Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Unexpurgated Version

November 3, 2010

I was invited to participate in a New York Times “Room for Debate” online roundtable prior to the Stewart/Colbert rally. I was told initially to submit a few paragraphs (and given less than 24 hours to come up with something). Upon submitting my piece, I was told to trim it to about 1/3 the length, and quick, quick, quick! Naturally, some of the nuance was left on the cutting-room floor.

Here, then, is the longer version:

There has already been a good deal of pre-emptive tut-tutting about the Stewart/Colbert rally, so I want to say at the outset that I am all for it, and think that the intentions behind it are, if not exactly pure (it’s partly a publicity stunt, of course), then mostly good. And despite Stewart’s somewhat disingenuous denials, the “Rally to Restore Sanity” is absolutely an “answer” to Beck’s rally, which absolutely deserves—nay, demands—a satirical answer. Why have satire, and why live in a society where we (rightly) cherish the right to satirize, if not to respond to such provocations? It’s no leap of logic to see that one of the unstated goals of holding this rally is to outdraw Beck’s 87,000 attendees, thus “proving” that, despite all the attention he and the Tea Partiers have gotten in the mainstream press, that they represent a fringe phenomenon—which would be a welcome corrective to the media narrative that has developed around them.

When any group of Americans uses their freedoms of speech and assembly to express ideas with which we disagree, the most appropriate, honorable, and patriotic way to respond is to use those same freedoms to express our opposition. Answering one rally with another is wholly appropriate; it’s the American thing to do. Nor do I think that the humorous tone diminishes this exercise of the First Amendment; any country that venerates Twain as its greatest writer and Lincoln as its greatest leader ought to realize that a sense of humor is not incompatible with a sense of serious purpose.

As to this rally’s purpose: though Stewart’s stated aim of “restoring sanity” is obviously a bit of comic grandiosity, I think he is basically sincere in stating this as the rally’s theme. It’s hyperbole, but it’s not cynicism. I don’t think Stewart is himself a cynical person—anyone who has watched his interviews can see that he takes ideas and issues seriously—nor is cynicism the basis of the kind of satire The Daily Show and The Colbert Report deal in.

There is a tendency, in covering the role of comedy in our political discussion, to simply equate mockery with trivialization and cynicism, but not all mockery is trivial, or cynical. Some of it is. The kind of political humor that is the stock in trade of network late-night shows—the Johnny Carson, “equal-opportunity offender” model which Leno, Letterman, Conan O’Brien and even Saturday Night Live still mostly follow; which treats politics as a silly game played by a set of roughly interchangeable fools and charlatans; which goes for quick, broad jokes that focus on personalities more than policies—that’s cynical. It precedes from a cynical premise, and in large doses (which we’ve surely been getting since late-night shows started multiplying in the early 90s), it does, indeed, encourage cynicism. The bottom line of this kind of humor is, “they’re all crooks, it doesn’t matter, why bother, why care?” And it’s easy to forget this, especially with the present focus on Stewart and Colbert, but that kind of political humor is still far more prevalent than the very different kind you can see for four hours a week on Comedy Central: Leno’s ratings are down, but he still reaches millions more viewers than Stewart or Colbert.

I refer to that type of humor—“George W. Bush is such a ninny, Bill Clinton is such a horndog, Al Gore is a robot, John McCain is so old”—as pseudo-satire. It seems political, because it mentions politicians, and uses the day’s headlines as a jumping off point, but it’s actually dismissive of politics. It’s scrupulously bi-partisan (or non-partisan) and anti-political, and it is so by design. It not only suggests that political engagement is futile, it insists that it is. And though that may seem like a radical premise, it’s actually very safe: if it’s all just silly, there’s no reason for anyone to get very upset about it.

Colbert and Daily Show viewers, as a general rule, take politics more seriously than that. These shows traffic in genuine satire (not always, but most of the time). You have to care about what’s going on in order to get anything out of them. Fans of Stewart and Colbert watch with the feeling that if you couldn’t laugh about what they’re saying, you would have to cry. That essential, underlying appreciation of the seriousness of the subject—the consequential nature of politics—is not compatible with cynicism.

That sense of consequence, and the passion that arises from that commitment, is the common link between Stewart/Colbert viewers and followers of pundits like Beck. But though Beck, on the one hand, and Stewart/Colbert, on the other, do represent constituencies that are likely to support different sets of politicians, I don’t think it’s quite accurate to say that they are surrogates for those politicians. They are, rather, alternative representatives for their viewing constituencies. They give voice to audiences that feel, justifiably or not, voiceless. Elected officials purportedly represent the people who vote for them, but media figures can “represent” in a purer way. (Especially in this age of narrowcasting. Neither Fox News nor the Comedy Central shows have audiences large enough to have kept them on the air in the network era.)

They are comparable, I suppose, to politicians in very ideologically homogeneous districts, like some of the more viable Tea Party candidates: their appeal is narrow, but powerful, because their circumstances allow them to succeed without compromising or tempering their remarks. On the other hand, if you’re a politician from a “purple” state, a president or presidential candidate, or a member of Congress who actually wants to get something passed, you’re going to have to compromise, and you’re going to have to speak more carefully. By a similar token, if you’re a “mainstream” journalist or a network comedian, you can’t succeed playing it “pure” to a narrow, but fervent, constituency.

Having said that, I think the Stewart’s position is in danger of becoming untenable, in a way that Beck’s—or even Colbert’s—is not. For one thing, as Stewart’s influence grows, his insistence that he is “just a comedian” becomes harder to accept. You can’t go on Crossfire, refuse to be funny, accuse the hosts of “hurting America,” get the show canceled, and then go back to insisting you’re “just a comedian.” Stewart deserves credit for those occasions upon which he exposes truths where news media fear to tread, but you can’t both influence the political discussion and claim to be outside of it—not without coming across as disingenuous.

The other problem I see for Stewart is this whole commitment to “sanity.” Not that I’m not pro-sanity, but satire, like contemporary punditry, originates in a sense of outrage, and is essentially a negative form of address. It’s about what you are against, not what you are for. That’s why The Daily Show really came into its own during the Bush years: politically-aware Americans who thought that both the country and the news media had gone crazy with the Patriot Act, the invasion of Iraq, and the other excesses of the W. Bush administration, found an oasis of sanity on Comedy Central, and turned Stewart into a force to be reckoned with, whether he sought that or not.

But being Pro-Sanity is not as viable, for a satirist, as being Anti- (specific kinds of) Crazy. The “Pro-Sanity” premise, and the very structure of The Daily Show, force Stewart to keep one foot in the “equal-opportunity offender” camp. The correspondents say crazy things, the politicians and media figures he shows clips of say crazy things, and he stares wide-eyed, into the camera, looking shocked. He’s the sane referee, “they” are the crazy idealogues. He is the surrogate for the audience, but this assumes the audience also aspires to neutrality, which is, like cynicism, a form of disengagement. Though he may spend more time worrying about the jokers to his right than the clowns to his left, he is still stuck in the middle, with Us.

But now that the real-world situation is somewhat different, and a president who is more palatable to the average Daily Show viewer is in office, that “impartial referee” position pushes Stewart dangerously close to Jay Leno, “equal-opportunity offender” territory. When he was interviewing Obama the other night, Stewart criticized the health care act for being too compromised—but you can’t really be for “moderation” and then attack things on the basis of their being too compromised and, in a sense, too bipartisan. (I don’t mean this to be a defense of the bill; what I’m examining is the viability of Stewart’s rhetorical position.) If your over-arching commitment is to be criticize whatever is going on and whoever is in office from a standpoint of reasonableness and moderation, you’re going to run into trouble coming up with a satisfactory response to the frustrations that arise from an excess of reasonableness and moderation.

Fortunately for Stewart, Beck and the Tea Party candidates still provide plenty of outright madness to contend with. Still, I find it painful to watch The Daily Show engage in calculated acts of “balance”—stooping so low, at one point, as to do an Obama/teleprompter joke that would barely have passed muster on Fox’s late, unlamented Half-Hour News Hour—so that Stewart can continue to deny that he is for anything other than “sanity.” I don’t think Stewart should “declare” himself as a committed liberal, or turn The Daily Show into agitprop—that would probably kill the comedy—but I do wonder if he hasn’t painted himself into a bit of a corner.

