The Fray on Georgia's ecumenical senator.

The Fray on Georgia's ecumenical senator.

The Fray on Georgia's ecumenical senator.

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Aug. 27 2004 4:56 PM

Ol' Young Harris

The Fray on Georgia's ecumenical senator.

Zig-Zag Zell? Assessment Fray is busy in response to Michael Crowley's feature on Zell Miller ("Zell Miller: Why the Democratic senator loathes Democrats"). Brian-1 here and fozzy conjure up Arizona Republicans Barry Goldwater and John McCain respectively as analogous figures. Fozzy on AuH2O here:

This description of Zell reminds me of Barry Goldwater. I lived in Arizona during the twilight of Goldwater's tenure on earth, and had a hard time imagining him as the Republican/Right Wing scourge of his day. ...

I would imagine that Zell, like Barry, looks on in amazement and dismay at how quickly the winds of politics change their tack. They remained steadfast while party evolutions (and even revolutions) swept around them. But that's what makes them interesting, they refuse to conform to the parties ever evolving sets of talking points and triangulations. Liberated by age from silly delusions like becoming president, they are free to spend their last years telling their own parties exactly what they think.

On the matter of Miller's roots—as a native of tiny upstate Towns County—IWonder feels that "Zell has a point":

I personally am very sick of hearing stereotypes of the South from people who have never lived in the South and even more sick of hearing stereotypes of the South from people who have never lived anywhere else and who therefore simply accept that they are somehow more flawed than the rest of the racists, bigots, and hypocrites who live elsewhere.

Shammer adds:

[W]e're not moonlight-and-magnolias (in most areas) with hints of the KKK lurking around every darkened oak tree. Actually, the South has exploded in urban/suburban population since the mid 1970s, and perhaps most of this growth can be attributed to a large, multieconomic, multicultural migration that shows no signs of slowing. Leaving religion aside for a bit, a lot of dominant stereotypes regarding the South—rednecks, racism, clans, the Klan, plantations and so on—are dead or recessing, in favor of a more Americanized sense of hopelessness: multiple vinyl-siding houses with 14-square foot sodded lots, gated, wrapping around a Wal-Mart, or a Country Towne/Maine Street upscale shopping area. We're beginning to look a lot like the midwest now, only with Kudzu.

Both Thrasymachus and echoguy jump on a different theory—that it's a your-problem-not-my-problem for Zell. T here:

I think Zeller's appeal to the GOP is due less to his argument that the Democratic Party has changed than to the fact that he has.

As a Democrat reformed, he's a prodigal son. He has walked the paths of tax-and-spend, yea, into the very shadow of the valley of gay rights, but he has been redeemed from his path of wickedness, for he has seen the light, and he has seen the truth, and the truth shall set you free!

And hereechoguy reminds fraysters that Miller cut his political teeth under Georgia governor Lester Maddox:

What Crowley doesn't mention is that Miller served as LG under—and was mentored by—Governor Lester Maddox, one of the most notoriously racist governors ever to hold office in this nation. That's not hyperbole. Maddox would embrace that characterization were he alive today.

The aberrational period in Miller's political contour is not now as a contrarian novelty, but rather that brief period that crested in 1988 when Miller saw a window of opportunity through which to climb his way to national prominence, particularly at Atlanta's 1988 Democratic National Convention. Are we to believe that the Democratic Party of Michael Dukakis is somehow more palatable to Miller than today's Democratic party of welfare reform and soft regulation?

Miller hasn't abandoned the Democratic Party. Rather, he's returning to his roots as a Maddoxian Democrat.

Finally, gthomson recognizes the parallel between the DNC in Boston and Miller's upcoming address in New York:

One of the interesting aspects of the convention cycle in 2004 is that both sides are so eager to display 'surprise guests,' people with political or family connections to the other party. The Democrats started it off with Ron Reagan, who, admittedly always politically liberal, ratcheted up the shock value, especially considering his father, a conservative idol, had recently passed away. ... The Republicans responded in kind, tapping Zell Miller…

Again, the message is pretty clear for both parties: the Democrats are so far left and the Republicans are so far right, they're losing touch with mainstream values, which is why there is this wave of seeming apostasy. Conversion or heresy is playing a big role in this campaign, perhaps because, in no other campaign in recent memory have the two teams, I mean political parties, been so clearly entrenched. And perhaps because, rather than discussing issues, this campaign is shaped by the politics of faith, fear and superstition.

Sort of reminds Fraywatch of the joke/adage about the lone shipwrecked man who builds two churches on his deserted island—one he worships at, and one he won't step foot into if his life depended on it.

Miller worships in the other one ... KA1:50 p.m.

