When journalists become opinionmongers instead of reporters

Michael Goodwin spoke at a Hillsdale College event:

I’ve been a journalist for a long time. Long enough to know that it wasn’t always like this. There was a time not so long ago when journalists were trusted and admired. We were generally seen as trying to report the news in a fair and straightforward manner. Today, all that has changed. For that, we can blame the 2016 election or, more accurately, how some news organizations chose to cover it. Among the many firsts, last year’s election gave us the gobsmacking revelation that most of the mainstream media puts both thumbs on the scale—that most of what you read, watch, and listen to is distorted by intentional bias and hostility. I have never seen anything like it. Not even close.

It’s not exactly breaking news that most journalists lean left. I used to do that myself. I grew up at The New York Times, so I’m familiar with the species. For most of the media, bias grew out of the social revolution of the 1960s and ’70s. Fueled by the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements, the media jumped on the anti-authority bandwagon writ large. The deal was sealed with Watergate, when journalism was viewed as more trusted than government—and far more exciting and glamorous. Think Robert Redford in All the President’s Men. Ever since, young people became journalists because they wanted to be the next Woodward and Bernstein, find a Deep Throat, and bring down a president. Of course, most of them only wanted to bring down a Republican president. That’s because liberalism is baked into the journalism cake.

During the years I spent teaching at the Columbia University School of Journalism, I often found myself telling my students that the job of the reporter was “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” I’m not even sure where I first heard that line, but it still captures the way most journalists think about what they do. Translate the first part of that compassionate-sounding idea into the daily decisions about what makes news, and it is easy to fall into the habit of thinking that every person afflicted by something is entitled to help. Or, as liberals like to say, “Government is what we do together.” From there, it’s a short drive to the conclusion that every problem has a government solution.

The rest of that journalistic ethos—“afflict the comfortable”—leads to the knee-jerk support of endless taxation. Somebody has to pay for that government intervention the media loves to demand. In the same vein, and for the same reason, the average reporter will support every conceivable regulation as a way to equalize conditions for the poor. He will also give sympathetic coverage to groups like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter.

I knew all of this about the media mindset going into the 2016 presidential campaign. But I was still shocked at what happened. This was not naïve liberalism run amok. This was a whole new approach to politics. No one in modern times had seen anything like it. As with grief, there were several stages. In the beginning, Donald Trump’s candidacy was treated as an outlandish publicity stunt, as though he wasn’t a serious candidate and should be treated as a circus act. But television executives quickly made a surprising discovery: the more they put Trump on the air, the higher their ratings climbed. Ratings are money. So news shows started devoting hours and hours simply to pointing the cameras at Trump and letting them run.

As his rallies grew, the coverage grew, which made for an odd dynamic. The candidate nobody in the media took seriously was attracting the most people to his events and getting the most news coverage. Newspapers got in on the game too. Trump, unlike most of his opponents, was always available to the press, and could be counted on to say something outrageous or controversial that made a headline. He made news by being a spectacle.

Despite the mockery of journalists and late-night comics, something extraordinary was happening. Trump was dominating a campaign none of the smart money thought he could win. And then, suddenly, he was winning. Only when the crowded Republican field began to thin and Trump kept racking up primary and caucus victories did the media’s tone grow more serious.

One study estimated that Trump had received so much free airtime that if he had had to buy it, the price would have been $2 billion. The realization that they had helped Trump’s rise seemed to make many executives, producers, and journalists furious. By the time he secured the nomination and the general election rolled around, they were gunning for him. Only two people now had a chance to be president, and the overwhelming media consensus was that it could not be Donald Trump. They would make sure of that. The coverage of him grew so vicious and one-sided that last August I wrote a column on the unprecedented bias. Under the headline “American Journalism Is Collapsing Before Our Eyes,” I wrote that the so-called cream of the media crop was “engaged in a naked display of partisanship” designed to bury Trump and elect Hillary Clinton.

The evidence was on the front page, the back page, the culture pages, even the sports pages. It was at the top of the broadcast and at the bottom of the broadcast. Day in, day out, in every media market in America, Trump was savaged like no other candidate in memory. We were watching the total collapse of standards, with fairness and balance tossed overboard. Every story was an opinion masquerading as news, and every opinion ran in the same direction—toward Clinton and away from Trump.

For the most part, I blame The New York Times and The Washington Post for causing this breakdown. The two leading liberal newspapers were trying to top each other in their demonization of Trump and his supporters. They set the tone, and most of the rest of the media followed like lemmings.

On one level, tougher scrutiny of Trump was clearly defensible. He had a controversial career and lifestyle, and he was seeking the presidency as his first job in government. He also provided lots of fuel with some of his outrageous words and deeds during the campaign. But from the beginning there was also a second element to the lopsided coverage. The New York Times has not endorsed a Republican for president since Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, meaning it would back a dead raccoon if it had a “D” after its name. Think of it—George McGovern over Richard Nixon? Jimmy Carter over Ronald Reagan? Walter Mondale over Reagan? Any Democrat would do. And The Washington Post, which only started making editorial endorsements in the 1970s, has never once endorsed a Republican for president.

But again, I want to emphasize that 2016 had those predictable elements plus a whole new dimension. This time, the papers dropped the pretense of fairness and jumped headlong into the tank for one candidate over the other. The Times media reporter began a story this way:

If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalist tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes, how the heck are you supposed to cover him?

I read that paragraph and I thought to myself, well, that’s actually an easy question. If you feel that way about Trump, normal journalistic ethics would dictate that you shouldn’t cover him. You cannot be fair. And you shouldn’t be covering Hillary Clinton either, because you’ve already decided who should be president. Go cover sports or entertainment. Yet the Times media reporter rationalized the obvious bias he had just acknowledged, citing the view that Clinton was “normal” and Trump was not.

I found the whole concept appalling. What happened to fairness? What happened to standards? I’ll tell you what happened to them. The Times top editor, Dean Baquet, eliminated them. In an interview last October with the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, Baquet admitted that the piece by his media reporter had nailed his own thinking. Trump “challenged our language,” he said, and Trump “will have changed journalism.” Of the daily struggle for fairness, Baquet had this to say: “I think that Trump has ended that struggle. . . . We now say stuff. We fact check him. We write it more powerfully that [what he says is] false.”

Baquet was being too modest. Trump was challenging, sure, but it was Baquet who changed journalism. He’s the one who decided that the standards of fairness and nonpartisanship could be abandoned without consequence.

With that decision, Baquet also changed the basic news story formula. To the age-old elements of who, what, when, where, and why, he added the reporter’s opinion. Now the floodgates were open, and virtually every so-called news article reflected a clear bias against Trump. Stories, photos, headlines, placement in the paper—all the tools that writers and editors have—were summoned to the battle. The goal was to pick the next president.

Thus began the spate of stories, which continues today, in which the Times routinely calls Trump a liar in its news pages and headlines. Again, the contrast with the past is striking. The Times never called Barack Obama a liar, despite such obvious opportunities as “you can keep your doctor” and “the Benghazi attack was caused by an internet video.” Indeed, the Times and The Washington Post, along with most of the White House press corps, spent eight years cheerleading the Obama administration, seeing not a smidgen of corruption or dishonesty. They have been tougher on Hillary Clinton during her long career. But they still never called her a liar, despite such doozies as “I set up my own computer server so I would only need one device,” “I turned over all the government emails,” and “I never sent or received classified emails.” All those were lies, but not to the national media. Only statements by Trump were fair game.

As we know now, most of the media totally missed Trump’s appeal to millions upon millions of Americans. The prejudice against him blinded those news organizations to what was happening in the country. Even more incredibly, I believe the bias and hostility directed at Trump backfired. The feeling that the election was, in part, a referendum on the media, gave some voters an extra incentive to vote for Trump. A vote for him was a vote against the media and against Washington. Not incidentally, Trump used that sentiment to his advantage, often revving up his crowds with attacks on reporters. He still does.

If I haven’t made it clear, let me do so now. The behavior of much of the media, but especially The New York Times, was a disgrace. I don’t believe it ever will recover the public trust it squandered.

The Times’ previous reputation for having the highest standards was legitimate. Those standards were developed over decades to force reporters and editors to be fair and to gain public trust. The commitment to fairness made The New York Times the flagship of American journalism. But standards are like laws in the sense that they are designed to guide your behavior in good times and in bad. Consistent adherence to them was the source of the Times’ credibility. And eliminating them has made the paper less than ordinary. Its only standards now are double standards.

I say this with great sadness. I was blessed to grow up at the Times, getting a clerical job right out of college and working my way onto the reporting staff, where I worked for a decade. It was the formative experience of my career where I learned most of what I know about reporting and writing. Alas, it was a different newspaper then. Abe Rosenthal was the editor in those days, and long before we’d ever heard the phrase “zero tolerance,” that’s what Abe practiced toward conflicts of interest and reporters’ opinions. He set the rules and everybody knew it.

Here is a true story about how Abe Rosenthal resolved a conflict of interest. A young woman was hired by the Times from one of the Philadelphia newspapers. But soon after she arrived in New York, a story broke in Philly that she had had a romantic affair with a political figure she had covered, and that she had accepted a fur coat and other expensive gifts from him. When he saw the story, Abe called the woman into his office and asked her if it were true. When she said yes, he told her to clean out her desk—that she was finished at the Times and would never work there again. As word spread through the newsroom, some reporters took the woman’s side and rushed in to tell Abe that firing her was too harsh. He listened for about 30 seconds, raised his hand for silence, and said (this is slightly bowdlerized): “I don’t care if you have a romantic affair with an elephant on your personal time, but then you can’t cover the circus for the paper.” Case closed. The conflict of interest policy was clear, absolute, and unforgettable.

As for reporters’ opinions, Abe had a similar approach. He didn’t want them in the news pages. And if you put them in, he took them out. They belonged in the opinion pages only, which were managed separately. Abe said he knew reporters tended to lean left and would find ways to sneak their views into the stories. So he saw his job as steering the paper slightly to the right. “That way,” he said, “the paper would end up in the middle.” He was well known for this attitude, which he summed up as “keeping the paper straight.” He even said he wanted his epitaph to read, “He kept the paper straight.” Like most people, I thought this was a joke. But after I related all this in a column last year, his widow contacted me and said it wasn’t a joke—that, in fact, Abe’s tombstone reads, “He kept the paper straight.” She sent me a picture to prove it. I published that picture of his tombstone alongside a column where I excoriated the Times for its election coverage. Sadly, the Times’ high standards were buried with Abe Rosenthal.

Which brings us to the crucial questions. Can the American media be fixed? And is there anything that we as individuals can do to make a difference? The short answer to the first question is, “No, it can’t be fixed.” The 2016 election was the media’s Humpty Dumpty moment. It fell off the wall, shattered into a million pieces, and can’t be put back together again. In case there is any doubt, 2017 is confirming that the standards are still dead. The orgy of visceral Trump-bashing continues unabated.

But the future of journalism isn’t all gloom and doom. In fact, if we accept the new reality of widespread bias and seize the potential it offers, there is room for optimism. Consider this—the election showed the country is roughly divided 50-50 between people who will vote for a Democrat and people who will vote for a Republican. But our national media is more like 80-20 in favor of Democrats. While the media should, in theory, broadly reflect the public, it doesn’t. Too much of the media acts like a special interest group. Detached from the greater good, it exists to promote its own interest and the political party with which it is aligned.

Ronald Reagan’s optimism is often expressed in a story that is surely apocryphal, but irresistible. He is said to have come across a barn full of horse manure and remarked cheerfully that there must be a pony in it somewhere. I suggest we look at the media landscape in a similar fashion. The mismatch between the mainstream media and the public’s sensibilities means there is a vast untapped market for news and views that are not now represented. To realize that potential, we only need three ingredients, and we already have them: first, free speech; second, capitalism and free markets; and the third ingredient is you, the consumers of news.

Free speech is under assault, most obviously on many college campuses, but also in the news media, which presents a conformist view to its audience and gets a politically segregated audience in return. Look at the letters section in The New York Times—virtually every reader who writes in agrees with the opinions of the paper. This isn’t a miracle; it’s a bubble. Liberals used to love to say, “I don’t agree with your opinion, but I would fight to the death for your right to express it.” You don’t hear that anymore from the Left. Now they want to shut you up if you don’t agree. And they are having some success.

But there is a countervailing force. Look at what happened this winter when the Left organized boycotts of department stores that carried Ivanka Trump’s clothing and jewelry. Nordstrom folded like a cheap suit, but Trump’s supporters rallied on social media and Ivanka’s company had its best month ever. This is the model I have in mind for the media. It is similar to how FOX News got started. Rupert Murdoch thought there was an untapped market for a more fair and balanced news channel, and he recruited Roger Ailes to start it more than 20 years ago. Ailes found a niche market alright—half the country!

Incredible advances in technology are also on the side of free speech. The explosion of choices makes it almost impossible to silence all dissent and gain a monopoly, though certainly Facebook and Google are trying.

As for the necessity of preserving capitalism, look around the world. Nations without economic liberty usually have little or no dissent. That’s not a coincidence. In this, I’m reminded of an enduring image from the Occupy Wall Street movement. That movement was a pestilence, egged on by President Obama and others who view other people’s wealth as a crime against the common good. This attitude was on vivid display as the protesters held up their iPhones to demand the end of capitalism. As I wrote at the time, did they believe Steve Jobs made each and every Apple product one at a time in his garage? Did they not have a clue about how capital markets make life better for more people than any other system known to man? They had no clue. And neither do many government officials, who think they can kill the golden goose and still get golden eggs.

Which brings me to the third necessary ingredient in determining where we go from here. It’s you. I urge you to support the media you like. As the great writer and thinker Midge Decter once put it, “You have to join the side you’re on.” It’s no secret that newspapers and magazines are losing readers and money and shedding staff. Some of them are good newspapers. Some of them are good magazines. There are also many wonderful, thoughtful, small publications and websites that exist on a shoestring. Don’t let them die. Subscribe or contribute to those you enjoy. Give subscriptions to friends. Put your money where your heart and mind are. An expanded media landscape that better reflects the diversity of public preferences would, in time, help create a more level political and cultural arena. That would be a great thing. So again I urge you: join the side you’re on.

“Let me root, root root for the home team …”

The Salt Lake Tribune’s Scott D. Pierce:

Some fans want sportscasters to cheer for the home team. Those fans aren’t happy when it’s pointed out that, no, not every foul against their team is a bad call and, yes, sometimes the opponents play well. You run into these folks at every game. And they make noise on social media.

I was at a football game years ago when the visitors picked up an incomplete pass and ran it in for a TD. A guy in front of us bellowed at the refs; my friend and I remarked that it had been a backward pass — a lateral — and the right call; the guy then bellowed at us.

Ah, fans. You’ve got to love them. Or not. I personally want sportscasters to do their jobs. To tell us what’s actually happening.

Yes, a lot of it is opinion — whether it’s about how well a player is performing, a coach’s decisions or a ref’s calls.

But if you’re going to complain about every call made or missed, I’m going to tune you out.

Sportscaster Life’s Alex Rawnsley adds:

Being a homer is one of my sportscasting pet peeves. Sportscasters are story tellers first and foremost, so I always wonder how homer sportscasters can tell that story properly while being so slanted in one direction or another. Whether it’s the other team, your team or the refs, taking focus away from the game, the story, by being a homer can be a big negative when it comes to sportscasting.

Before storytelling there are the responsibilities of telling fans what’s going on, the mechanics of getting the ads on, promoting the station and future broadcasts, etc., which you’d think would be difficult if you’re wrapped up with a bad call or bad things happening to your team.

Whom might that refer to? Off the top of one’s ears there’s the White Sox’s Ken Harrelson …

… and the Vikings’ Paul Allen …

… the Bruins’ Jack Edwards …

… and …

All of those announcers, and any team’s announcers, are employed either by the teams or by their flagship radio or TV station or cable channel. (That includes Wisconsin’s Matt Lepay, the Packers’ Wayne Larrivee, the Brewers’ Bob Uecker, the Bucks’ Ted Davis and all their partners.) So unlike ESPN or Fox announcers, they’re viewed almost exclusively by fans of the team they’re announcing for. Even for a sportscaster viewed as impartial such as Vin Scully, it is in their professional interests for their employers to do well on the field.

Certainly Pierce is referring to the announcers who confuse hoping your team does well to assuming your team can do no wrong, the opponent can do no right, and the officials and the league are in a conspiracy against your team. It is, however, rare that an announcer will admit to being a homer, as an interview of Yankees announcer John Sterling with the New York Post reveals:

Q: What criticism of you that you feel has been the most unfair?
A: That I don’t tell the truth about the Yankees. My broadcast is as honest as can be. And people think because I get excited and exuberant over Yankee success, that I’m a homer. You know it used to kill Mel Allen, when he’d be accused of being a homer. He used to bend over backwards — we used to kid about it as teenagers — “Oh, the always-ready White Sox, and the ever-charging Tigers.” It killed Bill Chadwick that he was called a homer. I don’t let anything bother me. If you don’t like it, you know, they have an idea what they can do.

Larrivee is an interesting case. There’s no question he wants the Packers to win. His critiques of officiating and the NFL (for instance, the rules) are not exactly impartial. But if things aren’t going well for the Packers, he will tell you that the opposing offense is “gashing the Packer defense!” Sometimes listening to a Packer game is a bit of a bipolar experience, frankly.

One of my favorite announcers is the Reds’ Marty Brennaman …

… because he does not shy away from criticizing his team:

If Uecker has criticized the Brewers on the air in the past, I don’t recall hearing it. The operative phrase there is “on the air.” My favorite announcer, Dick Enberg, told the story of his Angels partner, Don Drysdale, who would rip the bad teams Enberg and Drysdale were covering by turning off his microphone. And then after he got done, the mic went back on, and there was Drysdale, pleasant as always. Listeners over the years may have heard somewhat lengthy pauses during Brewers games when things weren’t going well. Uecker and Drysdale were friends, so perhaps that’s what Uke was doing.

Sports announcing is not merely about calling the game. At every level, it’s about promoting broadcast sponsors and getting people to keep listening as well. At the college and pro level, it’s also about promoting the team, to get people to come to home games. (Which might seem at cross purposes given that fans at the game presumably don’t watch or listen to the game, but that’s not always the case.)

Homerism appears to be a bigger thing now than it used to be, though as the previous examples show homerism has existed for a long, long time. Red Barber, who almost invented radio baseball announcing, worked for the Yankees in 1966 when, according to Awful Announcing a game was played on an awful September day:

Strikingly, only 413 fans showed up at the cavernous ballpark, the smallest crowd in the stadium’s glorious history. John Filippelli, a current broadcast executive with YES and then a teenage vendor at Yankee Stadium said, “It was very spooky, surreal and strange.”

Barber felt strongly that the empty stadium was the story and asked that the cameras pan the empty park. But Perry Smith the team’s broadcast head wouldn’t allow it. Red talked about the eerie emptiness anyhow, “I don’t know what the paid attendance is today, but whatever it is, it is the smallest crowd in the history of Yankee Stadium, and this crowd is the story, not the game,” he said. The Yankees lost to the White Sox that day 4-1.

Because there were rumors about his future with the club and the season was coming to an end, Barber requested a meeting with Michael Burke who had just been appointed the Yanks’ president by the team’s new owner, CBS.  They met for breakfast on Monday September 26th and before Red finished his first cup of coffee, Burke told him his contract would not be renewed.

Barber asserted that he was fired for maintaining his journalistic integrity when the stadium was virtually empty. And over the last fifty years, others have summarily and faithfully accepted Barber’s account. …

[Fellow announcer Joe] Garagiola later postulated that Barber was fired because he was bossy in the booth and annoying to his fellow announcers. He felt that Barber himself played up the story about dictating that the cameras focus on a near empty stadium to appear sanctimonious.

“I said there are more people going to confession at St. Patrick’s than there are people at the ballpark and Mike Burke didn’t say anything to me,” Garagiola proclaimed.

The problem is that fans apparently — or so teams seem to think — don’t want to hear bad news about their team, even when bad things are happening to their team. That is one reason for the hate for such announcers as Fox’s Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, who are supposed to be neutral, but fans of neither team Buck covers appear to believe that. Fans also (in the opinion of the teams or their broadcast outlets) want announcers who show their support of their employers by over-the-top yelling instead of reporting on what’s going on.

I have never been told by my broadcast employers to root, root root (harder) for the home team. I’ve never been employed by a team, though. I have over the years toned down my calls because, possibly unlike my early broadcast days, I learned that there is always a next season (whether or not I announce that) and usually (except for season-ending losses) a next game. That’s what your brain tells you, though that’s not necessarily what your heart tells you. I’ve toned down my criticism of officials because I’ve concluded that if you bitch about the officiating incessantly (see Harrelson, Ken “Hawk”), your credibility is imperiled when an official actually does blow a call. (There are subtle ways to express an opinion about a call, such as to call a hitter or baserunner “officially out.”)


Gov. Soglin (now stop laughing)

The Wisconsin State Journal’s Chris Rickert takes the possible gubernatorial run of People’s Republic of Madison premier Paul Soglin seriously:

The last person the state Democratic Party sacrificed to one of Gov. Scott Walker’s finely tuned, soulless campaigns was a fresh face with a solid business background, deep pockets and good ideas who nevertheless couldn’t inspire passion among voters who needed to feel passionate for her to win.

Say what you want about Madison “mayor for life” and potential Walker challenger Paul Soglin — he ain’t Mary Burke.

Soglin’s thinking on why he might have a shot next year is understandable in an age when a pleasant fly-over state like ours gives a major-party primary win to an irascible 74-year-old Democratic Socialist from Vermont, and its 10 electoral votes to a darling of the alt-right who brags on tape about sexually assaulting women.

If Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders mean anything, it’s that conventional is out. The louder, less scripted and more fringe, the better.

Soglin in this calculus is obviously Sanders. Both are in their 70s and unapologetically leftist. Like Soglin, Sanders was once the mayor of a liberal city in a rural state.

The usual knock against Democrats from Madison is that they can’t win statewide election. The rest of the state, say the experts, is apparently not as enamored of Madison as Madisonians are.

But Sanders’ Wisconsin success could mean Soglin’s connection to Madison isn’t as much of a knock as it was — or maybe it’s not as big a knock as the experts think.

As UW-Milwaukee professor and former Democratic lawmaker Mordecai Lee pointed out, former governors Gaylord Nelson and Jim Doyle were from Madison, and so is U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

“So it’s not insurmountable,” he said.

Soglin is also not as easily stereotyped as the typical touchy-feely, identity-politics-obsessed Madison elitist. He’s recently been something of a city budget hawk — at least by Madison standards — and he’s been less interested in coddling trouble-making homeless people, excusing crime or dismissing personal responsibility in crafting social policy.

Plus, “he’s a strong guy” and “can take on Walker and not be the least bit intimidated,” said former Democratic state Sen. Tim Cullen, who considered a run against Walker himself but said it’s too early to start handicapping challengers.

Like Sanders, Soglin is kind of a grump — a “get off my lawn liberal” in a state that just voted for a “get out of my country” president.

He also elicits strong emotions. Just ask any number of City Council members who can’t stand him. This is an era when people relish emotion in their politics. Just listen to cable news, read Twitter or watch a City Council meeting.

“There’s an enthusiasm that’s absent” among Democrats, said Madison lobbyist Brandon Scholz, although he doesn’t think Soglin brings a Sanders-like enthusiasm to the governor’s race.

Cullen’s right that it’s early, but it’s not too early to predict that if the Democratic establishment opts for a candidate who merely checks off a lot of boxes on a list of what voters are supposed to want, the candidate will lose — and bigly.

If they go with someone who can throw a little spit and vinegar at Walker’s well-oiled machine, they have a chance.

Well, anyone who runs for office theoretically has a chance. This analysis misses on several points.

Rickert’s analysis is written from the perspective of Madison, which has endured Soglin as its mayor for 20 years, due largely to knee-jerk robotic thinking and voting. How do you suppose Soglin’s act will go over up North, where they like their Second Amendment rights, or the Fox River Valley, where people work for a living without government as their employer? (Consider how many members of the Madison Common Council cannot stand Soglin, despite the fact they all vote the same in November elections.)

I have taken on Soglin not for office (who would vote for me in Madison?), but in TV debate on the late Wisconsin Public Television “WeekEnd” show. The second time before my comment was finished I heard him yelling in my ear (from Green Bay) “That’s not true! That’s just not true!” The third time, when we were in the same WHA-TV studio together, after my statement (that the way to clean up campaigns was to reduce the stakes in elections by reducing the size and scope of government), he literally sputtered a non-rejoinder that closed the show. I take this as my effort of revenge on behalf of my parents for the thousands of dollars they paid in property taxes to Soglin for my hometown’s downward-spiralling quality of life.

The comparisons of Trump to the GOP and Sanders to the Democratic Party make sense, but neither Sanders nor Trump won in Wisconsin because they were such great candidates. Sanders won the Democratic nomination, and Trump the state’s electoral votes, because Hillary Clinton was such a godawful candidate so arrogant as to think she didn’t need to visit a bunch of swing states, most of which went for Trump. Walker has taken on everything Democrats could throw at him in three statewide elections and won each.

Soglin is 0-for-1 in running for office beyond Madison, having lost to U.S. Rep. Scott Klug (R–Madison) in 1996, while Bill Clinton was being reelected president. And as much as Rickert thinks Soglin might be able to “throw a little spit and vinegar” at Walker, Walker (and his well financed supporters) can fire much more back at Soglin. I can see TV ads with …

… people a lot of Wisconsinites don’t care for, along with reports about Madison’s high taxes and increasing crime and violent crime rate. Someone also might report how Soglin got elected mayor, then made money as an attorney representing business clients in the morass that is City of Madison government that Soglin helped create. Walker has already correctly pointed out that all of Madison‘s economic growth under Soglin is completely attributable to being the state capital and hosting a world class university (run by the state, not the city) and nothing to do with anything Comrade Soglin has done.

Lee’s statement about Madison Democrats sometimes winning statewide races encompasses, in order, (1) someone who last won an election in 1974, (2) someone who ran against an acting governor and weak candidate (as the candidate, Scott McCallum, himself admitted on election night), and (3) someone who won a statewide race the same night Barack Obama was reelected against a weak candidate following a divided GOP primary. To think that people who voted for Trump last year will vote for Soglin next year is a triumph of liberal hope over experience.

Soglin may well rev up Wisconsin Democrats, who have had little to get excited about this decade. Nothing says fresh new face quite like a 72-year-old ex-hippie first elected to office 50 years ago as of next year. Of course, the Democrats may get revved up because they still haven’t gotten past losing three elections, including Recallarama, to Walker. Every time some Democrat shoots his or her mouth off about Walker, Walker’s voters take that as a direct personal insult. And three consecutive Walker wins proves that’s not working as a campaign strategy.

The likelihood of Soglin getting non-Democrat votes is about as likely as the Brewers winning the World Series this year.


Start Donald Duck Day with …

I will be on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Ideas Network’s Joy Cardin Week in Review segment today at 8 a.m.

Joy Cardin and all the other Ideas Network programming can be heard on WLBL (930 AM) in Auburndale, WHID (88.1 FM) in Green Bay, WHWC (88.3 FM) in Menomonie, WRFW (88.7 FM) in River Falls, WEPS (88.9 FM) in Elgin, Ill., WHAA (89.1 FM) in Adams, WHBM (90.3 FM) in Park Falls, WHLA (90.3 FM) in La Crosse, WRST (90.3 FM) in Oshkosh, WHAD (90.7 FM) in Delafield, W215AQ (90.9 FM) in Middleton, KUWS (91.3 FM) in Superior, WHHI (91.3 FM) in Highland, WSHS (91.7 FM) in Sheboygan, WHDI (91.9 FM) in Sister Bay, WLBL (91.9 FM) in Wausau, W275AF (102.9 FM) in Ashland, W300BM (107.9 FM) in Madison, and of course online at www.wpr.org.

My opponent is Eugene Kane, like myself a member of the Former Journal Communications Employees Club. (That club now totals every past Journal employee, since as you know the company doesn’t exist anymore.)

In addition to Donald Duck Day, today is National Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day. Saturday is Iced Tea Day, and Sunday is National German Chocolate Cake Day and National Corn on the Cob Day, the latter of which is difficult to celebrate in Wisconsin given that we are several weeks away from locally grown sweet corn.


Post Paris prevarication

Benjamin Zycher is entertained:

Now, this is entertainment. “This” is The Washington Post’s Fact Checker “analysis” posted online less than four hours after President Trump ended his speech announcing the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change. It appeared in the print edition the next morning, on the front page and above the fold: “Explanation for Paris exit is based on spurious claims.”

It has to be read to be believed. Or, actually, not believed, as the bylined authors, Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, demonstrate themselves to be true modern-day journalists who must believe that “research” is a quick glance at Wikipedia. And that is where the entertainment dimension inserts itself; their arguments are so devoid of analytic content and so factually incorrect as to raise the question of whether there still exists an editorial process at The Washington Post. To wit:

“[Mr. Trump] often ignored the benefits that could come from tackling climate change, including potential green jobs.” Kessler and Lee are not economists, obviously, so they do not understand that “jobs” — the use of labor resources — are a cost rather than a benefit for the economy as a whole. If climate policy yields an employment shift into “green” sectors — as an aside, there is nothing “green” about them — that would be great for the workers hired. But for the economy in the aggregate, using labor resources automatically means that they cannot be used elsewhere, the classic definition of an (opportunity) cost.

The fiction of ordinary men

I don’t know what the movie “Jupiter Ascending” was about, but a review from Castalia House pointed out …

But the acting and the dialog is not what ultimately ruined this film. Structuring it around a female romantic lead did. Here’s why:

Stinger: Bees are genetically designed to recognize royalty.

Jupiter: Boy, are you going to be surprised when find out what I do for a living.

Stinger: It’s not what you do, it’s who you are.

This is an inherently anti-pulp premise that is being grafted onto an otherwise pitch perfect expression of classical space opera. Granted, Tarzan was Lord Greystoke. Arthur was the son of Uther. And Luke Skywalker turned out to be part of a space dynasty. “Who you are” does matter in these things. But what these characters do matters more. And these characters proving their worth and their mettle matters even more.

I don’t know why it is, but for some reason… the moment a male lead is swapped out with a female one, all of this stuff seems to go out the window. Men and women are not interchangeable. The stories that spring up around them are qualitatively different. There is a reason why Andre Norton and Leigh Brackett and C. L. Moore and Francis Stevens defaulted to male leads, after all. …

The story would have taken on an entirely different tone if it had been structured around the Channing Tatum character. A disgraced veteran having to take a lousy job as a mercenary…? The girl he’s hired to protect turns out to be much more important than anyone realizes. Adventure ensues. Chemistry happens. One thing leads to another, and the big lunk finds himself getting married to a genuine space princess after rescuing her from THE WRONG SORT OF GUY that would have been married to her for COUNTLESS MILLENNIA???!!

That’s real space opera.

