Media

Frank Bruni on Whether We're "Born This Way"

Over the weekend, Frank Bruni at The New York Times weighed in on the internal LGBT community scuffle that Cynthia Nixon set off last week. Why are people gay? Nature, nurture, culture, choice, or some fluid combination thereof? I laid out my point of view here last week: Given that researchers have found women's sexuality to be more fluid than men's and that sexuality is defined and organized differently in different times and places, I wondered whether, in our time, men's appears more fixed because they face the fierce cultural pressure of the masculinity patrol . Bruni writes : Born this way. That has long been one of the rallying cries of a movement, and sometimes the gist of its argument. Across decades of widespread ostracism, followed by years of patchwork acceptance and, most recently, moments of heady triumph, gay people invoked that phrase to explain why homophobia was unwarranted and discrimination senseless.... But is it the right mantra to cling to? The best tack to take...

I Fought PBS and PBS Won

Downton Abbey gives the network a bona fide guilty pleasure.

AP Photo/Chris Pizzello
Maybe I should have heeded Joe Strummer's obscene warning back in 1980. "He who fucks nuns/Will later join the church," the Clash's front man sang biliously on London Calling— and here I am 32 years later, watching Downton Abbey. I guess Joe had my number all along. No doubt, this betrayal of my Jacobin youth won't seem excessively poignant to too many of you. That's not least because you're probably hooked on Downton Abbey yourself, but indulge me. When I was starting out as a TV reviewer—lured, like so many bright-eyed naifs, by the promise of groupies, big bucks, and high living— Village Voice readers soon got used to my heartlessness about PBS: "Off with those three little heads!" I once merrily wrote. More than anything else, public broadcasting's wan mania for importing high-toned Brit taradiddle got my goat, a prejudice dating back to my restless puberty. The original Forsyte Saga, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Brideshead Revisited —the PBS versions of the Rosetta Stone, in...

The Winner Is...Romney's Debate Coach

AP Photo/Matt Rourke
We learned so many things during Thursday night’s GOP debate in Jacksonville. Callista Gingrich would be a swell first lady because she plays the French horn and loves the arts. If you’re a Palestinian-American, don’t bother asking a Republican candidate in Florida to acknowledge your humanity, or even your existence. Immigration policy is really all about undocumented grandmothers. Rick Santorum used to go to church with the governor of Puerto Rico. And Ron Paul is itching to take on the other candidates in a 25-mile bike ride in the heat of Texas. The last debate before the Florida primary was, even by the standards of the 18 debates that preceded it, a stunningly vapid event—thanks largely to the preponderance of The View -level questions that moderator Wolf Blitzer and Jacksonville audience members asked. (Let’s not bother with Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, poverty or income inequality; we must know why the candidates think their spouses would make the best first ladies!) But the...

Yes We Can ... Watch Something Else

Obama gave his 2012 State of the Union address last night, and all the eyes in the media and political world were tuned in. During the address, 766,681 SOTU-centric tweets were fired off , with 548 coming from inside the chamber. Despite the frenzy that takes over news rooms and congressional offices, the rest of the nation was more likely watching The Real Housewives of Atlanta or Wizards of Waverly Place . Ever since cable started competing with the networks for the hearts of the American public, ratings for primetime presidential addresses have plummeted, as shown by research conducted by Matthew A. Baum and Samuel Kernel of Harvard and the University of California, San Diego, respectively. Richard Nixon—not known for the most stirring rhetoric outside of defending questionable pet gifts—had 59 percent of households with televisions watch a routine press conference he gave in 1969. In 2010, Obama only had 41 percent of households watch him give the most important presidential...

Best New York Times Caption Ever

A typo in the caption of this New York Times photo raises questions about the nature of war. Isn’t that how wars start? Someone tells a story about what happened to them. Another person tells a different story. And so a fissure forms and widens. Fiction between ostensible allies leads to disasters. Honesty is the best policy.

Colbert Does "It Gets Better"

Nerve is featuring Stephen Colbert's " It Gets Better " video. They're amazed that he can be straightforward and without irony. I'm more impressed with the friend he mentions, who turned around to a bully who was calling him queer and said ... well, watch it . Stephen Colbert's "It Gets Better" Video Colbert shares a personal story of bullying. Log in or register to post comments It reminded me of a woman I knew who, when being gay-baited by some kids on a Cambridge street back in Ye Old Bad Days, turned around and said, "That's Mr. Dyke to you." How cool is that?

Sex, Preaching, and Abortion

AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
You know the colloquial definition of "chutzpah" as well as I do: the man who murders his parents and then throws himself at the mercy of the court because he's an orphan. As you know by now, our good buddy Newt is steadily exercising more chutzpah than our homicidal orphan. Do you remember that, way back while he was trying to impeach President Bill Clinton for, um, perjury, Newt Gingrich had to resign as speaker because he was cheating on Marianne? And now he is shocked that the liberal media would bring all that up, despite his career as a moral scold . ("Liberal media" is one word, just like "gays in the military" once was.) He prayed it all away, OK? 'Nuff said! Ah, just another entertaining moment in the sideshow we call the primaries. But while you were snorting out your coffee over Newt's antics, the Guttmacher Institute announced that the drop in the world's abortion rate has stalled. (Guttmacher is generally respected as the most accurate and nonpartisan source of...

Newt Gingrich's Expert Judo on the Infidelity Question

Newt Gingrich may have almost no chance of becoming president (even if he does win the South Carolina primary tomorrow, as looks increasingly likely), but the man knows his audience. Let's take a look at the way he handled the first question of last night's debate, about allegations by wife #2, Marianne, that when she found out he was cheating on her with a young congressional staffer (who would later become wife #3), he proposed that they have an open marriage, also known as, "You keep your mouth shut and I sleep with whoever I want." After all, Newt does firmly believe that God made marriage a covenant between a man and a woman, and the man's mistress. Could he somehow turn this embarrassing tale to his advantage? Yes he could: The first thing to understand is that ABC News had been promoting the interview, and that portion in particular, since the day before. And Gingrich knew there was no way in the world he wasn't going to get asked about it at the debate. So he had ample time to...

The One-Sided Media Cocoon

While I was in the car yesterday I turned to a conservative talk radio station, which I recommend all liberals do from time to time. The host, whom I didn't recognize, brought up some innocuous piece of news reporting that appeared in the Politico. As you know if you care about these things, the Politico is a complicated media entity. On one hand, they employ a lot of reporters and they sometimes break interesting stories. On the other hand, they're almost a parody of the inside dope-obsessed Washington media, which finds the question of whether Eric Cantor's press secretary and John Boehner's press secretary are feuding far more compelling than, say, the question of what effects cuts in Medicaid would have on struggling Americans. But when this conservative talk show host mentioned the Politico, he found it necessary to refer to it as "the left-wing rag the Politico." Here in Washington, almost no one in either party is crazy enough to think that the Politico is actually a left-wing...

The End of the Internet?

As Wikipedia and Google protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a rival bill offers a middle road to protecting copyrights.

Nancy Scola/yfrog
Google Google featured a censored doodle in protest of proposed SOPA legislation Wednesday. After President Barack Obama released a statement over the weekend that he would not sign any bill resembling the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), Representative Darrell Issa postponed Wednesday’s hearing on the proposed law. News as of today is that SOPA is DOA. Since December, prominent tech figures and digital activists, including luminaries like Sergey Brin of Google and Jack Dorsey of Twitter, have characterized the bill as a draconian measure that would chill online innovation. A number of popular websites like GoDaddy, Reddit, and Wikipedia have threatened to black out service for a day to boycott the law, and Craigslist, in its rudimentary script, has a running message on its site protesting the measure. New legislation introduced by Issa and Senator Ron Wyden called the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN) looks to avoid a number of the problems with SOPA that...

