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Notes and observations on the press, politics, culture, technology, and more. To sign up for e-mail delivery, click here. To send an e-mail to Dan Kennedy, click here. For bio, published work, and links to other blogs, visit For information on Dan Kennedy's book, Little People: Learning to See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes (Rodale, October 2003), click here.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Okay, lock Rush up and throw away the key. I now believe that the Limbaugh quote I cited on Thursday may have been the only sane thing he ever said about the war on drugs.

Here's a 1995 quote from Limbaugh dug up by Newsday columnist Ellis Henican:

Let's all admit something. There's nothing good about drug use. We know it. It destroys individuals. It destroys families. Drug use destroys societies. Drug use, some might say, is destroying this country. And we have laws against selling drugs, pushing drugs, using drugs, importing drugs. And the laws are good because we know what happens to people in societies and neighborhoods which become consumed by them. And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up.

Henican's got lots of other good stuff, too, so read the whole thing.

Here's a teaser from the National Enquirer, which broke the story. Unfortunately, you'll have to buy it to read the article. Just find a store where they don't know you.

posted at 12:53 PM | comment or permalink

Callahan, too. The Boston Herald's got a problem with one of its own. The paper deals with it straightforwardly today.

Dean Johnson reports that the alleged monologue by WEEI Radio (AM 850) blabber John Dennis about gorillas and black schoolchildren was actually a dialogue involving Dennis and his cohost, Herald columnist Gerry Callahan.

For the past few days, everyone (including me) has been reporting that Dennis -- commenting on Little Joe, the gorilla who escaped from the Franklin Park Zoo -- had said that he was "probably a Metco gorilla waiting for a bus to take him to Lexington."

But Greater Boston, the public-affairs program of WGBH-TV (Channel 2), obtained an audio tape, and it turns out that it actually went like this:

Callahan: "They caught him at a bus stop, right -- he was like waiting to catch a bus out of town."

Dennis: "Yeah, yeah -- he's a Metco gorilla."

Callahan: "Heading out to Lexington."

Dennis: "Exactly."

(Disclosure: I was a panelist on Greater Boston yesterday, and was on the set when the tape was played.)

Meanwhile, pressure continues to build for Dennis either to quit or be fired by WEEI. I'm not going to call on Dennis specifically to go. The problem is the genre of idiotic, racist, homophobic locker-room sports-guy talk more than it is any one individual.

But it sounds like, during a call to WEEI yesterday in the midst of his two-day suspension, Dennis said all the right things, admitting that not only did he say something "stupid," but that he's got "sensitivity issues" to deal with as well.

And now WEEI (and the Herald) has to decide what, if anything, to do about Callahan, too.

Today's Globe, by the way, buries the Callahan revelation in a long piece about Boston city councilor Jim Kelly's refusal to call for Dennis's firing, and fails to credit Greater Boston's exclusive.

Arnold, not getting it

"It's too bad nobody came up to me before and sat down and said I still feel hurt about what you said," he said Friday, "and I could have apologized right then and there. I never got the chance."

-- Arnold Schwarzenegger, quoted in the New York Times today

The waitress said she told Schwarzenegger at the time: "If you're ever some place and some woman throws hot coffee on your head, it will be me." He laughed, she said.

"He thought it was the funniest thing. And then the whole table laughed because, if Arnold laughed, the whole table laughed."

-- Los Angeles Times, October 2 (The woman said Schwarzenegger had told her, "I want you to go in the bathroom, stick your finger in your [vagina], and bring it out to me.")

Limbaugh: a hypocrite after all? I've gotten a number of critical comments regarding my Thursday item, in which I absolved Rush Limbaugh -- accused of having a serious pill problem -- of the charge of hypocrisy when it comes to the war on drugs.

Several Media Log readers say the one quote I found is more than counterbalanced by numerous other comments the Formerly Rotund One has made over the years.

They may have a point. On Friday, Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz noted that, in 1999, Limbaugh said that "by legalizing drugs, all you're going to do is define further deviancy downward."

Here's what Limbaugh said about the drug story on his radio show yesterday:

Now, here's the nub of it at the moment. The story in Florida is -- it really is an emerging situation. I watch what's being reported on television and it changes from morning to morning, hour to hour, day to day. I don't know yet what I'm dealing with there, folks.

I really don't know the full scope of what I am dealing with. And when I get all the facts, when I get all the details of this, rest assured that I will discuss this with you and tell you how it is, tell you everything there is, maybe more than you want to know about this. You can believe me and trust me on that. I don't want to answer any questions about it now, as I say, until I know exactly what I'm dealing with, and at that point I will fill you all in.

