“Fuck you and all your false patriotism…”

One of the saddest aspects of our public discourse in 2014 is that, in a media universe that’s incredibly broad, the only major opinion outlet that regularly provides thoughtful commentary on current events is Comedy Central. Consider, for example, Jon Stewart’s rant last night about FOX News:


Stewart’s point—that FOX News is completely unserious about its attacks on Barack Obama—has long been obvious. You’d never learn that, however, by watching how those attacks are treated by the “serious” newspeople who bloviate on our mainstream news outlets. Instead of making sharp judgments about credibility and newsworthiness, today’s pundits are all too willing to treat any conservative criticism as legitimate, regardless of how venal and self-serving it actually is.

If you don’t think that’s true then let’s try a little experiment: Tune in to Meet the Press, This Week, or Face the Nation this coming Sunday morning and see how the ridiculous story of Obama’s coffee cup salute is treated. If the story is scorned or the motivation of its proponents questioned, then I’ll happily stand corrected. Hell, if the story is simply ignored, I’ll be happy to eat crow.

I’m betting, though, that what we’ll see in a few days on every one of those shows is  Peggy Noonan (or someone like her) concern-trolling about Obama’s disrespect for the military or some similar nonsense.

The most effective lie in the conservative repertoire over the years (and certainly one of the most damaging) is the canard of a “liberal” media. Our media has always been in the bag for corporate interests, never more so than it is today. The evidence, if anyone cares to see it, is out there every Sunday morning hiding in plain sight. On the other hand, if real analysis is what you’re looking for, then you won’t find it on Sunday mornings. Weeknights at 11:00 PM would be a much better bet… just don’t make the mistake of looking for it on FOX News, CNN, or MSNBC. If thoughtful analysis is what you’re after then you’ll have to stick with Comedy Central.

Will Rogers Knew All About Guys Like Charles Krauthammer

In many ways, Charles Krauthammer represents today’s “serious” conservative commentary perfectly: feigned intellectualism and oodles of concern propping up arguments that are almost completely fact-free. This clip is a great example. Krauthammer blathers on about how Obama “is clearly a narcissist” and cites sloppily manufactured evidence to prove his point:


As Will Rogers famously observed, “It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.” It’s an observation that applies to today’s conservative narrative on just about any subject you’d care to name.

One of my favorite projects ever

Two years ago, as Florida was gearing up for election season, I got a call from my friend Steve Barnes who was then chairman of Seminole County’s Democratic Party. Steve knew that I’d done media work in the past and asked if I’d give him a hand putting together an ad for Florida’s 29th congressional district, one of three districts in Seminole. I’d have jumped at any chance to work with Steve but, for a variety of reasons, this opportunity was particularly appealing.

Steve’s original idea was to create some kind of A Clockwork Orange takeoff. While that was an intriguing idea in a number of ways, I thought we should aim for something a little more… mainstream. Eventually, we decided on a format based on the original Law & Order. I think it’s fair to say that we both liked the idea but neither of us loved it. One afternoon, I got a call from Steve with a tweak that put the spot over the top. The ad was always going to be about the closing of Longwood Elementary, a huge issue in the district that transcended partisan politics. What was appealing about the Law & Order approach was that it allowed the “prosecutor” to make a rapid series of dramatic points that reflected how parents and kids felt about what had happened. Steve’s idea was simple and brilliant: “Let’s make the prosecutor a kid!”

The rest, as they say, is history. We were able to find an incredible collection of young actors, most of whom had never acted on camera before. We got the whole thing shot in a couple of hours and it turned out even better than we’d hoped. The young man who played the “prosecutor” was the only cast member who’d ever acted before… and his experience showed. When the ad was unveiled on YouTube, it created so much buzz that it got featured on a couple of the local news shows and several local political web sites.

I always feel fortunate when I can look back on a project that turned out exceptionally well. As is so often the case with projects that yield exceptional results, this project was a genuinely collaborative effort. But more important than that, it was a blast!