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September 10, 2008

Oh, If Only Multimillionaires With Their Own TV Programs Had The Opportunity To Communicate With America

David Letterman unleashed an impressive jeremiad about global warming on Monday night. Of course, since it's illegal to discuss reality on American TV, he'll be in jail soon.

But while I appreciated most of what he said, one part was extremely irritating: the way he blames our situation on a lack of "leadership," and then looks everywhere but at himself. It's reminiscent of Katie Couric describing how distressed she was, as host of the Today Show, that the march toward war with Iraq wasn't being "properly challenged by the right people."

If only there were someone who could go on national television and question this madness! But who?!?!

LETTERMAN: I'll tell you why it's too late. We've had no leadership. Let's say this began in 1980. We've had no leadership. Nobody in the White House. No Republican, no Democrat. Nobody has stepped forward. We haven't had leadership. Nobody has come forth.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at September 10, 2008 11:36 AM

There's a disconnect.

People with significant access to media broadcast deny that they have influence on the tenor of the nation, or of the social fabric. (What? TV has influence? Power? No way Bob. It's just for amusement and selling pharmaceuticals, cars, and soapy products.)

Their defense seems to be: Well yes, I am overexposed but I'm only an entertainer. Not a leader. The fact that you watch me and my words on TV by orders of magnitude more than the politicians doesn't matter.

The upside is that none of the motherfuckers will get out alive. If the LHC doesn't do them in, anthropogenic climate change will.

Posted by: Labiche at September 10, 2008 12:31 PM

I propose that Mrs. Couric and Mr. Letterman would not have progressed as far as they have by telling the truth. If Mrs. Couric and Mr. Letterman posed these questions before they were established t.v. personalities, they would not have become as such. Even today, with their status, they can break the standard narrative and raise valid opposition in meaningless ways as in these examples but they can’t do that too often. If they behave like this on a regular basis they are likely their support from the establishment that currently presents them to the public. They have conditioned themselves to pretend like things are okay enough and not to offer any serious challenge to the status quo and nobody, no matter how good intentioned, can play along with the standard narrative until they reach a position then speak the truth. When they reach such a position there are still the same motivating factors to play along less they lose any of their position they have dedicated his or her self to achieving. The truth is much worse than the situation that telling the truth is illegal and that Mr. Letterman will soon face jail; the truth is that we live in a society that ensures that when the right people, as Mrs. Couric call them, are needed to properly challenge the standing narrative, these people fail to exist.

Posted by: Benjamin A. Schwab at September 10, 2008 01:02 PM

Recall how Letterman shouted down Harvey Pekar when he tried to connect GE -- Letterman's boss -- to nuclear weapons and corporate corruption. And this was after 1980, when everything bad started happening. If only Future Dave could go back and rectify his mistake, using Greenwald's time machine, of course.

Posted by: Dennis Perrin at September 10, 2008 01:03 PM

But multimillionaires do have the opportunity to communicate with America. It's called The New York Times.
In my very favorite NYT Times section, "Wealth and Personal Finance," (9-10-08) we find the heart-tugging article "In Tough Times, Even the Billionaires Worry."
Through my tears I was challenged to ask myself "Do you have millions of dollars in the bank and still worry about filling up your gas tank? Do you fear that the housing slowdown may mean your sprawling beachfront property will face the auction block?"
Don't jump off the ledge, fellow ATR readers. Hope and Help are on the way!
"As the economy has soured, Lee Hausner, a psychologist with IFF Advisors Inc., in Irvine Calif., who works primarily with wealthy familiesa, has noticed rising anxieties about spending."
You're likely to read the rest of this five-hankie piece with a sneer on you face. But if, like me, you're a sobbing mess at the end, join the rest of us Americans. What we can we, foreclosure-and-job-loss-threatened slobs do to help?
"The bigger the amount, the more (Dr.Hausner's) patients have to lose." Try to understand, but if you can't muster a touch of empathy, look into your soul and ask yourself--Why not? Envy and resentment are not valid answers, by the way.
Me? I'm sending a sympathy basket to Dr. Hausner, for her to distribute among her clients. Call it Left Largesse. Won't you join me?
And, Jon, look at this splendid piece of journalism, which allows the rich to share their pain with the rest of us. Ain't that grand?

Posted by: donescobar at September 10, 2008 01:39 PM

Benjamin is right that people who speak the truth will be pushed out in the media, but it is incorrect to say that this makes speaking the truth an impossibility. By stepping out and doing so, it enables others to do the same. People move in groups: we really are copycats, for good or ill. And doing right, if you have enough power, can lead to greater rewards in the long run once the dynamic shifts away from the corrupt and you have the longest pedigree on the side of angels.

It is only cowardice and a sense of aristocratic superiority holding our media back. Greed is secondary: media figures will happily lose money if it keeps them on the ins with their peers.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at September 10, 2008 01:40 PM

i missed dave's comment the environment but i did catch his comments, two nights running, with regard to the hypocrisy of sarah palin's stance on reproductive rights and education and her obvious failures as a parent directly to that point and the stupidity of the declarations by the mccain campaign and much of the media that "we can't talk about the baby."

the first time he made the comment after his opening monologue, the second time was when dr. phil was sitting in the guest seat. dave was hoping that dr. phil would back him up. dr. phil left dave hanging in the breeze, saying, in effect, parents are not responsible for the actions of their kids. dr. phil essentially denied that educating teens about protecting themselves against disease and pregnancy has any effect on outcomes.

it was a stunning display of stoopid on the part of dr. phil. i felt really bad for dave as they both just kind of sat there for long enough you could have heard crickets.

the forces of evil have us wrapped in seven kinds of stoopid. one of them being that if we just continue pretending that everything is fine it will be.

that's the kind of stoopid that binds the majority of americans and one of the most difficult to defeat.

Posted by: karen marie at September 10, 2008 01:42 PM

Not that it will bring any of us back, but what was Katie saying about Iraq in 2002? Or in 1996??

We are in danger here of embracing yet another illusion: We seem to be tempted to ask Why Didn't They Speak Up? and provide our various analyses.

Well, maybe They didn't speak up because They Didn't Get It (or naturally, worse, because They Get It All Too Well, but that's another can of 'cynicism'...).

Perhaps the idea that They Get It even now is a very shallow one... Seriously, the evidence suggests that Barack Freaking Obama doesn't get it (in re Iraq). So why should anyone think Ms. Couric does? (Again, leaving aside the obvious fact that Obama *does* get it, but that he's just another imperialist.)

Posted by: The Dead Bodies at September 10, 2008 01:44 PM


Posted by: Cloud at September 10, 2008 03:30 PM

In my otherwise totally unmemorable dissertation, I called this the media's "Svengali Syndrome."

They're in a bind because the media can only ahrge the enormous amounts of money they do to convey advertizing/propagand to the populace and to deliver the populace to the advertiser/propagandist if they sell the ad/prop folks on the reality of their power.
On the other hand, if they too publically own to their power, and too publically abuse it (which they cannot hardly fail to do, given the nature of power and the abusers of it), they lose their illusion of simple instrumentality by which they keep the sheep which are their only product from recognizing their status as mere commodities.
For some reason, the Murkin people have not internalized the one, true fact about power: it's only purpose is to get more. Power is an eternally renewable, expandable, sustainable resource, as long as you keep getting more of it.

Posted by: woody, tokin librul at September 10, 2008 03:31 PM

In his defense, Dave's a fucking entertainer. He's not supposed to be leading the country in an environmental campaign. And while this tirade was extremely long and unusual he's made many, many statements about concern over global warming for the desk over the years, just as he's made comments about George Bush's stupidity. Neither seem to have had much of an effect.

That said, I do with that he'd given the "treehuggers" (mentioned at the beginning of the little speech) credit for actually being right. DFH.

Posted by: darrelplant at September 10, 2008 03:43 PM

that should be "from the desk"

Posted by: darrelplant at September 10, 2008 03:46 PM
...saying, in effect, parents are not responsible for the actions of their kids.

Well, this deserves some clarification.

How much are they responsible? Should they be jailed? Prosecuted? Fined? What?

As a parent of a number of particularly asinine young adults, I tend to back Dr. Phil on the notion that children have sufficient autonomy in our culture to fuck things up beyond belief and that it may well be disappointing that the millions of words we spew at them go for naught.


Incidentally, the MILF has been spanking the Dems up and down the street the last few days. Quite amusing.

Posted by: Labiche at September 10, 2008 05:14 PM

Benjamin Schwab (above) is on target. But who, not already marginalized or willing to be marginalized, challenges the "standing narrative?"
Is it not about time to present a new narrative?
Howard Zinn has tried, bless him.
But from grandchildren, in our "progressive" schools, I learn that the standing narrative remains the Bible. And in our colleges, subversive thoughts are as rare as typewriters.
So, now what? I dunno. I suspect Mao was right, but who's bloodthirsty (and foolish) enough for
The shephards change, the sheep remain.

Posted by: donescobar at September 10, 2008 05:28 PM

the MILF has been spanking the Dems up and down the street

Labiche, thanks for the dispatch from Bizarro World (now with casual sexism!). From where I sit, she's been robotically repeating lies.

