Tuesday, August 02, 2005

About Kornblut & The Daily Howler

C.I.: I'm moderator of this roundtable and a participant. Members want a comment on today's Daily Howler. To avoid being accused of watering down or justifying, the issue's being discussed by a roundtable. Participating are Dona and Ava of The Third Estate Sunday Review, Ruth of Ruth's Morning Edition Report, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, Kat of Kat's Korner, Gina and Krista of the gina & krista round-robin Elaine who's subbing for Rebecca at Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, and, despite being on vacation, Rebecca.

Dona: The topic we're supposed to be addressing is Anne E. Kornblut's article and the response to it. Which goes to the way women are treated.

Betty: Which is we're ignored or we're mocked.

Gina: And we saw that with Kornblut today. The Daily Howler has always struck me as a blog for white men. So I'm not all that surprised by what I read today.

C.I.: I'll deal with the Times later but I've already spoken to Elaine and Ruth about today's Daily Howler. So I'm tossing to them.

Elaine: Bob Somerby quotes Kornblut who says Novak was suggesting in his column that he might have gotten the name from Who's Who. Novak's suggested that before. But when Somerby critiques there's not "might." He's trashing her because he's saying she said it happened. That's not what she wrote. And when he goes out of his way to note when other people distort a quote he needs to look in the mirror.

C.I.: Background, when Somerby commented on Diane Rehm, Ruth wrote a response. It was going up until she called to kill it.

Ruth: I like Mr. Somerby's work but I do have a concern. Tracey and I poured over it, Tracey's my granddaughter, and here's the concern, it appears that if you're a man you're criticized one way, if you're a woman you can be called old, crazy, any number of things. Jane Mayer is repeatedly brought up there because she suggested, and her exact words are never included, that sexism might have been involved in the trashing of two reporters who trashed Al Gore.

C.I.: Kit Seelye and the Wash Post writer that I'm not in the mood to check the spelling of her name. We all know who the women are.

Ruth: Saying they distorted Al Gore's records or statements is one thing. Trashing them in a way that men aren't trashed is completely different. Holding William Kristol to one standard and Maureen Dowd to another is completely different.

Ava: And that's something that hit C.I. and I one morning, a Sunday, when we were doing a joint entry. Washington Memo isn't a great deal better than Washington Letter. In the New York Times. So why is it that Bumiller is criticized over and over and other's aren't? Why is she the only one held accountable for tongue baths?

C.I.: And Ava and I weren't saying she didn't deserve it. Or that she doesn't personalize her columns, and White House Letter is a floating op-ed, but why is that she's held to a different standard?

Ruth: The only woman who came off well in any form was Naomi Wolf. And, as Tracey said, she had two good books in her and then she proved her attackers right.

Krista: I love Fire With Fire!

Ruth: That's one of her good books.

C.I.: And you, Krista, saw something good in it, there's a lot of good in it, but when you read the Madame C.J. Walker passage, you felt good for what she said about Walker. I read it and wondered why Walker was lumped in with a white woman and why Wolf felt the need to reassure us of how attractive, sensual, blah, blah, blah the white woman was and then it was "Oh, here's Madame C.J. Walker."

Krista: She does that?

C.I.: Hold on. Pulled the book. We're on page 164:

Victoria Woodhull and Madame C.J. Walker are two early power feminist heroes. Woodhull was a beautiful, sensual, charasmatic, scandalous, and very eccentric New York stockbroker who, with her sister, produced her own newspaper, in which she championed sexual automony and the right for women to vote.

It goes on. Now to page 165 where she introduces us to Walker:

Sarah Breedlove, or Madame C.J. Walker, the poor daughter of former slaves, was born on a cotton plantation in Delta, Louisiana. She spent her adulthood . . .

Wolf creates the comparison and having written The Beauty Myth, she's aware of what society prizes. Both are presented as feminist heroes but one is all that and much more. Walker was married, I think, three times. Photos of her reveal an attractive woman and a stylish one. But somehow that's not in the narrative.

Krista: I never noticed that. I feel like I should tell everyone I'm sorry. Community, I'm sorry.

C.I.: There's no reason to. You discovered Walker through Wolf's book and highlighted Walker for Black History Month. But Wolf sets up a standard wherein Woodhouse is a pioneer and a woman who is prized for her work and her looks. And then over there's Walker, the washer woman apparently. Fire With Fire is a good book for many reasons, but that's not one of them.
My opinion.

Elaine: But Wolf's a gauzy face for feminism. She's pretty and she's soft spoken and she worked for Gore's campaign so she's praised at The Howler.

C.I.: And in defense of her work on the Gore campaign, saying she was responsible for his wardrobe was as sexist as saying, as Newsweek once did, that Gloria Steinem picked out McGovern's socks or ties.

Ruth: Well Tracey and I noticed that Janeane Garofalo, for instance, is ripped to shreds. Rachel Maddow is treated in a similar manner. You can go down the list. It's a tone that's not present when Somerby's addressing males.

Rebecca: People know I'm neutral to NPR, so I'm going to jump in here. Diane Rehm didn't deserve the viciousness of the comments Somerby made. David Broder isn't treated in that manner. Diane's not presenting herself as a pundit, she's hosting a conversation. But she's attacked as a dottering, old fool while men who present themselves as experts get a pass.

Gina: I've never been a fan of The Daily Howler. It plays like a white person's only site to me. But when I read the post that went up here, I called C.I. and asked, "What the hell?" I'd read the article and I couldn't see what his problem was other than that she'd emphasized something he didn't care for.

C.I.: And I'm going to step in with the Times comments here. My comments on the Times. Novak played the "I may talk later but I'm not saying a word until after the grand jury is done" over and over. That's the game he's played until his most recent column. Kornblut's article was reporting on his breaking his silence. People have abscribed motives and intent to an article that I don't think they read to clearly. Now some critiqued the night before so possibly an earlier draft was a problem. But Kornblut is rejecting Novak's claims. Yet somehow she becomes the news today and that really doesn't make any sense. It would be one thing if people could point to things in her article that are a problem. But to stretch what she wrote, to bend what she wrote to launch an attack on her, that's really sad.

Dona: And it's not just Somerby.

C.I.: I'm confining my remarks to Somerby because that's what members wanted a comment on. I play it down the middle or try to. I disagreed strongly with him when he was admonishing Katrina vanden Heuvel. But he goes by the "public record" and by "accepted sources." Fine, I disagree with him but I can see where he's coming from. Today, he's building a case around something she didn't write. He has to leave out "sugggesting . . . that he could have" when he summarizes her before noting in his parenthetical that she's not saying that. His problem is he thinks it's "chafe." I can disagree with him and still play it down the middle when members are outraged --

Rebecca: And do the insufferable "in fairness" that you do.

C.I.: Fine, yes. But that's when he's fact based. Today he wanted to play with the boys. He wanted to run with the "big dogs." There was no purpose to it and it's the weakest thing he's ever written. The Howler's not about doing what everyone else does, it's about noting what needs to be noted. It was like a professor entering the classroom drunk, a professor you respect and admire, and you're just in shock that he's acting that unprofessional.

Betty: Would Ruth's post have gone up?

C.I.: Ruth?

Betty: No, I mean would you have posted it?

C.I.: Me? Yeah, that's Ruth's space. It was going up until she killed it. She can say whatever she wants there. I don't think she killed it because of me. Did you?

Ruth: No. But I thought it would be read as "Somerby's as a sexist." That's not what I was saying. I was saying that there are different standards for the way women get evaluated and different ones for the way men do and that Somerby needed to take a look at his own treatment. But I felt it would be seen by a lot of people as, "Somerby's a sexist!"

Rebecca: I think I know what you're saying. You're saying your point was that he needed to take a look at it the way we all need to check ourselves from time to time?

Dona: Well I'll own up here, I didn't run from the feminist label but I didn't use it until I started talking to Ava and then C.I. I was perfectly happy as the token on my high school paper and being told "You write good." Which really meant I wrote about topics that guys liked. And when I started thinking about what Ava was saying and later C.I. and let's give credit to Jess as well, I really got how much that approval silenced me previously. A grimace or a "You really want to write about that?" was enough to kill a piece. I was internalizing their judgements/bias and on some level I knew I was but I wasn't owning up to it. I was the only woman on my high school paper. And when you're in that situation you can get into that group think, male group think, and not realize it. So you do need to think about it. And to give Jess credit, when Ava and C.I. were coming up with the reviews at first, Jess was the one who really saw their value. They'd fight to get something in a review, a comment or a paragraph and that's what readers would respond to. Readers were way ahead of the rest of us. So we all said, "Look, they're speaking to the readers, let's let them write the TV reviews." And I really didn't get it. At one point, there was a discussion, Ava and C.I. know about this, and it was something along the lines of "Does this serve a purpose?" these reviews.
And Jess is the one who said, "Look, these are feminist reviews. They're doing something that's not being done elsewhere and that's why people are responding. These are political reviews."

Rebecca: And they are. I mean women who review film in magainze or newspapers, for instance Lisel, were trashing Jane Fonda for Monster-in-Law and women like Lisel wanted to do it as though they were feminists. They weren't. They've never been concerned about feminist issues before. In Monster-In-Law, a woman who has everything and has achieved by every definition, including male definitions, lose it all. She comes undone. And the film is about her finding her way back. But somehow this is an anti-woman message? If the sparring wasn't over her son, if it was alcoholism, I think even the Lisels would have a hard time sliding their nonsense on to others. But because it was a film with two women, no three women, in strong roles, because it was a comedy, and because it could be put off as having to do with the "heart," it was time for all the power suited female reviewers to slam the film to prove they were tough as nails. The films a hit.

Elaine: The New York Times pointed out that it made 82 million Monday.

Rebecca: Which is great because most films are crashing and burning including Bewitched that no one's felt the need to examine through a psuedo feminist lense, but if that nonsense that it was anti-woman hadn't started up, imagine how many more people might have seen the film?

Betty: Or the idiot in The New Yorker who wanted to say it was racist, Fonda's reaction to Lopez, but that the film couldn't be honest about it. What was the moment that dealt with race that you two saw?

Ava: Lopez's "Oh Oprah!" to Skyes which plays like "I'm down with your people." Somehow that flew over The New Yorker critic's soggy head. As a Hispanic, maybe I'm more aware than The New Yorker critic that racial conflict goes beyond black and white.

C.I.: And let's note how easy it's been recently for films with women to be trashed. Barbra Streisand as a punch line plays with the right, but if you're not the National Review, why are you mocking her? It may have just been a bad joke but I couldn't understand why Streisand is the joke in the first place. Whether you're Lisel or whomever, what are you trying to prove by trashing Streisand? If you think Meet the Fockers sucked, was Streisand the only performer in that? I liked the film and enjoyed Streisand. But a lot of the criticism seemed to be the written equivalent of "Streisand" with an eye roll.

Dona: I want to speak to that because I saw that in high school. There was actually a piece where a guy knocked The Mirror Has Two Faces. He hadn't even seen the film. I thought it was a pretty good film and I asked him, "Why did you pick The Mirror Has Two Faces?" I mean, it was an old movie at that point. He was someone who identified himself as left. "Because people will laugh." There were probably twenty films that had bombed that year, really bad movies, but he's going with that. And I did make an issue out of that. The film's funny. It's not unwatchable. And it was "Oh, she's an egomaniac." I said, "What about Kevin Costner?" And I was told, "It's funny when you make fun of her." Why is that? I think that goes to the topic of this discussion. Kevin Costner can loving frame his own rear, naked rear, in Dances With Wolves, and it's no big deal and not something to laugh at him about. But Streisand's fondness for her finger nails becomes an issue. You can go to town on Streisand but apparently other than uttering "Waterworld," Costner's not really someone you poke fun at. There is a double standard here. And before anyone thinks I'm setting myself up as a hero, the piece ran. If back then I was where I am now, I would objected much more harshly.

Betty: And what's the movie where his naked rear is practially wrapped in tissue paper?

Rebecca: Revenge.

Betty: Right. But that doesn't become an issue.

Rebecca: If it was his penis it would be. When Richard Gere was tossing around the gere, he was treated as a joke. He keeps it covered up and squints more and suddenly he's a serious actor. Or at least one who's not made fun of. But Streisand's ego is the one that gets turned into a joke. As though Costner, Michael Douglas and a host of others don't have equally strong egos.

Ava: There's a tendency to step aside to prove your "reasonable." Or to join in to prove your cred. And there's been comments about how I didn't open up with anyone but C.I. but a lot of that had to do with jokes that I'd roll my eyes at. I didn't know Jim. I didn't know he was trying to be funny. I don't think he's sexist now but I did wonder at the start. And granted, a lot of that was the dance you, Dona, and Jim were doing with one another. But when you don't know the person, or like Gina was talking about how she interpreted The Daily Howler as being for white men only, you do study to see what's what and whether or not you're welcome there or, as C.I. would put it, whether or not a plate's set for you. And Dona had experience running with male egos and could handle herself. But I wasn't going to put myself out there with people who were strangers for the most part to me.

Dona: Right and there's the whole competition thing that you have to deal with a group of males. Jim thrives on that sort of thing and I can handle it because I'm used to it but you were new to the group and it wasn't a friendly environment to you or one, honestly, that was really supportive of women.

Ava: And I'm speaking about Jim here and he won't care but I want to be clear I'm not saying Jim's a sexist. I'm not saying Bob Somerby is. I am saying that that there's a standard that gets applied to women and it's encouraged by our culture. I think that's why we need to check ourselves. When C.I. and I did the thing on Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey's special --

Gina: My favorite review so far.

Ava: Well we do go into Simpson's looks. And we kept stopping while we were writing it and asking ourselves, do we want to go there.

C.I.: Because it's an obvious area of discussion for women period, but Simpson specifically.

Ava: And the fact of the matter is she's not what she's described as or how she presents herself.
And that nose didn't film well, C.I. and I had both heard about that. In the end we felt it was pertinent because she has sold herself on her looks. We may have made the wrong decision but we were cheking ourselves throughout.

Rebecca: Which is what people should do. Whether it's Kat or me or Bob Somerby.

Krista: Because we are living in yet another backlash.

Gina: Which seems to happen anytime a Republican's in the White House trying to prove his manhood and that's something, a connection to both Bushes, that the press really doesn't make.

Ruth: Right because as v.p. and as president, George H.W. Bush did repeatedly try to overcome his image as a wimp. It's not just, "I'm going to go all the way to Baghdad because my daddy didn't!" His entire image, the Bully Boy's, has been reshaped to counter his father's. And the wives are trotted out as pro-choice which they may or may not be but it doesn't matter. The father didn't listen on that, the son doesn't. And it actually, in my view, sells to the base more by having the "little lady" be seen as pro-choice and either Bush not taking the position because it's their whole "who wears the pants" argument. But we get all these comments about how Laura's pro-choice or Laura wasn't listened to about Sandra Day O'Connor's replacement. And we're supposed to be surprised when neither Laura or Barbara was ever listened to. It's all part of the p.r. to make them seem more manly.

Kat: And I'm going to come out against Laura Bush here because there's this tendancy not to. There's this tendency to act like she's doing something when she's done nothing for five years now. People seem to think they can make a case to her and she'll advocate for them but that's not what she's done. If she truly disagrees, she's done nothing to stop anything. But more importantly, as a First Lady she's done nothing. I don't care for Hillary right now but Hillary did stuff, even beyond health care. Nancy Reagan had causes, for God's sake. Laura's as lazy as her husband but no one seems to want to make that point. She's treated like a sleeping giant that will wake up at some point and advocate for us. Based on what?

Rebecca: I agree with you but that may be the least controversial statement to come out of this roundtable.

Kat: (Laughing) Damn and I was trying to be controversial!

Rebecca: But Kat's right. Or take Ted Kennedy, whom I like, saying "John Roberts' wife is off limits." Why? She's a public person. Has Roberts refuted her publicly on any stance? I don't get this whole off limits. If someone's publicly advocated for something, then they are up for discussion. Kimba Woods' nanny was a private person. Turned into a national issue. You want to tell me that Roberts' wife isn't up for discussion? Based on what? Over at Ms. Musing, Christine brought up an article about the woman and there's this poster who was just so offended. Christine high roaded it and was respectful but I really thought she should have said, "Look, the woman's public stance is to turn back Roe v. Wade. If she wants to be a Feminist For Life, she needs to address other issues like the death penalty." I know many women who would never have an abortion, look at the story Betty told, because they feel it's the wrong choice for them but they aren't advocating for the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Gina: And let's talk about Ms. Musing because I want to know where Christine is online. I don't mean at her site. She's there, she's posting. But what's the deal with people not noting that site?
That was an issue with some members and we addressed it in our round-robin.

Krista: Right because Christine was on the O'Connor announcement almost immediately. Ms. made their entire issue on the Courts available online. And yet you didn't see a lot of "shout outs" to Christine or Ms. A guy could write, less well, the same point that Christine had made already and he was linkable from here to Hawaii but no one was nothing Christine. Outside of this site, of course.

Krista: And what's with the citing of idiots who attacked Victoria Hopper? Idiots who cautioned us to be respectful of Focus on the Fool?

Elaine: Which goes to the double standard. Dobson's to be respected, according to those jerks, and Hopper's to be mocked.

Rebecca: Which is how "moderates" operate. Hopper's done a ton for the Democratic Party but we'll stab her in the back and we'll caution people to watch what they say about the people, the men!, who've attacked the Democratic Party for years and years and years. By the way, before some "clever" ass wipe says it, let me state that I'm sure this will be received as "The Burn Your Bras Roundtable."

Dona: Absolutely, because God forbid that any topic be taken seriously and lead to introspection. I want to talk about why we're doing this roundtable to begin with. We all called C.I. regarding The Daily Howler today and wanted something up about that.

C.I.: And Bob Somerby is intelligent, smart, you name it. But it's as though he showed up to teach class this morning drunk. It's hard being a lonely voice and I'll defend him even when I disagree --

Gina: And you have done that.

C.I.: And I have done that. But today . . . I delayed the entry today by three hours because I was trying to bite my tongue and kept putting in comments and taking them out. He's supposed to be a leader, not a follower. It's lonely, I'm sure. But if he's not a brave voice, if he's skewing to make a point, he's completley missing the reason he's had a following to being with.
As everyone here knows, I disagreed with him strongly when the commentary on Katrina vanden Heuvel went up. But he did his public record critique and I defended that. Distorting what Kornblut wrote isn't doing his public record critique.

Ava: And Kornblut's been criticized here in the past. And if Somerby wanted to criticize her today based on something she actually wrote, it wouldn't have been so disappointing.

C.I.: But somewhere she became the issue. And to do that, her article had to be distorted. We had to play as though no one wondered about Plame vs. Wilson in terms of the usage. That may very well end up being a strong point in Fitzgerald's case, if he has one. But regardless of that, you only have to look at people rushing to call her Valerie Wilson.

Rebecca: Which is a mistake because you don't change it at this late date.

C.I.: Exactly. You can't get "ahead of the story"on the names of the individuals involved, or "billing," at this point. The name is the name the press has stuck you with. Ask Glen King and if anyone has to say, "Who?" then my point exactly. Two years after "Valerie Plame" has been all over the press is too long to start changing it. You finally have traction and you want to change the name? It's silly.

Rebecca: Like trying to change Watergate after Bernstein and Woodward (emphais intended) have already broke the ground on the story and with all the framers doing overtime these days, you'd think they'd grasp that.

C.I.: The name is an issue. People are confused, actual people outside the beltway, and anyone having conversations with people outside the pundit set will discover that quickly. Kornblut's attacked for covering Novak's column. That's all she's covering. Adam Liptak has covered the story for the Times in recent weeks, among others. This is a one-off for Kornblut. I'm not saying she's the best and the brightest, I'm not saying she's not. I'm saying fair is fair. Her angle is Novak has broken his self-imposed silence. She refutes his comments in the article. But somehow, maybe because Judith Miller's in jail and Bumiller's not written a groaner today, this got turned into Kornblut's stupid, she's a liar, she's this, she's that. There were groaners in the paper today, in the main section, there were fix-its. Somehow the bandwagon decided Kornblut was the one to leap on.

Ava: And when he has to dance around what she wrote, that really is shocking coming from The Daily Howler. I think that's what shocked me the most. I have disagreed with him on many things but he's offered his critique based on facts, based on carefully selected facts at times, but always based on facts. Today it was jump on the bandwagon with what read like a concession of "I know this argument doesn't really hold up."