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Monday, August 23, 2004

"The Offing Was Barred by a Black Bank of Clouds, and the Tranquil Waterway Leading to the Uttermost Ends of the Earth": It's safe to say that the SBVT story has legs. The substance of the allegations aren't nearly so intriguing as the allure of its story arc, says Demosthenes2 here:

We care less about the actual truths of matter than we do the story line, as if we're voting the best screenplay rather than our government. It is this that makes the distortions that have become the expected course of all campaigns and the norm, coupled with our lack of insistence that such positions be examined that results in both their continued success and out pretty much getting what we deserve in terms of government as we fret and contort ourselves trying to justify, even in retrospect, what we know to be untrue.

Fraywatch recently came off a stint as a copy writer and producer on a reality series in which "story" has a unique context in the nomenclature. If a person on a reality production "does good story," it means that he can extract the very best dramatic "beats" from an otherwise boring collection of events—irrespective of how these beats may or may not actually inform (or misinform) the characters or the true contour of the plot.

Americans used to love good stories. Now we love good story. 

Fritz_Gerlich ripped off this classic late on Friday afternoon. The very basic crux of a much more elaborate discussion is:

Lost wars have a way of becoming Lost Causes. It is easier for families of the fallen, for surviving veterans, and for a defeated nation, to believe that their cause should have been victorious, and would have been, had it not been for some malicious trick of fate that tipped the victory to the other side. ...

In the case of Vietnam, the Lost Cause storyline had two components. One was the straightforward "stab-in-the-back" theory that we actually won the war militarily, but were betrayed politically by the antiwar movement and the craven politicians who heeded it. ...

However, the stab-in-the-back theory was a bit abstract, and most people were tired after a more than a decade of political bickering about Vietnam, so a second, more symbolic and evocative, component of the Vietnam Lost Cause myth evolved. This was the POW-MIA myth, which claimed that American soldiers were still being held prisoner by nasty Oriental commies in black pajamas! ... The psychological function of the POW-MIA myth was to symbolize that America had unfinished business arising from the war in Vietnam. To rescue the supposed missing men, certainly—but also to recover the honor America lost through its defeat.

For a  sample of the many valuable responses, check out GeoffPneuma here on the nature of "atrocitiy," and daveto playing devil's advocate here

For good measure, FG gets the week going with another formidable discussion about the boundaries of Bush's power—victorious or not in November—and the evolution of progressivism under Bush hereKA8:55 a.m.

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Friday, August 20, 2004

Messenger Service: A three-part debate between gthomson and Jack_Baltimore takes the mantel as the Fray's best discourse of the week. GT got it started last week with "Shooting the Messenger," claiming that any charges of ideological bias in the media are "silly":

In the end, arguments about bias in media are frighteningly simplistic: the bias you should be worried about is the bias against in-depth reportage, asking tough questions, finding the nonconventional story, the new angle, the voice that is not being heard. The media relies on conservative talking points because historically, conservative groups have been more aggressive and organized, providing a complacent media with a barrage of press releases, which are often used as sources for supposed "news" stories. This conservative bias is a collective personality flaw, a bias toward lack of effort, pride of occupation, and individual accountability. In short, if liberal lobby groups whore themselves to media like the conservatives do, the perceived bias begins to magically diminish. Unfortunately, the real problems will remain, because "media bias" was only a symptom of a larger ailment.

Jack_Baltimore responds with gusto on Wednesday by stating, "I strongly disagree with Frayster gthompson's propositions in Shooting the Messenger." JB writes:

What we have to be concerned about is the spreading of anti-American, anti-middle class, corporatist values through the selection and editing of news by an overwhelmingly conservative, and increasingly consolidated media leadership.

JB draws what he sees as a clear distinction between the yeoman reporter and the executive editors:

As to the nature of the bias in news reporting: what counts is not the overall viewpoint of reporters in our major media, which in fact collectively leans somewhat Democratic and liberal on social issues but leans more strongly Republican and conservative on fiscal issues and foreign policy.

Reporters, in fact, never decide what you see and hear in our media. Editors do.

And surveys of attitudes of newspaper and broadcast editors reveal not a detectable lean to the right on social, economic and foreign policy issues, but pronounced support for the conservative Republican viewpoint across the board.

The stories they select for print and broadcast, the headlines, the shape of the worldview to which Americans are exposed, are driven by a worldview of the typical American editor that is consistently conservative and corporatist.

This stems from where? 

Broadcast television, broadcast radio, and the newspaper businesses have all been going through a process of massive ownership concentration and consolidation in this country since the Reagan administration eliminated the Fairness Doctrine and removed regulatory restrictions limiting media ownership. The corporate owners of America's media outlets are exerting today an unprecedented degree of centralized control over both the editorial and the hard news content of these media, and the hard slant we encounter is toward the right, in support of corporate agendas, and particularly the Republican Party.

