Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ruth's Report

Ruth: I wanted to start out talking about Extra!'s March/April issue which is actually. Extra! is put out by Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, Inc. which we know better as FAIR. C.I. has already noted several features but I wanted to highlight was Mike Dolny's "Think Tanks Sources Fall, but Left Gains Slightly."

Mr. Dolny is reporting on FAIR's 2006 survey of which think tanks got cited in mainstream media. They have ranked the top twenty-five think tanks and classified them according to their political orientation. The categories are conservative, libertarian, centrist, center-left and progressive. Who is getting cited the most by newspapers, television and radio?

This matters because think tanks issue reports, offer members as guests, and, overall, present themselves as experts. They can get ideas out there and who is invited decides whose ideas get exposure and whose ideas get ignored. Think of an issue that is important to you and realize that which 'experts' get cited and invited determines the boundaries of the discussion. Iraq is an issue that was in the news in 2006 and, you may have noticed, poll after poll demonstrates that the American people do not support the illegal war. But, outside of citing polls, can you think of any guests brought on television or radio calling for withdrawal?

There are not many invited on. In 2006, centrist think tanks accounted for forty-five percent of all citations. The next highest were conservatives or cent-rights which accounted for forty percent. Progressive or center-left? They account for only sixteen percent. On the issue of Iraq, what is more troubling, is who is representing that category. Mr. Dolny notes that the Center for American Progress, which falls in that category by the study, features "high-profile analyst Lawrence Korb [who] was an assistant secretary of defense under Reagan. CAP seems to have become the standard bearer for the liberal position on Iraq, effectively shutting out more progressive voices."

The other thing that stood out in the survey. The big upward mover on the top twenty-five list was a centrist organization: The Council on Foreign Relations. This centrist organization became the second most cited think tank by the media. The survey only measured what is considered mainstream media but, if you think about it, you may be very familiar with the organization.

Ms. vanden Heuvel is pleased as punch to let a centrist organization stain the left magazine she edits and publishes badly: The Nation.

Why has that magazine become such a vast wasteland? Possibly it comes from letting centrists in? Possibly it comes from letting a centrist slam women as 'emotional' and brag about his trip to a whorehouse in what was supposed to have been a book review.

Ms. vanden Heuvel took the three day weekend off to get some downtime because she works hard. I am sure Peter Rothberg must be tired just from the repeated e-mails he has to write announcing what show Ms. vanden Heuvel is taping this week. She noted that she needed to slow down which I will assume means she will be crawling this weekend because the woman has been in no rush to cover Iraq in her magazine but, then, out of Iraq may be a left position but it is not a Council for Foreign Relations position.

Ms. vanden Heuvel required a three weekend because she tired herself out after penning an ode to American Idol which, at this late date, is a bit like writing a mash note to the Backstreet Boys but maybe it seemed the centrist thing to do.

On her three day weekend, Ms. vanden Heuvel informed at her blog, she will be celebrating her daughter's sixteenth birthday with two other young girls. I will assume that, for Ms. vanden Heuvel's comfort level, sixteen men will be invited as well.

That is, after all, the way she runs the magazine. For every woman who gets a byline, Ms. vanden Heuvel feels the needs to provide four males. One suspects she could have skipped the cake and candles and done her daughter and all women a better service by addressing that issue.

As a second wave feminist, I am often appalled by a great deal of what I see. Non-conservative women rushing to defend Harriet Miers when Bully Boy nominated her for the Supreme Court not all that long ago. Or take the meekness with which a really bad book addressed the strain on women today. In the second wave, we challenged notions of house work. The Nation excerpted the really bad, wimpy, and weak book as a cover story last year and offered that the answer might be to start a conversation.

I read that and though, "What a bunch of weak sisters."

I wonder where the spirit and the fire is in feminism today? Has it all gone into the raunch culture? And then I remember how the press distorted feminism in my day and take comfort in the fact that women are still out there plugging a way, making a difference. I doubt many closing in on fifty are gushing about American Idol.

Which is why I think it is past time to call Ms. vanden Heuvel out. I know The Third Estate Sunday Review will continue to track the male-to-female ratio on bylines in the magazine. I think it is a shame that they have to. I think it is a real shame that, as of the issue on sale right now, the magazine would need to run 165 bylines of women, and no men, just to reach a fifty-fifty balance.

In the second wave, I can tell you we would not have stayed silent about that. We would not have had any problem calling Ms. vanden Heuvel out and noting that she is setting all women back while playing Queen Bee. We would not have worried about her hurt feelings. We would have noted that no feminist prints 165 more men than women. We would have noted that no feminist can be in charge of a magazine and not notice that was happening.

We would have made sure that no woman's organization selected her for an award and, now that Ms. lists women of note at the end of each year, we would have been writing into Ms. magazine to say, "Do not pick Katrina vanden Heuvel." We would have been demanding that our feminist press cover this. We would have been demanding the Ms. vanden Heuvel respond to it.

Instead, she spends this weekend relaxing and throwing a party for her daughter who will have to grow up in a world where sexism not only still exists but a world where her own mother makes sure it still exists.

That is both by the horrible numbers for women at the magazine she runs and for allowing a book reviewer to put out the tired, dated message that women are too emotional. That is how the year started off at The Nation with centrist Peter Bergen being allowed to share his observations on visiting a whorehouse in Afghanistan before addressing three books on Afghanistan. Mr. Bergen enjoyed one book. It was "picaresque stories of adventures on the road" and it was written by a man. Surprisingly, Sarah Chayes was considered an able journalist while she was still a journalist but the book she pens, apparently as a mental patient, was just too emotional for Mr. Bergen. Poor Ann Jones must be suffering from some 'female trouble' because Mr. Bergen finds her to be a crackpot offering up conspiracy theories. It was, and still is, appalling to read "Waltzing With Warlords" which ran in the January 1, 2007 issue. The only women Mr. Bergen appears entertained by are the "more than a dozen scantily clad smiling young Chinese women sprawled" around the whorehouse. It is interesting to read that and wonder what was going through Ms. vanden Heuvel's mind when she found the review publishable?

She mentions her daughter's birthday so she apparently wants us all to know and apparently give her some credit for that. I do not. I hope she is less harmful in the home setting than she is in the work setting. As publisher and editor of The Nation, she is weak, ineffective and doing harm to all women. She is no friend to women and before Katha Pollitt writes her next column taking on the mainstream media for its portrayals of women, she might take some time to explore what is happening at The Nation and she might also, sister to sister, offer apologies to Ms. Jones and Ms. Chayes.

No, Ms. Pollitt is not responsible for what Ms. vanden Heuvel decided to run but just reading it made this feminist want to apologize. To Ms. Jones and Ms. Chayes, I say I am sorry. I have allowed my subscription to lapse and I offer that as well as my apology.

I have also apologized to my granddaughter Tracey who was once so thrilled when Ms. vanden Heuvel was named publisher in addition to editor. Tracey is a year older than Ms. vanden Heuvel's daughter and saw it as a sign of progress and hope. The last year has more than soured her on that. As I explained to Tracey, we, feminists, knew there were women like that. We knew that while we were trying to break down the barriers there would always be women who were happy to slip through and, once in the catbird's seat, continue to suppress other women. It made them feel they were better than other women, it made them feel they were 'exceptions,' and it made them feel special. They were never going to do anything to help other women but they were happy to take advantage of the strides other women were making to propel themselves to the top. Hopefully, that will have changed by the time Tracey is my age but it will not happen by giving women like Katrina vanden Heuvel a pass.