Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for April, 2008

The Devil, Miss Jones, and Tony Zirkle

Posted by metaphorical on 30 April 2008

When asked if he was a Nazi or sympathized with Nazis or white supremacists, Zirkle replied he didn’t know enough about the group to either favor it or oppose it. — The (Michigan City, Ind.) News-Dispatch, 22 April 2008

Yes, it’s 2008, and a Congressional candidate in a Republican primary doesn’t whether he’s for or against the American Nazi movement. Sure, it’s in Indiana, birthplace of the Klu Klux Klan, but still. It’s 2008, and a Congressional candidate in a Republican primary doesn’t whether he’s for or against Nazism.

Here’s what he does know:

“This is just a great opportunity for me to witness,” he said, referring to his message and his Christian belief.

The candidate is Tony Zirkle, a former county prosecutor. And yes, he did accept a speaking invitation from an American Nazi group. The occasion? Hitler’s birthday. You might think he just didn’t know that, but then there’s that picture of him speaking at a podium right underneath a giant picture of…. Adolf Hitler.

Tony Zirkle speaking at Hitler\'s birthday party

But maybe he didn’t recognize Hitler’s characteristic moustache. Or the swastika further down the wall. Or the swastika armbands that everyone was wearing. But then it turns out there was a cake decorated with yet another picture of Hitler and the phrase “Seig Heil.”

It actually gets worse.

Last week, when he talked to the News-Dispatch, Zirkle wasn’t sure he agreed with the Nazis. But now it seems like he does. Here’s something pulled off Zirkle’s website. I’ve added a paragraph break, to make it easier to read, but left it otherwise as is, including typos.

Last week, MSNBC’s Keith Olberman on his Countdown show called me the world’s 2nd worst person after Bill O’Reilly and ahead of John McCain. What cracks me up is that he showed the picture of me presenting the Gospel book, “The Desire of Ages” to the National Socialists. You know that America and its liberal dominated media have become morally bankrupt when you are called the second worst person in the world for trying to present Jesus to a group the media claims is filled with hate. So, let me get this straight. The liberal media believes that evangelizing Nazis is more evil than suicide bombers, child rapists, drug dealers, murders, torturers and yes even porn-pimps.

Maybe those national socialists have a point that WWII was really about liberalism and communism dominating the world and that it was an assault on Christian civilization. Was the bipolar Churchhill possibly deceived? Was America? Didn’t General Patton say that we should have been fighting the Russian communists instead? How many people died after WWII because of the new communist threat that Patton said we should not have tolerated. On the other hand, communism gave us Russian brides and capitalism gave us porn stars. Oh, that’s tmi (too much info). Maybe asking these qustions will get me ranked #1.

So in the space of a few days, Zirkle goes from not even knowing that National Socialism and Nazism are the same thing, to sophisticated revisionist histories of Yalta and the Cold War. And goes from not being sure who he agrees with to offering 23 links, right on his campaign’s front page, proving the connection between “Jews and porn-prostitution,” including such authoritative sources as David Duke.

The door having been opened by the News-Dispatch, the rest of the press is putting on a full-court press. A hard-hitting report from, of all places, Foxnews, notes that

Zirkle, who is seeking the GOP nomination for the state’s 2nd Congressional District, believes — among other things — that whites are victims of a “genocide,” that the races should be segregated into different states and that pornography is a Jewish plot against women.

Zinkle’s obsession with porn and prostitution dominate his campaign. And of course, that’s now a cliche for Republican politicians; we feel we know almost exactly what skeletons are in his closet.

What’s interesting is that Zinkle immediately runs for the protective cover of revisionism, no matter if it’s tissue-thin. We see this time and again from politicians, especially, it seems, Republicans.

Want to oppose climate change? Find the handful of scientists who doubt the science, even if each and every one of them is bought and paid for by industries that would be adversely affected (or think they would be) and their “studies” are never published in peer-reviewed journals. Want to oppose evolution? Find the handful of scientists who doubt the science, even if each and every one of them is a religous nutcase who can’t get published in peer-reviewed journals. Want to lower taxes?

