Tag Archives: Hamilton Nolan

Lara Logan, Nir Rosen… Nothing Funny Here

CBS News:

On Friday, Feb. 11, the day Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, CBS chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan was covering the jubilation in Tahrir Square for a “60 Minutes” story when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration. It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into frenzy.

In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning. She is currently home recovering.

There will be no further comment from CBS News and correspondent Logan and her family respectfully request privacy at this time.

Doug Mataconis:

Best wishes to Logan for a speedy recovery, physically and emotionally.

Allah Pundit:

Logan wasn’t the only reporter in danger while covering the protests. Katie Couric and Brian Williams ended up leaving Egypt early because of the risk and Anderson Cooper freely admitted to being scared despite sticking it out for a few more days. Couric later told Howard Kurtz about an episode where she too was surrounded and shoved by an enraged lunatic. I wonder how close she came to Logan’s fate.

In an ideal world the army would have shot the attackers on the spot, but you can imagine the chaos that would have broken out in the Square if Egyptian soldiers suddenly started firing on people. As it is, were there even arrests made? And why does CBS’s statement feel compelled to note that the mob had been “whipped into frenzy”? Crowds at all sorts of events get pretty frenzied, but good luck trying that with a judge if you use it as a pretext to join in on a mass sexual assault.

Needless to say, the way journalists cover these events is going to change dramatically. And even more needless to say, America will never see those protests the same way again.

Jim Geraghty at NRO:

The news from CBS about correspondent Lara Logan’s assault in Egypt is awful beyond words.

At a time like this, we all feel helpless. And angry. The perpetrators, anonymous men in an angry mob, may never see justice.

Perhaps we can channel that frustration and anger towards righting a wrong closer to home. To some other outrage… say… the reaction to Logan’s assault from a fellow at the NYU Center for Law and Security, Nir Rosen.

Nir Rosen deleted some of his worst comments about Logan on his Twitter feed, but… it’s the Internet. It’s never gone forever.

I’m sure Rosen will apologize at some point, and perhaps we’ll get some tut-tutting statement from NYU about the need for “civility” and “restraint” and “sensitivity.” Brows will be furrowed. Maybe they’ll hold a seminar about technology and emotional reactions to breaking news events.

But let’s just remember one thing going forward: Nir Rosen believed this was the right moment to let the world know that he “ran out of sympathy for her” and that we should “remember her role as a major war monger” and that we “have to find humor in the small things.”

Your move, NYU.

UPDATE: Nir Rosen has departed Twitter. Your reaction to this development probably depends on whether you think the offense in this circumstance is the ability to broadcast that type of reaction to the crime to the entire Internet, or whether the problem is the reaction itself.

Debbie Schlussel:

So sad, too bad, Lara. No one told her to go there. She knew the risks. And she should have known what Islam is all about. Now she knows. Or so we’d hope. But in the case of the media vis-a-vis Islam, that’s a hope that’s generally unanswered.

This never happened to her or any other mainstream media reporter when Mubarak was allowed to treat his country of savages in the only way they can be controlled.

Now that’s all gone. How fitting that Lara Logan was “liberated” by Muslims in Liberation Square while she was gushing over the other part of the “liberation.”

Hope you’re enjoying the revolution, Lara! Alhamdilllullah [praise allah].

Jeffrey Goldberg:

Nir Rosen, the far-left journalist who joked about the sexual assault on Lara Logan, has company: Debbie Schlussel, the extreme right-wing commentator. Rosen calls for the elimination of Israel, and is a pro-Hamas Hezbollah apologist; Schlussel is a racist anti-Muslim commentator. They come from radically different places on the political spectrum, and yet they share a common inhumanity.

Colby Hall at Mediaite:

Tragic news broke yesterday that CBS News’ Lara Logan was victim to a sustained a brutal sexual attack at the hands of a dangerous element amidst the celebration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The news brought universal condemnation and empathy from Logan’s media peers, but it also seemed to also bring the worst out in some people as well. Take for example now former NYU Fellow Nir Rosen , who took to his Twitter feed to make inappropriate jokes that he soon deleted. In the firestorm of controversy that followed, Rosen offered his resignation, which NYU readily accepted.

Hamilton Nolan at Gawker:

What can we learn?

1. Twitter is dangerous.
2. Some things aren’t funny.
3. Even if you don’t like the person they happened to.

Useful lessons for all of us.

Suzi Parker at Politics Daily:

A 2007 article in the Columbia Journalism Review exploring the threats to female foreign correspondents singles out Egypt: “The Committee to Protect Journalists, for example, cites rape threats against female reporters in Egypt who were seen as government critics.”

The CJR article states, “Female reporters are targets in lawless places where guns are common and punishment rare.” They face more sexual harassment and rape than their male counterparts. They are subjected to unwanted advances and “lewd come-ons . . . especially in places where Western women are viewed as promiscuous.”

Such risk is nothing new to Logan. A South African native, she entered Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001, by begging a Russian Embassy clerk in London to give her an expedited visa for travel there. She followed up that stint with one as an embedded journalist in Iraq.

Earlier this month, Logan and her crew were detained overnight by the Egyptian army and interrogated. She told Esquire’s “The Politics Blog” that during the ordeal her captors blindfolded her and kept her upright. She vomited frequently. They finally gave her intravenous fluids and released her and her crew.

Logan’s desire to venture into danger zones mirrors the brave actions of female war reporters who came before her. During World War II, many female correspondents had to write under male pseudonyms. They were banned from press briefings and had to submit stories after their male counterparts.

Dickey Chapelle was a World War II photojournalist, posted with the Marines during the Battle of Iwo Jima. She cultivated a signature look of fatigues, an Australian bush hat, dramatic Harlequin glasses and pearl earrings, but loved the grittiness of war. In 1956, the petite photographer covered the Hungarian Revolution, where she was captured and jailed for seven weeks.

In her forties, Chapelle covered the Vietnam War. In 1965, she was the first American female war correspondent killed in action. Famed war photographer Henri Huet photographed Chapelle receiving last rites. She was given a full Marine burial with six Marine honor guards.

Not much has changed in the way of training for such work. In the early days of war reporting, women wrote their own rules for covering conflict — and for surviving. Surprisingly, even in the 21st century, many women travel to war zones with little training. The BBC is the only major news organization that offers special safety instruction for female journalists that is taught by women, according to CJR.

But training or precautions noted in the Handbook for Journalists may not have prepared Logan for the situation she faced on Friday. A mob of 200 abruptly surrounded her crew, from which she quickly became separated. Such tragedies are common during chaotic events.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Crime, Mainstream, Middle East, New Media

Where Would We Be At Around The Sphere Without Cut And Paste?

Erik Hayden at The Atlantic with the round-up

Trip Gabriel at NYT:

At Rhode Island College, a freshman copied and pasted from a Web site’s frequently asked questions page about homelessness — and did not think he needed to credit a source in his assignment because the page did not include author information.

At DePaul University, the tip-off to one student’s copying was the purple shade of several paragraphs he had lifted from the Web; when confronted by a writing tutor his professor had sent him to, he was not defensive — he just wanted to know how to change purple text to black.

And at the University of Maryland, a student reprimanded for copying from Wikipedia in a paper on the Great Depression said he thought its entries — unsigned and collectively written — did not need to be credited since they counted, essentially, as common knowledge.

Professors used to deal with plagiarism by admonishing students to give credit to others and to follow the style guide for citations, and pretty much left it at that.

But these cases — typical ones, according to writing tutors and officials responsible for discipline at the three schools who described the plagiarism — suggest that many students simply do not grasp that using words they did not write is a serious misdeed.

It is a disconnect that is growing in the Internet age as concepts of intellectual property, copyright and originality are under assault in the unbridled exchange of online information, say educators who study plagiarism.

Digital technology makes copying and pasting easy, of course. But that is the least of it. The Internet may also be redefining how students — who came of age with music file-sharing, Wikipedia and Web-linking — understand the concept of authorship and the singularity of any text or image.

“Now we have a whole generation of students who’ve grown up with information that just seems to be hanging out there in cyberspace and doesn’t seem to have an author,” said Teresa Fishman, director of the Center for Academic Integrity at Clemson University. “It’s possible to believe this information is just out there for anyone to take.”

Jonathan Adler:

The mash-up culture is not a culture of plagiarism.  Those who copy music, lift riffs, or appropriate images don’t usually claim authorship of the original source material or claim it as their own.  They use this material in works of their own, while freely acknowledging its provenance.  The creativity and originality comes from finding the right source material and putting it to good use, not from denying the original source.  Whether such copying and appropriation should be legal, it’s not the same as plagiarism, as it’s sourced.  Web links often serve as source attributions, and even Wikipedia pages demand footnotes.  Even in the Internet Age, we recognize the difference between incorporating the work of another and passing it off as one’s own.

Another possible explanation for the apparent rise in plagiarism is that many college students are simply unprepared for the type of academic work that is expected of them and engage in plagiarism even though they know it’s wrong.

At the University of California, Davis, of the 196 plagiarism cases referred to the disciplinary office last year, a majority did not involve students ignorant of the need to credit the writing of others.

Many times, said Donald J. Dudley, who oversees the discipline office on the campus of 32,000, it was students who intentionally copied — knowing it was wrong — who were “unwilling to engage the writing process.”

“Writing is difficult, and doing it well takes time and practice,” he said.

I find this explanation more persuasive.  I also think the apparent rise in plagiarism is of a piece with the apparent rise in cheating by students generally.  The problem is not that academic standards are too strict for the Internet Age.  Rather, it’s that students are not taught that such standards really matter.

Matthew Yglesias:

This all strikes me as extremely dubious. For one thing, they don’t appear to have any real data to indicate that cheating is on the rise. For another thing, any analysis of this subject has to account for the fact that the Internet has made plagiarism radically easier to detect. Finding some old book or article and copying a section of it was always fairly easy for any student with access to a good university library. It’s true that computers make this somewhat easier, but the difference is marginal. By contrast, digital search makes it dramatically easier for a suspicious teacher to check and see if a dubious passage is copied from somewhere, and the ongoing process of digitizing humanity’s store of knowledge will make this easier and easier in the future.

What’s more, the idea that the Internet is eroding the concept of authorship seems extremely dubious. This here blog is on the Internet. But it’s author is clearly identified. I link to a lot of things other people write, and I identify those people. Music is just the same. I’ve been listening to NPR’s stream of the new Arcade Fire album. Thanks to the Internet you can, if you’re so inclined, download a copy of this album without paying for it. But in order to find it you have to know that it’s the new Arcade Fire album, and the same is generally true of all music downloads. Whether you’re talking about acquiring digital music legally through Emusic or the iTunes store or whether you’re talking about BitTorrenting it the only way to find things is by correctly applying the concept of authorship.

I suppose it’s true that Wikipedia puts up a lot of non-copyrighted content whose authorship is somewhat hard to discern. When I use images from their “Wikimedia Commons” (like for this post!), I link back to where I found the image but don’t normally do an author credit. But Wikipedia seems to me to be very exceptional in this regard.

Norman Geras:

Since plagiarism is cheating it should be penalized (once the practice of honest writing has been properly explained) – penalized just like that and no quarter. In the above quote, as well as other things written in the article, two points are run together. One is the sense some students apparently now have that there is material out there that ‘doesn’t seem to have an author’; or, to put it otherwise, doesn’t seem to belong to anyone. The second point, however, is distinct and is the core of what is wrong with plagiarism. This is that, if you simply claim whole chunks of writing, unattributed, as if you are the author of it yourself, you’re presenting as a product of your own mind, your own reasoning, your own analytical or rhetorical or whatever capacities, something that… isn’t. It’s a form of intellectual fraud and alien to the educational process.

To underscore the distinctness of this second point from the first one – in which you’re ripping off someone else – simply imagine a case where that isn’t so. Edward presents Melanie’s words as his own, after Melanie has given him full permission to do this. He gives in, as being his, an essay written by her. It’s cheating even though it isn’t theft.

Allah Pundit:

Isn’t this one of those stories that everyone secretly wants to believe is true because it “proves” that things were better in our day, that society’s going to hell in a handbasket, etc etc etc? It’s five minutes of generational ego trip. Toss in some philosophical navel-gazing about how the wild and woolly Internet is Changing Us and you’ve got tasty red meat cooked medium rare.

Kevin Drum:

Seriously? College kids are redefining authorship? Old style physical books seem more like they’re really written by someone else? Students no longer think of term papers as ways of expressing their unique and authentic identity? High schools suck?

Maybe so. God knows I can’t prove any of these theories are wrong. But I’d sure guess that if you make something about a hundred times easier than it used to be, that’s a pretty good guess about why that something is on the rise.

Of course, I cheated when I came to this conclusion. The author of the piece, Trip Gabriel, insists that modern kids barely even consider copying from the internet to be wrong. But at the very, tippy end of the article, we get this: “At the University of California, Davis, of the 196 plagiarism cases referred to the disciplinary office last year, a majority did not involve students ignorant of the need to credit the writing of others.”

