Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Trent Lott vs. Obama's guilt by association

I can't really read the Corner without getting irritated and realizing that my perspective is almost alien when compared to that of "movement conservatives" (I also heartily despise their URL and post identifier format, but that's just crappy design and not limited to conservative group blogs).

So from this post on Andrew Sullivan's site, I found this post by Jonah Goldberg.

First, "lighten up"? From the guy who wrote Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning?

OK, but let me answer his question: "Why should we believe Obama is sincere in his after-the-fact denunciations of his longtime friend and colleague but not give Lott a similar benefit of the doubt?"

Because the basis for tarring Lott and Obama in each case is completely different.

Trent Lott got in trouble for essentially endorsing Thurmond's segregationist Presidential campaign, in support of which Thurmond once said:
I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there's not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.
To which Lott responded in the speech that got him run out of town on a rail (figuratively speaking):
When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years, either.
Lott didn't get in trouble because he was involved with Thurmond's segregationist movement at the time. Lott got in trouble because he explicitly endorsed that philosophy (there's no other way to construe those comments, given that the whole point of the Dixiecrat movement was to maintain segregation).

Obama never stood up in front of a bunch of people and positively affirmed the philosophy with which Bill Ayers was identified. In fact, Obama was never in any way associated with the philosophy or causes of Bill Ayers. Obama served on a neighborhood board with Ayers. Obama got a campaign donation from Ayers. I won't question simple dirty pool for-keepsies politics being played with that fact. But Goldberg's "analogy" fails in just about every respect.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What is that reporter DOING?

Read this interview and compare and contrast with most interviews in the American press. The challenging and adversarial tone of the interview is rather astounding. The reporter is not just asking questions and transcribing the answers, but is also at least somewhat expert in the subject matter and challenges the statements and figures used by the interview subject. BBC reports are similar. I've been struck by the challenging nature of the interviewers in your standard BBC radio interview.

This contrasts even to American media that spends much of its time scolding the so-called "MSM" or "Village" for its uncritical acceptance of the statements of its interview subjects. I've read plenty of interviews with luminaries such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Noam Chomsky, or Michael Moore, where interviewers seem starstruck by the eminence grise that is their subject.

More of this kind of thing would be nice. I'm not saying it doesn't exist here, or that all non-American reporting is freaking awesome. But this sort of in-depth and unsycophantic interaction is exceedingly rare here.