Friday, February 25, 2005

Fear and Loathing in Kingdom Come

If a man dies west of the Missouri River, his soul won't go to Heaven. And if he dies west of the Cheyenne River, even the coyotes won't eat him. - [Traditional saying, 'round these parts]

I've deliberately avoided reading any eulogies, tributes, or good-goddamn-riddances to Hunter S. Thompson, before writing this one. That's my own homage to the man. This memorial is uncontaminated by mundane facts and nit-picky reality.

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was the second greatest journalist in American history (after H.L. Mencken), the second greatest drunk in Colorado history (after John Denver), and the third greatest dope fiend in literary history (after Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William S. Burroughs). Some of which is true, and some of which must be said to appease his vengeful spirit.

Thompson was the first journalist to compare Richard Nixon to Adolf Hitler. That proves his massive cultural influence, which has spread like Creeping Jenny to every corner of the globe. Today, journalists compare every US president to Adolf Hitler. Each of them pretends that they thought of it first.

Like Burroughs, Thompson was full of memorable wisdom, however doubtful the utility of it. From Thompson we learn that Atlanta is the best place to recruit porn stars, that it's better to eat twelve hits of acid than carry it through customs, and that the US Postal Service was the major financial supporter of the Haight-Ashbury hippie culture (one or two psychedelics working as mail carriers could earn enough rent money to house a hundred freaks, not to mention keeping the chemical trade routes gushing).

In Thompson, you glimpse something of the self-imposed desperation of the counter-culture. Unlike others, Thompson recognized that, by the end of the Sixties, freakdom was forever dead. Revolutionary aspirations were now limited to doing fetch-and-carry work for hopeless squares like George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. This did not seem to bother Thompson, who was determined not to fit in, and who had the gall to offer Muhammed Ali a cigarette and a swig of Wild Turkey.

But there is something funny about Thompson, for all his mystique of guns, drugs, and gonzo. The things that I remember most from his writings are the little touches of pathos, not the bizarre adventures and the wild rants against Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace. Thompson described how Eugene McCarthy stood outside of a factory in the cold to shake hands with workers, all of whom ignored him under orders from the union. He describes how an elderly Wallace supporter approached him (outside the hospital where Wallace lay near death from a gunshot wound) and sadly asked him why the media hated Governor Wallace so much.

These little touches show that the crazy, drug-soaked, self-destructive bastard had a heart after all. That made him a true rebel. A social misfit, he was likewise a misfit among the anti-social classes, who are generally self-righteous, puritanical, humorless, and cold-blooded.

The only thing I ever saw that came close to Objective Journalism was a closed-circuit TV setup that watched shoplifters in the General Store at Woody Creek, Colorado.

So much for Objective Journalism. Don’t bother to look for it here — not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.
Hunter S. Thompson, 1972

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Do Democrats Hate the Blogs?

At CNN one Sunday Morning,
High upon the gallows tree,
Eason Jordan gave his young life
For the cause of Journalese.

Another martyr for MSM,
Another martyr to the Blogs ...
The brutal Blogs may crush the Networks
But cannot keep our spirits down!

We can establish one thing right off - it's certainly cool for liberals to hate blogs. Elsewise, Democratic Strategist (ha ha ha) Bob Beckel could not have unleashed his recent tirade on FOX against "a bunch of bloggers" (print cannot convey the contempt in his tone) who "shoot first and ask questions later." If he'd said that about vegetarians ... it would have made no sense, but there would have been trouble anyway.

But that's nothing. Bertram Pecquerie at loads up the biggest blunderbuss he's got and lets it fly:
... there is one advantage in this story: masks are fallen! Within the honest community of bloggers, some of them claimed to be the "sons of the First Amendment", they were just the sons of Senator McCarthy ... Real promoters of citizen media would have to take some distance with those who have fueled and organised the Eason Jordan hatred. If not, the "new era of journalism" opened by the blogosphere will appear as the old clothes of American populism.
By "American populism", Pecquerie does not mean Howard Dean. He means, like, the Ku Klux Klan.

