Tag Archives: Journalism

‘The goal is parity, not superiority’

“All told, liberal society in the U.S. is, at best, just over half a century old: If it were a person, it would be too young to qualify for Medicare,” Osita Nwanevu writes in “The Willful Blindness of Reactionary Liberalism,” his response to liberal critics — Jonathan Chait types — of progressive identity politics. “Reactionary liberals,” he calls them, signatories to “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate” published in Harper. Readers will recognize, with dismay, the names of Greil Marcus, Dahlia Lithwick, David W. Blight, and Helen Vendler; others like Bari Weiss appear as predictably as infectious spread at a Trump rally. They lent their reputations to statements like this:

While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty.

As Charles Pierce is fond of saying, bull, and also, shit. “Blinding moral certainty” confronting a MAGA-ite is the least we can arm ourselves with; maybe the courage to say, “Fuck you, racist asshole” too, but perhaps the obscenity is too morally blinding for these intellectuals, who must rue the day Susan Sontag died so she could join them (who knows, maybe she wouldn’t have). Continue reading

Writing as pleasure

A couple days ago Michaelangelo Matos shared Andrew Thompson and Kyle Paoletta’s interview with A.S. Hamrah, The Baffler‘s film critic. I’ve enjoyed Hamrah’s work when I’ve read it. While sharing judgments on A.O. Scott, Anthony Lane, Manohla Dargis, some of which I agree with, Hamrah edges into an epistemology of film writing that many of us who published around, say, 2000 can understand. Thompson asks about the value of advocacy:

Hamrah: I think by reading what I write, you should be able to make that decision on your own without me being explicit about it. And if people in my personal life ask me, should I see 1917, I would say no. But I don’t think that function of criticism exists anymore. I think that’s a midcentury concept somehow. And I think people know too much about the movies before they get to the point where they’re reading a review of it, right? They’ve already kind of made the decision whether it’s something they would see or not. The point of writing is not to do that, but to be a writer. There’s so many ideas about criticism, but for me, the point is that we should literally criticize things.

When I read this response a night ago, I tossed it around for a while. “The point is we should literally criticize things.” The adverb, which I’ve denounced for years as a flabby intensifier, works; its emphasis is necessary. Criticism as practice and ethos. A model for living. Continue reading

Westerns and the willies: Coronavirus update #14

How many got their stimulus checks in the last forty-eight hours? There it was, an overnight deposit. The full amount too. Thanks to the largesse of the federal government, the Campari Fund will remain in the black for Fiscal Year 2020. I kid. This morning I withdrew most of it with the intention of paying for long-delayed home improvements to which I hope to turn when Ron DeSantis treats the pandemic more seriously than I have the state of my larder.

The last few updates have ended with politics. I’ll reverse course so I can get to the better stuff… Continue reading

What happens when a Lexus and a olive tree collide?

I’d hoped to save a mention of this drivel until tomorrow — a line at most — but I’m so infuriated and my mussels and spinach pasta lunch so unsatisfying that I must vent this diseased spleen. A readymade assembled with a caulking gun, Diet Sunkist, and remaindered copies of Richard Nixon’s In the Arena, “What America Needs Next: A Biden National Unity Cabinet” violates every canon of journalism and effective writing: from the headline to the commas, it contains not a single example of wit, perspicuity, or a pulse. Continue reading

BothSidesism Part #45965

I’ve been decrying reporters’ perfidious habit of assuming questions have “two sides.” A news outlet’s tendency to view dirty local drinking water, exaggerations of crowd sizes, withholding aid because a foreign country failed to do a president’s election year bidding, and viruses through the scrim of who’s up and down has bedeviled journalism for decades. The NYT story and headline (I won’t link) is only the latest and most chilling. And Jonathan Martin likely follows what his journalism professors taught him years ago.

(h/t Scott Lemieux)

‘It’s a wartime mentality right now’: Coronavirus update #5

Insensate to music whose demands on this listener went no further than guaranteeing deepening impatience in car service waiting areas, I’ve turned to Kenny Rogers in the last forty-eight hours with the fervor the late country idol channeled into his Dolly Parton duet. Spring in South Florida means watching scolds of jays compete with mockingbirds for telephone wire bragging rights; the chaos of trills and screeches interferes with my hamhanded attempt to record my first class lecture, but otherwise I’m grateful for the reminder that, as Sting once averred, there is a deeper world than this.

Continue reading

‘We will not cover live any speech…involving the president’

Confusing objectivity with fairness, political reporters have contributed unwittingly to the decay of their craft. Millions of Americans trust The Media less than a president who spits lies in two- and three-word sentences, then repeating them like Pete Shelley does his solo in Buzzcocks’ “Boredom.” I urge my young charges at the student newspapers to describe what their five senses tell them. They don’t need three sources to confirm a rose is pink, and if a member of student government confidently claims he saw snakes falling out of the ceiling it’s up to the reporter to explain snakes aren’t often found in the library. Continue reading

Michael Bloomberg: a private citizen ‘he should remain’

“It is truly a devastating sight to watch liberals who have winced for years at Donald Trump’s issues on wealth, race and women allow fear, propaganda and influence mercenaries to push them into supporting a man who has his own issues concerning wealth, women and race,” Charles M. Blow writes in a NYT column denouncing the Michael Bloomberg candidacy. Continue reading

On the potential extinction of poisonous reptiles

A depraved toad, a loathsome creature who with Newt Gingrich is responsible for the tenor of political conversations since Poppy Bush sat in the Oval Office, Rush Limbaugh got diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. He called Barack Obama “Barack the Magic Negro.” To legalize gay marriage, he said, was akin to “normalizing” pedophilia. He implied Parkinson’s survivor Michael J. Fox got off meds for political purposes, which makes sense: he admitted he was an abuser of prescription drugs for political purposes.

For Limbaugh — I refuse to dignify him with the nickname — people didn’t exist except as targets or allies; if he had gay relatives or knew any sort of woman, his charlatanism looked more evil. More than Roy Cohn, he was a menace because he commanded millions of radio listeners and didn’t use innuendo. As a friend on a message board wrote, he was more of a nihilist than the punks could ever have been. When he dies, the non-conservative Beltway media will applaud him because it’s too cowardly too acknowledge the boot he pressed against their necks.

How to survive media sophistry about Iowa

I don’t have a good feel for how many readers watch cable news. I peek at “Morning” Joe and “Mika”‘s children’s entertainment hour a couple times a week to learn which way the winds of conventional wisdom will blow (this Monday’s CW: Bernie Sanders will win, Chris Matthews will choke on the word “McGovern”). Saner people nursed post-Superbowl hangovers and discussed Jennifer Lopez-Shakira instead of worrying what thousands of white people in Iowa will do. Continue reading

LGBT discrimination in Florida private schools continues

An excellent example local reporting that has gotten little national attention, Orlando Sentinel published an examination of LGBT discrimination at Christian schools whose students receive taxpayer-funded vouchers. “That means at least 14 percent of Florida’s nearly 147,000 scholarship students last year attended private schools where homosexuality was condemned or, at a minimum, unwelcome,” Leslie Postal and Annie Martin dryly note.

The Sentinel found 83 schools that refuse to admit LGBTQ students or could expel them if their sexual orientation or gender identity were discovered. Some also refuse to educate students whose parents are gay or to hire staff who are gay.

Another 73 schools call being gay or transgender a biblical sin but do not explain how those views play out in admissions or student discipline decisions.


Some of the private schools depend on the vouchers to cover tuition for nearly all their students.

At Worshipers’ House of Prayer Academy in Miami, for example, at least 112 of 130 students got a scholarship last year. The school’s website says it has “zero tolerance” for “homosexual activity” because God calls it “an abomination.”

As the Sentinel reported in its 2017 “Schools Without Rules” series, the private schools that take Florida scholarships operate largely free of state oversight, setting their own standards for teacher credentials, facilities and curriculum, which can fall short of the requirements the state imposes on its public schools.

The schools are also able to set their own admission standards, which could include rules about sexual orientation and gender identity as well as demands for church attendance and certain academic benchmarks, such as satisfactory test scores and good grades.

In the same week that the Supreme Court heard the Montana tax break case , I shudder at the likelihood John Roberts and His Furious Five will affirm a state’s right to pay for private educations using public funds, and the private school administrators have already set themselves up as victims pleading for Fourteenth Amendment protections; they should have the liberty to discriminate against LGBT students, they argue, despite accepting my tax dollars.

These developments represent a triumph for former governor Jeb Bush, whose laughable 2016 campaign for president has wiped the collective memory of his effort to privatize education in Florida — the state with the prettiest name!