Are you familiar with Gresham's Law? It states, roughly, with respect to national currencies, that bad money drives good money out of circulation.

For more on the JB's corporatism-not-commercialism theory of journalistic degeneration, click here.

This morning, gt offers another response:

You say that reporters never decide what you see and hear in our media, editors do. I believe this glosses the reality a little, in two ways. First of all, reporters do play an important role in shaping the stories you see, though of course their editors choose to emphasize certain points, de-emphasize others etc. However, the editor doesn't usually simply rewrite a story to suit their political bias; it is more like a push-pull relationship, where the reporter and editor(s) perform a little dance where two or more often different biases hopefully cancel each other out some…

Further, you seem to be assuming that editors are largely right-wing, which does not appear to be the case. The Pew Center's industry study  indicates that 7% of editors and reporters are politically conservative, with about an even number of reporters and editors/executives reporting (see the methodology here). This covers print, TV and radio. So in terms of political beliefs, at least, neither editors nor reporters are especially conservative. I've seen other studies that show editors and reporters closer to the center, but this may be a question of methodology.

Want to gab more about the present state of the Fourth Estate? Stoke up Press Box Fray.

Hey, Your Chocolate Got in My Peanut Butter: On the matter of Skippy's Rastafarian Elephants ad, here  MatthewGarth blunts Seth Stevenson's stoner theory:

Now, if you look back over the thematics, you'll see that we've got African elephants, Jamaican music, the ghost of George Washington Carver, and a major peanut-industry funded push to market nuts as an anti-diabetes food. Put it together and you have a readily deployable racial background. Does the campaign start with the desire to market to African-Americans or to market blackness to non-black audiences? Of course, it can always be a 2-fer: shore up the mom's nostalgic for the days of race pride (and peanut wizard Carver) who are worried about diabetes on the one hand, and then get all the kids going to the same Sean-Pauly groove.

Alright, so who else has an interest in playing up the African roots of this yummy spread? Turn to the Skippy history and you'll see that while Carver might be the peanut wizard, it was Joe Rosefield who owned the emulsification patents. Skippy's new campaign is The Jazz Singer of peanut marketing, and The Nutshells are Rosefield's blackface mask...

NAR-ly: It's not a Fray item, per se, but the The National Association of Realtors responds to Douglas Gantenbein's hit piece. Check out the append here.  Evidently, there are realtors, and there are Realtors®. Somewhere David Foster Wallace is grinning … KA9:05 a.m.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2004

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Ask and Ye Shall Receive: On Monday, Fraywatch expressed bemusement that few fraysters had delved into the Jim McGreevey fiasco and its implications on any number of fronts. With that, several among you stepped forward. The_Bell's post centers on McGreevey's decision to resign:

No, the reason McGreevey was correct to resign was the very principle that he himself again articulated so simply and clearly.

I am also here today because, shamefully, I engaged in an adult consensual affair with another man, which violates my bonds of matrimony. [my emphasis]

Much as I recently posted about Jack Ryan's decision to withdraw from the Illinois Senate race, the issue here has nothing to do with sex or sexuality. Rather it is McGreevey's infidelity as well as his refusal to deal with his own sexual orientation that reflects a basic disrespect toward the women he married (McGreevey's first marriage ended in divorce) and a betrayal of their trust in him. It cuts to basic character and undercuts his integrity and the public trust awarded him as a result of his election.

On the "gay American" matter?

There is nothing wrong with the Governor of New Jersey or of any other state being gay and it is unfortunate that for many people Governor McGreevey's decision to resign will reinforce their perception of homosexuality as a shameful condition that drives people from recognition, public service, and all the "quote 'good things' and all the quote 'right things' of typical ... adult behavior." McGreevey was right to resign but it was right because it was right for him and because he was ashamed of the right thing—not his sexual orientation but the betrayal of his wife that an extramarital affair entailed. Hopefully, enough people can look beyond the lurid nature of the circumstances to see that important Truth.

What say MarcEHaag? In "Jim the Jade, Our Man in Trenton," Marc writes

As a gay man, I want very much to sympathize with McGreevey's plight, but I have to admit, he seems to have hurt rather a lot of people, including his constituents. And he might be more than just a little corrupt.

So, actually, the more that comes out about this story, the more annoyed, even a little offended I start to get with Jaded Jim. I certainly hope he wasn't trying to instrumentalize his gayness to plead, well, maybe not innocence so much as irresponsibility. If we gay men want to be accepted or even promoted in society we can't fall into the trap of allowing ourselves to be treated as helpless or incapacitated in any moral or intellectual way by our "sexuality," to which McGreevey kept referring in his speech as if it somehow excused him of something.

