Monday, May 03, 2004

Couldn't Have Said it Better Myself

'I've increasingly become convinced that in order to be any kind of a public-intellectual commentator or combatant, one has to be unafraid of the charges of elitism. One has to have, actually, more and more contempt for public opinion and for the way in which it's constructed and aggregated, and polled and played back and manufactured and manipulated. If only because all these processes are actually undertaken by the elite and leave us all, finally, voting in the passive voice and believing that we're using our own opinions or concepts when in fact they have been imposed upon us.'

--Christopher Hitchens, Writing in The Nation, in 2001

Byron Strikes Again

No, not the romantic poet... I've somehow never mentioned the incomparable Christopher Byron before, for which I assign myself a self-imposed 50 lashes. Suffice to say that the veteran columnist, business writer and book author is the kind of guy who finds a way to go over much of the same ground as hack colleagues before him, while always finding something fresh and stimulating to say about his subjects. That's because (surprise, surprise) he does more and better homework than others, and bravely faces down all roadblocks to find out what really happened. And he always gets the goods on whatever or whomever he focuses upon. His book on domestic diva Martha Stewart, an almost forensic examination of her many pathologies, probably played at least a small role in her going to jail, because his devastating portrait was read by much of the media that subsequently covered her.

And now comes word that the reason he's been quiet for the last two or three years (about the time he gave up his splendid column in the New York Observer) is that he's been working on what ought to be a delicious little thriller: an investigative examination of the out-of-control behavior of American CEOs. And the worst offender of them all, GE's Jack Welch, is blowing a gasket about it. If you thought all the tales of impossibly high-spending even after his retirement (emanating from his divorce filings) showed him in the worst possible light, Byron has undoubtedly assembled far more damaging details, judging from the hysterical reaction of Welch, whose lawyer is publicly threatening to go after media outlets covering the book after failing to halt publication of the book itself. Good luck, counselor--you'll have your work cut out for you. The best defense against libel is the truth, and Byron has about a 35-year track record of getting his facts straight and having a document attached to every key assertion. So my money's on him. And it'll also soon be forked over for a copy of this book, which reputedly provides a definitive answer to the persistent rumor that Welch ordered NBC to go soft on its corporate owner. We'll see if the book also answers the equally persistent story about Welch ham-handedly ordering MSNBC to give Bush the benefit of the doubt during the Florida debacle in the 2000 election.


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