News & Criticism

Straw Man Radio

|

If there is one persistent source of doubt for the opinion-yakker as he goes about his business attacking foolish ideas, it is this: Am I beating up on a straw man? Well, for those of you ever plagued by such questions, I really recommend listening to National Public Radio on this, Day One of the Resurrection. I've been listening regularly for the past 48 hours, during which various Reason scare-stories have been endorsed and doubled-down, with enthusiasm.

* A new Ministry of Culture? There was a long piece about Barack Obama will "revive American culture," boosting our allegedly beleauguered arts, taking us out of the dark days of, uh, Mapplethorpe-bashing or something.

* A European model for U.S. newspapers? I learned on Sunday that European newspapers are in "a better financial situation" than U.S. dailies (even though American newspapers are vastly more profitable, vastly more staffed, and filled with lots more and generally better journalism), and that we should be taking our newspaper-financing cues from Sweden. Where dailies are subsidized.

* A Cult of the Presidency? Where to begin? I heard a long news report on just how much of a historically post-partisan uniter Barack Obama really is. The moment after the groan-inducing Concert for Hope wrapped up at the Lincoln Memorial Sunday, the station hosts kicked it back to an analyst in Southern California for his measured take on the proceedings, and the first thing out of his mouth was "Wow, I just really wish I was back there to see such a thrilling event!" (Note: quote is approximate.) There was also an analysis of Barack Obama, the deep thinker/writer.

In a strange disconnect, the unself-conscious over-enthusiasm on the part of NPR and CNN (and I'm sure in many other media quarters) is considerably more gushing than what I've seen among the many tourists in town here in Washington. People are jacked up, sure, but there's also a Sunday-church sense about things–lots of folk dressed up in their finest, exuding a more somber observational vibe. Conversations about the man they've come to see sworn in tend to contain more measured skepticism than what you hear from the nation's elite journalists. At least as of 8 o'clock this morning.

NEXT: Shady Backboard Deals

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Welcome to National Ink Blot Day where tens of millions of Americans project their inner hopes and fears onto one single smiling face.

  2. People are a little crazy about the new administration. Sure thing. After a few months of actual governance, I am sure that the progressives will be somewhat disappointed and the libertarians will be somewhat relieved (I do not care what the conservatives think).

    However, when interpretting all the action and the celebration, I think it is important to keep in mind that a lot of the emotion is coming from people who are just RELIEVED aboutt he end of Bush’s term. For me at least, that was the strongest emotion after the election, that our “long national nightmare” was finally over, and that perhaps, just maybe, things might start to get “better” in some vague way.

    The media is all excited about a charismatic black man who appears to be ready to govern as a thoughtful and considerate way. (whether it works out this way is an empirical matter). Black people and those who care deeply about civil rights will of course have their own very deep reasons to be over enthusiastic. I think a lot of the excitement by actual citizens is the sense of people just being glad that “it” is over. Think of the final, redone scene of Return of the Jedi, where the galaxy erupts in celbration. That is what it felt like in Europe: relief. It is a case where the human we don’t know is better than the devil we do.

  3. That’s an interesting observation, that the media is filled with more giddy airheads than the people you see attending the event. It doesn’t surprise me, but still you’d think news coverage would focus on facts and observations rather than acting like swooning schoolgirls, hah.

    I just hope the journalists keep on their high and end up performing a massive parody of themselves.

  4. I’m buying stock in companies which manufacture mouthwash.

    And moist towelettes.

  5. This libertarian will be relieved if:

    1. Obama demands that a bill eliminating the income tax is on his desk by April 30th.

    2. Obama demands that a bill eliminating the drug war is on his desk by April 30th.

    3. Obama submits a budget for FY 2010 that calls for zero defense department spending.

    If he does not do these things, then this libertarian will know that all of his stuttering(off the cuff the guy is not so sharp and even with a prepared script he is no Reagan or Jesse Jackson or Ronald Dellums or MLK) bluster about “change you can believe in” and “hope” was only so much disguised defecation.

  6. Taktix, I prefer:

    RICK WARREN: Obama! Deus Vult!
    CROWD RESPONSE: Deus Vult! Deus Vult!

  7. bluster about “change you can believe in” and “hope” was only so much disguised defecation.

    Bah, the man never said “libertarian” change, or changes LM wants. You’re as bad as the cultists: if The Walking Rorshach isn’t what it looks like, the image must be wrong, rather than the one projecting.

  8. For at least two years we will be at the mercy of the college professors, labor unions, welfare recipients, businesses that rely on tariffs and government contracts, and other people who live off the taxpayers. We’re going to see what happens when the remora takes charge of the shark. It is possible things won’t be much different, but it is also possible that things could get much worse. Good luck, everybody.

