Saturday, December 14, 2013

I Hate The War

Since its unveiling this spring, the Lean In campaign has been reeling in a steadily expanding group of tens of thousands of followers with its tripartite E-Z plan for getting to the top. But the real foundation of the movement is, of course, Sheryl Sandberg’s bestselling book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, billed modestly by its author as “sort of a feminist manifesto.” Sandberg’s mantra has become the feminist rallying cry of the moment, praised by notable figures such as Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, Marlo Thomas, and Nation columnist Katha Pollitt. A Time magazine cover story hails Sandberg for “embarking on the most ambitious mission to reboot feminism and reframe discussions of gender since the launch of Ms. magazine in 1971.” Pretty good for somebody who, “as of two and a half years ago,” as Sandberg confessed on her book tour, “had never said the word woman aloud. Because that’s not how you get ahead in the world.”

That's from Susan Faludi's "Facebook Feminism, Like It or Not" (The Baffler).  This is from Rashida Jones' "Why Is Everyone Getting Naked? Rashida Jones on the Pornification of Everything" (Glamour):

If 1994 was the Year of O.J.'s White Bronco, 2013 was the Year of the Very Visible Vagina.
Let me say up front: I am not a prude. I love sex; I am comfortable with my sexuality. Hell, I've even posed in my underwear. I also grew up on a healthy balance of sexuality in pop stars. Yes, we had Madonna testing the boundaries of appropriateness, but then we also had Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Cyndi Lauper, women who played with sexuality but didn't make it their calling card. And for every 2 Live Crew "Me So Horny" video girl, there was Susanna Hoffs singing tenderly about her eternal flame.
Twenty years later, all the images seem homogenous. Every star interprets "sexy" the same way: lots of skin, lots of licking of teeth, lots of bending over. I find this oddly...boring. Can't I just like a song without having to take an ultrasound tour of some pop star's privates?
On that fall day I wanted to know if anyone else felt like me. So I took to Twitter. (Admittedly, not the best place to go while frustrated. Because, as my best friend puts it, Twitter is a bad neighborhood. If you go there to score, you will be surrounded by people looking to pick a fight. They may also rob you. And carjack you. And call you names. He was right.) Here's what I tweeted:
This week's celeb news takeaway: She who comes closest to showing the actual inside of her vagina is most popular. #stopactinglikewhores
And then: Let me clarify. I don't shame ANYone for anything they choose to do with their lives or bodies...

And then: BUT I think we ALL need to take a look at what we are accepting as "the norm"...

And this is from Geena Davis' "Two Easy Steps To Make Hollywood Less Sexist (Guest Column)" (Hollywood Reporter):

Now, let me just say, I take everything too far. (You should see my kids' birthday cakes.) But having comprehensive data on how female characters are depicted in Hollywood has proved to be extremely valuable. Obviously, because I'm a colleague, I can go directly to content creators and decision makers and share what we found. (The research was conducted by Dr. Stacy Smith at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.)
The basics are that for every one female-speaking character in family-rated films (G, PG and PG-13), there are roughly three male characters; that crowd and group scenes in these films — live-action and animated — contain only 17 percent female characters; and that the ratio of male-female characters has been exactly the same since 1946. Throw in the hypersexualization of many of the female characters that are there, even in G-rated movies, and their lack of occupations and aspirations and you get the picture.
It wasn't the lack of female lead characters that first struck me about family films. We all know that's been the case for ages, and we love when movies like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen hit it big. It was the dearth of female characters in the worlds of the stories — the fact that the fictitious villages and jungles and kingdoms and interplanetary civilizations were nearly bereft of female population — that hit me over the head. This being the case, we are in effect enculturating kids from the very beginning to see women and girls as not taking up half of the space. Couldn't it be that the percentage of women in leadership positions in many areas of society — Congress, law partners, Fortune 500 board members, military officers, tenured professors and many more — stall out at around 17 percent because that's the ratio we've come to see as the norm?

