Newsweek magazine recently celebrated the latest trend in elite Northeastern colleges: sex magazines, complete with highbrow titles -- like "Boink." In applauding the shifting sexual mores of American youth, reporter Jennie Yabroff noted that these enterprising students "no longer see a distinction between their bedroom behavior and their publishing activities," and consider their sex-magazine careers in college to be building blocks for the business world.
"I continually tell my mom this is a great résumé builder," says Alecia Oleyourryk of her career publishing "Boink" magazine at Boston University. Newsweek now needs a sociologist to affirm the wisdom of these "young sexperts." Cue Pepper Schwartz, a sociologist at the University of Washington. "Maybe their generation will take this a lot less seriously than we do," she says.
Now that Barack Obama is closing in on the Democratic nomination, some are wondering whether the media will be tougher in their coverage. There’s a better question: is it possible to be any softer? The media writ large have been sounding like they’re covering a messiah more than a man. So was Hillary Clinton right to complain that Barack Obama has been more celebrated rather than vetted?
Let’s be clear. Hillary Clinton has been the beneficiary of so many cotton-candy profiles and “I Am Woman” honorifics that it’s almost impossible that her bad press will ever come anywhere close to balancing out her mountains of puff over the last 15 years. The “rough” press she’s been getting since Super Tuesday is merely the political prognosticators noticing she’s getting her clock cleaned by 18 to 20 points in a lot of states. Even so, she’s still being awarded softball interviews – like the latest in a long series of twinkly Katie Couric gal-pal segments on “60 Minutes.”
Thirty years ago I was fresh out of college, with no particular career path chosen, and decided I'd like to be a nationally-syndicated columnist. I'd learn rather quickly that before being one, one has to become one, and to qualify on that caliber one has to demonstrate a talent which this young man didn't possess.
Bill Buckley told me so. I'd penned a couple of practice pieces, one having something to do with Jimmy Carter's choice of Muhammad Ali as his ambassador-at-large to Africa, another on something equally memorable, and sent them to Bill, asking for his critique.
"The New York Times is not a supermarket tabloid," boasted their Washington Bureau Chief R.W. Apple when Gennifer Flowers first declared in 1992 that she and Gov. Bill Clinton had an affair. Even then, the line sounded laughable.
One year before, then-Times reporter Maureen Dowd penned a 2400-word front-page stink bomb passing along discredited gossip author Kitty Kelley’s unproven charges of something apparently too glorious to fact-check: an alleged long-time affair between Nancy Reagan and Frank Sinatra, including private "luncheons" that went on all afternoon at the White House.
Fidel Castro Resigns. That’s a fantastic headline, and should be cause for celebration. But just because the doddering dictator is stepping aside doesn’t mean that Cuba’s abandoning tyranny. And just because he’s leaving doesn’t mean the media are dropping their fictions about Castro, the Cuban "president." Glancing at a TV set, I caught this CNN screen graphic: "Fidel Castro Resigns: Cuban Pres. Rejects New Term." Where on earth is the media’s regard for accuracy?
A "new term"? This murderous despot has only had one, long, abusive term, and it’s lasted 49 years. Anyone who says otherwise, that the Cuban "parliament" would be setting another "election," is not just a useful idiot, he’s simply an idiot.
Hillary Clinton should be nobody’s idea of a paragon of civil discourse in the political arena. Her personal style of political warfare is ruthless, a bare-knuckles fight to the death. Ask Ken Starr. Her idea of employee relations is also rough. Paul Fray, an Arkansas campaign worker said she cursed him out with F-bombs and ethnic slurs after Bill Clinton lost his one race for Congress in 1974. A co-worker told NBC News in 1999 that he heard cussing from Hillary that night like he’d never heard before.
So it’s a little strange to see Hillary appearing so upset over MSNBC reporter David Shuster suggesting that Chelsea Clinton was being "pimped out" by Hillary’s campaign. Shuster was substituting as host of Tucker Carlson’s show and used the P-word as he suggested to liberal radio host Bill Press that it was wrong for the Clinton campaign to have Chelsea call supporters, but not grant reporters any access to her.
There’s one little three-syllable word that has been left out of most of the Democratic primary coverage on the TV: "liberal." We’re constantly told by anchors and reporters how the Republican contenders are fighting over the "conservative" vote and who’s more "conservative," and that’s true. But exactly the same fight is taking place on the left side, with the Clintons trying to suggest Barack Obama’s not sufficiently liberal (he praised Ronald Reagan!) and Obama trying to take Hillary’s Iraq war vote and turn her into Rumsfeld in a black pantsuit.
But the news media cannot routinely bring themselves to say that word, "liberal." Obama landed a major victory in the who’s-more-liberal sweepstakes. He’s been endorsed by MoveOn.org, the screechy hard-left group that distinguished itself last year by taking out newspaper ads denouncing our commander in Iraq as "General Betray Us."
You can tell a lot about how the news media feel about conservatives by watching how they talk about Rush Limbaugh. They want his influence curbed. They pine for the day his career hits the skids. They’re constantly looking for a moment where they can declare that conservatives no longer have – that Rush Limbaugh no longer has -- the Grand Old Party in a menacing trance. They don’t want Republican candidates seeking a Limbaugh endorsement.
Teenagers who tumble from the bed to a sudden pregnancy often face this reaction from the people surrounding them: These poor kids made a mistake, yes. But they don’t have the maturity to bring a life into the world. It would ruin their lives, and they would probably be irresponsible and resentful parents. Admitting their immaturity and having an abortion is the truly mature choice.
That might sound like a formulaic TV movie of the week. But then comes “Juno,” the quirky, arty film with a completely different take – and it’s taking the movie world by storm.
Every four years, the media try to offer the Republican electorate advice on what the GOP should do to achieve victory. Buyer beware: those eager to accept the media’s conventional "wisdom" ought to recognize that these are blueprints for Republican domination of Washington only if it’s a domination by the party’s liberal wing. Currently, the simmering stew of conventional "wisdom" suggests that Sen. John McCain is going to emerge as the obvious front-runner for 2008 because his is the winning message for Republicans.
All the recurring media love for McCain – he’s the only candidate who can go on Fox News and call journalists "Trotskyites" and the liberals all laugh – should remind conservatives why they distrusted him in 2000. His victory in the South Carolina primary warmed the hearts of liberal journalists everywhere. To represent the media giddiness, see Jill Zuckman in the Chicago Tribune. It was "a healthy dose of poetic justice as he beat his Republican rivals and vanquished the ghosts of his 2000 defeat under a barrage of scurrilous smears."
The concept of "sex education" has been a stomping ground for controversy for at least fifty years, probably as long as the apostles of "openness" have argued that parents in general do a terrible job of talking birds and bees with their offspring, and the public schools needed to expose children to a "frank" and "comprehensive" curriculum on How to Have Sex, complete with the pessimistic (or in their case, neutral) assumption that children will be irreversibly aggressive sexual beings.
All of which pales in comparison to what is not being taught on the Internet, where some outrageous amateurs have figured out how to outdo the bureaucratic "sex education" lobby. One new website calls itself "The Midwest Teen Sex Show." Its logo is a silhouette of two cows copulating. It is a series of infomercials for "comprehensive" adolescent indulgence.
The Democratic presidential race is turning into a snippy identity-politics battle waged around the question: Is America more racist or more sexist? Is America too racist to deserve Barack Obama? Or too sexist to deserve Hillary Clinton? Liberals think this is a real puzzler, since they assume America is bigoted both ways. It’s going to be a long, America-accusing election year no matter who wins.
This is nuts. Our system of laws in this country contains energetic remedies for discrimination against blacks and women. Discriminatory attitudes still exist in isolated, politically irrelevant pockets whose existence is then magnified one hundred-fold by those in the media who want this picture of discrimination to exist. Blacks and women simply are not as a rule denied their humanity, as evidenced by a black and a woman vying to become America’s next president.
If we don’t want this year to be an exercise in liberal accusation and intimidation, we should force the Democratic front-runners to answer a different question. If we want to identify the one segment of American humanity that is routinely disregarded, we should ask them: when will you recognize the civil rights and humanity of the unborn baby? When will America overcome this injustice of destroying human lives in the name of "choice"?
At what point, exactly, did we come to hate humans for having the arrogance to assume they are wiser than beasts?
The "we" in that equation belongs squarely to the camp of the loony radical left, which now broadcasts that hatred for humans on the Air America radio network. How low can this disgraceful failure of a radio venture go? One of their newest hosts goes by the radio name "Lionel." (His real name is Michael LeBron.) "Lionel" unfurled a rather unique take on the tragic incident at the San Francisco Zoo, where a tiger mauled a teenager to death.
He cheered for the tiger.
Then he cheered the death of Steve Irwin, the beloved "Crocodile Hunter" of TV fame.
The presidential nominating contest keeps creeping earlier and earlier into the election year. The Iowa caucuses are 16 days earlier than in 2004. The New Hampshire primary is 19 days earlier than in 2004. Before the first results, the media were already pushing the contenders around, predicting that most presidential campaigns are toast if they don’t win in one of these states, and in so doing, are only advancing that perception.
All the talk of reforming the primary system – to make it more logical, more rational, more regional, more representative, less tilted to traditional first states like Iowa and New Hampshire – all of these do less for a rational nomination process than reforming the reporters and pundits who want to declare the whole race over from the first shot of the starting gun.
In 2004, John Kerry was estimated to have sealed the winning number of convention delegates by March 11, and the conventional media wisdom was talking him up as the nominee after the primaries on February 3. By the 6th, the Reuters wire service put out a story headlined "Kerry Presidency Seen [As] a Boon for U.S. Markets." Soon, CBS and other media outlets started investigating and attacking the National Guard record of President Bush, as if they were following the orders of Kerry advisers. The general election seemed already under way.
For America’s celebrity-watching media, 2007 was the Year of Spears, about which we should breathe a sigh of relief that Western civilization survived. The year began with increasingly erratic Britney Spears popping in and out of rehab stints. Then she shaved her head in the spring, a move that screamed that the pop star’s moves were more crazy than calculated by publicists. The year ended with the news that Britney’s 16-year-old sister Jamie Lynn Spears, a star of the children’s channel Nickelodeon, was pregnant.
Had the youngest Spears sister been cast as a tawdry teenage tramp on “Desperate Housewives,” her real-world behavior would be seen as less scandalous. But Jamie Lynn Spears has been a fairly wholesome star on Nickelodeon since she joined the kiddie sketch-comedy show “All That” at the tender age of 11. She’s currently the cool title character of the show “Zoey 101,” set at a boarding school, a show watched by millions of grade-schoolers. So much for role models.
Hillary Clinton has no right to complain that her friends and flatterers in the media are rough on her. But when Clintons hit rough passages on the road to victory, this is what Clintons do: complain. That’s too meek. They whine.
But she obviously feels wronged by the news media when her polls begin to slip and she looks at her Barack Obama’s worshipful press clips. In fairy-tale terms, Obama is Snow White, and Hillary is the vain and wicked queen peering into the mirror and demanding to know "who is the fairest of them all?"
The end of 2007 doesn’t seem half as depressing to the conservative faithful as it was in the beginning. Democrats captured the Congress, sure. But now it’s their approval ratings that are in the toilet, and worst still, their rabid leftist base has turned on them for not being rabidly leftist enough. The presidential front-runners are no longer inevitable, not even Hillary Clinton’s buy one-get-one-free ticket. The economy is fairly strong, regardless of the pessimistic media coverage. We’ve had another year without America being successfully attacked by terrorists. The surge is working.
All this good news is driving the Left nuts, and nowhere is this more evident than in the national media, which is making no attempt to shake off their collective gloom-and-doom tone. As the good news began emanating from Iraq this fall, the McClatchy News Service, lauded by media leftists like Bill Moyers as having the smart reporters who always thought the Iraq War was a fight without a point, ran this headline:
"As Violence Falls in Iraq, Cemetery Workers Feel the Pinch."
At the summit of national power, politicians and bureaucrats are terrified at the idea of endorsing the religious views of the majority of Americans. Our First Amendment forbids the establishment of a state religion, but many of our governing elites are taking it a step further, outlawing its very existence from the public conversation.
Congress can turn this into an unintentional comedy of manners. On December 11, the House considered a rather meaningless resolution "recognizing the importance of Christmas" – and nine members of the House voted "nay." The roll call of Grinches are, surprise, largely from blue states: Gary Ackerman and Yvette Clarke of New York were on the list, as were California’s Barbara Lee, Pete Stark, and Lynn Woolsey. The Politico newspaper applauded with "God bless them!"
One of the Man from Hope’s consistently amazing lines is that the press doesn’t offer the Clintons enough credit for all their good works. The latest example came on the trail in Keene, New Hampshire, where the Associated Press found him whining about how the press hasn’t underlined the vast chasm in experience between his wife and Barack Obama. "Bill Clinton said Tuesday that if reporters covered the candidates' public records better, his wife's presidential bid would be far ahead of her rivals,” reported AP.
Clinton obviously believes his presidency was a Golden Era, a time when peace and prosperity graced America. The Clintons want the press to replay a sort of glowing Harry and Linda Thomason propaganda movie about The Way They Were, with a soundtrack by Barbra Streisand.
The Christmas season is upon us, which means it’s that special time of year for the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State to make sure no wayward city council will allow a whiff of frankincense on government property. They must send out direct-mail fundraising letters asking "Help Us Crush a Creche at Christmas!"
The Christmas season is also that time of year when the business world implores us to consider the material as more important than the spiritual, all in the spirit of “the holidays.” So we celebrate instead the arrival, on Christmas Day, of iPods and DVDs.
This year there’s a new twist. The Nativity scene has become commercialized – but in a way you would never imagine.
Is CNN capable and professional enough to host presidential debates? After last week’s CNN-YouTube debate fiasco, even Tim Rutten, a media writer for the left-leaning Los Angeles Times, was giving CNN a big fat F for failure: "In fact, this most recent debacle masquerading as a presidential debate raises serious questions about whether CNN is ethically or professionally suitable" to host debates. CNN had the opportunity to perform a journalistic swan dive. Instead it produced an enormous belly flop. It’s far worse when you realize this mess of a production was the highest-rated primary presidential debate in history.
Back in May, after the Democrats stiff-armed the Fox News Channel invitation to debate, many conservatives believed the Republicans should return the favor with CNN and its proposed CNN-YouTube debate. I disagreed. I suggested in this space that Republicans should accept debates on CNN, but be more forceful in setting the terms and selecting the hosts. It seemed correct to assume at the time that CNN would attempt to be more fair and balanced simply because so much was riding on the outcome, namely CNN’s very credibility as an impartial observer of the political process.
I was wrong. We can’t expect CNN to be an honest broker.
In the musty but hallowed halls of the Old Media, the first item for target practice is often the New Media, the ones formed and made popular by the atrocious biases of their predecessors. The Old Media continue watching their numbers bleed away; continue to paint themselves as fair and balanced, despite the preponderance of evidence to the contrary; and continue to smear the New Media, especially talk radio, as the divisive haters and fact-manglers ruining civil discourse in America.
Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw is on the publicity tour for his new book "Boom!" about the 1960s. On the November 26 Laura Ingraham show, when he was challenged with his soundbite broadsiding talk radio as "instantly jingoistic and savagely critical" of war protesters, Brokaw quickly put his anti-radio rant back into rotation.
He suggested incivility was a "big cancer" on America, and talk radio is the number one tumor. Front and center in Brokaw’s pathology was Limbaugh: "My problem with the whole spectrum is there is not -- you know what Rush’s, what his whole drill is. He doesn’t want to hear another point of view. Except his."
For decades now, the national media have insisted in each presidential election cycle that voters should ignore the liberal wizards hiding behind the curtain of the Democratic Party. Each plausible Democratic presidential contender is a "moderate" or "centrist," be he Walter Mondale or Michael Dukakis or John Kerry. But now to describe Hillary Clinton as a "moral conservative" is so upside down and backwards it sounds like.... "This is your brain on drugs."
That’s what Time reporter Amy Sullivan announced on Tucker Carlson’s show on MSNBC. She suggested Hillary might be "fairly liberal" on economic issues, "but she’s a moral conservative." Sullivan was once an aide to Sen. Tom Daschle. In Hillary Clinton, Sullivan has allegedly found an authentic Christian conservative’s role model.
The Hillary Clinton juggernaut likes to try and run over every new threat, especially the ones they can call "old news." Every new book on her life, personal and political, is dismissed as "old news" – unless the person retelling and reshaping the "old news" is Hillary. Her recounting of her life is minty-fresh. Every other book smells like a reopened casket.
Whenever – if ever – authors of Hillary books are introduced by the national media, the tone of the interviews focuses in on Hillary’s talking point: "Why should anyone care?" From the start, the message is that these books belong in the garbage can, not in the library. The books that have come out this year have provided interesting new material that should in some way shape the media’s understanding of Hillary. Yet even liberals like Carl Bernstein or the New York Times duo of Jeff Gerth and Don van Natta have seen their books presented not as "news," but as a pernicious attempt to change Hillary’s narrative.
As the movie studios gear up for a big Christmas movie season, one trailer that looks like a blockbuster is “The Golden Compass,” which must be trying to cash in on the “Narnia” movies. It has flashy special-effect polar bears in armor and a young heroic damsel in distress facing off against evil forces. The casting is top-notch, led by Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, the current star spy in the James Bond movies.
But buyer beware: Narnia it’s not. It’s the anti-Narnia. Instead of a Christian allegory, it’s an anti-Christian allegory. The author of “The Golden Compass,” Philip Pullman, is an atheist who despises C. S. Lewis and his much-beloved Narnia series. “I thought they were loathsome,” he said of those books, “full of bullying and sneering, propaganda, basically, on behalf of a religion whose main creed seemed to be to despise and hate people unlike yourself.”
Let’s face it: the Clintons will say anything in their quests for the presidency. Just as Bill Clinton railed against Republican corruption in 1992, promising his would be “the most ethical administration in history,” Hillary Clinton now is presenting herself as the antidote of the Republican “culture of corruption,” and the antithesis of the Bush administration’s penchant for secrecy. What makes this argument all the more laughable is that secrecy has always been their modus operandi, and their key method of their scandal damage control.
It’s on display again. In the October 30 Democratic debate on MSNBC, Tim Russert asked if Senator Clinton would lift the 12-year ban on “confidential communications” between the president and his advisers that Bill Clinton requested from the National Archives. Russert was referencing a letter Clinton wrote to the Archives in 2002 loosening the restrictions on these documents – while suspiciously leaving in place his request to keep White House documents between Bill and Hillary Clinton secret.
There have been a number of stories in the press in recent months about Geographically Challenged America. None tops the report about Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder confessing he hadn't known that people spoke English in London.
"I couldn't find London on a map if they didn't have the names of the countries," he explained. "I swear to God. I don't know what nothing is. I know Italy looks like a boot."
I suppose we'd all have another chuckle if Crowder were asked to find Estonia on a map, but in truth how many can? And for those of us who can, how many of us know anything of significance about this seemingly insignificant little country?
How many of us know that Estonia, one of the smallest countries on the face of this earth, is responsible for one of the most extraordinary, and certainly the most unique, revolutions in modern history? How many of us know that this tiny Baltic nation defeated the Soviet Union -- with a song? This is not meant as hyperbole. It is literal truth.
If the "peace" movement holds a protest and no one in the press covers it, does it still exist? If Americans are sick of the war, they’re also sick of the "anti-war." Even the media have grown anti-war-weary. Rallies on October 27 drew only perfunctory news mentions.
The peaceniks have now become a bipartisan political problem, now that the Democrats who control Congress haven’t dared to placate the radicals by cutting off money for the troops. Cindy Sheehan is threatening to run against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But suddenly – surprise, surprise – the media aren’t interested in Sheehan’s new crusade. Crusades only have a point when it’s an anti-Republican point. Camping out against Bush during his Texas vacation was news, fun news, important news. But running against Speaker Pelosi is not news. It’s a sign your fifteen minutes of fame are all used up.
In a political act loaded with cultural symbolism, Senator Hillary Clinton endorsed an effort to earmark a million taxpayer dollars for a museum in Bethel, New York celebrating the circus of 1969, the Woodstock music festival. Other senators smelled the pork and successfully voted to remove it.
The tie-dyed, drug-soaked post-war babies that populated that muddy plain are now approaching Social Security age, and the aging hippies that made their way into the establishment want to imbue the notorious excesses of their youth with respectability. The New York Times said the Bethel complex would be "what Cooperstown is to baseball" – a hippie Hall of Fame.
I liked that music. I still do. Then as now, I simply ignored the cultural and political messages. Many others didn’t.
The bohemian worldview of Woodstock Nation is in some ways dominant, and in some ways passe in our popular culture. Hallucinogenic drugs are no longer the rage, but the "free love" spirit of "if it feels good, do it" still runs strong, especially in our entertainment world. And yet, burbling beneath a noisy culture of sexual excess and self-love, there’s a quiet undercurrent in our movies carrying subtle, and even obvious pro-life themes.
As much as liberals decry major corporations that act as if they’re above the law, there’s always quiet when the subject is Planned Parenthood, America’s number one corporate provider of abortions. During its 2005-2006 fiscal year, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America performed a record 264,943 abortions, reported a tidy profit of $55.8 million – and received a record high in taxpayer funding of $305.3 million.
This is one corporation the media hold in the highest regard. They’re not "merchants of death." That would be the tobacco companies, or gun manufacturers, or hamburger joints. These are the heroic "providers" of "a woman’s right to choose."
They’re also sleazy in their business practices. In Aurora, Illinois, Planned Parenthood planned to build the biggest abortion clinic in the country, but they lied by omission to the city. Throughout the construction process, the McDonald’s of the abortion industry applied for permits by listing the owner as "Gemini Office Development," not as Planned Parenthood.