More media: Will Vehrs takes

More media
: Will Vehrs takes me to task for my conclusion on media bias (below) and he’s right that I’m answering one ludicrious oversimplification (liberal media bias) with another (liberal stoicism v. conservative paranoia). But it’s so much fun, Will. And the conservatives are always baiting the liberals, sometime’s it’s fun for the fish to go fishing, too.

PC set in stone
: Both Thomas Nephew and Tunku Varadarajan take the other side in the debate over the WTC flag statue (in which, you’ll recall, Steven Den Beste complained about plans to turn the three firefighters in the famous photo into an ethnically diverse bunch). Today’s contrarians argue that statues are symbolic and so they should be representative of the department rather than the photo.

Ah, but there are the rubs: Once you start mucking with reality, you get in trouble: Who’s to say what this mix should be? Why just men? Why not women? African American? Hispanic? Asian? Arab? Where does this end?

And once you start mucking with art, you also get in trouble, too. You can’t create art according to quotas. You can’t create art by committee. You can’t create art according to a list of PC rules. Then it isn’t art. Then it’s a mess. I have this same problem in the entertainment busienss: Telling movie or TV or novel writers that they should be giving us X percent more women or black or gay or Hispanic characters is absurd; writers write what they should write, what they know, what they feel, what they need to say, not what someone else thinks they should say. You can’t tell Richard Pryor to have more whites or Jerry Seinfeld more blacks — or start requiring sermons about drugs or smoking or the poor or whatever the cause de la moment happens to be — just because you think they should. Then it’s not their art.

So when it comes to this statue there is a clear and simple choice: Either (1) recreate the photo and the memories it instills in all of us OR (2) create a more abstract, representative memorial that evokes the character and heroism of the entire department. But don’t try to smoosh both together. It ruins both. It’s not art. It’s not reality. It’s not a memory. It’s not a memorial. It’s a mess.

: Photo info here. Note that the paper that owns the picture is stopping people from putting it on T-shirts and even cookbooks (?). They’re right to do so.

Good move
: Kevin Whited’s Reductio ad absurdum has moved to a new address and a new format that is even more satisfying than the last.

Pretzel nightmares
: Seriously, what would have happened if the President had died from a pretzel? No joke. We have endured an attack from terrorists and a war and a near economic collapse and the head of the Western world — hell, all the world — is taken down by a damned pretzel?!? Imagine the impact on the economy, worldwide. Imagine a snickering Osama. Imagine the shame. This can’t happen. It damned near did.

We need systems to monitor the commander in chief: He has to be with someone and when he’s not, he has to wear a remote monitor that checks on his heart and breathing. And I don’t just mean Bush, I mean all presidents. This is a matter of national security in all senses of the word. No joke.

Does size matter?
: Glenn Reynolds, in his argument that blogs help cause a media reformation, reminds us that the legendary Izzy Stone was about as influential as a journalist gets with a newsletter that served only 1,500 or so subscribers.

I’ve had to remind myself of this, too. On one end of the scale, I used to write for People and TV Guide, serving audiences of up to 25 million. That made a blog audience look small and me even smaller. But then I looked out one Sunday on the congregation of my little church, where lots of people devote their hearts and, yes, souls to serving an audience of about 100. The older, bigger churches around us serve a couple of hundred. Well, our congregations in the Church of the Holy Blog are many times that. And that made me feel better.

Influence never equals audience size; neither does attention. Fewer people go see every movie in every theater in the country all week long than go to a hot sitcom, yet movies get far more attention (and respect). Books get tiny audiences next to even a cable show or radio show but books get the heat. Blogs may be small but they are getting more respect by the day. Size doesn’t always matter.

Media more
: I got lots of good letters on media bias Ray Eckhart, Kathy Shaidle, and a guy named Bruce about media bias (below) and Rand Simberg and Duncan Fitzgerald take me on, too. If I weren’t tech-crazed moving to my new domain from Blogspot, I’d create a letters page and show them to you. But I’m tired and so I’ll unfairly and inaccurately summarize instead (demonstrating my own media bias, of course). They say that the bias hounds are merely arguing that most reporters are liberal, rather than being part of liberal cabal.

But I still say that is an indication of a conspiracy mentality, of paranoia.

I still say that is a simplistic view of the world that does not take into account the intelligence, sincerity, professionalism, independence, and stubbornness of both reporters and their audiences. It is essentially insulting to both.

It is an assumption without basis.

Which leads me to another old-war-horse story. When I was a columnist in San Francisco — and, as a columnist, I was allowed to have opinions — I covered then-Mayor Feinstein when she took office in the horrible days after the Jonestown massacre and the murders of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. I think that Feinstein did a great job and often said so. But once in a while, I did criticize her for a specific action or statement and whenever I did, she declared that I was her enemy. There was no gray there, only allies or enemies. She and her husband even complained to the then-publisher of the paper about me. And I supported her! But to her, criticism was a sure sign of my enemy status. Or is that liberal bias?

Face it: The media were a helluva lot tougher on Clinton and Carter than on Reagan or Bush I or Bush II. The media neighborhood is crowded with conservative bastions once you get past the NY Times and Washington Post: Tribune Company, Dow Jones, Time Inc., News Corp., Hearst, to name a few. And look here on the Internet where most of the blog-talk I’m hearing is conservative. The media are chock full of conservatives. But you don’t hear liberals whining about that. You only hear conservatives whining.

In the end, liberal media bias is still a conspiracy theory and it is born out of one simple fact:

Conservatives are by nature paranoid.