A Parliament Of Grasshoppers

I’ve been blogging for seven and a half years; I was a couple of years ahead of the “fad” curve, for once in my life.

And when it comes to political blogs, I think the various blog cultures reflect their owners.  Liberals, being primarily herd creatures, are very hierarchical in their blogging; if you follow a lot of leftyblogs (and I do), you can almost see the memes starting with Kos and Atrios and the Huffpo, and work their way down through the ranks (and I use the term “ranks” intentionally).  Conservatives, being basically decentralized (one could almost say “rudderless”, at times in the past half-decade) have approach blogging in a much less organized way – but the underlying current among conservative blogs has been less to serve as a political engine than as a form of “samizdat” alternative media to outflank what conservatives perceive (correctly) to be the bias and in-the-bag nature of the mainstream media.  That is, of course, a much more scattered approach.

And for people who make their living at this, it’s a distinction that matters.

Of course, the mainstream media is the last group of people that can really understand that, but when organizations like CNN try to write about the subject:

“While it is obvious the progressive blogosphere is superior, we are being out-organized on Twitter,” said Gina Cooper, a blogger who helped organize Netroots Nation, an annual gathering of online liberal activists that met last week in Pittsburgh. “There is some catching up to do on the progressive side.”

It took me a moment push  my skull back into my head when I read that – but once I did, it made sense, in context (where “context” means “with the parameters of the discussion shoved into a nearly meaningless corner”).  Liberal bloggins is superior, as a medium for delivering votes to Democrats.  Until the likes of the Center for “Independent” Media and other “Progressive” groups started pouring money into leftyblogging, either directly or via providing cushy full-time blogging jobs for leading leftybloggers, the lefty blogosphere was a morass of banal, unfocused, Bush-deranged rage.  With money and leadership, the leftysphere became a tightly focused array of banal, Bush-deranged rage aimed at raising money and turning out voters.

Of course, in the leftyphere focuses on opinion and organization, not on serious analysis or reporting.  There is no leftyblog analog to, say, Powerline’s shredding of Dan Rather’s hit piece on President Bush’s Air National Guard record.

But viewed purely as organizing?  The piece has a point.  For conservatives, the blogosphere is largely a replacement for the morning newspaper. Most of us are not fundemantally politcal people – we want government out of our lives, not at the center.  So keeping our “organizing” down to 140 characters or less makes perfectly good sense.

Of course, being CNN, there has to be a certain aspect of “they have now idea what they’re talking about” endemic in the piece: 

“Twitter is a news funnel,” she said. “Conservatives are very tightly knit and getting their message out very well.”

“Conservatives are tightly knit?”  That, of course, is madness.  At this juncture in American history, “conservative” is about as meaningful as, say, “caucasian”; just as any descriptor that covers everything from Icelandic people to Berbers, from Slavs to Spaniards is basically so broad as to be meaningless, so “conservative” is today.  Any label that covers the fiscal moderate but evangelical pro-life Mike Huckabee and the tax and immigration hawk Tom Tancredo, or the fiscal conservative but socially pragrmatic Tim Pawlenty, lacks a certain degree of focus.

But the piece has a point; whatever conservatives lack these days in terms of ideological congruency, we are (finally) making up, after two slack cycles, in paying attention and waking up and smelling the coffee and getting out and into politics again, not because of but in spite of the leadership we’ve had – or lacked – in the past six years or so.

And – hopefully – realizing that no matter what your key issue, having any conservative in office, even a conservative that is imperfect on your pet issue, is going to be a better bet than having even the “best ” (hypothetical) Democrat.

The conservative twittersphere is more than adequate – as the article notes – in saying “show up” and “send money”.  As to the “why?”

Well, for that we still have the long-form blog.  And at that, the CNN piece notwithstanding, the conservative blogosphere still excels alone.


Starting about November 5, I figured that Obama, and especially the Congress’ Democrats, after being thwarted for almost thirty years, would not be able to resist overreach.

Hugh Hewitt, writing from the road on his “100 Days Tour”, writes:

The energy of the tea parties and which we see on our tour of the country may not be a majority movement yet, but it clearly indicates that the new president has blown off the idea of a new politics and a new bipartisanship, and that the signal has been received loud and clear. The unaligned voters of America thought they might be electing a post-partisan, post-ideological president but already know –and will learn again and again– that what they actually got was a hard left ideologue with a wonderful reading voice. Bait-and-switch has never gone over very well with Americans.

By the way – do try to make it to the “Obama’s First 100 Days” get-together at the Convention Center, a week from tonight.  Go here for details.  I hope to see you there.

Start The Rally Without Me

I hope you can make it to the Tax Cut Rally tomorrow!

I will not be there – the NARN show falls smack in the middle of the rally’s time slot so it’d be dicey (and it’s pretty much a project of a competing radio station, not that I’d boycott it, per se; I just dance with the one that brung me, if you catch my drift). 

Anyway, check here for the details.  And feel free to call into the NARN between 1 and 3PM with updates; we’d love to hear how many Minnesotans have had enough.

Jason Lewis – the host I always wanted to be when I grew up, even if he works for a lesser station today – writes:

In fact, Minnesota Democrats have already proposed over $2 billion in new taxes, notwithstanding the state may receive billions in federal stimulus money. By the way, the stimulus money coming from Washington is part of the greatest spending binge in history. This has resulted in unprecedented federal borrowing as well as massive new tax increase proposals.

Because of this fiscal crisis, we are ratcheting-up our plans for this year’s TAX CUT RALLY. We have expanded the number of activities to include more booths, more points of interest, and even kid-friendly activities such as food, music, and refreshments. We might even have a prize or two for the best sign!

Don’t forget to bring a food donation for metro-area food shelves, sponsored by Hope for the City.

So bring a radio and tune in the NARN while you’re there!

The Fix Is In

When you’re a conservative blogger, especially in Minnesota, you get used to being actively insulted and derided by the state’s dominant political/media class.

But ignored?

Bear in mind, Minnesota’s center-right blogging community is, if not the most active and vital political blogging community in the nation, easily among the very short list at the top of the heap.  From the bigs like my friends at Powerline and Hot Air, to erudite generalists like TvM and FreedomDogs, to acerbic, focused niche-bloggers like Nihilist in Golf Pants, Speed Gibson and True North and many, many more (see the MOBroll, leave out the non-conservatives and you get the idea), Minnesota’s center-right blogging underground is big, passionate, and disporportionally influential. 

So when Chris Cilizza at the WaPo started a list of the “Best State Political Blogs”, state-by-state, nationwide, it was reasonable to figure that while it’d probably overrepresent leftybloggers (packs of dogs will sniff each others’ butts, no doubt about it) – but you’d think they’d have some fodder with which to impart balance.

Trusting the MSM, of course, is always a long walk to a short splash.  Behold, “Baghdad Chris” Cilizza’s “Best Minnesota Political Blogs”. 


* MN Publius
* Minnesota Campaign Report
* MN Blue
* Politics in Minnesota
* Polinaut

Polinaut is an institutional MPR production; it’s good and useful, to be sure, but not exactly an organic part of the local blog scene.  Politics in Minnesota is a great aggregator of regional political thought; their daily run-downs of the “best of Minnesota blogs” has treated Shot In The Dark and True North very well; they also routinely run four leftyblog links for every overt conservative blog link.  Que sera sera; it’s a game effort…

…compared to the rest of Chris Cilizza’s risible list.

MNPublius is OK; they’re a DFL flakblog; they’re like Minnesota Democrats Exposed, only without the regular game-changing scoops.  Minnesota Campaign Report is earnest but comical. 

MNBlue (Note, Mr. Cilizza; they’re called “Minnesota Progressive Project” these days)?  Well, when they’re not letting Grace Kelly regurgitate her tingly-fingered Obama worship or her addledpated 9/11 conspiracy theories, they’re broadcasting risibly-obvious lies from anonymous hacks with curious axes to grind. In other words, they are the single dumbest blog in all of Minnesota.  Bar none.

In the meantime, you’ll look in vain for Minnesota’s real influential political blogs; Powerline and Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, homegrown productions that are among the most powerful blogs in the world; for MDE, which made headlines in the NYTimes and was perhaps more responsible than anyone for erasing Barack Obama’s coattails for Al Franken; for the scads of center-right bloggers that get better traffic and more credibility than at least two of Cilizza’s choices.

It’s a polling thing, of course; liberals read the WaPo, and if you read leftyblogs from Kos and Atrios on down to Minnesota Progressive Report, it’s pretty obvious the typical leftyblog commenter does nothing but sit in his mom’s basement and crank out dyspeptic screeds eighteen hours a day; stacking the votes in a poll like Cilizza’s is child’s play for that pack of loonies.

But otherwise-savvy commentators are passing Cilizza’s story on as if it’s a legitimate commentary on Minnesota’s blog scene.

Not half the story?  Try “not a tenth”. 

(By the way – Rachel Stassen-Berger?  Why does “Political Animal” not take comments or post an email address?)

Small World

First things first; congrats to the MinnPost’s David Brauer on having his first ambulance ride end fairly benignly.

And yes – it is certainly a small world. Brauer called an ambulance after experiencing shortness of breath and chest pains:

The Minneapolis fire guys were there immediately; their quick read of my vitals didn’t scream heart attack. A minute or so later, the ambulance crew was on the scene. After being appraised of my non-demise, the crew’s paramedic asked me a question I wasn’t expecting:

“Hey David, do you recognize me?”

He did look vaguely familiar.

“Duke Powell.”

I laughed even though it hurt.

Although we’ve never met face-to-face, Duke and I are Twitter friends. Via @dbrauer, I follow him at @dukepowell.

The saga, to an extent, did play out on Twitter over the weekend.  Duke is a longtime friend of this blog, a former GOP representative from the Burnsville area who lost a heartbreaker of a race in 2006.

Burnsville’s loss is the first-responder profession’s gain, of course, as Brauer found:

Of course, politics doesn’t matter much when you’re strapped to a gurney and wheeled through the snow. But it was definitely reassuring to have a member of my social network be part of my survival network…Duke expertly threaded my IV (the nurses would later marvel at the precision), gave me the short course on nitroglycerin (a precaution; headaches approaching) and kept it light but not unprofessional. In short, his actions buttressed the trust we’d already established.

Brauer waxes just a tad philosophical:

Our politics are as different as can be (Duke was a conservative Republican legislator from Burnsville), but we’re both Coleman-Franken junkies. For some reason, Twitter has been a place where lefties and righties can actually talk to each other; perhaps it’s because the medium is young, or you pick who you follow.

There’s something to that – although Minnesota is blessed with many forums where people can talk across the aisle:  the Northern Alliance Radio Network earned kudos from Mayor Rybak for our interview with him; the MDE/MNPublius Happy Hour last summer was a lot of fun.  And this Saturday’s MOB party should be like all previous ones; a fun, utterly civil time for everyone involved.

Oh, yeah – there’s more good news; Duke’s finally blogging:

If you want to read Duke’s version, check out his new Ambulance Driver blog. I’m Patient #5 on Feb. 27. Don’t worry; Duke doesn’t violate patient confidentiality here — I’m the one outing myself.

Hope both Brauer and Powell can show up on Saturday, and re-enact the scene – substituting Guinness for the nitro, natch.

Our New Passive-Aggressive Majority

Strap yourselves in, Republicans across America.  You’ll get to live life the way we lived it here in Minnesota for decades; liberal supermajorities who believe your earnings belong to government first and foremost, backed by a media establishment that portrays dissent as one degree of depravity or another.  Oh, and about the portrayal of Republicans – remember how for the past eight years Chuck Hagel got more mic time than the rest of the GOP caucus put together?  Two words for ya; Lori Sturdevant.
Worse?  The alternatives that the opposition provides will disappear down the memory hole – or at least they will as far as the mainstream media is concerned.

Of course, we have an alternative media now (until Congress or the Administration sneak the “Fairness” Doctrine back in the door).  And the truth will be there somewhere.

Last Saturday, I talked with Michele Bachmann’s New Media director Dave Dziok.  He’s behind a new project – The Majority Tracker, which aims to drop a videocam down the memory hole.

What is the GOP doing?  Well, you’ll find out there.

Romp Not Lest Ye Be Romped

Note to Twin Cities’ Leftybloggers:  Please, please try to get your facts straight when you want to try to noodle about with issues I genuinely care about.  You might get Haugenned.

Fair warning.

Liberal in the Land of Conservative writes:

HOLY CRAP, the Democratic leadership in Congress is pushing the Fairness Doctrine. Who are the magical creatures that can pass a doctrine without nary a bill in existence?

Dear LITLOC:  Congresspeople, thanks to the miracle of “voices”, the “First Amendment” and “the Media”, can say things outside the context of “bills”.  For example, they can tell a reporter “It’s time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine. I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they’re in a better position to make a decision.”  That’d be Dick “Turban” Durbin.  Bear in mind, he said that without authoring a bill on the subject.


And – just so’s you learn something, LITLOC – let’s be clear; Congress needn’t pass a single bill to reinstate the “Fairness” Doctrine.  If Obama puts three pro-Doctrine members on the FCC Board, the “Doctrine” can become fact again by executive fiat; no legislation will be needed, beyond confirmation hearings.  This, indeed, is the most dangerous scenario for supporters of free speech; Obama (and the smarter Dems) don’t want to pee on the third rail by legislating censorship – but how much political capital do you think Obama will burn getting in the way of an allied bureaucracy doing it for them?

Seriously, I thought Mitch Berg was supposed to be the smart one.

Among conservative bloggers?  No. I’m the cute one.

Compared to Twin Cities’ leftybloggers?  In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

Do your homework, kids.  You’re gonna need to.

Ethics For Ye, But Not For We

As far as the mainstream media is concerned, there is one standard of ethics for Republicans…:

In 2001, President George W. Bush nominated Chavez to a post in his cabinet as Secretary of Labor. Chavez was soon forced out because it was alleged that she had employed an illegal immigrant 10 years earlier. Subsequent investigation uncovered that Chavez had not, in fact employed the woman in question, but had sheltered her and given her some emergency assistance because the woman was threatened with domestic abuse. The woman, Marta Mercado, is now a U.S. citizen.

