Thursday, July 08, 2010

Dr. Radical, Your Liberal Media Membership Card Is In The Mail

Yesterday afternoon I was tending my email -- a precondition for fruitful writing -- after having dumped several boxes of old research with a young scholar who plans to make lemonade with it (in a metaphorical sense.) Up pops an email from MSNBC, asking me if I would like to come to New York -- like now --to be on one of those political news/opinion shows. It was the Dylan Ratigan Show, hosted that day by Cenk Uyger. Cenk is normally the host of a show called "The Young Turks," a name you probably couldn't use in today's climate if you were not actually Turkish, which Cenk is.

I wrote back and said perhaps I would be interested. Moments later a young feller was on the line and asked: "Can I send a car and bring you to New York now for a 4:30 air time?" Since I had come home from New York at 1:30 in the morning, and it was 103 degrees in Shoreline, I though that sitting in traffic, even in an air conditioned car was an unattractive idea. I suggested that we use a feed from Oligarch University's studios instead. Thus it was that, at 4:20, I found myself sitting alone in front of a robot camera, an audio feed in my ear and a mike threaded inside my shirt, in a nice, cool basement downtown, ready to answer questions about the shift to the right in American political culture in the past half century.

My self-critique (other than observing that a slightly twitchy face reveals nerves I was not aware of at the time) is that I failed to pick up on it that his interest was less a shift to the right than the proposition that the media had consistently failed to report the shift to the right. Instead, I stuck to explanations of the actual political history. A format like this moves very, very fast, and you literally have microseconds to decide how you are going to respond to what is usually a leading question, how to make the link to something you have prepped, and whether you can kick out a very complex thought without context or background.

An interesting follow-up media story is the report on this very minor media event in NewsBusters. It offers up a brief clip from the show (moi cracking a joke about Nelson Rockefeller.) NewsBusters has also provided a partial transcript (identified only as a transcript) that has edited out, among other things, remarks I made about Nixon establishing OSHA in 1970 only to use this government agency to pressure business into making contributions for his 1972 campaign. Moral of the story: what you leave out can be just as important as what you include, or for that matter, any editorial content.

Let's go to the videotape:

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16 comments:

Tim Lacy said...

Congrats! Nice work.

Susan said...

Fame and fortune to follow, I'm sure! It's really hard, isn't it, to get out of our scholarly mode.

Anonymous said...

What does establishing OSHA have to do with "the shift to the right"? In fact, many of Nixon's domestic proposals would be considered quite liberal today. Ever hear of the Family Assistance Plan? Or the Clean Air Act?

Linda Monk said...

It was a pleasure appearing with you on MSNBC, Professor Potter!

I, too, left out some context on Nixon's PROPOSED minimum national income as a way to end welfare.

You're right that this is a buzzsaw medium, but Cenk did a better job than most of allowing us a little headway. Others barely give time for their guests to say three words.

Linda Monk
www.lindamonk.com

Tenured Radical said...

Anonymous: The point was that the shift to the right was far more complicated than it appears when just looking at individual political acts and individuals, and you can't apply what are imperfect labels today to the past as well. A lot of conservatives are very pro-environment, for example, and a lot of industrial workers are conservative. OSHA -- and the other agencies Nixon established- are only as liberal as the administration that they serve. They aren't independent of politics. And btw, look at Matt Lassiter's book -- many of the northern the working class people who were served by OSHA were also swinging right because of bussing and affirmative action.

And try to change your aggressive tone, ok?

Linda: The pleasure was mine -- and you are a model of intelligence and graciousness in the format that I aspire to emulate.

Anonymous said...

TR, the Family Assistance Plan was more liberal in intent and in potential effect than any proposal that has been advanced since then by Democrat or Republican administrations (though it did have the conservative side effect of shrinking government, since the welfare bureaucracy would no longer be needed). Daniel Moynihan was a genius and I wish he were around making policy proposals today.

