Take the itsthemedia challenge

The phenomenon that Bob Somerby calls "the cult of the offhand comment" has ruled this election season just like it has ruled every election season for the past 20 years or so. The media pundits have loved regaling you with bittergate, Tuzlagate, fingergate, wafflegate, and a hundred others. Now this latest kerfuffle. When candidates give 20 speeches and 50 interviews a week, and those candidates are human beings - surprise! they are going to say something wrong and/or stupid from time to time.

I am trying to think of the last time the media or the supposedly thoughful online community spent any time on an actual issue. The last one I can recall was the great gas tax debate, and even that hardly counts. It's a minor issue at best, and the coverage was all about breathlessly cataloging the latest sound bite zinger from each side, with no effort at all to talk about energy policy. To listen to the media accounts of that debate, one would think that Clinton's entire energy policy consisted of taking money out of one pocket, and putting it into another, and that Obama's counterproposal was to do nothing at all. The concurrent foodfight here on MyDD was barely more enlightened and erudite.

Itsthemedia's challenge -- I DARE YOU to write a diary or make a comment that is not about personalities, or outrage, or clever put-downs, or rumors, or delegate counting, or poll watching. I dare you to write about ideas, policies, issues that matter to real people's real lives.

BONUS: If your substantive diary also promotes party unity, put a pointer to it in the comments to this diary, and I will award you bonus "Unity Unicorn (TM)" points!!

PS. "Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people." -- Eleanor Roosevelt.

PPS. Take the poll!

Tags: Ideas, substance, thinking (all tags)

Comments

26 Comments

would that make this...

kerfuffle-gate?

by canadian gal 2008-05-23 11:42PM | 0 recs
Re: would that make this...

I guess. I am somewhat disappointed at how easily the media has been able to manipulate the discussion in the blogosphere. Maybe there are just a lot more small minds out there in cyberspace than average or great ones. But, I refuse to let it get me down. Ponies! Fresh mown grass! Snowflakes!

by itsthemedia 2008-05-24 12:08AM | 0 recs
Re: would that make this...

I've been saddened by the reverse effect this season. I've seen smears begin on blogs, bloggers bragging about sending them onto Drudge, Hannity, & even Limbaugh, and then these same smears come up on CNN.

by catilinus 2008-05-24 02:08AM | 0 recs
Re: would that make this...

You are right, there is a viscious cycle developing in the left-blogosphere/media, similar to the one that has existed on the right since the late 90's.

What I was thinking about was the failure of what used to be gimlet eyed bamboozlement detectors like Josh Marshall to remain honest brokers when the battle with the right wing messaging turned to an internal party struggle. There are only three major bloggers I can think of who strove to keep a critical eye on their own spinmeisters and outrage merchants. Atrios, who back Obama, but has been very fair to Clinton, Digby, who I think supports Clinton, but has been very fair to Obama, and Somerby, who is a long time Clinton ally, but I think voted for Obama. Long before this cycle, Somerby has braved fire from his readers by insisting that as Liberals, we cannot adopt the methods of the right, lest we be like soldiers who destroy the villiage in order to save it from the enemy.

MyDD has had a different approach to balance, although I think it has worked out fairly well. Jerome is clearly in the Clinton camp, Jonathan is clearly in the Obama camp, and Todd, while he prefers Clinton, has pretty successfully steered a more conciliatory path. Of course, the True Believers among the readers don't accept anything less than full devotion to Dear Leader or Dear Leaderess, so all three of our FP bloggers have had to take a lot of crap.

by itsthemedia 2008-05-24 12:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Take the itsthemedia challenge

Issues and events have no place in a political campaign. Political campaigns are fueled by insignificant comments, insipid slogans and imputed motives. (She's a Clinton, she must want him dead. He doesn't wear flag pin, he must be a Manchurian candidate. He sought out Hagee's endorsement, he loves Hitler.) See how it works. Sometimes a candidate actually tries to discuss an issue, but cable news doesn't have time for it. It's much more important to spend 24 hours a day on the latest superdelegate to weigh in, the newest poll out of Idaho or the faux outrage over the latest misconstrued remark.

