Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 13, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

HAIR-TRIGGER INSTINCTS....Jeff Greenfield protests that his comparison of Barack Obama's fashion sense to that of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was just a joke. Well, we've all screwed up a joke now and then, haven't we? Explanation accepted. But then he takes a stab at fleshing out why so many people reacted so harshly to his original piece:

Most of what happened here, I think, is a demonstration of the hair-trigger instincts that have grown up among some of the bloggers....In a political world where partisans routinely assume the worst about their adversaries and where conspiracy theories stretch from Bill Clinton as a drug ring- and murder-enabler to Bush as planner of 9/11 there's a tendency to find malice aforethought.

That's several miles off, I think. Bloggers do tend to have hair-trigger instincts, but they're largely aimed at the media, not their adversaries. Greenfield deliberately illustrated his point with a couple of conspiracy theories that didn't get much play in the mainstream media, but the last decade has produced a hundred others that never would have crawled out from under their rocks if it weren't for CNN, the New York Times, and other traditional mainstays promoting them. I'm no Bob Somerby, but even I flinch pretty hard when Greenfield tries to whitewash the media's own culpability in producing the hair-trigger instincts he derides. Bloggers may overreact to this stuff sometimes, but there's a reason for that. Maybe CNN ought to do a special about it?

Kevin Drum 1:27 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (107)

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Comments

My hair-trigger instinct is to elect a president who will put domestic priority to ending domestic poverty and hunger. His/her foreign policy goal will be to encourage and support the Millennium Development Goals, the plan to end WORLD poverty and hunger. According to the Borgen Project, the underfunded MDGs are not on target to being reached by 2015.

Posted by: Ashley on December 13, 2006 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

Very good post except for the usual surly slap at Somerby.

OT, a very happy birthday to our Windhorse!

Posted by: shortstop on December 13, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Bloggers do tend to have hair-trigger instincts, but they're largely aimed at the media, not their adversaries.

??

you must not be reading many blogs.

Posted by: cleek on December 13, 2006 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Its a joke, you know like how Al Gore invented the internet. Nothing malicious about that now was there.

Posted by: Rob on December 13, 2006 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

I watched Greenfield's "joke" and failed to laugh. At least he got called on it. We must keep the pressure on these toads.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on December 13, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

You're completely missing the boat on this Kevin.

Comparing Obama to Ahmadinejad is just the start of a wider, VERY ORGANIZED smear campaign on Obama.

They were talking about this on Air America Radio this morning. Already fringe conservative blogs are encouraging conservatives to refer to Obama by his middle name, Hussein, to imply that he is a Muslim and encourage an associate with Saddam Hussein and terrorists in general.

But it's easy to rebut accusations that he's a Muslim you say, because he's a practicing Christian? Well, these accusations come with a false story that there's a provision in the Koran that allows false conversions to Christianity to deceive and infiltrate infidels, for the purpose of destroying them.

Yeah, I know, sounds crazy. Who's going to go for it? Sadly, only a tiny fraction of people need to buy into it for it to be worthwhile. Think about the Swift Boat slanders, or more fringe whisper campaigns against McCain about him having a (gasp) black child from an affair (he adopted an Indian girl), and that he was a Manchurian candidate. Sure, crazy allegations like that don't get any significant traction, but they do make more mainstream allegations (like McCain doesn't have the temperament to be president) easier to accept.

Posted by: Augustus on December 13, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Greenfield cites two supposed instances of "hair trigger consipiracy thinking" - Clinton as drug lord and Bush as 9/11 planner. Sure, those cited delusions were false, but what' not false is Greenfield's weird comparison of Obama to Amhedinejhad based on the flimsy ground of similar dress, and his goofy emphasis on the meaningless coincidence that Obama's middle name is Hussein.

Greenfield seems an inbred, Washington media flogger of Republican memes. His silly attacks on Obama look very much like partisan jabs.

Posted by: vanessa on December 13, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats' clothing is fair game! What else could be more important?

Except how Manly King George looks in His flight suit!

Posted by: Al's Mommy on December 13, 2006 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, Greenfield is hardly deserving of good faith here. His "joke" came just a few days after right wing pundits started testing the waters with Obama/Osama Hussien references, and it follows a long pattern of how the media has "jokingly" tried to paint Democratic politicians as gay, wishy-washy, and all the rest based on some pretty wild and stretchy free-association. If Greenfield doesn't understand any of that, perhaps he's in the wrong business.

Posted by: plunge on December 13, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

and who can forget Rush Limbaugh, with his:

"Obama - Osama. Osama - Obama. I don't know. I just enjoy saying that."

I'm sure he does. No smearing here, folks.

Posted by: thersites on December 13, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Pretty precious how Greenfield quotes Red Auerbach on missed passes being 90 percent the fault of the passer, then immediately concludes that "most of" the fault here lies in his readers' failure to pick up on his exquisite humor.

It couldn't be, you know, that Greenfield's body of piss-poor writing and history of focusing on the inconsequential have conditioned us all to expect the least of him.

