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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.

Friday, May 21, 2004

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SERIOUS AND NOT. That would be the difference between Attorney General Tom Reilly and Governor Mitt Romney.

Item one: Romney sends the marriage-license applications of 10 out-of-state same-sex couples to Reilly's office and demands that Reilly take action to prevent them from getting married. Romney: "We all have the same interests. To make sure the law is carried out." Reilly: "We have an awful lot of other things going on, so we'll deal with this as it comes." (Globe coverage here; Herald coverage here.)

Item two: Six ex-employees of the Registry of Motor Vehicles are being investigated for their alleged role in a scheme to sell illegal driver's licenses. The Globe reports: "Reilly called the allegations 'deeply disturbing' because of the potential dangers posed by those in the country illegally with false documents and by dangerous drivers being returned to the road." (Globe coverage here; Herald coverage here.)

In other words, when Reilly says he has better things to do than persecute gay and lesbian couples, he's not kidding.


From today's Globe:

New University of Massachusetts president Jack M. Wilson will earn $350,000 a year plus an array of benefits including hefty car and housing allowances, under an agreement reached with trustees this week, a UMass spokesman said.

The salary is higher than that of his predecessor, William M. Bulger, who earned $309,000 plus benefits, but falls well short of the $400,000 limit that trustees set on Wilson's pay before starting negotiations this month.

From today's Herald:

New UMass President Jack Wilson inked a five-year contract this week that could pay him nearly a cool half-million dollars his first year - $140,000 more than his predecessor.

The contract was signed late Tuesday, a UMass spokesman said, giving Wilson, a former physicist, a handsome pay package of as much as $497,000 for his first year on the job - his first as university president anywhere.

As you will see, the facts in both stories are the same - it's just that the Herald totaled up Wilson's benefits. Since money is money, I'd say the Herald provides a truer picture.

TUNE IN SATURDAY AT 3 P.M. I'll be appearing tomorrow on WBIX Radio in Boston (AM 1060) between 3 and 4 p.m. on Family Talk Radio, with Deirdre Wilson and Peter Chianca, to talk about my book on dwarfism, Little People: Learning to See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes.

If you're out of the signal range, listen live here.

posted at 10:56 AM | comment or permalink

Thursday, May 20, 2004

WE POST, YOU DECIDE. Lowell Sun assistant editorial-page editor Ann Frantz writes:

Hey, Dan!

Any writer knows it's a snap to extract a sentence and use it out of context for effect - as you did with my column, which does not apologize for that photo, but supports it.

I try to recognize the motivations that prompt people on different sides of an issue and address them, maybe even change a mind or two. I don't screech like a banshee at them....

GOOD journalists don't alter content to give themselves something for their own juicy column, just media hacks.

Wishy-washy? Here's something that you, with your simple black-and-white head, can understand: Up yours.

And thanks for reading! Didn't know you actually did much of that.

Ann Frantz

Hey, Ann! As you know, I posted a link to your entire column so that Media Log readers could decide for themselves what you were up to. I also did not say, suggest, or even hint that you "apologize[d]" for the photo. [See clarification below.] Uh, GOOD journalists don't put words in other people's mouths.

posted at 11:28 AM | comment or permalink

NO GUTS, NO GLORY. The Lowell Sun, spooked by a handful of cancellations, apologizes today for publishing a photo of two men kissing at Cambridge City Hall this past Monday, the day that same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts. A Sun editorial panders thusly:

While the photo accurately chronicled the new reality in Massachusetts that same-sex couples are to receive equal rights granted traditional married couples it represented a shocking element to what has otherwise been a fair and cautious process conducted on The Sun's news and editorial pages.

To some readers, the photograph pushed the envelope too far. Those contacted by The Sun said it represented an unnecessary, in-your-face intrusion, especially for parents with young children.

No doubt The Sun underestimated the photo's impact on a segment of its readership population. By publishing it, we inadvertently inflamed passions and emotions in people who are still trying to come to terms with the gay-marriage issue.

