Friday, May 26, 2006

Lapgogs at the table in Vanity Fair

Ever browse through my archives?

Me neither.

How about your own? Or the archives of any of your other regular blog reads?

Searching for back posts on a particular topic I'm interested in at the moment I do often, of course. Routine.

Looking up old posts for the pleasure of it or in hopes of stumbling upon some useful facts or ideas?

Not so much.

I suspect few people do browse back posts of blogs, and this means that almost everything that's posted on blogs disappears from memory as soon as it disappears from view, a good thing from my point of view, considering some of the things I've written.

Still, collectively, there are surely losses, gems of posts that deserve re-reading, which, their revels ended, melt like spirits into air, into thin air, and leave not a rack behind.

But there's another kind of loss, a more practical one. Bits of information, specific stories, ideas and observations from the past that are needed to bring things in the present into sharper focus have to be dug up and Google searches, Technorati searches, Lexis-Nexis searches, all data base mining are at the same time indiscriminate and too inclusive, and often too specific so that a search will bring up only exactly what you were searching for, which could very well have been not quite the right thing to have aimed your sights at.

You just can't thumb through the interent the way you can through a book.

What I'm getting at is that Eric Boehlert's book Lapdogs is a godsend.

Oh, all right, it's a publistsend, but I'm still awful grateful to have it.

I've been jumping around in it, and I have yet to come across anything that I didn't already know from five years of reading blogs, but on every page I have bumped up against something that I had forgotten, always something that even if I had accidentally jogged it back into memory on my own I would not have been able to recall in the detail that Boehlert provides or with anything near the amount of supporting facts he provides.

Boehlert's thesis is simple and straight-forward and, again, nothing new to those of us on the Left side of the bandwidth: Over the last decade the major organs and players in the mainstream media have become mostly willing purveyors of Republican propaganda and cheerleaders for the Bush White House, a role they are only now showing signs of giving up and they are doing it reluctantly and with constant backsliding.

I'll probably do a series of posts next week in place of a single, serious review. For now I just want to look at something that bothered me again and again as I was reading this morning.

Boehlert doesn't try to read minds and he doesn't profess to have the kind of insider information that tells him why any individual journalists, pundits, editors, or TV new producers have allowed themselves to be used so obviously and egregiously as tools by the Bush Leaguers. He attributes the MSM's surrender of its collective spine to a mix of timidity, business pressures, careerism, power-worship, and a style of journalism dependent on a social access that blurs the lines between reporter and source and friend and friend...and even, more insidious, potential job hunter and potential employer.

All of that's observably the case. But this morning it was the last item in the list, the socializing, party-going, rubbing-elbows-with, Vanity Fair aspect of the MSM's corruption that troubled me most, because that's what won't disappear if and when the Democrats come back into power.

I'm talking about Thackeray's novel not Conde Nast's magazine.

The Republicans rule in Washington's Vanity Fair as surely as they rule in Congress and the White House. Vanity Fair everywhere is the world of high society and fashion and Vanity Fair everywhere is ruled by the people with money and in Washington's Vanity Fair, as in pretty much Vanity Fairs everywhere outside of Hollywood, the money is in the hands of rich conservatives.

Many members of the MSM have become regulars in Vanity Fair, but they are the poor relations at the table. Their continued presence depends on their being agreeable to their hosts. Their egos and pride may not let them admit it to themselves, but they have to show themselves to be hostile to Democrats and Liberals to keep their seats at the table. And there are few truly independent minds in the world, all of us tend to "think" according to the company we keep, which is to say we adopt the ideas and opinions of the people around us. The members of the MSM who sit at the table at Vanity Fair grow to think like everyone else at the table. In this case human nature enables cynical opportunism.

The Democrats can take control of both houses of Congress, they can put a Democrat in the White House, but unless they take control of Vanity Fair as well, the MSM will likely remain dismissive and hostile and in league with the Republicans to regain their power.

Cross-posted at the American Street.


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