Judging Dread

Our readers react to TV coverage of 9/11.

Weekend Bar-b-que: In the Television Fray, Elbo Ruum expected to get flamed for “not giving a s—” about 9/11, but got only support (so far).

In her blog on 9/11 television Virginia Heffernan noted early on that “I haven’t met anyone with full-blown Viewer Dread, however, and I suspect the dread actually belongs more to programmers than to viewers.” Well, several Fraysters have it, and plan to turn off and tune out (or play golf). Not even going to work as usual can help Kendra:

Full-blown viewer dread? I have it. I am also very, very angry at the hyping and hawking of everything from 9/11/01 superimposed over an American flag pin (my office which has seven offices here and in Europe has paid some jeweler to make these pins for distribution throughout the firm, accompanied by a “message” from the chairman of the firm reminding us what the REAL 9/11 was all about and instructing us to wear our pins in solidarity on the great day). My office in D.C. has planned an action packed day of festivities urging all employees to wear red, white and blue for the day. A special breakfast will be served featuring red, white and blue bagels. There will be moments of silence, a trip to an Episcopal church within walking distance of our office and two TV sets will carry all of our fondest memories brought to us by courtesy of ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and C-Span. Our managing partner will also explain to us what the REAL meaning of 9/11 is.

I can’t bear to think about the bagels. On to the TV. Demi Moaned questioned the facile theodicy of PBS’s “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero”:

The subtext that God’s existence is entirely compatible with the abject poverty, disease and crime that are the ordinary living conditions of more than a billion people, but somehow comes into doubt when a few thousand Americans die a relatively quick death after lives of comparative comfort is too childishly self-centered to be of the slightest interest intellectually or spiritually.

But is this an attack on the theology or the psychology of trauma, which grants victims the reality of their experiences in order to help them move on? Or is it an attack on theology for becoming an extended arm of psychology? See the whole post and decide …

Rudy boys update: The Assessment Fray is heating up now that Suellentrop’s look at Rudy Giuliani out of office is featured on msn … 8:20 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 6, 2002

Rudy can’t fail: Chris Suellentrop’s Assessmentlamented Rudy Giuliani’s absence from the political stage. The Fray is small (thus far) but the early posts are very good, claiming Giuliani either has no expertise to contribute to public debate, has no obligation to contribute it, or both. (Find a selection at the bottom of the article.) Geoff’s offered a sarcastic Invocation to St. Rudy:

Blessed Saint Rudy, Patron of Disasters, please, rain your wisdom down upon the United States of America, in this, our hour of darkness and shield us with your stoic benevolence.I have another hypothesis, which I prefer to Suellentrop’s ideal of the recalcitrant Messiah … Giuliani might be silent on burning political issues out of deference to the old maxim, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent”, and we’ll hear from him if and when he feels like he has something to say.

Where’s that old maxim come from, you ask? Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Tractatus. And now you know … the rest … of the story… 8:30 p.m.

Update: A guy named Joe (see below): Joe isjoe. Different computers, same poster. Thanks for letting me know, Joe. Beverly Mann thinks he deserves a star. I think she’s right! He should bring both computers to the Best of the Fray Fray for adornment.

Gridlock Update: No Hedges in Culturebox today. Still, it will be confusing in The Fray this weekend. 4:22 p.m.

Gridlock Alert: Culturebox is a general department and it will be quite busy over the weekend. Expect to see posters discussing at least three different articles in The Fray, in addition to their own topics. We have The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Iraq, 9/11 poetry and Chris Hedges’ War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning.

Nice Threads—Pinstripes? With Steve Chapman’s free-market prescription for baseball on, it may become harder to find good sports Fray for a while (as happened yesterday with Prudie). But there are excellent posts to be read and answered (look for my picks). Joe started a great discussion of Yankee greed vs. Yankee ingenuity with this:

[T]his is a national pastime, right? Bunching all the teams around a few major hubs isn’t exactly an ideal solution … How fun is a game in which a few locations always win and don’t have challenging opponents? The current solution, though flawed (money is after all not guaranteed to be spent on players, etc.), helps … [T]eams like the Yanks are encouraged not to be greedy and smaller market teams get that little bit of money that some need to get over the hump.Five teams in NYC doesn’t seem to be a great alternative in my eyes.

