Monday, November 02, 2009

Freedom’s Just Another Word For “Thinks Like Us”

Easily the weakest link in the Wall Street Journal’s Op-Ed page is Thomas Frank, who also happens to be the Journal’s token liberal.

To be sure, at least one of Frank’s political opposites at the Journal writes about as much nonsense as Frank—particularly on the subject of fiscal responsibility. That would be Karl Rove, who encouraged his Presidential boss to ignore fiscal responsibility for eight long years, and yet now has the nerve to complain about what those eight years are bringing us.

But Rove is at least intelligent and writes well, even if you spit out your coffee reading his stuff.

Thomas Frank, on the other hand (not to be confused with Frank Thomas, the White Sox’s lifetime .300 hitter, deservedly known as “The Big Hurt”), writes with such ham-handed wordsmithing it’s hard to grasp how he became the Wall Street Journal’s liberal conscience, except as part of a plot by Rupert Murdoch to undermine Frank’s fellow left-wingers by presenting as inarticulate a representative as he could find.

Here, for example, is how Frank began his most recent editorial effort, called “Obama Is Right About Fox News”:

Journalism has a special, hallowed place for stories of its practitioners' persecution. There is no higher claim to journalistic integrity than going to jail to protect a source. And the Newseum in Washington, D.C., establishes the profession's legitimacy with a memorial to fallen scribes, thus drawing an implicit connection between the murdered abolitionist editors of long ago and the struggling outfit that gave you this morning's page-one story about cute pets in Halloween costumes….


Frank should have studied his rock music history—in particular what John Lennon said to David Bowie, when Bowie asked the ex-Beatle how to write a song: “Say what you mean, make it rhyme, and give it a backbeat.”

Lennon’s simple, precise advice applies to writing just about anything, but unfortunately Frank’s first paragraph accomplishes none of those three things, while the remaining ten paragraphs of “Obama is Right” aren’t a whole lot better.

Indeed, when Frank finally does say what he means—i.e. that Obama’s black-listing of Fox News was merited—he does so in the slightly unhinged manner of a Hugo Chavez or a Fidel Castro, or the revolutionary in Woody Allen’s “Banana’s.”

To wit, he calls Fox “a grand electronic homage to the Nixonian spirit,” then attacks the CEO of Fox for long-ago offenses, then complains that that Fox once “impugned the motives of the New York Times” (and we’re not making that one up).

But something else Frank says goes beyond the typical knee-jerk defense of Obama’s Fox freeze-out.

Way beyond it.

Frank sums up his case with a statement more chilling than anything out of the Chavez/Castro/Banana’s playbook. In fact, if you really think about it—something Frank himself likely didn’t—he makes a statement out of the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad playbook:

To point out that this network is different, that it is intensely politicized, that it inhabits an alternate reality defined by an imaginary conflict between noble heartland patriots and devious liberals—to be aware of these things is not the act of a scheming dictatorial personality. It is the obvious conclusion drawn by anybody with eyes and ears.

Now, you may agree with Obama’s White House that Fox News is “a wing of the Republican Party.”

And you may believe it is no skin off anybody’s nose for the White House to snub Fox News.

And you are perfectly within your rights to put aside what Psych 101 grads will recall as “cognitive dissonance” by ignoring the obvious fact—obvious to anybody, as Frank would say, “with eyes and ears”—that MSNBC is no less biased to the left than Fox is to the right.

But whatever your personal political persuasion might be, just think about what Frank is really doing here. What he is really doing is saying that because Fox News “is different,” it is okay to discriminate against “this network.”

Just replace the words “this network” with “this African-American” or “this Native American” or “this female,” or any other category in the Census form that American law has at one time or another considered “different,” and the slippery slope in Frank's brand of logic is self-evident.

Indeed, substitute the word “this Zionist regime” for “this network,” and you can almost hear a bearded whack-job who runs an emerging nuclear nation riffing on the “myth” of the holocaust and why Israel should be “wiped off the map.”

But Frank, not being the sharpest blade in the left-wing drawer, doesn’t grasp the slippery slope he has endorsed one bit. In fact, the only regret he admits to is not in Obama’s freeze-out itself…it’s that he wished the White House “had taken on Fox News with a little more skill.”

Now, freedom of the press is not, to quote Kris Kristofferson, “just another word.” It’s the whole deal. And we can’t help but think that the Obama White House, with the cooperation of the other networks and journalists like Thomas Frank, has just made the American press a little less free.

Left-wingers who chortle at the snub might pause long enough to recall how a few years back their right-wing counterparts chortled at Don Rumsfeld’s freeze-out of “Old Europe”—as he slyly styled France and a few other countries that refused to jump on the Iraq bandwagon.

Oh, it was fun for the right-wingers, and it felt good for a while...and then it came back to haunt old “Rummy” and his boss, and their country.

So before chortling too long, think about that, and then ask yourself who’s next? Who else is “different”?

When the anti-Obama gets elected, in 2012 or 2016 or 2020 or whenever, and refuses to deal with MSNBC or ABC or all of ‘em, because they’re “different,” the anti-Obama can rightly tell the outraged Thomas Franks of the world that he himself gave permission for the suppression of whatever is “different” in the United States of America.

Freedom—to paraphrase the famous song—is now just another word for “thinks like us.”

Wonder how Frank would feel if the Wall Street Journal kicked him off the Op-Ed page because he’s “different”?

Nah, he’s too useful!

Jeff Matthews
I Am Not Making This Up

© 2009 NotMakingThisUp, LLC

The content contained in this blog represents only the opinions of Mr. Matthews.
Mr. Matthews also acts as an advisor and clients advised by Mr. Matthews may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Matthews’ recommendations. This commentary in no way constitutes investment advice, and should never be relied on in making an investment decision, ever. Also, this blog is not a solicitation of business by Mr. Matthews: all inquiries will be ignored. The content herein is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author.


Tom O'Brien said...

So if Mr. Frank is the (liberal) useful idiot (Stalin's phrase I think) to the WSJ; what does that make the WSJ?

Interesting. (I too gag on his columns.)


Dan said...

Mr. Frank would be the 'useful idiot' to Obama not to the Wall Street Journal. The useful idiots were those who helped spread the thoughts, policies, and issues that were at the time convenient to the Soviets without really comprehending the consequences.

The problem with compromising the Constitution is that once it starts it never stops.


Kaleberg said...

It reminds me of the time I met Omar Bradley, the five star general. My mother took me to a Bulova shareholders' meeting. She was a stockholder and they were right in our neighborhood. I was maybe 10 or 11, and most of the business was cut and dried, but then came the lone shareholder issue to be presented for a vote. They had some guy talking with a fake, dumb guy Brooklyn accent introduce it. Even as a kid I could tell what was going on. Given that the item was going to get voted down anyway, you would have thought that they wouldn't have bothered, but sometimes, I suppose, it is hard to resist.

After the meeting my mother introduced me and my sister to General Bradley and his wife. He was on the board of directors, I gathered. I knew he was an important WWII general, so I looked him up that evening. (Sorry, no Google back then, I had to use an encyclopedia.)

All told, it was quite educational.

Ben said...

Reminds me of the George Bush quote, "you're either with us, or you're with the terrorists." Obama has made some similar arguments in his short tenure already. The most dissapointing thing is the politicians and talking heads really don't have any ideas or address any of the issues, they just make all the same ideological, bs arguments whenever they talk. I found this article in the Atlantic on health care to be interesting if anyone wants to think about the actual issues instead of what the politicians are talking about.

Anonymous said...

Thomas Frank is neither useful nor relevant. Fox News is. The reason? People don't read the op ed page of the Wall Street Journal. They do watch television however.

Except for the invention of television, things really haven't changed over the past 150 years.

Boss William Tweed was more concerned about cartoonist Thomas Nast of Harpers Weekly than editor George Jones of the New York Times when the corruption of Tammany Hall was exposed. While the Times reported on the graft behind the building of the New York County Courthouse and the refurbishing of the cities armories, Nast drew some very unflattering pictures of a bloated Tweed assembled with his wiley cohorts.

To quote Tweed: "I don't care a straw for your newspaper articles. My constituents don't know how to read, but they can't help seeing them damned pictures."

All this, fwiw,


John said...

General Bradley ! ...And we produced greats like Bernie Kerik

Tahoe Kid said...

Let me see if I understand current Obama policy: Engage with Iran, but disengage with Fox News.

Anonymous said...

Any reason why you write this stuff instead of just managing money? And now an extended book tour? Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure, but it seems like you are implying that disengaging from Fox News is a slippery slope towards disregard for freedom of the press. Or a type of discrimination. Do correct me if I am wrong. If this is indeed the case, I would argue that it is quite wrong. While far from being a smart move, I don't see how it affects Fox's ability to report fairly or not. No one is telling Fox to shut up or is raiding their offices and destroying documentation. This is merely a competition in who can be stupider and I would argue that as usual, the competitors are in dead heat.

I don't particularly see a difference here and selective sharing of information on particular topics (helloooo ACTA) by this or any other administration. It's business as usual in DC, nothing new.

Jeff Matthews said...

Anonymous: What's dangerous is censorship of the press. Fox is being cut off--that's bad for Fox but, as you say, doesn't stop them from reporting on what they want to report on. It does impede their information sources: it absolutely hurts their ability to gather news.

While you're correct that that may not matter in the scheme of things, what is really bad about it is what it does to the other networks. Who knows how many stories they're self-censoring so as not to offend the White House? The dumb get dumber.

And when ideologues like Frank go along with it, well, they're writing their own death sentence.

It's a shame.

As for the previous "Anonymous," well, why does Patrick Byrne post anonymous comments on blogs? Vanity indeed!


Anonymous said...


You are right. It is about censorship and control of the press.

My previous post understated the role of the New York Times in bringing down the ring, because while Tweed's initial focus was on the effect that Nast's cartoons were having on public opinion, he realized that his true jeopardy was in the Times' ability to assemble the facts underlying his larceny.

And so he set out to have the shares of a surviving widow to a member of the board purchased so that he could gain control of the paper. Fortunately, George Jones got wind of the scheme and called upon some Republican benefactors to buy her out first.

Control of the press means a great deal to a politician who wants to retain and expand his authority.

A free press is a necessary check on the powers of government officials.


John said...

" Thinks like us " well if you didn't think like us under Bush you were called a traitor by Bush and Fox. So address that before you move on to this guy who seems as lost as Bush and the rest. ..But as we ignore the truth about Iraq and ignore the piles of debt we give the next generation atleast perhaps we can finally understand why we vote for " leaders" ...We can hide and blame . We can vote.

John said...

And i should point out freedom of the press started to die after Watergate and the pentagon papers. We didn't like the turth about the system we created , we longed for the 1950's , we didn't want the turth. We demanded Fox news. Wallstreet demanded news become a profit center. We killed freedom of the press long ago

Anonymous said...

I would agree about Fox losing access to some of the stories due to this if they actually bothered to do anything about news stories that are already out there.

Here is a good example that should matter more, yet it doesn't:

So Obama's government continues Bush's policy with no benefit to constituents (to say the least) and what does Fox's political page report on? The Republicans getting some governor seats. Guess what, CNN is talking about the same thing on their page. In fact, Fox does not talk about Obama's administration invoking "state secrets privilege" anywhere on their site. And I am supposed to believe that either source does actual reporting? They are just two sides of the same clown face. Same goes for Dems/Reps.

John said...

What was it when Bush's SEC gave that subpoena to Herb Greenberg ? What was it when Congress blamed the meltdown on the short sellers ? ....What was it when CNBC filled the airwaves with that talking head warning us about the 5,000 sleeper cells located here in the USA ? . Sorry guys but for you to bring this up now, well your years and years to late.

Anonymous said...

Patrick Byrne of Overstock? What does he have to do with your prattling on? You should have a singular focus on making money, und sonst gar nichts. You blather on in an interesting manner, but I do it brings no value-added WHATSOEVER to preserving capital and making it grow. I repeat: vanity on your part. Close this down and run money.

Jeff Matthews said...

Anonymous: Well just stop reading this blather. Close down your browser and start reading something else. Unstad nicht wahr gesellshaft blinken winken and nod.


Tom said...

Fox doesn't have a right to access. They just don't. Nobody does. You're making that up because it seems like it would be fair. But there is no historical precedent for the kind of "censorship" argument you're making.

Also, the claim about MSNBC is unsupported. For starters, Joe Scarborough, for 3 hours every morning. Later we have Andrea Mitchell. And on to Chris Matthews. If you have ever seen Matthews talk about Pres. Clinton, Sec'y Clinton or Al Gore, you know he is not even remotely progressive. Yes, they have Keith and Rachel, but it's not all from the same point of view. It would be quite a surprise for an organization with MSNBC's corporate ownership to be hardcore leftists.