Understanding The USA’s Culture War

If you wish to make a start at comprehending the depth and scope of the divide in US politics, you are well advised to read Tom Wolfe. His commentary is both revelatory and entertaining.

Begin with parts of Hooking Up, in particular Wolfe’s classic “Tiny Mummies,” and the author’s comments on what happened after that lampoon was published.

The most famous of Wolfe’s vivisections of the ruling elite is Radical Chic; this newsletter has referred to it several times. It limns a perverse, fascinatingly bizarre ethic that borders on a suicidal imperative. The piece caused anguish throughout the establishment, and the term “radical chic” entered the language. Wolfe’s devastating commentary was subsequently published in a slim volume that includes Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, a disturbing snapshot of entitlement and bureaucratic dysfunction.

Wolfe’s incisive prose flays the chattering class, the social stratum that thinks of most of the nation as “flyover country.” Sarah Palin makes no sense at all unless one first understands the assumptions and values of those who loathe her because they recognize her as The Other.

The Tea Party Movement…

…was born about a half year ago. Today,

they’re putting two million people on the Washington Mall. Wow! If I were Obama & Co., I’d be afraid, I’d be very afraid.

And no doubt they are. They bobbled the ball big time and I wouldn’t be surprised if heads are going to start to roll — and not just the obvious (and relatively inconsequential) ones like Van Jones. Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod are going to be looking at each other like nervous apparatchiks in the Politburo because someone is going to have take the bullet for the disaster they have wrought. Emanuel is looking like a particular dummy right now for opening his mouth about not missing a good crisis. It is from idiotic statements like that unread stimulus bills get passed or giant healthcare legislation proffered without anyone knowing the contents, not even (and maybe especially) the President.

I can remember a couple (of large political demonstrations in past years) that might have been nearly this big (not sure, really). But I can’t remember anything this size that was entirely non-violent. That’s rather miraculous for a two-million person demonstration and deserves the highest praise, though I doubt the mainstream media will say much. They’re still digesting how much they’re despised. (Emphasis added.)

The Penguin Post does not agree with this commentary (which you may find in full here). The predominant mindset in the Obama administration is, this newsletter feels, elitist. Obama and his team honestly believe that the people who voted against them are (a) ignorant, or (b) stupid, or (c) racists, or (d) at least two of the three. As followers of the simpleton/hick/fraud/joke Sarah Palin, they are politically unsophisticated and have fallen victim to a conspiracist fable that begins with the notion that a black man who is not constitutionally qualified to be president has tricked his way into the White House and intends to make Islam the official religion of the nation.

Yes, that’s a hyperbolic statement of the prevailing attitude in the administration. But it touches on some points that are valid and true. Obama and his crew believe their opponents are just speed bumps on the road to Utopia.

The community organizers are utterly determined. They are not frightened — not at all. They are not about to back down. They are planning the defeat of the mob of morons, and Alinsky’s manual will illuminate their planning.

It must not be forgotten that Obama still sees his role in history as the man who cleaned up after a hated and rejected incompetent, George W. Bush. Anything and everything that opposes Obama can be attributed to Paleolithic neo-conservatives who march to a drum beaten by Dick Cheney, worship racist Israel, and don’t understand anything above the third grade reading level. Every society contains such contaminating obscurantists and recidivists; fortunately they can be weakened, rendered irrelevant, and eventually eradicated. Flyover country has no mandate, and those who cling to religion and guns will literally perish before they halt progress.

If ten million had descended on Washington, the ideologues of the bicoastal elite would have sneered at the throng as inconsequential.

The current battle in the culture war can be decided by those in the political middle. They decided the presidential election. If they move solidly away from Obama, that will leave him supported by a single large and reliable segment of the electorate: the black community.

There Are Two Seismic Consequences Of This Bizarre Tale

This item began life as a line or two in the Links section of Number 106 of the Penguin Post. Over three days, it grew into a gigantic story with implications far beyond its original scope. Today, in this newsletter’s view, it represents a serious threat to the Obama administration and to the journalistic establishment of the USA; one can only guess which may be hit harder.

Here is the story as the PenPo set it up for inclusion in this issue:

ACORN got caught with its pants down again, and claims bitterly that its critics are racists. Does that make sense to you? Check it out. And note as well that ACORN’s golden opportunity with The Census Bureau just got cancelled. So…the people running the census are racists, too?

Meanwhile, the big media, ever the alert watchdogs guarding the public interest, are on top of the story, right? No; Obama’s boot-licking lap dogs are deliberately looking the other way. Business as usual.

Then…splat. One to go, which probably will have happened by the time your read this, and…scam over. With some possibly nasty consequences for ACORN. The chant starts…RI-CO, RI-CO…. Quotable quote: “Certainly, if ACORN had been a private for-profit company, three separate and wholly unrelated incidents would have been enough for leftists to demand the heads of the corporate officers.” The rest is here.

Then another video surfaced (hat tip to JY for the link), and it’s a Lulu. A disgusting but small incident — passed off by many as a fluke — has unfolded into a pattern that can not be disputed or explained away. It has been conclusively demonstrated that ACORN itself, rather than just a few loose cannons in its employ, is rotten.

“Progressive” apologists for ACORN can deny the obvious truth, but that will only damage their credibility. The right wing in US politics is sure to press its advantage, for the exposure of the nature of this organization will rock the administration and the press. Specifically:

Obama’s proudly-stated roots as a community organizer are in the tentacles of a huge, corrupt apparatus that extends across the nation. Are we to believe that an outfit this dirty, this systematically contemptuous of the law, never was consonant with Obama’s personal values?

How could The One work for these people? Was he so blind as to be incompetent, or so ethically flexible as to be undeserving of the public trust? There is no third alternative.

For months, charges of improper voter registration have dogged ACORN, yet the press made no effort to look deeper. ACORN was always able to claim that its operations in several states were not fostering crime, but that individual employees beyond the control of ACORN were bad eggs. No one in the news media made any attempt to find out how true that might be.

Note, please, that the position of investigative reporter is one of the most glamorous and prestigious in journalism. It offers the possibility of a Pulitzer, an award that brings down blessings on the paper employing the hero. Yet not a single editor in the nation assigned anyone to probe ACORN. That task was left to a pair of “wingnut” activists whose amateurish efforts are amusingly naive.

If there had been no repeated evidence of institutional impropriety and wrongdoing, if there had been no hints that ACORN has a tradition of playing dirty, if there had been no unproved accusations of lawbreaking and corruption…the press might be forgiven for not taking a close look at ACORN.

But consider this: given all the smoke, no one looked for a fire, if only to prove that lunatic “wingnuts” were turning in a false alarm.

Obama’s many admirers in the news media passed up a golden opportunity to prove that ACORN was the target of slander and libel, and that the new president had a proud history of having been intimately involved with an admirable outfit.

If the journalistic establishment wants to paint itself as the upright, responsible and principled means of informing the electorate in the interests of good governance, it cannot behave as it has.

The mainstream media, including all the smaller newspapers in the country, now look like incompetent poseurs.

That’s the best one can say about them.

Some People Are Special. You, Pilgrim, Are Not One Of Them

Let’s pretend. You are a British citizen, a writer and weblogger. You take a basically “wingnut” view of politics, but when Obama comes along, you switch to the “moonbat” side. You promote The One on the internet. You also begin the process of becoming a US citizen.

Then one day you are arrested for a drug offense (in the USA). What happens next? Go ahead, guess.

Now read how things actually turned out. (Here is the memorandum and order spelling out what the judge thinks of the turn of events.)

Is this an example of rank hypocrisy? Consider this quote:

My view is that no one is above the law, and that when a society based on law prosecutes the powerless and excuses the powerful, it is corroding its own soul.

This newsletter, being individualist in outlook, notes that prostitutes do have a right to be paid for their services. What is irritating about this case is that the right to compensation should be trumped by the principle of equal justice under the law.

For Some, Logic Has Nothing To Do With It

Do you recall those days when people were saying angrily that Bush’s claim that Saddam and Al Qaeda were in cahoots was wrong? “Saddam did not plot or enable the attack on September 11, 2001!” was the cry. This in spite of subsequent evidence, dug out of Iraq’s abandoned archives, that Saddam did have links to AQ — and in spite of the often-repeated but seldom-believed truth that Bush never said AQ and Saddam cooperated in the World Trade Center/Pentagon/United 93 crimes.

If reason were to prevail, the folks blasting Bush for lying about Saddam and AQ’s partnership might have been expected to back down and support the US invasion of Iraq if it could have been shown that Saddam was a co-conspirator with AQ in pulling off 9/11. His having aided and abetted Osama bin Laden would have made Iraq a proper target, in other words. Right?

Assuming that the response from the “moonbats” would be affirmative, one can progress to the next step. How can the USA tolerate a nation that harbors, willingly or otherwise, AQ? Is not AQ in search of a safe haven from which it can operate?

One must wonder how it is that Afghanistan is unimportant to the USA. Would that non-nation not be very useful to AQ, and can the West tolerate that? How is it that the non-Islamic world must give AQ a King’s X, granting the mass murderers an inviolate base? Shouldn’t the entire world be a risky, dangerous place for AQ?

Does the USA not have a right to defend itself against non-national groups dedicated to its destruction, wherever they may be located?


Human Rights Watch official caught because somebody was watching. How unfair.

How many folks don’t have health insurance? … Are you sure it’s that many?

From the Glass Houses file: scold somebody for a lack of manners, and the world is likely to be regaled with proof of your past excesses and vulgarities. As is only proper. Lesson learned? Probably, as you will see if you review this mostly overlooked and ignored news item. — Oh…so it was a lie after all. My, my.

This is very bad news, maybe. If it’s true, it means the folks running things are not just stupid, but ignorant. Oh, boy. Never heard of Smoot-Hawley, eh?

Time-lapse photos of the tea party in DC. See also this brief post on a popular weblog.

What really matters in news? What’s important, and what’s not? ABC provides its answer. Meanwhile, Stossel is moving to Fox (not because of ABC’s bad decision; the move was agreed to before ABC goofed). That has its advantages, because in his new home, the libertarian reporter will likely get more air time. The fact is, however, being on Fox will also weaken Stossel’s credibility with the undecided folks, and make him a target of sneers and ridicule from collectivists. Too bad. He’s an honest guy and a lot smarter than many in his business.

If the hypocritical, authoritarian hubris of this outfit persists, we’ll be referring to it as The Department of “Justice.” — Whew! What a stench.

Hunting wolves — with golden eagles.

Here’s a guy who is trying to explain why the large, biased and maladaptive news outlets are suffering huge financial losses; he says readership is shrinking because “Propaganda is dull.” And he says a few other provocative things, as well. This newsletter is not convinced he’s correct across the board…but his thoughts are worth considering. Do visit.

A hidden cost of Obamacare: the slowing of innovation. When you reduce choices, you reduce opportunities and alternatives. A bureaucracy is obedient, not imaginative. In fact the Democrats intend to discourage new health-related technology by taxing the inventors and pioneers. Thus do Utopian ideologues — “progressives” — stifle progress. Hopeandchange!

Michael Yon is with the USAF in Afghanistan.

The cops are ready to protect members of Congress against their constituents, and look what they are prepared to use. (As this issue of the PenPo is prepared, the link is down — probably because the server has been swamped by requests to read the article.) Later: it’s back up.

You probably heard about this: Obama permitted the Navy to capture or kill a very evil man, and the Seals packed him off to those seventy virgins in the sky. It will be very interesting to see how everybody down here reacts. Nan-Nan?

Obamacare: the devil is in the details.

