Jun
29

In Praise of Robert Somerby




Posted at 17:36 by Brad

Yeah, yeah, I know Bob Somerby writes about the abject clowning of our press corps during the 2000 election every damn day, but this is still worth reading. Some highlights:

What a remarkable set of judgments! According to San Francisco’s largest paper, Bush was the “overall victor� because he didn’t embarrass himself! According to the leading pundit in Philadelphia’s largest paper, Bush may have done better than Gore because he didn’t mangle his sentences! [...] (New York Daily News columnist Michael) Kramer said that Bush was “the winner,� offering this as part of his logic: “Bush, although clearly less knowledgeable on most issues…spoke in a soothing, conversational tone that helped answer lingering doubts about his ability to be president.� Was Bush being held to “a very low standard?� To Kramer, Bush countered doubts about his qualifications by speaking in a conversational tone! Bush had been “clearly less knowledgeable�— but soothing! [...] Consider the lead editorial in the Charlotte Observer. “Certainly Mr. Gore dominated the event,� the paper wrote. “While the vice president’s command of a wide range of issues was impressive, Mr. Bush at times seemed timid and unfocused, unable to pursue discussions of some issues beyond a couple of key points.� But so what? “Expectations for Mr. Bush were low from the outset,� the paper explained, “and to many viewers he exceeded them.�

The evidence that our entire press corps is run by self-impressed idiots is considerable. I’m not sure how to fix this. Maybe Bob will offer some suggestions if he ever stops ranting about the corps’ abject clowning in 2000 and writes more about the press corps today.

27 Comments »

  1. Ginger Yellow said,

    June 29, 2006 at 17:50

    One of the reasons, beside abject laziness, that I don’t blog myself is that I worry it would turn me into Somerby. The way the press covered the 2000 election still boggles my mind, even after another 6 years of awful political coverage.

  2. zadig said,

    June 29, 2006 at 18:06

    I think Mr. Somerby is working on the assumption that “Those
    who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” He’s not so much rehashing the past as he’s trying, desperately at times, to get people to see, understand, and acknowledge the past in the vain hope that it can be avoided next time.

    Of course, he was doing that during the 2004 election, too, and look where it got us. But it’s still important to try.

  3. Brad R. said,

    June 29, 2006 at 18:25

    I’m still amazed that the press gave Bush points for not sounding like a complete idiot on a nationally televised debate. When did presidential campaigns become the Special Olympics?

  4. Pinko Punko said,

    June 29, 2006 at 18:27

    Bradrocket, he’s been doing old and new for the last bit here, he has been super sharp on newer stuff- for instance, the ramping up of the Saint McCain- they are laying the groundwork to do it again. With Gore in the news they are still repeating all the bullshit. I remember that first debate and I was in denial of what the press was saying- I was in shock that they could be so stupid.

  5. Brad R. said,

    June 29, 2006 at 18:30

    At some point you gotta lay the blame on the voters for buying into this shit too. I know it’s not PC to do (which is why I will NEVER EVER EVER be hired as a political consultant), but Jesus H., in any other country Bush would be standing on the street corner tossing salads for drugs. In this country, we elected him Commander-in-Chief.

  6. tigrismus said,

    June 29, 2006 at 18:38

    in any other country Bush would be standing on the street corner tossing salads for drugs

    Excuse me while I remove my own brain with a melon baller.

  7. spalding said,

    June 29, 2006 at 18:38

    yes, the voters must carry their share of the blame. talk about voting against your own interests.

  8. Brad R. said,

    June 29, 2006 at 18:49

    It’s not just about the voters- it’s about our entire culture and the way we select our political leaders. This is the only country in the world where being smart is considered a detriment to your campaign chances. That’s why George W. Bush- a spoiled little Northeastern rich kid- puts on this phony air of being a “man of the people.” It helps him that he’s not too bright in real life, because people find that appealing for some godawful reason.

  9. Rob G said,

    June 29, 2006 at 19:39

    Damn right it’s about your culture. I can’t think of anywhere else where the following principles are so powerful;

    1) Perceived success = success
    2) Winning is EVERYTHING
    3) Losing is a sin

    Oh yeah, and the silly way you run your elections.

  10. MCH said,

    June 29, 2006 at 19:46

    The evidence that our entire press corps is run by self-impressed idiots is considerable.

    My smallish amount of MSM experience demonstrated this perfectly. One place was a local newspaper micromanaged by an independently wealthy guy as a hobby. He once published a classic line in a column: “Speaking off the record, {So-and-So} said …” He had no idea why the editor and I were telling him it wasn’t a great idea to print that.

