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MCMURTRY SPEAKS (PART 4)! McMurtry rattled off “rumors” and “gossip.” And his eds put the mess into print!


NO FRIDAY HOWLER: No Friday HOWLER--we're off to the provinces. More on Raspberry's column on Monday.

RUMOR, BLAZING AMONG US: We think Professor Fagles has it just about right in his 1990 translation. “So the many armed platoons from the ships and tents came marching on close-file, along the wide deep beach to crowd the meetings grounds,” he has Homer say in Book 2 of The Iliad, as the Achaeans assemble for war, “and Rumor, Zeus’ crier, like wildfire blazing among them, whipped them on.” And alas! With Rumor moving among the troops, chaos, disorder would soon be apparent. Soon Homer describes “the whole place in uproar” as the troops “crowd the meeting grounds.”

Of course, Rumor—and gossip—have always been like that, so intellectual giants of the past few millenia struggled to forge a few weapons. Basic notions—like “fact,” like “evidence,” like “accuracy,” like “knowledge”—slowly became key parts of the arsenal available to intelligent humans. But we live in an age when hollow elites live once again for excitement and play. Zeus’ crier is among us again, sponsored by stupid, self-involved men—stupid men like Larry McMurtry, assisted by empty, addled editors.

Somehow, Michiko Kakutani had noticed the problem with Nigel Hamilton’s new Clinton bio. The book is “[a] pasted-together compendium of recycled news, familiar observations and base gossip,” she wrote (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/15/03). “It regurgitates the most scurrilous and unsubstantiated rumors about Mr. Clinton and his wife.” But over at the New York Review, empty, stupid, dim-witted people were eager to regurgitate base gossip too. McMurtry, unafraid of the rough talk of men, put stupid, thigh-rubbing claims back in play. Most amazing, his editors read his work—and they put the dumb mess into print!

Forgive them, you’ll cry—they just didn’t know! Habitues of the fine, high tables which McMurtry describes early on in his piece, they’ve been tied up with their stale, empty chatter; they simply don’t know that Gennifer Flowers’ blood-rushing claims are almost surely bogus. It’s only been eleven years, after all, and other scribes, also lovers of gossip, began to say, in 1998, that “we now know Flowers was telling the truth,” even thought it was perfectly clear that we knew no such thing on the planet (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/28/98, 10/29/98). So maybe his eds really didn’t know—didn’t know how stupid it was when McMurtry penned the pleasing claim that Clinton “kept at it for more than a decade” with “Genniflowers” (that G-word, of course, was some clever wordplay, an amalgam of “Gennifer” and “Flowers”). But what could possibly have been in their minds when they put the following passage into print? What could make somebody publish such nonsense? Warning: M- F-word included!

MCMURTY: It may be that Clinton was less worried about the public’s response to this rather stutter-step dalliance [with Lewinsky] than he was about the private and sure-to-be-stormy response of his formidable wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, currently senator from New York, a smart, able woman with the White House square in her sights. The formalities of presidential life may have worked to inhibit Bill Clinton but there’s no sign that they had any such effect on Hillary. The First Couple had scarcely moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue when there were rumors of a big fight. The First Lady had, according to the gossip, thrown a lamp at the President, while calling him a stupid motherfucker and perhaps a few other names besides. Well, moving is hell for everybody and many a wife has said worse. The fight, if it happened, was probably no big deal, of interest only because it suggests that when her temper is up Hillary Rodham Clinton is apt to make robust use of the F-word. Wasn’t there gossip that, on a black day in Little Rock, she had instructed an aide, or perhaps a state trooper, to inform her husband that she needed to be fucked oftener than twice a year?
McMurtry enjoys the rough talk of real men. And nothing stops him from filling his piece with idle recitation of “gossip” and “rumors”—with chatter about what might have happened, and about what it “probably” means if it did. Nor is he afraid—based on “gossip” and “rumors”—to fill the pages of the Review with casual accounts of a former First Lady calling her husband a “motherfucker”—“and perhaps a few other names besides”—and telling those dimwitted Arkansas troopers “that she needed to be fucked oftener than twice a year.” You’re probably thinking McMurtry was drunk, but you’re wondering what goes through the minds of editors willing, as Kakutani writes, to “regurgitate the most scurrilous and unsubstantiated rumors”—to re-air this gossip, IDed as same, gossip peddled by propagandists over the course of a decade. Could these editors still fail to know that Rumor like this has been sent out on purpose—that propagandists have spread this gossip since 1992, stirring a decade-long tumult? We’re not real sure how you get that stupid. But here, so you’ll know, are the names of the people who won’t stop putting this garbage into print. They print the ugliest “gossip” and “rumor.” These people hate you and your interests:
Editors: Robert B. Silvers, Barbara Epstein
Advisory Editor: Elizabeth Hardwick
Assistant Editors: Michael Shae, Eve Bowen, Jeff Alexander, Ann Kjeltberg
Advisory editor!” The humor is rich. Whatever “advice” has been bouncing around, it doesn’t seem to have been very good. They just keep putting this “gossip” in print, to stir their sick cohort’s dead hearts.

How do people get this way? Here at the HOWLER, we really don’t know. But we’d guess that the clue may be found in the world of McMurtry’s preening second paragraph. Eager to tell you of his high station, McMurtry quickly lets readers know that he likes to sit at his nation’s high tables, engaging in stupid conversation:

MCMURTRY: Apropos of Bushes and language I remember a dinner in the 1980s at the home of Joe Alsop, the acerbic WASP columnist, who was railing about presidential euphemisms: Joe said no man deserved to be president of the United States who could be so prissy as to use the phrase “deep doo-doo,” a formulation the forty-first president, George H.W. Bush, occasionally employed. James Baker III, then probably secretary of state, was at the dinner but held aloof from the doo-doo debate; he was saving himself for Florida 2000, although he didn’t know it.
Yes, they actually spend time this way—then brag about it in their reviews! And that was twenty years ago, before the directed stupidity started! Why are you reading regurgitated gossip in the pages of the New York Review? We’d guess that the journal’s overpaid eds have sat through many such stupid conversations. In an age of dangerous affluence, our press corps is overfed, overpaid, over-praised, and they print tonic to stir empty hearts—to fill the hollowed-out soul of their cohort. It’s clear that they have no plan to stop. When will Americans make them?

REPETITION IS ALL: Just so you’ll have total recall, here are their names once again:

Editors: Robert B. Silvers, Barbara Epstein
Advisory Editor: Elizabeth Hardwick
Assistant Editors: Michael Shae, Eve Bowen, Jeff Alexander, Ann Kjeltberg
In fairness, Marie Antoinette had flunkies like this laying around her court too.

TOMORROW: The shape of professional gossip.

READ THE RAZZ: Meanwhile, in a different country, William Raspberry was talking about an actual topic that actually matters. We’d planned to discuss his column on Friday, but we’ll have to wait now till after the weekend. In the meantime, we suggest you read what The Razz has said. Raspberry is trying to understand why many black kids “fail to thrive” in our schools. Warning: He doesn’t use any F-, D- or P-words, so his prose may strike eds as quite snoresome.