Posted on September 17th, 2012 1 comment
I had to smile when I saw USA Today’s National Football League page this morning. No less than three of the top headlines (here, here and here) introduced rants against the bad officiating of the replacement referees, and most of the rest of the stories took at least a sidelong swipe at them. Of course, there’s no reason to be surprised about such “media bias”; the modern media are well aware that nothing feeds the bottom line like drumming up controversy over some half-baked “issue,” and sports is no exception. The editors at USA Today are hardly the only ref bashers around. In fact, one of their articles cites some of the more juicy examples elsewhere, such as,
But oh, the officiating. The officiating is not watchable. What happened Sunday in St. Louis was a travesty, from beginning to end. The league and the union must put aside their differences, get back in a room and hammer something out, because — and I can’t believe I’m writing these words — the integrity of the game is at stake.” – (Tracee Hamilton, Washington Post)
No man with a brain could witness what took place at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday afternoon and come to the conclusion that ‘the replacements’ did anything close to a credible job. They were, in fact, embarrassingly bad in a variety of ways and if Goodell allows the folly to continue deep into the season he will be eroding his own shaky credibility.” – (Bob Brookover, Philadelphia Inquirer)
Last week I thought the replacement officials were adequate. Watching football Sunday, I felt like a passenger in a car going 20 miles an hour too fast on a mountain road with hairpin turns; we weren’t going to die, but it was going to be a dicey ride. – (Peter King, Sports Illustrated)
The title of the USA Today article with the quotes above was, “Dear replacement refs, America has turned on you.” Well, not all America. I watch a lot of games, and I’m still not mortally offended. I’ve seen bad calls, but I see bad calls every year. The pattern hasn’t changed. The bad calls always victimize my beloved Green Bay Packers, and favor evil teams like the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings. If it’s any consolation to the sports writers, it could be worse. I could be a ref. Whenever I differed with the replacement refs on a call, I was almost always wrong, and they were right.
Posted on September 4th, 2012 No comments
H. L. Mencken, the great Sage of Baltimore, edited the American Mercury from its inception in January 1924 through the issue of December 1933. It was always a worthwhile read while he was at the helm, published without pictures except for the advertisements, two columns to a page. There were articles about politics, science, religion, the arts, and whatever happened to strike Mencken’s fancy, along with occasional poems and short stories. Mencken continued the fascinating monthly review of newly released books that he had begun in The Smart Set, which he had edited during its heyday with George Jean Nathan. Every issue of the Mercury included an “Americana” section, made up of unwittingly comical extracts from newspapers and magazines across the country, and usually including a slap or two at the Ku Klux Klan, at least until that organization’s power and influence began to wane. Indeed, while he never patronized them, few if any individuals did more to promote respect for African Americans than Mencken. He frequently published the work of W. E. B. Dubois, Langston Hughes, Carl van Vechten, and many other black intellectuals. However, he did not alter the typically snide and sarcastic attitude he reserved for everyone else when speaking of them, and so was later condemned for “racism.” No good deed goes unpunished.
The final issue of the Mercury with Mencken as editor was as irreverent as the rest. There was an article entitled “Musical Slaughter House,” by one Edward Robinson, identified as “a piano teacher from New York, who condemned attempts to nurse The Metropolitan Opera through the Great Depression by appeals for charitable donations, noting, for example, that,
The list of the company’s productions would alone earn complete damnation in the eyes of even moderately civilized music-lovers, for the essential artistic contribution of the Metropolitan has been to preserve operas like “Aida” and “Pagliacci” from an oblivion that should have been theirs on the night they first appeared.
There was a piece on the radical socialist paper, The Masses, by journalist Bob Brown, with the less than complimentary take-off on its name, “Them Asses.” Brown occasionally wrote for The Masses, and his article is actually quite complimentary, at least by the standards of the Mercury. There were some fascinating vignettes on the workings of a radical sheet during the heyday of socialism, and biographical sketches of editor Max Eastman, a confidante of Trotsky, and other contributors.
Mencken was one of the foremost unbelievers of his day, so it was only fitting that his final edition of the Mercury should include an article about atheism. Entitled “Atheism Succumbs to Doubt,” its theme was that atheist activism was on the decline for lack of opposition. Noting that,
Not one believer in a thousand appears to know the difference between the Nicene and the Athanasian creeds. To the overwhelming majority Christianity is simply a ritual associated with sacred concerts on Sunday and chicken dinners at irregular intervals, the whole sustaining a variety of more or less useful funds and institutions.