Many people forget but if not for the 9-11 attacks we would probably still be discussing Gary Condit and Chandra Levy. So, sorry, but I can't take you up on your challenge. Issues are so 20th century.

by STUBALL 2008-05-24 01:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Take the itsthemedia challenge

Reason is the bedrock of democracy and the sworn enemy of authoritarianism. I agree that the mainstream media has granted little or no place to issues and events in this campaign, or in recent campaigns. But we do not have to submit to it. That is the glory of the Internet - it is a many-to-many communication medium, not a few-to-many medium like TV. Your  voice is equal to mine, or Jerome's, or anybody's.

I submit to you that if you want to talk about ideas and issues, this is the ideal place to do it. If you feel Jerome is suppressing your expression, you can fairly easily start your own website, like he did.

by itsthemedia 2008-05-24 01:11PM | 0 recs
Between Obama and Clinton

it's hard to discuss issue differences because there are really so few. Outside of mandate/no mandate, diplomatic preconditions/no diplomatic preconditions  there is barely a sliver of daylight between them.

And when one tries, it immediately degenerates into misrepresentations and name-calling.

"Obama's just going to fly to Iran and talk to evil people."
"Clinton's just another Bush, all hawk and no brain."
"Obama's a wuss who's going to give everything away to facists."
"Clinton's a lying neocon who should just join the republican party."
And on, and on, and on.
The truth is, many supporters on both sides neither understand nor really WANT to understand the stances of their candidates. I've heard WAY too many Obama supporters bitching about his going on FOX news. It's as if they haven't been listening to him for the past year.
Simultaneously, I've heard WAY too many Clinton supporters threatening to vote for McCain because Obama's mean, or something.
Truly, no reasonable progressive or democrat would refuse to vote for either of these two politicians on idealogical grounds. (NO one feels that strongly about mandates or the lack thereof. Especially when the alternative is, well, nothing.) It's all about personality and hurt feelings at this point.
I'm an Obama supporter and would absolutely LOVE an honest discussion on policy without the bullshit name-calling.

by EvilAsh 2008-05-24 01:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Between Obama and Clinton

Sadly, you speak truth. But shall we then just give up on Reason as a lost cause, and accept authoritarian rule in perpetuity, merely veering between Communist and Fascist leanings every four to eight years? When asked what kind of government the Constitutional Convention had given to the people, Ben Franklin replied: "A Republic, if you can keep it."

The Internet is a powerful tool to help us keep Reason alive, though it may be submerged for large periods over the coming years.

by itsthemedia 2008-05-24 01:21PM | 0 recs
I absolutely agree . . .

but between these two candidates, you're going to have to go somewhere other than policy. You have to get into approach.

This gets into the how's. How would Obama get this accomplished? How would Clinton get that accomplished? What do they think is their role as president? Would either of them give up the ridiculous powers that Bush has seized? (This is a BIG one).

There is an honest and respectful argument to be had about this. I for one, do not see Clinton giving up presidential powers. She is extraordinarily ambitious and believes in a top-down management structure with absolute control over everything possible. She likely would see that additional power as something she could use to benefit the nation.

Obama, I don't know. It's awfully damned tempting to USE that power to do what you've promised. And yet, his history as a professor of constitutional law might suggest that he WOULD give up those powers. He also believes in a decentralized approach (as shown by his campaign) so PERSONAL power and influence isn't as important to his approach. Rather, his approach comes from the community organizing days (when he had to lead people with no resources to help him). He inspires and organizes the masses, and THEY become the muscle. But then again . . . awfully hard to give up power that's just given to you.

There are plenty of discussions to be had about their different approaches to campaigning and to governing, based on their histories and personal statements.

If only we could have them without the nastiness.  

by EvilAsh 2008-05-24 04:17PM | 0 recs
Re: I absolutely agree . . .

This is why I was backing Dodd in the early going. But apparently, "Restoring the Constitution" just does not cut it as a campaign slogan in America, circa 2008. He never rose above 2% in the polls.

by itsthemedia 2008-05-25 12:09AM | 0 recs
Re: I absolutely agree . . .

