Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Two From The Bullpen

I'm a bit swamped at work today, so I will pass the baton off to a pair of superior intellects who have been covering two stories that I have been running with over the past couple of months.

The first is the invaluable Juan Cole who provides a cogent knockdown of the usually thoughtful George Will, who has, unfortunately, allowed himself to get swept up in the hype of the liberal academia bugaboo. As I discussed in this post, academic diversity is the latest target of the culture war being concocted in the strategy rooms of right-wing think tanks. Much of the evidence is exaggerated, and the solutions offered are a recipe for disaster on many levels.

Cole continues the effort by punching holes in the methodology used in the studies relied on by Will, arguing as to probable causes for the disparities that actually do exist, pointing to the pernicious results of the proposed solutions, and giving a detailed account of the actual hiring process (which, not surprisingly, does not involve a partisan background check). This piece is well worth the read.

The second pinch hitter I will tap is a writer who I am finding increasingly difficult to do without:
Frank Rich. Rich continues on a theme that I posted about here (also working off a Rich article) relating to the true nature of the values issue in American society, and the role it plays in electoral politics. This time, Rich devotes his considerable comedic, and journalistic, prowess to the recent over-reaction to the infamous Monday Night Football spot featuring a risque appearance by one of the stars of ABC's hit drama, Desperate Housewives. Rich pokes fun at those feigning outrage:
Rush Limbaugh, taking a break from the legal deliberations of his drug rap and third divorce, set the hysterical tone. "I was stunned!" he told his listeners. "I literally could not believe what I had seen. ... At various places on the Net you can see the video of this, and she's buck naked, folks. I mean when they dropped the towel she's naked. You see enough of her back and rear end to know that she was naked. There's no frontal nudity in the thing, but I mean you don't need that. ...I mean, there are some guys with their kids that sit down to watch 'Monday Night Football.'"
He comments on our own peculiar proclivity to replay the supposedly offensive images ad infinitum, as if the medium of video replay shielded the viewer from the more prurient nature of the images. Or not:

Like the Janet Jackson video before it, the new N.F.L. sex tape was now being rebroadcast around the clock so we could revel incessantly in the shock of it all. "People were so outraged they had to see it 10 times," joked Aaron Brown of CNN, which was no slacker in filling that need in the marketplace. And yet when I spoke to an F.C.C. enforcement spokesman after more than two days of such replays, the agency had not yet received a single complaint about the spot's constant recycling on other TV shows, among them the highly rated talk show "The View," where Ms. Sheridan's bare back had been merrily paraded at the child-friendly hour of 11 a.m.
He then provides a refreshing reality check concerning the absurdity of the outrage, considering the content of the underlying broadcast: professional football.

Again as in the Jackson case, we are also asked to believe that pro football is what Pat Buchanan calls "the family entertainment, the family sports show" rather than what it actually is: a Boschian jamboree of bumping-and-grinding cheerleaders, erectile-dysfunction pageantry and, as Don Imus puts it, "wife-beating drug addicts slamming the hell out of each other" on the field.
And also points to the hypocrisy of the moral mavens in "red" America, as well as some numbers that seem to belie their concern for the interests of "the children":

"Desperate Housewives" is hardly a blue-state phenomenon. A hit everywhere, it is even a bigger hit in Oklahoma City than it is in Los Angeles, bigger in Kansas City than it is in New York. All those public moralists who wail about all the kids watching Ms. Sheridan on "Monday Night Football" would probably have apoplexy if they actually watched what Ms. Sheridan was up to in her own series - and then looked closely at its Nielsen numbers. Though children ages 2 to 11 make up a small percentage of the audience of either show, there are actually more in that age group tuning into Mr. Cherry's marital brawls (870,000) than into the N.F.L.'s fisticuffs (540,000). "Desperate Housewives" also ranks No. 5 among all prime-time shows for ages 12-17. ("Monday Night Football" is No. 18.) This may explain in part why its current advertisers include products like Fisher-Price toys, the DVD of "Elf" and the forthcoming Tim Allen holiday vehicle, "Christmas With the Kranks."
The rest of the piece is punctuated with Rich's typical mixture of humor and insight.

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