Posted by: Nell at September 10, 2008 06:05 PM

This is interesting, but I find it more interesting that he's wrong. You can argue about its merits, I think, but this thingy called the Kyoto Protocol required some leadership to bring into being. I recall that the person on earth perhaps most responsible for that agreement was elected president of the United States in 2000.

But, 5-4 beats a real count any time. Oh, well. Into the Memory Hole.

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at September 10, 2008 07:30 PM

We've had no leadership. Let's say this began in 1980. We've had no leadership. Nobody in the White House. No Republican, no Democrat.

Somewhere Jimmy Carter is banging his head against a wall

Posted by: Fledermaus at September 10, 2008 07:35 PM

It's amusing and depressing to hear all this worshipful prattle about "leadership." Who were the three greatest leaders, Fuehrer in German, of the 20th century: Hitler, Stalin, Mao.
Nation states are better off with humane and dedicated managers, bureaucrats of some decency, than "leaders." We are drunk with this destructive notion because our business gurus, the philosophs of today, have done a terrific propaganda job on this #1 topic of theirs. Jack Welch, a great leader etc etc etc Why can't our politicians be as good? Leadership drifts very easily into all kinds of personal and collective fascism.
I'll take humane management, doing the best with the available resources and for the common welfare, anytime. As in Finland or Norway, for example.

Posted by: donescobar at September 10, 2008 07:57 PM

what's leadership? is that the thing where everyone sits waiting for famous people to solve their problems?

Posted by: hapa at September 10, 2008 09:05 PM

@ John C - Ah. Ahem. Well, that's highly dispiriting. That'll teach me to wear optimist glasses.

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at September 10, 2008 09:14 PM

Letterman’s tirade reminds me of feel-good tv shows like when Michael Landon (Little Joe Cartwright) had his show where he played an angel. He would appear to help out some person belonging to a minority group and with only the wisdom a white man can bring to bear he would save the day, the minority people would thank the mighty whity realizing that whites weren’t so bad after all and white people could go to bed after watching the show knowing that they did their part to help minorities. Racism eradicated and don’t we feel good now?

Posted by: Rob Payne at September 10, 2008 11:04 PM

The audience laughs nervously after each 'punch line'. Well, I suppose it's a sign of how dire things are when mainstreamers are not just sitting up and taking notice but devoting precious time to the subject.
Has anybody else been having trouble sleeping? What with McCain on the cusp of a victory, the ghoulish 4-hurricane devastation in Haiti, broadening the occupation from Iraq and Afghanistan to Pakistan, and scores of other things I'm blocking out just to get through the morning, is anybody else considering becoming an alcoholic? Because I think I'm going to try. I can get 190 proof grain alcohol in the next state over and I'm considering stocking up soon.

Posted by: bluestateleftist at September 11, 2008 10:00 AM

bluestateleftist: I'm already an alcholic with NO plans for "gittin' on the wagon". But even drunk, this situation looks fucked, lipstick and all.(don't drink and drive!)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at September 11, 2008 11:25 AM

"Recall how Letterman shouted down Harvey Pekar when he tried to connect GE -- Letterman's boss -- to nuclear weapons and corporate corruption. And this was after 1980, when everything bad started happening."
in fact i do recall it. and "better than the others" doesn't mean "good". but letterman has been savage at times about bush, and it helps.

Posted by: petey at September 11, 2008 12:10 PM

Only Howard Zinn don?

Posted by: Friends of Noam at September 11, 2008 01:40 PM

Yeah, Dave. I guess all those politicians were too worried about keeping their jobs. Because getting a paycheck signed by General Electric (like you, Dave) might have kept you in check. Don't ya think?

Posted by: Ben at September 11, 2008 02:24 PM

If you're looking for an example of a host of a highly rated national talk show who makes politically responsible statements and what happens to them, look no further than Phil Donahue.

To hear his producer at the time, Jeff Cohen, tell it, even though Phil had his network's highest rating, his out-in-your-face progressive politics were solely responsible for him being fired.

Most people don't even know he's still alive.

I bet he could reclaim national attention by either

1) turning Republican, or
2) having an obituary

I suspect Dave would like to have a few productive years ahead of him, and I also suspect Dave knows exactly who signs his paycheck. I remember that Harvey Pekar interview very vividly.

Posted by: steve at September 11, 2008 02:50 PM

A lunar colony could find CO2 extremely useful and it could be safely shipped in bulk as dry ice.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at September 11, 2008 06:06 PM

No, not only Howard.
Noam who?

Posted by: donescobar at September 11, 2008 07:13 PM