And what about the Nixon-Kennedy healthcare proposal?

I think it would be productive to discuss the differences between Nixon and his Republican successors (Goldwater, Reagan, et. al.) Seems to me that the originator of the Southern Strategy was on the whole much more liberal in his domestic policies than they were.

Anonymous said...

When do you go on Bill O'Reilly? That's the appearance I want to see!

chaunceydevega said...

Congrats!

cd

Historiann said...

TR--you and Linda Monk were both incredibly fleet of wit, clear, and intelligent in this "buzzsaw medium." The disconnect was with Cenk Uyger--he wasn't asking very smart or intelligible questions. If he wanted you to comment more directly on the media's studied ignorance of the Overton Window's rightward move, he should have asked you that from the start, rather than joking around about where Nixon or Eisenhower would be in the modern Republican party.

I thought you looked great, you sounded great, and I didn't see any facial twitching. (Maybe that's more apparent on a wide screen TV, but it's not here online.)

What's with all of the buzzing and whooshing video-game style graphics (and what some might call "chartjunk")? No wonder I don't think I'm missing much without cable! (Well, except your appearance last night, and maybe Mad Men in real time...)

Anonymous said...

I loved your appearance, and noticed the twitch but that's only because I know your face. Others wouldn't notice.

I agree with Historiann that the flying ADD graphics were/are horrific. Indeed, now that I know a little about autism and Asperger's and am aware of the effect of multiple sensory input, I noticed that every time a new animated banner ripped across your chest, I lost track of what you were saying for a moment. Do they do this on purpose?

Great job. And kind thanks for mentioning my blog the other day.


Both you and Ms. Monk provided some of the most intelligent talk on any topic I've heard on TV in a while.

BTW, thanks kindly, TR for mentioning my new blog the other day.

Urban Exile said...

I loved your appearance, and noticed the twitch but that's only because I know your face. Others wouldn't notice.

I agree with Historiann that the flying ADD graphics were/are horrific. Indeed, now that I know a little about autism and Asperger's and am aware of the effect of multiple sensory input, I noticed that every time a new animated banner ripped across your chest, I lost track of what you were saying for a moment. Do they do this on purpose?

Both you and Ms. Monk provided some of the most intelligent talk on any topic I've heard on TV in a while.

BTW, thanks kindly, TR for mentioning my new blog the other day.

Urban Exile said...

Oh poop. Sorry about the repeat comment. I am still inept at posting.

GayProf said...

Might I say you look fabulous?

When I first glanced at Historiann's comment, I thought that you would soon be appearing on Mad Men too. Alas, that is a challenge for another day.

The premise for the segment seemed a bit sketchy, but that's how the news operates these days. I mean, the color coded "where we are" table was based on his perception but presented as "fact"... It was good that both of you scholarly types try to push for that pesky historical context and nuance.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

I agree with Historiann that Uyger was terrible in this segment, both stylistically and rhetorically. He is usually much better than that, but everyone can have off days. In the very beginning of the segment, he was hemming a hawwing like he didn't even know what he was supposed to be talking about.

You, on the other hand, did a great job making it clear that the single-axis left-right conceptualization is way too limited to capture our political trajectory of the last 50 years.

AmandaR said...

I'm a long-time TR lurker/reader, and a huge fan of The Young Turks, so was very excited to see those two things brought together. Uyger hosts a daily 2-3 hour show online, and one of the first things he commented on (when calling in after filming Ratigan) was that he missed the ability to have longer and more in-depth conversations. I assume he meant to contrast the longer form interviews allowed on The Young Turks with the aptly-named buzzsaw interviews required by TV.

Regardless, as TR often has some of the best and most thought-provoking reading in my daily web rounds, I was very glad to see Dr. Potter speaking on TV.

Moria said...

You be hawt, Potter! Sharp and articulate and most importantly – it's clear you're having a hell of a lot of fun. Well played.