Monday, June 19, 2006

Trumanesque Musings and State Media

Seth Cuts to the Heart of It. Viral marketing guru and author Seth Godin always seems to have a way of cutting through the yackety-yack to get to the heart of things. The other day on his blog, he wrote: "There's a lot of mythology in our lives, especially at work. Most of the time, that mythology is a lot more important than whatever fact you're in love with right this minute."

State Media? In The Nation's annual media issue, the muckraking radio & TV host
Amy Goodman surveys media coverage of the Iraq war before asking an important question: "...the media's adoption of Pentagon nomenclature raises the question: If this were state media, how would it be any different?"

The Right's Embrace of Truman. You've gotta love how nonpartisan conservative Republicans are in their search for heroes. Armed with precious few presidents whose records grow rosier with time, they're forever adopting the names of Democratic presidents (and British stalwarts like Winston Churchill) as ballast for their current pet causes. The latest to be lionized by the right is Harry S. Truman. The dippy one-time Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan did one of her usual
overheated swoons about how much Bush reminded her of Truman shortly after 9/11, and the word "Trumanesque" has been popping up all over the place ever since. The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol recently hearkened back to "the hard, Trumanesque truth" that war is hell, and that all this liberal handwringing over the apparent atrocities in Haditha must end. There's of course a main subtext in using this name. Truman left office among the most unpopular presidents ever, but eventually regained his popularity as historians reconsidered his record and his blunt, Midwestern outspokeness came to be seen in a different light. The right is of course hoping there's a precedent in all this for their Bully Boy Bush, he of the collapsing poll numbers. Don't count on it, folks.

For Talese, It's All About Perseverance. The author Gay Talese, interviewed in Sports Illustrated, talks about why he thought boxer Floyd Patterson was an ideal subject for him: "Patterson got knocked down more than anybody in the history of boxing, but he got up more than anybody, and that is a real achievement. What I write about is perseverance more than anything else."

Wolcott Considers The New Yorker's History. In
this lovely piece in a semi-obscure intellectual journal, The New Criterion, the always-interesting James Wolcott uses the occasion of the release of a boxed CD set of the New Yorker's entire archives as an occasion to fondly recall the place he called home from 1992-'97. As he samples highlights from decades of the magazine's greatest hits, it occurs to him that the magazine "was never as monolithic as its reputation." Knowing something about the magazine's storied history makes the current magazine's continued successes only that much more remarkable.


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