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March 20, 2008

part of the problem

I generally don't like to quote at length from prominent blogs, but I can't improve on this reaction by Jay Rosen:

I was watching CNN for Obama's speech. Moments after it concluded Wolf Blitzer was asked to tell us what he heard in it. Wolf's ear is the big ear for the Best Political Team on Television, according to CNN. So he went first. And according to Blitzer, Obama's speech boils down to a "pre-emptive strike" against various attacks on the way: videos, ads, and news controversies that are sure to keep Reverend Jeremiah Wright and "race" in play as issues in the campaign. (I don't have his exact words; if someone out there does, ping me.)

Wasn't the speech about that very pattern?

This is the style of analysis--and the level of thought--we have become miserably utterly used to, especially from Blitzer, but also many others on TV: everything is a move in the game of getting elected, and it's our job in political television to explain to you, the slightly clueless viewer at home, what the special tactics in this case are, then to estimate whether they will work.

That Blitzer, offered the first word on that speech, did the savvier-than-thou, horse race thing tells you about his priorities (mistakenly "static," as Obama said about Wright) and his imaginative range as an interpreter of politics (pretty close to zero.)

Compare Wolf to active, thoughtful citizens who care:

"The Rev. Joel Hunter, senior pastor of a mostly white evangelical church of about 12,000 in Central Florida ... said the Obama speech led to a series of conversations Wednesday morning with his staff members. "We want for there to be healing and reconciliation, but unless it’s raised in a very public manner, it’s tough for us in our regular conversation to raise it."

Julie Fanselow: "Time and again Tuesday, speakers at Take Back America and writers on blogs like The Super Spade and Booker Rising and Pam's House Blend echoed and dissected and even wept over what Obama had said in Philadelphia."

Rich Harwood reflects on what we should do when someone (such as Rev. Wright) "cross[es] the line of politeness and rupture[s] norms of give-and-take." We should, says Rich, "step forward and renounce them in ways that reflect the kind of public life and politics we seek to create. Let us take in the fullness of their argument and respond in kind - with clarity, forthrightness, and strength of conviction, even love. I do not suggest that anyone should back down, but neither do I advocate a slash and burn response that poisons the very public square we wish to invigorate."

Less favorable to Obama, but equally responsible and deliberative, is Bill Galston's take.

March 20, 2008 10:29 AM | category: press criticism | Comments


Thanks for citing our blog post.

Whether or not one supports Obama for the nomination, I think we all ought to write CNN and other media outlets to point out exactly what Jay Rosen notes: that a key part of Obama's message was lost on the commentators as they rushed to make his speech just more fodder for the horse race.

I feel blessed that I was holed up at a conference and unable to hear the commentary. It was so much better to simply share the experience of watching part of the speech with fellow activists, and then read the speech in its entirety online later that night. But I noticed today that the TV media seems intent on hammering on the "pastor controversy" at least a few more news cycles. Sigh.

March 20, 2008 8:09 PM | Comments (1) | posted by Julie Fanselow

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