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Exceptionalism

If everyone would please turn to page 279 of Manufacturing Consent (2002 edition), we’ll begin.  There Herman and Chomsky write:

On the tenth anniversary of the Khmer Rouge takeover, Sydney Schanberg wrote two columns in the New York Times entitled “Cambodia Forgotten.” The first highlights the phrase: “Superpowers care as little today about Cambodians as in 1970,” the second dismisses Richard Nixon’s 1985 claim that there was no “indiscriminate terror bombing” but only “highly accurate” strikes “against enemy military targets.” Schanberg comments that “Anyone who visited the refugee camps in Cambodia and talked to the civilian survivors of the bombing learned quickly about the substantial casualties.” He recalls that “the Khmer Rouge were a meaningless force when the war was brought to Cambodia in 1970....  In order to flourish and grow, they needed a war to feed on.  And the superpowers—including this country, with the Nixon incursion of 1970 and the massive bombing that followed—provided that war and that nurturing material.”

Now you might be asking yourself, as I asked myself back when I first read this passage, how exactly does this Sydney Schanberg column bear out the “manufacturing consent” thesis? I mean, here in The Very Paper of Record is the guy who reported from the killing fields, (rightly) pinning the blame for the rise of the Khmer Rouge on Nixon’s secret war, and slapping down Nixon’s lies about the results of the bombing.  What in Moloch’s name is wrong with that? 

To find out the surprising answer to this question, you have to read no further than the next two sentences in Manufacturing Consent.

He [Schanberg] does not, however, inform us about which superpower, apart from “this country,” invaded Cambodia and subjected it to massive bombing.  With comparable even-handedness we might deplore the contribution of the superpowers, including the USSR, to the destruction of Afghanistan, or the attitude of the great powers, including Nazi Germany, toward the victims of the death camps, whom Schanberg brings up in a later column the same month entitled “Memory is the Answer.”

The idea is that Schanberg’s use of the term “superpowers” is something of a whitewash, because the US alone is responsible for the devastation of Cambodia.  Apparently the Khmer Rouge never had any contact with the People’s Republic of China.  But leaving that aside, as well as the decades of debate over the attitude of the great powers toward the victims of the death camps, isn’t the counterfactual invocation of Afghanistan a misstep here?  Why wouldn’t one speak of “the contribution of the superpowers, including the USSR, to the destruction of Afghanistan,” particularly if one were to make the case—sometime after 9/11, say—that the US was partly responsible for the destruction of Afghanistan?

Be that as it may, Herman and Chomsky are clear:  it is not good enough for Schanberg to write, “the superpowers—including this country, with the Nixon incursion of 1970 and the massive bombing that followed—provided that war,” because it entails a false “evenhandedness” that helps to manufacture consent for ... um, what, exactly?  The condemnation of Nixon’s secret war and its massive bombing? 

And this is one of the problems with the Manufacturing Consent “propaganda model” thesis.  The problem isn’t that it’s wrong; on the contrary, American mass media bear it out pretty well, and their manufacturing-consentlike behavior during the election of 2000, after 9/11, and in the runup to war in Iraq was one of the reasons for the development of the liberal-left blogosphere. That was Matt Taibbi’s point with regard to media coverage obfuscation of the health care “debate,” and I could add my own favorite example from recent years—the Pentagon’s extra special disinformation campaign, developed in 2005 in response to criticism of “enhanced interrogation” methods in Guantánamo.  (Actually I do mention this in The Left At War.) The New York Times ran a front-page exposé of the program on April 20, 2008, and it opened like so:

In the summer of 2005, the Bush administration confronted a fresh wave of criticism over Guantánamo Bay. The detention center had just been branded “the gulag of our times” by Amnesty International, there were new allegations of abuse from United Nations human rights experts and calls were mounting for its closure.

The administration’s communications experts responded swiftly. Early one Friday morning, they put a group of retired military officers on one of the jets normally used by Vice President Dick Cheney and flew them to Cuba for a carefully orchestrated tour of Guantánamo.

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

Well, that’s quite a story, no?  Apparently not, because in response, not a single network or cable news program discussed it.  Needless to say, this Pentagon disinformation apparatus and its treatment by U.S. media (from their willingness to play along right through to their strange unwillingness to discuss their willingness to play along) conform quite nicely to the propaganda model—particularly what Herman and Chomsky call filter number three, “the reliance of the media on information provided by government, business, and ‘experts’ funded and approved by these primary sources and agents of power” (2).  Let’s put it this way: anyone who thinks US mass media don’t use Filter Number Three® in order to bring you the very best in information provided by government, business, and “experts” funded and approved by these primary sources and agents of power just isn’t paying attention.

The thing is, though, that the propaganda model is right only most of the time.  There are exceptions here and there—not nearly enough, of course, but real exceptions nonetheless.  That much should be uncontroversial, but sometimes the Chomsky/Herman model has trouble dealing with the exceptions, and sometimes Chomsky/Herman fans aren’t satisfied with the idea that the model doesn’t account for every last aspect of US mainstream media.  In Manufacturing Consent, the mass media are a total system of propaganda-propagation, a massive structure of lying and distortion so dense that only very, very few reports of true things can possibly escape.  Thus obvious exceptions like Schanberg have to be made, somehow, into not-exceptions.

