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Jay Rosen teaches journalism at New York University. He is the author of PressThink: Ghost of Democracy in the Media Machine, a blog about journalism's ordeals in the age of the web. He tweets @jayrosen_nyu. He writes—Behold how badly our political journalists have lost the freakin’ plot. An excerpt:

Nobody knows exactly when it happened. But at some point between Teddy White’s The Making of the President, 1960 and the Willie Horton ads in 1988, political journalism in this country lost the plot. When it got overly interested in the inside game, it turned you and me and everyone who has to go into the voting booth and make a decision into an object of technique, which it then tried to assess. We became the people on whom the masters of politics practiced their craft. Then political journalism tried to recover an audience from the people it had turned into poll numbers and respondents to packaged stimuli. Tricky maneuver.

Jay Rosen
This is what led to the cult of the savvy, my term for the ideology and political style that journalists like Chris Cillizza and Mark Halperin spread through their work. The savvy severs any lingering solidarity between journalists as the providers of information, and voters as decision-makers in need of it. The savvy sets up — so it can speak to and cultivate — a third group between these two: close followers of the game. The most common term for them is “political junkies.” The site that Cillizza runs was created by that term. It’s calledThe Fix because that’s what political junkies need: their fix of inside-the-game news.

Junkies are not normal, but they accept their deformed status because it comes with compensations. They get to feel superior to ordinary voters, who are the objects of technique and of the savvy analyst’s smart read on what is likely to work in the next election. For while the junkies can hope to understand the game and how it operates, the voters are merely operated on. Not only does the savvy sever any solidarity between political journalists and the public they were once supposed to inform, it also draws a portion of the attentive public into emotional alliance with the ad makers, poll takers, claim fakers and buck rakers within the political class— the people who, as Max Weber put it in his famous essay “Politics as a Vocation,” live off politics.

But we’re not done. The savvy sets up a fifth group. (The first four: savvy journalists, political junkies, masters of the game, and an abstraction, The Voters.) These are the people who, as Weber put it, live for politics. They are involved as determined participants, not just occasional voters. Whereas the junkies can hope for admission to the secrets of the game (by taking cues from Chris Cillizza and Mark Halperin and the guys at Politico) the activists are hopelessly deluded, always placing their own ideology before the cold hard facts.

If you follow the Twitter feeds of Ron Fournier of National Journal and Chuck Todd of NBC News you routinely see a category they call “partisans” described as silly, insane, overheated, unreasonable, absurd. Click here for Fournier doing it and here for Todd. Somewhere in their dinosaur brains those who “live off” politics understand that the people who live for it could steal their constituency and turn the savvy into the absurd creatures. Thus the constant ridicule of partisans. Thus the self-description on Ron Fournier’s Twitter bio. Political affiliation: Agnostic.

So this is what the savvy in the press do. Cultivate the political junkies. Dismiss and ridicule the activists, the “partisans.” Assess the tactics by which the masters of the game struggle to win. Turn the voters into an object, the behavior of which is subject to a kind of law that savvy journalists feel entitled to write. [...]


Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2009Happy Birthday, Mr. Darwin:

The most famous and in some circles, infamous, scientist was born 200 years ago today in Shrewsbury, England. Charles Darwin came into the world like everyone else. He would go out in a spectacular fashion.

Readers here are well aware that evolutionary biology has become an ideological football in modern day America carried tightly by the religious right on the field of political battle. Darwin's name is so reviled by social conservatives that it is routinely used on the tip of a rhetorical spear and pointed at the heart of the US educational system. But what few people know is that Darwin was aware of the effect his ideas might have on his peers, reportedly starting with one near and dear to his own heart:

Darwin held back the book to avoid offending his wife, said Ruth Padel, the naturalist's great-great-granddaughter. "She said he seemed to be putting God further and further off," Padel said in her north London home. "But they talked it through, and she said, "Don't change any of your ideas for fear of hurting me.'" ... The 1859 publication of "On the Origin of Species" changed scientific thought forever — and generated opposition that continues to this day. It is this elegant explanation of how species evolve through natural selection that makes Darwin's 200th birthday on Feb. 12 such a major event.

Tweet of the Day:

Rush Limbaugh mocking Michelle Obama's weight. Let me repeat that: RUSH LIMBAUGH mocking Michelle Obama's weight. http://t.co/...
@nomoremister



On today's Kagro in the Morning show, under Snowpocalypse Watch, again, Greg Dworkin rounds up the Gop debt ceiling collapse, and triggers the Political Misrepresentation Early Warning System with the latest study on mammograms and cancer outcomes. Joan McCarter fills us in on pre-recess Congressional hijinx. TN legislature hates unions & loves small gov't so much, they'll use the gov't to force companies to hate unions. In KS, conscience clause for everybody! VA Senate votes to repeal mandatory ultrasound. Ad wars: Kochs vs insurers. Christie plays for the base. More on Postal banking: what could President Obama be doing that so far, he's just... not?


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