Sunday, 25 October 2009

Because being ignored is the exact same thing as being muzzled. The attacks on the administration and its allies for deciding to shun Fox News are so cute. This is my favorite: In [Obama's] America there is no Constitution, there is no First Amendment, there are no principles of free speech or free press.As all good children know, the silent treatment renders the person to whom it's administered incapable of saying anything. They can't run around shouting, "Why are you ignoring me?" or "What did I do? Please tell me!" because their tongue has been silenced by the mystical power of the treatment. It makes a person wonder what Fox will air now that their hosts have lost their words. An hour of Glenn Beck sobbing uncontrollably while pointing at a chalkboard on which the links between ACORN and his muted mouth-hole have been arranged into a misspelled anagram? Granted, they were ready to go with the sobbing and pointing before the Plague of Silence zipped his mouth and pocketed the key . . . . . . but seriously, because this is serious, serious stuff, otherwise Jake Tapper wouldn't be on the case: Tapper: But that’s a pretty sweeping declaration that they are “not a news organization.” How are they any different from, say— Gibbs: ABC— Tapper: ABC. MSNBC. Univision. I mean how are they any different?I will answer this question, both for Tapper and the conservatives who think the Obama administration is politicizing news coverage, via another childhood staple: One of these [Presidents of network news divisions] is not like the others. One of these [lives] is just not the same. Jonathan Klein (CNN), worked for WLNE in Providence, R.I. before becoming a broadcast producer for CBS News. Steve Capus (NBC), worked for WCAU and KYW in Philadelphia before becoming an executive producer for NBC News. Sean McManus (CBS), worked for ABC News before managing sports broadcasting for CBS. David Westin (ABC), clerked for Nixon appointee and dogged moderate Lewis Powell before working as in-house counsel for ABC. Roger Ailes (FOX), served as a political consultant for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Rudolph Giuliani. I'm sure Tapper and company will continue to claim the administration playing politics by excluding the network chaired by a Republican operative, but honestly, I'm not sure why anyone thinks a Democrat should talk to representatives of a network whose president has devoted his life to championing Republican causes. I suppose the Democrats should also let Republicans strategists produce their campaign ads, as that would eliminate some of the dishonest viciousness of elections—after all, there's no need to Willie Horton a Democrat whose campaign you already drove off a cliff. (x-posted.)
On informing your students that they're murderers (Being another post in this vein.) In a famous (and surprisingly controversial, for reasons I will tackle later in the week) section of Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud defines the act of moving from one panel, through the gutter (the white space between panels), and into the next as "closure." Unlike film, in which closure is made unconscious by the persistence of vision and the limitations of our perceptual apparatus (such that twenty-four frames per second is automatically perceived as motion), closure in comics is a collaborative effort between author (or artist) and reader. Take a scene in which one person threatens to shoot another: What happens (at least in my tweaked-for-maximal-classroom-efficiency sequence) between the second and third panel there? Put differently: in order to achieve closure between the second and third panel, what do Moore and Gibbons compel the reader to imagine in order to make the transition through that gutter make sense? The answer, of course, is that they force the reader to imagine murdering a pregnant woman. That is, they make the reader a silent accomplice to the Comedian's crime per McCloud: Just in case the awful complicity of the reader failed to sink in, McCloud draws himself hugging his knees in a dark corner (and undoubtedly near tears behind his grandma glasses): Students absolutely loathe the possibility that McCloud might be correct. They claim they are the victims of a sick manipulation on the part of the author; that they were tricked into imagining this terrible crime and therefore aren't culpable; that they never knowingly sin in their hearts unless someone forces them to do so; etc. I then show them the omitted panel: And after they express how much better they feel for not being an accomplice to a fictional murder, I ask them why witnessing a crime is better than imagining one and we turn to a slightly more thematic discussion of Dr. Manhattan's culpability here. But they remember McCloud's point, which was why I implicated them in the Comedian's crime in the first place.

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