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Youtube Factor in Politics: Good for advocates, bad for politicians

Here’s a youtube commentary on the bigoted Ford RNC ad. Wow, the ad is loathsome (so much that it’s hilarious), but what a brilliantly obvious idea to interleave commentary within the RNC ad on youtube. Let’s hope this format of criticism will prevent political ads from being too outrageous. The tendency for outrageous political speech to be rebroadcast via youtube is turning out to be very important.

In other news, turns out Rush Limbaugh didn’t insult Michael J. Fox . He didn’t apologize..and apparently doesn’t need to.

Chuck Kuffner summarizes a Garnett Coleman report about how Republicans ruined the state’s CHIP program . (CHIP provided health care to indigent children in Texas). Turns out Perry wants to use the surplus to cut business taxes.

Eric Boehlert discovers that an inside-the-beltway polblog is too inside-the-beltway. (Still, Boehlert is a great reporter).

A spirited defense of Michael Moore. Have you ever noticed how political pundits are always referring to extremists on both sides such as Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh? Hello, does Michael Moore really belong among this group? Moore uses provocative rhetoric (and  caustic irony), but he’s too ironic of a thinker to be grouped with these other blowhards. I don’t consider Fahrenheit 9/11 a masterpiece, but it was damn good filmmaking, and Moore has a good sense of humor (and that film was so thoroughly fact-checked that I have to dismiss criticism from the right). Conservatives seem to think that Moore’s problem is with facts, when in fact Moore’s use of facts was fairly cautious. Instead, he uses juxtapositions and satire to make political opinions (note: facts and opinions are two different things!). One dismissive conservative acquaintance of mine mentioned the alleged “ambush” by Moore of a Republican congressmen in the movie about why his son didn’t volunteer for military duty. Actually, Moore presented that scene fairly accurately (he mentioned the fact the congressman had other cousins who had served), but the whole point of the scene was not to mislead the audience but simply to show the congressman’s baffled expression when Moore suggested his son enlist. That subtle point (which was a great comic moment in the film) is one of those points missed by people who never bother to see the film.

I think the reason people toss in Moore’s name with right-wing dingbats is that a)Moore is fat and wears a baseball cap and b)there really ain’t too many extremist left-wing dingbats these days. Al Franken comes to mind (he is purely a buffoon), Jesse Jackson (sort of a media attention whore) and maybe Amy Goodman (she has a thousand axes to grind, but at least she’s intelligent). But look at  other left-wingers who are considered extremist dingbats these days: Howard Dean (many of his opinions about Iraq are now today’s conventional wisdom), Ted Kennedy (despite the public perception, he has proven to be a moderate deal-maker), Arriana Huffington (her Internet publishing venture has definitely provided gravitas), Nancy Pelosi (her rhetoric seems restrained to me). The sad fact is that are a dwindling number of leftwing-nutjobs to lampoon these days.

The real “extremists” nowadays are the newspaper columnists: Molly Ivins, Frank Rich, Paul Krugman, Kos, Tom Tomorrow, Eric Altermann, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Jim Hightower. These are people who who use extremist tools (i.e., caustic satire) to make subtle political points. When you write, you can do this and still maintain control over your facts. Your opinions can still be nutty, but at least you can make precise statements and allude to facts accurately. But when you broadcast on radio or TV, you lose control of your rhetoric. All you end up with is talking points. Truly, if Hitler were around today, he would not be writing a blog or newspaper column; he would be some loudmouth on radio or TV.

On the other hand, Youtube and media watchdog sites like Mediamatters have tools to “replay” loony statements by rightwing nutjobs. This “replayability” places an important check on heated political rhetoric by holding up these tactics to ridicule. Nowadays, it’s no longer possible to get away with mouthing off.

That is probably good for pundits and activists, not so good for politicians. For politicians it means more scripting at political events, fewer off-the-cuff remarks and admissions about what a politician really thinks. George Allen’s Macaca speech was roundly rebuked, but few realized the political context; he was poking fun at a campaign staffer of his opponent who was recording every single second of Allen’s public political appearances. Holy cow! Anyone would say something stupid eventually. As opposed as I am to George W. Bush (for example), even I don’t hold him accountable for many of his outrageous political remarks (although he does tend to fall in rhetorical quicksand an awful lot). People always trip up when they speak; they always want to adlib and give appearances an air of spontaneity. Even George W. must tire of the teleprompter speeches after a while. His solecisms are proof that he’s off the teleprompter, something that makes his admirers eternally grateful.

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