Saturday, August 05, 2006

Great Picture of Lieberman

Harrogate found this image on his favorite political blog, Talk Left. He loves it, wants to spread it.

Harrogate is looking forward to Tuesday's Conneticut Democratic primary, it ought to be interesting. Without giving up any love for Lamont (see archives), Harrogate thoroughly dislikes Lieberman in ways that verge on the visceral. And Lieberman is behind in the polls, according to all sources. Will he run as a "Petitioning Democrat" if he does indeed get trounced on Tuesday?

ESPN Confronts Sexual Harrassment in the Workplace?

Like many readers of The Rhetorical Situation, Harrogate is a big baseball fan and has been a regular viewer of Baseball Tonight for some time. Recently, however, one of his favorite commentators, Harold Reynolds, was fired, allegedly for sexual harrassment of an ESPN employee.

Clearly sexual harrassment in the workplace has been a hotbutton issue for quite some time, but it is always an extremely slippery thing (no pun intended)to define. Harrogate suggests that flirtations, hugs, etc. infiltrate most workplaces across America. And really, what some consider harrassment others see as "good clean fun."

Harrogate offers no answers to this dillemma, he merely brings it up for reflection and commentary. But it does seem that the idea of The Rhetorical Situation, as currently studied and analyzed by such high-profile theorists as Oxymoron, might provide a useful angle from which to approach such things.

Our Own Study

What these two clips and see if you are more cynical. The tell us what makes you cynical: The Daily Show or the material from the clip.


The Daily Show Effect?

After the presidential elections of 2000, scholars argued that those who watched The Daily Show were politically aware and that a good number of people received the "news" from the Daily Show. Now, there is "The Daily Show Effect" by Jody Baumgartner and Jonathan S. Morris from American Politics Research 34.3 (2006). Here is the abstarct:

We test the effects of a popular televised source of political humor for young Americans: The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. We find that participants Exposed to jokes about George W. Bush and John Kerry on The Daily Show Tended to rate both candidates more negatively, even when controlling for partisanship and other demographic variables. Moreover, we find that viewers Exhibit more cynicism toward the electoral system and the news media at large. Despite these negative reactions, viewers of The Daily Show reported Increased confidence in their ability to understand the complicated world of politics. Our findings are significant in the burgeoning field of research on the effects of “soft news” on the American public. Although research indicates that soft news contributes to democratic citizenship in America by reaching out to the inattentive public, our findings indicate that The Daily Show may have more detrimental effects, driving down support for political institutions and leaders among those already inclined toward nonparticipation.

This article raises a few interesting questions:
(1) Do viewers of The Daily Show need to understand the context of a story for the irony to work (this may undermine the "soft news" aspect of this article? With Irony, you need to "be in the know" to get the joke).
(2) Is the viewers possess the contextual knowledge and more knowledge on the topic of politics, are they to be more skeptical, even without The Daily Show?
(3) This study examined the 2004 elections, one of the most polarized in US History. How did that alter the findings?
(4) They conducted their research from Political Science Students. Can they separate the students' knowledge from the Daily Show with their other political knowledge maybe even other political shows?

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Republican Strategy

From Raw Story: A 91 Page Booklet that describes the Republican strategy for the mid-term elections. The pdf is at the end of the article, aptly named, Raw Story acquires 91-page Republican playbook for 'homestretch' campaign.

Social Movments?

I will be teaching a class on Social Movements this fall. Instead of covering the basic social movements (such as Ciivl Rights, Women's Rights), I want to spend more time on covering social movements that may (1) impact the mid-term elections or (2) do not receive as much coverage.

Does anyone have any suggestions for a social movement to cover? Why?

The Politics of Class

One of the most interesting domestic issues in the fall mid-term elections may be the debate over minimum wage. The national minimum wage standard in the U.S. is drastically low; efforts to raise the minimum wage out-right will draw the wrath from small businesses and larger corporations. However, the American citizens may not tolerate the decline of the middle class from either party.

Both politics parties are in a bind—the democrats, who want to raise minimum wage, cannot raise it to a level where it will help people since, by doing so, the party of the donkey will risk their corporate sponsorship. On the other hand, Republicans cannot afford to keep minimum too low and risk even more separation between then and the lower class. Further, the party of the aristocracy must make some appeal to the lower class since its image alienates middle class Americans. The Republican bill that the party passed in the House went too far to protect the wealthy and the Democrats are correct to note that voters will see through this in November.

At what point in American politics will there be a return to class-based politics?

Thomas Frank addresses this in What’s the Matter with Kansas?. The “The Culture Wars” can lost for only so long. Some have even asked for an Armistice in the war, though others believe that The Cure Worse than the Disease.

Is it possible that there may be a return to class-based politics or does the ethos (read mythos) of american equality prevent this from happening?

