Media

Obama's Michigan Pitch

As Republicans blanket the Michigan airwaves with negative ads haranguing each other before Tuesday's primary, Barack Obama's reelection campaign has released a Michigan-centric spot touting the success of the auto bailout. Titled, "Made in America," the ad takes a similar tone to the Chrysler/Clint Eastwood "Halftime in America" Super Bowl commercial, both filled with nostalgic tinged images of past American manufacturing greatness before highlighting car production as a means to restore the country's economy. "Made in America. For generations of Michigan autoworkers it's more than a slogan, it's a way of life," the ad's gruff narrator intones. The ad starts off with the positive take on those hardworking Michiganders and the success of the bailouts, but also mixes in attacks for Republican opposition to the president's plan. After flashing an image of all the candidates on the debate stage, the commercial highlights Mitt Romney's "let Detroit go bankrupt" quote, a clear indication...

This Fall's Media Bias Complaints, Explained Today

Mitt Romney pretends to enjoy hanging out with the press (Flickr/Paul Chenoweth)
It's only February, but I have a pretty good idea about how the election is going to proceed from this point forward. Mitt Romney is going to struggle through the primaries, eventually dispatching Rick Santorum. But unlike many nominees, instead of being strengthened by the primary process, he will have been weakened by it, demonstrating his persistence, but not much else. As the economy slowly improves, President Obama's approval rating will continue to inch up, and the Obama campaign will begin its assault on Romney's character, one that will be largely successful. The Romney campaign, meanwhile, will struggle in the face of that improving economy to come up with a compelling critique of the President, trying in vain to alter opinions about the incumbent that have been formed and solidified over the past four years. Obama will lead the tracking polls pretty much throughout, culminating in a win that is fairly close, but not uncomfortably so. In this it will resemble the 1996...

The Lorax, Soon to Infect Theaters With Insidious Propaganda

I have a friend, a strong environmentalist and all-around lefty of the kind your average conservative talk show host would just love to punch in the face, who has a Lorax tattooed on his shoulder. He got it 10 or 15 years ago, and his ink of Dr. Seuss' exasperated little dude who tries in vain to protect the Truffula trees never fails to win admiration from any and all who see it. But now Hollywood has come along, and using its impeccable logic— Kids love Dr. Seuss; kids love movies; ergo, kids will love Dr. Seuss movies! —has finally gotten around to making a full-length version of The Lorax . There's a mixed record on Dr. Seuss movies ( Horton Hears a Who , not bad; The Cat In the Hat , a soul-sucking crime against nature), but particularly with The Lorax , a rather bleak morality tale with only a couple of characters, they'd have to cram in a whole bunch of humans and events that Dr. Seuss never dreamed of to get it to 90 action-packed minutes. And did they ever; Grist 's David...

It Gets Better on MTV

(Flickr/soundfromwayout)
Has it really been only 17 months since advice columnist and provocateur Dan Savage and his spouse Terry Miller brilliantly launched the It Gets Better Project ? As you may know, Savage was disturbed by a rash of gay teen suicides—and about the fact that despite how much progress the LGBT movement has made for gay adults, teenagers just coming out were still as isolated in their own despair, tormented by their peers, and not necessarily supported by friends, family, or school or religious authorities. Savage persuaded Terry to create a video with him about how much life transforms once we escape childhood and high school—and the brilliant project went viral. Last night, MTV aired an "It Gets Better" broadcast, which I haven't seen; you can find the trailer here . Pegged to that broadcast, Mother Jones posted an interview with Savage yesterday that's worth reading. My favorite bit: MJ: Okay, given your sordid past with Rick Santorum , I have to ask how you feel about Santorum's recent...

Watergate Finally Gets Its Novel

Thomas Mallon's new fiction humanizes the ultimate D.C. scandal.

Watergate: A Novel . By Thomas Mallon, Pantheon Books, 448 pages, $26.95. Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life . By Ann Beattie, Scribner, 282 pages, $26.00. T his year will mark the 40th anniversary of the break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters by yeggs with White House connections that provoked the Watergate scandal and led to Richard M. Nixon’s resignation as 37th president of the United States. It’s the kind of benchmark that leaves people who lived through those days facing two realizations, fused by the unwelcome recognition that we’re pretty old. Something we experienced is now as dusty as Ginger Rogers in Gold Diggers of 1933 . An event we were convinced would always resonate turned out to be our random turn on the merry-go-round. All sorts of nefariousness later—from Ronald Reagan’s Iran-contra end run around Congress, arguably a worse assault on constitutional niceties, to Bush v. Gore , definitely a grimmer satire of the election process—Watergate’s Queen...