  9. Yes, phalkor, you are right.

    How about some cogent, hard hitting analysis on the empty slogans of “change you can believe in” and “hope”? Why not ask the following?

    1. Mr. President-elect, one of your most prominent campaign slogans was “change you can believe in”. Do you think that being part of the democrat party represents change? Was your decision to join one of the two parties of state an act of courage? Of heroism? Of change? Was your choice to join one of the two parties of state an act that should inspire others?

    2. Mr. President elect, you have droned on and on that your campaign is about hope and that your election was a vote of confidence for hope? How can you square that rhetoric with the reality that you belong to one of the two parties of state? That you want to increase the size of government? That you have no plans to shut down the military industrial complex? That you do not want to eschew the trappings of the office?

    Any reporter who does not ask some of the above, is a shill.

  10. TAO-

    My point stands. Obama’s slogans are just empty rhetoric. Do you doubt that?

  11. I’ve been listening regularly for the past 48 hours

    What ever does this mean? Hourly? Every twenty seconds? Evey 18 hours? And for how long each time? The People demand full disclosure!

  12. Every, even.

  13. Obama’s slogans are just empty rhetoric. Do you doubt that?

    No, but we do not agree on why, LM.

    To YOU, you think that anything that doesn’t exactly conform to your preferred policies is just “more of the same” and “not a dime’s worth of difference”.

    Zero defense spending? You’re way out on the fringe on that one; if Obama cut defense spending by a quarter…or even an eighth, that would be change…but not according to you.

    How can you square that rhetoric with the reality that you belong to one of the two parties of state?

    Like it or don’t, but intellectually speaking, there are no “parties of the state”; ask Bernie Sanders.

  14. I don’t like the fact that libertarians ’round these parts want to sound like airhead lefty “anarchists”. Saying things like “slavery to the State”, “Fascism” and “the military-industrial complex” is cruise control for my brain to say “ignore”.

  15. Well, I thought this Obama obsession was hoohah myself, until I looked in the mirror this morning. Since going to bed, I had dropped 30 pounds, appeared 20 years younger, I was buff again, and there was a bounce and lightness to my step. Quickly checking online I noted my stock portfolio had recovered and then some.

    The only downside: I can no longer remember any cogent libertarian arguments.

    This Obama fellow is amazing!

  16. I have to confess to a deep, pervasive contempt for the people fawning over Obama. They are abjectly pathetic. Same goes for any hero-worshipers/fanbois, but Obama is the one happening today and on a colossal scale.

    The media people slobbering over Obama are the equivalent of teenage girls at an N’Sync concert or Trekkies getting Jeri Ryan’s autograph.

  17. Sorry for the crudeness, but every time for the past three days I tuned in to try to find news, CNN was having its long masturbatory Obamagasm.

    Thank you Jesus, for inventing football and DVDs so I had something else to watch.

  18. The media people slobbering over Obama are the equivalent of…Trekkies getting Jeri Ryan’s autograph.

    WTF? At least she’s hot and does something productive (providing the URKOBOLD(tm) a candidate to run for Senate, for example).

    Fawning over a politician is the lowest of the low; I have less contempt for people who endlessly conjecture on the lackluster BSG series…

    😛

  19. TAO-

    No, you are projecting your perceptions of me in your post. Of course, his empty rhetoric of “change you can believe in” allows for change of bigger, more intrusive government.

  20. TAO, I wasn’t slagging on Ryan, and in this case, I’m not slagging on Obama. My contempt is for the bootlickers and awestruck fawners, who I just find desperately pathetic. The fact that they don’t realize how pitiful they look makes it even worse.

  21. Conservatives/libertarians listen to NPR the way liberals read the editorial page of the WSJ. Instead of working up a sweat about it, Matt, you should make a living off it, a la Michelle Malkin. OK, you aren’t that cute, but still.

  22. The media people slobbering over Obama are the equivalent of teenage girls at an N’Sync concert or Trekkies getting Jeri Ryan’s autograph.

    Well the inauguration is their Progessive Baptism and Sermon on the Mount all rolled in to one. They get to wash away years of white guilt all at once. I guess I would be pretty excited too.

    Also they’re probably looking forward to smugging it up with their compatriots around the world. “You think your country is progressive? We have a have a black President. A black President!”

  23. Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC just called Steven Spielberg a “dignitary”.

    Steven Spielberg is not a dignitary. Even in Obama’s America.

  24. Today every city in America is Chocolate City!

  25. It worked for Blazing Saddles…

  26. TAO-

    You assert that an Obama proposal to cut defense spending by a quarter or even an eighth would be change ..”but not according to you.”

    Please, do not put words in my mouth. I stated that I would be relieved if he submitted a FY 2010 budget that called for zero defense spending. I did not state that a proposal to cut 25% of the military budget would not be change. Where do you get off making these gigantic, irrational leaps?

  27. Obama’s victory down the line could have some positive reverberations for liberty. Perhaps it’s a step closer to getting rid of affirmative action and returning to equality of opportunity under the law.

    Other than that, I suspect Obama will be little different than Clush.

  28. “the military-industrial complex”

    Yeah, like that other crazy anarchist, President Eisenhower.

    I think your brain is always on cruise control.

  29. “Saying things like “slavery to the State”, “Fascism” and “the military-industrial complex” is cruise control for my brain to say “ignore”.”

    True dat.

  30. LM – lets go to the tape:

    “3. Obama submits a budget for FY 2010 that calls for zero defense department spending.

    If he does not do these things, then this libertarian will know that all of his stuttering(off the cuff the guy is not so sharp…”

    so you made an assertion of the “unless…then” form. the unless was a complete elimination of the DoD. I think TAO’s interpretation of your comments is correct – I read them the same.

  31. Thank you Jesus, for inventing football and DVDs so I had something else to watch.

    I’m going skiing; Obama’s Ascension has cured global warming and turned the sky a fabulous shade of blue.

  32. “For at least two years we will be at the mercy of the college professors”

    roving bands of professors all a rapin’ and a pillagin’ up and down the streets of america…definitely a plausible scenario.

  33. P Brooks,

    Don’t kid yourself, if global warming comes to halt as a result of reduced solar activity the eco jerkoffs will give Obama the credit.

  34. The media people slobbering over Obama

    Twenty bucks says one of the fawning fools slips and says “coronation” instead of “inauguration”.

  35. I’m sick of watching the market, listening to Obama hype, and hearing incessant bitching. I’m with you P brooks, fuck it, let’s go skiing.

  36. Isn’t getting hammered the superior option?

  37. Saying things like “slavery to the State”, “Fascism” and “the military-industrial complex” is cruise control for my brain to say “ignore”.

    While I’ll give you the first two, I’m with Marcvs somewhat on the third. The military-industrial complex, though prosaically named, is by all accounts a real and corrupting phenomenon in American politics.

  38. Come off it people…you can’t understand why people are excited..??? WTF?? Wallow in your sour grapes if you wish, but I am certainly excited as hell. This is the first black president- need I say more. We are all watching history happen, so of course people are going to be excited. In 100 years, people probably won’t remember Clinton or Bush, but everyone will know who Obama was…

    I agree that the talking heads are mostly blathering on and on; but that is to fill air time. If you can not be excited about watching history happen than go lie down in your bunker?just don’t rain on my parade!

  39. El, true. I think a lot of people misuse the term tho – and very rarely make the right distinction in stating the problem. Ike’s speech was actually pro-military and emphasized the need to increase it, even as he warned against ceeding power to the corporate interests who provided the materiel.

  40. The military-industrial complex, though prosaically named, is by all accounts a real and corrupting phenomenon in American politics.

    Hey, I resemble that remark.

  41. but everyone will know who Obama was…

    There’s famous, and then there’s infamous . . . .

  42. just don’t rain on my parade!

    I’m not raining on your parade, I’m pissing in your cornflakes. Can’t you taste the difference?

  43. domoarrigato-

    Go to the tape. Did I say that a cut in defense spending of 25% would not represent change? No, I did not. I attacked the use of the slogan “change you can believe in”. IMO, having the defense department fast for a period of one year is truly “change I can believe in”. It does not mean that I think that a cut in defense spending of 25% is not change.

    Text, without context, is pretext.

  44. Come off it people…you can’t understand why people are excited..??? WTF?? Wallow in your sour grapes if you wish, but I am certainly excited as hell.

    I suppose I would be excited if the fact that Obama is black somehow made all our problems go away, but it doesn’t.

    Symbolism is all well and good, but I’m looking for substance, and the only substance I see is the ever-creeping slime of state intervention.

    Even Rome appointed an African Caesar, Septimius Severus, but that didn’t make him a good ruler…

  45. AM chi-

    I am excited about the Arizona Cardinals. I am excited about Slumdog Millionare. I am excited about private entities who have not sought any of the bailout moolah. I am excited that there are people who do not look at the election of Obama as significant on account of his race. You, however, appear to be excited about such racist stuff.

  46. Off topic-

    Yesterday, like Matt, I had NPR on at work, and in the car. I gotta give some props to Mad Max as several guests pointed to Dr. King invoking scripture in his efforts to influence gvt. policy.