Ironically, Colbert—whose whole shtick is built on saying the opposite of what he really believes—runs less risk of being forced into a kind of cynical insincerity. Since he doesn’t play “himself”—a sane, “nice-guy” audience surrogate—he doesn’t have to go through any of those “equal-opportunity offender” motions. And he can’t get by, like Stewart too often does, on being cute and likable. (For all the sharpness The Daily Show sometimes musters, it’s amazing how much camera-time Stewart eats up mugging and giggling.) The Colbert Report has revived the tradition of Swift, without much taint of the spirit of Leno. It’s partly a function of the writing (it’s much more of a through-written show than Stewart’s, which gets a lot of mileage from taped pieces featuring rubes saying the darnedest things), but it’s largely due to the central conceit of Colbert’s right-wing blowhard persona. The fact that he operates from the perspective of this character allows Colbert and his writers to analyze political language at a much deeper level of complexity than even the unusually-literate-for-TV Daily Show can manage. More to the point, it represents a step away from the “I’m just a comedian, and this is all a joke” foundation that keeps Stewart tied to a more timid tradition.

I’m certainly more in favor of Restoring Sanity than Keeping Fear Alive, but I think Colbert’s position offers richer and more sustainable satirical possibilities. We could use a dose of Sanity, but as history suggests it is unlikely to prevail (and that Fear will out), we will definitely continue to need satire that stays on the attack.

Here is a link to the version that appeared on the Times website: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2010/10/28/when-does-a-fake-political-rally-turn-real/the-opposite-of-cynicism

Early to Bed

December 13, 2008
Leno poses with one of his 16,784 (est.) cars

Leno poses with one of his 16,784 (est.) cars

Much has already been said about Jay Leno’s move to prime time. Jaime Weinman and Mark Evanier have some interesting insights into what NBC might be thinking, though for my money, political blogger Attaturk had the best one-line reaction: “Paddy Chayevsky was an optimist.”

I will confess that I find Leno hard to watch. And although I can certainly identify things that annoy me—the predictability of his punchlines, his Arsenio-like insincerity with guests, the faux-macho bluster that has crept into his persona over the last few years, his blatant stylistic stealing from Letterman, and especially his creepy and borderline racist on-camera relationship with bandleader/toady Kevin “Heh-heh-heh” Eubanks—I can’t put my finger on the cause of this visceral dislike.

I almost wish I liked him better. He is, after all, the late-night ratings champ—has been for years. I feel like a snob for disliking him. I respect his work ethic, and the fact that he’s honoring the Carson legacy by doing a long, topical monologue chock-full of well-crafted (if predictable) topical jokes—jokes that aren’t “meta”-jokes, but jokes that are actually about what they’re about. I’d like to think that’s not a lost art.

I’ll even confess to actually enjoying “Jay-Walking”—which a lot of Leno detractors point to as the nadir of Lenoism. I actually think some of the criticism of this bit—”it’s hypocritical to expose the stupidity of the average American, while playing to an audience made up of similarly low-information, ‘average’ viewers”—itself smacks of a complicated kind of elitism. It’s okay to say Leno’s viewers are stupid, but terrible of him to go out exposing their stupidity. I don’t know; I think it’s a kind of Public Service.

That said, the move to 10 o’clock (9 Central) is a kind of watershed moment. Part of the reason late-night has been the place for “political” humor is the assumption that the audience was more adult and “sophisticated.” In the old days, Johnny hosted a grown-up cocktail party after the Cleaver kids had gone to bed. The subject matter discussed, and the whole tone of The Tonight Show had a different feel than the “for young-and-old” paradigm of Prime Time.

Of course, this is an oversimplification. More than that, it’s extremely dated: the “family-friendliness” of Prime Time was never all that solidly established, and waxed and waned for decades before being definitively abandoned in recent years. Nothing could be less wholesome than “Survivor”-style reality shows, which have for some time been common in what was once the “Family Hour.” And that’s just the networks. I think MTV now reserves that time slot for The Meth-Addicted Prostitute ‘n’ Backstabbing Sociopath Super Team-Up Product-Placement Hour.

But competitive sluttery and bug-eating contests are one thing; politics is something else. The day after NBC’s big announcement, Countdown‘s Keith Olbermann (looking a little embarrassed about participating in this boundary-blurring moment of newsertainment corporate synergy) asked Leno about breaking political humor’s time barrier. In face, he asked twice, but Leno more or less ducked the question, offering little more than the lame and self-serving “observation” that “people are going to bed earlier” nowadays (something about the economy forcing more people to take public transportation, and therefore to get up an hour earlier, blah, blah, blah…for a multi-millionaire who owns an airplane hanger full of cars, Jay’s got his finger on the pulse of his viewers’ commuting habits).