The author concludes,
The faithful of romantic inclination dabble in theosophy or Bahaism. Are they excommunicated? Nay, even the village atheist would be welcomed into the fold if he’d be willing to subscribe to the Y.M.C.A. and hold his tongue. So the God-Killers marching forth to battle nowadays find the enemy’s camp deserted, Daniel’s lions dead of old age, and the Shekinah departed unto the Ozarks.
He makes the intriguing claim that American infidels had been vastly more robust and influential 50 years before, in the heyday of the great atheist speaker and writer, Robert G. Ingersoll.
It was not always thus. The God-Killers of half a century ago were taken seriously and took themselves seriously… In those days hundreds of atheistic pamphlets were published and sold in the United States. They bore such titles as “Why Don’t God Kill the Devil?” “The Myth of the Great Deluge,” “Where Is Hell?” “Death-Beds of Infidels,” “Faith or Fact,” “The Devil’s Catechism,” and “When Did Jehoshaphat Die?” John E. Remsburg, author of the last-named, proved by the Bible and arithmetic that this King of Israel died on sixteen different dates. Today nobody knows or cares that Jehoshaphat ever lived.
Fast forward another 75 years, and another crop of “God-Killers” has appeared on the scene, commonly referred to as the New Atheists. As readers of The God Delusion, penned by Richard Dawkins, one of the most famous of the lot, will have noted, he cannot turn his gaze our way without imagining an “American Taliban” behind every bush, and is as innocent of any knowledge of this flowering of American atheism as a child. Perhaps some nascent Ph.D. in history should take the matter in hand and document the doings of the “God-Killers” of the 1880′s, not to mention their rise and fall and rise again since the days of such famous infidels as Ethan Allen, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson.
Adolf Hitler had come to power in Germany at the end of January, 1933, and Mencken, who was known as a Germanophile, took up the phenomenon of Nazism in the “Library” section of his last issue. Noting five titles on the subject as “a few of the first comers among what promises to be a long procession of Hitler books,” he proceeded to outline the implications of the rise of Hitler a great deal more soberly and presciently that most of the journals of the day. Typical of the stuff appearing at the time was a piece that appeared in the Century some months earlier whose author, rich in the wisdom of journalists, assured his readers that there was not the slightest reason to be concerned about Hitler or the hijinks of his followers. Mencken was not so sanguine. Echoing what John Maynard Keynes and many others had foreseen immediately in 1919, he wrote,
The most surprising thing about him (Hitler) it seems to me, is that his emergence should have been surprising. He was, in fact, implicit in the Treaty of Versailles.
He goes on to note some inconvenient truths about Hitler’s anti-Semitism that are as true now as they were then:
His anti-Semitism, which has shocked so many Americans, is certainly nothing to marvel over. Anti-Semitism is latent all over Western Europe, as it is in the United States… (The Jew) is an easy mark for demagogues when the common people are uneasy, and it is useful to find a goat. He has served as such a goat a hundred times in the past, and he will probably continue in the role, off and on, until his racial differentiation disappears or he actually goes back to his fatherland. In Germany, as in Poland, Austria and France, he has been made use of by demagogues for many years, precisely as the colored brother has been made use of in our own South.
Germanophile or no, Mencken has no illusions about what the rise of Hitler may portend, and doesn’t mince words in explaining it to his readers:
In such matters what is done cannot be undone; the main question, as I write, is how long the orgy will last, and whether it will wear itself out or have to be put down by external force. If the latter is resorted to, and it takes the form of military pressure, we are probably in for another World War.
During the entire decade he was editor, the Mercury reflected Mencken’s own cynical attitude, sometimes insightful and sometimes shallow as it was. Then, as now, authors craved seeing their work in print, and adjusted the style of the stuff they submitted to suite his taste accordingly. As a result, the paper always had a distinctly Menckenian flavor during his reign. In his final editorial, we find Mencken at his most optimistic, assuring his readers that nothing would change:
In case there be any among those readers who fear that the change of editorial administration will convert the magazine into something that it is not they may put their minds at ease. In its basic aims and principles there will be little change. Hereafter, as in the past, it will try to play a bright light over the national scene, revealing whatever is amusing and instructive, but avoiding mere moral indignation as much as possible.
