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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
June 26, 2010
Here's Jeffrey Goldberg again, writing about how great it was that the Washington Post fired Dave Weigel:
The sad truth is that the Washington Post, in its general desperation for page views, now hires people who came up in journalism without much adult supervision, and without the proper amount of toilet-training...some people at the Post (where I worked, briefly, 20 years ago) still know the difference between acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior.
But how does this housebreaking of reporters by the adults at the Washington Post actually function? Here's an example from the late eighties, when Saddam Hussein was conducting the genocidal Anfal campaign against Iraqi Kurds, using chemical weapons. This included the gassing of the town of Halabja in 1988.
So how did the Washington Post toilet train its journalists? This is from pages 185-6 of A Problem from Hell by Samantha Power:
Official Knowledge, Official Silence...
[W]hatever the broad knowledge of the facts, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad gave the impression that the demolition and population transfers were both justified and likely soon to subside...
The U.S. media did not press the matter...The Washington Post's [Jonathan] Randal had visited in 1985, but he could not persuade his editors that another trip would be worth the expensive, the risk and the hassle. Once, when he tried to get the Post to publish a picture of a gassed Kurd, his editor asked, "Who will care?"
At the time, this was a story the U.S. government didn't want covered. So the Post helpfully trained its reporters not to ask questions about it.
But by 2002, this had turned from the wrong story into the right story. It was something the U.S. government very badly did want covered. Someone definitely cared. And so, using the toilet-training he'd acquired at the Washington Post, Jeffrey Goldberg wrote thousands of words about it, with tons of vivid detail:
In the late morning of March 16, 1988, an Iraqi Air Force helicopter appeared over the city of Halabja...
Nouri Hama Ali, who lived in the northern part of town, decided to lead his family in the direction of Anab, a collective settlement on the outskirts of Halabja that housed Kurds displaced when the Iraqi Army destroyed their villages. “On the road to Anab, many of the women and children began to die,” Nouri told me. “The chemical clouds were on the ground. They were heavy. We could see them.” People were dying all around, he said. When a child could not go on, the parents, becoming hysterical with fear, abandoned him. “Many children were left on the ground, by the side of the road. Old people as well. They were running, then they would stop breathing and die.”
Then when Saddam Hussein was on trial in 2006, the Anfal campaign was again the right story. So the Washington Post ran a long article about it, also with lots of detail:
To Amina Khalid Saleem, 54, Hussein is already guilty. She still vividly remembers the morning the chemical bombs pounded her village of Siareh, nestled in the foothills of Gara Mountain. "It entered my nose, and I started coughing, and something yellow began to seep from my mouth," said Saleem, a short, strong-voiced woman in a blue skirt and white head scarf. "Everything around me turned yellow, and it became dark. People were fleeing in all directions."
So whatever you want to say about Jeffrey Goldberg, he's definitely telling the truth when he says Washington Post reporters and he himself have been extremely well trained.
Here's what George Orwell wrote in 1944 about this training process:
One of the most extraordinary things about England is that there is almost no official censorship, and yet nothing that is actually offensive to the governing class gets into print, at least in any place where large numbers of people are likely to read it...Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip, but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip.
However, even Orwell never imagined that some circus dogs would brag about their obedience.
—Jonathan SchwarzPosted at June 26, 2010 08:37 PM