February 17, 2006,
I love L.A., and so am constantly pained when our local media pundits embarrass the entire city with their lamebrained thoughts and crass mistakes. The star attraction this week is the always-reliable Lawrence O’Donnell self-congratulatory L.A. public-school dad, screaming MSNBC talking head, and executive producer of the recently cancelled West Wing.
A few days ago, O’Donnell suggested on the Huffington Post that Dick Cheney must have been drunk during that hunting accident. Because, as the supernaturally insightful O’Donnell explained the next day to Hugh Hewitt on the radio, even though he wasn't actually there, and in fact has never been hunting in Texas, or drunk, or even ever had a beer at lunch, he somehow has reason to believe that the vice president was drunk last weekend.
Why? Because Cheney is “an ultra-rich Republican,” and that’s what ultra-rich Republicans do at Ivy League football games the kind ultra-rich Democrat O’Donnell has witnessed firsthand, because he went to Harvard. Ergo, these guys must also drink while hunting quail. It just stands to reason!
Besides that, O’Donnell explained to Hewitt, he talked to “a bunch of lawyers,” as well as one alcoholic, who thought Cheney had to have been drunk. Who these lawyers were, exactly, O’Donnell declined to say. But “listen, Hugh, my entire family are lawyers. Every one of them, OK?”
O’Donnell didn’t say how many of his family members are also alcoholics, but you’re just going to have to take his word for it: No one knows better what really happens during quail-hunting accidents than a drunk attorney.
Then there’s New America Foundation senior fellow Gregory Rodriguez, who, in his regular Sunday spot on the Los Angeles Times op-ed page, wrote a remarkably fuzzy-headed column in praise of unfree speech this week.
“It's not that we believe in freedom of speech any less than the Danes,” Rodriguez claimed, defending the Times's decision not to print or link to the Danish cartoons, but that “we are infinitely more attuned to the tensions between that freedom and the realities of a diverse society.”
Really? Infinitely more attuned? Does Rodriguez actually mean that our multicultural sensitivities extend beyond space and time? Because I've noticed there may be limits, even among the reflexive Left.
Besides that, his description of the “small, powerless Muslim minority” in Denmark is laughable. The reason American papers seem craven and European papers (many of which in solidarity have published the cartoons) brave is because they live with the power and violence of this fast-growing minority in their midst and we don't.
If, in the early 1930s, a Danish paper had published cartoons satirizing a “small, powerless Nazi minority,” who then rioted and blamed Jews in response, would Rodriguez have thought that the newspaper editor “is the Danish poster child for a dawning reality check” about the dangers of needlessly insulting touchy fanatics? Or that “we should stop pretending that the freedom of speech is limitless”? Perhaps so, and he'd have been on the wrong side of history then, as he is now.
Then there’s the mistake-prone R. J. Smith, media columnist for Los Angeles, our city magazine. I suppose I should be grateful he got just a couple of things wrong this month, in his profile of Pajamas Media. (Full disclosure: I’m mentioned and quoted, not inaccurately.)
First, if you're going to insult Luke Ford, who was dropped from Pajamas almost as soon as he joined, fine; I do it myself all the time. But don't write something so ridiculous as “porn is the single thing Ford knows anything about.”
The reason Luke has the “online popularity” Smith grants him (and which makes him better known than some Larry Flynt Publications lackey) is because he's a media junkie who knows a great deal about many things other than porn: Seventh Day Adventists (because he was one); Orthodox Jews (because he is one); opinionated female journalists like, uh, me; Hollywood producers; and oddball L.A. types like private eye Anthony Pellicano, currently in the news again for illegal wiretapping.
Journalists know Luke’s site is a useful resource for all this. Mark Steyn, for instance, cited a 2002 interview Luke did with the late slasher-film producer Moustapha Akkad for a piece in the January/February Atlantic. Occasionally it's too useful the New York Times's Bernard Weinraub famously plagiarized Luke's Pellicano archives a few years ago and had to apologize. If Smith didn't know all that, he shouldn't be writing about media. If he did, he was being dishonest.
But what really irritates me is Smith's received wisdom about Pajamas Media partner Charles Johnson, the Los Angeles web designer and jazz musician who famously typed up those CBS "memos" into Microsoft Word for his megablog Little Green Footballs. “Constitutionally protected hate speech,” Smith calls LGF.
I'm losing patience with this notion, surely one of the most successful media Big Lies of the past few years, that Charles runs a racist hate site. By now it's been repeated so often that even normally reasonable people believe it.
This “hate speech” is doggedly pointing out what regularly gets done in the name of Islam, Religion of Peace. One of Charles’s first posts returning to this theme after Rathergate, for instance, was a link to a story about a Bangladesh madrassah teacher who chopped off the ears of 17 students for not reading their textbooks loudly enough.
If that makes him a racist hater, then I suppose Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali refugee and Dutch politician whose campaign against Islam's mistreatment of women means she now needs round-the-clock armed protection, is also a racist hater.
At least R. J. Smith didn’t speculate that Charles Johnson is a drunk racist hater. But then, Smith’s just a magazine journalist, not a TV writer or talking head. Those are the guys with the really special media insights around here.
Catherine Seipp is a writer in California who publishes the weblog Cathy's World. She is an NRO contributor.