Thursday, 21 November 2013

Your One-Stop Paragraph for Analysis of and Commentary on Paul Ryan’s Latest Political Hypocrisy… (Or, “The Benefit of Online Mass Media”)


Ah, happier days for the Chuckle Brothers. [Credit: Getty, via Telegraph]

In Alec MacGillis’s latest piece for The New Republic, he offers a perfect one-stop paragraph containing… well, links to everyone else’s analysis of the former Republican Vice-Presidential candidate’s recent attempt at political reinvention. Specifically, his apparently epiphany that there is poverty in America, and that government is not doing enough to alleviate the situation of too many Americans. Here it is:

“As the Washington Post reported yesterday, Paul Ryan has removed himself somewhat from the partisan battleground of the movement to focus on a higher calling: fighting poverty.  Jonathan Chait, Kevin Drum and Jared Bernstein have already taken their crack at this latest turn by the Ayn Rand disciple whose famous budget plan would eviscerate food stamps, Medicaid and other spending on the poor. But one more word needs to be said on this: a defense of Mitt Romney.”

MacGillis goes on to share a number of quotations (and relevant links) for those times when Paul Ryan himself articulated much the same message that Mitt Romney appeared to broadcast whenever he… well, did anything.

The Week also covered the story, with Jon Terbush’s piece “Why liberals aren’t buying Paul Ryan’s new anti-poverty crusade”. As the standfirst pithily notes: “On the one hand: Ryan’s stated desire to fight poverty. On the other: Every budget he’s ever proposed.” His budgets have, of course, often articulated policies that would actually have disastrous effects for the nation’s poor – cuts in food stamp programs, income support, and more, in order to finance the typically myopic Republican fetish of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

MacGillis jokes (maybe) that Romney must have actually acquired his 47% mentality from the various statements of Ryan’s that suggest he, too, sees most Americans as entitled, lazy takers. Well, if this story is any indication, it would also appear that Ryan has developed Romney’s utter lack of media awareness, and that if you say something, the internet will remember.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Bob Gorell on the Media

Catching up on the back-log of Editorial Cartoons that arrive in my inbox on a daily basis. This one, from mid-October, caught my eye:


It’s by Bob Gorell. Replace “the debt ceiling talks” with any other contemporary issue (political, social, international, etc.), and you have an all-purpose commentary piece on the contemporary American news media.

It’s amusing to read contemporary commentators recalling the years of “yellow journalism”, but the more US news media I read and watch, the more I’m starting to think a lot of today’s hosts and opinion writers see those days as a template, or writing guide…

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The American Presidency & Political Cartoons (2)

Following up on a previous post, in which I included an editorial cartoon that suggested the US Mainstream Media were in lock-step behind President Obama, I came across the following page in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit – the historian’s superb book on Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Progressive Journalism:


I thought it was an interesting parallel, to show both that a media-backed presidency is nothing new – nor, for that matter, a “progressive” presidency to receive such support from the press; nor are the methods of portrayal.

The cartoon, “The Crusaders”, is by Carl Hassmann (1869-1933), and it was printed in the February 21, 1906 issue of Puck Magazine. The Library of Congress description of the cartoon is:

“Illustration shows a large group of politicians and journalists as knights on a crusade against graft and corruption. Many carry large pens like a lance; periodical mentioned are ‘Colliers, Harper’s Weekly, Life, Puck, [and] McClure’s’ Magazine.”

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a great image file on the internet, but I did manage to get hold of the following colour page-scan (which I have cropped just a little):


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Theodore Roosevelt Responds to a Lampooning Review. Or, “This Could Probably Never Happen Today, on the Internet”

GoodwinDK-BullyPulpitUKAnyone who has been reading this blog for a while, will undoubtedly have come across the fact that I have a strong interest in Theodore Roosevelt, his presidency and his time (academic and also personal interest). I am fascinated by the period of American history between (approx.) 1880 and the start of World War I.

At the moment, I am reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s new book – the exhaustively-researched, excellent The Bully Pulpit. The book is about Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and “the Golden Age of Journalism”. Today, I came across an amusing passage, which I thought I would share.