The Mercury was to be taken over by Henry Hazlitt, who “was my first and only choice for the post he takes, and I am completely convinced that he will make a first-rate magazine.” Alas, it was not to be. Hazlitt didn’t see eye to eye with the publisher, and resigned within four months. The Mercury was taken over by Mencken’s former assistant, Charles Angoff, and took a sharp turn to the left. After the fashion of the political and intellectual journals of the time, it became a forum for authors who were cocksure that the demise of capitalism was just around the corner, and differed mainly in the degree of mayhem they deemed necessary for the inevitable transition to socialism. There were several similar jarring changes before the final demise of the paper in 1980.
No matter, the Mercury of Mencken’s day is as fascinating as ever for those seeking relief from the unrelenting political correctness and overbearing piety one often finds in its modern equivalents. There are usually a few copies available on eBay for interested readers at any given time, although prices have been trending upwards lately.
Posted on March 10th, 2012 1 comment
In 1920, the famous Marxist Rosa Luxemburg wrote,
Freedom only for the members of the government, only for the members of the Party — though they are quite numerous — is no freedom at all. Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters. The essence of political freedom depends not on the fanatics of ‘justice’, but rather on all the invigorating, beneficial, and detergent effects of dissenters. If ‘freedom’ becomes ‘privilege’, the workings of political freedom are broken.
In 2012, speaking of Clear Channel Communications, which provides a variety of programs, including the Rush Limbaugh show, to the Armed Forces Network, Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, said,
I would hope the people that run it see just how offensive this is and drop it on their own volition. I think that is probably an issue that should be left to the folks that run that network. … In other words, I’d love to see them drop it, but I don’t think I’d legislate it.
Gee, thanks Carl! No doubt tears of gratitude should be running down our cheeks. If you’ve ever wondered what kind of “progress” people are talking about in the context of “progressive” politicians like Levin, now you know. When it comes to realizing that there’s no such thing as freedom of speech unless it applies to people who don’t think just like him, Levin doesn’t have a clue . It was obvious enough almost 100 years ago, and to a Marxist, no less, but apparently Levin is a slow learner.
And what of Limbaugh? The Left, in one of their signature fits of contrived virtuous indignation, is trying to silence him for a remark about a woman that pales to utter insignificance in comparison to the misogynistic bile their own paladins have poured on conservative women. Why does it matter? Because, whether you like his politics or not, Limbaugh has probably done more for genuine freedom of speech than anyone else in this country since H. L. Mencken resigned as editor of the American Mercury. Before Limbaugh came along, individuals could say pretty much whatever they wanted. However, the mainstream media had a virtual monopoly on what a Marxist like Luxemburg might call the “social means of communication.” In other words, they controlled the “voices” that could actually be heard by a significant audience, and they saw to it that the ideological message that voice promoted had a relentless slant to the left. Limbaugh was the first to succeed in making a genuine crack in that monopoly. His lead was followed by numerous other conservative talk show hosts, and, eventually, Foxnews.
The country is better off for it. Thanks to Limbaugh and others like him, freedom of speech really means something in this country. Compare our situation with that of any major country in Europe, and you’ll begin to understand why there’s reason to be grateful. Consider Germany, for example. I happen to follow the media there rather closely. They have big media on the “right,” like the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and big media on the “left,” like Der Spiegel, but they have nothing like Limbaugh or Foxnews. As a result, the message as far as anything that really matters is concerned is surprisingly uniform.
For example, anti-Americanism in the media there expands and subsides, much as it does in other European countries. During the most recent extreme, from about the last few years of the Clinton Administration through the first few years of the Bush Administration, anti-American hate reached truly astounding levels. Occasionally, it was hard to find any German news on Der Spiegel’s website because the available space was all taken up with ranting diatribes against the evil Americans. It didn’t matter whether you read Der Spiegel, or boulevard mags like Stern, or wannabees like Focus, or the FAZ on the moderate right, or the Deutsche National Zeitung on the brown-shirted fringe, or even if you only watched the news on TV. The relentless, mindless anti-American bile was everywhere.
To their credit, a good number of Germans tried to push back. Unfortunately, the only “voice” they had was a few little blogs. So it is with most major ideological issues. There are nuances and differences in tone between the “left” and the “right,” but the overall message is surprisingly uniform, particularly in the broadcast media. Limbaugh put an end to that in this country. When there is a slant to the news, it is immediately called out and recognized as such by loud and strong voices, regardless of whether it happens to be to the left or the right. Hack politicians like Levin have always found that kind of genuine freedom uncomfortable.
