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"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

June 03, 2007

More Lighting Candles, Less Cursing Darkness?

A few days ago, "Guest" left this comment:

Mr. Proprietor, as much as I enjoy the scornful take-downs on this site, I would really like to hear more about what the "good guys" are doing these days. Are there good journalists out there? I would love it if you would spend a few column inches just listing them, and talking a little about what they're doing.

Truth be told, I am almost through reading blogs at all - most of what I read are Left takedowns of ridiculous Rightwing bullshit, and it's gotten really old. I understand that this is necessary. But it's not exactly news that Bush, Cheney, etc. are liars, and that most journalists these days are spineless non-journalists and paid hacks. I would like to see more of an effort to discuss and promote the non-bullshit that's out there. Unless of course there isn't any.

I think this is a completely accurate criticism. In fact, my getting angry at Fareed Zakaria may indicate that I've hit bottom with this particular addiction.

I will strive to do better in the future. In the meantime, I'm very much open to anyone who has further thoughts.

Posted at June 3, 2007 05:02 PM | TrackBack

Here's an old joke that might help. 4 Jewish Guys are sitting at a table in prewar Nazi Germany.
The first says, "Oy!"
The second says, "OY, OY!!"
The third says, "OY, VEY!!!"
The fourth says, "Say, if you guys are just here to talk politics I'm getting outta here."

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 3, 2007 06:20 PM

On the point that “everyone” knows a vast number of journalists are hacks is simply not true at all. An awful lot of people believe journalists are quite good merely because their columns appear in national publications like Newsweek or the New York Times or because some people don’t really approach a given column with a certain amount of skepticism.

Also you HAVE provided a lot of links to some very good writers like Tom Engelhardt, Dennis Perrin, etc.

Accepting criticism is fine but it does not mean that criticism, even when meant to be helpful, is always valid.

Posted by: rob payne at June 3, 2007 06:41 PM

Yay! Thank you. :-)

Posted by: Guest at June 3, 2007 07:00 PM

I'd like some cheese and crackers and maybe a tasty cookie every now and again. And obscure german porn.

Posted by: Svlad Jelly at June 3, 2007 07:23 PM

And obscure german porn.

I'm on it!

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at June 3, 2007 07:29 PM

Good point, Neil. My apologies for the above blog-whoring.

Posted by: josh at June 3, 2007 07:38 PM

For obscure German porn with an unbeatable backstory, you can't beat Hedi Lamarr. I'd add a weblink, but I'm lazy.

'Course, everybody here is so smart that I'm sure you all know this story already. *Sigh*!

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at June 3, 2007 07:47 PM

I agree with "Guest" that handing out Wanker of the Day awards is getting old. But my favorite blogs (like this one) use the resources of the web to debunk the half-truths that are being served unchecked by the MSM gatekeepers.

Traditional fact-checking (the pride of the MSM!) means that you can't write 2+2=5 in Newsweek or the NYT. And that makes those journalists so damn proud of themselves.

So they could write a whole introduction to number theory by mentioning only even numbers (the dullest of them all) and while factually correct this would be a completely misleading telling of the story.

The MSM is fond of telling Americans how we got spanked in Vietnam but that's the price we have to pay for promoting democracy in faraway lands. That we killed between 2 and 3 millions Vietnamese civilians is invariably omitted. Maybe because that makes Saddam look like a choir boy.

In the same article, Zakaria writes:
"The primary challenge we face in the Middle East is the rise of Iran. No country has caused greater panic among American elites—of both parties."

See the logic! Why is Iran the primary challenge? Because National Review and the New Republic are scared shitless about it.

No further examination of the matter.

Never mind that Iran hasn't attacked anyone in centuries and has no intention of doing so any time soon.

Never mind that if Iran wants nukes maybe it's because it's surrounded by nuked-up Pakistan and US forces that are constantly threatening it.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at June 3, 2007 08:24 PM

Part of the reason "it's getting old" is that nothing happens in the country to change most anything. And, it can't and won't unless we have another Great Depression or Osama kidnaps Pittsburgh. There are the activists, the blogs, a few mags and the 98% that don't give a shit unless they wake up in the middle of the Dust Bowl or...
So, wadda ya gonna do? Nuttin, and rant and rave on. It's getting old, we're getting old, but the rich get richer. Same old, same old.

Posted by: donescobar at June 3, 2007 09:10 PM

Places I go to find out what the Corporate Media is not telling me include here, of course, and also firedoglake,, - some people at corporate media who are well worth reading Glenn Greenwald at, froomkin at - I find as time gets shorter I don't read all the comments has a really good overview with links of what's news


For obscure German porn, you could try a search on

"german goo girls"

or if you prefer

"german goo boys"

or just use the word "german" as your search term on

results will NOT be work safe

Posted by: Freddy el Desfibradddoro at June 3, 2007 10:12 PM

Mike: yes, there's a nuked-up Israel and that's a factor in Iran's pursuit of nuked-upness.

