THURSDAY, AUGUST 16th 2007
A good day, as these things go, marred – or perhaps enhanced, in an instructive way – by the realization that I had been a total ass about something. I was called on it, too. Good. Sorry if the word “Ass” is offensive, but for heaven’s sake it’s in Shakespeare. In fact when I was a small boy in summer theater camp -
Well, that demands elaboration. In 1968 I was a child actor in a North Dakota State University production of “Ah, Wilderness.” I got good notices, because people in North Dakota are kind and encouraging. My mom enrolled me in a summer theater camp just in case this was something I wanted to pursue. I played, er, Bottom in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and the script allowed me to say “ass” in front of adults. “You see the head of an ass, do you?” Hee hee. That was the end of my theatrical career – attempts in junior high school to join the play earned me one speaking line, because I was plump and short and unfit for leading roles. Subsequently I went into Speech and Debate, where I could control everything and to hell with the popularity contest that was high school drama.
The guy who got the lead role is now a dentist.
Anyway. What was I saying? Right: I had written something without thinking of the consequences, and was informed today of the impact it had in the actual world, as opposed to the solipsistic cocoon of the site. The word “ass” was not used, but that’s how I felt. Apologies were made and graciously accepted. Still, file that one way. Note to self: don’t do that again.
Cool, cloudy, busy. Believe it or not, I’m still finishing up the loose ends of the next book. It never ends. Just hope it’s not the last book. I took my usual pre-supper nap, a brief bit of stolen REM, and dreamed I was starting a new book – someone started yelling at me, saying NO MORE TIME FOR BOOKS. That’s my waking fear, too. No time for –
Hold on, have to check the comments queue. I think my spam-pr0n foe knows when I step away from the site.
Jeebus. Forty more in the last 90 minutes. Hold on.
Okay. Well. Well! It’s late; I have to get up early to take Gnat to camp, and need to write the buzz update. I also need to watch a little TV – I’m chewing through the third season of “Deadwood,” and that small single hour is a blessing. Anything else to note about the day?
Well, I’m enjoying every detail of this wikipedia controversy – not because I don’t like wikipedia; I find it useful for facts about people long dead and other inert objects that have passed out of the realm of controversy. I am not convinced that the people from various news organization domains who jiggle and tweak the entries are journalists – not because I think journalists are incapable of that sort of thing, only that the number of people in a news organization who are actually writing for the paper or assembling the news can be small compared to the size of the organization. Could be someone in marketing or sales. I do know this: if I was a person in news, and I’d toyed with an entry to reflect my own particular opinions, I would be secreting sufficient bricks to construct a wall around Montana right about now. Using office computers for personal political opinions: that’s a paddlin’.
Brings to mind this story, about a few people in a newsroom cheering Rove’s departure. The story notes that the people – just a couple – were “not among the people who get a say in news play.” Doesn’t mean they don’t edit copy or select photos or write headlines, but never mind. It was this line that stood out for me:
But obviously news staff shouldn't be cheering or jeering the day's news, particularly as Boardman points out, "when we have an outside guest in the room."
Why shouldn’t they cheer or jeer?
Set aside the Rove matter. Must everyone be so wedded to the posture of Ultimate Neutrality that they couldn’t cheer good news, or groan over rank naked idiocy or depressing developments? What might an Outside Guest think if the people around the table cheered the capture of a key Al-Qaeda terrorist, or jeered the suggestion by some mentally etoliated Bishop that Christians start calling God “Allah” in the spirit of reconciliation? If one journalist snorted “oh, for heaven’s sake,” does this brand him an Islamophobe? If the religion writer notes that such a suggestion would abrogate traditional Western religious identity, would that make the Outside Guest think that the speaker was one of those peculiar individuals who mulishly clings to outmoded cultural tropes and definitions? And if the Outside Guest thought so, well, who cares?
More cheering and jeering, I say. At least it suggests that journalists have a stake in all this. Which we do. We know it. (Note: use of first person plural hereafter is based on nothing more than my own projections, not anyone I know in the business. I’m rambling.) But sometimes it seems as if we’re totally flummoxed about how to get that point across, because the objections and counter-arguments immediately queue up – we’re trained to anticipate the argument, after all. We have a stake, sure. But how do we get that point across without rending the Sacred Magical Trust of Objectivity? Bias, real and imagined, may rankle many - but equally fatal is the Olympian detachment that informs so many stories. We’re duty-bound to pretend that the government of Iran occupies the same moral plane as the government of France, or that the knotty mess in Israel is a matter of competing forces whose theological and historical claims are equally incomprehensible, and hence irrelevant to today’s who-shelled-who dispatch. We can’t cheer or jeer. We can’t imagine why we would.
I’d guess many readers suspect this posture is a cover for something else, for a general unwillingness on the part of the media overclass to confront some unpalatable truths, or admit their own vacillating, tortured relation to their own culture. If they’d call it that. Culture is something everyone else has. The West has sins. And obligations.
I know, I know – vague complaints, poorly reasoned, inadequately sourced, based on speculation and prejudice. Granted. Nothing I’ve said reflects on anything I’ve ever, repeat ever, observed at the paper where I work. Just being an Ass, I guess. I don’t know how the media would go about standing up for Western Civ, really. It’s just not the sort of thing you can slip into a news story. You can’t do a story about a gay rights march and note that other cultures wouldn’t be arguing about marriage, but would be discussing the size of stones to throw at the homersexuals. But many readers, I think, infer a lack of faith - or at least a hesitance to defend one culture against another - from the general daily media download; the absence of a measurable pro-West tenor leads many to detect the reflexive cringe, the practiced posture of apology and deference to whomever’s yelling at us the loudest. After all: small imperfections in our own culture mean we cannot criticize large imperfections in others. Except to point out the shortcomings in the way we respond to the effects of the large imperfections.
Anyway. This all assumes that it’s the role of the media to have a standing Imperfection Critique Beat, or work Kiplingesque defenses into every relevant story. You can see the dilemma. But maybe you also see what I mean about the general opinion some extract from the kultursmog. Bloody neutrals, as the kid said in Burgess’ “Tremor of Intent.” As I said: it’s not the cheering and jeering that would alarm people. It’s the absence. What are we, eunichs?
Don’t answer that.
Oh, great, midnight. Well. Jeez. More blather to regret tomorrow. Ah well! Here’s some stuff: Bleat Radio Theater brings you an old Inner Sanctum, notable for its star. Richard Widmark! Below you’ll find links to several motel additions, if you care.
MOTEL UPDATES: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, and Iowa, Iowa, Iowa. (Links open in new windows, because they're all over the place.)
Off to buzz.mn! See you there.