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"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
October 03, 2007
Jeffrey Goldberg, Five Years Ago Today
Here's Jeffrey Goldberg, then a staff writer at the New Yorker, participating in a debate on Iraq in Slate on October 3, 2002. That was five years ago today:
There is not sufficient space...for me to refute some of the arguments made in Slate over the past week against intervention, arguments made, I have noticed, by people with limited experience in the Middle East (Their lack of experience causes them to reach the naive conclusion that an invasion of Iraq will cause America to be loathed in the Middle East, rather than respected)...
The administration is planning today to launch what many people would undoubtedly call a short-sighted and inexcusable act of aggression. In five years, however, I believe that the coming invasion of Iraq will be remembered as an act of profound morality.
Wow, did he call that one! He's like the Babe Ruth of geopolitical analysis!
Still, as gruesome as this is (and as gruesome as Goldberg's pre-war reporting was), I don't recommend that anyone get angry at him personally. He doesn't matter. What matters is the political economy of our media. Here, in an article from this past August, is a description of how that political economy functions:
David Bradley had been trying to lure Jeffrey Goldberg to the Atlantic for more than two years.
Bradley, the magazine's owner, wrote flattering letters. He courted Goldberg at a McDonald's on Wisconsin Avenue. He proffered a hefty signing bonus. And when the New Yorker's Washington correspondent finally seemed receptive to making the move, Bradley sent in the ponies.
"He's incredibly persistent and makes you feel like you're God's gift to journalism," says Goldberg, who had turned Bradley down once before. But that was before the horses showed up at his home to entertain his children. "The charm is incredibly disarming," says Goldberg, who joined the Atlantic last month...
Part of what Bradley is selling is a commitment to long-form journalism, at a time when there are few quality outlets for those who believe in the power of nonfiction narrative. But what Goldberg calls "smart-bomb flattery" doesn't hurt, and neither do salaries for top journalists ranging as high as $350,000.
"Smart-bomb flattery." Oh, tee hee hee. I find it particularly witty for Goldberg to speak of himself enjoying these metaphorical smart bombs at the same time that, thanks in part to him, Iraqis are enjoying the real kind.
In any case, the lesson is clear: as long you advocate war—any war, anywhere, anytime—and as long as you coat it with a certain brand of intellectual varnish, you literally cannot be wrong in the mainstream US media. Your views may diverge from reality so completely they are essentially psychotic, but as far the people who own the media are concerned, it's reality that's mistaken. Hey, do your kids like ponies?
EXTRA CREDIT: In his Slate post, Goldberg cites Richard Spertzel as an authority. Spertzel is an American former UNSCOM inspector and a truly appalling hack. Predictably enough, Spertzel was later hired by the CIA as part of its post-war WMD search team—and predictably enough, he came back to the US and wrote an editorial for the Wall Street Journal brazenly lying about what they'd found and what the final CIA report said. (Brief description here, though it's actually even worse than that. Details on request.)
MEDIA MOGULS, EXPLAINED: Why is David Bradley so anxious to spend his hard-earned money on Jeffrey Goldberg? The answer is really quite straightforward.
BONUS: Goldberg's Slate views were heartily endorsed at the time by Andrew Sullivan: "The invaluable Jeffrey Goldberg presents what is to my mind an unarguable case for removing Saddam from power in Slate....We cannot let ourselves be led by the deluded and the defeatist any more." And thus:
When it comes to hiring, Bradley's most useful trait may be patience. Says Andrew Sullivan, who had been blogging for Time: "David regularly offered me tea and scones every year or so for the better part of the last seven years, to find out what I was up to, and always suggested ways to go work for him." Sullivan recently moved his blog to the Atlantic's site.
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