Friday, June 17, 2005

NationMart and comments on the Times Book Review panel (March) that featured Katrina vanden Heuvel

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Sidebar, either Rebecca tapped into some synchronicity or someone at Air America appears to have listened to one of her suggestions. On The Majority Report right now, Sam Seder's interviewing various Congressional Democrats (ones who don't get a monthly seat on the Sunday Chat & Chews). It should be noted that The Majority Report has always featured Congress members who aren't offered the Chat & Chews (this includes independent Bernie Sanders). But listening to the segment (that I came in late on), I was reminded of this point
Rebecca made:

3) The party has a few straight talkers.
While Maxine Waters is welcome on The Randi Rhodes Show and The Majority Report, the party should do more to get her voice out there on the weekday programs that revolve around guests -- and others like Russ Feingold, Barbara Lee, etc. These people speak plainly and with passion. Air America is on the Democrats side, it should be used to take the strong voices that the mainstream isn't paying attention to and to note them repeatedly thereby forcing the mainstream to acknowledge them.
Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy and Barbara Boxer are probably the three biggest "stars" of the Senate. No offense to the first two, but Boxer's admiration comes not from what the mainstream covered, but from what Air America and others covered. When the mainstream won't highlight your people, you work twice as hard to build up "stars" in other media.
As people become aware of them, they start e-mailing This Week or Face the Nation or whatever and asking why those people aren't on? They read an article in the paper and wonder, "What does Russ Feingold think about this?"
If an Air America show revolves around guests, leadership should be working hard to make sure that elected officials who aren't all over the chat and chews are available for each show during the week. (I say during the week because, like C.I., I think the weekend shows are very strong. Laura Flanders, for instance, doesn't need any help, or doesn't appear to, in order to book guests.) At a mimimum, leadership should be offering up ten guests a week.
I'm not a fan of Al Franken's but I'm sure he'd be willing to feature anyone who was offered. Morning Edition's best moments have come when they've featured down to earth elected officials who came off as knowledgable but also as regular people.
When the mainstream won't let you build an a-team, you build it in any and all outlets you can. There was an ad campaign that I worked on where TV buys were out of the question for a variety of reasons. We didn't say, "Well, there's nothing we can do then." We got focused on what other mediums we could hit and we hit them hard repeatedly. It worked.
And if that's confusing, think of the Downing Street memo. The mainstream didn't lead on that, they remained silent. It was bloggers and other alternative media that informed the public and made it an issue.
Look at some of the weirdo Republicans on TV today. You wonder where they came from and how they got a "name?" The party used something other than the mainstream. They looked at the landscape and figured out a way to build outside the mainstream. We need to be doing the same.

The Majority Report is "live on tape" tonight. (Meaning it's a new episode but it was pretaped.)
The plus for this listener is no phone calls. The minuses are no Janeane Garofalo (Sam Seder says she's in Texas) and a New Republican. (That refers to someone who works for The New Republic.) And this actually brings us back to the topic of The Nation. How so, you ask?

Well the New Republican on The Majority Report tonight gets plugged in the New York Times for his soccer book (yes, I'm being snide) but in those plugs, the Times never tells you "Hey, we publish this guy all the time. He's a regular contributor to the Times Book Review." And how bad can the suck up get?

We've noted the panel the Book Review had. We didn't note the editor's note that prefaced the edition of the Book Review. I missed it (I really don't read Editor's Notes unless they're written by someone who's voice I value, e.g. Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive or Jim of The Third Estate Sunday Review; I've noted that here before with regards to Mother Jones). (I'm saying Jim because although all contribute -- Dona, Ava, Ty and Jess -- Jim's the one who types it and decides what makes the "note to our readers" and what doesn't.)

But let's note it here. There were three members on the panel, all editors: Petey Beinart (The New Republican), Michael Tomasky (The American Prospect) and Katrina vanden Heuvel (The Nation). A visitor e-mailed, about the critique of the panel, stating that no special treatment was shown Beinart by the Times. Really now?

