Let's hear it for the boy ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

I've got a new Think Again column here, called "Campaign 2008: The 'Story' vs. the Stories," about election coverage.

Hey, this Media Matters thing turns out to be a pretty good idea. Something tells me the funders will be seeing this one:

Ryan Chiachiere was. A 26-year-old researcher in Washington, D.C., for liberal watchdog organization Media Matters for America, he was assigned to monitor Mr. Imus's program. Mr. Chiachiere clipped the video, alerted his bosses and started working on a blog post for the organization's Web site.

Yesterday, after eight days of dizzying activity, CBS pulled the plug on Mr. Imus's hugely successful radio show. One day earlier, MSNBC had canceled its broadcast of the show on cable TV.

And hey, the WSJ made it free. Goddamn Liberal Media Conspiracy. ... Oh, wait.

It's Friday, and I hate having to work on Friday, but few things in life drive me crazier than when the people in the media who are supposed to be the smart, thoughtful ones make statements in important places that do not stand up to a second's scrutiny. This from the current Time cover story on Imus:

Who doesn't have a list of artists or leaders whose sins they rationalize: Elvis Costello for calling Ray Charles a "blind, ignorant nigger," Eminem for peppering his lyrics with "faggot," Jesse Jackson for "Hymietown," D.W. Griffith for lionizing the Klan or T.S. Eliot for maligning Jews?

This is really shameful. Look, bub, Elvis Costello made that statement nearly 30 years ago when he was very young and very drunk. He apologized profusely, and he sure as hell didn't mean it. Look at the man's career. Look at his last album with Allen Toussaint. How in the world is it in any way comparable with, say, Eminem or Imus, who build their careers promoting racism and misogyny? On Jesse Jackson, that statement is also more than 20 years old, maybe 25. He thought he was making it privately to another black reporter, who turned out to be more of a reporter than Jackson understood. I actually have had more than enough of Jesse Jackson -- though his replacement, Sharpton, turns out to be worse in every way. And I do think he has a problem with Jews. But to just reprint these comments giving no context whatever is journalistically irresponsible, particularly in a Time cover story, where context is what the magazine is supposed to be selling. On D.W. Griffith and the Klan and T.S. Eliot and the Jews, well, again, I don't see how these could be relevant either. Griffith's Klan love was part of his art. It's fundamental to The Birth of a Nation. But it was also the norm in his time and place. Woodrow Wilson, after all, endorsed exactly that aspect of the film as being true and necessary. Eliot, as I understand it, didn't much care for Jews, but it's not got much to do with why he was one of the great poets of all time. What's more, who today is defending Eliot's anti-Semitism or Griffith's racism? Nobody. Who was defending Imus (and who defends Eminem)? Plenty of folks. Just like plenty of folks are still defending Glenn Beck, Neal Boortz, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Michael Smerconish, and John Gibson?

Come on. Get a grip.

Also in Time -- this is not quite as objectionable, but Peter Beinart builds pretty much his entire argument on this statistic:

But according to a 2005 Security and Peace Institute study, only 38% of Democrats said the U.S. can afford it. (The Republican number was 20 points higher). Almost two-thirds of Democrats (compared with less than one-third of Republicans) told CBS in December, "The United States should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along as best they can." That's about as direct a refutation of the Blairite creed as you can get.

Peter's a smart fellow. I can't believe he really needs yours truly to explain the fact that Republicans are more likely to approve of this because their guy is the one doing it -- and doing it badly and for bad reasons. Does Peter not think this number would be different if we were talking about President Gore? Come now. Polls need to be read over time; they are worse than meaningless otherwise.

I am not going to read Joe Klein on Rudy this week because I don't want him following me around my neighborhood to tell me to be nicer to him. (Joe: Saturday mornings, I walk across the park to Bible study around 8:30, starts at 9:15. Afterward, I stop at Barney G's for the belly lox. Should be around 11.)

I may read Tomasky on same, though, but it's kinda long and I'll probably just wait for the magazine to arrive.

I was wrong. (Note date, time, place, etc.) I sent Bob Wright an email suggesting that he not give Ms. Althouse yet another opportunity to impugn the good name of an innocent woman who happens to have breasts. He said, "Watch it and see." I did. I think you'll agree with me that if you watch, say, a half-hour of this Bloggingheads episode, you will know more about Ms. Althouse than you ever needed or wanted to, but know, most of all, not to listen to a damn thing she has to say about anyone, anywhere, anytime. Just what the hell those Times editors could have been thinking is way above my limited intellectual abilities to ascertain. (And one point of privilege: If you get far enough into this meshugena affair, you will, at some point, see Ann whine that Bob is holding her to too high a standard when he asks her for evidence for some accusation she makes on her blog. This is the same person who took something about which I simply mused on an episode of BHTV and built it into an entire Times op-ed about the liberal will to censor. ... I wonder if she'll be getting a column in Time soon.) We can put an end to L'Affair Althouse with her belated admissions that Jessica Valenti did nothing worthy of criticism and neither did Garance. Apparently, she just likes to go crazy in public for no reason ...