  47. How many more people are going to stop by to accuse us of being unmutual?

  48. “Text, without context, is pretext.”

    Text before text too – just like text under text is subtext…

    but honestly – you did say that anything short of eliminating the DoD would indicate that “change [was] … disguised defacation” so how are we misreading that statement? give me your revised version if you wish to restate your remarks. I’m not imputing you with any beliefs, or even arguing with your point – I’m just agreeing with TAO that I interpreted your comment the same way. don’t get all pissy – if you are misunderstood, just say what you mean!

  49. just don’t rain on my parade!

    Your parade is stupid and shallow. It is the Paris Hilton of parades.

  50. Xeones,

    Get off my girl! Paris is my backup retirement plan.

  51. I may have said to much . . . . forget I typed that.

  52. I think a lot of people misuse the term tho – and very rarely make the right distinction in stating the problem. Ike’s speech was actually pro-military and emphasized the need to increase it, even as he warned against ceeding power to the corporate interests who provided the materiel.

    I agree that it is often misused, or at least used in a different sense than Eisenhower meant it.

  53. You’d better double-bag that shit, Naga. Maybe triple.

  54. Xeones,

    No way dude! My plan is to knock her up. Then I can hang with her rich crowd for awhile. Make a rap cd. Then get a PAYCHECK to waive all parental rights. I got me a plan, see.

  55. Well, the deep thinker and/or writer thing is founded mostly on contrast with the past eight years. As near as I can tell, GWB’s analytical powers have been strictly limited to the field of baseball. Outside of that his deepest thoughts have been how dreamy Putin’s eyes are.

    So when THOSE are the standards, Obama’s Reader’s Digest intellectualism seems more substantial.

  56. You make it seem like Ms. Hilton is a dirtier whore than most of Naga’s other pigs.

  57. Steven Spielberg is not a dignitary.

    The Ambassador of Hollywood.

    True fact: Andrea Mitchell was the stunt double for ET.

  58. Ska,

    Ouch! Wait! Why? What have you heard?

  59. If he does not do these things, then this libertarian will know that all of his stuttering…bluster about “change you can believe in” and “hope” was only so much disguised defecation.

    So, in other words, unless he cuts defense spending to zero, he is bullshitting about really changing anything.

    LM, this is a very straightforward reading of your remarks. Like it or lump it.

    Marcvs – As has already been said (but I did not clarify), modern use of the term “military-industrial complex” is cruise control for “ignore”.

    Interestingly enough, mentions of anarchism OUTSIDE of these here circles is usually enough for my eyes to glaze over as well.

    YAPPY COLLEGE KID: “But see, in anarcho-syndicalism…”
    ME: Zzz.

  60. TAO,

    Personally I KNOW society is hierarchical hence the reason I begin thinking of turning warlord if the apocalypse comes or if Epi and others start arguing about anarcho-capitalism.

  61. Where dailies are subsidized.

    Well, duh. You didn’t seriously think the media were anointing Obama the messiah without expecting a little back-scratching in return?

    No doubt the charge into a state media will be spearheaded by the same people who freak out at the idea of a Christmas manger scene in the town square.

  62. TAO and domoarrigato-

    I am sorry if I appeared to be all prissy. I did not intend to be.

    If Obama proposes a significant reduction in defense spending, yes, I would be pleasantly surprised. Obviously, even a proposal that calls for a token reduction in defense spending would constitute a “change” as, if my assumption is correct, defense espenditures have not decreased in many years.

    Perhaps I should have been more emphatic in distinguishing between “change” and “change you can believe in” as I believe there is a distinction. Would you not grant that there is a difference between “change” and “change you can believe in”?

  63. The major media have been waiting 45 years for another Camelot, and by god they’re not going to miss one single piece of hyperbole describing its return.
    My advice is earplugs, noseplugs and hipwaders, ’cause this sh** is gonna continue to be loud, smelly and deep for months.
    (Not that you need my advice on this.)

  64. Are any of you old enough to remember segregated buses, schools, whites-only hotels and lunch-counters? Hospitals that refused to serve blacks? That we have elected an African American to the White House represents a significant social shift. It’s a symbol, but a symbol that could powerfully affect society as a whole in the following generations, perhaps burying completely the notion that achieving success in a white man’s world is not selling out, or giving in to whitey. Perhaps, considering that Obama is of mixed-race descent, progress towards a race-transcendent society will be made. Maybe one day we’ll be able to eliminate the hypen in the hyphenated American.

    So, I’m not going to be yelling boo on the sidelines on this day. I’ll wait until he’s passed his first piece of bad legislation.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.