Tuesday, November 09, 2010

More Spin About Voters' Motives?

More discussion of the voters' polling data from the election last week. Big article over at the New Republic. It supports my earlier analysis that people voted a bit out of confusion and anger (perhaps lack of knowledge) about the economy and what Obama's government has done to help improve it. However, a majority of voters said their financial situation was the same OR better than two years ago. A majority of the MINORITY (41%) who said their situation was worse voted Republican. The authors of the article spin it the other way. What to say about those 60% who feel better or at least don't feel worse off? That statistic causes problems for the quick inference that voters voted against Obama.

60% disapprove of Obama's job performance
60% say same or better off financially than two years ago
80% say very concerned about the economy
25% blame Obama for economy
Blame Obama and Democrats and vote Republican??

(Oh, and 20% think he's muslim, and and another 30% who just aren't sure. Figure that in)

The authors do overall suggest the voters are misinformed and voting out of frustration about their perception of the economy. As they say, and contrary to the spin about "the people" having had enough of "Big Govt" and the healthcare bill, blah blah blah, the data shows the contrary.

The authors write:

"The election did not appear to be a repudiation of the new health care reform law. About as many said they wanted to see it remain as is or be expanded (47 percent) as said they wanted it repealed (48 percent). Nor did it appear that voters were embracing the GOP position on tax cuts. A 52-percent majority of voters wanted to either keep only the Bush tax cuts for those under $250,000 or let them all expire compared to 39 percent who wanted to keep all the tax cuts.

Political commentators are notoriously prone to over-interpreting election results. Strategic and policy decisions certainly made some difference in the magnitude of losses, but in a horrible economy it's difficult to escape the reality that Democrats were poised to lose a significant number of seats no matter what they did."

This is more or less what I wrote a couple of days ago, albeit with a longer critique of public opinion polling and analysis that claims to speak for "the people." If you missed that, try it here.

Also published at OP-ed News

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Nov. 2 "The People" Didn't Speak; They Grunted

Americans awoke November 3 to more headlines and soundbites about "the people's voice." I'd call it more of a grunt.

We The People by self
"The American people's voice was heard at the ballot box," declared Speaker-of-the-House-to-be John Boehner. Soon variations of "the people's voice" echoed around traditional news and Internet. Obama has to say, "I hear you, and then, I heard the people speak last night," parroted columnist Mark Shields on PBS's News Hour . "The people have spoken" framecontinues to dominate analyses of what happened and thus what must follow. Seems clear, actually misleading.

Read on and please comment (tell me it sucks, it's great, ramble about something off topic--anything)

The New Elite (The Tea Party is Right About Something?)

I happened upon this Wash Post article plugged on the great Arts & Letters site. At first I thought it's reference to "new elites" was a more journalistic argument supporting my claims about a new kind of authoritative source in the convergence of new media/old media news-making. Actually, it's about a sociologically observable new class of social and political elites in the U.S. and how the Tea Party at least have that right. That old chestnut? "Ordinary" Americans have for quite a long time been complaining about the bankers and fat cats, usually in a couple of metropoles and areas on the East Coast, usually whipped up by some populist orator and with common doses of bigotry in addition. One of my friends who grew up in rural Utah (yes, coastals, go ahead and prove the point of the article: "that's like saying "rural Kansas or Nebraska"--redundant!) tells of a sign on the main highway. In one direction, Los Angeles and the number of miles to it; in the other, New York and "not far enough!"

The thing is, as author and political scientist Charles Murray points out in the article, that this "provinci
alism" is as common in suburban Massachussets and Connecticut (insert joke about redundancy) as it is in rural Utah and Kansas.

So, here's what Murray has to say (I'm not saying it justifies the Tea Party, but...):

That a New Elite has emerged over the past 30 years is not really controversial. That its members differ from former elites is not controversial. What sets the tea party apart from other observers of the New Elite is its hostility, rooted in the charge that elites are isolated from mainstream America and ignorant about the lives of ordinary Americans.


