Sunday, May 09, 2010

The spin machines

A regular reader is being deployed to a war zone and she explained that in an e-mail last Tuesday and that the magazine reports are among her favorite pieces here at Third. We wish we could call off the wars for her but we don't have that power. We can, however, do another magazine survey article.

What can you learn in the left's leading propaganda player Mother Jones? Little of real value, of course. But an advertisement in the June 2010 issue for Credo 'phone service' relies upon Sarah Palin's image, thereby indicating how desperate so many are to raise money. In terms of writing?

Reading the 'articles,' you should wonder how anyone got paid for churning out this garbage. In fact, the best writing in the magazine takes place on the ltter's page and we'd recommend Michael P. Carete and Ira Edelman's letters as well as this one by Hank Conier:

Your editors' note ("Patriot Games") says politics has gone too far in attacking the president. Would you have written such a piece when George W. Bush was under personal attack? The president is both the head of state and the head of government. As the foremr he deserves respect in those functions, but as the latter he's just one more politician. It was an overreaction when Ann Coulter went around crying "treason," and it's an overreaction when you do.


Harper's magazine features "Cell Phones Cancer And You" on their cover to promote Nathaniel Rich's article hedgingly titled "For Whom The Cell Tolls Why Your Phone May (or May Not) Be Killing You." Hodge informs you that, "Cellular phones emit radiation at a frequency between 450 and 2700 MHz." And that's pretty much the last time he gets concrete in this eleven page story. If the topic interests you, the article will bore you. We recommend you instead refer to this PRI report (text and audio).

Turning to The New Republic we'll first note the issue (May 13, 2010) features the best layout and look the magazine has had in years. And that's it for the praise. Michelle Cottle wants to attack Liz Cheney and Sarah Palin and then have a ha-ha. Neither she nor The New Republic have earned that. In fact, the article only reminds us of all the sexist attacks the magazine served up against Hillary in 2008. If you've forgotten or never knew, click here. You'll also marvel that Jonathan Chait has the nerve to pen a piece on "SPIN AT ALL COSTS The pernicious comedy of Frank Luntz." Hello, Jonathan, it's Frank, your conjoined twin. Being The New Republic, it must, of course, lash out at any and all critics of Israel. This month, Benjamin Birnbaum goes hunting for Human Rights Watch.


The Progressive's May 2010 issue is out and the big news here is that Terry Tempest Williams is no Barbara Kingsolver. That actually was known by several. So maybe the big news here is that Terry Tempest Williams thinks she is Barbara Kingsolver? She certainly thinks she can write like Kingsolver. But while Kingsolver can find the life in any human, animal or object, TTW just renders everything flat and unreadable. About the seventh time we tried to make it through her turgid article was when we gave up. It runs three pages. We never got past paragraph three.

Matthew Rothschild conducts an interview with Ed Asner we'd like to enjoy. Like to. Can't. At the end, he asks Ed what Lou Grant would think of the print publications declining. And that's it. Uh, Lou Grant was a newspaper editor on Lou Grant, Matt. That is correct. The show ran five seasons. It was a spin off of The Mary Tyler Moore Show which ran seven seasons and, on that show, Lou Grant was a TV news producer. [Correction: Mae e-mailed 5-16-10 to inform that Ed Rampall does the interview with Asner, not Matthew Rothshild. Our apologies for the error, thank you to Mae for catching it.]

So where's the question about TV news, Matt?

Considering that Lou Grant was a critical hit more than a popular one and that it's never really taken off in syndication, whereas The Mary Tyler Moore Show is a TV classic that never stops airing or being released on DVD sets, we'd argue more people know Lou as the TV producer.

More and more, people know Kate Clinton as a failed comic and a hateful person. For the record, her being a lesbian does not give her an excuse to sport homophobia and as little as we think of Clinton, we were still surprised to discover her using the "tea ba**ing" term. If we took her seriously, it would have really hurt. Fortunately, you can never take a columnist seriously when they waste seven opening paragraphs on being seven-years-old only o then waste a lengthy paragraph on a film before finally semi-getting to the point.

"Why can't I call them stupid?" says Kate of her political enemies, apparently unaware that she's already expressed homophobia and thereby insulted them. That anyone ever thought her monthly marketed hate could replace Molly Ivins' kind-hearted wisdoms is funnier than any column Kate's written in years.

Lastly we arrive at UTNE which is the Readers Digest of the left. Like a giant magpie, it flits here and there, grabbing previously published articles to assemble an issue. Hey, we can relate, there are many weekends when we think how easy it would be to just do a best-of issue. Actual writing is hard. The thing we learn most from Utne is how little worth reading there is the 'big' left magazines as evidence by the fact that Utne's avoided all of them except American Progress for their May/June issue.
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