I think those are three of the most *important* non-Iraq and non-spying pieces of journalism of late.

I think that and yet I've not highlighted them before.  I have tried to work them in but there's not been time or space and I'm seriously trying to reduce the length of the snapshots.

Susan's piece?  Brava writing.  Lean Forward is not about equality, it's a bunch of crap and shame on Jane and Gloria and Marlo for pimping that crap.  They're so out of touch with feminism and reality that it's frightening.  Thank you, Susan, for that important article.

Rashida?  Again, she's doing the work.  Gloria's not doing it.  Jane's not doing it.  Marlo's not doing it.  (In fairness to Marlo, her feminism has always been more workshop than public.  I don't mean that as an insult and I love her acting and credit her with moving women forward in entertainment portrayals.  But Marlo's feminist work is face-to-face, in small groups.  It largely always has been.)

The pornification needs to be questioned but we can't even get it commented on.  Jane and Gloria run Women's Media Center -- largely a useless outlet -- and Jane's work in Atlanta with young girls should demand that she raise the questions Rashida's raising because clearly the sexualization of everything impacts teen pregnancy rates.

It also demoralizes us all -- young girls, women, boys, men.

I have nothing against sex -- and more and more use it to avoid dictating a snapshot or writing an entry -- and I have nothing against sexy.  Just this week, a friend (producer) was attempting to create a list for a role of an over-40 male and I suggested they bring in Kevin Spirtas to read along with four others (the four others are names so I won't mention them here, Kevin should be one so I'll mention him here).  The friend pointed out that all five of the men I named reads sexy and I said that's what's needed for the role and that sexy never hurts.

Stan did a post on actors that have emerged in the last 20 or so years "Actors" and I was returning a call about another issue when he asked if I'd seen it.  I hadn't.  I called him back as soon as the plane landed.  It's a great piece he's written and the first thing I pointed out was that, as film actors, every man on his list projects sexy and you usually have to if you're going to have any kind of a career.  (At least early on.  Many actors go sex-neutral -- some even appear neutered -- within five years of achieving fame.  Consider, for example, Gary Cooper's first five years in film and the later sex-less portrayals he offered.)

I have nothing against Miley other than her name.  It's not her fault, it's mine.  I have to check myself because I forever naturally refer to her as "Miley Ray Cyrus."  There is no "Ray" -- I have no idea why I keep adding her father's middle name (Billy Ray Cyrus) to her name.  Maybe she sees herself in the vanguard on sexual exploration in art?  If so, please pick up the lyrics because they're not living up to the heat you appear trying to generate.  (I also keep expecting her to do a Basic Instinct type music video since her short hair makes her look even more like Sharon Stone from some angles.)

Rashida's not 'picking on Miley' or slamming people for being sexy.  She's talking about culture where every thing is being turned into 'sexy' and it's one person's idea of sexy -- where women are objects.

Rashida's right to call out what she's calling out and she needs support and backing on it.  Especially since she's the one starting the conversation when there are other outlets who should have been leading the way this year.  (Praise goes to Glamour also because they ran the article.)

Geena Davis is doing serious work and the portrayals of women and girls in children's movies can create expectations or limitations that last a lifetime.  Geena's work needs to be noted.

And I say all of that to respond to the Many Whiners e-mailing the public e-mail account about what I didn't note this past week.

One writer, whose writing I did not note, is so ticked off because I "only note the things you're interested in.  My writing is very important."

Is it important?

I don't know that it is, I don't know that it isn't.  I do know you've gotten noted here many times over the years.  I do know you never say thank you for that.  I do know you take things I report on here -- from Congressional hearings I attend -- and work them into your "very important" writing without ever giving me credit or attribution.

So right there, you might want to check yourself before hurling accusations of how I've let your "very important" writing down.

The accusation that I'm writing about what I want to write about?

