In this take on the lefty media’s impact on progressive politics, Theodore Hamm, editor of the Brooklyn Rail and professor at the Metropolitan College of New York, commits the mortal sin of sucking all the fun out of Stephen Colbert, The Onion and Michael Moore. Hamm proposes that since September 11, pop culture has birthed a “new blue media” composed of liberal bloggers, Moore, Jon Stewart, Colbert, The Onion and Al Franken’s and Mark Green’s Air America Radio. Hamm’s main premise — that this new media has “transformed the style, and to a lesser extent the substance of progressive politics” — may be proving incorrect on the eve of his book’s publication. “Rather than echo the cautious mush of the 2000 edition of Al Gore or John Kerry in 2004, most leading Democrats have now adopted the combative tone of Howard Dean,” writes Hamm in his introduction.
Hamm’s thesis is debatable. But there is little doubt that the examples he cites are more popular than ever, which is why it’s hard to understand why he chooses to write so dully about them. To prove his point, Hamm covers the recent history (ca. 2001-2007) of each media source in gratuitous detail, offering little of the analysis that should have comprised the bulk of this book. After all, if you’re the kind of person who would bother reading The New Blue Media at all, chances are you also have at least a passing familiarity with the birth, death and rebirth of Air America and the increasing popularity of the Daily Kos blog, and you probably wouldn’t need to slog through a 30-page narrative of their recent history either.
Rather than reading a recap of the past five years of my daily media intake, I would have preferred Hamm’s analysis of, say, the fact that four of the five new blue media members he cites are entertainers, not news reporters. As it is, New Blue Media reads like an undergraduate’s American Studies senior thesis. And as someone who didn’t even read her own undergraduate American Studies senior thesis, I wish good luck to those who give this one a whirl.