The Indiana Republican party leadership has repudiated Zinkle, but Foxnews noted that

Zirkle captured 30 percent of the Republican primary vote in 2006, when he ran against an incumbent who went on to lose to a Democrat (Joe Donnelly) in November. With three candidates but no incumbent in Tuesday’s Republican primary, some wonder if Zirkle will perform better this time around.

Thirty percent would be scary enough. But then, Indiana is a pretty scary place, if you don’t happen to believe in what my cousin likes to call the International Jewish Communist Banker’s Conspiracy theory.

Posted in language | 5 Comments »


Posted by metaphorical on 29 April 2008

Human Rights Torch Relay protest, Union Square, New York City, 17 April 2008

In April 1968, when Mark Rudd and other students took over the halls of Columbia University, I was 12 years old – too young for anything other than hero-worship. So I read the newspaper accounts, watched the news on television, and wrote in magic marker all over my bedroom walls.

I carefully drew peace signs, Rudd’s name, and “Columbia” from the closet at one end of the room’s longest wall to the rear window at the other end. And the word “Love,” scrawled Peter-Max style – big balloon sans-serif letters that overlapped one another, with the “O” being yet another peace symbol. I don’t remember asking my parents about writing all over my walls, and I do remember my mother’s odd smile when I showed her my handiwork.

That year students took over college campuses from Berkeley to Bonn. They drew their energy from the Civil Rights protests that ended Jim Crow and the antiwar demonstrations that ended Lyndon Johnson’s reelection campaign.

Where did that energy go? Where are the protest movements of today? As it turns out, there’s still plenty of energy, and still plenty of protest. What’s missing is the reporting of it. Consider Human Rights Torch Relay, a world-wide ongoing protest that has taken the traditional Olympic torch relay as an occasion for repeated protest of China’s subjugation of Tibet. Yesterday, Reuters published a nice timeline or their protests, beginning with the March 24th Athens torch lighting, and continuing, among other places, in San Francisco, Paris, Bangkok, and, last Sunday, South Korea.

Indeed, the print media has done a pretty good job of covering Human Rights Torch Relay. But where are the television networks? A google search looks in vain for them until the 48th link, where a story by CNN is the first network-based one to appear.

And even if the big wire services such as Reuters, AP, and AFP can cover a big protest like Human Rights Torch Relay, they fall down when it comes to smaller ones. Did you know about a protest at Penn State that has lasted more than two weeks now? They are “demanding improved conditions in the factories where Penn State apparel is made.” Nor has Penn State been the only anti-sweatshop rally in recent weeks; there have been at least three others.

I learned about them at a new blog, http://studentactivism.net/, that hopes to provide a focal point for “News and analysis on student organizing, student activism, and students’ rights.” The blog, which launched yesterday, is maintained by Angus Johnston, whose goal is to fill the middle ground between the mainstream media, which doesn’t cover smaller activist efforts, and student networks, which largely preach to the choir.

Students provided much of the early white support for black civil rights activism, they spearheaded the anti-Vietnam movement, and they’ve never stopped being in the forefront of protest, whether it’s over environmental issues, Nicaragua, corporate responsibility, the death penalty, or the war in Iraq. Whether we agree or disagree with the stances that students take (and they’re by no means all of one mind in their concerns), I hope that many of us will subscribe and link to the site, as I now have.

Posted in journalism, politics, pop culture | 4 Comments »

Oh, Reilly?

Posted by digglahhh on 11 April 2008

As if we need more tiresome, trite commentary about dead-horse issues from self-oblivious Luddites, Rick Reilly chimed with his opinions on the blogosphere’s contributions to sports journalism. Reilly is a well-known, highly regarded—by many, though not yours truly—sports journalist who left Sport Illustrated in 2007, after 23 years of service, to join the ranks of ESPN. (A move which, it should be noted, did not take him beyond the bounds of the Time Warner mediaplex.)

