Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Quick reaction to Obama's acceptance speech

I’ll leave the hardcore analysis to Freda and Donald, but as a long time blogger and recovering policy wonk, I wanted to throw a quick reaction to this speech on Lubbock Online, just so you know we’re paying attention.

I won’t pretend to be any kind of objective reporter here, but my personal ideology is so bizarre, I don’t really have a dog in this fight. Being utterly disillusioned with the process is not the same as being objective, but for our purposes tonight, I hope it’s the next best thing.

In fact, with so many members of my peer group off the fence and in the tank for Obama, I may be the last cynic left on Earth. For years I’ve watched my friends mope around and whine about how stupid elections are. Now suddenly Obama’s made it cool to care about politics, and they’re walking around like characters from a Capra film — sporting campaign buttons and big goofy grins.

Rachel Sklar actually used the phrase “Happy days are here again” in a video yesterday. There’s something unseemly about watching Generation X wake up and try to believe in something. My people were not built for optimism. There’s something mildly creepy about it, watching this uncomplicated and decidedly unironic outpouring of love for a politician.

We were taught to distrust and sneer at authority, dammit! Not to roll over and sigh at the first sign of a candidate who can form coherent sentences.

Obama brought it home, but let’s face it, his supporters are so in love with him, all he had to do was come on stage without tripping over himself and they’d call it a win.

And by the same token, his opponents are so inflamed I suspect Obama’s appeals to patriotism will be ignored.

I was impressed with the fairness and decency of both candidates tonight. McCain ran an extraordinary ad congratulating Obama and acknowledging his place in history. He played it utterly straight, with no cheap shots or veiled attacks thrown in.

Obama encouraged voters to transcend partisanship, reminding us, quite correctly, that the military is composed of Republicans, Democrats and Independents who love their country, and die for it, side by side.

I would love to see 2008 be the year we rise above this Red vs. Blue nonsense and start thinking of ourselves as one country again. The two-tone electoral maps of the cable news pundits have done more to divide this country than any social movement or bellicose talk radio host.

The notion that a whole state changes color when 51 percent of its people make up their minds has always been ludicrous to me. And when did people on the other side of the political spectrum automatically become evil, the minute they endorse an opposing candidate?

I blame the Internet for this one — the incredible rush to moral judgment and personal insult that happens on blogs and Internet forums every day.

I’m not talking from some imaginary moral high ground here. I was in the trenches of political debate for ten years, spinning snark and slinging mud against people who disagreed with me.

I view those days as part of an extended childhood now, and I would do anything to take them back. I wish I could make both sides take a deep breath and see each other as people for a day. Obama and McCain both took steps toward civility and common decency tonight, and I hope their followers were watching.

Not to say Obama was not a perfect gentleman, of course. There were a hundred quotable moments in that speech, but the one everyone will remember is kind of a cheap shot. Obama said, “John McCain likes to say that he’ll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell — but he won’t even go to the cave where he lives.”


Not fair, Barack. A cheap shot that ignores the reality of the situation and reinforces the ridiculous conspiracy theories that Internet kooks have been spouting for seven years — the notion that we know exactly where Bin Laden is and we’re somehow “choosing” not to go get him because it serves our purpose to keep him at large.

Liveblogging on Twitter at that point, Rachel Sklar said, “HUGE reaction in press room. They likey.”

Which brings me to my most important point, perhaps the only real point in this whole rambling mess. I have never seen an election where the press is so obviously in the tank for one of the candidates. Blame the rise of high-profile partisan blogs, but this year’s DNC feels like one giant party for journalists, and all too frequently, journalists from “reputable” publications are seen cuddling up to blatantly partisan bloggers.

It makes me wonder if we’re headed back in time before the era of objective journalism, when media outlets were shamelessly ideological and no one seemed to mind. Will Fox News pundits be as cozy with McCain as their MSNBC counterparts seem to be with Obama?

I think the answer is yes. Journalists are human beings after all, and Fox has proven that a little bias is good for ratings. Increasingly, journalists are allowed to react to events as real human beings, without the strict filters of objectivity and dispassion.

This is painfully obvious on cable, where serious news segments are conducted by the same guys who host opinion shows. The whole notion of objective political coverage may be on the way out, and bloggers are leading the charge.

I’ll let the professional pundits lecture you about political strategy and Obama’s place in history. I just want to point out that 2008 is not the year of the political blogger. For the first time since the introduction of the Internet, blogs are not being hyped as some grand “new thing.” Bloggers are part of the process now, and like it or not, they’re here to stay.

Written by Michael B. Duff

August 28, 2008 at 23:54

Posted in Politics

15 Responses

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  1. If you ask me, the veneer of impartiality in journalism is detrimental. Like you have alluded above, reporters are human, and they have normal human reactions to events. They have opinions and worldviews that color the way they see the world.

    Forcing them to couch their language in seemingly impartial language only serves to hide the bias that is there.

    If it were up to me, (and what a disaster that would be) journalists would be encouraged to disclose their biases so that we the reader could make informed opinions about what they have to say.

    But as always, your mileage may vary.


    August 29, 2008 at 01:20

  2. “I would love to see 2008 be the year we rise above this Red vs. Blue nonsense and start thinking of ourselves as one country again.”

    Oh so would I. I can’t even put into words how much.

    Red white and blue state

    August 29, 2008 at 01:30

  3. “There’s something unseemly about watching Generation X wake up and try to believe in something. My people were not built for optimism. There’s something mildly creepy about it, watching this uncomplicated and decidedly unironic outpouring of love for a politician.”

    do you not recall Bill Clinton’s campaign? i recall the exact same fervor then as now, perhaps a bit amped now because of the historical significance of the first black presidential candidate, but anyway the same media impartiality and the same 20something excitement happened then. i recall natalie merchant excitedly telling a reporter at the convention that it was the first time in her life she’d been moved to happiness when thinking about government.


    August 29, 2008 at 04:11

  4. Hmmmmm, what is it the Democrats have with liars and cheats? “I did not have sex with that woman.” “This is my own law school paper.” This is my own campaign speech.” Long, long memories in some areas, very, very short memories in others. Come on guys, how can you preach integrity and honesty and still go with Biden?


    August 29, 2008 at 18:56

  5. HAAAAA!!!! Impartiality, now that’s rich…HEEHEE!!!! SURELY you jest…If you reallybelieve that junk, you ARE A gen.x’er!!!


    August 29, 2008 at 19:29

  6. This red and blue division will never end. It is a permanent blot. The map may change colors but we are forever divided, two groups and change, rushing headlong toward third world status, liberals and conservatives, slinging mud as we slide down the slippery slope to the end of American influence. Greater minds and greater forces are watching over the horizon.


    August 30, 2008 at 05:21

  7. JRR i’m not sure who your moronic comment is directed at but if it’s me, my use of the word ‘impartiality’ was obviously a typo, meant to have the words “lack of” beforehand.


    August 30, 2008 at 13:40

  8. I think he was referring to geekcentrics comment.

    I have to agree with Mack. It’s much better to admit to a bias and do your report. The idea that a journalist can completely divorce himself from himself to write news is ludicrous.

    I’ve also found the idea that Genx is dissaffected to be largely bogus. We generally aren’t as open, but at the points in our lives when the Boomers were crying about our lack of interest, most generations held a similar lack. All the “active” flower children in the late ’60s and early 70’s complained and protested and demonstrated and failed to vote. Young people (teens to late 20’s/early 30’s or longer) aren’t that interested in such things. They’re still immortal and invincible and have plenty of time to change the world later.


    August 31, 2008 at 01:49

  9. Our blog explains why fundamentalists urge sinners to obey, obey, obey, why conservatives are caught so frequently in men’s rooms with their pants down and why the world is soon going up in nuclear smoke unless we Democrats manage to shoo the conservative crazies out of Washington, the distraction of the Republican’s nominating a sweet variety of fundamentalist conservative crazy as Vice President aside. As unpleasant and irrelevant as most assume mathematics to be in any reasonable political argument, our science trained, politically concerned family has derived an evolution equation that shows people’s unhappiness in life to come from excess social control, as in the workplace, and that shows that unhappiness to be the primary cause of aggressive behavior, including both the petty meanness that permeates day to day American life nowadays and the violence exported across national borders as war. This evolution equation has been certified 100% correct by Dr. Sean Rice of Texas Tech who wrote the textbook on classical mathematical evolution. We call our version of the equation the Obama-McCain equation after the two men whose struggle for the presidency will determine the fate, not just of our nation, but of the world. Simply, for all you many math hating voters, the equation explains the biological drive in us talking animals to mate and raise babies and to struggle aggressively for resources and territory, all of which normal behaviors have taken the most violent and perverse turns in modern times, however much these less appealing characteristics of the modern human animal are generally hidden from view by our near propagandistic media.

