Just Above Sunset
April 24, 2005 - The So-Called Liberal Media Evaporates Before Our Eyes

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Clare Booth Luce (1903-1987) –


Socialite Clare Booth Luce, married to Henry R. Luce who published Time, Life, and Fortune, served in the US Congress from 1942 to 1946 and later as ambassador to Brazil and Italy. She also wrote plays, was a World War II war correspondent, and wrote articles and reviews.


She entered politics as a critic of the Roosevelt administration and served two terms (1943-47) as Republican congresswoman from Connecticut.  Her appointment by President Eisenhower as U.S. Ambassador to Italy (1953-57) made her the first American woman ever to hold a major diplomatic post.

Why mention her?  Because of Time magazine and the Time cover story (subscription only) this week.

Time's cover profiles the conservative columnist and commentator Ann Coulter.  Ah, maybe the term ideologue is better.  They use the term “conservative flamethrower.”  The article compares her to Clare Booth Luce, the wife of Time's co-founder, and the writer, John Cloud, claims Coulter has "a personality far more labile [used intentionally , and not likable] and human than the umbrageous harridan I had expected."  He calls her the "most unlikely of conservative subspecies: a hard-right ironist."

Well, maybe.  Labile comes to us from
Middle French - prone to err, from Late Latin labilis, from Latin labi to slip – and can mean “readily open to change.” 



David Sirota says this among other things –


There's been a lot of debate over whether the media is "liberal" or "conservative."  But as I saw this week's cover of Time Magazine, I realized just how ridiculous it is for there to even be a debate.

The cover trumpets right-wing crazy person Ann Coulter.  This is a woman who advocated blowing up the New York Times offices and claimed Vietnam war hero and triple amputee Max Cleland didn't deserve to be honored for his losing his limbs on the battlefield.


Yep, that’s her.

Oliver Willis asks a simple question - Can we just take the "liberal media" meme outside behind the barn and shoot it?

Yes, one can do that now.

Well, we on the left have Michael Moore.  The guys on the right have Ann Coulter.  Fair is fair.

But getting a lot of play on the web was this from “Digby” over at Hullabaloo (my emphases) –


It has become clear to me that we are frogs being slowly boiled to death. And the media are enjoying the hot tub party so much that they are helping to turn up the heat.

Ann Coulter is not, as Howie Kurtz asserts today, the equivalent of Michael Moore. Michael Moore is not advocating the murder of conservatives. He just isn't. For instance, he doesn't say that Eric Rudolph should be killed so that other conservatives will learn that they can be killed too. He doesn't say that he wishes that Tim McVeigh had blown up the Washington Times Building. He doesn't say that conservatives routinely commit the capital offense of treason. He certainly doesn't put up pictures of the fucking snoopy dance because one of his political opponents was killed. He doesn't, in other words, issue calls for violence and repression against his political enemies. That is what Ann Coulter does, in the most coarse, vulgar, reprehensible way possible.

Moore says conservatives are liars and they are corrupt and they are wrong. But he is not saying that they should die. There is a distinction. And it's a distinction that Time magazine and Howard Kurtz apparently cannot see.

I have long felt that it was important not to minimize the impact of this sick shit. For years my friends and others in the online communities would say that it was a waste of time to worry about Rush because there are real issues to worry about. Likewise Coulter. Every time I write something about her there is always someone chastising me for wasting their time. Yet, here she is, being given the imprimatur of a mainstream publication of record in a whitewash of epic proportions. Slowly, slowly the water is heating up.

… The recently anointed GOP saint, Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan, was the one who coined the phrase "defining deviancy down" and I think he's been validated. When a deranged, flame throwing fascist like Ann Coulter is called "amusing" and "entertaining", deviancy has definitely been redefined.


Well, did the woman really say all those things?

Yes.  The citations are here, with links to the original items.


This about a "commentator" who claimed that the Democratic Party "supports killing, lying, adultery, thievery, envy"; who said of the idea that the American military were targeting journalists, "Would that it were so!"; who said President Clinton "was a very good rapist"; who insisted that "[l]iberals love America like O.J. loved Nicole"; who said that "I think a baseball bat is the most effective way these days" to talk to liberals; who said it was lucky for former senator Max Cleland's political career that he lost an arm and two legs in Vietnam; who has said her "only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building"; and who wrote that the only real question about Bill Clinton was "whether to impeach or assassinate."


