PBS SNOOZEHOUR! What is a zombie like Jeffrey Brown doing on public TV? // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, JUNE 28, 2005
DEARLOVE MEETS DARLING CONDI: In todays Post, Glenn Frankel presents a front-page report about the secret British documents now known as the Downing Street memos. At one point, Frankel sheds light on the Washington meetings described in the most famous such document, the July 23 DSM:
FRANKEL (6/28/05): On July 23, officials gathered at Blair's office. Among them were Straw; Manning; Richard Dearlove, chief of Britain's MI6 intelligence agency; Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon; Attorney General Peter Goldsmith; and Adm. Michael Boyce, chief of the Defense Staff.According to Frankel, Dearlove had met with both Rice and Tenet. He was reporting on impressions he gathered at meetings with those high officials. This helps us see how absurd it was when Michael Kinsley argued that Dearlove may just have been reporting what he had heard in the American press, or from the usual freelance chatterboxes (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/13/05). What did Dearlove tell Blair about the fixing of intelligence? Whatever he said, he had gained his impressions from Rice and Tenet, not from reading the Washington Post while he eavesdropped at Starbucks.
For the record, Frankel writes poorly in that last quoted paragraph. Most likely, readers will think that hes quoting Dearlove. In fact, he is quoting a summary of Dearloves report—minutes taken by Matthew Rycroft. (There is no transcript of what Dearlove said.) But Frankel helps us see the sheer absurdity of Kinsleys attempt to wish this memo away. Dearlove had met with Tenet and Rice, not with a group of the usual chatterboxes. Remember when Kinsley used to be the brightest such chat-box in town?
A READER OF TEXTS: As if to prove it can really be done, E. J. Dionne shows today that he has actually read Karl Roves text! Was Rove just speaking of liberals, not Dems? Somehow, Dionne took the time to access the text and see what King Karl really said:
DIONNE (6/28/05): Rove's defenders cleverly sought to pretend that there was nothing partisan about Rove's speech. "Karl didn't say 'the Democratic Party,' " insisted Ken Mehlman, the Republican national chairman. "He said 'liberals.' " It must have been purely accidental that one of the "liberals" mentioned was the Democratic national chairman and another was the Senate Democratic whip. It must also have been accidental that both of them, like most other liberals, supported the war in Afghanistan, not therapy. At the time, Durbin called the war "essential."What the text of Rove's remarks plainly shows? Dionne enacts a revolution. During the panel on Fox News Sunday, only Bill Kristol had read King Karls text (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/27/05). Now, E. J. has read the text too.
Dionne took the time to read Roves text! At Fox, someone will have to sit down with Chris/Mara/Brit to explain how such miracles happen. In our benighted Washington press corps, big scribes with their Millionaire Pundit Values dont stoop to such tedious chores.
PBS SNOOZEHOUR: How inept is our dying American discourse? Last Tuesday, a lengthy discussion on the PBS NewsHour sent our analysts into fits of despair. Sorry—a democracy simply cant function this way. The follies here should be recorded.
During the session, the NewsHours Jeffrey Brown hosted a debate on the following topic: Is there a liberal bias in public broadcasting? Brown had a two-man panel on hand. And uh-oh! The problems with his performance this evening began with his introductions:
BROWN (6/21/05): We now explore some of these issues now with Bill Reed, president of KCPT, a public television station in Kansas City, and George Neumayr, executive editor of the American Spectator magazine.Brown noted that Reed runs a PBS station. But he never explained that the American Spectator is a conservative magazine (one of our kookiest). But Neumayrs kookiness soon was apparent—to everyone except Brown and Reed. Here was Neumayrs opening pitch, alleging PBS deep bias:
BROWN: Mr. Neumayr, starting with you, you've been writing on some of these issues. Do you see a liberal bias in public broadcasting?The PBS bias was pervasive—quite deep. And Exhibit A was vile Bill Moyers—who retired from PBS last year! Youd almost think THAT someone would have mentioned this fact—Moyers is no longer on the air. But Brown—who seemed to be doped throughout the thirteen-minute discussion—simply wasnt up to the challenge. Instead, he asked a redundant question—and Neumayr decided it would be a good time to complain about Moyers again:
BROWN (continuing directly): When you refer to it as a "liberal monopoly," you mean you see it as a kind of pervasive matter?For decades, the programming has reflected the bias. Surely, Brown asked Neumayr for examples—for an actual case or three. But no. Instead, he asked a fuzzy question—and Neumayr, using the present tense, hammered Moyers again:
BROWN (continuing directly): And when you speak about a bias, do you mean a particular agenda being pushed, or more of a general attitude?Speaking in the present tense, Neumayr implied that Moyers is currently using his show to attack Republicans. But again, Brown failed to challenge the presentation. Instead, he threw to PBS station head Reed, who also failed to state the obvious. Believe it or not, this was Reeds attempt to rebut Neumayrs broken record on Moyers:
BROWN (continuing directly): Mr. Reed, do you see a liberal bias?Amazing, isnt it? We had now gone through four separate Q-and-As. In each of the first three answers, viewers were told that PBS pervasive bias was demonstrated best by Bill Moyers show. But no one—neither Brown nor Reed—bothered to mention an obvious fact: Moyers is no longer on the air! Result? Five minutes into the formless discussion, Neumayr cited Moyers again:
BROWN: Go ahead, Mr. Neumayr.The liberals had been showing their bias since 1967, Neumayr said—but he still hadnt given any current examples, except for one episode of Postcards from Buster, another show which no longer exists. But so what? Brown never asked him for current examples or for a serious critique of the network. Soon, Reed was offering this odd complaint about the mentions of Moyers:
REED: Matter of fact, Pat Buchanan is on my air every week, and so is Tony Blankley from the Washington Times every week, stating their views. Does that make us now suddenly a conservative-oriented public broadcasting? This is absurd to single out one program—Even now, no one noted the obvious fact: Moyers is no longer on the air! He hasnt been on the air since last year! We were now seven minutes into the debate—and no one had mentioned this fact. Thus empowered in his inanity, Neumayr went after Moyers again, this time at the nine-minute mark. And yes, he spoke in the present tense. Try to believe that he said it:
BROWN: Some people have raised whether there is a role for public broadcasting at all today.Why are they picking up the tab for Bill Moyers? Incredibly, nine minutes into this bizarre conversation, Neumayr was still using the present tense, implying that Moyers is still on the air. Result? The somnambulant Brown still stared into air—but finally, after more than nine minutes, Reed stooped to stating the obvious:
BROWN (continuing directly): Mr. Reed.Reed was cut off by Neumayr there. But omigod! More than nine minutes into the debate, someone had finally let Neumayr know that Bill Moyers is not on the air.
But did you think a simple fact like that could stop the inanity Brown was allowing? If so, you still dont grasp the crackpot nature of the modern kooky-con right. Readers, Bill Moyers isnt on PBS. He hasnt been on the air since last year. And someone had finally mentioned this fact! But so what? In the modern American discourse, facts and logic play no role whatever. Result? Two minutes later—twelve minutes into the discussion—the kooky Neumayr went there again! Try to believe that discussions like this now constitute our public debate:
BROWN: Mr. Neumayr, let me ask you a brief question about the funding question. As we said, Congress is now looking at this, at the funding issue. Do you see the debate we're having here about potential bias playing into the funding question?At this point, you could hear Reed as he chortled off-camera. But alas! Brown still failed to challenge Neumayr, and Reed was forced to waste his time re-explaining the obvious:
BROWN (continuing directly): Mr. Reed, do you worry that this funding question will get tied up with the bias issue?Reed would love to have Moyers back—just as he loves hosting Blankley and Buchanan. But does Reed love having Brown on his air? The somnambulant host seemed drugged throughout, in his manner and in his questions. He never challenged the citations of Moyers. He never mentioned the obvious fact—Bill Moyers has been off the air since last year. Nor did he ever ask Neumayr, his kooky-con guest, to list complaints against PBS as the network exists today. This discussion went on for thirteen minutes, and Brown behaved like a zombie throughout. If this is the shape of PBS, the whole network should be off the air.
Could American discourse get more stupid? On this same evening, Hannity and Klein played ultimate slimeball over on the Fox News Channel (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/23/05). But as dumb and slimy as those two fakers were, this NewsHour session was just as disturbing. What is wrong with Jeffrey Brown—and why is a zombie like this on the air? Democracy must have a vibrant debate. American culture will wither and die in the hands of the Neumayrs—and the Browns. And oh yes—in the hands of the Kinsleys—and the Wallaces, Liassons, Humes.