R.I.P. Andy Griffith. Not Just A Face In The Crowd

Lonesome Rhodes: Rednecks, crackers, hillbillies, hausfraus, shut-ins, pea-pickers – everybody that’s got to jump when somebody else blows the whistle. […] They’re mine! I own ’em! They think like I do. Only they’re even more stupid than I am, so I gotta think for ’em.

If you haven’t seen this movie, now would be good time. An amazingly prescient take on the then-new medium of television, and one of the best screen performances of all time.

America’s Barack: Get A T-Shirt That Celebrates The Obama Recovery

America's BarackWould you like to wear your heart on your sleeve? Crass Commerce, the eShop for News Corpse, has this original design on T-Shirts and stickers. America’s Barack!

Your purchases will help to maintain this web site and it’s mission to expose right-wing bias in the media.

Our nation has been struggling to recover from the economic calamity that a conservative philosophy thrust upon us. Tax cuts for the wealthy and dangerous deregulation led directly to the Great Recession of 2008. Now we are beginning to dig our way out of that hole, and it is due to an agenda of stimulus and investment in the American middle class. We need to stay on this path and that means staying with a forward-looking administration that understands that prosperity is the byproduct of a financially healthy middle class that has money to spend in their communities.

The Constitution begins “We the People” not “We the Corporations.” (And no, corporations are not people). We are America, and America’s Barack!

Born And Bred In Brooklyn, U.S.A., They Call Me Adam Yauch But I’m M.C.A.

The Beastie Boys may be remembered best for fighting for their right to party. But they were a groundbreaking trio of rockin rappers who cared about music and the world they lived in. Even if it was a World Gone Mad.

Adam Yauch passed away today at the age of 47 after a three year battle with cancer.

R.I.P. M.C.A.

Fox News: In Touch With America – Of The 1940’s

Conservatives have been clamoring for the past three years or so that they want to “take America back.” The problem is that they want to take America back 50 years – or more. Evidence of their fixation on yesteryear was poignantly exhibited this morning on Fox and Friends when the hosts featured a segment about a fundraiser for President Obama.

Male Host: We’ve heard a lot about civility recently , and that’s why we maintain only the highest standards of civility on this program. But there’s a kind of a crazy moment at one of these Obama fundraisers. An entertainer named Cee Lo Green I believe, who must be very popular and hip because I’ve never heard of him ever before.
Female Host: It makes you long for the days of Sinatra, doesn’t it?

Cee Lo Green, of course, is a Grammy-winning artist whose novelty song “Fuck You” was a huge hit. It’s hard to grasp how anyone not living in an underground bunker waiting for Armageddon could have never heard of him. And why Frank Sinatra, a known pal of Mafia kingpins, is morally preferable to a guy who harmlessly and humorously cusses, is not readily apparent.

Nevertheless, Fox is intent on demonstrating the highest moral standards by featuring this story at the top of their Fox Nation web site, as if it were the most important news item of the day. And in their coverage they seem to have no problem with posting, uncensored, the very language that they are condemning:

“Donors at one of President Barack Obama’s fundraisers in Atlanta on Friday received at least one message loud and clear from the Obama campaign: ‘Fuck you.’ Singer Cee Lo Green, best known for his solo career and his work in the musical duo Gnarles Barkley, was entertaining guests at the $500-per-ticket event at Tyler Perry Studios when he prepared to launch into a performance of his song ‘Forget You.’

There was only one problem. Green decided, apparently at the last minute, to sing the uncensored and decidedly unpresidential version of the song — titled ‘Fuck You’ — instead.”

Note to Fox News: The song is not called “Forget You.” That was a sanitized version that Green recorded after the song unexpectedly raced up the charts. And if you’re so incensed by the use of foul language, why did you subject your hypersensitive readers to it – twice?

Thank goodness we have Fox News monitoring the moral fitness of society’s art and entertainment. We know that they can be relied upon to uphold the values that all Americans share (because we all think alike), while keeping up with contemporary culture (as long as it stops at 1950).

Mitt Romney Takes Pot Shots At Big Bird And PBS

Big BirdOne of the right’s perennial targets has been public television and programs that benefit the arts. They have relentlessly criticized these institutions and sought to deny them federal funding. They have even accused them of being socialist vehicles intent on indoctrinating America’s young. Now Mitt Romney joins the battle with a pledge to stop funding PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts (video below).

When Romney says that he wants to “stop certain programs…even some you like,” he is referring to programs that are of significant value to average Americans, but that he can live without because his quarter of a billion dollar net worth enables him to acquire whatever he wants. Romney demonstrates how pitifully out of touch he is by proposing to eliminate funding for PBS, a network that provides educational programming that is not available anywhere else, certainly not in commercial television. He is explicit in what he plans to do:

“We subsidize PBS. Look, I’m gonna stop that. I’m gonna say that PBS is gonna have to have advertisements. We’re not gonna kill Big Bird, but Big Bird’s gonna have advertisements.”

