Tag Archives: media

A(nother) great Nick Cohen Column

The column in question is ostensibly about why we should all become Jews. Of course, Cohen isn’t really suggesting we should, although Significant Other and I often say that we will have to join the Israel Army one of these days…if they would have two middle-aged out of shape folks.

It’s a column about the pathology of anti-Semitism and how far it is spreading, in particular its grip on much of the political left.

But consider how many leftwing activists, institutions or academics would agree with a politer version [of blatant anti-Semitism].

Western governments are the main source of the ills of the world. The “Israel lobby” controls western foreign policy. Israel itself is the “root cause” of all the terrors of the Middle East, from the Iraq war to Islamic State. Polite racism turns the Jews, once again, into demons with the supernatural power to manipulate and destroy nations. Or as the Swedish foreign minister, Margot Wallström, who sees herself as a feminist rather than a racial conspiracist, explained recently, Islamist attacks in Paris were the fault of Israeli occupiers in the West Bank.

(Oh man, I know so many people — some to whom I am related — who buy such nonsense. Depressing. As my late brother used to say, “the ’60s have a lot for which to answer.”)

Cohen writes of his own experiences (his father was Jewish, not his mother) growing up with a Jewish name and in particular of the temptation — which he resisted — to become a self-loathing Jew.

He does suggest one pretend to be Jewish to see how people’s reactions to you change. It’s fascinating, because when I was in Italy in 2014, there was this awful woman who was always very mean to me and I remember one day she asked me if I was Jewish. I just knew that if I answered “yes,” she would have hated me even more, but I thought the fact that she suspected it (as though it were a crime) was revealing.

The Cow Who…

Meant to post this a while back, but stuff (travels, colds, work) got in the way.  A few weeks ago, Peter Singer wrote about the New York Times’ use of the word “who” in regards a cow, rather than “that” or “which.” To me, it doesn’t seem odd to use “who” regarding an animal, as animals are not only sentient beings, but individuals. Nor is it odd to Singer, though he points out that the Times‘ decision was not the great step forward some of us might like to see.

It would be premature to conclude that the New York Times article indicates a shift in usage. Rather, it seems to show uncertainty, for the first line of the article refers to “A cow that was captured by police.”

I asked Philip Corbett, the standards editor for the New York Times, if the use of “cow who” reflected a change of policy. He told me that the Times style manual, like that of the Associated Press, suggested using “who” only for a named or personified animal. The manual gives the example “The dog, which was lost, howled” and contrasts this with “Adelaide, who was lost, howled.”

I find this noteworthy, not just because I am an animal rights advocate, but because I had a conflict — not a big one — with an editor years ago when I wrote about a whale for the Christian Science Monitor. I referred to the whale as “he,” first of all, and I also referred to the whale’s uncle. Both of these things bothered the editor with whom I was dealing, although she heard me out and graciously printed the article the way I had wanted (for the most part). Newspapers have their style guidelines, and they have to be heeded to a point. They can change, though, as views change.

As Singer writes:
In a language like English, which implicitly categorizes animals as things rather than persons, adopting the personal pronoun would embody the same recognition – and remind us who animals really are.

Ghomeshi

There is much I could say about this case but I will only say two things. 1) It makes me think of a favourite phrase of my sister-in-law Louise – “yet another example of the never-ending stupidity of women.” The never-ending stupidity of women. 2) It is important for Canadians to not learn about law stuff from American law shows. Case in point — I keep wondering why these terrible witnesses don’t take the Fifth.

I Have Been Doing This for Twenty Bleeping Years

So everyone is parsing the importance of the new “curvy” Barbie and her other “normal” friends. But way back in 1997, I wrote an article about just such a possibility. It appeared in its original form in the Women’s Quarterly, a magazine out of D.C., and was reprinted in a large number of newspapers. I found a link to the piece here. (I am not the type who keeps copies of her articles. There are simply too many of them and I am big believer in constant de-cluttering.) I also found a link to a write-up of the piece here, from the Chicago Tribune’s James Warren.

This was nearly twenty f***ing years ago, peeps. God, I have been doing this job a loooooong time. It’s funny  — not funny “ha ha” — because I had a visit in the fall from a family member who routinely takes cheap shots at me about everything — my career, my looks, my intelligence, my private life — and this person asked me if I was “between jobs.” Um, no, I have doing the same job for twenty bleeping years.

The article in question is much harsher than one I would write today, I think. In a sense, I think we soften on some matters as we gain more experience. So in a way I cringe when I read it and yet, it must be taken in the context of the era and in the spirit of satire. (Or not, if you so choose.)

The Arabs of Palestine: Plus ca Change

First of all, must vent. I created this huge, long, magnificent post about this great article, full of quotes and clever observations and links to modern media (in all its pitiful lack of glory) and then, I don’t know what happened, but I lost the page. Lost it! And it was not saved as a draft. Dagnabbit! Stupid WordPress.

I am too lazy to try it again so I will simply tell you to click here and read the whole damn thing and then weep. Weep because so little has changed and weep because even more people now have a stupid worldview and no understanding of history than when this article was written and weep because there are no more writers and astute thinkers of Martha Gellhorn’s caliber. (Seriously, we should just recycle great journalists of the past and avoid many of today’s clowns and their willful blindness.)

“The Arabs of Palestine” was written by the brilliant, glorious Gellhorn in 1961. Remember that when you are reading it. 1961. You will think, at times, she is talking about 2015, but for the changes that have taken place in regards Egypt’s relationship to Israel and but for the references to the Cold War.

Weep! And read. And take away some new expressions. I like her references to “Mad Hatter conversations”. I have had many of those in my time, but one of the few good things about getting older is learning to avoid the Mad Hatter types. Of course this means I avoid many people I used to greet (including some family members).

 

Greatest Column Ever Written

Very important. From last year but truly timeless.

Everyone is just totally winging it, all the time. 

I’ve often thought of my experience of adulthood thus far as one of incrementally discovering that there’s no institution, or walk of life, in which everybody isn’t just winging it. Growing up, I assumed that the newspaper on the breakfast table must be assembled by people who truly knew what they were doing; then I got a job at a newspaper. Unconsciously, I transferred my assumptions of competence to (among others) people who worked in government. Then I got to know a few people who did – and who’d admit, after a pint or two, that their jobs involved staggering from crisis to crisis, concocting credible-sounding policies in cars en route to press conferences, exactly as portrayed in The Thick of It.

By the way, the author of this column wrote this very helpful book — I read it shortly after my brother died and it did indeed allow me to do just as its title suggests.

Love Among the Ruins and Barbarians at the Gates

I am very happy about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage. That said, had the decision gone the other way, it would only have been a matter of time before marriage equality became the reality in all 50 states. This is the way the free world goes as well it should. (And I remind you that I have been for gay marriage since ye olden tymes.) What I am not happy about is people acting as though the biggest threat out there were people in free countries who don’t support gay marriage. And I was disgusted yesterday at so many people mocking Justice Scalia’s and Justice Thomas’s dissenting opinions on the matter, rather than being grateful for a civilized, democratic process.

The real enemies to all of us are the people who carried out the attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait yesterday (and in so many other places on other days) and their supporters/apologists. And yesterday, I heard almost nothing about the attacks on North American news. Italian TV was a bit better, thankfully. But people in Toronto and Los Angeles and all parts between should have been making those attacks their top news story, Twitter post and Facebook item for discussion.

A column in the Wall Street Journal — from a supporter of marriage equality — sums it up better than I ever could.  Here’s a small section of it:

On my other computer screen, I looked at a photograph of five men in orange jumpsuits, their legs bound. They were trapped like dogs inside a metal cage and hanging above a pool of water. They were drawing their final breaths before their Islamic State captors lowered the cage into the pool and they drowned together.

What was that about human dignity?

The barbarians are at our gates. But inside our offices, schools, churches, synagogues and homes, we are posting photos of rainbows on Twitter. It’s easier to Photoshop images of Justice Scalia as Voldemort than it is to stare evil in the face.

You can’t get married if you’re dead.

Here is a link to the whole thing. 

Sun TV

I was sorry to see Sun TV go under, though I had pretty much stopped watching it over a year ago. The more voices out there, the better, and, of course, nearly 200 journalists out of work is never a good thing. And yes, a number of those journalists were/are friends of mine. In fact, when it first started, I remember a friend and I were joking about how it felt like our friends had started a news network in their garage.  I knew so many people in the original lineup, both people in front of and behind the camera.

That aside, the amount of glee certain people are getting out of Sun’s demise is unseemly, especially when the gleeful folks tend to be fans of the CBC and tend to say things like, “Canadians don’t want Sun TV! Sun wanted a free market, and the free market has spoken!”

Um, well yes. It has spoken for Sun, because Sun didn’t get a billion dollar hand-out from the feds every year, the way the CBC does. If the CBC ever had to answer to the free market, it would go under, and probably much more quickly than Sun. The CBC’s ratings are dismal, but their ratings don’t matter, because they are guaranteed funding. In all probability, if Canadians had the choice of whether to pay for the CBC or not, they wouldn’t want our public broadcaster anymore than they want Sun.

At any rate, there were some talented folks at Sun, not the least of whom is Ezra — I wish him luck with this venture.