• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show
"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket
"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming
May 18, 2005
We've Got To Pray To God They're Lying
I'd thought America's public life couldn't get any dumber, because if it did our autonomic nervous systems would stop functioning and we'd all die. But the Newsweek Korans-in-toilets affair has proven me wrong. At our new, lower level of intelligence, we couldn't win a battle of wits with a sea cucumber. Yet somehow we're still breathing.
Probably no first world country has a media as right wing and cowardly as the US. Most of it is garbage—as you'd expect, since it only exists to fill up the space between the ads. While there are many journalists who'd love to do a good job, the pressures on them make this almost impossible.
So every day the media is filled with 20 million mistakes, from misspelled names to garbled quotes to the uncritical transmission of lies that kill thousands of people. And the Newsweek thing WAS a mistake, even if the general story turns out to be be true; you really shouldn't publish something with such weak sourcing.
But of the 20 million daily mistakes, there are only consequences when the media steps on powerful toes. Journalists are free to create stories that are 99% crap and 1% truth, as long as its about Official Enemies or people without money. But write something that's 99% true and arguably 1% mistaken about a billionaire or US foreign policy, and you're going to media jail.
This is so obvious it might as well be written in letters of fire on Dick Cheney's forehead. So, the only thing that's interesting to me in the Newsweek blathering is whether or not the gleeful right wing reaction is sincere. For instance, here's Patrick Ruffini, the former webmaster for the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign:
Newsweek has now retracted its anonymously-sourced story about U.S. personnel at Guantanamo Bay desecrating the Koran... The damage that's been done is irreversible.
What kind of subculture generates these kinds of mistakes -- mistakes that conveniently tend always to fall in one direction? The same news media that was willing to believe this about U.S. troops was also willing to believe that they were deliberately targeting journalists. Had these reporters spent even one day in their formative years around the active-duty military, would we be seeing the slanted coverage we do today?
Apparently, this subculture is content to live and breed in a handful of closed-minded Eastern company towns, never interacting with the military they must cover so closely.
I assume this isn't sincere; I assume it's just politics to Ruffini. And if so, that's something I can respect. I might not agree with the Bush administration project of blood-soaked lies, but I admire hard work and competence in any field.
But... we have to consider the possibility that Ruffini actually believes what he's saying. It's one thing when the people in charge just spray everyone else with bullshit every day, but it's really something else when they start enthusiastically consuming the bullshit themselves. And it's possible that's what we're seeing here. America's right wing has built itself an entire self-enclosed fantasy world, and the people inside may be getting squirrelly.
Life in the United States now is like being trapped on a jet piloted by people who keep claiming there's a huge secret tunnel through the Rockies—and they're going to use it to fly us all through to the other side. You just have to pray to god they know they're lying.
ALSO: I'm sure Ruffini is NOT aware that the standard right-wing take on the media is classic anti-Semitism, just with "Jew" replaced by "liberal." I always enjoy Ann Coulter talking about the elite rootless cosmopolitans, with their insufficient allegiance to the Fatherland.
Still, while I'm certain Ruffini's heart is in the right place, it's somewhat weird to read about a "subculture" that's "content to live and breed in a handful of close-minded Eastern company towns." Well, at least he hasn't called for sterilization of the vermin so they can no longer reproduce.
PLUS, ANOTHER CONVENIENT MEDIA MISTAKE: Just when you think the radical left New York Times couldn't sink any lower, they come out with a story like today's "When You Wish Upon an Atom: The Songs of Science." Get this: they claim "They Might Be Giants produced 'Particle Man' and 'The Sun Is a Mass of Incandescent Gas.'"
Well, GUESS WHAT? There IS no song called "The Sun Is a Mass of Incandescent Gas." The song is actually called "Why Does the Sun Shine?"
Now, elite rootless cosmopolitans will claim this is just an honest mistake. Thank goodness we have Patrick Ruffini here to explain how these mistakes always "conveniently tend always to fall in one direction"—THE DIRECTION OF TEARING DOWN AMERICA BY GETTING SONG TITLES WRONG.Posted at May 18, 2005 11:43 AM | TrackBack