Frankly, female leads just aren’t up for something that awesome.

… about which Russell Newquist adds:

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend over the last four decades or so (and perhaps longer). The iconic heroes of my childhood were all ordinary men. Luke Skywalker, John McClain, Rocky Balboa, Indiana Jones, etc. At least, in their original incarnations.

Consider Luke Skywalker from A New Hope (and, for a moment, pretend that none of the other films exist). He’s a nobody farmer on a backwards planet. His parents aren’t amazing to speak of, and certainly aren’t shown as royalty. He’s the son of a knight, nothing more. Even so, it proves to be a huge step up from his own life. Yet he goes on to rescue the girl, defeat the bad guy, and save the rebellion.

Next consider Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Again, pretend that the other films don’t exist. He’s an ordinary, everyday American. His parents? Not even mentioned. He earns his position himself, through hard work.

John McClain? A New York cop, an ordinary guy. Rocky Balboa? Another nobody. Every single hero Heinlein ever wrote? Still ordinary, self-made men.

Now, consider the transformations even some of these same characters have undergone over the decades.

Luke Skywalker? It turns out he’s the scion of the greatest royal family in the galaxy.

Indiana Jones? His big-name archaeologist dad set the stage.

But who are the big pop culture heroes of the new millennium?

  • Tony Stark, heir to a megafortune
  • Harry Potter, “chosen one,” son of great, heroic, famous wizards.
  • Thor – a literal god, and son of the Allfather.
  • The Starks of Winterfell, descended from kings.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer – another transformation from just a random girl to a “chosen one.”

The trend isn’t universal, but it trends distinctly in favor of aristocrats and away from self-made, ordinary men. This isn’t a healthy sign for our society. Indeed, it’s one more symptom of our devolution from democratic rule to aristocratic rule. Jeffro rightly picks up on this as being anti-pulp. Yet it’s more than that – it’s distinctly anti-American.

I leave with one last passing observation: note this particular moment and its distinct reactionary nature to this phenomenon. I cite this as one (of many) reasons that this franchise performed so well.


Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Die Hard — those I have seen, and more than once. (Yippie ki-yay, mother … uh, I hate snakes.) Han Solo, of course, is …

A comment on Newquist’s Facebook post adds:

If you reach back further, the troubling trend becomes even more obvious. Look at thrillers from the 60s and 70s, Alfred Hitchcock movies, westerns, WWII movies. Look at Marathon Man, Three Days of the Condor, Day if the Jackal, North by Northwest. Up until the 90s, it was almost a requirement that a true hero was ordinary, even anonymous. The less remarkable, the better. It is interesting that Die Hard was originally shopped out as a sequel to Commando. How completely forgettable that would’ve been! Instead, the entire hook of Die Hard was that the main character is just a solid NYC beat cop — the kind of dude you’d see drinking and smoking and joking at the local sports bar on Monday night. The hero’s ordinariness was the secret to the film’s excellence and success. …

Of course, what makes the hero of any story heroic is that he/she performs extraordinary deeds. But the sense in which we mean it here is the ordinariness of the protagonist’s background. Gary Cooper in “High Noon”, for another prime example.

To which Newquist replied:

The point is that in good ol’ fashioned American fiction, and the pulps, a hero can come from anywhere and doesn’t have to be born to the right family. This is a stark contrast to most European fairy tales (of the variety Disney has resurrected so well) and many other cultures, such as Greek heroes (who were mostly descended from the Gods themselves). …

And also in contrast to what American fiction is becoming in the contemporary era.

Which brought this response:

McClane is an Everyman. He embarks on the hero’s journey, an ordinary person whose extraordinary courage and character rises to the top because it has a reason to.

That brought up this point:

I don’t see anyone but a man with Tony Stark’s resources building that suit. It’s vastly different than the one he built in the cave. As to the “chosen one” trope, I think that’s been with us as well, especially when it comes to super-heroes. Every teenager struggling with being an outcast wants to be the “chosen one” because that justifies their “uniqueness.” With the extension of pre-adulthood well into the 20’s and even beyond, is it any wonder that the same archetypes continue to speak to us longer?

Which brought up this point:

Studio heads in the 40s and 50s knew that audiences instinctively responded more to Everyman characters, individuals who stand out (if at all) due to traits of character, rather than a “birthright”: their bravery, boldness, even mischief. The sort of aristocrat/ noble birth stories that we see now would’ve got nixed as poor writing back in the Golden Age, wouldn’t sell tickets.

And …

When you remove the ordinary man and substitute the aristocrat as the hero, you end up with a society that is conditioned to applaud the aristocrat and consider the ordinary as lesser than, deplorable even.

There’s a whole lot more here about the subject and whether conservatives read fiction anymore, including contributions from conservative and libertarian writers. I’ll stop quoting except for one more:

Contrast today’s man-bun-wearing, latte-sipping, “can I do this now”-spouting, bonobo/hyena-colony male with Heinlein’s Everyman:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

It’s certainly not surprising to find bad storytelling in the entertainment world. How many remakes (including Star Wars) have we seen in the past few years?

This is where I consider my action hero alter ego Super Steve, Man of Action!!! (Which came, believe it or don’t, a Wall Street Journal story about a company that would custom-make action dolls. I wish I could find the illustration.) Would you believe a journalist who sits at government meetings when someone runs in with bad-guy weapons only to be subdued by the journalist? (When’s that concealed-carry class?) To quote myself:

There have been two journalist/superheroes — Daily Sentinel publisher Brit Reid and Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent. This piece is about an action hero, not a superhero, but clearly the fiction world has been remiss in casting as an action hero someone who doesn’t fit the stereotype of journalists as, well, Oscar Madison. (Is that a reporter’s notebook or a pistol in his jacket? Good question. Too late, the bad guy discovers that Man of Action isn’t holding a Nikon D7000 camera; it’s a rocket launcher. Imagine a journalist who starts an interview and then ends it by shooting or otherwise permanently subduing the interviewee.)

I have got to figure out how to write that scene. Maybe something like: A bad guy is released from prison on a technicality. He tells the journalist interviewing him upon his release that, yes, he did kill the person for which he was charged with murder but let out.
ME: So what are you planning to do now?
BAD GUY: I’m going to go out and flaunt my wrongful release!
ME: Are you sure you should be making plans for your future?
ME: Because you don’t have a future. (Quizzical look on bad guy’s face erased by my gunshot to his gut.) So what’s it like to die?

Newquist counts among his Notables Larry Correia, a libertarian fiction writer and a soldier in the cultural cold civil war between conservatives and libertarians on the correct side and Social Justice Warriors on the wrong side. Read Correia‘s recent thoughts for why you should be a fan of his.

I believe I’ve written here before (and if I didn’t, I am now!) that one major failing of entertainment, be it TV, movies or fiction of the kind we’re discussing here, is the negative portrayals, or nonexistence, of fathers and husbands. I’m not suggesting going back to the days of Jim Anderson (“Father Knows Best”) or Steve Douglas (“My Three Sons”), but since “The Cosby Show” ended it’s difficult to find shows where the male lead is a husband and father who may have quirks but is not a buffoon. (And there’s one fewer with the cancellation of ABC-TV’s “Last Man Standing,” or so I’m told.) One reason I can’t stand Disney Channel is that all the shows I accidentally watch seem to have fathers with two-digit IQs, along with irritatingly verbally precocious children who should be told to shut their mouths.

Almost half of Americans are married. I’d estimate that fewer than a quarter of adults portrayed on TV are married. I understand why that is — because the producers of dramas want their male heroes to have potential multiple love interests. Certainly TV series like “Moonlighting” jumped the shark when, in this case, the sexual tension between Dave and Maddie ended with their jumping into bed, and “Mad About You” jumped the shark when baby made three. Even series with relatively normal parents — for instance, “My So-Called Life” — had something off about the parents. (She was too bossy and he was too namby-pamby in this case. It must have been a ’90s thing.)

