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The New Blue Media: How Michael Moore, MoveOn.org, Jon Stewart and Company Are Transforming Progressive Politics Hardcover – May 13, 2008
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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Hamm has an interesting story to tell. (Associated Press ) REVIEW: Hamm's passion for his work...will appeal to fans of Stewart, Colbert and Moore, and to those who aren't Bush fans. (Detroit Free Press ) REVIEW: Deft and thorough, [Hamm] doesn't hold back from criticizing the tactical errors the groups have made. (The Press-Enterprise ) REVIEW: Hamm's greatest task...is to provide historical context for a trend that has very little history. Hamm is up to the task (Time Out Chicago)
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He wrote in the Introduction to this 2008 book, "this study examines the growth and---for the most part---commercial success of self-consciously left and liberal political media creators during the Bush years. I have chosen to call this constellation of new outlets the New Blue Media... all of these new media creators are seeking to move the Democratic Party to the left... these new outlets have mounted a counterattack against the right-wing political media... the focus here is on the ways in which the new forms of liberal media have helped change the presentation and direction of contemporary progressive politics."
He notes that "it was not until the late Clinton-early Bush years, with the ascendance of the Onion and The Daily Show, that humor again formed part of the currency of progressive politics." (Pg. xi-xii) He adds that in "(Al) Franken, the right was now facing someone who proved that he was willing to take off the gloves and fight---with low blows, if he saw fit to do so. The commercial success of (Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot) further established that there was indeed a market ... for a new style of liberal politics." (Pg. 27)
Franken's "We're angry!" declaration on Air America "pointedly distinguished Air America from National Public Radio (NPR), which is officially required to be nonpartisan in order to maintain public funding." (Pg. 37-38) However, he notes that even when successful in gaining a foothold in the marketplace, "liberal commercial talk radio faces another problem: large advertisers steer clear of it." (Pg. 49)
Hamm suggests that, more than any other outlet, "The Daily Show best captures the sensibility of the New Blue Media." (Pg. 155) By contrast, The Colbert Report, by "Opting for satire over didacticism, but nonetheless still delivering a real message," was "far and away the most sophisticated critique mustered by the New Blue Media." (Pg. 190) The success of Keith Olbermann "is best explained by his ability to combine the styles of Michael Moore, Jon Stewart, and others in the New Blue media." (Pg. 198)
This is an interesting survey of Michael Moore, MoveOn.org, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, etc., and will be of interest to progressives as well as students of modern media.
Review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
In 200 pages of text (the book is 240 pages long) and with 22 pages of notes, Hamm, editor of the Brooklyn Rail (an arts and political monthly) and associate professor of urban studies at Metropolitan College of New York, brings readers an incredibly interesting account (series of stories) about "a handful of media personalities, blogs, outlets, and politically based organizations--from The Onion to Jon Stewart to the Daily Kos." (From the front jacket) What he does is show where these "blue media" (Michael Moore, Bill Maher, Markos Moulitsas, Air America, MoveOn The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, as well as liberal blogs) came from and how they got so powerful. Hamm's writing is sharp (the front jacket describes it as acerbic), engaging, and irreverent. His command of facts as astounding, and his sense of humor is obvious and often demonstrated. As one reviewer noted, "fans of Bush and the Clintons won't like the book. Those coming of age in the era of Obama and Stephen Colbert will." Whether you are a professional, an academic, or a connoisseur of contemporary media, you will absolutely love this book for its sharp analysis, wit, and entertainment.
As Hamm appropriately describes the alternative media as blue, there is no doubt there is a liberal bias to much of the coverage. One can read about it in the tweaking satire of the Onion or watch on TV the serpent's tooth wit of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. Even more instantaneous news coverage can be found on highly trafficked sites like MoveOn and the Daily Kos. On the big screen, Michael Moore has been enjoying commercial success with Fahrenheit 9/11 and Sicko, both polarizing documentaries exposing the moral ambiguity of the Washington politicos. What Hamm does so well in his book is coalesce these various outlets into a cohesive chronicle of the new progressive media starting with the individuals who managed to combine irreverent humor with shrewdly pointed observations - Moore, Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, Markos Moulitsas, Joan Blades and Wes Boyd of MoveOn. Most have become household names thanks to their innovative approaches, and Hamm makes their stories smart, entertaining reading.