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3 October 2001

Our current howler (part II): Churl in charge!

Synopsis: Where in the world did our press elite ever find the bizarre Michael Kelly?

Phony Pacifists
Michael Kelly, The Washington Post, 10/3/01

Thousands Fill Streets Of D.C. to Protest War
Manny Fernandez and Petula Dvorak, The Washington Post, 9/30/01

Fits of Childhood Violence
Marguerite Kelly, The Washington Post, 10/3/01


Where in the world did our press elite ever find the bizarre Michael Kelly? The ranting pundit is at it again in the pages of today’s Washington Post. At a time when dozens of life-and-death questions need answers, one can only marvel to see the perpetually-furious fatwist in print. Future generations will avert their gaze, troubled by the Kelly archives. What can it mean about us, they will ask, that we are descended from this man and his editors?

Once again, the Irate One is troubled by America’s very troubling pacifists. In last week’s column, "Pacifist Claptrap," he said that our peaceniks were "profoundly immoral," "pro-terrorist" and "evil." In his current outing, "Phony Pacifists," the name-calling starts up again. "Liars. Frauds. Hypocrites," he writes, as he nears the end of his musing. As usual, the fist-shaking fatwist is in highest dudgeon. "[T]he antiwar sentiment (to employ a term that encompasses both genuine pacifism and an opposition to war rooted in America-hatred) is intellectually dishonest, elitist and hypocritical," he furiously writes at one point.

But there’s one kind of name-calling to which Kelly won’t stoop. Incredible but true—for the second straight week, Kelly has written a rant about America’s pacifists without ever naming or quoting one! Two straight weeks! This puts us in a bind as readers; as readers, we don’t know who the fatuous fatwist is talking about, or what the evil liars have said. You’d think that Kelly would want to tell us who these internal demons might be. Nope. The FBI will have to go find them. The irate pundit again fails to say just who our "pro-terrorists" are.

Why does Kelly fail to name and quote these troubling pacifists? One possible reason leaps to mind; he fails to name these dirty birds because, in fact, there are none. As we mentioned last week, there are very few American pacifists, and those who exist play no role in our discourse. Can you name an American pacifist, boys and girls? If we spot you the whole western world, can you name one? For the second straight week, Kelly rants in the most extreme way about a group of people who don’t seem to exist.

To be fair, this is Week Two, and Kelly seems to have realized the problem with his current approach. Perhaps having realized that there are no "pacifists," The Slick One widens his net. Forgive us a brief repetition:

KELLY: Two propositions: The first is that much of what is passing for pacifism in this instance is not pacifism at all but only the latest tedious manifestation of a well-known pre-existing condition: the largely reactionary, largely incoherent, largely silly muddle of anti-American, anti-corporatist, anti-globalist sentiments that passes for the politics of the left these days. The second is that, again in this instance, the antiwar sentiment (to employ a term that encompasses both genuine pacifism and an opposition to war rooted in America-hatred) is intellectually dishonest, elitist and hypocritical.

"Much of what is passing for pacifism is not pacifism at all," Kelly writes. Duh. With this passage, Kelly seems to acknowledge that he’s really discussing certain "antiwar" elements, not actual "pacifists." In other words, Kelly has spent two whole columns—and two good headlines—calling people what they’re not. Even here, of course, he doesn’t name a single "antiwar" person, or quote a single thing such persons have said. He does moan about a demonstration:

KELLY: The first large antiwar demonstration was held last weekend in Washington…It had been intended as just another in the series of protests against globalism that have been serving as a sort of kvetch basin for all sorts of unhappy people who like to yell about the awfulness of "Amerika" or international corporations or rich people or people who drive large cars or drug companies that test their products on bunny rabbits or life its own unfair self.

Kelly calls this a "large demonstration;" perhaps he ought to try reading the Post. On Sunday, Manny Fernandez and Petula Dvorak reported something different:

FERNANDEZ AND DVORAK: [T]he terrorist attacks softened what had been expected to be a clash between unprecedented law enforcement might and as many as 100,000 anti-globalization protesters…Police officials estimated the crowd in the two marches at about 7,000.

In short, Kelly’s "large demonstration" was 7 percent of the size expected before it turned "antiwar." According to Sunday’s Washington Times, "D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey estimated 4,500 demonstrators marched down Pennsylvania Avenue."

But Kelly likes to fantasize about more than size. The excitable little guy said, in one fevered moment, that "[t]he marchers and shouters and flag-burners in Washington pretended to the argument that war should not be waged." Flag-burners? Funny, Fernandez and Dvorak missed that too. According to them—maybe they’re "evil pacifists," also—the rally "developed into a largely peaceful display against military retaliation, marred by a few scuffles and three arrests during one of the day’s two downtown marches." According to a picture caption in the Washington Times, one flag-burning incident did occur (the Times didn’t waste time on it in its article, either). According to the caption, a handful of counter-demonstrators went for the bait. So did the excitable Kelly, rushing to use the non-specific plural ("flag-burners"). As students of spin all surely know, the use of the non-specific plural is a great way to spin up any tale.

Who/what is Kelly talking about? For two weeks, he has wasted valuable space in the Post, fulminating about a group of people who don’t really seem to exist. For two straight weeks, he has failed to name or quote a single person from the group he so violently deplores. (Well—sorry. He did "quote" one demonstrator’s sign. It said, "Resist Racist War.") Why the Post kept putting this crap into print is a question future generations will surely ponder.

Who is Kelly talking about? And will the hapless Post ever ask him to say? At times like this, one has to wonder why the Post wants to put such weird rants into print. This week, the National Review stepped up to the plate, dropping the unbalanced pundit Ann Coulter. Kelly’s work is plainly disturbed, and an insult to the simplest intellectual order. Question: Where on earth did our addled elite ever manage to find this weird guy?

Visit our incomparable archives: Kelly’s dissembling about the Gore "farm chores" was one of the most remarkable press events of the past campaign. In any other professional sector, such open dissembling would lead to dismissal. Only our press corps can behave in this way. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/3/99.

Maybe he drinks too much Pepsi: And we swear we’re not making this up. Just today, in the Post’s "Family Almanac," under a headline "Fits of Childhood Violence," the Post prints the following letter:

FAMILY ALMANAC: Fits of Family Violence

Q. Our 3 1/2-year-old son—an only child—is wonderful 95 percent of the time but gets very angry when he doesn’t get his way, and then he hits and kicks things.

He often hits us too, and recently lashed out at his sitter, although he has a wonderful relationship with her. Now I’m afraid he will hit the teachers at his new preschool.

I don’t know how to handle this behavior and neither does my husband, even though he has two grown sons. At first I smacked my little boy, but quickly realized that I couldn’t use violence to teach nonviolence. Hitting and yelling make matters worse, make me afraid that my behavior might escalate and make me feel like a horrible mother. Since my son imitates what I do, that would only be telling him that it is okay to hit and yell. We may spank him again someday, but only for something serious.

"So how do I discipline him?" the troubled mom writes. "Timeouts don’t mean much to him because I don’t think he understands what they are, and distractions don’t help either. He wants what he wants and that is that."

Does the profile remind you of someone we know? Perhaps a perpetually-furious pundit? Indeed, that’s where the irony starts. Who writes the Post’s "Family Almanac" column? Egads! She certainly should be prepared for this question! The column—which deals with overwrought little boys—is written by Marguerite Kelly, a certain irate scribe’s sainted mother.

 

The Daily update (10/3/01)

He won’t tell us, either: We know, we know—you luuuvvvv Salman Rushdie. But we couldn’t help chuckling at his op-ed in yesterday’s Post. In paragraph 4, Rushdie splained what should happen:

RUSHDIE (pgh 4): Next: the question of the counterattack. Yes, we must send our shadow-warriors against theirs, and hope that ours prevail. But this secret war alone cannot bring victory. We will also need a public, political and diplomatic offensive whose aim must be the early resolution of some of the world’s thorniest problems: above all the battle between Israel and the Palestinian people for space, dignity, recognition and survival. Better judgment will be required on all sides in future. No more Sudanese aspirin factories to be bombed, please. And now that wise American heads appear to have understood that it would be wrong to bomb the impoverished, oppressed Afghan people in retaliation for their tyrannous masters’ misdeeds, they might apply that wisdom, retrospectively, to what was done to the impoverished, oppressed people of Iraq. It’s time to stop making enemies and start making friends.

In short, Rushdie criticizes three aspects of recent American policy, as is his perfect right (and responsibility). But as we’ve noted, it’s now politically correct in mainstream circles to bash folks who do this for "blaming America." So ol’ swivel-hips reversed his field fast:

RUSHDIE (pgh 5): To say this is in no way to join in the savaging of America by sections of the left that has been among the most unpleasant consequences of the terrorists’ attacks on the United States. "The problem with Americans is…"—"What America needs to understand…" There has been a lot of sanctimonious moral relativism around lately, usually prefaced by such phrases as these. A country which has just suffered the most devastating terrorist attack in history, a country in a state of deep mourning and horrible grief, is being told, heartlessly, that it is to blame for its own citizens’ deaths.

Laughable, no? In paragraph 4, Rushdie criticizes three aspects of recent American policy. In paragraph 5, he instantly says, "Of course, I’m in no way criticizing recent American policy." So overpowering is political correctness from the right that Rushdie instantly swears he hasn’t done the thing he has quite plainly just done. Maybe he fears that a new ayatollah, Michael Kelly, will find out where he now takes his meals. (By the way, don’t you love Rushdie’s policy tips? Israel and the Palestinians? "Better judgment will be required on all sides." Gee, thanks. That’s a valuable insight.)

But in contradistinction to the hapless Kelly, Rushdie at least seems to know that you’re supposed to quote the people you slander. So what does he do in paragraph 5? He makes up two all-purpose "quotes." Rather than quote an actual person, Rushdie slams the all-purpose, fictional folks who say "The problem with Americans is…" But who exactly is saying that? As with Kelly, we simply aren’t told.

Ah, yes—future generations will squirm to see this conduct from their embarrassing ancestors. Even at dangerous times like these, they wouldn’t stop their silly games or knock off their slick self-positioning.

Fighting the Forces of Invisibility
Salman Rushdie, The Washington Post, 10/2/01