[FoRK] On Hitchens on Moore (on Donner, on Blitzen)
owen at permafrost.net
Tue Jun 29 17:37:12 PDT 2004
Nice editorial. Something to send any media people you know. Title of
the article is "Shoveling Coal For Satan"
> * WWW.NYPRESS.COM | JUNE 29, 2004*
> *MATT TAIBBI*
> NEWS & COLUMNS
> /To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to
> promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this
> film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that
> would never again rise above the excremental... Fahrenheit 9/11 is a
> sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise
> in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice
> masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery./
> —Christopher Hitchens,
> Slate.com, on Michael Moore
> Well, that's rich, isn't it? Christopher Hitchens crawling out of a
> bottle long enough to denounce Michael Moore as a coward. I can't
> imagine anything more uplifting, except maybe a zoo baboon humping the
> foot of a medical school cadaver.
> /All/ journalists are cowards. Hitchens knows it, I know it, everybody
> in this business knows it. If there were any justice at all, every
> last goddamn one of us would be lowered, head-first, into a
> wood-chipper. Over Arizona. Shoot a nice red mist over the whole
> state, make it arable for a year or two. A year's worth of fava beans
> and endive for the children of Bangladesh: I dare anyone in our
> business to say that that wouldn't represent a better use of our
> rotting bodies than the actual fruits of our labor.
> No one among us is going to throw that first stone, though. Not even
> Chris Hitchens, a man who makes a neat living completing advanced
> /Highlights for Children/ exercises like the following: "Denounce a
> like-minded colleague, using the words 'Lugubrious' and
> 'Semienvious.'" Such is the pretense of modern journalism, that we are
> to be lectured on courage by a man who has had his intellectual face
> lifted so many times, he can't close his eyes without opening his
> mouth. By a man who, if the Soviets had won the Cold War, would be
> writing breathless features on Eduard Shevardnadze for three bucks a
> word in /Komsomolskaya Vanity Fair/ ("Georgia on His Mind: Edik Speaks
> Out." Photos by Annie Liebowitz...).
> Which is fine, good luck to him, mazel tov. Everybody's got to make a
> living. But let's not leave people confused out there. The idea that
> anyone in today's media is either courageous or cowardly on the basis
> of what they write or broadcast is ridiculous.
> Hitchens, like me and everyone else out there publishing, lives in a
> professional world where the idea of courage is submitting nice words
> about George Bush to the /Nation/, or maybe a "Rethinking Welfare
> Reform" piece to the /Wall Street Journal/. What Hitchens calls
> courage is really a willingness to offend one's intellectual
> constituency, and what he really means by that is /honesty/—something
> very different from courage. It's a nice quality, honesty, and the
> pundit out there who has it and still manages to make a living is, I
> guess, to be applauded. But again, let's not confuse that with courage.
> Courage is a willingness to face real risks—your neck, or at the very
> least, your job. The journalist with courage would have threatened to
> resign rather than repeat George Bush's justifications for invasion
> before it began. I don't remember anyone resigning last winter. The
> journalist with courage would threaten to quit rather than do a
> magazine piece about an advertiser's product, his fad diet book or his
> magic-bullet baldness cure. It happens every day, and nobody ever
> quits over it.
> If journalists had courage, they would form unions and refuse to work
> for any company that made decisions about editorial content based on
> the bottom line, on profit. Are there individual instances of
> reporters who quit over this issue? Sure, there are a few. Lowell
> Bergman walked out on /60 Minutes/ over this one. And there were those
> Fox TV reporters in Tampa, Jane Akre and Steve Wilson, who famously
> (and expensively, as it turned out) fell on their swords rather than
> broadcast a bunch of cuddly bullshit about the Monsanto corporation.
> Yes, there are a few isolated vertebrates out there in our business.
> But it wasn't like the whole staff of WTVT in Tampa walked out in
> support of Akre and Wilson. Janitors stick up for each other.
> Steelworkers stick up for each other. Even camera operators and
> soundmen stick up for each other. But journalists just sit still in
> their cubicles with their eyebrows raised, waiting for it all to blow
> over, in those very rare instances when a colleague walks the plank.
> I've been around journalists my entire life, since I was a little kid,
> and I haven't met more than five in three-plus decades who wouldn't
> literally shit from shame before daring to say that their job had
> anything to do with truth or informing the public. Everyone in the
> commercial media, and that includes Hitchens, knows what his real job
> is: feeding the monkey. We are professional space-fillers, frivolously
> tossing content-pebbles in an ever-widening canyon of demand, cranking
> out one silly pack-mule after another for toothpaste and sneaker ads
> to ride on straight into the brains of the stupefied public.
> One friend I know describes working in the media as /shoveling coal
> for Satan/. That's about right. A worker in a tampon factory has
> dignity: He just uses his sweat to make a product, a useful product at
> that, and doesn't lie to himself about what he does. In this business
> we make commodities for sale and, for the benefit of our consciences
> and our egos, we call them /ideas/ and /truth/. And then we go on the
> lecture circuit. But in 99 cases out of 100, the public has more to
> learn about humanity from the guy who makes tampons.
> I'm off on this tangent because I'm enraged by the numerous attempts
> at verbose, pseudoliterary, "nuanced" criticism of Moore this week by
> the learned priests of our business. (And no, I'm not overlooking this
> newspaper.) Michael Moore may be an ass, and impossible to like as a
> public figure, and a little loose with the facts, and greedy, and a
> shameless panderer. But he wouldn't be necessary if even one percent
> of the rest of us had any balls at all.
> If even one reporter had stood up during a pre-Iraq Bush press
> conference last year and shouted, "Bullshit!" it might have made a
> If even one network, instead of cheerily re-broadcasting
> Pentagon-generated aerial bomb footage, had risked its access to the
> government by saying to the Bush administration, "We're not covering
> the war unless we can shoot anything we want, without restrictions,"
> that might have made a difference. It might have made this war look
> like what it is—pointless death and carnage that would have scared
> away every advertiser in the country—rather than a big fucking
> football game that you can sell Coke and Pepsi and Scott's Fertilizer to.
> Where are the articles about the cowardice of those people? Hitchens
> in his piece accuses Moore of errors by omission: How come he isn't
> writing about the CNN producers who every day show us gung-ho Army
> desert rats instead of legless malcontents in the early stages of a
> lifelong morphine addiction?
> Yeah, well, we don't write about those people, because they're just
> doing their jobs, whatever that means. For some reason, we in the
> media can forgive that. We just can't forgive it when someone does our
> jobs for us. Say what you want about Moore, but he picked himself up
> and /did/ something, something approximating the role journalism is
> supposed to play. The rest of us—let's face it—are just souped-up shoe
> salesmen with lit degrees. Who should shut their mouths in the
> presence of real people. o
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