The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

June 5, 2009

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 4 Jun 2009 22:48:30 -0400
From: moderator@PORTSIDE.ORG
Subject: Rush and Newt Are Winning

Rush and Newt Are Winning

By E.J. Dionne Jr.
Thursday, June 4, 2009

A media environment that tilts to the right is obscuring what President Obama stands for and closing off political options that should be part of the public

Yes, you read that correctly: If you doubt that there is a conservative inclination in the media, consider which arguments you hear regularly and which you don't. When Rush Limbaugh sneezes or Newt Gingrich tweets, their views ricochet from the Internet to cable television and into the traditional media. It is remarkable how successful they are in setting what passes for the news agenda.

The power of the Limbaugh-Gingrich axis means that
Obama is regularly cast as somewhere on the far left
end of a truncated political spectrum. He's the guy who
nominates a "racist" to the Supreme Court (though
Gingrich retreated from the word yesterday), wants to
weaken America's defenses against terrorism and is
proposing a massive government takeover of the private
economy. Steve Forbes, writing for his magazine,
recently went so far as to compare Obama's economic
policies to those of Juan Peron's Argentina.

Democrats are complicit in building up Gingrich and
Limbaugh as the main spokesmen for the Republican
Party, since Obama polls so much better than either of
them. But the media play an independent role by
regularly treating far-right views as mainstream
positions and by largely ignoring critiques of Obama
that come from elected officials on the left.

This was brought home at this week's annual conference
of the Campaign for America's Future, a progressive
group that supports Obama but worries about how close
his economic advisers are to Wall Street, how long our
troops will have to stay in Afghanistan and how much he
will be willing to compromise to secure health-care

In other words, they see Obama not as the parody
created by the far right but as he actually is: a
politician with progressive values but moderate
instincts who has hewed to the middle of the road in
dealing with the economic crisis, health care,
Guantanamo and the war in Afghanistan.

While the right wing's rants get wall-to-wall airtime,
you almost never hear from the sort of progressive
members of Congress who were on an America's Future
panel on Tuesday. Reps. Jared Polis of Colorado, Donna
Edwards of Maryland and Raul Grijalva of Arizona all
said warm things about the president -- they are
Democrats, after all -- but also took issue with some
of his policies.

All three, for example, are passionately opposed to his
military approach to Afghanistan and want a serious
debate over the implications of Obama's strategy. "If
we don't ask these questions now," said Edwards, "we'll
ask these questions 10 years from now -- I guarantee

Polis spoke of how Lyndon Johnson's extraordinary
progressive legacy "will always be overshadowed by
Vietnam" and said that progressives who were
challenging the administration's foreign policy were
simply trying to "protect and enhance President Obama's
legacy by preventing Afghanistan and Iraq from becoming
another Vietnam."

As it happens, I am closer than the progressive trio is
to Obama's view on Afghanistan. But why are their
voices muffled when they raise legitimate concerns,
while Limbaugh's rants get amplified? Isn't Afghanistan
a more important issue to debate than a single comment
by Judge Sonia Sotomayor about the relative wisdom of

Polis, Edwards and Grijalva also noted that proposals
for a Canadian-style single-payer health-care system,
which they support, have fallen off the political
radar. Polis urged his activist audience to accept that
reality for now and focus its energy on making sure
that a government insurance option, known in policy
circles as the "public plan," is part of the menu of
choices offered by a reformed health-care system.

But Edwards noted that if the public plan, already a
compromise from single-payer, is defined as the left's
position in the health-care debate, the entire
discussion gets skewed to the right. This makes it far
more likely that any public option included in a final
bill will be a pale version of the original idea.

Her point has broader application. For all the talk of a media love affair with Obama, there is a deep and
largely unconscious conservative bias in the media's
discussion of policy. The range of acceptable opinion
runs from the moderate left to the far right and cuts
off more vigorous progressive perspectives.

Democrats love to think that Limbaugh and Gingrich are
weakening the conservative side. But guess what? By
dragging the media to the right, Rush and Newt are


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How I Cheat

I'm forever borrowing scripts and remaking them, impressing big important
people with my programming ability when I have none at all.

A few tiny bounce commands when an avatar comes near and I have a super
fantastic interactive installation.

Particle physics gone just a bit amuck makes it look like I crafted models
of black holes and Large Hadron Collider targets.

Weird twangy objects make everything look lumpy and complicated just like
the early pre-galactic universe.

Importing abject and bizarre body textures makes silly shapes appear
really risky and out of control.

Borrowing terms from psychoanalysis and science gives my stuff a legitima-
ted edge.

A few wobbly movements and it seems as if I've taken physics in hand and
bent it to my purpose.

Taking down buildings and other stuff and calling it deconstruction gives
it theory-advantage.

Endless advertising pumps up my things like inflationary universes in
their own tiny bubbles.

Referencing other artworks by not referencing other artworks is so cool I
gain panache.

Keeping words out of the installations makes them appear mysterious and

Making things slightly transparent increases their complexity without
really doing anything much.

Letting stuff rotate beyond raster limits makes movement appear incredibly
sophisticated instead of it being just the inability of video-cards to
keep up.

Obscure names for shows act like ultra-cool sunglasses hiding nothing
much to see.

Confessing pain and obsession creates empathy and guilt in an otherwise
critical audience.

Networking makes me seem like a real know-it-all who knows it all.

There's nothing like an avatar jumping about to make it appear that I'm a
master at script-writing.

Leaving some stuff unfinished shows what a busy creature I am.

Weird sound creates shortcuts to making environments out of very little.

Silence gives things a deep conceptual edge.

Making stuff transparent so avatars bump into it gives an illusion of
control and brilliant but invisible architecture.

Just build something as big as possible and it seems like you're a master
of a virtual universe.

Never imitating 'real' objects creates the feeling of real unworldliness
as if the alien is under my command.

Ending lists like these abruptly makes it appear that I have so much to
say I don't really know when to stop.

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