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In the ideology of fluff "outrageous irony" plays a huge role in making the fluff look like news. But here fluff goes poof.
March 21, 2009
13 other people
In the ideology of fluff, political thought follows the Holden Caulfield maxim: find the phony. You isolate the "outrageous irony," as Michael Scherer put it. Another way to boil it down: "Oh, the hypocrisy!" And if you're a journalist working in this style, the frothing irony is more important than the underling issue. Which enrages the people who care about the issue. The rage is then used to prove how independent the ironist is, taking the heat and telling the truth. Every practitioner of fluff reporting draws strong reactions because events have to be trimmed, sliced or just plain distorted so the account seems more ironical rather than ideological-- i.e. biased. This trimming and fiddling with the facts doesn't matter to people who don't care about the issue being trivialized, and it's to the benefit of those on the "other" side of whomever was taken down a notch by it. (See
) So they don't squeal. That leaves the fluffster and (in the fluffster's mind) partisans upset by a tweaking. -
Another element in the dynamic is captured in an earlier Tweet of mine: Journalists don't own a petard, they don't know from petards, so they have to hoist you on yours. Meaning: they're not allowed to defend, or articulate the political standard against which they wish to judge, say, the Obama Administration. So they have to take Obama's own statements and use those because that's ideologically innocent enough. "Hoisted on his own petard." What can be better? -
Thus, Andrew Malcom's recent fluff entry, "Obama White House bars press from press award ceremony," relies on all these methods: Look at how it starts "... Barack Obama was elected commander in chief promising to run the most transparent presidential administration in American history."
That's the tip off. We know what's coming: Outrageous irony! Holden Calufield: What a phony! Oh, the hypocrisy! Hoisted on his own petard! Hah! -
Then you look a little closer: Obama barred the press? Not really. He gave an exclusive on-the-record interview to the black press.
Ohhhhh. (That's the distortion.) Therefore he barred the press only in the sense that Andrew Malcolm was barred from the "are you a socialist?" interview the New York Times recently did with Obama. That's what an exclusive interview does: it excludes. Is Andrew Maclolm against THAT? Of course not. But he has his fluff item and he's going with it. -
This is from Jake Tapper on Twitter: "Preparing for day of hypocrisy: conservs who would normally defend the SpecOlymp joke acting offended, liberals saying lighten up. Sigh."
And who is the brave independent truthteller battling the phonies everywhere? Holden Tapper! And by the way, the sigh is a lie. Tapper isn't aggrieved by all the hypocrisy, and if he does feel a little pain the Drudge effect soothes it. -
So by fluff here you just mean trivial irony used to make an interesting story? Is it central to your thinking here that this results in "criticism from both sides" (in particular, criticism from the people whose issue has been trivialized)? -
Central to it is this: the fluff method builds in the reactions as fortification for the method. The people whose issue has been trivialized sqawk immediately. The people whose side has been advantaged by the fluff narrative scream at the hypocrisy (see the comment thread:
) so right off you got a nice little "partisans on both sides" screaming match, which almost ALL journalists want to wash their hands of, leaving the fluffster free for the next round of "... oh the hypocrisy!" -
Jake Tapper right now on Twitter explains to me why he's so down on the comments at his ABCNews.com site. jaketapper: @jayrosen_nyu @jayackroyd hate from L and R - shouting and personal attacks, mostly at each other, no dialogue/opp for me 2 hear fr viewers ... Jake would like intelligent feedback, but the "partisans on both sides" won't permit it. So he'll keep doing what he's doing. It doesn't occur to him to ask what he might be doing that leaves screaming matches in its wake. jayrosen_nyu: You are one cause of that, @jaketapper You and your ideology of fluff
And your dim grasp of how online forums work. -
Another thing: Many in medialand have taken flaming from both sides about the SAME STORY as a kind of validation of their essential truthiness, no, er... truthfulness, because if you're getting it from both sides that means you favored neither and slew their sacred cows equally, cow for cow. But if you get the ideology of fluff: one side loves the Caulfielding but rages at you for being fluffy, not cutting deeper, only tweaking. Other side complains about the (very real) distortions. Both mad. Same story. -
Do you think that journalists buy into this ideology more than their readers/viewers? It seems like more people want cheap feel-good entertainment than actual news; hence "special olympics" becomes a huge story while containing exactly zero content. -
Do I think that journalists buy into this ideology more than their readers/viewers? Yes.You gotta watch one thing: your evidence that it was a huge story with users cannot be that it was a huge story with journalists, can it? -
Good point. How about the AIG bailout story: news or fluff? Pushed by journalists or pulled by the public? -
Not fluff. For this reason among many
Don't forget Josh Marshall's comments to the "eat your spinach crowd"
The roots of fluff:
@anamariecox "Orszag conference call very detailed and hard to follow; full of substance. Please stop: I am a political reporter and not used to this." Ha, ha. So funny, isn't it? She's just joking, of course. Poking fun at her peer group....amused? -
More on fluff from Dan Froomkin, though he does not use the word:
This looks like a PressThink blog post in the making... ;-) -
Definitely. From danieldoyle: @jayrosen_nyu seems this meets some qualifications for ideology of fluff.
