Companion site:


Google search...


Daily Howler logo
MAKING ELLEN MAD (PART 1)! George Bush lied the nation to war. But that’s not what riles Ellen Goodman:

MAKING ELLEN MAD (PART 1): Then there was Ellen Goodman. Last Thursday, the Boston Globe’s “liberal” columnist recorded her thoughts about Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. Like the Times’ Nick Kristof before her, Goodman revealed a startling belief. The Bush Admin lied the nation into war, the Globe’s “liberal” columnist said:
GOODMAN: I agreed with the filmmaker that Bush didn’t exactly win the 2000 election, that we were misled into Iraq, and that the White House has used the terrorism alerts as a political toy. So add my review to the marquee: I laughed! I cried!
All right, all right—we weren’t “lied” into war, we were simply “misled” there. (Kristof pushed this distinction, too. Links below.) But as you’ve noted, Goodman threw another bomb too—she said she thinks the Bush Admin has “used terrorism alerts as a political toy.” Knowing what a good liberal she is, you’d almost think she might be upset with the man who conducted this pair of outrages. Why, you’d almost think she’d show some signs of being upset with George Bush!

But if you thought that, you don’t understand the mind-set of your celebrity press corps. Did Bush “mislead” his nation into war—a war in which almost a thousand U.S. soldiers have died? Did he then use terrorism alerts as a way to “toy” with the nation’s emotions? Yes, and yes, the Globe “liberal” says. But who had Goodman upset last week—upset enough to write an anguished column? Goodman was upset, not with Bush, but with the young people who attended Moore’s movie! Here’s how her column started:

GOODMAN: Maybe it was because the man on my left was doing a play-by-play when any member of the Bush team came on the screen. Maybe it was because the movie theater was within pitching range of Fenway Park.

But halfway through “Fahrenheit 9/11,” I realized this wasn’t an audience, it was a fan club. They weren't watching the movie, they were rooting for it.

I saw this movie in a sold-out theater on a Monday night surrounded by people in their 20s. You go, Michael.

Poor Goodman! The delicate scribe had to sit with the proles, right there in the city, and some of them actually seemed upset because Bush lied their nation to war! Meanwhile, the dainty scribe wasn’t bothered by boorish movie-goers alone. No, she also found herself disturbed by uncouth letter-writers:
GOODMAN: One letter writer in The New York Times described the “fun” of watching “conservatives throw up their hands in horror and dismay as the one-man liberal attack machine scores points against them.” He called it a “taste of their own medicine.”
“Well, I am happy to write prescriptions for this medicine,” the Globe’s deeply-troubled liberal responded.. “After all, those who attack Moore’s ad hominem attacks on the president do so with ad hominem attacks on Michael Moore. But it’s getting awfully rare to see anyone trying to write or speak across the political color line.”

Poor Goodman! A president had lied her nation to war. He then had “toyed” with security warnings. But she was troubled because some unknown (and insignificant) letter-writer ignored Robert’s Rules of Good Order. She was upset because some guy at the movie seemed to be rooting for Moore.

Of course, it isn’t just those unruly proles who has our upscale “liberal” upset. Goodman’s upset with Michael Moore too. He’s right that we were lied into war. And he’s right about those terrorism warnings. But Moore just won’t be decorous, either! He has dared to launch “ad hominem” attacks at the hominem who lied his nation to war! And this—not the fact that we were lied to—seems to makes Ellen so mad.

Of course, Ellen Goodman is hardly alone in these peculiar reactions. In her column, she throws scripted pseudo-con bombs at Moore—at the guy she says is right. You’ve heard it all a hundred times now, recited by others reciting The Script. Moore has engaged in “propaganda.” His film is laced with “conspiracy theories.” He has taken some “cheap shots” at Bush. And so, like Richard Cohen before her, our poor little rich girl felt sorry for Bush—for the guy whoi lied her nation to war. When she heard that guy who was rooting for Moore, it just seemed to make Ellen mad.

Of course, if Goodman has serious objections to Moore’s film, those objections would be worth exploring. But tomorrow, we’ll see that Goodman files scripted complaints against Moore’s film—complaints she barely bothers discussing. Bush has lied your nation to war—but something else has made Ellen mad. All this week, we’ll see what it is. We’ll see what has “liberal” blood boiling.

TOMORROW: Making Ellen mad, part 2: Upset by that boy in Iraq

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Goodman isn’t the only Big Pundit who finds herself angry at Bush’s detractors. In the Times, Kristof also said that Bush misled us to war—but he too found himself disturbed by those who were getting too angry about it (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/1/04). Meanwhile, in the Washington Post, Richard Cohen used almost half his column to complain about a single sentence in Moore’s film—a single sentence which is perfectly accurate (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/2/04). What has these delicate scribes so upset—not at the man who lied us to war, but at the bad manners of his detractors? All week long, THE HOWLER will let the nation’s proles riddle it out.

From the annals of cable’s top crackpots

JUST ONE LITTLE HITCH: Howard Kurtz had assembled a panel to examine Moore’s deeply troubling film. And of course, he’d included cable’s favorite crackpot, Chris Hitchens. Here was the pair’s first exchange:

KURTZ: Christopher Hitchens, you write that the movie is “a piece of crap,” “a sinister exercise” and “a big lie.” I get the impression that you didn’t like it.

HITCHENS: Actually, I didn’t say the first thing. It’s not my style. But if pressed, I probably would have wanted to say that.

Hitchens “didn’t say the first thing?” That would come as news to readers of Slate. Or maybe it all depends on what the meaning of “piece of crap” is:
HITCHENS (Slate, 6/21/04): To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of “dissenting” bravery.
That was paragraph 3 of Hitchens’ review—the one from which Kurtz was quoting. Kurtz, perhaps surprised to see his guest lie in his face, continued non-plussed when he did. “Why do you dislike the movie so much?” the affable host blandly said.

Yes, we know—if you parse Hitchens verrrrry carefully, he didn’t exactly/precisely “say” the naughty thing Kurtz thought he had said. But this was the perfect Hitchens moment, in which the great, crowing man displayed his growing taste for outright, groaning deception. As we’ve told you, “Hitch” has become a loud-mouthed dissembler, about whatever topic he’s pimping. Hitchens has become a vast human wreck—which makes him a favorite on cable.

Overall, Kurtz’s session followed the script laid down for critiques of Moore’s film. Are there problems with Fahrenheit 9/11? It seems fairly clear that there are. But the film also has mammoth strengths—strengths the celebrity press won’t discuss. Kurtz didn’t ask his guests for their view of the film; he simply asked them to list what was wrong with it. And although Kurtz had assembled a three-judge panel, the closest thing to a defender was hapless Bill Press; he said that Moore should be allowed to dissemble just the same way Rush Limbaugh does. That is also a scripted point, as we’ll sadly see tomorrow.

What has made Ellen and these other scribes mad? All week long, we’ll happily tell you. The massive strengths in Michael Moore’s film take them somewhere they simply won’t go—and so they perform their latest campaign, in which they rail about “propaganda” while enjoying the process themselves.

Remember, though—Goodman and Press are both “liberals.” Or that’s what the current script says.