Many e-mails came in on the John L. Hess post Monday. Candi e-mailed a note on the passing of John L. Hess by The Nation. (She must get her copies delivered quicker than I do, that issue hasn't arrived here yet.)
It's available to subscribers only online so check your bookstores and libraries if you don't subscribe. Here's a section of it (it's a brief entry):
John was a dissident; he was not, however, "cranky," as the New York Times, where he was a reporter for twenty-five years, said in an obituary. A soft-spoken, witty, almost courtly man, he enjoyed good food and watching spaghetti westerns. But you didn't let that pleasant surface fool you: He was fiercely committed to progressive beliefs--a source of contretemps between him and various editors at the Times, from which he prematurely retired in 1978.
(That's all but two sentences. Again, it's a brief entry. Anyone interested in subscribing to The Nation can click here for a look at rates.)
Carl sent an article from New York Press "JOHN L. HESS AND HIS TIMES" that's worth reading:
If one man ever gave blogging a good name, it was John L. Hess, who died last week of heart failure at 87. As late as New Year's Eve, Hess was speaking his sharp mind through his website, johnlhess.blogspot.com. There, as in his raspy-voiced daily commentaries for WBAI, the nation's oldest working media critic spat well-aimed poison darts at his favorite targets: bad food writing, lying politicians and the New York Times, Hess' journalistic home for a quarter century.
If anyone is quietly pleased with Hess' passing, they likely work in a big newspaper building at 229 W. 43rd St. Since leaving the paper in 1978, Hess has been a merciless shadow ombudsman for the Times, a role that culminated in the 2003 publication of My Times, his tell-all account of his long and varied career at the paper. During his years with the Times, Hess was food critic, city reporter, foreign correspondent, desk editor and obit writer. (One can only speculate how much this last post helped him prepare for last week.)
My Times is Hess' monument to the future. It is a devastating account of how the paper helped Robert Moses ravish the Bronx and Pat Moynihan libel the poor; how it blew My Lai, Watergate and the banking scandals that almost bankrupted the city; how it played along with the CIA abroad and Con Ed and Lilco at home; how it helped to wreck the campaign for national health insurance.
The author is Alexander Zaitchik and it's a strong piece so please consider reading it.
Martha sent in a link to Alexander Cockburn's January 22nd piece (which may have been the earliest piece mentioning Hess's death):
John Hess grew old the way journalists are meant to go old, but almost never do. He never stopped stamping on the toes of the powers-that-be, never lost his edge, never got out of harness.
He wrote almost till he dropped, more taken up with the latest outrages of the Bush administration, of the New York Times, of scoundrelly real estate tycoons and self aggrandizing liberals than he did about the boring business of putting food in his mouth. Like many folks who get to be 87 and enjoy working, he reckoned a cupful of fuel ould keep the engine running all month.
A friend of CounterPunch, one of John's favored and grateful outlets in his last years, called to tell us last week that John had keeled over in a faint and was in the Jewish Home on the Upper West side of Manhattan. I called him from Petrolia, here in California, and at first he sounded, as the Irish say, pretty shook.
Alexander Cockburn is someone whom Martha notes we should be honoring and noting "in the right now." So please help me stay on that and on anyone else who is speaking to you by weighing in when you come across a voice who speaks to you (e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org).
Here's an excerpt from a CounterPunch article by Hess entitled "Clinton Exhales":
Clinton came out of Arkansas determined to wreck the New Deal , and he succeeded. He changed course during his campaign by promising universal health care and squeaked through. Then he and Hillary made a mockery of it. The Democrats lost Congress - no sweat, Clinton, in cahoots with Gingrich - put a lid on social spending and repealed that pillar of Social Security called Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Then he flirted with the idea of privatizing Social Security. His slogan "Save Social Security First" carried on the old hoax that Social Security was broke and needed, as he put it, reform.
A brief article by Hess (from CounterPunch) entitled "Orange Alert" dealt with the 'security' measures 'necessary' for the GOP convention last August.
??? felt that it was strange that in the post on Sontag's death I noted a same-sex partner but I didn't mention Hess's wife in the post on him. That was an oversight on my part.
Karen Hess is also a writer and information about one book they wrote together, The Taste of America, notes that Karen Hess is "the pioneering historian of cookery." My apologies for the oversight and certainly our thoughts with Karen Hess as well as with the friends and family of Hess.
Laurel sent in a must-read by Hess (from CounterPunch) entitled "Apologize? We're the NYT! We Don't Apologize 'Missing' Evidence." Here's an excerpt:
A few days before the movie "Missing" opened, the Times ran a hugespread denouncing it as a libel on our diplomatic service. It suggested that the great director Costa Gravas might have been so indifferent to the truth and so hostile because he was a Greek. I quote that in "My TIMES: A Memoir of Dissent," to explain my decision to quit the foreign staff.
