Roger L. Simon

Joe the Plumber meets Chairman Mao in Gaza

As I write this, comments on the various Pajamas Media posts, including mine, on Joe the Plumber’s journey to Israel for PJTV are approaching one thousand – or perhaps they have already passed that figure. And that’s not counting the other Pajamas network blogs and outlying blogs where the numbers must mount into the tens of thousands. And then there’s the mainstream media commentary. If you Google “joe the plumber + Israel,” you get 618,000 hits. [Now 618,001.-ed. You’re right.] I knew that Joe’s foray into war journalism, or whatever you want to call it, would create controversy. But I had no idea it would create a war of its own.

Well, a non-shooting war, but war enough to have people hurling digital epithets across cyberspace at breakneck speed, hiding behind semi-imaginative noms de blog like “Harsh Reality,” while taking no prisoners, letting their ideological brickbats slay their enemies as “moonbats,” “wingnuts” and other similar dodo-brained locutions of our times. Many of these commenters fairly ooze hatred or at least disdain.

And all over Joe – a fairly benign and reasonably affable individual, as far as I can tell, although I confess I have never met him face-to-face, only interviewed him twice across a high-definition Internet connection. Still you get the sense of the guy.

Much of this Internet War seems based on a peculiar assumption. These people think – or act as if they think – that journalism… particularly Middle East journalism… is a zero-sum game. But nothing could be more ludicrous than to think that the presence of Joe Wurtzelbacher in Israel negates anyone else’s opinion of the Gaza War. Indeed, we are and have been for decades inundated with reporting and opinions from the Middle East. Joe the Plumber is one voice – and just one – among thousands and thousands.

And that’s a good thing. In my Maoist youth, we used to say “Let a hundred flowers bloom!” Of course, the Chairman later backed away from this pronouncement, but I don’t and I doubt you do either. Many voices are good because the truth is often hard to find. Joe Wurtzelbacher is one of those voices.

Of course, I could be accused of being a tad disingenuous, if, as Joe’s employer, I didn’t at least give a hint of how I feel he’s doing – so I will. Thus far, after two days, I would give Joe a “B to B+”. That’s not a perfect grade, but it’s a good one and far better than Al Gore got at Harvard. Joe sometimes jumbles his words and he doesn’t ask people follow up questions I wish he did. But for a first timer at television journalism, he’s doing very well. And he certainly has a screen presence. The camera likes him.

But if you don’t like him… or think his reporting is too pro-Israel… guess what? You don’t have to watch. You can always watch an old pro – like Geraldo Rivera or Keith Olbermann. As I said, “Let a hundred flowers bloom.”

Joe Wurzelbacher’s second report from Israel is here. It’s free with PJTV registration. Keep watching for the part where Joe meets an Israeli plumber. [I think he’s improving.-ed. Me too.]

UPDATE: Best comment so far, from Michael B: “With Joe in Israel, I’m predicting the end of the world within a week, two weeks tops.”