Jeffrey Feldman has written a wonderful book, Framing the Debate, which is so much more than a "how to" book for progressive frames. It is a beautiful history of great presidential speeches and the way presidents ask Americans to view the world with the powerful words they choose.
Yesterday in the NYT, New Republic writer, Eve Fairbanks reviewed Jeffrey's book, if you want to call it that. Mostly she just ranted her world view and cherry picked some quotes to back it up. Eve Fairbanks submitted an irresponsible piece that mischaracterized Jeffrey's book and I'm a little too furious about this to compose a proper introduction, so I'll just get to it.
Lets start by debunking Eve Fairbanks' argument where she misrepresents Feldman thesis as claiming framing alone wins elections.
Feldman's theory also promotes unjust misinterpretations of the great presidential speeches he's chosen, because by ascribing their success to framing, it severs their words from the ideas behind them.
But the book never says that framing alone wins elections, and in fact, in large type, on page xi, at the top of the page, it says, "Framing is about ideas, and ideas matter. " This is a basic assumption that goes unchallenged throughout the book, Framing the Debate: Famous Presidential Speeches and How Progressives Can Use Them to Change the Conversation (and Win Elections). Nowhere in the book does it say that ideas don't matter, and this assertion, put forth by Fairbanks says more about her biases and assumptions than the ideas contained in Feldman's book.
Ok, that was a quick and easy deconstruction. Now lets look at Eve Fairbanks' bias and what she thinks the internet is really good for.
Soon after she espouses her plainly incorrect description of the book's contents, she backs it up by insulting Feldman's internet roots:
Writing a blog is different from writing a book and Feldman is best on the kind of smaller-bore observations that might fare well online...
Wow. I guess we need to leave the real observing to reporters like Fairbainks. More about that later, but as an Exhibit A, I submit to you the remarkable powers of observation possessed by Eve Fairbanks:
Online pop culture politics: Dean's lasting impression?
Feb 12, 2007
An MTV ad featuring Barack Obama wagging his hips to Avril Lavigne whistles across the screen. Once inside your favorite chat room, you see that "Hillary08" is already signed in and nattering away with the other Web denizens. "ROFL!", she says.
Well, I'm of the online social networking generation. No MySpace page, but I'll admit I have a Facebook profile I update regularly. But I don't think these politicos' desperate plunge into hot youth culture is very cool.
But assimilating Internet tactics doesn't mean you have to assimilate Internet culture, too: the unhinged language, the fake intimacy, the studied hipness.
Would you look forward to electing a head of state more comfortable in the chat room than behind the podium in the Rose Garden?
No, I don't want them to be more comfortable, I want them to be just as comfortable, because citizens are having important discussions online, even if Eve Fairbanks isn't.
So lets look at what kinds of discussions Fairbanks does find useful:
The Porn Identity
by Eve Fairbanks
Post date 02.06.06
And yet, instead of anger or fear, my expanded Google profile gave me a twinge of satisfaction. The Google me had become fun, provocative, and enigmatic. I felt like Mae West. On the electronic frontier, my reputation preceded me. And, like many a cowboy famed for villainies he never committed, I was kind of proud of it. My friends were jealous, and not one advised me to try to get the sites removed.
My generation is the first to have grown up with the Internet, and we see the online universe a little like Gyges saw the world when he was wearing his magic ring: as a place where anything goes, where there is neither consequence nor shame, and where concerns about protecting your reputation are less, not more, important.
I've been downgraded to a fetishist of stuffed animals: Perhaps I ought to worry about my reputation after all.
But no need to worry about Fairbanks' reputation not being "fun, provocative, and enigmatic" enough, because Google "Eve Fairbanks" and note the bottom entry on the first page links to this gem:
by Eve Fairbanks
Post date 06.23.06
Should I go Dr. Laura demure, with a church-social turtleneck and pearls? Or choose a plunging neckline and a tube skirt, in that Ann Coulter vixen style? Taking a wild guess, I selected a pinstripe suit, a pink shirt, and cowboy boots. I hadn't a clue--at least, not yet--as to what look would most appeal to an authentic conservative man....
The rest is behind the paywall.
Digital: 26 issues (56 weeks) for $29.95
(Includes 2 Free issues)
I'm afraid I don't have $29.95 worth of curiosity about her dishonest dating exploits, even with the bonus of 2 free issues. I guess my hunger for the juicy details will have to remain unsated as my curiosity about the other Eve Fairbanks and her porn.
Back to leaving the reporting to the reporters, this next excerpt, posted recently on the online edition of TNR exclusively, and titled, appropriately,"Mixed Message," shows both her contempt for meta-reporting, and her need to meta-report about the atrocity of reporters meta-reporting.
On the Hill
by Eve Fairbanks
Only at TNR Online | Post date 03.28.07
So the messed-up FBI is like the messed-up situation in Iraq. Or maybe it's more like that messed-up thing with the U.S. attorneys. Whatever.
Sneaking out to use the bathroom, I found him parked in the fluorescent-lit Dirksen hallway outside the hearing room, where he had been accosted by TV cameras and boom mikes. Reporters with pads thronged around him; a frantic-looking pregnant woman strained to keep a tape recorder thrust up to his side. But they weren't asking him about the FBI scandal, or the brief but successful flaying Specter had just given Mueller on his lame excuses for the agency's carelessness. Instead, they demanded to know why Gonzales aide Monica Goodling was refusing to testify before the Judiciary Committee in the U.S. attorneys kerfuffle: We're only interested in the next hottest break in the Meta Screw-Up! A tolerant expression on his face, Specter happily complied.
That's right, MSM, you are no better than bloggers and this meta-report on your terrible tendency to meta-report proves it. I don't know about you, but I sure am grateful she didn't use this space to report on the subject the meta-reporters were meta-reporting on, because pointing out what others are doing wrong is definitely more important than doing it right yourself.
How ironic it is, that Eve Fairbanks, a writer who makes a living using words, a young woman who believes that getting mistaken as a pornographer by her parents is cool, a citizen who believes it's uncool for future presidents to use the internet for important discussions with voters, a reporter who chastises reporters for not reporting news properly, uses the internet to do it, then calls it a medium where "smaller-bore observations" "fare well," tops this twisted heap by writing a review of a book, a book that she obviously hasn't read (see page iv, large type, top of page), and criticizes Feldman's thesis that words, indeed, do matter.