Off the top of my head my favorite father portrayal might have been either Dan Conner of “Roseanne” (who, by the way, is dead, but that may not matter for the reboot), or Hank Hill of “King of the Hill.” Dan worked hard to provide for his family, though he really didn’t have a handle on how to handle his daughters, and Roseanne talked too much. (Like whenever she opened her mouth.) Hank was a propane salesman who had a son he didn’t understand, but he strove to do the right thing. (Hank was certainly more normal than his friends.)

Of course, we fathers would be much wittier if we had writers writing for us. Imagine that Super Steve walks into his house.
STEVE’S HOT BLONDE WIFE: “How was your day?”
ME: “Fine. I shot the guy I was interviewing. He had it coming. At least he won’t claim he was misquoted.”
WIFE: “(Insert child’s name here) has a (insert sport event here) tonight.”

Actually, come to think of it that last line isn’t fiction.

If you think spelling is hard now …

Because the National Spelling Bee took place this week, Google Trends promoted this map:

Notice that Wisconsin is the only state that, according to Google Trends, has the biggest problem spelling its own name. People (Hawaii’s most queried word) have been making fun of Wisconsin for that reason, but I think that is less appalling than those in Oregon lacking the sense to know how “sense” is spelled, Are people in Rhode Island lying when they claim they can’t spell “liar”?

As an alleged spelling expert, I find this to be a stereotype-breaking map, Most people probably think North Carolina is in the Bible Belt, so why would “angel” be difficult to spell? Is Mississippi so poor that its residents don’t know what a “nanny” is, or West Virginia and Connecticut so unfamiliar with Disney works that neither state’s residents can spell “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”? (I’m sure you’ll agree that that is something quite atrocious.) Of course, as a former spelling bee contestant I can say that “Wisconsin” would never come up in a spelling bee, because proper nouns are not included in spelling bees.

One reason for Wisconsin’s difficulties with “Wisconsin” may have to do with what the always-accurate Wikipedia reports:

The word Wisconsin originates from the name given to the Wisconsin River by one of the Algonquian-speaking Native American groups living in the region at the time of European contact. French explorer Jacques Marquette was the first European to reach the Wisconsin River, arriving in 1673 and calling the river Meskousing in his journal. Subsequent French writers changed the spelling from Meskousing to Ouisconsin, and over time this became the name for both the Wisconsin River and the surrounding lands. English speakers anglicized the spelling from Ouisconsin to Wisconsin when they began to arrive in large numbers during the early 19th century. The legislature of Wisconsin Territory made the current spelling official in 1845.

The Algonquin word for Wisconsin and its original meaning have both grown obscure. Interpretations vary, but most implicate the river and the red sandstone that lines its banks. One leading theory holds that the name originated from the Miami word Meskonsing, meaning “it lies red”, a reference to the setting of the Wisconsin River as it flows through the reddish sandstone of the Wisconsin Dells. Other theories include claims that the name originated from one of a variety of Ojibwa words meaning “red stone place”, “where the waters gather”, or “great rock”.

So “Wisconsin” is a combination of Miami, Algonquin or Ojibwa and French, going from “Meskonsing” or “Meskousing” to “Ouisconsin” to “Wisconsin.” “Oui” means “yes” in French, for what it’s worth. Clear as mud (or “clair comme de la boue” en français), but the red references might explain the decision of the University of Wisconsin to adopt red (to be precise cardinal, as you know) as its color.

The more annoying issue that we residents of Red Water Rock (in order in French, “rouge,” “eau” and “roche”) face is national sports announcers’ inability to pronounce this state’s name correctly. Badger fans who didn’t get to Pasadena certainly enjoyed the 1994, 1999 and 2000 Rose Bowl wins, except for ABC-TV’s Bob Griese’s pronouncing “Wisconsin” with the accent on the first syllable instead of the second. (Griese is from Evansville, Ind., and played for Purdue. Some people argue that southern Indiana and southern Illinois are, or sound like they are, in the South, so perhaps that has something to do with it.)

If you think spelling in American English is difficult now, read Hannah Poindexter:

English has always been a living language, changing and evolving with use. But before our modern alphabet was established, the language used many more characters we’ve since removed from our 26-letter lineup. The six that most recently got axed are:

Eth (ð)

The y in ye actually comes from the letter eth, which slowly merged with y over time. In its purest form, eth was pronounced like the th sound in words like this, that or the. Linguistically, ye is meant to sound the same as the but the incorrect spelling and rampant mispronunciation live on.

Thorn (þ)

Thorn is in many ways the counterpart to eth. Thorn is also pronounced with a th sound, but it has a voiceless pronunciation — your vocal cords don’t vibrate when pronouncing the sound — like in thing or thought.

Today, the same th letter combo is used for both þ and ð sounds. There is a pronunciation difference — thorn is a voiceless pronunciation and eth is voiced — but that’s just something you pick up as you learn to speak. Of course, you’ll never hear about this in school, because that’s English for you.

Wynn (ƿ)

Wynn was incorporated into our alphabet to represent today’s w sound. Previously, scribes used two u characters next to each other, but preferred one character instead and chose wynn from the runic alphabet. The double u representation became quite popular and eventually edged wynn out. Ouch.

Yogh (ȝ)

Yogh was historically used to denote throaty sounds like those in Bach or the Scottish loch. As English evolved, yogh was quickly abandoned in favor of the gh combo. Today, the sound is fairly rare. Most often, the gh substitute is completely silent, as in though or daughter.

Ash (æ)

Ash is still a functional letter in languages like Icelandic and Danish. In its original Latin, it denoted a certain type of long vowel sound, like the i in fine. In Old English, it represented a short vowel sound — somewhere between a and e, like in cat. In modern English, æ is occasionally used stylistically, like in archæology or medæval, but denotes the same sound as the letter e.

Ethel (œ)

Ethel also once represented a specific pronunciation somewhere between the two vowels o and e, though it was originally pronounced like the oi in coil. Like many clarifying distinctions, this letter also disappeared in favor of a simpler vowel lineup (a, e, i, o, u) with many different pronunciations.


Fightin’ Greg Gianforte

I’m not sure why Montana has special elections on Thursdays, but they did.

So CNN reports:

Republican Greg Gianforte has won the special election for Montana’s open US House seat, CNN projects, defeating Democrat Rob Quist and capping off a whirlwind final 36 hours of the campaign that saw Gianforte being charged for allegedly assaulting a reporter.

In his acceptance speech, Gianforte apologized by name to Ben Jacobs, the Guardian reporter who accused the Republican of “body-slamming” him and breaking his glasses.

“When you make a mistake, you have to own up to it,” Gianforte told his supporters at his Election Night rally in Bozeman. “That’s the Montana way.”

Saying he was “not proud” of his behavior, he added, “I should not have responded the way I did, for that I’m sorry. I should not have treated that reporter that way, and for that I’m sorry, Mr. Ben Jacobs.”

Members of the supportive crowd shouted, “You’re forgiven.” …

Gianforte was considered the favorite heading into Thursday’s election to fill the seat once held by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, but that was before the altercation with Jacobs on Wednesday. The Gallatin County Sheriff’s office later charged Gianforte with misdemeanor assault.

The congressional race in Montana pitted two diametrically opposed candidates against one another. Gianforte: an articulate millionaire and tech entrepreneur who sold his company RightNow Technologies to Oracle in 2012 for $1.8 billion. Quist: a first-time candidate and Montana folk singer who’d amassed moderate Montana fame in the 1970s as a member of the Mission Mountain Wood Band.

The early crowd of voters at Gianforte’s rally were standing by the candidate, unfazed by the events of the previous 24 hours.

“We whole-heartedly support Greg. We love him,” said Karen Screnar, a Republican voter who had driven all the way from Helena to support Gianforte. Screnar said she and her husband have known Gianforte for the better part of a decade. After Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault, Screnar said she was only “more ready to support Greg.”

