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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Tuesday, November 25, 2003


The FAUX-volution Will Be Televised

posted by Trammell at Tuesday, November 25, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Neal Gabler takes on the FAUX-volution:
So, why all this talk of conservative ascendancy? In a sense, it's pure invention. What conservatives have been able to do is deploy the same postmodernist techniques that celebrities have been using for decades, and for the same purpose: to make the buzz into the buzz. Like the Osbournes, conservatives take their little triumphs and package them as phenomena, which the media -- including the conservative media -- eagerly retail to the public. Blogger Andrew Sullivan, for example, calls the new cultural trend "South Park Republicanism" because "South Park" has taken its whacks at political correctness and other liberal shibboleths. But whether or not there is such a thing as South Park Republicanism, the idea is media-genic because it suggests something big is happening that the media want to be in on. You just whisper it into what critics of the right have called the "right-wing echo chamber" -- of conservative talk radio, Fox News, various conservative publications and now conservative blogs -- and it turns into a roar that the mainstream media cannot ignore. In short, the new cultural revolution is a sound-effects machine.
And, compare this to the Dean movement, which has proven repeatedly that it is far more than a sound-effects machine. What spooks me is, I understand why those in the media were so skeptical of Dean -- now I get it, they are used to conservative chicanery. But the really spooky thing? They know. The mainstream media know that it's a sound-effects machine, and they package it and sell it anyway!
Nearly 40 years ago, historian Daniel Boorstin coined the term "pseudo-events" to describe things like premieres, photo ops and publicity stunts: They have no inherent value and exist only to be covered by the media. The right wing has now devised a pseudo-politics, of which the "conservative revolution" is a primary feature. It may look like the real thing, sound like the real thing and, most important, be covered by the media as if it were the real thing, but it is essentially just a way to gain media attention, which is usually enough to convince people that it is the real thing. If the objective of cultural politics is to win adherents, the objective of this postmodernist pseudo-politics is to convey the idea that you have already won adherents -- that the revolution has already occurred and power has been transferred. [...]

[However] ... a few conservative swipes at CBS or a few million viewers at the Fox News Channel or even a few "South Park" fans who identify themselves as Republicans won't signify a shift in the cultural balance of power. They simply provide excuses for the media to label it as one.
No wonder the right is spooked by Howard Dean -- how do you sell a fake revolution when the opposition's leader is offering the real thing?

The full and far lengthier post crossposted at Points West and Kos.

UPDATE: Check out Skippy the Bush Kangaroo's excellent post on the same two essays --- similar conclusions, beat me by a day!


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.