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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
January 05, 2008
A Short Parable
In a far away land called Acirema, there lived a golden retriever named Professor Yksmohc. This golden retriever, who wasn't owned by anyone, claimed that people only liked brown dogs. And so, he said, the dogs that people chose as pets were almost all brown.
This golden retriever also claimed that pet dogs truly believed they'd been chosen at the pound because they were so friendly and nice, and it had nothing to do with them being brown. Coincidentally, that's exactly what their owners always told them: they'd been chosen because they were so friendly and nice.
Professor Yksmohc also said if you told brown dogs they'd been chosen because they were brown, they couldn't understand a word you were saying. In fact, when you said "you've been chosen because you're brown," they would hear, "you've been chosen because you're a chihuahua." (In this town, all the dogs hated chihuahuas.)
One day, a brown sheep dog learned about Professor Yksmohc. This brown sheep dog got very mad, and barked and barked until all the town's dogs had come running to see what was happening. Trembling with anger, the brown sheep dog told all the other dogs: "Professor Yksmohc says I was chosen by my owners because I'm a chihuahua. But I'm not! I'm a sheep dog! Stop insulting me, Professor Yksmohc!"
Hearing this, all the town's dogs looked at each other. Perhaps, they thought, Professor Yksmohc was onto something.
Now, this seems like a morality tale for children, far too simple-minded to describe reality. But in fact, it's not simplified at all. It's straight out of a review in the Ottawa Citizen of a new book of interviews with Noam Chomsky, What We Say Goes. Here's a representative sampling of what the reviewer, an Ottawa Citizen columnist named Kate Heartfield, says:
Often, when someone asks me about my job as an opinion writer, one of the questions is some variant on, "Who tells you what to write?"
"No one tells me what to write," I say.
This is followed by blank looks, disbelieving looks, or outright contradiction...People who hold a particular view of the mainstream media seem to find it inconceivable that I might actually, as Alice told the March Hare, mean what I write and write what I mean.
And for this, I blame Noam Chomsky...he has given the caricature of the lying journalist so much academic legitimacy that arguing against it seems almost pointless.
God damn you, Professor Yksmohc!
In fact, my guess is that you would find that the intellectual elite is the most heavily indoctrinated sector, for good reasons. It’s their role as a secular priesthood to really believe the nonsense that they put forth...it’s crucial that they believe it because, after all, they are the guardians of the faith. Except for a very rare person who’s an outright liar, it’s hard to be a convincing exponent of the faith unless you’ve internalized it and come to believe it. I find that intellectuals just look at me with blank stares of incomprehension...
And here's more of the golden retriever's damnable blather:
I remember columns by Tom Wicker saying, Look, nobody tells me what to say. I do anything I feel. It's an absolutely free system. And for him that's just right. After he had demonstrated to the satisfaction of the bosses that he had internalized their values, he was entirely free to write anything he wanted.
Hilariously, the publisher of the Ottawa Citizen was fired by its owners CanWest just a few years ago for writing the wrong thing:
CanWest executives said Mills was fired for failing to seek corporate approval of the story reporting the prime minister had repeatedly lied to Parliament and the related editorial calling for him to resign...The company's owners have been strong supporters of [Prime Minister] Chrétien and the Liberal Party.
And there's much more than this—CanWest is notorious in the journalism world for telling staffers what to write.
But no one tells Kate Heartfield what to write. She has, completely of her own free will, arrived at lots of opinions that don't get her fired. What a happy coincidence!
EXTRA HILARIOUSNESS: Here's more of what no one told Heartfield to write:
The title of the book, What We Say Goes, is a piece of dramatic irony: the "we" is meant to refer to the United States, but it could just as easily refer to Chomsky and his followers.
So Heartfield's bosses have demonstrated they can and will fire anyone who crosses the line. But the people who truly hold power in her life are "Chomsky and his followers."
I'd be happy to caricature Heartfield for this if it were possible. But that would like murdering someone who just committed suicide.
BUT: As part of my New Year's resolutions, I refuse to be angry about this. Heartfield merely occupies an evolutionary niche created by Canadian billionaires. There's no more reason to get angry at her personally than there is getting mad at a dung beetle for rolling dung.
(Review via John Caruso.)
—Jonathan SchwarzPosted at January 5, 2008 11:09 PM