HELEN THOMAS, HELEN THOMAS
Washington press corps veteran Helen Thomas’s March 27 “Lap Dogs of the Press” drew a sustained and heartfelt outpouring from our readers. Below is a sample. –The Editors
Helen Thomas rocks! The rest of you–get rolling!
God bless Helen Thomas for telling the unvarnished truth about the MSM.
How can we teach more journalists to be like Helen Thomas??????
New York City
Hire Helen Thomas!
Bless you, Helen. Sock it to ’em. You go, girl.
My friend Helen Thomas takes the Washington press corps to task for failing to be more skeptical in the run-up to the war in Iraq. She has a good point as far as it goes, but a few reporters–Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker, Walter Pincus of the Washington Post and Knight Ridder–did challenge the Bush Administration’s case for the war.
Starting in 2002, John Walcott, Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel of Knight Ridder began reporting that many intelligence and military professionals didn’t believe that Saddam Hussein posed an increased security threat to the United States and said that intelligence was being manipulated to support the arguments for invading Iraq. In more than sixty stories through 2002 and ’03, Knight Ridder reported that information provided by Iraqi defectors was bogus, that evidence for Saddam’s supposed nuclear weapons program was inconclusive and that the Pentagon failed to plan for the postwar reality that now confronts US troops in Iraq.
The daily briefings in the White House press room almost never shed light on what’s really going on in this Administration. It takes old-fashioned reporting, away from the TV lights–and from message minders whose interest is not in honestly informing the public.
Washington editor, Knight Ridder
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Punta Gorda, Fla.
I worship the work of Helen Thomas and wish there were more reporters like her. However, my recollections differ on coverage by the New York Times leading up to the invasion of Iraq. Two prewar articles I recall warned extensively of possible dire outcomes, including civil war, disruption of oil supplies and the prospect that conflict would spread. A front-page Times piece, months before the invasion and by a reporter who had spent many weeks in Iraq, alerted me for the first time to the notion that while most Iraqis hated Saddam, they hated Americans more. I also recall that in the months after the invasion, the Times was accused by some on the right of having an antiwar bias.
Way back in the early 1950s, I learned my basic journalism when I was less than 10 years old, in the arms and at the feet of my grandfather, the late K.C. Mammen Mappillai. “Lap Dogs of the Press” took me back to the days when he and many other journalists had to spend time in jail for supporting the Indian National Congress and the Freedom Movement in India. The fearless small newspaper editors and their journalists, like my grandfather, had to undergo much hardship to educate their readers. Without them, the messages of the freedom fighters would never have been heard. Thank you for this article, which raises the issue of how our journalists practice journalism. Let us hope that a few like Helen Thomas are produced in the years to come!
Helen Thomas is one of my media heroes. I lost my job as the co-host of a popular morning radio show at a Clear Channel station because I spoke out against this war and the Administration. I agree wholeheartedly with Helen Thomas when she calls the media lap dogs. All the major media outlets, including the New York Times, rolled over and played dead, repeating every lie, half-truth and fabrication the White House fed them. I am haunted by the thought that if the media had connected the dots, the public and our elected officials might have risen up against the war.
ROXANNE WALKER CORDONIER
In these troubled times, Helen Thomas offers clarity and, with it, hope. May others stand up to defend our Constitution and for truth. Thank you, Ms. Thomas.
TESS WISHENGRAD SIEGEL
I am very grateful for the many kind words in response to the publication of excerpts from my forthcoming book, Watchdogs of Democracy? Although I am highly critical of the performance of the White House press corps in the crucial period of the run-up to the invasion of Iraq–and the lack of skepticism in particular–I did not mean to tar all reporters with the same brush. I know all too well the opposition to the war posed by The Nation‘s columnists; the dubious articles in the Knight Ridder newspapers; the reports by Seymour Hersh, Robert Fisk, Walter Pincus and Robert Scheer, among others.
But those reporters on hand for the daily spin were mute and, I believe, defaulted on their self-appointed role to protect the American people’s right to know almost everything that is done in their name. Presidents, government officials and lawmakers are public servants, and they should be questioned early and often and held accountable. Justice Louis Brandeis said that “a constant spotlight on public officials lessens the possibility of corruption.” I believe that. He also said that “if the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law.” I believe that, too.
EPISTEMOLOGY OF SEMIOTICS & WHAT?
During the ten-plus years since I left full-time academia, I have struggled for words to express the fatuousness, dishonesty and faux-leftist posturing of that milieu. As a lit-theory person at an Ivy, I was appalled by the peculiar combination of self-congratulation and self-delusion among so many colleagues who interrogated power and hegemony in their work while blindly practicing it in the pettiest institutional practices. Russell Jacoby’s brilliant review [“Brother From Another Planet,” April 10] had me in stitches for its pinpoint accuracy, and reinspired me to ponder the role of the leftist intellectual beyond elitist name-dropping, obscurantism and ridiculous pretenses that our rarefied radical publications have any real social effects on the world.
Some years ago I gave a talk at the MLA on the institutional incongruity of “radical Shakespeare studies.” A professor warned me that this was a dangerous paper to present, but I was heedless and young. I had a dreadful cold and delivered my paper amid sniffles and suppressed sneezes. A scholar I very much respected praised me for being so “brave.” Hurray, someone got it! I thought, only to have the scholar go on to tell me how courageous I was for presenting my paper despite an obvious head cold.
Dear Professor Jacoby–they don’t, and won’t, get it. But thank you for your heroic efforts. Keep on raging against the machine.
KARIN S. CODDON
Russell Jacoby: tin ear, Paul Piccone wannabe, professional cynic. His review of my Disappearing Liberal Intellectual was kind of funny, and he had me laughing. The laugh’s on him, though, because his “witticisms” are so corny, his sarcasm so ham-fisted, his cuts so cheap and his anti-academicism so willed that he winds up shadow-boxing with an invented author. His “critique” boils down to calling me a professor. I know you are, Russ (history, UCLA), but what am I?
My book criticizes boomer liberals. The Nation had it reviewed by a boomer liberal. Anybody surprised at the outcome? For Jacoby, it’s apparently a crime that I find intellectual conferences and magazines interesting; that I include him in the group I criticize; that I discuss black intellectuals (you won’t find anything in Jacoby’s books about them). He misses the irony in my account of living-wage activism at UVa and in my comments on Mark Crispin Miller. His piece offers not one example of the kind of ideas he prefers to mine. The whole thing reads like a textbook example of anti-intellectualism in American life. What a relief to be spared a good review from Russell Jacoby.
I am thankful for Karin Coddon’s words; I’m sorry the university drives people like her away.
I am “pleased” that Eric Lott “enjoyed” my “critique.” I also “enjoyed” his “book,” which sought both to slay boomer liberals for their sellout politics and lionize cultural studies professors for their fearless theories. While Lott bravely identified his militant colleagues by name, he was unable to identify their politics. Consider his ringing conclusion: “If patriotism itself is rethought as ‘plural, serial, contextual, and mobile,’ in Apparadurai’s words, then postnationalist collectives of labor and desire might earn the devotion they deserve. Let us be for the freedom of transnations.” Nicely said. His “book” bespeaks a narcissistic world of academic back-patting and faux radicalism. He now claims I miss his irony. I plead guilty. He also states that to attack his book is to be anti-intellectual. I would think it the reverse: To praise his book is to surrender thinking for hype and jargon. Here is an example of thought à la Lott: “As Linda Zerilli observes in a remarkable diacritics essay, universalism’s comeback follows the perceived political inadequacy of postmodern theory–with its focus on subject position, difference, and new social identities–to draw up any account of any overarching collective or united front.”
Actually, I do see irony–another English professor who cannot write English–but no thought. The always intrepid Lott reveals that I teach history and asks “but what am I?” It’s a damned good question.
ANSWER IS BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND
New York City
John Nichols, in “Bringing the War Home” [March 27], refers to the April 29 mobilization in New York City. Just to make sure everyone is clear: It is organized by United for Peace and Justice, RainbowPUSH Coalition, National Organization for Women, US Labor Against the War, Friends of the Earth, Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund, Climate Crisis Coalition, National Youth and Student Peace Coalition and Veterans for Peace. ANSWER is not part of the initiating group or the organizing committee. It issued a call to join the demonstration, and by not identifying the organizing groups it’s creating confusion. All are welcome to be in the April 29 march, but don’t be fooled by ANSWER, or anyone else (www.april29.org; www.unitedforpeace.org).
United for Peace and Justice