Saturday, September 25, 2004

Michael Moore in my Mailbox

I love getting e-mail. Hearing the latest news on the goings on of the world, catching up with friends, and sometimes getting a recipe or two from that viscious, evil, Phillip-Morris lovechild, Kraft. So you can imagine my joy at discovering that I'd received an announcement from Michael Moore, an inspiration piece attempting to stir the Democratic base (i.e. lazy college students) into action.

Well and good so far; true, I'm no fan of the corpulent crusader, but he can say what he wants. Unfortunately, his entreatment to take heart in the face of a Republican-dominated country (?) steers right into a far more dangerous alley.
"Turn off the TV! (Except Jon Stewart and Bill Moyers -- everything else is just a sugar-coated lie)."

Good lord! Can this fruit really think like this? Talk about killing the messenger! But for us, the rational people out there, we realize that the truth of a proposition does not depend on the person delivering it, nor on their motives. I don't like Michael Moore, but that doesn't mean that he's wrong - the merits of his arguments must be disposed of on their own grounds.

Of course, if someone develops a reputation for lying and mistruths, fairly or not, rational ignorance will tend to guide people away from them. While the worst-case scenario is exemplified by the fairy tale of the boy who cried wolf, things normally don't go so badly for the ignorant. But when someone rationally chooses ignorance, it should be a subjective judgment, not the result of an "expert" opinion.

Asking people to ignore dissenting opinions is disingenuous and flies in the face of every liberal ideal that bomb-throwers like Moore claim to uphold. Ultimately, some people will listen to Michael Moore. Fine. Go ahead and tune out, but you do so at your own peril.

This mad pied piper can play his tune all day long, and feel free to follow away, but that doesn't mean that he's right.


Chris said...

Right or not, I will be seeing him speak at my university on Oct. 12th. I will try to meet him and person and get a better idea of what the man is really like in person. I am looking forward to reporting back to you all!

Tim said...

I hope your encounter goes well!

Illy said...

Yeah, and besides, football is not a sugar-coated lie!

Anonymous said...

"corpulent crusader" Wonderful! I am totally stealing that.

Anonymous said...

Moore isn't arguing that we plug up our ears and say "nananana", he said turn off the television. I don't think in the history of mankind I've ever heard that turning off the television was the path towards ignorance. Instead of watching TV news you could be, I don't know, looking at each candidate's platforms on their website? Or Reading the 9/11 commission's report?

The only problem with Moore's statement is that he says: "Watch the daily show" and "Watch PBS".

The daily show itself says "Don't listen to us, don't listen to pundits, go look at platforms and make your own decision." You say that the Daily Show is a blind alley that is incredibly dangerous. Well, I'd be willing to try the DS's mantra since our current pundit and talking point friendly alley has sent my friend to Iraq as a driver for the army.

You also think PBS is just a mouthpiece for the left? Crazy blogger.

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons I trust our press corps less than I trust Michael Moore:

If you're angry Al Gore lost the 2000 election, check the archives of the howler and see who killed the democratic candidate.

DAHLIA’S PLAINT: We agree with Dahlia Lithwick’s trivial point. We’ve never thought that Bush is stupid, and we think it’s dumb for libs to think otherwise. For the record, Bush’s SATs were substantially better than Bill Bradley’s. And Dollar Bill is every liberal Dem’s pin-up.

But Lithwick’s op-ed in today’s New York Times is a classic of milquetoast media “liberalism.” What has Lithwick concerned and upset? “Maybe it's just that I'm having too many long talks with my 16-month-old,” she begins. Indeed, Lithwick has her shorts in a wad because certain proles—anonymous people she can’t even name—have been too darn tough on poor George:

LITHWICK: A glance at the top 150 ads selected by for its recent political advertising contest, ''Bush in 30 Seconds,'' similarly reveals the extent to which childishness is woven into the current Bush-bashing. While children have long been used in political ads to represent the future, many of the MoveOn entries use them to satirize the actual candidate. Several of the proposed anti-Bush commercials use kids to condemn the president for unsophisticated thinking, for an infantile worldview, for the fact that his daddy purchased his every big break and for the fact that he is desperately beholden to the wealthy and powerful grown-ups surrounding him. The clear message is that Mr. Bush is more a child than an adult.
Poor Lithwick! There’s all this “Bush-bashing” going on, and some of it may upset swing voters! Incredibly, she devotes her inaugural New York Times column to worries about this dark theme.

But how much of this “bashing” is really occurring? The volume can’t be all that great if she has to attack the anonymous people who submitted those ads to—submitted them more than eight months ago! These people are amateurs—unknown average citizens—and their submissions were totally inconsequential. Lithwick may as well write about what people are saying in the nation’s assorted corner bars.

But you know those mainstream media “liberals!” They get upset with complaints from below—with complaints that come up from the proles. By contrast, other things don’t rock their worlds. Consider the pundit’s recollection of that troubling Campaign 2000.

Lithwick is upset with anonymous proles—the ones who are saying bad things about Bush. But the last campaign was troubling, too! In that race, she was troubled by Gore:

LITHWICK: One of the most enduring memories from the Bush-Gore debates in 2000 was Al Gore, all sighs and eye-rolls, trapped in what must have felt like the middle-school playground fight from hell instead of a presidential debate. Everything about Mr. Gore's demeanor signaled that he felt he was giving a punk kid a much-needed scolding. Which missed the point: a lot of very smart people voted for Mr. Bush in 2000 because to them, he represented a return to honesty and morality. Dismissing him as a stupid child, and these voters as stupid-children-by-association, is no way to win them back.
Lithwick’s remark about eye-rolling Gore calls for a bit of review.

For Lithwick, Gore’s eye-rolling, sighing demeanor is “[o]ne of the most enduring memories from the Bush-Gore debates.” But why is this memory so deep in the brain? For most people, because the press corps planted it there! After that first Bush-Gore debate, news orgs assembled tape of Gore’s occasional sighs—jacking the volume up nice and high—and played the tape on TV for a week. Suggestible folk got it into their heads. It lies there, disturbing them still.

Lithwick has an “enduring memory.” But how did debate-watchers react in real time, before the press corps crafted this theme? Were voters disturbed by Gore’s demeanor? In vast numbers, no, they were not. On the actual night of the session, five different networks took instant polls to see which hopeful had won the debate. Result? Gore was the victor on all five polls, by an average margin of ten percent. Meanwhile, what were viewers complaining about when interviewed on TV that night? A couple of people mentioned Gore’s sighs. But a larger number mentioned Bush’s rude attacks against Gore—the memory that isn’t in people’s brains because the press corps refused to implant it.

Why did Gore sigh that night? In part, because Bush kept misstating his own proposals—and calling Gore a liar in the process. Early in the debate, for example, Bush and Gore went on and on about their respective prescription drug plans. Bush kept misstating his own proposal—and Gore kept correcting him on his misstatements. Here’s one iconic example:

GORE (10/3/00): Let me just give you one quick example. There's a man here tonight named George McKinney from Milwaukee. He's 70 years old, he has high blood pressure, his wife has heart trouble. They have income of $25,000 a year. They cannot pay for their prescription drugs. And so they're some of the ones that go to Canada regularly in order to get their prescription drugs.

Under my plan, half of their costs would be paid right away. Under Governor Bush's plan, they would get not one penny for four to five years, and then they would be forced to go into an HMO or to an insurance company and ask them for coverage, but there would be no limit on the premiums or the deductibles or any other terms and conditions.

BUSH: I cannot let this go by, the old-style Washington politics, of "We're going to scare you in the voting booth." Under my plan, the man gets immediate help with prescription drugs. It's called "Immediate Helping Hand." Instead of squabbling and finger-pointing, he gets immediate help. Let me say something. Now, I understand—excuse me—

LEHRER: All right, excuse me, gentlemen—

GORE: Jim, can I—

LEHRER: —minutes is up, but we'll finish that.

GORE: Can I make one other point? They get $25,000 a year income. That makes them ineligible.

BUSH: Look, this is the man who's got great numbers. He talks about numbers. I'm beginning to think, not only did he invent the Internet, but he invented the calculator.


It's fuzzy math. It's to scare them, trying to scare people in the voting booth.
Except it wasn’t fuzzy math—and Bush was totally wrong on the facts. No, McKinney wouldn’t get immediate help from Bush’s plan; Gore was right on the facts, Bush was wrong. Indeed, Bush was baldly misstating his own proposal—not from dumbness, Lithwick assures us—and was calling Gore a liar as he did. But then, this pattern extended throughout the first half of the debate. Here’s another iconic exchange, from earlier in the session:

GORE: [Bush’s] tax cut plan, for example, raises the question of whether it's the right choice for the country.

And let me give you an example of what I mean: Under Governor Bush’s tax cut proposal, he would spend more money on tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent than all of the new spending that he proposes for education, health care, prescription drugs and national defense, all combined. Now, I think those are the wrong priorities.

Now, under my proposal, for every dollar that I propose in spending for things like education and health care, I will put another dollar into middle class tax cuts.

And for every dollar that I spend in those two categories, I’ll put two dollars toward paying down the national debt. I think it’s very important to keep the debt going down and completely eliminate it.

And I also think it’s very important to go to the next stage of welfare reform. Our country has cut the welfare rolls in half. I fought hard, from my days in the Senate and as vice president, to cut the welfare rolls, and we've moved millions of people in America into good jobs. But it's now time for the next stage of welfare reform and include fathers and not only mothers.

LEHRER: We’re going to get to a lot of those. Yes, go ahead, Governor.