Despite his denials, killing off Big Bird is precisely what his plan would accomplish. There is a reason that commercial TV does not produce the sort of programming seen on PBS. For-profit networks have to cater to advertisers in order to stay in business. By necessity they are more concerned with generating profit than with quality programming. Take a look at tonight’s primetime schedules of the cable nets that were supposed to compete with public television:

  • Bravo: 8:00pm Top Chef: Texas; 9:00pm Top Chef: Texas; 10:00pm Top Chef: Texas
  • Discovery: 8:00pm Sons of Guns; 9:00pm Sons of Guns; 10:00pm Moonshiners
  • Learning Channel: 8:00pm Toddlers & Tiaras; 9:00pm Cheapskates; 10:00pm Toddlers & Tiaras

That’s not exactly entertainment designed to enrich America’s children. It’s a jumble of insipid reality programs that repeat ad nauseum. It’s Real Housewives, Swamp Loggers, Hoarders, and info-mercials. If Big Bird were required to rely on advertisers for funding it would not be long before Sesame Street was just another avenue on the Jersey Shore.

That’s the free market model for public broadcasting that Romney and the right advocate. It’s a model that would replace Bert and Ernie with Kim and Chloe. Is that really the example we want to set for our kids?

Leave It To Blather: A Holiday Memorial To The Media Madhouse

In honor of Independence Day I offer this reprise of a video I produced almost five years ago that embraces the naive wisdom found in the Golden Age of American television. Is this a great country or what?

Who would have thought that after 50 years the Cleaver brothers would be looked back upon as media visionaries? The insight and stark analysis preserved in this video unmistakably marks them as the intellectual peers of Minow, McLuhan, and Colbert.

The video above contains an actual clip from Leave It To Beaver. In the episode’s customary moralistic epilogue, the boys tackle the same defects in television news that Jon Stewart so elegantly skewered in his now famous Crossfire appearance.

Seeing this icon of innocence and family values humorously addressing a media problem that persists 50 years later, illustrates just how entrenched these problems are (and how easy they are to make fun of). But the fact that we’re still laughing at the same jokes is a bit disheartening. It’s not exactly an affirmation of progress.

The parade of prattling pundits that populate the closing credits are only a taste of the Blathering Class that infects our national discourse with deceit, diversion and division. And yet, people watch. Are we gluttons for punishment, addicted to conflict, or just starved for knowledge and hoping some will inadvertently reveal itself?

I don’t know. I guess I watch too much TV. Have a Happy Froth of July.

The Great Suppression: Republicans Clampdown On Art

The Republican Party likes to pretend that they are the defenders of individual freedom in America. Of course, that is a pretense that has never true. Their vocal protestations about government being “on your back” only apply to regulations aimed at corporations and taxes on the wealthy. The GOP has no problem with government leaping onto the backs of women seeking reproductive health care, or gays who want equality in marriage and military service, or kids who want to attend school without someone else’s religion forced down their souls.

In short, the GOP wants businesses to have the absolute freedom to run rampant over a population that is straight-jacketed by federal guardians of morality. And that constricting philosophy extends to the free expression of artists as well. Conservatives have long-held the view that the creative community is dangerous and subversive, and they must be silenced. They acted on those views when they blacklisted artists in the 1940’s and 1950’s. And today they are pressing hard to shut down public broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts. But it doesn’t stop there.

There have been some recent incidents that ought to stir outrage among Americans who value free expression and the First Amendment to the Constitution. Public figures have been stepping on the rights of artists in an official capacity and it is repugnant and un-American.

A few years ago, Secretary of State Colin Powell was scheduled to give a speech at the United Nations to make the case by the Bush administration for going to war against Iraq. Prior to the speech he had aides cover up a tapestry depicting Picasso’s painting, Guernica. Powell was not going to make an argument for war in front of such a powerful and iconic anti-war statement.

Bush’s Attorney General, John Ashcroft, held press conferences in the Justice Department in a hall where the statue “Spirit of Justice” had stood for decades. In 2002 he ordered that the statue, a female representation of justice with one bare breast exposed, be covered by a drape. It’s not clear whether he was worried more about this being embarrassing or arousing.

Earlier this year, Paul LePage, the governor of Maine, had a mural removed from the Maine Department of Labor. The mural depicted scenes of Maine’s working citizens and the history of labor in the state. Obviously it has no business taking up space in the Labor Department.

