Nov 1 2006


Ignorance or Bad Faith?

“I have a rule, which has never failed me, that when a writer uses quotations from Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and the Left Behind series to capture the religious and political currents in modern America, then I know I can put that piece of writing down because the author either doesn’t know what he is talking about or is arguing in bad faith.”

—David Brooks, New York Times (10/22/06)

“We in the coastal metro Blue areas read more books and attend more plays than the people in the Red heartland. . . . But don’t ask us, please, what life in Red America is like. We don’t know. We don’t know who Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins are, even though the [Left Behind] novels they have co-written have sold about 40 million copies over the past few years. We don’t know what James Dobson says on his radio program, which is listened to by millions.”

— David Brooks, Atlantic (12/01); cited in Tapped (10/24/06)

Atomic Fantasies

Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer picked up on Ted Koppel’s idea (New York Times, 10/2/06; Extra! Update, 10/06) that the U.S. should declare in advance whom it would retaliate against in case terrorists use a nuclear bomb—but he has a different idea of whom we should nuke. While Koppel wanted to blow up Iran, Krauthammer (10/17/06) asserted that any nuclear detonation against the U.S. or its allies “requir[es] a full retaliatory response upon North Korea. . . . Any terrorist detonation would be assumed to have [Kim Jong Il’s] address on it.” Perhaps having read Koppel’s column, Krautham-mer acknowledged that his plan “works only in a world where there is but a single rogue nuclear state.” Back in the real world, none of the dozens of states with nuclear power can be assumed to have complete control over their fissionable material, and one country, Pakistan, has already been caught marketing its nuclear technology. But why let reality get in the way of a fantasy about nuclear annihilation?

TV’s Birds and Bees

ABC World News Tonight anchor Charles Gibson suggested to the Philadelphia Inquirer (10/10/06) how network news shows could attract a younger audience: Stop running ads aimed at old people. “I’d rather have car ads. When you put on ads mostly for medicines, you’re saying ‘We want an older audience.’ I would like ads that say, ‘We have a younger audience here,’” he told the Inquirer. “Why say the important audience is 25 to 54 if you run ads that obviously appeal to people over 60 or 65? . . . Why aren’t you trying to get commercials that appeal to the audience you want to get?” While FAIR believes the news and business sides of media outlets ought to be kept separate, perhaps someone at ABC should explain to Gibson that you don’t pick and choose commercials based on the audience you wish you had; advertisers sponsor your program based on the people who actually watch your shows.

Blackout Politics

An internal memo from ABC Radio Networks, headlined “Air America Blackout,” provides ABC Radio Network affiliates with a “complete list of sponsors requesting that NONE of their commercials air within Air America programming.” The list, totaling 90 advertisers, includes some of largest and best-known corporations advertising in the U.S.: Wal-Mart, GE, Exxon-Mobil, Microsoft, Bank of America, FedEx, Visa and McDonald’s. The U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Navy are also listed. (Two companies, Allstate and REI, said that they were on the list by mistake.) Are these advertisers’ just reluctant to be associated with partisan programming? That may be the case for some, but according to the Liberal Talk Radio blog (10/31/06), 46 of the companies listed as not advertising on Air America do advertise on Fox News Channel—including every private company listed above with the exception of Micro-soft. It seems like it’s not politics, but progressive politics, that many corporate advertisers object to.

Rich Like Me

Former FCC chair William Kennard wrote a New York Times op-ed (10/21/06) that dismissed the net neutrality debate as a distraction from “more pressing issues,” and “essentially a battle between the extremely wealthy (Google, Amazon and other high-tech giants . . . ) and the merely rich (the telephone and cable industries).” Leaving aside the fact that the largest phone companies are several times larger than Amazon, Kennard doesn’t mention that he serves on the board of Sprint Nextel Corporation, Hawaiian Telcom and Insight Communications—all telephone companies that seek to profit from eliminating net neutrality. (Kennard does mention that he works for the Carlyle Group, and indirectly acknowledges that Carlyle invests in telephone companies—but he doesn’t admit his more direct ties to the telcom industry.) The Times, for its part, only discloses that Kennard is a member of the New York Times Co.’s own board—as if Kennard’s going to work for the companies he used to regulate has no bearing on how we should read his policy prescriptions.