....LMB: "El Convention"....

August 02, 2004

As they were first formulated in the US, political party conventions were a place for party delegates to come together, debate issues, hammer out a platform, and nominate their favorite candidate to be the party's presidential contender for the year. Near as I can figure, none of these happened at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

And it won't happen at the Republican Convention either.

Somewhere along the line, parties realized that candidates who are chosen early and supported early are more successful than ones who battle it out till the convention, and then only have from the convention's end till the election-time to win over the public. In other words, democracy gets in the way of winning, so the democracy's got to go.

Before I focus too much on the inside of the convention, let's cover the outside.

I have already said plenty about the protest pens, and I was very glad to see protesters use their common sense ("why the hell should we protest in that deathtrap?") instead of blindly doing what they were told. You can see lots of pictures of the protests here and here. I'm not sure how the Really Really Democratic Bazaar turned out, but it looks like it might have been a fun way to spread a little political knowledge, as opposed to your standard dull march/boring speakers/mass arrest thing. To tide you over till the RNC protests, we've got Democracy Uprising, a 258-mile march from Boston to Manhattan.

And in far-off Pakistan, an al-Qaeda "facilitator and operative" was captured, right at the height of the convention. If you read this article several weeks ago, about the Bush administration pressuring the Pakistani government to find a high-level al-Qaeda guy during the DNC, to rip the spotlight away from Kerry, you'd probably find this a bit suspicious... even more so when you read that the al-Qaeda guy was captured on July 25, yet his capture was not announced until July 29-- the day of Kerry's acceptance speech. Luckily for the Democrats, the media did not shortchange the convention in order to cover the terrorist.

Now to the inside.

Conventions these days simply introduce the characters who will be the three months' traffic of our electoral stage: John Kerry- "I'm a stern ex-military man who wants to make the country safe"; John Edwards- "I'm an earnest, boyish Southerner with passion and optimism"; Howard Dean- "I'm a the thick-necked firebrand"; Barack Obama- "I'm the really cool black guy"; Dennis Kucinich- "I'm a magical dancing elf"*. I'm sure come the Republican convention, we'll see: George W. Bush- "I'm a strong, natural leader, who is truly, utterly baffled on how anyone could possibly disagree with me";** and Dick Cheney- "Now witness the power of this fully operational battle station!"***

The media this year went a little too nuts covering bloggers. It seems the sad truth that reporters think that if it involves computers and they haven't heard of it, it must be cutting edge. Of the 15,000ish media people in attendence, 30 bloggers were granted access. This is such a small percentage that statistically speaking, there were no bloggers at the convention.

For my money, there were two blog stories worth mentioning. First, the union of the Pandagon Duo. For months now, the Pandagon blog has been written by a young guy from Dayton Ohio and a young guy from Santa Cruz California, who, until the convention, had never actually met in real life. That made me happy. You read these blogs long enough, you start to like the folks writing them, and you like it when good things happen to the authors.

The other big story was the final outing of pseudonymous blogger "Atrios". I really hope that this revelation was Duncan "Atrios" Black's choice; that would fucking suck if someone else spilled the beans, exposing him unwillingly to the world.

One other weird-ass, blog-related story. Tom Tomorrow posted a personal photo on his site of Michael Moore and Bill O'Reilly conversing/fighting/something. Then, Tomorrow discovered that internet hack Matt Drudge had posted the same photo on his own site, after flipping the image left-to-right and then photoshopping it a bit to make it look like a different picture. Just a quick glance at the two photos and you see that they're obviously the same. What the hell is up with Drudge? He couldn't just post Tom's picture and write in tiny letters below "photo courtesy Tom Tomorrow"?

Apart from Kerry's official introduction to the voters of America, there seemed to be only one significant event inside: the speech of Barack Obama. He already seems a lock for the Illinois Senate seat, and based on the popularity of his DNC speech, folks are already predicting great things for him, possibly even the presidency. As I have no psychic powers, I won't even try predicting the future like that.

I did take issue with Obama's "one America" speech. I have already written my feelings that the United States is so divided by race and class and religion and geography that I don't even know what all Americans could possibly have in common. If we experience this country in such different ways, what could it be that possibly holds us together?

Now there's just the Republican National Convention. I should hurry up and buy my plane tickets, so I can fly out there, protest, get beaten by cops and pre-emptively arrested. Sigh.

*Why am I always making fun of Dennis Kucinich's appearance? After a bit of soul-searching, I think it's because I'm mean.

**I think the "baffled" bit will truly play a role. "I'm just a reg'lar guy who wants what's best for 'Murica. I just don't *heh* *heh*-- I mean, what's this other guy want?" It helps paint Bush as a man of the people, and paint Kerry's stances as incomprehensible (and therefore liberal and wrong) without saying a damn thing about them.

***You just can't go wrong with "Dick Cheney = evil" jokes

Posted by Jake at 11:02 PM | TrackBack (0)

By no means an original observation: Since we are no longer voters but merely consumers of the political process, it makes sense that the parties' national conventions have become infomercials on steroids.

I don't know if it's cynicism or pragmatism (hey, or maybe both), but I feel more empowered politically when I attend the local zoning board meetings and board of education meetings and get cranky.

Posted by: Miss Authoritiva at August 3, 2004 07:19 PM

All is politics is local, after all. We can't help but feel more connected when we're breathing the same air with people making important-to-our-lives decisions.

Jake -- The fully operational battle station line almost made me spew coffee. Good stuff!

Posted by: jeff at August 4, 2004 11:20 AM
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Media News

December 01, 2004

Media Mambo

The Great Indecency Hoax- last week, we wrote about how the "massive outcry" to the FCC about a racy Fox TV segment amounted to letters from 20 people. This week, we look at the newest media scandal, the infamous "naked back" commercial. On Monday Night Football, last week, ABC aired an ad for it's popular "Desperate Housewives" TV show, in which one of the actresses from the show attempted to seduce a football player by removing the towel she was wearing to bare her body to him. All the audience saw, however, was her back. No tits, no ass, no crotch, just her back.

No one complained.

The next Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh told his shocked viewers how the woman had appeard in the commercial "buck naked".

Then, the FCC received 50,000 complaints. How many of them actually saw this commercial is anyone's guess.

The article also shows the amazing statistics that although the Right is pretending that the "22% of Americans voted based on 'moral values'" statistic shows the return of the Moral Majority, this is actually a huge drop from the 35% who said that in the 2000 election or the 40% who said that in 1996 (when alleged pervert Bill Clinton was re-elected). This fact is so important I'm going to mention it over in the main news section too.

Brian Williams may surprise America- Tom Brokaw's replacement anchor, Brian Williams, dismissed the impact of blogs by saying that bloggers are "on an equal footing with someone in a bathroom with a modem." Which is really funny, coming out of the mouth of a dude who's idea of journalism is to read words out loud off a teleprompter. Seriously, if parrots were literate, Brian Williams would be reporting live from the line outside the soup kitchen.

In related news, Tom Brokaw has quit NBC Nightly News, and it appears that unlike his predecessor, the new guy can speak without slurring words like a drunk.

PR Meets Psy-Ops in War on Terror- in February of 2002, Donald Rumsfeld announced the creation of the Office of Strategic Influence, a new department that would fight the war on terror through misinformation, especially by lying to journalists. Journalists were so up in arms about this that the Pentagon agreed to scrap the program.

Don't you think that an agency designed to lie to the public might lie about being shut down, too?

This article gives some examples about the US military lying to the press for propaganda and disinformation purposes.

Tavis Smiley leaving NPR in December- African-American talk show host Tavis Smiley is opting to not renew his daily talk show on National Public Radio. He criticized his former employers for failing to: "meaningfully reach out to a broad spectrum of Americans who would benefit from public radio but simply donít know it exists or what it offers ... In the most multicultural, multi-ethnic and multiracial America ever, I believe that NPR can and must do better in the future." He's 100% correct. NPR is white. Polar bear eating a marshmallow at the mayonaise factory white. And the reason it's so white is that it is trying to maintain an affluent listener base (premoniantly older white folks) who will donate money to their stations. This is a great paradox of American public broadcasting, that they have a mandate to express neglected viewpoints and serve marginalized communities, but those folks can't donate money in the amounts that the stations would like to see.

U.S. Muslim Cable TV Channel Aims to Build Bridges- it sounds more positive than it is "Bridges TV" seems to simultaneously be a cable channel pursuing an affluent American Muslim demographic, and a way of building understanding and tolerance among American non-Muslims who might happen to watch the channel's programming. I was hoping it would be aimed more at Muslim's worldwide, but it ain't. Still, I'd be interested in seeing how their news programs cover the issues.

Every Damned Weblog Post Ever- it's funny cuz it's true.

Wikipedia Creators Move Into News- Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia, created collectively by thousands of contributors. It's one of those non-profit, decentralized, collective, public projects that show how good the internet can be. Now, the Wikipedia founders are working on a similar project to create a collaborative news portal, with original content. Honestly, it's quite similar to IndyMedia sites (which reminds me, happy 5th birthday, IndyMedia!). I'll admit, I'm a bit skeptical about the Wikinews project, though. IndyMedia sites work because they're local, focused on certain lefty issues, and they're run by activists invested in their beliefs. I'm not sure what would drive Wikinews or how it would hang together.

CBS, NBC ban church ad inviting gays- the United Church of Christ created a TV ad which touts the church's inclusion, even implying that they accept homosexuals into their congregation. Both CBS and NBC are refusing to air the ad. This is not too surprising, as many Americans are uncomfortable about homosexuality, and because TV networks are utter cowards. But CBS' explanation for the ban was odd:

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples...and the fact that the executive branch has recently proposed a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast."

Whoa, what? First of all, the ad does not mention marriage at all. Second, since when do positions opposite of the Executive Branch constitute "unacceptable"? This doesn't sound like "we're not airing this because it's controversial", this sounds like "we're afraid of what the President might say."

Posted by Jake at 10:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
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