Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Logic only a journalist could love

The Patriot-News, our local fishwrap, is endlessly fascinating. Their editorial pages are exemplars of the anti-business model so beloved by self-regarding guild members. (See examples here, here, here, and here.)

Lately, they are less likely to argue with their conservative readers; they prefer to troll them.

Case in point: this defense of Marie Harf and her “don’t kill the terrorists hire them” brain fart.

As Marie Harf controversy shows, it's nuance, not truth, that's the first casualty:
See, Marie Harf did not say something stupid, nor did she ad lib an inartful answer to a tough question, nor did she articulate a seriously flawed policy.

No. Marie Harf is a victim. Her subtle geopolitical insights were misunderstood and misinterpreted by sexist, agist, stupid right-wingers.

Now, she's the "terrorists need jobs lady." And, at age 33, she's been patronizingly dismissed (with no small amount of sexism underpinning the criticism) as too young and inexperienced to hold the job she now holds. It's a firm bet that no similar accusation would have been hurled if Harf's first name were Michael instead of Marie.
I guess John L. Micek never heard of Tommy Vietor or Ben Rhodes.

Micek also defended Harf by appealing to the wisdom of the greatest American statesman of the twentieth century.

But any military response must still be accompanied by a political one. After military victory in World War II, it was the Marshall plan that secured seven decades of peace among the warring parties.
This struck me as a poor analogy for a lot of reason. So, I tweeted one to Micek:

Re Harf: We did not start debating the Marshall Plan until we had defeated the Nazis.
Micek then proceeded to “destroy” me like his intellectual heroes Jon Stewart and Vox do to pesky stupid conservatives:

Doesn't mean we have to wait in this case
I was devastated. His tweet laid bare the fatuity of my arguments and I beheld the wisdom of Marie Harf-- our new Kennan.

Now I know Marie Harf was right because of the Marshall Plan, even though the “plan”, circumstances, and timing are completely different.

There are misleading analogies and flawed analogies. Then there is this - a non-analogy which is better than the best analogy because it proves Marie Harf was right and right-wingers are stupid.

Journalist logic at its finest.

By the way, there is a better analogy for Harf and Micek to use. We once did dangle economic growth in front of an enemy engaged in a shooting war.

In 1965 LBJ proposed a “TVA on the Mekong” to Ho Chi Mihn as a carrot to end the invasion of South Vietnam. Ho turned him down cold. Hanoi and the NVA preferred victory first, economic development later.

Just for the record, let’s get a few other points clear.

The Marshall Plan was not an attempt to wean the Nazis away from their warlike ways or address Germany’s legitimate grievances. Before Marshall the Diplomat worked to rebuild Germany, Marshall the General had implemented the Total War strategy which left Germany crushed, helpless, and with no choice but to surrender “unconditionally”. Contra Harf and Micek, Marshall and the rest of the allies were quite prepared to “kill our way” to victory.

At no point did the US negotiate with the Nazis or dangle incentives before them.

As Churchill put in July 1941:

We will have no truce or parley with you [Hitler], or the grisly gang who work your wicked will. You do your worst and we will do our best.
Finally, nuclear weapons, massive retaliation, and Mutual Assured Destruction had more to do with keeping the Cold War cold than did the Marshall Plan. The Bomb and the Polaris kept Western Europe free; the Marshall Plan helped them regain their prosperity.

What do you mean “we”, writer man?

Ron Rosenbaum in Slate:

Why America Loves Serial Killers
They give us an alibi for our murderous culture.

Don't turn away: Serial killers are America's alibi, and every time you pay your 12 bucks for another serial-killer movie or put one on your Netflix queue, you're feeding the beast.

You're an accomplice. In making serial killers giggly, kitschy chic, we're all accomplices.
From 2005:

The glamorization of evil is one least attractive features of our age. For my money, Silence of the Lambs was an obscene book and movie for precisely this reason.
From 2008:

I'm not a big fan of the slasher/serial killer horror genre. It's partly a matter of philosophy, part cultural inheritance.

A college friend once summed up the moral of the Friday the 13th series as "you can't kill the boogie man." At the time that struck me as an accurate assessment which meant the movies were profoundly nihilistic.

The glorification of sadism is repugnant, and, in itself, is a deal-breaker. These movies also have little appeal because i find it impossible to identify with the victims and their contrived helplessness. The "plots" require too much suspension of belief for any student of Col. Jeff Cooper.

Can't kill the boogie man? Yes we can!
From 2003:

Figures like Holmes or Peter Wimsey are fictional and bear little resemblance to real detectives. But they are hyper-realistic compared to the serial killers in modern thrillers. Writers like Thomas Harris have turned the detectives into somewhat intelligent bureaucrats while making the killer the one endowed with the rare mind. Philip Marlowe is only the " personification of an attitude, the exaggeration of a possibility;" Hannibal Lector bears no resemblance to real serial killers. He is the personification of an impossibility as a criminal, but the perfect example of moral rot as an "artistic" creation.
This post by Ace explains why True Detective struck such a nerve and why it was a breath of fresh air on American TV:

The show ultimately was, as Pizzolato said, not about the serial killer at all, but about the two men, Hart and Cohle, and their long, rocky relationship with one another.

And it's about mystery. The serial killer plot is a pretext to explore mystery -- and evil -- and philosophy -- and sex -- and all the rest of it, but in the end, the show was about the mystery and muddle of life. Not about some Hannibal Lecter-like supercriminal and his lunatic beliefs.

In the end, he wasn't the interesting one; the heroes were the interesting ones.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Kind of Blue

This is an incredibly interesting BBC report on Miles Davis's epochal album. Especially liked the interview with drummer Jimmy Cobb, the last surviving member of the sextet.
Miles Davis and Kind of Blue

Thursday, February 05, 2015

In honor of Brian Williams hard-won journalistic credibility

Ace is the place:

Brian Williams Has Been Lying About Supposedly Being Shot Down in a Helicopter In Iraq Since 2003; Now Says He "Misremebered" Some Details and Is "Sorry"

Brian Williams: You Should Trust My Reportage Because of All the "Sand Snakes" (Ground to Air Missiles) I've Had to Personally Dodge to Deliver the News to You
From the archives (2007):

Is Brian Williams going nuts?
Note that incidents of the sort Williams invented were central to his argument for why people should trust him. Oh, and why NBC should pay him millions of dollars.


Falsus in Uno, Falsus in Omnibus?
Exit question:

At what point does NBC News become complicit in his lies? At what point does the failure to fire him mean that they approve of his fabrications?