Posted by: shortstop on December 13, 2006 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

In the piece Greenfield also asserts that these
"hair-trigger instincts...have grown up among some of the bloggers" partly as a need "to fill all that space every day, or hour, or 15 minutes."

What? It's Greenfield's CNN, not the blogs, which have to have constant space-filling "news". CNN can never go dark, and so has to produce material every minute of every hour of the day. Does anyone know any blog which updates every 15 minutes, or even every hour?

Posted by: Stefan on December 13, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

The media would do well to begin collectively rotating its Beltway press corps with other correspondents around the country. The current crop has obviously gotten too chummy with their sources, and needs new blood.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on December 13, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Jeff Greenfield should realize he's as much at home making a joke as is Kerry. Must be the Ivy thing (right, Normie?).

Posted by: MeLoseBrain? on December 13, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone know any blog which updates every 15 minutes, or even every hour?

This one did, if you counted Charlie's obsessive "contributions" as "updates."

Sorry. Like craigie, I'm enjoying poking Charlie in his enforced silence.

Anyway, good point about CNN, Stefan--I thought the same thing when I read that. As if all or even most of what CNN covers is weighty, worthy or considered...

Posted by: shortstop on December 13, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Bloggers may overreact to this stuff sometimes, but there's a reason for that.

Damn right we need to react fast. Once you let one of these "jokes" get established, there's just no way to shake it out of the conventional wisdom, no matter how many times it's been throroughly debunked. (See, e.g. the Al Gore internet "joke," or Maureen Dowd's "joke" that John Kerry said "who among us does not love Nascar?" which I still see people cite as something that Kerry actually said). We have to hit back fast and hard every time one of these idiots tries to pass of one of these feeble jokes.

Posted by: Stefan on December 13, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

"It's a joke" and "malice aforethought" are not mutually inconsistent. Even if Greenfield thought what he had to say was somehow funny, surely he knew that it would be unfairly harmful to Obama (and the quality of our public discourse).

Posted by: Crust on December 13, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Great comment, plunge.

Posted by: Crust on December 13, 2006 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Bullshit that it was a joke that went awry -- if it was a joke, it was a joke of the intentional, needling, malicious kind so familiar to anyone who's watched a clique of junior high girls ganging up on someone in action. And, once you call them on it, these sorts of bullies always fall back on their faux-sincere "gosh, it was just a joke! Why are you getting so upset?"

Posted by: Stefan on December 13, 2006 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

CNN can never go dark, and so has to produce material every minute of every hour of the day.

An additional point concerns the flow of that material. The putrid Halperin in his recent (co-authored) book notes how fast the majors slurp up material from the Drudge rumor mill and turn it into "news" fit for mass consumption.

Posted by: Wonderin on December 13, 2006 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

As if all or even most of what CNN covers is weighty...

Hey, you watch your tongue, Shortie. CNN devoted considerable time this AM to wrinkle cream. For those of us who are of a certain age, that was a damned important public service.

Posted by: Keith G on December 13, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Didn't the Clinton/Drug Runner thing originate on talk radio in the mid-nineties? I mean, I know blogs are powerful, but I didn't know we had the power to alter the space/time continuum....

Posted by: Jeff Fecke on December 13, 2006 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

It's Windhorse's birthday?

Awesome! A fellow Gregarious Sagitarius! (Mine was last week, and my husbands was yesterday.)

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 13, 2006 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Greenfield thought he was being satirical when he though he was being sarcastic. He ought to be smart enough to know the difference. And this is the problem with sarcasm as a form of humor: you can't tell whether or not the person MEANS what they say, or its opposite.

Posted by: Dr Dynamite on December 13, 2006 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Dear CNN,

Jeff Greenfield is wrong:

"Most of what happened here, I think, is a demonstration of the hair-trigger instincts that have grown up among some of the bloggers (not to mention the need to fill all that space every day, or hour, or 15 minutes)."

It is the 24 hour cable news cycle that has to fill time. Bloggers can say as little or as much as they want.

And we pay attention.

When one of the smartest, potentially progressive political candidates in the country is repeatedly associated with America's vilest enemies, it's not a joke.

And we are paying attention. Jeff Greenfield can't stand the idea of an intelligent, black, progressive, American President.

What if the working class were taken care of? What if we understood that our policies had an effect on the environment? What if America was a place that stood for its ideals?

The corporate news culture can't handle this and so it assassinates anyone who doesn't fit the mold.

We have the most corrupt administration in the history of the country, having done more harm to the processes of democracy, the environment, international relations, economic policy, scientific development, and a black man wears a suit jacket without a tie and has a name that can easily be manipulated and that is where our focus is?

Again, you and Greenfield should be ashamed of yourselves.

Spin it any way you want, but you and he know what you are doing and we are paying attention and we find it reprehensible.

Posted by: Deron Bauman on December 13, 2006 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Also, has Greenfield made a similar habit of making "jokes" about the Republicans' sartorial habits? (As, for example, Bush's Village People-nspired closet of cowboy/soldier/construction worker etc. costumes). Or are these jokes somehow alway, by sheer chance I'm sure, only at the Democrats' expense?