Tim Lowell argued the real economic issue wasn’t Socialism vs. Capitalism, but anti-trust protected owners. Then again, Herb Garcia finds the laissez-jouer alternative is no great shakes:

This article is a cry for the bad old future where teams blackmail communities for stadium welfare. “Build us a stadium with a retractable roof, short-term lease and control of all revenue streams or we will move to Newark. No one can stop us!”  12:15 p.m.

Liberty vs. Security: Dahlia Lithwick’s effort to find a new calculus to solve the problem of civil liberties in the war on terror brought out the usual Jurisprudence Fray suspects and their usually fine responses. joe (not to be confused with Joe above) took issue with “Lithwick’s solution“: “Civil liberties may not be suspended unless some principled government objective is articulated and the proposed measure is carefully tailed to meet that objective.”

What does this mean exactly? Let’s say Ashcroft says the gov’t objective is to stop another attack on U.S. soil, and that they have evidence of a “dirty bomber.” This is a “principled gov’t objective, no?” Carefully tailored? …We might hate Ashcroft’s principles, but he has them … it is the principles, not just narrowly tailoring (whatever that means in this case) that is at the heart of the matter.

While I am not a big fan of posting articles in The Fray, Beverly Mann has shown a real touch for following up Lithwick’s Jurisprudence articles with subsequent news pieces (e.g., the FISA courts). Here she asks a constitutionality question that turns into a terrific thread (but gets no answer), and here she is being trenchant:

Neither Lincoln nor Franklin Roosevelt, the two presidents whose names are invoked in defense of Ashcroft’s (and by rubber-stamp, Bush’s) designs, was an anti-libertarian opportunistically seizing upon a national security threat to impose his skewed personal vision of an ordered society. Ashcroft and Bush both are … 10:50 a.m.

Op-Ed Ops: Michael Kinsley’s Readme always brings out strong posts. His discussion of Colin Powell’s loyalty was no exception. In one thread, Ex-fed accusedKinsley of succumbing to what Slate’s Jack Shafer has called “the fog of journalism.”

I have ceased to be amazed at how journalists’ standards and tradecraft abandon them when the subject touches upon journalism itself. So you speculate that Colin Powell is leaking to “small audiences of reliably discreet journalists”? And you, a well-connected journalist, are content to leave it at that? …Why the lack of curiosity here? Powell has bought himself immunity by leaking. Journalists are co-opted and bought off by receiving “privileged” information …

Zathras repliedthat Powell may be playing other, more important games—like doing his job.

Powell could be talking to State Department subordinates who then talk to the press on background. He could be talking to his opposite numbers in foreign governments, who then talk to American reporters, normally also on background. He could also be talking to Scowcroft, Eagleburger, and one or more members of Congress, who can use information thus obtained to support views they already hold.Powell also can and has been quoted directly in public fora saying things that can be interpreted in more than one way. Is he a “closet dove,” to use the old Vietnam-era phrase, or is he merely projecting that image to help him better do his job of relating to foreign governments put off by President Bush’s conduct of foreign policy? Or, are reporters and commentators interpreting Powell’s remarks in the context of what they would like to think he believes?All three of these possibilities could be true at once …

Both posts are longer and worth reading in full. Other good posts (excerpted at the end of the article) seek to divine the intentions of “the holy rock.”

Readme again: Ender, who is often (usually?) right about these things, claims that this is Kinsley’s “first anti-war with Iraq” piece here.

Workflow: Thursday and Friday this week are loaded with new Slatecontent, guaranteed to exercise The Fray. Stop back for more snapshots … 8:55 a.m.

Thursday, Sept. 5, 2002

Fat or Phat?: Today’s Dear Prudence column—specifically the letter from “Up In Arms,” the friend of the “portly” woman in tight clothes—went on The Fray became unreadable—filled with vulgar spamming and then irrelevant political invective. I cleaned out the worst on more than one occasion, but things may get bad again …

Readers(new ones or regulars) who want to see the Prudie Fray in its more usual form should try clicking back to a solid early thread here  or select “View Fray Editor’s Picks.” Julia offered this advice from the how-to-lose-friends-and-alienate-people school: “Up [the letter writer—J.D.] needs to tell these mutual ‘friends’ to shut up. I would never allow someone to ridicule my friend like that. If they say, ‘Why don’t you tell her how terrible she looks?,’ I’d say, ‘For the same reason I never told you what a snotty person you are sometimes.’” You go girl!!!! (Can I say that?)