Pretty weird, huh? To say that it's not exactly a denial is almost beside the point.

posted at 10:37 AM | comment or permalink

Friday, October 03, 2003

More on the WEEI story. Gorillagate is about to get bigger. Watch Greater Boston today at 7 p.m. on WGBH-TV (Channel 2).

posted at 4:14 PM | comment or permalink

If you've seen one black columnist named Howard ... If you take a look at the main sports website of the Boston Herald right now, you'll see a hype that reads "Manly: No bash by the Bay."

The column, in fact, is by Howard Bryant. Both Bryant and Manly are African-American.

Media Log reader M.L. tells me this is the second time this has happened recently. No, it's not racism. But it does make you wonder whether someone at One Herald Square really does think they all look alike.

Whoever that someone is ... he or she needs to be more careful.

posted at 11:16 AM | comment or permalink

John Dennis's simian stupidity. Yesterday I described John Dennis as the luckiest man in the media (second item): he made a grotesquely racist remark comparing gorillas to black school kids, and he got away with having to issue nothing more than an apology.

Today, he's a little less lucky. The management of WEEI Radio (AM 850), under pressure from the city council and the community, suspended Dennis for two days. Will that be enough? Stay tuned.

This is really a mind-blowing media scandal. It's hard to imagine what the thought process was that led Dennis to blurt out that Little Joe, the gorilla who briefly escaped from the Franklin Park Zoo, was "probably a Metco gorilla waiting for a bus to take him to Lexington." Yes, Dennis has apologized, but why did it even enter his head in the first place?

Dennis -- a former sports anchor on Channel 7 -- is one-half of the Dennis & Callahan morning team, which specializes in lowbrow and offensive humor. I'm not a frequent listener, but I'm familiar enough with it. Their speciality is crude jokes about gays and lesbians. Until now, I wasn't aware of their having indulged in racism, but maybe I just haven't been listening at the right time.

Callahan, a columnist for the Boston Herald, comes across like a guy totally within his element -- that element being cruel locker-room humor for dumbass white boys. Dennis is more like the nerdy kid who can't believe he's being allowed to hang out with the jocks.

Loathsome as Callahan's act can be, I suspect his instincts are such that he would never make this kind of mistake. Dennis, by contrast, comes across as way, way too eager to ingratiate himself with his new buddies.

What should happen next? I don't know. More than anything, WEEI management should stop acting like it wants to get away with as little as possible -- an apology here, a two-day suspension there, some public-service announcements for Metco -- and deal with this in a serious and public way.

A Boston Globe editorial today argues that Dennis got off "far too lightly." I can't disagree with that.

Meanwhile, over at the Herald, it looks like it's going to be columnists Howard Manly and Callahan, in the parking lot, right after work: Manly today (sub. req.) refers to Callahan as Dennis's "reactionary sidekick."

This isn't over. Nor should it be.

posted at 11:06 AM | comment or permalink

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Rush on drugs. The media world is going wild today over a report in the New York Daily News that "Rush Limbaugh is being investigated for allegedly buying thousands of addictive painkillers from a black-market drug ring."

What would appear to be delicious about this scandal is that Limbaugh is a big-time conservative who's hung out for years with the just-say-no crowd. What could be better than learning that the "moralizing motormouth" (the News's phrase) has a thing for Oxycontin, a/k/a "hillbilly heroin"?

Okay, had your moment of schadenfreude? Me too. Now, calm down. It appears that Limbaugh may not be such a hypocrite after all. For quite some time, Limbaugh has advocated an end to, or at least an easing of, drug prohibition.

Here's a transcript of some comments he made in 1998 on his radio show. An excerpt:

It seems to me that what is missing in the drug fight is legalization. If we want to go after drugs with the same fervor and intensity with which we go after cigarettes, let's legalize drugs. Legalize the manufacture of drugs. License the Cali Cartel. Make them taxpayers and then sue them. Sue them left and right and then get control of the price and generate tax revenue from it. Raise the price sky high and fund all sorts of other wonderful social programs.

I'm no Limbaugh fan, and I'm glad that he quit ESPN under pressure yesterday after making racially insensitive remarks about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.

But though Limbaugh may indeed have a substance-abuse problem, at least he's got his head screwed on straight about society and drugs.

Under the sheets with John Dennis. The luckiest man in media today is John Dennis, co-host of the execrable Dennis & Callahan show on WEEI Radio (AM 850).

