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There has been a lot of discussion about this ad -- posted anonymously on YouTube -- which has been viewed 2 million times. (They modified the 1984 Apple commercial in which a hammer-thrower (representing Apple) smashes a huge screen (representing the IBM PC) being watched by thousands of drone-like people . In the new add the hammer-thrower is the Obama campaign, and the screen shows a picture of Hillary Clinton.)
The Huffington Post uncoverd the guy who did it. It was not sponsored by the Obama campaign at all. The guy who did it works at a PR firm that had done some work for Obama, but he did it on his own, on his own PC. Rachel Maddow makes the point that the mainstream media completely botched the story. According to her the MSM imply that it was done by the Obama campaign, and therefore he's just as bad as all the other candidates and has gone negative. Her big point is that "anybody with a mac and some software can do it", and it's supposed to be some deep lesson about campaigns in the internet age.
Here's my take on this. The ad is entertaining, but vacuuous. It contains absolutely no relevant information about the candidates or their policies. Why are we presuming that such a total fluff piece should have any influence at all? Just because it's been viewed 2M times, why do the MSM and Rachel Maddow presume that it will have an impact? This is the big lesson. If it's true that such a fluff piece can have influence, then people need to wise up and learn not to be influenced by such junk. And the MSM and Rachel Madow ought to be helping to do this -- helping to teach people to distinguish between junk and the important criteria on which we should be basing our decisions.
In his February 9th column Paul Krugman shows us how this should be done. He points out a real distinction between the Edwards campaign and the others -- Edwards has put out a substantial and detailed health-care proposal. Krugman discusses it, evaluates it, and likes it. In another column Krugman explicitly addresses this issue:
What we really need is political journalism based less on perceptions of personalities and more on actual facts. Schadenfreude aside, we should not be happy that stories about Mr. Bush's boldness have given way to stories analyzing his facial tics. Think, instead, about how different the world would be today if, during the 2000 campaign, reporting had focused on the candidates' fiscal policies instead of their wardrobes.
Robert Parry has written this excellent summary of the Media's attitude toward Gore in the 2000 campaign, and beyond. It is closely related to the above story, because it illustrates the the superficiality of the MSM in reporting campaigns. It also illustrates the ways in which the republican spin machine can create false memes that are propogated and expanded by the MSM. Gore is portrayed as a serial exaggerator, who claimed to have invented the internet, discovered love canal.
As we have reported here on Left Out, since 2000 Gore has given a series of brilliant talks about a whole range of topics:
January 24, 2006 --- Al Gore Rips Bush's Illegal Wiretapping.
May 3, 2005 --- Al Gore rails against Republican attacks on the Judiciary
October 26, 2004 --- Gore speech, The Nation's "Case Against Bush"
June 29, 2004 --- Bush's power grab
June 1, 2004 --- Gore on Iraq and the US use of torture
This is all in addition to his superb work to thward global warming.
Alfred McCoy is a professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He's written a number of books, the most recent being A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror. We were unable to arrange an interview with professor McCoy, so we'll play this clip of McCoy being interviewed by Steve Rendell from Counterspin of February 23, 2007. Counterspin's interest in this topic stems from the increasing depection of torture as a useful tool to obtain information in popular culture. In particular the show "24" from Fox TV.
The following points from this interview are noteworthy:
McCoy's unequivocal refutation of the "ticking time bomb scenario" used to justify torture. Alan Dershowitz, in particular, has been instrumental in promoting this myth.
McCoy's rejection (and the professional law enforcement community's rejection) of torture as a useful tool.
McCoy's interpretation of the photos from Abu Ghraib. To his eye, the photos depict a small set of coercive techniques developed by the CIA. They cannot be interpreted as anything other than a wide-spread, well-organized implementation of these techniques.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former National Security Advisor under President Carter, has recently been making public statements, including appearances on The Daily Show and Charlie Rose, and an OpEd in the Washington Post last Sunday. The contrast between a sober, adult analysis of world affairs compared to the childish nonsense spouted by Bush administration aparatchiks is astounding.
The US Attorney firing scandal is exploding. Gonzales was caught in another lie -- he denied being involved with these scandal, but the emails revealed a meeting with him and several others where this was dicsussed. Gonzales did an interview with NBC yesterday where he tried to nitpick his way out of it, which made him look like a total fool. Monica Goodling, the Justice Department's White House liaison has decided to take the 5th rather than testify.
Glen Greenwald has written a poignant post about the attitude of the beltway pundit class. Among other brilliant points, he notes there's a persistent meme from them that the people "don't want investigations". This is just patently false, as he documents in several recent polls. Rene Montagne talking with Cokie Roberts on NPR did the same thing recently.
A report was issued late last Friday about the death of Pat Tillman. We discussed this story on the air. For details read this article.