Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Maddow & Alter: "The New Yorker cover is irresponsible because Americans are too stupid to understand it."

UPDATED: 19-July-2008
In my last post I said that the New Yorker magazine "cover is not the real story. The real story is the reaction to the cover by Obama, his campaign and his supporters." Rachel Maddow goes one better, saying "the details in the New Yorker cover drawing are not the story, the outrage over the cover are not the story, the potential consequences of the cover are the story." Hmmm.

Keith Olbermann is still on vacation, so Rachel Maddow is filling in on MSNBC's Countdown. In general I think this has been a trade-up. I like Maddow. Don't agree with her most of the time, but I like the way she thinks. However, when a journalist television personality decides to crawl right in the bag with a political candidate, it is apparently written in stone that said personality must twist themselves into an intellectual knot and make utter asses of themselves on the air in defense of their object of affection. It does not matter if it is Rush Limbaugh carrying water for big spending, big deficit, big government Republicans under GWB, or the regularly scheduled Keith Olbermann and Jonathon Alter Obama Infomercial on MSNBC or Maddow substituting for Olbermann last night. An interesting oddity is that Jonathon Alter reprises his role as sidekick sycophant with Rachel. He should worry about being typecast:

I wanted to include the transcript here, but MSNBC has linked the wrong transcript to the July 14 show. I'll update later with actual quotes when they get it fixed, but paraphrasing:
MADDOW: Jonathon, Isn't the real problem here that way too many Americans are too stupid to get the joke?
ALTER: Yes, Rachel, 13% of Americans are so stupid that they tell pollsters that they believe these lies, so there are consequences from an image like this and the New Yorker should have considered the consequences of stupid Americans seeing this image.
MADDOW: In that context do responsible journalists and commentators like us have a responsibility to explain to stupid Americans that Obama is not a Muslim every time this comes up?
ALTER: Yes Rachel, this is part of our responsibility - to take the time to refute these lies for all those low information (stupid) voters out there who are not paying attention. But it is still a problem because these voters are so stupid that they will just look at the picture, not get the joke, and not listen to us.
True to his word, Jonathon Alter dedicated his column today to once again explaining to the stupid American voters that Barack Obama is not a Muslim and the New Yorker cover is a joke.
"... the New Yorker cover, now being displayed endlessly on cable TV, speaks louder than any efforts by Obama supporters to stop the smears... negative images burn their way into the consciousness of voters in ways that cannot be erased by facts. With one visual move, the magazine undid months of pro-Obama coverage in its pages."
Look, I have no problem with Alter's thesis - the "Obama is a Muslim" lie must be challenged, confronted and corrected in the strongest possible terms. I have done so myself here and at Donklephant and will continue to do so.

But perhaps Maddow and Alter, and other Obama supporters wringing their hands about the 12-13% of "low-information" voters in the poll should consider the possibility that they are not all ignorant and stupid. Consider what Craig Crawford said on MSNBC a few hours later - David Shuster, substituting for Dan Abrams on "Verdict!" joined those on the left who are hand-wringing about the same poll, when Craig Crawford floated the right answer:
SHUSTER: "...there is some new polling from “Newsweek” that underscores Obama‘s potential problem. Twelve percent think he‘s a Muslim and 12 percent say he used the Koran for a Senate swearing in ceremony, 39 percent believe he attended an Islamic school in Indonesia, while 26 percent think he was raised a Muslim. None of those are true. Craig Crawford, how, in your view, should Obama address this?"
CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC ANALYST: "...But, as far as the percentages of people believing he‘s a Muslim, he‘s got time, he‘s just got to keep making the case, putting those speeches out there, and talking about his faith, and trying to deal with it. I‘m not sure a lot of this people actually believe this. I think they just don‘t like him and don‘t like to say it."
Bingo. Here is the real "joke". While there are indeed wingnuts on the right who really believe that Obama was a Muslim, or that he is the Anti-Christ, or he is an Islamic "Manchurian Candidate", or whatever stupid thing they want to worry about today, it is entirely possible that most of that 12% do not really believe it. They just like messing with the pollsters and left wing pundits who get their panties in a bunch whenever they read polls like this. And if that is the case, the real joke is on condescending pundits like Alter and Maddow who are so concerned about these "low-information" voters.

Jonathon, Rachel - Relax.

They're just messing with you.

UPDATE: 19-July-2008

This is too cool. In the Countdown video clip, you hear Jonathon Alter say this:
"In 1925 when the New Yorker was founded, the founder Harld Ross specifically said to investors, that the magazine was not for the little old lady in Duquque."
In the linked column, Alter repeats the theme saying:
"When Harold Ross founded The New Yorker in 1925, he told potential investors that it was not edited for "the little old lady from Dubuque." This is still true, as the flap over the latest cover suggests."
Alter then proceeds to explain why the New Yorker cover is "indisputably harmful" with those unsophisticated "low information" voters, like that little old lady from Dubuque.
The only problem with Jonathon Alter's thesis, is that when the New York Times went to Dubuque, they learned that "The Old Lady in Dubuqe is smarter than you think.":

"When The New Yorker came into being in the 1920s, its founder, Harold Ross, held up Dubuque as the sort of backwater he wanted nothing to do with. Ross, with Eustace Tilley nose in the air, said the magazine would not be “edited for the old lady in Dubuque.” Not surprisingly, Dubuquers thought it terribly snooty of him, not to mention unfair. But they know enough to recognize satire.

“Yeah, we get it in Dubuque,” Mr. Rusk said by phone. “Anybody with a reasonable sense of humor” does. “The New Yorker, which touts itself, accurately, to be a highly intellectualized and savvy sort of a publication, ought to be able to get away with that,” he said. “If they can’t, who can?”

Score one for Dubuque, which is more than you can say about some people in this city. Let’s not even go into the reflexive condemnations of the drawing from Mr. Obama and Senator John McCain. Both know that you can hardly go wrong in national politics attacking a publication like The New Yorker and those smart-alecky fops who read it and think they’re better than everyone else. The thing is, though, that some who have accused the magazine of elitism are themselves elitists. They include outraged writers of letters to the editor who talk about Mr. Obama in near-Messianic terms. Some of them strongly suggest that too many Americans lack the brains to recognize the illustration for what it is, and will think it to be literally true."

Exactly right. Jonathon Alter = Elitist. Rachel Maddow = Elitist. Those who criticize the New Yorker cover on the basis of not unduly influencing those poor "low-information" voters? Elitists one and all.

I love the New York Times.

No comments: