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June 26, 2003

Who we are. Via Altercation, this interesting view of American deference to authority, from Justin Webb, Washington correspondent for the BBC:
Just before the Iraq war, [well-known British TV news anchor and interviewer] David Dimbleby came to Washington to interview Donald Rumsfeld. They talked for half an hour. As you would expect, the questioning was persistent, forensic. Americans who heard the interview were shocked. The world’s most powerful nation does not have the world’s most powerful press. Specifically, it has no daily forum for the close questioning of politicians—no Today programme, no Channel 4 News, no Newsnight.

Incredibly—in this cultural and political superpower, in this supposed beacon of world freedom—radio stations were reduced to running interviews with experts from the BBC on their airwaves; a plucky station in Boston laid on an hour-long discussion and phone-in to follow the broadcast, during which I had to explain to the listeners that this kind of thing happened all the time in Britain.

What surprised people most was the style. Mr Rumsfeld’s answers were followed up. His reasoning was tested. He was put on the spot and not allowed to leave it. When Dimbleby asked him why he had repeatedly referred to the “so-called” occupied territories of the West Bank, Mr Rumsfeld said he might have done it once but certainly not repeatedly.

Dimbleby had the dates and occasions in front of him. The Defence Secretary was forced to concede the point.

What a far cry it was from the Donald Rumsfeld Americans know and love. Strutting his stuff on the Pentagon podium, Mr Rumsfeld is lord and master of all he surveys. The Defence hacks titter nervously at each other and hope to get off with as light a beating as possible. Difficult questions are avoided; difficult questioners are lampooned. Anyone who persists is taken out and beaten senseless. (I made that up, but the atmosphere is genuinely one of laughing menace; a truly independent spirit would not enjoy being a Pentagon correspondent. The Today programme’s Andrew Gilligan would not get through the door.)

Of course, as we all know, America is the land of plucky defiance. Don’t Tread On Us. And Europe is where they just don’t get it about that freedom stuff. Anyway, that’s our storyline and we’re sticking to it.

Not for the first time, I’m reminded of Ken MacLeod’s improvisation, in a long-ago Usenet discussion, of a line of Euro-jingoism grounded in generalizations every bit as valid as the usual American self-love:

This is Europe. We took it from nobody; we won it from the bare soil that the ice left. The bones of our ancestors, and the stones of their works, are everywhere. Our liberties were won in wars and revolutions so terrible that we do not fear our governors: they fear us. Our children giggle and eat ice-cream in the palaces of past rulers. We laugh at popes. We snap our fingers at kings.
The point wasn’t that this is true; it was that this is easily as true as any portrayal of a country with a cowed national media and a fear-entranced populace as “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” [02:05 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Who we are.:

Yehudit ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 02:27 PM:

I've seen and heard lots of hard-hitting interviews and dissections in American media too. Sweeping statement based on cherry-picked examples.

When the Europeans start challenging Arafat and his buddies with the same fervor they do Rumsfeld, let me know.

Yehudit ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 02:30 PM:

If the Europeans actually had that attitude described by Ken Macleod, they wouldn't be putting up with EU bureaucracy and obfuscation, and making excuses for terrorists. A European people that actually felt that way would not have allowed Hitler or Munich 72 to happen. I wish they did have that attitude, but they don't.

Some of the English do, and the Eastern Europeans do, but not Old Europe.

Mark ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 03:39 PM:

Could you give us an example of such an interview? Bonus points for one having to do with Iraq or terrorism.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 04:11 PM:

Yehudit, if the Europeans actually had that attitude, Patrick wouldn't have written "The point wasn't that this is true" in his last paragraph. If you'd actually read that paragraph -- really read it, rather than just scanning for keywords -- and been interested in conversing honestly, you wouldn't have written what you wrote.

Derek James ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 04:21 PM:

Here's the transcript of the Dimbleby interview of Rumsfeld.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2819931.stm

I wouldn't necessarily call it hard-hitting journalism. He asks some very fair, direct questions. He also asks a few very loaded, leading questions. For example:

Dimbleby: So what do you say to what the French are putting forward? You need more time, things are working. I mean, the French Foreign Minister yesterday, for instance, and I know your view of France is that it's old Europe and you don't really count it or rank it very high. But he said, you can't -

Rumsfeld: I don't know that you ought to be putting words in my mouth.

The journalist is obviously trying to provoke here. He could just as easily have asked Rumsfeld what he thought of France or the French position. I mean, why not just ask, "Now then, you referred to France as 'Old Europe', and it's obvious you think they're a lot of spineless, wine-sipping morons, so did the reaction to your baseless, vicious verbal attack suprise you in any way?"

Is this the ideal we should be aiming for in journalism in America?

And as an example of a good, direct interviewer, I'd point to Tim Russert. He grilled Howard Dean reasonably well last Sunday:

http://www.msnbc.com/news/912159.asp

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 04:52 PM:

"And as an example of a good, direct interviewer, I'd point to Tim Russert."

Sometimes, comment is superfluous.

Jon Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 05:12 PM:

Aw, heck, I don't watch Meet the Press. Who's Tim Russert and why aren't we commenting on him?

Copeland Morris ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 05:27 PM:

I recently heard someone quote Vladimir Nabokov, who said, "Curiosity is insubordination in its purest form."

But in terms of weapons of mass destruction and the scandal of misinformation, Lewis H. Lapham says in the June 2003 Harper's Magazine "The absence of objection on the part of the American people and the American news media suggested that the truth did not matter, that motive was irrelevant, that the Bush Administration was free to do as it pleased".

This Administration says we are liberators not occupiers, it says you are with us or you are against us, that privacy is respectable but total information awareness is in your interest. Never mind that we built Saddam; the important thing is that we took him down.

Principled people, whether liberal or conservative, must realize that these "writers" of public policy in the White House have no respect for their readers, or for the curiosity that makes civic responsibility possible.

Derek James ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 06:00 PM:

Sometimes, comment is superfluous.

And sometimes a glib remark is easier than actually substantiating your viewpoint.

Darren "Doc Nebula" Madigan ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 06:01 PM:

Kowtowing to authority isn't an American thing, or a French thing, or a Polish thing, or a German thing. It's just a human thing. It's part of the human race. We are, largely, a herd creature. We do, largely, take the path of least resistance. We will, for the most part, happily graze behind fences if the pasturage is lush enough.

Americans, by and large, like to believe that we're different. Sinclair Lewis summed that up, ironically, with his book title IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE... which for all that it was published in the mid 1930s, is still a frighteningly credible dangerous vision today. But it can happen here, and as I've said several times in other chat threads on this blog, it is happening here. Americans are just as susceptible to the Following Orders Syndrome as any other humans... there's a comfort and a safety in delegating one's free will to some trusted authority figure; it seems counter intuitive that anyone should ever have to accept blame for simply doing what they were told by someone in a uniform. And, as Lucy van Pelt once taught us, having a document that absolves one of all blame is very comforting.

Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 06:14 PM:

Yup, herd creatures. True. That explains why this chap finds himself a national hero:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3018456.stm

Adam Rice ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 08:16 PM:

I visited Australia back in '93, and watched a little TV. I saw, among other things, an interview between a journalist and some government minister, who was explaining why the blatantly unqualified nominee for Attorney General was the most qualified man for the job.

The journalist responded "Oh, come off it!"

I would love to see more of that here in the USA. Politicians routinely say things that don't even pass the laugh test, and they're not called on it--what--out of politeness?

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 09:02 PM:

Jon, its because last week Russert on Meet the Press (MTP) went after Dean on whether Dean was actually for a tax increase. Many observers scored the exchange as a stong hit on Dean -- but there was one problem, as presented by Michael Tomalsky in The American Prospect:

Russert confronted Dean with the "fact" that a repeal of both major Bush tax cuts would lead to a $1,933 tax increase for a couple earning $40,000.

Usually, these kinds of figures come from an independent source of some kind -- the Congressional Budget Office or not-for-profit tax study groups, which generally tilt in one direction or the other but at least are not an official arm of the government.

But in this case, Russert went to the Treasury Department for his figures. He said as much on the air, so at least he didn't try to hide it. But it's still an extraordinary thing: These were not numbers the Treasury Department had sitting around, ready to shoot off in an email to MTP when a researcher called looking for some "oppo" (that is, opposition research), as is normally the case. Here, an independent news organization went to a sitting administration, asked it to work up numbers for its benefit, and then used those numbers to launch what amounted to a rhetorical sting operation on a candidate of the other party.

Do you suppose MTP ever asked the Clinton administration to produce research proving that the Harry and Louise ad campaign against the Clinton health plan was full of lies? Or asked the Gore campaign to offer up a study debunking Bush's explanation of how he'd cut billions in taxes and keep the surplus going?

And it goes without saying -- except it matters, so I'll say it -- that the research was selective. The analysis excluded single people and low-income couples -- the two groups that benefit least from the tax cuts.

So if you you think a lot of the "mainstream media" have been sounding like GOP spokespeople, you are not paranoid. It's just that they like someone to do their research for them, and don't really care who. And somehow, this hasn't been such a big story in the So Called Liberal Media.

edub ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 09:17 PM:

PNH writes:
Sometimes, comment is superfluous.

Derek James writes:
And sometimes a glib remark is easier than actually substantiating your viewpoint.

Derek, are you new around these parts?


Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 10:03 PM:

Oh, we do plenty of substantiating our viewpoints around here. We also notice who engages in good faith, and who slithers away in search of new angles of attack. Time was when I could be head-tripped by this. Not any more.

By the way, Darren, "kowtowing to authority" may or may not be "a human thing," but explaining it by saying "We are, largely, a herd creature" is close to meaningless. Primates are "herd creatures" insofar as they tend to hang out with other primates of their species; in this they are similar to most other large mammals--except, um, when they don't. In other words, saying that we're "herd creatures" is one of those assertions that sounds very authoritatively scientific ("Quant suff!"), while actually saying almost nothing.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 10:08 PM:

Avram Grumer, of course, is a primate who can read, and who gets that my point was neither to denounce Americans or exalt them, nor to extoll Europeans or condemn them.

Rather, I'm struck by how invested people get in their storylines, and how everything gets subsequently bent to fit. You always knew that when the day came that Americans were quaking in their boots and trading away their birthright as free men and women, they'd be doing it while telling themselves how brave and free and gutsy they are to be doing it, and what "weenies" those foreigners are, the ones lacking in Freedom. Do I think the foreigners are any different, in their human mix of glory and frailty? Oh, come on.

the talking dog ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 10:17 PM:

Well, most Americans get their news and information from... the television networks. We all know the biases of the Fox network; I daresay, an interview of Rumsfeld would involve some level of rhetorical fellatio. Viacom, a media giant owning not one but TWO networks, likes not to make waves, while it quietly supports relaxation of regulations hindering its expansion. Disney controls ABC-- I think its interests are similar to Viacom's-- deferential as a corporate matter.

And as to those who mention Mr. Russert-- why, he is an employee of the General Electric Corporation-- one of the world's leading DEFENSE CONTRACTORS. I shudder to begin to describe what would go through HIS mind during an interview with the SecDef. Just think about (former GE employee) Peter Arnett.

The newspapers, while somewhat more independent, are, well, not all that independent.

The British have a powerful government sponsored INDEPENDENT media outlet in the BBC. Our counterparts are the quirky PBS and NPR-- interesting, different from the networks, but in the end, not very powerful (only us gen-u-ine li-bo-rals tend to pay attention to these anyway).

So-- I submit that media consolidation has taken its toll-- and has greatly helped the compliant media along.

That and the fact, that in the end, most Americans really ARE like a herd of stupid sheep who don't want to be challenged and probably get uncomfortable seeing their government challenge, have worked their magic.

Derek James ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 10:31 PM:

Patrick writes: Oh, we do plenty of substantiating our viewpoints around here. We also notice who engages in good faith, and who slithers away in search of new angles of attack. Time was when I could be head-tripped by this. Not any more.

Who, exactly, has done the slithering and angling so far in this exchange?

I posted an opinion, with links to two interviews, one by the British journalist mentioned in the post, the other by Tim Russert.

I think Dimbleby asked some good questions, be he occasionally asked inflammatory ones...thus I don't see him being the paragon of journalism, juxtaposed with the seemingly spineless, unprofessional norm of American journalists portrayed in this post.

But my view was dismissed as so ludicrous as to be beneath comment. You're telling me that's discussion in good faith?

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 10:46 PM:

Derek, did you read the follows-up here? It's possible that if Russert hadn't just spent the weekend being a mouthpiece for the Committee to Elect the President (by using unlabelled Bush campaign "facts" to club Howard Dean with), your comment might not have seemed so ... dismissable. But he did, and it did.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 10:57 PM:

"I think Dimbleby asked some good questions, be he occasionally asked inflammatory ones...thus I don't see him being the paragon of journalism, juxtaposed with the seemingly spineless, unprofessional norm of American journalists portrayed in this post.

"But my view was dismissed as so ludicrous as to be beneath comment. You're telling me that's discussion in good faith?

I reproduce the above, because it's a remarkable attempt to mischaracterize an exchange which can, after all, be re-read in the original by anyone willing to scroll up a little bit.

You made a claim about "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert. I thought it was ridiculous, and said so. Now you're trying to portray the exchange as if I'd been referring to your remarks about BBC interviewer David Dimbleby.

You're not even trying to hide your card-palming, are you? I can't imagine what you think you're accomplishing with this kind of obvious rhetorical trick. And, as Frances McDormand asks at the end of Fargo, for what?

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 11:21 PM:

Yehudit -- why should anyone bother "let[ting] [you] know"? You obviously haven't been paying attention; I listen to the BBC a fair amount because they're relayed by WBUR (local NPR), and I see that they don't take rhetoric and do demand answers from everyone (on all sides) that they put on the air.

You're not the only person not paying attention; WBUR is in financial trouble because various Comittees to Give Israel Everything its Fanatics Want has persuaded some local donors to stop giving, ignoring the fact that the stories WBUR relays aren't necessarily favorable to either side.

Derek James ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 11:50 PM:

To answer edub's question from earlier in the post: No, I've commented here a few times before, and invariably I'm met with the same reaction. Dismissed, belittled, and then accused of dirty pool.

Don't know why I bother.

Patrick, I didn't comment here to "slither", "angle", or "palm cards" (but the ad homs sure do make a fella feel welcome). I invariably post in a given forum in an attempt at intellectual exchange.

Your original post paints European journalists as brave thinkers, willing to challenge leaders in a way that American journalists, broadly depicted by yourself as jellyfish, are not. I disagree with a counterexample, and am met with derision. Am I still mischaracterizing the exchange?

But I got it. Russert's a shill for the GOP, basically for using the Treasury Department as a source of information...and I'm an idiot for thinking otherwise.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 12:03 AM:

"Your original post paints European journalists as brave thinkers, willing to challenge leaders in a way that American journalists, broadly depicted by yourself as jellyfish, are not."

If you weren't, in fact, obviously smart, I would explain again that my original post wasn't in the service of any such argument. I would point out that my central point wasn't Boo Americans, Yay Europeans; it's about the dogged attachment of people everywhere have to their established storylines, no matter what. Counting the original post, this is now the third time I've explained this.

But you are, in fact, obviously smart. You know this; you've made a conscious moral decision to talk shit anyway. Presumably you're comfortable with this. I'm comfortable with my opinion of you for doing it.

edub ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 12:24 AM:

Derek:

Thanks for sticking around. I was being facetious, I admit, but I'm curious why you would nominate Tim Russert as an example of a hard-hitting American journalist. His track record is pretty bleak, and I would make that statement even if his concocted MTP interview with Dean had never occurred.

Jane Yolen ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 01:26 AM:

Re: Speaking of people who stick to their own storylines, the above exchange (not exactly an accurate word here since there was no actually change involved) with Mr. James is fascinating.

Jane

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 01:44 AM:

Talking Dog: I really, really, really would have preferrred that you not use Rumsfeld and fellatio in the same sentence even if it was rhetorical. Ick ick ick. Make it stop.

MKK

Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 04:00 AM:

Back in December, I blogged an exchange in an interview that the Guardian did with Tony Blair: Blair pointed out that in the last Iraqi election, despite huge efforts, only a third of the people had voted -- to which White, quick as a flash, replied "a bit like Britain". It really is hard to imagine an American journalist treating his president like that.

Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 04:05 AM:

And, in the Dimbleby case, I think he's beig perfectly fair. It is germane tothe question that Rumsfeld despises the French and was determined to have the war whatever anyone said. Phrasing the question like that was a way to remind the views. Talking as if Rumsfled were a reasonable man, interested in soliciting the opinions of his allies is colluding in a lie. If someone talks softly and carries a big stick, the journalist needs constantly to remind us of the club behind the words.

Darren "Doc Nebula" Madigan ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 04:23 AM:

PNH gives me, rather idly and without much effort, the back of his hand:

"By the way, Darren, "kowtowing to authority" may or may not be "a human thing," but explaining it by saying "We are, largely, a herd creature" is close to meaningless. Primates are "herd creatures" insofar as they tend to hang out with other primates of their species; in this they are similar to most other large mammals--except, um, when they don't. In other words, saying that we're "herd creatures" is one of those assertions that sounds very authoritatively scientific ("Quant suff!"), while actually saying almost nothing."

Hmmm. Apparently everybody here must back up every statement they make with actual examples, unless PNH is in a good mood when he reads their posts, or just kinda likes them anyway, in which case, they can simply declare, in vast sweeping tones, thesis statements like:

"Of course, as we all know, America is the land of plucky defiance. Don’t Tread On Us. And Europe is where they just don’t get it about that freedom stuff. Anyway, that’s our storyline and we’re sticking to it."

That humans are herd creatures strikes me as obvious, and I will, if you like, back it up at tiresome length with observations from my own life (such as the fact that if four different people walk into Wal-green's at four different times, spaced anywhere from two to four minutes apart, they will, nonetheless, completely independently to all observation, proceed to the cashier AT THE SAME TIME; I've seen this over and over again in my life), but nonetheless, in my post, it was a thesis statement. I was saying (and I'm a good writer, and everyone here is quite intelligent, so I'm sure y'all got it) that humans, for the most part, have an instinctive tendency to conform; it has to do with our biology and our evolutionary make up, and Americans should not pride themselves on being anything different from every other tribe of human, because we are not, and if we were, we would be some sort of non-human, which might or might not be something to be proud of (different discussion)... but we are not, and we should simply accept it.

Now, I don't know what I did to get the PNH Bitch Slap, at least, in this comment thread... I'm pretty sure I'm not the first person on this blog to state something I believe to be true, and that I believe is obviously true, without endlessly extolling examples of why I think it's true... but, if I did do something to deserve a casually contemptuous rawhiding from PNH, well, still... how is it, exactly, that 'of course, as we all know, America is the Land of Plucky Defiance'? This strikes me as one of those jingoistic pop culture assertions that sounds very authoritative, while actually saying almost nothing. Perhaps I could have an exhaustive list of examples showing that, indeed, 'we all know, of course, that America is the Land of Plucky Defiance'?

I suspect there are many many in your audience, Patrick (that would be the 'we' who 'all know') who 'know' (which is your ironic way of saying 'take for granted' or 'fervently believe', I think), no such thing. Yes, us native born Yanks like to think we sneer at the rest of the world, and... um... gee... hasn't the liberal intelligentsia been smacking America around considerably over the last several years for, um, sneering at the world? So... how is it that we all know we are the land of plucky defiance? And if we all know this, how is it that we aren't, actually, the land of plucky defiance?

I think it's, well, uncivil (as in, a potentially ludicrous violation of any kind of social contract) to point at one person's generalization and sneer contemptuously at them for not backing it up exhaustively, when this is something that pretty much everyone does when trying to communicate a complex idea in a tiny little text window.

But if you're annoyed at me for something, Patrick, say so. If you don't think I'm quite up to the level of discourse here, well, I don't either, but I'm enjoying it anyway. Even when you take me out behind the barn (in full view of the entire audience at home, of course) and kick the living crap out of me for not much at all.

Oliver Morton ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 04:38 AM:

The thing that gets me about American political interviews is the incredible "always nice to have you on the show" "welcome back" stuff -- for a denizen of the British journalistic culture it verges on the surreal. That said, "hard hitting" British broadcast journalism of the "why is this bastard lying to me" variety is often counter productive -- John Humphreys on the Today programe is often unlistenably ineffective, and Jeremy Paxman's affectation of world weary disdain can grate. (Paxman does have flashes of brilliance, though, such as repeating the same question 13, or maybe 17, times when the answer was evasive. This seems no less impressive even though we now know it was done in part because the next item on teh programme was held up by a technical snafu, he had to fill and he didn't have anywhere else to go with his line of questioning.) I remember Paxman interviewing Jack Kemp some years ago, though and getting nowhere; after a minute or so, Kemp simply said something like "I don't understand -- is this an interview designed to get at my views or a debate about the issue". Wrong footed Paxman completely.

Incidentally, I have no brief for Tim Russert (though I have on occasion enjoyed his technique of providing old footage of his interviewee saying something that, in the context of their current position, they would rather the audience forgot) or GE, but does GE really count as "one of the world's leading DEFENSE CONTRACTORS." It is not a prime contractor on anything much -- it doesn't design or build military systems of any size; it has sold off quite a lot of defense businesses it used to own, IIRC. It does have a big business making jet engines, and a lot of them get sold to the military around teh world, making it the 16th biggest defense company in 2002 (on a five year average I think it runs in the 20s). But its military business is less that 2% of its total business. Lockheed, on the other hand, is 93% defense.

Derek James ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 09:11 AM:

Patrick writes: If you weren't, in fact, obviously smart, I would explain again that my original post wasn't in the service of any such argument. I would point out that my central point wasn't Boo Americans, Yay Europeans; it's about the dogged attachment of people everywhere have to their established storylines, no matter what. Counting the original post, this is now the third time I've explained this.

Oh, I see. You weren't making a point about American vs. European journalism, or patricular American worldviews, or anything along those lines. It was just a broad point about people sticking to storylines. Any other example would have done as nicely. Silly me, focusing on the particulars and missing the forest for the trees.

You're obviously intelligent yourself, so do you expect anyone to believe this insistence that you weren't actually saying anything beyond "People sure do stick to their storylines"?

But you are, in fact, obviously smart. You know this; you've made a conscious moral decision to talk shit anyway.

As you've pointed out, anyone is free to scroll up and read the exchange. It should be clear who first lowered the level of discourse, and who continues to do so.

David Wilford ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 09:53 AM:

On a more humble note, as a semi-regular late night BBC listener (via Wisconsin Public Radio), I had the pleasure to recently hear an American Enterprise Institute flack interviewed by a reporter who did not shirk her responsibilities as a journalist by allowing dubious assertions to go unquestioned. I occasionally hear the same done on local public radio, but on the NPR level there seems to be a sort of gentleman's agreement to not persist past a certain point.

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 12:40 PM:

Yehudit wrote: Some of the English do, and the Eastern Europeans do, but not Old Europe.

Hmm. As a Scot, I'm interested to see that apparently my nation (along with Wales and Northern Ireland) falls into the spineless "Old Europe" category. Evidently, in Yehudit's eyes, Scots, Northern Irish, and Welsh, just don't have enough spine to stand up against national governments, European bureaucracy, and Yasser Arafat.

Daryl McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 12:53 PM:

Derek James wrote:

But I got it. Russert's a shill for the GOP, basically for using the Treasury Department as a source of information...and I'm an idiot for thinking otherwise.

Well, yeah. There was nothing particularly brave about Russert challenging Dean, who's basically a nobody. If he had similarly taken on Rumsfeld or Cheney or Bush, that would have shown some guts.

Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 12:55 PM:

Darren "Doc Nebula" Madigan: (such as the fact that if four different people walk into Wal-green's at four different times, spaced anywhere from two to four minutes apart, they will, nonetheless, completely independently to all observation, proceed to the cashier AT THE SAME TIME; I've seen this over and over again in my life)

I hate it when this happens: I get dealt two black aces, open the preflop betting for a raise, and get four callers, including both blinds. The flop is jack-high with two hearts, and I and the player on the button get into a raising war, with the other three players along for the ride. The turn card is a total blank (I bet, the button raises, I call, nobody else drops out), but the river card is the deuce of hearts. The player in the small blind now leads out, and it's sure as eggs is eggs that she's made her flush. I fold with confidence, but the clever player on the button makes a crying call and shows QJo. The small blind, holding the ten and trey of hearts, takes down a monster pot. I've seen this happen over and over again in my life. Aces are no damn good in this game!

Every poker player with many hours of play under the belt has hundreds of stories like this to tell — they're called "bad beat" stories, and players are sick unto death of hearing them, although this never stops us from telling our own. We remember painfully the times our pocket aces get cracked by garbage hands, but never keep track of the number of times they hold up on the river ... or even take down the pot uncontested after betting out on the flop.

What's the point of this analogy? It is that the human mind is more likely to notice and remember the unusual than it is the commonplace. Does it stick out in your mind when you go into a near-empty Walgreens, find your toothpaste (or whatever), and immediately buy it without waiting at the cashier?

The above is an argument that just because you noticed something happen "over and over again," this doesn't mean it's correct to conclude that what happens isn't happening more than one should expect it to happen randomly.

Here's another situation. A person who works an 8-to-5 job takes lunch from 12:00 to 1:00. After she eats her lunch, she goes into Walgreens to pick up dental floss and some vitamin C tablets. She finds the floss quickly, but spends a few minutes looking at the various sorts of vitamins to choose from. The more expensive natural C with rose hips, or the cheaper white tablets? 500 mg or 1000 mg? She glances at her watch and notices that she has five minutes left to get back to her office, and settles for the cheaper 500 mg tablets. There's a line at the checkout counter — that's strange, the place was almost empty when she came in!

Is this indication of a "herd instinct," or instead an indication that people who shop in Walgreens during their lunch hours tend to want to finish their shopping on the hour and half-hour, due to clock-watching in the workplace?

(One argument claims that your perception of the checkout-line effect isn't necessarily a real effect. Another describes a model for it that has nothing do do with "herd instinct." Did I palm a card, and am I contradicting myself?)

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 01:05 PM:

As Terry Pratchett has pointed out, one of the many things that are true but that nobody believes is, “Sometimes things just happen.”

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 01:40 PM:

Darren: If you think that was a 'pnh bitch slap' or a 'rawhiding' I hope Patrick does not in fact ever get pissed at you. And I think you're misunderstanding what he said anyway. Nowhere in what you quoted do I see a request for examples. I'm not quite sure how you're deriving that.

What he said was that saying we're herd animals doesn't explain much while appearing to do so. And I think he's going at the wrong angle anyhow. We aren't herd animals, we're pack animals. Yeah, there's a difference, lots of them really. Consider the differences in behavior, structure, interaction and psychology between a wolf pack and a herd of gazelles.

MKK

Realish ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 02:02 PM:

Here's a conjecture: perhaps some of the difference in journalism is due to the fact that Americans treat everyone famous (including, increasingly, politicians) as celebrities. We expect celebrities to come on TV and do their schtick, act their role, be "the hot one" or "the defiant one" or the "cool cucumber," etc. It's a reality show.

What sense would it make if, for instance, Melissa Gilbert were interviewing J Lo and pressed her on the point, "well, J Lo, you say you're still Jenny from the Block, but how do you explain your obvious haughtiness towards the hoi polloi and your refusal to undertake even the most mundane tasks without professional handlers?" This would be "hard-hitting," yes, but that's just not what we expect from celebrities. It's a buzz-kill, and kind of beside the point.

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 02:20 PM:

Realish, I think you're right. However, although I didn't see it, I was surprised to read a few weeks back that apparently Larry King asked more than a few blunt questions of Hillary Clinton and particular passages in her book when she was on.

Apparently this was a shock to posters at NRO's the Corner who think Larry's an old softie....

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 02:26 PM:

Why is it always “herd” vs. “pack”? Why can’t we be flock animals, or school animals, or pod animals, or — probably most relevant — troop animals?

Is it just that Sheep (or Cattle) vs. Wolves is such an ingrained motif in West Eurasian culture that we can’t let go of it, or is there more to it than that?

Andrew ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 02:34 PM:

Patrick -

I think our media is a little softer than the Brits -- but I think the funadmental difference is that the second-tier politicians in the US (that is, anyone beyond the House and Senate leadership) are free to forum shop.

British TV news is pretty much limited to BBC and ITN. Here, you've got literally dozens of venues to choose from and, people (not least politicians) being both lazy and vain, tend to seek out the forums (fora?) that make them look good.

Of course, British papers have this trait -- a politician who doesn't want to get a tough question can stick with the newspapers which proudly carry the Tory or Labour banner.

Here, naturally enough, the Republicans prefer the infobabes at FOX to let them slide past tough questions. When the Democrats want to defend a policy, they don't flock over to FOX, they'll stick to the friendly confines of Katie Couric, who doesn't tend to ask hard questions and who embraces their general vision.

Tougher journalists would be better, but as the media venue choices grow and grow, I think the forum shopping problem will outstrip any shift in the attitudes of journalists.

But I don't think there's much wrong with this, because the more fundamental solution -- restricting flows of information so politicans have fewer choices in journalist -- is so much worse.

Andrew ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 02:37 PM:

oops, didn't paste this back:

(add to first para: ...the big guys pretty much have to hit a lot of networks and I think do get hit with some tough questions, but even they'll hang out with the folks who make 'em look good)

Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 03:02 PM:

I think it might have been useful to give the original context for that that bit by Ken you quoted, namely the jingoistic piece of drivel from Heinlein he turned on its head to produce this.

Darren "Doc Nebula" Madigan ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 03:24 PM:

Alan:

You're right, of course, there have been times (usually at 3 a.m.) I've walked into Wal-green's, picked out what I wanted, paid for it while chatting at leisure with the cashier, and walked home again. Nonetheless, I stated that this was just the first example that came to mind of what I've observed of a 'group impulse' or 'herd instinct' in humans, and it is. I have many, many more. They don't operate all the time; people obviously don't live in some Madeline L'Engle nightmare WRINKLE IN TIME world where we all do exactly the same things at exactly the same times. I do think, however, that the herd instinct is well enough established that city planners and marketing firms exploit it profitably pretty much all the time.

You are, however, correct, in that we look at patterns and we interpret them, and if there is an objective truth, it can easily be lost beneath our own subjective bias. Perhaps that's what's happening with me here. But, to get back to my original point:

ALL human cultures, not just Germans in the early to mid 20th Century, have a tendency to kowtow to authority. SOME human individuals have just as strong an inbuilt resistance to authority and any sort of structure being imposed on them from without. This isn't anything to be proud or ashamed of; it's largely inborn. Americans may indeed give themselves airs as being 'more free' and 'more individual' and 'more liberty loving' than other tribes, and it's nonsense, just as any sort of oversimplification applied to a vast mass of people will be nonsense.

My conjecture, which PNH stomped on because... well, for whatever reasons he stomped on it... was that this is because humans are, largely, herd creatures. This is not my analogy; I've read it in many, many other places and generally it seems to be an accepted one. Humans dwell mostly in herds, we respond to alpha males, our males compete for leadership of the herd or choose to live in relatively peaceful obscurity, our women for the most part are content to be competed for (and very much prefer the attentions of the alpha male) and every once in a while, a 'rogue' is born who is not comfortable in the herd and prefers to dwell outside it.

We are all, at this point, I note quite cynically, nodding our heads and going 'yep yep yep, that's me, I'm the rogue, I don't like the herd, I think for myself'. Of course you do, comrade. And so do I. And so do all the millions and millions of other non-conformists...

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 03:49 PM:

Darren, I don't wish to put words in PNH's mouth--he's perfectly capable of doing so himself--but I believe the point he was making was that saying "humans are herd animals" (or variants thereof) is extremely useful for explaining the many times that humans act like herd animals, worse than useless for explaining the many times that humans don't act like herd animals, and as such it's a very poor tool for predicting whether an individual or even a group will act in one way or the other in any specific situation.

Gasp... gasp... okay, caught my breath.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 03:52 PM:

My conjecture, which PNH stomped on because... well, for whatever reasons he stomped on it... was that this is because humans are, largely, herd creatures.

And this bit of easy, unoriginal, faux-scientific jargon contributes what exactly to the discussion?

Yes, human beings are social animals ("herd" is probably not the best term), fine, I've said the same thing myself many a time, wouldn't dream of disputing it. What light does this shed upon Patrick's citation of a counter-example to the popular American claim that we Americans are more individualistic than Europeans?

Jon Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 03:55 PM:

I've always thought that conformity is not unlike stupidity. Even the smartest of us does something stupid once in a while, and even the most individualistically minded of us will, well, conform once in a while.

It all just depends on the circumstances.

Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 04:29 PM:

Widly entertaining as it was to watch Paxman ask Howard the same queston 14 times (I counted, live), it was actually a trivial point and it only happened because he was being told they had extra time and needed him to draw it out. I'm not impressed with the depth of his interviews. But, frankly, that they have any depth at all has become refreshing. We used to have a bit of it in America, but lately it seems that only Democrats get that kind of thing from the likes of Russert and King. If Bush had ever had to suffer it, he would already have been impeached - assuming he ever made it to the White House at all.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 05:06 PM:

Mary Kay: Darren: If you think that was a 'pnh bitch slap' or a 'rawhiding' I hope Patrick does not in fact ever get pissed at you.

I concur. I'm an old friend of Patrick's, and he doesn't hesitate when I say something insupportable to swat me down. He has used harsher language than he used with you, too.

I don't think he meant it as nastily as you're taking it. I also don't think continuing the nastiness escalation will help you, him, the other participants, or the quality of discourse here.

Everybody take ten deep breaths...

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 05:09 PM:

MKK writes:

"We aren't herd animals, we're pack animals. Yeah, there's a difference, lots of them really. Consider the differences in behavior, structure, interaction and psychology between a wolf pack and a herd of gazelles."

Tell that to a patch of tender grass shoots...

Sarcastic Southerner ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 06:22 PM:

Tim Russert is a former staffer for the late Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. That's why it's so funny that some of you think that he's in the GOP camp. Though Russert's personal politics are liberal, he is very fair in the way he conducts his interviews. That's why he's been chosen to moderate some past Presidential debates.

Russert's show is the most popular of the Sunday morning political shows because he doesn't let anyone of either party get away with dodging anything.

Someone else who's become very popular in America is Fox News' Bill O'Reilly. While he is partisan, O'Reilly has become the most popular show on cable news because of his hard-hitting interview style.

I'm not sure that Americans aren't changing a little and looking for interviews where people are really forced to answer the questions put to them. A lot of us are sick of politicians changing the subject to repeat their party's talking points.

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 06:29 PM:

Humans dwell mostly in herds, we respond to alpha males, our males compete for leadership of the herd or choose to live in relatively peaceful obscurity, our women for the most part are content to be competed for (and very much prefer the attentions of the alpha male) and every once in a while, a 'rogue' is born who is not comfortable in the herd and prefers to dwell outside it.

I always find it interesting that pseudo-scientific drivel tends to post in terms of "our males" but "our women". Why is that, do you think? And why do I know so many women who think "being competed for" is stupid and who dislike "the attentions of the alpha male"?

Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 06:42 PM:

Sarcastic Southerner, I tend to avoid Sunday morning political shows, and thus don't have much to contribute to political discussions such as this one.

However, you failed to address the complaint against Russert that he's too easy on those in power whom he interviews. If I were a scheming vicious campaign manager, that's exactly the sort of debate moderator I'd favor; someone who will give an appearance of impartiality (perhaps even because he's actually impartial, but that's not important) and unlikely to cause trouble. I probably wouldn't want someone who appeared too partisan for my side, for fear of making it look rigged; and I wouldn't want someone partisan for the other side, for fear that the debate actually would be rigged. I also wouldn't want someone who posed equally-tough questions to both sides, for fear that my guy might look worse.

On the other hand, my poorly-informed impression is that O'Reilly's "hard-hitting interview style" sometimes consists of shouting down the interviewee rather than letting them answer the question. Has O'Reilly ever applied this "hard-hitting" style to say, Secretary Rumsfeld (or any other senior member of the current administration)?

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 07:04 PM:

Sarcastic Southerner writes: "Tim Russert is a former staffer for the late Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan."

Yeah, well, it's amazing what happens to your politics when your paycheck is increased a thousand-fold.

gmontjr ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 09:38 PM:

Yonmei writes: 'I always find it interesting that pseudo-scientific drivel tends to post in terms of "our males" but "our women". Why is that, do you think? And why do I know so many women who think "being competed for" is stupid and who dislike "the attentions of the alpha male"?'

I think, if I'm reading you correctly, that we have to consider that we did evolve as pack creatures with all the attendant ingrained pack behaviors. Add to this our subsequent development of self-awareness and you have the ingredients for individual rebellion against the 'rules' of the pack.
The so-called royalty and 'alphas' in our world would very much like to see the pack rules remain in place. Many omegas would just as soon agree. The more self-aware omegas, however, say the rules are crap, 'I am not something to be competed for!'
More drivel for you.

daveanjo ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 09:54 PM:

dean schmean. russert's worthless for things like hectoring hillary into her senate seat at the debate and, more egregiously, by not following up when wesley clark said he was told "by the white house" to blame 9/11 on saddam. on 9/11!

really, russert's scum

daveanjo ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 09:56 PM:

moynihan was a schmuck, too

--k. ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 12:29 AM:

Tim Russert is a former staffer for the late Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Hmm. And Armistead Maupin used to write for Jesse Helms.

Funny, that...

Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 08:50 AM:

Tim Russert was noticed in Florida during the attempt to get the ballots counted wearing a Bush campaign button on the back of his lapel. During the campaign itself, he regularly phoned the Bush campaign - but not Democrats - for oppo research. His non-partisanship is somewhat suspect. Whatever he used to be, he's no more a Democrat than Strom Thurmond was for the last few decades. And some of us still haven't forgotten this.

Anthony VanWagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 12:55 PM:

Looks like CalPundit can't read either.

But it's all about sticking to the story: After all Patrick could have used the hard-hitting interviews of the BBC with the Palestinian Authority, or their accurate reports on the "massive casualties" for the U.S. in Iraq, or their exhaustive interviews with hospital staff on Jessica Lynch. Oh wait.

Who did you think you were kidding Patrick? Derek James nailed you on this. Write what you think the post is really about in the comments section for the fourth time for all I care. Stick to your own story really. Yeah, I know we can't read. At least we don't work for a company that is putting out books by Terry Goodkind. Ouch. Almost makes you nostalgic for the days when Doherty was putting out V tie-in books.

To temper that last bit, one of your writers in particular is getting it right. Check out this article by Orson Scott Card at: http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2003-06-16-1.html
I wish we could see more of that here.

As for Dean's interview on Meet the former Cuomo Aid, the sad part was that Dean, a man who is running to become the comander and chief, doesn't know the actual number of people actively serving in the military. He had trouble coming into a millionth of the present number. More alarming is the revelation that he doesn't feel that this matter is very important right now, comparing such knowledge to remembering the name of an ambassador.

It's going to be a fun race.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 01:18 PM:

Evidently, your idea of an appropriate way to express your ire at somebody's weblog is to post abusive comments about their employer, their colleagues, and their authors.

Quite an exercise in fair-mindedness. Note taken.

Anthony VanWagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 01:30 PM:

"Note taken." But on all the wrong aspects, it seems. You were the one who was being abusive. i doubt that you will admit this. You receive in kind.

I stand behind my comments. Take note of what your company produces when you put your own readers down for-not reading for comprehension or for quality.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 01:55 PM:

I can’t stand Goodkind’s stuff myself, or Jordan’s, or for that matter 80% of Card’s. But that’s a matter of taste. Whether or not Patrick was being abusive, there’s no call for you to go and abuse tens of thousands of Tor readers who you haven’t even met and dozens if not hundreds of books you obviously haven’t read, if you think Tor doesn’t publish quality books that require a high degree of reading comprehension.

And if you have read those, and you still stand by the assertion that no one from Tor has a right to talk about quality — well, I would advise you to stop before you make a laughingstock of yourself, but it’s probably too late.

Jon Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 02:09 PM:

I must admit, the disemvoweling process is particularly hard on my reading comprehension.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 02:31 PM:

David, he's just looking for a stick to beat me with, and he thinks that the fact that I work for Tor is one.

It's all part of the modern political atmosphere. If you stand up to the better-spoken bullies, you can be sure that their less restrained and more thuggish allies will be along behind them.

Mr Ripley ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 02:52 PM:

Concerning one of Doc's questions --I take Patrick's "we all know" to refer to something like what Socrates called the doxa, or what Delany calls the dominant discourse, or maybe what Atrios calls the CW (conventional wisdom). It's a belief that is so widespread that "everybody" recognizes it, that politicians and advertisers can count on its appeal, that to suggest it's not so is to swim against the mainstream, to engage in "politics", or to contradict "common sense." Doc's "Americans like to believe that we're different" makes a point similar to Patrick's. The conviction of "plucky defiance" is indeed one of "our storylines," and a very persistent one.

Anthony VanWagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 03:10 PM:

Actually, I was standing up to a bully. You really didn't stand up to anyone, Patrick. The nature of your post was revealed by your readers and then you abused them. And it seems now two sentences from my post are being used to ignore the rest: points revolving around CalPundit, Derek James, Orson Scott Card, Dean, and really the true nature of Patrick's original post, which had a bit more to do with it than simply sticking to a story (as the comments did).

If what you are saying is true, why would I bring up Orson Scott Card? ...a writer I believe you edit for Tor...

There are plenty of people at Tor who have a right to talk about quality. But none of them has a right to dismiss readers who happen to disapprove with some of the really horrible choices they have made. The same goes for your abuse toward those who have commented here. You deserve the mirror they offer.

Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 03:48 PM:

Anthony VanWagner wrote: "Actually, I was standing up to a bully."

And he also wrote: "Yeah, I know we can't read. At least we don't work for a company that is putting out books by Terry Goodkind. Ouch."

Looks to me like you want to have the respect honest rhetoric gets, without actually engaging in it.

I'm curious why. Enlighten me.

C.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 04:24 PM:

You’re right, Patrick; I shouldn’t have risen to it.

(For what it’s worth, which may not be much — Derek really isn’t such a bad guy. He just lets his natural zest for argument get in the way of rational discussion sometimes, particularly when he’s on line.)

Anthony VanWagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 04:24 PM:

Happy to, Carlos. By bully, I was referring to Patrick, and his abuse toward certain readers. Further when I wrote to him: "You receive in kind". This means I am no innocent in this exchange. I expect no respect from you or others. In fact, I fully expect P's readers to gang up on me. That is my assessment of what will become of all this "honest rhetoric" we are witnessing.

My harshness was in response to Patrick's own dissmissive and belittling behavior.

Jon Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 05:14 PM:

I don't think I've ever heard of someone trolling in such an upfront fashion before. I would think that would make it much less effective. Anthony, are you conducting a psychology experiment? A user comparison study of Electrolite and, I don't know, Little Green Footballs? Or are we all on Candid Camera? (or, in this case, Candid Webcam, I suppose.)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 05:17 PM:

Anthony VanWagner posts:

"[W]hy would I bring up Orson Scott Card? ...a writer I believe you edit for Tor..."

Which demonstrates how much you know about Tor.

Anthony VanWagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 05:24 PM:

That, Jon, is an excellent idea. I write an entry on it in my LJ. Undoubtably it will compare passages such as these:

from PNH:

"If you weren't, in fact, obviously smart, I would explain again that my original post wasn't in the service of any such argument. I would point out that my central point wasn't Boo Americans, Yay Europeans; it's about the dogged attachment of people everywhere have to their established storylines, no matter what. Counting the original post, this is now the third time I've explained this."

and this, from CalPundit:

"OUR LAPDOG MEDIA....Patrick Nielsen Hayden has a good post about the difference between the American media and the British media when it comes to interviewing politicians. Short version: their reporters insist that politicians actually answer their questions, ours just accept what they're told and move on."

Anthony VanWagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 05:35 PM:

My apologies Patrick. And I'm also surprised you guys haven't ganged up on my typos yet. What's up with that? Wouldn't that neutralize everything?

Anthony VanWagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 05:48 PM:

"Which demonstrates how much you know about Tor."

This whole post is starting to gather elements from out of the twilight zone.

"I intend to do more Starlights, but right now I'm finishing two reprint anthologies. The first is New Skies: An Anthology of Modern Science Fiction for Today's Young Adult Readers. It will be published by Tor in September 2003, and includes stories by Greg Bear, Terry Bisson, Orson Scott Card..."

Jon Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 06:13 PM:

Um, Anthony? I'm not in publishing, but I don't think putting a short story in a reprint anthology requires much in the way editing. More like: "Can we reprint this?" "Sure." "Great. Send us the official text." Or tearsheets, or whatever. But I can't imagine that would involve changing a single word or line on Patrick's part.

As opposed to editing an original novel. And as far as that goes, my copy of Card's Ender's Shadow says on the copyright page, "Edited by Beth Meacham." If you asked Card who his editor at Tor was, I'd bet my mortgage payment he'd say Meacham.

Starting to gather?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 06:21 PM:

Indeed, and I don't edit Greg Bear or Terry Bisson for Tor, either.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 06:31 PM:

Jon, good guess, but the even more salient fact is that none of my anthology work is part of my day job as a senior editor at Tor.

This isn't unique or even remarkable. Tor has published many anthologies edited by David Hartwell, who works full-time for Tor and sits across the hall from me. On most of those anthologies, I've been the in-house editor, and when we sign up a new Hartwell anthology, it's been my job to negotiate a contract with David's agent.

Writers I "edit for Tor" are writers on whose Tor books I've served as the editor. Orson Scott Card isn't one of those.

Anthony VanWagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 06:54 PM:

Um Jon, again my apologies. As with the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, when one reprints for an anthology, there is some work that should be done by those who are named editors. And in the case of Years Best, I assure you there is PLENTY of work. Ask anyone involved in the reprinting of that anthology. Sometimes there are glaring errors when anthologies get reprinted. One would hope that the person with the editorial credits actually does some editorial work. In Patrick's case, I guess I was wrong.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 07:59 PM:

In the annals of rhetoric, this is definitely right up there with "your mother wears army boots."

Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 08:14 PM:

I think Patrick's original point was about the irony of making universal generalizations to characterize American and British journalism, _not_ an attempt to claim that British journalism is inherently superior to American.

Derek James and others have responded as though Patrick were claiming that journalism in the two countries *always does* live up to the "soft"/"tough" label dialectic. Then they accuse him of manipulation when he repeats that his original point was about the irony of the stereotype that Americans are "brash and hardhitting," while Brits are "timid and reserved."

Anyone see a case for the statement that "American journalism isn't as bold as de Tocqueville fans might like to believe it is, while British journalism isn't necessarily stuffily polite and spineless?"

(My disappointment notwithstanding, at reading all that anti-Democratic Party stuff by Orson Scott Card, who I like to fantasize as an environmentalist/eco-Naturalist after reading his "Prentice Alvin" fiction.)


Anthony VanWagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 08:31 PM:

Lenny, that may have been one point, but the example which was used and that made the undercurrent was blatently pro-BBC, anti-U.S. media. Derek certainly picked up on this. Hell, another blogger who enjoys Patrick's views picked up on this.

Also, who is to say that Card isn't an environmentalist simply because he is not presently happy with the Democrats. Your fantasy might be true after all.

Jon Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 08:38 PM:

Lenny, you never saw that interview with Card in Salon a few years ago, did you? Of course, it says nothing about his environmental views. But it's interesting, and also what I'd call a textbook example on how not to interview someone.

Anthony, I remain confident my mortgage payment is safe.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 08:40 PM:

Indeed, Scott's political views are pretty complicated, as far as I can tell. I can't possibly keep up with everything he writes (he's a prolific guy), but just based on casual conversations I would hesitate before pigeonholing him, even on subjects where he's on record with strong polemical statements.

Anthony VanWagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 09:08 PM:

That was a very interesting interview with Card, Jon. Thanks for posting it. I'm wondering what Card might have said after seeing it in print.

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 10:17 PM:

Moving back a few topics, I note that there's a particularly good Daily Howler up yesterday about precisely what type of hard-hitting journalist Tim Russert is.

Short version: He's the type who makes major, libelous "errors" about people before they even open their mouths, and then holds their feet to the fire for mistakingly saying that there are 135K US troops in Iraq instead of 146K.

If, that is, they're Democrats. If they're Republicans named "Bush", they get slightly different treatment. The section "He Too Didn't Know" pretty much says it all.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 11:19 PM:

"Short version: He's the type who makes major, libelous "errors" about people before they even open their mouths, and then holds their feet to the fire for mistakingly saying that there are 135K US troops in Iraq instead of 146K."

You must be mistaken, Kevin. After all, it's only liberals who tax people over trivial errors.

Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2003, 12:56 AM:

Anthony VanWagner wrote:

"Happy to, Carlos. By bully, I was referring to Patrick, and his abuse toward certain readers."

I'm only seeing two people who have seen this supposed abuse. And your opinions don't seem independently derived.

"Further when I wrote to him: "You receive in kind". This means I am no innocent in this exchange. I expect no respect from you or others. In fact, I fully expect P's readers to gang up on me."

'You receive in kind.' Sigh. That only works when one is perceptive enough to know if one is being a mirror accurately. IMO you're not.

Anyway, you *do* seem to be a masochist, since you're actively seeking disrespect, which you're quite forthright about. While I personally applaud people as up-front as you are about their orientations, might I suggest frequenting a professional pay site instead? There are many on the Internet, and they will most likely know how to give you what you want or need better than the commenters on this web log would.