…and another for Democrats:

Contrast the political uproar and media storm over Chavez’ nomination with the quiescent reaction of our electeds in the halls of Congress and our pals over at CNN and the New York Times regarding President-elect Obama’s nomination of Timothy Geithner to be the Secretary of the Treasury.

Geithner, you may recall, is the man who may soon be in charge of trillions of our tax dollars who thinks paying taxes is only for the little people. While working for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from 2001 to 2004, Geithner failed to pay self-employment taxes totaling more than $45,000 including interest. Interestingly, the IMF, an international entity, pays its employees’ taxes and even sends them a notice regarding the taxes owed.

“But it’s not really the same kind of thing!”

Well, yeah.  It’s actually more than the same:

Just to ram the point home that laws are meant for some and not for others, Geithner also employed an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper (“Haven’t we all?” the U.S. Senators conducting the confirmation hearing must be thinking to themselves.)

You might be saying to yourself “News flash, Berg; duh.  Of course there’s a double standard!”.  And you’d be right.

My real question:  under these circumstances – where the major media refuses to point out ethical lapses (to say nothing of double standards) on the part of the incoming administration, can you imagine them not trying to shut down talk radio and the blogs, the conservative alternative media that are the only people that ever really question Obama on anything?

The Eternal Game of Telephone

One of the reasons I always liked being a solo blogger (until Johnny Roosh joined the staff last summer) was that miscommunications among contributors were pretty rare.

Of course, with bigger blogs, it’s not always quite so easy.

Over at True North, I comment on a flap between two of my favorite regional bloggers; my friend and NARN colleague (for the rest of the week, anyway) Michael Brodkorb, and Col. Joe Repya.  The flap grew into a few questions about how True North does business – partly with the prodding of some Twin Cities leftybloggers who, like addled kittens who see a shiny bit of foil, are trying to romp and cavort about the “story”.

I try to answer them.

Paging Max Headroom

I finally got around to reading David Brauer’s two part interview with Tom Mischke (parts one and two), about his exit from KSTP and his thoughts on the future of the business.

More on that in a bit.


I remember walking into KSTP the night I filled in for Bob Davis, on January 23, 2003.  It was the first time I’d set foot in a radio station in ten years; the first time I’d done a talk show in almost sixteen.

I felt a little bit like Rip Van Winkel.  When I’d left radio, shows were recorded on cassettes; audio editing and production work was done on twelve-inch reel to reel tapes; commercials, songs and dropins came on “Carts” (which looked and worked like eight-track tapes, for those of you old enough to remember them).  At my last previous radio “job” – as a volunteer news guy at KFAI – they’d just installed a computer to download the AP wire and allow a little rudimentary editing.

At KSTP (and AM1280, which followed about a year later), everything was on computer; commercials, dropins (on a slick touch-screen array), commands to switch between recorded, live and satellite programming, even the recorded programs themselves. 

And that was the least of it.  As I’ve noted many times in the past, when I left KSTP-AM, it was the poor cousin of the Hubbard empire; Hubbard Broadcasting had been trying to sell KSTP-AM for years, with no luck – because rumors had it that AM was dead, and the band was going to get decommissioned eventually.  By 2003, that was in the past; KSTP-AM was financially carrying Channel 5, Channel 45, KS95, Estrogen 107 and the rest of the Hubbard operation.

A number of things hadn’t changed, though.

  • When radio management wants you gone?   You’re gone.
  • If you give Hubbard Broadcasting a silk purse, they’ll not only find a way to make a sow’s ear out of it, but in such a way as to make the observer wonder if sows can be on meth. 
  • ———-

Mischke on exactly why Hubbard told him they’d gassed his show:

On the day I was fired, I was handed a transcript of a conversation I had with my producer two weeks earlier. I remembered the conversation. I had been curious to know where the jingle for [Hubbard-owned] Channel 45 had come from. It’s the little sing-song way they say “45.”

I wanted to know who came up with it, how many other ways they thought to sing it, what talent they hired to deliver the jingle and how many different takes there were. I suppose I just wanted to learn the backstory behind a modern corporate jingle.

I asked my producer to call them and ask them, knowing full well these are fellow Hubbard employees. My producer refused. I think he was just tired of me having him do various things while he was busy trying to answer the phone.

So I picked up the phone and called them myself, on the air. I phoned downstairs, a receptionist answered, and I asked to speak to someone at Channel 45. She said, “Just a minute” and put me on hold. I then put the entire call on hold and asked my producer if he’d now please speak to them off the air so as to get a sense of where that jingle came from.

That’s what I was fired for. Making that call to the receptionist without getting her permission.

[David Brauer]: Isn’t such a call an FCC violation?

A: They told me it was indeed an FCC violation.

Back in 1986, Don Vogel caught wind that the afternoon guy at the old WLOL-FM, a chucklehead named “Doctor Dave”, was lifting a bit of Vogel’s (a takeoff on radio tele-shrink Dr. Harvey Ruben) on WLOL’s wacky afternoon zoo.  He told me to get “Dr. Dave” on the air.  Via a contact or two, producer Dave Elvin had their studio line number handy.  I called “Dr. Dave”, and Don put him on the air, live.  Of course, being a newbie to talk radio, I didn’t know there’d be a problem; Don, a fifteen year vet of Chicago talk, didn’t know either.

There was.  There is an FCC regulation whose number I could, until recently, recite from memory, saying that radio stations can not put someone on the air without them having a realistic expectation of knowing they are being put on the air.  You have to tell people they’re going to be on the air, we were told, by an irate station counsel who’d just gotten an irate phone call from an irate general manager at WLOL.  We spent the next day wondering if we were going to get fired.  Our own GM, Scott Meier, saved the day, basically saying that we’d forget their plagiarism if they’d forget our stunt.  It blew over.

You’re thinking “not only does every half-assed FM morning show in the world do ambush calls for yuks, but Mischke’s made an art form of those kinds of calls”.  And you’d be right.  Heck – we had a long-running bit on the Vogel show, “Random Call”, where we’d pick an area code and dial a random number, often to hilarious results (like Christmas Eve, 1985, where we got a hold of the Nome, Alaska Police Department squad room, with predictably deadpan-hilarious results).

And beyond that? Back in Mischke’s early years on evenings – one of the first times I listened to him, in the early nineties – I heard him struggling to get someone on the air, live and uninformed.  I called the studio; my old friend and colleague Joe Hansen – aka “The Jackal”, at that point – answered, and I told him about my near-miss on Vogel.  They waved off on the bit – that time.  Naturally, Mischke followed through on the bit the next umpteen jillion times.

Do you think this was news to KSTP-AM’s program director, Steve Konrad, or to his various levels of management?

If so, I have a tape from Willie Clark that I’d like to try to sell you.


If you can say one thing for Mischke, it’s that he’s a comedic genius with a flair for using radio, with all of its foibles and limitations and traditions, as a tool in his comic toolbox.

If you can say one more thing for him, it’s that he’s always seemed to keep radio, with all of its foibles and limitations and corrosive dysfunction, in its place. 

Mischke said, and believes, all sorts of things that separate him from the mainstream (i.e. successful) parts of talk radio, but make it safe for the likes of Garrison Keillor to be an “out” fan.  Still, it’s hard to work in commercial radio (outside of Air America) and not understand what actually works out there these days:

I watched many people attempt radio shows over the years. I saw talk hosts come and go. In all my years at KSTP, I saw only three shows succeed — truly succeed. The only three programs to ever generate any kind of decent ratings at all were Rush Limbaugh, Jason Lewis and Joe Soucheray. That’s it.The rest of us never offered anything in the way of mass appeal. So any talk host, outside of those three, should walk away, following a firing, feeling lucky to have been given a shot.

Three hosts; a populist conservative, an intellectual conservative, and a culturally-conservative-to-the-point-of-reactionary curmudgeon. 

Mischke clearly understands something that KSTP-AM’s management does not.

[Brauer]: Where do you think KSTP is headed? The talk around town is about terrible numbers, save for Joe, and a pricey Twins contract that might not pay off, since it was signed during good times but now must be sold to advertisers during bad times. This is a strange time in radio and there’s something to say here.

A: Radio, as we’ve known it in this country, is dying. I don’t envy anyone trying to make the transition to the next stage in media. The Twins gamble has not paid off for KSTP. It has not affected ratings.

That has been very disappointing. It was a coup to steal them from ‘CCO, but oh, the cost.

You add that to the fact that Soucheray is the only talk host over there driving home each day feeling good about his ratings and you have big worries. Tack on the dismal economy with its bleak advertising picture and you have more than just worries.

But after all that – especially after my “Rip Van Winkle” riff at the beginning of this long post – we get to the interesting part; the future of talk radio. 

It’s overly obvious to say that “things have changed since Mischke and I got into the business”.  The interesting part is, “where are those things going?”

I was pondering that as Ed and I did the NARN2 show last Saturday; while talk radio was years ahead of the traditional dead-tree and showbiz-broadcast media in incorporating interactivity – phone callers with their own points to add – it was all still very hierarchic.  Callers passed through a screener to get to the host, who was the center of attention.  And that’s changing, I thought, as Ed and I worked the webcam, kept up with the chatroom and the Twitter thread and the incoming email and, by the way, did a broadcast show.  The audience’s relationship with a talk show host is changing in an analogous way to the changes the Blog brought to the reader’s relationship to the newspaper; the host isn’t necessarily in charge of the conversation by sole virtue of having the microphone. 

It’s not bad – indeed, being a blogger, I’d be dumb to do anything but embrace the change.  But it is different. 

I think every radio station in town has to pray to God they have a visionary on their staff. This is the time for change and innovation. A dramatic shift needs to occur.

I hope to end up somewhere where this idea is fully grasped, where the ideas move to the Internet, websites, video-blogging, music, live streaming. I think what is about to rise out of the ashes of the old radio model is far more exciting and interesting than what has come before. Some station in this town is going to be the first to fully exploit this. To those folks go the spoils.

The future is out there.  I sincerely hope – and believe – that Mischke is a part of it.

Among others.

When Monks Speak, Professors Nod Their Heads And Carry On Their Way

My quicker take on Brian Lambert’s take on Katherine Kersten’s departure from the Strib:  He’s irredeemably wrong, for reasons that are largely due to personal and vocational myopia.

I told you it’d be quick.

But that’s not all that satisfying, is it?


A couple of points, just as background. 

  • I used to be a reporter.  I was a decent writer, and could cover a story, but I never really had the urge to immerse myself in making it in the field.  My career began and ended as a freelancer, in between radio jobs.  I was perfectly fine with that then, and even moreso now.
  • Most “journalists” honestly believe that they are objective, or at least detached.  With that in mind, they also believe that the organizations for which they work, individually and institutionally, are too. 
  • Many “journalists” also believe that they are part of a higher calling.  The journalist’s trade has a collective mythology about it, studded with catchphrases like “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted” and “Woodward and Bernstein” and “keeping an eye on the powerful”, and “fairness, clarity and balance”. 
  • These catchphrases animate a lot of “journalists” through the lean years of what is, for most reporters, a lean, niggling, awful career that, even when times were good, usually didn’t pay all that well or lead to any particular distinction.  The attitude is the same one that drives people in a lot of spartan, tenuous careers – religious monks and policemen jump to mind.  All fo them voluntarily immerse themselves in a spartan, aescetic life in pursuit of what they see as a greater good.  Few people get rich in any of the fields; most careers are nasty, brutish and brutish and, while monks and cops can retire from the field, reporters rarely do. 
  • With that immersion comes a sense of exceptionalism.  With exceptionalism comes an “us against them” attitude.  With “Journalists”, that attitude is expressed via a belief that journalists are “high priests of knowledge”; that only a trained, qualified journalist can really tell a story clearly, truthfully and effectively.

And a couple more:

  • An aphorism for you:  From Sacramento, Boise is “way out east”.
  • Keeping the above in mind:  if a conservative orders a pizza in the woods, and a “sacramento” liberal is there to hear it, the liberal will hear “racism”, “whining”, “extremism” and “hate”.  Among other things.  Simultaneously.
  • Oh, yeah; the latest meme:  No matter what their tone (to say nothing of facts), a conservative pointing out any anti-conservative institutional bias is always “whining”. 

Now, it’s been over twenty years since anyone mistook Brian Lambert for fair, balanced or non-partisan.  For years, he carried water for the DFL as the Pioneer Press‘ broadcasting columnist, until he went to work (very briefly) as then-Senator Mark Dayton’s short-lived re-election campaign.  He’s been bouncing among the Twin Cities’ online publications (and a stint as the liberal point to Sarah Janecek’s counterpoint on a short-lived KTLK-FM afternoon drive show).  He’d be one of those “from Sacramento, Boise is far east” liberals; from his perspective, the Star/Tribune probably does seem stodgy, establishment and “conservative”. 

And like most Twin Cities’ lefties, he’s happy to see Katherine Kersten leaving the Strib.  Like most journalists, he probably figured the Strib was pretty fair and balanced before all those meddling kids conservatives showed up.

In this case, the Powerguys:

The “boys”, Scott Johnson, John Hinderaker and Paul Mirengoff are worth mentioning here because they have played a critical role in this latest episode of self-abasement by Minnesota’s largest news organization

Editorial balance is “Self-Abasement”, when a conservative is involved.

While the Strib has always been attacked by right-wingers, usually for not adequately parroting the same talking points read off by Jason Lewis, Hugh Hewitt and the rest, the Power Line trio, Hinderaker and Johnson in particular, put a snake rattle in Anders Gyllenhaal’s head.

You can chalk that statement up to any number of things; I’ll chalk it up to Lambert being in “Sacramento” while Anders Gyllenhall is in “Boise” (as I sit in my office in Pittsburgh talking to most Americans, who are somewhere between Des Moines and Chicago).  But I keep trying to ask left-ish media types – can you show me where the Strib’s editorial/op-ed pages have ever been fair, to say nothing of sympathetic, to any of the principles of the center-right?  Forget about the hot-button issues like abortion and gun control; can you remember ever the Strib’s editorial board presenting a balanced view of, say, social security reform?  Government growth?  Local Aid to Government?  Cutting deficits by cutting spending rather than raising taxes?  School choice vs. the untrammelled power of the teachers’ union?  Parental notification? 

Can you remember the Strib doing a hatchet-job that benefitted anyone but a DFLer?

Get back to us on that one.

And when you do, tell us how that “balance” would actually be “parroting Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt and Jason Lewis”. 

Their legalistic, grad-school punditry, high standing among echo chamber “base” Republicans, combined with Time magazine declaring them “Blog of the Year” after their assault on Dan Rather…

“Assault on Dan Rather”.

You read that right.

Pay no attention to the forged dox, the impossible scenario, the implausible backstory; Dan Rather was the victim, says Brian Lambert, on his way to his inevitable (indeed, boilerplate) conclusion that conservatives are whining.

Now, it has never been proven that it was Power Line specifically who pushed Gyllenhaal to commit himself to a conservative “counter balance” to Nick Coleman, but Coleman himself aside, I’ve yet to hear anyone at the Strib doubt that that’s the way it went down.


What if it’s true?  Indeed, it should be true; it was Nick Coleman’s gutless, factually-vacant assault on Scott Johnson that brought the issue to a head; it was the sheer feckless factlessness of it all, one might think, that convinced Gyllenhall, the Strib‘s former editor, that he had a real problem on his hands.

There are idiot ranters who don’t give a damn about facts and fairness. They can be ignored. And then there are well-educated, well-connected ranters who craft cleverly parsed, fact-like assertions and make demons out of those who show them no respect. Those are more difficult to ignore.

Question:  Why would one “ignore” the case that Powerline built against the Strib?  Over the course of almost seven years of writing, and countless articles detailing with lawyerly precision the crimes of Jim Boyd, Anders Gyllenhaal, Doug Grow, Lori Sturdevant and Nick Coleman against truth (to say nothing of balance and fairness), what’s to ignore?

Oh, yeah.  “They’re not journalists”.

That may not be exactly how Lambert would put it – “it has never been proven that Brian Lambert thinks only journalists are qualified to criticize journalism”, to paraphase Lambert – but really, what else could be behind it?

The point here is that Power Line in effect created the conflict that required the Strib to hire a Katherine Kersten and then pretty much delivered Kersten herself as the solution.

Powerline created decades of institutional bias?  They “created” the arrogance and incompetence that led Jim Boyd to slander them?   That led Nick Coleman to take a personal, defamatory (not remotely factual, certainly not “journalistically valid or ethical”) swipe at Scott Johnson?

Remember – Lambert is one of those lefty pundits that accuses conservatives of playing the victim.


Let’s go back to the background points:  Journalists often see themselves as a class above and beyond the hoi polloi; they have a higher calling; they “paid their dues” in the “trenches” of the field, telling the truth when nobody else can; they often see themselves as being in the world, but not of it. 

I use the term “high priests of knowledge”.  Any given reporter may dispute that term, but it’s usually a difference of degree, not accuracy.

Kersten’s big problem, other than conservatism itself?

She’d never taken those same monastic vows:

Her arrival on the metro pages sent a clear message. Here was a purely partisan pundit with no reporting experience whatsoever. Moreover she was being set in place, with instant equal standing to a couple old dogs who had spent decades covering every imaginable facet of local culture…


Nick Coleman spent decades covering city council meetings and one-car accidents, learning (let’s be charitable) to write clearly and effectively, just like every “journalist” does when “paying his dues”. 

And then, he became a columnist.  Someone who markets not fact, but observation, “insight”, and opinion.  One whose opinions led him to get a job as a talk show host on the local Air America affiliate, Lambert doesn’t trouble to add (he was a regular guest on Coleman’s abortive trainwreck of a morning show).

One has the right to ignore Coleman’s immense ideological baggage, and focus myopically on his “old dog”-ness as more of a qualification than Kersten’s background (academia and punditry).

But you’ll wait in vain for a defense that goes into greater depth than “because he’s a journalist, dammit”. 

Kersten became the ying-to-Coleman’s-yang, the quid pro quo, the internal countershot.That’s another way of saying that Nick saw Kersten for what she was, and for who and what she represented, (right-wing journalism haters and Power Line, who to be clear, delight in vilifying Coleman) and Nick rose to the fight, caution be damned. (Nick is Irish. He can’t help it. It’s an ethnic curse.)

Part of that ethnic curse, perhaps, is that our Scandinavian anscestors used to loot, pillage and dominate Coleman and Lambert’s Irish anscestors with little more trouble than Johnson and Hinderaker chewing up Coleman’s writing.

Here’s the big finish:

As I tried to get across in the Rake piece and in countless blogs since, I had no quarrel at all with the Strib hiring a conservative metro columnist. They needed one. The problem was hiring a conservative columnist who was first, foremost and solely a partisan voice. Had they found someone on staff or around town who had the breadth and depth of experience Nick Coleman and Doug Grow had acquired from years of covering the full spectrum of culture;

 And now we’re into the interesting stuff. 

Several questions, Brian Lambert:

  1. Given the relentless “progressive” nature of the field of Journalism, where would a conservative candidate come from?  Countless surveys show that less than 15% of reporters vote to the right of center.
  2. Most editors – certainly most Strib editors – aren’t all that far to the right of Brian Lambert.  They’re “Boise” to his “Sacramento”.  Which of them is going to promote a “Chicago” to the opinion page? 
  3. Given the dearth of conservatives in newsrooms that proceed to “old dog”-itude, where does one find conservatives to serve in that role that you, yourself, acknowledge above was needed?
  4. Why do you assume that only an “old dog” reporter can tell a story?

Lambert is – consciously? – echoing Nick Coleman’s infamous, pedantic, supremely arrogant justification for his own position and status

But that’s my defense: I show my face in public. I have been a reporter longer than most bloggers have been alive, which makes me, at 54, ready for the ash heap. But here’s what really makes bloggers mad: I know stuff.

I covered Minneapolis City Hall, back when Republicans controlled the City Council. I have reported from almost every county in the state, I have covered murders, floods, tornadoes, World Series and six governors.

In other words, I didn’t just blog this stuff up at midnight.

Nick Coleman “knows stuff” – because he was a reporter.

Top-flight lawyersEconomistsCareer guys and keen observers?  Divorced guys on their third careers?   Ivy-league trained thinkers?

If they didn’t spend thirty years sitting in City Council meetings (or writing about TV shows, apparently), then they are not of the order

It’s not the ability to observe, to build a case, to tell the story, to make sense.  It’s that thirty years of ticket punching that really counts. 

I don’t think anyone outside “the order” buys that anymore.