Rebecca: Brian Lavery gets yet another pass and even the letters page of the Times has registered problems with his reporting. So it's interesting that Kornblut is the topic. I didn't appreciate having to interrupt my vacation to read her article. But she's not suggesting anything. She's reporting on what Novak wrote, which Somerby takes issue with, and she's noting where other statements contradict it. Novak used "Plame." Where did he get the name is an issue. Where he got the information on her is the whole point of Fitzgerald's investigation.
Novak writes a column breaking his silence and Kornblut's reporting on the column. She notes Who's Who doesn't identify Plame's "employer." Then Bob's off in speculation city on Tenet. After slapping the ruler down on other speculators for weeks. And the real problem with Kornblut's article appears to be that she didn't speculate. "If not for Who's Who, it is not clear how Mr. Novak would have decided to identify Ms. Wilson as Ms. Plame rather than the name she commonly used." That's what she wrote. And if it is clear to all the people slamming Kornblut, let's hope they all rush over to Patrick Fitzgerald because the clarity is what his investigation is in pursuit of.

Betty: I work a regular job with regular people and this is something people bring up, the Wilson versus Plame detail. To suggest that she's off in, Kornblut, looney toon land for bringing up the issue may result from people following every detail and event. Good for them. But that's not how it goes with everyone. And I think he [Somerby] even used the phrase "Everybody knows" when, point of fact, no, not everyone knows.

Gina: Yeah, I'd love to know who everyone is. I'm on the bus today and two guys are loudly saying that the largest producers of opium in the world are Mexico and Canada and that's why Bully Boy's hitting hard on immigration. Not entry points for drug trade even, that the two countries produce more opium than any other places in the world. So "everyone knows" is a phrase that I always have trouble with.

Krista: What were other critiques of Kornblut?

C.I.: Josh Micah Marshall had one that Jess marked to read, it was a copy and paste from a visitor, Jess went through the e-mails in the public inbox today. I didn't see a great deal of problems with JMM's post to be honest. He's speculating and he's clear, or was to me, where he's speculating. He also critiques Kornblut's article. As for other critiques, Jess gave me a summary of what visitors copied and pasted. If someone thinks one word qualifies, hey, I've been there anytime I read Juan Forero's writing. Have their say. My remarks are confined to The Daily Howler. With the exception of noting JMM's just now. JMM's a partisan, not "partisan hack," there's nothing wrong with being a partisan. He has a problem with the article, he's clear of what the problem is. The issues for me, really, are how the sloppy critique made it into The Howler and how Kornblut became the focus of net rage today. As Rebecca pointed out, silence has largely greeted Lavery's reporting online. And especially for the Democratic sites, that is suprising to me since you'd think they'd want to be sure Bill Clinton got the credit he deserved. Lavery is the one, at the Times, who never told you Clinton went to Ireland. That's his beat. Whether you think the IRA's statement is symbolic or not important, Clinton met with Gerry Adams three months ago. Northern Ireland was an issue to the Clinton adminstration. When the Times, and others, didn't want to tell you about Clinton's visit there, you'd think Democratic sites would have worked overtime to tell you and now that there's debate about what the statement means, you'd think Democratic sites would be pointing out, "Hey, drop this Bully Boy nonsense. Clinton worked on this issue for eight years and three months before the announcement, he was meeting with Gerry Adams. Give Clinton some credit." And that's not me praising me. Mike was on the phone with that today, kind words to me, but the credit on that goes, as it usually does, to members because they're the ones who drove anything we wrote on that. I've got a million things to do and if someone else will cover it great. When Folding Star was blogging, the best thing was I didn't have to worry about noting the Senate because that was FS's terroritory and I could focus on other areas and just refer members to A Winding Road. Members felt the Times was biased and they weighed in on that and that's why we addressed it and started following it. Mike was being very kind but I don't deserve credit for what members drove and made happen. And between the two journalists, Kornblut's reporting on what Novak wrote and Lavery apparently confessing that he's bewildered by the "three alphabet" groups in Ireland, I mean which is the more damaging?

Rebecca: And obviously no one's blogging tonight.

Elaine: I'll take that to mean me.

Rebecca: I want to go on record as saying Elaine's doing a great job and I thank her for filling in. She's providing a strong voice. And hopefully, when I'm back, she'll be so used to blogging that she'll set up her own site.

Dona: I'll play time keeper because I know everyone's tired and Ava and C.I. still have to transcribe this.

Ava: Without links.

Dona: Without links. Be a grown up if you want to find something out and look it up yourself.
But it's late and we need to wrap up. I think Ruth should go first with closing thoughts.