Another problem, of course, is the one familiar to cultural studies theorists since the days of David Morley’s (1980) study of the “Nationwide” BBC programme and Stuart Hall’s “Encoding/ Decoding” essay (also 1980, the Lego® version of which is available here)—namely, that people don’t always “get” quite the same message that mass media “send.” Often they do: witness the millions of Fox-watchers who believe that we found the WMD with which Saddam attacked us on 9/11, hidden under Obama’s real Iraqinesian birth certificate.  But sometimes people respond to mass media by saying “this is bullshit,” and writing scathing liberal/left critiques of the mass media; or sometimes people say “this is bullshit” and proceed to blow a lot of Hot Air about how Rachel Ray is sending seekrit terrorist keffiyeh messages with the help of Dunkin Donuts and the librul media.  People are funny that way: for a variety of reasons, they sometimes refuse to believe what they’re told.

In other words:  I think the propaganda model is mostly right, right enough to take seriously, right enough to explain a great deal about why our mass media are so awesomely terrible, but not the whole entire story.

That’s why I take notice when the blogosphere’s Chomsky fans dump on people like Taibbi (or Digby or Greenwald), denouncing them all as idiots and rubes and craven corporate hacks.  (IOZ himself didn’t do this—he acknowledged Taibbi’s general good sense and suggested that he might be reading Taibbi uncharitably, which, I think, he was.  But some of the commenters in that thread, they are not so careful, shall we say.) Apparently they’re so clearly exceptions to the propaganda model, so clearly willing to take apart mass-media disinformation, laziness, and lying, that they, like Schanberg, have to be made into not-exceptions.  The field must be cleared of competing lefts.  This may also be why IOZ has to say that I get all het up by the mention of any crazee person to the left of Walter Mondale.  Funny, yet somehow ... silly.

But you know, I should probably stop giving Monsieur IOZ a hard time.  I don’t care for the anarcholibertarian thing when it comes to economic matters myself, because I think of it as the antithesis of democratic socialism, and of course I wouldn’t move so much as my big toe to defend Ron Paul.  But the guy does have style.  And talent, and promise, and panache, etc.  The blogosphere is a livelier place with him in it.  So here’s one for the Gip.

I do remember what pissed me off a couple of years ago—it was this post.  I won’t go over the specifics of the pissedoffedness (you can probably guess), but I will say that it wasn’t clear to me why, when the Democrats caved on FISA in 2007, it made sense to respond by taking swipes at some of the bloggers most likely (and willing!) to criticize the collapse.  I mean, on matters of national security, from right to left, you’ve got the wingnuts and the bedwetters, then you’ve got the lunatic Coburns and DeMints and Bachmanns those people put in office, then you’ve got the Very Serious People of the mainstream media, then you’ve got the spineless Democrats, then you’ve got Russ Feingold, and after him come Digby, Greenwald and company.  Clearly, this last group is not the problem around here.

IOZ is a sharp, witty writer with a great sense of how to wield a blog.  But going after Taibbi for his take on the media’s coverage of health care makes about as much sense as going after Greenwald on civil liberties-- or Schanberg on Cambodia.  These guys are some of the most salient exceptions to the mass-media rule, and the more exposure they get, the better.  Earlier this week, I finished “Sick and Wrong,” Taibbi’s Rolling Stone essay on the health care debacle, and it’s brilliant and incendiary.  Why, whole stretches of it could plausibly have been written by Monsieur IOZ himself.  The thing should be distributed and read far and wide by everybody who still gives a damn.  Rolling Stone has some interview snippets with Taibbi for your viewing pleasure, but you really should turn off the computer, go outside, go to a dead-tree-vending location and read the Whole Thing.  Because it would be a good use of time and energy for bloggers to give the guy his due.

(Also, the current issue’s lead story, written by Mikal Gilmore, rightly blames Lennon for the breakup of the Beatles.  Again.  Late-breaking breakup news, that.  As I’ve always said, even to my own children: hiring Allen Klein as manager and tapping Phil Spector to produce Let it Be?  That’s what happens when you eat a lot of acid and then shoot that nasty heroin stuff, kids.  You wind up with vastly impaired judgment.  Still, the breakup had to happen, one way or another.  Without it, we’d never have had George’s “Crackerbox Palace” and Paul’s kazoo solo on Ringo’s cover of “You’re Sixteen.”)

Posted by on 09/04 at 10:26 AM
  1. So, the Arbitrary but Fun Friday topic is “What’s your favorite kazoo solo?”, is it? Drat, I don’t have a favorite, but apparently there are many songs to choose from.