But I do believe that geopolitics makes Israel a relatively small part of the calculation.
Iran's ambition is to be a regional superpower, and Pakistan's nukes means Iran will have a tough time acquiring that status without its own nukes.

Increasingly Iranian oil will be shipped to the East (a pipeline to India being a project under consideration with huge geopolitical ramifications vis a vis Pakistan and the US).

I think we in the West tend to exaggerate the perceived importance of Israel in the non-western world.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at June 3, 2007 10:32 PM

Pointing to good journalists is okay, but you do that already. If you know of some more and are holding out on us, fess up.

As for the "getting really old" criticism, ignore it completely. Yes, reading about American atrocities gets old--centuries old as a matter of fact. When one feels that way, take a break and read about other things. But it gets old because it keeps happening over and over and over again. It'd be nice to put a stop to it, but so far all people have managed to do is to end this war or that, or end slavery or the slave trade or Jim Crow, but the ugliness never completely goes away and yeah, it gets a little old hearing about it all the time. Too frigging bad.

I suppose if you know ten easy steps to a more just society, you could write about that too.

Failing that, maybe for your own blog you could do a Friday something else day--Henley does his Sunday aerobic exercise day, which I personally find thrilling, but perhaps not everyone would. There's always catblogging, you know, to my mind Kevin Drum's chief contribution to internet civilization. (Well, he writes well on some political issues too, from his centrist perspective, but the cats are what will make him immortal.)

Posted by: Donald Johnson at June 3, 2007 11:00 PM

Well, I think Israel's nukes, Israel's threats to attack Iran, and Israel's (and Israel's so-called 'champions' here in the West) attempts to goad us into doing it for them, are relatively LARGE ('existential') factors which go A LONG WAY toward explaining Iran's behavior, Bernard: Regardless of whether (or not) we in the West correctly perceive Israel's importance in the non-Western world.

Posted by: Mike at June 3, 2007 11:12 PM

Tony Karon is good:

I believe he writes for Time, but he maintains a private blog

Posted by: graeme at June 4, 2007 12:05 AM

As for journalists, I believe Seymour Hersh and Amy Goodman are still at it, and as far as I am concerned they are the Good Guys....

Getting mad at Zakaria is a completely reasonable course of action. Of course, getting mad at all crappy or dishonest writers working for the corportate media ultimately leads to hypertension and head explosion, but on a day-to-day level, it makes sense.

Sorry if this wasn't a very useful post.

Posted by: StO at June 4, 2007 02:54 AM

I'm a (little d) democrat, donescobar. And, fortunately for me, we live (and pay taxes) in a republic--a representative (constitutional) democracy--every day of our lives

That means ONE DAY every two, four and/or six years the people actually get to choose--to choose (usually) among two carefully screened 'mainstream' (partisan) candidates (together with, sometimes, some studiously ignored 'third-party' candidates) who are supposed to be vying for the right to represent (and/or serve) ALL of them in the legislative (and/or executive) branches of the national government. The 'winners' of those contests (assuming the legal votes have been counted and/or counted accurately) are, as a result of that process, supposed by then to know (and to care about) what the people (the people THEY are supposed to represent) 'really' need (and/or want), and to then set about working with their colleagues (in accordance with the Constitution, applicable laws, rules, customs & etc,) all those OTHER days of the year(s) to draft legislation and/or to organize and/or to direct and/or to oversee the various branches, departments and agencies of the national government in such ways that people's needs and/or desires are (eventually) satisfied.

Thanks to the First Ammendment to the Constitution, on any (and/or ALL) of those other days of the year(s) too, when and if the country doesn't seem to be working the way it is supposed to work, the people have the right and (it seems to me) the duty to (as you put it) "whine". If 75 percent of them do that long enough (and/or loud enough), I gotta believe, because I'm a (little d) democrat, eventually somebody, somewhere will figure out what that many of people really want AND find a way to provide it to them.

Posted by: Mike at June 4, 2007 03:12 AM

I think the last sentence of your commenter's message is the most relevant: "...and promote the non-bullshit that's out there. Unless of course there isn't any."

We live in poison times, when the public discourse is swamped with filth and garbage. Yes, the waste removal process can get tiring, but it has to be done -- if we are to have any hope at all for a more healthy political system. It's a dirty job, but it has to be done, and Jon is doing it with more elan and wit -- and diligent research -- than almost anyone out there. And, as a previous commenter noted, Jon DOES point us to good journalism and good journalists, to "non-bullshit," on a regular basis.

