Two of New York’s most prestigious publications are ripping Rudy Giuliani a new one. I was going to blog about this one from The New Yorker Magazine when it came about two weeks ago, but I didn’t get around to it. It’s hard on the former mayor – The New Yorker takes Giuliani to task about everything from Kerik’s corruption to the broken firefighters’ radios (which had been a problem for months before 9/11). If one sentence sums up the article, it’s this: “[M]any of those who are most knowledgeable about what happened on September 11th, or at least had the most at stake, are actively opposing Giuliani’s bid”.
But now The New York Times is out with, if anything, a much more critical article. It’s virtually impossible to muster up any sort of positive feelings for Giuliani after reading this thing, unless Giuliani himself pulled you out of a burning car. Which, based on this article, he probably did not do unless you did him a political favor. One quick example (of many, many such examples) – not only did he make sure no one who worked for David Dinkins, his opponent in the mayoral race and the previous mayor, was allowed to work for his administration, he would even have his lackies call private employers and pressure them not to hire former Dinkins people. Holy ****.
Anyway, if Giuliani manages to climb out of the hole he’s been in, and even more improbably, becomes the next President of the United States, watch as he retaliates against both of these publications. I myself will be watching from Canada.
MSNBC, by refusing to let Senator Dennis Kucinich speak at their debate, is setting a very dangerous precedent. I’m not a Kucinich supporter, but like Ron Paul (who I also don’t support), he is a dissenting voice in the elections. Virtually every candidate on both sides fits into a very narrow segment of the political spectrum. The fundamental political philosophies of Romney on the (relative) right and Clinton on the (relative) left are much more similar than either politician would care to admit. By censoring Kucinich, MSNBC is impoverishing the range of the debate (just like FOX has been doing with Paul). With so many problems facing the nation, perhaps some political diversity and fresh thinking is in order? Let’s at least allow the edgier ideas to get out there.
But that’s not the real problem – this situation demonstrates the mixing of corporatism and politics at its worst. A private company should not be able to dictate the political discourse of a democracy. The FCC exists because the medium of television has such a profound effect on the culture – the FCC is supposed to make sure “that operation of [television stations] would be in the public interest” (source). The FCC doesn’t regulate cable, for better and for worse, so MSNBC is not under their jurisdiction. Nevertheless, the FCC’s very existence highlights how powerful a voice television producers have, and how the government was cautious from the very beginning about limiting the power that the private owners of the medium have. Now that that power is so centralized, it’s even more important to be cautious. And when networks like MSNBC presume to dictate the terms of American politics, they have more than overstepped their bounds.
I just read this Salon article about Star Wars by sci-fi author David Brin from 1999. It is a brutal attack on Star Wars and George Lucas, and even though it is already almost a decade old, it is still very relevant in terms of popular culture today. The same arguments can be made against Golden Compass (the books as well as the movie), I Am Legend, Harry Potter, and countless other science fiction/fantasy movies (especially fantasy).
I have a big post in the works about the article, so stay tuned! Meanwhile, read the article – it’s well worth the read.
I’ve felt for the past few years that America was living in a weird, funhouse reflection of the 1950’s. Bush is something of a distorted Eisenhower – both conservatives from Texas, with a folksy demeanor. Of course, Eisenhower was a war hero who really was from Texas and who warned about the Military-Industrial Complex. Bush, by contrast… well, no need to state the obvious here.
The 1950’s political climate was dominated by the Cold War and McCarthyism. Today the War on Terror serves as the analog to the Cold War, another ongoing, shadowy, and vague ideological conflict (if anything, the War on Terror is more shadowy and vague, and even harder to “win”, assuming victory is even possible). George Clooney’s 2005 film Good Night, and Good Luck served to remind the country how similar the political climate in America has been to those bad old days.
The successor to the 1950’s in America was, of course, the 1960’s, a period which favored the word “revolution”. The Cold War was still in full swing, and became even more bleak and serious as the 60’s progressed, with the onset of the Vietnam War.
But there was also a sense of wide-eyed optimism – the iconic image of hippies putting flowers into the guns of soldiers captures the era perfectly. It was also a time of much domestic unrest and violence. People were “mad as hell, and not taking it anymore”*.
What prompted me to write this now was Barack Obama’s brilliant victory speech in Iowa. Among all the Democratic candidates, he is the visionary Kennedy that the Democrats crave. He is the current-day analog to JFK.
If this country does decide to transition from a 1950’s mentality to a 1960’s mentality, it will be on Barack Obama’s shoulders.
p.s. I haven’t mentioned the Civil Rights movement (at least not explicitly), because I don’t see a clear contemporary analog. Obama did invoke the March on Selma in his speech, though.
p.p.s. This is not an endorsement of Obama – my point is that if the Bush era has mirrored the Eisenhower years, Obama is very likely to mirror the Kennedy years.
* Yes, I know that Network came out in the 1976, but it was still a movie with roots in the 1960’s.
UPDATE: Added some YouTube links 2012-Jan-6