Saturday, November 01, 2003

Mo-Do's New Low

Good Lord. How can the New York Times in good conscience keep Maureen Dowd on their editorial page? Her latest Op-Ed piece makes a typical Rekha Basu piece read like William F. Buckley.

Précis: It's hard to spot the "big lie" and the liars that use them. (Jesus, that's original.) Any guesses as to who the liar is...?

And she's going to lure us in by taking some shots (with feigned introspection) at her own profession.

It all starts out as a trip down memory lane:

I gave a Valentine's Day party in 1981 and Janet Cooke came.

On a dance floor filled with red and white balloons, I introduced myself and complimented her on her amazing story about Jimmy, an 8-year-old heroin addict in the D.C. projects.

Flashing her dazzling smile, the pretty 26-year-old Washington Post reporter thanked me and shimmied away. That spring, she won a Pulitzer. Two days later, Ben Bradlee had to return it — a moment, he told me recently, that was the most painful of his career.

Jimmy didn't exist and Janet was a grifter, a woman who pretended to be a Sorbonne graduate and a tennis ace.

Hey... Maureen may just be on to something here. When she sticks to her bailiwick, she can be quite the writer. And she seems to be taking her own profession to task. I'm intrigued. Let's read on.

Fifteen years later, my friend Michael Kelly, then the editor of The New Republic, told me about a very angry letter he had fired off to someone who had criticized one of his young writers, Stephen Glass. I was worried that Mike's language in the letter had been too belligerent, even as I admired his Gael force loyalty.

After Mike left the magazine in 1997 — a departure sparked by fights with the owner, Marty Peretz — his successor, Chuck Lane, discovered that Glass had fabricated many of his quirky stories.

Allright, she's on to Stephen Glass. Well, “Shattered Glass” just came out. She thrives on being topical. Nothing wrong with that.

The new movie "Shattered Glass" recounts the absorbing tale of how a pathological and smarmy young man fooled the brainy journalists at the publication referred to in the film as "the in-flight magazine of Air Force One." (Though Ryan Lizza, a political reporter for The New Republic, jokes that with the current administration, Sports Illustrated is the in-flight magazine of Air Force One.)

Ah... there's the movie reference. And a pro forma slam of the Bush Administration. No surprise there. Where is this going?

"The reason that con artists get away with elaborate deception is that most people refuse to live in a world in which cynicism is the rule," says Leon Wieseltier, the magazine's literary editor, who never suspected Glass. "We're mentally prepared for honest mistakes. And everybody lies. But most people lie because they're afraid, not because they get pleasure out of deceiving or because they have contempt for people and standards of probity."
It's hard to protect yourself from the big lie.

The big lie… that was Hitler’s propaganda tool. Who does the left like to compare to Hitler? I have a bad feeling about where this is going.
The seriously creepy Jayson Blair is riding his con to fame and bucks. He has now replaced Elizabeth Smart as the carnival "get" who shouldn't be got. Katie Couric is planning an NBC special and a "Today" show interview with the New York Times fabulist to help him peddle his book, which has the most risibly tacky title in publishing history — "Burning Down My Master's House."

But wait… she just called Jayson Blair creepy! And she's taking on Blair’s Harriet Beecher Stowe wannabe title… And going after Katie Couric… hey, I’m diggin’ this.

I have now watched two "Law and Order" episodes based on Blair. Murders were thrown in, because an information scam is not good enough for Dick Wolf's franchise.

Hey, I like “Law and Order”. And, it’s a show about homicides; you have to have murders in to write in the series regulars who play the homicide detectives Maureen.

She can hold it in no longer. Like a rising gorge from the gin soaked innards of a dance hall floozy who’s had one too many with the customers, here it comes.

An information scam is good enough for George Bush's franchise, though. It's clearly easier and safer — especially in the era of instant, interlocking data and technology — to go with the truth than a ruse, but the Bush team went with a ruse to get us into what Rummy belatedly calls "the long, hard slog" of Iraq.

Has this woman no shame? More importantly, has she no editor? Do she and Krugman go to dinner each night and plan tag-team columns against the Bush Administration? Hey, after a couple of rounds of cocktails and two bottles of Pinot just about anything sounds good. “Excellent idea Mo!" "You go Paul!"