One could cite many examples of the allergic reaction of the old media in Europe to the possibility that anyone who doesn’t “think right” might be heard by a significant audience. The recent vicious “legal” persecution of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands comes to mind. In the UK, the old media used their political water boys to resist erosion of their control of the message by Fox News, and Iranian Press TV was banned for “breaching the broadcasting code.” They cheered loudly when the government went to the extreme of banning 16 people with some semblance of a public voice, including US radio talk show host Michael Savage, from entering the country. If nothing else, Savage would have been a useful anodyne against the BBC’s relentless slanting of the news against Israel. The UK once allowed pacifists a voice in her public media even as her troops were being evacuated from Dunkirk and she fought on alone against Hitler. Obviously, times have changed.
In a word, be happy if Rush Limbaugh really irritates you. If you can still hear him it means there’s still some semblance of freedom of speech in this country.
Posted on November 2nd, 2011 No comments
In a recent article that appeared in Der Spiegel we find that the editors are ”shocked, shocked,” about Halloween portrayals of Obama as a zombie with a bullet wound in the head. The piece is a classic of its kind, and follows a familiar MO. Spiegel headlines are often scurrilous misrepresentations of the truth, especially in matters touching on the US. The editors then “correct” the disinformation somewhere in the body of the article that follows, well aware that many visitors to their site never look beyond the headlines.
In this case, the headline blames the entire Republican Party for the pic: “Republicans Portray Obama as Zombie with a Head Wound.” Those patient enough to glance at the byline discover the news is rather less sensational. Only the Republicans in the State of Virginia are to blame: “Republicans in the US State of Virginia issued an invitation portraying Barack Obama as a zombie with a head wound.” But wait, there’s more! Those curious enough to actually read the article find that only the Republicans in a single one of the thousands of US counties are to blame: “In the race for the White House, the Republicans of Loudoun County in the US State of Virginia seem to have overshot the target.” The article never does quite get to the real truth: that the zombie portrayal was the bright idea of a single imbecile, who has since resigned after being denounced by the rest of the Republicans in the Loudoun County Committee.
No matter, the editors shake their heads sadly over the regrettable affair, noting that it has,
…inspired great outrage. “Repulsive” and “disgusting” are only a few of the comments about the picture of the President.
They should know. They’re experienced in such matters. Here’s a portrayal of another US President that appeared on the cover of Der Spiegel a few years back.
Posted on March 15th, 2011 No comments
I’ve seen some wild disinformation about the nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima in the British and U.S. media, but the Germans take the cake. Here’s the headline and byline that just appeared on the site of Focus, Germany’s second leading news magazine:
A Super Meltdown is Imminent at Fukushima
50 workers at the Fukushima nuclear power plant are fighting a hopeless battle – it appears that a super-meltdown is now just a matter of time. The operators anticipate explosions in the last two intact blocks.
You’ll find a more sober assessment of what’s going on here. I suspect it’s moot as far as the U.S. is concerned at this point. For the time being, our nuclear industry is dead, and I will be very surprised if it experiences a resurrection any time in the next decade. The Chinese will likely be the biggest beneficiaries of the disaster in Japan. That country’s leaders aren’t stupid enough to be taken in by the hysteria mongering in Focus and Der Spiegel, and will likely proceed with the building of a series of new reactors as planned. They will probably find the cost of fuel to be significantly lower than anticipated.
UPDATE: Today’s (March 16) Wall Street Journal has a nice graphic of the six Fukushima reactors on the front page, showing the spent fuel cooling ponds all neatly ensconced above the primary containment vessel near the roof. It boggles the mind that it never occurred to the apparently brain-dead designers that maintaining the coolant levels in the ponds might be problematic in the event of an environmental disaster.