Posted by: Stefan on December 13, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

It's always a joke, isn't it. Can't you take a joke? But why is it funny? Because he's a black man with an African name - he looks furrin, don't he? That's why it's funny. Greenfield sucks.

Posted by: JR on December 13, 2006 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone know any blog which updates every 15 minutes, or even every hour?

Atrios, when he's had too much coffee.

Posted by: MeLoseBrain? on December 13, 2006 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: "I'm no Bob Somerby, but even I flinch pretty hard when Greenfield tries to whitewash the media's own culpability in producing the hair-trigger instincts he derides."

As Bob Somerby has throroughly documented, the "malice aforethought" of the political press corps towards Al Gore in the 2000 election cycle was openly acknowledged by more than one member of the press. The political press corps didn't like Al Gore, in fact they hated his guts, and they were out to get him. They not only flogged the Republican-generated propaganda, but invented their own bogus accusations against Gore.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on December 13, 2006 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I think Greenfield has spent too much time immersed in the incestuous waters of Official Washington.

When he was with ABC years ago I thought he delivered some insightful commentary. And, when young, he worked for Bobby Kennedy. He's capable of better than this.

Posted by: Alek Hidell on December 13, 2006 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

greenfield's a fucking liar and is only backtracking because he got called on it by the online community.

my question to him is, whatever reason could he have for making a comparison between a sitting united states senator and the president of iran -- who cnn hysterically pimps nightly as the most grave threat currently against the united states, but more importantly (to them) israel.

Posted by: linda on December 13, 2006 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Damn, Deron, that was a good post. Well said.

Posted by: MeLoseBrain? on December 13, 2006 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Does he mean the kind of GOP Break-Out-The-Publicist-for-an-Official-Statement kind of hair trigger, like when John Kerry flubbed his joke? That kind of hair trigger?

Posted by: Zit on December 13, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

If Greenfield meant it as a joke, his target wasn't clear.

His barb was an apparent poke at Obama for not wearing a tie, and for adopting a clothing style shared by the Iranian president.

If Greenfield meant to lampoon the vacuousness of news commentary, he might have just said so somewhere in his piece. He forgot to do that.

On this, Somerby is quite right: rule #1 for modern punditry is "Never notice the behavior of the press corps."

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on December 13, 2006 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

How about comparing Ahmadinejad's belief in the end-of-times Return of the Mahdi with Bush's Second Coming of Christ?

For the details, see:
"Iran, Bush and the Second Coming."

Posted by: AngryOne on December 13, 2006 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

The putrid Halperin in his recent (co-authored) book notes how fast the majors slurp up material from the Drudge rumor mill and turn it into "news" fit for mass consumption.

Hell, Joe Conason had that process pegged back in 2003.

Posted by: Gregory on December 13, 2006 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Also, has Greenfield made a similar habit of making "jokes" about the Republicans' sartorial habits?

Has anyone?

Posted by: Gregory on December 13, 2006 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Must be very hard to remain at CNN, if you do move to the right. Greenfield has changed since his half hour show was cancelled two years ago.
So many there now are simply auditioning for FAUX - And Headline News is worse with Glenn Beck and an assortment of airhead news readers.

However, it is indeed interesting over at MSNBC - Massive attempt to move to the right - However, their highest ratings are coming from Keith Olbermann - Plus their star reporter is David Gregory, of whom I recently misnamed David Schuster in a note to Cheryl on another thread. Olbermann and Gregory are driving FAUX crazier than they normally are, with O'Arrogante leading the way accusing both NBC and MSNBC of being far left.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on December 13, 2006 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

God, it is going to get ugly, starting Jan 07, hell, starting now. Not for a minute is the GOP going to roll over and let anything good happen to this country that doesn't immediately put money in their self-preserving wallets, or aid in anything that interrupts the shower of privilage they give themselves every morning. Pigs at the Trough. Pigs at the Trough. Pigs at the Trough. Boy, I love saying that.
If there is one person I would thoroughly enjoy seeing in Bagdad doing a bit of in-depth coverage of the war in Iraq, it is Rush Limbaugh (I can ask that, I gave 8 yrs to the military). Maybe if he stepped out from behind his saliva spewed microphone and invested a little of his own personal safety into this war under the banner of Democracy or Die, he'd be a bit more enthusiastic about bringing our troops, and his own pampered ass, home.

Posted by: Fat Old Grump on December 13, 2006 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone who's seen Greenfield's standup comedy stylings knows he is a total cut-up. He kills, on a consistent, hardy-har basis.

Posted by: clb72 on December 13, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

They did it to Harold Ford in Tennessee in the run-up to the November election and they are doing it to Barack Obama. Criticism about appearance is how the GOP tries to cut good looking, well-spoken black men down to size.

Another take on this is that Republicans pick a Democratic candidate's strong suit (war experience, charisma, stylish appearance) and turn it into a negative with outlandish, far-fetched attacks in the hope that by throwing enough crap on the candidate some of it will stick or provoke an unexpected reaction that will then become the intense focus of a new round of attacks ("How can this person lead a country when he loses it over superficial criticism about his clothes? C'mon . . .)

