The World O' Crap Archive

Welcome to the Collected World O' Crap, a comprehensive library of posts from the original Salon Blog, and our successor site, (2006 to 2010).

Current posts can be found here.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Faux Author Fakes Outrage Over Phony News. Fictitious Film At Eleven

It’s Sitcom Day here at World O’ Crap (more on that in a later post), and first up is Jonah Goldberg in the runaway smash comedy, Make Room For Flabby!  In tonight’s episode, Jonah runs out of toilet paper and is forced to repurpose a page of the Los Angeles Times, leading to a wacky misunderstanding when the results are accidentally printed in the Op-Ed section!  Let’s watch
‘Pat Philbin, the man who staged a fake FEMA news conference on the California wildfires last week, has lost his promotion because of the event, which begs the question: What does it actually take to get fired from FEMA?” That was the lead story on the latest installment of Weekend Update, the faux news broadcast on “Saturday Night Live.”
Something bothered me about this, and not just Amy Poehler’s misuse of the phrase “beg the question.”
It’s mostly just her use of the word “beg,” which tends to trigger flashbacks in Jonah to his high school prom night, an occasion later immortalized in the movie, There’s Something About Mary
Nor was it the idea that FEMA’s staged news conference was scandalous simply because reporters, listening by phone, weren’t able to ask questions while FEMA bureaucrats lobbed “fake” questions. There’s no such thing as fake questions
Just ask Jeff Gannon.  (“No, no, I’m genuinely interested: how long do you suppose it would be if you’d kept the foreskin?”)
…only fake answers. Was FEMA’s fabrication any more fraudulent than, say, press releases written like real news stories? 
It’s important to remember that this would have constituted fraud only if they had tried to pass off the event as an actual press conference.  If, for instance, it had been carried live by various TV networks, or if the guy at the podium acted as though he was answering queries from the media and not his own staffers, or if the FEMA employees asking the questions pretended they were reporters and not political appointees pitching softballs at their boss.  But what most people don’t realize is that this wasn’t an attempt to escape accountability by deceiving the public, it was a team-building exercise.  Deputy FEMA administrator Harvey Johnson and his subordinates were just taking a brief vacation from the disastrous California wildfires to attend Press Conference Fantasy Camp – a tough but exhilarating three day experience that gives the average person a once in a lifetime chance to really get a feel for what it’s like to be Ron Ziegler.
Or take Stephen Colbert, host of a fake cable news show, “The Colbert Report,” itself a spinoff from the fake newscast “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Colbert was recently a guest on “Meet the Press” — the Thunderdome of real news — as he was trying to mount a bogus campaign for president (abandoned Monday). Colbert stayed in character. So did Tim Russert, grilling Colbert as if he were a real candidate, of sorts.
The exchange vexed Ana Marie Cox, Washington editor, who rightly ridiculed the stunt as “painfully so-ironic-it-was-unironic.” Cox has a good ear for such things: Her own meteoric rise started with her tenure as the founding Wonkette blogger, where she mocked newsmakers the way robots mocked bad movies on “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
Except with 100% more butt-sex than MST3K.
Cox sized up the Colbert-Russert show as cringe-worthy — bad journalism because it was bad entertainment.
No, it was simply bad entertainment, unless you consider it news that Tim Russert has the quick wit and comic timing of your average boozed-up heckler at the Funnybone.  Bad journalism, on the other hand, pretty much has to be taken as entertainment, since it not only fails to provide what it purports to — information — but actually succeeds in dispensing the opposite.  So either the smug yet furious blowhard you see on “The O’Reilly Factor” is a comic persona like Andy Kaufman’s Tony Clifton character, or he’s a grotesque whipped up by the sideshown performers in Freaks after they finished with Olga Baclanova.  Either way, he’s pretty damn funny.
Indeed, while the network news broadcasts are sustained by the consumers of denture cream, adult diapers and pharmacological marital aides, it’s “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” that have a grip on the hip, iPhone crowd. And plenty of those younger viewers seem to believe that they can deduce what’s going on in the real world from jokes on a fake newscast. It’s no longer funny because it’s true. It’s true because it’s funny.
The obvious solution is to read Jonah’s column, which isn’t true and isn’t funny.
Now that’s begging the question.
Case in point.  (For this joke to work, by the way, you need to imagine that peppy music they always played at the end of a Love American Style vignette, when Gary Collins and Mary Ann Mobley would figure out it was all just a big misunderstanding, and then we’d go to a 60 second pantomime bit on a beach with Stuart Margolin and Carla Borelli, just before we cut to the commercial for Pillsbury Space Food Sticks.)
The problem of parsing fact from fiction, news from entertainment, has been inherent to broadcast journalism from the beginning. Radio newsman Walter Winchell got his start in vaudeville. 
Of course, Winchell was primarily a gossip columnist, when he wasn’t busy egging on Joe McCarthy, and his contributions to hard news are roughly equivalent to those of his contemporary, J. Fred Muggs, except the chimp was less of a shameless red-baiter.
But in the modern era, I blame “Murphy Brown,” the show about a fictional TV newswoman who talked about real newsmakers as if they were characters on her sitcom. When Brown had a baby out of wedlock, Vice President Dan Quayle criticized the writers of the show. Liberals then reacted as though Quayle had insulted a real person.
Whenever Jonah gets his facts exactly backwards, I often waste time trying to decide if he’s lazy, ignorant, or a liar, before I calm down and remember that, as Jonah comes from a cube-shaped world whose inhabitants butcher personal pronouns, this is really more of a diversity issue.  In our culture, of course, liberals laughed at Dan Quayle for attacking a fictional character as though it were a real person (if Dan were still around today, I can imagine the finger-wagging denunciations: “Hester Prynne is a bigger threat to the stability of the two-parent family than homosexual marriage!”).
Ever since, journalists and politicians have been playing themselves in movies and TV series, perhaps trying to disprove the cliche that Washington is Hollywood for ugly people.
Or we could simply prove the cliche by casting the entire NRO Corner staff in the next season of Big Brother.

23 Responses to “Faux Author Fakes Outrage Over Phony News. Fictitious Film At Eleven”

And Moby No-Dick got his journalistic training from where,again?
Same strip mall where O’Reilly got his?
I don’t know how y’all do it, honestly. Just the vignettes were enough to make me want to portray my Linda Blair impersonation as stock footage of an ebola victim.
Gawd, you actually read what that chunk of corn in a turd writes?
I’d rather slam my dick in the dresser drawer for an hour.
Anyone else notice Kevin Drum running his own worst-post-of-all-time and having WoC’s very-own Top Wingnut Hinderaker “genius” post also come out the winner there? Two ringing endorsements…
Jonah Goldberg: surely a Dick, just not as a member of the Grammar Police.
(I wrote that as I was reading. I had no idea there’d be a half-dozen dick jokes by the time I got to comments, though I should have suspected as much.)
I gotta tell ya, there’s little I enjoy more than hearing a rapidly-approaching-forty blob composed primarily of Cheetos and unbaked cookie dough making with the adult diapers and Viagra jokes. You’ve got three years, tops, left on that prostate warranty, Goldberg. Ever owned a Ford product?
And just for the record, not that “the record” has anything to do with columns written by a guy who has, in a decade, failed to get one single fact that happened before his thirtieth birthday correct, and precious little thereafter, but the Daily Show is a “fake news program” in the sense that it, well, fakes being a news program. It does not actually fake any news, outside of obvious bits of schtick,and is, in fact, about the only place on teevee where actual news is placed in a context more than 72 hours old.
Mr. Bailey, an hour? Even a minute sounds like too much for me, and I don’t even have a… Well, you know.
Gathering from what I’ve gathered from Jonahland, he’s scarcely better endowed in that department than I. Just enough, I imagine, for him to fill in M in the box for “sex” on the California DMV forms. (I can personally attest that the DMV does not check its applicants.) Jonah probably thought that the letter was shorthand for “Me?”
Jonah is just whiny because he realized how shallow his gene pool really is.
MMMMMM, space food sticks. Where’s my TANG?
Sooo, he seems to be saying that since the line between journalism and entertainment has been getting blurrier and blurrier since the Walter Winchel days (not to be confused with Winchell’s Donuts, where I used to be a Fry Cook. So I know that *I* at least will always be able to get a job). Anyway. Thanks to Murphy Brown it’s OK for FISA (Formerly Intelligent Sane Americans) have a fake news conference and say its real. Am I correct? anyhow, I wish hollywood would make a Murphy Brown Special Movie of the Week thing. I’d watch it, or at least read the reviews. The good ones. I’m off to take little one to doctor’s. she’s been throwing up a lot.
I can’t help it. I look at Jonah, I read his crap, and I wonder if he wouldn’t have been half-normal with a different upbringing. I’m sure “charming” isn’t in his repertoire, even in a parallel universe where he was rescued from wingnuttitude at a young age, but perhaps he could have been given a more realistic view of his intelligence and talent, and wound up endearingly dorky and of uncertain ambition.
He’s like Lileks and Shapiro. They could have been… harmless. It makes me sad.
Kathy, I hope it’s nothing serious.
Jonah’s attacking a fictional character for blurring the lines between education and journalism? He better watch his ass; a former US vice president picked a fight with that same fictional character and got his cojones handed to him on a platter. He’d do better to pick on someone with similar physical and mental characteristics to his own, such as the Pillsbury Doughboy.
Doc today says Jesse has croup, just like the doc 2 days ago. It’s just a bad case. when she’s not throwing up she’s happily watching Futurama, glad not to be in school “learning stuff”.
