FROM SIR WITH LOVE! Harold Evans recalls a dark day—and points the way to the future: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, JULY 16, 2007
MADE IN TEXAS: For those who didnt watch it live, well strongly recommend Saturdays memorial service for Lady Bird Johnson—if C-SPAN posts the full tape. (At present, theyve posted an oddly truncated version. It stops as the memorial speeches begin.) In the Dallas Morning News, Wayne Slater describes part of Bill Moyers fascinating speech. Moyers recalled some tragic history—history wed forgotten, or had never known:
SLATER (7/15/07): Mrs. Johnson's commitment to spreading wildflowers along the nation's highways and the establishment of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center near Austin were mentioned repeatedly as elements of her public persona.Needless to say, you could do a lot worse than leave a legacy as the person who spread those wild-flowers all around. But many who booed and jeered back then are almost surely wiser today, in part due to Johnsons grace and civility. Well also recommend the remembrances offered by three of Johnsons (adult) grand-daughters—one of whom had collected the thoughts of Johnsons great-grandchildren as well. In real time, the Johnsons were often looked down upon by the swells. For us, this service provided an inspiring second look at a good person made in Texas.
By the way, its hard to cultivate the beauty of democracy when millionaire pundits spend their time spreading bull-roar about peoples haircuts. Well now return to our regular programming. But if C-SPAN posts the tape of the full service, well suggest that you give it a look.
JIM MIKLASZEWSKIS BIG CHECK: Have we mentioned the fact that you simply must read Jamison Foser each Friday? Last Fridays piece at Media Matters is a sad reminder of the endless joke the mainstream press corps is willing to make of your democracy—indeed, of your lives.
Foser starts with the press corps treatment of John Edwards troubling haircut. But soon, he recalls the silly trashing of Candidate Gore—and he reviews the gruesome cheese steak episode from Campaign 2004. In the process, he makes an increasingly obvious point about the press corps flogging of trivia: As a general matter, President Bush and conservatives aren't subject to that [kind of] treatment by the media. Readers, Foser knows trivia! To recall the instructive cheese steak debate, we strongly advise you—read Fridays column.
Increasingly, trivia drives our discourse. But many liberals and centrists (and decent Republicans) still arent sure how to react to these narratives. Tomorrow, well show you some e-mails weve received on the subject of Edwards haircut—and well offer good sound advice about the way liberals should respond to such trivia.
Yep! On Friday, Foser proved he knows trivia. But as you read his instructive piece, be sure to note his very instructive catch about NBCs Jim Miklaszewski. Uh-oh! Foser knows pay-days too:
FOSER (7/13/07): When NBC chief Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski spoke May 1 before the Rhode Island Business Expo (in exchange for $30,000 from the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce), he talked about Iraq, about al Qaeda, about the Bush administration's response to the September 11 attacks—and he told his audience that John Edwards is a "loser." Why? The haircut, of course.Lets be generous, as is our wont. Based on the news report to which Foser links, it seems Miklaszewski only mentioned the haircut briefly, in a Q-and-A. His actual speech at the Business Expo concerned much more serious matters. But in that passage from Fosers piece, you see the nexus weve discussed in the past—the nexus between massive journalistic pay and massive journalistic inanity. Readers, gaze on the soul of your press corps—and go ahead! Enjoy a good solid laugh! In this episode, you have a $30,000 speaker—complaining about a $400 haircut! We asked our analysts to tackle the math: According to their calculations, Miklaszewski was earning $500 per minute as he spoke to that Rhode Island group. Every 48 seconds, he was earning the amount Edwards spent for that troubling coif. (Their calculations were based on the assumption that Miklaszewski spoke for an hour. In that hour, he earned more money than many voters do in a year.)
To be fair, Miklaszewski isnt one of our press corps prime buffoons. But this marvelous anecdote helps us see the soul of modern millionaire press culture. That 30K speaking fee helps us recall the financial strata in which our major press figures dwell. Readers, who are the hypocrites when people like that pretend to be shocked—shocked— by the price of that troubling haircut?
Simple story: If you want a middle-class democracy, you cant have a millionaire press corps. Inevitably, youll end up with what we have now—with utterly fatuous pseudo-stories aimed at the leaders of the more liberal party. They really dont do this to Republicans any more, as Foser says. But theyve done it to Big Dems for the past fifteen years. Read Foser—hell help you recall.
Tomorrow, a basic thought about how decent people (of the left, right and center) ought to react to this spreading nonsense. (By the way—we have to start reacting much more aggressively.) In the meantime, gaze on the soul of your press corps and laugh! Omigod! A $30,000-an-hour speaker—mocking a $400 haircut! We wonder: Did the absurdity of this occur to Mik as he stuck that fat check in his wallet?
TOMORROW: The strategy is clear: Just say no.