When are we going to see that winking Tennessee bimbo again, telling Obama to look for her Sunday in the third pew, wearing a strapless red dress . . .

This is the seamy, hillbilly underside of the GOP
in full view.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on December 13, 2006 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Q: Can you tell a Greenfield from a cold steel rail?

A: The rail is smarter, more honest and serves a purpose.

Posted by: Roger Waters on December 13, 2006 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know, Kevin. I used to have a decent size list of blogs I'd read, but that has winnowed down to only a handful. Mostly because you simply see "Wanker" to a link that doesn't quite convince me there is any wankerness.

There is also a pack mentality that I don't find useful. It was nice to get different perspectives, but you can condense the views of many lefty blogs to only a handful which have different perspectives.

Posted by: gq on December 13, 2006 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

You know what should have been treated as a joke? The idea that one of John Kerry's three Purple Hearts came as a result of minor flesh wounds, and that that made his whole character suspect.

People like Greenfield should have laughed that one off, rather than taking it seriously. It's for that reason that we have to take stupid jokes like this one as seriously as we do.

Posted by: Boots Day on December 13, 2006 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

In a political world where partisans routinely assume the worst about their adversaries and where conspiracy theories stretch from Bill Clinton as a drug ring- and murder-enabler to Bush as planner of 9/11 there's a tendency to find malice aforethought.

In a media world dominated by bought and paid for Republican shills like Drudge, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity et al. it would be beyond naive not to assume malice aforethought.

Posted by: Stefan on December 13, 2006 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

I imagine the awakening that a lot of conservatives are going through right now is very painful.

At some point the "centrists", "moderates", and "bipartisans" are going to wake up the fact that the traditional media is controlled by, and works for the benefit of, the Radicals who control the Republican Party. That is probabaly going to be a very painful awakening as well.

The problem is that liberals can't do anything about it, absent (a) $10 billion to throw into the fight (b) a charismatic leader willing to _hit back_ against the smears (which rules out Obama; sorry).

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on December 13, 2006 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

When one of the smartest, potentially progressive political candidates in the country is repeatedly associated with America's vilest enemies, it's not a joke.

Oh, yes, that's right, Obama is smart. Why? Because he went to Harvard Law School, therefore he must be better than us. And "potentially progressive"? Sorry, I want a candidate with the second word only.

What Greenfield did was stupid, but let's not anoint Obama the second coming, either.

Posted by: Vincent on December 13, 2006 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

The outcome of the last two presidential elections was decided exactly by such "jokes," and Greenfield thinks we need to develop a better sense of humor about it?

Posted by: rea on December 13, 2006 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

I am looking forward to Mr. Greenfield's joke about Olmert and the mass murder of Lebanese.

Posted by: Hostile on December 13, 2006 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

I'm looking forward to right-wing media shills in stocks in the public square.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 13, 2006 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

That Greefield would immediately point the finger back at the *audience he panders to* instead of just acknowledging what an egregious message his "joke" sends makes Kerry look like the soul of principle for not apologizing and going on the offensive for a few days after *his* egregiously botched message.

I mean, talk about not being able to take responsibility for yourself. Pundits like Greenfield exist and thrive in an atmosphere where any and all speculation is chewed over, debated, asserted, taken literally, debunked -- without that, his entire livelihood is toast.

So all of a sudden it's his *audience's* fault for having the nerve to take him at his word?

What a putz.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on December 13, 2006 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

Seriously! Can't people take a joke anymore?

Oh, that's right.

We're talking about liberals!

Posted by: Norman Rogers on December 13, 2006 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Q: How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: That's not funny!

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on December 13, 2006 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

At least when you read the cue card of what Kerry's joke was supposed to have been, there's a tiny smidgen of humor lurking darkly in there somewhere. I would call it less a "joke" than a bitterly sardonic snark.

With the Greenfield "joke," there's no humor in there from the get-go. It was supposed to be an "interesting observation."

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on December 13, 2006 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

Q: How many conservatives does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: We'll never know because all the conservatives are too busy whining about liberals to do anything like that.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on December 13, 2006 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is that liberals can't do anything about it

It is not that 'liberals' cannot do anything about it, it is because 'liberals' will not do anything about it. Liberals accept the two party monopoly and insist on voting for the lesser of two evils rather than seeking a better third party choice. Liberals accept the neo-liberal economics of the Washington Consensus. Liberals do nothing to stop US military aid to Israel. Liberals support a huge US military. Liberals think US soldiers are heros. Liberals practice the same materialism as conservatives. Liberals seriously consider propaganda themes made by wealthy corporate mainstream media pundits as jokes.

Posted by: Hostile on December 13, 2006 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Q: How many conservatives does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: Who cares about those losers ? F'em.

Posted by: cleek on December 13, 2006 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

and so it begins....Delay just called Obama a ""Marxist Leftist." So, in the same week, compared to Iran's President and a "Marxist Leftist". Just a coincidence

http://www.cnn.com/POLITICS/blogs/politicalticker/

Posted by: jonst on December 13, 2006 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder how many "jokes" Greenfield has made about Republicans, and if he gets why many people think the media has a pro-Republican bias, because of "jokes" like these.

