Skip to content

Category Archives: Media Burn

The Desert of the Real

This just in: a Los Angeles Times essay, pegged on former White House flack Scott McClellan’s memoir, about the transformation of politics into a branch of special effects, and of the White House into a Hollywood backlot. The restless shades of Ivy Lee and Edward Bernays haunt the West Wing. But beyond this obvious point, I argue that the Bush administration’s faith-based worldview, the logical terminus of Ronald Reagan’s belief that “facts are stupid things,” marks the official beginning of our age, the Unenlightenment.


Like no administration before it, the Bush administration has mastered what the media critic Walter Lippmann called “the manufacture of consent”—the use of what Lippmann called “psychological research, coupled with the modern means of communication,” to muster mass support for elite agendas. Staging photo ops whose choreographed drama and camera-ready visuals (Mission Accomplished!) are intended to play to the emotions and overrule objections; reducing complicated geopolitical issues to black-or-white dualisms (Team America: World Police versus the Axis of Evil!); stonewalling the media, cherrypicking military intelligence, and parroting the same Karl Rove-approved talking points—the Bush administration represents the apotheosis of government by spin control. Sure, sure, truth is the first casualty of war, and politics is just war with a smile and a starched collar. But this is the stuff of which doctoral dissertations on Baudrillard are made.

(Note: the LAT website is prone to link rot—nothing stays put for more than a week or two, seemingly—so you may have to plug the article headline—“McClellan’s “Matrix” moment: Bush’s former press secretary has stumbled out of a White House that lets political rhetoric shape reality”—into Google.)

My Dream Date with Bill O’Reilly

Where were we? Right, the blowback from my Los Angeles Times editorial (“Wimps, wussies and W.: How Americans’ infatuation with masculinity has perilous consequences,” May 3, 2007).

I learned a few tough-love lessons from My Dream Date with Bill O’Reilly.


Testosterone Poisoning

First there was this (“Wimps, wussies, and W. : How Americans’ infatuation with masculinity has perilous consequences,” in The L.A. Times).

It features the following choice morsel, calculated to turn the nearest right-wing shark tank into bloody chum:

SO THERE’S a smoking crater where Don Imus used to sit. That’s fine with those of us who never understood the appeal of his grizzled-codger shtick, which always sounded like Rooster Cogburn reading “The Turner Diaries” anyway. But if we’re going to administer a ritual flaying to every blowhard who channels the ugly American id, why has a hate-speech Touretter like Ann Coulter escaped the skinning knife?

Then there was this, live from Darwin’s waiting room, in my Inbox:

I recently read your sniveling article, Mark. Sounds to me like you got your panties in a wad, your freaking sissy boy. You better not bring yourself to Ann Coulter’s attention, because she will rip your ass apart

John —–


Then there was this:

Homosexuals need to grow thicker skins. When are people going to come to the realization that most folks simply have trouble differentiating what somebody is (homosexual) from who he is. Unfortunately, many of the, so called, “girliemen” reveal themselves to be angry and hateful ultra-libs. Precisely the mirror image of those they accuse of being “homophobes.” That aside, let Imus and Coulter toss insults all they want. There is a market for it. Just like there is a ready market out there for the kind of “wussy” tripe you just published in the LA Times.

Ken ——

Charleston, SC


Dear Markie: If all American males were like you in 1941, half the US would be speaking Japanese and the other half would be speaking German. The America they hate gives wimps, wussies and faggots the best living environment on earth.

Dick ——

San Diego

San Diego! My old stomping grounds! The town Gore Vodal immortalized as “the Vatican of the John Birch Society!”

Anyway, you get the idea. There’s more—much, much more—where that came from.

Then Bill O’Reilly’s radio show called, asking me to be on today’s show at 1 PM EST.

And I said yes, Bob help me.

Sign of the Times

billboard_PlaydateIran 2.JPG
Cleveland billboard, “liberated” by unindicted co-conspirators inspired by POPaganda: The Art & Crimes of Ron English. A documentary about billboard bandit and agit-pop artist Ron English by filmmaker and media activist Pedro Carvajal, POPaganda played to a sold-out house at The Cleveland International Film Festival. (Image courtesy Pedro Carvajal.)
By my lights, Ron English’s work sometimes veers too close to that Jeff Koonsian precipice where irony sheds its air quotes and becomes the very McKitsch it parodied. His schlockoid love of black-velvet chiaroscuro and hyperrealistic F/X make him the Salvador Dali of culture jamming, a Groucho Marxist whose obvious delight in skewering sacred cows is matched only by his tireless self promotion. But if his exuberantly gauche “popaganda,” tailor-made for the self-consciously badass Juxtapoz crowd, sometimes seems as subtle as a flying mallet, his detourned billboards are Improvised Exploding Devices, strapped to the soft undercarriage of our Society of the Spectacle. Wander through English’s gallery of defaced, refaced billboards and feel the love.

Origin of the Specious

Last night, a funny thing happened on the way to a Seinfeld re-run: I grazed past the PBS Newshour and got sucked into a report on the god-botherers’ latest incursion into America’s classrooms.

Usually, watching the Newshour‘s fair and balanced roundtables of pale, male thinktank flacks, national security hawks, and below-the-beltway practitioners of Kissingerian realpolitik debate the issues from every angle—feckless center, right, far-right, and kill-’em-all-and-let-God-sort-’em-out ultra-right—is my idea of blunt cranial trauma.

But “Creation Conflict in Schools,” Newshour correspondent Jeffrey Brown’s look at “how some biology teachers are handling the hot-button debate” over Darwinian evolution and creation “science,” got my attention.


The Being John Malkovich Effect

Why blog? First problem: the word, second only to org in its mortifying dorkiness. (Speaking of which, isn’t an “org” one of those seafaring enclaves formerly headed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, who hightailed it to the high seas “to continue his research into the upper levels of spiritual awareness and ability,” far from the distracting attentions of the IRS)? “Blog” sounds like a portmanteau for some clammy new fetish, best left undescribed—an unhappy hybrid of blob and flog. Yeah, I know it’s short for “weblog,” but who calls journals “logs,” anyway, except the glassy-eyed minions in sea orgs or people who begin their diary entries with stardates?