Category Archive 'Journalism'
29 Oct 2017

Hypocrisy, Thy Name is Andrew

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This week, in his hebdomadal New York magazine piece, Andrew Sullivan was back to pure left-wing democrat partisan flackery. Just one little section, though, I thought, cried out for particular attention, the bit where Andrew sternly rebukes that lawless reprobate Donald Trump:

Almost all our liberal democratic norms and institutions are much weaker today than they were a year ago. Trump has not assaulted the Constitution directly. He has not refused a court order, so far. But he has obstructed justice in his firing of James Comey, and abused the spirit of the pardon power by using it for a public official who violated citizens’ Constitutional rights, before he was even sentenced. In the most worrying case so far, he has refused to enforce the sanctions against Russia that were passed by a veto-proof margin by the Congress. I fear this is because his psyche cannot actually follow the instructions of anyone but himself. This is also why, after failing to repeal, replace or amend Obamacare, he has not faithfully executed the law, but actively sabotaged it. If he does not have his way, he will either sulk and refuse to do his constitutional duty, or he will simply smash whatever institution or law that obstructs his will. At some point, we may come to a more profound test of his ability to operate as just one of three equal branches of government. I think he’ll fail it.

Yes, the forms of the Constitution remain largely intact after nine months. But the norms that make the Constitution work are crumbling. The structure looks the same, but Trump has relentlessly attacked their foundations. Do not therefore keep your eyes on the surface. Put your ear to the ground.

This is pretty rich stuff coming from illegal immigrant Andrew Sullivan who managed to successfully defy for most of two decades the 1987 ban on entry to the United States by HIV-infected persons. Sullivan managed to elude deportation, despite being diagnosed with HIV in 1993 (the same year the ban on immigration was statutorily re-affirmed) using Blat.

Andrew was then editor of The New Republic, a very influential and big deal position, and he was consequently, despite his contagious and potentially fatal, perverse-sex-connected illness, able to swing an indefinitely renewable “O” visa, a special status awarded to an alien “who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements.”

All our liberal democratic institutions took another very big hit for Andrew in 2009, when the US Attorney working for the Obama Administration declined to pursue a marijuana charge against the British-born journalist because it would have resulted in the (probably permanent) deportation of a prominent commentator passionately devoted to the incumbent administration’s support. So flagrant was the special treatment Andrew Sullivan received that the US Magistrate Judge wrote an 11-page dissenting memorandum protesting what had occurred.

Boston Globe (12 September 2009):

[A] federal judge says Sullivan did not deserve preferential treatment from prosecutors who dropped a marijuana possession charge after the journalist was recently caught smoking a joint on a federally owned beach on Cape Cod.

In a strongly worded memorandum issued Thursday, US Magistrate Judge Robert B. Collings said the decision by Acting US Attorney Michael K. Loucks to dismiss a federal misdemeanor possession charge against Sullivan flouted a “cardinal principle of our legal system’’ – that all persons stand equal before the law.

Three other defendants charged with the same offense had to appear before Collings the same day as Sullivan, the judge noted. But Sullivan’s case was the only one prosecutors did not pursue, out of concern that the $125 fine carried by the relatively minor offense could derail his US immigration application.

“It is quite apparent that Mr. Sullivan is being treated differently from others who have been charged with the same crime in similar circumstances,’’ Collings wrote in the 11-page memorandum, adding that prosecutors’ rationale for the dismissal was inadequate.

Collings added with obvious irritation that he had no power to order prosecutors to pursue the case, and granted their motion to dismiss it. The fact that he did, however, “does not require the Court to believe that the end result is a just one,’’ he wrote.

So, tell us, Andrew, which outrage shakes the foundations of our liberal democratic norms and institutions more violently, the merciful (though obviously partisan) clemency sparing jail time to an 80-something-year-old Sheriff facing a contempt charge from a judicial political adversary (Joe Arpaio) or covert White House intervention to quash a criminal drug possession rap that might deport a useful journalistic ally (you)?

