kurt's nightmare

Generally, I post once a week. Topics are randomly selected and depend mostly upon whether it's baseball season or not. Other topics will include sex, politics, old girlfriends, music, and whatever else pops into my little brain. If you'd like to read, or ignore, my blog about China: http://meidabizi.blogspot.com/

Location: Dayton, OH, Heard & McDonald Islands

I'm an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dayton. I represent no one but myself, and barely do that. I'm here mostly by accident.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Media Coverage

Wow. Thanks to some new folks, I got a new record number of comments. That some seem not to think too highly of my cognitive abilities is irrelevant. Most of my real work focuses on Kant's Critique of Pure Reason--particularly the so-called Metaphysical Deduction--so if you really want to get after my "arguments," my book should be out (late Summer? early Fall?). Of course everyone should a) buy several copies b) tell every library he or she visits physically or electronically to buy several copies and c) tell every bookstore he or she visits physically or electronically to offer it. Personally, I think I should get on Oprah; should I hold my breath for her to put me on her show, discussing Necessity and Possibility: The Logical Structure of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason?

I use the word "tortuous" in it, by the way.

In any case, the stuff I write here is simply amateur hour. I'm not up to the rigorous standards of some of my readers, but they haven't taken me up on my invitation to guest blog.

The latest entry, which was about Ryan Lizza, Rush Limbaugh, and Jeremiah Wright's commitment to Islam, didn't seem to draw much reaction. Wright himself did, however, so I thought I'd bring out from the comments an issue, and hear what folks have to say.

At the Project for Excellence in Journalism (not to be confused with the "Excellence in Broadcasting Network"), an empirical media study found that the Wright-Obama story received in the week examined 42% of the coverage, relative to Clinton's 41%. These numbers sound more precise than they probably deserve to, so I'm willing to call it a tie at 40%.

A bit of the piece summarizes the coverage this way:

As the primary voting has slowed, the media have focused on a number of Democratic campaign controversies—from Clinton’s erroneous recollection about dodging snipers in Bosnia to Obama’s remarks about economically disadvantaged Americans being “bitter.” But none have had the staying power of the Wright flap. In the period from March 17 through May 4, the Wright-Obama story line made up 17%, or one out of six, of all the campaign stories studied. And last week saw the biggest spike yet in that coverage.

There were significant policy issues at play in last week’s Democratic campaign leading up to the May 6 primaries in North Carolina and Indiana. Clinton and Obama sparred over how to handle Iran and the proposed gas-tax holiday. The issue of gas prices accounted for the second-biggest category of campaign stories last week at 7%. And the next biggest chunk of campaign coverage, at 5%, was Indiana superdelegate and former Democratic National Committee chair Joe Andrew switching his support from Clinton to Obama.

But even after combining the gas and the Andrew coverage, that is less than one-third of the attention paid last week to Wright.

This sounds a bit weird to me. I'm willing to grant that the connections between Wright and Obama deserve to be looked at, and I'm willing to listen to the criticisms of Wright that have been put forth, as well as the analysis of what this implies about Obama. That's fair: Obama himself agreed that this was a legitimate political issue.

But is it the only issue? Clinton is running for President, as is Obama. Are there other things to examine than the Wright-Obama connection? Admittedly, the policy differences between the two are pretty minor, but there are distinctions.

Apparently, others view it differently. I think there's lots to talk about other than Wright, without that implying that the Wright issue not be examined. (It would be nice, as well, if a bit more of what had been said in those scary awful sermons was brought into the discussion; this was one of the advantages of Bill Moyers's interview with Wright, but wasn't the model generally followed. The simple question is this: given either the views found in Ezekiel in the Hebrew Bible, or Luke in the sequel, consider some of the actions of the United States and its citizens. Does God bless all of them? None of them? Some of them?)

So I'll leave it as an open question: is this an appropriate way to proportion the media coverage of Wright, of Obama, of Wright and Obama, and of Clinton? (And for those who are so inspired, the invitation to guest blog remains open.)


