thoughts on politics

July 15, 2008

Hello world!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Matt @ 5:02 am
Tags: , ,

Note the time. This is probably when most of this blog will be written.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Matt; I suppose my writerly name would be M. H. Brandenburgh. I am 21, white male, a student at the University of Georgia. My major is physics, with a minor in math, but I really am in love with politics more than either of those.

This blog is essentially my second attempt at keeping a descent online journal of political commentary. The first was my blog at the Campus Word, which I don’t think any of my friends are even aware of. The Campus Word is a website I wrote for for the first four months of this year, until they ran out of money. They invited us writers to keep writing in blogs hosted on their website. I did a few entries, and then stopped once finals started, and never got started again.

But I liked blogging because of its easier format: I don’t have to worry about being as formal, keeping the posts around a certain length, and can post on whatever I want–essentially, it provides a lot more freedom, and my friends know I like freedom.

I thought about restarting that blog several times this summer, because I kept having things I wanted to say, but each time I thought about the Campus Word’s website, I got discouraged. Their software is abhorrent, if I may say so, and when I thought about the possibility of ever having to bandy this about as a representation of myself, well, I wouldn’t want to do that with Campus Word. So basically, that site is terrible, which is why I now start a wordpress. (I’d like to link to my old four-entry Campus Word blog here for continuity’s sake, but looking at their site, I can’t even figure out how to view what I wrote in the standard blog format, with all the entries on one page. So I guess I’ll just give this link to my profile, which has everything I wrote for them.)

This blog will continue in the same vein as that one was starting in, as much as I can tell. One of its major themes, I’m sure, will be how David Brooks is a total waste of organic molecules. And then there’ll be some media criticism, some political commentary, and some personal political writing, when I feel like it. To rehash (in the sense of copy-paste) my introductory entry from Campus Word:

So, I figure that if I am writing a blog about today’s media and politics, I should explain where I’m coming from, and especially what media sources I use.

First off, as all my friends and my vast audience of Campus Word readers probably know, my political philosophies are informed by a strong recognition of the efficacy of the free market and the basic right of humans to keep what’s theirs and to make decisions for themselves pertaining to themselves. That, I feel, is a better way of saying I’m a certified, according-to-facebook “libertarian.”

When I write political posts, it will be obvious that this is my motivating philosophy, and there’s really no need to dress it up or act neutral about it.

But when it comes to commenting on the media, which I’ve already done, a sense of neutrality is usually desired. I will try to free these posts from political slant as much as possible, and rather try to cut through/expose all the hogwash (to use a polite term) that pervades the media. People like myself (libertarians, that is to say) don’t find much identification with any reporting in the mainstream media anyway, so I view both left-leaning CNN and right-falling Fox News, for example, with the same distaste. In a way, I’ve chosen an easy vantage point from which to criticize the media since almost everything they do meets with disagreement by me. At any rate, my political views should not affect most of my critiques of the media, or at least my readers should be able to understand my commentary without agreeing with me.

In order to let the reader understand why I shall comment on the outlets I comment on, I will list the news sources I regularly read.

  • The New York Times-my primary outlet. My school, the University of Georgia, has a program through the Student Government Association which distributes several newspapers for free to students in pickup places around campus (the other ones available are USA Today, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and The Athens Banner-Herald). Every day I go by the one outside my dorm and pick up the Times; if they’re out I am very upset, and sometimes skip class to go to the other boxes on campus and try to track one down.
    Out of these available for free to me, I find the Times has the best and most extensive coverage of the widest range of stories. Since the free paper program only runs during the week, I don’t get to read the Saturday or Sunday editions. I’m thinking of subscribing next year so that I can be guaranteed a paper every day, and so I get the Sunday paper. The other papers like this I would consider reading are the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. For now, though, I don’t have the time or money to leaf through three big papers a day, so the Times is it.
    I think it’s annoying to italicize just the title of a paper and not the city, so often I will just do the whole thing. Not that I don’t know the right way, I just find it to be too nitpicky and time-consuming of a rule to want to observe.
  • The Drudge Report -not that this can be said to be a news source, but I think it’s a worthwhile newsblog to check daily. Drudge finds the craziest stories, the kind that scare you but you’re glad you read them, and which you’d never hear about if not for him. His page always has a plentitude of funny, weird, and otherwise generally interesting items.
    He’s usually right there with most of the media sensationalizing trivial campaign missteps, but he also brings good stories to the front from time to time. I note with pride that it was because of Drudge that I was the one to bring to my editors’ attention at the Red & Black the story of the Colorado State newspaper that editorialized “Taser this… FUCK BUSH,” which turned out to be an important and relevant story, especially for fellow college newspaper writers like me.
  • Real Clear Politics -another terrific newsblog. I’m pretty sure that with these three sources, I come close to catching everything of note. RCP basically lists all the opinion columns of that day from big newspapers and websites. On the left, they provide a summary of several of the big current political issues, with several stories about each. Of course, there’s no way I read all of this every day, but if something catches my eye, I’ll read it, and RCP is the best way to find the day’s important columns.

Here are some sources I decidedly don’t utilize:

  • 24 hour TV networks- I don’t have a TV at college, and I’m glad of it. Most of what these networks do is trash. As America (the Book) points out mockingly, it’s just not possible to fill 24 hours with news-or if it is, CNN, Fox, and MSNBC fail to do it spectacularly. They repeat the same story every hour, analyze it far past the point of relevance, cast it as a left vs. right issue, and leave the viewer in an acute state of hopelessness about the future. And when something truly important happens, they can be counted on to give it secondary status to Britney Spears wacking out or Anna Nicole Smith dying.
    The only time I watch these channels is when I’m at home in Columbus, or when I happen to catch them on a TV in a public place on campus-usually, very late at night, when the tired mind can roam through the wending ways of Lou Dobbs’ proposed “War on the Middle Class” and not have to worry about trying to comprehend it.
  • TIME and Newsweek-these are kind of like the print versions of the 24 hour TV networks: short on substance, long on wind. Reading these magazines usually puts me in a bad mood for several days. Still, I read them as sort of a guilty pleasure when I’m back at my parents’ house. They subscribe to both, and save up several weeks or months’ worth for me to leaf through when I get home.
    As far as magazines go, currently the only one I subscribe to is reason, whose motto, “Free Minds and Free Markets,” tells you pretty much what it’s about. I would definitely be interested to try some others such as The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New Republic, and National Review, but seeing as how I sometimes don’t make it all the way through an issue of reason in a month, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Finally, I may well post items from the Onion, the Daily Show, or the Colbert Report from time to time, or maybe as frequently as I post real stuff. For, as I find that Jon Stewart’s America (the Book) is the truest assessment of politics today, I find that often those sources provide the truest take on the news at any given time.

That should give you an idea of what this blog will be like. I’ll really try to keep it going, with at least one entry per week. When I had the Campus Word blog for four entries, that seemed like a livable pace. I’m totally open to suggestions for the title and subtitle. They have to be really clever and unique, so yeah, get on that.

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