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MAINSTREAM VEIL OF TEARS! Where, except in the mainstream press, could NPR’s “logic” obtain? // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2005

MAINSTREAM VEIL OF TEARS: It may just be the holiday languor. Or it may be the weight of a year in which we’ve given up on a chunk of the liberal web. At any rate, we’ve slacked a bit in the past few days—and we have to entertain another group of lucky holiday duckies tonight! Still, we do continue to marvel at the way our public discourse malfunctions. Many webcats have mentioned the odd proclamation of NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin (see Atrios, for example). But we’re not sure that anyone has captured the consummate oddness of Dvorkin’s presentation. Among other things, Dvorkin responded to the claim that NPR relies on too many conservative think tanks. Only in our broken discourse could his kooky logic seem to make sense (forgive the length of the excerpt):
DVORKIN: NPR often calls on think tanks for comments. But NPR does not lean on the so-called conservative think tanks as many in the audience seem to think.

Here's the tally sheet for the number of times think tank experts were interviewed to date on NPR in 2005:

American Enterprise—59
Brookings Institute—102
Cato Institute—29
Center for Strategic and Intl. Studies—39
Heritage Foundation—20
Hoover Institute—69
Lexington Institute—9
Manhattan Institute—53

There are of course, other think tanks, but these seem to be the ones whose experts are heard most often on NPR. Brookings and CSIS are seen by many in Washington, D.C., as being center to center-left. The others in the above list tend to lean to the right. So NPR has interviewed more think tankers on the right than on the left.

The score to date: Right 239, Left 141.

Only in [the] America[n press corps]! Dvorkin says that NPR “does not lean on the so-called conservative think tanks as many in the audience seem to think.” As evidence, he offers a numerical accounting which tilts almost two-to-one toward conservative think tanks! Only in our broken discourse could such “logic” obtain.

Some have complained that Brookings and CSIS aren’t really think tanks of the left. But for the sake of argument, let’s leave that point to the side. Where except in the mainstream press can we find public figures who reason so strangely? By any rational standard, Dvorkin’s figures represent one thing. So he says that they stand for the opposite!

By happenstance, we saw a similar bit of reasoning as we thumbed a book in a D.C. Borders last week. And, with some pundits suggesting again that Gore might be the best 08 Dem hopeful, this bit of odd reasoning has stayed in our mind. But alas! We can’t find the book’s relevant text on line, and we don’t have it here at our sprawling headquarters. We’ll offer you the text on Monday. But reread that puzzling piece by Dvorkin and ask yourselves what we often ask: Is it possible that we live in a comic dream universe—a realm constructed by the gods for their delight and amusement?

THE BOOK WE THUMBED: The book we thumbed was The Woman at the Washington Zoo; it was written by the late Marjorie Williams, of Vanity Fair and the Washington Post. By all accounts, Williams was a superlative person, considered one of the press corps’ finest. We’ll guess that Dvorkin’s a nice man too. Indeed, that’s the puzzle and the problem.

The passage in question comes from Williams’ July 2001 Vanity Fair profile of the Clinton-Gore relationship. We’ll give you the fuller passage next week. But here, in a contemporary piece by the New York Post’s Deborah Orin, is the sentence that caught our eye and led to our mordant musings:

ORIN (6/5/01): The report also says Clinton rejects the idea that Sexgate caused Gore's loss to George W. Bush, telling a confidant: "[Hillary] was able to figure out how to deal with her relationship with me and win by 10 points. [Gore] should have been able to as well.”
Did Bill Clinton really make such a statement? We don’t have the slightest idea. But uh-oh! In Campaign 2000, Hillary “won by ten points” in the state of New York. Gore, who had to run nationwide, won this same state by 25 points! Here are the FEC numbers:
2000 presidential election, state of New York
Gore: 4,107,697 (60 percent)
Bush: 2,403,374 (35 percent)
Is there anywhere but the mainstream press where such puzzling “logic” prevails? Don’t you sometimes wonder if you live in a veil of tears—a comic stage devised by the gods, as divine Homer so often wondered?