Our blog doesn’t have a narrow topic list. We do want you to find our posts interesting, but I think Lars and I usually allow our own interests to guide the subjects of our posts and only occasionally rule something out as off-topic. This post is probably in off-topic territory. It may even be gossip, but I hope you’ll find it worthwhile.
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 23, 2016
Several weeks ago, long-time Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against network chairman Roger Ailes, who has since resigned. She called him a serial harasser, claimed he said many outrageous things over the years, and hindered her career because she refused him.
Granted, I don’t know Carlson personally, but I have heard her many times on the radio, occasionally on TV, and have complete faith in her. She seems to be an intelligent person who does not toe a party line but perseveres in independent thinking. She never impressed me as someone trivial or petty. When I heard of her lawsuit, I believed it on its face, because she has credibility with me. Though I’ve seen some defense of Ailes and discrediting of Carlson by other Fox News hosts, several women have also told their stories to Carlson’s lawyer.
Now we learn Andrea Tantaros is also suing Fox News executives for condoning, if not contributing to, sexual harassment, and I believe her, not because of any suspicion I have of Ailes or the people she names, but because I trust her. She impresses me as a strong, intelligent, capable woman. In the suit, she describes at least some of the process she walked through to get grievances like this addressed within the system. Her accusations were dismissed, so as not to rock the boat. Continue reading I Trust Tantaros, Carlson
Photographer Steve McCurry, who is still admired by many photojournalists according to Gianmarco Maraviglia of Echo Photojournalism, has breached ethical lines by editing his photos to be more clutter-free. As the Associated Press puts it, “We do not alter or digitally manipulate the content of a photograph in any way.” To do so is at least to open themselves up to charges of altering the truth being shown in the photo.
Now McCurry calls himself a “visual storyteller.” He said, “Even though I felt that I could do what I wanted to my own pictures in an aesthetic and compositional sense, I now understand how confusing it must be for people who think I’m still a photojournalist.”
Yeah. Some of us still think Katie Couric is a journalist or perhaps in league with the journalist ilk, so we were surprised to learn that her people edited a documentary on guns, rights, and violence to show the Virginia Citizens Defense League dumbfounded when Couric asked them a basic question.
“If there are no background checks for gun purchasers,” she asked, “how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?”
In the video, you hear that question and then see members of the group looking at each other or at the floor as if unable to give an answer, but in the audio, which you can hear in this article, the group dives right in. The first voice states that if you aren’t in jail, you should still have the right to purchase a gun, a point which others pick up on later when they say the government cannot predict a crime before in happens. There’s always a first time, and generally speaking we can’t foresee when that will be.
But if those answers are given in the documentary, they aren’t given as direct answers to Couric’s question to the Virginia group, and that has a few people upset.
“Katie Couric asked a key question during an interview of some members of our organization,” their president said. “She then intentionally removed their answers and spliced in nine seconds of some prior video of our members sitting quietly and not responding. Viewers are left with the misunderstanding that the members had no answer to her question.”
The director of documentary said he had just wanted to give the viewer space to think about the question.
… in a bakery. Is that how it goes? Whatever.
A.O. Scott would disagree with that metaphor, as he explains in his new book, Better Living Through Criticism. Fangirl Alissa Wilkinson reviews it.
Like a parent reconciling bickering siblings, Scott contends that criticism and art don’t merely need one another. They exist only because of one another: “criticism, far from sapping the vitality of art, is instead what supplies its lifeblood…”
Doesn’t interpreting art ruin the experience? Can’t we just appreciate it for what it is? “This is an old and powerful—in some ways an unanswerable—argument against criticism, rooted in the idea that creative work should be taken on its own terms and that thought is the enemy of experience,” Scott writes. “And it is indeed precisely the job of the critic to disagree, to refuse to look at anything simply as what it is, to insist on subjecting it to intellectual scrutiny.”
Because there are such things as good and bad metaphors, good and bad headlines, and compelling and lackluster stories. Critics can engage a piece on a different level than we have and challenge us to think about it and our reaction to it, which is close to, if not the same thing as, what artists do.
