Charles Warner: Beck Not Worthy of Sanction

Liberal readers were outraged and conservative readers were supportive of my blog advocating that advertisers not pull their advertising from Glenn Beck's program on the Fox News channel in response to a proposed boycott of their products.

The comments and debate have been filled with intelligent and emotion-filled arguments that seem to boil down to two positions: 1) Those who want to shut up Beck, O'Reilly, Fox News, and Rush Limbaugh and 2) those who don't want advertisers to kowtow to boycotts or try to stifle free speech and believe the hate mongers are not influencing public opinion but are merely pandering to the entrenched prejudices of an angry, hate-filled, mostly white uneducated fringe.

So my question is this, if advertisers should cancel their advertising in the conservative Beck's controversial television program, should Mutual of America cancel its sponsorship of PBS's "Bill Moyer's Journal" which recently replayed a documentary titled "Critical Condition" that clearly and persuasively advocates in favor of health care reform? Health care reform is a major, divisive political issue, with liberals generally on one side of the line in the sand (the left side, of course) and conservatives on the other side.

Right-wingers typically view Bill Moyers as a soft liberal, perhaps less strident than Beck, but idealistically and politically as much an anathema as Beck and O'Reilly are to the left. So why aren't right wingers calling for Mutual of America to withdraw its support from "Bill Moyer's Journal" and for other sponsors to pull their support from other PBS or NPR or MSNBC programming?

Perhaps conservative organizations are advocating boycotting PBS, NPR, and MSNBC programming they don't like, but I have heard nothing about it. I suspect it is the tone of Beck's stupid racist remark as much as his right-wing rabble rousing and hate mongering against Obama that is upsetting liberals, many of whom want to bring back the Fairness Doctrine in an attempt to muzzle conservative hate mongers such as Rush Limbaugh who are distributed on FCC-licensed radio stations.

However, Beck, O'Reilly, and Hannity are on Fox News on cable, which is not regulated by the FCC, so they would continue to bloviate even if the ineffective Fairness Doctrine were reinstated (something Obama is on record as being against, and rightly so).

I think the solution to the Beck and right-wing ranters problem was provided by an insightful comment I received from a conservative friend of mine who was the Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division in the George H. W. Bush administration:

"As Justice William O. Douglas once referred in a Supreme Court decision to the Communist Party of the US, the hysterical commentators are, '...the poor peddlers of unwanted wares; their goods remain unsold.' Why bother elevating the focus on these ranters by suggesting they're worthy of sanction?"

Justice Douglas said it much more eloquently than I ever could. Glenn Beck's or Bill O'Reilly's or Lou Dobbs' rants are not worthy of sanction.

How Ted Kennedy Helped Bill Clinton Win Reelection

The New Yorker has unlocked its Kennedy archives and given free access to a number of revealing profiles. One of the fines is also one of the most recent, a 1997 portrait by Elsa Walsh that highlights Kennedy's little known role in President Clinton's 1996 reelection.

Kennedy shaped Clinton's reelection theme after the bloodbath of 1994, when the GOP took over both the House and the Senate and Mitt Romney had threatened to knock off Kennedy himself.

"Unions, minorities, women, gays, education groups, and the health community all worked like hell for me and helped the campaign enormously. Hard to head into 1996 without enthusiastic support of our base," Kennedy wrote to Clinton. The Republican Revolution, Kennedy predicted, would not stand the test of the American voter. "Their harshness will not wear well over time," he predicted accurately.

Kennedy was adept at mixing his preferred policy with his politics. He urged Clinton to make the next budget he submitted a "a political document, not a policy document." The centrist Clinton was inclined to cut spending, but Kennedy urged him not to -- because when the Republicans did it on their own, Democrats would be in a better position to challenge them.

Medicare, he said, was the most important program to protect. "'No cuts to Medicare except for health-care reform' will be a great 'wedge' issue if we can keep the distinction clear," Kennedy argued.

The piece also includes Kennedy's famous minimum-wage speech that he gave his wavering colleagues after the '94 wipeout. Kennedy was pushing for an increase in the bottom wage despite the loss and was getting push back behind closed doors.

"What are we?" he thundered. "We're Democrats...How can we possibly say this? This is core Democratic material. This is our people. These are working people. These are the people we've got to fight for."

Somehow, buried in the minority, he won: Kennedy pushed through a hike in the minimum wage.

The rest of the piece is here and more of the magazine's profiles are here.

Limbaugh Congratulates Himself On Kennedy Death Prediction

Rush Limbaugh offered himself some kudos Wednesday for predicting in March that the health care bill wouldn't be passed before Ted Kennedy's death.

"Before it's all over, it'll be called the Ted Kennedy Memorial Health Care Bill," Limbaugh said at the time.

Indeed, with Kennedy's passing, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) has called for health care reform legislation to be named in his honor.

Limbaugh, who was criticized for his insensitivity over the Kennedy remarks, is expressing vindication. "I predicted it, and I caught all kinds of grief for it out there," he said.


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Sarah Palin Tells Friends: Watch Glenn Beck!

Sarah Palin is rallying her Facebook community behind Glenn Beck.

In a post on Facebook Wednesday morning titled, "An Invitation," Palin urged her 800,000-plus Facebook fans to watch the Fox News host (via Politico):

FOX News' Glenn Beck is doing an extraordinary job this week walking America behind the scenes of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and outlining who is actually running the White House.

Monday night he asked us to invite one friend to watch; tonight I invite all my friends to watch.

-Sarah Palin

Beck is hardly having trouble in the ratings, and many of Palin's supporters fall squarely in the Beck target audience, but it will be interesting to see if he experiences a "Palin Bump."

Beck has come under fire for his remarks that President Obama is a racist, which has led dozens of advertisers to pull their sponsorship from his show.

Remembering Ted Kennedy’s Prescient 2002 Speech Against The Iraq War

As the press labors today to capture the life and legacy of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, it will be interesting to see if anyone makes mention of Kennedy's response to one of the singular events of recent years -- the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. On September 27, 2002, Kennedy gave a speech at Johns Hopkins' Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. concerning the war.

In the speech, Kennedy evinced many of the same qualities for which he is being lionized today. His oration combined the powerful idealism that powered his opposition to the invasion with the same generosity of spirit that fueled so many across-the-aisle gestures, and, in the speech, revealed itself in a refusal to demonize his political opponents. One other aspect of the speech that might be worth mentioning today? The fact that Kennedy got it right.

Kennedy's speech is astoundingly prescient, to put it mildly. Key sections include:

In the months that followed September 11, the Bush Administration marshaled an international coalition. Today, 90 countries are enlisted in the effort, from providing troops to providing law enforcement, intelligence, and other critical support.

But I am concerned that using force against Iraq before other means are tried will sorely test both the integrity and effectiveness of the coalition. Just one year into the campaign against Al Qaeda, the Administration is shifting focus, resources, and energy to Iraq. The change in priority is coming before we have fully eliminated the threat from Al Qaeda, before we know whether Osama Bin Laden is dead or alive, and before we can be assured that the fragile post-Taliban government in Afghanistan will consolidate its authority.

With all the talk of war, the Administration has not explicitly acknowledged, let alone explained to the American people, the immense post-war commitment that will be required to create a stable Iraq.
The Bush Administration says America can fight a war in Iraq without undermining our most pressing national security priority -- the war against Al Qaeda. But I believe it is inevitable that a war in Iraq without serious international support will weaken our effort to ensure that Al Qaeda terrorists can never, never, never threaten American lives again.
Even with the Taliban out of power, Afghanistan remains fragile. Security remains tenuous. Warlords still dominate many regions. Our reconstruction effort, which is vital to long-term stability and security, is halting and inadequate. Some Al Qaeda operatives - no one knows how many - have faded into the general population. Terrorist attacks are on the rise. President Karzai, who has already survived one assassination attempt, is still struggling to solidify his hold on power. And although neighboring Pakistan has been our ally, its stability is far from certain.
We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction. Our intelligence community is also deeply concerned about the acquisition of such weapons by Iran, North Korea, Libya, Syria and other nations. But information from the intelligence community over the past six months does not point to Iraq as an imminent threat to the United States or a major proliferator of weapons of mass destruction.
War with Iraq before a genuine attempt at inspection and disarmament, or without genuine international support -- could swell the ranks of Al Qaeda sympathizers and trigger an escalation in terrorist acts.

That last point, by the way, is an almost universally underappreciated one. Yet it's very, tragically true.

In May of 2008, Eric Boehlert, reflecting on the news of Kennedy's brain cancer diagnosis, wrote a piece for Media Matters, quantifying the inattention the media gave to Kennedy's speech. By his count, the network news dedicated a few brief sentences (32 words on NBC, 31 on ABC, CBS Evening news led all comers with a whopping 40 words) the night of the speech. By Sunday Morning, the speech was forgotten, with no mention of any sort on Meet The Press, Face The Nation, or This Week. And what of the major newspapers? Of them, Boehlert writes:

The Kennedy coverage in the major newspapers wasn't much better. At The Washington Post, Kennedy's newsworthy speech, a clarion call against Bush's pre-emptive war, garnered exactly one sentence -- 36 words total in coverage. Keep in mind, during 2002, the Post published more than 1,000 articles and columns about Iraq, nearly 1 million words. But the Post set aside just 36 words for Kennedy's farsighted war speech.

What was so remarkable was that Kennedy delivered his address at the time when there was already a media narrative unfolding about how Democrats, anxious about the political ramifications of not supporting a then-popular president, were not voicing stiff opposition to the planned invasion.

Two days before Kennedy gave his speech, the Post detailed in an A1 article how "[d]ozens of congressional Democrats are frustrated with their leadership for rushing to embrace President Bush's Iraqi war resolution and fostering an impression the party overwhelmingly backs a unilateral strike against Saddam Hussein."

When Kennedy stepped forward and answered the specific issue raised by the Post, what did the newspaper do? It devoted 36 words to Kennedy's address.

Kennedy's speech, sadly, came at a time when the press largely considered opposition to the war and seriousness as two mutually exclusive concepts. As a result, very few media organs will be able to pull this moment from their institutional memories today, largely because they couldn't be bothered to report on it when it happened.

Eliminating the Threat: The Right Course of Action for Disarming Iraq, Combating Terrorism, Protecting the Homeland, and Stabilizing the Middle East [Ted Kennedy @ Johns Hopkins SAIS]
Why did the press ignore Ted Kennedy in 2002?

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Iran Trial Charges Journalists With “Lying”

The fourth session of the mass trial of more than 100 opposition figures, including journalists, took place in Tehran today. The Committee to Protect Journalists is particularly dismayed by procedural irregularities and the fact that the trial is only open to state-owned media.

Ed Martin: and Johnson & Johnson Have a Winner in “The Lake”'s latest original series, a teen drama titled The Lake, is hardly groundbreaking as scripted entertainment, but it is a very effective centerpiece in a grand platform for advertisers. At a time when traditional and experimental media are colliding and business models are in perilous play that makes it a win for all involved.

The basic story foundation here -- a group of pretty white kids suffering through their own teeny-something dramas -- is vintage WB, recalling more than one series from that late and much-lamented broadcast network. The young and beautiful are the children of four families that spend their summers in a glorious lakeside community, the perfect place to wallow in the kind of problems other folk only dream of dwelling on, especially during this economy.

For the kids it's all about lust, longing, coping with change and finding new friends. Oh, and skin care. The Lake has a single sponsor: Johnson & Johnson's Clean & Clear skin-care line for tweens and teens. These products could not be promoted in a better environment. Eye-catching banner and box ads for Clean & Clear appear above and below TheWB's player, each inviting the viewer to click on it and download a coupon. A breezy fifteen-second spot for the product line appears at the start of and midway through each episode. The spot isn't at all annoying except when viewed over and over again, as is the digital way.

Yes, a couple of the female characters are actually shown using Clean & Clear products during a couple of scenes, but the integration interruptus is extremely brief. It in fact feels organic, to use a tired phrase.

The real impetus that should drive girls (and maybe a few boys) from player to banner to coupon to store isn't the content of the ads or the placement of the products. It's the cumulative effect of watching several teenagers with perfect skin over and over and over again. (There isn't a zit to be seen.) Want to look as good as one of them? Click on the banner above.

This is not to imply that The Lake is just some kind of extended advertisement or high-grade infomercial. It can stand alone as a solid if lightweight show. But, as presented on this platform, it is one-half of a perfect marriage of program and product presented in a way that viewers may very well respond to.

As for the production itself, the tale of The Lake is told in twelve segments custom made for the YouTube generation and ranging in length from approximately 7-12 minutes. Even without the recaps and brief credits that open each episode that adds up to approximately 90 minutes, the length of a typical made-for-broadcast or basic cable movie (which The Lake could be, in that it spans an entire summer and leaves only one significant plot thread unresolved at the end). Overall it is a remarkable achievement: It looks just as good as many broadcast movies and better than many basic cable flicks, yet was produced for a fraction of the cost. (Credit for that goes to the entire production team, especially director Jason Priestley.) At a press conference for this show during the recent Television Critics Association tour, executive producer Jordan Levin (the former Chief Executive Officer of the WB network and now the co-founder and CEO of the multi-media studio Generate) indicated that the budget for The Lake was way below half the cost of a single episode of an hour long broadcast drama series.

Interestingly, even though it is largely about teens that are hot for each other, The Lake is pretty tame when compared to broadcast or basic cable programming. In fact, there is more skin, sex and sex talk in the dramas on ABC Family than there is here. Throughout all twelve episodes there is very little "naughty" language, no sex to speak of and a one-time nudity tease that reveals nothing at all. (Early in the series the teens swim naked. The girls toss their tops and the boys bare their bottoms but it all happens off screen or underwater.) Tellingly, there are several scenes in which underage kids are shown drinking. How strange that alcohol consumption is okay but full moons are off limits.

"We discussed [content issues] pretty openly with [] and we tried to maintain fairly traditional broadcast standards because we recognize that we are catering to, in large cases, a younger audience and we have a sponsor attached and we want to be responsible to that sponsor," Levin told the TCA. "So we may have erred in some cases, being more conservative than many networks that cater to generally younger audiences."

Indeed, that conservative approach might keep The Lake from building buzz and becoming a breakout hit, however that may be defined online. Given what the target audience for this program is already watching on basic cable and the Internet it would seem that, going forward, producers and advertisers alike are going to have to step up and add some adult elements to programs and platforms alike. Still, if The Lake works for Johnson & Johnson that will be a good thing. I'd like to see a second batch of episodes. (Would we call it a sophomore season or a sequel? Since it will run forever online, does it matter?) Meantime, I'd like to see what kinds of Internet programming other big-name producers and directors can deliver with the support of appropriate advertisers. has fashioned a terrific digital template on which others can build exciting models of their own.