In fact, the further mainstreaming of Leno-style topical comedy is yet another sign of how commonplace the cynical notion that politics is just a big, bipartisan clown show has become. It’s the premise not only of traditional, “equal opportunity offender” topical comedy, but also the rhetorical home base of newschat, on cable and Sunday morning network shows. Why not have the comedic version of this in prime time? The “serious” version is running 24-hours a day on CNN.

The good news—or the glimmer of hope, anyway—is that network TV thinking is almost always a step or two behind the times. And the times, they really could be a-changing. I cling to the hope that a lot of people are fed up with what passes for political journalism, political comedy, and political “sophistication” (i.e., utter cynicism). While Leno’s invasion of Prime Time may look like the establishment of a new beachhead for this kind of thinking, it could end up being a Bridge Too Far. After all, people who want political humor that is actually humorous, and has something to say about politics, aren’t going to bed earlier—they’re watching Stewart and Colbert.

Definition of Character

October 11, 2008

Time‘s James Poniewozik has some interesting insights into the possible impact of Tina Fey’s impression on the public’s impression of Sarah Palin. On the one hand, he notes, an impression that succeeds in capturing what the public sees in a candidate — as Fey’s Palin surely has — can be devastating because it is “shamanistic; it’s like owning a voodoo doll: capture your target’s soul, and you can make her dance just by waving your arms.” Fey “owns” Palin’s image in this sense.

And make no mistake, that is a powerful thing. Chevy Chase’s depiction of Gerald Ford, though it was not even really an impression — let alone a very convincing one like Fey’s Sarah Palin — had a huge claim on the public’s perception of the man, and probably contributed to his political downfall.

(more…)

This Just In: Brian Williams is a Tool: UPDATED

October 4, 2008

UPDATE: A commentator has suggested Williams was merely comparing the two current candidates with Eisenhower and Kennedy, rather than mistakenly suggesting Eisenhower ran against Kennedy. I don’t think so, but you can watch for yourself, beginning at about the 3:22 mark. For a transcription, see below.

I just heard Brian Williams—twice—compare the contest between John McCain and Barack Obama to “Eisenhower/Kennedy.” The chief problem with this comparison is of course that Eisenhower never ran against Kennedy. Nixon ran against Kennedy.

Even a network anchor can be expected to misspeak once in a while, of course. But Williams said it twice, and even took time in between to explain the basis of his erroneous comparison: experience vs. new blood.

(more…)

Does SNL Pay Attention?

September 29, 2008

To update my last post, nope — McCain’s refusal to look at Obama hasn’t become a thing yet. SNL made no reference to it in their debate sketch, which surprised me, given the attention it had gotten elsewhere. Not only that, they had a joke about Jim Lehrer insisting that the candidates look at each other — not an innaccurate depiction (except I remember him admonishing them to talk to each other more), but an inclusion that made the exclusion of lack-of-eye-contact-gate all the odder.

The return of Tina Fey as Sarah Palin has gotten a lot of attention already, and I can’t add much, save to join the chorus of those noting, as I just heard Joan Walsh say on Hardball, that some of the parody dialogue was pretty much a verbatim transcription of the real interview. The writers didn’t have to work very hard on that one.

Which brings me to today’s question: do the writers of Saturday Night Live even follow the news, beyond the bare minimum their jobs require? I’m not just being snotty because they didn’t go the way I predicted with the debate sketch (and I’ll point out I wasn’t advocating that comedians should focus on the eye-contact business).

(more…)

Is This Going to be a Thing?

September 27, 2008

“Hey John — my eyes are up here.”

In the aftermath of the debate, John McCain’s refusal to look directly at Barack Obama is garnering a good deal of attention from pundits and bloggers. My expectation is that this will be something late-night comedy shows pick up and run with, but right now that remains to be seen.

But it is certainly the kind of thing SNL, Leno, Letterman, et al. can latch onto. Moreover, it is the sort of thing comedy can do a lot to amplify, and make consequential. For example, even people who didn’t watch any of the Bush vs. Gore debates knew about Gore’s audible sighs, at least in part because SNL made fun of them. Topical comedy — especially the mainstream, “equal-opportunity offender” sort we see on network TV — always prefers dealing with the silly, the trivial, and the personal over the serious and the substantive. It’s easier to mock, it’s more accessible to people who don’t necessarily follow politics that closely, and it’s relatively uncontroversial, because it doesn’t touch on issues or ideologies. Unfortunately, “journalists” like these sorts of stories for the same reasons.