We learned a valuable lesson and hope to benefit from it....

If The Sun could turn back the clock, we most likely would select a less intrusive photograph not because the original photo was wrong but because it didn't fit the go-slow approach we've endorsed for a better understanding of this sensitive issue.

Assistant editorial-page editor Ann Connery Frantz compounds the outrage with a remarkably wishy-washy exercise in hand-wringing that includes this absurdity: "Parents want to protect their kids from behavior that offends. Although I suspect many children are more understanding than they're given credit for, I have also felt the impulse to keep them innocent, at least while they still were."

So if you're gay or lesbian and living in Greater Lowell, here's the message: you can get married. But don't act so, you know, married.

Clarification: The Sun's editorial apologized for running the photo, not Frantz's column. Media Log apologies for any misunderstanding.

THE SEVENTH-GRADER THEORY OF POLITICAL GAMESMANSHIP. The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller writes today:

Both White House and Bush campaign officials said there were no plans or debate about changing the president's re-election strategy, which is to run on national security. Mr. Rove and Mr. Bush were also described as adamant that the president not admit publicly to any mistakes in war planning and the American-led occupation of the country, as Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary and intellectual godfather of the Iraq war, did in a hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

"There is a theory in the White House that they don't want to appear like Jimmy Carter," said one Republican adviser. "They think that's weak."

So how many Americans and Iraqis must die so that no one will confuse George W. Bush with Jimmy Carter?

Don't worry, Mr. President. No one is going to confuse you with a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, that's for sure.

NEW IN THIS WEEK'S PHOENIX. The big story: With Iraq taking center stage, other news gets squeezed. Plus, Danny Schechter goes public, Spare Change News goes pro, and the Globe goes porn.

posted at 8:45 AM | comment or permalink

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

FAKE RAPES AND LYING LIARS. You will not be surprised to learn that the right is lying about the Boston Globe's role in promulgating those fake photos of American troops raping Iraqi women. The pictures were unveiled at a news conference last week by Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner and black-community activist Sadiki Kambon. Click here and work backwards for the full story.

To recap briefly: the Globe published an article about the news conference by reporter Donovan Slack that conveyed great skepticism about the pictures, and that quoted a military spokesman as saying the photos might well be an Internet fraud. In fact, it turned out that had already exposed them as frauds. Where the Globe went wrong was in running a George Rizer photo of Turner and Kambon in which the fake-rape pictures were clearly visible; and then, when editors realized what a mistake they'd made after the first edition rolled off the presses, shrinking the photo rather than removing it altogether from subsequent editions.

A screw-up? Yes. A really bad screw-up? Absolutely! But not the one that right-wingers wish the Globe had made. That's not going to stop them, though.

Here, for instance, is Mark Steyn, taking a break from the hard work of ridiculing triple amputee Max Cleland:

In the last few days, the Mirror, a raucous Fleet Street tabloid, has published pictures of British troops urinating on Iraqi prisoners, and the Boston Globe, a somnolent New England broadsheet, has published pictures of American troops sexually abusing Iraqi women. In both cases, the pictures turned out to be fake. From a cursory glance at the details in the London snaps and the provenance of the Boston ones, it should have been obvious to editors at both papers that they were almost certainly false.

Yet they published them. Because they wanted them to be true. Because it would bring them a little closer to the head they really want to roll - George W. Bush's.

Writing in National Review, John O'Sullivan accuses the Globe of "Willing Gullibility," adding:

Two newspapers - the Daily Mirror in Britain and the Boston Globe in the U.S. - have published fake photographs of British and American soldiers abusing prisoners. In the British case the fakes were quickly detected once they had been published, and in the American case, they had been detected before the Globe published them. Neither the media's vaunted "skepticism" nor simple fact-checking on the internet were employed in either case by the papers. The fakes were, in the old Fleet Street joke, "too good to check." There was a rush to misjudgment.

On a right-wing website called, someone named Lee P Butler (no period, please!) blurts out:

The mainstream media has joined the attack of our military as The Boston Globe, a subsidiary of The New York Times, published photos that show what they said were American soldiers taking part in 'gang rapes' of Iraqi women without ever verifying their authenticity. They have since been proven to be pictures taken from an internet porn site. The newspaper has since given what they consider an apology but still refuses to accept their own complicity.

I'm sure I could find more examples if I kept looking.

Of course, none of these accounts is even remotely accurate, but they follow one of the right's favorite scripts: that the liberal media - in this case, the Globe - so hate America that they eagerly seize upon dubious claims of heinous behavior on the part of US soldiers. It doesn't matter that the Globe reported no such thing. It doesn't matter that the paper didn't "publish" the fake pictures, instead accidentally capturing them in a photo of Turner and Kambon. (And before you dismiss my contention that it was an accident, ask yourself if you really believe that any mainstream-newspaper editor would knowingly run graphic photos of oral sex and gang rape. Pause. Okay, you've got your answer, don't you?)

The right has its lies and myths to promote. And it will never, ever let the truth stand in the way.

posted at 2:06 PM | comment or permalink

TECHNOLOGY'S TOLL. The Boston Herald's Elisabeth Beardsley today has a must-read on rude and obnoxious toll-takers. But that's not what this item is about.

The Herald's website has a feature that highlights certain keywords and lets you click for more information. Toward the end of Beardsley's piece is a reference to an "Indian Orchard man." (Indian Orchard is a small town in Western Massachusetts.) India is highlighted. Select it, and you get a bunch of stories related to India, the nation.

Although nothing on last week's election and subsequent political machinations.

Calling IT!

TATTOO WHO? Continuing this morning's theme of petty gotchas, here is the lead of a story in the Boston Globe by Christina Pazzanese: "After Massachusetts legalized tattoos in early 2001, Nashua firefighter Roger Hall began exploring what kind he might get."

What does this mean? Nashua, as we know, is in New Hampshire, where tattooing has been legal pretty much forever. And even if Hall was a Massachusetts firefighter, couldn't he have driven to New Hampshire? Was there a reason that he had to wait for tattooing to become legal in Massachusetts? Or is it simply that no one edited this?

posted at 8:56 AM | comment or permalink

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

THESE OPINIONS BROUGHT TO YOU BY ... The Boston Globe announces today that it will begin accepting ads on the op-ed page. This is unsurprising: the New York Times has been taking such ads for years. No doubt officials at the New York Times Company, which owns both papers, have been grumbling that if it's good enough for the Times, it's certainly good enough for the Globe. And let's face it - the Globe op-ed page does not often seem overwhelmed with stellar material.

Still, having an ad-free op-ed page was always a distinguishing feature of the Globe, and it's too bad to see it go away. I imagine that it will result in fewer pieces by outside contributors - many of which, let's face it, are snoozers, but which nevertheless diversify the page.

HOW IS THIS EVEN POSSIBLE? "CORRECTION - An editorial yesterday misstated the name of Julie Goodridge, one of the gay marriage plaintiffs."

Coming tomorrow: the Globe screws up the president's middle initial.

A RACK IN BLACK. Here is the Boston Herald's Andrew Miga this morning on Alexandra Kerry's black dress, which was the talk of Drudge, Wonkette, and Kaus yesterday. Kerry wore a slinky number to the Cannes Film Festival, which - in photos beamed across the Web - turned out to be entirely see-through. (Media Log's verdict: not bad!)

Kaus, at least, is honest enough to admit that the effect was almost certainly the result of the cameras' flash, although that doesn't stop him from wondering if the pictures prove that she is "a bit vain, selfish and opportunistic." Really.

But there is simply no way Kerry could have looked in the mirror, seen what the photos depicted yesterday, and said to herself, "Perfect! That is exactly how I want to look tonight!" I mean, let's be serious.

