News & Criticism

Straw Man Radio

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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.