Blogger Bazarov said...

First off, that anyone in the media or elsewhere is so seemingly suprised by what a clergyperson may say shows them to be a collection of nincompoops. (I hope that word is OK). What should suprise people is when something smart comes out of a clergyperson's mouth; statistically speaking (since that's a hot topic for the moment) that's what should surpise people. Nonsense and/or complete bullshit is the norm with that collection of mendicants.
Let me start this next point out with a disclaimer: I avoid popular media and TV like the plague. This means I avoid it as much as possible but at times rubberneck and can't help but look at the diseased from time to time. I think the reason why there's been so much harping on this topic is because the flames are being fanned by certain "right wing" media organizations because they'd much rather have McCain run against Clinton than Obama. They're much more willing to rip on her than him so they'll do what they can to make sure he doesn't get the nomination. Let us not forget that McCain got an endorsement from some clergyperson as well (a fat obnoxious fuckface that seems to have filled in the niche Falwell left when he departed quite nicely). I haven't heard nearly as much flak about this guy although he's making equally ridiculous claims (that a loving god punishes us with disease and natural disasters, for example).
I would love to see you on Oprah, but then I'd have to watch Oprah. I'd youtube it, I guess. However, I don't think you'd be nearly as entertaining as Towlie was on the show..."How spicey would you like your Chang sauce? I'm so high right now."

9:56 AM  
Blogger kmosser said...

I have the vague impression that you are no longer a member of John Hagee's church.

11:10 AM  
Blogger Bazarov said...

Ha! That comment suggests that I may have been a member of his church at one time in the past. I'm proud to say that even though I was born in a country with a State Church at the time, I was not then nor have I ever been a member of a church (my folks were sane enough and free enough from the infection of superstitious thought to allow me to make that decision for myself and officially left the church before I was born). I have not been baptised either. I have gone to three or four services voluntarily and I came to the following conclusion after each service (one catholic and two or three protestant denominations): For the protestants they seemed to genuinely mean well but they're simply wrong; for the catholics it seemed more of a rote ritual/ceremony where everyone there was going through the motions but all thinking about something else. Basically it boils down to this, in my opinion, with regards to clergy: You're either genuine in what you preach and therefore delusional and/or extremely ignorant, or you're insincere and lying. I'm not sure which I dislike the most, but I'm leaning towards the Grand Inquisitor type. It seems rather paternalistic and condescending to not believe in what you preach. I think this is more of a problem for catholic clergy though as from my experience they seem to be better educated than protestant preachers. The protestants to me seem to be more of a bottom up phenomenon whereas the catholics are more top down--a mom and pop sandwich store vs. a multi-national chain, like McDonalds.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous bmackintosh said...

On bazarov's comment:
"Nonsense and/or complete bullshit is the norm with that collection of mendicants."

True, but some religious leaders are led through their spiritual journeys to make great contributions to society.

Martin Luther King Jr. was greatly disturbed by the hypocrisy of the white Southern Baptist support of un-Christian Jim Crow laws. His righteousness compelled him to lead others towards equality.

King was influenced by Gandhi's Satyagraha (non-violent resistance) which in turn was influenced by his practice of Hindu philosophy of Brahmacharya.

Catholics and Protestants have reached out the poor and starving through missions. Mother Teresa's Sisters of Charity, and the protestant Christian Missionary Alliance come to mind.

Wright has brought positive contributions to his community. His liberation theology has been a positive, healing experience for those consumed by the bitterness of poverty and racist segregation.

I don't want to discount the suffering brought forth by religion, and I definitely don't agree with many of Wright's statements. But I think it narrow minded to discount or ignore the positives brought through religion, (especially the Trappist Ales).

5:52 PM  
Blogger Bazarov said...

