white house press pass of my grandfather franklin sartwell, who worked for the washington times-herald. the t-h was bought out by the post in the fifties, by which time he was in a 'sanitarium' for alcoholism, i believe.
i hate to do the assigning for all the reporters, but i come from newspaperpeople. i'll say again that the fact that the oklahoma 'authorities' were called and responded aggressively, on the grounds that miranda lambert singing a country song advocating gun rights constituted a death threat, just cannot be good for the careers of those authorities in a very red state. better figure out who called whom when and why, and foi or put containers under leaks of the email strings, etc.
since last night or something, the daily princetonian has been saying i accused alexander nehamas of plagiarism. now they're adding that i've accused him of libel. just making stuff up, i guess. christ i can't faculty advise every paper out here. i corrected it hours ago in the comments, just emailed the editorial board. man i am finding that princeton education thing less impressive minute by minute.
3:15: they've got the libel down, anyway. maybe i missed the moment when they said i accused him of pederasty? that, too, would be inaccurate.
if the nytimes editorial board had the guts to represent their own political convictions in public, they would have endorsed sanders and paul, not clinton and kasich. and why in the world, how in the world, have we reached the point at which the editorial board of the new york times doesn't have the courage to represent their actual political convictions in public? i think we've reached the pretty pass at which the editorial board of the new york times operates exactly like the politicians they cover: carefully calibrating polling, pitch, message, frame, making fine alleged differences in electability into serious reasons to keep the economy in the hands of citibank.
first, we might ask about what the newspaper biz has become. really, the shit is sad. but second, so many people are operating on this level: so many people feel it to be impossible, for example, to vote anything like their convictions, or anything that is not directly opposed to their convictions, as though (a) voting was a terrible moral dilemma, which justifies me always in (b) making a horrendously wrong decision by my own lights.
and then, perhaps you seem to yourself to have some vague commitment to democracy. well, you might want to refresh your appreciation of what that is: oh go back to mill's on liberty or dewey's democracy and education: now feed in to that a situation in which the press and very many members of the public simply will not act in public according to their own convictions, if they perceive those convictions as shared by only 49% of the population. or try to get that democracy thing to comport with the paradigm of strategic communications, where speaking the truth or speaking sincerely are held to be impossible or worthless projects, while controlling other people's behavior is conceived as the only goal of human communication. now we know what love is!
when they asked who they should endorse among the republicans - always an afterthought, of course - they thought to themselves and one another: which of the establishment-track candidates has the best chance of consolidating support and fighting off trump? then they looked at new hampshire poll numbers, endorsements from new england papers, etc. so first off, you might wonder why the nytimes is concerned to preserve the republican establishment at all costs. and then, you might ask yourself how things like that can be more important to, like, opinion journalists, than positions on nsa, mass incarceration, race, syria. really, i want y'all to look in the mirror and understand fully what you've become. if you're comfortable with it in and on reflection, i'm comfortable blogging about it.
how safe do you actually have to play this shit? what are you actually scared of?
i finally figured out what's up with the nytimes opinion section: courageously, counter-intuitively, they always go for max boredom. their goal, every time out, is to be literally dead center of the mainstream. they have noblest ambition of all, to make no difference whatever. what guides their editorials and their selection of op-ed columnists and contributors: an extreme desire for total safety, a profound commitment to not making any mistakes, a bold flight from bold opinions. really as they meet to decide on an endorsement, for example, you can see them asking one question above all: who is the safest choice for us? their range from egan or whatever on the left to brooks or douthat on the right is about a millimeter wide.
truly, were i operating an opinion page with the prestige of the times's, i would regard that as a license to continuous free-wheeling boldness. they view it as an unprecedented opportunity to be extremely extremely careful.
andrew sullivan is quitting the dish, and ana marie cox (the delightful original wonkette) is basically declaring the blog over as a medium, or whatever 'the blog' may be. i guess i started blogging - right here - around when they did or shortly after (2004). now first of all, burnout is legit. when i started blogging, i was getting tired of writing a weekly op-ed column, and really after i started blogging i realized i wanted to quit that gig, even if i also wanted back on the op-ed page from time to time. i've often taken a month or six weeks off without notice, although at other times i'm posting like mad.
but i've got to say: i fucking love the form, alright? for many reasons. i am a much better writer now, i believe, because i've written however many hundreds of thousands of words for 'publication'; some blog entries i've refined dozens of times. i publish, revise, and then publish again, the perfect cure for the problem of suddenly seeing a piece in print and so seeing it from a different or outside angle, and wanting and being unable to fix it. genres like the 700-word op-ed or the academic book or a twitter feed have some rigid parameters; a blog entry can take any length, any form; it is improvisational or jazz publishing. i poach it all the time for academic or opinion-journalist-type writings. i just love it as a place and way to write.
and also...it is an autonomous press that i control completely. there is something to be said for good professional editing (john timpane at the philly inquirer and i worked on a couple of hundred pieces together, i think), and something to be said against bad professional editing (naming no names). but there is a lot to be said for the unexpurgated individual human voice that knows it will not be edited except by the person who emits it. and that is what i think a blog ought to be, even if there are several voices on a blog, you old crusader. i published an underground newspaper starting in 7th grade, which was not unique in my era. my heroes william lloyd garrison (the liberator), josiah warren (the peaceful revolutionist), and emma goldman (mother earth) figured out how to make a free space for their voices, to tiny or big audiences. they had to figure out how to print it themselves. i see the blog as a continuation of that. i've said many, many things here that i could not say at the daily beast or huffpost.
andrew sullivan and ana marie cox were great bloggers at times. but they literally sold out the blog, if i may say so. cox's thing is that there are better ways to make money as a writer. on the other hand i have never myself sold advertising or done anything but pay to blog. i respect professional writers, coming from long lines of them, and i realize i have a nice position as an academic from which to do this (which is not to say i ain't broke). but cox and sullivan wanted to blog for someone; embed their blogs in the atlantic or the guardian or whatever. others were always calculating how to get the largest audiences and thus a good flow of advertising.
they sold their blogs, ok? it's not the worst thing, but maybe that's when they stopped blogging and just became staff writers or wheeler-dealers, with a comments section and a time posted, etc: the accessories but not the essence. this was a pretty straightforward choice for them, because they are people of relatively mainstream views who aspired to the biggest possible audiences. but there are plenty of bloggers for whom that wouldn't be an option, one way or another.
for years i just argued that there were no blogs on the nyt's opinion page, no matter how they were presenting stanley fish or whomever; they just called a column a blog, basically just edited it the same way, and so on. i'm not going to put any weight on the 'real' meaning of the term, but let's say the blog got co-opted and then died. that is ok, because post-collapse it might again become a space of eccentric voices with small audiences; it never stopped being that too: a verson of the diy zine. and it will remain one of the possibilities. at any rate, i've got no plans to stop.
the jonathan gruber/obamacare scandal is devastating. in this era of incredibly stupid partisanship, the fact that it more or less unfolded on fox news makes it invisible to half the population, while making nothing else visible to the other half. the coverage by msm outlets other than fox has been unbelievably pathetic, discrediting to them, quite substantiating 'left-wing media' as a phrase encompassing, say, the new york times or the atlantic. i am telling you that you must watch some fox during a democratic administration, or you are just getting barraged with propaganda and nothing else, as this scandal shows. but it is truly as though most of the people i know are physically incapable of watching fox even for a moment.
really what emerges is a portrayal of the way washington works now. so, gruber - mit prof/white house consultant/important source of the plan itself - starts the ball rolling by saying they'd never have got the thing through if the american people knew what was in it, that they depended on our stupidity. then it turns out that he was functioning simultaneously as an extremely well-paid consultant, and an independent authority. they took his advice on policy and on pr, then appealed to his material specifically as independent academic analysis of the aca's effects. he was writing op-eds presenting himself precisely as an independent authority, with bio squibs that did not identify his inside role. then he went out and made perhaps millions helping states with their exchanges, as pelosi and many others routinely appealed to his 'independent' research and 'mit' as evidence for the costs and benefits of the program. there were many utter disasters among the state exchanges, of course. simultaneously with this whole process, gruber was, according to himself, thinking to himself 'we've got to pull the wool over the eyes of the american public to get this thing passed and implemented'.
he was enriching himself and certainly compromising his own academic integrity and that of mit continuously. it is a very disturbing portrait of interlocked political parties/operations and academic institutions/experts, where the professors give the political positions credibility or an air of objectivity or even science, while also cashing in and moving back and forth between government and academia, one way or another. i think this should make any rational person doubt the credibility of mit professors. if you looked at the intersection of harvard, wall street, and the obama admin, you'd see the function of expertise in squishy totalitarianism, and the disturbing way that money and power flow through academic institutions, controlling every aspect of the way they are administered, who they hire, what sort of research they fund and pursue and tenure, and so on.
what you'd want to look at are things like contributions and expenditures in the endowment; uses of the research output by partisan politicians; migration of faculty into the state and migration of officials to the faculty and thence to the investment banking industry or lobbying; the ideological diversity or the reverse of the faculty; direct federal grants for research and the backgrounds of the faculty funded and the uses of research in justifying federal programs or partisan hobbyhorses, including the funding of the grants themselves; where they send their graduates.
maybe you think that, since all harvard profs are liberals and vote democratic, they are egalitarians. well, it is time to stop listening to their yap and start attending to their actual effect: who they are and whom they hang out with and whom they are funded by and whom they serve and what they really want, which is only an ever-ascending prestige and the ascendency of their like in the various hierarchies. that the harvard or stanford administration or faculty are enemies of privilege: surely no one can possibly think something like that? withering skepticism of the research is appropriate in this situation. (ladies and gentlemen, the vast faculty of the kennedy school of government.) and i'm telling you that even humanities professors at these institutions are interlocked with the admin and political parties, and of course with the ways their own positions are funded and ways to enhance their salaries or collect the junkets or get that pic with michelle obama.
but it's the depravity of the sales strategies by the white house and the democratic party that really sticks: the condescension, the contempt for us and for the truth and for democracy, the routine miserable lack of integrity or decency in our political process, the total dedication to manipulation, the underlying incompetence.
when i figure out how to get it and embed it, i'll post the special report panel from tonight with goldberg, fournier, and krauthammer, with a report that gives a very clear account of events. obviously it's a report produced by an organization that wants to focus scepticism on the administration. but that's what we need, with regard to every administration. it's reaching the point where the nytimes is going to have to cover it, and not just cover the fact that fox is covering it as a way to discredit the story itself. to do that, the only relevant thing is to throw specific doubts on specific parts of the reporting, correct?
dana milbank (no right-wing flak) explains some of the reasons benghazi keeps hanging about, and why the press - which is not just fox - is getting quite irritated and suspicious. he then goes on to emphasize that there's no problem, and the white house "unwittingly" broke the "get-it-all-out-there"-kerry washington principles of scandal management. but why does he insist there's nothing there? the way they're behaving certainly suggests that there is. what? well, at a minimum i think it's pretty obvious that the white house shaped susan rice's talking points and that there was only one goal: no political fallout before the election. essentially, it's the same thing that motivates, say, the government of malaysia to just issue confused, contradictory crap: because they don't want to be blamed for incompetence etc, and their image is all they care about, far more than, say, human lives.
now, i also feel that underneath this there may be some pretty awful truths about what, exactly, a knot of cia agents was doing in benghazi, and how they came to be under attack and why. obviously it's just a suspicion. but then, if you're not suspicious you're not conscious, and that the cia was engaged in something deeply embarassing, deeply stupid, or deeply evil: this is not an arbitrary hypothesis based on no data. so what if it was a torture facilty? what if they were secretly funding one militia against another, who kicked their ass? for that matter, what if their own people kicked their ass? stranger things have happened.
"Scientists currently view our whole identity as something we construct, one fraction of a second to another.You are the unfolding of an ongoing narrative." that's from this week's radiolab (a public radio show; this bit kicks in at 18 minutes). also, it is extremely typical of the approach of that show, and, i say, of our culture in general at the moment, which is like a giant game of 'science says': hahaha you believed that one but science didn't say it!' and, very very often if you thought for just one second about what science says according to super-bourgeois media outlets such as, say, npr or the excruciatingly banal new yorker - you would wake up and smell the horseshit. so i wonder how science has demonstrated that 'you are the unfolding of an ongoing narrative'.
