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See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes (Rodale, October 2003),
Friday, January 03, 2003
Kurtz link. The
Washington Post's Howard
Kurtz links to my Wednesday
item on so-called
liberal media bias. Thanks
to reader NH for calling it to my attention, even though she didn't
think much of what I wrote.
posted at 1:07 PM |
Do they eat babies in China?
The news is so
that it can scarcely be believed. But is it true? The Weekly
Standard's J. Bottum has a dispatch on the magazine's website
today reporting that a Chinese performance artist named Zhu Yu has
been photographed eating a stillborn baby. Bottum also recycles an
old report from the London Daily Telegraph that a Chinese
abortion clinic distributes human fetuses to be cooked up along with
the ginger and scallions. Writes Bottum:
We need a word for things
that are so wrong, it is wrong even to report them -- actions to
which we somehow lend countenance just by entering into a
discussion of why they are beyond all countenance.
Well, here's a word for it: "hoax."
It's hard to tell whether Bottum believes what he's writing. He tells
it straight, but the subhead's reference to "a modest proposal"
suggests that his tongue may be somewhere in the vicinity of his
In any case, according to this
About.com site on "Urban Legends and Folklore," the stories about Zhu
Yu and the abortion clinic have long
since been discredited.
There are photos (links are included, though I couldn't get them to
work), but writer David Emery says that Zhu could easily have faked
them with animal parts and dolls. Emery adds:
The claim that baby or
fetus eating is an accepted practice in China (or Thailand, or
Japan, or Korea, or Israel, as other variants of this same rumor
claim) is more or less a modernized version of an ancient legend
known as "Blood Libel." It has typically taken the form of one
culture accusing another (or a subculture) of ritually sacrificing
infants and in some cases eating them. The Greeks accused the Jews
of it, the Romans accused the Christians, Christians accused the
Jews again, and so on throughout history.
The respected urban-legends site
also debunks the
baby-eating story. Be careful when you follow the link, since it's
accompanied by a color photo of Zhu in mid-bite. Snopes says Zhu is
most likely nibbling on a duck's carcass to which a doll's head has
Whether Bottum is being
disingenuous or is just plain gullible, the uses to which he puts his
sensationalistic findings are sleazy, to say the least. He argues
that baby-eating is just another step on a road whose signposts
include abortion rights and embryonic stem-cell research:
Once upon a time, we built
hedge after hedge of protection around the deep things about life
and death a culture must maintain. The hedges themselves are not
all that important, but when they fall they weaken our defenses --
however much those people who knock them down insist they are only
clearing away a single hedge.
Call it performance art,
conservative-style: libeling an entire people in order to make a
political point. Bottum, and the Standard, should apologize
for this miserable piece of work.
posted at 12:48 PM |
Romney's bogus numbers.
Excellent analysis by the Globe's Scot
Lehigh on what was wrong
with Governor Mitt Romney's inaugural address. By disingenuously
characterizing the state's fiscal crisis as the result of
overspending, rather than of $4 billion a year in tax cuts by his
three Republican predecessors, Romney raised unrealistic expectations
on how to get out of the mess, Lehigh observes, writing that "if you
focus on false causes, you create false hopes for false
By contrast, the Herald's
Keane and the
McGrory focus on Romney's
tone rather than the substance, and thus wind up giving him far
higher marks than he deserves. (Actually, McGrory gave Romney higher
marks than, say, Pericles or Cincinnatus would deserve.) Their hope
isn't entirely misplaced: Romney has made some good Cabinet
appointments, and he seems as though he might actually be serious
about peeling back a few layers of patronage.
But his lack of honesty about the
budget is going to bite him in the hindquarters.
posted at 9:57 AM |
Er, about that Iraqi-Al Qaeda
nerve-gas connection ... Some post-holiday clean-up. Remember
Washington Post story
reporting that Bush-administration officials believed a terrorist
group linked to Al Qaeda may have obtained nerve gas in Iraq and
smuggled it out of the country? Well, here we are three weeks later,
and still no follow-up or further details. Not only that, but it
turns out that on December 22, the Post's pit-bull ombudsman,
Getler, gave the story the
hairy eyeball and questioned reporter Barton Gellman's sourcing and
equivocations. Wrote Getler:
It is to Gellman's and The
Post's credit that all of these uncertainties are laid out. But
the effect on the complaining readers, and on me, is to ask what,
after all, is the use of this story that practically begs you not
to put much credence in it? Why was it so prominently displayed,
and why not wait until there was more certainty about the
Good points. Thanks to
for the link. You can click here
for my last post on the subject, which in turn includes links to my
posted at 9:56 AM |
Hub Blog on the liberal
Fitzgerald has written his
own take on the liberal/conservative media debate. Fitzgerald, who
describes himself as a "moderate conservative," winds up agreeing
with me that "the balance of power tilts today towards
conservatives." Smart man!
