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31 December 1999

Our current howler: Millenium’s end? We’d guess not.

Synopsis: Jackie Mason throws off the year’s final spin. But, given the history of the human race, we don’t expect too much to change in the thousand years soon to be dawning.

Liar, liar
Jackie Mason and Raoul Felder, The Washington Times, 12/31/99

We had actually planned not to file today, with the analysts still away on vacation; we ourselves were kicking around THE DAILY HOWLER's incomparable world headquarters. But in this morning's Washington Times, demented "comedian" Jackie Mason teamed up with super-incompetent Raoul Felder, and we thought their piece was worth excerpting as an emblem of the past year in spin.

Their op-ed was headlined "Liar, liar" and guess who the boys were discussing? And guess what "quote" from the Washington Post they chose to employ as their lead?

MASON AND FELDER: Mr. Gore had already established his credits on environmental issues...So why did he have to tell students in Concord, New Hampshire, "I found a little place in upstate New York called Love Canal. I had the first hearing on the issue. I was the one that started it all?"

To show the writers' devotion to spin and misstatement, their next example of "lying" involved Love Story. The brilliant pair typed this:

MASON AND FELDER: Mr. Gore also claims his courtship of Tipper, his wife, whose hairstyle seems to be trapped in a 1960s time warp, was the subject of the novel "Love Story."

In their next sentence, they refer to this "claim" as a "lie."

How dumb (and corrupt) is the human race? Marvel, if you will, that Jackie Mason could critique someone else's hairstyle! (Felder more so.) The human race is incorrigibly dumb, as once was widely understood. Indeed, so dumb is the press corps—and so committed to spin—that Mason and Felder may well not know that their quote on Love Canal is wrong, and that their account on Love Story is hopelessly wrong too. As the year in spin now comes to an end, this is the basis on which major newspapers tell their readers that public figures are liars.

Dear readers! Don't believe for a minute that something called a "millennium" is ending tomorrow. Tomorrow morning, as you rise from your beds, nothing on earth will have changed. It's been 2500 years now since Socrates warned that sophists would use their skills to confuse us. And it's less than 400 years since harried Pope Urban turned on the sainted Galileo. In human affairs, the veneer of rational discourse is thin, built on a bedrock of deception and spin. Error and spin are lodged in the reptilian brain, as you've perhaps seen in the papers this past annum.

By the way—why is it possible that Mason and Felder may believe their quote is accurate? Why is it possible that Helle Bering didn't know she was publishing error? It is because the hapless, grumbling Washington Post wouldn't acknowledge its recent howler—wouldn't tell its readers it had misquoted Gore, and had built an entire second-day story around Ceci Connolly's latest "mistake."

We're sure you're tired—as we are tired—of stories about spin on Gore. But it's no surprise that the year closes out with its principal spin—with a headline calling Gore a big liar. In the current instance, get the name right—Mason and Felder's bogus Love Canal quote came to us from the Washington Post. And remember, as you read that something has ended—it will be the same paper tomorrow.


As we have previously noted: The boys' Love Story error was made possible by Maureen Dowd, one of the century's absolute dumbest writers.