amazingly, science has coincided with fashionable literary theory and selfesteem guides for white women (at least as they stood in 1993, when the scientists were in grad school) , yet again. so: no doubt they saw your self in an mri (it's located in the pineal gland), and when they zoomed in close, they saw the stories; oh maybe they read the little novels in there, or watched, second by second, your neurons portray characters in the movie that is you, or the little-bitty construction crew putting up the stage set and then nailing together the construction that is you, tearing it down again second by second and then putting it back together. (please don't understand me to be arguing for an essential soul or integral self; what i'm saying is, for one thing, that they're saying that science is saying things that it could not possibly test, in terms that cannot be clarified or rendered empirical. at any rate, both scientists and radio hosts are unbelievably bad at giving the meaning of, or giving a meaning to, the basic terms they're using, a deficiency which, tragically, makes the whole thing collapse like a...tower of mud. so: 'you are just a narrative you are constructing minute by minute': start by stating your conclusion coherently, son, in a way that could possibly be true, and then we'll get to how empirical evidence might bear on it. what is constructing what?)
so: this isn't unique to radiolab, though they do it all the time, and i'll grab more examples as we go on. i don't think that you should sit there going "science says that? then it is irrational to doubt it'. instead, think about the jive they're claiming science says and about how science as you understand it could possibly show any such thing. ponder the question of why science is confirming whatever's fashionable in the social groups frequented by the scientists or interpreters of science (the sciencesaysers). contemplate the function of Science as a marker of social prestige and claim to ultimate authority and as a sheer, and obviously irrational, faith. think about how you are being manipulated by the game of science says, and to what ends. think about the picture of science as a Person, speaking with a single Voice, and how well that comports with the alleged nature and purposes of science itself. cogitate about what you would have believed over the last couple of centuries if you believed what 'science says'.
show a little pride and resolve to regard yourself as someone who is capable of rudimentary independent ratiocination. stop believing whatever the authorities are telling you to believe, on the grounds alone that they are telling you to believe it. francis bacon and richard feynman would tell you the same, man. Science is to us what God was to the 'dark ages', and lord knows these are dark ages. science has proven that.
msnbc's approach this morning: breaking news! day 14! the search for 370 continues...ps after a half hour we'll get to 'russia masses troops on its western border'. they've turned cnn into the southern indian ocean: an infinite expanse of nothingness, with some little bits of debris. it's a devastating indictment of their editorial meetings.
so apparently rand is going to remark this evening that it is not clear who is running the government of the united states. it is a united states senator, hinting at the awful truth: intelligence coup. the brennan-feinstein conflagration is where this pinches immediately on the senate. got a little prediction for you, though. in the next few weeks, some sort of scandal will bloom around rand paul. if it does, here is the likeliest etiology: leaked by intelligence sources through several insulating layers to rachel maddow or chris hayes. they're going to want msnbc doing to him what it did to christie: day after day of relentless coverage. or honestly, fox is almost as hostile, and that's where you'd want to destroy him for the republican nomination. they will want him to understand who did it, so they will convey their own responsibility one way or another.
astoundingly, as i was doing these blog entries and making public challenges to the editorial board of the nytimes, they were busy putting up this outstanding column by the outstanding ta-nehisi coates. know what? my hat is off, chris, though dang you made me look kinda silly. a problem remains, however: could someone like me make that argument? i'd like to get the point where that too is possible. of course i think i have a pretty elaborate machinery starting with frege etc for this. but it is also a version of coates's argument, or coates' argument would be entailed by it. also i straight-up extend it to: calm down about anyone using these words. that is not where the problem is in our culture.
here is a note i wrote to an editor at the nytimes, and i am throwing it out there for any ethics person (howard kurtz, say, or a prof at columbia) to solve theoretically, or for any actual editor on a mainstream-press opinion page to solve practically, with a column by me or anyone else. if you know any such people, see what they think.
i have an interesting challenge for you. or at least i think it's interesting. indeed, i think it sets the editorial board of the nytimes a seemingly insoluble, fundamental moral dilemma, a new wicked wicked question in journalistic ethics (or would if they noticed it).
my view is that the use of such words as 'nigger', 'fag', and bitch' should be entirely unrestricted. in a couple of long blog entries, i argue this sarcastically, elaborately, and - in my own opinion - devastatingly.
really, i'd pitch you a column on this, geared to the amazing lily allen video. however, as i remark in the second entry, i could not possibly express these opinions in the new york times without betraying them, deploying layers of euphemisms, observing precisely the taboos that i am arguing are superstitious nonsense.
i do not think that the other side has this problem. their views can be expressed in the language they themselves need to express them in. you're not going to take a feminist who is arguing against 'bitch' and force her to use that very word in her column.
so i say this represents an actual conceptual dilemma that has the actual effect of making it impossible for me to express my actual opinion - which is surely one of the basic possible opinions on this question - in the mainstream press. it's so unfair! you're suppressing my argument for free expression!
so here's the challenge: find some way that it would be possible to make my perfectly legitimate argument about an important issue in the times without making myself into a laughable hypocrite in the process. (that does not entail accepting any particular column!).
now, why do i say that the dilemma is fundamental? well, think about it from the point of view of the editorial board at the new york times, the washington post, the guardian (as it publishes snowden): you have to choose between your fundamental professed values - fairness to all important sides of an important issue, free expression of ideas - and your actual policies. so, it's pretty simple: your decision shows what the actual values of your publication are. that's pretty fundamental. it is not a new dilemma for me: i had a long go-round with several editors at the los angeles times about it after i submitted a specific column in, i think, the late 90s. it appeared with 'the n-word'. i was a chump under my own by-line, a betrayer of my own convictions. well, homie don't play that no mo. but it's still a problem for y'all!
i just woke up. is the kennedy assassination over again yet? i cannot imagine how all these tv networks, radio shows, news sites, etc. possibly do what they do. really, every single one put someone on the air to just say the same ritual sentences. every piece had the same shape. 'everyone remembers where they were' is the first sentence and then it goes on through the same snatches of tape, the same super-blown-up hyperbolic contentless cliches. the editor who assigns that, year after year, who assigns you to say precisely the same words in the same order as everyone else, really has got no business in this business. i heard that same piece two dozen times even though i tried like hell to avoid it. every time it came on, i screamed and turned the channel; still i got the whole thing many times. it is sheer cult of political leadership, focused on an absurd object. i'm beginnning to wish that everyone who was covering it back then etc was dead, so we wouldn't have to listen once again to their dramatically re-shaped repetitive accounts. or wishing them dead is a little harsh. i wish them alzheimer's and the blessing, to all of us, of forgetting where they were.
no one can forget where they were when they heard the rigidly conventionalized narrative delivered again for the 8 billionth time.
it becomes a little unclear, if you ask me, whether we are mourning kennedy's death, or rather being really, really into it, celebrating it. we can't watch that assassination enough, can we? it's addictive, like that last robin thicke video. frame by frame through the zapruder film: i think the fundamental motivation is that we really find the killing of jfk very fun and entertaining. how are the ratings? i bet we can get a couple of more movies and tv specials out of it, which seems incredible. still, i don't think that bullet to the skull has been exhaustively monetized. i want spiellberg, daniel day-lewis, doris kearns-goodwin, and tony kushner on it. we can start with a scene of spielberg licking lewis-as-kennedy's toes, move on through daniel day-lewis's crucifixion and resurrection, and from there to oscar glory. you might think that daniel day-lewis doesn't look much like kennedy, but with dap-brand spackle(tm), anything is possible. if he does that voice from lincoln again, though, we're going to have to assassinate him harder this time.
i was five, and who could forget that moment? when i heard, or rather saw, that kennedy was dead, i was on the grassy knoll, fumbling to re-load. i missed that dickwad john connally, though. well, i was only five! i blame montessori education. still, that moment where i didn't even wing connally was the moment i lost my innocence, my naive idealism, my self-confidence as a young nation.
everyone's apologizing and resigning about rodeo clown tuffy gessling's performance as obama, getting run over by a bull. here's the deal: clowns like tuffy get a pass. you should have seen what we did to tricky dick on the streets of dc when i was 14. i don't see this as any worse than a thousand political cartoons. look seventeen movies that came out last week depicted in loving slow motion the entire destruction of the white house. really we're in the second golden pc age, but this time no one even seems to have any reservations. i like the idea of hurling ridicule and abuse at our leaders. it's an egalitarian expression. did that performance hurt someone (i mean other than tuffy, who no doubt is a pain professional)? he's been banned for life from the missouri fair.
Ok, I admit that I can be a sucker for a lot of things. But, water and spray and rivers and such aren't usually a big thing with me. Well, hell -- if the world's oceans actually just rolled off the edge of the world in the pre-Columbus cosmology, this view of Niagara Falls is what it might look like. This amateur use of technology and art is the sort of thing that I suspect getsMs. Wolfe and our other colleagues over at the SASM Institute all flustered, as it should. As it should. Absolutely spellbinding, although the music could be a bit less blah...Clannad must have something that would be a better fit.