Aaron Bady talks about the Duke University Freshman whose article in the student newspaper about rejecting a particular graphic novel on the recommended reading list was picked up by national newspapers and distorted.
Take, for example, the fact that the USA Today story links to and relies on a story published by The Inquisitr. Now, the USA Today is not the most reputable news outlet you’ll ever find, but it’s the newspaper you get stuck with in hotels and it’s been around for long enough that one generally assumes it’s not completely worthless. The Inquisitr—which is where USA Today’s first link goes to—is pretty worthless.
“Instead of realizing that we need to oppose these attacks on freedom of expression, we thought that we need to placate them with compromise and renunciation,” he said.
When the PEN American Center moved to honor Charlie Hebdo with a freedom of expression award, over 200 writers signed a letter of protest. Rushdie reached out to one of them, who replied to say he would defend Satanic Verses and that Hebdo was a different situation. They were accused of racism, but Rushdie was accused of blasphemy.
“It’s exactly the same thing,” Rushdie said. “I’ve since had the feeling that, if the attacks against The Satanic Verses had taken place today, these people would not have defended me, and would have used the same arguments against me, accusing me of insulting an ethnic and cultural minority.”
In a 1991 talk, Rushdie said, “Throughout the Muslim world today, progressive ideas are in retreat. Actually Existing Islam reigns supreme, and just as the recently destroyed Actually Existing Socialism of the Soviet terror-state was horrifically unlike the utopia of peace and equality of which democratic socialists have dreamed, so also is Actually Existing Islam a force to which I have never given in, to which I cannot submit. There is a point beyond which conciliation looks like capitulation. I do not believe I passed that point, but others have thought otherwise.”
“The ‘Benedict Option’ isn’t the only way for Christians to confront the reality of an increasingly hostile and secular culture,” Andrew Walker writes. A better approach could be called “the Buckley Option.”
If the Benedict Option is about developing a “thicker” Christian community that grows more deliberate about sustaining and catechizing itself, count me in. But if the only result of the Benedict Option is a more aesthetic and intellectual homeschooling movement, then I have concerns about its long-term viability. A Christianity that isn’t simultaneously attentive to both its own institutions and its public witness simply cannot fulfill the robust demands of orthodoxy.
Walker recommends a different approach named after William F. Buckley.
The Buckley Option will sacrifice no space in the social or civil arena. It will believe, as the church always has, that its gospel brings with it good news for society, regardless of whether society believes its message is good or not.
[And it] will recognize that in a fallen world marked by self-interest, democracy is the preferred method for government order. While imperfect, it allows self-interest to be dealt with in the sphere of persuasion, not coercion. Eschewing theocracy, a Buckley Option approach will recognize that the moral ecology of any nation is dependent on a public morality, not a government morality. While the Benedict Option implies that democracy sowed the seeds of its own destruction, a Buckley Option approach recognizes that the seeds of destruction are not unique to any one political system. The moral breakdown that ensues when free people act freely is not caused by democracy, but by the besetting effects of sin that taint all human civilizations.
(via Hunter Baker)
Do we view ourselves as political beings? Would we say our minds are bound by cultural cords? I don’t think most of us would describe ourselves in these ways. We think of ourselves as independently minded and capable of standing on our own, but if we allow our attention to be directed by the popular press, we are training ourselves in groupthink and tweaking our moral compasses.
Not long ago, the media was celebrating the suicide of a terminally ill woman. They repeated uncritically the ridiculous arguments for suicide being a matter of dignity and honor. How long will it be before they celebrate someone making public arguments about the right to suicide without illness? “Ask not for whom the bell tolls,” he’ll say, “so I wanted to die on my own terms.” Doesn’t the press already support this the line of thought?
This week, they have celebrated another vein of self-destruction, and I’m troubled by the many people have said it’s none of their business. It is your business. It’s just as harmful as celebrating suicide. We are not islands. When others buy and sell vanity in the marketplace, we can’t just ignore it or many more will be hurt by it.
Take the idea that some people don’t believe they should live without disability. Does the press celebrate this yet? Is any form of identity up for grabs?