And just this week, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin removed a painting from the governor’s residence. The painting was of children from diverse backgrounds and was meant to remind the residents of that home, which belongs to the people of Wisconsin, of the impact their work has real families. Now Walker won’t have to be concerned with that unless he runs into some in person, in which case he’ll have much more to be concerned about.

The brazen insensitivity of public officials censoring messages that were meant to inspire openness and a devotion to service is appalling. These people are not only offending the artists and the citizens whose views are being represented, they are astonishingly tone-deaf to the political backlash that was easily anticipated.

Republicans can’t seem to get enough censorship. It weaves through the party from state houses to the White House. There is even a current speculative candidate for the GOP nomination for presidency in 2012 who has a low regard for free speech.

Rudy Giuliani: An exhibition of paintings is not as communicative as speech, literature or live entertainment, and the artists’ constitutional interest is thus minimal.

That was Giuliani arguing in court to ban artists from displaying their work on the streets of New York City. His argument is that, while evangelists predicting the end of the world and banjo pluckers strumming out strains of My Clementine are protected by the Constitution, artists are not. That’s all America needs now is a president who doesn’t think that art is communication or that it is protected by the Constitution. Welcome to the Dark Ages.

FLASHBACK: Pope Preaches Media Ethics

I just stumbled on this article I wrote in January 2008, while searching for something else. I am reposting it here for no good reason other than that the message from the Vatican is just so damn awesome, unexpected, and rarely told.

Who knew that the Roman Catholic Church observed something called “World Communications Day”? Well they do, and the theme for the 42nd annual observance to be held on May 4, 2008, was addressed in a speech by Pope Benedict XVI. He had some interesting things to say about the media. To begin with he recognizes the massive shadow cast by modern media conglomerates.

“Truly, there is no area of human experience, especially given the vast phenomenon of globalization, in which the media have not become an integral part of interpersonal relations and of social, economic, political and religious development.”

He goes on to warn that the media’s potential for positive contributions in society can be undermined by their basest tendencies, and that they…

“…risk being transformed into systems aimed at subjecting humanity to agendas dictated by the dominant interests of the day. This is what happens when communication is used for ideological purposes or for the aggressive advertising of consumer products.”

He is starting to sound like a fairly radical advocate for reform. He introduces the notion of “info-ethics” that, like bio-ethics, would serve as a guide in the practice of principled journalism. But he isn’t through yet.

“We must ask, therefore, whether it is wise to allow the instruments of social communication to be exploited for indiscriminate ‘self-promotion’ or to end up in the hands of those who use them to manipulate consciences. Should it not be a priority to ensure that they remain at the service of the person and of the common good…”

Well that settles it. The Pope has fallen in with the subversives who are calling for a wholesale restructuring of media’s place in society. A key goal of reformers is to insure that the media does not “end up in the hands” of manipulators and those who fail to acknowledge an obligation to the public interest. And if that’s not enough, tell me that this isn’t a slap at Fox News:

“Today, communication seems increasingly to claim not simply to represent reality, but to determine it, owing to the power and the force of suggestion that it possesses.”

Alright, maybe I’m reading a bit too much into that, but if I had presented it as a quote from Bill Moyers or Bob McChesney, it would have been entirely believable. The same would be true for the following:

“The media must avoid becoming spokesmen for economic materialism and ethical relativism, true scourges of our time. Instead, they can and must contribute to making known the truth about humanity, and defending it against those who tend to deny or destroy it.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. It’s great to see a mainstream spiritual leader like this articulate an agenda that is so anti-materialism and pro-truth. I wonder if the faithful will get behind these ideas and pursue, with a missionary zeal, the reform of a system that demeans humanity and freedom of thought and will.

Noxious Irritation: Andrew Breitbart’s True Hollywood Horror Story

How Hollywood Drove Andrew Breitbart To The Mad Hater’s Tea Party

Andrew BreitbartAndrew Breitbart just released his new book, “Righteous Indignation,” that opens a window into his innermost impulses and ambitions. It reveals the complex circuitry of his character that succeeds in being both self-loathing and Narcissistic. Breitbart takes us on his journey from unrequited Hollywood wannabe to Tea Party overlord and along the way establishes that his book might better have been titled “Noxious Irritation.” If anything, his indignation is aimed at a community that he desperately wanted to be a part of, but which wanted nothing to do with him.

Growing up in the Tinseltown suburb of Brentwood, Breitbart developed an early obsession with show business and celebrity. He writes with a palpable glee of having had the same tennis instructor as Farrah Fawcett and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The most trivial association with stardom sent him twirling, as when his family, “once rented out our motor home to John Ritter from Three’s Company. I bragged about it in school for weeks.” But despite his glamorous aspirations, the first forty pages of the book describe a young man seething with self-hatred. And judging from his own account it was deserved. He paints a picture of himself as an ignorant, alcoholic, loser.

Contine reading