posted at 9:56 AM |
Thursday, January 02, 2003
The dot-com dupes of the
media. Another year has passed, and if you're like most people,
your stock portfolio is considerably lighter today than it was a year
ago -- a moment when most of us were hoping the market had
already reached rock bottom.
On the op-ed page of today's New
York Times, James
Ledbetter, a former media
critic for the Village Voice and a staff reporter for the
late, unlamented Industry Standard, offers a smart mea culpa
on the business press's role in helping to create the great
stock-market bubble of the late 1990s.
Good reading, if you can stand
The problem, as always, is that the
media's most primal instinct is to act as lapdogs to winners.
Yesterday it was the dot-com smartasses. Today it's George W. Bush
and the Republican Party.
Back in the heyday of Enron,
WorldCom, and AOL, we needed skepticism and we got cheerleading. Now
we're on the verge of a war that may prove to be unnecessary, with
the devastating, unanticipated consequences that war often brings.
And the media, with few exceptions, are failing to ask the tough
Some things never
posted at 9:40 AM |
Wednesday, January 01, 2003
More on the liberal media.
Jim Rutenberg has a front-page piece in this morning's New York
Times on efforts by a few Democratic activists to
a liberal media to counter
the likes of the Fox News Channel, Rush Limbaugh's radio show, and
the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and the
Sorry, but it's not going to work.
Conservatives might enjoy absorbing talking points from the
Republican National Committee, but that's not how it happens with
I've argued before, there
are liberal media -- most of the mainstream media are liberal,
as conservatives have long contended -- but they work differently
from the conservative media. Telling liberals what to think is like
The cutting edge of the liberal
media are the Times itself and National Public Radio, the size
of whose audience rivals Limbaugh's 20 million weekly listeners. The
network newscasts, which can reach a combined total of 30 million
viewers a night depending on what's going on in the news, are another
But the mainstream media, though
overwhelmingly liberal on cultural issues such as gay rights and
reproductive choice, are moderate to conservative on economics and
trade issues. Elite liberal opinion is as contemptuous of organized
labor, for instance, as elite conservative opinion is. And the Times has been virtually alone in raising serious questions about the Bush administration's aggressive policy toward Iraq.
The difference between the large,
amorphous liberal media and the relatively small but cohesive
conservative media is that the latter are ideologically in tune with
the Republican Party and loyal to its candidates. The liberal media
aren't going to take their marching orders from the Democratic
National Committee. Even if they did, their audience would tune
posted at 10:51 AM |
Gag me with a silver spoon.
Governor-elect Mitt Romney says he hopes his and running mate Kerry
Healey's decision not to take their salaries "sets
the appropriate tone" as
they prepare to assume office on Thursday. Yes, it certainly does.
Nothing like two rich folks engaging in a cheap publicity stunt while
rewarding their chief media strategist, Eric Fehrnstrom, and
legislative lobbyist, Cindy Gillespie, with salaries of $150,000
Romney describes his and Healey's
decision to forgo $255,000 in annual salary as "symbolism." Here's
what it's symbolic of, Mitt: you've got it, we don't. The subliminal
message is that only the rich have the integrity and
public-spiritedness necessary to govern, which is a load of
As campaign-finance watchdog George
Pillsbury tells the Globe, it would have been more impressive
if Romney had taken the $6 million in personal wealth that he dropped
on getting elected and spent it on saving some of the social programs
that he's about to whack.
posted at 10:49 AM |
Where's Dave? WBZ-TV
(Channel 4) deserves credit for being the only local network
affiliate to go live on New Year's Eve, broadcasting the celebration
in Boston while also taking the feed from New York. There was just
one problem: no Dave! Of all the garbage that was on the tube last
night, the Late Show with David Letterman was the one program
I was looking forward to. Okay, I'm a loser, but you try going
out on New Year's Eve with two kids under 12.
posted at 10:48 AM |
MEDIA LOG ARCHIVES
Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.