Well, okay, not too serious.

posted at 9:17 AM | comment or permalink

Monday, May 17, 2004

MARRIED, OFTEN WITH CHILDREN. The biggest story in the country today is gay marriage, and Massachusetts is the epicenter, as same-sex marriage becomes legal here for the first time anywhere in the United States. (Globe coverage here; Herald coverage here.)

Not to focus on the negative, but I feel compelled to reproduce the first few paragraphs of Howie Carr's column in Sunday's Herald. Unlike his fellow columnist Joe Fitzgerald, who at least appears to be a true believer (sub. req.), I find it hard to accept that the sneering Carr really cares one way or the other. Yet this is how he began his hateful little screed (sub. req.) yesterday:

Gay marriage, another mega-embarrassment for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but what else is new? Imagine the circus this evening out on Mass. Ave. in front of Cambridge City Hall - one shudders to think of what sort of XXX-rated products the hawkers will be trying to peddle to those who once were referred to in simpler times as "brides" and "grooms."

"Hey, get your amyl nitrites here. Poppers here, poppers!"

This is the liberal credo: If it happens in Abu Ghraib prison, it's a war crime. If it happens at a rest stop on I-495, it's true love.

Welcome to Massachusetts. The Gay State. Sodom and Begorrah.

And everyone has to pretend that this will be the end of it. You will be hounded by the PC Police if you state the obvious, that if the perversion du jour is "gay marriage," then tomorrow it will be polygamy, and the day after tomorrow incest, and then the final frontier ... bestiality.

Elisabeth Beardsley, Thomas Caywood, Thea Singer, Marie Szaniszlo, Franci Richardson, and other Herald reporters trying to cover gay marriage with the seriousness it deserves must cringe when they see garbage like this.

The Globe's anti-gay-marriage columnist, Jeff Jacoby, complained yesterday that "the media depiction of the same-sex marriage controversy has been strikingly one-sided." No doubt I'm caught in my own paradigm, but I can't help but think that that's because there is a right and a wrong regarding gay marriage, and that the vast majority of the media have sided with those who are right.

Jacoby continued:

Those of us who think this week's revolution is a terrible mistake need to do a much better job of explaining that the core question is not "Why shouldn't any couple in love be able to marry?" but something more essential: "What is marriage for?" We need to convey that the fundamental purpose of marriage is to unite men and women so that any children they may create or adopt will have a mom and a dad.

Marriage expresses a public judgment that every child deserves a mom and a dad. Same-sex marriage, by contrast, says that the sexual and emotional desires of adults count for more than the needs of children. Which message do we want the next generation to receive?

Well, marriage is for many things, but I agree with Jacoby that child-rearing is by far the most important. I would even agree that there are many advantages to raising children within the context of a family headed by a mother and a father - advantages that are difficult to replicate with two mothers, or two fathers, or a single parent.

But this is theory. The reality is that there are already same-sex couples and single parents raising children, and that, in many cases, they are doing a far better job than some traditional families. Children are raised by actual people, not by theories about what constitutes the ideal. We ought to recognize that. And today, at least in one state, we do.

RUMSFELD'S LAST WEEK? Here is the latest from Seymour Hersh, in the current New Yorker, on a secret order signed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that may have led directly to the abuses at Abu Ghraib. The most chilling paragraph:

The government consultant [a source of Hersh's] said that there may have been a serious goal, in the beginning, behind the sexual humiliation and the posed photographs. It was thought that some prisoners would do anything - including spying on their associates - to avoid dissemination of the shameful photos to family and friends. The government consultant said, "I was told that the purpose of the photographs was to create an army of informants, people you could insert back in the population." The idea was that they would be motivated by fear of exposure, and gather information about pending insurgency action, the consultant said. If so, it wasn't effective; the insurgency continued to grow.

When you consider the incredible damage that has been done to American interests by the abuses and torture at Abu Ghraib - when you consider that terrorists executed Nicholas Berg in retaliation (or at least used it as a convenient excuse) - then, if this is true, Rumsfeld's resignation should be on President Bush's desk by noon today.

Yeah, right.

posted at 9:29 AM | comment or permalink


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

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