" of former journalists have joined the administration, although Washington Secrets couldn't verify that tally." After all, there's "... a whopping 19 journalists and media executives, including five from The Washington Post and three each from ABC and CNN, who've gone into the administration or center-left groups supporting the president."

So the media have relatives in the Administration, accept political hacks from the Administration as commentators, and have former colleagues who work there. The interrelations are so complex that reporters have to recuse themselves behind the scenes and even reassign employees because the conflicts are too great.

What possible reason, then, would the media have to cover for the Administration's missteps? It looks like there are lots of reasons.

The Washington Post article outlines several more journalists with marital or familial conflicts. For example, "NPR's White House correspondent, Ari Shapiro, is married to a lawyer, Michael Gottlieb, who joined the White House counsel's office in April." And, "The Post's Justice Department reporter, Sari Horwitz, is married to William B. Schultz, the general counsel of the Department of Human Services; the reporter of this article sometimes writes about CBS News and is related to an employee there." In addition, "Biden's current communications director, Shailagh Murray (a former Post congressional reporter), is married to Neil King, one of the Wall Street Journal's top political reporters."

It's no wonder, then, that The New York Times and ABC News reported the recent IRS targeting scandal as a Republican attempt to gain political traction in Washington and throughout the nation, rather than as a Nixonesque grab for power.

But we are supposed to trust the media to recuse themselves from stories in which they have a conflict of interest. "Some outlets demand that their journalists recuse themselves from assignments that might tread too close to a family member's area of responsibility," reports Farhi. "ABC, for example, says that Sherwood doesn't get involved with any stories dealing with arms control, his sister's specialty," he writes. "NPR said Shapiro avoids any story in which a member of the White House counsel's office participates, such as a recent background briefing on Benghazi."

"And CNN said [Virginia] Moseley, who formerly was with ABC News, recuses herself from working on any story about the Benghazi investigation, even though her husband left the State Department in February." Note that two of the examples involve the Benghazi scandal.

While journalists may recuse themselves from stories that they may influence, that doesn't mean their existence as an employee-or, especially, as a leader-doesn't put soft pressure on a news organization to cover the story from a different angle. Sometimes all it takes is a behind-the-scenes comment to influence a story. And generally the biases are known in advance. Accepted truths are just that: the diffuse influence of friends, colleagues, and family members on a person's perspective.

But Farhi certainly leaves readers with the idea that we are safe from media bias. After all, ABC's Shipman "stopped covering politics in late 2008 after her husband, Carney, left Time magazine to become press secretary for Vice President-elect Joe Biden." Carney, of course, later became White House spokesman for President Obama. And late last month, after he had been caught either lying, or passing on wrong information about who at the White House knew about the IRS targeting of conservative groups and when they knew it, he was rewarded with a 900-word, two-page Style section puff-piece in The Washington Post about his musical proclivities and favorite band. If he were a conservative, this would have been said to have humanized him.

"She's [Shipman] now the senior national correspondent for ‘Good Morning, America'" and covers soft topics such as "diet and fitness," says Farhi.

Farhi quotes Jeffrey Schneider, ABC News' chief spokesman, as saying, "There is zero evidence, zero, that [Ben Sherwood's relationship] has had any impact on our coverage." Evidence is an interesting word in this context. How about common sense and human nature? Though not quantifiable evidence, they certainly lead us to draw conclusions. Conclusions that our liberal media clearly don't want us to draw.



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