Mitt Romney the Serial Killer

Stephen Colbert announced last Thursday that he would form an exploratory run for the president in South Carolina. But, much as his real counterparts acted like true candidates long before their campaigns became official, Colbert's faux presidential campaign has begun to follow the lead of the real campaigns. He appeared on ABC's Sunday show The Week yesterday, and his super PAC (now officially controlled by Jon Stewart) has released a negative ad against Mitt Romney. The ad calls Romney "Mitt the Ripper" for his killing spree against corporations since they are, after all, people. Narrated by John Lithgow, the commercial turns Romney's words against him and ends with an image of Romney superimposed next to a wood chipper that chews up companies taken over by Bain and spits out money on the other side. Colbert himself is not mentioned; instead, the ad urges voters to turn against Romney, showing a sample ballot with the only two options being "Mitt Romney" and "Not Mitt Romney," the...

Martin Luther King Jr. and Intellectual Property

Just a few years ago at TPMCafe.com, I linked to a video of the "I Have a Dream" speech for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But that video is no longer available online ; you can pay $10 to get a copy. And so here's a link to the radio show On The Media 's segment called " Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Public Imagination ." Producer Jamie York examines the oral tradition within which King was working when he created his landmark "I Have a Dream" speech—and the capitalist tradition in which it has been trademarked and licensed. The segment made me think of Lewis Hyde's book The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property , which once upon a time was must-reading for certain arts and intellectual types. Hyde's beautifully and movingly written book contends that art and inspiration must circulate freely, not be owned but passed on, which clashes with a property-based society in which we all need to be paid for our efforts. That clash lives with us today in many ways: mixes and...

A New Candidate?

For fans of the horse race, this presidential election comes up a little short. The remaining contests are worth watching to see how the Republican Party's competing factions reconcile the fact that they must put aside their differences and support Romney if they hope to defeat Barack Obama, but any semblance of drama disappeared once Romney won the first two nominating states. He now leads the polls in the upcoming primary states. Thank god for Stephen Colbert. A recent Public Policy Polling survey showed that 5 percent of South Carolina Republicans would support the fake news host if he were a presidential candidate. That's 1 percent more than Jon Huntsman and falls within the margin of error for Rick Perry and Ron Paul. On last night's Colbert Report, the comedian hinted to his fans that he might have something up his sleeve, winking at a "major announcement" for Thursday night's show. “This just got real,” Colbert said. “I’ve got to ask, what do you think, nation? Should I run for...

The Romney Campaign Heads South ... of the Border

AP Photo/Chris Carlson
The most Mexican man in the world. Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary last night with 39.3 percent of the vote, but 11 hours ago, the Twitter handle @MexicanMitt won 100 percent of the Twitterverse's heart (rough approximation). The fake Twitter feed—most likely inspired by the fact that George Romney, the candidate's father, was born in Mexico, giving Mitt Romney the option of dual citizenship —already has more than 300 followers, and, in less than a day, has provided more exciting rhetoric than Mitt Romney has said during his entire career. Starting off strong with the tweet, "Corporations are peoples, my amigos!" and segueing right into, "You know how you can tell I am Mexican? Because I take the Americans jobs!" moments later, it's hard not to take the self-proclaimed "Most Mexican Man in The World" seriously. Romney's stance on immigration won't win over the Hispanic voters that Republicans need if they want to have a strong showing in November, so @MexicanMitt will...

Yes, It's "Rape" Rape

Last week I heard two pieces of good news about rape—one local, one national. The local news: While Boston's serious crime reports dropped by 8 percent overall, rape reports spiked by 12 percent, according to police; the rise was especially dramatic in some lower-income sections of the city. So why is that good news? Well, no one believes more rapes occurred—primarily because there was no increase in reported rapes by strangers, which are most likely to be reported but only make up an estimated 20 percent of all rapes. Nope, the good news was that Boston women decided to report it when acquaintances, boyfriends, dates, friends, and family members forced them to have sex. Public-health and criminal-justice statistics folks know that's happening; according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's recently released sexual violence survey , nearly one in five women is raped in her lifetime, and more than one million women are raped each year. Far fewer are reported to police...

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