The Parade’s Gone By

There’s an inadvertently amusing passage in Ian Buruma’s NYT review of Frank Rich’s new book:

“Remember that White House aide, quoted by Rich in his introduction, who said that a “judicious study of discernible reality” is “not the way the world really works anymore”? For him, the “reality-based community” of newspapers and broadcasters is old hat, out of touch, even contemptible in “an empire” where “we create our own reality.” This kind of official arrogance is not new, of course, although it is perhaps more common in dictatorships than in democracies. What is disturbing is the way it matches so much else going on in the world: postmodern debunking of objective truth, bloggers and talk radio blowhards driving the media, news organizations being taken over by entertainment corporations and the profusion of ever more sophisticated means to doctor reality.”

Why, praytell, is Greater Blogistan being lumped in with talk radio? Track-covering of course. Buruma (Henry Luce professor at Bard College whose latest book is “Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance”) doesn’t want to be bothered woth making any sort of distinction between Atrios and Assrocket. For to do so would draw attention away from his real complaint– the Decline and Fall of the Mandarins.

“Political weeklies with a liberal pedigree, like The New Republic, fell in line with the neoconservative Weekly Standard, stating that the president would be guilty of “surrender in the war on international terrorism” should he fail to make an effort to topple Saddam Hussein. Bob Woodward, the scourge of the Nixon administration, wrote “Bush at War,” a book that seemed to take everything his White House sources told him at face value.
As soon as the fighting began, showbiz kicked in. Already in Afghanistan, the Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer had been given access to the troops to make a television series about American bravery, even as reporters from papers like The Washington Post were kept away from the scene. Then in Iraq, heroic stories, like the brave battle of Pfc. Jessica Lynch, were invented and packaged for the press, and those who pointed out the fakery were denounced as leftist malcontents. President Bush dressed up as Tom Cruise in “Top Gun” and landed on an aircraft carrier for a photo op declaring a great victory. And the press, by and large, took the bait.”

And that’s where the blogs stepped in, pointing out among other things that the “liberal pedigree” Buruma claims is TNR’s legacy was vaporizd years ago thanks to The Creature From the Blog Lagoon publishing racist screeds on its pages. But Buruma lives in a Beltway Bubble as is obvious from his declaration —

“Susan Sontag became a national hate figure just for saying that United States foreign policy might have had something to do with violent anti-Americanism.”

Susan Sontag, then as now, is a figure of interest solely to a particular smattering of what used to be called “intellectuals.” Few in “the nation” had head of her at all, much less cared how her politics swung from left to right and back again, like a drunk in Coney Island “Dodge-em” car.

“Newspaper editors should not have to feel the need to prove their patriotism, or their absence of bias. Their job is to publish what they believe to be true, based on evidence and good judgment. As Rich points out, such journals as The Nation and The New York Review of Books were quicker to see through government shenanigans than the mainstream press.”

Well at least he can name a couple of publications that DO have an operating “liberal pedigree.” But has he bothered to read any of the Letters to the Editor posted at sundry pubicatiosn during the “run-up to the war”? Did he notice any of the massive pre-war ant-war demonstrations? Of course not.

“The Republicans, being more populist than the Democrats, have exploited this new climate with far greater finesse. Accusing the media of bias is an act of remarkable chutzpah for an administration that pitches its messages straight at radio talk show hosts and public relations men. Rich gives many examples. One of the more arresting ones is of Dick Cheney appearing on a TV show with Armstrong Williams, a fake journalist on the government payroll, to complain about bias in the press.”

Yes well all know about that closet queen. But what of James D. Guckert aka. “Jeff Gannon”? Here was a prostitute operating out of the White House, replete with frequent sleepovers
( one wonders in whose bed) before being turned into a fake reporter for a fake org. called “Talon news” the better to lob softballs at Scottie during press gaggles. Seems like only yesterday the town was turned upside down by Bill Clinton getting a blow job from Monica Lweinsky, yet thatself-same “mainstream” han NOTHING to say about Gucky.

Something has gone askew when one of the most trusted critics of the Bush administration is Jon Stewart, host of a superb comedy program. It was on his “Daily Show” that Rob Corddry, an actor playing a reporter, lamented that he couldn’t keep up with the government, which had created “a whole new category of fake news — infoganda.” Rich is right: “The more real journalism fumbled its job, the easier it was for such government infoganda to fill the vacuum.”

But what Buruma fails to realize (and Rich only partially so) is the fact that what Stewart and Corddry are doing IS real journalism.

“The problem is that there are not always two sides to a story. Someone reporting on the persecution of Jews in Germany in 1938 would not have added “balance” by quoting Joseph Goebbels. “

Mr. Sheri Annis would of course strongly disagree.

“And besides, as Judith Miller found out, what is the good of quotes if they are based on false information?”

Tell it to the NYT editorial board!

“Bob Woodward, one of Rich’s chief bêtes noires, has more access in Washington than any journalist, but the weakness of his work is that he never seems to be better than his sources. As Rich rightly observes, “reporters who did not have Woodward’s or Miller’s top-level access within the administration not only got the Iraq story right but got it into newspapers early by seeking out what John Walcott, the Knight Ridder Washington bureau chief, called ‘the blue collar’ sources further down the hierarchy.” This used to be Woodward’s modus operandi, too, in his better days. “

Oh please! Woodward doesn’t talk to the “help.” Does Buruma not remember what happened to the security guard who caught the Watergate burglars?

It never entered his mind.

“Fearing the loss of access at the top and overrating the importance of quotes from powerful people, as well as an unjustified terror of being accused of liberal bias, have crippled the press at a time when it is needed more than ever.”

No shit, Sherlock!

” Frank Rich is an excellent product of that press, and if it ever recovers its high reputation, it will be partly thanks to one man who couldn’t take it anymore.”

Frank Rich’scareer was launched when he reviewed Sondheim’s masterpiece Follies

Most “mainstream” scribes, however, are singing a song from that mightiest of all cult flops, Anyone Can Whistle

(Mayoress Cora Hoover Hooper):
“I see flags, I hear bells,
There’s a parade in town.
I see crowds, I hear yells,
There’s a parade in town!
I hear drums in the air,
I see clowns in the square,
I see marchers marching,
Tossing hats at the sky.
Did you hear? Did you see?
Is a parade in town?
Well, they’re out of step, the flutes are squeaky,
The banners are frayed.
Any parade in town without me
Must be a second-class parade!
So!… Ha!…

(Townspeople):
Hapgood has no answers or suggestions,
Only a lot of questions.
We like questions!
What’s the use of answers or suggestions?
As long as we’re told where to go,
There isn’t a thing we need to know!

(Cora:)
I see flags, I hear bells,
There’s a parade in town.
I see crowds, I hear yells,
There’s a parade in town!
I hear drums in the air,
I see clowns in the square,
I see marchers marching,
Tossing hats at the sky.
Did you hear? Did you see?
Was a parade in town?
Were there drums without me?
Was a parade in town?
‘Cause I’m dressed at last,
at my best, and my banners are high.
Tell me, while I was getting ready,
Did a parade go by?”

1 comment

  1. chris September 20, 2006 4:59 pm 

    One of my favorite lines from “Adam’s Rib” *and* “The Gentleman Is A Dope”? What can I do to contain my ecstasy?

    Which versions of the latter song do you favor, David — apart from Lisa Kirk’s? Me, I incline toward the Vaughan/Basie one …

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