Friday, January 09, 2004

Puppets on a String, II

If Karl Rove isn't behind every string that's being pulled, we don't know squat!

Including especially "the liberal media." Especially them, because Karl Rove & Company has spent years now brow-beating the "liberal media" as "LIBERAL" so that in fact that same media has become an all-too predictable tool of conservative Wizards of Oz. They take the conservative spin as the news.

For example ... Howard Dean as the "angry" Democrat. When "angry" is bad bad bad, and not human and cool and lovable if slightly dumb, like George W.

Finally, a media writer named Matt Taibbi has recognized what's going on, that the so-called "liberal media" is in full conservative spin in labeling Howard Dean -- the presumptive Democratic nominee -- as unelectably disagreeable.

Taibbi: "Three years ago, in an awesome, for-the-hell-of-it demonstration of media power, the journalism establishment succeeded in convincing half the domestic population, including the landlocked portion, that it was about to be eaten by a shark. Two years ago, despite a statistical drop in such incidents, the bogeyman was child abductors: There was one around every corner. We all know who and what it was last year: Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. This coming year, the media is going to sell us another bullshit story. It's going to be a WWF match, entitled Shrill and Angry versus Calm and Cocksure. Dean has yet to formally secure the nomination -- that part of it will probably be over in a few weeks -- but his label ["shrill & angry"] is already through to the general election. We're kidding ourselves if we don't admit that the labels are the real candidates."

That's Karl Rove at work, folks. Superior marketing. Your product may be shoddy, but you make out your competitor's product as shrill and shoddy.

And just like the consumers who bought McDonald's McRibb Sandwich, we friggin' deserve what we eat!

More from Taibbi's really very crucial editorial:


I had a front-row seat for this process. Though there were rumblings on the "angry" front before -- most notably in a June piece by Matt Bai in the New York Times magazine that concluded by wondering aloud if Dean's "angry message" might not be his downfall -- the real launch of the "angry" theme came in the dual cover stories in Time and Newsweek that appeared simultaneously in early August.

Both Newsweek's Jonathan Alter and Time's Karen Tumulty -- using language suspiciously similar to that of earlier Democratic Leadership Council memos about the burgeoning Dean disaster -- focused heavily on the "anger" theme, openly concluding that the chief "problem" of Dean's candidacy would be convincing voters to get past his "anger," "testiness" and "pugnacity."

Alter, who along with fellow Newsweek butt-buddy Howard Fineman is among the worst swine in the business, went so far as to say that voters simply don't like people like Dean: "Dean's pugnacity might not wear well with voters, who usually favor buoyant, warm personalities."

Alter went on to hold a formal knighthood ceremony for the second great Howard Dean myth, that he is unpopular with journalists: "In truth, Dean is no favorite of working reporters [as opposed to non-working reporters?] who tend to like their candidates funny and solicitous. So do voters."

Tumulty echoed Alter's theme, noting that "Washington insiders" thought that Dean's candidacy early on had "all the resonance of a temper tantrum." Like Alter, Tumulty described Dean as "testy" and "angry." Neither piece, incidentally, did anything more than briefly touch upon Dean's actual positions on the issues; both were frankly and excessively focused on the electability/horse-race aspect of the story.

The Time-Newsweek covers came at a key moment in the Dean candidacy, just before Dean's "Sleepless Summer Tour." This was Dean's media coming-out party, in which he brought some three dozen or more prominent journalists around the country with him on a chartered plane and gave them all intimate access for four consecutive days.

I was on that plane, and I can report that the "angry" issue (as well as the "journalists hate Dean" issue) was something that was much discussed among the journalists. Mostly we thought it didn't make too much sense. With us reporters on the plane, Dean was never anything but congenial and accommodating. And in his speeches and public appearances, he presented the full gamut of emotions. I think I speak for a lot of the reporters in saying that had I not just read the Fineman and Tumulty pieces, I wouldn't have been aware that he was any angrier than any other candidate running for office. Christ, Dick Gephardt by comparison is a raving lunatic: waving his finger all the time and screeching, "Bush is a miserable failure!" with that creepy mask-like face of his. The only difference is, Gephardt's speaking in front of 10 people....

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