“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Friday, October 29, 2004


Most confused story of the week goes to this WP article, which says:
1. The explosives probably were looted from Al Qaqaa;
2. That huge amounts of explosives and ammunition have been looted from unguarded sites throughout Iraq in amounts;
3. so, the explosives looted from Al Caca are unimportant.

Say what? the media simply neglects to report on how the insurgents acquire the explosives that they use to kill 1,100 American soldiers for a year, and so – when they finally get around to reporting on one looted site – the story is already old hat.

The parallel between the way the American press reports things and the way the Bush administration does things is pretty striking. Both are sloppy, ideologically skewed, and buttressed by self-consuming excuses and intermittent aggression.

Beginning graf:

“The 377 tons of Iraqi explosives whose reported disappearance has dominated the past few days of presidential campaigning represent only a tiny fraction of the vast quantities of other munitions unaccounted for since the fall of Saddam Hussein's government 18 months ago.”

Which leads to: “The Bush administration cited official figures this week showing about 400,000 tons destroyed or in the process of being eliminated. That leaves the whereabouts of more than 250,000 tons unknown.”

Which, by the logical path only known to that special group known as spinners, leads to this:

“Against that background, this week's assertions by Sen. John F. Kerry's campaign about the few hundred tons said to have vanished from Iraq's Qaqaa facility have struck some defense experts as exaggerated.”

In other words, Kerry is exaggerating – what he should be doing is expanding his charges to include the 250,000 tons. He is exaggerating by minimizing, being that type. A flip flopper. Unlike the brave and true WP, which ra ra-ed the entry into war, reported on it with a lack of standards and the proper embedded spirit of servility that would have done the old journalists at Pravda proud, and reports, now, 14 months into the occupation, with the election coming in a week, that, oh, by the way, the occupation forces haven’t guarded a quarter of the arms and explosives left in the country by Saddam, so let’s not sweat the little stuff. Which of course we haven’t bothered to investigate at all. Because it is all in a no-go area.

There are good reporters at the WP. They have done a better job of reporting the campaign than the Times – although it is hard to see how they could have done worse than the Times. But this kind of reporting is disgusting on every level. It is hypocritical, illogical, and aims consciously to deceive – that is, to muddle the information that it conveys. There’s no excuse for it at all. Kerry has taken up a story that originated in a report by the Iraqi government that exposed a small part of the vast system of malfeasance. Far from exaggerating, he has hit closer to the truth than the WP has for – well, the last time they reported on where the insurgents get their weapons. When was that?

Speaking of silly media, the NYT has mounted an odd crusade to preserve the sensitivities of their political reporter, Adam Nagourney. First it was Daniel Oken's odd outing of some email bitch to Nagourney. Nagourney attracts criticism because he is, of the group of bad political reporters at the Times, primum inter imbicillis. At best, Timesmen wear their arrogance like a club tie. I've met a few attending SXSW conferences, and I've always been impressed with their inflated ideas of their own self worth. Lately, they've gotten much worse. In particular, the political reporters (Bushmiller, Wilgoran, Seelye) are vain, shallow, and never losing an opportunity to lean over backwards to include the latest GOP hitline. Nagourney, however, stands out. His stories have a very depressing content to gas ratio. You could read all of Nagourney’s stories about this campaign and still know zip about what Bush proposes to do in the next four years, and what Kerry proposes to do in the next four years. The purpose of the presidency is bracketed, as if beneath the dignity of the writer. The purpose, after all, is wonkish. It is boring. It is so unlike a tv show. For Nagourney, the presidential race is like Survivor, a reality show that exists either to amuse him or to be flipped away from. Unfortunately, us victims of D.C. misrule can’t, it turns out, change the channel so easily. If, by some quirk of Time travel, you could go back and erase all of N.'s stories, beginning in January, you would not block out a single bit of news.

In a stroke of minor ‘internets’ genius, someone put up a parody site, Adam Nagourney’s Diary, which captures the high school cliquishness of the national reporting pool – the empty pompadour set – by importing into it a stylistic correlative: the high school weblog. The entries read exactly like LiveJournal dramas: the sobs, the heartthrobs, the I rule! the “everybody is so mean to me. This is exactly the right: Adam Nagourney is a high school phenomena, writing on an eighth grade level.

Here’s the first entry, under I am the hero:
“Man, I have been getting major props for my reporting lately. First I am praised for choosing to avoid the spin room and now Mark Halperin is hailing me as the hero of journalism. I danced around calling Bush a liar in my latest article but resisted so I wouldn’t see a decrease in Christmas cards. Plus, “pushes limit on the facts” makes it sound like he’s working hard.

I expect to see a spike in party invites as a result of my ever-increasing credibility. Speaking of party invitations, I reorganized my collection from being indexed by political affiliation to favorite hobby.
Watched Caddyshack I and II tonight. Why doesn’t Chevy Chase make movies anymore?”

The Times dispatched Jim Rutenberg to defend the media’s honor, and Nagourney’s, in one of the more bizarre self defending articles the Times has ever published. Rutenberg pitches in with an intro that sounds like something from the blond valedictorian in Election – preening, superior, sneering and self-pitying, all at once:

“Practicing cheap and dirty politics, playing fast and loose with the facts and even lying: Accusations like these, and worse, have been slung nonstop this year.
The accused in this case are not the candidates, but the mainstream news media. And the accusers are an ever-growing army of Internet writers, many of them partisans, who reach hundreds of thousands of people a day.

Journalists covering the campaign believe the intent is often to bully them into caving to a particular point of view. They insist the efforts have not swayed them in any significant way, though others worry the criticism could eventually have a chilling effect.”

Bully them? It turns out bullying is the key theme. Journalists, in Rutenberg’s view, are heroic professionals. And those who criticize them are bullies. Makes for a simple chemistry, and fits right in with the high school theme.

“But the most personal critiques originate among the political blogs - especially from the left - run by individuals who use news media reports for their often-heated discussions.”

Rutenberg is particularly incensed that some of those political blogs make comments about the personal appearance and sex lives of media personalities. Something, of course, that the media never does about politicians. You’ll remember how Gore’s choice of brown suits was a minor detail in the NYT’s relentless focusing on his Social Security and Medicare proposals back in 2000. And, of course, the meme of George Bush’s ‘likeability” and Kerry’s ‘lack of charisma” has never been transmitted, like a sexual disease, through the organs of the press.

It is when he gets to the criticism of (gasp!) the Times that Rutenberg turns up the pilot light and really starts sniffing the gas.

“On a Web site named after Adam Nagourney, The Times's chief political correspondent, contributors mix crude personal insults with accusations that Mr. Nagourney and other Washington-based reporters are too easy on Mr. Bush.

Bob Somerby, a comedian who runs a Web site called The Daily Howler that often accuses the news media of being shallow, lazy, bullied by Republicans and unfairly critical of Democrats, said a more genteel approach would not be effective. (He has referred to this reporter on his Web site as "dumb" and in "over his head" for being blind or turning a blind eye to Republican spin.)”

Bullying and being bullied worry Rutenberg. After all, the Timesmen have a 92.3 grad point average and their extracurricular activities in Debate, Archery, and Volleyball aren’t to be disparaged, either!

No comments: