and let’s just say, he’s not too happy with the state of the Obamasphere.
If you’ve never read The Daily Howler, Bob Somerby’s blog, you are missing perhaps the sharpest and most thorough media critic in the blogosphere. He is a Democrat, and that perspective comes through quite clearly: but he is not afraid to critique so-called progressive bloggers when they play games with their readers. Case in point: The revisionism of the Obama Boyz regarding the debate between Obama and McCain last week.
On September 29th, Somerby wrote about Joe Klein, Josh Marshall and Duncan Black, aka Atrios, and how their opinions on the debate seemed to change as time went by. As these progressive luminaries watched (or listened to) the two combatants battle it out, not one of them mentioned the way McCain treated Obama – with condescension, rudeness and insults. That’s because this behavior Joe, Josh and Duncan are supposedly so upset about did not happen. If anything, Obama was rude to McCain, constantly interrupting him. But so what? Political opponents often behave badly towards each other. Certainly Obama has hardly been a model of courteousness towards any of his opponents. But hey, he’s “likeable enough.”
During the live-blogging of the debate, none of the three bloggers (hilariously dubbed the “Three Tenors” by Somerby) seemed to notice McCain’s horrible behavior. But by Saturday, they were all singing from the same hymnal. McCain was meeeeeeaaaaaan to Obama. He was condescending and small; glowering, even; certainly not presidential. Obama was, of course, saintly by comparison.
I have to quote Somerby directly regarding Atrios, the Third Tenor, because, well, I hung out at his place for so long and now am completely disenchanted with him and many of the commenters there:
ATRIOS (9/27/08): Debate
Well, due to travel hell I was in a car during the debate. Caught some of it on the radio, though it’s hard to make any judgments without seeing the visuals.
I understand McCain has a wee bit of a problem looking Obama in the eye? Pretty weird.
This is what mainstream journalists used to do; now, “liberal leaders” ape their conduct. By the way: Do you think the progressive/Dem world will ever develop a winning politics with leaders like this at the helm? [Good question, Bob.]
The perfesser had heard the Official Story about McCain’s vile conduct. But he hadn’t actually seen the debate; he had only heard some of it on the radio. “It’s hard to make any judgments without seeing the visuals,” he said.
But fish gotta swim, and birds gotta fly–and hacks have to treat you like rubes. At 9:42, the perfesser posted a bit of snark about the radio bits he had heard, though he said nothing about the eye contact. But sure enough! But by 1:13 that afternoon, the perfesser was quite outraged too. “Condescension” made for a wonderful title. You’ll rarely see such perfect hackistry:
ATRIOS (9/27/08): Condescension
Visuals aside, what did come through loud and clear on the radio bits I heard was McCain’s incredibly condescending attitude towards Obama. Not a mindreader, so I don’t know what he really thinks/feels, but he sounded like he thought Obama was on par with dog shit.
How weird! As it turns out, Atrios had been struck, in real time, by McCain’s “incredibly condescending attitude towards Obama.” Indeed, McCain had “sounded like he thought Obama was on par with dog shit.” And yet, for some reason, the perfesser forgot to mention this in his original posts. He only got around to recording this judgment on Saturday afternoon.
And then Somerby gives his summation of the Three Tenors’ artistry:
To all appearances, this is the work of three perfect hacks–people filled with contempt and condescension toward you. Once the Official Story clunked into place, they ran to pretend that they had felt the Official Approved Reactions all along.
BINGO. It’s called “creating a media narrative,” and it’s the reason why so many of us liberal types refuse to watch the mainstream media pundits. They pick a preferred presidential candidate, then they focus on some incredibly insignificant detail about that candidate’s opponent – usually, whatever the preferred candidate wants them to focus on. We PUMAs used to go to Josh, Atrios, Arianna, Aravosis and so many others to get the “unbiased” story, but now we cannot do so, precisely because the fauxgressive blogosphere has made a practice of doing exactly the same thing. During the presidential primary, these previously admired bloggers chose Obama and tore into Hillary Clinton like a group of howling wolverines – even taking the extraordinary step of aggressively purging dissenters from their ranks.
The next day, Atrios responded to Somerby. He was Not Amused. And neither was Somerby.
THIRD TENOR SPEAKS: Atrios says we were unfair when we discussed his post-debate musings (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/29/08). That’s always possible, of course—and all things being equal, it’s better to stay away from people’s hard-to-limn motives. For what it’s worth, though, we have to say that his case is a bit underwhelming. And Jesus Christ! Could he possibly avoid running so fast to crouch behind his wife?
ATRIOS (9/29/08): The main reason I stopped reading Somerby awhile ago was his tendency to strongly imply/assume bad faith among nominal allies when often more innocent explanations are the correct ones.
The “any judgments,” in the first quoted post, referred to, in my mind, how I imagined the debate would impact the race, something which I have yet to deliver an opinion on because I never saw the debate aside from a couple of clips
And Mrs. Atrios, who Bob has yet to go after, can attest to the fact that McCain’s extremely condescending attitude towards Obama was the subject of our debate discussion as we listened in the car.
We have no idea who said what to whom about what topic, in what vehicle. And the worried professor can feel quite sure that we won’t “go after” his wife. (Truly disgraceful.) But we’re sick to death of fly-weights like this—of their lazy, insulting, condescending performance. Just for the record, we were talking about you, Brother Atrios. You, and your work. You alone.
Somerby goes on to say this, which is the heart of the matter:
Starting in the summer of 2002, we began to express an unfortunate theme, one we had only begun to ponder: We began suggesting to readers that their nominal allies are often not actual allies. (We tepidly mentioned E. J. Dionne first.) This takes us back to a political era which may now be nearing an end, as American institutions disintegrate. But looking ahead to what may become a vastly changed political landscape, we’ll suggest to readers that the growing inanity of the liberal web makes that entity no ally either. Increasingly, the liberal web is written by and for fly-weights. You’re handed silly, childish tales—silly tales that will make you feel good.
You’re told that you play on a team called The Shirts—and that The Shirts are very good people. You’re told about the vile team called The Skins—and you’re handed endless proof of their troubling ways. Just yesterday, the Post’s Shankar Vedantam did a nice job describing the general way this process works, as he has done many times in the past. (His weekly pieces are true must-reads.) But increasingly, the liberal web is written for rubes. People like Atrios serve you crap sandwiches, assuming you’ll wolf them straight down. (emphasis added)
What Somerby is saying here is that it’s a matter of trust. We PUMA types do not trust the Democrats simply because they are Democrats any more. We do not trust the media. We do not trust the fauxgressive blogosphere after its craptastic, misogynistic furor during the primaries. And we do not trust Barack Obama or his allies in Congress, because he has given us ample reasons to distrust him. We have come to realize that “a nominal ally” is, more often than not, a person who gives you a shot of anaesthetic before stabbing you in the back.
And this is the tragedy of the Obamasphere; that they were good enough to gain a high profile, but not good enough to use it to influence the political process in a positive way. May the second incarnation of the liberal web be more successful, and less prone to serving crap sandwiches.