THE SCIENCE OF IMAGE! At the Post, Romano and Milbank teach us the science of image: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, JANUARY 11, 2007
THE NEW FINEMAN: Its perfectly appropriate to quote Fineman now, as Josh Marshall does in this post from last evening. Wed only suggest that we all recall how hard Fineman worked, in 1999 and 2000, to put George W. Bush where he is. Few pundits matched his scripted inanity—and considering the era under discussion, thats really saying a mouthful. In October 1999, for example, his discussions with Brian Williams about Gores polo shirts helped define the public insanity which had gripped that press corps of the era. (See HOWLER HISTORY, below.) Today, the brilliant seer goes on TV and panders to current public opinion, noting how unconvincing Bush seems. In late 2001, of course, he was clownishly praising this brilliant new Caesar for his own wondrous wardrobe selections. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/11/01.
Fineman pandered and clowned for years to put George W. Bush where he is. Bush was on TV last night because of Howard Fineman.
THE SCIENCE OF IMAGE: Future anthropologists will dig up Dana Milbank. But first, two cheers for Lois Romano, who corrects herself in this mornings Post. Last week, Romano used an unfortunate locution while discussing Nancy Pelosi in her In the Loop column. Today, she cops to bad judgment:
ROMANO (1/11/07): We heard a number of complaints last week because we used the word "catfight" to describe a disagreement between two distinguished members of Congress—Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.). To those who civilly articulated reasons why the term is inappropriate, we say: Point taken.To her credit, Romano relents. She has always struck us as a fair person. But the fact that catfight came to her mind helps us see the benighted way her cohort instinctively reasons.
For the record, other pundits at the Post are having their troubles discussing Pelosi. For example, does Pelosi suffer from an image as shrill San Francisco Democrat? If you listen to Rush or Sean, she may suffer from that image; their gang loves the use of terms like San Francisco Democrat—surely, everyone knows what this has long implied—and yes, theyre eager to make you think that Pelosi is also shrill (another loaded term in our current spin wars).
But that would be people who take script from Sean. At present, most people have no particular image of Pelosi at all, which made Ruth Marcus column surprising. Marcus discussed the way Pelosi let members children and grandchildren join her at the House podium last week:
MARCUS (1/10/07): As a journalist, I understand the calculations at work here: This plays to Pelosi's advantages, humanizes her image as shrill San Francisco Democrat. As a woman and a mother, especially as a mother of daughters, I was quietly thrilled. About the marble ceiling cracking, yes, but also about the way Pelosi cracked it—reveling in, not minimizing, her mother- and grandmother-hood.According to Marcus, Pelosi does have that image. According to Marcus, people think of Pelosi as shrill—and as a San Francisco Democrat. One obvious note on the science of image: If readers didnt already think of Pelosi this way, they may do so after Marcus column.
But surely, the Posts most pitiful player has to be—alas—poor Milbank. In Milbanks cohort, you never admit and you never relent—and you never stop pimping preferred spin and image. Try to believe that Olbermanns idiot writes this, in this mornings Post:
MILBANK (1/11/07): Usually, official Washington chews over a president's speech after he has delivered it. But yesterday, virtually everything in the speech was disclosed, disputed and defended—hours before the lights went on in the White House library for Bush's address to the nation.Good God! Without any questions, future anthropologists are going to dig this gang up.
A bit of background. In July, the Posts Michael Grunwald finally copped to the fact that Gore never said he invented the Internet (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/25/06). At the time, we noted that Grunwald skipped past an obvious question—if Gore never said he invented the Internet, why did Grunwalds colleagues keep saying otherwise all through Campaign 2000? And this morning, there they go again! Almost eight years after this spin-point was hatched, Grunwald should perhaps have a chat today with this one hapless colleague.
But readers, its part of the science of image! You never relent—and you always recite. In the future, anthropologists will surely pay Milbanks heirs for the right to dig him up and examine his (presumed) DNA. What makes his cohorts minds work this way? In the future, science may tell.
For more on the science of image RE Gore, see HOWLER HISTORY, below.
ALAS, POOR RUTENBERG: On occasion, they try to deal with the science of image—but when they do, they often fail. Yesterday, the New York Times Jim Rutenberg examined our latest semantic dispute. Has Bush proposed an escalation or a surge? Heres how the gentleman started:
RUTENBERG (1/10/07): ''Cut and run'' versus ''stay the course'' is so 2006.Well even assume that was done in good faith. But good God, that was awful!
Take the opening paragraph, where Rutenberg makes his lesser error. Did Rutenberg realize that both phrases he quotes from 2006 are examples of Republican framing? Cut and run was the GOPs term for the Democratic stance toward Iraq. Meanwhile, stay the course was the term the GOP used during most of the year to describe its own stance. No, this doesnt make a massive difference—unless you want to avoid confusing readers in your opening pair of grafs. But surge versus escalation is a battle between the parties. The example cited from 2006 isnt really a parallel construct.
In this way, Rutenberg got off to a shaky start. But from that point on, he totally floundered. Alas! He says that the Democrats introduced the term escalation to portray Bush's expected proposal in a negative light. But he fails to note an obvious parallel—Republicans introduced the term surge to portray Bushs plan in a positive manner! Go ahead, read the whole piece. Rutenberg explains various aspects of the Democrats loaded term—without ever noting that the Republicans term is loaded too. By the way, what was the headline on Rutenbergs piece? Democrats Rush to Frame Political Debate Over Troops. Good God! Thats truly pathetic.
By the way, should reporters call it a surge or an escalation?They should follow Rutenberg in paragraph 3: They should call it a troop increase.
FOR SPECIALISTS ONLY—HOWLER HISTORY: Was the press corps insane by the late Clinton years? In some ways, that may be simplest way to conceive it. Yesterday, for example, we discussed Melinda Sidak, a third-tier kooky-con to whom Chris Matthews was whispering his weird, troubled thoughts about Gore (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/10/07).
Sidak may have been third-tier, but at the Washington Times, they had come to adore her. In June 2000, John McCaslin quoted one of her essays from Womens Quarterly, an underworld kooky-con journal. Believe it or not, what follows is the full quoted passage. Under the heading ALS HOTEL UPBRINGING, this actually appeared in the Washington Times, attributed to Matthews kooky confidante:
SIDAK (as excerpted in the Washington Times, 6/16/00):Yes, that lunacy appeared in the Washington Times, attributed to Matthews borderline buddy. But thats the kind of thinking which was widely displayed by the press corps of this era.
For the record, many people had already asked why the senior Gores chose to raise young children in a hotel instead of a house. The answer had been widely reported. They did so because the hotel in question—the Fairfax Apartment Hotel, known as Washingtons family hotel—was owned by a distant cousin who gave them a break on the rent. Al Gore senior was not a man of means at the time that he served in the senate. In Washington, the family lived a small, two-bedroom apartment in the not-very-fancy apartment hotel.
In a saner world, that would have ended this discussion. But by the late Clinton years, the Washington press corps had entered a state which can best be compared to a group nervous breakdown. They printed screaming nonsense like this for years, without a word of criticism, comment or challenge from even the cohorts most liberal elements. (Dionne/Hunt/Shields/Cohen/Raspberry kept their yaps shut. In Gotham, Dowd/Rich exulted.) And Chris Matthews—a thigh-rubbing but sadly influential fellow—lurked among these perfect kooks, reciting dark tales about Gore.
Yes, this is the actual story of how George Bush reached the White House. Important people and crackpots merged. Today, were in Iraq.