FROM SIR WITH LOVE: In recent weeks, have we mentioned the fact that Harold Evans is never wrong? On Friday, the Wall Street Journal celebrated ten years of political blogging; when the Journal asked astute people to comment, it presented the views of Sir Harold first. Sure, we could edit for brevity here. But what the heck—well just leave Eric in!
EVANS (7/14/07): Some blogs have become the best check on monopoly mainstream journalism, and they provide a surprisingly frequent source of initiative reporting. As an example, the only hope of staying sane in the lockstep stereotyped reporting of the 2000 presidential campaign was to look up Eric Alterman on MSNBC.com and the Daily Howler hilariously documenting the false narrative into which every story about Al Gore was fitted.And by the way: That 2000 presidential campaign began in March 1999, twenty months before we all voted. Al Gore is a liar, just like Bill Clinton: This mainstream press narrative was firmly in place by mid-March 1999! Here at THE HOWLER, we discussed its elements in detail, in real time. But at the time, it was hard to get other liberals and Dems to challenge this mountain of mainstream dissembling. (None of us did enough.) And its sometimes hard to get liberals and Dems to discuss this rank history even today! In part for that reason, many voters bull-roar detectors dont go off when they read complaints about Edwards haircut—or when they hear about how screechy Hillary Clintons voice has been.
In that same Journal piece, Jane Hamsher discussed how things have changed in these past ten years. We think Jane is quite right—and partially wrong. Well tack our thoughts on at the end:
HAMSER: During the '90s, railing at the TV set was the isometric sport of the silent majority. Progressive political junkies watched in isolation as the Washington Post prominently printed one Whitewater story after another as if they originated on tablets of stone rather than the fax machines of Arkansas political operatives. Many people felt like they were the only ones who scratched their heads in wonder that it all made no sense, recoiling in horror as a slick PR operation rapidly escalated from the realm of lazy, spoon-fed journalism to the constitutional mockery of the Clinton impeachment.To Evans, it was hard to stay sane in the late 1990s. Jane describes a similar phenomenon: During the '90s, railing at the TV set was the isometric sport of the silent majority...Many people felt like they were the only ones who [saw] that it all made no sense.
Today, things are better, Jane correctly reports. People can come to the liberal web and find critiques of the press corps narratives. She suggests—well guess semi-correctly—that public reaction to the Libby commutation reflects this new situation. Of course, its hard to know just how much of that 66 percent disapproval rate was driven by liberal blogs (or by spill-over from same). And while Jane is surely right in one way, she may overstate the progress weve made, as we can possibly see if we consider some other examples.
In her comments, Jane compares Whitewater with the CIA leak. But how about a second comparison? How about comparing two of the stories Foser discussed?
Story 1—March 1999: Al Gore is a delusional liar because he said he invented the Internet.Janes comparison stresses the way the liberal web has expanded the discourse. And shes right—for many, there has been a big change. But the wide reach of the ongoing haircut nonsense suggests we have a long way to go.
For that reason, were planning to start a new org, as we mentioned a few weeks ago. At present, voters can come to the liberal web to read critiques of the mainstream press. But back in April, we came away from our trip to Nebraska with a basic thought: People need to hear these critiques voiced in public, in the open air. Its one thing to visit web sites where the work of the mainstream press corps is challenged. But liberal critiques of the mainstream press are rarely heard on TV or on cable, or anywhere else in our vast public square. Its time the public heard speakers and panels expressing these long-suppressed critiques.
Its true—ten years work on the web has helped a great deal. But its time the public saw and heard these liberal critiques expressed in the open air.
In the next few weeks, well tell you more about the new org were planning to form—an org that will speak loud and clear, out in public, in university and union halls. And yes, were going to ask for your money. This time, it will take some dough.
For now, lets think back to those miserable days when it was hard to stay sane. We first heard from Harold Evans, who we didnt know, in late November 2000; he called us very generously, out of the blue, to thank us for what we had tried to do in the proceeding twenty months. Plainly, we hadnt done enough. And we plainly havent done enough in the seven years since.
Since that time, weve become frustrated here at THE HOWLER; in the process, weve sometimes abandoned the affable tone that once made us a widely-admired avatar of urbane politesse. But that frustration has been deserved (if, at times, poorly expressed)—and the liberal message cant succeed if its restricted to the web. We have to speak under those famous clear skies, right out there in the public square. If were lucky—and if youre prepared to cough up—we hope to present those street-fighting speakers and panels fairly soon. (Yo! Jane! Start writing your speech...)
People deserve to hear the truth about the work of the mainstream press. People deserve to hear the truth about John Edwards haircut. They need to see a real live person tell them about Miklaszewskis big pay-day. We were left with a thought when we went to Nebraska: Its time to take the webs critiques into the vast public square.
By the way: Were very grateful to Harold Evans for his continued kind words. And sure, we could have edited what he said just a bit. We could have done it—but it would have been wrong!