Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hello again!

Sorry for the light posting recently, as I've been on vacation. But I'm back, and ready to write some (hopefully) good stuff.

I see that the Marty Peretz racism controversy seems to have been wrapped up for now. It stuns me that someone with such a documented history of racism would be able to remain good company in Washington society. This quote by beer summit participant Henry Louis Gates somehow just irritates me even more. I think it's great that the guy likes debate and has friends of different viewpoints, but frankly I could give a damn so long as he uses his platform to push for AIPAC-style policies and anti-Arab sentiment disguised as scholarship. It somehow smacks of "but some of his best friends are black" style excuse-making, and yes I do appreciate the irony that it's Gates saying it. It's fine for people to personally think of the man as the equivalent of their funny uncle whose casual, occasional racism is mostly just dismissed as a product of some old-fashioned incorrigibility--after all, he's so funny and charming!--but all the same, I don't want anyone like that actually having power of any kind.

People often talk about why Americans hate Washington so much. Clearly, a big part of that now is the economy, and the seeming paradox of the public both hating Republicans and planning to vote for them en masse stems from a mentality in which the public trusts nobody and doesn't want any particular group to have enough power to do anything in Washington. But in a larger sense, I think it comes back to the simple belief that most everyone in Washington simply cares about themselves over the good of the people. I honestly couldn't say the extent to which this is accurate, as I tend to think that most politicians actually try to do their best to do what they think is right (though they usually tend to think that being re-elected is a pretty right thing). Then again, at some point we have to accept that a predominantly rich Congress (average net worth: $2+ mil, according to this) is simply going to see things in a certain light. This is another discussion entirely. But the public's trust in the media has plummeted so low in recent years, lower than most any other institution by most surveys I've seen, and I have to assume that things like this Peretz matter are, if not a driver of this trend, at least emblematic of it. I mean, we have a media that by and large doesn't give a flying you-know-what that it prints deliberate disinformation and spin without a critical look. They don't feel any particular need to educate their viewers, so much as to not chance alienating any of them by hitting any side particularly hard, and especially by not risking social and professional contacts of people in power. I tend to see this as the worst of all possible worlds of journalism, practically the complete opposite of the Ed Murrow model, and it's as lazy and cynical as can be. I do think the public has by and large picked up on this, and that's why the mainstream media is dying such a rapid death. Independence and moderation don't have to mean mushy, but at this point, I'd take just mushiness from the media. I think it's a lot worse even than that. But at least the complete lack of standards within the media is counterbalanced by the knowledge that Marty Peretz's parties are feisty and fun! That's a good tradeoff.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.