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Full Court Press

New York on President Obama’s complex media strategy.

New York, Aug. 10 The cover story argues that President Obama’s media ubiquity is a critical aspect of his presidency. “He recognizes that, in the same way a blog can’t survive on just one post a day, a presidency can no longer survive on one message per day or one press conference per year.” Republicans complain that he never stays on one issue long enough to attack. But his media strategy is complex: Despite the saturation, he’s most at home giving deeply framed speeches and has an almost manipulative relationship with the White House press corps. An article wonders about “Jewish exceptionalism” in light of Bernie Madoff and the rabbis recently arrested in a New Jersey corruption scandal. Jews’ stereotypical “famous” talents seem to work for both good and bad, but the most exceptional part is that “the sight of a Jewish criminal on the front page gives heartburn to Jews comprehensively disconnected from the crimes.”

The New Yorker, Aug. 10 & 17 An article investigates the “dysfunctional” live music industry. Music lovers despise both corporate ticket giants, Live Nation and Ticketmaster, sending their brand names and stock prices into the ground. The ascent of live music from a regional, nonprofitable operation to a global cash cow has fueled a cycle of profit-generating schemes that anger fans, then, in turn, hurt profits. Malcolm Gladwell compares the “friends and neighbors” racial populism of Southerners like James Folsom, governor of Alabama in the 1950s, with “liberalism in the form of an urgent demand for formal equality.” Atticus Finch, the hero of To Kill a Mockingbird, was more like the former: He didn’t attack white prejudice but suggested that the privileged take a more “humanitarian” approach toward blacks. The formal civil rights movement ended Folsom’s career, because it looked for justice through the law rather than “hearts and minds.”

Newsweek, Aug. 10 In the cover story, novelist Walter Mosley writes that crime fiction holds timeless appeal for Americans because it helps us forget the hazy complexity of the modern world. Crime-driven forms of entertainment invite us to imagine how we might respond in similarly malevolent situations. They provide honorable heroes and a clear place to lay the blame, a welcome alternative from the anonymous, vaguely menacing forces that cause our collective unease: “We need them to cleanse the modern world from our souls.” A column wonders whether Francis Collins is a “good enough scientist” to head the National Institutes of Health. Collins’ Christian faith, a flash point in the scientific community, does not disqualify him, and there is no evidence that he has shied away from scientific reasoning. His openness about his religion will work to President Obama’s advantage if Collins can stand up to the pressure that is sure to come from the faithful.

Weekly Standard, Aug. 10 The cover story calls David Kessler’s new book The End of Overeating“a case study in progressive paternalism.” Kessler reduces human beings to their biology by suggesting they’re slaves to their culinary urges and must be protected from corporate manipulation. “He’s giving us an inside look at the thinking that leads a person in power to scan his citizens and reconceive their private failings, individual preferences, or personal indulgences as pressing matters of state, and thus fit for government correction.” An article warns that Obama’s Justice Department “is politicizing the department in ways the Bush team never imagined.” Attorney General Eric Holder challenged the department’s long-held view that D.C. cannot be given voting rights by statute, asking the solicitor general whether he would back the administration if it decided to champion D.C. voting rights. The Justice Department is also covering up a case of “egregious” voter intimidation by the New Black Panthers last November.

Reason, August/September 2009 The cover package denounces the federal takeover of Detroit: “Not only will this White House seize any company it deems to pose a ‘systemic risk’ to the economy, but it will do so without regard to restraint, to the law, or to basic economic principles.” The government’s loans to automakers were illegal and a sign that Obama has not repudiated his predecessor’s abuses of executive power. The president’s softness on corporations is contradictory to his party’s basic ideals. Worst of all, the strategy is doomed to fail. An interview with a disaster researcher explores how people create their own media during a crisis. Public officials often hold back information to avoid “panic,” but what they perceive as panic is often just people trying to understand what’s happening. And the benefit citizen journalists provide is the local knowledge they possess that no major media outlet can compete with.