Throughout his life, Theodore Roosevelt, alongside his storied career in public service, was a prolific author – between 1882-1919, he would publish 45 books and collections (of essays and letters). One of his books, The Rough Riders, was a memoir of his war experiences on Cuba. Finley Peter Dunne was a writer and humourist from Chicago, who wrote the nationally syndicated “Mr. Dooley” satires and lampoons…

In the fall of 1899, a copy of The Rough Riders, Roosevelt’s wartime memoir, came across Dunne’s desk. “Mr. Dooley’s” book review in Harper’s Weekly mocked Roosevelt’s propensity for placing himself at the center of all action: “Tis Th’ Biography iv a Hero by Wan who Knows. Tis Th’ Darin’ Exploits iv a Brave Man be an Actual Eye Witness,” Mr. Dooley observed. “If I was him, I’d call th’ book, ‘Alone in Cubia.’” Three days after this satirical assessment amused readers across the country, Roosevelt wrote to Dunne: “I regret to state that my family and intimate friends are delighted with your review of my book. Now I think you owe me one; and I shall exact that when you next come east to pay me a visit. I have long wanted the chance of making your acquaintance.” (pp.257-8)

GoodwinDK-BullyPulpitUSThe full review is the first in Mr. Dooley’s Philosophy (which is available as a PDF online – pp.13-18). collected Dunne was clearly touched by Roosevelt’s letter, and in his reply to Roosevelt, accepting the invitation, he also said:

“... the way you took Mr. Dooley is a little discouraging. The number of persons who are worthwhile firing at is so small that as a matter of business I must regret the loss of one of them. Still if in losing a target I have, perhaps, gained a friend I am in after all.” (p.258)

Dunne never had to regret the loss of TR as a target, however. The reviewer continued to poke fun at TR (“the nation’s premiere target” as Goodwin calls him) for years to come, and the two remained friends throughout.

Today, when an author responds to a negative or critical review – especially on the internet – it never seems to go well for the author (see, for example, who-knows-how-many self-published authors lashing out at bloggers; or even the more recent, bizarre-and-quite-pathetic reaction to Ben Aaronovitch’s polite pointing out of a review’s factual misunderstanding). The above response and exchange between Dunne and Roosevelt… It could never happen today. Which is a real shame.

[I am currently reading The Bully Pulpit for review on Politics Reader. The book was provided by Goodwin’s UK publisher, Viking/Penguin. In the US, the book is published by Simon & Schuster.]

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Obama, the Media, and US Politics


There is so much going on in the above editorial cartoon by Glenn McCoy (from October 2nd). It not only portrays Obama as some Soviet-style dictator (his outfit is hard to mistake for anything else), but also shows the media in lock-step in support of his agenda. Now, there are plenty of examples of how the media has rushed to defend the administration on scandals (real or imagined). And certainly, there are some included there who are avowed left-leaning outlets (MSNBC, there on the far left front). At the same time, however, there are times when the media has attacked the administration on certain policies – if you wanted to create a heated debate at one of my previous employers, The Nation (on the left, and very proud of it), one of the easiest ways was to bring up the administration’s apparent addiction to drone deployment – a story that took longer than expected to grab the attentions of political editors in the rest of the media.

The role of the media in politics, and government officials’ attempts to manipulate it, have long been an interest of mine – and I dedicated two chapters of my PhD thesis to the subject (as part of a pluralist approach to foreign policy analysis). I’m re-working the first of the two thesis chapters (a theoretical and empirical survey of the media’s role in the foreign policy-making process) for publication. It is an issue that many see as ‘decided’, and therefore undeserving of study. Partly, I believe, this is because the originators of political pluralist theory were writing when radio and newspapers were the only real mediums of political news dissemination. Robert Dahl, the most prominent and comprehensive writer on pluralist theory (and originator for most of what is still used), barely touched upon the role of the media in a pluralist society. It is my ultimate intention to address this oversight – at least in part.

However, given the hyper-pluralistic nature of American politics, I would actually argue that it is almost immune to a generalised theoretical analysis. Instead, almost every issue requires constant attention and multiple approaches, in order to properly ascertain the forces at work. Since finishing my thesis, the roles of Twitter and Facebook and other social media platforms (especially in election seasons) has only grown.

The GOP & the ACA [Editorial Cartoon]

Here’s another great cartoon, this time from Tom Toles (I believe first published in the Washington Post?), from October 2nd 2013:


The USA, the ACA & the NSA [Editorial Cartoon]

This is a great Editorial Cartoon from Jim Morin (The Miami Herald), from October 30th 2013: