of the Year" Issue Shits in Your Mouth, Calls it Chocolate Sundae
the Internet, a volunteer army of bloggers escalated their guerrilla
war against the mainstream media… Nevertheless, they stay on the margins—because,
like all insurgents, they're about sniping, not governing.
Sullivan, in Time's "Person of the Year" issue
amazing how useful a bad writer can be in exposing the vagaries
of mainstream thought.
probably doesn't mean to use the word "governing" in the above
passage. He probably needs a phrase, something like "being good
citizens," or "behaving responsibly." Sullivan is trying
to compare bloggers to the Iraqi insurgency—a wrongheaded and unfair
comparison to begin with, one that outrages both parties—but the way
he writes it, he implies that the real media's natural role is to govern.
In the shaky parallel structure of this sentence, bloggers and guerrilla
insurgents make up one pair, while mainstream media and legitimate ruling
government make up the other.
know what he means, but this is the kind of thing one doesn't usually
say out loud. Last time I checked, the press was not supposed to be
part of the ruling structure in our system of government. On the contrary—and
I'm just going by Jefferson and Madison, so I may be out of date—it's
supposed to be an antagonist to it, a check on civil power. Sullivan's
sentence would make fine rhetorical sense in Myanmar, the Soviet Union
or Nazi Germany, but in the United States one hopes it is just bad writing.
a very odd thing, watching the reaction of the so-called mainstream
media to the phenomenon of blogs. The response is almost universally
one of total disdain and disgust, but the stated reasons vary.
argument I see sometimes and occasionally even agree with is that bloggers
don't have the same factual and ethical standards that the mainstream
media supposedly has, which leads to such fiascoes as the bogus Kerry-mistress
story sweeping the country, or the name of Kobe's accuser being made
more often than not, the gripe about bloggers isn't that they're unethical.
It's that they're small. In the minds of people like Sullivan, not being
part of a big structure intrinsically degrades the amateur, makes him
a member of a separate and lower class; whereas in fact the solidarity
of any journalist should always lie with the blogger before it lies
with, say, the president. Journalists are all on the same side, or ought
to be, anyway.
Time magazine, though. Time lay with the president. Time
big-time lay with the president. What was great about Sullivan's "Year
of the Insurgents" column last week was how beautifully it threw
the rest of the "Person of the Year" issue into contrast.
Here's Sullivan bitching about bloggers needing to stay on the margins
where they belong; meanwhile, his "respectable" media company
is joyously prancing back and forth along 190 glossy pages with George
Bush's cock wedged firmly in its mouth.
"Person of the Year" issue has always been a symphonic tribute
to the heroic possibilities of pompous sycophancy, but the pomposity
of this year's issue bests by a factor of at least two or three the
pomposity of any previous issue. From the Rushmorean cover portrait
of Bush (which over the headline "An American Revolutionary"
was such a brazen and transparent effort to recall George Washington
that it was embarrassing) to the "Why We Fight" black-and-white
portraiture of the aggrieved president sitting somberly at the bedside
of the war-wounded, this issue is positively hysterical in its iconolatry.
One even senses that this avalanche of overwrought power worship is
inspired by the very fact of George Bush's being such an obviously unworthy
receptacle for such attentions. From beginning to end, the magazine
behaves like a man who knocks himself out making an extravagant six-course
candlelit dinner for a blow-up doll, in an effort to convince himself
he's really in love.
the "Person of the Year" article—written by two of America's
great Bards of Conventional Thinking, Nancy Gibbs and John F. Dickerson—Time
strains to turn banal facts into great character insights, commonplace
quotes into Churchillian utterances. It starts right in the opening
rather than doves nestle in the Oval Office Christmas tree, pinecones
the size of footballs piled around the fireplace, and the President
of the United States is pretty close to lounging in Armchair One. He's
wearing a blue pinstripe suit, and his shoes are shined bright enough
to shave in. He is loose, lively, framing a point with his hands or
extending his arm with his fingers up as though he's throwing a big
idea gently across the room.
had a lot going on, so I haven't been in a very reflective mood,"
says the man who has just replaced half his cabinet, dispatched 12,000
more troops into battle, arm wrestled lawmakers over an intelligence
bill, held his third economic summit and begun to lay the second-term
paving stones on which he will walk into history.
observations about this passage:
kind of a maniac puts eagles in a Christmas tree? Are doves no longer
ideologically acceptable—even as Christmas ornaments?
does one come "pretty close to lounging"? I imagine that this
is a state of being somewhere between lounging and not lounging, but
what the fuck? What would he have been if he were standing—pretty close
you say that shoes are "shined bright enough to shave in,"
we know what you mean, but at first instant it reads like they're bright
enough to wear while shaving. Why not just say, "shined bright
they joking when they follow up "throwing a big idea gently across
the room" with "'I haven't been in a very reflective mood'"?
how about this lead-in to a later section:
living room of Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas is a place for thinking.
There are big windows for long views, a wall of books and on one side
a table that is usually freckled with jigsaw pieces.
particularly like this passage because it's well-known that Bush doesn't
even read newspapers, let alone books. In the 2000 campaign, he carried
around a copy of a biography of Dean Acheson for six months, in an attempt
to convince reporters that he was a reader. In fact, Bush's utter lack
of intellectual curiosity is one of the most newsworthy—and most easily
proven—aspects of his character. But when you're president, and Time
magazine is profiling you, you get credit for being a bookish intellectual
just by having books on the wall.
Time manages to get through the entire profile without
quoting a single Bush critic. In fact, almost all of the people who
are quoted in the piece are Bush aides, many of them unnamed. This allows
Gibbs/Dickerson to report such factoids as Bush's private habit of admitting
to mistakes, despite the fact that he refuses to do so publicly ("Privately,
he did acknowledge there had been blunders," the magazine wrote),
as well as the stirring insight that Bush loves liberty even more than
his aides do. "Every time we'd have a speech and attempt to scale
back the liberty section, he would get mad at us," Gibbs/Dickerson
quote White House spokesman Dan Bartlett saying.
the best quote from an unnamed source was the one that compared Bush
to the icon of icons. In a section talking about Bush's admirable perseverance
(contrasted with Kerry's "slaloming") in the face of vocal
criticism, this was Time's way of addressing the fact that Bush
is the most loathed president since Nixon:
of it could be his faith," says an adviser. "Being persecuted
is not always a bad thing."
these people think bloggers need a comeuppance?