Friday, February 1, 2019

Howard Schultz is exploiting vulnerabilities in the system we've been pointing out for a long time.

God knows we've been over this before (I'm getting a little sick of it myself) but Howard Schultz, a man with no relevant experience whose answers to interview questions consists entirely of word salad garnished with bromides) has garnered the amount of serious attention for a laughable run for the presidency because of longstandiing problems with American journalism.

First, Schultz belongs to one of those groups that is always given extensive and respectful coverage. They include the super rich, Silicon Valley visionaries, economists, celebrities, and frequently ivy league professors resting on their laurels.

Second, he is promoting one of those ideas that have been granted exemption from balance. Though it seems to be receding a bit, many journalists still have an absolute fetish for giving equal time to both sides of the story even when, as in the case with global warming, there really is only one side. Despite this, certain issues have been allowed presented as axiomatic, without giving any room to opposing opinions. For a while, the education reform movement enjoyed this status, but the best example remains that brand of Simpson-Bowles fiscal austerity that is inevitably depicted as the grown up view despite of mountains of conflicting economic evidence.

Third, the Schultz campaign dovetails nicely plays into certain standard narratives extremely popular with a large part of the punditry. The villains of these stories are the extremists in both parties who live simply to make trouble. The heroes are the moderates on both sides who want to push past partisanship so they can role up their sleeves and get things done, and the Holy Grail the successful third party/independent.

It is no coincidence that the few hacks like Matt Bai and Dylan Byer who have rushed in to defend Schultz are the ones most deeply invested in things journalistic sinkholes like radical centricism and old-style horse race coverage.

Just so that some good can come of the Schultz campaign, and in memory of John Banner, here’s a music lesson from Jerry Fielding. Listen for the nicely done counterpoint in the second half. (Next time we’ll do 5/4 time signature with the Mission Impossible theme.)

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