Quote of the Day:

"They loved us down in Dallas

We didn't pay our dues

They loved us down in Dallas

They didn't know we were Jews."

-- The Dictators

If you've seen An Unreasonable Man, you're well aware of the continuing self-delusion of Ralph Nader and many of his followers regarding his role in the 2000 election fiasco. Campus Progress recently caught up with Nader for an interview. In it, he continues to assert that his candidacy actually helped Gore gain voters (by forcing him to the left) and insinuates that he might run again in 2008. He also hints ominously at making the Democrats "pay dearly" for trying to keep him off the ballot in 2004. The man seems to have really lost touch with reality, and the only thing scarier than the fact that he may run again is that some otherwise sensible people might actually vote for him.

From The New Republic:

Yet, beyond this surface sycophancy, there is something darker and more fetid. Bush, Cheney, and -- in a recent, glowing cover story -- National Review, have, in fact, embraced a man with links to white supremacism, whose book is not a history but an ahistorical catalogue of apologies and justifications for mass murder that even blames the victims of concentration camps for their own deaths. The decision to laud Roberts provides a bleak insight into the thinking of the Bush White House as his presidential clock nears midnight.

From The Nation:

In October 2004 the Sun published the first of twenty articles and editorials alleging that Jewish students at Columbia University were experiencing systematic harassment by anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic professors. Some of the stories ran under the tag line "Crisis at Columbia," and a typical headline declared, "Anti-Defamation League Director: University Fails to Protect Jewish Students." A number of Columbia's most distinguished (and longest-serving) Jewish faculty members dismissed the Sun's allegations as preposterous, but the Sun's drumbeat soon attracted the attention of the Daily News, New York magazine and the Times [see Sherman, "The Mideast Comes to Columbia," April 4, 2005]. What Lipsky calls "an enormous story" was born, and he is unapologetic about his paper's unrelenting coverage of Columbia: "Bob Bartley used to say it takes seventy-five editorials to get a law passed.

From The Progress Report:

Presidential Records Evasion

The Presidential Records Act (PRA) -- 44 U.S.C. section 2203 -- reads, "Through the implementation of records management controls and other necessary actions, the President shall take all such steps as may be necessary to assure" that the activities of the White House "are adequately documented." Passed in 1978 by Congress to counteract Richard Nixon's attempts to seal and destroy some of his papers, the PRA was intended to make Executive Branch leaders accountable by ensuring eventual public access to White House decision-making. In recent weeks, through the congressional investigation into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, more evidence has come to light suggesting that senior White House officials have been using political e-mail accounts provided by the Republican National Committee (RNC), apparently in an effort to evade the PRA. This week, the RNC informed House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) that it had destroyed all e-mail records from White House officials in 2001, 2002, and 2003. "In 2004, the RNC exempted White House officials from its policy of purging all e-mail," but the RNC claims the system still allowed individual users, like Karl Rove, to personally delete such records. "The White House has not done a good enough job overseeing staff using political e-mail accounts to assure compliance with the Presidential Records Act," White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said. As a result, Stanzel noted that "we may not have preserved all e-mails that deal with White House business."

So long, Sam Seder, who was, with Al Franken, the smartest talk-show host on commercial radio.

I never heard of the Weinberg Judaic Studies Institute Book Award before, have you? Turns out that we agree on the three most valuable books on Jewish issues of the past year or so. If I had a lot more time, I'd do justice to all of them, though I think Eric R. did an excellent Alter-review of the Michels when it appeared. Anyway, they are:

2007 Winners

First Place

Eric Sundquist, Strangers in the Land: Blacks, Jews, Post Holocaust America (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press)

Finalists

Tony Michels, A Fire in Their Hearts: Yiddish Socialists in New York (Harvard University Press)

Eric L. Goldstein, The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race and American Identity (Princeton University Press)

Alter-correction:

"The Dead Symphony" was recorded with the Russian National Orchestra at the Mosfilm Studios in Moscow, Lee Johnson conducting. Wonderful Orchestra, Wonderful Room, Very Cool Dude.

In the genre, Lee Johnson is a well-known avant-garde classical composer with eight symphonies under his belt. There will be a physical CD release of the uncompressed digital master available in a couple of weeks. Check www.deadsymphony.com for the announcement.

