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Daily Howler: How many times do we liberals plan to get ourselves punked by the Post?
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PUNKED BY THE POST! How many times do we liberals plan to get ourselves punked by the Post? // link // print // previous // next //

UNSTOPPABLE CLOWNING: Luckily, it’s now official: Al Gore, and the UN’s IPCC, have won the Nobel Peace Prize —Gore for the work on global warming which culminated with the Oscar winning film, An Inconvenient Truth. God bless the Norwegian committee, which said that Gore was “the single individual who has done most” to convince world governments and leaders that global climate change is for real.

And how perfect! Showing its unfailing sense of the parameters of modern multimillionaire comedy, the Washington Post has Gore’s film out on the front page this morning:

“Al Gore’s Film Has 9 Errors, British Judge Rules in Suit.” That’s the headline on page one, promoting this news report, filed from London by Mary Jordan. How utterly silly —how stupid —is this front-page promotion? Let’s put it this way: According to Nexis, even the kooky-con Washington Times has barely bothered with the trivial nonsense the Post promotes on its front page today. Yesterday, Greg Pierce gave it five short paragraphs in his daily “Inside Politics” column —and no, it wasn’t even his lead item. But when a possibly daft British judge settled a silly school board complaint, the Post rattled Jordan out of her bed, then pimped her story on page one. By the way, when you read Jordan’s report, you will perhaps note two things. She doesn’t make the slightest attempt to say of the judge is right or wrong about the nine “errors” he thinks he has found. More specifically, you’ll note that she hasn’t asked any actual scientist to comment on the things the judge said.

But so things have increasingly gone in this increasingly comic-book newspaper —a paper which has pretty much stopped pretending that it doesn’t exist to serve plutocratic class. In particular, the Post’s endless clowning about Gore reached a nice crescendo with today’s snide, front-page putdown. But let’s remember the other things this clownish paper did, just this year, when Gore went on tour for his latest best-seller:
1) On the front page of the Sunday Style section, the Post published an entire report about how fat he is.

2) In the increasingly daft Outlook section, the Post published a dotty opinion piece complaining about the book’s lack of foot-notes. Unfortunately, the book has 20 pages of end-notes. The citation the Post’s writer desperately sought was clearly marked there.

3) In his always-clownish “Washington Sketch,” Dana Milbank devoted an entire “sketch” to the complaint that Gore used too many big words when he gave a speech in Washington. One example: At one point, Gore had referred to the “marketplace of ideas.”

4) On the op-ed page, the Post published a column by Slate’s Emily Yoffe, who made clownish misstatements about warming science and complained that Al Gore was going to scare the children if he published a children’s version of the book, An Inconvenient Truth.

5) Also in Outlook, a piece was published gushing about how smartsexyhandsome Fred Thompson is. Among other insults (including the one to Post readers’ intelligence), the clownish piece found time to ridicule Gore as an example of “road kill.”

6) In Book World, Alan Ehrenhalt formally reviewed Gore’s book —and started with a comic-book complaint: “Al Gore possesses a skill that no other American politician can match —or would want to. He has a consistent ability to express fundamentally reasonable sentiments —often important ones —in ways that annoy the maximum possible number of people.” As of this morning, Gore has annoyed so many people that his film has won an Oscar —and he holds the Nobel Peace Prize too.
Good God! Before the Post’s jihad was finished this spring, ombudsman Deborah Howell had been forced to spend parts of two columns on the endless nonsense —and Book World’s editor had basically apologized for Ehrenhalt’s kooky review. This morning, the paper continues its pimple-brained war —though the timing, of course, is accidental. Knowing that Gore would very likely win the Nobel prize this day, the Post put that silly story from the sceptered isle on page one —while making no attempt whatever to evaluated what the one wigged judge said. Let’s say it again: Even the kooky-con Washington Times hasn’t stooped to this inane level. But once again, the Washington Post is working hard to show us what it is.

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to get major liberals to come to terms with this matter. Below, we’ll review what happened this Wednesday, when various liberals ran to affirm the Post’s latest bungling about Hillary Clinton. For some reason, major liberals simply can’t come to terms with the role this paper now plays in our discourse. Over the course of the past fifteen years, the paper has been quite open in its plutocratic orientation. For some reason, we can’t seem to see what’s sitting before all our eyes.
That page-one clowning in today’s Post is just its latest attempt to “come out.” What on earth keeps major liberals from hearing this paper’s announcements?

