Friday, February 28, 2003

I LISTEN TO RIGHT-WING TALK RADIO SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO I'm pretty much giving away how I spend my less productive days here: Just heard (and am still hearing) Sean Hannity host a "debate" over invading Iraq between David Clennon and James Woods. Yes, that James Woods. He's pro. (What do you expect from a LAPD Reserve officer?) But David Clennon isn't some minor level adminstration bureaucrat or Human Rights International committee member brought on to play punching bag: He plays "Joshua Nankin" on CBS's "The Agency." He's a third-rate character actor brought on to play punching bag.

You knew that eventually the whole "actor activist" thing would come to this: the intellectual equivalent of "Celebrity Boxing."

But who am I to deny them their airtime? Clennon's Emmy for a guest appearence in "Dream On" gives him at least as much credibility as Sean Hannity on the subject of global geopolitics. (And Sean Hannity's written a whole book!) As for James Woods, he once thought he saw a terrorist. Why isn't he in front of the United Nations?

I joke. Anyway, it's the right that usually makes a fuss about celebrities staking a claim on political issues--though that's probably because those celebrities are usually staking out territory to the left. The Weekly Standard gave poor Fred Durst a hard time just because he couldn't quite get the standard form of "agreement" into his acceptance speech at the Grammys. But when Dennis Miller makes jokes about the French, it's suddenly "shrewd commentary." (Like the French are a real tough target or something.) They'll be asking him to run for Congress soon.

The left doesn't make fun of stars who make stands because then where would we go for campaign donations? No, seriously: I want to make fun of Jeanane Garofalo, I was planning on it, but she makes too much sense. Who'da thunk it? One minute she's my generation's "Cathy": complaining about her weight, making jokes about boys and parents--everything but the cubicle, really. Turn around and she's arguing with Tony Snow.

I maintain my tepid anti-anti-war fence-sitting position, but I plan to give Jeanane full credit if I find myself out marching next month.
WAS IT SOMETHING HE SAID? Today I heard Rush Limbaugh say, "Salon goes out of business today and blames me."

But no one start collecting on bets yet, because as far as I can tell, this is just one more example of Limbaugh's wishful thinking.

The "going out of business" part is, at least. Salon is blaming Limbaugh for its troubles. A plea from editor and founder David Talbot attempts to bluebait liberal readers into becoming subscribers with the promise that such an action will "Raise Rush Limbaugh's blood pressure!"

Some might argue that bringing on a heart attack in one's opponents is an unseemly way to promote a magazine. Then again, as Talbot earlier observed, ugly times call for ugly tactics.

I'm not exactly sure if one acts in Talbot's defense to say that he's joking about wanting Rush to physically suffer--that still leaves open the possibility that Talbot actually thinks Salon's existence matters at all to Rush. To be honest, I think the real reason for Talbot's reference is more pecuniary than mercenary: Picking a fight with someone more famous than yourself is sometimes the only way to get attention. Just ask Vanilla Ice.


But regardless of whether Talbot is sincere in his belief that Salon is failing because of some vast right-wing conspiracy, he is at least consistent. His review of Eric Alterman's What Liberal Media? concerns itself less with the text of the book than with reciting Talbot's attempts to get a Salon-produced talk show on the air. More fiscally minded types can discuss whether or not it would have been a good use of site's dwindling cash reserves to fund a televised debate between Joe Conason and Andrew Sullivan, I'm just thankful no one has to watch it.

Talbot expresses some surprise that the only network to seriously consider airing The Salon Show is Fox News. (Considering Salon's other, potentially more lucrative, areas of coverage, I'm surprised it wasn't the Fox network, er, proper.)

Talbot says that Fox--and Dark Lord Ailes himself--took the meeting because, essentially, they could afford to gloat: "Now here was a man so supremely confident in his domination of talk-TV that he could grant a meeting to the enemy." But, really, no one has that much time.

Ailes probably met with Salon because, essentially, their programming format is identical to that of Fox News: Rapid-fire punditry that panders to its audience's own sense of persecution and righteousness. Salon would like to define itself in opposition to Ann Coulter, but in reality, Salon is Ann Coulter: a commentator who sounds like she's saying something that lots of people disagree with and who's sexy, brash, and way more concerned with how her ass looks than in fact-checking. Of course Ailes was interested.

Salon has basically flaunted its style over substance over the years, which, to me, is what really makes Talbot's protestations of de facto censorship by the networks (CNN's "reply was vague and noncommittal," the head of MSNBC "said he would get back to me. That was in December.") ring hollow. No one who thinks that having both David Horowitz and Arianna Huffington on the same site is some kind of debate is seriously interested in politics of any kind.

All this begs the question of Salon's precariousness. How can something so shameless make so little money? We're conditioned to believe that selling out brings success, but Salon seems to have auctioned off its self-respect in a weak market.

I know how they feel.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

BACK SO SOON? Leave it to InstaGlenn to call thirteen entries a day of "limited posting." He keeps up this kind of thing and I'll start to suspect there's a very specific reason behind his support for cloning.

Working with only two hands and one head myself, I've been posting on a limited basis largely because I've been reporting on the pro-sprawl movement, or, as they prefer it to be known, "Preserving the American Dream of Mobility and Homeownership." Fascinating group, whose politics are as jumbled as rush hour: Libertarian freaks (and I mean that in a good way), rock-ribbed conservatives, and--my personal favorite--anti-speed bump activists.

You'll take my car when you pry it from my cold, dead hands!

Monday, February 24, 2003

Mickey "Kuddlekore" Kaus writes to remind me, rightly, that there are lots of ways that NYU could distance itself from Mark Miller without raising any First Amendment issues. I was hasty in my scooplet high and should have made a joke grounded more firmly in fact.

So I've edited my original post... Gotta love the web.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

UPDATE I've heard from Matthew Winkler regarding the emails written about below.