FACTS AND LEGENDS: Hooray for Hollywood!


Part 4—Sequel to earth tones: If the historians can be believed, American “journalists” have always behaved this way.

They have always enjoyed making up stupid shit—inventing, then printing, their legends. In her 2010 book, Wounded Knee: Party Politics and the Road to an American Massacre, Heather Cox Richardson described the way some “reporters” functioned in the run-up to that disaster:
RICHARDSON (page 222): Sent to report on a story that wasn’t there, reporters invented one. Writing on the long planks of the counter of the agency store after the business closed for the night, they constructed copy out of rumor, or even out of whole cloth...They joined forces with the photographers eager for exciting pictures to sell, staging pictures of hand-to-hand combat with compliant Indians posing as hostile warriors. To while away the time, the reporters wrote stories to amuse themselves, interviewed each other and sent sensational copy back East.

The columns the reporter filed were electrifying, describing Indian murders and atrocities and predicting an imminent battle.
Much like their present-day brothers and sisters, these reporters did these things “to amuse themselves,” Richardson writes.

Steven Spielberg portrayed these same events in his 2005 TV mini-series, Into the West. These events ended quite badly. But that has often been the case when reporters self-entertain in this fashion.

Other figures discussed this “journalistic” tendency long before Spielberg and Richardson did. Briefly, let’s tip our hat to Oscar with a famous screen quotation:

"This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” So says a newspaper reporter in a famous (fictional) moment from John Ford’s 1962 film, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. On its own, the famous quote is a bit opaque. In context, the (fictional) reporter is saying this: He has come to know that a famous tale isn’t true. But he plans to keep printing it anyway.

John Ford’s film was a fictional work; Richardson’s book is history. But over the course of the past forty years, the modern-day “press corps” has amused itself in this time-honored manner, inventing legends as they pretend to cover our White House campaigns.

Candidate Muskie wept! Al Gore said he invented the Internet! Al Gore hired a woman to teach him to be a man! These are some of the most consequential legends these horrible people have pimped. But surprise! The very dumbest of these slackers are pimping a legend in this year’s campaign! Mitt Romney drove to Canada with his pet Irish setter “strapped to the roof of his car!”

The fatuous tale of the dog on the roof is this year’s version of earth tones. Because Gail Collins has returned to this tale in her two most recent New York Times columns, might we note a few facts about this new legend, which pseudo-journalists like Collins write “to amuse themselves?”

Can we talk? Lady Collins has no real idea about this now-legendary pseudo-event. She doesn’t know if Seamus was uncomfortable during his ride on the roof of the car. She doesn’t know if he was wet, or perhaps even “very wet,” during the ride. She doesn’t know if it was windy inside his carrier—the type of carrier in which dogs frequently travel.

Romney said, in 2008, that Seamus enjoyed riding in his carrier up on the roof of the family car, that he would scramble up into his suite unbidden. Collins has no way of knowing that this isn’t true. She doesn’t have the slightest idea what she is talking about.

On balance, she's making this up, then feigning surprise at the way folks "glom on to" her tale (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/23/12).

Collins has no real idea what did or didn’t happen. But like the people who invented those tales from Wounded Knee; like the people who spent twenty months dreaming up tales about Candidate Gore; like the famous dean of pundits, who told us that Muskie wept, then took it back fifteen years later; like those earlier horrible people, Collins is determined to put a novelized tale into play.

Week after week, she just keeps printing the legend!

Hooray for Hollywood! “Seamus was strapped to the roof of the car” is the latest sequel to earth tones! Earth tones was aimed at a highly capable candidate; the dog on the roof of the car is aimed at a horrible candidate—a man who’s a bit of a nut. But the biggest nut in this fruit jar is Collins. Here’s how she started her most recent column. She herself put the questions in bold:

COLLINS (2/25/12): I know you’re extremely excited about the latest developments in the Republican presidential primaries. As a public service, I am ready to answer all your questions.

Is it true that a giant cat in Wisconsin saved the life of its owner by giving her the Heimlich maneuver?

You see, this is the way rumors get started. I believe you are talking about Amy Jung of Sturgeon Bay, Wis., who is not a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. However, the story about Pudding, her 21-pound cat, has gone viral since it was first reported by Samantha Hernandez in The Door County Advocate.

Jung adopted Pudding from the local Humane Society. Just a few hours after the cat joined the family, his new mistress suffered a seizure while sleeping. According to Jung, Pudding sat on her chest in an attempt to wake her, hit her face with his paw, bit her nose until she was aroused and then ran to her son’s room to summon help.

Wow, where can I find a similar 21-pound cat to monitor my health in the late-night hours?

I would suggest that we reserve judgment on this story until we see if Pudding jumps on top of sleeping people and bites their noses even when they are not in imminent danger.
Your nation is in a very bad way. We badly need clarity, clear understanding. And that is the way a leading “journalist” burned up the first 215 words of her most recent column. She ended with Romney’s dog “tied” to the roof of the car, a remarkable switch from “strapped,” the misleading term she has used in more than thirty columns.

People died because of those Wounded Knee “legends.” People are dead all over the world because of the way Collins and her colleagues clowned with earth tones and many other legends during their war against Gore. Your lizard brain is telling you that this year's sequel can’t be wrong. Your lizard brain is saying that Lady Collins should be creating this legend.

As always, your lizard brain is wrong. But hooray for Hollywood! Tomorrow, we’ll tell you why, shouting, “That’s a wrap!”

Tomorrow: Why are we all so clueless?


  1. I don't see the big mystery regarding Seamus. He defecated all over the roof of the car. Not a sign of a happy animal. And in any case, pet owners near universally condemn the notion of a 12 hour interstate drive with your pet on the car roof. The thought is abhorrent for most any human with a conscience.

    1. In the future, there will be a machine that can look into the window of one's soul. Until then, we'll go with Collins.

    2. It was reported the carrier had a windshield so this mode of travel is no different from a dog in the back of a pickup truck.

    3. Nor is it the case the wind causes diarrhea. Diarrhea is an intestinal disease.

      However, an ugly aspect of Collins's fictionalized "reporting" is that it encourages AnonymousFeb 27, 2012 07:16 AM to believe something negative about a political adversary. This commenter is displaying the same psychology as birthers.

    4. I fully agree with David-in-CA.

      [It can happen!]

      "Romney said, in 2008, that Seamus enjoyed riding in his carrier up on the roof of the family car, that he would scramble up into his suite unbidden."

      This must enter the canon of inconvenient facts.

    5. Nobody said the wind causes diarrhea. You just made that up.

      Diarrhea, dear David in Cal, is also created by extreme stress and anxiety. Severe diarrhea, such as the dog had by the Romneys' own account, is also lifethreatening by dehydration.

      One last point. Irish setters are among the most high-strung and anxious dog breeds there are.

    6. "Seamus enjoyed riding in his carrier up on the roof of the family car, that he would scramble up into his suite unbidden."

      But here's gryfalcon, coming to the rescue of the life-threatened and high-strung! Give it a break. Like Collins, you know nothing.

  2. I have to disagree with the comparison between old time reporters and today's "reporters."
    I have traveled throughout the West for 40 some tears, and the old time news reports were much more entertaining (and probably more carefully researched) than what we get today.
    By that, I mean the reporters fudged the facts because they didn't like them, not because they never bothered to check them in the first place.
    In Tombstone, for example the Epitaph supported the Republican Earps again the Democrat cowboys, while the Nugget was pro cowboy. The results were two wildly differing stories about the same event.

  3. Here: Romney once rescued a dog and a some people.

    It’s a story that’s not often told. Mitt Romney at his family’s summer home in Wolfeboro, N.H. on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee whisking into the night on a Jet Ski with two of his sons to rescue a drowning family of four, their two friends, and their dog.


  4. The sheer hatred knowingly fostered by Collins is beyond all understanding.