Posted by: coloradokiwi | October 14, 2007

On the art of gobbledeegook

Digby ends the week with an exasperated rant about the state of discourse in the political sphere; specifically, about the fact that people have stopped making sense. She starts on an analysis of someone she feels should know better, Donny Deutsch, who recently had Ann Coulter on his show. Basically: Danny rattles off gibberish about how he’s “over” people like Coulter, and that the market has had enough. Digby then links this to the trend among the GOP in particular, but spreading like a virus through the mediascape, in which the way to “communicate” nowadays is to aggressively extoll pure nonsense.

I agree with Digby about 90% there, and the point is very well made. However, I’m not sure that what Deutsch was saying was incomprehensible, even if it was gibberish. I would like to offer the following interpretation:

1. Deutsch was feeling a bit circumspect about having Coulter on.
2. He recognizes that she’s running a business, and finds it hard to believe that she believes what she’s saying, and/or that it doesn’t matter what she believes, she says this in order to maintain a presence and continue to make money.
3. He’s trying to articulate that he thinks the market for this sort of loudmouthed nonsense is just about dried up in the mediascape, and informed citizens really do want the MSM to provide more and better content with actual substance.

I think that Digby thinks he’s wrong, because she rightly points out how it’s spread. However, I do think he’s right that people are sick of it–only there’s nowhere to turn, and it’s hard to look away.

I think if the Dem nominee was bold enough to say during the middle of a debate, “Hold on, what you said simply doesn’t make sense at all,” then they will score HUGE points. But the debate formats discourage this, and Clinton may be the only one who has the balls–and given that she’s backed into a corner concerning her “iciness” and “aggressiveness,” etc. (the double-double bind of being a woman and a liberal), I’m not sure she’d go for the jugular there.

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Responses

  1. Hey, chief. You are such a dutiful poster over at my house that I am over due in returning the favor. So, as my last act of procrastination today, allow me to get all up in your grill. : )

    At the risk of creating creating an echo echo chamber chamber, allow me to respond to your response response response response….

    1. Deutsch was feeling a bit circumspect about having Coulter on.

    Didn’t see the actual interview but a three-syllable word sounds like a lot to describe Deutsch’s thought-process.

    2. He recognizes that she’s running a business, and finds it hard to believe that she believes what she’s saying, and/or that it doesn’t matter what she believes, she says this in order to maintain a presence and continue to make money.

    You mean like my gun shop? My bar? My drug dealing? They’re just businesses; it doesn’t matter what I say about shootings, alchoholism or explosive meth labs; I’m just continuing to make money. Wait, what’s that Mr. Straw Man? Ideas are different than objects you say? Well, yes. I suppose thinking about shooting someone never led to someone getting shot, in much the same way that thinking about violence against people never led to someone getting attacked or abused. I’m sorry; did I knock you down, Mr. Straw?

    3. He’s trying to articulate that he thinks the market for this sort of loudmouthed nonsense is just about dried up in the mediascape, and informed citizens really do want the MSM to provide more and better content with actual substance.

    Providing a market for something is an awesome way to dry up a market for something.

    I think that Digby thinks he’s wrong, because she rightly points out how it’s spread. However, I do think he’s right that people are sick of it–only there’s nowhere to turn, and it’s hard to look away.

    Again, paraphrasing Donny: people must hate this stuff they love to look at so I’ll talk about why I shouldn’t have given it to them. Better that than actual facts about, say, a war or civil liberties or judicial nominations or healthcare or torture or governmental transparency or energy policy or election fraud (there’s one Ann might be able to comment on) or religious freedom or volunteer organizations or gender equality or do you want me to keep going or net neutrality or the faltering middle class or rendition or something really sexy like Tracy Morgan’s drinking problem or did I make my point yet?

    I think if the Dem nominee was bold enough to say during the middle of a debate …

    Yeah, I’m gonna have to stop you right there and say if we want to talk about science fiction, we might as well take this off line. Heh.

    Cheers, Big Papi. Talk to you soon.

  2. Hey, I’m just reiterating how I think he’s trying to rationalize what he’s doing, I’m not defending it. I guess instead of “circumspect” perhaps I should have said “sorry,” except I don’t think he’s sorry, just trying to act sorry because deep in his heart of hearts he might be sorry, but not so much that he doesn’t want to risk profitability–and so he might feel the slightest bit guilty, but ultimately…he’s over it. Hence “circumspect.”

    So: all of what you say I agree with, but I’m not sure it invalidates my point that Digby missed a lot of what Donny was saying.

