Thursday, February 16, 2006

Goodman Gone Bad

Ugh. It fell to my unfortunate self to have to proofread tomorrow's editorial page. 100 solid inches of "progressive" posturing, highlighted by Ellen Goodman's latest. Why is she such an icon over there? Not only can't she write; she can't even think straight anymore. But I did enjoy this snippet:

There is nothing (alas) that infuriates White House reporters more than getting stiffed on a big story for 20 hours, unless of course it’s getting beaten by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

But only because her column was laid out, with apparent unconsciousness of irony, right under an E.J. Dionne column in which he excoriates Dick Cheney for "phony populism" because Cheney said, "I had a bit of the feeling that the press corps was upset because, to some extent, it was about them -- they didn't like the idea that we called the Corpus Christi Caller-Times instead of The New York Times." Something Dionne claims none of Cheney's critics ever would suggest. E.J., meet Ellen.

"I confess to some guilty pleasure in finding Cheney the target of this journalistic buckshot," Ellen writes. "What opponent couldn’t chortle at" the “Daily Show” jokes about him, she writes.

But this giggly giddiness comes to a crashing halt when Ellen turns her sights on the Danish cartoon depictions of Muhammad. There, she sees nothing to smile at. The cartoons are simply "sophomoric" to her. They are offensive to her -- and apparently not just on behalf of Muslims, but to her personally: "The Danish cartoons weren’t funny enough to get over my taste threshold."

Now, I have seen these drawings many times, and while I can understand how a Western person with a deep sympathy for and understanding of Islamic sensibilities might feel a vicarious offendedness at them, it utterly escapes me how you could simply see them for what they are, as a modern, secular Western journalist, and feel disgust.

Yet Ellen does. Or else it's pleasure. Huh? Her segue from the Cheney story to the cartoon story is this:

But a more acceptable reason for my guilty pleasure is the timing.

This shooting story comes right in the middle of the cartoon crisis that has ignited outrage across much of the Muslim world.

So not only is she in high glee over Cheney and mortified by Muhammad, but the fact that they are going on at the same time is the "reason" for her "pleasure."

I completely fail to understand how this woman's mind -- or heart -- works.

Or maybe I do. She's a journalist, with the ichor of the legacy media in her veins. Like my liberal newsroom co-workers, who greeted the cartoon row with a profound silence despite its obvious overlap with our beloved freedom of the press. It was an uncomfortable moment, I imagine, to minds that stoutly refuse to criticize a non-Western culture -- and mouths that never cease to trash-talk their own.

For Ellen, apparently, the rioting, burning, and killing troubled her some, but only because they briefly made the Sharia fanatics in the East seem as bad as free-speech fanatics in the West. I kid you not; here's her sentence on that:

This has not only triggered riots but an international shouting match between those crying “free speech” and those crying “hate speech.”

Why of course! It's total, complete moral equivalence. They burn embassies and restaurants, we burn embassies and restaurants. They turn out by the tens of thousands in the streets to burn flags and shout "Death to Denmark," we do the same. Why, here in Shrubbie McChimplerburton's fascist Amerikka we even stone female reporters who don't wear veils.

You'd think Ellen's feminist credentials would at least move her to condemn that one.

But since Cheney shot his friend, the clouds have lifted here in the newsroom! Leno's monologues are turned up loud every night on the newsroom TV and the crowd gathers around and hangs on every word and cheers every punchline. All's right with the world again. The old order is restored. Once again, nothing and no one is worse than Bush and his cronies.

In case you're not getting the point by now, you evil Danes with your miniature Legolands, Ellen lays down the law:

[T]he peppering of Dick Cheney is an international reminder to both sides that the real reason to protect free speech is to criticize the people who govern you. The real reason for satire is to make fun, with impunity, of your leaders.

Got that? Don't criticize Muhammad. Don't criticize Islam. Don't criticize anyone except the President of the United States. Only Bushco is a fair target. Otherwise, it's not "free speech," it's "hate speech."

When the Iranians wanted to hit back at us for the insult they felt from the Muhammad cartoons, they chose a telling way to do it: sponsor a series of Holocaust-denial cartoons. Even Ellen can see how weird that is. Like the things that come out of your mouth when you're arguing and too angry to think first, it's a revelation. It's a look into the black bile that flows so deep in some cultures that it bubbles up whenever the stress cracks the facades.

In her column, Ellen does us the favor of showing us the newsroom version. She admits that sometimes her editorial cartoonist friends have gotten carried away and drawn offensive pictures that their newspapers decided not to run. But it's not Muhammad they insult. The typical example, which in her story gives the name to this entire class of cartoons, is "what we privately called a 'Pope with a Swastika' cartoon."