REALITY CHECK

Interesting poll in USA Today: 70 percent think things are going moderately well or very well in Iraq; and 67 percent believe that the administration did not deliberately deceive anyone about the WMD threat from Saddam. If I were to poll my own brain, I’d come up with similar results. Sorry, Paul. Try harder.

THE NYT AGAINST DRUG COMPANIES

No one who’s been a sentient human being could have missed the campaign that the entire political left (which includes the New York Times) has been waging against pharmaceutical companies. I’ve no doubt that some of these companies deserve tough scrutiny. But I also have no doubt that when the history of this period is written, one of the biggest stories will be the revolution in pharmaceutical research that has transformed the lives of millions from sickness to health. In that light, check out the latest NYT screed, by the usually reliable (if reflexibly leftist) Robert Pear. Pear’s story was about internal documents, discussing the industry’s lobbying plans for the next year. What’s striking is that nowhere in the piece is there a quote from the drug lobby explaining, defending or simply “no commenting” on the affair. None. Steve Brill summed up this lacuna eloquently enough in an email to Jim Romenesko’s website:

In (Sunday’s) Times we have a clear indication that the paper may now be so beset by internal strife that it has fallen off its basic game… if the explanation is that someone at the Times thinks quoting from the internal memos is allowing the group to speak for itself, that is not only absurd but also dangerous in the sense that nowhere in the story are we even told that Pear confirmed with the group that the internal documents are real – ie., that they aren’t fake or aren’t superceded by later drafts… How could anyone, let alone the Times, publish this story with no comment from the group that is the target?

Brill, it appears, still assumes that the NYT is about presenting both sides of the story in old-style journalistic fashion. Where has he been these past two years? For more details on how the NYT has pursued its ideological crusade against drug companies – even making up “studies” that don’t exist – check out Bob Goldberg’s latest piece in National Review.

POLICING THE BEEB: The BBC’s governors have decided they now need to monitor the national radio and television service each quarter to detect and keep an eye on bias. That may well be a result of the protests that this blog and many, many others helped frame and coordinate. Three cheers for the “second superpower” of the web. Now how do we get in touch with the NYT board?

DROOLING

One of my guilty pleasures is Lucianne Goldberg’s “Short Cuts” column. One of her short takes yesterday was about the imminent release of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s memoir, which, God help me, I have already agreed to review. Over to Lucianne:

The book will be launched with one of the slickest publicity campaigns in publishing history. Of course, one news cycle after it is published any possible juice will be squeezed into a one page AP story. Newsday seems to have spent the weekend calling prominent women and getting them to speculate on the contents of “Living History.” The only gal who had anything fun to say was the redoubtable Camile Paglia who never, ever pulls a punch: “Anyone who stays married to an infantile, drooling, serial groper deserves what she gets.” Camile, we miss you.

Yes, indeed, we do.

EMAIL OF THE DAY: “What you identify as “Christo-fascism” was something Samuel Butler observed more than three hundred years ago in ‘Hudibras’:

‘… errant saints, whom all men grant
To be the true Church Militant;
Such as do build their faith upon
The holy text of pike and gun;
Decide all controversies by
Infallible artillery;
And prove their doctrines orthodox
By apostolick blows and knocks;
Call fire and sword and devastation,
A godly-thorough reformation…’

It was of course the dictatorship of Cromwell that Butler satirized. It is no coincidence that the radical and violent people who today profess to be acting in Christian causes are almost all “dispensationalist” Christians deriving their spiritual tradition from the Calvinist or Anabaptist strains of Protestantism.” You can say that again. More feedback on the Letters Page.

CANADA AND THE REAL THING

Yes, it looks as if the Canadians are not going to settle for a true attack on marriage by coming up with a lesser institution for gays and less serious straights. The country could well establish equal marriage rights soon. Meanwhile, an Anglican ceremony in Canada blessing a gay partnership of 21 years has created another rift in the Church of England. I’d think that any marriage that lasts 21 years these days is worth some sort of celebration. But not, for some, if it means celebrating gay men or lesbians committed to faithfulness and responsibility in their relationships.

SONTAG ETC: I feel a little bad for quoting one line from Susan Sontag’s commencement address. It was self-parodic, but the rest of her speech struck me as sane and fresh. I linked, but I still feel sheepish. I should also say that Jonathan Landman’s email turns out not to have been prompted by my post yesterday. He says it was a separate response to my email of last week, and since it came to my private email address (from which I sent the first query), he deserves the benefit of the doubt. I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions.

KAUS ON A ROLL

Mickey has the goods on the latest piece of half-baked crusaderism from the New York Times – this time abandoning the usual rules of journalism to go after those evil drug companies – yes, the same evil drug companies that have saved the lives of countless people like me. But he’s also on the case of Michael Wolff, the toast of Manhattan’s media elite. Wolff has defended the New York Times, and has a post-modern approach to what he calls

the line between absolute fact and the instinctual sense of how far over the line of absolute fact it’s safe to go, which is more and more the real tradecraft. Nor is it really possible to explain that smartness in a soft-news world involves a certain quality of plasticity.

What does he mean? In common language, he means that it’s ok to make stuff up if you’re as smart and brilliant as Michael Wolff is. I’m glad Wolff has now made his own journalistic ethic transparent. But I knew it already. He wrote a profile of me for New York Magazine over a year ago. I’m used to sloppy reporting, attitude-driven prose, and complete contempt for the truth in magazine journalism, but even I was shocked by the piece. It was riddled with errors; he grotesquely distorted a quote for his own purposes (he later conceded he had in an email); he had clearly read none of my books, while giving the impression he had; and when challenged privately about all this, he responded that the column was about how he feels, not about the reality. That same column – complete fantasy – was then given a National Magazine Award! No wonder Wolff defends fabulists. He is one. And that’s why today’s New York journalism hails him.

CHRISTO-FASCISM?

The fusion of Christianity and fascism is not new, of course. The Nazis’ Deutsche Christen openly coopted the Gospels in order to preach their opposite. But the story of Eric Rudolph shows that this strain endures in some parts of the world. Here’s the email that prosecutors think Rudolph may have written to justify his bombings of abortion clinics and gay bars and the inter-racial aspects of the Olympics:

“We declare and will wage total war on the ungodly communist regime in New York and your legaslative bureaucratic lackey’s in Washington. It is you who are responsible and preside over the murder of children and issue the policy of ungodly preversion thats destroying our people.”

It’s premature to put these words into Rudolph’s mouth. And, of course, the whole concept of a Christian terrorist is a hideous oxymoron. But the crusades were a form of terrorism. So was the inquisition at a state level. The Christian Identity movement, with which Rudolph was associated, is clearly a Christo-fascist organization. In fact, this is probably a better term for those who adhere to what appears to be Rudolph’s ideology. And the fact that the even the teachings of a first century preacher of non-violence could be turned into fascist terror merely shows the extent to which any religion can be distorted away from its essence.