Ah, but she was kidding.  But she is sly about letting anyone know if she is kidding.

So she gets the cover of Time.

The world is indeed changing.

And in just what way is it changing?

Billmon, over at Whiskey Bar provides this lively history of Luce and Time magazine


Once upon a time – back when Ann’s hero, Joe McCarthy, still crawled the earth – Time was what Fox News is now – the unofficial official propaganda organ of the Republican Party. As partisan a rag as ever befouled the propeller of American democracy, in fact. And, just as Fox News has Roger Ailes to keep it on the shining path, Time had its publisher, Henry Luce – who actually combined the roles of Ailes and Rupert Murdoch.

Luce was a rock-ribbed Midwestern Republican – the son of a China missionary, educated at Yale (back when God and man still cohabitated there) and raised in an era when the GOP faithful still regarded the Democrats as the party of Rum, Romanism and Rebellion.

A time much like today, in other words. And Luce’s Time reflected the boss’s prejudices in full measure, particularly when it came to the “who lost China” debate. Luce – a fierce friend of Chiang Kai-shek – blamed the debacle on Truman and the Democrats (which, from his point of view, was the sensible thing to do, since the alternative was admitting Chang and his government were hopelessly inept and corrupt, and Luce, like his magazine, wasn’t very good at facing unpleasant truths.)

In any case, Luce and Time flayed the Dems – and the party’s presidential candidate, Adlai Stevenson – in editorial language so partisan and vicious it might have been written by Ann Coulter (that is, if Ann had taken an intensive course in remedial English composition.)

But Luce died in 1967, and his widow – playwright cum politician Claire Booth Luce – showed little interest in the publishing business. Loyal family retainers kept Time on the hard right side of the track for a while, but the late ‘60s were tough times for Luce’s brand of absolute moral certainty. If you saw Apocalypse Redux, you may remember the hallucinatory scene of Marlon Brando, as big as a fucking Zeppelin, reading optimistic excerpts from Timeabout how well the war was going.


Yes, out here in Hollywood some of us do remember that.  Amusing.

So what happened to Time?


Then came Watergate and the ‘70s and the left’s cultural revolution. Loyal retainers passed away and corporate drones replaced them, and by the late ‘80s, Time, while still Republican-leaning (and Reagan worshipping) was no longer the magazine that Luce built. When media hustler Gerald Levin moved in and gobbled up Time-Life in 1989, it seemed as if the last traces of the old fire-breathing, Red-baiting, Time had vanished forever – suffocated in a vat of Hollywood schmaltz.


Ah, that famous at of Hollywood schmaltz.  No doubt that vat is just down the block at Greenblatt’s Delicatessen and I should get a photo for the next issue of Just Above Sunset.

But seriously, the point here is these folks now are blowing with the wind to make money, and the question raised is putting Ann Coulter on the cover taking things to a whole new level.  Is the old Time magazine making a comeback?

The short answer is no. The media are no longer that partisan –


… the differences between the old Time and the new Time not only show how much the magazine has changed, they also highlight how much the news media as a whole have been changed by the rise of the mega-monster entertainment conglomerates – such as Time Warner AOL CNN HBO Elektra etc. etc.

Time isn’t returning to its roots – if anything, it’s moving even further away from them. The old Time was conservative, right down to its DNA; the new Time is pandering to the conservatives, right down to its bottom line.

The old Time mirrored the obsessions of its founder, which were only partially, and not even primarily, commercial. The new Time is only part – and probably not even the largest part – of a line item on a quarterly profit and loss statement. The Time drones are giving head to Ann Coulter for the same reason the NBC clones are putting Left Behind knock offs in the fall line up: They’re both terrified they’ve lost touch with the mass audience, which they believe (based on what evidence I don’t know) to be drifting deeper and deeper into wacko land.

But there’s absolutely no conviction behind it, no Lucian desire to smite the wicked and elect the virtuous. Heck, according to BuyBlue.org, Time-Warner is the bluest of the blue corporations, with its executives giving a cool 77% of their $1.7 million in political contributions to the Democrats in the 2003-04 cycle.

Which is exactly why the magazine's fawning treatment of the conservative Mafia is being repaid with such contempt. Time is offering the journalistic equivalent of protection money, but the crew has something bigger in mind – like busting up the joint and taking it over.

