Mizzou’s Risky Media Strategy

Why would students at Mizzou or their supporters be a vocally angry about the media coverage and outpouring of worldwide support for the victims of the deadly attacks in Paris? Selfishness, ignorance, and just plain stupidity are all plausible explanations. They are college kids after all. 

Another, more cynical conclusion, is that it gives an indifferent public cause to attack protestors on social media platforms. This would give protestors and their allies more examples of “institutional racism”. It’s a risky strategy that is likely to backfire on an already tarnished movement. One whose credibility was severely damaged when the student body president for Mizzou claimed that the Klu Klux Klan had invaded the campus in Columbia, Missouri. Telling other students to avoid windows and stay inside. None of which was true and showed the same pension to imbelish the narrative that was seen at the protests in Ferguson. 

They will likely have examples of people lashing out with racial slurs at their callously selfish observations and failed moral equivalencies of the Mizzou protests and the act of war inflicted upon Paris. But provoking, or “trolling”, to get those responses in the manner that they did, will likely be far more harmful to their movement and Mizzou’s over all brand, than any sympathy gained from pointing out racist replies to their selfishness. 
**This writer will not be linking any sources or examples of the attention seeking tactics used by protestors and their allies. That is precisely what they want out their sophomoric stunt.

St. Reagan 

The image of Ronald Reagan is a matter of great contention in the ranks of the GOP nearly 30 years after he left office. Not so much the man, but the image. The myth. The brand. Two notable media figures, one an intellectual from the Midwest named George Will and the other a pundit from Hell’s Kitchen called Bill O’rielly, passionately asserted a claim to the valuable political brand.

So, we have a tough-guy image that’s a persona on cable news and we have a long time Sunday morning show face arguing over minutia in a book. But it somewhat represents the factions in the GOP; Tea Party vs Republican. It’s not a war. I don’t want be hyperbolic about an argument over a book, but Will checked O’reilly on his research and did so by flipping his brand back on him.

“Caution — you are about to enter a no-facts zone.”

That was an absolute dagger. So, the pundit from Hell’s Kitchen went all Hell’s Kitchen on his quiet literary critic. Who has his own list of impressive bona fides. It didn’t play well, it was defensive and at times incoherent. Calling him a “hack” repeatedly. Will shot back to his interrogator that it was he that was helping the progressives destroy the Republicans’ brand by tainting Reagan with some memo.

Will’s main point is how the book does not consult living sources and a vast library dedicated to the two term president who arguably defined the 1980’s. Something that has somehow defined the new Republican Party. Both by choice, and by events on the global stage. What would Reagan Do? Always comes up at every turn in today’s political fodder. How would he handle this crisis or that crisis? How he handled the soviets, who evolved/devolved back into the Russians, who are in Syria acting against American wishes, something that makes Reagan relevant to Republicans and reality. We turn to this man, this era, this myth of a better time and a better place for guidance not unlike some that appeal to the Saints.

It is no wonder that two established media figures were so quick to spill rhetorical blood on camera over the matter. I’m typically cynical of the motivation of the media. This is about a book after all. Do I plan on reading this book? No. Do I believe George Will read it and knows what he’s talking about in the case? Absolutely. So, this doesn’t seem like a stunt. It felt more like a personal matter, very personal. It felt like a pecking order being established.

As you can see Will remains cool and doesn’t react to the posturing. The reality is; in a moderated civilized debate George Will would intellectually curb-stomp Bill O’rielly on the whatfor’s of conservatism. The image O’rielly tries project, of domination and of someone one doesn’t want mess with, is actually how he stands on the battlefield of ideas next to Will. Inadequate, and it showed.

O’rielly prattled on about some phone call that Will was suppose to give him before writing his thoughts on his book. That’s the baffling part. O’rielly didn’t get that Will had done to him what he had done to Reagan. He didn’t check with him. Reagan’s gone, so, naturally one would consult the library dedicated to his time as the last leader who faced an aggressive Russia. Then it was known as the Soviet Union. This matters because the next president of the United States will have to come to terms with having to tip-toe around post-soviet assertion on the global stage.

