Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Who Among Us

This has been quite a season for the American press. Fox has been unmasked as the propaganda wing of the RNC. The NYTimes has apologized for abdicating its responsibility for honest journalism in the run-up to the Iraq War. The Washington Post acknowledges its complicity in the rush to topple Saddam Hussein. Dan Rather and CBS News have egg all over their faces for using unauthenticated evidence of George Bush's AWOL status in the Texas and Alabama Air National Guards, thus losing this story completely. And now, we find that dear, sweet Maureen Doud, the Times's answer to Tokyo Rose has been concocting her quotations of John Kerry!

Why would a reasonably well-respected columnist do such a thing? (Well, of course Safire and Krauthammer would, but that's understandable.) We can understand the fidgety Alexander Cockburn firing his personal WMD at the desultory August campaign of Mr. Kerry. Cockburn believes his dread of four more years of Bush is greater than the dread the rest of us have. But, Maureen! What do you get out of mild assaults on Kerry's demeanor? Yes, of course, the notion that John might have said, "Who among us does not like Nascar," is believable. Then why invent it? If these things are spoken frequently, then get off your chaise and go out and find some authentic quote for your parodies.

The real answer to the fake Kerry rhetorical question is, of course, many of us among us could care less about Nascar. Who cares about these Talledega 400s or Daytona 500s. You have a couple dozen souped-up cars running at about 210 mph around in circles until someone screws up and causes a crash of some kind. Usually someone gets a little hurt, sometimes someone is fatally mauled in the crash, and there you have it—automotive gladiators. After you've seen one race you've seen them all. "I Clavdivs" on wheels with the most mindless and meaningless voice-overs ever imagined by the mind of man.

Do you suppose Maureen was trying to separate the wheel from the shaft with her little embroidery? Dubious. In so far as Maureen deals with facts and news, it was lazy journalism. In so far as Doud deals with opinion, it was poor man's punditry. It really was political sabotage where I come from, and I would like Maureen to explain herself. We need to know if she was paid on the side (by Karl Rove or one of his wolverines) to write something subtly damaging. If she lost her patience (like Cockburn), then that's quite another matter. We need to know whether we can ever trust her again.

Copyright © 2004, James R. Brett Ph.D.