Carl Freedman’s “The Age of Nixon”

Between the acts, I’ve been reading Carl Freedman’s remarkable new book The Age of Nixon: A Study in Cultural Power, which was published earlier this year by Zero Books. Reading Freedman is a humbling experience, not only for the degree of insight the author brings to bear upon American political and cultural history, but also for the elegant fluidity of his writing and his sophisticated but very accessible use of philosophy and cultural theory. I’ve quoted lengthy passages from Freedman’s most highly recommended book several times now on Facebook, but it occurred to me to reproduce a few of them here as well, not only for personal archiving purposes, but in hopes of reaching a few additional readers as well.

On Fox News and the myth of ‘liberal bias’ in the mainstream media:

Probably the greatest neo-Nixonian innovation in the attack on mainstream political journalism is one that Nixon himself, dying in 1994, didn’t quite live to see and that he could only have admired mightily: namely, the building of what might be called a counter-mainstream media establishment devoted to providing ‘balance’ in the face of the older media’s putative ‘liberal’ bias. This counter-establishment includes such newspapers as The Washington Times and the long-established Wall Street Journal, but is much more consequentially represented by Fox News on television, by the majority of talk radio, and by some of the Internet blogosphere. This interlocking set of organs … promulgates, with varying degrees of forthrightness, a militantly reactionary sharply to the right of of the more moderate formation of the older media establishment: thus helping to define the spectrum of permissible opinion in US public discourse as ranging from center-right to hard right.

On Johnny Cash and common decency:

Nixon publicly requested that [Johnny] Cash sing “Welfare Cadillac,” a nasty little ditty based on the right-wing fantasy enabled the inner-city poor to enjoy extravagant luxuries. When Cash demurred (also publicly), on the grounds that he did not want to sing a song that degraded others, the difference in common decency between a country musician and the president of the United States was widely appreciated to be spectacular.

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