Archive - Jul 11, 2007

Journalism McNuggets

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Memo to the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board: YOU ARE DUMB.

I know you know what the game of "chicken" is. I know this because you padded out the intro of your ridiculous editorial yesterday with it. As you say, the game is "a contest in which two motorists speed toward each other to see who will yield -- or 'chicken out' -- first."

It's a game you don't actually see much of in real life, but that you do see a lot of in bad movies, especially bad movies about teens and cars. Especially bad movies about teens and cars from the 1960's.

Since you've managed to conveniently avoid linguistic, taxonomical, or ontological excuses in your very first paragraph, then, I have to ask. What the fuck were you thinking applying the game of "chicken" to the various Congressional subpoenas for the US Attorney investigations?

I don't really have to ask. I know the answer. The first thing you were thinking was, "fuck, we need an editorial for Tuesday". A sentiment to which I share no small degree of sympathy. But I'm pretty sure the second thing you thought, after surveying the topical landscape for fodder on which to opine, was that here was a situation in which one side, the side you traditionally support, was clearly and unequivocally in the wrong.

And the traditional journalistic response to one side being clearly and unequivocally wrong is to find a way to frame things so that the side that is unequivocally NOT wrong is in fact also wrong. In the Chicago Tribune's case, this is done by declaring, right off the bat, that a game of "chicken" is taking place, and then completely failing to demonstrate that two cars are in fact rushing toward each other. Or that one of the participants is even driving a car in the first place.

The thing about the "chicken" metaphor is that the implication is that BOTH SIDES are being deliberately reckless over a misplaced sense of pride. The editorial goes into a bit of detail about the Bush administration's recklessness, albeit in milquetoast terms. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"The issue Congress is investigating is an important one -- why did so many prosecutors get the ax, well into a president's second term? The administration says it was dissatisfied with their performance, which is a legitimate reason. But there is reason to wonder."

OK. They've placed Bush in one car, and sent it, if not careening, at least cruising, down the road toward oncoming headlights. So now, the Tribune will show how the Democrats are also being reckless, right?

Well, sort of. All the Tribune is willing to accuse the Democrats of is considering going to court over the matter, where they might lose. Those crazy bastards and their painstakingly tentative exploration of options! They'll bring ruin on us all!

And that's the other thing about the "chicken" metaphor. It demands that, if neither side flinches, something horrible will happen. Of course, what that horrible thing IS isn't actually mentioned. This is the best they can muster:

"The Supreme Court has said that executive privilege sometimes may be overruled -- but it has given little indication if a congressional investigation of this sort would prevail over the president's need for confidentiality in internal deliberations. If the administration goes to the mat, however, it could provoke a ruling that would permanently limit the president's power. It might also alienate many Americans who will suspect it of having something unsavory to hide.

Shit, if those are the consequences of chicken, then gentlemen, START YOUR FUCKING ENGINES. Heaven forbid the president alienate many Americans. Imagine what kind of shape we'd be if, oh, 72% of the country didn't like the job he was doing. Why, the Chicago Tribune might have to take the bold step of writing another retarded editorial, and we can't have that, can we?

The editorial ends with a predictable call for "compromise", as if the last six years had happened to some other fucking universe. I defy the Tribune editorial board to present one single bonafide instance of the Bush administration actually compromising on any issue. And by "compromise", I mean actually changing its position and moving toward the opposition because it has to in order to accomplish something. Starting out with a vaguely moderate position and pissing off the base doesn't count, so no cheating and trying to pass off the immigration bill. I'm watching.

It's just the latest in a never-ending series of pundit escapades which ignores history and reality in favor of a plastic plant, wax fruit, Schoolhouse Rock version of government, where high-minded public servants with honest differences of opinion can meet and find common ground on solving the issues facing America.

Muggers don't compromise. When they've got a gun in your face, they're not going to agree to take half your money and only one of your credit cards if you agree to... let them take half your money and only one of your credit cards. And if they DID agree to that, the event wouldn't be some sort of triumph for both parties. You still end up mugged.

I suspect the Chicago Tribune knows this. But they're basically acting as a lookout, distracting the other passersby in exchange for their cut of the loot, and if the mugger actually gets busted, their cut disappears. So, you know, fuck them, fuck their game of "chicken", and fuck their half-assed, unsupported, bullshit metaphor masquerading as intelligent, moderate discourse.