08 September 2009

Focus of Attention 101

The Economist blog Democracy in America has a thought provoking critique of how "liberals are hurting Barack Obama" that has considerable relevant for blogging in the area of climate change, and especially the loudest voices in the debate. Here is an excerpt:

The basic problem for liberals is time. There are only so many hours of news to fill; every minute spent talking about a conservative outrage is a minute not spent talking about, say, whether unions would walk away from the table if the White House didn't include a public option in the health-care bill. The latter story is about Democratic power; the former is about Democratic weakness. How low must the self-confidence of the majority party be if it can't take some ribbing from powerless conservatives?

The second problem is tone. Like it or not, liberalism is the ideology of the big cities. When liberal interest-groups mock conservatives, they often sound like Noel Coward characters making fun of the rubes.

The final problem is, ironically, the market. Wonkish writing about the Democratic agenda does not sell. Mockery does. (That silly Dick Cheney story at the Huffington Post is on its way to 2000 comments from readers.) There's an impetus for members of the new liberal media to be the first with a particularly juicy right-wing attack. And that's ironic, because the internet has provided them with unlimited space to cover whatever they want. There's not really any need to package the most salacious story for the front page. Those stories simply provide a more immediate reward—links, traffic, possibly an obscure Republican backing down—and the effect of crowding out the liberal agenda is too delayed to notice.

Some good advice implicit in these comments.


  1. This is only new criticism in the sense that it replaced the word media in older critiques with the word liberals. Complaints about the horse race, nit-picking, gotta fill the news cycle focus of what passes for journalism and/or political discourse in most quarters are not new, and have been better articulated on The Daily Show. Somebody at The Economist was lazy. Actually, probably more than one person there was lazy, assuming there is some editorial review of their blogs.

  2. Ummmm. Maybe because slandering Republicans and conservatives is the essence of today's liberal Democratic Party. Obama and his friends haven't spent their time selling a healthcare proposal (they haven't even put one together yet). They have been too busy insulting anyone who disagrees with them. Krauthammer nailed it when he said the difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans think Democrats are wrong and Democrats think Republicans are evil.

    Calling Republicans evil is the standard playbook. It's the only way that Democrats can unite the diverse special interest groups that make up the party. The only thing that blacks, gays, feminists, communists, union members, and environmentalists have in common is their fear of the GOP boogie man. So stoking fears of the evil boogie man is the only way to keep the coalition together.

    Actual policy details won't attract enough support.

  3. Looking at Stans blog I'd have to say Physician heal thyself! Stoking the boogieman indeed - from the folks that call Obama a socialist/communist/racist etc, etc! What about the fake boogieman of "socialized medicine" to describe national insurance that actually covers everyone and would halt the endless personal bankrupcies. Trouble is Republicans have this attitude of believing they can never possibly be wrong even when it's utterly impossible to deny; as with the Iraq war or with their sainted Reagan selling arms to Iran to fund terrorists in Nicaragua. Another cute trait is always taking credit for anything good that happens anywhere while avoiding taking the blame for the bad stuff: remember the minor, false boom that was "thanks to those tax cuts" yet the subsequent massive bust was obviously due to something that Clinton did 10 years earlier. Do they still think that "the real problem with the world is a savings glut" or that "deficits don't matter". I prefer Bill Maher's quote; "The Democrats have moved to the right and the Republicans have moved to the lunatic asylum".