All that said, it is a giant, groaning pity Gyllenhaal’s successors chose to wipe both Kersten and Coleman off the company ledger. But then it’s break-up-the-furniture-for-fuel time at the Strib. The only thing that’ll add loud, resonating insult to injury to this move is if Avista Capital Partners’ newsroom managers keep … a gossip columnist in place instead of two people who, say what you will, waded into serious, relevant issues and provoked constant reader reaction.

Well, I never said that Lambert was always wrong.

Continue reading

The Economy Warms – For Nick Coleman

Mark “Mister Dilettante” Heuring, writing at True North, is reacting to the news of Nick Coleman’s buyout the way any good capitalist does.

Life has given us (the conservative bloggers who’ve spent the past half-decade correcting Coleman on issues great and small) lemons. Mr. D is looking for someone to whom life gave vodka, to make a Lemon Drop.

He’s putting his “money” where his mouth is:

Nick, you can work for me. And you can start tomorrow.

So what are the advantages of moving your operations to Mr. Dilettante? Oh, there are so many.

* Prestige galore. The Mr. Dilettante brand is known throughout the blogosphere for a devotion to discussions of politics, music and the arts and there’s reason to believe that at least a few dozen other bloggers have read Mr. Dilettante in the past. And as a contributor to True North and Truth vs. the Machine, you’ll have the opportunity to leverage your readership into triple digits, easy. Based on the current circulation numbers at your soon to be former employer, you’d have to be thrilled with that. I’ve actually met Gary Miller and Andy Aplikowski and would be happy to put in a good word for you.
* Complete freedom. No nervous bean counters or supercilious metro editors here, telling you what to say or suggesting that you tone it down a bit. In fact, I’d be highly supportive of letting you say whatever you’d like, Nick — may I call you Nick? The more outrageous, the better. And I’m reasonably certain that you’d see a lot of links from other bloggers, who are always eager to offer their trenchant analysis of your work. Conservatives are very supportive and nurturing that way.
* A commitment to lifelong learning. At Mr. Dilettante, we’ve been able to triple the usual readership of this feature from time to time by picking the right people to insult. You’ve never been especially hesitant to criticize someone, so you have a leg up on other potential candidates for this opportunity. I’ve noticed that have not been in the habit of criticizing Jim Oberstar much, but I’d be happy to teach you. I’d even be willing to share my secret methods for getting web hits by mentioning more arcane targets. For just one example, you’d be amazed how many hits you can get by mildly criticizing Eric Carmen’s solo career.
* A very steady, devoted readership. No reason to worry about declining readership here — this blog almost always gets double digit hits every day. Click on the Sitemeter and see for yourself.
* A generous compensation package. I’ll be willing to split the proceeds I make from publishing this blog with you 50/50. Try and get an offer that generous from anyone else. Just try.

Nick, I think this is a wonderful opportunity for you. It would be a shame to see your voice be stilled just because the economy has hit a rough patch.

And for my part – Katherine Kersten, if you want to write for True North and/or Shot In The Dark, the door is wide open!

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Two bits of news from talk radio that tie into a larger industry-wide trend.

Brain Maloney notes that Citadel Radio – one of the chains of broadcasters that has led the way in trying to jam left-leaning programming down the listeners throats, and largely failing (judging by their stock, which has gone from a solid hold to a penny stock in the past two years), is running the pointless Joe Scarborough and the execrable Mika Brezinski on their flagship station WABC in New York.


In fact, the decision to insert MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski into WABC’s midmorning slot is exactly how Citadel – ABC Radio got into this mess in the first place.Since the ill-fated merger of [Citadel and the old ABC Radio], Citadel’s upper management has struggled to grasp news-talk and what drives listenership. Instead of learning more about this highly-successful medium’s audience characteristics, CEO Farid Suleman has compelled stations to comply with a series of increasingly-bizarre programming edicts, of which this is merely the latest.

It’s nothing new, of course.  Since the aftermath of the 2004 elections, a lot of high-power consultants – the ones whom Rush Limbaugh caught by surprise – have been saying “conservative talk is dead”, and doing their best to prove it by killing off the stations they program.

This is manifested in ways small (the ongoing morphing of KSTP-AM into WCCO) and, in WABC’s case, big:

[Suleman’s] latest fiasco debuted yesterday, made possible by the recent removal of longtime WABC honcho Phil Boyce. One longtime major market radio programmer who monitored the broadcast told your Radio Equalizer that it “sounds like a train wreck on the air. Maybe this is the making of a new horror movie: When CEOs Program.” He further called it “just MSNBC on the radio.”

Without a skilled programming coach to guide Joe and Mika, both rank amateurs when it comes to talk radio, the program lacked focus. It skipped around haphazardly between topics and guests, which included MSNBC insiders such as David Gregory and Tom Brokaw.

Perhaps Suleman knows something we don’t.

Perhaps Harry Reid tipped him off that the Fairness Doctrine will not only be re-enacted immediately after inauguration, but enforced brutally, and it’s best to get ahead of the curve by filling your lineup with innocuous center-left talking heads who won’t offend the new regime and its mass of informants (who will be the engine driving the Doctrine).

In a related matter: while KSTP-AM has been floating aimlessly down this road for years, since the departure of Rush Limbaugh and Jason Lewis, programming innocuous hamsters like Willie and Jay, innocuous drive-time sportstalk with Matt Thomas, and mostly-apolitical social-curmudgeon with a thin veneer of “crusty reactionary” Joe Soucheray, who has been doing the same show to the same audience for (counts in his head) around fifteen years.

Now, “TBD” is replacing Mischke in the noon-2pm slot.  Yesterday, TBD was Jim Souhan, sports reporter at the Strib.  It was a bit of deja vu, going back to the days when KSTP seemed to think that any newspaper reporter could run a talk show; Nick Coleman, Catherine Lanpher, Jim Klobuchar and scads of other Strib and PiPress reporters and sportswriters paraded through the studio (including, to be fair, James Lileks).

Deja vu, also, in that it was just plain awful – like most newspaper (and TV) people are when they try talk radio.  It wandered aimlessly.  It skimmed past stories without giving anyone (in the forty-five or so minutes I wasted) a reason to pay it any attention.

It sounded, I thought, like pre-1987 talk radio.

I’m just gonna let that hang there for a while.

Happy Birthday!

Gary Gross’ “Let Freedom Ring” blog – which has become an essential read for Sixth District politics and Minnesota GOP inside baseball – turns four today.

And Gary’s still on a mission:

Tony Snow asked some former CNN executive what he thought about these bloggers scooping the MSM. Out of that came the infamous line that bloggers were just a bunch of jammie-wearing “people hacking away at their keyboards.” Typical of the Sneering Media, this executive couldn’t get even the basic facts right.

Four years later, the Sneering Media still isn’t getting the basic facts right. In fact, I attended more voter forums than the St. Cloud Times did. Even when they were there for the forums, they omitted key bits of information.

You’ve probably noticed that I’ve done more reporting this year, actually breaking stories. Expect that to increase as 2009 unfolds. Just like with politics, now isn’t the time to spend alot of time looking back. Now’s the time to look forward. Now’s the time when bloggers peered into the future of the blogosphere. It’s time we mixed in as much reporting as pontificating.