(more…)

John McCain: Master Thespian

September 27, 2008

I’ve been critical of Jon Stewart for what I perceive as a tendency to pull his punches when dealing with John McCain. But The Daily Show did a pretty good job responding to McCain’s ridiculous and reckless “suspension” of his campaign.

There’s still a tendency, shared by many “straight” pundits and late-night comics, to treat McCain 08’s excesses as strange anomalies—as if McCain himself is somehow not responsible for them. Even as Letterman was pummeling McCain for his dishonesty about jetting off to DC the other night, he put it in these terms. This was not, Dave said, “the John McCain I know.”

(more…)

Don’t Mess With Dave

September 25, 2008

“Something doesn’t smell right.” That may well stand as the public’s verdict on John McCain’s surprising “suspension” of his campaign yesterday. Perhaps it will even end up being McCain’s political epitaph.

Lyndon Johnson knew he’d lost the public’s mandate when he “lost” Walter Cronkite. With this judgment, McCain just lost David Letterman.

(more…)

WWJSD? (What Will Jon Stewart Do?) updated

September 24, 2008

Updated below

By now you’ve probably heard that Senator McCain has chickened out “suspended” his campaign and unilaterally attempted to postpone Friday’s scheduled debate, so he can hasten to the Capitol (presumably in a celestial chariot, drawn by wing-ed horses) to Save the Republic.

McCain must rid himself of the distraction of debating his opponent, so that he can devote all of his Mojo to solving this crisis (as only a Maverick can!), or we’ll be looking at 12% unemployment, and a depression by Monday.

Never mind that McCain hasn’t cast a Senate vote since April 8. And the fact that he’s slipping in the polls? Pure coincidence.

If the news media falls for this stunt, they are officially beyond redemption. If the public falls for it, we’re beyond stupid.

(more…)

The Immigrant

September 23, 2008

I’m not sure what to think of Craig Ferguson, but my old friend Radio Steve* sent me this clip, which I found pretty interesting.

I’ll confess that I haven’t watched Ferguson very much. If I’m up at that hour, and up for more comedy after Stewart & Colbert, my usual fare, I’ll watch Conan. Ferguson’s too cute, too frenetic, too dependent on being liked, for my liking. I don’t mean that he comes across as desperate for our approval; it’s just that his appeal is based on personality, rather than material or a particular comic point of view. To borrow Eric Idle‘s useful categorization, Ferguson is a “red nose” comic, as opposed to the “white face” types we’re used to seeing as late-night hosts.

(more…)

SNL‘s “A” Game?

September 21, 2008

I had better things to do than watch SNL last night, but via Oliver Willis, I did manage to see the lead-off sketch about McCain’s negative advertising. Like last week’s Sarah Palin opener, it was somewhat above the low bar the show has maintained for the last, oh, 10 years or so: somewhat funny, somewhat on-target, somewhat biting. But it’s still pretty weak tea compared to what Colbert does regularly, and what Jon Stewart could be doing, if he takes off the gloves RE: “friend of the show” John McCain.

Still, the sketch has a couple of strengths most recent SNL pieces of recent vintage lack. First, it has more than a single idea: McCain’s cluelessness about technology, the announcer legendary for having “the most sarcastic voice in the history of campaign ads,” and some fairly specific references to the McCain campaign’s recent tactics. Second, it builds: though they don’t hit him terribly hard, McCain goes from merely clueless to consciously ruthless (when he approves the “black babies” ad, after being reminded that George W. Bush won using such sleazy tactics). The announcer character also allows the writers to turn the sarcasm back onto Team McCain (on Sarah Palin: “she’s so experienced”) in some unexpected ways.