    Posted by Orange  on  09/04  at  12:18 PM
  2. Michael Berube - the modern master of the random transition.  I think he may just possibly have surpassed Lawrence Sterne.  The man cannot put finger to keyboard without unleashing something seriously hilarious.  I believe he is wasted as a university professor - his true metier, if he were ever to try it, would be the writing of eulogies.

    Posted by  on  09/04  at  12:21 PM
  3. I heart Lawrence Sterne.  Don’t know if he’s to the left of Mondale, though.

    And Orange, the whole entire point is that Paul’s solo remains the only kazoo solo on a song that went to number one.  So if Lennon broke up the Beatles, he should get partial credit for that.

    Posted by  on  09/04  at  12:30 PM
  4. This is very nice.  I have taught Manufacturing Consent to undergrads several times, and they often try to articulate this criticism of the problem of exceptions but can’t quite make it.  Now I can just link to you to help them.  Thanks.

    Thanks also for the Lego version of Hall.  Hadn’t seen that.  But, I’m still waiting for the parenthetical that begins around there to end, and I have to run out to the store.  Please put this somewhere later on so I can have closure: )

    Posted by  on  09/04  at  01:06 PM
  5. Dang!  The close-parens got eaten by my hyperlink.  Thanks for the extra!  I’ll put it up right now. )

    Posted by  on  09/04  at  01:24 PM
  6. Oh, Dagon’s satin bloomers, here we go.  And it’s a long weekend, too.

    Posted by  on  09/04  at  01:26 PM
  7. Thanks!  For someone who spits on everyone to the left of Michele Bachmann, you sure do respond to blog editing maintenance requests in a timely fashion.  It’s nice to have things tidy before the guests arrive.

    Posted by  on  09/04  at  02:22 PM
  8. "That’s why I take notice when the blogosphere’s Chomsky fans dump on people like Taibbi (or Digby or Greenwald), denouncing them all as idiots and rubes and craven corporate hacks.  (IOZ himself didn’t do this—he acknowledged Taibbi’s general good sense and suggested that he might be reading Taibbi uncharitably, which, I think, he was.  But some of the commenters in that thread, they are not so careful, shall we say.)”

    Michael, you might have included the ‘people like Taibbi’ link earlier so we knew what was the stimulus for this commentary.

    You are being extremely generous to IOZ in that it would be more correct to state that he (hmmm I got the impression from reading the posts cited that IOZ was a she ... no matter) didn’t denounce them as idiots, rubes, etc., this time - would it not?

    I thought it was Yoko and Linda who were responsible for the break up and, therefore, should get the kazoo credit.

    Posted by  on  09/04  at  02:25 PM
  9. Just got around to reading IOZ’s post and I think the wording is revealing.  Taibbi writes,

    “… the national press is making a conscious effort to prove Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent gospel.”

    Note the mild ridicule of Chomsky as holy writ.

    And IOZ takes the bait:

    What proved “Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent gospel” was Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent...”

    i.e. Chomsky’s book is self-verifying - just as the Gospels are!  The only writ that proves its own truth is holy writ.  IOZ demands that Taibbi grant to Chomsky the status of the word of God.

    captcha - thirty, as in thirty-three years on this Earth.

    Posted by  on  09/04  at  03:11 PM
  10. Oh, Dagon’s satin bloomers, here we go.  And it’s a long weekend, too.

    You’re saying that I’m going to be deluged with Lennon fans insisting that Paul broke up the band with his incessant hectoring?

    Or you’re saying I should just disemvowel any OT comments on the Balkans?

    Michael, you might have included the ‘people like Taibbi’ link earlier so we knew what was the stimulus for this commentary.

    Actually, the MC-Schanberg thing has been kicking around in my head for a couple of years.  I decided not to include it in The Left at War, though, because it’s too tangential.  There, wrt MC I confine myself to rehearsing the cultural studies v. political economy debate in media studies.  Again.  But yes, a little light went off when I read that comment thread (leaving aside the two-three comments dealing with me), so I went back and reread that passage on p 279 last weekend.  And yeah, IOZ distinguishes pretty clearly, in comments, between the Yglesiases and the Taibbis of the world.  (Did you mean to say I was being generous?  Anyway, I thought it was a good time to admit that I enjoy a great deal of his stuff, and even LOL’d a few times, though did not actually ROTF or LMAO.)

    Posted by Michael  on  09/04  at  03:16 PM
  11. Note the mild ridicule of Chomsky as holy writ.

    Yeah, I see that some people over there read it exactly that way.  And knowing Taibbi’s extra-high snark quotient, it’s entirely plausible.  But when I read it, I thought it meant, “a conscious effort to prove Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent to be gospel”—because the rest of the paragraph clearly argues that in the health care mess, the mass media are behaving precisely as MC says they do.

    But me, I still don’t see the point in taking umbrage at a little mild ridicule of the more ardent Chomsky fans in a paragraph whose overall point is, “you know what?  Chomsky/Herman called this bullshit exactly right.”

    Anyway, I got a mess of things to do in and out of the house, despite my neck and all, so mds, take care of the thread while I’m gone.  Don’t let anyone blame the Beatles’ breakup on Ringo’s sloppy drumming at the end of “Revolution,” OK?

    Posted by Michael  on  09/04  at  03:23 PM
  12. the media as they grapple with a story as nonsensical and contrived as the “Obama mindmelding with the young’uns” outrage. You practically see the wheels churn, “How, how, how do these conservatives do it? Must try and think ... oooh look, a flashing red light at Drudge’s site.”

    Posted by  on  09/04  at  05:48 PM
  13. 12 should start: It is amusing (terrifying) to watch ...

    Posted by  on  09/04  at  05:49 PM
  14. Once upon a time, I got agreements from Edward Bernays and Noam Chomsky to sit down and discuss the engineering and manufacturing of consent for local public access TV.  Bernays told me that he admired Chomsky and asked for a copy of his book.  I bought a copy and gave it to him.  After he read it, he refused to have anything to do with the project.

    Oh well, got me to read _Manufacturing Consent_ and _The Engineering of Consent_ and to meet Edward Bernays who impressed me very negatively.

    My only professional film credit is on the documentary of “Manufacturing Consent” and I thought Mark Achbar did a very good job with it.

    If people are interested in this topic, they should probably read Upton Sinclair’s _The Brass Check_ and George Seldes’ _Witness to a Century_.  That will give them perspective on how newspapers and the media has worked for at least the last century.

    Posted by gmoke  on  09/04  at  06:46 PM
  15. You’re saying that I’m going to be deluged with Lennon fans insisting that Paul broke up the band with his incessant hectoring?

    Non lo so, but as you run off to do those many things (all of which should just be quiet rest of the body), you leave me tangled up with a troubling question.  Are you manufacturing consent for or against the use of LSD and heroin in advancing music in the last century???? Either way, the contradictions would be vast, and the exceptions too numerous to be exceptional.  And i would think that Sir George Martin owes a great deal of his vast knowledge to Mr Life without Parole Phil Spector. 

    In other news, one can only hope that fifteen years from now some students (who actually stayed in school) will be able to discourse at length on the vast conservative conspiracy to promote serious, batshit-crazy insanity as a “reasonable” part of the great political dialogs of 2009.  It is staggeringly hard to argue with the insane; future Chomsky’s/Taibbi’s will be hard pressed to evaluate that.

    Posted by  on  09/04  at  09:27 PM
  16. Why does it make sense to take swipes at the people just right of you, rather than, say, Coburn?

    Well, assuming that you’ve got an actual bone to pick with the people just right of you, and assuming that we’re going to take swipes (rather than honing our skills at nonviolent communication), I’d say attacking your rightward neighbor seems like a good way to move the conversation to the left in a number of ways.

    -Your neighbor might actually listen to you. Crotchety Rush down the street will chase you off his lawn with a shotgun.

    -People who perceived your neighbor as being a craaaazy leftie are given a reason to see them as more reasonable. (Which they must be, because the real crazy leftie [you] is all over them.)

    -Taking swipes at what someone says directs attention to what that person is saying, and gets people talking about what they were talking about.

    Would it really be better for IOZ to be tackling Coburn?

    Posted by  on  09/05  at  12:08 AM
  17. Why does it make sense to take swipes at the people just right of you, rather than, say, Coburn?

    Great question—I think about it all the time, especially when I’m taking swipes at the people just to the right of me.  The larger question animating this question is something like this:  do you want to persuade the people (you believe to be) on your immediate right, or do you just want to take swipes at them?  I’ve answered this question pretty clearly, most explicitly in the intro to Public Access, but since some people have misunderstood me and many billions more have not read that book, here goes:  I think leftists should court liberals on issues where leftists and liberals share some common ground, like health care and civil liberties.  The very pure left likes to tell itself that its victories in the public sphere came about despite liberals rather than with the support of liberals, but this attitude leads to a politics of (a) whatever pisses off liberals must be good (see, e.g., Alexander Cockburn on climate change), and (b) if our ideas catch on too widely, we must be doing something wrong.  But as Doug Rossinow shows in his fine book Visions of Progress:  The Left-Liberal Tradition in America, that just ain’t so.  The left won its victories here—whatever you may think of them, from the weekend to Social Security to the Civil Rights Act to OSHA—by forming coalitions with those lily-livered, milquetoast creatures we call “liberals.”

    That said, if IOZ’s swipe at Taibbi leads people to read Taibbi (and Chomsky), so much the better.  IOZ FTW.  Still, let’s leave the defenses of Ron Paul to the NAFTA-superhighway wingnuts.

    Posted by Michael  on  09/05  at  01:23 AM
  18. It is staggeringly hard to argue with the insane;

    With the seemingly insane. (Or temporarily insane for some of those who have “legitimately” been whipped up into a frenzy.) Very, very few people are in fact “scared” of their kids listening to Obama; this really just another brick in the wall of the old canard of delegitimizing the President (and Presidency itself while it is in Democratic hands). It got started against Carter and institutionalized during the Clinton years* (with the enthusiastic participation of the mainstream Washington press**).

    *So successfully that hardly anyone quibbles with the egregious 9-0 ruling in Jones v Clinton that allowed the perjury trap to be sprung. (Justice Stevens unwittingly playing the part of The New Republic in its “even the liberal ..” role.) For no prior president would that have been an open and shut case; the whole freaking country had been rendered temporarily insane at that point (see the relevant chapter in Vince Bugliosi’s Betrayal of America). And Jerome Marcus, Ted Olson*** et al should have been disbarred for legal malpractice for their behavior when Jones’s original lawyers, Cammarata and Davis, had already negotiated a great result for their client.

    **With David Broder doubling down on the reverse Nuremberg defense of torture in his column yesterday, it is clear that the only question left for history is whether the Washington establishment press will be viewed as war criminals themselves or merely apologists for war criminals.

    ***Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard about his attempt with David Boies to challenge Prop 8. Don’t care. And in retrospect, Boies’s defense of Gore**** reflected a complete internalization of every right-wing talking point surrounding the election and recount; Kit Seely and Ceci Connolly could not have done it better.

    ****Not that that mattered given the presence of the criminally-minded Scalia and his homeys on the bench. The counting of votes that are of questionable legality does in my view threaten irreparable harm to petitioner Bush, and to the country, by casting a cloud upon what he claims to be the legitimacy of his election. Contrast with Scalia’s view of any claims of a wrongfully convicted man to “legitimately” being spared execution.

    Aaargh, too many words (sorry, MB) and too much historical bile for a beautiful holiday weekend. But then for the life of me I don’t know how we afford these holidays anymore; don’t I pay enough taxes already?

    Posted by  on  09/05  at  07:36 AM
  19. From MB @ 10: Actually, the MC-Schanberg thing has been kicking around in my head for a couple of years.

    Do I sense an upcoming ABFF on history’s greatest atonal rappers?

    Posted by John Protevi  on  09/05  at  09:02 AM
  20. And you keep speaking of this The Left at War book as if it will actually be made available to the reading public. So that’s still the plan? ‘Cuz, I was thinking being The LAWgiver at Christmas might be cool.

    Posted by  on  09/05  at  09:24 AM
  21. We’re still haggling over the subtitle, JP.  I want The Libertarian Temptation from Whole Earth to Whole Foods, but my publisher wants Being an Enquiry into the Origin and Nature of Certain Contentious Disputes.  November 1, they say.

    Are you manufacturing consent for or against the use of LSD and heroin in advancing music in the last century???? Either way, the contradictions would be vast, and the exceptions too numerous to be exceptional.  And i would think that Sir George Martin owes a great deal of his vast knowledge to Mr Life without Parole Phil Spector.

    Oh, here we go—the usual Spector apologism.  It never fails.

    Drugs certainly did advance music; it’s band-management I’m talking about.  And as for Spector, two things:  one, brilliant wall-of-sound producer though he was, it makes no damn sense for Lennon to complain about Martin’s overproduction and insist that the Beatles do an “honest” record for a change, and then hand over the tapes to the most over-the-top overproducer in the business.  And to do so behind Paul’s back, no less.  The 2003 Let it Be ... Naked made the point decisively, imho:  Paul was right about how the record should sound.

    Furthermore, now that you’ve got me started:  Spector’s production on Lennon’s solo albums took one of the great voices in rocknroll and ran it through Filter Number Three® a few hundred times until it sounded like soupy synthoLennon.  Compare John’s raspy opening on “No Reply” to the murk on his cover of “Stand by Me” (from Rock ‘n’ Roll, a/k/a Booze on the Tracks).

    Posted by  on  09/05  at  10:25 AM
  22. soupy synthoLennon

    Now there’s a good band name.

    Posted by  on  09/05  at  12:12 PM
  23. I always the thought the ghost of Stu Sutcliffe broke up the Beatles by visiting Lennon in a dream in which they went back to Hamburg, reminding John how fun the early days were, especially in comparison to the end days

    Posted by  on  09/05  at  12:21 PM
  24. Hmmm, makes sense to me.  I thought the 1994 movie Backbeat did a pretty good job of suggesting that the path that begins with Sutcliffe and Klaus Voormann and Astrid Kirchherr leads directly to Yoko Ono. 

    I also thought that Dave Grohl’s drumming on the soundtrack was the best job of drum-ventriloquism I’ve ever heard.

    Posted by Michael  on  09/05  at  12:52 PM
  25. Also, the current issue’s lead story, written by Mikal Gilmore, rightly blames Lennon for the breakup of the Beatles.  Again.

    Oh, not this slander again.  Lennon wasn’t even remotely to blame.  Listen to Ringo Starr’s even-sloppier-than-usual drumming at the end of “Revolution,” and it’s painfully clear whose fault the breakup was.

    You’re saying that I’m going to be deluged with Lennon fans insisting that Paul broke up the band with his incessant hectoring?

    Or you’re saying I should just disemvowel any OT comments on the Balkans?

    Um… Both?  Though if the comment manages to cover both of these things at once, it probably deserves to remain intact.  Then again, many Balkan-byes do seem to be big fans of Lennon for some reason.

    Why does it make sense to take swipes at the people just right of you, rather than, say, Coburn?

    First, as the Professor has already indicated, because “taking swipes” isn’t necessarily the best persuasion technique.  And I’m sorry, but Coburn is much more deserving of an intellectual beat-down than almost any “pwoggie.”

    Second, “just to the right of you” doesn’t necessarily describe the state of play, as many of the angriest members of the Monsieur’s commentariat get the vapors from anyone more collectivist than Max Stirner.  Meanwhile, to some of the Hermanians who have shown up here, Professor Bérubé is basically indistinguishable from Coburn anyway.  Though the Professor is the better drummer.  Heck, the Beatles would probably still be together if they had taken a chance on that plucky grade-schooler.

    [Resolutely maintaining the wackiness through gritted teeth, while wishing I could mail JP Stormcrow some happy pills.]

    Posted by  on  09/05  at  01:32 PM
  26. I would not have reacted as the blogger Michael is harping about (well, really Michael’s beef is with the commenters there).  I would have said “Right on, Tiabbi” because saying what he said is positively courageous in the environment of corporate owned media. 

    Still, Tiabbi had no reason to be defensive about Chomsky except--and this is the important part--one cannot be part of the ‘serious’ crowd unless one criticizes Chomsky.  It’s so sad and pathetic that Pat Buchanan gets 7 days a week of commentary, while Chomsky cannot be mentioned except in the farthest corners of corporate media, and even then in hushed tones.

    Michael is also right to criticize Manufacturing Consent around the edges--but to nonetheless recognize its overall accuracy in analyzing the structure and discourse that comes out of corporate media.  I have long felt the criticism Michael levels is the problem of writing a book with Edward Herman.  Syd Schanberg was damned great compared to most NY Times reporters of the past couple of decades and deserved better.

    I love the post, by the way, Michael, if these comments don’t make that clear.  I think I sound like you did when I go on my rants against those who defame the memory of I.F. Stone.
    grin

    Posted by Mitchell Freedman  on  09/05  at  03:13 PM
  27. Well, to the dude who thinks I embrace the idea that MC is holy writ, you’re reaching, fellow.  I was fer realz only saying that the argument stands well on its own merits.  It is, in other words, a convincing and well-researched book.

    Michael, this really has to stop.  Let’s just make out and get it over with.

    Posted by IOZ  on  09/05  at  04:12 PM
  28. It’s so sad and pathetic that Pat Buchanan gets 7 days a week of commentary

    Amen, brother.  But I have to admit this much—Old Pat was right about one thing:  the old racism was indeed better than the new Sotomayor-style racism.  Under the old racism, everybody knew that the Irish were drunken louts unfit for civil society.

    I have long felt the criticism Michael levels is the problem of writing a book with Edward Herman.  Syd Schanberg was damned great compared to most NY Times reporters of the past couple of decades and deserved better.

    Ditto on both of these, too.  I think of Chomsky as the Gretzky of the anarchist left, and Herman more as the Donald Brashear.  (And I am so ashamed the Rangers signed Brashear—what, did Sather think, “wow, the way he cold-cocked Blair Betts from the blind side was really impressive”?) As for Schanberg, he was a gem.  And do you remember what did him in, Mitchell?  His willingness to point out, in the very pages of the Times, that all three NY papers were stumping for that hideous $multibillion boondoggle Westway partly because they had certain financial interests in the project, hush-hush.  The NYT shitcanned him for that.  I used to say that Schanberg was the guy who survived the killing fields of Cambodia but not the corruption associated with Westway.

    And hey, could somebody clean up Schanberg’s Wikipedia page?  It looks like it was written by one of those “Chomsky and Schanberg were apologists for Pol Pot” nutcases.

    Posted by Michael  on  09/05  at  04:13 PM
  29. Michael, this really has to stop.  Let’s just make out and get it over with.

    Well, first you have to take back those mean things you said about Mad Men.  Great reading of the Marilyn Hacker sonnet, though.  All I have to add is that the enjambment also rocks.

    Posted by Michael  on  09/05  at  04:17 PM
  30. As someone who admires Taibbi, and has not read Chomsky (but has listened to him), I thought Taibbi was in fact saying, you know, Chomsky pretty much nailed it. And in reading the following thread on IOZ - which I won’t do again - I was disgusted to read some moron’s equating of Yglesias with Joke Line.  Which pretty much backs up prof. B’s point, I think.

    Posted by  on  09/05  at  05:04 PM
  31. Michael,

    Your funny Tom Lehrer inspired comment about the Old Racism reminds me of the inconvenient fact that many of the riots in American cities prominently featured Irish immigrants or Irish-Americans--and how ironic it was when Pat Buchanan said during the time of the LA riots of 1992 that “white people don’t riot.”