Ruth: Well, I'll say that I'm sure it will be inferred that I called Bob Somerby a sexist.

Rebecca: Only Bully Boy was called a sexist in this discussion and it was by me. I stand by it.

Ruth: I'm not calling Mr. Somerby a sexist. I am saying that there are patterns and conventions in our culture and I think people need to look at that and see whether they're taking part in them and if they are taking part in them, they need to ask themselves why? There is a tendency to "go to town" on the women at The Daily Howler. The howls have been much more vocal at Janeane Garofalo or Rachel Maddow or Diane Rehm. They are louder when women are involved and they're a little more personal. Someone like Elisabeth Bumiller may write from a very personal position and may justify that sort of response. But when it's not the same response that the men get, when even Mr. Kristol is treated better, I think there's something that prompts self-examination.

Gina: Agreed but I'm sure it will be seen as "They called him sexist!" I'll defend my comments about it being a blog for white men by noting that John McCain, one example, got more space than Colin Powell. No Lawrence Summers critique acknowledged the serious problems that Summers has had, and continues to have this week, with African-Americans at Harvard. Maybe it's there and I missed it but to put it in the terms that Ava did, I've never felt that a plate was set for me at that table.

Krista: I'll say one more time, I'm sorry. I won't beat myself up like I did the last time I made a huge mistake. But I will say I'm sorry because when C.I. read those passages it is obvious that Woodhull is presented as a pioneer and as beautiful and Walker is presented as "just a pioneer."
I really wish I had caught that and I am sorry.

Rebecca: And I'm jumping in here to say Krista better not beat herself up. You weren't critiquing the book. You were noting Madame C.J. Walker and noting where you learned of her.
In terms of Bob Somerby, my hope is that he had an off day. I couldn't get to his site and had to ask Dona to copy and paste and e-mail it to me. If he's got a criticism to make of Kornblut, he needs to make it. Shading the realities of what she wrote doesn't cut it and is beneath him.

Kat*: Somerby's value is in critiquing, not in giving props. Not in hollering, "Where my boys at!" The interactive Howler, as I like to think of the last few weeks, isn't doing the trick. There's standing tall and there's slouching. He's supposed to be a leader but all the "shout outs" and "air kisses" have turned him from a leader into one more pack member. Shangri Las didn't sing, "That's why I fell for the Toady of the Pack."

Betty: I'll go back to "everybody knows." Like Gina, I have a problem with that. I also have a problem with the fact that women appear to be ridiculded in ways that men aren't. There's more deferrence shown to men and when Diane [Rehm] is mentioned, it's an attack on her age.
That's how that read to me. I don't think she's the oldest person he's ever written about. But she's the one who's feeble. It wasn't that it was mean spirited, it was that mean spirited seems fine with women but men get more deferrence. If you're going to treat one group one way, you should treat all groups the same.

Elaine: Which is the point about how Kornblut became the topic on the net. As Mike said to me on the phone, why isn't everyone talking about the articles in The Guardian? I don't think anyone here has some vested interest in Anne E. Kornblut but that makes it all the more important to say, "Hey, wait a minute."

Dona: It's the Judith Miller thing. I was thinking of what's gone up here when I read Richard Cohen and he was making the same point, or one of his points was the same, which is a lot of people pushed this war. A lot of people did bad reporting. But Miller's going to be the fall guy for everyone so we can play bash the bitch. In the process a lot of people will get a pass. The argument of the Times' reach doesn't really cut it with me. Rush Limbaugh has more listeners than the Times has readers. Fox "News" has more viewers than the Times has readers. And let's not act like the mainstream news sources weren't taking part as well. Somerby wrote about bias recently and my bias is I'm a journalism major. And I'm tired of women being singled out for the blame when it can be spread around very easily. We actually discussed Kornblut's article in class today. Somerby would probably feel our findings go to all that's wrong with journalism. But we hadn't heard any criticism of it, negative or positive. It was an article the professor brought to class and opened it up for discussion. He also brought Novak's column. There were things people would have done differently but when Ava started informing me about what was going online, I looked around and I still see the article as a strong one. It's not an editorial. It's a report. Were there things I would've done differently if I'd written it for a newspaper as a report, not an op-ed or editorial? Yes. But I don't think it's an article that's a bad article. She was assigned to report on Novak's "coming out" column. A better criticism is why it's inside the paper. Were it a front page article, it would have more length to it and some of the issues being raised could be addressed in the article itself. But it's not a lead story, the Times' decision.