    Anyway, I’ll continue to disagree on the notion of “what people want.” I think people want to watch TV, and occasionally on TV they want to watch news/analysis. Since they’re not getting REAL news and analysis, they put up with the sensational and crazy as fuck (i.e. Coulter–unless they’re a Coulter fan). So, hell, they’ll watch a trainwreck, even if they are smacking their heads and yelling at the TV; because this particular form of trainwreck is the only thing that approaches “political discourse.”

    Then again you could take the Adornian view that people have been trained to think that this shit really is discourse, and so they accept it.

    Either way, again, I’m not defending the viewers. I’m just saying I sympathize. I personally know a lot of people who used to watch Crossfire, and overall they hated the way it was run–but they still watched.

    C’mon media boy, you know how this works!

  3. Well, I responded to your response, but I’m not taking anything out on you. I’m sort of using you for a bank shot at Deutsch’s craven vapidity (and, by extension, all the sham political TV, from O’Reilly to Russert). If he’s being circumspect, he’s doing it in a way that reminds me of a televangelist who is circumspect about his rent-boy massage regimen on the side. I don’t necessarily think Digby ‘missed’ anything, because she is talking about something else, or at least a wider scope than the words (or fumbling thoughts) that this particular guy let loose. Digby aside, I’m not even addressing the audience here, rather the production, which is rife with weird flim-flammery like Deutsch saying, in essence, “This thing I’m totally participating in highly suspect!!” He gets no points for integrity if he’s criticizing his own insistance on giving her a platform. Malkovich-Malkovich; shoot me now.

    My point, to the extent that it relates to viewers, is that we’d benefit from actual journalistic coverage (even in an opinion-journalism format) of issues that actually impact most people’s lives, albeit often in a roundabout, macro-economic way. But producers never bother to find a way to make the relevant profitable. They, like most businesses, take the quickest path to in-the-black quartely earnings. In this case, that means just producing (and reproducing) the easy screech-fu throwdowns. But this system is now institutionally gamed, as evidenced by the fact that all this stuff is typically laced with right-leaning subtextual (or, like, textual) jabs at politicians of a particular party… which is the party that actually is more oriented toward a broader swath of citizens. (A profoundly compromised party by that and many other measures, but we’re talking broad outlines.)

    I admit the questions in my mind are tangled. First, why would anyone watch this for entertainment? It’s deeply ugly at its core and offers very little factual material. Why not just watch the daytime train-wreck talkshows instead? They must be getting something from this stuff. If it’s not actual, accurate information, could it be… pseudo-political talking points dressed up in the vicarious thrill of outrage? Okay. What a great way to run a democracy; thanks, Donny. Second, why would people not accept it as discourse? Surely many, many people do. It’s got all the markings of televisual authority, after all, down to the wall of pancake makeup holding back O’Reilly’s drops of furtive spite-sweat.

    If there is no deeper discourse for the majority of light-political consumers, doesn’t this fill the role of political discourse? And if it’s filling that role, isn’t it… political discourse? Is it not fair to criticize the segment of public media that asserts the authority of democratic/political discourse when in fact it barely meets the definition of either? Donny either doesn’t mean what he says, or he’s so shallow that he can’t see he’s a tool of the system. Either way, he’s part of the problem. And until we have a wider discourse about what news “should be” — particularly beyond being a celebutainment-distribution infrastructure — there’s nothing for your frustrated viewers to latch on to.

    There’s a lot of hazy talk in j-schools (of all kinds) about “what people need” in terms of news, but it’s rarely defined or analyzed. I think we can safely say that Deutsch, Russert, O’Reilly and their ilk have proven to be poor judges of that in their own right. And by “poor” I mean flamingly disastrous. (Though on a scale of flaming disasters, from say, kitchen fire to smoldering tire pile to full-on Hindenburg.) In the increasingly diverse hall of media mirrors we live and work in, there will always be lots of products for lots of consumers. But it would be a relief to see something something bubble to the surface that was based on accuracy and compassion instead of class-based mythologies and the dynamics of strategic vituperation.

    In fact, I think you do see this in Countdown, the Daily Show and Frontline. All of which are marginal in some degree, but all of which are reaching a frustrated audience. The institutional proclivities resist *that* kind of profitability though. At least they don’t want to give up the carnival of loathing in which Ann Coulter is a key and freakish clown. So they must have it both ways, and when you talk about that out loud, you look like a total jackass. Back to you, Donny.


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