According to this item in the Boston Globe (scroll down a bit), Dennis has apologized for comparing escaped gorilla Little Joe to black Metco students.

Dennis reportedly said that the gorilla, who hung out for a while at a bus stop before being recaptured, was "probably a Metco gorilla waiting for a bus to take him to Lexington."

Obviously what Dennis said was far worse than the remarks that got Limbaugh into trouble at ESPN. You could also make a case that Dennis's little joke was worse than the anti-Palestinian diatribe that got John "Ozone" Osterlind fired from WRKO Radio (AM 680) in August.

Of course, Limbaugh is a ratings monster in political radio who was out of his element doing sports on TV, and Osterlind was not considered vital to the future of WRKO.

Dennis, by contrast, is one-half of a hit show. It just demonstrates that if you've got the numbers, you can get away with just about anything.

Dylan on the Man in Black. Bob Dylan has posted a wonderful tribute to Johnny Cash. (Thanks to P.C. for the link.)

Understanding dyslexia. I worked with the Boston Globe's Gareth Cook from 1996 through '98, when he was the Phoenix news editor. I never would have guessed that he's got dyslexia -- certainly not from the blistering edits he sent back to me.

Anyway, Cook has written a terrific column about his lifelong struggle with this learning disability. It should be a must-read for teachers and parents.

New in this week's Phoenix. Former Republican political operative Virginia Buckingham settles in at the Boston Herald; some thoughts on the death and life of the Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said; and things are looking up for Democratic political consultant Michael Goldman, recovering from a serious leg infection.

Also, Herald employees are offered a buyout, but no one can answer the question everyone's asking: Can layoffs be avoided?

posted at 8:16 AM | comment or permalink

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

It's Karl Rove. Those White House spinners who insist that Bush political guru Karl Rove had nothing to do with leaking the name of Joseph Wilson's wife, then-CIA operative Valerie Plame, to Robert Novak and other journalists ought to get themselves over to the Guardian's audio website.

Click on "White House blamed for naming CIA agent," which will open up an audio file of Guardian reporter Julian Borger explaining the leak story for the benefit of British listeners. Among other things, Borger says:

The finger has so far pointed at Karl Rove, who is the political maestro in the Bush team, and there is no one closer in political terms to Bush than Karl Rove. And several of the journalists are saying privately, yes, it was Karl Rove who I talked to. Now the thing is that the journalists are not going to name Karl Rove publicly, because you don't name your sources, and to do would discredit them as journalists. So the White House is safe for the time being. But Karl Rove's name is very much out there.

So why doesn't Rove publicly release journalists he may have spoken with from any promises of confidentiality that were made? I think we know the answer to that.

Thanks for Media Log reader J.D. for the link.

Al Gore, cable mogul. It looks like the former vice-president is about to take his first step toward building a liberal alternative to the Fox-Rush axis. And thanks to Y.H. for that. (I see that Drudge has it, too.)

posted at 12:53 PM | comment or permalink

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

A genuine White House scandal. It's taken more than two months, but the mainstream media are finally in full battle cry over the matter of who leaked the name of former ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife to the media -- including, most prominently, syndicated columnist Robert Novak.

Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA operative or analyst; precisely which is apparently a matter of some dispute. Wilson contends that the White House deliberately blew her cover as retaliation for an op-ed piece he wrote for the New York Times debunking the Niger yellowcake claims.

Wilson points the finger squarely at George W. Bush's political guru, and has been quoted as saying:

I don't think we're going to let this drop. At the end of the day it's of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs. And trust me when I use that name. I measure my words.

Here is Sunday's Washington Post story, which did much to move this nauseating scandal into public view. Here is today's New York Times follow-up. And Josh Marshall has more on this than you have time to read -- but scroll down and read his thoughts on the damage that may have been done to Plame's work on weapons of mass destruction.

Slate's Jack Shafer offers some smart (if overly cavalier) background and context.

And Rush Limbaugh is desperate.

Another scandal, all but forgotten. The Boston Globe today runs an op-ed by Clinton-administration official Jeffrey Connaughton on the Bush White House's decision to let some 140 Saudi nationals -- "including two-dozen relatives of Osama bin Laden" -- flee the US immediately after 9/11.

Connaughton's column prompts me to dig up a piece that former Massport executive director Virginia Buckingham wrote for the Boston Globe Magazine last September.

Buckingham -- now the deputy editorial-page editor of the Boston Herald -- wrote about how stunned she and other officials were over the quick getaway at Logan International Airport:

The next night, we experienced another surreal moment: the bin Laden family airlift. My staff was told that a private jet was arriving at Logan from Saudi Arabia to pick up 14 members of Osama bin Laden's family living in the Boston area. "Does the FBI know?" staffers wondered. "Does the State Department know? Why are they letting these people go? Have they questioned them?" This was ridiculous. But our power to stop their arrival or departure was limited. Under federal law, an airport operator is not allowed to restrict the movement of an individual flight or a class of aircraft without going through a byzantine regulatory process that had, to date, never succeeded. So bravado would have to do in the place of true authority. [Massport aviation director Thomas] Kinton said: "Tell the tower that plane is not coming in here until somebody in Washington tells us it's OK." He then repeatedly called the FBI and the State Department throughout the night. Each time the answer was the same: "Let them leave." On September 19, under the cover of darkness, they did.

Bad company. Boston Herald sportswriter Ed Gray today comes out as a gay man. He writes:

I'm out because I no longer, in good conscience, choose to ignore the unabashed homophobia that is so cavalierly tolerated within the world of sports. I'm out, because the silence of a closeted gay man only serves to give his implicit approval to bigotry. I'm out, because I refuse to continue hiding from the truth that an openly gay man has as much right as a straight man to play sports or report on them.

Unfortunately, Gray comes out right next to columnist Gerry Callahan (they're side by side both in print and on the Herald website), whose WEEI Radio (AM 850) morning show, Dennis & Callahan, specializes in homophobic "humor."

posted at 8:48 AM | comment or permalink

Monday, September 29, 2003

A critique of pure blogging. I have not been following the Daniel Weintraub saga all that closely, so I appreciated today's New York Times piece on the matter.

Weintraub writes a weblog for the Sacramento Bee. A couple of weeks ago, the Bee announced that Weintraub would be required to submit new posts to his editors before uploading them to his blog, "California Insider." The policy change may or may not be related to the fact that he'd written a post a few overly touchy supporters of Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante may have found racially insensitive. (Oddly enough, the Times article, by Michael Falcone, makes no mention of this angle.)

With the boilerplate out of the way, my question is this: What's the big deal? Some bloggers, particularly Slate's Mickey Kaus, are outraged, but Weintraub himself seems okay with it. Moreover, it strikes me that to the extent there's any controversy, it has to do with the overwrought sense of importance that some bloggers have about themselves and what they're doing.

As best as I can define it, the only pure blog is one that is written independently of any media organization. Folks like Josh Marshall, Bob Somerby, Andrew Sullivan, and Glenn Reynolds are out there on their own, and God bless them for it.

Those of us who are blogging for our employers are engaged in something different -- essentially, writing something that looks like a blog, reads like a blog, and in many respects is a blog, but that may be more akin to an online column, subject to certain constraints. That's true of Media Log, as well as such fine blogs as Altercation (, Joe Conason's Journal (Salon), and, yes, Kausfiles, whose author gave up his independence in return for Microsoft's filthy lucre. (Hey, Mickey: Good for you!)

Neither fish nor fowl: Danny Schechter, who writes his indispensable "Dissector's Web Log" for, but who is also the boss.

Now, what the Bee's critics seem not to want to acknowledge is that if you're blogging for someone else, you're getting edited somewhere down the line. Here's how it works at Media Log Central: I upload my posts myself, without the intervention of any editor. But my editors and I talk about what works, what doesn't work, and what I might do differently the next time. And were I to write something that never should have seen the light of day, guess what? It will come down.

That's the way it should be. The extra value that a news organization can offer is, after all, editing -- the collective judgment of experienced people, and not just the sensibility of one person.

Blogging for a news organization doesn't have to be a contradiction in terms. Unless you think the words freewheeling and responsible don't belong in the same sentence.

Hannity & Colmes, explained. The most accurate description I have ever read of the Fox News Channel's dreadful Hannity & Colmes program appears in the current New York Press (scroll way, way down, to "Best Rigged Talk Show").

Here's the clincher:

The dynamic and charismatic ultra-conservative [Sean] Hannity squares off nightly against the weak, conciliatory and center-left [Alan] Colmes, who is just about the least effective spokesman for the liberal cause imaginable. If that weren't enough, rightie-tightass fuckhead Dennis Miller was recently added to the show as a weekly commentator.

Be warned: fuckhead is mild compared to some of the other language used to describe this miserable show.

John Carroll, blogger. His "Campaign Journal" is back.

posted at 1:30 PM | comment or permalink


Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.

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