Called this piece "Perhaps a reason to forgive if she exists which she doesn't but still..." at the Defeatists. Enough said...
that the zimmerman murder trial is a far bigger story in our news media than the nsa revelations or the situation in egypt is just absurd. i guess it's a racial emblem, but i don't think it works that way until you actually figure out what happened. and if you let your a priori interpretation of racial symbology dictate your view on zimmerman's actual guilt or innocence, you are engaged in an absurd procedure.
yes, absolutely, eric holder ought to resign. if he does not, i'd think about what recourse there is, up to and including moving toward impeachment of the president. the rosen situation (etc) is really grotesque: grotesquely unconstitutional, grotesquely partisan, grotesquely wrong. and let me say this: if you let the fact that the organization in question is fox affect your opinion on this at all, no one should listen to anything you say ever again, you partisan twit.
this piece, from the atlantic, on 'privileged, white' twenty-something addicts, is typical of a certain style of middle-brow, pseudo-profound analysis, a genre pioneered by people like malcolm gladwell and, um, jonah lehrer. liz kulze produces a seemingly definitive account that is just a mess. now i am going to attack almost any 'external' account of addiction; i think if you are explaining addiction as something bizarre and external that needs to be explained sociologically or medically, you've already missed everything, or you have little credibility; the only real explanations include the first-person experience of addiction, which does not come from collaging quotes to make your pre-conceived points. but just one problem with kulze's account: it accounts for addiction in this sort of person, first, on the grounds that these kids are coddled and spoiled so much that they never form a self, and second, because their parents are always driving them to succeed, that they grew up in excessively-structured contexts, both in their families and in educational institutions. surely these things are in tension with one another. but either way, over and over, she moves straight from incredibly vague cultural observations that apply perfectly well to non-addicts and addicts alike (but really apply to no one in particular) to an explanation of particular people's addiction.
first off, i doubt that addiction is a greater problem in this population than in many others. but it is an explanatory problem: how can people like me end up like that? i'm going to tell you exactly how: the same way people not like you end up like that. the essence of addiction is in the relation betweeen the person and the substance: demographic explanations are going to be wrong, especially if you start by assuming that certain people should be immune. addiction among privileged, white twenty-somethings is exactly no more puzzling than among trailer-dwelling rednecks or inner-city black people, and that you think the one needs explaining and the other does not only displays all your prejudices right there on the page. you might start out instead, if you have to go sociological or whatever, with addiction patterns among the parents of these people. and then that you offer pseudo-profound pseudo-explanations that do absolutely nothing just shows that you've been reading way too much new yorker. on both counts, you need to get out of your own little demographic spider hole.
i have been doing research and working on the wikipedia entry for my great-grandfather, herman bernstein (he's my mother's mother's father). what an unbelievable life! i thought i wrote fast. for one thing, the dude was super-jew. for example, henry ford, with whom he locked horns for a decade, called him 'the messenger boy of international jewry.' he was rolling across russia during the revolution, interviewing john reed and leon trotsky.
as herman might have put it: jesus a vehicular christ.
herman bernstein as a sensitive young poet
and as a mature ass-kicker
when my mother (joyce abell, b. 1925) was 5, she was sent by her parents, alone, on a ship to albania, where herman was the ambassador. she still remembers the spectacle, the dresses etc., at the court of the magnificently attired zog, king of albania.
here are a few of the other writers in my lineage, on both or all sides, whether they arrived with the puritans in 1637 or came to ellis island from the russo-german border in 1893. some were protestants, some were catholics, some were jews (100% on my mom's side). most were atheists, though, whatever their heritage. some were communists and some were republicans and some (well...) were anarchists. novelist and short story writergrace sartwell mason (my great great grandfather's sister; one of her books is women are queer); herman's brother hillel bernstein, novelist and new yorker contributor; novelist etc murray gitlin (my grandfather and herman's son-in-law); my grandfather franklin sartwell, columnist for and editor for the washington times-herald and the washington post; my father franklin sartwell, jr., reporter and editor at the washington star, national geographic, science news, and defenders magazine; herman's son david, writer and editor for, and owner of, the binghampton sun. there are others!