C.

Anthony VanWagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2003, 01:34 AM:

Patrick writes to Derek: ?But you are, in fact, obviously smart. You know this; you've made a conscious moral decision to talk shit anyway. Presumably you're comfortable with this. I'm comfortable with my opinion of you for doing it.?

Nah, nothing abusive, belittling or dismissive about that. Not to mention harsh and arrogant. I may have confronted Patrick with those qualities, but Derek certainly wasn?t doing anything of the sort.

And S+M talk?see what you get when you play with liberals. Just what could you have been thinking Carlos?

Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2003, 02:17 AM:

Anthony VanWagner wrote:

"Nah, nothing abusive, belittling or dismissive about that."

No, not particularly. I'm glad we agree.

"And S+M talk?see what you get when you play with liberals. Just what could you have been thinking Carlos?"

You previously wrote:

"In fact, I fully expect P's readers to gang up on me."

If I am using the jargon correctly, that makes you a bottom looking to be topped. By a group of strangers you only know through the Internet, no less.

Pretty kinky, and not my personal cup of tea.

Though you are being *very* brave about sharing your desires with us.

C.

Anthony VanWagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2003, 02:32 AM:

You are going to have to explain what ?a bottom looking to be topped? means, Carlos. I do not know.

?Though you are being *very* brave about sharing your desires with us.? Again, what are you thinking? Sounds like you are the one expressing something pent up. Classy.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2003, 04:14 AM:

Jesus H. Christ on a cast-iron crutch! I'm thinking it's time for some disemvoweling around here. I don't care what your attitude to the statement is Patrick, some people really do have just too much time on their hands.

MKK

Anthony VanWagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2003, 06:27 AM:

Needless to say, I'm upset with the way Patrick treated some of his readers. Don't sweat it. I'll be going now.

Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2003, 10:30 AM:

Well, it's been set up so that if anybody says anything, it's just the regulars, ganging up on some poor defenseless new guy. Damned if we do, damned if we don't. So I dood it.

Given his well-documented biased performances -- relentless hardball for the liberals, gooey lifestyle questions for the gops, it's hard for me to see how bringing up Tim Russert as a 'good' example is intended as anything other than a provocation. I'm evil, I guess. Bwah. Hah.

Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2003, 11:46 AM:

MKK wrote:

"some people really do have just too much time on their hands."

I have been working on a vowel-rich subset of English language invective exactly for my inevitable devowelization, so that my posts will be even more incomprehensible to an outside reader afterwards.

Right now, I have words ranging from "a'a'", a boot-shredder form of cooled lava flow, to "Zoa", mystical creatures from William Blake's mythology.

Most of the best terms, in terms of vowel to consonant ratio, are of extinct Hawaiian birds, which seems of limited utility at this time. A corresponding demonization of Hawaiian bird species is now in progress.

A not uncommon phrase with a very high V2C ratio is "poo-poo" (or "pee-pee"), which has a V2C ratio of two. For ethnic slurs, there is "goo-goo" (Filipinos and in general Asians, nearly obs.), again with a V2C ratio of 2, and the much nastier "deicide", which has a V2C ratio of 1.33.

"Folks" has an extremely low V2C ratio of .25.

Hp tht hlps. Hv nc dy!

C.

Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2003, 11:51 AM:

Sarcastic Southerner writes:
"Someone else who's become very popular in America is Fox News' Bill O'Reilly. While he is partisan, O'Reilly has become the most popular show on cable news because of his hard-hitting interview style."

On the occasion of which I have the most knowledge, O'Reilly's hard-hitting interview style consisted of behaving like a loon. I'm fairly certain that no member of my family will agree to appear on O'Reilly's show again.

Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2003, 06:51 PM:

Surely you jest, Bill. None can match the incisive intellectual style of a man who refutes the statements of his guests by shouting, "Shut up! Shut up!"

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2003, 07:11 PM:

Don't forget turning off their microphone, too.

Derek James ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2003, 07:30 PM:

David Moles writes: (For what it92s worth, which may not be much 97 Derek really isn92t such a bad guy. He just lets his natural zest for argument get in the way of rational discussion sometimes, particularly when he92s on line.)

Um, thanks, David. Except for the part about being irrational.

Seems much more irrational to make particular characterizations in a post, then deny that you were really saying anything of the sort.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2003, 08:42 PM:

I didn’t say you were irrational. It’s just that once a conversation goes from trying to understand one another’s views to trying to score rhetorical points (see again the Schopenhauer link), I lose interest a lot more quickly than you seem to. That’s not intended to be a slander of any kind — it’s just a matter of taste.

At this point I can’t remember what it was that either you or Patrick were trying to say, let alone what it was you said he said or he said you said. Which from my point of view makes the whole thing kind of pointless — except, to a certain degree, as a spectator sport.

But as I said, that’s a matter of taste. Some people enjoy trying to win arguments and some don’t, and the older I get, the more I find myself turning into one of the latter.

Derek James ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2003, 09:00 PM:

Well, that's the thing.

I'd certainly like to stay on topic and actually maturely argue the relative merits of opposing points of view.

That's difficult to do when the other person prefers flippance, condescension, and denial to actual conversation. But it's become increasingly clear this is not a forum for honest disagreement.

Jon Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2003, 09:52 PM:

The one thing I like about the Internet is that it allows people from all over with different expectations and interpretations of people, places, and events to come in contact and misinterpret each other without fail.

No, I'm not pointing fingers. No, I don't mean you, I mean the other fella.

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2003, 10:29 PM:

Bill O'Reilly doesn't have the highest-rated show on cable TV. He has the highest-rated "news" show on cable TV. The highest-rated show on cable tv for the week ending 22 June 2003 was World Wrestling Entertainment (on TNN), followed by The Real World and by at least five different Spongebob Squarepants reruns. The season premiere of Monk did very well, as did a TNT movie and a Disney broadcast of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

This gives me some faith in the world.

Jane Yolen ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2003, 03:09 AM:

Call me crazy--well, at least call me an old fuddy-duddy (which I'll cop to)--but when someone comes to my house, invited or uninvited, I expect them not to spit on the carpet and then rub my face in it.

We can have a heated, even spirited, conversations at Phoenix Farm. But spit, my friends, is right out. You think TNH's disemvoweling is tough? Try getting through the door dragons at my house after insulting the host/hostess.

Jane

Jeff Crook ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2003, 11:36 AM:

What a remarkable exchange. Where were we? Ah, yes, the Dumbledore interview of Rumsfeld. How many people commenting on it actually saw it?

I was especially enthralled when Dumbledore dispelled the illusion and revealed Rumsfeld's true visage. I had to change the channel at that point, because the dogs began to howl and the earth opened up, threatening to swallow my television, for which I still owe money.

When I came back, Rumbsfeld was denying he ever said 'so-called'.

All seriousness aside, I thought Dimbleby started poorly and finished a little better. At the beginning of the interview, I was positively pissed, as I was expecting not to see a British version of Tim Russert playing before my eyes. But then Dimbleby was probably only luring Rummy into a false sense of security, as when the so-called question arose and Rummy didn't get his obligatory non-denial denial, he seemed positively flumoxed.

"What, you want the truth? Bad form, old boy. We play a different kind of football here."