Notes on Notes on “Notes on Hype”
April 22, 2012

Rob Horning in The New Inquiry:

Hype already presumes that no one completely buys into it; the passive dope who just responds to hype with naive enthusiasm is obviously a straw man, the creation of which is hype’s chief achievement. Hype creates this stooge that makes us feel smart in being jaded about hype. Advertising generally works by trying to make audiences feel smart and insecure at the same time; it flatters us but makes us know that the flattery is conditional. Hype says: yeah, you are probably smarter than to fall unreservedly for this obviously overhyped thing, but still you better know about it so you know just why you haven’t fallen for it. As Powers notes, Through our engagement with hype “we are at once too savvy and not savvy enough.”

Rob’s talking about the private sector here, but is there any better way to describe avid campaign trail watchers than, “at once too savvy and not savvy enough?” It’s amazing, for example, just how closely Rob’s account of the life of a hyped product maps onto the arc of the “Obama ate a dog” meme. That meme doubtless enjoyed such a long time in the sun because the people who first hyped it wanted everyone else to buy it — but the savvy onlookers who mocked its insignificance and wove increasingly elaborate dog-eating puns surely extended the meme’s lifespan. In their hurry to show how smart they were for not falling for such a dumb story, they hyped it up some more.

But in that case, what’s actually being hyped? I would argue that what’s actually being sold — unbeknownst to the people doing most of the selling — is not one particular campaign meme, but a general assertion about the value of that genus of campaign memes. When Democratic pundit X tweets, “This Obama eats a dog story is really stupid and trivial” as if that’s news, they’re reinforcing the implicit assumption that it could have ever been anything but stupid and trivial. The dog-eating story is trivial, but Romney putting the dog kennel on top of the car is significant. George W. Bush clearing brush is trivial, but Hillary Clinton in sunglasses is an important reminder of how cool she is. And so it goes. When you hype a particular team, you’re also hyping the whole sport.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Advertisements

The Imperial Presidency
November 8, 2010

My latest Salon column was prompted, at least in part, by a post Conor Friedersdorf wrote last week, in which he asked why “the Daily Show left” seemed to have lost so much interest in protecting civil liberties now that they had their Democratic president. I question some of the premise — I have no idea who counts as part of the Daily Show left, nor do I think it’s Jon Stewart’s job to grill the president on matters of policy — but Freidersdorf’s point still struck a nerve. I can’t speak for the rest of the Daily Show left, but I am on the left, I watch The Daily Show, and for the past two years I haven’t been treating these issues with nearly the attention I think they deserve.

Anyway, I’ve made a resolution to rededicate myself to this The more people who do, the better.

Lifter Puller – Nassau Coliseum
October 24, 2010

http://assets.tumblr.com/swf/audio_player.swf?audio_file=http://www.tumblr.com/audio_file/1393535001/tumblr_latkubE50c1qc41pl&color=FFFFFF

A theory: Although this song appeared on 1997’s Half Dead and Dynamite, the entire story the lyrics tell is a metaphor for how John McCain felt a full eleven years later when large swaths of the mainstream press abandoned him and gave favorable coverage to Barack Obama. Meaning that Craig Finn — frontman for Lifter Puller and later, of course, The Hold Steady — is not only a crackerjack poet, but also a time traveler.

The Myth of the Non-Ideological Presidency
August 26, 2010

I’m traveling to DC this weekend, so further Nietzsche blogging will probably be on hold for a day or so—but in the mean time, here’s my Salon column for this week.

“It’s true that Obama often spoke in transformational terms about the practice of politics,” Scheiber writes. “But if you listened to the way he and his campaign discussed policy, it was always clear that they preferred a relatively pragmatic, non-ideological approach to some sweeping progressive vision.”

The offending word here is “non-ideological.” This isn’t the first time someone has used that term to characterize either Obama or his team: Scheiber did it himself in 2008’s “The Audacity of Data,” and others have pointed to the president’s supposed lack of ideology as both one of his greatest strengths and one of his fatal weaknesses.

But to describe anyone as non-ideological is nonsense. Data is non-ideological. Inanimate objects are non-ideological. People, however, are ideological creatures.

Bonus trivia from the piece: Obama is a Nietzsche fan! And a Sartre fan. If I were a paranoid social conservative, I’d be way more freaked out by that than all these “secret Muslim” rumors.

Enhanced by Zemanta


July 14, 2010

President Barack Obama talks with White House ...
Image via Wikipedia

Steve Clemons is one of my favorite commentators on matters of foreign policy, but, as with many brilliant IR wonks, I often find his thoughts on domestic politics to be rather lacking. Case in point, his scolding of White House press secretary Robert Gibbs for conceding the obvious: that the Democrats might very well lose the House in November.

Clemons fails to acknowledge that by ratcheting down expectations, Gibbs is trying to head off the PR catastrophe for the Democrats if the GOP does seize the House. If Democrats can honestly claim that this is something they anticipated, and is not, in fact, some kind of enormous, unexpected coup, then it will soften the blow a little bit, and potentially blunt some of the Republican momentum.

More to the point, the White House needs the liberal base of the Democratic Party to realize just how likely a possibility Republican control of the House actually is. If that happens, then the left’s legislative agenda could conceivably come to a dead stop for the next two years. Right now, quite a few liberal activists are disappointed with what Obama has been able to accomplish, and as a result they’ve been less than totally onboard with this election. Gibbs is telling them: Get to work, or else this could get a whole lot worse.

Enhanced by Zemanta

%d bloggers like this: