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Friday, February 25, 2005

Are any of these lines from The New Yorker tongue-in-cheek?

Long ago, as far back as high school, I subscribed to The New Yorker in part for its crisp and elegant prose, but mostly for its consistently funny cartoons. I allowed my subscription to lapse for many years before resubscribing.

Now I read it in part for its crisp and elegant prose and its occasionally funny cartoons, but mostly for its consistently (if unintentionally) funny political prose.

Consider, gentle readers, the following bits from the February 14 & 21 combined edition (some or all of which may be online; I'm too lazy to hunt down the links if so).


From Hendrik Hertzberg's opening comment on the Iraq elections (bold and underlining mine throughout):

There are plenty of Vietnam echoes in America's Iraq adventure, especially in the corrosive effects on domestic comity, the use of false or distorted intelligence to create a sense of immediate threat, and the arrogance, combined with ignorance of local realities, of many senior strategist. But the differences are large, beginning with the nature of the enemy. The Vietnamese Communists possessed a legitimacy derived from thirty years of anticolonial struggle — against France, then Japan, then France again, and finally, willy-nilly, the United States.

Tenacity, certainly. Ferocity, absolutely. Nationalistic zeal, without doubt. But legitimacy? Later in the same piece:

Critics of the Bush Administration can take comfort in the fact that the apparent success of the Iraqi election can be celebrated without having to celebrate the supposed wisdom of the Administration. Like the Homeland Security Department and the 9/11 Commission, the Iraqi Election was something Bush & Co. resisted and were finally maneuvered into accepting.

Ah, yes. Good thing for the Iraqis that Ted Kennedy & Co. — stalwart insisters on keeping America's promise to hold elections on time, doncha remember? — managed to tame our intrinsic American imperialism. That damned cowboy Dubya prolly woulda just slaughtered all them A-rabs, paved the country over, and run a pipeline to Houston if'n he'd had his way.


Next, from a short piece by Adam Gopnik [sic; surely he can find a lefty lawyer willing to do a name-change for him for free, no?], in a piece bemoaning the larger street signs installed in Manhattan around the time of the GOP convention:

It has been five months now, and regrettably, unlike the Republicans, the new signs apparently are not going to go back where they came from....

... The reason these kinds of signs are necessary at the intersections of Los Angeles boulevards is that all the avenues and streets there look more or less alike. [Ya missed a chance to knock a Red State city like Houston here, Adam.] ... New York is not a hard place to get around in. If you don't know where you are, you don't deserve to be here.


In a feature article by Jane Mayer called "Outsourcing Torture":

Dr. Allen Keller, the director of the Bellevue/N.Y.U. Program for Survivors of Torture, told me that he had treated a number of people who had been subjected to such forms of near-asphyxiation [like "water-boarding"], and he argued that it was indeed torture. Some victims were still traumatized years later, he said. One patient couldn't take showers, and panicked when it rained. "The fear of being killed is a terrifying experience," he said.

One presumes that Dr. Keller's PhD may be in the subbranch of philosophy known as "Tautologies" (with minors perhaps in "Bleeding Hearts" and "Blind Moral Relativity"). Interestingly, though, millions of Iraqi voters were able to overcome their fear of being killed — and not by rain showers — to go out and vote last month. Apparently there actually are experiences more terrifying than the fear of being killed.

Later in that same piece:

But Gerhard Strate, [Mounir] Motassadeq's defense lawyer, told me, "We are not satisfied with the summaries [of testimony from Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, high-ranking al Qaeda members held in government custody]...." He added, "I don't know why they won't produce the witnesses. The first thing you think is that the U.S. government has something to hide."

Or maybe it just gives a rat's patoot about keeping American and coalition military and intelligence forces and sources alive, d'ya think? Or continuing to catch and punish the terrorists? Those are the first things that I thought, but then, I'm one of those soreheads who still sorta holds a grudge about 9/11. But wait, wait, there's more:

[Released suspect Hadj] Boudella's wife said that ... her view of America had changed. "I have not changed my opinion about its people, but unfortunately I have changed my opinion about its respect for human rights," she said. "It is no longer the leader in the world. It has become the leader in the violation of human rights."

Mr. Rove, cue the crowds: "U-S-A! U-S-A! We're Number One!"


Then we have Nicholas Lemann's article entitled "Fear and Favor: Why is everyone mad at the mainstream media?" This one has a sweet revelation that 'splains boatloads to those of us who followed the MSM's coverage of the SwiftVets:

[WaPo executive editor Leonard] Downie had one sit-down meeting with people concerned about the Post's reporting — a group from the Kerry campaign, who had come to try, unsuccessfully, to influence a story that Michael Dobbs was working on about the claims made by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. They had sensed in advance what the piece, which appeared in August, suggested: that Kerry and the pro-Bush group had been less than candid about Kerry's military service.

"Unsuccessfully"?!? Holy Toledo. Michael Dobbs wrote one genuinely hard-hitting investigative piece on August 21st that — if you followed the jump to the back pages — squarely recognized that Sen. Kerry was stonewalling on signing Standard Form 180, and on his own personal diaries and a ship's log written by supporter Michael Medeiros. Then Mr. Dobbs either lost interest or — ahem — had his priorities reassigned for him by his editors. There was one more decent WaPo story on the SwiftVets controversies, an article not by Dobbs but by WaPo's Ann Gerhart. She obtained the most memorable quote from Doug Brinkley of the campaign season, responding to the senator's claim that his confidentiality agreement with Brinkley required him to stonewall by explaining that the papers were Kerry's property and in his full control: "Go bug John Kerry, and leave me alone." Otherwise, it seems that the "[Kerry] people concerned about the Post's reporting" managed to get WaPo to do for John Kerry what WaPo so resolutely refused to do for Richard Nixon — hush up about a cover-up.

[Chicago Tribune deputy managing editor for features James] Warren was frustrated that what seems obvious to him and his colleagues evidently doesn't to their audience. "We've done significant research with readers of the Tribune Company's three big papers, the Tribune, Newsday and the L.A. Times," he said. "There was an increasingly visceral distrust in us — a stated, increasing lack of confidence in the local papers, very consistent across the three markets. They didn't see what we were doing as materially different from local TV news — that was depressing.... They don't see any difference between an investigative reporter and a blow-dried idiot."

Ayup. That about nails it. Odd, how you can so precisely identify the consequences, yet remain so clueless about their causes, Mr. Warren.


Sadly, I'm pretty sure that the only one of the lines that I've bold-faced above that was intended as tongue-in-cheek was Mr. Gopnik's. At least it produced my one genuine belly laugh that I think a New Yorker author actually intended.

There was also one terrific (apolitical) cartoon in this issue, depicting two women brunching. One remarks to the other, deadpan, "He thinks I'm a good cook in the same way I think he's good in bed." 

Well, guys, I guess I still think you're a great magazine in the same way you think Dubya is a great American.

Posted by Beldar at 09:03 PM in Global War on Terror, Humor, Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink


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(1) AMac made the following comment | Feb 26, 2005 1:10:57 PM | Permalink

Well don't laugh too hard about that wacky New Yorker and its out-of-touch Manhattan liberal bubble.

I've probably conversed with about two dozen people over the past year where talk turned to the Swift Boats (yah, I don't talk politics that much with friends and relatives). Except for those few familiar with web-logs (all right-wing), not a single person had any initial response to the Swifties' charges except outright dismissal. And none had a concept of "the facts of the case" that would in any way square with the examinations that you've done on this blog during that time.

The combination of Kerry sympathizers and clueless reporters have managed to keep this issue out of the field of view of most of the (mostly centrist and center-left) people that I know, through the election season and beyond. A pretty solid accomplishment in this Information Age.

(2) Bill M made the following comment | Feb 26, 2005 1:26:05 PM | Permalink

Comments "tongue in cheek" or "clueless." I wonder....?

(3) Aliaenor made the following comment | Feb 26, 2005 8:10:41 PM | Permalink


My relationship with the New Yorker mirrors your own and I would like to note further that it often offers up a smorgasbord of real facts that may be gleaned and evaluated independently quite apart from the articles' intended spin. For that, I still value the mag.

But in the humor department,I now check out Talk of the Town first thing, because I can rely on Hertzberg for anything from a wry grin to ROFLMAO. I mean, why in God's name doesn't Remnick understand that Sidney Blumenthal is not replicable?

You are bookmarked, sir. Keep on keeping on. thanks.

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