January 16, 2007

Cartoons and Caricatures

Far too often, we tend to oversimplify things, especially when demonizing out ideological opposites. I am as guilty as anyone (my own tagline of "Liberalism is a persistent vegetative state" is a prime example), and yet, that in no way excuses the practice.

I mention that introducing two blog posts that have come to my attention over the course of the past week, one from someone who solicited comment, and one I stumbled across on yesterday evening.

Jay Rosen runs NYU's PressThink blog, and sent along a link to his January 9 post Grave and Deteriorating for the Children of Agnew, asking for comment and discussion. I hadn't the time to read it in any detail until yesterday evening, and once I'd completed it, I must admit I was disappointed. Go read it for yourself. I'll wait.

Back? Good.

As a media commenter, educator and critic, I was hoping that Rosen had decided to tackle, at least peripherally, the subject of the Associated Press' questionable (to put it mildly) coverage an apparent cover-up of the Hurriyah incident, that he would approach the problem critically, perhaps looking at the many inconsistencies in AP's ever-evolving storyline, such as the fact that they cited a group with strong ties to the insurgency and al Qaeda (the Association of Muslim Scholars) as a source without disclosing what their ties were or finding a single account corroborating their claim of 18 men, women and children burned alive at the al-Muhaimin mosque, that four mosques were attacked with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), heavy machine guns and assault rifles before being "burned and blew up,", and that AP Television shot video of one of the attacked mosques. All of these claims have quietly disappeared from the AP's subsequent coverage without correction or retraction... and yet Rosen seems interested in none of it. Nor does he seem to have any interest in the fact that the overwhelming majority of stories sources to Jamil Hussein had no independent verification from other news agencies.

No, Rosen was only interested in the Hurriyah story in that it served as an excuse to vilify those conservative bloggers he calls "the children of Agnew," referring to a man who last cast a long shadow on politics most of a decade before many of us commenting on this story were even born.

To pt it mildly, Rosen's post was a whitewash on one hand, and a smear on the other. Quite intent on shooting messengers, he was far more interested in making caricatures of conservative bloggers than objectively looking at the reason for our complaints. To say I was disappointed puts it mildly.

Likewise, I was a bit disgusted by Why the right doesn’t get Martin Luther King on The Carpetbagger Report, a blog run by Steve Benen. The blog post attacks conservatives, as you might guess by the title, for "not getting" Dr. Martin Luther King, and apparently attempting establish that only liberals have the ability to claim credit to any part of Dr. King's legacy.

I don't claim to understand everything Dr. King means to most people, and I'd lay for the argument that no-one can claim to understand that legacy and what it really means unless you happen to be an African American born prior to 1958, or thereabouts.

I say that, in the simple understanding that only African-Americans who were at least ten years old (and I think I'm being very charitable with the maturity of 10-year-olds) at the time of Dr. King's assassination can have any claim to understanding what Dr. King really represented in the context of the civil rights struggle that occurred in this country at that period in history.

To hear a white male 33-year old from Miami representing a group that is 83% white and young claim to be some sort of ideological heir to Dr. King's legacy with a Clintonesque "I feel your pain" screed would be merely laughable if it wasn't so disgusting.

It is sad we so often we try to reduce our ideological opposites to caricatures and cartoons. Now that I see how pathetic the practice is (one I've clearly participated in myself, I readily admit), perhaps I'll do a better job of shying away from such buffoonery in the future.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at January 16, 2007 09:55 AM | TrackBack

"The idea that the liberal press has to be overcome for conservatives truly to take power started with the Goldwater campaign in 1964, and today’s bias warriors are the inheritors, through Agnew, of that idea."

This opening salvo says all I need to know about Jay Rosen and his credentials as an objective "critic" of the "liberal press" and those who stand against their arrogant and toxic malfeasance and bastardization of a quasi-public trust. Goldwater and Agnew?

Perhaps instead I am the inheritor of Samuel Johnson or Jefferson. I appreciate a free press, I just don't withhold my contempt for a corrupt one.

To write news in its perfection requires
such a combination of qualities, that a
man completely fitted for the task is
not always to be found. In Sir Henry
Wotton's jocular definition, 'An
Ambassador is said to be a man of
virtue sent abroad to tell lies for
the advantage of his country; a
news-writer is a man without virtue,
who lies at home for his own profit.'

To these compositions is required
neither genius nor knowledge,
neither industry nor sprightliness;
but contempt of shame and indifference
to truth are absolutely necessary.
He who by a long familiarity with
infamy has obtained these qualities,
may confidently tell today what he
intends to contradict tomorrow;
he may affirm fearlessly what he
knows that he shall be obliged to
recant, and may write letters
from Amsterdam or Dresden to himself."
Samuel Johnson: (November 11, 1758)

And for Jefferson, who wrote that he only read the advertisements, because that was the only place he might find the sole remnants of truth out of the entirety of the newspaper.

I, like those men before me...stand firm in my resolve that a free press is a cornerstone of exacting freedom from tyranny...but firmly believe that a corrupted press is the cornerstone for exacting tyranny from freedom.

Each day I pray for the former, yet feel that it is even more clear that we are in the eye of the hurricane of the latter.

Posted by: cfbleachers at January 16, 2007 11:59 AM

The Right doesn't "get" Dr. King? Who was it that led an 83-day filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

Which side forced President Clinton into signing Welfare Reform into law by making it THE hot item in his re-election year?

For a more current example: What would Dr. King say about the Duke Lacrosse case? Somehow I doubt he would be on the side of Democratic DA Mike Nifong.

Despite all of this (and much more), it's the Right that doesn't "get" Dr. King?



Posted by: Bard at January 16, 2007 05:37 PM

no-one can claim to understand that legacy and what it really means unless you happen to be an African American born prior to 1958, or thereabouts.

I think this is proof enough.

I'd say a decent reading of the Declaration of Independence is the chief prerequisite for understanding King's legacy.

The problem with Americans who don't get King is that they see him as a black hero, and not as an American hero.

Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

King: "In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

"It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked 'insufficient funds.' But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice."

Posted by: Richard B. Simon at January 16, 2007 10:08 PM

Yeah... Republicans just don't get what Martin Luther King was about. These are the same dumb Republicans that didn't get slavery, so they pushed for the abolishion of it in 1866 and pushed for the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. I do know that the Democrats did get the idea of wiretapping and spying on Martin Luther King in 1966 (*cough* Attorney General Bobby Kennedy *cough*).

Posted by: Yiddish Steel at January 17, 2007 12:58 PM