i can be pretty hard on reporters who get stories wrong. like i was ragging on all the misinformation they were purveying on newtown. but i'm going to forgive them on the te'o story. it's just not the sort of thing you'd think someone would make up. it spoke well for us that we wouldn't require verification on something like that, just believe the raw emotion he was...expressing. well, i suppose even things like that have to dissolve in our current context, including social media. but that's sad, see? do i resent the fact that i was laboring under a misapprehension? well yeah a bit. how much of a burden was it to continue to labor under that misapprehension for a few extra weeks? indetectible in the face of the actual burdens that confront me on any given day. this crap ain't exactly watergate. believing a college kid about his tragedy is not like believing what some politician or military spokesman or corporate flak is saying, which are real and constant problems in american journalism. so i just don't feel that there is a big media problem here, except maybe that te'o was tailoring the story to fit into espn's formulae. the formulae should be reflected on not least because the narrative forms they deploy are getting awfully old, and have the sort of falsifying imperatives that alway arise when you try to read actual life as though it were a novel.
or: how could notre dame not release this information as soon as they had it? well, this is the kind of story that there just is no urgency in reporting to anyone. now, maybe it's disturbing that they waited til after the championship game, but really we don't know how the deliberation went at all. it's sad, stupid, and fucked up no matter how it happened, but nothing turns on getting it out immediately at all: it has no, like, policy implications. no one has to make up their mind about anything on its basis, at least until the draft.
it really is amazing how wrong everybody got the story, in virtually every respect. they misidentified the shooter as his brother. for like 24 hours everyone was asserting with complete assurance that his mother was a kindergarten teacher at sandy hook. then they said he went there as a student. all that is wrong. they said he left the assault rifle in his car and fired all the shots with handguns; now all the shots came from the bushmaster, and so on. now, in any particular case, maybe it's the police who are giving the wrong info or maybe it's the media developing it independently. and of course, reporters are human and will make mistakes. but i say that they can and should do better than that. i'm impatient too, but you really do need to take deep breath and think about sourcing, confirmation, etc.
the familiar problem gathers: everyone wants to know what's going on, wants to participate in some wise in the mourning. so all media gather and engage in saturation coverage. the town becomes a kind of truman show or something. after the fortieth time they put on a psychiatrist to tell you how to talk to your kids or pay tribute to the victims, you begin to lose the emotional thread and participate in a media spectacle. the more attention they bring and the more they insist on telling the story, the further it starts to recede into a kind of fiction, with a kind of pre-determined narrative shape: the heroes, the community pulling together, etc. not that any of that is exactly false, but one begins to experience it as though it were a fictional narrative: they want to construct it that way for us and it attenuates the immediacy in a way that both helps everyone turn a corner, and puts the thing away somewhere where we have it contained. the narrative form requires some sort of resolution, and that requires at a minimum a process of systematic simplification. again you lose the excess, where the reality of an event like that enters into our experience: the moment where you can't face up that is the real response.
after awhile you start to worry that you want to watch people in pain as a kind of entertainment. you're getting it right where you get your sports and romcoms. you start to doubt the sincerity of the anchors' and politicians' formulaic emoting. you start to doubt your own.
i'd say folks have a pretty low standard of 'counter-intuitive.' then again i would caution those contemplating a career in the counter-intuitive that if you take a few more giant steps after gladwell, you will often be greeted with incomprehension, or at least extremely modest book sales.
here's a relatively typical case in which the exquisitely delicate ethnic sensitivities of the press preclude them from actually reporting the story: espn fired a staffer for an 'offensive' headline: we report the story at length, but can't actually say what the headline said. that's frigging ridiculous. we'd do our basic jobs, only we're pussies. the headline itself was only up for a half hour, and for example reading this account would make it impossible to reach an informed opinion on whether the firing was reasonable. you don't want to offend your readers, who are not at all offended for example when you report the actual facts of a murder in excruciating detail. well, lord knows this - whatever it was - was worse than murder.
daily beast: exclusive! newt's ex-wife's lawyer on his narcissism. now i would say few of us would really be satisfied to be portrayed in the media by our ex-spouses. (mine - one of mine - just sold a book including an account of our break-up; i intend to ignore it unless pressed, then launch the nukes, or at least the blog posts.) but your ex-spouse's lawyer? christ, tina, that's your idea of journalism?: a first-person account of somebody's marriage by a person who is actually being paid to eviscerate the person she's writing about? your ex-spouse might be bitter, might have what you take to be a distorted view of events, etc., but at least she's going to be more or less sincere. this is more like hiring lady gaga's producer to review her next album.