Common thread: tell your friend by taking her shopping (not, say, over lunch).

Whatever thoughtful posters thought about telling the hefty friend, they were of one mind that the real problem is the recent triple-digit weight gain. GimmeCoffee: “It really takes hard work to gain 130 pounds and keep it on. Is she desperately unhappy? What’s going on with her?”

(Before the Prudie deluge, there was an actual adult discussion [for adults] here.) … 9:45 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2002

There goes the blogosphere: With Andrew Sullivan’s and KurtAndersen’s discussion of blogging now on, expect oodles of “will these guys please get a life?” posts (here is a good version of that). New readers can click on “View Fray Editor’s Picks” from the main Webhead Fray page to get a more filtered view if things look out of hand.

When a Fray gets several hundred posts in a day (as this one still might), good ones sometimes get lost. I’m glad I caught Stigmata’s piercing entry here, which ends:

Most blogs I have read are train wrecks. Who knew that there were about 300,000 Anna Nicole Smiths on the Internet long before her tragic show?There is a reason those little diaries had locks on them.

Can a Frayster get some help?The International Papers Fray is usually a smallish and manageable discussion of a particular event with a little “other international stuff” thrown in (like a junior varsity Today’s Papers Fray). Here is a typical instance: Deej was confused by the furor over the Israeli policy that forced a suicide bomber’s relatives to move to Gaza. “Isn’t helping criminals illegal? It obviously is in our society and I bet it is there as well, to some degree. If this is true, then why is the deportation an issue?” Ruf Ruf then offered a political reason not to “relocate”: “Those who aid and abet terrorists should be punished. So lock them in jail. Don’t send them to Gaza where, as cramped and awful as it may be, they will be treated as heroes.” (The last graf of the longer post is even better.) But there is still no definitive answer as to why sewing explosive belts doesn’t fall under the law of accomplices but needs a new juridical regime. Anyone?

(Even though International Papers’ author June Thomas is simply summarizing coverage, Jamie concluded that she is “not pro-Israel;” Echoes reached the opposite conclusion.)

Coin of the realm: In contrast to International Papers, the Moneybox Fray can be very hard to read, especially when there are several articles in quick succession. Discussions pile into one another, and there is no real “feel” to the board. Little of that has happened with Daniel Gross’ article on Warren Buffett’s “vulture capitalism”—mainly because The Fray doesn’t seem surprised. Both pumper’s post here and Jim J.O’Brien’s here note that Buffett’s investing bible, Graham & Dodd’s classic Security Analysis, is a “vulture” capitalist’s how-to. In a new take on old news, though, Todd Childers offers an numismatical artist’s perspective on why the Ohio state quarter is so bad here.

Nice threads: White Rabbit was kind enough to group all the 9/11 anniversary poems together here, per Tempo’s request. 11:35 p.m.

The Long Knives: As expected, longtime Fraysters are after Robert Wright, although several have taken a vow to wait and see. The Earthling Fray is very busy, and I will strive to keep it navigable.

Yesterday, JTF cannily predicted that “Wright will argue that the technology of Bio warfare is THE PROBLEM and he will argue that this warfare can ONLY be addressed through a rigorous inspections regime applied to all nations, gutting thereby our national sovereignty.” He then quoted Wright:

“My concern was—and is—about what may be the scariest trend in the world: Thanks to technological evolution, man-in-the-street rage, even if it doesn’t assume regime-toppling form, is increasingly lethal. Very small groups of people—including groups of one—can take a real toll on the national psyche.”

Compared with Wright’s pithier formulation in today’s entry, is this, as JTF says, a rehash? Or is it someone with a big idea, trying to make the case for it? And just because it’s old news to JTF, it isn’t old news to everyone (yet).