Why Lamont Doesn't Represent Hope

There have been moments when Harrogate has found the Lamont/Lieberman spectacle interesting, perhaps even representative of hope. But go here to see why in those moments, Harrogate was wrong:

Lamont's a Tool

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Sports and Politics:

Warren Moon will be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame this weekend. Why did it take so long for a black quarterback to play quaterback? Here are two articles that discuss politics and the NFL.

Note: You will have to watch a brief ad for the first link.

Slate on MTV

Slate discusses the first day of MTV. In case you missed it, MTV Day One will be on VH1 Classics this Saturday, starting at 9am EST.

"War on Christmas" and "Political Correctness"--Two Misnomers for the Price of One

Few things amuse Harrogate more than the hyperbole with which some people discuss "political correctness," a label ascribed by the corporate media to a movement of sorts that originated at a collegiate level and proceeded to seep into the community at large. Though contaminated by this media treatment, much if the spirit survived enough to impact community discourses in a positive way. But, to address the hyperbole:

Harrogate was in the university system at UNC-Chapel Hill in the late 80s and early 90s, right around the time when the "movement" started, and he remains still in that system, in Texas, today. In between he spent many years working for wages.

In all that time he has never heard anyone, in earnest, replace "fat" with "horizontally challenged" or "short" with "vertically challenged" or any other such drivel.

And he'd stake Tom Cruise's sonogram machine that none of you has ever heard it used in earnest either. What he has often heard is people who don't know any better, usually people who vote Republican, try to suggest that "liberals" really use such ridiculous language.

The thing, for Harrogate anyway, was always about recognizing the destructive power of labels, of words. Words like "retarded" rightfully came under fire, words delineating race were rightfully pointed out to be potentially super-charged weapons. Like Faux News's "War on Christmas," that host of people who want us all to start saying things like "horizaontally challenged" is a myth of which citizens need not be afraid, and towards which their indignation is utterly wasted. It's like being angry at Santa Claus.

So there are a few towns scattered here and there who call their public tree a holiday tree and there's maybe a single one-millionth of a percent of the population in this country who outright condemn the words "Merry Christmas," and Faux News has us all deeply offended,to the point that we call this war?


Harrogate has news for the people. The news is neither Fair nor Balanced. It is simply true news. Here it comes:

Nearly all who are not Christians in America either A)Celebrate Christmas anyway or; B)Don't.

In no case do nonChristian Americans care what others are celebrating or not celebrating, they have other worries altogether. But Harrogate finds it interesting, every winter, all this obesssing over public display, all these Americans fancying themselves as persecuted because their religion is not written in broad crayon overtopp every public edifice and on and on.

Roy Moore you are indeed representative of a real phenom. But to Harrogate you and your admirers smack, more than anything else, of insecurity, of profound discomfort at the idea that others just don't give a damn about your personal religion, one way or the other.

Reply to "Framing the Real"

I think that there are a few things to consider about "the real" and the "artificial" in this debate. Sports are a form of entertainment, but some forms are more entertaining than others and some sports are more legitimate than others-- the WWE compared to the NFL. The NFL is a league that is more legitimate since it is not scripted. However, the league suffers with any attacks to the legitimacy in the league (steroid use for example).

While sports may be a form of entertainment, the Shakespearian drama of our time, and while sports may focus the spirit (think Plato's thymos) and passions of our time, to only consider them as entertainment deflects away from how sports interact in the larger cultural context, especially in terms of the political and economic culture. Think back to when comedian Rush Limbaugh appeared on NFL Gameday until he made remarks about Donovan McNabb. These comments were not "challenged" nor "refuted" with any depth on the show by other members of the show; however, ESPN kicked him off the program. The following week, the members of the show denied the existence of "the political" in the show and in the sport; they stated "That is not what this show is about," meaning this show and this sport is only about entertainment. (This is not a defense of what Comedian Rush said just an example).

But, what ESPN overlooks in its coverage are the politics and economics of the game. Major sports are monopolies that do not have to adhere to anti-trust laws. (Ask Maurice Clarett and others about this). Any team adds to the economic impact of their area; if a small market city lost its team, the area would lose a major source of revenue. Because of the economic benefits of the team, the politicians offer owners and leagues certain extra incentives that may hurt the markets citizens. Citizens who live in NFL market are subject to blackout laws and cannot watch the the local team if the game did not sell out in time even though they have "a stake in the team" since their tax-dollars pay for the stadium. While citizens elect politics, those politicians enact policies that hinder the citizens but may help the owner. Also, citizens have many choices about where to spend their money- their family, their selection of entertainment, etc. If there are illegitimate actions within one form of entertainment (if the sports is not perceived as being legitimate) then the sport and the market may suffer.

In terms of steroid, these are illegal substances. Even though baseball is entertainment, it needs to play ball according to state and federal law. While society overlooked the drugs for a time (especially when MLB needed to increase its fan base after the cancelled season in the 1990's and allowed home run races) it reached a point where it needed to face the problem, especially when high school and college athletes increased their use of steroids and citizens contacted their representatives about the problem.

While the media may contribute to sports as "raw power" it can also help regulate that power to contain its legality and support its legitimacy. While the media may overlook certain "artificial" aspects of the sport that effect the game, such as the position of fences, the height of the mound, etc., these aspects do not effect legal rules in society (though they may contribute in a minor way to the economics of the game). Once sports become a legal issue and political issue, then it necessitates more coverage, which will only try to reinforce the legitimacy of the sport.

High (in)Fidelity

Last year I entered the exciting world of hi-fi music. After spending the majority of my life with cheap, mass-produced electronics from corporate retail chains, I decided to spend way too much money on some high-performance British gear. I traveled to a boutique audio shop in Austin for my purchase. Having shopped around for the greater part of three months, I knew exactly what I wanted. My purchase was informed by hours of listening, not by sales pitches. Nonetheless, when I made my purchase, I became a life-long customer of Darin, the salesperson who conducted my transaction. Even though Darin did nothing to assist me in my purchase, he will earn commission on all of my future purchases. I will always be his customer. The rationale behind this policy is that returning customers are loyal to the store only because they were initially satisfied with the service they received. Such was not the case with me. I knew exactly what I wanted to buy, but Darin kept trying to push me to spend more money. It turned me off.

Despite my first experience, I continue to patron the store, as I like the brands they sell. And occasionally, I will bump into Darin. Those encounters are never satisfying, as he always tries to get me into something that would never yield sufficient sonic rewards for my system. I feel that he’s misleading me in order to pat his own pocket. On the other hand, I often spend time with Roger, a very passionate and helpful sales associate. He loves music and seems very honest. In fact, on several occasion, he has talked me out of expensive upgrades and offered less expensive alternatives to achieving my goals. What’s more, I feel very comfortable talking to him about my system, and he always encourages me to just come in and listen. I can easily audition potential upgrades without ever feeling burdensome. And he’s knows that my purchases ultimately belong to Darin.

Given my preference for dealing with Roger, I find myself trying to avoid Darin at all costs. Yesterday, for example, I wanted to set up an appointment with Roger, so that I might audition a specific component. I called the store and left a message with the receptionist, as Roger was busy with a customer. I got a call back two hours later. But not from Roger! The person on the other end of the line identified himself as Darin. He said, “I see that you left a message for Roger, but we went back through some old invoices and saw that I had helped you in the past.” He then inquired into the purpose of my call. I found myself uncomfortably discussing with him my plans for a potential upgrade. And as usual, he began to suggest a more expensive alternative that would not achieve my goals. He then tried to nail me down to an appointment. I hesitated and said that I was very busy. “I’ll drop in when I have some free time,” I tell him. I don’t know that I will.

What has encouraged this passive-aggressive behavior of mine? Although I consider myself a pretty ethical and moral dude, I find myself being dishonest here. I know that I’m Darin’s customer, but rather than confront him about my dissatisfaction with our relationship, I sneak around behind his back. Why can’t I just tell him that I feel more comfortable working with Roger? David Riesman, an important twentieth-century sociological theorist, would likely say that my actions are indicative of the other-directed social character of modern culture. Rather than allow my action to be guided by a moral gyroscope, I allow them to be guided by anxieties about how others will perceive me. Morality is thus replaced by peer acceptance. I suppose this touches the heart of the issue here. I would rather be sneaky and dishonest than potentially hurt Darin’s feelings. But why am I compelled to consider his feelings when he certainly doesn’t have my best interests in mind when making upgrade recommendations. Maybe deep down inside I do want him to like me. Or perhaps I’m just trying to avoid potential confrontations or any sort of awkwardness during my future visits to the store.

On the other hand, Darin’s decision to return my phone call was itself an act of passive-aggression. He knew that I didn’t leave a message for him, yet he returned my call as if there were no obvious tension. What is interesting to me is that Darin completely ignored the rhetorical situation of my initial phone call. Obviously, I know that I am his customer, yet I did not leave a message for him. Why, then, would he call me back? Why not read the signs and recognize that I do not want to work with him? Why not acknowledge that a sale might be more likely through Roger? Yet he confronts my infidelity and once again stakes his claim for me in a manner that is both hostile and genial.

Despite the tensions that exist between Darin and me, I suppose we are better off masking them behind a fa├žade of politeness. After all, we do live in a civil society. But then again, do we somehow destroy our potential for leading meaningful lives and building healthy societies when we form and maintain inauthentic relationships? I don’t know. So I guess I’ll just keep doing things the way I always have. Accordingly, I’ve changed the names of everyone mentioned in this post. I don’t want this to get back to Darin. That might be awkward.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Radiohead, "Just"

Back to Mtv.

