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April 17, 2008

David Brooks on journalism

On the Times campaign blog, David Brooks defends the questions put to Clinton and Obama the latest debate:

I understand the complaints, but I thought the questions were excellent. The journalist’s job is to make politicians uncomfortable, to explore evasions, contradictions and vulnerabilities. Almost every question tonight did that. The candidates each looked foolish at times, but that’s their own fault.

We may not like it, but issues like Jeremiah Wright, flag lapels and the Tuzla airport will be important in the fall. Remember how George H.W. Bush toured flag factories to expose Michael Dukakis. It’s legitimate to see how the candidates will respond to these sorts of symbolic issues. [NYT]

It's as if Brooks sees election campaigns poorly controlled experiments. Candidates are specimens to be poked and prodded by journalists seeking to gage their reactions to various inane stimuli.

According to Brooks, these stimulus-response patterns matter because they will matter in the fall. In other words, if a journalist spots a self-fulfilling prophecy, it's his job to pitch in and help make it come true.

Sam Boyd argues that Brooks and his colleagues see journalism as a matter of collecting scalps. I don't think that's quite it. Brooks doesn't want to take down powerful people, he wants to listen to himself influencing discussion about them.

Bigtime pundits have a glaring conflict of interest when it comes to setting the national agenda. They like the symbolic issues because they're good at free-associating about them. Should the discussion shift to substantive issues, the pundits might have to cede the floor to experts.

This video clip from The Onion says it all... Poll: Bullshit is the most important issue for 2008 voters.

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Comments

It's almost comical to see the indefensible David Brooks defend the indefensible. Almost.

-AF
Andrew Sullivan Is A Fraud

David Brooks' argument:

Campaigns may discuss idiotic things in the fall.

Therefore, journalists should discuss idiotic things today.

these sorts of symbolic issues

Symbolic of what?

"David Brooks' argument:

Campaigns may discuss idiotic things in the fall.

Therefore, journalists should discuss idiotic things today."


They WILL discuss idiotic things in the fall, or David Brooks & co. will goddamn well make them. And simultaneously, of course, we'll be treated to the usual head-shaking among editors, broadcast execs and pundits about how they'd just love to be discussing the real issues, but the stupid, brain-dead American people won't let them.

Candidates are specimens to be poked and prodded by journalists seeking to gage their reactions to various inane stimuli.

Don't worry, they'll be just as tough on McCain.

Oh, and I'm Princess Margaret.

Tom Shales: "a shoddy, despicable performance"

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/17/AR2008041700013_pf.html

And Joe Klein has already fulfilled my brilliant, half-hour-old prophecy: he agreed that the questions were indeed trivial, but the moderators had no choice: the "campaign" "forced" them to spend two hours on irrelevancies.

I didn't watch the debate, as I was getting hammered in lower Manhattan at the time.

And will agree that the flag pin is a bullshit issue and that it would be stupid to defend anyone making that a debate question.

Tuzla Airport-oh, who cares--this is what Hillary is.

But issues like Jeremiah Wright and the association with domestic terrorists like William Ayers are pretty damned relevant to me.

The allegation is that Obama has had a 20 year pupil-master relationship to a race-baiting dragon dancer. Well, maybe that's true ( looks that way to me ) or maybe its not ( looks that way to youse ) but it is a very relevant matter for anyone to be discussing. A reporter who failed to address it would be guilty of malpractice, malfeasance, and all kinds of other bad things.

Same with the issue of the association with William Ayers. The media barely touched on that story, other than the dreaded Fox News. Has anyone here been in the home of an unrepentant terrorist? Neither have I. A candidate for president has associations with both this guy and the racist rev? That's news, guys. Believe me its important.

And Joe Klein has already fulfilled my brilliant, half-hour-old prophecy

My gut instinct was to respond to this with "Oooooh, you predicted Joe Klein would say something stupid, and he actually did! May I touch the hem of your garment?"

But that would be uncharitable--not towards Klein, of course, he deserves it--but towards Cass. So I'll just say "Well done" and leave it at that.

Ted: "How come every time I open my mouth, you look at me like I'm going to say something stupid?"

Lou: "How come every time I see a duck I expect it to quack?"

Ted: "I asked you first."

-from an old "Mary Tyler Moore" episode

Obama has had a 20 year pupil-master relationship to a race-baiting dragon dancer

I sense a bit of projection here. You wouldn't be Catholic, would you?

The Phantom -

What is a "dragon dancer"?

I am not a member of any religion.

A dragon-dancer? Well, normally, it's a good thing. Its one of the ceremonial dancers who performs the dragon dance when it's Asian (Chinese) New Year or for other ceremonial occasions, such as the opening of a school or business.

Rev. Wright performed the ceremonial race-bait and anti-American dance from his pulpit. Watch him do the dance when he utters the "chickens home to roost" line.

And Obama, over a period of twenty years, never saw nuttin'!

I love the argument that these are "symbolic issues". I guess we all need to get out our magic decoder rings to find out what they all mean.

Tell the media they suck!
-slag

Pro-tip: If you are going to whine about race-baiting don't call people "dragon dancers" at the same time.

Margalis

Sorry for your inabilities. Will write down to you the next time.

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