For Fear of Being Rathered

According to Jeremy Brown, Hugh Downs thinks news reporters will censor themselves even more than they did before because they’re afraid they’ll be Rathered by the blogosphere.

Eh. What a silly thing to say. Jeremy found the perfect analogy.

You’re sitting in the back of a bus. You and some of the other passengers begin to notice that the bus is not actually going anywhere. You walk up to the front of the bus and you see that the driver is simply turning the wheel back and forth and saying “vroom-vroom-vroom” to himself, and screeching once in a while. You say, ‘excuse me…you’re not actually driving this thing, are you?’ and he says, ‘Look, buddy, I’m an experienced bus driver and you’re just a passenger. Besides, I can’t do my job if you people are going to keep bitching at me.’

A Note to Commenters

I recently had Mt-Blacklist installed on this site to weed out annoying corporate spammers from my comments section. And I noticed that a few comments were automatically deleted that were left by regular people.

It has been several months since I last banned anyone from posting here. So if you try to leave a comment and you get a message that says you were banned all of a sudden, that was probably a mistake. (You would know if I banned you anyway. I don’t do it quietly.) Please email me and let me know if this happens to you.

The Hawkish Case for Kerry

I promised to write two essays: the hawkish case for John Kerry and the liberal case for George W. Bush. The first is published today as my newest Tech Central Station column. Have at it!

UPDATE: Centerfeud partly agrees. Patrick Lasswell dissents.

“Militant” = Terrorist

Nelson Ascher, for those of you who don’t know, is a Brazillian journalist based in Paris who also writes in English at his blog called Europundits. He speaks, reads and writes, gosh, I don’t know how many languages. He is also a poet and a professional translator. He has forgotten more about languages than I have ever learned with my quarter-knowledge of Spanish and my minimal understanding of Arabic.

So when he writes about words and languages, as he often does, I pay attention. Today he posted an interesting essay about the mainstream media’s use of euphemisms for “terrorist,” such as “militant,” “rebel,” and even “dissident.” I’ve always figured the use of such words, especially “dissident,” unintentionally slanders the likes of the French Resistance, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Those people do not deserve to be lumped in with the likes of Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Baathist dead-enders.

Anyway, Nelson Ascher thinks the use of these euphemisms isn’t working as the media intends because it simply changes the meaning of the euphemisms themselves. That goes hand in hand with what I’ve always thought, but he takes it a step further. Those of you who cringe (as I do) when a gang of thugs who cut off the heads of innocents are called anything other than terrorists are encouraged to read what he has to say.

Don’t Abandon Iraq

I was going to write something about why we should not leave Iraq prematurely, even though it’s looking pretty grim again at the moment. But Victor Davis Hanson said what I wanted to say, and he said it better than I would have. His column is your homework for the weekend.

Honesty = Disloyalty

I’m enjoying the new blog by Eric the Unread, a disgruntled lefty type who lives somewhere in Britain and moved to the center like I did. (Hey, Eric. The Tories are useless, so at least you can stick with the Labor Party. I’m homeless. Can we have Tony Blair when you’re finished with him?)

In an entry titled What’s wrong with the left Eric points to this post at the Washington Monthly by Kevin Drum, formerly of Calpundit fame.

Last Friday I said that I was skeptical that the Killian memos were genuine, and boy did I hear from y’all about that. My inbox is still creaking under the weight of charges of liberal disloyalty.

Sorry about that, Kevin. At least now you know how Eric the Unread and I feel all the time.

Tim Blair published a list of those charges of disloyalty, culled from Kevin’s comments box. It’s pathetic stuff, really, and there is only so long a person can put up with this crap before saying to heck with it.

If you haven’t checked out Eric’s blog yet, treat yourself. It’s good.

Horror Re-enacted by Bunnies

Tired of politics and war? Take a break!

Andrew Sullivan linked to Jaws in 30 seconds, re-enacted by bunnies.

Sean LaFreniere linked to Alien in 30 seconds, re-enacted by bunnies.

Now I’m linking to The Shining in 30 seconds, re-enacted by bunnies.

These are great. The first is a little bit funny. The second is a little bit funnier. And like one of those rare jokes that somehow keep getting funnier every time you hear it, The Shining in 30 seconds is the best.

(The Exorcist in 30 seconds isn’t bad, either.)

Dinosaur in a Suit

Arthur Sulzberger, publisher of The New York Times, manages to be both an elitist and a reactionary at the same time.

This takes us to another important on-line phenomenon, the rise of bloggers. These individuals publish web logs that offer an ongoing narrative of their thoughts and observations. Some are professional journalists, but the vast majority of them are just folks with something on their minds.

While some of these individuals are making a serious and thoughtful contribution to our global dialogue, too many simply contribute to the sense that we’re in the midst of an opinion-ridden free-for-all.

Bloggers contribute to the sense that we’re in the midst of an opinion-ridden free-for-all? But we are in the midst of an opinion-ridden free-for-all. This is America. Sulzberger can try to feed his opinions to us on a spoon, but he can’t actually do it. Not in this country.

The end of old media as we know it will arrive when the majority of editors come to respect the blogosphere for what it is instead of sniffing at those of us who contribute to it like we’re a bunch of gap-toothed peasants raising pitchforks at the palace.

Yesterday I quoted Nelson Ascher who pointed out that his daily paper in Sao Paolo, Brazil, beat The Washington Post on the Rathergate story for no other reason than that he reads blogs. (He also writes a blog, but it’s the fact that he is a professional journalist who reads blogs that gave his paper an edge.)

Some editors get the blogosphere already. Nick Shulz, editor of Tech Central Station, reads blogs. He also has a blog of his own. He recruits writers out of the blogosphere. (Writers like me, for instance.) The pieces he publishes link to writers in the blogosphere. And a panel on the right side of the main page consists of links to both blog posts and “old media” articles of note.

Nick doesn’t run a daily newspaper, but he gets it.

Sulzberger doesn’t get it. If only he could understand that the blogosphere can work for him instead of against him. Bloggers do a great deal of work for the mainstream media, and they do it for free. Not only can editors use the blogosphere as a talent pool, they can use it to find stories and angles their own reporters and opinion writers often miss. (I would miss all kinds of things if I didn’t read blogs. My own would be hopelessly behind everyone else’s.) More important, they can use the blogosphere to beat their competition by publishing the good stuff first.

That is what will bring old media down. Or, I should say, that is what will transform old media into something better. If editors and publishers like Sulzberger are too isolated from the new media reality, they will lose their prestige to whichever competitor figures it out first.

Come on, editors. You have an enormous new resource, and it doesn’t cost you a penny to use it. How much longer are you going to sit there in your suits and scoff at those in pajamas who keep kicking your asses?

(Hat tip: Kaus)

Closing the Gap Between the First World and the Third

Matthew Yglesias thinks the blogosphere is a little too quick to slap itself on the back for breaking Rathergate.

I’m not quite sure I grasp all the blogosphere triumphalism surrounding the Killian memos. After CBS ran the story, the conservative side of the ‘sphere came up with dozens of purported debunkings of their authenticity, almost all of which turned out to be more purported than debunking. Then after a few days of back-and-forth, traditional reporters at The Washington Post came out with a more careful, more accurate, more actually-debunking story.

I haven’t paid enough attention to this to know if Matthew is right or not. I’ve been impressed with some of the work on this I’ve seen in the blogosphere, even if some or even much of it is off-base. But let’s say, for the sake of discussion, that Matt is mostly right.

Even so. The blogosphere still deserves credit.

Nelson Ascher writes for a Brazilian daily newspaper in Sao Paolo. And his Sao Paolo paper, which usually lags behind First World media, wrote about Rathergate one day before the Washington Post did. The reason?

If I was able to come out with the story in my paper one day before the WaPo, that’s not because I’m a big-shot investigative journalist and this hasn’t been due to my personal merits or hard work either. It simply happened because I’m more attuned to the blogosphere than the average big media guy in the US or Europe. The merit obviously belongs to the blogosphere and, in this specific case, to the people of Powerline, LGF, to Instapundit, Roger Simon etc. But, thanks to them all, I have helped my paper publish the story one day before the WaPo. This, in the big media’s pecking order, is no mean change. In the realm of news there’s no First and Third World anymore.


And that’s beside the fact that the Washington Post may never have taken a look at this if the blogosphere hadn’t first hammered it.

Fisking Fisk

Robert Fisk continues to live up to his name.

His new piece is titled We should not have allowed 19 murderers to change our world.

He doesn’t say we should have acted as though nothing had happened, but he practically implies as much at the end.

[W]e should not allow 19 murderers to change our world. George Bush and Tony Blair are doing their best to make sure the murderers DO change our world.

I’d like to know how it could be otherwise. Seriously. The attack on September 11, 2001, was the worst terrorist act ever. It was also the most devastating attack of any kind inside America ever. Does Robert Fisk really think we should have treated such an atrocity the way we would a pipsqueak of a bomb in a trashcan at the mall by the IRA?

No one should doubt Al Qaeda would have used a nuclear weapon had they possessed one. Clearly they sought to maximize, not minimize, the death count. Even without a nuclear weapon the casualties could have been as high as if we’d been nuked. If the Twin Towers fell over sideways on impact the number of civilians murdered could have exceeded the death toll at Hiroshima. As Paul Berman put it in Terror and Liberalism, “It is worth asking if there is anything genocidal in this kind of terrorist impulse.”

Old school terrorists like the IRA and the Basque ETA don’t behave this way, nor will they ever.

History is what it is. It swung on its hinges on September 11. It would have done so if even if Dennis Kucinich sat in the White House and George Galloway ran Britain.

Allow me to back up a bit in Fisk’s piece and address him personally. (Hi, Robert. I hope you track the referral logs in your Web site’s stat meter and read what people have to say about your work.) The ending, obtuse as it is, is a lot less asinine than what led to it.

Merely to ask why the murderers of 11 September had done their bloody deeds was to befriend “terrorism”. Merely to ask what had been in the minds of the killers was to give them support.

Says who, Robert? It’s not the question that leads to this accusation. It’s the answer to the question that does it.

You have been accused of “befriending” terrorists. I agree that putting it that way is over-the-top. The reason this happens, though, isn’t because you ask why terrorists kill people. It’s because you blame the victims.

Hell, you made excuses for people who assaulted you personally. Must I remind?

On December 10, 2001, you wrote the following:

They started by shaking hands. We said “Salaam aleikum” — peace be upon you — then the first pebbles flew past my face. A small boy tried to grab my bag. Then another. Then someone punched me in the back. Then young men broke my glasses, began smashing stones into my face and head. I couldn’t see for the blood pouring down my forehead and swamping my eyes. And even then, I understood. I couldn’t blame them for what they were doing. In fact, if I were the Afghan refugees of Kila Abdullah, close to the Afghan-Pakistan border, I would have done just the same to Robert Fisk. Or any other Westerner I could find. [Emphasis added.]

Really? Would you really have done just the same?

I may be arguing with you here, but I’m honestly sorry you were beat up for being a white guy. It was wrong. You hadn’t done anything to those people. They are precisely the moral equivalents of the criminals who assaulted random Arabs (and even, pathetically, Sikhs) on the streets of America after September 11. It is not okay to lash out at people who share the same ethnicity with those you are pissed at.

One article I wrote for The Independent in 1998 asked why Iraqis do not tear us limb from limb, which is what some Iraqis did to the American mercenaries they killed in Fallujah last April.

There you go again. Or, there you nearly go again.

If someone else had written that sentence, I might give them a pass. But you already said you would assault any random Westerner if you were a refugee in Afghanistan. It’s not a huge leap to think you might want to tear a Westerner limb from limb if you were Iraqi.

Jesus, Robert. Did it not occur to you that most Iraqis have more decency than to tear innocent people limb from limb? Don’t you see how insulting to Iraqis your question is? Let me help you out. I altered your sentence a bit.

One article I wrote asked why Englishmen do not tear French people limb from limb…

Or how about this alteration?

One article I wrote asked why Israelis do not tear Palestinians limb from limb…

How do those read to you? Did the first insult England? Did the second excuse and even suggest hypothetical vicious Israeli behavior?

Later in the same piece you argued with your own title:

America’s relations with the Middle East, especially the nature of its relationship with Israel, was to remain an unspoken and unquestioned subject.


We did change our relations with the Middle East. One of the biggest examples is the one you hate most. We were no longer willing to keep troops on Saudi Arabian “holy ground” to protect a corrupt and reactionary crime family from the fascist next door.

You may also recall that we adjusted our relationship with Israelis and Palestinians. For the first time ever an American president explicitly backed Palestinian statehood and Palestinian democracy. Previously both Israel and the United States relied on the autocratic psuedo-proxy Yasser Arafat to fight a dirty anti-terror war for them. Those days are over.

Meanwhile, most Americans would like to see even more changes in our relationship to the Middle East. We aren’t finished with Saudi Arabia yet. The House of Saud needs to be hanged up and dried. Any time you feel like joining us in questioning our relations in the Middle East, instead of complaining that Bush and Blair changed the world, let us know.

Hat tip: Harry’s Place


When the CBS scandal first broke, I vowed to myself that I would stay out of it. The reaction in the media and in the blogosphere was so overwhelmingly partisan I didn’t know who to believe. Bush supporters seemed to me a little too sure of themselves. Kerry supporters were too dismissive and defensive.

But I’ll weigh in now because Jim Treacher pointed me to what looks like an awfully comprehensive debunking of those documents by Peter Duncan.

If you think the documents are genuine and that this is some kind of smear campaign, see if you can debunk Duncan’s evidence before arguing with me in the comments.

I rather doubt (pun intended, sorry) that this will affect the election, though, unless it can be shown that the Kerry campaign itself had something to do with it. That would be a real scandal. It would also be a dumb scandal.

We already know Bush wasn’t the best-behaved boy in Texas. Publishing yet more “evidence” won’t affect anyone’s vote for the same reason Bill Clinton’s approval ratings remained high after each successive bimbo eruption. Everyone familiar with Clinton (and that includes most people in Iceland, Pakistan, and Bolivia, as well as most Americans) already knew he had trouble with women, zippers, and pants. And we all know Bush had problems with responsibility and booze.

If you want to dig up new dirt on Bush, you have to find a new kind of dirt, not more of the same old dirt. We’ve already factored the old dirt in. It won’t move numbers.

It looks like the blogosphere found new dirt on CBS, though. It could move numbers.

Request for Help

Can anyone help me install MT-Blacklist? I’ll pay you if you can make it work. I am not a techie. It’s a bit beyond my level.

My comments are being swamped with so much spam for drugs, porn, and “penis enlargement” I may have to shut down the comments altogether until I can figure out what to do about it. I would rather not. I like my comments. So do other people.

For those of you who read my comments and don’t know what I’m talking about: Most comment spammers are clever enough not to fill up space on current posts. They usually spam the older posts. Then they search Google for their own phrases, click the links, and boost the Google rankings for their own stupid “products.” I’m tired of paying for their bandwidth. Check out the second half of this comments thread and you’ll see what I mean. These spammers now make up almost ten percent of my blog traffic. It needs to stop now.

UPDATE: I got a lot of offers for help. Thanks so much everybody. I’m taken care of now.

Four Words

Here we are on the third anniversary of September 11, 2001, and John Kerry is getting clobbered in the polls. Is anyone really surprised? Does anyone think the odds of him winning are greater than 50 percent?

Bush’s post-convention bounce seems to be sticking.

Here is the latest from Time:

Last week’s seismic voter shift to George W. Bush showed no signs of dwindling in this week’s Time Poll. Bush continues to lead Democratic challenger John Kerry among likely voters by double digits, 52% – 41%, in the three way race, with Nader at 3%, the same as last week.

Yesterday Mark Poling said in my comments section that John Kerry could easily beat George W. Bush with a platform that looked something like this:

Good war, bad occupation, but I’ll make Iraq right, and I won’t make the same mistakes with our other enemies…


You could reduce it even further, all the way down to four words:

Good war, bad occupation.

That’s it. Done. Some people would argue with that. But independents and swing voters wouldn’t.

It amazes me that neither Kerry nor any of his highly-paid advisors could come up with these four simple words.

If you want to appeal to the middle, you have to know where the middle is. Centrists may be “wishy washy” when it comes to our two political parties. But that doesn’t mean centrists are wishy-washy on terrorism. Bush beats Kerry by a whopping and insurmountable 23 points on this issue.

Kerry’s Secret Recipe Revealed

Marc Cooper posted the hilarious cook-book style recipe John Kerry apparently uses for his campaign.

How can a cook-book style recipe be funny? Well, it just is. I laughed out loud eight or nine times.

Fiddling on Two Fronts

If you’re surprised by or skeptical of the following, please raise your hand in the comments:

VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran is using negotiations with the European Union’s “big three” on suspending sensitive nuclear activities to buy the time it needs to get ready to make atomic weapons, an Iranian exile and intelligence officials said.

With intelligence sources saying Iran could be months away from nuclear weapons capability, the United States wants Iran reported to the U.N. Security Council immediately, charging Tehran uses its civilian atomic energy program as a front to develop the bomb. Tehran vehemently denies the charge.

France, Britain and Germany want to avoid isolating Iran and have taken a go-slow approach, negotiating with Iran to suspend uranium enrichment activities.

“Iran continues to use existing differences between the U.S. and Europe to their advantage and tries to drag out talks with the EU to buy time,” Alireza Jafarzadeh, an Iranian exile who has reported accurately on Iran’s nuclear program in the past, told Reuters.

I have a humble request for George W. Bush and John Kerry. Just a small thing, really, if it’s not too much trouble.

Shut the hell up about Vietnam, the National Guard, Swift Boat Vets, the Department of Friggin’ Wellness, and all the rest of your stupid bullshit and tell me what you think about Iran. (If you can find the time.)



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