Posted by: AkaDad on December 13, 2006 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

Boy am I ever sick of the media, New Hampshire, and Iowa picking the Democratic Party's presidential candidate.

Posted by: ckelly on December 13, 2006 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

Q. How many conservatives does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A. It wouldn't have burned out in the first place if not for Bill Clinton.

Posted by: Boots Day on December 13, 2006 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

Q.What do Republicans and Al Queada have in common?

A. They both want to "stay the course" in Iraq.

Posted by: AkaDad on December 13, 2006 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Augustus and others here are right; this is part of a smear campaign. It is very interesting to watch. Without saying much or really elaborating the point, they juxapose images and phrases to turn Obama into a terrorist. I imagine we will soon hear analysis of Obamas background and stories about covert Islamists pretending to be Christians. Jeffrey Feldman posting at kos has some very nice images from CNN posing the question Whats in a Name?. You see pictures of Obama next to Saddam and OBL.

Now that this campaign is "flagged" we can follow it like polonium-210 as it trails from the scene of the crime through the media. If this is correct we can determine the degree of Republican apparatchiki connectedness by the strength of the signal.

Posted by: bellumregio on December 13, 2006 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Q-How many conservatives does it take to screw up a war?

Q-How many conservatives does it take to screw the middle class?

Q-How many conservatives would it take to find one who is truly compassionate?

Posted by: thethirdPaul on December 13, 2006 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

The amazing thing is that -- like Howard Dean -- Obama is very much a "new Democrat" whose entire career is steeped in an attempt to transcend Democratic Party interest-group politics. He doesn't get very many props in the lefty blogosphere for being a fire-breathin' liberal. Like Dean, his only signal "liberal" issue is being right on the Iraq war from the get-go.

I guess they'd go after Dennis Kucinich for being a "Marxist leftist" (a much fairer charge than with Obama -- as such smearjobs go) if he didn't look like a Keebler elf.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on December 13, 2006 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Let the word go forth: Journalists who make jokes at the expense of Democratic candidates put their careers in jeopardy.

They won't listen otherwise.

Choosing our leaders is a deadly serious business, because we put our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor in their hands.

And no, Mr. Greenfield, I don't find it the least bit amusing when you comparing Democrats to leaders of countries opposing the United States.

Posted by: Kenneth Fair on December 13, 2006 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

This just in: Democratic control of the Senate may be in jeopardy. Tim Johnson of South Dakota has been hospitalized, possibly with a stroke, and the governor of South Dakota is a Republican -- and not obligated to select a Democrat as an interim senator.

Posted by: Vincent on December 13, 2006 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan put it in the correct context. Greenfields piece was ...familiar to anyone who's watched a clique of junior high girls ganging up on someone...

Greenfield is sharp enough. I have a feeling that he understood the whole nine yards. He knew that his words and pictures would have a net negative effect on Obama, but that he could cover himself by claiming it was meant as humor. And it will certainly be funny to many a Republican, so hes right. Right?

Hell, Joe Conason had that process pegged back in 2003.

Yes, and even little ole jim had it right with Carter back in the 70s (the killer rabbit); Dukakis in the 80s (tank); Clinton in the 90s (haircut). The MSM go along for the frivolous ride sometimes. And, no, I cannot think of comparable example in their treatment of Republican nominees.

The idea to paint the opponent as someone who cannot be entirely trusted because they are rather.... odd somehow. And the oddity must be due to personal problems. This strategy works best with a relatively unknown person, somebody who is a blank slate. You get to paint them as an oddball.

Posted by: little ole jim from red country on December 13, 2006 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Has Greenfield been asked if this came out of his brain, or if he heard it from somebody else? And if so, who, or at least, what's their background and party?

Any evidence that this was 'shopped', with JG being the first to lap it up?

Posted by: drinkof on December 13, 2006 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

nice apology - he's sorry us "rubes" weren't sophisticated enough to get his "joke".

Posted by: melandell on December 13, 2006 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

GOP strategist Ed Rogers brought up Obama's middle name 'Hussein' last month, as in Hussein = the enemy, and it has been floating around on wingnut websites for weeks now. When it moves from the core to the public media it becomes interesting. It is an easy target and I would hope Obama's team figured out a counter-tactic in advance. All this stuff is cut from the war-on-christmas-outlawing-the-bible-swiftboat cloth. It is outrageous, even silly, but the masses absorb it. On the positive side Bush is always surrounded by flags and uniforms. We know Rove likes to watch TV with the sound turned off.

Posted by: bellumregio on December 13, 2006 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, and even little ole jim had it right with Carter back in the 70s (the killer rabbit); Dukakis in the 80s (tank); Clinton in the 90s (haircut). The MSM go along for the frivolous ride sometimes. And, no, I cannot think of comparable example in their treatment of Republican nominees.

It was the pillow that did it for me. Back in the 2000 campaign news came out that Bush was such a homebody that he travelled with his favorite pillow from his bed back home on his campaign stops. The news accounts that I saw all used this in a humanizing, aw shucks ain't he sweet manner.

