Friday, March 17, 2006

On Misrepresentation 

[This is my blog post from yesterday to which I would have liked Mustang Bobby to link in his weekly LC blogaround, so I figured I'd include myself this way since nobody can read my blog at present.]

By now I'm sure many readers are as sick as I am about the "what is a blog?" discussions. I've lost count of how many times I've said "bloggers are writers who use a set of computer-based tools to compose one-to-many entries; journalists are a specific subset of writers so some bloggers are journalists and others aren't" yadda yadda. But one thing usually isn't in contention - the blog's byline (whether actual or pseudonymous) is assumed to match the person writing the words. Particularly if the entry in question contains a phrase like "There, I Said It!"

When the Huffington Post group blog began I admit I had the same caveat lector trepidation I usually reserve for celebrity-filled blogs. Because so many of them are living in a world where Their People do everything for them short of bathroom visits, and because so many are - like non-celebrities - fairly neophobic, I usually assume that any blog with their name on it isn't written by them. Also, it's pretty easy to spot the exceptions - Rosie O'Donnell (whose entries I quite like despite the freeform poetry-prose she uses), Wil Wheaton (whom I'll always consider the first true celeblogger), Margaret Cho, David Byrne, even Pete Townsend when he chooses to update. And since celebs like Harry Shearer have done a great job on HuffPost, their index is chock-full of other celebs who've occasionally posted, and the celeb in question last Monday is well known for his liberal views, there was no reason to doubt that the following post from was real:
I Am a Liberal. There, I Said It!
By George Clooney on Iraq

I am a liberal. And I make no apologies for it. Hell, I'm proud of it.

Too many people run away from the label. They whisper it like you'd whisper "I'm a Nazi." Like it's dirty word. But turn away from saying "I'm a liberal" and it's like you're turning away from saying that blacks should be allowed to sit in the front of the bus, that women should be able to vote and get paid the same as a man, that McCarthy was wrong, that Vietnam was a mistake. And that Saddam Hussein had no ties to al-Qaeda and had nothing to do with 9/11.

This is an incredibly polarized time (wonder how that happened?). But I find that, more and more, people are trying to find things we can agree on. And, for me, one of the things we absolutely need to agree on is the idea that we're all allowed to question authority. We have to agree that it's not unpatriotic to hold our leaders accountable and to speak out.

That's one of the things that drew me to making a film about Murrow. When you hear Murrow say, "We mustn't confuse dissent with disloyalty" and "We can't defend freedom at home by deserting it at home," it's like he's commenting on today's headlines.

The fear of been criticized can be paralyzing. Just look at the way so many Democrats caved in the run up to the war. In 2003, a lot of us were saying, where is the link between Saddam and bin Laden? What does Iraq have to do with 9/11? We knew it was bullshit. Which is why it drives me crazy to hear all these Democrats saying, "We were misled." It makes me want to shout, "Fuck you, you weren't misled. You were afraid of being called unpatriotic."

Bottom line: it's not merely our right to question our government, it's our duty. Whatever the consequences. We can't demand freedom of speech then turn around and say, But please don't say bad things about us. You gotta be a grown up and take your hits.

I am a liberal. Fire away.

Great post, referenced in lots of places in the lefty blogosphere. Thing is, though, as it turns out it doesn't actually fit the definition of a blog post - i.e., a piece of one-to-many writing composed at a computer by the person whose byline appears atop the entry - as it wasn't in fact written by Clooney, but rather culled from various statements he made in interviews and structured by Huffington to look like a blog post.

At first I couldn't figure out the entire story, as all I saw was Huffington's explanation-slash-pseudo-apology which followed. But thanks to Jane Hamsher I found this blog post by Elizabeth Snead at the LA Times, which gives a fairly complete rundown of events (including updates).

Snead follows up with what may be the real story behind the story - basically, Clooney's People on the left hand didn't connect with Clooney's People on the right hand. See, in Hollywood folks like Clooney have personal publicists (the snubbed guy whom Arianna didn't even know) and independent publicists that handle various projects on which they work (the gal to whom Arianna actually spoke) and I wouldn't doubt at all that those publicists have publicists. So it's not a matter of Clooney not standing behind the words attributed to him - which he does, make no mistake - but of his guy getting snubbed (as well as the words appearing not really being a post by Clooney because, after all, the guy can write and probably would have wanted to structure something for HuffPost in his doubtless copious free time if Arianna had been a bit more patient).

Obviously this is all mountains-out-of-molehills with a hefty dose of typical Lalaland bullshit thrown in, but the end result is a lot of people asking, as a commenter did in a response to Snead's follow-up (which comment also mentioned a Walter Cronkite post actually being culled from a letter Cronkite had sent to the Drug Policy Alliance), "How many other 'phony bloggers' are posting at Huffington??"

The Huffington Post doesn't need more participation; it already churns out a few dozen posts a day by its various writers. And it doesn't need more celebrity appeal, judging by its index. So why does Arianna feel the need to mislabel stuff she's reprinted from elsewhere as being a blog post by the person who spoke or wrote the words she's reprinting? And why remove the Clooney post in its entirety (unless she was asked to) rather than just adding a disclaimer or other parenthetical stating where the words are from? It's not like there isn't a method for doing this. Lots of bloggers repro important and interesting things (speeches, columns, letters, interview excerpts) from other sources, sometimes with links and sometimes without. None of the bloggers reprinting Paul Krugman's NY Times columns are claiming to be Krugman. In her haste to jump the gun and make her blog seem more exclusive and important than it actually is, Huffington has shot herself in the foot here. And the shame of it is, The Huffington Post is already interesting and informative and celeb-laden enough that none of this was necessary. Sometimes eagerness and good intentions are a bad combination.

Friday Blogaround 

So, what's catching the eyes of The Liberal Coalition? Funny you should ask.
  • All Facts and Opinions says the AFA is calling a Ford boycott again.
  • archy is asking if you Noah way to get to Mt. Ararat.
  • Bark Bark Woof Woof on the bogus comparison between polygamy and gay marriage.
  • blogAmY passes on a want-ad from Lex Luthor.
  • bloggg mourns Tom Fox.
  • Collective Sigh inveighs you to take action.
  • Dohiyi Mir on reality for Bush.
  • Echidne reports from the front of the Uterus Wars.
  • the farmer shares songs of protest.
  • FDL waves Bye-Bayh.
  • Tena at First Draft wants you to get in touch with a Demon from Hell.
  • The Fulcrum isn't gone; just busy. Stop by.
  • Happy Furry Puppy has a pop-culture challenge.
  • iddybud says the national Democrats need to harness our power.
  • Weekday tidbits from Left Is Right.
  • Lefty does the alphabet meme.
  • Liberty Street on the motion of censure.
  • Make Me a Commentator rebuts the claim that rock 'n' roll is dead.
  • Musing's musings on the unlearned lessons of war.
  • Pen-Elayne on the perils of blogging.
  • Rook's Rant passes on a great quote.
  • rubber hose knows military blogger prose.
  • Coturnix offers a vast selection of blog carnivals.
  • Scrutiny Hooligans recalls crystal ball gazing by Gore Vidal.
  • Sooner Thought on one man helping a lot of others.
  • Jeff at Speedkill plays devil's advocate in the abortion debate.
  • Steve Gilliard recalls other air offensives and the lessons from them.
  • T. Rex has hired a staff. Go meet Mike, Rook, and Fulchmeister.
  • The Countess reports that some people don't even know what creek they're up.
  • The Invisible Library gets off a good rant on "intelligent design."
  • Wanda reports the FBI is checking out the anti-war movement again.
  • WTF Is It Now?? on the reaction to ethics "reform" in Congress.
  • The Yellow Doggerel Democrat reports that the president is going to re-state his terror strategery.
  • ...You Are a Tree wonders who is next to run the ports...Halliburton?
  • Green beer is so outre. Real Irish beer is dark brown, heavy, and served at room temperature.

    Note: Blogger is having issues today with Pen-Elayne's site, which is why there's no link to it. Here's hoping they get it fixed.

    Update: Elayne's site is back and her selection for the Blogaround has been inserted in its proper place in the firmament.

    Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.

    All Bloggered Up 

    Sorry to hijack this blog for a moment, but I wanted fellow LC'ers and other readers to know that my blog is one of those affected by Blogger's filer failure (see MB's note above), so I have no idea when it will be up again. At the moment I can post to it but nobody can see what I post. If I'm desperate to post something that people will actually be able to view, I'll probably do it on my LiveJournal, but for now I'm content to wait. After all, it's only a hobby...

    Wednesday, March 15, 2006

    Book Review: Failed Climber Fights Terrorism with the Open Hand of Friendship 

    From SoonerThought.com

    Three Cups of Tea : One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations . . . One School at a Time

    by Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin
    Hardcover: 352 pages Publisher: Viking

    A Montana man who failed in his attempt to climb K2 succeeded in bridging a massive gap between cultures where even the U.S. government has failed.

    In 1993, Greg Mortenson, a man who lived out of his car in service to his mountain-climbing passion, failed his attempt at the K2 and wandered into a small Pakistani village called Korphe, where the villagers nursed him to health, fortifying him with cups of tea. Mortenson decided he would somehow repay their hospitality by building the town's first school.

    The book, written by Mortenson with David Oliver Relin, reads like an Indiana Jones-style adventure. It is also honest about the initially naïve but gallant Mortenson’s mistakes and triumphs as he climbs to success.

    Too naive to know he “could not succeed,” Mortenson raised money to build the school by painstakingly typing 500 letters to every celebrity and wealthy person to whom he could find addresses. NBC News Anchor Tom Brokaw sent him $100, and no one else replied. He persisted until a wealthy benefactor gave Mortenson the $12,000 he figured he needed to build the school in the remote Pakistani village.

    Three Cups of Tea is filled with adventures and details about Mortenson’s travel that rival Hemingway’s novels.

    One passage describes Mortenson’s attempts at fitting in to Pakistani culture by dressing as a Pakistani man:

    Mortenson slid into the clean, oatmeal-colored shalwar shirt, which was crisp and still warm from the iron. Then, modestly shielded by the knee-length shirttails, he pulled on his baggy new pants. He tied the azarband, the waiststring, with a tight bow and turned toward Manzoor for inspection.

    “Bohot Kharab!” very horrible, Manzoor pronounced. He lunged toward Mortenson, grabbed the azarband, which hung outside the infidel’s trousers, and tucked it inside the waistband. “It is forbidden to wear as such, Manzoor said. Mortenson felt the tripwires that surrounded him in Pakistani culture—the rigid codes of conduct he was bound to stumble into—and resolved to try to avoid further explosions of offense.

    Surviving in spite of death threats, excessive pots of milky tea, greedy villains and kidnapping, Mortenson succeeds, and the project became the Central Asia Institute, which has built more than 50 schools serving thousands of children across rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. Could it be that this approach, rather than “diplomacy” at the threat of the gun, is the real way to win the hearts and minds of Muslims?

    Three Cups of Tea is a real page turner that clearly demonstrates that the way to peaceful coexistence between creeds, religions and nations is the hand of friendship.