FRANKLY, IT’S NOT JUST THE POST: Before we look at Wednesday’s events, we thought it might be worth remembering what other major mainstream news orgs have said about Gore’s work on warming. Today, Gore holds the Nobel prize for his dogged, long-term work. But what have our great, great mainstream news orgs said of his work in the past?

May 2006: When An Inconvenient Truth was released, Frank Rich mocked it in the New York Times, than ran off to the Imus show, where he said it was like one of those “good-for-you high school movies.” In both forums, he mocked Gore as a phony.

Of course, this was nothing new for Rich. In the fall of 2002, when Gore warned against going to war with Iraq, Rich wrote a column which basically lied about things Gore had said —and mocked him as a phony.

In September 1999, Rich pretended that Gore wouldn’t say what he thought about teaching evolution. Rich: “[W]ho would have thought the inventor of the Internet would believe that the Earth was invented in seven days?” Yes —that is what he said.

November 1999-November 2000: This was nothing new at the Times. In December 1999, Michiko Kakutani took a front-page look at Gore’s 1992 best-seller, Earth in the Balance, the forerunner to An Inconvenient Truth. The book had been brilliantly reviewed when it appeared —but now, the press was very angry about Bill Clinton’s blow jobs, and it was staging a war against Gore. Result? Kakutani produced one of the most disingenuous pieces of “journalism” we’ve seen in nine-plus years at THE HOWLER. And she seemed to create a chic new fad at the chic, simpering Times. At one point, Kakutani wrote this, referring to Earth in the Balance: “Mr. Gore writes of undergoing a mid-life crisis around the same time.” Of course, that was Kakutani’s inexcusable, extremely non-expert opinion; in fact, Gore makes no reference in Earth in the Balance to undergoing a mid-life crisis. But so what? The press corps was now at war with Gore, portraying him as a delusional kook, and others at the super-chic Times now jumped on this ultra-chic bandwagon. In April 2000, Robin Toner wrote this: "Earth in the Balance has a strikingly reflective tone and is widely considered to be Mr. Gore's mid-life crisis book.” In August 2000, a Times promotion promised readers that their great paper would soon “look at Al Gore's mid-life crisis and the book he wrote to deal with it.” (An earlier promotion had also promised a look at Gore’s “mid-life crisis.”) And sure enough, Melinda Henneberger came through, as always; in September 2000, her profile of Gore and Earth in the Balance focused on this premise: “This particular mid-life crisis was being worked out through work —lots of it.” At the Times, Earth in the Balance —once brilliant science —had been reinvented as a “mid-life crisis book.” But so it went as these hit-men and hags worked to punish Clinton-Gore —worked to put Bush in the White House.

Today, Gore holds the Nobel prize for the work he has done in this area. But when the history of the world was at stake, they called it his mid-life crisis.

There are other chapters to the press corps’ inane denigration of Gore’s climate work. But let’s move on, while noting this fact: People will die in Iraq, today, because of what these people have done.

THOSE UNSTOPPABLE NARRATIVES —AND WHAT THEY REPLACE: Yesterday, we talked about those unstoppable press corps narratives (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/11/07). We’d be remiss if we didn’t show you what was said on last night’s Live with Dan Abrams. No one did anything evil this night. But here’s what happened when Abrams asked about the chance that Gore might run for president. No, we didn’t dream this:
ABRAMS (10/11/07): Still with us, Pat Buchanan and Katrina vandel Heuvel. Katrina, what do you make of the Gore candidacy?

VANDEL HEUVEL: I think he would be the most electable. I think he would —he’d be the toughest for the GOP to beat. He has the substance, the experience. He even now has the buzz to take on, for example, an Obama. He’s reinvented himself. He`s become a crusader on one of the most important movements and issues of our time —climate change, global warming. And he has —he’s the man who feels like freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose —he’s kind of reinvented himself. The question is, Has our political system reinvented itself to allow someone to come forward who could speak his mind in the way that I think Al Gore is now doing in the citizen crusading space he’s occupying?

ABRAMS: You know, Pat, I think in 2004 that you know, Gore was viewed as a has-been. And I think that was clear in terms of his endorsement, etc. And I think that he’s completely reinvented himself in the last four years.

BUCHANAN: You know, I think you`re right. Let me say this —I think of Al Gore, depending on if he’s lost weight and he really wants to run and if he steps out frankly and looks good, he would be I think the end of Edward immediately. He would eclipse Obama.
It was exactly like Sunday’s news report from the Times of London. It’s the law! Even when they’re being complimentary, these people can’t discuss Gore without immediately saying that he has “reinvented himself.” Vanden Heuvel said it two times. Abrams quickly echoed her —and Buchanan moved on to Gore’s weight.

The notion that Gore was constantly “reinventing himself” was one of the narratives ruthlessly used, by the press corps, of course, to keep him out of the White House. Now, even when journos sing his praise, it instantly falls from their lips. Why is that?

We’ll offer a fairly obvious explanation, focusing on vanden Heuvel.

Why did vanden Heuvel mouth this script? Most likely, because she has nothing else to say about Gore. But let’s say that a less flattering way —most likely, she’s forced to fall back on familiar cant because she can’t be truthful. Vanden Heuvel plays high-minded progressive when she goes on programs like this. But what might a real progressive have said to Abrams’ fairly silly question? How about starting out with the truth? Let’s rewrite the statement of the editor who was still publishing political porn about Al Gore, LIAR as late as October 2000:
VANDEN HEUVEL, REWRITTEN: Dan, there is no sign that Gore will run for president, and it would be very hard for him to do so. He was endlessly trashed by the mainstream media during Campaign 2000, and long afterwards. Indeed, their ridicule has largely continued today, even as he gains the world’s highest honors. Their belittling narratives would all return the instant Gore declared for president—and many voters still believe the things that they endlessly heard about Gore during Campaign 2000, and after. By the way, I’m as guilty as everyone else; at The Nation, we published things about Candidate Gore that are mortifying to read today. But then, major personalities on this network trashed him unmercifully all through that campaign. It would be very hard for Gore to run, and it’s we who have been most at fault.
That statement would have the advantage of truth. But to this very day, we have never seen a mainstream or progressive journalist discuss what they themselves did during Campaign 2000. Like Arianna, they all pretend it is Gore who has changed; they refuse to revisit their own misconduct. Question: Is there a more dishonest group of people anywhere on the face of the earth?

And let’s be clear —leading liberals do understand the shape of this punishing history. Here are things which have been written or said by three major liberal voices:
Mike Tomasky (September 2007): Most of the press coverage of [Candidate] Gore was either untrue (that he'd lied in a debate about an incident involving then FEMA director James Lee Witt) or childish and infuriating (that he sighed too much), while George Bush got away with the claim that he would govern as a moderate "compassionate conservative."

Ezra Klein (April 2006): [Gore’s] address was the keynote for the We Media conference, held at the Associated Press headquarters in New York last October and attended by an audience that included both old media luminaries and new media innovators. In attendance were Tom Curley, president of the AP, Andrew Heyward, president of CBS News, and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, all leading lights of a media establishment that, five years earlier, had deputized itself judge, jury, and executioner for Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, spinning each day’s events to portray the stolid, capable vice president as a wild exaggerator, ideological chameleon, and total, unforgivable bore.

Josh Marshall (August 2002): I think deep down most reporters just have contempt for Al Gore. I don’t even think it’s dislike. It’s more like a disdain and contempt...

This was —you know, a year and a half before the [2000] election, I think you could say this. This wasn’t something that happened because he ran a bad campaign. If he did, it was something that predated it.
Simply put, those are all astonishing statements —especially given the subsequent history. They are also perfectly accurate. But tell us this: When do you ever hear these writers, or anyone else, discuss the astonishing bit of history those statements so accurately describe? When is it ever discussed? Those statements describe the most remarkable episode in modern press history —and liberals are at constant pains to avoid discussing it. (As with vanden Heuvel last night.) For example, Klein published his remarkable statement in April 2006 —and he has never gone anywhere near it again. And good boy! He’s now a regular mumble-mouthed star on the great cable flim-flam show, Hardball.

We haven’t yet discussed the review from which Tomasky’s remarkable statement is taken. But last night, vanden Heuvel continued the practice in which progressives simply refuse to discuss the truth about Gore’s political history. But of course, most of these people kept their traps shut during Campaign 2000 as well —when Klein’s “executioners” were changing world history. People will die in Iraq, today, because of what silent liberals have done.