    I guess Pat really is a traditionalist, and did not want the Irish to be “white”; thereby rejecting the point of the book, “How The Irish Became White” by Noel Ignatiev, a guy with a name that makes me think he’s just a Commie-Marxist-Fascist-Progressive, as the certified loon Glenn Beck might characterize him…

    Posted by Mitchell Freedman  on  09/05  at  05:05 PM
  32. IOZ- I accept that what you meant to say was that the argument stands on its own merits, but that’s not what you did say.  What you did say was that the argument proves itself.  That’s true of mathematical theorems, but - other than Holy Writ - it’s not true of arguments that purport to describe the real world.  If you contend that MC is an accurate description of the world as it is, then you should welcome efforts to test its contentions against actual developments.  If on the other hand you think that MC is true regardless of what happens outside its own pages, then you’re granting it the status of scripture.

    Posted by  on  09/05  at  08:09 PM
  33. Oh, here we go—the usual Spector apologism.  It never fails
    Naa (yes we love snark), i would never defend (apologize for) Spector (he is serving life without parole afterall), just the use of acid and heroin by musicians (and only some of the time).  Clearly you are correct about band management in that regard; as i have experienced that dysfunction in so many venues over the last four decades. 

    Spector’s work in the 50s and early 60s (the age of pure analog systems) was exceptional because he did understand how to layer sounds to maximize their distinctions (and timed 3D and phasing) while minimizing their interference (and subsequent signal losses).  Martin, working with similar systems and equipment, also demonstrated that same level of genius.  By the time of solid state circuits and increased digital manipulation of sound came to the fore, i don’t think either of them really were masters (thus helping explain why Martin’s son was so necessary for the LOVE soundtrack creation).  While i note of course that you as a drummer live in the analog realms nearly all the time.

    Now, every summer, i watch endless sound engineers (at the sound boards) load in production programs from their computers, and for the most part do very little tweaking during a show (whereas the light guys are now the analog equivalents of the past--but not for long either).  The more often a band plays the same set from show to show, the less the sound guy does.  I was brought up in a world of live performance where the sound board (placed in the middle of the venue) encouraged the engineer to become a participating player in the band as the representative of the front of house.  Martin seemed to understand that role (and has for years); Spector never really did.  Thus i absolutely agree Spector should never have gotten involved with Beatles nor Lennon.

    ****.2.2~ I do think there could be an argument made that the voices of the left (even if they critique those immediately to their right) tend to be more reasoned for the most part (and reasoning).  I think criticizing the leadership of the right is different than analyzing the voices of the far right.  Most of those way, way, way over thar, are dittohead puppets with little individual contribution to thinking; repeating, louder and louder, the talking points (regardless of how completely insane they are) of their leadership.  The MSM has utterly failed to examine those distinctions (albeit, they are owned by that same leadership).

    Posted by  on  09/05  at  08:39 PM
  34. David Osachy, in a letter to the editor in the September 2009 HARPER’S, responds to a Kevin Baker quote about Obama (and those slightly to our right):

    Those of us who “grew up as ...outsider[s] and overcame formidable odds” to obtain an elite education and professional success did so at the cost of internalizing wholesale the values and worldview of our fellow “strivers and achievers.”

    Surely, then, it should be no great surprise that our new president has, to date, politely declined to offer a serious challenge to the same corporate and institutional forces that decades ago admitted him to their ranks, with (as always) the proviso that he become one of them.  Unlike Herbert Hoover, Bill Clinton, and Obama, the to-the-major-and manner-born FDR suffered from no such identity crisis and the personal insecurities it tends to engender.

    Exceptions run deep in the rivers of human consciousness.

    Posted by  on  09/05  at  09:52 PM
  35. I’m a bit surprised. I guess I always associated Manufacturing Consent’s thesis with social control in a democratic society along Gramscian lines. Gramsci’s most basic formal structure is hegemony/counter-hegemony, in which the counter-hegemonic is always present within the hegemonic: always being accommodated and resisting and being assimilated and self-differentiating, back and forth. So I assumed that hegemonic media would clearly contain its own critique. Are you saying some readers of Chomsky didn’t understand that?

    Posted by  on  09/06  at  01:04 AM
  36. wishing I could mail JP Stormcrow some happy pills

    Eh, I’m fine, my place in the great hegemonic/counter-hegemonic scheme has rewarded me adequately.

    albeit, they are owned by that same leadership

    That is part of what makes this episode “amusing”, I’m sure there is an apt literary or pop cultural reference that I can’t think of, they are being publicly confronted with a part of their “family” the knowledge of which they have otherwise repressed from their day-to-day life.

    Posted by  on  09/06  at  12:06 PM
  37. I’m a bit surprised. I guess I always associated Manufacturing Consent’s thesis with social control in a democratic society along Gramscian lines.