I think we need to reject the popular press at large. Many individuals already have, but I want to encourage select business leaders to take this up.
Grocers who are willing to sell the regular line of magazines everyone else sells should reconsider what I assume are practical reasons for selling what they would not want their families to read. It doesn’t matter if all the publications are bundled together by the vendor. Insist on being allowed to sell only what you want to sell. Make noise about wanting a choice in the titles you offer, and don’t surrender to the bad logic that says someone is going to sell it, so it might as well be you. A vendor can’t force you to make immoral choices. By refusing to offer pop culture and other immoral magazines, you help others avoid buying them. You encourage them to think independently, as they already believe they do.
It feels like a throwback idea from the ’80s, but is it not still a fair idea?
There’s an old theological term, “an occasion of sin,” which (if I understand it correctly) means to place temptation in someone’s path. I hope I haven’t been an occasion of crime in this blog.
Last month I posted a story, and a picture, about my visit with the Viking Age Club to historic Ness Church, Litchfield, Minnesota. I told how the first victims of the Dakota War of 1862 are buried there, and that local legend says the place is haunted.
Four days after I posted my story, according to this article from the Minneapolis City Pages newspaper, four people were arrested for breaking into the church and vandalizing it, as well as the monument.
I hope they didn’t learn about it here.
Probably not. We cater to a pretty high class of reader at Brandywine Books.
David Pryce-Jones, a senior editor at National Review, writes about his early life and some experiences as the literary editor for The Spectator. Even as a boy, he found that his Jewish heritage was the greatest stumbling block for those around him.
Hannah Arendt’s reportage on the Eichmann trial was published in October 1963, and Iain Hamilton agreed that I should review it. It took a very special type of intellectual to hold that banality was a word applicable to this man’s commitment to mass-murder. Cross-questioning had brought out his singular and sinister absence of human feelings. When she blamed Jewish officials for carrying out orders given by Eichmann and his staff, she revealed her inability to imagine the reality of Nazism. She excelled in passing moral judgments about events too frightful to be so simplified, and which in any case she had not lived through herself.
The Spectator’s owner, Ian Gilmour, had been in Oliver Van Oss’s house at Eton, though he had left before I arrived. A member of parliament, he was supposed to be an open-minded progressive Conservative, eventually earning the sobriquet “wet” when he was in Mrs. Thatcher’s cabinet. His resentment of Jews was obsessive, ignorant, and snobbish. I heard him inveighing against the Gaon of Vilna about whom he knew nothing, and he had an obsessive wish to attack the writings of James Parkes, a clergyman with a scholarly interest in Judaism and Israel. Jews, Gilmour believed like any Blackshirt or Islamist, by their nature conspire to do harm to other people, and to Palestinian Arabs in particular. A day was to come when he would post bail for two Palestinians who had tried to blow up the Israeli embassy. The strain of talking to me drained the blood from his face, tightening muscular striations and grimaces in his cheeks that became suddenly chalk-white.
This low-level distaste runs down many channels, poisoning writers and readers alike, calling for an adequate answer. Why do so many dislike, if not openly hate, the Jews? I can only think of a theological answer, that mankind, having been born in a state of rebellion against God, naturally rejects the mark of God still apparent on the Jewish people.
Anti-Semitism, like racism and other forms of hatred for our fellow men, never go away completely. Pryce-Jones asks, “Who knows how many millions like [Harold Pinter] did not have the information or the intelligence to realize that they were caught by propaganda, repeating smears that other more artful people wanted them to repeat?” (via Prufrock News)
Take a look at this culture shock from 1954. It’s Camel News Caravan, brought to you by the makers of Camel cigarettes–so mild and smooth.
This video came to my attention while reading Frank Rich’s article on whether the TV news anchorman is a relevant job anymore. Though anchormen are popular, he cites “60 Minutes” as a successful news program without a steady anchor.
Alex Carp chips in. “What is going to come back, in my view, is the importance of sector expertise, on-scene reporting, and enterprise journalism. I saw a poster in Times Square the other day for the new season of HBO’s Vice magazine show. You know what the tagline is? ‘We go there.’ It’s a sad day when a newsmagazine can use ‘we go there’ as a distinctive selling point.”