That said, let’s leave Gore to enjoy his honors and talk instead about Hillary Clinton. This morning, the Plutocrat Post continues to clown, right there on page one, about Gore’s history-altering film. On Wednesday, though, the Post reinvented a statement by Clinton, and it produced a lot of excited reaction. This was amazingly typical work by the Post. But, as usual, a wide range of liberals still act like they just haven’t heard.

Suggestion: Gore will be widely discussed on the talk shows this weekend. See if anyone even mentions the startling history described in those statements by Josh, Mike and Ezra. Those statements describe an astonishing historical event —and everyone generally agrees not to go there. Go ahead —see if even one person this weekend goes anywhere near the real truth.

PUNKED BY THE POST: We were glad to see Andrew Sullivan correct himself yesterday concerning the Post’s interview with Clinton. The Post had “misquoted” Clinton, he now said, going a bit farther than we’d be inclined to. But then, on Wednesday, he had been punked by the Post, causing him to scream and yell about Hillary Clinton’s vast misconduct. We didn’t react that way on Wednesday either —in part, because we understand the very clear role of the Plutocrat Post. Amazingly enough, to this day, very few people seem to.

Before we ask why so many people, including liberals, can’t come to terms with the work of the Post, let’s review what happened in the plutocratic paper on Wednesday.

This past Monday, Hillary Clinton was interviewed by the Post, leading to this front-page report in Wednesday’s paper. The piece was authored by Kornblut and Balz. If you’ve been alive and breathing in the past few years, that might have put you on notice.

During the interview, the following Q-and-A took place, on the subject of “special interrogation methods.” We don’t know who asked the question. We’d guess it was lead writer Kornblut:
QUESTION (10/8/07): When it comes to special interrogation methods, obviously you’ve said you’re against torture, but the types of methods that are now used that aren’t technically torture but are still permitted, would you do something in your first couple days to address that, suspend some of the special interrogation methods immediately or ask for some kind of review?

CLINTON: Well I think I’ve been very clear about that too, we should not conduct or condone torture and it is not clear yet exactly what this administration is or isn’t doing, we’re getting all kinds of mixed messages. I don’t think we’ll know the truth until we have a new president. I think once you can get in there and actually bore into what’s been going on, you’re not going to know. I was very touched by the story you guys had on the front page the other day about the World War II interrogators. I mean it's not the same situation but it was a very clear rejection of what we think we know about what is going on right now but I want to know everything, and so I think we have to draw a bright line and say “No torture —abide by the Geneva conventions, abide by the laws we have passed,” and then try to make sure we implement that.
Clinton’s answer showed up in the Post’s report. Here’s the way Kornblut and Balz reported what Clinton had said:
KORNBLUT (10/10/07): Clinton was similarly vague about how she would handle special interrogation methods used by the CIA. She said that while she does not condone torture, so much has been kept secret that she would not know unless elected what other extreme measures interrogators are using, and therefore could not say whether she would change or continue existing policies.

"It is not clear yet exactly what this administration is or isn't doing. We're getting all kinds of mixed messages," Clinton said. "I don't think we'll know the truth until we have a new president. I think [until] you can get in there and actually bore into what's been going on, you're not going to know."
Let’s make a few observations about the way Kornblut and Balz “reported” Clinton’s statement:
1) In standard, gruesome journalistic practice, they started by stating their own opinion: Clinton’s answer was “vague,” they said. Before they told you what Clinton had said, they told you what they thought of it.

2) They substantially reduced Clinton’s statements about torture. Clinton had started by saying that “we should not conduct or condone torture.” Kornblut and Balz reduced that formulation by half —and turned it into a subordinate clause. And yes, such reformulations do matter. Public figures double up on verbs —and lead with certain ideas —to create a point of emphasis. As Sullivan would come to realize by Thursday, the emphasis of Clinton’s statement was almost completely disappeared.

3) While they quoted much of what Clinton said about current interrogation techniques, they didn’t explain what they thought was “vague” about her statement. Clinton said she doesn’t know what all the current techniques might be. Such a statement might be untrue, or it might disingenuous. It’s not clear why it is “vague.”

4) They eliminated the closing part of her statement: “We have to draw a bright line and say ‘No torture —abide by the Geneva conventions.’” Again, this is a strong point of emphasis —and it was completely deep-sixed. Any statement will end up “vague” —if you deep-six the parts which are not.

