Tag Archives: Charlie Gibson

Lessons from Tim Russert

I think some progressive bloggers are wary of weighing in on Tim Russert’s life and achievements because of some recent questions of bias in his treatment of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain.  He also rarely turned to progressives and lefties as policy and political experts, no matter how qualified, which is a well worn and deserved critique of the MSM.

 I share these questions, and yet, am saddened by his death and agree it leaves a huge hole in the mainstream coverage of the 08 electoral campaign.  I agree with those who have eulogized Tim Russert as one of the hardest working and thorough journalists in the field.  In my opinion he was one of the few MSM journalists worth tuning in to on Sunday morning. I always learned something, be it some new angle in the mainstream narrative some detail I had not thought of or found in other sources. 

That’s not to say I agreed with Tim Russert’s politics or with those that say he was manifestly neutral and n advocate only for the truth.  I doubt this generally, and am wary of persons who claim that journalists (like social scientists) don’t themselves bring their own biases to the game they cover or have an impact on the very stories they investigate and write about.   Neutrality simply does not exist in the post-modern universe.  

Russert had his biases.  I believe his credo was fairness, and he wasn’t gentler on one political party over another. I don’t think he played favorites that way.

But I do believe Russert was gentler on others who knew the inside game like he did; he brought down David Duke but never quite took down Bush or Cheney the same way;   Clearly he loved the inside the beltway mix, — probably almost as much as he loved Buffalo– and I think this love of the game at time blurred the lens thru which Russert interviewed McCain, Bush and Cheney.  I agree he asked the tough  questions but not always of the right people, and at times he didn’t follow through with the obvious and killer follow-up.  sometimes he let Cheney and other Bushco off the hook. As a VP at NBC he could have but didn’t unleash his investigatory team to find out the answers behind the talking heads. 

He did this several times with John McCain during the primary season. Perhaps he would have been more critical with McCain during the general election but we will never know.   I thought at the time that Russert was noticeably tougher on Hillary Clinton than John McCain. and his questioning of Obama sometimes seemed oddly 1980s (ish). 

And i hope such qualified criticism is received in the spirit of the honesty that Russert abided during his professional career. Tim Russert was about the BEST mainstream journalist around. The likes of Stephanopoulos and Gibson and and Couric and Matthews pale in comparison.  Unlike these folks, Russert was a teacher, a dissector. He got US politics.  I learned from him and for this I thank him.

He also leaves some lessons: 1) he knew his shit and simply outworked his peers on the left and right (know your shit); 2) he really was a nice guy on camera and off (no need to be a jerk); 3) He really loved what he did and quite literally died with his boots on (do what you love). what a way to go!





NYTimes Gets it Right on CNN-Pentagon “Psyops”

When Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos were asking the candidates about lapel pins, 40 year old urban guerilla actions and Jeremiah Wright, the NYT was preparing to run a piece that these “journalists” surely knew about, but they asked nothing. The story has to do with the military industrial complex that symbiotically links the pentagon, media and military contractors together into a well planned out effort to manipulate emotions, objective reasoning and behavior.  Indeed the Times piece aptly named it for what it is, psyops.  

According to Wikipedia, Psyops is:

commonly used by governments, such as the United States, who do not wish to use the term propaganda, which would mar their image. The word propaganda has very negative connotations, and by calling it psychological operations instead, people are much more likely to support it, where they would be unlikely to support the use of “propaganda”. This euphemistic naming scheme is ironically an example of psychological operations — i.e. using psychological techniques to persuade a large number of people to support something that they wouldn’t normally support.”

The point I wish to add here is that what the Times reveals is nothing new, but rather, the pattern of the pentagon coordinating former top brass who are now hi salaried contractors to provide “expertise” for the mainstream press is the sort of practice that has been widely used since 9/11.  What the Times piece does is provide a template for examining media coverage about almost any other Bush post 911-related activity. 

For similar patterns of psyops, take a look at how the media has handled: FISA and domestic spying issue; the administration’s sanctioning and planning of torture methods, or almost any of the “Bushed” items we hear about daily on Countdown with Keith Olbermann. 

The genie is out of the bottle. Even Tim and Chris and Charlie and George cannot put her back in.



ABC Disneyfies Philadelphia Debate

ABC, owned by Disney, lived up to its parent company name last night, and the network ought to be sued for false advertising regarding the debate. By holding the debate in constitution hall and starting each segment with quotes from the constitution, the audience was made to feel it was witnessing an historic event, or minimally, some serious public dialogue.

Far from it.

Even Barack Obama was caught off guard. Here’s a guy who is trying to take the cartoon out of politics and was confronted with 90 minutes of the Roadrunner. Obama was hit with with so many figurative pianos and falling vaults that i almost expected to see the roadrunner beep beeping along side him on stage.

Jean Baudrillard wrote that disneyfication of politics strips politics of its real and original character, and replaces it with a more sanitized version.

“Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, when in fact all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are no longer real, but of the order of the hyperreal and of simulation.”

Last evening was a spectacle in which lapel pins rather than the constitutional rule of law signified patriotism; condemning comments about bitterness rather than having a basic understanding of the economy signified whether or not a candidate was qualified to lead us out of recession; and questions about affiliations with former members of the 60’s radical weather underground replaced discussions about the real terrorists in pakistan, afghanistan and saudi arabia.   And affiliations with Reverand Wright replaced torture and domestic spying as signifiers of unethical and immoral behavior.

It offered the most juvenile politics in its most crass, zero sum form, where complex issues were reduced to afterthoughts and questions were framed so as to appeal to the audience’s lowest, most carniverous appetites. 

So, the real test for ABC was whether Donald and Goofy (george and charlie) facilitated the required number of train wrecks as to please advertisers. For the rest of us, and for at least one of the candidates, rubbernecking quickly turned into a pain in the neck.