The current torrent of polemical publishing is producing “blooks,” blogs in print. Blogs can be fun, informative and stirring, but they don’t necessarily have a beginning, middle or end. They display the blogger in all the resplendent and occasionally self-indulgent glory of free association. You can read a blook on the train, on the beach or in the bathroom, and it’s worth looking at these two by Arianna Huffington and by Amy and David Goodman. Fools & Fanatics is about Huffington and getting Bush out, subjects that are interestingly and amusingly handled. The Exception to the Rulers is about Amy Goodman, getting Bush out, and root-and-branch reform of the media and society — and any humor is strictly unintended.
Huffington is arch, humorous and occasionally self-deprecatory in a way that only the truly arrogant can be. I suppose being married to a gay Republican billionaire does that for
you. One often suspected, even when she was Arianna Stassinopoulos back in Britain, that her public wit was more to attract attention than to express deep and sincere feeling.
But sincerity as a virtue is highly overrated. Rumsfeld and Ashcroft are sincere. Hell, even George W. Bush is sincere. Which is why I suspect Huffington is sincere now. She really does not suffer fools gladly, and there are so many in Washington. The Democrats have some, but deeply sincere stupidity is a Bush-administration forte with its creative synthesis of the Brown Shirts and the Keystone Kops, a malicious mélange of prejudice and ignorance.
The repartee of talk shows, blogs and columns overwhelms when assembled into a blook. Huffington’s Greek ancestors invented the golden mean as well as hyperbole, and after a while the variety of such insults raises doubts about the substance behind the abuse. However, there is substance. Her past allows her a constructively critical evaluation of the Democratic Party. And she takes Kerry and the Democrats to task for not providing a positive alternative to Bush.
The Exception to the Rulers takes on not only Bush, but the seriously Sisyphean task of reforming the media. The Goodmans run from East Timor, to Hiroshima, to Iraq and embedded journalists, lambasting what passes for journalism in the mainstream.
Now, humor is hard to find in Amy Goodman. Even when she tells funny stories, she does not realize that they are funny. Bill Clinton calling her on her radio/television show, Democracy Now, to get the vote out and instead being hit with everything from Ricky Ray Rector to Leonard Peltier gave me rigor mortis of the dimples. The outraged reaction of the Clinton press office afterward was almost as funny.
I missed the New York Overseas Press Club awards dinner the year Amy Goodman won an honorable mention — but her description of baiting the black-tied Richard Holbrooke across the Banquet Hall is, once again unintentionally, hilarious.
Spoiling a journalists’ party may not be the way to reform the fourth estate, but journalistic ethics, like compassionate conservatism, can be an oxymoron. Goodman and Democracy Now proved to be a model, illuminating the dark years with an indispensable alternative to the groveling that all too often passes for interviews by the media.
People like Goodman, and indeed now even Huffington, are frequently denounced as “activist” journalists, as if having strong views on human rights and democracy were something to be ashamed of. Journalists write hagiographies of presidents and other politicians in return for access, fictionalize about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq for newspapers of record, and deliver a war almost as surely as Hearst did in Cuba. And these aren’t activists?
Huffington and Goodman should be so successful in their activism. It is heartening to know that two such disparate people, unlikely ever to share the same hairdressing salon, can unite on the issue of Bush. Take their blooks to the beach with you.
Ian Williams is the author of Deserter: George Bush’s War on Military Families, Veterans and His Past.
FANATICS & FOOLS: The Game Plan for Winning Back America | By ARIANNA HUFFINGTON | Miramax | 384 pages | $24 hardcover
THE EXCEPTION TO THE RULERS: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them | By AMY GOODMAN and DAVID GOODMAN | Hyperion | 352 pages | $22 hardcover