The community wants Iraq.  We have always covered Iraq but, as all the US press walked away from it (thank you to a friend for a very funny TV critique of that this week), fled from it, the community -- which uses the private e-mail, not the public e-mail account -- has asked that we up our Iraq content.  That's why the Iraq snapshot emerged in 2006.

And originally, it was part of an entry.  Different topics would be covered and it would have a different headline and then, within that entry, we'd move to the "Iraq snapshot."

Now it's its own entry.

And if there's an attack on the US press or a spying revelation or something I feel like no one on the left wants to tackle, we'll include that in addition to Iraq.

But Iraq is our focus.

That stems from the desires of the community.

On a slow day, there are probably just 50 writers wanting their writing noted.

And I'm not counting the man who has e-mailed for years about how he's being tortured and the government's after him and the psychiatric industry and . . .

A) I don't believe him.  B) I don't have time for him.  I wish people like that would stop e-mailing asking for their writing to be noted.

But I'm not counting them in the minimum of 50 a day.

Those who e-mail to note Iraq coverage?  They get noted.

We used to get an e-mail from the Los Angeles Times.  They would note all their Iraq coverage.  That's when they had Iraq coverage.  It was a good way to get the word out on their reporting.  And it certainly fit in with our scope.

I will also allow, in our scope, pieces on other topics by reporters who covered Iraq in the past but are writing about something different now.  (Exception being an article that might promote war.  I'm not interested in helping anyone bring more violence, for example, to Syria.)

But most of the stuff we get sent has nothing to do with Iraq and isn't written by people who covered Iraq.

I understand people need links.  Not only does it help with 'hits' and 'clicks' but, most importantly, it helps get your name (reporter and/or outlet) out there.

And I know, for example, that the Washington Post (this may change with new ownership) has spent the last four years placing far less emphasis on awards for solid journalism and more for clicks.  Win a Pulitzer and the Post's position has been, "That's nice."  Get the most clicks in a week and it's, "Let's talk about bumping your salary" or "Let's talk about a bonus."  The paper has rewarded some of the crappiest writing and some of the crappiest writers while ignoring the journalist who are winning awards for actual reporting.

I get that it's about visibility, name recognition, careers and coin.

I get that.

But, for the record, I don't owe any of you anything.

You show up begging -- like the one who always writes, "I'm on a deadline, what ___ in Iraq when?" and Martha or Shirley will call me up to tell me you've written again wanting to pick my brain yet again.  I'm not your research assistant.  I don't work for you.  We don't know each other so we can't be friends.

You show up begging for links and why should I link to you if you're not about Iraq?

And every time one of you accuses me of just writing about what I want to write about -- a hilariously wrong charge -- it just makes me want to work all of you in even less.

One corporate reporter wrote to complain about "Sy Hersh's hidden blockbuster?" because it noted Seymour Hersh's   "Whose Sarin?" (London Review of Books) and how I didn't note his own reporting.  "If you had time for [Hersh], you had time for . . ."

Hersh did investigative reporting, on a topic we take seriously, the government's efforts to sell war on Syria.  You did government stenography.

There's a difference.

There's a difference.

And he also, corporate reporter, slammed my single sentence paragraphs ("Do you think your Faulkner?") saying that they take up space and prevent me from including links to his own work.

The reason I waited (see the sarin entry) so long to read Hersh's article?  I kept picking it and putting it back down.  The text overwhelmed me.

Ideally, here, we should have a mixture of long and short paragraphs.

But I am doing single sentences more often ("----- now make this a different paragraph") when I'm dictating the snapshot (and then I stupidly forget to do the same on most of the entries I type up myself) because I'm trying to break it up so it's not these blocks of lengthy text over and over.

But what I want to say to you mainly is: You're spending far too much time thinking about me.


There are two reporters I do not know that I've responded to in e-mails over the years.  One was leaving Iraq and I noted that I was very happy that the person had been safe while covering Iraq.  The other was something similar.  In both instances, the reporter received one e-mail from me and that was it.