Look for LFR be in the thick of things on this front.

Happy anniversary, Gary.  And keep giving ’em hell.

Back Underground

On Saturday, King and I filled in for John, Chad and Brian on the second hour of NARN Volume I.  To kill the time with as little effort as possible, we did our “Top Ten” lists of best and worst things about having an Obama Administration. 

Because it beat doing show prep, that’s why.

Anyway, one of “best things” was “Conservatives make better underdogs”.  Another was “Maybe our ‘leadership’ will finally get the message” – but we’ll get back to that.

“Evil Conservative” over at TvM extrapolates on the thought:

My first feeling and it’s a surprising one both in how strong it is and that it’s lasting even until now – relief. Relief from the stress of following the election. Relief from defending George W. Bush all the time. Relief from defending Bill Frist when he wants to ban internet gambling. Relief from defending House and Senate Republicans when they get together to do something colossally stupid like, y’know, banning internet gambling!

For all of you on the “right” that tried to ignore all of us Forbes supporters back in 2000 – you may express your apologies, at least as re spending and economic issues, in the form of bottles of single-malt and/or good vodka.  Thanks.

The bottom-line: the pressure is off us at last. We have had some semblance of control of the federal government for 14 straight years. In that time, many Republicans have lost their way (Lott, Bush, Santorum), many have become embarrassingly corrupt (Foley, Abramoff, Stevens), and many are flat out hypocritical (Larry Craig, most who voted for socializing the banking system especially the No votes the 1st time around who voted Yes the 2nd time around when it was loaded with pork).

One last bit of relief that connects my points above about the past and my points below about the future. I’m relieved that our side is taking the correct steps to right the ship. We are not reacting like spoiled little babies like MoveOn and the nutroots in the DailyKos did in 2004.

Actually, I’m impressed by all three of the principals’ approaches to the transition, so far.  Bush is by all accounts being gracious about the transition (and seems unlikely to tolerate the vandalism and less-visible obstruction that his predecessor did eight years ago); McCain has done his best to quell the anger on the part of many of his supporters (although I’m looking forward to him dropping the hammer on some of his more petulant soon-to-be-ex staffers), and Obama has exercised his prerogative to be manganimous in victory.  All to the good. 

Suffice to say I’ll be particularly merciless to any rightybloggers that want to take the low road.  Don’t bother; its still too crowded with leftybloggers who’ve been squatting there for the past four years.


There are no more targets on our backs. The media has to report on Obama, Pelosi, and Reid. They have no choice but to be negative to sell, re-state their expectations of The One that they have promoted for the last 18 months, and resist the backlash now that the meme of the media favoring Obama is accepted by at least half of the audience – many who are refusing to watch or buy.

Not so sanguine here.

Of course they have a choice.  The media soft-pedalled Bill Clinton’s transgressions years ago (remember, it took Matt Drudge to get Newsweek to stop sitting on the Lewinski scandal?), and I see no reason to believe they won’t try again.

Of course, the media scene has changed since 1998; blogs, talk radio and a phalanx of alternative media have broken the logjam of “gatekeepers” that so benefitted Clinton.

Prediction:  Congressional Democrats will try to institute the “Fairness” Doctrine; it’ll be a dumb, ugly overreach that starts people thinking “maybe these people are too powerful”.

If A Plane Full Of Terrorists…

…had crashed into the green room at Orchestra Hall last night, it could have had a sweeping effect on Minnesota conservatism.

At one point, I was sitting with Senator Coleman, Governor Pawlenty, Representative Bachmann, candidates Erik Paulsen (who will be a guest on the NARN this weekend), Barb Davis-White and Ed Matthews, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved, Dennis Prager and James Lileks, talking about the campaign locally and nationwide.

Not sure if anyone from the Strib covered “Talk The Vote” – Salem Radio’s cavalcade of stars touring battleground states nationwide to whip up conservative support – but if they had, they’d have found plenty of conservative support, er, whipped up.  Bear in mind, the Patriot’s been pleasantly surprised by turnout at these events before; the “Patriot Picnic” in 2004 drew hundreds more than we’d planned on, and our fabled Final Debate Party in 2004 attracted 700 to the Minneapolis Hilton – not bad, considering we’d had 100 RSVPs and it was a night every bit as cold and miserable as last Sunday was. 

Bear in mind also that this even was announced perhaps ten days ago, to an audience that largely has businesses and jobs and families and responsibilities.  The Patriot’s promotions department had figured maybe we’d fill up the floor level seats.

We filled every seat in the place; the floor and all three tiers of balconies.  There were people standing in the halls and the lobby, the last I checked.  And the crowd?

No lack of energy there.  Sorry, Sorosphere; after weeks of declaring the election already won, it’s just not sinking in with all of us plumbers and hockey moms.  Suffice to say that even if Mac loses, 2010 is going to make 1994 look like a Camp Wellstone sing-along.

The speakers?  Look – there are not three people anywhere in talk radio that can work a friendly room like Hugh, Michael and Dennis.  Especially Prager; you’d never know it from his fairly laid-back radio show, but in front of a room, the guy is like a nuclear reactor with the regulator rods pulled out; he gets the crowd stoked, and as the crowd’s energy picks up, so does his; I’ve never seen him speak from any kind of notes at all, so the whole world is his speech, and eventually he covers the whole world, getting more and more animated as he goes, stopping just short of pounding his shoe on the lectern.  An amazing performance, even allowing for the tactical flub of attacking Sweden at a stop in Minneapolis.

Me?  I’m feeling a lot better about this next week, and the next two years. 

Go Sox

I’m shocked and saddened to see Dean Barnett has passed away, apparently due to complications from Cystic Fibrosis.  He was only 41.

A few years back, he wrote one of the better essays on Cystic Fibrosis – and his battle with the disease – that I’ve ever seen.  At the time, he’d just participated in a promising treatment:

But regardless, this treatment has given me time – time to spend with my wife and family and friends. Time to hit golf balls (usually sideways, but even that’s alright). Time to chase my dogs around the house. Time that frankly I didn’t expect to have. There could be no greater gift, and it’s a miracle in so many ways.

The miracle has its roots in my persistent father who got Joe O’Donnell involved in the fight against CF. It continues through the incredible courage shown by Joey O’Donnell, who fought CF with such bravery that he inspired his family to fight the disease long after Joey succumbed. And it finishes with Joe O’Donnell and the rest of the amazing O’Donnell family who have given so much of themselves in so many ways and to such great effect.

There are indeed heroes out there. And miracles, too.

His many friends and admirers are a living memorial, of course – one of the greatest legacies someone can leave. 

Words fail, other than to say Dean’s wit, courage and grace were inspirations.  Please pray for the Barnett family. 

Pundits Gone Wild

I was sitting two booths down from Hugh Hewitt last night, on Radio Row. At one point, I was in a clutch of guys – Hewitt, Dennis Prager, Duane Patterson, King Banaian, Ed Morrissey – that’d challenge anyone’s intellectual adequacy (unless you, like I, ignore the concept).