Posted on March 7th, 2011 1 comment
Back in the day, coverage of U.S. military operations in the German media consisted mainly of a melange of self-righteous posing and predictions of imminent doom. For example, according to Der Spiegel, Germany’s number one news magazine, in an article published less than two weeks before the fall of Baghdad, the U.S. Army was “stuck in the sand,” it faced a “worst case scenario,” the Iraqis were fighting “much harder than expected,” and the war was likely to last “for months,” and then only if the troops already on the ground received “massive reinforcements.” Unabashed when all these prophecies of doom turned out to be so many fairy tales, Spiegel immediately shifted gears to the usual fare comparing Iraq to Vietnam that Americans became familiar with in their own media. Inevitably, as well as being another Vietnam, Iraq was a “quagmire.” By 2006, Spiegel was confidently assuring its readers, in lockstep with the NYT and WaPo, that, “The Iraq strategy of the Bush Administration has failed.”
Fast forward to the next President. The winds of insurrection are blowing in the Middle East and North Africa. In Libya, however, the revolutionary wave has been checked, at least for the time being, by the stubborn refusal of Muammar Qaddafi to play his assigned role and bow out gracefully. Meanwhile, the U.S. President seems in no hurry to take any “unilateral action,” and seems to have a distinct aversion for any action more forceful than declaring that Qaddafi’s bloody massacres of his own people are “unacceptable.” Oddly enough, Der Spiegel seems to have changed its tune. According to the headline of an interview with delegate to the European parliament Martin Schulz, the “opportunism (Taktiererei) of the European states is a scandal.” Schulz thinks that “a military intervention in Libya may be considered as a last resort.” Spiegel has a long history of expressing its editorial opinion via such “expert” mouthpieces. It would seem the Schulz interview is no exception. For example, according to the bolded opening paragraph of another article under the headline, “Qaddafi’s Counteroffensive puts the West under Pressure,” we read,
Intervene or watch and wait? After ever more violent battles, Libya threatens to sink into civil war, and with it into chaos. There is increasing pressure to intervene, and it is falling above all on western states. Meanwhile, Germany, the EU, and the USA are standing idly by.
All this sounds harmless enough by US standards. For the German media, though, it’s positively jingoist. In the past, their MO has always been to wait until we actually do take action, then print a stream of articles about civilian casualties, bombings of hospitals and old folks homes, allusions to Vietnam and “quagmires,” the selfish motives of the U.S and its evil corporations which, in this case as in Iraq, would undoubtedly be oil, etc., etc. But Obama isn’t playing along. By all appearances, it’s starting to get under their skin. A byline of the above article refers to the U.S. as the “Helpless World Power #1.” The U.S. military is portrayed as “skeptical” about intervention, and “playing for time” to avoid it. Pentagon spokesman is using the excuse of Libyan air defenses “more effective than those of the Iraqis in 2003,” to explain this “stalling.” In a word, Der Spiegel is positively egging us on to send in the cavalry.
Somehow, I have a sneaking suspicion that the German media, along with the rest of that of “old Europe,” would turn on us with a vengeance as soon as the first boot of the first U.S. GI touched Libyan soil. I have a better idea. Let’s just stay out of it. Give peace a chance! If the Europeans are so worried about the fate of the Libyan people, I’m all in favor of letting them have a go at saving them, but without our assistance. There are occasions when I feel positively comforted by the fact that Barack Obama, and not John McCain, is our President. This is one of them.
Posted on January 12th, 2011 No comments
There is no such thing as news. There is only narrative. The significance of most of what passes for news is derived from the attention the media pays to it rather than its intrinsic importance. A case in point is the remarkable, ongoing obsession of the news media on both the left and right with the shootings in Arizona. In this case the feeding frenzy was set in motion by the left. Even though there have obviously always been people on both ends of the spectrum who have no life outside of politics, I was still taken aback by their desperate attempts to seize on this issue like so many drowning men grasping at straws. Evidently their resounding defeat in November was even more galling than I imagined. They made no secret of the fact that they were waiting with bated breath for some incident they could construe as evidence of the “violent nature” of the Tea Party movement, conservative talk radio, and the rest of their pet bogeymen. They admitted as much. As their reaction to the shootings makes clear, they were very eager indeed. They’re acting for all the world like so many Communists marching behind the coffin of a murdered “martyr” in days gone by. All that’s missing is the red flags.
Some examples of their overwrought reaction can be found here, here, and here, all based on zero evidence that there was any link whatsoever between the shooter and the Tea Party movement, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, or anyone else on the right. The “objective” CNN even went so far as to write a panegyric of Sheriff Dupnik, now infamous for his ham-handed attempts at political exploitation of the murders, as the soul of wisdom, complete down to everything but his birth in a log cabin. I doubt we’ll be seeing more of the same from those quarters, as in the meantime the good sheriff has been giving off such a stench that even the stalwarts of the left have begun holding their noses.