Pat Buchanan is Not a First Amendment Martyr

(Flickr/IsaacMao)
Last week, MSNBC announced that it was dropping Pat Buchanan from its stable of "contributors," a position which consists of being paid to come on the air and give one's opinions, something the network has no shortage of people to do for free. The network didn't hide the fact that it had finally decided that Buchanan's views (which we'll get to in a moment) were just too extreme and distasteful for them, so they decided to disassociate themselves from him. Buchanan responded with a post titled " Blacklisted, But Not Beaten ," in which he rails against those who done him in: "I know these blacklisters. They operate behind closed doors, with phone calls, mailed threats, and off-the-record meetings. They work in the dark because, as Al Smith said, nothing un-American can live in the sunlight." To which one's initial response is, pity the poor oppressed Buchanan, left only with a hundred other forums in which to pass on his ideas! But does he have a point? Andrew Sullivan thinks so ,...

The Fashion Week Bill of Rights

Two veteran runway models work to bring safe labor practices to the glamour industry.

(AP Photo/Charles Sykes)
At the height of the 1990s supermodel boom, Linda Evangelista famously said of herself and her catwalk colleagues, “We don’t get out of bed for less than $10,000.” While Evangelista and her cohort, which now includes household names like Gisele Bundchen and Heidi Klum, commanded six-figures for their photo shoots, the reality for most working models then and now is that they earn close to the minimum wage and face long hours in unregulated working conditions. Models, many of whom are teenage girls, are also vulnerable to sexual harassment and pressure to pose nude. Tired of the exploitative conditions they faced as models, runway veterans Sarah Ziff and Jenna Sauers are launching Model Alliance , to coincide with Fall 2012 New York Fashion Week, which wrapped up this week. The nonprofit aims to bring protections to the industry and has partnered with the Fordham University Fashion Law Institute to craft the regulations. “There is a sense that fashion is frivolous, and that encourages...

The Right-Wing Media Non-Conspiracy

(Flickr/DonkeyHotey)
Today's (actually, yesterday's) important article about the media comes from The American Prospect 's friend Ben Adler, in the Columbia Journalism Review . It's a nuanced exploration of the dynamics within the conservative media and how they affect Republican politicians. Here's an excerpt: While there are undeniable heavyweights, like Limbaugh, in the conservative media machine, this swift discipline doesn’t happen as the result of a top-down directive. It is more accurate to think of the conservative media ecosystem as a giant circular feedback loop. Conservative talk radio's rise in the late 1980s and early 1990s begat the creation of Fox News in 1996. Conservative blogs in turn arose in the last decade. Bloggers and their commenter communities listen to talk radio and watch Fox News, while Fox and radio hosts read conservative blogs, websites, and newspapers such as The Washington Times and New York Post . Thus conservatives in print, online, and on-air create and promote each...

Broadcasting from the Belly of the Beast

Thom Hartmann is taking on the Beltway, while trying to keep his outsider cred intact.

(AP Photo)
There are only a half-dozen or so media personalities who have both a nationally syndicated radio show and a nightly program on cable television, and most of them are superstar conservatives like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. Perhaps the least known is Thom Hartmann, a familiar voice to progressives who is nonetheless largely unheard-of among the broader public. For the last year, Hartmann has been trying to thread a difficult needle. Can he reach the top echelon of political media stars while retaining an outside-the-Beltway sensibility that finds the work of activists and organizers more compelling than the work of senators and congressmen? And can he do it from, of all places, Washington? It's 30 seconds to air, and Hartmann allows himself a quick yawn before the camera light turns on. At 7:30 pm eastern standard time, Hartmann will start his one-hour television show, having already done three hours on the radio that afternoon. Television brought Hartmann to the nation's capital...

Comedian In Chief

Public Policy Polling has been a boon for political journalists over the past few years, partially for their extensive and accurate numbers—they were the only ones noting the rise of Rick Santorum in Minnesota last week—but also for their sense of humor. In addition to surveying the major political races, PPP tackles the all-important topics such as which NFL player is more popular than all of the presidential candidates (Tim Tebow of course ) or how Stephen Colbert would perform in the South Carolina Republican primary. When the latter question produced a 5 percent result for Colbert—putting the comedian ahead of former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman—he rolled out a joke candidacy that culminated with a joint rally with Herman Cain in Charleston. Now it seems that PPP has found another celebrity who registers a solid base of support. Rosanne Barr, who recently announced that she would be seeking the nomination of the Green Party, drew 6 percent of the vote when PPP polled the national...

