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HE WON’T HAVE SATAN TO KICK AROUND ANY MORE! It wasn’t OK to trash Rutgers women. (Good!) But it was OK to trash Satan: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, APRIL 13, 2007

DIONNE REINVENTS: Expanding on Monday’s disappointing work by Paul Krugman (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/9/07), E. J. Dionne takes his turn today, obscuring the history of the press corps over the past fifteen years.

Here’s Dionne’s summary of modern press criticism, extending back to the late 1960s. Some of this is perfectly accurate. It can all be defended as “technically accurate.” But alas! This is grossly misleading:
DIONNE (4/13/07): From the late 1960s until the past few years, media criticism was dominated by conservatives railing against a supposedly "liberal media." Hearing mostly from this one side, editors, publishers and producers looked constantly over their right shoulders, rarely imagining they could be biased against the left or too accommodating to Republican presidents. This was a great conservative victory.

The Bush years have changed that. Aggressive media criticism is now the rule across the liberal blogs, and new monitoring organizations such as Media Matters for America police news reports for signs of Republican bias, often debunking charges against Democrats. When you combine liberal and conservative media criticism you get a result that is more or less fair and balanced. Score a net gain for liberals.
In his next paragraph, Dionne does what these people always do—he hands us liberals the head of Fox. “Fox provided the new liberal critics with a target-rich environment,” he writes. Translation: Hey, rubes! Look over there! Look at the work that is done by Fox! Don’t consider the Washington Post!

What is wrong with Dionne’s summary? Let’s discuss two problems:

Until the past few years: In effect, Dionne says that liberal press criticism only took hold in “the past few years.” To someone who wants to avoid the real press history of the Clinton-Bush years, this is especially helpful. Good-bye to Gene Lyons, who published Fools for Scandal in 1996 (following earlier work in Harper’s). Good-bye to Lyons and Conason, who published The Hunting of the President in early 2000. And good-bye to two years of our own real-time work about the coverage of Campaign 2000—work the press corps was reviewing. Dionne’s construct allows him to avoid discussing the period from 1992 through 2000, when the mainstream press corps—most particularly, the New York Times and his own Post—savaged Clinton and took out Gore. Dionne wants to consider the possibility of being “too accommodating to Republican presidents” (strangely pluralized, but presumably meaning Bush). He’ll take a pass on what happened before that, when his own paper was busy destroying a Democratic president and vice president.

Editors rarely imagined: Laughed out loud! Until the past few years, we’re told, editors “rarely imagined they could be biased against the left.” (Presumably, “the left” would also mean Democrats.) The word “rarely” is a helpful tool here, of course, but let’s understand what this claim disappears. According to Dionne, editors at the New York Times and the Washington Post didn’t imagine they were being unfair to Bill Clinton in 1996, when Fools for Scandal emerged, describing the way the two papers had “invented Whitewater.” At the Post, they didn’t imagine they were being unfair to Gore in April 1999, when we ourselves staged a three-day exchange with Michael Kelly in the Hotline—an exchange a large part of the press corps read. The Post’s editors didn’t imagine they were being unfair to Gore when the complaints began rolling in about Ceci Connolly—when she “accidentally” “misquoted” Gore about Love Canal in November 1999, for example. Post editors didn’t imagine they were being unfair to Gore when the Post’s own ombudsman, E. R. Shipp, said they were being unfair to Gore, in a brilliant March 2000 column. And they didn’t imagine they were being unfair when the Financial Times said, in August 2000, that Connolly was “doing little to hide [her] contempt for the candidate and his team.” There’s more—but we’ll aim here for brevity.

Dionne does today what Krugman did on Monday; he writes the press history of the past fifteen years in a way that disappears the gross misconduct of his own newspaper. And as these people always do, he hands you the head of Fox News instead! Of course, there’s a great deal wrong with the work done at Fox; we’d love to see the liberal web develop a stronger critique of their work. But it wasn’t Fox or the “right-wing machine” which changed American history in the past fifteen years. It was the Washington Post and the New York Times which built a scandal culture around Bill Clinton, then devoted themselves to taking out Gore. (It was also NBC News and its cable affiliate, with its gang of screaming-mimi Imus buddies.) It was Dionne’s own paper which did all this—and the newspaper’s editors knew all about it. But Dionne frames his piece today so these matters can all disappear.

Dionne is careful in his phrasing. But then, we’ve seen it again and again: These people will never tell you the truth about the history of the past fifteen years—about the work of their own “mainstream” news orgs. We used to say Dionne was smart and decent, but weak. “Two out of three ain’t half bad,” we would joke. But over the course of the past year or so, we’ve sadly come to a different conclusion. Dionne is smart, but he’s weak and dishonest. This morning, he hands you the head of Fox, and recites his clan’s slogan: Hey, rubes!

IN HIS OWN WORDS: After describing Fox as a baldly dishonest network, Dionne closes with this: “I admire Roger Ailes’ genius in building Fox News.” Oliphant luvvved Imus, we learned this week. Dionne smooches Roger Ailes too.

HE WON’T HAVE SATAN TO KICK AROUND ANY MORE: Three cheers! Various people “had the back” of those young Rutgers women when the I-fool nastily slimed then last week. But no one had the backs of Clinton and Gore! Last week, Imus slimed those Rutgers women—but as usual, he slimed these two Big Dems too. When he did so, no one said boo. But this has gone on many years.

Sorry, we didn’t keep the tape; most of this we’ll have to paraphrase. But last Tuesday, Imus went through his standard rants about Hillary Clinton and Al Gore. He called Clinton “Satan,” as he always does—and he said she was “the most evil person on the planet.” (No—he didn’t sound like he was joking.) He used to say Clinton was second most evil, he mused—but he thinks a bit better of Gore since he saw Gore’s movie. Then Imus offered one of the standard, know-nothing ruminations which marked his eleven-year cable tenure. Which side do you believe about warming? he asked. Gore is convincing in his film, he said. But I’ve been reading the other side, Imus said—about those sunspots, for example. No, he didn’t say Mars is warming. He probably hasn’t read quite that far.

Let’s start with this: Imus is one of the dumbest, least-informed people on earth, as we’ve long noted in our posts. For eleven years, he burned three hours a day on MSNBC, rarely having the slightest idea what he was talking about. On Mondays, he would boast about skimming Newsweek—clearly thinking this made him well-informed. Therefore, it was no surprise to see him musing about the work of those troubling sunspots. Imus was always open to all manner of bullsh*t. But so what? NBC just left him on, and the “press corps” agreed not to notice.

But it wasn’t just that Imus was dumb; he was also exceptionally nasty when it came to Clinton/Gore/Clinton. Gore was the most evil person on earth—and Hillary Clinton was Satan. And no, he didn’t seem to be joking when he made these inane, nasty comments. Of course, his comments on Hillary Clinton would also be driven by nasty sexual imagery. Sometimes, it got racial too.

And guess what? Very few people ever said boo about this endless stupidity. For example, Gene Robinson never said sh*t, although his heart is aflame this week; the dainty Jacques Steinberg never said boo, and Bob Herbert may as well have been under a log. This nasty, mindless, inane insult patter went on and on—and on and on—and no one in the press corps noticed. Today, of course, they’re shocked and appalled that Imus could have made last week’s nasty comment. But no one said boo when he kept sliming Clinton and Gore. And no one said boo when his endless factual ignorance drove these inane discussions.

So yes, you just have to laugh out loud when they yell eek-a-mouse this week. As we’ve said again and again, we’re extremely glad that people had those young women’s backs when Imus made his nasty comments. Three cheers for their coach. Three cheers for their president. And yes, three cheers for Al Sharpton. But how long did our dainty enablers plan to ignore the rest of this garbage? No one had the back of Clinton when Imus aimed his trash-can comments at her. And no one would ever have said a word about the nasty sliming of Gore—or about the endless factual nonsense which enabled such nasty discussions.

In the past few weeks, we’ve all learned a lesson. You can’t talk trash about Rutgers players (good!). But you can say any sh*t you want about people like Clinton and Gore. (We learned the same lesson in the 1990s, when the New York Times apologized for Jeff Gerth’s bungles on Wen Ho Lee—but never offered a single word about his Whitewater “reporting.”) But then, the mainstream press corps has been at the heart of the fifteen-year trashing of the Clintons and Gore. Today, Dionne disappears this history. And here’s the laughable way the Post’s editors complained about Imus on Tuesday:
WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (4/12/07): New York radio host Don Imus is an equal-opportunity insulter. He called noted African American journalist Gwen Ifill a "cleaning lady." He called a columnist at the New York Times a "quota hire." He's labeled Vice President Cheney a "war criminal." But none of those comments has landed Mr. Imus in as much hot water as the offensive, racist and sexist remarks he made last week about the women's basketball team from Rutgers University.
Laughed out loud! Imus is “an equal-opportunity insulter,” the editors said. To them, this meant that he has insulted big scribes—and Dick Cheney as well! It’s not OK to say this about Cheney. But call Clinton “Satan?” Disappeared!

If this editorial were a single example, you could write it off as an aberration. But editors at the Washington Post have long agreed to disappear the trashing of the Clintons and Gore. After all, it was their own newspaper which drove this whole thing, as was discussed in Fools for Scandal. This morning, Dionne is prepared to ignore all that—and to bring you the head of Vile Fox.

Hey, rubes! these people keep saying. Hey out there! You dumb f*cking rubes! They keep bringing you the head of Fox—and complaining about those insults of Cheney. But the real press conduct of the past fifteen years always get disappeared in the process.

This week, Dionne and Krugman each tattled on Fox. But readers, it wasn’t Fox which changed our world—so why do we rubes keep on cheering?

ONE LAST CHUCKLE: No, the editors don’t know if Imus insulted Ifill that way—but it felt good, so they typed it. But then, this gang always does its best work typing scripts about unknown matters. We had to laugh, that very same day, when Gene Robinson offered this:
ROBINSON (4/12/07): It's easy to surmise that Imus came out with the word "ho" because hip-hop is an African American art form and he associated the word with black women. He knew nothing about those women from Rutgers, except that they were black. It's hard to imagine him describing, say, a Swedish basketball team as a bunch of "stringy-haired hos."
Laughed out loud! Remember—they’re always happiest when allowed to “surmise” and “imagine!” In fact, it’s not hard to imagine that Swedish insult at all—unless you’ve simply never watched Imus. Despite this handicap, Robby surmised and imagined all week. On Hardball, he offered an under-informed counterpoint to David Gregory’s weeping and moaning.

Meanwhile, Robinson apparently couldn’t imagine that decade-of-sh*t about Satan and Gore (the world’s most evil person). He didn’t discuss such nonsense at all. And he didn’t get around to those sunspots.

DEALING WITH SATAN: How was Clinton portrayed on Imus? On January 30, throwback NBC loudmouth Mike Barnicle showed up with a bit of that angry, East Coast Irish Catholic style that Bernie McGuirk would try to exorcize through his fake “Cardinal Egan.” This day, Barnicle was furious about the way his parents’ Dem Party has changed:
BARNICLE (1/30/07): You know what [Jim] Webb is, Don? Webb is the antidote to 25 years of liberals in the Democratic Party taking the party of my parents and my party, when I was growing up, before I became an independent newspaper columnist, taking the Democratic Party so far left that the people who need it don’t recognize it and have come to despise it. Most Democrats, over the last 10-15 years on the national stage, you stand up and you put a gun to their heads and you say, “What are the top two or three issues that concern you as an activist, as a partisan, as an official in the Democratic Party and they say, “Oh, gay marriage—uh uh uh uh—choice, uh—stuff like that. But it’s not! But that’s not the Democratic Party! The Democratic Party is war and peace. The Democratic Party is how to provide people with health care, how to provide people with college education, how to help people and not how to piss people off!
We discussed the stupidity of this rant in real time (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/1/07). But wouldn’t you know it? Somehow, this rant set Imus to thinking about Satan. Ironically, she had recently proposed expanding health care to all children, the sort of thing Barnicle said he wanted. But Imus surely didn’t know that—and instead of praising her for this move, the boys decided to trash her. Clinton is “disgraceful. Beyond disgraceful. Repugnant. Repugnant. Repulsive. Disgraceful,” Imus said.

No, he didn’t seem to be joking.

This stupid, nasty, moronic discussion went on for years—and years, and years. Clinton was Satan—and Gore was most evil. It wasn’t OK to trash those young Rutgers women last week. (Good!) But by the rules of your vigilant press corps, it was OK to criticize Satan. And by the way—this just in—have you heard about those sunspots? Have you heard that Mars is warming?

Special report: The 90 percent conundrum!


PART 4—GOLDBERG’S THIRD WATCH: Our report concludes Monday.