From The Archive

In view of the information being reported by non-journalists on ACORN — noted above — it is only appropriate to delve into The Terrapin Gazette’s view of journalism and recall that the dispute/controversy is not at all new. Here, from the twenty-sixth issue of the TG (dated March 6, 2005) are two items that still make interesting reading. The URLs may no longer work.

<h\3>Journalistic Ethics

Here’s an article that pleads the case for the mass media. While it carefully avoids many relevant facts, it does make a few points that are worth noting — and debating. My comments are placed in brackets, [like this], and indented.

When We’re Good, We’re Very Very Good

The conventional wisdom on journalistic ethics is wrong, says a new study.

“How much worse can it get for ethics in journalism and credibility?” muses Casey Bukro, ethics chair of the Chicago Headline Club. Actually, it could get a lot worse. What if journalists didn’t think about ethics at all?

Instead, they brood, none more than Bukro. That’s why the Chicago’s Association for Women Journalists panel discussion this month is “As Military Music Is to Music: Journalistic Ethics in a Changing Media Environment.” It’s why Chicago has an Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists, a joint project of the Headline Club and Loyola University that was Bukro’s idea. The other day he announced that the AdviceLine is now easier than ever to take advantage of: it can be reached by phone at 866-DILEMMA (toll-free) or online at ethicsadvicelineforjournalists.org. If you’re a reporter lost in an ethical thicket, help is at hand.

Bukro’s announcement makes it clear that in his view help is direly needed. He laments, “Four CBS News producers and executives are fired for failing to meet basic journalistic standards in preparing a ’60 Minutes’ report on President Bush’s National Guard service, and issuing a series of misleading statements in defense of the story. Tribune Media Services cancels Armstrong Williams’ syndicated column for taking $240,000 in government money to promote a Bush administration education program. With each new report of ethics bungling, tensions between journalists and the public they serve grow worse. Journalists need ethics advice more than ever.”

Let’s say that journalists do. The larger point is that journalists know they do. That’s because journalists, by and large, are righteous people whose moral development is significantly above average — or so we’re told by The Moral Media: How Journalists Reason About Ethics, published in January.

The book, by journalism professors Lee Wilkins of the University of Missouri and Renita Coleman of Louisiana State University, discusses their recent survey of 249 journalists across the nation. A summary of their findings appeared in last fall’s issue of the Journalism and Mass Communications Quarterly.

They write, “Thinking like a journalist involves moral reflection, done at a level that in most instances equals or exceeds members of other learned professions. There is some irony in this result; public opinion would not support such an assessment of journalists as sophisticated moral thinkers. As is frequently the case, conventional wisdom is not always supported by empirical evidence.”

[Fair enough: if it can be shown that journalists are concerned about ethics, and are particularly fastidious in that regard, then I’ll accept the fact.]

Wilkins and Coleman sat down with journalists, asked them to describe themselves and their jobs, and quizzed them on a series of hypothetical situations in which there was no clear course of action. Some of these situations were journalistic, some weren’t. What the journalists decided should be done was less important than the reasons they gave for their decisions: for instance, choosing to not run a story based on the harm it might do outweighed not running it because some readers might cancel their subscriptions.

Journalists were given a “P score,” which measured the percentage of the time they were guided by “universal ethical principles.” Their average score was 48.68 — placing them well behind seminarians and philosophers and slightly behind doctors and medical students. Yet journalists were ahead of every other group Wilkins and Coleman found P scores for. In descending order they were dental students, nurses, graduate students, undergrads, accounting students, veterinary students, enlisted navy men, orthopedic surgeons, adults in general, business professionals, business students, high school students, and prison inmates. At rock bottom, with a P score of 20.0, were junior high school students.

[Fascinating. Let’s review: journalists, knowing they are being examined critically, are asked to use words to describe themselves and their working principles. The truthfulness of their responses is automatically assumed to be perfect, and it is not even remarked that journalists are by talent and training well equipped to “spin” their responses in a self-serving way. One might as well ask them to write curricula vitae for themselves, and expect that the results might be unflattering. Face it, these people can smell what is going on, and they are more than up to dealing with it; they make their livings with words, subtleties, nuances and hints. You can’t fool them into revealing anything embarrassing in an interview!]

Unsurprisingly, Wilkins and Coleman tell us that “journalists in this study did significantly better on dilemmas in their field than other types of ethical problems.” Those dilemmas are the ones they study in J school, chew over in bars, and learn about from experience. The authors found that moral development advances with age, education, and on-the-job autonomy, and that investigative reporters are more reflective than average reporters. “It has been shown,” they write, “that investigative reporters make moral decisions regarding wrongdoing then abandon objectivity to push for the public good, serve as moral judges, and deal with ethical issues more than other types of reporters.”

In other words, they act on their own authority. The two most interesting correlations Wilkins and Coleman brought out were these: “For every one-point increase in religiosity, there was nearly a two-point decline in moral development scores. . . . For every one-point increase in importance of the law, there was nearly a two-point decrease in moral development scores.”

Wilkins and Coleman are suggesting that people who leave the big decisions to a higher authority are less morally developed. Reviewing past studies of other fields, the authors write that “religion has been positively correlated with moral development to a point. More fundamental or conservative beliefs are correlated with lower levels of moral development. Some theorize that a higher ethical orientation requires critical reasoning that may be opposed to fundamental religious beliefs.”

[The conservative tradition in politics is and always has been strongly philosophical, depending on the works of such thinkers as Cicero, Bastiat, Locke, Mill, Weaver, Burke, Sowell, Hazlitt and dozens of other genuine intellectuals. Now they, and their philosophical heirs, are proved to be ethical morons.]

One other result: the study found broadcast journalists to be just as ethical as print journalists, despite “professional opinion” to the contrary.

[Perhaps the authors of the study are unfamiliar with the word “glib.” Or “blarney”?]

Wilkins and Coleman were examining how journalists think about what they do, not what they do after they’re done thinking. “The disconnect between attitudes and behavior is well documented,” they write. I asked Wilkins if the journalistic disconnect might be greater than in some other fields. “I don’t think so at all,” she said. “We’re all people.”

[One of the main points of Bernard Goldberg’s devastating book, Bias, is that the prejudices of the captains of the media are instinctive and do not spring from reflection. Dan Rather assumes that the centrist position on gender issues is held by the National Organization for Women; he literally can’t see it otherwise. The ethics of Rather’s attempt to foist off forgeries on the public in order to discredit the president never once crossed his mind; to this day, in spite of the obvious truth, he claims the fake memos might be validated, and that they have never been shown to be fraudulent. For him, these issues have nothing to do with ethics. They are facts. Too, one wonders about the amount of thought that went into the promotion of falsehoods by the AP, when that organization attempted to smear Bush supporters as having booed the president’s call for prayer for former President Clinton. It hardly makes sense that the liar who doctored the story agonized over his actions, or might have placed a call to an ethics hotline before inserting the lie. No, journalists do not consider the ethics of their biases. This study does not address bias in the media. Political prejudice is too basic, too fundamental, too automatic and too far beyond examination to register on the scale contrived by the researchers.]

The Wages Of Sin

Not every story of media bias has an unhappy ending. Sometimes the rascals get caught and punished. Severely. That’s what a free market can do to you.

Mirror’s Iraq photo scandal has ‘permanently lost’ readers

By Aaron Patrick (Filed: 04/03/2005)

Trinity Mirror said the tens of thousands of Daily Mirror readers who deserted the paper after it published faked photographs of British soldiers abusing Iraqis have been permanently lost.

The company’s chief executive, Sly Bailey, yesterday said it was not financially viable to win back the readers through promotions or price cuts.

“Once you lose consumers or readers from any brand it is very hard to get them back,” she said. “We lost a minimum of 3pc of our circulation.”

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the Daily Mirror was selling 1,846,734 copies a day when the story broke in May. The figure suggests editor Piers Morgan’s decis