Thursday, November 02, 2006

Primal scream

Fredericksburg.Com has a series of 22 continous photos of blogger/activist Mike Stark pushing his way through to George Allen. Stark accused Allen's staffers of manhandling him. Captain's Quarters says "he assaulted one staffer in his attempt to get to Allen, something that the CNN cameras wouldn't have caught." AJ Strata says he is old enough to remember what happened to Robert Kennedy and says "someone busting through security and staff may not be there just for a partisan prank."

One word often applied to politics today is "passionate", which I vaguely remember as having arrived in the public policy lexicon via the food and art reviews. If the Hatfields and the McCoys had known the word they would have found it advantageous in describing their rivalry. It makes the condition of unrestrained hostility sound so much more genteel.

Neo-neocon agrees with Anne Kornblut who argues that modern politics has poisoned personal relationships in America. "American politics have always been contentious ... But if people stopped speaking over politics, it was the rare exception. Now it seems, if not the rule, certainly a fairly commonplace phenomenon." I guess one could take comfort in recollecting the far worse enmities of the civil war. But on second thought, that direction is fairly unpleasant to contemplate.

The question of course is not simply whether politics is so much more "passionate" these days but why it has become so. William Niskanen, former acting chairman of Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers, argues that a divided government is empirically better for America because it keeps each sides excesses in check. That may be true, but is there not some point at which the benefits of enmity experience the law of diminishing returns? So far it has not shown any signs of bottoming out. It is still in the stage of "more is better" or at least" more leads to more". But wait, when can we expect a conservative blogger to crash through a Democratic Senator's cordon of staffers?


Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Jonah Goldberg discussed a similar phenoman wrt to the Media.

The press is becoming more partisan. Only the idiots at the NYT, CBS, et. al. don't see it. However, Jonah argues this is, historically speaking, closer to the norm than a supposedly "objective press". It was the advent of a true national media large scale media that forced the media to the center (albeit left of center). This was driven by a solid and broad national consensus that arose out of the generation that fought WWII and gave rise to the baby boomers.

Earlier on cities always had multiple newspapers and none of them could be accused of being neutral or "objective", they were all fiercely partisan.

The rise of the blogosphere is also driving this.

11/02/2006 06:05:00 PM  
Blogger buck smith said...

"American politics have always been contentious ... But if people stopped speaking over politics, it was the rare exception. Now it seems, if not the rule, certainly a fairly commonplace phenomenon."

People stopped speaking and started shooting in 1860

11/02/2006 07:15:00 PM  
Blogger Staring In Disbelief said...

A big Amen to Marcus A. I just finished reading Ron Chernow's outstanding biography of Alexander Hamilton (the original, super-size Mr. Big Government) and it describes in copiuos detail the shocking calumnies hurled about in the rabidly partisan press of the day. It makes the partisanship of today's MSM seem mild.

However, the press of Hamilton's day made no pretense of "above the fray" objectivity, and so avoided at least the degree of self-righteous hypocrisy of today's MSM. I think there is some demand for objectivity in the general public, but I don't think they look to the MSM to necessarily provide it anymore. I think the internet is more and more taking on the role of "fact checker & provider" while the MSM (including Fox News) provides a more tabloid-level fare of sensational "if it bleeds, screeds, or needs, it leads" content. It is probably asking too much of any big-cost operation (like a TV network or newspaper) to play the sober, "just the facts" role so desperately needed. There just isn't enough money in it to pay for the air time or ink-space. It will likely require lower cost outlets (like blogs) to keep the major organs tolerably honest while they provide their 24x7 coverage of a missing high school student in Aruba.

11/03/2006 10:28:00 AM  

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