All positive things associated with religion could be done without the superstitious baggage. Since both bad and good things have been done in the name of the same religion it should be apparent that supernatural beliefs have little to do with it. I simply pick on religion as much as I do because it's an easy target and I'm amazed at how strongly people defend such a weak proposition. The child in me never ceases to laugh at how "adults" will defend utterly ridiculous stances. Ultimately, though, I'm more concerned with behavior than beliefs, so if my neighbor doesn't tie me down and immolate me simply because he thinks an inverted triangle will punish him eternally in some negative dimension then I guess I'm okay with that, though I'd prefer he not do it for other reasons.
Being good is good. Does that make any sense? Especially when it's done without the fear of punishment or hope of reward in an afterlife, which there is no reason to believe exists; when you die you're dead (I can't believe people still have to say that this day and age in literate societies). In fact, being good simply because it's good is better than doing it for fear or hope, in my humble, mortal opinion. And please realize that I'm not so sure I believe in "good" or "bad" or "evil" things. Those words seem rather loaded and full of problems should one take them too seriously, but it's a good shorthand for getting certain points across. Helping people oppressed because of their skin color, as Mr. King did, was good because people don't choose the crotch they come out of and to treat people harshly for things they had no control over is wrong. It'd be a bit like me kicking you in the gonads for not being named Michael (presuming your name isn't Michael--if it is replace it with another). What should immediately come to mind are the mutliple issues this raises, such as whether or not criminals--pedophiles and serial killers, for example--could've done anything to avoid becoming what they became. Most modern thought on the subject seems to be leaning more and more to a negative answer. I don't want to open that can of worms, or more accurately, having opened it, I'm going to leave it be and walk away. But Russell had lots to say on these points, and he was a far more eloquent writer than I'll ever be.
I almost forgot! I have a topic for whoever decides to take over the blog for Mr. Mosser! {Forgive the less honorable appellation, but the alliteration rolls more easily off the tongue than Dr. Mosser}. The topic is this: What, exactly, is Kurt's nightmare? Is it this blog? Is it a repeating nightmare? Does it change? Do others recognize it as a nightmare as well? I could see how it might be my incessant commenting, but I believe the blog was dubbed before I ever made a comment.

8:05 PM  
Blogger Bazarov said...

Oh yeah, I don't think Mother Teresea was necessarily a good person. I think she enjoyed suffering a bit too much. I find it funny how the sick under her care hardly saw the sort of treatment she received when she herself got sick. Make of that what you will, but I certainly don't think a woman who was supposedly celibate that talked raped young women out of getting abortions was a good person. Plus, didn't it come out recently that she battled with her faith, if not lost it all together? That, in my eyes, might lift her to the level of a respectable human being, but I haven't researched her enough to say one way or the other.
I don't get along well with beer, despite my ancestry. My favorite items left by religious people are the churches themselves. I think the cathedrals of Europe are breath-taking, just as the pyramids of Egypt are. With regards to the cathedrals though, I think any enclosed area with a sufficiently large volume and high vaulted ceilings would produce similar effects and only state run religions could afford to build such temples back in those days, so again, it's not really because they were religiously inspired. I could go on for quite some time but I'll spare those with eyes any more.

8:18 PM  
Anonymous bmackintosh said...

The "superstitious" hocus pocus (rituals, color, pageantry) is what is fun about religious observances. The "baggage" for me would be all the fear (hell), judgemental peers, restrictive dogma, and legalistic rules.

In my youth I have suffered under narrowly interpreted dogma, so I agree with much of what you have to say. Dogma restricts rather than enhances the human spirit. Unrestrictive spiritual movements like certain forms of Buddhism, liberal Christianity, and Paganism can provide pleasant enhancements to life. I don't judge a person's choice of faith.

On Mother Theresa.
She's not perfect, but she made the choice to leave a cushy convent gig to live among the poor of Calcutta. The work of this lowly nun was felt over all the world. Her impact on the poor has never been disputed that I am aware of, at least not credibly. I'll forgive her less enlightened views and actions, though I don't agree with talking a rape victim out of an abortion.

7:40 PM  
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