    After that I worked at a tops-in-their-market network TV station (in the late 90s, during l’affair Monica). It’s Vacuous City over there. The egos were thicker than the makeup. Everything goes on in this make-beleive world where glitz and/or blood tops facts any day. And even when one isn’t trying to slant a story, chopping most newsworthy things down to a few disjointed phrases intoned over eight seconds of B-roll is bound to distort things.

    It looks bad at home, I realize; it looks worse from inside when you see what they leave out.

  11. Kathleen said,

    June 29, 2006 at 20:04

    I’m still amazed that the press gave Bush points for not sounding like a complete idiot on a nationally televised debate. When did presidential campaigns become the Special Olympics?

    Brad, if only you had said this in a soothing tone….

  12. Yosef said,

    June 29, 2006 at 20:19

    Remember before the first debate last year on the daily show? They had correspondents in the other camp before hand trying to outdo each other for setting the lowest expections. It came down to them basically saying that the candidates were retarded and they didn’t know how their genes ever made it out fo the primordial soup.

  13. Rob G said,

    June 29, 2006 at 22:24

    An outstanding moment from the 2004 debates;

    “I don’t want to say somebody is the winner or somebody is the loser
    tonight,” said George P. Bush, the president’s nephew, and he went on to
    set a fairly low bar for his uncle. “I think his main objective, apart
    from not falling on the ground on the stage, which he didn’t do tonight,
    was to say, look, here are my positions, and talk directly to the voters.”

    (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/03/politics/campaign/03points.html?ex=1254542400&en=80fa771004c7e4fd&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland)

    I particularly liked the reminder that, against all expectations, Dubya
    did not in fact fall on the ground. Then again, his grip on that podium
    was pretty firm…

  14. Dr. BDH said,

    June 29, 2006 at 22:31

    “At some point you gotta lay the blame on the voters for buying into this shit too.” Fair enough. Let’s blame the 49% of voters who voted for Bush in 2000. And if we ever learn the true percentage of Bush voters from 2004, we can blame them, too.

  15. Jillian said,

    June 30, 2006 at 1:36

    Just how bottom of the barrel will the leaders selected by our two party, winner-take-all system have to get before we give some serious thought to revamping it? If you were setting out on purpose to design a political system that selected the most spineless, populist panderer to the most ignorant lowest common denominator in the American electorate, you’d come up with something like what we have now.

    And if you really want to understand the popular appeal of W., try this (if you’re an American)….

    Think about how ignorant and stupid the average person is. Give it a good, solid bit of reflection.

    Now realize that, by definition, half of everybody is even dumber than that.

  16. Kathleen said,

    June 30, 2006 at 2:02

    this post reminded me of this:

    Long-Awaited Beer With Bush Really Awkward, Voter Reports
    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/42590

    a classic.

  17. Ginger Yellow said,

    June 30, 2006 at 2:09

    “Think about how ignorant and stupid the average person is. Give it a good, solid bit of reflection.

    Now realize that, by definition, half of everybody is even dumber than that.”

    And then realise that most Americans don’t like to vote for peope they think are cleverer than them.

  18. kate said,

    June 30, 2006 at 3:45

    The Onion peice was indeed funny. Actually I wonder how Kerry would handle such a situation. I imagine he’d talk more and be patronizing, instead of just an arrogant, clueless idiot.

    I have a construction business and deal almost primarily with working class people. My customers are anywhere from low middle to high middle. With some exceptions to stereotypes considered here, the majority of the people I deal with are ignorant, bigoted and don’t have a clue about how government works.

  19. fish said,

    June 30, 2006 at 4:54

    Think about how ignorant and stupid the average person is. Give it a good, solid bit of reflection.

    Now realize that, by definition, half of everybody is even dumber than that.

    Uh, not to prove your point or anything, but that statement isn’t true. Now my mind is folding in on itself…

  20. Marq said,

    June 30, 2006 at 6:05

    It’s not just about the voters- it’s about our entire culture and the way we select our political leaders. This is the only country in the world where being smart is considered a detriment to your campaign chances.

    Personally, I blame the Three Stooges, though in their defense we’re supposed to be laughing at them, not with them.

    I have a Modest Proposalâ„¢. It’s the Ultimate Netroots Project. Everybody–and I mean everybody–in left blogistan contributes, say, $20. We then buy a large media conglomerate, the Tribune Company, for instance. We then fire the shitty motherfuckers who are most egregiously rotten, in this case Jonah Goldberg from the L.A. Times, etc., and hire the good, progressive writers floating around out there like, oh, I don’t know, Robert Scheer. And, if we’re feeling merciful, the questionable ones we just give a “shape up or else” warning to. Step 3: Profit!

  21. The Dawg said,

    June 30, 2006 at 13:34

    Deer Sadlee Know,

    Thet post izz un-fare!

    Ah iz got know special treetment in 2000 cos I un-smart.

    Ah iz not – Look! A birdie! – unfocused.

    U r undermining me in tha fite ‘gainst terror. Uh izz treezon-us.

    Drunkenly yours,
    George W. Bush
    Prez and head cheerleader.

  22. liberalrob said,

    June 30, 2006 at 18:00

    “Maybe Bob will offer some suggestions if he ever stops ranting about the corps’ abject clowning in 2000 and writes more about the press corps today.”

    I see Somerby’s position as being that in fact the press corps of 2000 IS “the press corps today,” and the clowning will continue until they are called on it forcefully and repeatedly. (And sadly maybe even that won’t stop them, but at least the public will know about it.) We still have David Broder, we still have David Brooks, we still have Christopher Hitchens, we still have Michelle Malkin, we still have Tim Russert, we still have Chris Matthews, we still have Robert Novak…they’re all still there, those and others, who spun and twisted words and even flatly made stuff up to reinforce negative images of Gore (which got Bush close enough to the White House that he could steal the election through legal maneuvers). And this being their pattern, there is every reason to believe that they will do it again in favor of Mr. Straight-Talk McCain who is a bona fide War Hero. I think that’s why Somerby repeats his mantra over and over ad nauseam; the press WILL hand the White House to McCain (or some other cocktail-circuit Chosen One) unless the public is continually reminded that the press has manufactured consent in the past and so are not to be trusted uncritically.

    The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. To this date, the press has not admitted its role in advancing the Republican agenda, helping tarnish the images of Gore and Kerry and maintaining Republican control of the government. Bob Somerby is using his tiny soapbox to try to get the public’s attention: “hey rubes, you’re being played the fool!” And really, isn’t that what we’re all doing?

    Send Bob some love as he searches for a publisher for his can’t-miss blockbuster book.

  23. Crooks and Liars » Mike’s Blog Round Up said,

    June 30, 2006 at 23:10

    [...] Sadly, No! In Praise of Robert Somerby [...]

  24. mike irwin said,

    July 1, 2006 at 2:33

    Bob is still busy defending his college roommate Al Gore. Al is worth defending, but if not for inside info from Al, no one would ever read anything Somerby has to write.

  25. Jerry Hooten said,

    July 1, 2006 at 6:16

    I voted against Al Gore in 2000. I remember the time leading up to that election, when I was trying to decide for whom I would cast my vote. It was never a question of voting for Bush, but all of the mainstream thinking seemed to be against Al Gore–he was a liar, he invented stories, he did shady fundraising. So, like a fool, I fell for it and voted for Ralph Nader.

    It was only after that election that I started reading more on the Web. First I came across Media Whores Online, and I couldn’t get enough. Then I found The Daily Howler. I had been one of those people Somerby described so well who had been played for a fool by the newspapers and television. He opened my eyes, and I couldn’t read enough. Bob Somerby became the first person I read each day. I also read through ALL of his archives. His writing has fundamentally changed my outlook.

    Bob Somerby’s column is STILL the most eagerly awaited blog I read every day (and I read them all), and has been for the last four years.

    The painstaking work exhibited in his columns should be the model all bloggers aspire to.

    Hooray for Bob Somerby!

  26. The Dawg said,

    July 1, 2006 at 13:58

    I like Somersby’s blog a lot, too. Even when I don’t agree with him, I think he often raises good points. Yeah, some days weeks I think I’m reading the same column over and over. But his meticulous research wrapped in biting humor sheds a lot of light on media clowning.

    During the 2004 election, for example, he debunked a lot of the shameless lying about Kerry, from the Swift Boaters, the right-wing pundits and the ‘mainstream’ talking heads.
    He pointed out that, though Kerry voted against one measure that paid for Iraq and Afghanistan wars (because he wanted tax cuts to cover the costs), President Shrub threatened to veto the funding unless most of it was given as a grant rather than a loan. That was a point that the mainstream media never got hip to. He also debunked a lot of the noise around Bush’s Social Security ‘reform,’ the Terri Shiavo case, Dick Morris’ book on Hillary Clinton and other shameless right-wing clowning that followed the election, when the contards thought the American Enterprise Institute had become a fourth branch of government.

    I don’t read him as often as I did. But I have learned a great deal from his work.

  27. Tim Howe said,

    July 13, 2006 at 22:01

    What fool said people only read the howler to get inside info on bobs bud al – what a Moroon! Bob is the one totally honest guy in the whole mix and half the lib blog world hates him for calling wilson for what he reallllly is… a phony, jag loving diletente who admits that he voted for Bush once and now acts as if he is the key to all wisdom. Bob had no axe to grind there except for trying to keep focused on the real probs…but the oh so pure ones will never forgive him for that….but thats ok cause Ill never forgive them for voting for Nader. (everybody that is except for the one above who admits he was played the rube1 :)

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