28 Oct 2014

Local News Highlights National Habit of Overreacting to Fears and Obsessions

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SchoolLockdown
A school lockdown in Connecticut

Regular readers may possibly recall that I am currently blogging from our vacation place/300-acre farm in Central Pennsylvania.

Yesterday, the sounds of low-flying aircraft were heard from our cabin in the morning, and when Karen went into town, late in the afternoon, to get mail from the post office, the small town of Tyrone was buzzing with stories of a shooting in our own neighborhood.

The 10/27 Daily Herald (serving Tyrone, Bellwood, and Surrounding Areas since 1866, but not on-line) reported:

State Police at Hollidaysburg have confirmed a shooting at 260 Van Scoyoc Hollow Road in Snyder Township this morning.

Unconfirmed reports say that a 13-year-old female Tyrone student has been shot in the chest or shoulder at her bus stop near the Tyrone Sportsman’s Club. Reportedly the weapon was believed to be a shotgun.

The Tyrone Area School District went on full exterior lockdown as a precaution.

The school web-site said: “Based on conversation with the state police we have been informed that there is no threat to the school. We are merely taking precautionary measures by instituting the secure exterior lockdown

Due to shooting in the community, which is currently believed to be a hunting accident, the district is currently in a secure exterior lockdown.”

State Police were still investigating the area with metal detectors and ran infrared by helicopter looking for possible suspects around the Sportsman’s Club at 10:30 a.m. The bus stop and a wooded area across the road were heavily investigated.

The victim has reportedly been taken to UPMC Altoona and is in stable condition. State Police and the Game Commission were still on the scene, the shooter was not located and no further information was available at the time of press other that it is believed to have been a hunting accident.

So… What struck me about all this was the craziness of a school lockdown off in the borough of Tyrone, miles away from the scene of a shooting thought to be a hunting accident. This kind of response typifies a contemporary style of “cover your ass at any cost” bureaucratic formalism which characteristically reacts, not so much to threats, as to memes, with preposterous and pretentious brain-damaged forms of completely useless gestures.

I needed, of course, to investigate the facts, so I phoned up the State Police in Hollidaysburg this morning, explaining that I was inquiring about the Snyder Township shooting in my capacity as an Internet journalist.

I learned that what happened was: a 12-year-old girl accidentally dropped a .22 rifle while in the process of putting it away inside her house. The rifle went off, and the girl was struck by a bullet in the abdomen. The young lady is recovering from her unfortunate accident in hospital.

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Oddly enough, some news agency was actually reporting the story accurately this morning:

Police: Girl, 12, shot after mishandling rifle

TYRONE, Pa. (AP) – State police say a 12-year-old girl was accidentally shot in the abdomen after mishandling a .22-caliber rifle in her home.

Police aren’t releasing the name of the girl who authorities first believed had been shot outside her home Monday as she left for school about 7 a.m. That prompted the Pennsylvania Game Commission to investigate whether the girl might have been wounded by a hunter’s stray bullet.

But police now say the girl had grabbed the rifle and was returning it to a safe when it fell and discharged in her Snyder Township home.

The Tyrone Area School District was on an exterior lockdown after the shooting, meaning classes operated normally but no visitors were allowed on school property. The lockdown was lifted about 11 a.m. Monday.

Police were continuing to investigate Tuesday.

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All of which demonstrates the propensity of all forms and flavors of American officialdom these days to react Pavlovianly to popular cultural memes (e.g., “Child Shooting!” — “School Shooting!”) demonstrating a pathologically overly-enthusiastic eagerness to wield authority, deploy personnel and equipment, play with gadgets and weapons, and to act out fantasies in public.

Yesterday, we had two government agencies sending armed men scurrying about the landscape, helicopters searching the forest with infrared, and a school system, miles away, undergoing lockdown (“Sorry, Mr. Jones, you can’t deliver milk for the school lunch today. We’re on lockdown!”), along with a grand search for an imaginary hunter, all in response to a one-party accident that took place inside a private home.

Perhaps we all tend to idealize the past. I could be wrong but, when I think back to when I was young, decades ago, I have a lot of trouble picturing the American adults I grew up among getting into lathers of this kind and responding to emergencies with so much panic and excessive overreaction in defiance of all the facts.

I do think that if somebody came along and said to Sister Daniel, the principal of St. George School in Shenandoah back in 1960, “Hey! you better lockdown the school. There has been a hunting accident over in Brandonville.”, Sister Daniel would have said, “What are you, some kind of a nut?”

15 Aug 2014

Forbidden Editorials

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Gagged

Andrew Sullivan’s little munchkins are manning his blog while the great poof vacations on the Cape. Phoebe Maltz Bovy (who actually gets a byline — you go, girl!) yesterday identified two pieces so notable for thought crime that they may not be quoted or linked.

Piece 1 was a rant contending that “Transphobia is Perfectly Normal” by Gavin MacInnes at Thought Catalog. Bovy says:

I tend to agree with Allen, who writes:

    I refuse to link to it—that’s how bad it is. McInnes willfully misgenders all transgender people, Janet Mock included, while pathologizing them as “nuts” and fixating at great length on the state of their genitals. It’s repulsive.

    McInnes’ piece doesn’t deserve a formal response.

Yep. McInnes does not simply make an argument about gender identity that falls outside conventional liberal (and, as Allen notes, medical) norms. Such an argument might be buried below what it is he did write, but it’s hard to say, given the muck surrounding any possible substance. I’m also not keen to drive traffic to something odious…

Actually, his editorial is pretty short, and most of it consists of intentionally-colorful-and colloquial rhetoric. But MacInnes does really make one serious argument: the argument that, when you play along with the particular fantasy and encourage all this, you are helping psychologically defective people harm themselves. Quote:

By pretending this is all perfectly sane, you are enabling these poor bastards to mutilate themselves. This insane war on pronouns is about telling people what to do. It may empower you to shut down a school’s computer system because they phrased your gender wrong, but that’s just a game to you. To them, it’s a life-changing event that fucks them up. To fight against transphobia is to justify trannies. To justify trannies is to allow mentally ill people to mutilate themselves. When your actions are getting people mutilated, you’re at war with them.

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The other case of forbidden speech was an August 1 editorial in the Times of Israel (republished here) by Jochanan Gordon, titled “When Genocide is Permissible.”

Gordon’s editorial was quickly removed from the Times of Israel web-site and, a bit later, also taken down from The Five Towns Jewish Times web-site with this explanation:

An article that was posted earlier today on our website dealt with the question of genocide in a most irresponsible fashion. We reject any such notion or discussion associated with even entertaining the possibility of such an unacceptable idea.

The piece should have been rejected out of hand by editors but escaped their proper attention. We reject such a suggestion unequivocally and apologize for the error.

Gordon has since grovelled for forgiveness, deleted his Twitter account and gone into hiding.

In reality, though, Gordon’s sin consists entirely of his use of the word “genocide.” Gordon was really trying to justify the “disproportionate” Israeli response to Hamas’s rocket attacks. He implicitly (and most unwisely) accepts the accusation that what Israel has been doing in Gaza is a kind of genocide, and then argues that Israel is justified by its right of self defense. He never actually advocates real genocide. He just agrees to term what Israel is already doing “genocide,” and contends that Israel’s actions are necessary and ought to continue. He should have used a different word.

09 Feb 2014

Missing Hunter Thompson in the Age of Barry Soetero

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Dr. Thompson, with gun, on bike.

In 2008, James Poulos (who takes the aesthetic Bohemian approach to American political life) bought into Barack Obama’s BS. He knows better now and can be found wistfully imagining the fun if Dr. Thompson was still around to observe and comment on the hideous smoking-and-burning wreck that the current administration has made of both the American economy and democratic government. Picture Hunter Thompson, stoned on several different potent substances, writing up an essay, which Rolling Stone could not bring itself to decline, on Michelle Obama’s covert 50th Birthday Party, conducted in the manner of Elagabulus, but obligingly neglected by the lapdogs of the MSM.

Hunter Thompson is fun and easy to abuse for one’s own political purposes, but we are woefully all the poorer for having lost him in 2005, before he had a chance to discover that the power dynamic he railed against at the peak of his powers was still with us, smarter and dumber than ever. …

[T]here are now so few Democrats with even a wistful, nostalgic connection to the days when Freak Power thrived on the left. On a bad day, the landscape resembles a shameful two-species ecosystem: old corporatist behemoths casting long shadows over flea-bitten packs of communists so young and frustrated that they’re always on the verge of bursting into tears. …

We were on the back half of the Bush years. Something new, possibly even wonderful, would soon be in sight. Sure enough, the impossible happened—Hillary Clinton was beat, fair and square, by someone so sonorous about the possibilities of choice and resilience that he received the Kennedy stamp of approval, and then America’s.

Innocent times. Now, that special someone has left the crown of hope in the gutter, overwhelmed and infected by the propaganda of neediness and choicelessness that fuels the rule of fear over so much of our daily life. Progress has somehow gone from an inspiring option to an individual mandate—a grim necessity we are obliged to grind out. …

This was the touchstone of Obama ’08. Now it goes all but untouched. There was a dazzling gonzo streak to Obama’s insurgent campaign—a sense not of historical inevitability but of people, real people, going off on an incredible tangent, so crazy it just might work. The mood of the moment was nearly the opposite of today’s Obama, with his nationalistic claptrap about how “America doesn’t stand still.”

No, Mr. President, we don’t. We shift with unease from one foot to the other. We fretfully pace the floor. America is becoming a waiting room.

We’re waiting for more shoes to drop. The nagging, nervous energy that dominates our personal and political lives belies the harsh lesson of executive action: the more constant the crisis, the more impotent it is apt to grow.

Two hundred years ago, the French liberal Benjamin Constant saw the same pathology in Napoleon Bonaparte’s waning days of despotism. Trapped in the cycle of permanent emergency and perpetual action, he wrote, “servitude has no rest, agitation no pleasure.”

20 Sep 2013

Journalists’ Gun Reference Guide

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Hat tips to Bookworm via Karen L. Myers and to Vanderleun.

23 Aug 2013

Left-wing Scribbler Takes a Shot at Smearing the NRA

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Steve Friess, in the characteristically glib and mendacious style of his branch of the journalistic profession, pointed out the obvious as cause for outrage and alarm, associating conventional organizational marketing practices, in the case of the NRA, with a currently popular journolist meme focusing on privacy paranoia in order to flimflam the rubes and suckers.

[T]he sort of vast, secret database the NRA often warns of already exists, despite having been assembled largely without the knowledge or consent of gun owners. It is housed in the Virginia offices of the NRA itself. The country’s largest privately held database of current, former, and prospective gun owners is one of the powerful lobby’s secret weapons, expanding its influence well beyond its estimated 3 million members and bolstering its political supremacy.

That database has been built through years of acquiring gun permit registration lists from state and county offices, gathering names of new owners from the thousands of gun safety classes taught by NRA-certified instructors and by buying lists of attendees of gun shows, subscribers to gun magazines, and more, BuzzFeed has learned.

The result: a big data powerhouse that deploys the same high-tech tactics all year round that the vaunted Obama campaign used to win two presidential elections.

The NRA is invading my privacy in the exact same fashion as the Wall Street Journal, L.L. Bean, Brooks Brothers, the Yale Club of New York, the Republican Party and all the other groups I belong to, publications I subscribe to, and merchants I shop with. The NRA has a membership/customer list and a marketing database in the same way every group or vendor does. Steve Freiss’s malarkey simply exists in order to flatter the prejudices and political animosity toward the NRA of the statist slave/emasculated urban metrosexual liberal community of fashion, whose members –as usual– bray accord in their own echo chamber. No one with common sense would buy into this nonsense for a New York minute.

13 Jul 2013

How Dumb Are Professional Newscasters? This Dumb

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Legal Insurrection
commented today on the news report that everyone on the Internet was laughing about yesterday.

A news anchor with television station KTVU in California was duped into reading off the names of several purported pilots from Asiana Flight 214, which crash landed on a San Francisco runway on July 6th, killing three and injuring over 180 passengers.

The “pilot names” were so painfully obviously fake, it’s hard to believe that this segment ever made it to air. I mean, with names like “Captain Sum Ting Wong” and “Ho Lee Fuk” – really?

The worst part about it is that the TV station did at least try to do some legwork and reached out to the National Transportation Safety Board for verification. The NTSB confirmed the names.

KTVU later aired a correction and apology.

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Gawker reported:

The National Transportation Safety Board issued a press release this evening acknowledging that a summer intern had erroneously confirmed four fake Asiana pilot names to Bay Area TV station KTVU. The release corroborates KTVU’s claim that an NTSB official had confirmed that “Ho Lee Fuk” and “Sum Ting Wong,” among others, had been manning Asiana flight 214, which crashed near San Francisco on Saturday.

and indignantly demanded: “if you’ve got any information on the intern behind this shitshow, email us.

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Being public-spirited, I naturally forwarded to them this tip, tweeted by Iowahawk:

20 Jun 2013

Ain’t That a Shame?

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Slightly used motor and transmission of C250 Mercedes Benz

Jack Baruth, at The Truth About Cars, seemed just as broken-hearted as I am, but is just a trifle more tastefully discreet at concealing his feelings.

The writing-about-writing crowd is abuzz with discussion about the rather unusual death of Buzzfeed/RollingStone/Gawker writer Michael Hastings. Mr. Hastings, whose name is never mentioned in the press without the immediate mention that he was “the fearless journalist whose reporting brought down the career of General Stanley McChrystal”, died in a single-car accident in Los Angeles yesterday morning. This in and of itself is not unusual, but the circumstances of the crash and its aftermath won’t do anything to quiet the conspiracy theorists who are already claiming that the military-industrial complex found a way to cap the guy. …

Mercedes-Benz USA is no doubt sweating bullets over this one. An eyewitness report says that Mr. Hastings was driving at an excessive rate of speed down a suburban street when his car “suddenly jackknifed” and hit a tree “with the force of a bomb”. The Benzo, which by the wheels and quarter-panel appears to be the relatively prosaic but cheerfully stylish C250 four-cylinder turbo coupe, proceeded to throw its powertrain out of the engine bay, immediately catch fire in a manner typically reserved for episodes of “Miami Vice”, and burn its driver until said driver was charred beyond recognition. …

Mr. Hastings’ aggressively Democrat-friendly storytelling has the Internet already considering the idea that his death was engineered somehow. I can’t say it’s totally unlikely. As noted above, the reported (and videotaped) behavior of the C250 was not in line with what we’d expect. On the other hand, surely it’s expected that a respected, mature writer on non-automotive topics won’t be barreling through a suburb so fast that any tree he hits will cause his car to burst into flames, right? We’ll keep an eye on this to see what, if anything, develops.

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Michael Yon adds:

Michael Hastings was killed in a car crash in Los Angeles. The single car accident happened at about 0425. He crashed into a tree and was burned beyond recognition. He was 33.

Mr. Hastings was the war correspondent whose Rolling Stone article led to the firing of General Stanley McChrystal, who at the time was the top General in Afghanistan.

Although Hastings was widely read, no serious war correspondents took him seriously, or at least not the ones I know. … Hastings was like an undisciplined hitman with a pen and license to kill. One of his gonzo articles damaged the career and reputation of Lieutenant General Bill Caldwell, for no cause. My sense was that he picked fights with key people mostly to draw attention. Though Hastings was not respected among war correspondents, it is sad to see a man die so young so horribly. Just why he crashed into a tree at 0425 remains unknown. No doubt the conspiracies will begin to fly.

New Joke: What do you call a metrosexual Rolling Stone attack dog journalist’s explosive collision with an LA palm tree? A good start.

04 Apr 2013

Michael Kelly, 1957-2003

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Michael Kelly (1957-2003)

Bret Stephens remembers Michael Kelly, the American journalist killed ten years ago south of Baghdad Airport, traveling embedded with the US Army’s Third Division. His jeep came under enemy fire, and the driver lost control while trying to evade and went into a canal. Kelly drowned along with his driver, becoming the first American journalist to lose his life during the war.

Wouldn’t you know that it would be a reporter like Kelly who got killed, not one of the usual verminous breed?

Kelly treated a column as a sword, the obvious and most worthy purpose of which was to stab, slice, decapitate and—once he really got going—utterly disembowel the objects of his contempt.

Which objects? The pompous, the dishonest, the phony, the self-satisfied, the morally safe and smug, the debauched, the downright evil. To speak more precisely: Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Frank Sinatra, Mr. Gore again, the news media in general, Ted Kennedy, Yasser Arafat. And, of course, Hollywood, which pretty much exemplified all the above-mentioned qualities.

Kelly didn’t just deride these people and institutions. Before he could skewer them, he had to capture them. Writing about Oscar night, he catches Jack Nicholson “leering and sprawling paunchily in his ringside chair like an especially dissolute pasha waiting for his next lap dance.” From an early profile of Bill Clinton: “When he spoke, perception was not only reality. It was a reality that changed, quicksilver quick, from eye to eye and ear to ear.” Of one of Mr. Gore’s debate performances against George W. Bush: “It was much like the most infuriating of all husbandly marital-argument tactics. You know the one—where you play the part of the patient but pained party in the obvious right, too much a gentleman to say that your wife is spewing pure rubbish, but communicating utter contempt through creative breathing.”

Reading Kelly, I used to wonder: Did his power of observation explain his moral judgments, or was it the other way around? Usually (though few of us columnists will admit it), we make our judgments and then find our evidence. I don’t think this was true of Kelly: He was like a man born with a preternatural sense of smell. He couldn’t help smelling it. And he could smell it from a mile away.

Take his view of Frank Sinatra. Everyone loved Old Blue Eyes and mourned him when he died in 1998. Everyone except Michael Kelly.

Kelly hated Frank because Frank had invented Cool, and Cool had replaced Smart. What was Smart? It was Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca: “He possesses an outward cynicism, but at his core he is a square. . . . He is willing to die for his beliefs, and his beliefs are, although he takes pains to hide it, old-fashioned. He believes in truth, justice, the American way, and love. . . . When there is a war, he goes to it. . . . He may be world weary, but he is not ironic.”

Cool was something else. “Cool said the old values were for suckers. . . . Cool didn’t go to war; Saps went to war, and anyway, cool had no beliefs he was willing to die for. Cool never, ever, got in a fight it might lose; cool had friends who could take care of that sort of thing.”

It never, ever would have occurred to me to make the distinction until I read Kelly’s column. And then I understood Sinatra. And then I understood Kelly, too.

Kelly, who was killed 10 years ago as an embedded journalist just outside of Baghdad, was Smart. When the war came, he, too, went to it. Few columnists in America had argued as passionately, and none as cogently, for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

“To march against the war is not to give peace a chance,” he wrote six weeks before his death. “It is to give tyranny a chance.”

Read the whole thing.

25 Mar 2013

Yale’s Sex Week Prostitution & Bestiality Poll

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Earlier this month, it was revealed that the management of this year’s Sex Week at Yale circulated a questionaire inquiring about Yale students’ sexual histories, whether they’d ever had sex for money, and what sort of activities had they participated in. Campus Reform blog

I personally smiled sardonically and shrugged when the Daily Mail swallowed this silliness whole and when one editorialist at NR online also climbed on board, worrying aloud about what all this pre-matriculation-at-college debauchery must say about the state of our civilization.

The Daily Mail is a British newspaper and, let’s face it, some of the guys who write for NR do not have personally an Ivy League background, so a little confusion about the meaning and validity of that particular poll was understandable. But, as the French flavorfully put it: “Il ne faut pas de enculer des mouches” [One does not sodomize flies]. I decided not even to dignify this nonsense by remarking on it.

I was clearly wrong. Some flies will keep demanding attention until they get it.

First of all, a few days ago, on Facebook, a prominent conservative intellectual I know (who did not go to Yale), was linking another instance of the one-out-of-ten-Yale-undergraduates-have-been-hookers news meme. So, I intervened and pointed out that in evaluating all this, one needed to reflect on in just what way the typical Yale undergraduate is likely to respond to blithering, intrusive, and basically bizarre questions about his-or-her sex life written up in ridiculous form by a professional “sexologist” who operates a suburban store selling dildos. I was only surprised that number of affirmative answers to the weirder questions was so low.

More recently, even Glenn Reynolds (who went to Yale Law, and ought to know better) was repeating this important meme.

March 21, 2013

HIGHER EDUCATION UPDATE: Nine Percent of Yale Students Surveyed Say They’ve Accepted Money for Sex. “Nine percent of Yale University students who participated in a recent survey on sexual behavior reported having been paid for sex at least once. Three percent said they had participated in bestiality, and more than half said they had ‘engaged in consensual pain’ during sex.”

When I read this sort of thing, I think back fondly to Ken Kesey appearing at Yale, during the Revolution, to announce to the nation his candidacy for the presidency (opposing Richard Nixon in 1972). Kesey was visibly inflamed with self-righteous political passion, egomania, and some sort of mood altering substances. He proudly delivered his diatribe, and began taking his bows while condescendingly accepting questions from the audience.

The Yale undergrad questioners began cruelly playing with Kesey like some cats playing with a mouse. They gravely expressed agreement with his nonsensical propositions, and deliberately and skillfully drew him farther and farther out along fanciful limbs of patently ridiculous claims pertaining to his qualifications for high office and elicited from him some extremely potentially embarassing proposals for national policies involving sex, drugs, and Rock & Roll. Then, the audience began mocking him. People asked unkind questions, like whether he might not be too stoned to campaign effectively. Kesey became infuriated, and he began exchanging invitiations to come up and fight him for catcalls from the floor. And that was how the audience at Ken Kesey’s presidential campaign announcement at Yale sank that campaign on its opening night.

Someday, boys and girls, I should tell you what we did to Norman Mailer, but that is another story. In any event, it is necessary to bear in mind, that most people who get into Yale are very, very bright, and that Yalies have a tendency to mock fools.

07 Mar 2013

The Girls on Fox News

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24 Jul 2012

How the Media Misreported the Penn State Scandal

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detail, former Paterno memorial

John Ziegler described how misreporting and media sensationalism destroyed the reputation of Joe Paterno and the nation’s most admired football program.

Regardless of what the final facts eventually say about what Joe Paterno knew and when he knew it about Jerry Sandusky’s criminal behavior (contrary to what the media has told you, they aren’t in yet and I have confronted very anti-Paterno “reporters” who admit this privately), the media coverage of him has been as unfair as any I have ever seen. In some ways, the media coverage of Joe Paterno has combined some of the worst elements of both the reporting of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the 2008 presidential election. …

After the grand jury presentment was made available at a Saturday press conference which announced the Sandusky indictments last November, the initial media coverage was, in retrospect remarkably, and tellingly, rather muted.

ESPN, who would later the next week drive most of the narrative of the overall story, limited most of their coverage over the weekend to a passing news mention and a perfunctory place on the ubiquitous scroll on the bottom of the screen. After all, they had actual college and pro football games to broadcast/cover and no need to interrupt those ratings winners for the story of some guy who hadn’t coached football in over a decade.

The first edition of Sports Illustrated (which went to press about 48 hours after the indictments) after the news broke does not make mention of the Sandusky story in even one news article. Sandusky didn’t even make the “For the Record” section under “Arrests.” The story is only cited in an opinion column on the back page which reads somewhat like the “last word” on a story which is horrible but which may not provide much opportunity to write about in the future.

By the next week, Joe Paterno was somehow on the cover of SI along with multiple banner headlines, including one indicating that this was the biggest scandal in college sports history.

What changed in the ensuing week? Well, Paterno was fired, but not because we learned anything significantly new about the scandal during that time. Instead, what happened was that ESPN, with the help of popular website Deadspin (which was the first outlet to jump all over the story and predict Paterno’s demise), decided that they could change the rules of this game and make what was an otherwise dead sports week into a dramatic, ratings winning, passion play.

The initial take of the mainstream media was that this was not really a Joe Paterno story because, while Sandusky had been his assistant coach and there was a major allegation which occurred on campus, it was after he had already left the program. Paterno had testified but had not been charged. The prosecutors said that Paterno had done what was legally required of him, though they did raise the issue (in the response to a leading question from the media) of whether Paterno had fulfilled his moral responsibility with regard to making sure the allegations were properly followed up.

Seemingly lulled into a false sense of security by the relative rationality of the initial coverage (which was neither as intense nor as insane as it soon would be), Penn State made a couple of critical errors. The first was that they failed to make it clear that when Paterno had made sure the Mike McQueary allegations were reported to Gary Schultz, that he was doing so to the person in charge of the campus police. The media, either out of incompetence, deceitfulness, or both, never made that clear and in fact often reported that Paterno “never went to the police.” This omission created a huge hole in Paterno’s ship, which should have been easily plugged. Instead, it was an unnecessary leak in his story which still exists in public perception today. …

Now the media had what they wanted. They suddenly processed all the excuses they needed to turn a story about a likely child molester who hadn’t coached at Penn State for twelve years, into a tale of whether a legend had failed in his moral responsibility to protect children he may or may not have even known were ever in danger.

The public wouldn’t care much about Sandusky, but everyone knew Joe Paterno. The tearing down of a pious legend makes for incredible copy and it transformed that week from a remarkably slow sports period (the NBA was still on strike, baseball was over, and football was in a midseason lull) into a ratings bonanza.

Now it should be noted that one of the primary weapons which drove the deep passion and anger on this story at the outset was the misuse of one key phrase in the grand jury presentment. The prosecutors brilliantly (though deceitfully) claimed that Mike McQueary had witnessed Sandusky having “anal intercourse” with a ten year old boy in the Penn State showers.

Quite simply, there is very little in the human condition which makes our brains turn off their logic mechanisms faster than the concept of a child being anally raped by an old man. Like the color red to a raging bull, this phrase turned what would have been reasonable outrage into a communal blind fury. It also made it nearly impossible to discuss the actual facts of the matter because people understandably don’t like talking about the subject.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that had the grand jury presentment not used the words “anal intercourse,” that Joe Paterno would not have been fired the way that he was and likely would have coached out the season. I also have little uncertainty that the phrase was purposely misused in the grand jury presentment because prosecutors knew exactly what kind of public reaction it would provoke.

I also believe that part of the reason that the phrase “anal intercourse” was placed in the grand jury presentment was because, at that time, contrary to public perception, the legal case against Jerry Sandusky was actually remarkably weak.

Incredibly, despite a huge civil settlement being there for the taking, somehow there was/is no known victim in the McQueary episode (Don’t tell the media that! They still don’t realize it!), and, though somehow no one knew it at the time, McQueary had inexplicably testified incorrectly about which day, month and year the incident he supposedly witnessed took place.

Few people, and fewer media members, realize that at the time of the indictments there was only one allegation of actual “sex” from a known witness, and that person’s story had been disbelieved by officials at his own school (interestingly that boy’s mom doesn’t blame Paterno or Penn State). The prosecution needed a big explosion in order to blow the case wide open and bring in other accusers they had to be sure were still out there. Their tactic worked perfectly, but it also had the side effect (one with which it seems they weren’t unpleased) of making it impossible for Paterno to get a remotely fair public examination.

As it ultimately turned out, the “hanging” jury in the Jerry Sandusky case actually rightly acquitted him of “anal intercourse” in the McQueary allegation (for the record, I believe the evidence indicates that McQueary did not witness an assault, but rather a botched “grooming”). But by that time it no longer mattered and this inconvenient fact was almost universally ignored by the media.

Read the whole thing.

He has a terrific article which makes vital points on this sad affair. I think it is, however, too long and needed a bit of editing which it did not receive.

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