I liked Dodd's resume, but the guy just couldn't win me over. And, like it or not, being able to impress on a personal level is pretty important for a presidential nominee. Look at Kerry. On paper, he looked GREAT. In person, he bored the pants off of everyone. (And I've got a lot of respect for the guy. He's comes across much more coherently when he posts at DKos and HuffPost.)

That being said, I REALLY like the idea of a Constitutional Law professor in the White House. It's not a guarantee by any means, but it makes it more likely that Obama knows and respects the boundaries of the office of the President.

by EvilAsh 2008-05-25 01:33AM | 0 recs
Re: I absolutely agree . . .

Yes, I knew that Dodd was going to be too boring to make the grade. He also has some annoying speaking habits that make him sound odd at times.

I hope you are right about Obama. He has not talked about Constitutional issues much at all, but maybe that is because only a handful of nerds like you and me want to hear that kind of stuff. I bet lots more people know that he is a bad bowler and likes orange juice than that he taught Constitutional Law. And that's a pity - our nation deserves a better level of discourse than we have been getting.

by itsthemedia 2008-05-25 11:53PM | 0 recs
Re: I absolutely agree . . .

On constitutional issues, you've got to look hard for it, but he does speak to restoring the constitution.

I personally think we've got to give the candidates a break on some of the issues. It gets a little irritating when a group (any group) starts bitching because the candidate isn't talking to them enough, or spending loads of time on their pet issue.

I read recently about how people are pissed about Obama not speaking enough about Mountain-Top-Removal mining. It's not that he hasn't expressed a position (he's against it) but that he hasn't brought it up enough in his speeches.

I've never understood the need for people to have presidential candidates harp on their issues. I mean, isn't it enough that he agrees with you? Do you really need the repeated validation of your position?

by EvilAsh 2008-05-28 05:47PM | 0 recs
When is the last time...

the main stream media such as Larry  King actually devoted a fraction of their time discussing the policy differences between Clinton and Obama?  All I see are shouting matches between supporters.  Except on Olbermann who NEVER has anyone on who disagrees with him, if you notice.  I would have liked it to be pointed out for example that Obama is in favor of so-called "merit pay" for teachers.  As a teacher myself I can tell you that this is an outrageous abuse of government interference and one of the reason why I'm for Hillary. It's also a big deal for those out there who want to bust teacher unions. Does this ever get mentioned in the press?  No wonder why we shout at each other here (we prbably agree 99% of the time); we are just taking our cues from the big guys.

by handsomegent 2008-05-24 03:49AM | 0 recs
Re: When is the last time...

There is only one solution I can see. We need to stop taking our cues from the "big guys". The "big guys" are multi-millionaires, and not surprisingly they have multi-millionaire values. They don't care about "merit pay" for public school teachers, because they and their children, and everyone they know attend private schools. They don't care about healthcare reform, because their access to good health care is not in danger. They can sometimes be allies of the left on social issues, but even there, they come at the issues from a selfish and elitist point of view.

I would really love to read your thoughts on the merit pay issue. Will you write a diary?

by itsthemedia 2008-05-24 01:32PM | 0 recs
Re: When is the last time...

WOAH, nellie.

Merit pay is DEFINITELY an issue that should be discussed, but don't fall into the republican trap.

The republican trap I'm talking about is when the republicans take an idea that may have some merit, and then twist it into a code word for something else.

Thus, merit pay (which is a perfectly reasonable idea) becomes a code-word for union-busting.

I understand that this is a sore spot for a LOT of teachers. (I'm not a teacher, but I work with them in school disticts across the country) But progressives AND teachers need to reclaim this idea.

The problem with merit pay, as I see it, is determining what metric will be used to determine 'merit'. Student testing doesn't work, because of all the reasons NCLB doesn't work and then some. Possibly some form of evaluation that comes both from students and from other faculty? An outside agency conducting classroom visits?

I also think it's important to be able to get rid of teachers who don't teach. As a teacher, I KNOW you know who I'm talking about. Those teachers who  have no business being in charge of a child's eduction.