Where to begin? Should we start with “…George Bush’s franchise”, the oh too clever tie in to the Dick Wolf/Law and Order franchise reference? Or should we try to parse and understand “… instant, interlocking data and technology…”? What the hell does THAT mean? Or... how about the “truth is easier than a ruse” thing, but the Bush team (team being a reference to her witty word-picture of the Sports Illustrated-reading, testosterone-soaked cretins of the current administration) is too stupid to tell the truth. Then there’s the reference to the tired old Rumsfeld memo. That’s last week’s news baby. I thought you were way too hip for that.

Now we're in the postwar war, and President Bush is still manipulating reality. He wants to obscure the intensity and nature of the opposition, choosing to lump anyone who resists the American occupation in the category of terrorist.

That zany George W.! He’s manipulating reality again. Stop it George. I told you to put that ring of power down!

Okay Maureen, what would you call people who drive up to the front door of the International Committee for the Red Cross in an ambulance filled with explosives and blow themselves up? Freedom fighters? Partisans?

He has also tried to play down the fatalities and the large number of wounded. He has not been attending memorial services or funerals of the soldiers killed in Iraq, according to The Washington Post. And the Pentagon reinforced a ban on news coverage and photography of dead soldiers' homecomings at Dover.

If one soldier dies it’s too many! Bring the boys home! It’s all ashes and sackcloth. Nothing good going on in Iraq, no sir… just dead American boys and nothing to show for it. Quagmire! Viet Nam! Flag-draped coffins!

This sort of airbrushing is tasteless, because it diminishes our war heroes instead of honoring them. And pointless, since news outlets are running the names of the dead every day and starting to focus more on the heart-rending stories of the maimed.

Tasteless!!!??? Your use of the words “war heroes” in this context is a profanity Maureen. You dishonor their sacrifice in an attempt to discredit the very values they gave their lives for. The simple truth is that when war is waged people die Maureen. Those men who gave their lives knew that. We mourn them. We honor them. You USE them as a tool to make your feeble case against the administration. As if you give a rat’s ass about an average Joe from West Virginia who was not sophisticated enough to grasp your post-modern world view that there’s really nothing worth dying for.

Political calculations have now trumped the proclamations of virtue and symbolism that this White House would normally embrace.

It's bad enough to try to hide critical information when you can get away with it. It's really insulting to try to hide it when you can't get away with it.

If the White House did not have to deal with an adversarial media that throws around the “body count/Viet Nam card (like you are doing in this piece), it could more visibly honor our fallen soldiers. You and your fellow knee jerk reactionary Bush-haters would jump on every funeral, every grieving family as a reason to pull out and leave the thing half-finished.

And here it is… they payoff:

Those who go for the big con, who audaciously paint false pictures, think everyone else is stupid. They want to promote themselves based on the gullibility of others. For Cooke, Glass and Blair, their editors were the marks. But at least that unholy trio only soiled newsprint. For the Bush crowd, the American people were the marks.

The irony of this is mind pummeling. You, Maureen Dowd, who has made a career of playing fast and loose with the truth in your columns and who does not publish corrections or retractions goes after Glass, Blair and… President Bush. It’s delicious. “…promote themselves based on the gullibility of others.” God, that’s rich. Maureen, you may want see to your own house on this one.

Monday, October 27, 2003

No End to History

Victor Davis Hanson has an amazing piece in the City Journal. Here is, as they say, the money quote:

It’s understandable, really, that the E.U. has set itself against America. Nothing is more foreign to European statist utopianism than the American emphasis on individual liberty, local self-government, equality under the law, and slow, imperfect reform. America has always been immune to utopian fantasies—indeed, it has always opposed them. The skeptical Founding Fathers, influenced by the prudence and love of liberty of the British Enlightenment, built the American republic based on the anti-utopian belief that men are fallible and self-interested, love their property, and can best manage their affairs locally. The Founders saw the café theorizing of Continental elites and French philosophers as a danger to good government, which requires not some grand, all-encompassing blueprint but rather institutional checks and balances and a citizenry of perennially vigilant individual citizens.

Check it out.