October 23, 2005
Were one to read Davis Merritt's recent book, Knightfall: Knight Ridder and How the Erosion of Newspaper Journalism is Putting Democracy at Risk, he or she would realize that the reasons for The Philadelphia Inquirer's deterioration extend far beyond the irredeemable right-wing slop that so often besmirches its Commentary page.
Merritt's insights take on added significance, given the recently announced editorial staff reductions that have shaken the Inky. But they must await my future evaluation, because the Inky's
stinky Commentary page of October 20, 2005 demands an immediate
response. Stinky? Yes, simply consider its outrageously uniformed and
insipid right-wing essays by Kathleen Parker and Jonah Goldberg . . .
First, a cheerleading Ms. Parker asked why no newspaper headlines read:
"Iraqi democracy takes bow to standing ovation, global applause." After
all, "What matters is, they voted. They went to the polls and practiced
Oh, really? What about the recent complaint by a prospective voter in
Baghdad? : "I would like to point out that we are three days away from
the referendum, yet very large sectors of Iraqi people couldn't receive
part of the five million copies [of the constitution] from the UN,
ie—they will not know what the constitution contains. Subsequently,
they will vote according to their backgrounds or religious or political
preferences. Many people who will vote yes do not know why they will
vote yes...what kind of vote is this?" [as quoted by Dahr Jamail, Oct.
Many of these complaints are equally valid whenever Americans
go to the polls. But, one shouldn't be surprised that Ms Parker—and,
presumably, her conservative readers—are unconcerned about such
matters. After all, who among them today is reflecting upon and
lamenting the bias and ignorance, which informed their first vote five
years ago for two rank incompetents—George W. Bush and Richard Cheney?
Even more alarming, who among them today is reflecting upon and
lamenting the bias and ignorance, which moved them to reelect a war
party of liars and dissemblers who, arguably, should stand trial for
Unfortunately, Ms. Parker's banalities about voting not only impede
self-reflection, but also critical thinking. Thus, instead of
addressing very real and sobering possibilities that, (1) passage of
Iraq's constitution might strengthen the prospects for theocratic rule,
(2) might increase the probability of civil war and (3) might benefit
Iran much more than the United States; she would have you share her
scorn for the media's unjustified, "glass-half-empty" emphasis on
Iraq's voting irregularities.
Who at the Inky found this vacuous piece worth
publishing? Yet, Ms. Parker's essay appears profound when compared with
the drivel written by Lucianne's boy, Jonah Goldberg.
If you recall that Lucianne's boy "entered the national stage when he
listened to the Linda Tripp tapes with his mom," and, thus, "turned his
15 minutes of fame into a full-time job," [Inda Schaenen, "The Jester
of Monicagate," Salon Media Circus, September, 1998] then you
understand how this mediocrity learned to shift the terms of the
In his essay, "Dean pins new label on the faithful," Lucianne's boy
plays "bait and switch." He starts with one limited-hang-out paragraph
about the unprecedented scandals and crimes—notably those of Messrs.
DeLay, Rove and Frist, but not Bush and Cheney—now rocking the world of
the Republican Party.
Moreover, in that same paragraph, Lucianne's boy has the gall to lament
the absence of public recognition and praise for Bush's "successes in
Iraq." He seems to have forgotten that Bush's false "Mission
Accomplished" came sandwiched between pre-invasion lies about Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction, its ties to al-Qaeda and its citizens'
readiness to greet American soldiers with flowers—and a post-invasion
occupation marked by incompetence, corruption, and widespread
suffering, an ever resilient insurgency and the proliferation of
jihadists and terrorist attacks, both in Iraq and around the world.
Thus, we all need to remain skeptical about any allusions by
conservatives to Bush's "successes."
Such skepticism aside, Lucianne's boy might also try thinking
outside the box. Think about how the world reacted to Hitler's
fleeting, but terrible, "successes in Poland." Were he to do so,
Lucianne's boy might then understand why, in the eyes of the world
(especially the Muslim world), the lies upon which the unprovoked
invasion of Iraq were predicated might long besmirch any subsequent
"successes," even if sustained and widely viewed to be good. Unprovoked
aggression against another country remains a war crime, even if no
international body possesses the power to prosecute the war criminals.
Yet, incredibly, after one paragraph of muddleheaded, limited-hang-out
apologetics for the criminality of Republicans ("the problems of
success"), Lucianne's boy devotes ten paragraphs to Howard Dean.
Dean's crime? It's his desire for Democrats to "frame" the terms of
political debate more persuasively than Republicans. . And even if Dean
were guilty of promoting the inappropriate frame of "Merlot Democrats"
vs. "Reliable Republicans," Lucianne's boy would do well to consider
how the term "reliable" might soon become a term of opprobrium,
especially in an age of widespread Republican incompetence and
criminality. It's a thought I also recommend to Kathleen Parker.
But, such observations entirely miss the point, which is: "Why would The Philadelphia Inquirer
publish such frivolous right-wing crap?" The mind boggles when
contemplating the contempt with which its editors must hold its
Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer
whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The
Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military
History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is
President of the Russian-American International Studies Association