Sunday, May 28, 2006

Hillary Clinton's iPod is news to Slate

Jacob Weisberg wrote a terrible piece of shit for Slate this week in which he argues that Hillary Clinton, when she responded to a "what's on your iPod?" question, chose not to answer honestly, but rather claimed a series of extremely calculated, perhaps even focus-grouped, songs.

This is retarded. As others have noted, the story makes no sense. Hillary's choices reflect that she's a fan of classic rock, and maybe a little classic R&B. That is, she's a baby boomer with baby-boomer-like taste in music.

What's more unsettling is that this is a common style of attack against liberals. Everything they do is phony or contrived, they have no honest opinions. I think the media, which tends to be liberal, can't find fault with the substance of the politicians' positions, and so has to find any way to critique the politician in order to seem balanced.

Weisberg's critiques are amazingly contrived:
On the world-is-divided-into-two-kinds-of-people question "the Beatles or the Stones," she, like her husband, finds a middle path: both. She names no Stones songs and chooses a consensus, universally liked, neither-early-nor-late Beatles tune, "Hey Jude."
First, Weisberg spins liking both the Stones and the Beatles as being a bad thing. I'm willing to bet that the vast, vast majority of those who like one like the other. Hell, I'm one of those people, and I'm not pandering to anybody.

Second, Hey Jude is a single from 1968, it's very much a late Beatles tune. The first Beatles LP came out in 1963, and Abbey Road, the last recorded LP, came out in 1969. Hell, even the posthumous Let it Be came out in 1970, only two years after Hey Jude. Hey Jude is, in fact, the third to last single that the Beatles released during the lifetime of the band.

But this is a phenomenally stupid argument. I can't believe that I actually, in an essay about who should govern America, just had to spent a whole fucking paragraph clarifying whether "Hey Jude" is early, middle, or late period Beatles. Which is the point - Weisberg's an idiot and Hillary's iPod choices don't mean jack shit. But whoever runs against McCain in '08 is going to have to put up with shit just like this - contrived attacks which spin completely banal subject matter into repeated negative attacks on liberal candidates.

Al Gore's the classic example of this phenomenon. The key narrative told repeatedly about Al Gore was that he was a serial liar. The evidence for this? He said, it was claimed, that he invented the internet. Well, no, he actually said that he worked in the Senate to create the internet. And he pretty much did just that. He said that he was the source for "Love Story." And he was. Over and over, Gore was claimed to be a deceitful phony.

He was running at the time, you'll recall, against a man who said that he was "a uniter, not a divider," and who also argued strongly that nation building was not a legitimate end for US foreign policy. Since that time, Bush has created a more partisan environment in the US and the defining policy of his administration, the cast-in-lead albatross around his presidency's neck, is nothing if not an exercise in nation building, made possible by pretexts based on, to put it kindly, "sexed up" intelligence. But Gore was the liar.

This press style of attack is pretty unique to liberals, and John McCain's the proof. People regularly comment on how his reversals of position, as in his change of heart with the right wing religious whackos,* are skillful politics, not evidence of insincerity. In fact, people regularly posit that the man doesn't believe what he openly professes (typically, people think he's more liberal than he claims to be), and McCain then gets praise for it.

I know that a lot of people aren't anxious to see Hillary run, because they think it'll be a disaster. I can understand this, but I think that's kind of unfair to Hillary. I think that pretty much whatever liberal runs is going to face the same problem - they're going to be branded as inauthentic and pandering. I think that the biggest problem for liberals getting elected president is that their general line of thinking, their general policies, are seen by most people in the commentary class as being essentially rational and correct. As a result, these people must spin, spin, spin lest they be seen agreeing with propositions that they actually agree with. It's an environment that's just ripe with possibility for McCain. As a conservative, he can be authentic, and as a conservative who's suspected to lean leftward, his politics are not abhorrent to the media. Assuming he doesn't flip out and strangle a hooker (always a danger with McCain), he looks hard to beat.

*Which is not to say that all religious people are whackos, or that all who are right wing and religious are whackos. I'm pretty much limiting it to people who believe crap like Katrina is God's punishment for America's failure to renew 7th Heaven for another season, stuff like that.

4 comments:

Fishfrog said...

If someone asked me what was on my iPod, I would reply, "Sleater-Kinney, motherfucker. Oh yeah, and also some Rolling Stones and some Beatles. You know, the White Album. Stuff like that."

The thing about McCain, that you hit right on the head, is that he's just as much of a hypocritical politician as everyone else in Washington, but the press treats him like he's the second coming of Christ. This man was tortured for years in a POW camp, a fact that we are constantly reminded of, and yet, he had no qualms with voting to confirm Gonzalez to be Attorney General, despite the fact that he was the architect of the phoney legal rationale for torturing Iraqi and Afghani prisoners!

Also, in an interview on NPR, McCain said that he thought Intelligent Design should be taught in science classes. I mean, COME ON!

I have no doubt that if he makes it past the Republican primaries, he will be elected president. And I think that's not a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Hillary can beat McCain.

Andres said...

Why do you think that the media is liberal? To me, most of the media seems rather conservative.

Matt said...

The media can seem conservative. What I meant to say is that when you look at polls, media members tend to vote democratic and tend to have socially liberal viewpoints. There is a distinct lack of social conservatives in the media.

Now, this is offset by a couple of things. First, the owners of the means of media production are definitely more conservative, or at least their interests align more directly with conservative interests. To some extent, this creates a bias in what is represented in the media.

A closely related phenomenon is the existence of a large amount of media created specifically to generate conservative propaganda. That is, a considerable amount of private money goes into funding conservative think tanks, presses and foundations, which churn out a bunch of material with a distinct partisan spin. While proponents usually portray such organizations as necessary to counterbalance liberal academia, their products are not subject to peer review and criticism, and as such can afford to be much less intellectually rigorous.

Second, the media makes a concerted effort to appear non-biased. As a result, issues are presented with two sides of partisan spin, without regard for the validity of the claim. This seeming neutrality can give artificial importance to claims that lack substance - skepticism about global warming's a good example of this.

But all that's pretty tangential. Ultimately, I'm saying that media commentators, in most of their hearts, tend to be democrats who put on a front to diss democratic candidates. I mean, I read Slate all the time, and I'm a total lefty, and yet Slate spent last week bashing Hillary and bashing Gore on what were ultimately wrong and trumped up charges.