Miracles of modern journalism

by John Quiggin on June 20, 2009

The sacking of Dan Froomkin by the Washington Post reminds me of something attributed (IIRC) to Auberon Waugh on being told that Randolph Churchill had undergone the surgical removal of a tumour that turned out not to be malignant.

It is a marvel of medical science that they could first locate the one part of Randolph that was not malignant, and, having found it, immediately remove it

More from the ever-growing Wapo fan club.

* Whether or not Google makes you stupid, I’ve decided not to do Google checks of my recollections for items like this, where the exact accuracy of my quote doesn’t matter too much, and the contrast with the correct version might provide some amusement or enlightenment.

{ 20 comments }

1

dilbert dogbert 06.20.09 at 2:07 am

The correct technical term is WaPoo.

2

dominic 06.20.09 at 8:15 am

I think it was Evelyn Waugh, not the Waugh the younger.

3

John Quiggin 06.20.09 at 8:42 am

I hesitated, and I think I guessed wrong

4

Barry 06.20.09 at 12:03 pm

I posted on Krugman’s blog a comment that what was the last straw for Froomkin with the WaPo management was that he was willing to criticize President Obama. I bet that they could live with a token left-wing partisan hack (‘balance!); they’d probably feel better about their right-wing partisan hackery.

But once they realized that he was an honest man, that was too much. If there’s one thing that they clearly hate, it’s an honest journalist.

5

Steve LaBonne 06.20.09 at 2:07 pm

Nah, Krauthhammer said “either he goes or I go”, and of course they couldn’t risk losing such a distinguished, honest, sane journalist as Krauthammer. Perish the thought.

6

Michael Drake 06.20.09 at 2:15 pm

A rose by any other author would smell as sweet. (de Vere)

7

P O'Neill 06.20.09 at 2:35 pm

Remember this is the newspaper where the cult of the objective journalist was carried by Leonard Downie to the idea that he couldn’t even vote. As Barry says, Froomkin displayed disturbing evidence of commitment, but didn’t have a Fox News “All-Star” tag to protect him.

8

JP Stormcrow 06.20.09 at 3:34 pm

Whatever the motivation, it very conveniently perpetuates the shape of mainstream political dialogue from the Clinton years, wherein no “reasonable” voice is allowed to be to the left of the centrist Democratic president (well, maybe Nancy Pelosi).

9

bianca steele 06.20.09 at 3:48 pm

Maybe I’m really dumb, and it really does not sound like the firing was a good thing, but @Barry and @JP, is “honest (=blunt)” equivalent to “left” now? I mean, am I so dumb that I mistake my own inability to hold more than two concepts in my mind at once for an ability to hold lots of concepts in my mind at once, and then project my own mistake on others, so that I think they ought to be able to hold more than two concepts in their mind at once, when in reality those smarter than me realize it’s only right and good to stick to max two concepts?

Michael, do you really think De Vere wrote Shakespeare? Why not pick Sir Francis instead?

10

Henri Vieuxtemps 06.20.09 at 3:57 pm

11

JP Stormcrow 06.20.09 at 3:58 pm

And since comment is free (or so I’m told), even when it exceeds the original post in length, here is something I wrote a few years back which although technically out-of-date is in other ways quite relevant to this development. (Plus the only truly honest indulgence is self-indulgence.)

The Four Postmen of the Apocalypse

First, after Grantland Rice:

Outlined against the troubles of a nation, the Four Writers wrote again. In Internet lore they are known as arrogance, pomposity, cluelessness and idiocy. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Broder, Woodward, Howell and Hiatt. They formed the crest of the cyclone before which the reputation of the Washington Post was swept over the precipice these past dozen years as a million readers peered at the bewildering panorama spread out on their breakfast tables and computer screens.

And then on to more Ancient Sources

9. [Broder] And I saw when the rabid lamb opened one of the links, and I heard, as it were the sound of wankery, one of the four courtiers saying, Come and read.

10. And I read, and beheld two fatuous quotes: and he that spoke them knew not his hypocrisy; and many spots on Sunday morning television were given unto him: and he went forth being arrogant, and to show all that he well and truly was a dick.

11.[Woodward] And when he had opened the second link, I heard the second courtier say, Come and read.

12. And there I read another work of stenography: and power was given to him that wrote therein to transcribe the thoughts of the mighty, and that they should flatter one another: and there was given unto him great riches for his efforts.

13.[Howell] And after she had someone help her open the third link, I heard the third courtier say, Come and read. And I read, and lo, she that wrote it had a pair of balances in her hand.

14. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four courtiers say, A measure of column space for a Democrat, and three measures of column space for a Republican; unless the news is bad and then the measures shall be reversed; and see that thou hurt not the status quo.

15.[Hiatt] And when he had opened the fourth link, I heard the voice of the fourth courtier say, Come and read.

16. And I read, and beheld a mass of distortions and lies: and his name that wrote it was Idiocy, and The wingnuts followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the estate, to mislead with pen, and with words, and with images, and with the shameful iniquity of their lies.

12

JP Stormcrow 06.20.09 at 4:03 pm

@JP, is “honest (=blunt)” equivalent to “left” now?

You are right, a more accurate statement would have been “no “reasonable” voice is allowed to appear be to the left of … as judged by the standards of the national political media.

13

Barry 06.20.09 at 10:15 pm

Bianca, there’s a question mark in your comment, and my name, but your comment is not really written in English, but only in a language tantalizingly similar to English.

If you actually have a question, please rewrite your comment in actual English, and I’ll try to answer it.

14

Andrew 06.20.09 at 11:08 pm

“You cannot hope to bribe or twist, Thank God! the British journalist.
But, seeing what the man will do unbribed, there’s no occasion to.”

Humbert Wolfe.

Perhaps an update for his WaPo counterparts is in order?

15

herr doktor bimler 06.21.09 at 4:18 am

I told a similar joke to a friend after his bowel resection… the surgeons had managed to locate the one part of his body that was not irritable, and remove it.
An ex-friend, I should say.

16

Salient 06.22.09 at 2:26 pm

If you actually have a question, please rewrite your comment in actual English,

Barry, the question is “honest (=blunt)” equivalent to “left” now? is pretty straightforward English. You implied that “X is an honest man” if and only if “X is critical of Obama from the left” — implying that nobody who criticizes Obama for being too liberal is being “honest.”

This seems to be a rather partisan interpretation of the word ‘honest’ to me (as well as to bianca, I infer). It’s not at all clear why it’s impossible for someone to honestly support the decisions Obama makes.

17

lemuel pitkin 06.22.09 at 6:54 pm

Salient-

You’ve got it backward. The question is not whether you must support civil liberties to be honest, but whether you must be on the left to support civil liberties. In other words, while Bush was in office it was unclear whether Froomkin was motivated by partisan (Democratic) loyalties or honestly held convictions. The former is acceptable, the latter is not, so when he failed to change his stance after the election he was done for.

18

Salient 06.23.09 at 2:14 pm

In other words, while Bush was in office it was unclear whether Froomkin was motivated by partisan (Democratic) loyalties or honestly held convictions.

See, I see a false dichotomy there. Four possible outcomes:
(1) Honest; critical of Obama
(2) Dishonest; levies criticism of Obama from “the left” despite not believing it himself
(3) Honest; thinks Obama is making the right decisions and says so
(4) Dishonest; promotes Obama out of partisan loyalty

Given that it’s an opinion column, it’s possible to see “honest/dishonest” as impossible to judge or verify (except insofar as one can ascertain whether a column contains falsehoods, e.g. “So and so said ____” when they didn’t).

I thought this questionable use of “honest” is what bianca was calling into question (and I thought Barry’s counter-admonishment was unfair).

19

lemuel pitkin 06.23.09 at 2:51 pm

Given that it’s an opinion column, it’s possible to see “honest/dishonest” as impossible to judge or verify

It’s possible, but it is wrong. Funny, tho, I figured this is where you would end up.

20

Phill Hallam-Baker 06.24.09 at 12:01 am

I must admit that I stopped reading Froomkin after the election. I can well imagine that the column dropped in popularity. But there are plenty of other beats that they could have put him on. Tracking down the looney tunes on the hill would be worthwhile and attract an audience.

I suspect that it was the big name hacks on the editorial page that objected to him. Must be hard being shown that you are a complete fool.

The Washington Post was only briefly a worthwhile newspaper. In the 1930s it was owned by the Teapot Dome conspirators.

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