Slacker Friday

Name: Charles Pierce
Sender: Newton MA

Hey Doc --

"You got to have a con, in the land of ilk and honey."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click -- Bobby Lounge's "Take Me Back To Abita Springs." James Booker meets Bob Dylan. Maniac Louisiana piano coupled to lyrics that include the Queen's lingerie. God, I love New Orleans.

Not much to say about the Fall of The Wrinkle Farm, except to say it was a fish-or-cut-bait moment for a lot of influential people in my business, and for a lot of the influential people they cover. The results were not impressive. David (Grandmaster G) Gregory's deep concern over rap music lyrics came as something of a surprise, considering he was last seen in public at the Correspondent's Dinner, doing a minstrel whiteface hip-hop shuck-and-jive with Karl Rove, the most destructive man in American public life. You're pathetic -- Oliphant, Begala, Carville, Gregory, Howie The K, all of you -- for believing in your incestuous way that hanging with a 66-year-old bad boy made you cool. My idea of a re-education farm in the Smokies for all these poseurs is looking better and better. Pick up a shovel, foofs. There are wetlands to reclaim.

The end of the truly awful Duke rape case serendipitously came as the Imus thing was breaking, providing the various enablers and alibi manufacturers with yet another handy "What about this?" diversion. One of the accused, Reade Seligmann, pronounced himself astonished at how easily the presumption of innocence could be cast aside by the media and, worse, by law-enforcement. Instead of asking him to call Gary Condit on that score, or asking him whether he's on his way to law school and thence onto the ACLU's legal team, I would ask him to look around in the light of what happened to him. What Mike Nifong did to him is exactly what an awful lot of people in this country -- and whole ton of people on the radio and on cable television -- ask prosecutors to do. (Hell, it's what an appeals court said Nancy Grace actually did, back when she was a prosecutor and not the avenging angel of legal TV.) Where's the presumption of innocence at Gitmo or in the black prisons in Europe? Where was it when people debated the Patriot Act, or wrote books -- Hello, Michelle. Nice to have your reasoned input on the Imus case. Now go back under your rock -- about how internment isn't necessarily a bad idea? Where was it when Rudy Giuliani encouraged the worst impulses of the New York Police Department? Where was it for Patrick Dorismond or Amadou Diallo? Where was it when Antonin Scalia said actual innocence was no bar to upholding a criminal conviction? Where was it during the increasingly ridiculous "war on drugs"? Where is it when my kids lose their Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights as soon as they walk through the schoolhouse door? We are a country that begs -- in reality and in its popular entertainment, like 24 or the Law and Orders -- for prosecutors to shred the Bill of Rights to keep us safe from scary powders and scary brown people. Not long before Seligmann and his teammates were cleared, a man named James Giles walked out of a prison in Texas after serving 10 years for a rape he didn't commit because a DNA test proved he hadn't committed it. Nobody knew his name when he went off to prison. People probably cheered. I hope Reade Seligmann realizes, once his justifiable anger clears, that every time we hand over our civil liberties to some charlatan who trafficks in empty promises to protect us, we make a Mike Nifong not merely possible, but inevitable.

Name: Ben Miller
Hometown: Washington, DC

Mr. Alterman,

How many times is the Washington Post going to allow Robert Novak to write an editorial about the CIA/Valerie Plame before they stop him? Does he have any credibility on the issue? How much of an ulterior motive does he need to have before an editor says "Rob, I think you need a new topic." It is a disgrace, on his part for repeatedly putting in writing his lies, and the Post for continually providing him with the forum.

Name: Thomas Heiden
Hometown: Stratford, CT

Eric, With today's news that a bomb made its way into the Iraqi Parliament, in the heart of the "Green Zone" in Baghdad, I wonder how anyone can still believe the presence of United States armed forces can help create a sufficiently strong central government in Iraq. The Iraqi security forces, from the army to those "guarding" the Green Zone, were already known to be hopelessly corrupt to all but those thankful that Fox can focus on Imus. Today's horrific incident brings that fact into undeniable focus. There is no "Iraq" in any meaningful sense. There will be no serious effort to re-establish an "Iraq" unless and until US forces leave the country. I am unable to find any reason or logic by which US soldiers (as brave as they are), tanks, planes, etc. can bring Iraqis to abandon their loyalties to sheik, tribe, or sect and place those loyalties with something that does not exist. In a room full of people viciously divided by political, religious, and economic differences, those divisions will persist whether there is a danger of mortar shells falling on the room or not.