5) Perhaps most important: They failed to tell us what Clinton said when they asked their inevitable follow-up question. After all, if Clinton was “vague” in response to their question, surely they must have asked her to clarify. Right? Surely they must have done that! After all, these are dogged ace reporters, the finest by far in the land.
Of course, if you believe that they asked that follow-up question, Kornblut has a bridge to RNC headquarters that she will happily sell you.

Do you mind if we state the obvious? The tone and emphasis of Clinton’s remarks were very poorly conveyed by the Post. And no, there is no sign that Kornblut and Balz asked Clinton to clarify her answer —although they couldn’t wait to tell you that they thought it was vague. Did they want Clinton’s reaction to some specific technique —some technique we know is in use? Did they want her thoughts on water-boarding, for example? If so, they could have asked her! Instead, they (presumably) accepted her original answer; omitted its most forceful parts; and pleasured themselves with a slick bit of judgment. The answer was vague, they later opined, in their latest inept “news report.”

In fairness, this newspaper often does worse. Kornblut didn’t lead her report with this topic; given her long-standing haplessness, it may have never entered her mind that she wasn’t quoting and paraphrasing very well here. But by now, you’d think it would enter the heads of most liberals that the Post is not a reliable paper —that we can’t assume, when we read its work, that the work we are reading is professional and fair. Indeed, the Post has become such a screaming joke that it seems to be staging a coming-out party; it almost seems that the plutocrat paper is trying to announce its new role to the world. But no matter how plain the Post makes its intentions, our leading liberals just won’t take the message. Sullivan is a Clinton-hater, of course. But on Wednesday, a whole lot of straight-ahead liberals and Dems had major cows over Kornblut’s report. Omigod! Even Kevin Drum got punked, and he’s a superlative analyst. (He then did a limited take-back.)

For how many decades will this paper do this before we start to wise up? Jee-zuz freakin’ Krist! Yes, we’ve seen worse from the Post in the past, and we’ll surely see worse in the future. But do you mind if we pose a question to you, and to the world’s greatest liberals?

When in the world do we plan to learn that you can’t reflexively trust the Post? That you can’t trust the way they paraphrase people? That you can’t trust their introductory frameworks? (In which they hand you their opinion before they tell you what was said.) That you can’t even trust their quotations —the selective way they pick-and-choose quotes from much longer statements? When do we plan to understand that you simply can’t trust the work of the Post —especially when the Post is “quoting” people it openly loathes?

It’s amazing that we still don’t grasp the elementary facts of political life. The Post has made a joke of our lives for the past fifteen years. In at least one distant land, people are going to die today because of the paper’s misconduct. (The Post’s misconduct in 1999 alone was astounding —a thing to behold.) And yet, we eternal children of the web can’t seem to make ourselves process that fact. Gene Lyons began discussing this problem in Fools for Scandal, in 1996 —and the conduct of this unreliable paper only got worse after that. And yet, even today, we just can’t seem to run fast enough to accept —and promote —its frameworks. Kornblut and Balz are both long-standing clowns. (Al Gore grew up at the Ritz! Al Gore introduced Willie Horton!) But we rush to affirm their new work.

We return to Sullivan, one day later. Here’s part of his mea culpa:
SULLIVAN (10/11/07): Readers know I occasionally walk back some posts written in the heat of the moment. I think, after sleeping on it, that I was too harsh on Senator Clinton's comments in the Washington Post about the treatment of detainees. She is clearly committed to reinstating the Geneva Conventions, and has in the past given one of the best speeches on torture I have heard. She was unfairly misquoted...
As we said, Sully’s a long-standing Clinton-trasher; on September 23, he clowned about the lady’s grating voice, with the other Raccoons, on The Chris Matthews Show. But mainstream liberals also ran to affirm the things Kornblut said in the Post. It’s astonishing that we still do this.

What are Clinton’s views on torture? We don’t have the slightest idea; next time, we hope someone asks her more questions. But we do know all about the Post. The paper has tried —and tried, and tried —to announce its plutocratic role to the world. But we web children simply won’t listen. Have you ever seen a group of people who simply refused, with so much force, to understand the shape of their world?

Special report: The Post comes out!

YES: Yes, we plan to finish this series. But then again, why? we find ourselves asking. The Peter Pans of the liberal world are determined—they don’t plan to learn.