Brandnaming the Heathers

Howard Dean has had pretty good success making a joke of the groupthink media response to his “scream” in Iowa. This got me to thinking about how to make the media an issue in the upcoming election.

We need to turn the tables by brand-naming the various media stupidities and using a rogues’ gallery or Hall of Shame to turn the big offenders into objects of nationwide ridicule.

We have to publicize this and make it funny. Political wonks already understand what’s going on, but we need to get the word out to everyone. Many Americans — and not just the wingnuts — still believe that the media are liberal. Most people don’t even know who Bob Somerby and WMO are.

Some brandnames (subject to revision):

1. Heathers: This covers most of the rest, and perhaps it’s the only brand name we need. The media’s shallow pack mentality is one of the main causes of the whole problem.

2. Shoes and sweaters: Paul Krugman has already written about this, and here’s a great example from Slate found by Bob Somerby. Some coverage is really too shallow to be tolerated in a functioning democracy.

3. Wellstoning: Sometimes so many people pick up a cheap theme that you know it’s a coordinated effort. The Wellstone Memorial was the perfect example: Noonan, Novak, and the talk-show hosts got their smear out there within 24 hours, just barely in time for the election and too soon for there to be a response.

4. Inventing the Internet (or Goring): media people are still repeating a story about Gore which has been refuted in detail many times. This smear was stupid when people thought it was true, but it’s unforgivable now that we know it’s not.

5. Burying the Story: This isn’t too zippy, but putting fluff stories on Page One and meaty stories on Page Three (or Section B, Page Seventeen) is one of the main ways newspapers mislead the average voter.

6. Slanted Playing Field: This is a hard one to make stick, but sometimes it’s just plain obvious that the two sides are playing by two different sets of rules. (Between being dull, sort of wonkish, and hard to prove, this item and the one before should be used sparingly.)

The media really are the enemy. We should avoid broad-brush attacks on everyone out there, but we should embarass the worst of them badly enough for it to be a lesson to the others.

We have to make it funny, and we have to get the word out. I hope someone sharper than I am picks up this ball and runs with it. (Other ideas are solicited.) We need to produce a tight funny little package which makes its point in an instant.

P.S. Not everyone knows that Bob Somerby’s Daily Howler has a search function. Punch in “Novak Gore”, for example, and you’ll get 38 Novak stories (or TV appearances) involving Gore. (“Ceci Gore” for Ceci Connoly gets 138). Somerby isn’t just a great media critic — he’s given us a five-year archive to work with.