Like Beckel, Pecquerie just ignores the fact that liberals Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd were present when the remarks were made, and objected to them. Beckel is a potted blowhard for FOX News, but Pecquerie has the room to opine at length and might have taken the time to note this. I guess he decided that accusing bloggers of McCarthyism was easier and more emotive.

Of course, Pecquerie refers to "real promoters of citizen media" (whoever those people are), so he doesn't hate all the blogs, right? And there are lots of Democratic and liberal blogs, so how could Democrats hate the blogs?

In fact, cyber-donk bloggers are some of the biggest blogosphere-haters around. They especially hate the fact that non-liberals are allowed to blog, too, which is one of those totally unfair things - like Talk Radio, and presidential elections. As long as this state of affairs is allowed, the country is one nanometer away from Totalitarianism and McCarthyism and Orwellianism and maybe even a ban on partial-birth abortion. A commenter at NYU's PressThink helpfully explains:
Eason Jordan has just been tire-necklaced by a bloodthirsty group of utopian, bible-thumping knuckledraggers that believe themselves to be bloggers but are really just a streetgang.
I think it is fair to generalize (exceptions exist, of course) the left-blogger view as follows: Blogging is socially acceptable behavior, which liberals and activists can use to their advantage, so not all blogs are bad. But the public influence of the blogosphere is bad. Above all, the severe damage that the blogs have dealt out to the Establishment Media is bad. All in all, the tendency of blogs to take themselves seriously as a new cultural force is bad, and dangerous.

There is much complaining about "blogger triumphalism" from the left, but you may call it all hypocrisy. If cyber-donk blogs had succeeded in doing to FOX News what PowerLine (et al) did to CBS, they'd be crowing over it for the next 20 years. They don't have a problem with triumphalism, they have a problem with losing.

But how in the world did liberals come to identify themselves with the losers in these fights? Don't they vigorously deny the existence of MSM liberal bias - asserting to the contrary that the media is conservative? That being the case, why the Hell do they care what happens to CNN and CBS? Aren't they just big, bloated media corporations that deserve to be eaten alive by earnest citizens like ourselves? Somebody want to get their freaking story straight here?

If liberals think that the MSM is their friend (which means that they're lying their butts off when they claim it is not), my advice would be to get some new friends. Your "friends" are, at this moment, trying to explain to their readers and viewers why the CNN News Czar lost his job because of something that the MSM never bothered to report to their readers and viewers.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Free Men and Frauds

We ask to be recognized as men. We ask that the same law shall work alike on all men. If an Indian breaks the law, punish him by the law. If a white man breaks the law, punish him also. Let me be a free man, free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade where I choose, free to choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to talk, think and act for myself ... and I will obey every law or submit to the penalty.

We shall be all alike: brothers of one father and mother, with one sky above us and one country around us and one government for all. Then the Great Spirit Chief who rules above will smile upon this land and send rain to wash out the bloody spots made by brothers' hands upon the face of the earth. For this time the Indian race is waiting and praying. I hope no more groans of wounded men and women will ever go to the ear of the Great Spirit Chief above, and that all people may be one people.

Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekht [Rolling Thunder in the Mountains] has spoken for his people.

Joseph, Chief of the Nez Percé, 1879

Professor Ward Churchill has certainly dug himself a big hole with his forked tongue, and now the University of Colorado is wondering whether they should push him into it. His defenders - at least, the ones who aren't as crazy as Churchill is - are pleading academic freedom on his behalf. But academic freedom, like free speech and all other freedoms, has its limits. One of those limits is fraud, and Professor Ward Churchill is a fraud.

Churchill is no more an Indian than Arnold Schwarzenegger is. This has been pointed out plenty of times before, but now it's official: The United Keetoowah Band, which Churchill once attempted to enroll in on the claim that he is one-sixteenth Cherokee, has disowned him. Churchill is not a Cherokee and is no problem of ours, they say.

Normally, claiming to be Cherokee when you're actually whiter than David Duke's laundry is probably not academic fraud. But when your academic schtick is Identity Politics and it forms the basis of your classroom teaching, you're coming awfully close. When you're a moral and intellectual idiot on top of that, your pool of potential sympathy diminishes.

Claims of free speech and academic freedom are being hypocritically deployed in Churchill's case to begin with. If Churchill were the Grand Kolossal Konehead of the Ku Klux Klan, Hamilton College would never have invited him to speak and the University of Colorado would never have hired him. And rightly so - vile speech ought to be protected, not promoted.

Glenn Reynolds thinks Churchill ought not to be fired, and cites similar sentiment by Evan Coyne Maloney. A reasonable enough position, though there's a touch of spite in there, too: "Universities who tenure bad people should have to live with the consequences." In other words, UC hung Churchill's albatross around their own neck, so they should live with the stink. While the rest of us enjoy the Schadenfreude.

But again, everyone would feel differently if Churchill were preaching hatred of Native Americans instead of pretending to be one. (Churchill's hatred of the United States doesn't count, since we've all become numb to that sort of thing.)

The analogy is not so far off, either. Churchill is a prime example of the rotten deal that Native Americans have gotten in contemporary culture. The beret-wearing, AK-47-toting AIM activist is, in fact, a deeply offensive image to ordinary Indians across the country - Indians who correctly consider themselves to be not just good Native Americans, but Good Americans Period. It isn't sports team logos that rankle them - the Braves and Redskins are looked on with pride on the reservations. It's the urban revolutionaries who claim to speak for Native Americans. Especially the phony-ass white urban revolutionaries, which is what Ward Churchill is.

The objections of these true Native Americans are ignored. Because it's not about race, history, truth, or justice, it's all about our worthless politics.

UPDATE: Previous warning about Ward Churchill (and his accomplice Noam Chomsky) from the American Indian Movement, at a 1999 AIM council:

The group gathered to discuss their concerns regarding a defamatory "tribunal" in which distinguished Indian leaders of national and local Indian organizations were "put on trial" and condemned by a radical group of self-styled "Indian activists" falsely claming to be members of the American Indian Movement, and spearheaded by ring leader Ward Churchill ...

Specifically, in regards to the revisionist writings of Ward Churchill, Glen Morris and Russell Means, they often use people such as Vine Deloria, LaDonna Harris, Gerry Spence, Noam Chomsky and many other Indian and non-Indian intellectuals and academics, some who naively play into their game plan.

They continue to perpetuate this misinformation campaign in front-operations like Dark Night Field Notes, using well-known persons like Noam Chomsky, Eddie Hatcher, Winona LaDuke, and others on their advisory board. They are now putting out the same misinformation on the Internet (see letterhead and Dark Night Field Notes by Faith Attaglia, and Chomsky, LaDuke letters), also (See Bob Brown, AAPRP letter).

In order to carry out this cruel hoax, they are deceitful and treacherous to the point that they will always surround themselves with innocent and naïve individuals out of the Indian and non-Indian communities, some who are well known who actually have endorsed their revisionist, inaccurate, shoddy, and fraudulent writings. The result of this is that without review of the contents of their publications, Indian and non-Indian educators and educational institutions and libraries are using these books in their curriculum. In doing so, they and our students become victims of this fraud. Using the American Indian Movement to give themselves credibility, cover and access, they have been able to infiltrate other organizations and movements nationally and internationally.

The American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council urges our friends and supporters worldwide to expose and isolate these conspirators expeditiously.

We request that educators, Indian and non-Indians alike remove from their curriculums and libraries all of their revisionist, inaccurate and shoddy writings, and send them back to their publishers ...