SOCKIN IT TO THEM! Juliet Huddy socked it to Sandy—and to the folks who watch Fox:
WEDNESDAY, JULY 21, 2004
SOCKIN IT TO THEM: When she started at Fox & Friends, Juliet Huddy took a pass on the Kool-Aid. She showed no signs of having political views, and she almost never took part in the silly spinning that is the shows stock in trade. But no one lasts at such Fox shows without adopting the nets Spin Mission. Which explains this mornings clowning; Huddy joined co-host Mike Jerrick in this assault on democracy:
JERRICK: What a good show! And of course well be talking all about this—what are they calling it? Are the calling it Sockgate? Pantsgate? Briefsgate?Jerrick enjoyed a good solid laugh as Huddy worked hard for the money. And moments later, Huddy got to enjoy a laugh too. Histrionically, Jerrick pulled up his own pants leg—and removed a promo sheet from inside his sock! Whew! That was really good! Huddy threw back her head and roared—and continued her attack on democracy.
Yes, Socrates said that they would be there—the Huddys and Jerricks, spinning the rubes, eager to undermine public knowledge. What exactly did Berger do when he took documents from the National Archives? At this point, the facts are unclear. But propagandists are eager to place the most negative images into the heads of the misused voters. So there was Huddy, pimping Socksgate, pretending that Berger put the docs in his socks. The chance that this happened is vanishingly small. Huddy chose to lead with it anyway.
Where did the improbable socks story start? Yesterday, on CNN, it started with Kelli Arena. According to Arena, anonymous law enforcement sources had cited a single anonymous staffer who had made the improbable charge. Heres how Arena reported the item on Wolf Blitzer Reports:
ARENA (7/20/04): Law enforcement sources say Archives staff told FBI agents they saw Berger placing items in his jacket and pants. There was no camera in the room. Those sources also say one Archives staffer told agents Berger placed something in his socks which Berger associates heatedly deny.Readers, lets all learn a lesson in careful phrasing (and deniability). According to Arena, that one staffer didnt say that Berger placed any docs in his socks. No, Berger had only placed something there, the alleged staffer allegedly said.
During much of the day, CNN repeated this oddball charge—sometimes without citing that heated denial from Berger. And of course, the assault on the public was full-bore on Fox. Yesterday, the White House Bulletin (a private, on-line publication) reported that networks predictable conduct. The Bulletin published around noon:
WHITE HOUSE BULLETIN (7/20/04): As media investigation continued this morning, Fox News reported, Berger and his lawyer said Monday night he knowingly removed the handwritten notes by placing them in his jacket, pants and socks, and also inadvertently took copies of actual classified documents in a leather portfolio. The socks piece of the Fox story did not appear in the original AP account or the major media pieces this morning in the New York Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal.Wouldnt you know it? By some sort of inadvertent mistake, Fox had accidentally said that Berger and his lawyer were the source of the charge about stuffing his socks! You can imagine how upset the honchos at Fox must have been when they realized theyd accidentally erred!
Of course, anyone who has followed American news in the past decade understands how this story has spread. At this point, there is nothing so stupid that propagandists wont say it, and there is nothing so stupid that major news orgs wont run on the air and start pimping it. Propagandists wanted American voters to get the worst possible image of Berger, so they found a very odd way to characterize what he had done. Here, for example, is the puzzling way the story is reported in this mornings USA Today. Jill Lawrence and Mimi Hall offer an odd construction:
LAWRENCE/HALL: Three government officials who have been briefed on the investigation said Berger was seen placing some of the material in his clothing. The officials declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the investigation.Huh? According to Lawrence and Halls deathless prose, Berger was seen placing material in his clothing. But what does that odd language mean? Does it mean he was placing the documents in his pockets? We dont have any way to know, but we do know what to ask about Lawrence and Halls odd construction.
Lawrence and Hall are professional writers—so why do they write in such an odd way? Of course, we all know why certain government officials might want to use this puzzling language; they would speak in this puzzling way to promote an unflattering image of Berger (without technically lying, of course). But why would professional writers, like Lawrence and Hall, put such oddball phrasing in print? Why didnt they simply ask their sources what they meant by such strange language? The odd language here spreads an unlovely image. Why was such odd language used?
Yes, many journalists are going to clown in the pursuit of this new, pleasing story. But Huddy and Jerrick were whoring the hardest on this mornings Fox & Friends. Huddy avoided the Kool-Aid at first, but now she pimps just as well as the others. She has large bosoms, blonde hair and a pleasant smile—but that only gets you Big Money so long. The Huddys and Jerricks know what they must do. This morning, they were socking it hard to Sandy—and they were socking it hard to their viewers, the people they treat like pure rubes.
KIDS IN THE HALL: How inept is Mimi Hall? Readers may recall her crowning moment early in Campaign 2000. In June 1999, she tried to figure why Gores campaign was off to such a bad start:
HALL (6/2/99): A series of negative news stories unnerved Gore's campaign staff, aides say. President Clinton told The New York Times he had been concerned about the campaign's lackluster start and had urged Gore to loosen up. And big Democratic donors complained publicly about disorganization in the campaign. A couple of Gore gaffes, including his assertion that he invented the Internet, didn't help.Gores gaffes didnt help, Hall explained. But speaking of gaffes, how about Halls? Gore, of course, had never used the phrase invented the Internet. But RNC hacks were pimping the phrase all around—as theyre now pimping the tale about socks—and Hall just couldnt seem to resist. When she wrote about that troubling gaffe, she put one word, invented, in quotes—the one word Gore had never said! Now, she types weird language about Bergers clothing. On Olympus, Zeus halls must rock with laughter as the gods watch kids, like Hall, who make such a joke of our discourse.
WHATS THE MATTER WITH WASHINGTON: This mornings clowning was a good example of our devolving American discourse. Simpering clowns like Huddy and Jerrick are paid to pimp the stupidest tales. For a thoughtful discussion of this troubling process, see Eric Boehlerts fine report in yesterdays Salon. Why do news orgs continue to pimp the foolish clowning of David Bossie? Boehlert asks this important question. Its time that this question be heard.
Boehlerts essay takes us back to our comments about Boston talk host Howie Carr, who appeared for a full hour on last Fridays Washington Journal. Carr is the kind of simpering clown who is now a big part of Americas discourse. When we lamented his appearance with a giant like Brian Lamb, a reader sent this thoughtful e-mail:
E-MAIL: I am also an admirer of C-SPAN and Brian Lamb...But there is one annoying habit that crops up, most usually when Lamb himself is hosting the Friday show. While the liberal-left media representative is usually someone of some degree of gravitas, he will often host conservative people who just sort of crash through the door.The e-mailer goes to the heart of the problem. Yes, Carr was balanced by Jim Braude, from the New England Cable Network. But as the e-mailer notes, Braude is sensible, mature, professional and dignified—in short, a traditional journalist (and an adult). By contrast, Carr is a simpering clown. He called Kerry a gigolo two separate times; he spent the bulk of his time telling viewers about the length of Kerrys troubling boat and about how much Kerrys bicycle costs. Be sure to enjoy the last twenty minutes, when Carr starts rushing to include every stupid spin-point he was primed to pimp.Carr is a modern high priest of pseudo-con resentment, and, of course, he was hugely uninformed about even basic facts about Kerry. He is, in a phrase, a circus act—and a problem for American democracy.
As the mailer notes, Carr is a major figure in Boston, which may justify his inclusion on Washington Journal. But America has to learn how to process the new fools like Carr—drooling idiots who have been allowed to enter the discourse with the ongoing democratization of media. In his new book, Whats the Matter With Kansas?, Thomas Frank examines some of the crackpot discourse that now defines our political culture. (Note: Not all the discourse Frank looks at is crackpot.) Howie Carr is part of that crackpot culture. So, of course, is David Bossie. Why do journalists pander to Bossie? Eric Boehlert asks a good question. Its time that journalists—like Huddy, Hall and Jerrick—responded to questions like these.
Meanwhile, hosts like Lamb face a tough choice. Carr is a force—but hes also a clown. Maybe he has to be included. We were just disappointed to see Brian laugh when he tossed the word gigolo around.