Also, we've got to figure out SOME reasonable way to experiment and find new ways of teaching that incorporate technology in a way that works. Schools still work the way they do a hundred years ago, and that just doesn't make sense.

There's plenty to discuss on that. Please, hop in or write a diary about it.  

by EvilAsh 2008-05-25 01:45AM | 0 recs
Re: When is the last time...

Merit pay is a crock, in or out of government. I have been subject to merit pay performance evaluations my whole career. I have done very well, probably better than the average worker, because I don't mind bragging about my accomplishments in writing. However, anything I do, or anything I say I did is insignificant compared to my boss's social standing among his or her peers, how much my boss knows or cares about me, interpersonal relationships in the larger organzation, whether I am working on a high visibility project, etc, etc, all of which is beyond my control.

by itsthemedia 2008-05-25 11:46PM | 0 recs
Re: When is the last time...

Well then, wouldn't the solution be to have a more objective measuring system that doesn't weigh the boss's opinion so heavily?

When something's broke, you fix it. You don't just toss the whole thing out the window.

by EvilAsh 2008-05-26 09:19AM | 0 recs
re:"ideas, policies, issues that matter"

Help grow the Senate majority (posted yesterday):

http://www.mydd.com/story/2008/5/23/1550 42/332

(a close-up of Jeanne Shaheen's senate race and Middle Class Matters Tour in NH)

Be sure to go to end of diary and click open Jeanne's new tv ad -- a good one!

by moevaughn 2008-05-24 04:17AM | 0 recs
"ideas, policies, issues that matter"

Read it. Great diary! I awarded you a prize!

by itsthemedia 2008-05-24 02:48PM | 0 recs
Re: prize

Thanks!! I don't think I had too much competition though!

by moevaughn 2008-05-25 10:16AM | 0 recs
Issues...

There isn't much to discuss on issues because in the big picture, our candidates are functionally identical on most policy concerns, in stark contrast to John McCain.  

Hence the only real "issues" with these primary candidates are based on character, celebrity, and electability.

The GE will invite more talk about issues... um... I hope.  

Our side has to focus on the issues bigtime.  The GOP's main strategy is to make the election a personality war cause it's all they have.  

by BPK80 2008-05-24 05:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Issues...

oops, see below

by itsthemedia 2008-05-24 02:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Take the itsthemedia challenge

"Functionally identical" or not, I think it is a mistake not to continue discussing issues. Letting the campaign devolve into trivia has given the Republicans an opening they would not have in a reason-based discourse.

by itsthemedia 2008-05-24 02:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Take the itsthemedia challenge

There's not too much to discuss in terms of major issue distinctions between Obama & Hillary.  Hillary has the better health care plan.  She also may be more responsible with ending the war and has a better acquaintanceship with foreign policy.  She was highly active as First Lady and was a de facto ambassador on behalf of the country during that time.  She's met with countless world leaders and has much international respect.  

Contrasting the two further invites character speculation.  I mean things like "who would better answer that 3AM phone call."  Experience and judgment arguments immediately open the playing field to the types of character critiques you seem to be questioning here.  

I trust both Clinton and Obama with the federal courts.  

by BPK80 2008-05-24 06:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Take the itsthemedia challenge

"Character" discussions are OK as part of the discourse, as long as the focus is on things that have something to do with being President. The "3 AM call" meme, while perhaps a bit trite, actually has some relevance to deciding who would be a better President. I am disappointed when a supposedly thoughtful forum like MyDD spends time and effort on tripe like bowling scores, who tipped the waitress, and whether someone ordered coffee, orange juice, or both.

The Wright and Tuzla affairs were borderline cases. They have tangential bearing on presidential character issues, so maybe they merited a mention - but days and days of diary after diary rehashing the same stuff, and comment sections where both sides were simply yelling past each other? We can and should do better than that.

Clinton is also way better on Social Security, IMHO. She's not as good as Seven Strings, but better than Obama, who is better than McCain, who is marginally better than Bush. :-)

by itsthemedia 2008-05-24 11:56PM | 0 recs

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