    Less technically, our website tells the story of how our three generation family originally supported Barack Obama, campaigning for him in West Virginia and appearing for him on CBS NEWS, and then switched to Hillary when we saw up close that Barack’s exceptionally good fortune in succeeding at an American dream that is no more than a pie in the sky mollifying promise for the average American, was blinding him to the unhappiness that most people have no choice but to endure in life, that unhappiness of people collectively being the primary cause of both campus mass murders in America and the kind of unnecessary wars that the conservative crazies have got us into and, if war mad Uncle John and sweet Sara get into office, will escalate to global war with Uncle John’s old enemy from Vietnam days, nuclear armed Russia. With sensible Hillary out of the game, we have now furiously switched back to hopefully wised up Obama at the thought of slimy McCain as the next-in-line Hitler head of the Wall Street conservative police state that has ruled our lives for the last eight years and got us into a mentally aberrant unnecessary war that has killed and crippled over a million people, 30,000 of them American kids. So pay no attention to petty annoyances that may arise from our all too human candidates, Senators Obama and Biden, and join with us in our mathematically intensified fears to do everything possible to get all yet sane people to vote for them and insure the defeat of the conservative wolves now cutely dressed in Sister Sara sheep’s clothing.

    Mrs. Ruth and Dr. Peter V. Calabria and family, at http://www.matrix-evolutions.com if you want to read more.

    Ruth Calabria

    August 31, 2008 at 17:00

  10. Mr. & Mrs. Calabria, all it took was reading the first four sentences of your “warning” to see that you are as wearing ideological blinders as big as any I’ve seen. I could say the same thing about some liberals. Take a look outside your ivory tower at reality, and you will find that there are intelligent, thoughtful people on both sides, and by making ridiculous statements like the ones you open with, you are helping no one.


    August 31, 2008 at 20:55

  11. Ideologies come in all shapes and sizes, from socialism, communism, anarchism and liberalism to fascism, nationalism, conservatism and various stripes of politically active religious fundamentalism. But one problem that all these ideologies have in common is, that in their all being articulated, preached and debated in common language, they are all subject to the ambiguities in the meaning of the words in common language.

    Language evolved in human beings not for ideological debate, but to optimize survival. And, indeed, the ambiguities of language in its practical use are irrelevant for the most part, initial confusions in communication being easily clarified with the exchange of a few more words starting with “What do you mean by that?” But the ambiguity our day to day language can make for serious problems in ideological debate. Indeed it is these very ambiguities that make possible the coexistence of logically contradicting ideological opinions as noted in Internet exchanges that are eventually settled not with logical but with the proclamation, “I’m right and what you are saying is utterly ridiculous/” The ambiguities of common language also greatly facilitate the deception or “spin” put on ideological arguments so familiar in White House press briefings and discussions in the media over the merits of presidential candidates.

    One obvious solution to resolving the problems caused by ambiguity in common language is, of course, to use a less ambiguous language. The least ambiguous language in the human repertoire is mathematical language. Indeed most scientists would argue that mathematics is an unambiguous language, which is why it is the preferred language of science. But there is a limit to the use of mathematical language even in science. It is not the primary language of the life and human sciences, of biology, psychology and sociology, because these disciplines are too complex for the mathematics available to explain them. But there is a solution to that too, one that we will pursue here by constructing a better mathematics that can be an unambiguous language for biology, psychology, sociology and an ideology that scientifically derives from them.
    Ruth Calabria

    Ruth Calabria

    September 1, 2008 at 13:49

  12. you’re scary


    September 1, 2008 at 19:14

  13. Bert wrote: “It’s much better to admit to a bias and do your report. The idea that a journalist can completely divorce himself from himself to write news is ludicrous.”

    Your straw person is burning. Everyone knows that it is possible to be more biased, or less, and that there is a different kind of value to be had as you get close to the opposite ends of the continuum of bias.

    At the biased end, you get some very entertaining reporting, full of passion and intensity and sometimes insight. At the unbiased end you get comprehensive, thoughtful, analysis.

    To really obfuscate the issue you’ll have to do better than introducing such an obvious irrelevancy as the “completely unbiased reporter”, which no one anywhere has ever argued in favour of, because everyone knows they don’t exist. What people do argue for, and which you have said absolutely nothing about, is that there is great value to be had from less biased reporters, and reporters who strive to be less biased, as opposed to those entertaining partisan buffoons who have taken over virtually all reporting in the US.


    September 2, 2008 at 10:28

  14. […] not personally on the Obama bandwagon, but most of my friends […]

  15. […] public links >> reaction Quick reaction to Obama’s acceptance speech Saved by Reasonableman on Thu 06-11-2008 Alchemical Reaction (pt.1): Nostalgia Saved by […]

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