Imagine, though, that it had been a Democrat. In a second the news would have been filled with pundits mocking him, calling him "Pillow Boy," questioning his manliness and sanity. Republicans would have waved pillows at his rallies and his name would have become a byword for mockery and derision.

Posted by: Stefan on December 13, 2006 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

Greenfield's weak explanation doesn't excuse or apologize for the fact that his "joke" was racist/culturalist.

The "joke" can't work if you're talking about someone whose name isn't indicative of a Muslim background. Mark Warner and John Edwards are two other politicians who tend to wear suit jackets with no ties. Hell, W wears that same outfit frequently. Would the "joke" work with Warner or Edwards or W?

No, because the "joke" is dependent upon the fact that Barack's father comes from Africa, from an Islamic culture.

And that, my friends and trolls, is why Jeff Greenfield is a raging arsehole who should be fired.

Posted by: Kramer = Greenfield on December 13, 2006 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

Kramer = Greenfield:

Egg-fucken-zakley.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on December 13, 2006 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

Correction, that last sentence should have read:

And that, my friends and trolls, is why Jeff Greenfield is a raging RACIST arsehole who should be fired.

Posted by: Kramer = Greenfield on December 13, 2006 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

I don't buy a single WORD of Jeff Greenfield's "explanation."

It reeks of whol-cloth fiction, conceived and drafted after-the-fact.

PLEASE nail him for it.

Greeenfield's explanation STILL tries to hammer bloggers as being humorless, his own part in this as being harmless, and of course we're all a buncha hard-core, too-serious, flaming partisan extremists.

Bullshit.

Greenfield knew exactly what he was doing. And his lameness wasn't squared by the explanation, it was cubed.

Posted by: SombreroFallout on December 13, 2006 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

Greeenfield's explanation STILL tries to hammer bloggers as being humorless, his own part in this as being harmless, and of course we're all a buncha hard-core, too-serious, flaming partisan extremists.

It's the double whammy -- first, make a vicious attack under the cover of a joke, and then when your victim complains use his complaint against him to paint him as someone who's priggish and "can't take a joke." It's a tactic we're all familiar with from the playground: "Hey, fatso!" "Wha-what? Why'd you call me that? Fuck you!" "Jeez, relax. I was just kidding. Sensitive much? Whatsamatter, can't you take a little joke?"

I'd say it's disappointing to see such tactics show up in an adult newsroom, but as we've seen the last ten years the line between American newsroom and middle-school playground is fine indeed....

Posted by: Stefan on December 13, 2006 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

Here's the link to make a comment to CNN regarding Greenfield's comments.

And Vincent, you're wrong: Obama is smart, and he is a gifted politician, and he has the potential to serve this country admirably, progressively, and well, if the media slaughterhouse doesn't get to him first.

Posted by: Deron Bauman on December 13, 2006 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

oops, the link got eaten:

http://www.cnn.com/feedback/forms/form4.html?8

Posted by: Deron Bauman on December 13, 2006 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

If there's a more stupid hack than Jeff Greenfield working the poltics beat, I'd sure like to know who it is.

He's always been an idiot and a cut rate propagandist.

Posted by: Thrasyboulos on December 13, 2006 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff Greenfield's job is not to joke. That is the job of John Stewart, and to some degree, Olbermann.

Posted by: Mudge on December 13, 2006 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

Criticizing Jeff Greenfield's poor attempt at humor is one thing - Criticizing Wolf Blitzer as an anchor is one thing.

However, criticizing them because they happen to be Jewish is way over the line of decency and the person's comment should be removed from this site. This is no different from the question asked at HuffPo "Is this abusive". Georgann's post as well as Ben's are abusive and should be 86ed.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on December 13, 2006 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK

Hear hear, thethirdpaul.

Posted by: Stefan on December 13, 2006 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, yeah, I get it. Very amusing. Greenfield and Richards -- a great new comedy team. I'm laughing all the way to the toilet.

The problem with _this_ kind of 'joke' in _this_ kind of environment is it tends to promote exactly the kind of stupidity he says he's satirizing. Thanks for all the help, Jeff.

Posted by: Bob on December 13, 2006 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

Moderator:

thethirdPaul and Stefan are absolutely correct.

Please delete Georgiann's and Ben's anti-semitic posts.

Thanks,

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on December 13, 2006 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

I would like to inform everyone that despite the national "gushing" over Barak Obama, he really not been that great. I was a huge backer of his here in Chicago when he ran for the Senate. He was a true independant whom I thought would stop the cycle of corruption that is so entrenched here. since taking office, he has backed an incompetant ass for the county president (someone the machine pols wanted, Then we get word that he recieved a sweathart land deal from a indicted pal of the govenor (another piece of the corrupt Illinois system. He has not put forth anything of substance since he began serving. All he does is give speeches that sound nice.

I hope he either starts acting like a good Illinois Senator or I hope the national praise will start to look at him more then just the potencial he has

Posted by: Chicagoan on December 13, 2006 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

Here's the thing, Jeff. We don't even want you "joking" about our democratic leaders, okay? So don't fucking do it, asshole.