In other words, they know perfectly well that it’s wrong. They do it because they’re lazy and don’t feel like trying to craft sentences of their own. Just like every plagiarist in history. But it would have ruined the story to put that near the top.

Hamilton Nolan at Gawker:

According to the New York Times, college kids can’t even walk five paces in a straight line and repeat their own name, metaphorically, when it comes to putting citations on their dumb college papers. Do I need to cite the internet? Am I required to admit that all of my term papers are essentially very lightly rewritten expansions of Wikipedia entries? Print out the following Guide to Plagiarism and put it in your Trapper Keeper, and pass it on to your children one day, if “colleges” still exist, in the future.

1. DID YOU WRITE IT? [Yes/ No]

2. DID YOU CITE IT? [Yes/ No]

ANSWER KEY

If you answered Yes, No, you are an honest student.
If you answered No, Yes, you are an honest student.
If you answered No, No, you are a plagiarist.
If you answered Yes, Yes, that doesn’t even make sense.

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY: “Cool,” since before the internet was even a thing.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Technology

In The Name Of The Father, The Son, And The Holy Ghost… She Quits

Hamilton Nolan at Gawker:

Anne Rice is famous for writing crazy books about vampires, living in a spooky house, and , strangely, being a big Christian. UPDATE: Anne Rice is no longer a Christian.

Anne announced her religious renunciation on Facebook yesterday, because why not? First, this:

Anne Rice Quits Christianity 'In the Name of Christ'

Followed by this:

Anne Rice Quits Christianity 'In the Name of Christ'

There you have it. The vampire lady is no longer a Jesus lady.

David Goldman at First Things:

According to what we’ve heard, Rice’s post was heavily edited by her public relations team. The original reportedly went like this:

I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-vampire. I refuse to be anti-werewolf. I refuse to be anti-zombie. I refuse to be anti-ghoul. I refuse to be anti-porphyria. I refuse to belong to a religion whose cruciform symbol is used to terrorize creatures of the night. I refuse to belong to a religion that drives stakes through the hearts of beings with whom I consanguinate. I refuse to be anti-undead. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

Rod Dreher:

I’m sorry, but this is weak, and makes me wonder what really happened. Surely a woman of her age and experience cannot possibly believe that the entirety of Christianity, current and past, can be reduced to the cultural politics of the United States of America in the 21st century. Does she really know no liberal Christians? Has she never picked up a copy of Commonweal? Does she really think that if she asked a Christian on the streets of Nairobi or Tegucigalpa what they, as Christians, thought of Nancy Pelosi, they would have the slightest idea what she was talking about? And Christianity, anti-science? Good grief. Has she not noticed that Catholic Church, to which she did belong until yesterday, has affirmed evolution, and embraces science? How can a woman of her putative sophistication really think that Christianity is nothing more than a section of the Republican Party at prayer?

Andrew Sullivan on Dreher:

I tend to agree, but it does reveal the impact of Christianism in this culture to swamp and delegitimize actual Christianity. Dreher, of course, remains appalled by the neologism, regarding it as somehow anti-Christian. In fact, it’s precisely an attempt to save the message of the Gospels from the menace of Republican cultural politics.

John Nolte at Big Hollywood:

As a relatively new member of the Catholic church, one of the things I’m learning, thanks in large part to my Parish Priest, is that an important pillar of anyone’s faith is the ongoing moral debate you have with yourself over what is wrong and what is right. Though I have many political differences with my church and even more with my Priest (one of the finest men I know), the church recognizes that a sincere inner-struggle regarding political and social issues, a struggle to come to a truly Christian decision, is something that should last a lifetime.

Rice, on the other hand, appears to have ended that inner-debate and come to all the conclusions. Among them, that same-sex marriage and voting for Democrats is what Christ would want. If she’s made a sincere effort to work her conscience through to that conclusion, that’s fine.

What’s not Christian, however, is her lashing out at those who disagree, and judging them from a moral authority she doesn’t possess as betrayers of what she obviously has decided is a kind of true Christianity.  There’s another word for this: Intolerance.

From where I sit, it looks at though Rice has “elevated” herself from a Christian to a narcissist.

The Anchoress:

Rice’s angry frustration with what she (and, let’s face it, many others) perceive to be a sort of Institution of No is interesting. She refuses to be “anti-gay,” but the church teaches that indeed we must not be anti-gay, that homosexual inclinations are not sinful in themselves, but that all are called to chastity, whether gay or straight.

