: Frank Rich is a Cuisinart columnist missing a blade: He keeps trying to mix things up but leaves them chunky.
Tomorrow’s column is an odd mix of journalistic nostalgia (ah, for the days of All the President’s Men when people didn’t trust government and did trust reporters) … and political paranoia (comparing Nixon and Bush, whose administration is, Rich says, “showing symptoms of a precancerous Watergate syndrome”) … and press paranoia (he says the Judith Miller case is “all the scarier for being only one piece in a pattern of media intimidation that’s been building for months now”) …
Getaloada this bit of bad mixology:
The current White House has been practicing pre-emptive media intimidation to match its policy of pre-emptive war. Its F.C.C. chairman, using Janet Jackson’s breast and Howard Stern’s mouth as pretexts, has sufficiently rattled Viacom, which broadcast both of these entertainers’ infractions against “decency,” that its chairman, the self-described “liberal Democrat” Sumner Redstone, abruptly announced his support for the re-election of George W. Bush last month. “I vote for what’s good for Viacom,” he explained, and he meant it. He took this loyalty oath just days after the “60 Minutes” fiasco prompted a full-fledged political witch hunt on Viacom’s CBS News, another Republican target since the Nixon years.
Well, I hate what the FCC is doing but I doubt that is intimidating Sumner Redestone in the voting booth.
And let’s not forget, Frank, that Dan Rather f’ed up royally — and you’d be wise to both acknowledge that and to be ashamed on behalf of our profession for what that did to the credibility of our craft. I’d say that what happened to Rather was not a “full-fledged political witch hunt” but rather a good dose of fact-checking his ass. And Rather’s detractors and other honest souls would remind you that this was a case of Rather attacking Bush, not the other way around. What a mishmosh.
He then goes on to act as if Disney’s refusal to distribute F 9/11 was the result of White House intimidation. Here, too, I share distaste for Disney but this is offered with absolutely no reporting, no connection, only paranoid conjecture. This is, to put it mildly, shoddy journalism.
At this moment when The Times is trying so hard to stand behind the First Amendment in the Miller case, this kind of sloppy innuendo only weakens The Times’ position.
Of course, Rich goes on to say that Fox and the Murdoch empire are on the other side. He points a single story where he thought a single fact was placed too many paragraphs down. Oh, gawd, let’s not start that analysis of Times stories; that will go on for eternity. Hell, I don’t have enough bits and bandwidth to fisk the entire Rich column.