Howie Kurtz Moral Equivalency Watch: Tricky Dick Edition
There's a new book out on the dead syndicated columnist Jack Anderson this week, and so of course Howard Kurtz has the exclusive.*
I wish I had the bile in me today to go advanced menstrual on Howie, who was a decisively early adopter of all the traits—fatuousness, near-religious myopia, imperviousness to basic comprehension, dogged almost-Confucian commitment to churning out colorless text in such reliably prodigious volume every single gosh darn bleeping day that any of his editors who are not in a coma already are probably still too overwhelmed combing it all for copy editing errors to notice how extraordinarily awful he is—the "journalism" business would later come to deify. But either the abundance of trees and sunshine and nature smells in this fucking town has already started to screw with my neurotransmitters, or I am just in a "service-y" mood, because this one is all about lending a hand to the aforementioned overburdened copy editors. There looks like a mess-up in Howie's piece on Jack Anderson, folks!
Look, here's graf five:
While detailing Nixon's utter obsession with Anderson — to the point that 16 CIA operatives once kept him under surveillance and Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy plotted to kill him — the author makes the case that each side employed equally ruthless methods against the other.
And then, wayyyy down, this emdash orphan:
G. Gordon Liddy plotted to kill him — the author makes the case that each side employed equally ruthless methods against the other.
Huh! Now see, I sort of always assumed that with Howie, words flow from his cortex to his fingertips and are immediately forgotten, like if the subject of that movie Memento was more like Rain Man. And see, I made that assumption on the basis of paragraphs like the above, which are the sort of frenzy deadline boilerplate vaguely truth-y sounding or possibly just stupefaction-inducing dross newspaper reporters sadly have to train themselves to churn out without giving much thought to how they come across to the barely conscious reader.
But I stand possibly corrected! The fact of this fragment appearing twice in the text of this piece signifies that someone, possibly Howie himself, concocted this preposterous series of words, then gave it enough consideration to consider and possibly re-consider moving it somewhere else in the story, further suggesting that someone, possibly Howie himself, actually read this darn thing before it went up on the Internet.
Which is interesting because! I would never claim to know as many journalists as Howie Kurtz, but I know a whole lot, and I sure as heck have never met a single one who has ever had resources even remotely "equal" to sixteen CIA agents and two would-be assassins like G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt! Would you believe that journalists were once important and influential enough that the president's campaign operatives actually considered multiple ways of offing one of us?!**
But maybe the journalists today could learn something from the likes of the "Nixonian" Jack Anderson, who must have had his own death squad and multibillion dollar intelligence edifice for this sentence to make any sense whatsoever. Let's read more!
Like two bruised prizefighters, Anderson and Nixon continued to swing away — the difference, of course, being that the president wielded the power of the government.
Oh. Huh. Oh well, nice imagery, Howie, although it might work better if one of the "prizefighters" was actually an aircraft carrier filled with nuclear missiles. The point is, though, that Jack Anderson, who was a very important investigative journalist during the Nixon Administration that as the story concedes we have all completely "forgotten" because we have forgotten everything that happened previous to the last Jersey Shore episode, was actually not quite the ethically unimpeachable journalist we might have assumed had we not long forgotten him along with every other inspiring person the CIA plotted against during the Seventies already! What did he do?
Anderson's reputation would have been shredded had anyone learned that he paid off the source who slipped him the classified documents on Pakistan. Here's how it went down: Anderson bought some undeveloped California land from Navy yeoman Charles Radford, using an old high school friend as a middleman to disguise the transaction. "It was really a payoff," Anderson acknowledged a few months before his death.
Journalists once made enough money to pay for stuff?! Did they buy Harper's on the newsstand in those days, also?
The accumulated evidence of Anderson's unclean hands soils what otherwise would be a media morality tale.
OH FOR FUDGE'S SAKE HOWIE, WE'RE NOT IN BLEEPING MAYBERRY ANYMORE. EVEN YOU SEEM TO UNDERSTAND THIS
Nixon called him an S.O.B. and worse.
Perhaps the most infuriating thing about what's happened to this profoundly infuriating industry is the way it continues to promulgate and perpetuate false dichotomies and either-or comparisons with preposterous abandon, as if we weren't being relentlessly beaten over the head every day with new evidence that we are hopelessly outmatched, that the game is rigged and that few arguments are likely to have equal and opposite counter-arguments when at the end of the day the same wealthy oligarchs are bankrolling all of the arguers.
But within this context, maybe the second most infuriating thing is journalists of the "obsequious prude" variety, who obsessively profess horror at colleagues who commit errors of that demonic false god "objectivity" and other supremely minor supposed ethical lapses on the way to the pursuit of truth. As if staying in this business weren't enough of a pain in the behind to begin with!
Anyway, not naming names here but: sometimes I think hacks like those in the second camp are the reason journalists who understand what flies past hacks like those in the first camp, go the way of Gary Webb (who I'll let you all Google). Then I remember Twitter, which is actually even worse than Howie Kurtz.
*Das Krapital is going to attempt to be a mostly "culture war free" zone, but there is a lot of fun stuff in this story about Nixon-era homophobia if you're into that. Nixon wanted to out Brit Hume! Which is sort of funnier if you know that Brit Hume outed Spiro Agnew's son, and sadder if you know that then Brit Hume's own son was widely rumored to be romantically involved with a former Republican Congressman, an affair that was further rumored to be a contributing factor in his decision to commit suicide in 1998.
**Note to self: research whether that LSD on the steering wheel thing ever worked, like in Uzbekistan or something.