Archive for October 26th, 2012

By Bob Clark

Over the course of this current election cycle in the United States, among the more sobering realizations of the current state and trends in American politics has been the slow, unwavering death of the usefulness and relevancy posed by the classic party convention. It had seemed almost a foregone conclusion that Mitt Romney would win the nomination of the GOP, with practically a dozen potential rivals ranging from the relative moderate of John Huntsman to the absolutely nuts like Herman Cain all being marched out at some point or another as alternate choices, each an electoral sacrificial lamb before the official candidacy could be fully anointed and legitimized. This all occurred during a premature primary season that stretched on for months, or even seemingly years following the election of Barack Obama, whose own road through the nomination process in the Democratic party had encountered all its most serious obstacles during the ’08 primary season. Political conventions have been more a matter of ceremony and fluff for seemingly decades now, the last time any serious challenge was posed to a candidate being Ted Kennedy’s abortive run at the Democratic 1980 nomination at the height of Carter’s slump. One need only look at the acclaimed Altman & Trudeau collaboration of Tanner 88 and its docu-drama look at a fictional Presidential candidate to understand just how thoroughly determinative the nomination process has become, and how useless the conventions– Dukakis’ eventual nomination seems so inevitable even as early as New Hampshire, it barely makes a difference to add a fictional politician running as competition. Why not? He has just as much chance as most of the bums.

So how exactly did the convention process become so mechanical, so rote and perfunctory? Why is it that the most electrifying moment in a convention from the past ten years has been the moment that Barack Obama surprised delegates with his impassioned speech during the ’04 Democratic ceremonies that were supposed to have been Kerry’s, instead of anything from one of his own in ’08 or this year? Though the answer can be delivered in long or short form, the prevailing reason surrounds the fact of mass-media’s acceleration in the past 30 years, revving up news-cycles to last 24 hours and 7 days a week in order to meet the increasing demand of cable-news channels like CNN, commentary from talk-radio and the unending stream of information drifting in both officially and off any kind of record via the internet. With news coming in from and often through online sources there’s less of a censoring process, more of a chance for gaffes and horrifying embarrassments to leak through the system and catch politicians unaware, often ending candidacies that might’ve never been impeded back during the more relative decorum of old-school journalism. Coverage is constant, and as a means to differentiate and influence the tides we’ve seen the development of more and more bias from media sources like Fox News and MSNBC, helping to turn the already frenetic crossfire of American political discourse into a shooting war, instead of the mere shooting gallery it could be before. Even anchors on traditional networks have seen their influence and positions rise from merely reporting the news to lending an even greater importance and scrutiny to which news they ought report. Dan Rather’s fall from CBS after playing it fast and loose with damning charges towards then President Bush may have underlined to many the danger that anchors can put themselves in for not being careful enough with the facts, but also showcases the potential power of influence that’s been built up behind desks like his. Why else be so afraid of it? (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1973 1,352m) DVD1


p  Jeremy Isaacs  d  Peter Batty, David Elstein, Phillip Whitehead, Michael Darlow  w  Peter Batty, Neal Ascherson, Charles Bloomberg, Courtney Brown, Angus Calder, Charles Douglas Home, David Elstein, Stuart Hood, Jerome Kuehl, Jeremy Isaacs, J.P.W.Mallalieu, Laurence Thompson, David Wheeler, John Williams  m  Carl Davis  narrated by  Laurence Olivier

The title of the last of this monumental factual series’ twenty-six episodes is as good a tagline to use as any.  Series such as this are all about remembering, acting as testimony.  Testimony to what had happened, testimony to uncover the truth, testimony even to the talents of the people who made it.  When the series finished its run, thirty years after the end of the conflict it covered, it was an astonishing coup.  It was compared to the dimly recalled BBC masterpiece of a decade previously, The Great War.  That somehow had needed to be done in the days of black and white, whereas Jeremy Isaacs’ baby used colour where possible.  From every critical pulpit, praise was unanimous, but another three decades on, does it remain so? (more…)

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