Marc does something interesting in the closing of his post—he finds an unseemly relationship between power and the closet:

If anything homiletic is to be extracted from yesterday's bombshell, I think it has to do with the evils of the closet. I've never been a fan of "outing" as a gay political tactic, but this incident might prompt some second or third ruminations on that score … the only reason why someone like McGreevey would resort to it is because of a blind determination to get, accumulate and hang on to power. And anyone whose sole motivation in life is power … is already half way down the road to some kind of corruption.

So far as the November 15 drop dead date, TheAList writes in "The Golan Lows,"

Should Jim go before Nov. 15? Almost certainly. I can't imagine the Dems want McGreevey on voters' minds when they enter the voting booth this fall, so the sooner he is out the better.

Scandal just ain't what it used to be.

Just Sold! As of last count, a majority of the National Association of Realtors membership had logged onto A Fine Whine Fray to protest Douglas Gantenbein's "Realty Bites: Why do you still need an agent to buy a home?"

Unless you care to marvel at the density on a usually bucolic area of the Fray, Fraywatch can pretty much sum up the responses by reporting that realtors are pissed.

VitaminTommy respectfully begins his torch job this way:

As with most poorly researched hit pieces, there is a kernel of truth to this article, and I'd like to acknowledge that before I proceed to eviscerate the rest of it.

And eviscerate he does, tearing apart each element of Gantenbein's piece, from the range of a realtor's functions to the cost of doing business. Tommy's thread gets so hot that Gantenbein himself jumps into the Fray to pour fuel on the fire:

Yeah, but what about paying a 5-6% commission and STILL having headaches, as in stupid real estate agents who have no idea how to sell, market or advise. Let's get real: the majority of agents failed at everything else, just like school teachers, and took on real estate as a last resort. If they were so hot at selling and marketing they'd be working for IBM.

For a more measured discussion of this donnybrook, check out Fritz_Gerlich here and kensi here.

Doom, Doom, Doom, Doom: Gaming aficionados should give locdog's review of Doom 3 a read; it's well worth it … KA 8:50 a.m.

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Monday, August 16, 2004

Three-Ring Bind: That's what BenK got himself into with this post:

Those are the two women's sports that the US cares about. Everything else is limited to hardcore fans and hardcore feminists.

It's the simple truth. While policy wonks may suggest that Title IX has boosted women's participation, it hasn't forced anyone to watch more, follow more, or care more about women's sports in general. In general, people still want the men to be strong and fast, and the women to be graceful and beautiful.

It's a pretty simple, possibly biologically rooted, observation. Some people would argue that it is socially constructed. If so, it has been a social construct in every successful human society since the dawn of time, let alone history.

In response, ShriekingViolet bangs out a guide titled, "How to write a sexist comment":

Step 1: Spout an ill-informed opinion that makes broad generalizations about men and women as if genders are monolithic hive-mind categories.

Step 2: Universalize the comment by implying that everyone agrees with you except "hardcore feminists."

Step 3: Bash Title IX for good measure.

SV elaborates on her points—check out her post in its entirety here.

So Iran to My Dictionary and ... : Jacob Weisberg's daily Bushism is a screamer:

"Secondly, the tactics of our—as you know, we don't have relationships with Iran. I mean, that's—ever since the late '70s, we have no contacts with them, and we've totally sanctioned them. In other words, there's no sanctions—you can't—we're out of sanctions."—Annandale, Va., Aug. 9, 2004

But gthomson points out that:

Bush is technically correct in everything he says here. The problem may be with the word "sanction," which has two distinct and, in some contexts, contradictory meanings, according to WordNet Dictionary:

* official permission or approval
* a mechanism of social control for enforcing a society's standards

Thus, America has "totally sanctioned" Iran, as in instituted a mechanism of social control ... At the same time, there are "no sanctions," as in no official permission or approval given. ... Maybe that is why Bush seems to go into word salad mode toward the end, "there's no sanctions—you can't—we're out of sanctions." Bush had simply come up against his greatest enemy—the English language itself. It proved a cunning foe.

Apparently, access and axis present similar problems for the President, as well. 

On the Matter of McGreevey: Fraywatch has found nothing of note in the Fray. Granted, Slate has yet to publish on the story, but resident political theorists from The_Bell to TheAList, to ethicist GeoffsPneuma, to queer theorist Ang_Cho haven't offered up any armchair analysis as of yet.

Fraywatch waits. ... KA2:40 p.m.