Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Helen Thomas Stays on the Offensive, Part II

A couple of weeks ago, I noted how the elderly, diminuitive White House reporter (now columnist) Helen Thomas refuses to accept transparent lies from official sources, instead aggressively pressing for real answers to real questions. This week, the "reality-based" community is under almost unprecedented assault from those shameless, slippery rascals at the White House. Former chief flak Ari Fleisher continues to hawk his new book, a pathetic attempt to indict the media by changing the subject from his laughably Orwellian spinning to their supposed bias (yes, the media is biased against stonewalling, weasly liars). And his former boss, Stonewaller-In-Chief Karen Hughes, has now been installed as a global ambassador of spin, which no fiction writer I know could have ever invented if they tried. Perhaps most hilarious of all, today comes word that the White House is rejecting a GAO report that labels as illegal government propaganda masquerading as news. The Justice Department makes those decisions, not the independent agency charged under the law of the land with independently investigating wrongdoing, says another bungling Bush appointee, evidently making it up as he goes along. Anyway, against that macabre backdrop, Helen was at it again, doing her thing in the White House press room. Here's a transcript of her exchange yesterday with White House press secretary Scott McClellan:

"Go ahead, Helen.

"Q Diplomacy depends on policy. You can't sell what is unsaleable. If the policy remains that we will engage further in preemptive war, you cannot sell it to the Middle East, I'm sure, or anywhere else. So are you going to change any policy?

"MR. McCLELLAN: Our policy is to expand freedom and democracy and to support the aspirations of people --

"Q By gunpoint?

"MR. McCLELLAN: -- and support the aspirations of people in countries around the world that do not have the freedoms that we enjoy. And, no, Helen, the President made it very clear in his inaugural address that it is not primarily the use of arms. It is supporting the aspirations of the people in those countries and doing all we can to stand with those people as they seek greater freedoms. We are standing with the people of Lebanon. We are standing with the people of the Palestinian Territories. We are standing with --

"Q We also invaded Iraq.

"MR. McCLELLAN: -- we are standing with the people of Iraq, and the people of Iraq have shown that freedom is a universal value. They stood up and defied the terrorists and went to the polls.

"Q And we invaded the country.

"MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Terry."

The Line of the Day. Leave it to the incomparable Chicago-based twentysomething writer Jessica Crispin, a.k.a. Bookslut, to come up with a sly, snappy way to briefly note the news that her literary blog has just won a Bloggie award. She writes: "The Bloggie is to blogs what the LaFontaine Aquatic Entomology Award is to aquatic entomology. So we're very flattered."

Blogging Continues to March Into Mainstream Journalism. Despite the continued, often dyspeptic, yelps of outrage from plenty of journalism traditionalists, which I liken to a kind of irritable bowel syndrome, the form of blogging continues to be accepted into nearly every corner of the craft. You'd be hard-pressed to identify two more stalwart organizational members of the traditionalists' camp than the Society of Professional Journalists and the Investigative Reporters and Editors. And yet SPJ's Quill Magazine has just published this interesting exploration of the topic, written by a grad student from Alabama. What I love most, however, is that the rest of the issue is packed with such articles as those probing the practice of email interviews and a nice little jewel of a piece on assembling virtual freelance community by my colleague Wendy Hoke. SPJ, in short, really gets it these days. Meanwhile, those vaunted gumshoe hard-asses of IRE, once chaired by my old friend, the formidable Cleveland native Jim Neff (now head of investigative projects for the Seattle Times), has recently added this sterling blog to its excellent website (do check it out, since it's full of interesting stuff). To sample the kind of powerfully reported, well-written series he's helping produce in Seattle (one of the last of the regional newspapers to invest in this kind of expansive and expensive work) click here.


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