Fox News, Now Part of the Liberal Media

(Flickr/ario)
Is Fox News moving to the center? That's the rather surprising question asked in this story in The Politico. The answer, on the surface, appears to be "sort of." There's a simple explanation for this, which we'll get to in a moment. But here's the essence of the story, which is about how true-blue conservatives are beginning to suspect that Fox is becoming just one more outpost of the liberal media: The grumblers were picking up on a strategy that has been under way for some time — a "course correction," as Fox chief Roger Ailes put it last fall — with the network distancing itself from the tea party cheerleading that characterized the first two years of President Barack Obama's presidency. Lately, Fox has increasingly promoted its straight-news talent in the press and conducted some of the toughest interviews and debates of the Republican primary season. Just last week, it hired the openly gay liberal activist Sally Kohn as a contributor. All along, Fox watchers warned that it risked...

Soul-Searching

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Now that there's a lull in the Republican primaries (no contests between now and February 28, when Michigan and Arizona vote), journalists have a chance to do some of the think pieces that have been gestating in their brains over the past few months. One of the big topics, as Erica Fry of the Columbia Journalism Review explains , is the search for Mitt Romney's soul. Who is he, really, and why? From whence did his inimitable Mittness spring? Many journalists and commentators are hard at work trying to figure it out. Reading this, I thought of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy (of which The Golden Compass is the first book), in which every person's soul is embodied in an animal-formed "daemon" that walks around with them and reflects their innermost being. A commanding character's daemon is a snow leopard, an evil character's daemon is a scary golden monkey, servants have dogs for daemons, a conniving nobody might have a bug for a daemon. So what would Mitt Romney's daemon...

Roland Martin and the Masculinity Patrol

This weekend at The New York Times, Charles M. Blow, one of our great social-issues columnist, tackled the controversy over Roland Martin's Super Bowl tweets last weekend: This week, Roland Martin, a bombastic cultural and political commentator was suspended by CNN from his role as a political analyst on the network for Twitter messages published during the Super Bowl. One message read: “If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him! #superbowl.” Another read: “Who the hell was that New England Patriot they just showed in a head to toe pink suit? Oh, he needs a visit from #teamwhipdatass.” Blow assumes good will and good faith on the part of Roland Martin—and still holds him to account for being part of the masculinity patrol . No matter how jovially, mocking deviation from a narrow vision of manhood has real-world consequences, as Blow explains perfectly: Words have power. And power recklessly exerted has consequences...

The Help's Same Old Story

The film boasts Oscar-worthy performances but spotlights black exploitation in Hollywood.

(AP Photo/Dale Robinette)
Much has been written about The Help ’s whitewashing of American history in the Jim Crow South. The film’s revisionist plot follows the efforts of an altruistic white savior, played by Emma Stone, as she writes a book about the daily lives of maids in 1963 Mississippi. Certain realities of the time, including the death of prominent civil-rights leader Medgar Evers, are brushed aside, glossed over, or completely misinterpreted. Tulane political-science professor and MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry has called the movie “ahistorical” and “deeply troubling.” With the Academy Awards two weeks away and The Help, which was nominated for four Oscars including Best Picture, poised to win big, what does the film’s success say about Hollywood’s unwillingness to properly tell black stories? James McBride, who co-wrote the upcoming film Red Hook Summer with Spike Lee, recently penned an open letter to Hollywood in which he noted the irony of Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer receiving acting...

A Super Bowl for the People

Led by Madonna’s halftime act, this year’s telecast included something for everyone.

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Somehow Madonna pulled off an amazing feat during the Super Bowl: bringing gay culture and aggressive female sexuality into the heart of masculinity’s holiest of days without anyone seeming to care. While the cheerleading segment was embarrassingly silly, I otherwise have to disagree with Tom Carson’s assessment that the Super Bowl’s narrative was Clint Eastwood versus Madonna, with Clint winning. I’m more in the camp of Tom’s friend who said, “It was Clint AND Madonna.” Madonna was hauled onto the field by an army of half-naked men in gladiator costumes and then sang “Vogue,” a song about a dance style invented and nourished in gay nightclubs. Madonna even rolled out “Like A Prayer”, a number that used to bait conservatives with its provocative blend of sexual and religious themes. Yet, the only offended response from the guardians of moral purity the Monday after the show was half-hearted complaining that hip-hop performer M.I.A., who joined Madonna and rapper Nicky Minaj onstage,...

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