“We’ve watched how the press is one-sided. Excuse me, that’s how I feel. (They’re) making him their whipping boy so to speak through this campaign,” Screaner said. “There comes a point where, stop it.”

Her husband, Terry, chimed in that he believed Gianforte was “set up.”

First: As my high school political science teacher pointed out, this demonstrates a major problem with early voting, which reportedly comprised 60 percent of the votes cast. Republicans have generally opposed early voting, but it may have benefitted the GOP this time since voters cacn’t change their minds once their early ballots are cast.

The biggest issue is brought up by Joe Concha:

Has the media become so unpopular that body-slamming journalists can actually be good for one’s reputation?

That appears to be the case for Rep.-elect Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), who lost his temper and allegedly became physical with Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs less than 24 hours before voters went to the polls in a closely-watched special election.

Gianforte went on to win comfortably in the reliably red state. But here’s the real kicker: The candidate reportedly raised $100,000 in the aftermath of Jacobs’ claim that Gianforte “body-slammed” him and broke his glasses.

So one would think the backlash against Gianforte, who local police charged with misdemeanor assault, would be fairly swift. Except it’s anything but. …

The Drudge Report also has as its lead headline Friday morning, “FIGHTING FOR MONTANA!” with a link to an ABC News story of Gianforte winning.

Celebrating this kind of behavior cannot stand. The general sentiment on social media from some on the right, and its apparent, is that Jacobs and the media as a whole somehow deserved this.

And while it has been noted in this space on multiple occasions that many in political media are absolutely biased, dishonest and narcissistic, the argument will not be won by resorting to violence.

Think about it: Who wins in if this sort of thing happens again? Does the coverage improve? Does the media suddenly get scared straight into delivering the news straight? Of course not.

Bob Woodward said it best early this week in capturing the mood against the media and why so many Trump supporters were probably happy with Gianforte’s actions.

“I worry for the business, for the perception of the business, not just Trump supporters, they see that smugness,” Woodward said. “I think you can ride both horses, intensive inquiry, investigation, not letting up … at the same time, realize that it’s not our job to do an editorial on this.”

It’s hard to disagree with that sentiment from one of the few lucid and measured pros remaining in the business.

According to a September survey by Gallup, 86 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of Independents distrust the media.

Keep pointing out bias and deceit and unprofessional tone when you see it. Twitter and other forms of social media give everyone a megaphone.

But think twice before cheering Gianforte’s actions. Getting physical solves nothing. It could make the problem worse.

As someone in this silly line of work for 30 years who has been physically threatened, I must say the sanctimony on this issue is a bit much. Jacobs threatened a 16-year-old at a Conservative Political Action Conference and bragged about it on Twitter. If you believe in karma, Jacobs had it coming. (And perhaps reporters will finally grasp the virtues of the Second Amendment and concealed-carry rights.)

That’s pretty much what Kurt Schlichter argues:

I know it’s theoretically wrong for a Republican candidate to smack around an annoying liberal journalist, but that still doesn’t mean that I care. Our ability to care is a finite resource, and, in the vast scheme of things, millions of us have chosen to devote exactly none of it toward caring enough to engage in fussy self-flagellation because of what happened to Slappy La Brokenshades.

Sorry, not sorry.

And that’s not a good thing, not by any measure, but it is a real thing. Liberals have chosen to coarsen our culture. Their validation and encouragement of raw hate, their flouting of laws (Hi leakers! Hi Hillary!) and their utter refusal to accept democratic outcomes they disapprove of have consequences. What is itself so surprising is how liberals and their media rentboyz are so surprised to find that we normals are beginning to feel about them the way they feel about us – and that we’re starting to act on it. If you hate us, guess what?

We’re going to start hating you right back.

Cue the boring moralizing and sanctimonious whimpering of the femmy, bow-tied, submissive branch of conservatism whose obsolete members were shocked to find themselves left behind by the masses to whom these geeks’ sinecures were not the most important objective of the movement. This is where they sniff, “We’re better than that,” and one has to ask ,“Who’s we?” Because, by nature, people are not better than that. They are not designed to sit back and take it while they are abused, condescended to, and told by a classless ruling class that there are now two sets of rules and – guess what? –the old rules are only going to be enforced against them.

We don’t like the new rules – I’d sure prefer a society where no one was getting attacked, having walked through the ruins of a country that took that path – but we normals didn’t choose the new rules. The left did. It gave us Ferguson, Middlebury College, Berkeley, and “Punch a Nazi” – which, conveniently for the left, translates as “punch normals.” And many of us have had personal experiences with this New Hate – jobs lost, hassles, and worse. Some scumbags at an anti-Trump rally attacked my friend and horribly injured his dog. His freaking dog.

So when we start to adopt their rules, they’re shocked? Have they ever met human beings before? It’s not a surprise. It’s inevitable.

Team Fredocon, when they aren’t, “Oh well, I never!-ing” about Trump and his uncouth supporters, moan about the threat of “Whataboutism,” the tendency for people to explain their sub-optimal behavior by asking, “What about so-and-so? He did the same thing and you didn’t care.” But while “whataboutism” may be a logical fallacy, it’s still a devastatingly compelling argument.

Humans – especially normal Americans – won’t tolerate a double standard. But double standards apply all the time to liberals – they do it and it’s fine, but we do it and it’s Armageddon. The same jerks screaming for O‘Reilly’s scalp worship Bill Clinton and his drunken, perv-enabling pseudo-wife.

Or take the Trump-Russia black hole of idiocy – please. Remember how Obama whispered to the Russkies, “I’ll have more flexibility after election” and that was cool? But – according to an anonymous source reading a bar tab over the phone to some credulous WaPo hack – one of Trump’s relatives ordered a vodka once and it’s TREASON TREASON TREASON!!!!!!

It certainly applies to, “What about when they hit conservatives with a lock in a sock and the liberal media didn’t care?” Yeah, what about that? Where was the sackcloth and ashes act from Schumer, Pelosi, and Felonia von Pantsuit when our side was being bloodied and beaten? There wasn’t one, because the left supports us getting bloodied and beaten. It likes the zesty zing of violence. It makes them feel big and tough and edgy, except that it starts being a heck of a lot less fun when we right-wingers start adopting the same rules and punching back.

The left is shocked that the right has now stopped caring about the old rules, since for so long the left relied on the right to subordinate its human instincts and conform to those rules even when the left ignored them. We refused to stoop to their level, and for a long time, we were “better than that.” But you can only have one side being “better than that” for so long before people get sick of being the butt of the hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy is poison not because it makes people stop knowing right from wrong, but because it makes its victims stop caring about right and wrong. Ben Jacobs got smacked around, and millions of us just don’t give a damn.

We all know it was wrong for Greg Gianforte to beat up Ben Jacobs. But we also know the general attitude of the media is that when we conservatives get beat-up by leftists it’s perfectly excusable – even laudable – and thanks to the fact that Twitter is forever, we now know that Ben Jacobs himself specifically thinks it’s A-OK to slug conservative kids. So can someone tell me why anyone should be shocked that we conservatives refuse to devote one iota of caring to poor Ben’s wedgie?

This isn’t a good thing. This is nothing to be proud of. We should not be happy that our society is heading toward the lowest common denominator, which itself is in freefall. But the alternative is worse. Should we allow ourselves to continue to be figuratively and literally beaten up while smiling at our own purity, secure in the knowledge that even though our dignity and freedom are stripped from us, we have not fought back? Not happening. Letting these bastards play by their own rules, and thereby crush us, seems a pretty high price to pay just to gain the approval of the smug and sanctimonious David Frums and John Kasichs of the world.

We conservatives have been warning for a long time that liberals are not going to like it when everyone plays by the new rules, and – surprise! – they don’t. But guess what? Most of us don’t like the new rules either. Yet it’s ridiculous to expect human beings to remain in perpetual denial about the situation they face, and to forever live under a double standard that results in their faces getting pressed into the dirt.

