Tales of the Sausage Factory

The Decline of the Chattering Class and the Rise of the Discussion Class.

You’d never know Barack Obama has an approval rating in the mid-60s. Higher if you poll among Ds and Is and exclude Rs.

I say this because there appears to be no lack of people who are either pundits themselves, or can command the attention of the media, with all manner of advice on how Obama should be talking or behaving (substance appears to be utterly irrelevant). The latest is Bill Clinton, who thinks Obama needs to “sound more hopeful.” I refer to this group of talking heads who with the rise of the cable news networks and the 24 hour news cycle have enjoyed a lengthy run as opinion leaders as the “Chattering Class.” To fill the time — and cut back on actual news reporting, which costs money — the talk radio folks, the cable news shows, and now even the newspapers have created a class of pundits, experts, and analysts who exist for the sole purpose of supplying chatter to fill up the space. Indeed, I am always amused at the criticism that the rise of the blogs means the death of news because the hardcore news folks switched from mostly news to mostly chatter some time ago.

For years, the Chattering Class has controlled and framed debates around policy for most Americans. And, as one might expect, chattering about style and insider games takes precedence over actual substance. Not only is it cheaper and easier, as it requires no expertise, it is self-re-enforcing. This has corresponded, not coincidentally in my opinion, with the general disinterest by an increasing number of Americans in politics and public policy.

But what the Chattering Class talk about and how they frame winners and losers has become so disconnected from the reality people experience that folks have begun to notice. Not merely those “whacky left-wing totally non-mainstream” bloggers at TPM and elsewhere. Frank Rich observed in an opinion piece in last Sunday’s NYT that the Washington press corp has degenerated into the equivalent of a high school clique obsessed with their petty gossip and insular rules that define who is in and who is out.

This is why Bill Clinton, a man who in his prime ranked as one of the most gifted political campaigners to grace the national stage,feels the urge to give some “helpful advice” to the man who not only won the election, but is still clocking in with approval ratings that bespeak of enormous popularity. It is why the news continues to focus on things like whether the stimulus is actually a “loss” and is only gradually, and reluctantly, turning to the question of its anticipated impact. And it is why the Chattering Class is, after unquestionable dominance of public opinion for nearly 20 years, starting to lose it’s ability to frame the issues.

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Posted in How Democracy Works, Or Doesn't, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Looks Like Julius Genachowski Will Get The Nod — And What That Means For the Progressive Media & Telecom Agenda

Sometimes the conventional wisdom gets it right. After much speculation, it now seems increasingly likely that Obama’s Harvard Law classmate Julius Genachowski will be nominated to take over as FCC Chair.

From my perspective, this looks like very good news. Genachowski is no stranger either to the FCC or to the private sector, a distinct advantage given the twin difficulties of managing the agency and dealing with all manner of incumbent dog-and-pony shows. Heck, Genachowski is no stranger to the DTV transition, having been involved in the initial standard setting work back in the day. Genachowski’s close relationship with Obama, heavy involvement in the Obama campaign from the beginning, and general tech background provide fairly strong early assurance that — contrary to the hopes of some and fears of others — Obama does not appear to be backing away from his campaign commitment to open networks and media diversity.

All that said, let nobody think the fun is over and we all get to go home. Now more than ever, progressives need to build on our movement momentum and press our case open networks, real spectrum reform, a more diverse media, adequate consumer protection, and regulation that creates real competition by opening bottleneck facilities and limit market power. We have an opportunity, not a victory, and we must act to seize it.

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Posted in Life In The Sausage Factory, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

How Fox News Killed The Bradley Effect

Pundits and talking heads have debated the Bradley Effect (or, as we locals call it, the Wilder Effect) and whether Obama’s current lead in the polls represents false positive. Even before Obama, there existed considerable evidence that the Bradley Effect was fading. Having canvassed this weekend in VA, I have concluded that it has pretty much vanished.

Why? Because conservative talk radio and Fox News have given voters the tools they need to say things that might sound racist, but don’t really make you a racist for saying them. Whatever one may think of this as an argument, it has had the enormous benefit of eliminating the polling problems associated with the embarrassment of being mistaken for a racist when you are simply saying things that only sound racist.

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Posted in General, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

Towards an Economic Understanding of…Ourselves?

If the dominant medium of a culture defines it, what does it mean for us when TV is changing? How will it change, and how will that change us? A couple of MIT academics are discussing the former at here. Good reading, but missing the point.

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Posted in Inventing the Future, meta-medium | Also tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Tales From the Sausage Factory: Saddam and Howard Dean

I seem to be the only one in America who fails to see the link between the capture of Saddam Hussein this week and the 2004 Democratic Presidential Primary. Or so says an op ed in today’s Washington Post. On the other hand, I do see this as a classic example of media group think.

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Posted in General, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)
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