BUSH: Well, let me just said that obviously tonight we're going to hear some phony numbers about what I think and what we ought to do. People need to know that, over the next 10 years, there’s going to be $25 trillion of revenue that comes into our Treasury, and we anticipate spending $21 trillion.
Except for one problem—Gore’s numbers’s weren’t phony. As all the analysts later agreed, Bush’s plan did “spend more money on tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent than all of the new spending that he proposes for education, health care, prescription drugs and national defense.” But throughout the evening, perfectly accurate statements by Gore were met with false, name-calling rebuttals—“phony numbers,” “fuzzy math,” “the man must think he invented the calculator.” And in the hours after the debate, viewers complained about Bush’s rudeness—even before they knew he was wrong on the facts. But why are Gore’s sighs burned deep in the brain? Because that’s the way the press corps played it. For example, the brilliant paper for which Lithwick now types never so much as reported the fact that Bush was wrong about his prescription drug plan—that he was wrong on the facts when he made his slick joke about “Gore must think he invented the calculator.” In the wake of this debate, tapes of the sighs were played on TV—and the facts went straight to the memory-hole. Even today, Lithwick is haunted by the way Gore rolled his eyes at Bush’s false, name-calling comments.

Yes, isn’t it truly an education to see the things that make media “liberals” mad? Lithwick is upset when a bunch of anonymous proles submit ads to a web site contest. And she’s still upset because Gore rolled his eyes—when falsely insulted by Bush.

But other things don’t make this gang mad. A question: When did Lithwick complain about the trashing handed to Candidate Gore? She’s troubled now when anonymous people dare to say that Bush is a dummy. But Gore was called a liar for two solid years, almost always because of stories that Lithwick’s press corps simply made up. Did Lithwick find herself troubled by that? Where are the plaints that she offered?

And one more thing doesn’t trouble this scribe. Where are the plaints that Lithwick pens about the American vice president, Dick Cheney? Last week, Cheney paraded across the land, lying through his teeth about Kerry. Does Lithwick stand up to complain about that? Of course not! Lithwick, writing her first Times piece, voices concern about all the Bush-bashing! Cheney can lie to you all that he likes. Lithwick has deeper concerns.

Where do they find these delicate flowers, whose rebukes are aimed at uppity proles? Cheney can lie to these proles all he likes. Dahlia Lithwick, media liberal, is concerned when such no-names talk back.

Tim said...

Yo Anon. (a name might help) -

I never said that the DS is dangerous, or a blind alley. I said Michael Moore's imploration to shut down ourselves to the outside world except to those inputs he finds acceptable and uncontroversial. I don't think that's evil, just stupid and dangerous.

Imagine if you read a study claiming that microwaves can cause blindness if you stand too close. If you trust the source, you'll probably prudently avoid unnecessary exposure to safeguard your vision. But if, when presented with certifiable facts - say, that microwaves don't leak enough to damage the eye - you ignore them and refuse to look at them, you're choosing ignorance. I can't admire that in this case.

If you want to convince people of something, telling them to ignore other perspectives (i.e. those other than Michael Moore's own) isn't an honest way to do it. It's poisoning the well of discourse, and I'd rather someone trying to do that just falls in instead.

Anonymous said...

I believe, in a similar way to Moore, that television is a source of lies, not honest discussion. It's all talking points, and stupid comments made by uninformed people who want to pass on "pleasing tales".

The problem with the media isn't that it's too liberal or too conservative, it's that it's too unprofessional, lazy, profit driven and disingenuous.

Oh yeah, and to the guy above who said football wasn't "lies", Al Michaels gave a key bit of republican spin right on Monday Night Football(a flip flop comment), as a joke perhaps but he's probably uninformed enough to believe it.

Look to the June 2-5 2004 treatment of Al Gore after his 2002 speech about the upcoming war in Iraq at the howler if you need confirmation on the "Pleasing tales" charge, (you'll have to read the speech's transcript as well for the full picture).

Tim said...

All the problems expressed with media here make the assumption that people are too stupid to sort through it on their own. While I'm not going to deny that such people exist, I fear that the more emphasis that's placed on this fact by society, and the more we attempt to protect people from themselves, the more of a "subsidy" stupidity is going to get. That is to say, the more you reward idiocy, the more idiots you'll get.

The other problem with the assumption of incompetence is that this label might be internalized and acted on by those labelled. It's called a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you believe yourself to be needy, helpless, and stupid, you're more likely to act in a fashion befitting such apellations.

Let liars lie, and lay to rest the logic that laymen are liable to lead lives of lunacy.

Anonymous said...

I have faith in the intelligence of the common man, but I know that the common man doesn't have an infinite ammount of time to collect data from which to draw conclusions. So, how much time does it take to listen to a pundit comment on a 45 minute speech? How much time does it take to read the transcript? How much effort and enjoyment can be taken from either?

When you assume that a 24 hour news network is giving you good information, you might feel no desire at all to read the transcript, and all sane voices seem to say that we should watch the news to keep informed. So, it's a bad situation for all of us because we lack good information.

Same argument applies to op ed columns.

Anonymous said...

I believe that our NEWS MEDIA is incompetent. This goes a long way towards keeping our society UNINFORMED.

Come on. When daily show(fake news!) watchers are more informed than national news watchers you know we have a systemic problem with our news media.

Anonymous said...

In fact, I would say that an incompetent press corps keeps us MISINFORMED rather than just uninformed, after seeing the kind of BS the press has been putting out.

And you don't think that people can be tricked by the media? If you want I can cite some nice examples.