Amazing! Bush Literary Likenesses

Definitely political, and definitely amazing.

There is a string of literary allusions that have been submitted by people who read Nicholas D. Kristof’s column in the New York Times about historical and literary descriptions that fit the administration of George W. Bush. At least that’s what I think the column was about. The outpouring of additional suggestions is wonderful to behold. It is hearwarming to know that so many literate people have been pricked in their well-educated consciences by George W. Bush. There are so many posts that one could make a book of days – one submitted literary or historical post per day for (so far) as many days as stretch from now until the first primaries next year. Please read as many as time allows at this link. It is a TimesSelect link; if you do not already belong to Times Select, you can join for a free 100 items per year.

Press Freedom

In lieu of a year-end review, I want to call attention to two articles. The first is in Slate, not quite midyear, early May of 2006. The author, Jack Shafer, reviews the press-suppression tools used by the presidency of George W. Bush. He encourages reporters and editors to continue to seek out information from leakers inside and outside the administration.

Read Shafer’s article.

At a similar time, the Columbia Journalism Review published an examination of the military’s clash between the need to create disinformation, and the need to communicate a clear understanding of events on the ground. In both cases the press becomes an instrument.

Read Schulman’s CJR article, “Mind Games.”

This sentence in the CJR article tells me a lot about how to read the press on Iraq and Afghanistan:

Information warriors often formulate what they call “truth-based” messages — information that is often vague and one-dimensional, sometimes misleading, and frequently includes statements that are subtly derogatory.

So as soon as I notice that vague feeling that comes when reading a piece that is short on details, I should stop, and go find the details.

The relevant Year-End Review

My hat-tip goes to Dahlia Lithwick’s opinion piece, “The Bill of Wrongs,” for calling attention to Jack Shafer’s Slate article, which sent me on to the CJR article, and some musing about what is happening in the war.

Dealing with Managed Information

1. Too vague to verify.

2. Too specifically favorable to a country, an individual, an organization, to be credible.

3. Attempt to understand the sourcing.

4. Develop a sense of regional and global background, beyond Borat . . . Kazakhstan.

Yes I know . . .

Yes, I know. Bob Woodward wrote a book called State of Denial that was released at the end of September. It started out to be a big media frenzy, but was rapidly eclipsed by the real news of Congressman Foley’s resignation and the Amish schoolhouse shooting. What do I think? It seems to me that the news that’s more worthy of serious thought is the release of Woodward’s book. The–well, I have to use the word “denials”–of Woodward’s assembled evidence in support of his rather new and more radically alarming case have popped up in the interstices of the news about Foley and Hastert, and the Amish schoolhouse.

Thus we have not had the chance to examine in depth any of the counterclaims to Woodward’s case.

It seems to me, as a critical reader of the Newsweek excerpt, that Woodward had this evidence, these statements from interviews, long ago. That is, he seems to me to have gone back over information he already had, and seen it/heard it with new eyes and ears. Eyes and ears informed by what? He may tell the story of his new perspective in the full book, or the reader may need to study State of Denial in comparison to his earlier two books about the current Bush administration.

Most of us would say “I have too much on my plate right now to examine Woodward’s change in perspective.” Me, too. Until I am able to go through Woodward’s third book, at least, I am reserving judgment on whether he goes on the “heroes” list.

For Thought

I would like to highlight two blogs with impressive and thoughtful posts. One is Ambivablog, which won my heart by titling a blog to represent one’s ambivalence, a place between the radical fringe and the solid middle. The author has a thoughtful post on a particularly articulate savant with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, named Daniel Tammet. The post you are looking for is titled “Thirty-seven is lumpy like porridge.”

The second blog of note is Eteraz, which is notable for the long essays on aspects of Islam by a thoughtful educated American, once an atheist, who writes long posts on Islam, and Islamic thought in the present world. The author is a born-again Muslim, whose roots were the teaching of a mauldi in Pakistan, and whose education included Martin Buber and Jacques Derrida. His blog site is Eteraz. A notable post is the one titled “Jews are apes and swine.”