This is about more than a fucking memo, to be all Hell’s Kitchen.

Identity Politics

Mother Jones published a small piece on the New Hampshire Republican primary poll done by Monmouth on Monday. It was pretty standard, and the prediction made by the author was a safe one; the spike in the polls will make Marco Rubio a target within his own party. Nothing controversial there, however, the headline caused immediate ripples in the conservative chatterings of social media. It read:

Marco Rubio Wins Coveted Role of Republican Piñata

It is understandable that some would want to chide Mother Jones for what seems to be a culturally offensive headline given the blatant display of media bias in this election cycle, but this tactic has downsides, as all identity politics do.

Imagine you are a Democratic strategist and you see this all unfolding. The finger wagging about Rubio being Cuban, not Mexican; or, the cries of hypocrisy, the accusations of racist dog whistles, and the general displeasure of your opponents. None of which would force a Democrat to stop and reevaluate the optics of the headline. Because you’re a Democrat, you are thinking of how you can hurt Republicans. It’s your job.

As a Democratic strategist, you see hypocrisy in the Republicans outrage. Why? Because the Republicans are selling outreach to all Latinos, with a Cuban-American candidate.

How do you make this work for your party, the Democrats? You tell the American Latino community, which is not exclusively Mexican, that Republicans think Latinos will be fooled into voting for Rubio because he’s Latino too. You tell voters over and over that; it is not authentic outreach to Latinos, it’s merely pandering and Republicans think Latinos are too stupid to notice. Your Democratic strategy is to flip the identity politics back in your favor.

Most complaining today are not Democratic strategists. They are conservative commentators, journalists, and activists. It is a dangerous game to try and play identity politics with Democrats. They are much better at it and have conditioned the American public to think that only they, the party of progress, truly understand identity politics. Which is somewhat true, seeing as how they have won the White House twice using identity politics.

It would probably serve conservatives well to let this one float on by and stick to the party plan of authentically reaching Latino voters. The Democrats may have used it to some success, but identity politics is a fickle beast, the biggest hole in their defensive line, and the most divisive point for their inner-party dynamics. Something the GOP does not need at this stage of the primary process.

**Editorial Credit to Andrea N Ruth

The Aesthetics of Airwaves 

I grew up in southern Missouri, not quite East, but on a physical divide of the flat lands of the bootheel and the foothills. Those foothills lead to the Ozarks. A jagged, but beautiful terrain. I lived as far west as Springfield. Heart of the Ozarks. I was born in Tulsa. Where the Ozarks ends for me, but notably past where the western flat lands begin. I currently live on top of a ridge that over looks the flood plains of the Missouri River, a few miles before it concludes into the Mississippi River, it is also rather flat. This is the most northern point of the Ozarks. Not really mountains, more like a plateau that pops up in the middle of the Great Plains of the Midwest. But in all these places, I could, and still can, find a Cardinals game on the radio dial. They came, and still do, across airwaves. Technology and infrastructure that is over 100 years old. From Tulsa to Doniphan to the Flag Ship, St Louis’s own KMOX, they all come across simple air waves. The games are carried in markets as far south as Vicksburg, Mississippi and as far west as Norman, Oklahoma. Certainly modern media and global communications make those listening/watching the game a truly global audience. However, the people who listen on their local radio station, are the ones who are far more likely to be the same people who fill the stadium every night. Yes, I’m asserting, they are the true fan base, on par with those with the means to attend all 81 home games. To see a Cardinals game from Vicksburg or Des Moines, is an event, not a hobby. It’s a vacation, a treat; it’s something families save up for to splurge on their children. Those kind of people listen to the game on the radio.

Last night was no different from many other summer nights of my life. Windows were open, a cacophony of cicadas provided a dull roar, and the hum of a baseball game coming from a basic radio; all this could be heard. The only new variable was the sound of my daughters frequently giggling–and sometimes arguing–in the distance. And from time to time, the sound of my littlest sleeping in my lap as I listen to an extra inning or west coast game.

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The game last night was a great one. Seth Manness came in for relief in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and no one out. He got 2 strikes outs and a ground out. It was a mic drop. As Nancy Rice, a fellow St. Louis Cardinals lover, tweeted.

