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Works and Days

More Journalistic Malpractice-

September 11th, 2008 - 8:01 pm

 A Sorry State

I don’t think at any time in our history I have seen anything more depressing than the record of our media this year—a Chris Matthews offering us  “tingling” in his leg in lieu of analysis, the media gush over Obama, the hysterical hatred of Palin,  all following the relative silence about the success of the surge in Iraq, after four years of IEDs, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo as our only Iraqi front page news.

If one thinks I exaggerate, here is an example from today’s Salon from one Cintra Wilson, followed by a quote from Keith Olbermann.

Cintra Wilson

“It is unsurprising that the morally compromised fraternity of
corruption-infested Republican robber barons and war profiteers came up
with this stunt, but we must regard it in the same light as the rest of
their treasonous, criminal behavior. We must regard Sarah Palin as the
Carmella Soprano of the GOP — an enabling wife of organized crime, who
sees, hears and speaks no evil of the boys in her old-boy network for
whom she does this ideological lap dance.
It is a kind of eerie coincidence that Sarah Palin is being sprung on
the public at the same time as the bimbo/frat-boy titty comedy “House
Bunny,” which features a poster of a beautiful young lady with
Playmate-style bunny ears, big, stupid eyes and her mouth hanging open
like someone just punched her.
Sarah Palin is the White House bunny — the most nauseating novelty
confection of the evangelical mind-set since Southern “chastity balls,”
wherein teen girls pledge abstinence from premarital sex by
ceremonially faux-marrying their own fathers.
Sarah Palin is the sexual front of the culture war and the embodiment
of the bold social engineering stance of the new authoritarianism that
Republicans have been employing ever since they stole the election in
2000. As a result of conservative Republican policies, America has
proved itself to be too rife with fraud, bureaucratic constipation,
self-inflicted economic calamity, cronyism and incompetence to effect
any positive movement anywhere at all, even at home.”

Keith Olbermann  on the Republican tribute to September 11.

“What we got was not a tribute to the dead of 9/11, nor even a
tribute to the responders, or the singularity of purpose we all felt.
The Republicans gave us sociological pornography, a virtual snuff film.”


More on Those Lawyers

A Crazy Op-ed from the Monterey County Herald

I usually try to reply to critics. But this campaign season, the media has become unhinged as we saw with Palin derangement syndrome. It would be a full time  job to reply to all the distortions, but I will select one example as an example of today’s sad journalism.

Recently I wrote (http://victorhanson.com/articles/hanson090808.html) that the Democrats has nominated only lawyers as their Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees in every election since 1976 (Law School dropout Al Gore being the only exception), and that exclusivity was a mistake, both ensuring that their candidates wouldn’t draw on wider experiences, and instead would be reemphasizing legalese and argumentation as the apparently only requisite for government. It was not an attack on lawyers per se, but a warning that the notion that apparently only lawyers are nominated by the Democratic Party for their top posts usually ensures defeat in November.

In response, the Monterey County Herald (http://www.montereyherald.com/contact/ci_10426009) chose to write an unusual, but nevertheless intellectually dishonest and, in toto,  disgraceful generic editorial about that column. I will respond in brackets after each of their paragraphs:

Now adding a hypocritical voice to the partisan attack on educated Democrats is conservative columnist and historian Victor Davis Hanson.

(Journalism 1A: present the opponent’s argument first—before resorting to the ad hominems like “hypocritical”, “partisan” and “conservative.” And note the dishonesty: the column was on lawyers in the Democratic Party, not “educated Democrats.” Not a good start, but it establishes a pattern of using their own words in lieu of direct quotations from what I wrote.)

Once known as President Bush’s favorite neocon, Hanson warned voters this week that Barack Obama graduated from Harvard Law School and Joe Biden graduated from Yale Law School, which makes them the worst kind of elites.

(It is again sad to see this sorry lack of journalistic standards. I was never “once known as Bush’s favorite neo-con.” Can the Herald please produce a quote? I did not “warn” that Joe Biden “graduated from Yale Law School” [read the column, again editors at the Monterey paper, and please use quotation marks rather than inventing something I didn’t write]), because, of course,  Biden didn’t [he graduated from Syracuse Law School]. And please find the quote where I wrote the “worst kind of elites.”  The word “elite” does not appear in my column. I think we used to call this “projection.”)