"Is President Obama trying to muzzle his press corps?" On what grounds: The British press got to ask four questions and the US press only three. -
Also relevant is this column from CNN's Ed Henry
To wit: Invariably, my Democratic friends tweaked along the lines of "how'd you like the smackdown" because they were pleased the president pushed back. But my Republican friends hailed me by saying essentially, "Thanks for doing your job -- he never answered the question." So the exchange was a great political Rorschach: Each party saw their own talking points in the reflection of the back-and-forth. -
Not the ideology of fluff but an example of fluff. "Mr. Obama spent his first few days in office rolling out an orchestrated series of executive orders intended to signal that he would take the nation in a very different direction from his predecessor, George W. Bush. Yet he wrestled with fresh challenges at every turn, found some principles hard to consistently apply and showed himself willing to be pragmatic — at the risk of irking some supporters who had their hearts set on idealism."
I don't say things like OMG, but if I did...
"What we can say for certain is that Tapper isn’t afraid to go against the grain of the liberal consensus in pursuit of a story. Whether he was pointing out that Barack Obama was a one-man gaffe machine, factchecking Obama on the surge, or chiding him for blaming any and all mistakes on his staff, no mainstream journalist was tougher on Obama during the campaign. Considering the fact that much of the media gave Obama the kid-glove treatment, Tapper’s reporting was essential. " -
Tapper is somewhat taken aback by the idea he’s rooting for the Right. “It’s always nice to be complimented — if that’s what that was,” he tells National Review Online. “Believe me, I don’t doubt there will come a day when Mr. Limbaugh and National Review consider me once again to be part of the ‘MSM,’ either too tough on Republicans or insufficiently tough on Democrats.” National Review
This one is almost too good. The ideology of fluff in some its purest form:
Dana Milbank reads his comments and guess what he discovers? "On Tuesday, I learned that I am a right-wing hack. I am not a journalist. I am typical of the right wing. I am why newspapers are going broke. I write garbage. I am angry with Barack Obama. I misquote Obama. I am bitter. I am a certified idiot. I am lame. I am a Republican flack." You know it's coming, right? -
Right... and here it comes... "On Thursday, I realized that I am a media pimp with my lips on Obama's butt. I am a bleeding-heart liberal who wants nothing more than for the right to fall on its face. I am part of the ObamaMedia. I am pimping for the left. I am carrying water for Obama. Lord, am I an idiot.... I discovered all this from the helpful feedback provided to me in the 'reader comments' section at the end of my past four columns on washingtonpost.com" -
Another piece of data:
"...[AP] is scrapping the stonefaced approach to journalism that accepts politicians’ statements at face value and offers equal treatment to all sides of an argument. Instead, reporters are encouraged to throw away the weasel words and call it like they see it when they think public officials have revealed themselves as phonies or flip-floppers." See Holden Caulfield: the phonies! The flip floppers! -
More from Dana Milbank "The House Judiciary Committee called a hearing yesterday to study the decline of the newspaper business, but it quickly deteriorated into a press-bashing session. Ideologues of the left and right made no effort to conceal their yearning for a day without journalists, when public officials would no longer be scrutinized." -
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