Seth #Manness just dropped the mic. Comes in with bases loaded and no outs and retired next 3 batters. That’s what champions do #STLCards

Trevor Rosenthal came in and claimed his 41st save. The legendary Yadier Molina was brought in on his day off to catch the ninth inning. Rosenthal was pitching with a kid about to be born, he needed Molina at that point. With that 5-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Cardninals maintained their 4.5 game lead in National League Central (NLC) over Pittsburg. The NLC is the toughest division, without a doubt. It has 3 teams poised make the playoffs. This rich narrative came across the airwaves. A comforting and aesthetic texture, like a vinyl record, with its crack and pops. These old communication dinosaurs give faster service than your digital option. It is true. Watching a game on TV most likely means it has to go to space to get to your screen. Not with radio, it’s relayed by towers.

My youth had very little consistency, something painful that isn’t worth remembering, but one thing that never changed during those turbulent years, was baseball’s ability to help me escape what I couldn’t cope with or understand. The game, and the world, are changing in a way I’m not really sure I like. So, while I can, I will cherish the nostalgia and simplicity of listening to a baseball game on the radio. I hide no bias. I have been a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals since I can remember. I hope you enjoy your favorite team as much as I enjoy mine. I also hope you try the joys of listening to the game on an old and antiquated system of communication, called a radio. Believe it or not, it’s less distracting than the television broadcast.

Clown Noses: Where Limbaugh Meets Stewart

The Atlantic recently published a piece where Rush Limbaugh’s audience questions his motives for providing Donald Trump with so much coverage. Limbaugh contrasts Night Line and Johnny Carson to say:

“I do both,” he said. “I cross over seamlessly from one to the other. You never know when it happens. So I don’t deny I’m an entertainer; this is showbiz.”

That’s a fair defense, I suppose, but it’s the same defense used by Jon Stewart, former host of The Daily Show. An entertainer widely despised by Limbaugh’s audience, as being the mouth piece for the Obama administration. It’s dubbed the clown nose defense. It can be removed when he wants to be serious and it can be put back on to deflect criticism. And that is what Limbaugh is doing, using the clown nose defense.
It’s incredibly effective. Limbaugh later goes one to ask his long-time audience to trust his motives and that his Trump coverage has a larger purpose.

“Do you understand that I always have a purpose? Do you realize nothing is haphazard? You’re wondering why I’m supporting Trump. Who says I am? Have I announced specifically that I am, or are you perceiving it? A better question would be: If you think that, why? And I can’t go any further. I did with my brother last night. It’s on record, if I have to go back and prove this, and I told Snerdley this morning about this. But I can’t go any further here. It is what it is. I know it’s a cliche.”

The author of the piece, Condor Friedersdorf, urges Limbaugh’s audience to not dismiss his evasiveness in answering the question and to think critically. I urge everyone to do so, all the time. We are living in serious times, with little evidence of serious people leading us. Just like with Jon Stewart, Limbaugh is something more than an entertainer to his audience. He is their voice. A mantle he may not like, but a mantle nonetheless. Being raised in a household that deified Limbaugh, I can attest to the blind faith some show in him. It’s exactly like Stewart’s audience, just a different ideological points of view.

To get personal for a moment, I knew this undercurrent existed a few days ago when my father, the man who deified Limbaugh during my childhood, called me to ask about the Trump coverage. “Do people really think that man (Trump) can be president?”, my father asked. I didn’t know what to tell him. “I dunno, dad. Things are crazy right now. They are always are during primaries, but this feels different.”, I explained in the best way I could. “Boy, you sure ain’t kiddin’ about things being crazy.” We discussed immigration and what that means to certain people. It was a weird moment, it was like one of my millennial friends having their crushing moment of clarity about Jon Stewart, except it was my dad. And he wanted answers from me that I didn’t have. I ended it with explaining ratings and told him to listen to more audio books and less talk radio. To which he replied “May not be a bad idea.” And for my father, that’s as close to “you’re right” as I’ve ever gotten.