Normally, I’m not sufficiently motivated to defend the blogosphere from insulting platitudes, but seeing as how this one was deliciously ironic as well, I think it’s worth some keystrokes.

Okay, let’s get the meta-platitude out of the way. As the crew over at FireJoeMorgan phrased it when dissecting Reilly’s comments, “most stuff sucks.” To say that most sports blogging sucks is probably entirely true. But, it would be equally true to say that most sports print journalism sucks. Music, writing, dancing, television movies, everything – statistically, the great majority of it sucks! Thus, when Reilly calls internet sports journalism, “all over the map,” he is describing what he is talking about only as accurately as everything he is not talking about.

Now for the ironies. There are two of them. Reilly, conveniently, gives special recognition to the writers on ESPN.com, as the sort of hard-journalism antithesis of the stereotypical underwear-clad, mom’s-basement-dwelling, sports blogger. Perhaps Reilly is unaware the most popular columnist on ESPN’s website is Bill Simmons. Simmons is one of the pioneers of the sports blogging revolution. His columns are multi-thousand word ramblings packed with pop-culture references, bar stool hypotheses, and obscure tidbits about his friends and family. Reilly’s new home, and self-described beacon of quality journalism, gives its top billing to an ostensible blogger.

The other great irony stems from Reilly’s career itself. Reilly is most well known for his, “Life of Reilly” column that graced the back page of Sports Illustrated for many years. These columns were (at least attempts at) humorous quips. They were casual, side-bar commentaries. Reilly’s defining column was basically an abbreviated blog entry in printed form directed at a slightly older and more square demographic than your average sports blog, with the following week’s Letters to the Editor as the only potential source for commenting. The dichotomy between Reilly and Simmons is one of talent, not of tone!

Here’s another fun fact, in the article above he talks about bloggers not going into locker rooms, and thus being removed from the athletes and dynamics of teams and the game. Reilly writes endlessly about golf, and his favorite athlete is cyclist Lance Armstrong–two sports, in other words, that don’t even have locker rooms.

Reilly is hardly the only old guard journalist to fundamentally misunderstand blogging, the internet, and internet journalism. Many who self-righteously dismiss internet journalism don’t recognize the new generation of sports fans, who get their news primarily from blogs, the internet, and independent media, nor do they understand the dynamics of the modern information age. The fact is many young, savvy readers don’t want their news from staples of the mainstream media. ESPN.com thinks it is competing with Deadspin, et al, but to a large extent it is not (Simmons excluded). In fact, the blogs are competing with each other for those who ESPN lost a long time ago when they chose to abandon their leadership in sports journalism in favor of promoting entertainment, sensationalism, and the lowest common denominator.

The internet is a medium, not a genre. “Internet journalism” is no more descriptive a term than “print journalism.” There seems an inherent disdain for the internet among print journalists, perhaps because the internet can destroy the glass menagerie of journalism as an institution by making it more of a true meritocracy. Regardless, the internet is the most convenient way for many of us to get our news. I work a lot, I can surf the web and read dozens of different sites during the course of my work day, I can read things on my phone on the go, but I can’t bring 20 different magazines and newspapers to work and thumb through them at my leisure. Ironically (a third irony today), while in many ways regular news on the Web is still derivative of print newspapers and magazines, that’s less true of sports than just about any other news category.

Since the boom of the internet, I’ve been able to read more, and hear more voices than I ever have; that’s a good thing. Rick Reilly just doesn’t happen to be one of those voices who’ve earned a piece of my time and mindshare. Sorry, Rick, but don’t blame the supermarket for my opinion that your food product tastes like shit. But then again, shouldn’t that be expected when the producer doesn’t even know which dish he’s actually famous for making?

Posted in digglahhh, journalism, sports | 3 Comments »