Name: Debra Beller
Hometown: Chapel Hill

I saw Lily (one L) Allen in D.C. Sunday night. Great show. I took my daughter and three of her friends for my kid's 16th birthday (yes, we drove from Chapel Hill to D.C. to see her). My daughter has been a Lily Allen devotee for quite awhile, she being into all things British. I enjoyed the show, too -- I love Lily Allen's cheekiness, humor and as you put it command. She was certainly much more lively than her appearance on Saturday Night Live.

Name: Steve Burns
Hometown: Madison, WI

Eric:

I just saw An Unreasonable Man, and am interested in your thoughts about the film. Do you think your point of view was given a fair representation? How did you like being paired with Todd Gitlin as the sole Nader critics in the film?

Thanks,

Eric replies: Dude, google ...

Name: Joel Rosenberg
Hometown: Watertown, Mass.

Dear Eric:

The Times article is indeed useful, in helping to make clear that "there is no there there." But it is structured in the typical MSM manner (and especially front-page Times manner), in this case quoting mostly Republican officials, and it stops short of saying the obvious (and you, to your credit have supplied the missing words): namely, that the "voter fraud" issue is a trumped-up excuse by Republicans for systematic voter suppression. And has anyone investigated instances of Republican-instigated voter fraud? That strikes me as a more fruitful path. Anyhow, hopefully Congressional investigation of Gonzales will bring your point into the daylight.

Name: Mark Vershbow
Hometown: Washington DC

First, I *loved* your book, "What Liberal Media?" Absolutely brilliant.

I'm just so ticked off tonight, I can't rest. Did you see the Thursday 4/12 op-ed page in the WashPost with a piece by Second Daughter Liz Cheney bashing Pelosi's Syria trip? As in the past, the Post does not even mention that she is the Veep's daughter. The editorial masters of the Post -- as opposed to their reporters, by and large -- are so far to the right on national security issues that it's frightening. Is anyone taking them to task on this?

If CBS had to fire Don Imus because it feared economic reprisal by an outraged public, doesn't that tell us that only an outraged public inflicting economic harm on the Post can get this allegedly liberal paper to wake up and smell the coffee? It's becoming like the Wall Street Journal -- great news, but the editorials are a sick joke. I feel like I have to cancel my subscription at this point ...

Thanks for giving me a place to vent!

Name: J DAlessandro
Hometown: Crestwood, NY

What a price we are paying for the gutlessness of Democrats: not now, but in the 80's, when the impeachment of Reagan should have been prosecuted to a conclusion. Tip O'Neill screwed us good. The continuing theme of these scandals, from Watergate, to IranContra, through the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis, is to carry on governmental functions "off the books" through non-accountable, privately funded entities run by radical zealots, none of which would have survived prior congressional scrutiny. When the Dems caved in the 80's, the Cheneys of the world derived the lesson that the only important thing was not to get caught, and to destroy evidence before it saw the light of day. They knew they would get away with it, and basically, they did. The same figures are back in our lives today as a result. Could the first Bush have been elected had the Dems done the right thing? Not likely. Look at all that has flowed from that. As Lincoln told his generals, next time you have the chance, "put in all your men."

I found another bright side to the Imus scandal: the name of the sorely-missed Lars-Erik Nelson has again been mentioned in some of the stories. How we could use him today.

Name: J Slothower
Hometown: Normal, Illinois

I am trying to figure out why it seems that the more liberal leaning media pundits seem to be ignoring that Katie Couric's April 4 videoblog commentary was plagiarized. Not only that, but she begins with a personal statement that turns out not to have been personal at all. The producer who wrote the piece has been fired. But Couric has yet to acknowledge or apologize or anything. Instead, another CBS person has provided a semi-apology. Don't you think she should be responsible and apologize? At least Don Imus has apologized. And for the record, I don't consider myself a conservative. I connect more with liberal philosophies. A few weeks ago I attended an anti-war protest by Move.on. So I am not writing as a conservative, but as a person who believes in journalism ethics. I think everyone who fails them should be taken to task. Could you shed some light on why Couric and CBS in general seem to be getting somewhat of a pass? Thanks.

Name: Diane
Hometown: Big Timber, MT

Dear Eric: Your analysis of the press buying into the campaign stories or being too lazy to question the spin is spot on. Where the rubber meets the road is in the specifics of the candidates' visions, if they have any. But that takes even more work than the press is willing to do. At the same time, by focusing on "the top four" who are only there because of the media spin and bias, you are buying into their frame. Senator Edwards was and is still ahead in Iowa and he and Obama were tied for first place in the recent Moveon.org Virtual Town Hall Meeting on Iraq. Edwards has won straw polls on the leading left blogs. Corporate media tries to downplay this every chance they get.

We must fight back on this.

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