(more…)

Dave Serves Up Ad Hominem Nouveau

September 20, 2008

Pardon my French—and Latin—but I’ve noticed that David Letterman and his writers have introduced a new variation on the kind of joke traditionally told by mainstream, “equal opportunity offender” late-night comics. These are jokes that focus on the personalities of candidates—or really, on one or two caricatured traits—and have, at best, only tangential relevance to the ideologies and policies the candidates represent. The Latin phrase ad hominem (literally, “at the man”), as some of you may have learned in Freshman Comp, is a logical fallacy in which one attempts to win an argument by attacking the person making it. For late-night comedians, the ad hominem strategy allows them to make fun of politicians without really talking about politics. No one can accuse you of “bias” (accepted idiot-speak for “caring enough about an issue to have an opinion”) if instead of dealing with what a politician says about, say, the mortgage crisis, you just make fun of his haircut.

Thus, the hotly-contested and highly consequential 2000 presidential race was, as far as Dave, Jay, Conan, and SNL were concerned, merely a choice between a dumb guy who couldn’t pronounce big words, and a guy who bragged about inventing everything from the Internet to the phrase “Don’t go there, Girlfriend” in a robotic monotone. In 2004 it was the dope vs. the flip-flopper with the rich wife, and in 1996, the womanizing Bubba vs. the old guy who referred to himself in the third person. There were some funny lines along the way, to be sure, but no real satire, because none of this was really political—it was just personal.

And that is the case with this new subset of Letterman jokes, too. But they are, at least, a different—and, if only because of their novelty—more interesting form of ad hominem jokes. Yet they proceed from the unfairest basis of all: physical appearance:

I kind of like that Sarah Palin. You know, she reminds me, she looks like the flight attendant who won’t give you a second can of Pepsi…. She looks like the weekend anchor on Channel 9. She looks like the hygienist who makes you feel guilty about not flossing. She looks like the relieved mom in a Tide commercial.

(more…)

Jon Stewart: MSM’s Last McCain-Lover?

September 17, 2008

Josh Marshall’s TPM has another entry in its “Tire-Swing Watch” — a running tally of media members once enchanted with John McCain who have finally quit giving him the benefit of the doubt. Today’s disenchanted former fan is The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus, whose column is well worth checking out. It seems McCain’s extraordinarily dishonest campaign has not only caused Marcus to question his “Maverick” bona fides, it has emboldened her to utter what is, in the MainStream Media world, the ultimate heresy: “balance” does not equal fairness.

This may be a Copernicus moment: a challenge to conventional wisdom that could, if enough other media members pick up on it, or stumble upon it themselves (as Galileo did with heliocentrism), could fundamentally change their picture of the universe — and thus, the picture they present to the public.

This would be a welcome change. The practice of reporting every devious political tactic with the qualifier, “both sides do it” attached has nothing to do with fairness or thoroughness, and everything to do with preempting partisan critics who will cry “Bias!” any time their candidate is caught.

(more…)

A Friendly Reminder

September 16, 2008

I’ve got a book:

Anchors & Pundits

September 11, 2008

So MSNBC’s parent network, NBC, and corporate grandparent, GE, decided that it was the better part of valor to bow to pressure from Republicans whining about “bias” than to continue pursuing a winning ratings strategy: they demoted “liberal” Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews from campaign-season anchor duties (by the way, if Chris Matthews is a “liberal,” we might as well throw out the dictionary–the word has lost all meaning). The totally untainted by bias David Gregory (whom you may remember as one of Karl “M. C.” Rove’s backup dancers) will handle those chores from here on out.

The last straw–or more accurately, the excuse–for Olbermann’s demotion was his on-air objection to the GOP’s exploitative use of graphic 9/11 footage at their convention. Instead of maintaining the pretense of disinterested “objectivity,” Olbermann reacted to something he found shocking and disgusting with shock and disgust. For an anchorman, that’s a big no-no.

The principle that reporters and anchors should put aside their own opinions and present all points of view fairly is a good one, in theory. In practice, however, journalistic “objectivity” has been turned into an excuse for throwing skepticism, judgment, and even the recognition of empirical truths out the window. We must respectfully report what both “sides” say, even if one side says “fire is hot,” and the other side says, “fire is NOT hot, and third-degree burns are just Satan’s way of making us think that it’s hot–just like he went around burying all those dinosaur bones to make us doubt the book of Genesis.” Over the last couple of decades, the GOP has played the the media’s fear of being charged with “bias” like a violin, and the result is that views that would once have been considered nutty, and tactics that would once have been considered sleazy (like McCain’s baseless charge that Obama supports sex ed for kindergartners), must now be accepted without question. This is not “objectivity,” it’s capitulation to the irrational, and to the bullies who depend on the support of the irrational.

(more…)