The kind of aristocratic partisanship that Luce represented is an anachronism in the modern media industry, which is almost as oligopolistic as the auto industry, but produces a more defective product. The old-time reactionary press barons are a dying breed – Murdoch is probably the last of his kind. …


Maybe so.  But Billmon asserts this new “print whatever is profitable” is more dangerous than having press barons with large holdings publishing their prejudices.


… the corporate media’s present eagerness to suck and lick the private parts of right-wing extremists is based on an increasingly frantic belief that this is what the audience wants. With their massive market power, however, the mega-monsters also have the ability to shape consumer appetites – creating, in effect, a demand for the kind of content they want to supply.

All the pieces are in place, in other words, for a self-perpetuating spiral into extremism – with the corporate bean counters smiling and clapping all the way. The evolution of talk radio into a contest to see who can shout the most deranged opinions into a microphone shows how the process can work. Something similar may now be happening in the print media.

We can always hope the fad burns itself out or at least plateaus – like the reality show craze. Mass audiences can quickly grow bored when every single channel is trying to stuff the same crap down their necks. Who knows? Maybe Ann will get voted off the island.

I hope so, because we’re only beginning to get a sense of the raw propaganda power of the media megamonsters – which, after all, are still in their infancy, like the baby velociraptors in Jurassic Park. And I’m already starting to feel nostalgic for cuddly old reactionary press barons like Henry Luce.


Yep, at least you knew where he stood.



If you use the SEARCH tab above you will find fifty-five references to Ann Coulter in the last three years.

As a virtual magazine, Just Above Sunset doesn’t have a cover page – just a home page, and it doesn’t carry a cover story photo.  If it were to carry one perhaps the first one would be… Jonathan Swift?  Or maybe Duke Ellington.





Bob Patterson sends this along –


In a speculation about what would be on the "cover" of Just Above Sunset magazine, if it were to feature a "cover" page, you said: "If it were to carry one perhaps the first one would be... Jonathan Swift?  Or maybe Duke Ellington."


I have a modest proposal - what about some speculative fiction about a hypothetical meeting between Jonathan Swift and Duke Ellington?  What would that be like?


In answer – Ellington was born in April of 1899 in Washington DC, the son of a White House butler.  His world from early childhood on was music.  Swift was born in the seventeen century in Ireland and ended up in his last years as Dean of Saint Patrick’s in Dublin – after spending most of his career in England, being a pain in the ass to those in power.  I’m not sure what Swift would make of the musical Nubian, as he would call Ellington.  There’s a gap.


The real problem as I see it?  Swift hated music.  He had a tin ear – and specifically Ménière's disease, an inner ear thing which causes attacks of vertigo along with hearing loss.  They say he went mad, but probably that ear problem did him in.  Anyway, I recall from my wacky academic career long ago that Handel did the first production of “The Messiah” in Dublin in 1742, before it opened in London – kind of like a Broadway show doing Philadelphia and New Haven to work out production problems before the big opening night in mid-town Manhattan.  Swift, then in his mid-seventies, attended - and walked out early.  He called it meaningless noise.  God only knows what Swift would have made of “Take the A Train” or “Satin Doll.”


But both were religious – Swift was a Church of England cleric (ordained in 1694), and Ellington, between 1965 and 1973, the year before his death, composed three concerts of sacred music.  And the earlier suite “Come Sunday” is fine. 


On the other hand, Ellington sucked up to the British royals – there was that 1959 suite for Queen Elizabeth.  Swift would not approve.  Somewhere around 1710 or so Swift called his own monarch, Queen Ann, the stupidest ruler anyone had ever seen – not that he had much respect for the German Georges who succeeded her, those Hanoverian dudes.  Ah, Ellington wanted to be cool and suave and in – and did make himself all that.  And he loved the public eye.  Ellington was a spiffy dresser.  Swift?  He didn’t give a shit for such stuff.


They would have nothing to say to each other.


Minor note – I do find it odd that the British, in order to keep any Catholic from the throne, in 1688 imported monarchs from the Netherlands, the protestant William and Mary of the distantly related House of Orange (Queen Ann was their daughter), then, when that line failed, turned to their German cousins from the House of Hanover for George I – who didn’t even speak English.  Well, the succeeding Georges spoke English – and not one of them ever turned Catholic.  Fine.  And now, of all things, we have a German Pope.  What?  And the war about that House of Orange decision still rages on in Northern Ireland – some Bloodless Revolution, as they called it back then. 


How strange.  Organized religion causes no end of trouble.



Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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