Dispatches > The Buzz


Issue: "John Kerry: On a roll," Feb. 14, 2004

The Super Bowl of online punditry

In the heat of the primary season, the big news of the week turned out to be the Super Bowl halftime show. Mickey Kaus (kausfiles.com) roared that some television executives "need to lose their jobs." On Worldmagblog.com, WORLD cultural editor Gene Edward Veith noted that viewer reaction "may be the catalyst for a major swing of the pendulum back to family-friendly standards" in network television. Editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky wrote, "Fathers and sons bond while watching football games; why must we lose the liberty to enjoy that without bombardment by crud? Our goal should be containment. Given Janet Jackson's apparent desire to expose her breast, why can't she do it on pay-per-view?"

Several blog readers quickly trumped that comment, writing that Ms. Jackson had no pay-per-view prospects, as the fiasco was merely "a vain attempt to resurrect her career." The discussion that ensued showed an advantage of being able to post electronically daily news content: Blogging is interactive, with over 100 comments reacting to WORLD's observations. David Rupert wrote, "No wonder the Muslim world hates us-actually they hate the Hollywood culture that seems to represent us." One blog reader who goes by the initials "BDJ" complained, "What about Timberlake's bullying attitude as he sang the song, and his violent method of removing Janet's clothing? The message to men is: It's OK to demean women and get your way with them."

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Many of those who posted comments objected not only to the halftime show but to tasteless commercials throughout the game. "Dean," though, opined that "flatulence jokes are not sinful and I think for Christians to act as though they are, only contributes to our image as sanctimonious prigs when we need to be the moral voice of our culture.... Nothing I saw in the Super Bowl commercials last night rivaled the ribald humor in most of Shakespeare's plays and I almost never hear Christians complain the Bard was a potty-mouth." Dave Sable commented on the medical commercials, rampant because "we baby boomers are at the age where we suspect we are no longer immortal. My generation is afraid of getting old, losing potency, and dying. How does the gospel address this fear?"

He added, "The halftime slutfest is simply a reflection of what goes on every day on the internet, on magazines, and in the secret thoughts of millions of people."

Many planned alternative activities: "Lemacd" wrote, "I just will have to use Super Bowl halftime to do something more meaningful, like scrubbing the toilet." Others sought alternative programming: A blogging regular who goes by "pbh" wrote, "There were alternatives to the halftime show ... let's not forget that NBC was showing a Queer Eye for the Straight Guy marathon. Unsurprisingly, no breasts were shown."

Bloggers bid BBC buh-bye

The Hutton Report, which denounced the BBC, led to widespread crowing throughout the anti-big-media blogosphere. (The Hutton Inquiry began six months ago after arms expert David Kelly killed himself; he had been ID'd as the source for a sloppy BBC report that claimed Prime Minister Tony Blair "sexed up" his case for war.) Jeff Jarvis (buzzmachine.com) was mild: "Now the BBC will get the fate it deserves. It deserves to lose all public subsidy. It deserves to be thrown out in the marketplace to fend for itself. It deserves to face new competitors that will beat it at every measure. What Rupert Murdoch did to CNN with Fox News, Rupert Murdoch will eagerly do to the BBC, just watch. But the BBC brought this on itself. The BBC committed suicide." At the least, BBC credibility-like that of The New York Times-is fading.

Middle ground on Bush?

Meanwhile, British expatriate and sometimeÐNew York Times writer Andrew Sullivan (andrewsullivan.com) pondered the increasing partisanship of debate on both sides of the pond: "It is hard ... to make the case that the Bush administration made honest but real mistakes about intelligence from Saddam's Iraq. One side adamantly wants to believe that the Bushies lied; the other side wants to believe that there were no mistakes. In a completely cynical, polarized culture, it's hard to break out of this cycle." British journalist Martin Kettle also wrote of that cynicism, but says that "it comes from within" the press. Mr. Kettle wrote of "journalistic fascism, in which all elected politicians are contemptible, all judges are disreputable and only journalists are capable of telling the truth, even though what passes for truth is sometimes little more than prejudice unsupported by facts."


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