The hypocrisy has become intolerable, and we have stopped tolerating it. This is just the beginning of the reaction, and – make no mistake – this entire situation is a bad thing. Our society is making choices that can lead only to ruin (and my new novel describing the consequences just dropped).

Lincoln mentioned “the better angels of our nature” – also at a time when Democrats were rejecting the rule of law in order to promote their subjugation of those they considered lesser beings – and the important thing to note is that “angels” is plural. You need two angels, not one angel and one demon. But that’s what we have, and if it doesn’t change we’ll have two demons, and everyone should care about that.

Speaking of Lincoln: This country is not as divided as it was around the Civil War. However, hatred of the news media is at unprecedented levels. And hatred of our fellow man based on his political views different from yours is going in the wrong direction, even within the parties (Hillary! supporters vs. Comrade Bernie’s apparatchiks, NeverTrumps vs. Trump’s fan club), let alone between the parties. I predicted some time ago that we were winding up toward assassinations of politicians and their supporters. I suspect you can add to that group journalists too.

If Schlichter is right, deescalating has to start somewhere. Will someone have to die first?


Moore. Roger Moore.

The James Bond I grew up with died earlier this week.

The 007 franchise, the longest currently running in movies, is now on its sixth Bond, Daniel Craig. Sean Connery started the series, left for two (the original “Casino Royale” and “On His Majesty’s Secret Service”), and returned for one (plus another not from the series’ producers).

It may be that “Diamonds Are Forever,” but Connery was not. His replacement was Roger Moore, who had already played a similar role on British TV that was picked up by NBC, “The Saint”:

I saw Connery’s Bond on TV (generally ABC’s Sunday Night Movie). I saw Moore’s Bond in theaters.

Between that and the fact that Moore acted as Bond the most of any of the Bonds (besides Connery there was one-Bond George Lazenby, parody Bond David Niven, Moore’s successor Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and now Daniel Craig), Moore has always been Bond to me. Connery may be more popular, and Craig may be more the Bond that author Ian Fleming intended, but Moore’s Bond is who I think of.

This story has been circulating on the interwebs:

James Freeman adds that the story …

… squares with what this column heard from a source who occasionally had the pleasure of Moore’s company. The actor was witty and well-read, but often preferred listening to others rather than telling stories of his own. The Times of London notes that despite his huge celebrity, Moore remained self-deprecating:

Sir Roger Moore may not have been the best Bond, indeed by his own estimation he was the fourth best, but off screen he was undoubtedly the most endearing of the actors who played the role. This likeability had much to do with his unwillingness, perhaps inability, to take himself too seriously. When he was cast in the 007 role, for example, he was asked what he thought he could bring to it. More brooding menace than Sean Connery, perhaps? More sex appeal than George Lazenby? He replied: “White teeth.” And when critics accused him of being a one eyebrow actor, he countered that this was unfair because he was, in fact, a two-eyebrow actor.

“The eyebrows thing was my own fault,” he once said in an interview. “I was talking about how talentless I was and said I have three expressions — eyebrow up, eyebrow down and both of them at the same time. And they used it — very well, I must say.”…

When he first took the role, the films’ producer Cubby Broccoli told him he needed to “lose a little weight and get into shape”. He replied: “Why didn’t you just cast a thin, fit fellow and avoid putting me through this hell?

Elsewhere in the U.K., the Gloucestershire Echo reports that “touching tributes are pouring in” for Moore and that among those with fond memories is a hotel manager named Olivier Bonte. Mr. Bonte tells the paper: “He was a very nice person to look after unlike some of the other A-listers we entertain. He was a true gentleman: polite and traditional.”

While this column appreciates the talent of Mr. Connery, Moore was the James Bond that your humble correspondent grew up watching. Leave it to the indispensable Kyle Smith to make the case that “Roger Moore Was the Best Bond:”

Sean Connery, with his big shoulders and his swaggering physicality, his touch of cruelty and menace, was a much larger screen presence than Moore. But it was Moore’s lighter touch — the arched eyebrow, the deadpan sense of humor, the movements graceful rather than aggressive — that was perfect for the times, when the ideal of screen manhood evolved from the irony-impervious scowl of John Wayne to the sardonic smirk of Burt Reynolds and the puzzled uncertainty of Warren Beatty.

If Connery’s Bond was a fantasy figure who projected British might, Moore’s Bond was a synecdoche for the new role of Britain — no longer the lion of the globe, it would measure its influence in soft power. For more than half a century, Britain has exerted its primary influence not through its troops and warships but in its popular culture, particularly in pop music, which without its British elements would scarcely be recognizable today. Moore’s Bond, like his country, had to be clever because he could no longer be overwhelming.

Mr. Smith, lion among movie critics, describes the new Bond finesse in the signature films of that era:

Who can forget how, in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moore’s Bond socked Richard Kiel’s steel-toothed thug Jaws in the midsection as hard as he could — and was rewarded by being picked up and rammed against the ceiling by his much larger foe? Yet Bond won that round when he used Jaws’s deadliest attribute against him — by electrocuting his mouth with a lamp. What better illustration is there of the superiority of fancy footwork over brawn than in Live and Let Die (1973), when Moore’s Bond finds himself on a rock in the middle of a pond full of ravening crocodiles, uses the beasts as stepping stones and smartly walks away from them without even loosening his tie?

This column hasn’t mentioned the famous Bond girls and of course any discussion of this film franchise is bound to raise complaints, often justified, about the treatment of women at the hands of 007. But this week Jackie Bischof gamely argues that the Roger Moore films were distinctive for their strong female characters, including KGB Major Anya Amasova.

At least in a fictional story on film, here was a case where there really was collusion between a western power and a Russian state actor. Mr. Smith describes the closing moments of “The Spy Who Loved Me”:

Escaping from certain death with Russian spy Barbara Bach in a submersible pod that doubled as a ’70s love nest at the end of the film, Bond disdained to comment on the havoc around him and turned his attention to a surprise stowed in the pod. “Maybe I misjudged Stromberg,” he says. “Anyone who drinks Dom Perignon ’52 can’t be all bad.” With a single line (“Let’s get out of these wet things”), he convinces the foe sworn to kill him to sleep with him instead, then closes the curtain on his bosses as they peer through the window.

Sleep well, Sir Roger.

The TV reverse Midas touch

The late Trio cable channel had a series called “Brilliant But Canceled” about shows on TV all too briefly:

I wouldn’t call what follows “brilliant,” but they were definitely canceled, and shortly after I started watching them at a very young age.

“The Interns,” which was on briefly in 1970, includes an actor from “Star Trek” and “The FBI,” another “Star Trek” actor, B.J. from “M*A*S*H,” one of those actors whose face you recognized (before his untimely death at 49), and the star of “Highway Patrol” in a series that lasted one season:

Before I knew Glenn Ford as a movie actor of long standing, I saw him in this one-season series:

My viewing preferences of TV series with cars probably started with the 13-episode “Bearcats!”

Perhaps because of his recently canceled “Get Smart,” I watched the next sitcom of Don Adams, “The Partners.” The only episode I recall was when their car’s driver’s side door was sheared off by a passing car, creating a three-door detective car.

“Partners” was moved halfway into its only season. Its time-slot replacement was “Emergency!”

You’ve already read here about “Chase,” produced by Jack Webb;

Another Webb series not long for the screen was “Project UFO”:

Movie fans may remember an actor named Khigh Dhiegh, the Chinese bad guy in “The Manchurian Candidate.” TV fans remember him (name at birth, believe it or don’t: Kenneth Dickerson) as Wo Fat in the original “Hawaii Five-O.” While playing Wo Fat, Dheigh briefly was the lead of “Khan,” about a San Francisco private detective. “Khan” is so rare that you can’t even find a snippet of it on YouTube, perhaps because it was canceled two episodes into its four-episode run.

As you know, quality and popularity are not synonyms. I don’t remember much about any of these series, but since none lasted very long, neither does anyone else.