John McG struck a blow for the Enlightenment when he argued that communications technologies moderate passions as they free individuals:

I disagree with Wright’s assertion that advances in telecommunications can only serve to help terrorism.Part of the reasons why the bin Laden video is so effective is that it’s the only show in town. If the only picture disgruntled Islams get of Americans or Jews is what bin Laden shows them, then it’s going to be quite powerful.If, on the other hand, they see other pictures of Americans, even through silly pop culture like Britney Spears and “Friends,” they’ll have a different picture of us, and probably be less likely to blow us up.Think of American attitudes towards Muslims, and how they’ve evolved as we’ve been exposed towards more and more representatives of Muslim countries. We are moved by the suffering of Iraqi children, and identify with the plight of the Palestinians. This doesn’t mean we want to keep Hussein around or get rid of Israel, but we’re not anxious to hurt a large number of Middle Eastern civilians either.Wright might answer that the personalization of the modern media makes it less likely that it will be a moderating influence. I think that was the point of his Fox News paragraph— people will continue to watch the bin Laden videos even when alternatives are available. Thus, they will not be exposed to more moderate pictures of Americans.Our experience here hasn’t show that to be the case here in the US. Even those who are completely for a war against Iraq have been exposed to arguments against it. When there are alternatives available, the echo chamber gets boring rather quickly, and people take a peak at what else is out there. And there’s quite a lot out there.I think this is one of the reasons we’re attacked. The spread of American culture will make it ever more difficult to demonize us, or any population. The totalitarian regimes are losing their grip, and they know it. 1:10 p.m.

Retraction Retracted: The Webhead Fray, in which I promised blog-induced fireworks, was no Grucci extravaganza. I was prepared to resort to anecdotes about my mother (who likes Andrew Sullivan enough that she wishes he were her neighbor). But Sarvis came along like a Roman candle:

What’s Kaus going to do if the NY Times cleans up its act? He has defined himself as neither smart nor interesting and has become simply another smarmy obsessed cherry-picker.This reveals the biggest danger of blogs—and the biggest bore—is that they become narrow little personal vendetta-graphs where the writer crawls up his own b——- to send daily personalized nasty-grams out into the ether.At some point, the blog stops being about the writer’s reflections or breaking news and simply becomes a venue for David wannabees to hurl stones at the Goliath du jour; which is exactly what the Fray is for us who lack the structure or name recognition to get our own blogs.Which raises the central paradox: when a blog like Kaus gets big enough to get noticed by the Goliath in question, it comes under the same pressures and standards as its intended target. So, ironically, the only good blog is a irrelevant one.

Of course, I disagree about “neither smart nor interesting,” but the last graf, with its intimations of Mannheim’s free-floating intellectuals, is so nifty (too nifty?) I had to grab it.

Back to School:Eric Liu answered some of his critics (here, here, here and here). The Fray is always better when Slate writers jump in. (New Readers: look for the neato Slate “S” to find them.)

Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2002

Teach your children well: The Teachings Fray will quickly be inundated now that Eric Liu’s article is up on msn. The great posts will still be there, but they will be harder to find. (New readers should look for my check marks and the posts I have appended to the article.) Pollymath’s post, for instance, deserved better responses than it got.

Regular readers will see this as a classic “neither the right nor the left is correct” piece. And as cozy as that rubric usually is, The Fray has pointed out some problems: First, the “left” in this case is being slurred (the “right” may be as well, but The Fray hasn’t complained about that yet). John-Christopher Ward walks us through some compelling support for his claim that “Mr Liu’s idiotic statement that the NEA wishes to deal with 9/11 with psycho-babble shows only he did not visit the NEA website.”

Second, all this “Not L, Not R, but Radical Middle” rhetoric is deployed to distract us from the real problem (The L). As Zathras weaves the tale in his Young Person’s Guide to Triangulation, Liu’s Clintonian background provides ample insight into the usefulness of poxing both houses.

The left—better to say the far left—is represented by the teachers’ unions that dominate the public schools. The right is represented by William Bennett and various other public figures whose visibility on cable television is substantial but whose influence on public school curriculum is minimal. Mr. Liu, a veteran of the Clinton administration’s ceaseless campaign to depict itself as occupying the sensible center between two opposite and equal extremes, may genuinely feel that an approach that succeeded so well as a political tactic is equally suitable to other areas of life.

