The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

04 November 2005

Friday Frankenfunnies


Plus: Garofalofluffy, Janeane's Again Unhinged!

Providing a fascinating media bias case study, watching Al Franken's The Truth (With Jokes) struggle to stay slightly ahead of Michelle Malkin's Unhinged underscores the extra push liberals need to win the Amazon wars.

As of 11am, Franken and Malkin are still neck and neck, with the former's release in 16th place and the latter's ranked 18th.

After two full weeks of Frankenfluffy newspaper reviews, however, think about Franken's added advantage. With more published just today, each seems to further push the idea of Al The Nice Guy.

What kind of boost does this steady succession of partisan reviews provide?

It must be substantial.

Sure, Malkin and other conservatives do appear on the FOX News Channel and on some other cable programs, but are usually ignored by major daily newspapers.

For Franken, however, all the mainstream media help in the world couldn't take him to a first place Amazon rank this time.

Get a load of just how slanted the latest book and "performance" reviews have been. No unpleasant questions about Air America's failures, or the Gloria Wise scandal, where $875,000 in taxpayer funds were diverted from a Bronx-based nonprofit community center to the liberal radio network.

First up today is from the Portland (OR) Tribune:

It’s official: Stuart Smalley is dead. In the early ’90s, Al Franken expanded his “Saturday Night Live” résumé — he had been an Emmy-winning writer and occasional commentator — with his portrayal of an earnest, effeminate self-help guru in a bulky sweater.

But the loony character is now part of a distant past for Franken, who continues to expand his fan base as an author and Air America Radio personality and is weighing a run for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Franken was in town Sunday to promote “The Truth (With Jokes),” his third smart and funny book on the divide between Red and Blue America. He used humor to delight a packed house at the First Congregational Church, but there also was a powerful undercurrent of serious business.

Franken reminded his audience that he’s made six trips to Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, entertaining American troops on USO tours. He says he’s been warmly received despite his outspoken criticism of the Bush administration.

“If there ever was a slam-dunk, it’s a military audience in a war zone,” he said in a phone interview last week. “I have not got one discouraging word from a soldier or a Marine or an airman. They really appreciate it.”

He mostly leaves politics aside when he’s entertaining in Iraq, sticking to evils like the low-quality food available to soldiers. “I’ll do stuff like ‘I’ve had five MREs (meals ready to eat) since I’ve been here, and not one has found an exit strategy,’” he says. “When I do the USO tours, it’s more Bob Hope than what I generally do.”

But the 54-year-old Franken, who has two grown children, told his Portland audience that the time he’s spent in the war zone makes him even more adamantly anti-war.

“I can’t tell you how personally I take being lied into a war,” he said. “These kids are my kids’ age.”

Franken doesn’t hide his contempt for the Bush administration, which he regards as elitist and corrupt. He maintains that cronyism led to failures in the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort and that the administration never has valued protecting the country’s most vulnerable citizens.

“These guys don’t believe that government is about that,” he said. “They believe in enriching themselves.

“They say, ‘We don’t believe that government solves problems, but we’ll overfund it and steal from it.’

The Bush strategy in the last election, Franken said, focused on “fear, smears and queers.”

He offered a reasonably good impersonation of Vice President Dick Cheney telling Americans that a vote for the wrong candidate could result in the United States “getting hit again.”

Perhaps the sleaziest-yet Frankenfluffy example comes from the New York Times news service, as printed in the Providence Journal:

The picture of Al Franken on the cover of Al Franken's new book is much bigger than the picture of Al Franken on Al Franken's last one.

Al Franken has come a long way lately, not least in the area of self-promotion. Since the 2003 publication of his Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, Franken has progressed from taking potshots at talk-show hosts to joining their ranks (via Air America Radio and the Sundance Channel). He has expressed nascent political stirrings, positioning himself as a possible senatorial candidate from Minnesota for 2008.

Now he is the author of The Truth (With Jokes), a book that can be read as an extended stump speech, complete with made-up memories (supposedly written in 2015) of Sen. Franken's legislative triumphs. While raising the ante for insult humor derived from dead-serious convictions, he is poised to discover whether comedy and campaigning can go hand in hand.

The Truth begins with one Democrat's happy memories of the 2004 elections. Needless to say, they are brief. Once Franken realized that he would have no need for an inspiring monologue about John Kerry's presidential victory, he began "putting the gallows back in gallows humor." As this book illustrates, he also began dissecting Democrats' timidity and Republicans' constant strategic emphasis on terrorism. He refers to the latter as "9/11/24/7."

How did Democrats fail to exploit the false-but-helpful rumor of President George W. Bush's involvement in Texas chainsaw massacres? "This is a mistake we shan't repeat," Franken vows. Thus inspired, his book provides many illustrations of how mud-slinging distortions and selective facts and statistics can be used to fan innuendoes and bolster false claims. "Now, I'm no partisan" Franken says -- hilariously, under the circumstances -- as he supplies case after case of partisanship taken to indefensible extremes.

Franken's zealous researchers look everywhere -- from The Gold Coast Bulletin of Australia to Xinhua, the Chinese news agency -- to back up The Truth with facts and figures. This is a dangerous game. Sometimes members of the Bush administration have made the author's work easy, as with the Pentagon's denial and subsequent admission that letters from the Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to the families of troops killed in Iraq were signed by machine.

Sometimes, as with the news that the Bush campaign ran 49,050 negative ads compared with the Kerry campaign's 13,336, as cited by The Washington Post, the specifics invite hair-splitting attention.

The Truth does keep its promise to be funny about extremely unfunny matters. It matches Lies in wit, and its subjects are tougher. Franken jokes that his exploration of the Swift Boat Veterans' poisonous attacks on John Kerry's war record led him to check into a hospital suffering septic shock. He also imagines himself awkwardly in John and Teresa Heinz Kerry's presence: "Oh. Hmmm. Uh, sure you should run again. Wow. That'd be great. How many books did you guys say you were going to buy?"

He lampoons Tom DeLay's assessment of Terri Schiavo's dire medical situation in this manner: "In other words, given proper treatment, there was no reason Terri Schiavo couldn't live out her lifelong dream of being a Rockette."

DeLay's connections with the lobbyist Jack Abramoff -- and Abramoff's own e-mail trail, in which one message could be described as "uncharacteristically nonracist" -- are a satirist's bonanza.

Not to be outdone, Janeane Garofalo gets her own bit of fluffy reporting from campus newspapers.

Isn't it funny to see how similar the college and daily paper pieces seem to appear?):

Right-wing media can do angry and shrill really well. Are there lessons for the left to learn from what the right does with the media?

It's just bullying. The right wing machine, for the last 40 years, has successfully cowed the media into thinking there's a liberal bias, which there isn't, and then WAY overcompensating the other way. There's a reason they have to spend so much money and time pushing these narratives into the marketplace and manipulating the masses. It's because right-wing ideas and right-wing cruelty is not the norm -- it isn't.

That's why they have to steal elections, that's why they have to use the threat of terror, that's why they have to gay bash, and manipulate your emotions. And what right wing radio hosts do -- they capture the people's lesser nature. It's very easy. The Bush campaign also brought out the worst in people.

People's lesser nature is easily tapped into. You make people loyal when they're sitting in fear, in a heightened state of anxiety or anger. That's what the right does because it's easy.

So most media is more conservative than most Americans?

I saw an interview with Leslie Stahl of "60 Minutes" on "The Colbert Report" and she said that the country has moved far to the right since Reagan -- but that's not true. The corporate media has moved farther to the right.

The people themselves have not, but the myth is that we as a country, as individuals, have.

That's not true -- evidenced by how we live, that's not true.

The multiculturalism, the acceptance of gays into the workplace. Twenty years ago there was more of a stigma on being gay.

The Republican Party has to use these divisive wedges, have to pretend that it's a big deal, have to pretend the sky is going to fall if gays get married, whereas the average person is not concerned about that.

Last week there were a number of conservative bloggers having a field day with a Washington Post piece about the low local ratings for Air America. How do you respond to all of that?

Well, I actually don't care at all about that. In the summer, typically, talk radio ratings go down for everybody across the board. Ratings for Air America are quite good. No other network has risen so far and so fast in the history of talk radio.

The reason the right wing must concentrate on these kinds of things is that the administration they've supported is a failure, so they have to. They try not to talk about the issues. Like Rush Limbaugh talking about how good Tom DeLay looked in his mug shot.

Janeane, your DC ratings fell to 0.0! That's not a "summer dip". Besides, conservative talk radio began to rebound during that period.

9pm UPDATE: Malkin's Unhinged now back ahead of Franken, 13th vs. 15th. Still a horse race.

Your Amazon orders that begin with clicks here, regardless of your final selections, help to support this site's efforts. Thanks again!

Garofalo Salute: Outside The Beltway. "Fluffy" is a character from the animated preschool series "Me Too", shown on CBC Television. Franken Avoids by David A Lunde


  • Franken's book is #1 nonfiction on the New York Times best seller list. Because of the lag, and publishing the books section, it'll be reported a week from Sunday.

    How do you think it'll do on Amazon after thathappens.

    BTW, when you read the NY Times book section, be sure to note that little asterisk next to Malkin's book. That represents bulk purchases.

    By Blogger Dick Tuck, at 04 November, 2005 15:22  

  • Quite an innovative strategy you have adopted, Brian....reprint stories which praise those you it at length and do it verbatim.

    By Blogger Krononum, at 04 November, 2005 16:22  

  • A packed audience at the FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH?

    Ooohhh - NOW I'm scared!

    Almost all 150 of them might vote for him!

    By Blogger Peter Porcupine, at 04 November, 2005 17:43  

  • Dear "Dick Tuck",

    Your name is appropriate for you. You are so full of it you need your dick tucked, up your behind.

    You continue to make comments while ignoring facts. A typical moonbat.

    Please continue to do this. It is you and your ilk who cause our conservative cause to be so successful. Your absurdities are so obvious that I actually advocate having people like you spouting your ideas.

    It is the absolute best thing that could ever happen for the conservatives.

    By Blogger NtvAmrcn, at 05 November, 2005 05:33  

  • Have you seen where Weird Al Frankenfreak is actually trying to sue Paul Schweizer for publishing the truth in his book that Frankenfool has only hired one black person out of hundreds to work on his various projects?

    The stupid racist dick is such a hypocrite.

    By Blogger Crapdog, at 05 November, 2005 11:37  

  • Ya know, if Michael Moore would sell some of his Halliburton stock, he could then donate some of those proceedings to Err America.

    By Blogger Crapdog, at 05 November, 2005 11:50  

  • Considering that payola happens everywhere and anywhere in every business, it is not surprising that Al Franken's book is at #1 on the NY Times Best-Seller list.

    A little green will make anything go to #1. Fabricated numbers? Sure, especially when people take the statements as gospel.

    Look at how well taking fabrications worked for Dan Rather and his career...

    By Blogger Sailor Republica, at 06 November, 2005 05:07  

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