These assclowns "joked" (and lied) about Al Gore for almost two years, as Somerby has endlessly noted. Those jokes had a fucking impact. They put George W. Bush in the goddamned Whitehouse. And that put our troops in Iraq.

Let the late night commedians make jokes - that's what they are paid for. Just do YOUR goddamned job, motherfucker.

Posted by: Joe on December 13, 2006 at 8:44 PM | PERMALINK

Explanation most emphatically NOT ACCEPTED. I take it for granted that Greenfield's own - and entirely "non-joking" - criticisms of Gore's dress in 1999 and 2000 can be found without much effort. You know they're there. Take it away, Daily Howler!

Posted by: spinozista on December 13, 2006 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

I just think this is worth saying again. With feeling. Thanks Joe.

Here's the thing, Jeff. We don't even want you "joking" about our democratic leaders, okay? So don't fucking do it, asshole.

These assclowns "joked" (and lied) about Al Gore for almost two years, as Somerby has endlessly noted. Those jokes had a fucking impact. They put George W. Bush in the goddamned Whitehouse. And that put our troops in Iraq.

Let the late night commedians make jokes - that's what they are paid for. Just do YOUR goddamned job, motherfucker.

Posted by: Joe on December 13, 2006 at 8:44 PM |


Posted by: Global Citizen on December 13, 2006 at 8:53 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff Greenfield has always considered himself a brilliant, insightful and witty analyst of every aspect of pop-culture, life and politics and has never wasted an opportunity to tell us so. I spent the first 20 plus summers of my life growing up side by side with Jeff in the same small summer bungalow colony, so can categorically state that Mr. Self-Proclaimed-Maven-on-every-subject-under-the-sun was from day one the very same overly-pompous, bloated sack of noxious hot horse-gas that you see on TV. When he was young however, Jeff did have socially liberal ideas since that was the environment we all grew up in. In fact, Norman Thomas was a frequent visitor to our community, and he was about as far left as one could legally get in the 1950's. No surprise then that Jeff's first big plum was working as Robert Kennedy's campaign manager. However, that only helped to reinforce his ego rather than his ideals. Thus, as is so typical of the craven upwardly-craving, whatever progressive ideals he may have had were conveniently dumped along the way in order to get that golden ring on the Washington merry-go-round. Like all the other MSM prostitutes, Jeff has become just one more rich, fat Republican poodle farting out whatever spin and party screed they feed him.

Posted by: Leo the Lip on December 13, 2006 at 9:39 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan: "Imagine, though, that it had been a Democrat. In a second the news would have been filled with pundits mocking him, calling him "Pillow Boy," questioning his manliness and sanity. Republicans would have waved pillows at his rallies and his name would have become a byword for mockery and derision."

That is so true it's scary. I can't even laugh. Right down to people waving pillows at rallies.

Posted by: EmmaAnne on December 13, 2006 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

That is so true it's scary. I can't even laugh. Right down to people waving pillows at rallies.

The distasteful anti-abortion lobby (I am somewhat liberatarian on the issue and am pro-choice) would wave bloody pillows, most certainly, and would have a man dressed up in a chicken costume, trying to dry-hump his pillow.

(Full disclosure: it's what I would put out there against a candidate.)

Posted by: Norman Rogers on December 13, 2006 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

Greenfield deliberately associated Barack Obama with Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in his report. That he based his associations on trivial crap like clothing and names just makes it worse. Limbaugh, Coulter, Hannity, O'Reilly -- they bathe in that kind of slop. That Greenfield can't see how wretched he has become is pahetic.

Posted by: secularhuman on December 14, 2006 at 1:54 AM | PERMALINK

This is why Obama talks about his faith. He does it to signal he is not a muslim.
But, I find the whole thing has shades of Max Cleland. Only time will tell if that game has been played once too often. I think it has. Since 2002 the blogs have sprung up and gotten quite strong. We will nip the smear attacks right away.
plus the American people are so sick of the fear and smear of the gop. They are ready to move on and not let the republicans control them anymore.
I am upset that CNN played the right wing nutters game but, am also pleased to see the blogs go after it and make Greenfield aware that we are watching the games and are not going to be swift boated again.

Posted by: vwcat on December 14, 2006 at 1:59 AM | PERMALINK

Q: How many illegal Mexicans do conservatives have to hire to screw in a light bulb?

A: Two: One to scare white people, and one to screw in the light bulb for less than minimum wage.

Posted by: AnotherBruce on December 14, 2006 at 3:11 AM | PERMALINK

"Hair trigger instincts" is the new conservative code word for "knee-jerk liberal." But there's a big difference between democratic rapid response like you're seeing here and hair-trigger instincts.

In reality it's the seemingly off-hand, knee jerk conservative distortions ("jokes") by commentators like Jeff Greenfield that merit strong, thoughtful and RAPID response to prevent "just jokes" from becoming accepted wisdom through ad nauseum repetition.

