Saturday, March 08, 2008

Ruth's Report

Ruth (of Ruth's Report): E-mails suggested I cover Extra! this weekend and, having checked Friday at my local bookstore to be sure a new issue had not hit the magazine racks, I decided anything was better than having to listen to Katty Kay guest host one of my favorite radio programs.

The big news in the January/February 2008 issue probably comes on page five which is where "Crying Wolf" runs under the "Soundbites" roundup. In that brief item, some unknown FAIR staffer takes on Naomi Wolf for a column in last year's Washington Post. I actually agree with Wolf's assertion and disagree with the unnamed FAIR staffer but I was happy to see that FAIR was willing to take on the left. Of course, that probably would not be the case if Wolf were a man, as the slobbering over Keith Olbermann indicates. But, for at least a paragraph, FAIR was willing to apply the same critical standards to a lefty writing in the mainstream media.

To be clear on that, for any drive-by visitors, this is a left site you have stopped at. I am not suggesting that the left be criticized out of some hatred of the left. I am aware that Extra! is published FAIR which also does a weekly progam entitled CounterSpin and that all three are supposed to provide media criticism.

FAIR usually gets some attention when they offer one of their studies on the gender balance, or imbalance as the cases has been, on the news and public affairs programming in the mainstream. As a media watchdog, one of their biggest failures has been making those critiques by finger-pointing outward when they have had their own gender imbalance problems with who they book and do not book for their weekly radio program. More to the point, they are far from alone as any consumer of Little or Panhandle Media should grasp if they would peel the starry-eyed lust from their eyes.

So while I thought they simplified in their criticsm of Wolf, who had also simplified, I was glad to see that and hope it is extended to other left voices and other left outlets. The lack of self-examination in Panhandle Media is really killing off independent media or at least any interest in it.

Robin Anderson's drooling over Keith Olbermann in the issue. I always think of Mr. Olbermann as James Wolcott's kid brother who really wishes he could turn a phrase as well as Mr. Wolcott and dreams of possessing the kind of insight Mr. Wolcott does but, instead of applying himself, just ups the volume. When I think of Mr. Oblermann, a Nation magazine cover boy who has apparently replaced Bill Maher as the man the left and 'left' works hard to turn into a god, I always think of the woman who is a photo editor at my local paper. A nice enough woman, to be sure, and a devoted fan of Mr. Olberman. She is also someone I have long learned to avoid but, sometimes, she will sneak up on me in the grocery store and I will spend the duration of the talk, as her voice gets louder and louder until she is screaming, smiling apologetically to everyone around us, especially those with young children because, about mid-stream, she will be screaming "F**k Bush!" at the top of her lungs and so lost in praising "the only one who tells us the truth" Mr. Olbermann, that she does not appear to be able to consider that fact that some parents and grandparents might not want their young children exposed to such language.

She is a great deal like Mr. Olbermann and he can certainly claim her as a "success" story. The woman has been a Republican all her life and is now a devout supporter of Senator Barack Obama. Former Senator John Edwards never made the grade for her due to his being a "trial lawyer" and, of course, like her idol, she believes Senator Hillary Clinton just wants to take over the world. But Mr. Olbermann has persuaded her that Senator Obama is the second-coming. He has done so by, of course, un-informing her. That comes through loud and clear, and remember the woman works for a newspaper, when she stops for air and you attempt to add to any comment she has made. Details that the rest of us may take for granted are news to her whether it is Guantanamo Bay or Iraq.

Robin Anderson writes about Iraq and the article is entitled "Hollywood's Meida-- And Washington's." Anderson, I am not sure whether that is a man or a woman, so I will just use "Anderson," wants to talk about Guantamo, torture and the film Rendition. That is a full plate, an overflowing one in fact. As any who have ever attended an outdoor gathering know, it is generally the people who pile up their plates that leave the bulk of it untouched. Anderson is so busy offering citations, or at least shout-outs, that your mind may reel. You may also notice that Mr. Olbermann's shout-out, for what is a monlogue disquised as a commentary, appears in the second paragraph of the first page while Jane Mayer, an actual reporter for The New Yorker who has repeatedly covered torture and Guantamo, is reduced to the second page. As long as we have priorities imbalanced, eh?

Mixed among the shout-outs is commentary on Rendition that never seems to grasp what the film is or what film itself is and has been. Anderson is hopefully very, very young and not a film buff. That would explain the hand-wringing over "a conventional sense of media 'balance'" present in the film that presents the press as the one who sets everything right. Even in the darkest mainstream films of the early seventies that "conventional sense" existed, though Anderson seems caught unaware by that reality and may need to view Three Days of the Condor immediately before next writing an article. After that complaint, Anderson offers up a summary of the film's plot that reminds me of why I avoid reading book reports attempting to pass themselves off as film reviews. Nuance is lost on Anderson and too much time is spent making false comparisons. Too much time is also spent on the repeated shout-outs. If you manage to get through the article, you may marvel at over all the topics, and space, wasted to say so very little.

Whomever selected the photo to run the piece did a little more work than Anderson. It is a screen capture of Maher Arar from Democracy Now! That is a resource not mentioned in Anderson's article and the argument on that may be, "I was covering the mainstream!" But, in fact, Anderson was miscovering and it is the sort of detail my photo editor friend is always unaware of when convinced that Mr. Olbermann is the first to ever call out the occupant of the White House.

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now! and while the program is not worth wasting time on these days, and everyone should read Ava and C.I.'s TV commentary tomorrow at The Third Estate Sunday Review, Ms. Goodman was on the story of Mr. Arar and never dropped it. The article's illustration tells you that; however, to read the article, you would never know that. The article is a lot like the 'information' Mr. Olbermann provides only at a lower volume that will not enduce headaches.

One of the co-cooridantor's of Just Foreign Policy shows up with an article on the number of Iraqis who have died during the illegal war and that article might carry a little more weight had JFP not stopped ceased counting on or around February 10th of last month. Friday, they finally updated their counter. A critique can be made of the words offered by the author in light of that but I believe C.I. has already covered that. The issue contains a must read, one C.I. has noted at least three times in recent weeks, Julie Hollar's "The Humanitarian Tempatation."