Monday, December 06, 2004

Two Views of the Red States

The New York Times has produced yet another future Weekly Jackass in Frank Rich. His piece this Sunday would have been funny as satire...but he actually meant it. Let's see if you can guess the tone by the title - "The Nascar Nightly News - Anchorman Get Your Gun". You really have to read the whole thing, but here are some choice highlights:

If Democrats want to run around like fools trying to persuade voters in red America that they are kissing cousins to Billy Graham, Minnie Pearl and Li'l Abner, that's their problem.

"The New York-Washington axis can be a journalist's worst enemy," [Brian Williams said,] promising to spend his nights in the field in "Dayton and Toledo and Cincinnati and Denver and the middle of Kansas." (So much for San Francisco - or Baghdad.)
I don't mean to single out Mr. Williams, who is prone to making such statements while wearing suits that reek of "New York-Washington axis" money and affectation. But when he talks in a promotional interview of how he found the pulse of the nation in Cabela's, a popular hunting-and-fishing outfitter in Dundee, Mich., and boasts of owning both an air rifle and part interest in a dirt-track stock-car team, he is
declaring himself the poster boy for a larger shift in our news culture. He is eager to hunt down an audience, not a story.

In a new spot for "World News Tonight," [Peter] Jennings tells us that
"this is a really hopeful nation, and I think there's a great beauty in that." This homily is...factually inaccurate - most Americans continue to tell pollsters that the nation is on the wrong track...

The idea, largely but not exclusively fomented by the right, that TV news might somehow soon be supplanted by blogging as a mass medium may remain a populist fantasy until Americans are able to receive blogs by iPod. (At which point they become talk radio.) The dense text in the best blogs often requires as much of a reader's time and concentration as high-end print journalism, itself facing declining circulation. Since blogging doesn't generate big (if any) profits, there's no budget for its "citizen reporters" to reliably blanket catastrophic and far-flung breaking news. (There are no bloggers among the 36 journalists thus far killed in the Iraq war.) Bloggers can fact-check documents (as in the Rather case), opine, organize, talk back, leak early exit polls and publish multimedia outings of the seemingly endless supply of closeted gay Republican officials. But if bloggers are actually doing front-line reporting rather than commenting upon the news in a danger zone like Falluja, chances are that they are underwritten by a day job on the payroll of a major news organization.

If full-scale Nascarization is what's coming next, there will soon be no pictures but those promising a mission accomplished, no news but good news. And that's good news only if you believe America has something to gain by fighting a war in the dark.

Did you get all that? Let's recap for the sake of clarity...Red Staters are hicks, you can't find the heart of America or a good news story outside of Washington and New York, America is a pessimistic country, bloggers are low-paid cowards (unless they work for big media), there is a 'seemingly endless supply of closeted gay Republican officials', and anyone who likes Nascar is an idiot (personnally, I don't care for Nascar, but it's big news and big business nowadays, and not just to Li'l Abner).

Now I want to highlight another view of Red States, by someone with an ear and eye for what makes this country tick. The song is 'Out Here in the Middle', by Robert Earl Keen. Notice how the imagery is similar, but one person condescends while the other is sympathetic, even wistful. I leave it to you to decide which is more thoughtful, accurate, and insightful.

Out here in the middle You can park on the street
Step up to the counter Nearly always get a seat
Nobody steals Nobody cheats
Wish you were here, my love
We got tractor pulls and Red Man chew
Corporate relo-refugees who need love too
And we ain't seen Elvis In a year or two
We got justification and wealth and greed
Amber waves of grain and bathtub speed
Now we even got Starbucks What else you need
Out here in the middle
Where the center is on the right
And the ghost of William Jennings Bryan preaches every night
Savin' lonely souls In the dashboard light
Wish you were here, my love
Out here in the middle
Where the buffalo roam
We're puttin' up towers
For your cell phone
And we screen all applicants
With a fine-tooth comb
Wish you were here, my love

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