Now is the time these conservative commentators begin planting the seeds of perception about our candidates (funny name, too liberal, out of the mainstream, looks like a foreigner, hot temper . . .) Democrats have learned their lessons these last 10 years -- we remember how Republicans swift boated Max Cleland and John Kerry and we will be vigilant.

I hope main stream media is listening.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on December 14, 2006 at 6:18 AM | PERMALINK

I'm looking forward to right-wing media shills in stocks in the public square.
Posted by: Global Citizen

I've got a few over ripe tomatoes I can contribute to the cause.

Man, wouldn't that be satisfying? Splat!

"The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western world. No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity - much less dissent.
Gore Vidal

Posted by: MsNThrope on December 14, 2006 at 7:28 AM | PERMALINK

The MSM is the viciousness of junior high cliques amplified and concentrated a thousandfold but operating by the same rules. They dislike anyone who dares to be brighter, better informed, or even more attractive. It's pack behavior.

Dean Swift indentified this tendency long ago in 'Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting":

"When a true genius appears in the world, you may know by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."

Not that I believe Obama meets the standard of genius mind you.

Posted by: MsNThrope on December 14, 2006 at 7:43 AM | PERMALINK

"It is unfortunate when the media continues, with all its damaging and misogynist implications, to insist by inclusion that what women wear or how they look is related to their capability. As Allison Stevens demonstrates, it is in fact possible to write about women and what they have accomplished without trivializing their empowerment by asserting such spurious connection. This is the standard to which journalism should be held in regard to gender."
- What She Wore: The Prevalence of Gender Bias in Reporting/By Lucinda Marshall
http://www.alternet.org/story/45445/

Posted by: MsNThrope on December 14, 2006 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

First, Kevin you owe Somerby an apology, he has been dead on for eight years PERIOD!
3/4 of a million people dead in Iraq because of W and he is saying we cant take a joke!
What is there to laugh about? Character assination starts this way. (Remember Al Gore)
It is up to you to keep focused on the real problem (MSM) and not take cheap shots at those who are right because you think they are too shrill (sound familiar Mr Will..I mean Mr.Drum)

Posted by: mheit on December 14, 2006 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Jeff's "joke" is even more sophisticated than it looks--he's also doing a devastating self-parody of the Meedia's obsessive focus on Democratic haberdashery. I love that kind of sophisticated, insider humor.

I also liked Jeff's "joke" about Hillary--you know,that one where he and his fellow crack-ups in the video editing room at ABC made her say something completely different from what she actually said by resplicing the video and then airing it on a national news program.

That was so funny.

Posted by: DrBB on December 14, 2006 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, it's so wacky to think Clinton was connected to drug smuggling at Mena or that Bush was involved in 9/11 and the demolition of the WTC. Just like it's so wacky to think that Greenfield was doing a subtle character assassination on Obama.

Posted by: spooked on December 14, 2006 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

okay.... let's have the rules.

We cannot use the word "JEW" on this forum?

or we can only use the word JEW when we praise the chosen ones as saintly in their goodness?

I mean, Jews and Israel are at the heart of the conflict.

Jeff Greenfield is a _____ and Wolfie is a ____
And they were demeaning Obama who is ____.

My theory, and I am _____ is that Jeff and Wolfie, and other ____S don't want to see ____S achieve any power in US government because Jeff and Wolfie's TRIBE of ____s have a stranglehold on the discussion of the Middle East and our foreign policy.

Now I know I am not alone... just read the Huffpo blogs, Raw Story, Antiwar.com, Counterpunch, and countless other newswebs....

Are we all anti ____s???

Does heavy censorship help the cause of I____?

I think not.

Posted by: Christian on December 14, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

What gets me is that Greenfield has the gall to compare himself to Jonathan Swift.

Sir, you're no Jonathan Swift!

Posted by: janet on December 14, 2006 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

No, but the mod might very well have a peek at the end of this thread and take out the trash, as it were.

It's entirely possible to criticize the Israeli government and Israel's undue influence in American foreign policy without ad-hominemizing it by saying that opponents of that must be Jews.

That's both an immoral and a rhetorically rancid argument -- and it's why Washington Monthly doesn't put up with posts like yours -- and cries naught along with your crocodile tears about "censorship."

Censorship's left butt cheek. It's basic human decency.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on December 14, 2006 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

Here's the email I sent to Mr. Greenfield:


Mr. Greenfield -

Clearly you need to leave attempts at humor to the professionals. You write in your CNN.com column that, "Most of what happened here, I think, is a demonstration of the hair-trigger instincts that have grown up among some of the bloggers (not to mention the need to fill all that space every day, or hour, or 15 minutes)." Actually, most of what happened here is due to the fact that a) your wife is right - you're not funny, and it's not because bloggers and viewers are too dumb to get the "joke"; and b) you've got your own space you're desperate to fill up, so that - astoundingly - airtime, production money and viewers' time are wasted over such nonsense. Because, of course, there aren't any serious issues - war, economy, healthcare, even the arts - that could use some in-depth media attention.

If you're that interested in fashion, perhaps you could look into the new line of prosthetic devices being developed for the thousands of soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan missing a few vital pieces of themselves.

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