    I dunno.  I think if you read MC that way, it’s because you brought your own Gramsci-Pak to the text; I don’t see much in the way of an account of the counterhegemonic in it.  That, I understood, was the signal difference between the “political economy” school of media/communications studies and the “cultural studies” camp, which gave us those very tedious and predictable debates in the 1990s, with the latter saying “but audiences are active in the making of cultural meanings!” and the former saying “but the media are owned by corporations,” and the latter saying “but audiences are active,” etc.  See, e.g., the exchange between Nicholas Garnham (“Political Economy and Cultural Studies") and Larry Grossberg (“Cultural Studies Vs. Political Economy: Is Anyone Else Bored with this Debate?”) in Critical Studies in Mass Communication 12.1 (March 1995).  The answer to Grossberg’s question, btw, was no—the debate went on for years after that, fueled by Bob McChesney’s reply to Grossberg, “Is There Any Hope for Cultural Studies?” (the answer to which, for McChesney, was also no).

    Posted by Michael  on  09/06  at  02:51 PM
  38. As Alex Carey sees it, “The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy’’.

    I guess Van Jones is one of those for whom the corporate bell tolled

    Posted by  on  09/07  at  03:57 AM
  39. I hear you spyder. The catalyst for change currently appears to be coming from the loudest and stupidest, albeit the most vehement, sector of the populace. Perhaps it’s foreshadowing the coming of the Idiocracy.

    Posted by  on  09/07  at  09:51 AM
  40. But at least we’ll have electrolytes!!

    Posted by  on  09/07  at  02:29 PM
  41. One doesn’t need Chomsky (who, IMHO, suffers from a complete lack of understanding of modes of persuasion, and why being right is not always enough, (not that he’s right all the time either, but I’m glad he’s there, and yes having Buchanan on TV and Chomsky not proves something)) to know that the news is propaganda.

    Biggest stories (after the murders) on my local news this evening:

    (1) Sympathetic talk with a local mom who is—all on her own with no input from any talk radio hosts, of course—organizing a day for parents to pull kids out of school and eat pizza. Because the schools are showing a controversial speech. (By the president.) The speech was all about his political agenda until he changed it under pressure from concerned parents. Yay parents; those kids sure will have fun eating that pizza.

    (2) Sympathetic coverage of a coal-industry-sponsored concert in West Virginia featuring popular celebrities Sean Hannity, Ted Nugent, and Hank Williams, Jr. A wonderful time for families to come together in support of the jobs that make their region so prosperous. Coal mining CEOs and local politicians interviewed in camo and baseball caps. Moms concerned about keeping jobs in the region for their kids. Yay grassroots activism.

    One despairs of finding journalism on TV, of course, but a little damn HE SAID SHE SAID would actually be an improvement. If they had even found someone—no, even briefly mentioned the existence of—anyone on a different side of this . . . . Yikes. It wouldn’t have helped. Of course there is no hope.

    Posted by  on  09/08  at  01:31 AM
  42. And oh, yeah, Van Jones. Yikes.

    Posted by  on  09/08  at  01:38 AM
  43. The ‘captcha’ is “color” and the Color is Change, or apparently not.

    And i live in Spokane County, where Idiocracy could have been filmed as a documentary.  Our Congresswoman submits WSJ op-eds, AEI, and Cato Institute commentaries as her newsletter of the week--she is the ultimate regurgitator of all GOP talking points, and she is reelected and respected.  The same newspaper empire (GOP all the way) owns two local television stations and neither are the local Fox (another hot bed of faux news).

    Posted by  on  09/08  at  02:24 AM
  44. The Washington Post style section this morning has dueling articles on the virtues of the Beatles in mono vs stereo.  (Is it better to hear all the details or to get the massed effect that was the engineers’ intent when they were mixing for AM radio listeners?)

    Any views from the specialists here?

    Posted by  on  09/08  at  10:11 AM
  45. And i live in Spokane County, where Idiocracy could have been filmed as a documentary.

    Spokane County also manages to further underscore the so-far squandered promise of President Obama: a county that went overwhelmingly for Rodgers, and rather less overwhelmingly for Dino, would have simultaneously been carried by Obama if ~1300 votes had gone the other way.  (Or if most of the Nader voters had gone Democratic instead.) And that’s despite the best efforts of Faux News.  Why did the word “mandate,” which we heard and read approximately thirty million times in November 2004 alone, mysteriously and conveniently disappear from the MSM’s vocabulary?  Someone should write a book about how powerful interests construct consensus.

    Posted by  on  09/08  at  11:49 AM
  46. (see, e.g., Alexander Cockburn on climate change),

    Yes, let’s do--and the AGW skeptics and scientists Cockburn linked to, like Rancourt (hardly a Foxnews clown), who in fact passed some real science courses--not the Physics Concepts for Dixiecrats that Al Gore, Mr. Radical managed C’s in.  Or say read a bit of Freeman Dyson (who says little or no proof exists which would prove that manmade CO2 leads to rising temps...)

    You’re sounding more mainstream each day, MB, which is to say..............strictly commercial.

    Posted by Perezoso  on  09/09  at  10:45 PM

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