I understand the original commenter's concerns, and I often feel the same way -- in which case, I simply unplug from the net for awhile and go off and read a good book, listen to great music or do any number of those mental, spiritual and physical activities that bring pleasure and meaning to existence. Then I plunge back into the sewer to see what new garbage is coming down the line to threaten those pleasurable and meaningful things not only in my life but in the lives of others.

And if you think we've gotten beyond the need for this kind of thing, then you haven't been paying attention to the degraded political discourse oozing out of "Campaign 2008." The "spineless non-journalists" are still controlling the media spigots, and the politicians are relentlessly dumbing themselves down to new depths. This toxic combination is as prevalent and dangerous as ever.

Posted by: Chris Floyd at June 4, 2007 05:18 AM

For me, reading takedowns of stupid and corrupt people just never gets old. They ain't going anywhere, so I say--keep it up! (I really started to heart this blog during the Tenant book review month.)

By the way, if you're looking for a target rich environment, may I suggest Slate? That place is crawling with liars, idiots, Clintonites, and neocons.

Posted by: vince_foster at June 4, 2007 07:13 AM

I said "reading about American atrocities" gets old (but needs to be done) when actually the commenter complained about reading about bad journalists. But it's all the same--bad reporting is part of what goes with American atrocities. Chances are utopia isn't going to arrive in the next few years, so we're going to continue to need people telling the truth about it.

And anyway, the ridicule of bad journalists is frankly entertaining, a lot more fun than reading about cluster bombs or torture or genocide. Not as pleasurable as catblogging, but then, what is?

Posted by: Donald Johnson at June 4, 2007 07:38 AM


I hope that "what you gotta believe" will come true. Heck, I think people should yell, scream and throw tomatoes, but it seems to me that the whole system has to be rebuilt, keeping the good parts (from the Constitution etc) as a kind of blueprint. But to do that, the current system needs "deconstruction." And how is that going to happen? Not if Obama or Hillary are elected, even if that means the end of Bushism as our way of gummiment.
You say that somehow, somebody will figure it out. I sure hope you're right. But then, as the philosopher said "To hope is to deny the future."

Posted by: donescobar at June 4, 2007 09:20 AM

Which philosopher said that, donescobar?

Posted by: Mike at June 4, 2007 10:24 AM

Maybe if we admitted our RACISM and LACK of economic imagination and got to seriously looking at the Poor Unwahsed Brown People of the World (which on the present course, we are soon to be anyways) do and propose then maybe, for example, EXXON Mobil could be nationalized.

Something that should've been done decades ago anyhow seeing as they have actually already have been 'nationalized' for the upper 1% as it is.

Perhaps then we would have a real-world economy, instead of this over-speculated joke that's destined to implode inside of twenty years....

Posted by: at June 4, 2007 10:37 AM


E.M. Cioran

Posted by: donescobar at June 4, 2007 12:01 PM

Just to broaden the discussion a bit beyond good journalism/bad journalism:

The left doesn't need to just play defense -- it needs to find messages that can drive a new wave of positive reforms. Otherwise, we keep running into the same problem Congress had in the showdown with Bush re: Iraq spending -- Americans hate the war, but are scared of withdrawing unless there is an alternative that they can feel confident in.

This is one of the reasons is one of my other favorite sites. Bill Scher will point out the conservative crap, but he is also good at trying to draft these alternative "frames."

The problems we face are no more intractable than those faced by the abolitionists, the Progressive Era reformers, the unions when they got started, the Civil Rights movement. They had to tear down the old way of thinking, and replace it with a compelling new set of ideas.

Posted by: Whistler Blue at June 4, 2007 02:01 PM


Seymour Hersch in the New Yorker

Pundits: Froomkin in the NYT

Posted by: joel hanes at June 4, 2007 09:16 PM

That YOU, THE TAXPAYER, be in TOTAL DIRECT control of how much money comes out of your pocket to support YOUR government, and more importantly, that you have a FINAL go or no go, a yes or no AGREEMENT VOTE on ANY AND ALL BUDGETS YOUR TAXDOLLARS contribute toward. (YOU OWN all three, the money, the pocket, and the government.)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 4, 2007 09:32 PM

Speaking of Greg Palast, his "Armed Madhouse" in paperback, with a new chapter on the plan to steal the 2008 election, was available at Costco earlier this week - I bought one as a Father's Day gift

On the other hand, they DIDN'T have Al Gore's new book - maybe later

Re-elect Gore 2008

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at June 6, 2007 10:15 AM