I go out of my way to avoid doing that because if I'm engaging in a private conversation, it can influence what's going up here.  If I'm trying to be pen pals with ___ and I'm critiquing his/her coverage, it can make me go easy on them.  (Although I go hardest on people I actually know.  And those I actually know, who can pick up the phone and call me, would agree.) I have enough conflicts of interest without adding new ones.

So this is the only reply those of you who are reporters are going to get.


I'm going to share a story.  It's not mine to share.  It's Mike's and it's Elaine's.

Mike called out a writer at his site -- not a surprise, Mike offers media criticism all the time.  The writer came whining, of course, in an e-mail.

He wanted Mike to change what he wrote and to issue an apology.

Mike replied "Kiss my ass" -- but in stronger terms and more words -- and then the writer wanted to get nice.  Pretty please change it.  

Mike's remarks were correct.  And, as Elaine and I pointed out, the man's claims were refuted by his own actions -- I'm sorry to be vague, it's not my story to tell.  I'm sure Mike will tell it at some point.  

Mike e-mailed the guy noting that the guy was lying, he could prove the guy was lying.  But --

But Iraq matters to him (Mike) so if  the guy would work in Tim Arango's New York Times report of:

Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.        

If he'd work that into a column, Mike would issue an apology and change the entry -- even though Mike was right in what he said and, as Elaine and I pointed out, the fact that the guy was responding first thing in the morning to a post Mike had put up four hours earlier indicated the guy was Googling himself.  (More likely has a Google alert set for when his name is mentioned.)

The guy wanted an apology and Mike was willing to offer it if Arango's report could get noted.  Didn't have to be a piece on it.  The guy's been writing about how we lie to ourselves.  Arango's report -- the non-response to it -- is a clear example of that.  ('You've been writing about how we lie to ourselves!'  Yes, I have.  One of Mike's criticisms of the writer was how the writer constantly rips me off.  I am the uncredited inspiration for so much copy -- so much bad copy.)

Just a sentence or two.

And though the man claimed he cared about Iraq, claimed he cared about the truth, his response to Mike was that he couldn't make that kind of deal.

At which point, Mike had no more use for the man and ceased communication with the man.

The man agrees that we're being lied to about Iraq, agrees people should know about Arango's report, writes columns regularly.  But can't work in a single sentence about Arango's report?  While asking Mike to apologize -- to apologize for telling the truth?

What a whore.

He starts by unethically attempting to blackmail and intimidate Mike with fake threats of a lawsuit (Mike hasn't updated his Blogger profile since he started his site in 2005 but he is an attorney now and he does know what is actionable and what isn't), he demanded an apology when Mike had written the truth, he wanted Mike to go in and change the post he wrote and all of this was to be done without Mike ever noting the columnist had written him.

That's not really journalism ethics.

What Mike was proposing was much more ethical.  He was willing to say he was wrong -- when he knew he was right -- if the man would just highlight Iraq -- even if just in a single sentence.

That, Mike's request/offer, was unethical, according to the whore.

But what can you expect from a writer who takes my sentences, changes a verb and works them in as his own thoughts?

Again, what a whore.

This week, every day, we covered Iraq.  In addition, I reported on three Congressional hearings I attended.
Thursday's "Iraq snapshot" was pretty much all about the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.  And a TV journalist notes that if I hadn't "spent way too much time" on that hearing, I would've been able to include a link to their work.

Did you ever think that maybe your work wasn't all that good or important?

This entry's ending now.  Because I've responded to everyone complaining about their work not being highlighted?

No, because I'm sick of typing and sick of being in front of the laptop (and still have another entry to do).  And, honestly, sometimes that's why your work doesn't get included.  I'm just sick of being on the computer.

Hopefully, that explains to those of you complaining why you didn't get your highlights this past week.

It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)

The number of US service members the Dept of Defense states died in the Iraq War is [PDF format warning] 4489.

[12-15-2013 note: "*important*" added after this originally posted.]

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