Sunday, December 19, 2004

That Liberal Media

"For sharpening the debate until the choices bled, for reframing reality to match his design, for gambling his fortunes—and ours—on his faith in the power of leadership, George W. Bush is TIME's 2004 Person of the Year."

Oh hell -- why not? It was inevitable. Bushists are running around like Red Guards directed by Mack Sennett, yelling for cultural overhaul while wincing and whining at any perceived criticism or slight (their current moaning about the secular theft of Christmas is sent up nicely by James Wolcott). It's their high water moment, so Time's choice is upfront corporate acknowledgement of this sad fact.

Apparently, Michael Moore was in the Person of the Year running, but there's no way that Time would've picked Moore over Bush this year. To do so would make Time look like . . . LIBERALS! (Can you imagine a solid pro-Moore bloc within the Time-Warner bldg? More likely, someone at an ed meeting mentioned Moore's name, eliciting laughter and pleas to "get down to business.") Had that gone down, the Red State Guards would seize & burn stacks of Time, while the corp-media blowhards railed against Time's anti-Americanism.

Time merely did what was expected. In fact, the eds there seem to revel in their choice. Check out this opening:

"Eagles rather than doves nestle in the Oval Office Christmas tree, pinecones the size of footballs are piled around the fireplace, and the President of the United States is pretty close to lounging in Armchair One. He's wearing a blue pinstripe suit, and his shoes are shined bright enough to shave in. He is loose, lively, framing a point with his hands or extending his arm with his fingers up as though he's throwing a big idea gently across the room."

I don't think Bush has ever held a big idea in his life, much less thrown one "gently across the room." He'd get some intellectual flunky to drag it along the floor and then cram it down a willing journalist's throat, who'd then marvel at Bush's "vision" & "steadfastness" in the face of cynical opposition.

Personally, I was pulling for Time to make Abu Ghraib its annual Person. It would've made a fitting, logical bookend to last year's choice.

And while we're on the Liberal Media, I finally caught, on HBO, "Shattered Glass," the soap-saga of New Republic writer Stephen Glass who got nabbed inventing feature news stories and passing them off as fact.

Predictably, many in the major media made a big deal of this, which makes sense. Glass was small fry, an easy target on which corp media moralists could demonstrate their allegiance to Truth & Editorial Integrity. There's nothing media players like more than to congratulate themselves, and Glass (like the New York Times's fabricator, Jayson Blair) gave them the perfect opening.

Of course, the bigger liars in the press usually get away with much worse. Sometimes, they're given awards.

I always thought that Glass got a raw deal. What he did took balls and imagination. If I had had the opportunity to write fiction posed as fact for a rag like the New Republic, I would've leapt at it. Anything to undermine its pretension, anti-Arab racism (owner Martin Peretz once wrote that the Palestinians were simply incapable of non-violence) and love of imperial power.

I still think there should be a Stephen Glass reader, a notion shared here (though it seems that most of Glass's pieces have been pulled).

The film itself was more entertaining than I thought it would be. I avoided "Glass" for some time, having spent my younger days attending panels and parties in DC, arguing politics with New Republic-types in bars and Georgetown brownstones. It was an awful crowd, filled with young hustlers intent on corp media advancement. So I wasn't in the mood to watch that scene beautified for the big screen. But, instead, I felt a weird sort of nostalgia. Despite those dreadful little predators, I did have some good times on the DC party circuit. And I got a front-row glimpse at all the schmoozing and ass-kissing that went on, and doubtless still does. A tawdry show, overall. Perfect for any young writer just opening his or her eyes.