The left’s seizing at this particular straw was, obviously, ill-considered. Other than not bothering to come up with any evidence to back up their accusations, only to find out after the fact that there was none, they set their own hypocrisy on a pedestal for the right to take pot shots at. After all, the left doesn’t commonly engage its opponents in reasoned discourse. Its forte’s have always been demonization, virtuous indignation, and a style of “eliminationist rhetoric” all its own. They gave the other side a perfect opportunity to point that out, as they did with relish, for example, here, here and here.
There is little that can demonstrate the extent to which the left overshot its mark in its crudely insensitive attempts to exploit the Arizona deaths and the grave wounding of Gabrielle Giffords than the reaction of the foreign media. Germany’s for example, is usually reliably leftist, often taking its talking points directly from the New York Times. It is all the more remarkable that the Washington correspondent of Der Spiegel, Marc Hujer, penned an article entitled “America’s Insane Debate,” in which he wrote, among other things,
The very people who got so upset about the tone of debate in the past year, about the rhetoric of the Tea Party, the harsh words of the Right, the unabashed caricatures of Obama as Hitler, are now poisoning the debate themselves with shameless insinuations. Without learning the facts, they seek the guilty behind the attack, and commonly find them on the right, in the Tea Party, in Republican Party chief Michael Steele and Tea Party heroine Sarah Palin.
The language chosen by Sarah Palin and other Tea Partiers was doubtless raw and over the top, but doesn’t come close to providing any proof for the claim that they motivated the shootings in Arizona. Indeed, what is known about the shooter at this point gives no indication that he is a member of the Tea Party movement, or a fan of Palin, or that he has any clear political convictions at all. His favorite books included the Communist Manifesto, Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and Peter Pan, a weird collection. However, there is no indication that his act was motivated by politics.
The massive criticism directed at Sarah Palin is delusional, and not just because it’s a baseless accusation. The attempt to weaken Palin in this way could accomplish the opposite.
That’s strong stuff coming from a source that’s usually reliably critical of the right, in the U.S. as well as in Germany. The left in this country might do well to take heed for their own good. Perhaps more worrisome than their baseless accusations is what they propose as a cure; a further dismantling of the Bill of Rights. In this case their targets are the first and second amendments to the Constitution. If the history of the last hundred years is any guide, we have more reason than ever before to continue to fight against any diminishing of those rights.
Posted on October 24th, 2010 No comments
Certain psychological types seem to persist across cultures. For example, here is Stalin in a letter to writer and journalist Maxim Gorky:
We cannot do without self-criticism. We simply cannot, Alexei Maximovich. Without it, stagnation, corruption of the apparatus, growth of bureaucracy, sapping of the creative initiative of the working class, is inevitable. I know there are people in the ranks of the party who have no fondness for criticism in general, and for self-criticism in particular. Those people, whom I might call “skin-deep” communists… shrug their shoulders at self-criticism, as much as to say: … again this raking out of our shortcomings – can’t we be allowed to live in peace!
Of course, there were limits on the Communists’ fondness for self-criticism. When Gorky criticized them in his paper Novaia zhizn’ (New Life) for their brutal excesses immediately after their seizure of power, they shut him down, and he was lucky to get away with his life.
Here’s a similar bit from another variant of the worker’s paradise, Mao’s China during the Cultural Revolution. It’s from the book Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang, and describes the author’s experiences in one of the “self-criticism” sessions the Communists used to terrorize both adults and children (the author was 12 years old at the time). She had called one of her friends by a nickname, and been overheard by one of the school bullies, who appropriately belonged to the “Red Successors,” a younger version of the Red Guards. He dressed her down as follows:
It isn’t simply a matter of calling people by nicknames. It’s a matter of your looking down on working-class people… This is connected with your class standing Jiang Ji-li. You should reflect on your class origin and thoroughly remold your ideology… You’d better think seriously about your problems.
Moving right along to our own time, we find Greg Sargent addressing some similarly charming comments to Juan Williams in a column that appeared in the Washington Post. Williams, you may recall, was just fired by NPR for what George Orwell once called Thoughtcrime. Quoting from Sargent’s article:
The problem, though, is that in his initial comments he didn’t clarify that the instinctual feeling itself is irrational and ungrounded, and something folks need to battle against internally whenever it rears its head. And in his subsequent comments on Fox today, Williams again conspicuously failed to make that point.