It isn’t. It happened in this case that the National Education Association overreached in proposing lesson plans that contained more blame-America-first material than the public could stomach. As a practical matter, though, such indoctrination as takes place in public schools is going to be left wing indoctrination. Which, its triangulation tactics notwithstanding, was what the Clinton administration was comfortable with—had he suggested otherwise while in office Mr. Liu would have been fired so fast he wouldn’t have had time to clear out his desk.

Everybody out of the ocean! Back to school, back on the campaign trail, the new fall TV season, the 9/11 anniversary—whatever the reason, The Fray will pick up again this week, and so begins Fraywatch….

On the day when Andrew Sullivan drops by to ask “Are Weblogs Changing Our Culture?” we can announce that at a minimum they are changing the Fray Editor’s job. (No, I’m still an independent contractor.) No more weekly roundup of the best. Instead a more-or-less real time Pulse-of-The-Fray. No implants, no peroxide and a bare minimum of Hasselhoff (a maximum of random bolding [and italics?—ed.You Bet—and plenty of !!!!]).

One aim of the Fraywatch is to help readers who have been reading Slatejump into the Fray without, say, getting so burned by the experience in Ballot Box that they never come back. New visitors, for example, may want to lurk before they post in Ballot Box, or Today’s Papers. But when you’re done lurking, give us your thoughts—smart, angry, funny—and engage with other posters. Nothing thwarts discussion more than 100 new discussions (threads) in an hour (that usually happens when a piece shows up on the MSN homepage).

Fraywatch will also be the place where I discuss changes in The Fray (and they are a-comin’) and announce new Frays (like the Fraywatch Fray).

Okay, so what’s hot? The Fray for Robert Wright’s terrorism series (The Earthling) will be, I hazard, one of the best going for the next couple weeks if Keep a Clear Eye’s first post is any indication:

Wright begins his current series with a logical error. He follows the Bush administration’s switch from certainty over “winning” the war to certainty that an American city is going to be wiped out. Wright then claims that the Bush administration was correct because wars on terrorism are different kinds of war. However, it does not necessarily follow from the fact that wars on terrorism are different from WWII that such wars on unwinnable. Terrorist groups like the Weather Underground, the Baader-Meinhof gang, and the Red Army were defeated in the U. S. and Europe during the 1970’s. There are many good reasons to think that al-Qaeda (the only sponsor of global terrorism in the sense of 9/11) could be defeated. Most of al-Qaeda’s physical base has been destroyed. Its adherents are scattered and vulnerable to capture. Its leadership is in hiding. From my vantage point, it looks like what’s left of the organization is vulnerable to infiltration. And if al-Qaeda could be infiltrated, it probably would collapse in short order.

Things will get even better when there is something more to chew on.

The Webhead Fray is one of those places where we have significant article collision. The blogging discussion comes on the heels of a piece about d-i-y video games as political commentary. But Sullivan and Andersen are bound to draw some good Fray.

Talk about soft launches: Before this first Fraywatch installment, the Fraywatch Fray was already off and running. History Guy divined the basic purposes of the Fraywatch, piecing together hints I dropped in a careful, Push, Nevada-y way. There is no cash prize and no chance to meet the dreamy (but taken) Mr. Affleck.

Whither BOTFF? For longtime Fraysters, The Best Of The Fray Fray will (I hope) continue to be a place to find extremely high quality discussion and extremely silly contests and polls. The Fraywatch Fray will take over as the place to tell me how I screwed up this time.

Sneetch News: JackD and The Max Fischer Players get their stars; they should drop by BOTFF. Gen. Jack gets his for maintaining his purity of essence against all external threats. That and I noticed that if I went to check out The Fray after a new article was posted, and there were no star posts yet, I wondered if JackD had posted, because it was bound to be good. MFP is a stalwart Arts & Life poster with one of the piercingest wits around. He gets two tickets to a double bill of Andorra and The Chinese Wall at the Loeb Ex. (This wouldn’t have anything to do with the flak you caught after your first round of stars, would it?—ed. No, it wouldn’t. And it wouldn’t have anything to do with the similarity of JackD and Jack Dallas’ monikers either. Now please go back to Kausfiles.)