The video for "Just (You Do It to Yourself)" is one of my favorite videos. It violates so many viewer expectations. Even better, Radiohead refuses to provide an answer. By the way, it is a great song.

Steroids Part I: Framing "the Real"

The following is the first entry in a weekly series on steroids and the media that Harrogate will be bringing to The Rhetorical Situation.

Over the last few years Harrogate has become increasingly irritated with the media's rhetorical treatment of steroids in sports--baseball in particular, but the witch hunt for instances of doping extends to every corner of the Sports World (and has for quite some time). On this topic, the sanctimony of ESPN staples like The Sports Reporters and Outside the Lines is truly something to behold. And of course, the sanctimony trickles down to the rest of us, infiltrating our own little water cooler, barroom debates, as though we are clean-handed innocents looking for a fair contest in sports and life, alike.

Comes the cry from your buddy over wings, Bob Ley, and George Will alike: (drumroll please) THE FANS NEED TO KNOW WHAT THEY'RE SEEING IS REAL!

What silliness. Why do so few with media podiums (Jason Whitlock being a notable exception--more on him next week, links included) challenge this default use of the word "real," as though we all know exactly what it is and that it was never in question until steroids came into the picture? In baseball, such usage implies that all of the following falls under the category of stable, of the REAL: generations of fences moving in and out, pitchers' mounds going up and down, fluctuation in terms of season length and playoff participants, shrinking strike zones, the illegalization of spitballs, etc. But bring a performance enhancing drug into the equation and suddenly you've left us with nothing to count on!

Along these same lines, today's athletes, in whatever sport you want to talk about, get access to levels of weight training, physical conditioning, dietary practice, and generally pampered living that the predecessors whose records they so zealously chase never dreamed of. This is just a fact.

Bring them back, in their prime, and Lombardi's Pack Attack gets annhiliated by the worst team in today's NFL. And that, brothers and sisters, aint because of steroids.

Much as die hard fans like Harrogate and Solon might hate to admit it, professional sports is entertainment, not a continual unfolding of the Iliad. Homeruns, broken tackles, 100+ MPH pitches--this is what the industry in general has taught us makes it worthwhile top pay top dollar at the gate. And the media has been, shall we say, gluttonously complicit in framing sports in American as a metaphor for raw power.

Is it any wonder then that the athletes are giving us what we have been taught to want, to demand?

The Ironical Turn

In case you missed it: here are two clips from the "Better Know a District" segment from The Colbert Report.

First, Can a person from D.C. be president?

Second, what are the 10 Commandments?

Oh Irony, true
Irony, the "perspective
of perspectives."- Burke

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

MTV at 25

Twenty-five years ago, MTV revolutionized the record industry; the station revived the music industry and recreated fashion, most of which should never, ever come back.

I was five then and it chanegd my life as much as anything could change the life of a five-year-old. In fact, I remember that I recorded songs as they appeared and then played them outside on a Brand Names tape recorder. I imagine that I learned to play guitar because of Mtv. Maybe all of my music interest developed from Mtv. Where are the "Snowdens of Yesteryear?" Are there any musical virtues left on Mtv or is it just gross commercialism?

To celebrate its 25th aniversary, eMpTyV is doing, well, nothing. Instead VH1 Classics is playing "MTV Day One" (you cannot break the programming of MTV today since those who want the original station were not alive then.).

In a 20 or so minute span, the videos played were:
(1) Nazareth (the chorus of the song goes something like:"Momma, Momma please no more face lifts;" there was a "I don't know who my daddy is." A kid in the video plays Pole Position.
(2) Stevie Nicks' "Step Draggin' My Heart Around," (this was before Stevie appeared in mumus. It also featured a young Tom Petty-- only 50 at the time-- as a backup singer);
(3) The Buggles Video Killed a Radio Star (whom was killed later by the cast of The Real World and Laguana Beach)
(4) Robert Palmer "Looking for Clues" (it is funny that he only plays one chord during the video).
(5) Ph.D. "Little Sussies' on the Up." (I have never heard of, nor seen this song or video, though one girl in the video looked like Paris Hilton for a second)
(6) Rod Stewart "Passion." This is one of the worst videos I have ever seen. A black stage with red dots. Though, the stage goes well with some of the worst lyrics I have heard. The guitar player's solo is a Pink Floyd rip-off. But, what can you expect from someone in a red track suit.
(7) Shoes "Cruel You." Maybe it is a good thing MTV no longer plays videos.
(8) The Pretenders, "Talk of the Town." I liked this band.

But what I want to know is:
Will "Fish Heads" be on?
Why have I not wacthed this all day?
Where is Daria? When will she be back?
Where is 120 Minutes?
Is MTV dead? Or just no longer speaking to me? I know the later is true. Is the former?