From the Times' Book Review's editors' note:

The Dec. 13, 2004, issue of The New Republic[an] published an ambitious essay, . . . [''Full of the Usual Crap"] by the magazine's editor, Peter Beinart. In it, Beinart argued that many liberals were trapped in the past [as he always does in his attempts to push the party to the right], unwilling to confront the new challenges of the post-9/11 era [which requires whining "everything changed" to justify selling out what liberals are supposed to stand for]. What liberalism needed, he wrote, was a commitment to a vigorous foreign policy, a willingness to use American power to face down enemies and dictators around the world. [Hit 'em with the stick! Hit e'm with the stick! That's all those types can offer which is why you don't find social justice as a huge concern in the pages of The New Republican -- New Republicans, don't write in. I don't want to hear it. That's my judgement call. And disclosure, I know Petey.] The article caused a considerable stir [Translation, no one read it -- no one reads The New Republican, its circulation struggles were apparently a secret to the Times at that point but even the Times had to later note its miniscule circulation. By comparison, The Nation is the largest weekly political magazine circulation wise.] and helped begin a family conversation among people who generally agree on liberal principles [translation, posers] but often disagree sharply on specifics like the Iraq war [translation, WAR HAWKS WHO SOLD THE WAR WHICH IS THE NEW REPUBLICAN, see Rebecca's site for her many entries on this.]. The Book Review asked Beinart and the editors of two other influential liberal magazines [note: Katrina vanden Heuvel and Michael Tomasky aren't named in this lengthy paragraph/shout-out to Petey; nor are there magazines even mentioned in the papragraph] to continue that discussion. The three [Petey and the unnamed apparently] spent two hours in the Times's offices hashing out liberalism's problems and prospects. An edited version of their discussion can be found beginning on Page 14; a longer audio version has been posted on The Times's Web site at The three editors also recommended books for readers interested in pursuing this subject, and their suggestions can be found on Page 15.
Also in this issue, . . .
[We don't publicize New Republicans], a senior editor at The New Republic[an] , . . .

. . .

Web Audio: Excerpts from Michael Tomasky, Katrina vanden Heuvel and Peter Beinart's discussion about the future of liberalism.

No special treatment for Petey? The Times Book Review editors yammer on and on about some dopey, asinine article he wrote, that's like everything else he ever writes, but they don't tell you of any article written by or in Tomasky's magazine or written by or in Katrina vanden Heuvel's. Not only that, they don't mention them by name in the lengthy paragraph.

This is a panel and, in the editor's note, the Times chooses to celebrate little Petey home; thereby, intentionally or not, sending a message to readers that the paper places greater weight behind Petey's stammers than the statements from Tomasky or vanden Heuvel. That was utter b.s. and I wish I had seen it at the time.

From our critique of the panel on March 9th:

So what you see in the roundtable is KvH who realizes the importance of democracy (little "d") and Tomasky who pushes whatever the Democratic party (power players, not base) is pushing.

Then you see Beinart on the sidelines (let's face it, circulation wise, The New Republic is marginalized and I doubt those ad buys on Air America will do much to change that) saying, "We've got to woo swing voters! The base be damned."

KvH is recogninizing the importance of the people. You don't see that from the other two. Tomasky's more straight forward than Beinart (and more progressive). But he's focusing, as wonks do, on the inner workings of the power circles. Beinart's not even doing think-tanking.

He's pushing myths and selective facts to push his own agenda. (Truly, Beinart knows that two election cycles are not the end of the world and reason for the Democratic Party to get an Extreme Makeover.)

For all the talk of the importance of people, only KvH has listened to the people. Only KvH sees them as diverse and multi-faceted. Tomasky thinks in terms of the good of the Democratic party. (Which is why he can, and has, piled on when there's been attacks on some Democratic elected officials who were seen as a liability.) He's someone committed to a body or a system. That comes across in his remarks.

You might wonder about the three chosen for this. You'd be right to wonder.

Tomasky probably argues that he and his kind are treated the most hostile by the paper. He would be correct. KvH is just usually ignored. (As is The Nation.) Beinart and The New Republic are pushed by the paper. We could do a historical overview (other than CBS it's harder to come up with any non-government outlet that's had closer ties to the paper than The New Republic) but you can just flip to the two page essay that precedes this roundtable and note that it's written by a New Republic staffer. One who often appears in the paper.

Regardless, The New Republic, as a periodical, is neoliberal. That's why the Times loves it.That's why they push it even though the rag's gone from "the magazine that even Republicans read" to the magazine that only Republicans and a few diehards read. That's why it's reach at the Times goes beyond The Nation's when the reality is that The Nation dances circulation circles around The New Republic.

The Nation gets a little too caught up in social justice causes for the Grey Lady's tastes. It makes noises about economic markets that go beyond profit and loss in a cash sense and actually addresses things like the people who are effected by the markets which is something that causes the Times to blush.

It's a testament to the popularity/reach of The Nation (and KvH's own popularity/reach) that she was even included in the roundtable.

I really wish Folding Star had written about this (at A Winding Road) because I think you'd have a better entry. (Though I've edited and rewritten severely in the draft stage to avoid asides -- which in my mind has stripped away a great deal of history.) (I point out -- in an aside.)

But let's short hand the whole thing. Tomasky can be thought of as the boy in high school who would have gladly given ten to twenty years off his life to be a natural talent. He wasn't. He had to work harder than anyone else. He had to prove that dedication to the team and instill every generic bumper sticker slogan Coach spat out. If you dropped off the team mid-season, always Coach's good boy, Tomasky excommunicated you. It was all (and always) about the team. Coach might change the team's goals or the playbook but Tomasky would gladly rush to embrace any shift without questioning. He is a team player.

Katrina vanden Heuvel is the girl in high school who was intelligent and mixed in all circles but was famous for her reach-outs. Whomever the person was, regardless of social strata, if they were in pain or trouble, KvH was there. Though she exists more in movies (see John Hughes especially) than in life, she does exist. And that's KvH. Wise and compassionate and not about to sell out or go along because she wouldn't if she had to and, quite frankly, she doesn't have to.

Peter Bienart was the boy in high school who was a reporter on the newspaper but couldn't make it to editor. (Ass kissing helps in high school but there's also still an attitude that reporting has to be reality based. Beinhart's type succeeds at the first task but fails at the second.) That type of boy will go on carrying a grudge for sometime (possibly his entire life) and, in the process, he will end up less and less devoted to facts because he was wronged, by God, so he's got a right to skew reality!

In an earlier entry on PB, I got an angry e-mail for not denoucing him as a person. (I'm not quite sure what the person was reading or exactly how far I have to go to in order for it to appear that I was denouncing PB. I'm sure many will see it as being done then and again tonight.)

Regardless, maybe the reality is that maybe you want a PB? Maybe you want a MT? Maybe you don't want a KvH?

Let's say you just blew most of your check on some dress you think makes you looks great.

The truth is, it makes you look cheap, tacky and well beyond your years. You show it to Tomasky and he'll tell you to wear it -- provided the slut-look is in. If it's not in, he'll suggest you wear something else and never explain the problem with the dress. KvH will pull you aside and explain nicely why you should not only not wear it tonight but pass it on to Goodwill immediately. PB will look you up and down and not really notice what you're wearing as he snaps, "You look fine. Do you realize how hard it is to rent a tux these days? The city's not doing enough to cater to the tux rental businesses!"

Hey, if you want to get back all the money you spent on that dress, PB may be the one you want around. And you might not want to risk the odds on MT. (Though if he thinks it's in fashion, it probably is.) KvH may be the last person you want to see because the shop has a no return policy and you've made no back up plans for anything else to wear.That's the subtext of the roundtable. Me, I prefer the honesty of KvH.

The Times doesn't wrap their arms around Tomasky (or his magazine) or vanden Heuvel (or her magazine). They prefer to gobble up a plate full of imitation liberal. Tomasky's partianship is a bit too tough for their tastes and vanden Heuvel isn't bland enough for them.

Had I seen the editor's note when I wrote the critique, I would've noted it. It only underscores the critique made.

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