Maybe Williams does think those feelings are unacceptably irrational and need to be wrestled with, and perhaps someone should ask him more directly if he thinks that. But until he clearly states it to be the case, there’s no reason to assume he thinks we should battle those feelings and work to delegitimize them.
Far be it for me to suggest that Sargent has anything at all in common with Stalin or Mao, or that his thought is otherwise anything but politically correct. I merely suggest, based on admittedly anecdotal evidence, that there seem to be some psychological commonalities in human types that persist across cultures. Apparently others have noticed the same thing. Jim Treacher’s take in a piece he wrote for the Daily Caller was somewhat more emphatic:
It’s true, I haven’t heard Juan Williams call for the abolition of all crimethink. Thank goodness we have Greg Sargent of the Washington Post to remind us what’s permissible to think. Not what’s permissible to act on, or even to say aloud, but to think. How can we all be free if people are allowed to think in unapproved ways?
“Thoughtcrime does not entail death. Thoughtcrime is death.”
Posted on September 11th, 2010 1 comment
Howard Kurtz just penned a rather petulant article in the WaPo with the byline, “Modern journalism’s Googlian algorithm isn’t as simple as Gaga + Palin x Tiger = Page views.” Howard laments the fact that he has to “appease the Google gods” with keywords that will grab the attention of the soulless computer minds that now hold the future of “serious journalism” in the balance. No doubt entirely similar pieces were penned a century and more ago by the builders of horse drawn conveyances, regretting the irrational taste of their fellow citizens for those noisy, stinking horseless carriages.
Yearning for those golden days of yesteryear when the legacy media controlled the “news” and the narrative to go with it, Howard writes,
Most people don’t read publications online, patiently turning from national news to Metro to Style to the sports section. They hunt for subjects, and people, in which they’re interested. Our mission – and we have no choice but to accept it – is to grab some of that traffic that could otherwise end up at hundreds of other places, even blogs riffing off the reporting that your own publication has done.
That’s right, Howard, we now have the right to sass back. The Internet is a wonderful thing. It’s the greatest amplifier of free speech since the invention of moveable type, and it has effectively nullified the power of the media gatekeepers. All of us now have the power to “riff off,” meaning we can answer and even contradict the “objective reporting” of sanctimonious journalists from our own little bully pulpits.
Howard is so convinced that the ideological narrative he and his pals have been flogging all these years is “news” that he becomes a caricature of himself:
Naturally, those who grew up as analog reporters wonder: Is journalism becoming a popularity contest? Does this mean pieces about celebrity sex tapes will take precedence over corruption in Afghanistan? Why pay for expensive foreign bureaus if they’re not generating enough clicks? Doesn’t all this amount to pandering?
It’s incredible, really. He’s been living in an echo chamber for so long that he can actually write stuff like that with a perfectly straight fact, and, I don’t doubt, actually believe it himself. So “corruption in Afghanistan” is “news,” is it? Anyone who takes that line seriously is:
a. Suffering from a prolonged case of sleeping sickness
b. A university professor in the humanities
c. A “serious reader” of the WaPo, or
d. On drugs
Corruption in Afghanistan “news,” after we’ve been getting a steady diet of it on the dead tree media for years, in spite of the rampant corruption in every other country in the region, in spite of the abundant corruption in every major country in Europe, and, more to the point, the rampant corruption right here at home? “News,” Howard? I think not. Put it in Category a (ideological narrative), Subcategory b (antiwar propaganda). You and your pals have a right to an opinion, and we’ve been familiar with your opinion concerning wars you don’t consider “just” ever since the Vietnam era, but the days when you could fob that narrative off as “news” are over, and we’re all the better for it.
Howard concludes his piece with some lugubrious observations to the effect that Obama is more popular overseas than he is at home, no doubt because the many alternative sources of information we now have at our command interfere with WaPo’s ability to “accurately” inform us about him.
It’s unfortunate you have to put up with the indignity of worrying what the search engines think about you, Howard. It’s a competitive world, and if you can’t compete you’ll have to close up shop. I suspect you’ll be surprised at how little you’ll be missed.
Posted on August 29th, 2010 No comments
UPDATE: More of the “If you don’t agree with me and you have white skin you’re a racist” narrative from the NYT.