There were many, many such crimes in the covert wars, which never seem to end. And throughout, the Times has served to cover them up. It was virtually a mouthpiece for the master war criminal Henry Kissinger. It has seldom, if ever, apologized. Where are those weapons of mass destruction?
And Ben e-mailed in a 1991 article by Hess that FAIR has made avaible online ("
Geezer-Bashing: Media Attacks on the Elderly"). Here's an excerpt that's pertinent to understanding why we're in the mud intellectually when discussing social security today (Hess is speaking of a number of journalists) :
They should have realized that when a typical worker retires, his or her income drops precipitously. A call to Social Security would have turned up the news that most of the elderly depend on it for most or all of their income, that fully half would fall below the poverty line were it not for Social Security, that Social Security and Medicare help millions of children and the disabled as well as the elderly, and that no more than 3 percent of the elderly may be described as affluent.
Anyway, the notion that this administration and this Congress would use money cut from programs for the elderly to feed hungry babies is as absurd as the other basic postulates of geezer-bashing: that the elderly as a class are rich (they are of course poorer than any other segment of adults); that they are especially selfish (they are more supportive of a cradle-to-grave health care system than any other group); and that they have overwhelming political clout.
Over the last decade, while taxes on the rich were being cut by more than half, old age benefits have taken repeated hits. Early '80s bankruptcy scares allowed for sharp cuts in pensions and heavy increases in payroll taxes, touted to assure the solvency of Social Security into the 21st century.
Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of the perpetrators of these cuts, has since acknowledged that the insolvency of Social Security was a hoax, but it enabled the media to present the cuts and hikes as a "Social Security rescue." (See Extra!, 1-2/88.)
That 1983 act also pushed back the retirement age from 65 to 67, in phases beginning in the year 2005. That meant that Baby Boomers and the generations that followed -- the real targets of the geezer-bashing campaign -- would pay more and get less over a lifetime. Indeed, this very argument was then used by William Buckley et al to urge repeal of Social Security et al.
Gore Vidal is God e-mailed in a section of book he wanted me to quote from that he feels applies to the need to recognize and know about voices like Hess. This is from Noam Chomsky's Media Control (published by Seven Stories Press) and Chomsky is speaking of the first gulf war:
Right before the bombing started, in mid-January, a major Washington Post-ABC poll revealed something interesting. People were asked, If Iraq would agree to withdraw from Kuwait in return for Security Council consideration of the problem of Arab-Israeli conflict, would you be in favor of that? By about two-to-one, the population was in favor of that. So was the whole world, including the Iraqi democratic opposition. So it was reported that two-thirds of the American population were in favor of that. Presumably, the people who were in favor of that thought they were the only ones in the world to think so. Certainly nobody in the press had said that it would be a good idea. The orders from Washington have been, we're supposed to be against "linkage," that is, diplomacy, and therefore everybody goose-stepped on command and everybody was against diplomacy. Try to find commentary in the press -- you can find a column by Alex Cockburn in the Los Angeles Times, who argued that it would be a good idea. The people who were answering that question thought, I'm alone, but that's what I think. Suppose they knew that they weren't alone, that other people thought it, like the Iraqi democratic opposition. Suppose that they knew that this was not hypothetical, that in fact Iraq had made exactly such an offer. It had been released by high U.S. officials just eight days earlier. . . . Suppose that had been known. You can make your own guesses, but I would assume that the two-thirds would probably have risen to 98 percent of the population. Here you have the great sucesses of propaganda. Probably not one person who answered that poll knew any of the things I've just mentioned. The people thought they were alone. Therefore it was possible to proceed with war policy without opposition.
Tori : Howard Zinn is still an important voice but he and Chomsky are not getting any younger. Gloria Steinem looks wonderful but she's getting older as well. The voices I looked to ten years ago as a teenager have largely remained strong but I'm not finding a lot of new voices to replace to them. And when we do have a new voice, it's somelike Dahr [Jamail] who's reporting from Iraq and we could lose at any minute. You asked for us to provide voices who speak to us. My voices have been covered on the blog and I've learned of Amy Goodman, Nancy Chang and Naomi Klein. But I'm hungry for additional new voices that matter so please share if you find someone who speaks to you. We'll all end up better because you do.
Speaking of Naomi Klein, AlterNet has an interview with her that I urge everyone to read.
And remember that John L. Hess Dissents (Hess's own blog) is still available online.