August 23, 2007

The Decider of the Seattle P-I

deciderdave.jpgDavid McCumber, the current "Managing editor" at the risibly named Seattle Post-Intellligencer feels he got some splainin' to do. Having failed to learn the virtue of silence he blogs a memorable confession in "A ferry captain, the FBI and Benjamin Franklin." in which he states:

"I understand that people have a hard time with the concept that we get to decide what is news and what isn't, and what is fair and what isn't."
McCumber is from the Hunter-Thompson-Envy school of journalism and, of course, this is a brain-echo of the Scoop Nisker dictum: "If you don't like the news, go out and make some of your own." Alas, McCumber is mired in the Thompson/Nisker/Pacifica/NPR Memorial Tarpits and fails to understand that making news about not liking the news is exactly what is going to happen to him and his ilk in this era. They never thought that not liking the news would come to include newspapers themselves. They thought, for decades, that they were immune. Alas, as we learn in the Holy Book of Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, "Nobody is immune from a bust."

At issue is the decision from "The Decider" earlier this week not to run photographs of a couple of gentlemen that the FBI wanted to speak with concerning their obsessive-compulsive interest in our large ferryboat network. [For the back story see Malkin HERE and HERE. ]

This Decider's decision has gained the P-I more local and national interest than it has enjoyed for decades. And it is, in the main, not the sort of interest you would like unless you had an obsessive-compulsive hankering for numerous and multiple hot-lead enemas. And since the Web is where toys become real, these were not long in coming.

The comments sections under the various stories on the P-I's blogs are like a rolling artillery barrage and the comment on various websites across the sphere are hardly less lethal. Most telling are the various Haiku entered into the P-I's unfortunate "Haiku" contest about the Decider's decision. Three choice ones read:

From those with a coastal attitude --

Seattle In A Haze
San Fran In Panties And Heels
Ignore Threats
Better They Are Lost
Left Coast Must Die

From those with a professional insight --
I care not people die
Massacres make better story
I win Pulitzer

and even though the P-I states it "We're not going to pick a winner," the one that wins for me is:

Cancel my paper.
Terminate my subscription.
Go bankrupt faster.

What does The Decider haul out of the festering crab pot of moldy justifications for his half-facted article? Why it is the ever-popular Ben Franklin chestnut, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporaray [sic] safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Of course, McCumber is not ham-handed enough to just toss this cliche out on the table for gutting. Instead, he quotes it coming from the proverbial "guy who should know;" in this case -- he claims -- "a Washington State Ferries captain who thanked me sincerely for the decision not to run the photos. He said he feared we were moving to some sort of brown-shirt state where hysteria replaced reason." This is the newspaperman's equivalent of the well-known online canard of "I'm getting lots of supportive email!"

If one was inclined to get into "Dueling Quotations" with The Decider, one might point out that in a long and brilliant career, Benjamin Franklin said a lot of things, among which was,

"At present I shall only give you my Opinion that tho' your Reasonings are subtle, and may prevail with some Readers, you will not succeed so as to change the general Sentiments of Mankind on that Subject, and the Consequence of printing this Piece will be a great deal of Odium drawn upon your self, Mischief to you and no Benefit to others. He that spits against the Wind, spits in his own Face." -- Benjamin Franklin
A prescient man, our Poor Richard.

A more sober look at "The Decider's Decision" always reverts back to the issue of why the P-I would report that the FBI asked citizens to be on the look-out for persons of interest but decline to show the readers what those "persons of interest" looked like. The P-I cited "privacy concerns" in not publishing images taken of people in a public location. The Decider seems to be chary of publishing this image of two men in a public location:


These men have been seen aboard Washington State Ferries on several occasions and have exhibited unusual behavior, which was reported by passengers. While this behavior may have been innocuous, the FBI and WAJAC would like to resolve these reports.Federal Bureau of Investigation Seattle Press Release

At the same time, The Decider's newspaper has no problem with publishing this one:


Sarah Conway, who works for a company that makes decorative pasties, shows off the marijuana leaf model as she takes a smoke from a large joint.

Or this enlightening image:

"Digger the Beast" (Douglas Taylor), part of the "King & the Beast" sideshow, shows how he runs a drill bit into his nostril.

Presumably, these citizens of Seattle, having no dignity, have no expectation of privacy. Still, they might be among those who would be very upset should they find themselves on an exploding and sinking ferry in the middle of Puget Sound. But, according to The Decider, "That's not the way a free press works. If everything any government authority handed us was automatically unquestioned "news," we would be a state-run newspaper."

You can file that under the heading "No Sh*t Sherlock?" Or you can look it up in the first year, first semester notebook of the thousands of young people currently dumb enough to be attending the numerous and hapless "Schools of Journalism" busy separating kids from money these days from coast to coast. The Decider's "boogyman warning" about an American newspaper turning into an organ of the state has as much basis in reality as, well, the boogyman. But this dreck is always hauled out whenever a paper fails its readership -- which is why your hear it a lot these days. (You also hear a few voices within the press arguing for a government subsidy of struggling newspapers -- not that there would be any "state-run" stuff going on there. It would be a classic NPR/PBS "Show us the money! Your money! And shut up!" kind of deal.)

That hero of the NPR mindset, the late Kurt Vonnegut, has an arresting image in Mother Night, the image of

"the cuckoo clock in Hell -- keeping perfect time for eight minutes and twenty-three seconds, jumping ahead fourteen minutes, keeping perfect time for six seconds, jumping ahead two seconds, keeping perfect time two hours and one second, then jumping ahead a year.

The missing teeth, of course, are simple, obvious truths, truths available and comprehensible even to ten-year-olds, in most cases.

The willful filing off of gear teeth, the willful doing without certain obvious pieces of information..."

This is what we are seeing more and more of as the aging mavens of the media wander down the narrowing trail to the bone-yard; "The willful doing without certain obvious pieces of information." The P-I "reports" that the FBI is looking for two men, but does not publish the supplied picture of the same two men. Out of a fear for their privacy but out of a greater and utterly paranoid fear that they might be perceived as "a state-run newspaper."

That anyone would mistake the P-I or any other American newspaper as even remotely "a state-run newspaper" shows not only a profound lack of a real frame of reference, but a huffed-up sense of the P-I's own importance and relevance to America today. Does anybody outside of the flatulent bubble of the media's own scent of itself think that the newspapers of America are going to turn into Pravda? Or have they already turned into a Pravda for their own inner world, struggling to sell their justifications and their Deciders' decisions to a world that has little need for them and less care?

I think, regardless of McCumber's puerile justifications -- which would not be out of place in a second rate college's paper -- that it is the latter that is the case.

When you attend various street festivals and other crowd drawing activities in Seattle, you often see the booths of the Seattle P-I and the Seattle Times set up to offer you subscriptions for something equal to twenty-five cents and two Wheaties box-tops. I pass them by since I don't want to be part of a chain of people that stains bleached wood pulp only to return it to the recycling bin.

There are some Seattle mornings -- fewer now -- when you can step out of your house and see that the Seattle P-I or the Seattle Times is so desperate to get your attention, it has thrown a newspaper onto your lawn even thought you never, ever asked for it. I just sigh and shuffle out onto my lawn, pick it up, and then walk to the alley and place it directly into the recycling bin.

I can't recall the last time I actually sat down and read a newspaper. I can't recall the last time, until today, I was actually interested in what the all-too-predictable Seattle newspapers had to say. And now that's over. As the kids would text, Sippican Cottage: I'm Not Interested. Period. "C U Wudn't Want to B U."

When I read these arcane "free press uncorrupted by a fascist state" justifications like this one from The Decider at the P-I, the line that runs through my mind is from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Butch and Sundance are being pursued by the implacable forces that are hunting them unto death and Butch comes up with one of his insights. Sundance just looks at him with a flat look and says, as one might say to The Decider, "You just keep thinkin' Butch. That's what you're good at."

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Posted by Vanderleun at August 23, 2007 2:25 PM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

I think we just have to face that fact that the leftists see themselves as being on the same side as the terrorists.

Of course they don't consciously and publicly endorse the tactics that the terrorists choose.

But they believe they recognize in the terrorists --and those suspected of being terrorists-- kindred spirits who are struggling against the same capitalist-bourgeois-etc-etc that they believe they themselves are fighting.

The P-I decided not to publish the pictures of the suspicious ferry passengers because they want to help those who are in fact your enemies and mine.

A real civil war --as opposed to a regional war between the States-- may come to America if an escalation in the Islamist-leftist campaign of terror forces sides to be more starkly drawn than they are at the present time.

Posted by: Gandalin at August 23, 2007 4:10 PM

Mr. V

That is gonna leave a mark

Takedown. Evisceration. Casually and elegantly executed.

Too shay

Posted by: OhioGuy at August 23, 2007 5:45 PM

What's so risible? If you were as intelligent as a post, what would you call your newspaper?

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at August 23, 2007 6:09 PM

Excellent post. When I ran across the SP-I piece I was awash in disgust. Like Bush telling us that the borders are secure while at the same time doing his best to make them as open as possible to anyone willing to take a long hike, "The Decider" will have a lot of explaining to do when the synchronized "Great Islamic Blow-Up" happens across our great land.

Posted by: MarkH at August 23, 2007 8:26 PM

What's with McCumber's makeup? He looks like some 10 year old girl playing with her Barbie makeup kit!

Posted by: BostonJohn at August 24, 2007 1:10 AM

Here's a haiku for them:

How is your paper
Like a leg that falls asleep?
No circulation

Posted by: Jim Treacher at August 24, 2007 12:02 PM

Seattle P-I
It's in the water
The probable cause of your disorder.

Did I violate the Haiku format? I hope so.

Posted by: ChiefTestPilot at August 24, 2007 1:04 PM
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