Posts from the ‘journalism’ Category

Beloved M(X)LK, Raggedy WaPo

Two giants. Two martyrs. One so sanctified he’s made it to Paradise Porn. The other mixedbagged and boutiqued into Niche Noesis. Maybe, for each of them, a second martyrdom.

Now comes the Washington Post with a very, very fine “Malcolm X Redux”. But it’s the Washington Post, so the pretext for publication is another 50th anniversary. But it’s the Washington Post, so it dominates the Style section. But it’s the new, beleaguered with all its print siblings, Wapo, so it has about as much graphics as text.

And what, you may ask, is the problem?

The only photo of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X together was a photo op  taken outside of Congress, March 26, 1964. (Henry Griffin/AP)

It is that we need the ancestors, and we very much need these two precious, dead, thinkers and activists. Krissah Thompson’s article is a valuable contribution, but it is so desperately necessary because the mainstream assumptions reflected by the Post and other “leading” media for these 50 and more years have as a whole served to attack, obscure, misrepresent and sanitize the images of these two men.

Let’s take a whirlwind tour of the borderlands between three gigantic domains: citizenship, journalism, and schools. I’ve hopped on my blog-scooter, so I beg you to hold on tight and forgive me my shortcuts. What for some will be harder to forgive is the overall perspective: what does any citizen or kid-potential-citizen need, to “mature” into an at-risk world that dearly needs his or her input. I.e., where is the groundwork for being/becoming – if one so chooses – an intelligent activist.

Okay, so kids of all ages learn about Saint Martin. With precious exceptions, teachers peddled that in 1980, and still do, in classrooms elementary and otherwise. But from where do they get it, these dutiful ones who don’t get it? Above all, they get it from the dishonest “American Dream” culture that has only a small, sanitized place for minorities. (And denial or worse for those of God’s creatures who were here before Europeans and their slaves). Top-tier newspapers such as the Post are essential elements of this culture, and especially of its transmission to teachers and middle-class parents, who are the main infecters of children.

This remains true (with beloved exceptions) despite all of the intelligent pluralism of editors. They got to be editors because of their ability to present the richest and most literate versions of mainstream assumptions of reality. Otherwise they land on the “fringes,” like Chris Hedges and Noam Chomsky.

Where they belong, you interject, and have ample opportunity to address their following.

Naw. But I am not going to do what I would prescribe for every journalism teacher and media critic. Google Malcolm and Martin for the past year (or 10 or 40 if you have the time) and “Washington Post”.

Then tabulate relative frequencies. And if you want a PhD or something as a media critic, assemble a composite picture of each of these leaders, based on what you find. Or limit yourself to coverage for the year or two preceding each of these precious individual’s assassination.

I’ve done none of that. But once, while driving to Baltimore (where my friends the Women in Black march in the MLK parade) I listened to WPFW reading New York Times contemporaneous coverage of Martin. Makes you wonder what the Jerusalem Post would have thought of Jeremiah.

And I suspect that Malcolm-the-pimp-turned-rabble-rouser (vs.-Saint Martin) was a more prominent tale 1963-1970 than Alex Haley’s Autobiography of Malcolm X. Another challenge would be to see what – if anything – primary school administrators and their employees have made of Malcolm all these years.

It has taken 50 years, but maybe Krissah Thompson’s insightful and comprehensive Post piece would be a good starting point. And yes, your humble servant the present author, who became a ghetto schoolteacher in the 1990s when he was 47, should add Manning Marable’s biography of Malcolm to his already hopelessly long reading list.

I only wish that too much to read was our biggest problem. And when I say ‘our” I mean simultaneously some public intellectuals and academics, all teachers at all levels, and really, all the citizens of these United States – whether they have “stepped up” to what citizen means or not.

In Praise of Our Torturers

In these troubled times, a crazy-superficial balance can be constructed by marrying two unlikely elements.

Such as the pretext-inspiring Washington Post newspaper and the deeply inspiring poet-songster Leonard Cohen.

Wherefore I offer you the following, provoked by




In Praise of Our Torturers

Am I nuts?

Of course I’m nuts.
I live in the greatest democracy in the history of the known world.
I live in the shadow of the Holocaust, slavery, and those who lived here before us.

I live in the shadow of Franz Schubert and Wilfred Owen.

Wanna come live with me, and be my love?
Or with the folks who got wash boards and surfboards and waterboarding confused?
Who told the soldiers and patriotic geeks that the world was our oyster,
and we’d better crack the goddam shell before bad actors got there,
before it is too late.

It is too late for KSM, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
the “self-declared mastermind” of 911, waterboarded 183 times,
and it is too late for you and I, whether
we want to extract intelligence,
send a message,
crush his soul,
or none of the above.

As I’ve heard,
and Leonard Cohen sang:
Democracy is coming
to the USA.



            -- David Almaleck Wolinsky



The Map of Syria: Another Graveyard?

In Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, a ghostly old couple adopt a baby that has been in desperation left in their cemetary. Thus the dead again care for the living – as we must care for the dead. Neither of “us” have done such a good job.

Such were my thoughts after reading Liz Sly’s brutally comprehensive front-page Washington Post piece this morning. on the history of the “map” – political, sectarian, religious – of the former Ottoman empire. After three years of war and no end in sight, Syria is of course the focus.

Here are some quotes taken, but re-arranged,  from the article.


We never had borders…. a long time ago, the French came and drew these lines. —  Mohammed Shamas,  shopkeeper near the line between Syria and Lebanon

If Syria is partitioned, there will be war for 100 years to come. The Alawites will have the coast, the Kurds will have the oil, and the Sunnis will be in the middle with nothing. — Abu Zeid, 37, Syrian refugee.

They made sure when those borders were drawn to maintain trouble between us forever. —  Mohammed al-Jamalhis farm in Syria and Lebanon.

The wars will change, but there will always be wars. — Issam Bleibeh, deputy mayor of Hermel, Lebanon-Syria.

The only solution is to share everything. Abu Zeid.

…it is all very difficult to predict.  Fawaz Gerges, London School of Economics.


Limbaugh nabbed by Epic Poet!

Noetic Justice

When Dante Alighieri arrived in the  21st century, he found in Washington one institution, and one fortuitous circumstance, that gladdened his exile’s heart. The institution was the Supreme Court; the circumstance was named Rush Limbaugh.

Dante had become, as ages had passed, saddened by something he had in fact helped popularize: the practice of consigning to Hell persons who were still nominally alive. He also noted that 700 more years had not improved the fruits by which the self-professed pious could be known.

But Dante did not wish to cease passing judgment on the living: He had simply learned a modicum of compassion, and needed a mechanism to temper his judgments. That mechanism was Rush Limbaugh.

Our poet had observed the contemporary practice of tagging everything from transportation to software with the word “express”. Just what he needed, for a world with always-on computers and an always-on news cycle. Thus Rush Limbo was added to the 2009 edition of the Divina Commedia, revised.

What could a master of moral epic do, for example, when conservatives both nerdy (Newt Gingrich) and not (Limbaugh) branded a Supreme Court nominee a “racist”? Or when a journalist (whose writings had dignified a U. S. President ‘s speeches) accused a sitting Supreme Court Justice of  “simplistic pro-choice rant”? And that the objects of both of these slanders were women? Even Dante had to blush.

Dante put Socrates here; the neighborhood has since deteriorated

Dante put Socrates here; the neighborhood has since deteriorated

It is said that God needs merely to think something, for that thought to become reality. Authors claim the more modest capacity to turn their thoughts into books. As much as some citizens could wish to whisk Limbaugh, Michael Gerson, or most of the Republican Senate leadership off to an insane asylum, this is not feasible. (Indeed, liberals had closed many of those institutions in the name of compassion. The ranks of the homeless then swelled with an influx of former psychiatric inmates.)

But neither venomous pundits nor legislators risk homelessness, nor lack of medical care or other material comforts. With poetic justice, however, Dante Alighieri now hustles these malefactors onto the Limbo Express, which takes them almost instantly to the land of the undead, the Rush Limbo, where they can do no further harm.

The Washington Post and Israel

Today’s lead Washington Post editorial rejoices over the withdrawl of the putatively pro-Arab Charles Freeman as appointed head of Obama’s National Intelligence council. As the post now has online “debates” with the editorial board, I jumped in to say “shame on you” to the Post:

First read Post editorials every day, noticing the even tone and careful writing, even on positions you oppose. Then notice the patronizing slop that begins with “latest failed nominee peddles a conspiracy theory” in this editorial

Why? Because all debates start with assumptions of what is reasonable and respectable. And the best “spin” is that which reinforces a desired environment of assumptions.

It is only in the past few years that challenging what the Israeli Government and AIPAC et al. say is good for Israel has become even half-respectable. That is why the editorial can smugly equate the Israel Lobby (supporting muscular democracy — for Israeli Jews) and “Americans who support Israel” (I am one), going on to call Freeman’s statement “grotesque libel”.

And so the usually impeccably dressed editorial board drops its pants on this issue. It’s a good sign that consummate professionals and old-timers like Pincus and Broder can keep their heads — and belts — when the topic is Israel/Palestine.

The real story is a vicious tragedy in which the leaders on both sides embrace arrogance, hatred, and violence. American cheerleading for “Israel” a la the Post editorial makes things worse — but American political support and money have almost always sustained the catastrophe.

Perhaps Freeman meant “change” on this fundamental level. Then perhaps he was unseated by the combination of fear, influence and self-righteousness that can reasonably be called “the Israel Lobby.”

World, you are ridiculous!

In between” being heartbreaking, inspiring and very, very interesting,  the world is a ridiculous place.

Here are two examples from todays Washington Post (both of which that journal delivers with a straight face.

1. (verbatim from a teaser on the front page):  “Research suggests that animals are indeed capable of planning ahead, like one dominant male chimpanzee in a Swedish zoo who stockpiles stones to throw at human intruders.”

People who live in glass houses shouldn’t,  but maybe those we put in cages should….”

2. There is a boom in books by Colombian ex-hostages et al., after the dramatic freeing of a group by the Army last year. The wife of  former senator and hostage Jorge Gechem wrote “The Love That Kidnapping Kills”. Lucy Artunduaga claims that her husband, who announced their separation soon after being freed, lied publically about the reasons.  The prologue to her book was written by the wife of the President of Colombia. Gechem wrote his own book (without details on the captivity)… with a prologue by the President of Columbia.

We live in houses of glass.
The stones crash like thunder.
Yet still you wonder
why there’s a shard in your ass.

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