On the surface, it looks as if things have changed. Compared with 50 years ago, the proportion of students coming from old-money families and exclusive prep schools has dropped. The representation of African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans has increased. Yet the student bodies of the elite colleges are still drawn overwhelmingly from the upper middle class. According to sociologist Joseph Soares's book "The Power of Privilege: Yale and America's Elite Colleges," about four out of five students in the top tier of colleges have parents whose income, education and occupations put them in the top quarter of American families, according to Soares's measure of socioeconomic status. Only about one out of 20 such students come from the bottom half of families.


Far from spending their college years in a meritocratic melting pot, the New Elite spend school with people who are mostly just like them -- which might not be so bad, except that so many of them have been ensconced in affluent suburbs from birth and have never been outside the bubble of privilege. Few of them grew up in the small cities, towns or rural areas where more than a third of all Americans still live.

Let me propose that those allegations have merit. Read on

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Olbermann Suspended!?? Spin Circus!

So it's at the top of the tickers: Keith Olbermann, MSNBC's counter to Bill O'Reilly, is suspended on ethics charges. Hmm. Don't know where to begin. I'm a professor, if people don't like where I put my money outside of work, tough tartare. It shouldn't prevent me from doing my job. One could say this about hundreds of other jobs, too. But the analogy doesn't even hold. Olbermann is not a journalist, any more than Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh is. He's a daggum commentator, dagnabit. What is this spin circus? Stop the world and let me off.

Matt Taibi of Rolling Stone, says it pretty well.

ust quickly: I just found out about the suspension of Keith Olbermann for making political contributions. NBC apparently has some policy prohibiting journalists from donating to candidates, so they suspended him indefinitely without pay.

I went online and read the news and found the inevitable commentary by ostensible experts on journalistic ethics, who are all lining up to whale on Olbermann. One quote I found in this Bloomberg piece:

"Journalists who work for a news organization have an ethical responsibility to honor their guidelines and standards," said Bob Steele who teaches journalism ethics at Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. "If NBC and MSNBC spelled out those guidelines clearly and Olbermann violated those guidelines, then he should pay the price."

He should pay the price? Is Bob Steele kidding? What the hell is wrong with people?

We had a whole generation of journalists who sat by and did nothing while, for instance, George Bush led us into an idiotic war on a lie, plus thousands more who spent day after day collecting checks by covering Britney's hair and Tiger's text messages and other stupidities while the economy blew up and two bloody wars went on mostly unexamined ... and it's Keith Olbermann who should "pay the price" for being unethical? Because, and let me get this straight, he donated money, privately, to politician." Read on

Sunday, October 24, 2010

That's Democratainment: Obama, Rumor Bombs, and Primary Definers

Published in Flow
A recent survey shows nearly 20% of Americans now believe Barack Obama is a Muslim. That’s about 56 million Americans, a number that has climbed considerably since 2008 (to say nothing of the 43% or 120 million Americans who are “unsure”).1 The bigotry of the phenomenon aside, its durability points to the use of rumor bombs (RBs) to elect and govern, and to the role of a new kind of authoritative source therein.

In 2008, FlowTV published my article on the RB, in which I analyzed issue-agendas that convergence culture produced in the 2008 presidential election, including the RB that Obama is a Muslim (RBOIAM). I argued there was an agenda-setting interplay between old and new media technologies, enabled by YouTube, Adobe Photoshop, and Facebook, among others associated with the revolution in cultural production, distribution, and reception—all of which have been associated by some with a new democratizing agency but which I insisted has economic, political rhetorical, and social constraints. 2 Since then, other RBs have exploded in American media culture with greater and lesser damage (e.g. “death panels” RB regarding Obama’s healthcare bill, and the “racist” Shirley Sherrod RB).