Lileks’ problem is more fundamental than fundamentalist–Midwestern high schooler from ’72-76 or thereabouts, about the time the Sixties arrived on the Prarie, he spends his formative years as a sarcastic wimp while lesser intellects listen to Grand Funk Railroad, get high, and get laid. And beat the shit out of him, probably. He idolizes linoleum now because it’s the last thing any cool kids would have done then. Little Benji (is he still alive? I’ve been wondering if the time warp that kept him a 15-year-oldwunderkind for seven years suddenly reversed and he’s now a 73-year-old Jewish man throwing rocks at seagulls on Miami Beach). I can’t find a single redeeming quality in him; I’m sure he was drilled with the same flashcards as Jonah (they even cough up the same ahistoricalisms from time to time), but he seems like someone who’d have turned into the smirking little wiener who locked the handyman in the shed anyway. But Jonah, yeah. Every column reinforces the idea that inside that doughy body there’s another, slightly less doughy body, screaming to be let out and allowed to run away.
The problem of parsing fact from fiction…
For a minute there, knowing it was Doughly Pantload writing, I thought that paragraph began with “The problem of passing fart from fiction…”
Then again, that pretty much sums up everything he’s ever written.
I know it’s a minor point, but could we get over that freaking “That’s not what ‘begs the question’ means!” thing?
I really understand the desire to correct other people’s usage, but the meaning of “begs the question” changed because English changed, and the original meaning became nearly impossible to parse.
The modern, lay interpretation is this:
This argument begs [one to ask] the question.
The classic meaning is apparently:
This argument begs [one to accept] the [argument at] question.
It relies on “question” also having a meaning of “premise”, which it doesn’t really have in the meaning of modern English.
Secondly, it’s a subtype of the fallacy of circular reasoning, and a quick online search shows that some people consider “begging the question” and “circular reasoning” to be synonymous.
For others, it’s distinct from general circular reasoning in such a fine way that I still don’t understand the difference.
Which, to me, means that in a lay discussion the term is nearly useless; it’s harder to parse and contains no more information then if you simply called it circular reasoning.
No good can come from making logic opaque to the average person.
thanks for reading Jonah for us…i know i cant
and with a mother like his —- the fruitcake doesnt fall far from the old hag
It’s the high-falutin’ words attached to cretinous ideas that really irks me.
No good can come from making logic opaque to the average person.
Left by Christopher
Well, that can be problematic
*grinning, running, ducking*
People! People!
You may have more in common with the Doughy one than you think. He is equating Bush-appointed officials with comedians.
Who amongst us can disagree that there are indeed similarities?
Kathy! Give the kiddo my love (preferably from behind a HAZMAT suit, so that you are not similarly stricken!) and tell her that Futurama will warp her brain until she’s as sarcastic as I am! Okay, so it’s not nice to frighten crouping chirrens, but honestly, would YOU want your kid to turn out like me?!??!!?
And even though S.Z. doesn’t love me anymore, I’m still waiting for the review of the book written by Lucianne, the Arizona-dry hellmouth (I swear I saw tumbleweeds!) that spat forth Doughy Pantload onto the planet, that I sent S.Z. aaaaaaages ago…
Hey, a bitch can dream, dammit.
Who amongst us can disagree that there are indeed similarities?
Left by Doodle Bean
Comedians are funny.
Did Jonah really say that the writers of Murphy Brown weren’t real people?
How discriminatory! Writers are people, too, and they have the overpriced education to show it!
And some of us wasted those entire educations in the process of thinking that we could make a living at it.

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