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