The reviews are in

In the comments below, there are plenty of people giving Donny Deutsch’s show and me bad reviews and that’s fine: A critic is fair game for criticism. And we can all disagree.

That’s what makes America great (and not screwed up).

I’ll answer a few of the points:

On reading books for TV: I didn’t read the book. I said so here before the show. I did go looking for it but on short notice didn’t have time to read it if I had. I read articles and posts about it and the summary sent over by the show’s producers. And I will also say that I wasn’t sure I wanted to add one more notch in the book’s bestseller count (see below).

As some commenters point out, don’t think that every time you see Matt Lauer interviewing an author, he has read the book. Authors who get publicity on TV know that their books are rarely read by their interviewers but they take the publicity. If they wanted more than three minutes of stone-skipping, then they should go to C-SPAN, where people read the books but nobody watches the shows.

And I don’t think there is some moral imperative to read the book. There’s nothing sacred about a book. When I’m called on to do the point-counterpoint TV dance with, say, someone from the PTC, I don’t read their every screed and I don’t expect them to read my every screed and we can still discuss and disagree about issues.

As Linda Stasi said, we were there to discuss the list, which had gotten plenty of publicity: I was prepared to discuss the notion of it, she was there to discuss the names on the list. Which leads to the next point:

Was it an ambush? I don’t know that it was. I was told that Donny liked what Goldberg did, even though he, of course, disagreed with some of the names on the list. Donny started off with a polite discussion of substance about the list but Bernie got hostile quickly. That set the tone: If you disagree with him, you’re ambushing him. He attacks other people — and spends a whole book attacking people — but yet he can’t take the pushback himself. It was a bizarre start to the show.

When they came back for the next segment, Donny called on Linda Stasi. Keep in mind, she is a columnist for the New York Friggin’ Post, one of the top conservative papers in the nation. It’s not as if they brought in Jim Wolcott or Eric Alterman and threw it to them. They called on a Postie.

Linda and I were in the same studio, on the same couch (though we weren’t supposed to acknowledge that; we were on separate cameras). I talked to her before the show and saw her notes preparing for the talk. She was going to engage Goldberg on his terms, on his list, and throw out her own nominees. That’s how she started: She wanted Rush Limbaugh on the list, which was also her way of pointing out that Bernie had nothing but liberals on his list. That’s a perfectly legitimate way to discuss the book. But this quickly devolved into shouting, with Bernie yelling at Linda to “shut up.”

I’d say it was Linda Stasi who was ambushed by Bernie Goldberg: He was hostile and rude and though he kept saying he would answer her question he never in fact tried to (an old TV trick from an old TV hand). He yelled and insulted. He made it personal, as he did with me later. She was disgusted with it and was ready to take off her microphone and walk out and she had every right to.

I shrugged: It’s just a silly discussion about a silly book on a silly TV show.

But then, I hadn’t yet had Bernie talking about my humping.

And so now to the substance: As I said in my post before the show and as I said on the show, I don’t buy his premise:

America is not screwed up.

Oh, we have plenty to disagree about and we damed well should be debating about how to solve our problems and face our mutual enemies and issues. But I do not think it is productive to make that personal and act as if some people are out to screw up America. We have met the enemy, Bernie, and it isn’t us.

Oh, there are plenty of people on Goldberg’s list he and I would agree to disagree with. But I think that most of them are sincere and are not bad people out to “screw up America”. Michael Moore behaves badly but he’s sincere. Noam Chomsky has inane opinions but he’s every bit as sincere as Bernie Goldberg.. oh, is he.

They disagree. We can debate their disagreements. That is the very essence, again, of what makes America great. That is why America is not screwed up.

But turning that debate into an ambush on the 100 people on this list and making it personal and mean is not a productive discussion. And we see too much of that in debates today. We saw it on cable until Jon Stewart killed Crossfire and that tide shifted (until last night, I guess). We see blogs often accused of that (though I do believe that’s the exception and that most discussion in this medium — unlike TV — has the opportunity to be substantive and to link to all sides).

To me, the mere exercise of trying to name 100 people on the other side as the bad guys who are screwing up our country is like freeze-drying the worst and most shallow of cable TV shout shows and online flames. It is the worst of making politics personal instead of productive.

If anything is screwing up America, that attitude is.

MORE: People in the comments are asking me to say I am wrong. No, we just disagree and I stand by my opinions and my view from being in the thick of it. They ask me to say I made a mistake. No, I didn’t set up the event. I will say that I regret being part of it. I don’t think anyone who was involved does not regret being part of it. It was not pleasant. It certainly was not informative. It was not good TV (though in its time, people tried to define such moments as good TV; those days are over).

: LATER: Crooks & Liars has the video up.

: AND NOW I’M WONDERING…. Who is nastier to me when I piss them off, conservatives or liberals? Hmmmmmm……..

: THIS IS GETTING COMICAL: Bill O’Reilly teases Bernie coming on to whine and waaaaaaaaaaaa about this “harrowing experience” on CNBC; the screen calls it a “TV Nightmare!,” complete with exclamation mark. This from O’Reilly, the shut-up king and Goldberg of CBS News, the ambush kings.

OK. I’m fed up now. I return to my original position: Bernie’s bonkers… or a damned good book salesman.

: Atrios has the appropriate one-word review:”Hilarious.

: And here’s Bernie waaaa-waaaa-waaaaaing his way to Rush Limbaugh:

The big point is that this is what the cultural elite liberals do these days. They can stab you in the back. No problem, because they know what’s best. That’s the problem. This time, they did it to me. Big deal. Big deal. Insignificant show. Big deal. They did the exact same thing, Rush, to Judge Bork. They did the exact same thing to Judge Pickering, the judge from Mississippi who they made out to be soft on cross burners — and they’re going to do it again, Rush, with Judge Roberts, and that’s why Ralph Neas, the head of People for American Way is #10 on the list in this book.

He called the people on the show not just liberal but leftist. Can somebody tell Oliver Willis and Kos and Eric Alterman for me? Maybe I’ll get my official party membership card back.

: Now O’Reilly is calling it “TV terrorism.”


: Now I’m getting fag-bashing email from the Bernieacs. Nice bunch, them. It gets better. It’s homophobic and racist. Sweethearts.

: On O’Reilly, Goldberg says “the culture in this country has gotten way too angry and way too nasty.” What the hell are you, Bernie?

Bill is sympathetic on “the shut-up thing.” Uh-huh.

Poor widdle Bernie. Waaaa-waaa-waaaah.

  • szmike


    First of all, I like the new format for the website but what what happened to all the existing comments? Did they disappear?

    I finally had the chance to see the video and I have to add chorus of voices criticizing this as an unfair ambush. Which is a shame, because in theory you are right about Bernie Goldberg’s book. His theme is that these pundits are polarizing America, but he only chooses liberal pundits to add to his list, so as a result he ends up with a very polarizing book. There is a fatal disconnect between the premise and content. You claim that it was not necessary for you to have read the book. Fine. But to have five people gang up on Bernie, and not one of them has read the book, does that not strike you as more than a bit unfair?

    Imagine what would have happened if last year, Michael Moore was invited to appear on a show with five conservative republicans to be attacked over Fahrenheit 9/11, and not one of those people had seen the movie? Moore would have had a field day with it. He would have been on CNN or CBS just as quickly as Goldberg appeared on FOX News. It would have been a PR coup for him even though each one of those five hypothetical conseratives would be stamping their feet the way you are now.

    And on that subject, Goldberg had a point that the reason why he appears on FOX News so much is because they’re one of the few stations that will have him. How predictable that his only appearance on one of the three big networks to promote his first book, Bias, he had to share the stage with (surprise, surprise) Michael Moore. You guys keep insisting that Bernie Goldberg is wrong, but yet you keep playing right into his hands.

    Again, I agree with you that the book is wrongheaded from start to finish. Which is why it was astonishing that on that program, Goldberg appeared to be the winning end of the argument. Note that I said “appeared”. He did not have satisfactory answers to the questions. But when he’s being bullied from all sides, it’s a lot easier to overlook that, as evidenced by all the negative feedback directed to you over that show.

  • The old comments are all up on the old site here. See the moving day post above.

  • TVNewser wonders whether there is a new, confrontational style makeover at work on Deutsch:

  • AnonymousDrivel

    Mr. Jarvis,

    Some might argue that this “Bernie” post is a way to gin up traffic.

    JJ: But it [Goldberg’s “publicity stunt”] still works. It sells books.

    Yes, just as reporting on gossiping about the behind the scenes actions on a subject to which you were taken to task draws readers to your blog. See, I’m here and I’d never read your blog before the Bernie imbroglio though I have seen you on cable. Very clever self promotion, Mr. Jarvis. Ain’t America grand? Now, such plots may backfire too if the engagement is dishonest. Would you care to guess what many think of your credibility now? Do you think that I’ll trust “Cable”NBC’s reportage of information? I was skeptical before and am even more skeptical now. Would that be considered positive or negative reinforcement? Goldberg’s point has been positively reinforced. I’m here now only to watch your spin, and how satisfyingly dizzying it is proving to be.

    You may find my revisit and posting Pavlovian in nature, hence the snide “Yes, cue the Berniacs” remark topping this response section and preempting those who disagree with you. That’s fine. I like Goldberg’s on-air presentation and find his demeanor quite reasonable (barring obscene ambush, of course) and his exposé of the bias in media enlightening. And, just like good little poochies, the traditionalists of the trade are drooling to discredit the rare breed that has escaped the den. But I would find your revisit to the Bernie issue obsessive too. One might think your “Credibility Resurrection Tour” a bit predictable.

    By all means continue to follow up on the Bernie story and advance the idea that Goldberg is “Rovian” in his manipulation of the left-leaning cadre. Clear thinkers well recognize the real deception. I rather enjoy the voyeurism and recording of your fall into the MSM abyss. It is as enlightening as Goldberg’s text.

    FYI – There’s an error in the link in the comments section of The reviews are in. In your reply to a request for old comments, you post:

    Jeff Jarvis Says:
    July 24th, 2005 at 8:52 am

    The old comments are all up on the old site here. See the moving day post above.

    That link is in error –
    and does not link to any comments from that thread. I hope that was an unintentional oversight from the change in software.

    For those of you still interested in tracing the original stories from the old blog, please review Mr. Jarvis’s archives:

    July 19, 2005
    The 100 lists I hate and comments

    July 20, 2005
    Bizarro Bernie and comments

    July 21, 2005
    The reviews are in and comments