Hanson’s principal point is that lawyers “usually do not run companies, defend the country, lead people, build things, grow food or create capital.” His secondary point seems to be that lawyers are the opposite of “working mom Palin.” Not Palin the governor. Palin the working mom.

(Note “seems.” Of course,  lawyers of the sort nominated by the Democrats do not have the different sort of background as Palin (well beyond being a mother of five), and that is why she has resonated with the public in a way differently than say, a Kerry or Biden.  Note how the Herald shifts from suggesting I was attacking “educated Democrats” [I am a registered Democrat] to the narrowness of their training. So which is it?)

What the Democrats needed to win this year, Hanson offers, were “candidates who might have sounded a little rougher, a little less condescending and a little more like most voters.”

(Does the Herald have a clue why Palin is drawing such crowds? Or why in turn newspapers are hysterical about her appointment? A moose-hunting Alaskan governor, mom of five, former small-town mayor really offers something different from the usual law school nominee. That is an empirical fact).

Though he is also bright, like Rush Limbaugh with a bigger vocabulary, Hanson seems to have forgotten that running a country requires more than image.

(Note the condescension. I was waiting for Rush Limbaugh to appear, and behold he did. This is one of the craziest, most incoherent editorials I have ever read, since I wrote the problem is not just image, but the fact that lawyers really  do not usually “run companies, defend the country, lead people, build things, grow food or create capital”—but that such diverse experience is invaluable in government.)

Building his own, Hanson has always been quick to mention that he lives on a family farm and not nearly as quick to let on that his mother was an appellate court justice (a lawyer!) and that he received his doctorate from Stanford.

(I don’t think I have mentioned in print that I have a doctorate from Stanford. Please list where I wrote that. “And not nearly as quick to let on that his mother was an appellate court justice (a lawyer!)” In fact, I mentioned that very fact this week on a column on Palin and the old-style feminism! But these sad folks lack the ability apparently to reason: for the nth time, the problem is not lawyers, but the apparent inability of the Democratic Party to nominate anyone but lawyers these last few elections.)

So here we have a highly educated darling of the right, a tireless critic of affirmative action, championing a candidate because of her gender and relative lack of education.

(More ad hominem: “darling of the right.” At this point, one wonders whether the Monterey Herald is serious or writing caricature? So once again, I am not championing Palin because “of her gender and relative lack of education,” but because as a mayor, governor, mother of five, journalist, hunter, fisherwoman, and experienced in the frontier life of Alaska she brings pragmatic and executive experience that we don’t see with the usual law school / to Congress / to run for President. And more strangely still, the Herald gives the game away when they sneer that Palin has a “relative lack of education.” In fact, she has a BA from the University of Idaho—unless that does not constitute education in the Herald’s eyes.)

Apparently the only thing that would make her more qualified, in the eyes of Hanson and the other spinners, would have been for her to flunk some of her journalism and poli-sci classes.

(Here again in lieu of what I wrote, we get the hypothetical “would make her” and “other spinners.” I have been a tireless proponent of the need for education, especially classical education. But just as important, as I wrote in Who Killed Homer? Fields Without Dreams, and Letters From an American Farmer, is pragmatic education to balance abstraction and ground formal scholarly training. That’s why I like Palin. Again, the editors of the Herald only reveal their own values when they think advocating experience with the physical world constitutes flunking journalism and poli-sci classes.)

Not Going Quietly into the Night?

These are confusing times. Print journalism is dying. The wild arena of the Internet is a no-holds-barred slugfest. The media, like the university, has coronated itself as protector of the liberal faith, ever vigilant to smear the supposed yokel who might believe in God, not favor abortion, admire the military, or wish low taxes and less government. That said, what drives the angst is the liberal fear that the majority does not share the views of the annoited, and that barring some unusual variable (Watergate, a Ross Perot candidacy, etc.) a  liberal simply doesn’t get elected President anymore. (And never a northern liberal at that).

So we all supposedly suffer from the Kansas Syndrome, in which as helpless dimwits, corporate America and themilitary feast off our flesh, while the brave Ivy League Professor, Foundation President, Senior liberal Senator, community organizer, Newsweek or Time editor, or Hollywood icon bravely calls out in the wilderness to us to wake up and yet is tragically shunned and suffers accordingly on our behalf.

So melodramatic these…(but vicious nonetheless)

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