Monday, August 10, 2009

The NYT and Kurt Andersen in the Age of Obama -- where have all the fact checkers gone?

Way at the back of the August 9 New York Times Book Review, on the inside back cover, is a portentous and somewhat muddled "Crossroads" essay by Kurt Andersen, "Pop Culture in the Age of Obama." It's one of those AND THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED articles about the impact of the internet on pop culture and how everything has turned upside-down now that the mass media have become fragmented. And then there's Barack Obama.
Previous national politicians leveraged their political fame into publishing success. But Obama became a best-selling author before he announced his candidacy. And why did he get a book deal? Because of an amazing prime-time television performance, his keynote speech as a little-known senatorial candidate at the 2004 Democratic convention.
Really? For Obama's 2004 keynote speech to have led to his Dreams from My Father contract, somebody would have had to travel back in time more than a decade. The book was published in 1995. Maybe Andersen's article should have been called "Time Travel Made Easy."

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