Now I argue not only that accounts of democratizing cultural production must confront the contingencies of distribution in a context of information warfare (exemplified by RBs); but, further, that Hall’s concept of “primary definers,” significantly criticized in media- and cultural studies of the late 80s and early 90s, returns with a new applicability in convergence culture (CC), with the caveat that primary definers/opinion leaders have changed.3 “Primary definers” refers to elite sources who define hegemonic issues and frames for journalists who repeat and alter them. The media capital they wield complicates theories of democratizing media production and distribution in the forging of widely attended issues in public spheres.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The Rumor Bomb Barack Obama is a Muslim: Another Episode in Political Vertigo and Negative Politics

Here's the link to my work in progress recently presented at the International Political Science Association's conference on e-democracy in Dubrovnik.
Abstract followed by link:

The rumor bomb Barack Obama is a Muslim: Another episode in political vertigo and negative politics

By Professor Jayson Harsin, Dept. of Global Communications, The American University of Paris

Presented at the IPSA E-Democracy Workshop, Dubrovnik, Croatia

May 2010

Abstract: This study uses the concept of rumor bombs in convergence culture to contribute to analyses of vertiginous public discourses in e-democracy. Furthermore, it has two primary goals: 1) to provide an empirical analysis of rumor bombs on TV news, and 2) to analyze the relationship between internet agenda-setting and "old" news agenda setting. First, it provides a case study of the Rumor Bomb Barack Obama is a Muslim from the 2008 American presidential campaign, a rumor bomb which continues to appear in viral circulation on internet and email over 1.5 years after the election of Obama, with increasing numbers of Americans who say they belive Obama's religion is Muslim. It provides a content and frame analysis of the "Muslim" rumor bomb on American TV news in 2008 in order to see how exactly it appeared and thus how audiences were invited to view the rumor bomb. Secondly, the empirical data is then interpreted within the context of psychological studies and theories of rumor, and of trends in political communication such as negative campaigning, and in news values, such as tabloidization and infotainment. The study finally shows that the links between traditional elite news media and the Internet, contrary to some arguments, demonstrate not the disappearance of elite "primary definers" but a new kind of elite primary definer as a key node in a network of often ideologically homogenous "news" and opinion.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Lost Histories of Economic Rights article-download

Hello. Here's the MS Word version of my article
published in Cultural Studies, Volume 24, Issue 3 May 2010 , pages 333 - 355
Abstract: This article examines the concept and the discontinuous historical usage of the term “economic rights” in American political discourse from the perspective of democratic political freedom. It views the idea and ideology of “economic rights” as a discursive marker pointing to historically contingent relations between government, national economy and individual freedom. It focuses on the only two American presidential articulations of an Economic Bill of Rights and their conjunctures: one by Franklin Roosevelt and another by Ronald Reagan. These two articulations represent two opposing political traditions of economic rights in the United States: the neo-liberal laissez-faire free market tradition and the liberal welfare-state tradition. Both of these liberal traditions are haunted by an older democratic-republican discourse of economic rights, from which they continue to draw normative and affective energy without ever confronting its guiding premises. Contemporary popular discourses about the economic crisis demonstrate the continuation of deeply entrenched though historically outdated understandings of the promise and possibilities of individual freedom and autonomy within the folds of a society completely transformed by capitalist modernity. Present considerations of this history reveal possible resources for political struggles.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Rumor Bomb article download

Here's a new link to my original article on the Rumor Bomb. You should be able to click the title to download the Pdf. "The Rumour Bomb: Theorising the Convergence of New and Old Trends in Mediated US Politics"

    1. Harsin, Jayson. The Rumour Bomb: Theorising the Convergence of New and Old Trends in Mediated US Politics. Southern Review: Communication, Politics & Culture; Volume 39, Issue 1; 2006; 84-110;
    2. ^ (reprinted in Michael Ryan (ed.). 2008. Cultural Studies: An Anthology. London: Blackwell.