And you could tell they were elated at the Palin speech. We interviewed Duane and Hugh after the event – that’s a matter of record (and should be going up on Townhall soon). Dennis Prager had another story he shared with me that I’ll hold off on until after his show (since I’m assuming he’ll use it; it is that good).

Hewitt writing on Townhall this morning:

Until yesterday the collective MSM sneer was that Palin was “Hello Kitty,” reeling backwards under the pressure. Now she’s Gorgo, smashing up the MSM’s cars. The dismayed punditry is pondering the “meanness” of her attacks and her lack of details on health care refom. A complete triumph over the Beltway-Manhatan media elites, but they will of course regather in Mordor and try again next week.

That, again, was Duane’s salient point; her address was straight out of the Reagan playbook. It bypassed the media and went to her real audience, the American people.

Of course, nothing cheeses off Big Media like being bypassed.

The Obamains decying “mean-spritiedness” are diminishing Obama the former giant slayer turned victim. They think Sarah Palin, Rudy, Mitt and Huck are tough? Remember Obama is scheduling meetings with Ahmadinejad, Kim, and Chavez for ’09. Disarray is far too complimentary a word to use for the Obama campaign.

So here’s hoping Mac scores the kill tonight.

The Two-Way Sluice

When I cast my first-ever conservative vote – for Ronald Reagan, in 1984 – I didn’t tell anyone. Part of it was that the whole conversion from mushy-left to right was so very recent. Part of it was that I was still feeling my way around an unfamiliar place.

And a big part was that I really just didn’t want to be associated with “those” conservatives.

In the media of the day, “out” conservatives were pretty much portrayed as smug fundamentalist televangelists, warmongering caricatures or malthusian skinflints. I edited a college newspaper at the time, and our syndication service – the “Campus News Service” – fed us a constant stream of anti-conservative, anti-Republican propaganda in written and cartoon form, all of it based on the three stereotypes above and the notion, constantly hammered in story after story, cartoon after cartoon, that President Reagan was

a) a doddering buffoon
b) a warmongering psychopath
c) both.

I got over it.

I graduated, moved to the Twin Cities – and it got worse. The media of the day ranged from left-leaning (it was the golden age of Jim Klobuchar; Nick Coleman was just getting started as a columnist) to falling-over left. Just before I started my old KSTP talk show, I remember reading a piece in the City Pages about some counselor/”artist” type in some political action group saying – unchallenged – “liberalism is the only intellectually acceptable philosophy”.

The attitude one perceived could have fairly been called “contemptuous” against conservative people and ideas.

And on the issues? Well, it was at KSTP in 1987, in a discussion on handgun control, where I first heard the old chestnut “I think people who think they need guns are…[brief pause as a verbal wink and nudge] compensating for something…”. It is, of course, the standard line for anti-gunners who want to believe they’re bringing the forces of soft science to bear against their opponents without actually understanding any. And it is nothing if not contemptuous. And it’s not the only issue where conservative substance has been met for decades with ignorant contempt.

To sum up: Twenty years ago, the contempt for conservatives was everywhere.

One thing that was not everywhere was avenues for response. This was before the market drove talk radio to the right. This was before conservatives had any written outlet, short of the National Review and the odd token George Will or Cal Thomas column set into the OpEd page like an exhibit at a zoo. The Strib’s letters to the editor, then as now, published only the most carefully-bowdlerized selection of conservative opinion (seemingly selected for sounding the least coherent, at times)

Today, of course, it’s a different story. Conservatives have voices – and those voices pretty well crush the opposition (which is why the Democrats are talking about bringing back the “Fairness” doctrine). Conservatives have outlets, and they’ve become influential out of all proportion to their size, which is why George Soros and his deep-pocketed friends are trying to buy a share of the blogosphere; it’s not really working (which is why the left has already tried to regulate blog content).

At any rate, in the last twenty years – and especially the past five years or so – people on the left, especially people who remember what life was like back when the conservative in the street only got to speak at the bar and around the table and every couple of years at the polls have had to learn that there really are more than one side to an argument.

The masthead of Charlie Quimby’s blog reads “How Can People Disagree And Still Build a Decent World?”; it’s a good question, one that I ask a lot in this blog and – rather more often – in personal conversation. It is important, and not merely because I’m a conservative with a mother who thinks Jane Fonda is a reactionary.

Charlie poked a little fun last week at the selection of Republicans getting credentials at the Convention next month. The common thread he found: “From Ladies Logic to Grizzly Groundswell to Pair O’Dice you’ll find at least one thing in common: a fairly strong contempt for liberals.”
Over the weekend and still on the subject (having gotten some pushback from a couple of the bloggers he’d names), he asked:

It is possible to separate personal relationships and politics. The success of any free political system depends on it. But over the past 20 years or so, it seems to be happening less and less. Contempt — not just philosophical disagreement — has been ratcheted up and real tolerance for human differences over policies is given the sort of smirking pro forma observance we see between Hannity and Colmes…

The difference, I suggest, is that over the past twenty years contempt and ridicule (and the guys behind their respective curtains, ignorance and fear) have become two-way streets. There’s not more contempt and ridicule; you can just see it. And if you’re a Twin Cities’ liberal, you can see it aimed at you for the first time.
You don’t have to read Nick Coleman or Lori Sturdevant or Brian Lambert all that terribly long to realize that Minnesota liberals of a certain age just aren’t used to being questioned, much less criticized, to say nothing of being the objects of contempt. I’m going to venture that not one of them, growing up in acceptably-lefty households, coming up through a left-leaning academic establishment, and working a career in left-leaning newsrooms, has ever heard someone say “I don’t know why people need pay-equity laws, unless they’re compensating for something, nyuk nyuk”.

Or bloggers and their invisible moonbat/wingnut friends. Which is why here I try to make those exchanges real and open, aimed at understanding rather than refuting the other.

Contempt is the tip on the iceberg of ignorance and – toward the bottom – hatred. I try to avoid it, and seek out conversation with the rare liberal blogger who’s not too stupid and sodden with fake intellectual entitlement…

…oh, crap. Let me start over.

Contempt is the junk food of rhetoric; it’s cheap, easy, and sometimes all you have in the cupboard. It’s easy to say “I don’t use it”; everyone knows better. There are times when it’s the easiest way to respond to the gaffes and slights and sins of the “other” side. It was the same thing twenty years ago; if Hubert Humphrey and Ronald Reagan are the respective egos of the left and right, “guns are compensating for something” and “liberalism is a mental disorder” are the respective ids. And we all balance these in different ways.

At some point, contempt for ideas and values becomes contempt for a group becomes contempt for a person, as the bones in mass graves the world over attest.


But a lot of things have changed in the last decade or two. Liberals in the Twin Cities are having some inevitable growing pains realizing that there is more than one point of view in this world (just like conservatives in Austin Texas and Chapel Hill North Carolina have been having to do).
It’s just all out in the open now.

The only real question now is how people deal with it – a question people have to answer whenever there is more than one side to a debate.

Which is why it’s such a new thing in the Twin Cities.