Ava: I'm all for mocking, I'm all for people critiquing in their own voices. Where I draw the line is when there are two sets of standards. And the dog pile on Kornblut today seemed out of propotion to what she wrote. It also seemed to neglect some major offenders in the paper today.
And my bias includes being a journalism major, it includes being a woman, it includes being Hispanic. So when I see a dog pile, I will wonder what prompted it. I haven't seen the same sort of dogpile on any of the male reporters for the Times who, when writing on problems with the FBI, repeatedly omit Sibel Edmonds from the reporting. David E. Sanger has written many pieces that I've seen very little commentary on. Even when he writes something prime for a Howler, he seems to get a pass. Bumiller is frivilous. But I'm still wondering what Kornblut did that qualified her for the full Bumiller. She played it down the line. I wouldn't have done that but I'd never be hired by the Times. I don't like the Times, it's not my paper of choice or of second, third or fourth choice. Other than going through it with C.I., the only time I pick it up is for class. And I try to avoid classes where we're required to follow it. I prefer the reporting in at least seven papers to the Times. But within that paper, Kornblut's article wasn't egregious or wothy of the substained commentary it got. It was a straight down the middle piece of reporting that did raise doubts about Novak's column.
I don't care for echo chambers on either side of the spectrum. I thought we'd said enough about the Plame outing in our editorials and that when speculation is all we're getting, chasing the story the way it was being chased was turning it into another missing blonde story. It's a serious story. But as Somerby pointed out yesterday, and yes, I do read him, Miller's being attacked for her anonymous sources with anonymous sources. There may be a live by the sword, die by the sword quality to that. But until something more comes up, I think there are real issues such as the abuse of prisoners. I also agree with comments Ty and C.I. have made, I think Jim as well, that the rhetoric on Novak has gotten overheated. He's a hack, that's all he'll ever be. Charges of treason seem to more than stretch the case. It's a serious charge and I didn't care for it when it was bandied about by the right every other week at the Clintons or someone close to them or in the administration. The issue at the heart is important. But I'm not one to watch gas bags predict how a team will do next week and I'm not interested in the constant and repeated speculation on this case. I thought Somerby wasn't either but now we know that Tenet speculation is coming up. There's a danger here and it's why our professor, Dona and my professor, praised Kornblut's article after we'd all weighed in. As you rachet up each charge and each speculation, you create a climate where it's so heated that people can and will tune out. "Judy's source is Bolton!" If Miller's source wasn't Bolton and that comes out, people will use that to pick apart the entire story. Not just the right but the casual news watcher or news reader. Fitzgerald, if he has a case, has to build it carefully and systematically.
But online the atmosphere's getting so charged that everything is hyper inflated. That can backfire and that's why I was glad to see David Corn write about Bill O'Lielly yesterday. Today he's wondering whether the Times reads the Post? The answer to that is clear to anyone who's read the Times -- NO! They don't read anyone but themselves which is why their reporting is so bad. He also complains that they echo, they is Kornblut, Novak. Kornblut's reporting on what Novak wrote. Not a glamorous assignment, not an earth shattering one. If she's got something wrong, criticize it. But as a speaker told our class last week, some of the criticism may have the effect of making some reporters not want to touch the story at all.
I think it's a serious issue and I think everyone's grabbing anything they can run with. That may backfire in the end. Her assignment was to report on Novak's column. In her piece, she noted "This is what he said but Who's Who doesn't say this." That's a paraphrase.

C.I.: I'll try to be as brief as possible, but we all know how that goes. Anyone who wants to hang up, go ahead. First, thank you to everyone who participated. Second, I'll take the flack for pushing The Daily Howler here. He gets enough criticism as it it is, negative criticism, and I don't enjoy adding to that. But members wanted a response and this will be it.
You've got a variety of voices here. Hopefully someone spoke to you.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com. Note that the transcript is edited. All participants approved deletions or comments weren't deleted. Editing was done to keep the topic at the forefront. *APOLOGIES TO KAT. Her final comments were accidentally deleted. They've been added. Thanks to Mike for catching that when he read it.