Mollie Z. Hemingway offers great advice on how to excel in journalism in today’s world.
“Don’t Sweat the Details. Is there a difference between an Evangelical and an evangelist? Who cares?”
“Don’t question authority. … if a politician suggests that the reports of scandal surrounding his administration are overblown, leave him alone already. Would he lie?”
A journalist’s job is to advance his ideological narrative. “CNBC’s John Harwood said recently, ‘Those of us in political-media world should just shut up about “narratives” and focus on what’s true.’ Spoken like a real nobody.”
She’s got a good piece. I recommend it too all non-fiction writers. Of course, all of it could be summarized by quoting Henry Kissinger, who said, “Allow me to be the first to say that what we have done here is not a good thing. It’s definitely not a good thing. But it was, given the circumstances, the smart play.”
Matthew Ingram argues that media companies, particularly content creators like Reuters, should allow their readers to comment on articles. If they don’t, they are shutting out potential fan support.
Reuters recently removed its comment section, saying self-policing social networks were already handling lively discussion well so they didn’t need to duplicate the effort. Ingram says by doing this, Reuters is handing a large slice of market value to Facebook and Twitter (among other networks) as well as move any arguments over an article onto other venues where Reuters’ writers will have to decide how to respond on their own. He explains:
Is moderation a pain, and an expensive proposition? Sure it is. Lots of things that matter to your business are expensive. And if you have an engaged community, they can become your moderators, as successful online communities like Slashdot and Metafilter have shown — which in turn helps strengthen your community. Ending comments means removing any chance that this will ever happen.
A news service probably needs all the love it can get. Does Reuters really want their writers to tweet their defense of contentious reports or take the debate to Medium?
Former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson could not pursue her line of questioning on many interesting stories because her sources in The White House or her own bosses at CBS were interested in advocating their side, not revealing the truth. Attkisson says this and more in her new book, Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington.
The New York Post gives us many details:
“Many in the media,” Attkisson writes, “are wrestling with their own souls: They know that ObamaCare is in serious trouble, but they’re conflicted about reporting that. Some worry that the news coverage will hurt a cause that they personally believe in. They’re all too eager to dismiss damaging documentary evidence while embracing, sometimes unquestioningly, the Obama administration’s ever-evolving and unproven explanations.”
One of her bosses had a rule that conservative analysts must always be labeled conservatives, but liberal analysts were simply “analysts.” “And if a conservative analyst’s opinion really rubbed the supervisor the wrong way,” says Attkisson, “she might rewrite the script to label him a ‘right-wing’ analyst.”
She says she asked by Katie Couric about a possible interview with Attorney General Eric Holder on the Fast and Furious scandal. Attkisson, who had done many reports on that subject, said it should be a relevant interview, but after that weekend (without a Couric interview on air) the network began cancelling her stories, saying she had reported everything already. Attkisson wonders if Holder ordered CBS to stop talking about it.
She also believes the Obama administration had someone hack her laptop to listen to her and plant classified documents on her hard drive, possibly intending to use them to prosecute her as needed.
Columnist Chris Hedges, who wrote such pieces as “We All Must Become Zapatistas” “Thomas Paine, Our Contemporary,” has been accused of plagiarism by Harper’s and others. The New Republic spells it out:
The plagiarism at Harper’s was not an isolated incident. Hedges has a history of lifting material from other writers that goes back at least to his first book, War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, published in 2002. He has echoed language from Nation author Naomi Klein. He has lifted lines from radical social critic Neil Postman. He has even purloined lines from Ernest Hemingway.
Editors at Harper’s were surprised. “A leading moralist of the left, however, had now been caught plagiarizing at one of the oldest magazines of the left,” Christopher Ketcham explains. “These examples suggest not inadvertent plagiarism,” Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute tells him, “but carefully thought out plagiarism meant to skirt the most liberal definition of plagiarism.”
Professor D.G. Myers comments on Twitter, “The case of Chris Hedges teaches a basic truth about literature: every fraud will be unmasked eventually.”