So, what she is refusing is not so much church teaching, which she incorrectly represents, but the worldly distortion of church teaching both as it is misunderstood and too-often practiced. I do not know how anyone could read the USCCB’s pastoral letter, Always Our Children and then make a credible argument that the church is “anti-gay.”

But then, I do not know how anyone can read Humanae Vitae and credibly call the church anti-feminist or anti-humanist.

I do not know how anyone can read Pope John Paul II’s exhaustive teachings on the Theology of the Body and credibly declare the church to be reactionary on issues of sexuality or womanhood.

I do not know how anyone can read Gaudium et Spes and credibly argue that the church is out of touch with the Human Person or Society.

I do not know how anyone can read Fides et ratio and credibly argue that the church does not hold human reason in esteem.

I do not know how anyone can look at the Vatican supporting and funding Stem Cell Research, or the even the briefest list of religiously-inclined scientists and researchers and credibly argue that Christianity is “anti-science.”

Anne Rice wants to do the Life-in-Christ on her own, while saying “Yes” to the worldly world and its values. She seems not to realize that far from being an Institution of No, the church is a giant and eternal urging toward “Yes,”, that being a “yes” toward God–whose ways are not our ways, and who draws all to Himself, in the fullness of time–rather than a “yes” to ourselves.

E.D. Kain at The League:

This just seems horribly superficial to me. I suppose it’s possible that Rice never really understood her faith to begin with. I suppose when politics and the culture ware become everything – including how we’re received in our various social scenes – then God really does become little more than a piece of clothing, worn for a bit until it goes out of fashion, then easily discarded.

Certainly Christians can be terrible Christians. Certainly I disagree with much of what is said and done in the name of Christianity. Certainly I get a knot in my stomach every time the Catholic hierarchy bungles yet another sexual abuse crisis, and the more revelations of how un-Christian so many priests and pastors and others have been while peddling the words of Christianity the more angry and saddened I become over the whole state of affairs. But then I go to mass and everything is different. There are no politics. There is no divisive language, no hell and brimstone, none of this. There is the message of love and redemption and community and charity that drew me back to Christianity in the first place.

It seems to me Rice isn’t doing this in the name of Christ at all. It seems she’s given up on Him altogether. And if that’s the case, then why dress it up in the language of politics? Why kick sand in the eyes of all those Christians who are pro-science, pro-gay rights, pro-feminism, pro birth-control?

Everyone has moments, has their own crisis of faith. It’s always sad to me when that crisis is too great, the struggle too much, for someone to overcome.

The Anchoress has some worthwhile thoughts on all of this.

Update.

In response to some of the comments here…

Obviously being Christian doesn’t make you any better or more moral or any of that garbage. Being Christian means you accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior. And then hopefully you take that ball and run with it and do good works and all that jazz. But it isn’t really about what you’re for or against. Being non-Christian won’t make you more pro-gay or more pro-science, either. That’s a historical accident. If you were Christian or non-Christian two hundred years ago, it wouldn’t matter: you’d be anti-gay marriage. Likewise, some of the fiercest advocates of the abolition of slavery were religious zealots. In fifty or a hundred years we may not even be talking about gay rights any more (I hope gays will have 100% equal rights with straights and I hope it happens sooner than that!), but the questions of faith – the question of whether or not one believes, in this instance, in the divinity of Christ – will be questions that remains. The rest is transitory, the day’s politics, the day’s culture wars. Conflating one with the other seems to miss the deeper questions altogether.

Also, thanks to Anne Rice for stopping by!

John Cole:

I guess I found this odd because I never really thought of it as an organization you had to actively turn in a letter saying you were quitting. Most of us just sort of drift away and say to hell with it all.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Religion

Greenwald And Goldberg Go The Full Godwin On Hump Day

Glenn Greenwald:

In a stunning display of self-unawareness, The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg pointed to last week’s forced “resignation” by Dave Weigel from The Washington Post as evidence that the Post, “in its general desperation for page views, now hires people who came up in journalism without much adult supervision, and without the proper amount of toilet-training.”  Goldberg then solemnly expressed hope that “this episode will lead to the reimposition of some level of standards.”  Numerous commentators immediately noted the supreme and obvious irony that Goldberg, of all people, would anoint himself condescending arbiter of journalistic standards, given that, as one of the leading media cheerleaders for the attack on Iraq, he compiled a record of humiliating falsehood-dissemination in the run-up to the war that rivaled Judy Miller’s both in terms of recklessness and destructive impact.

Except unlike Miller, who was forced to leave the New York Times over what she did, and the NYT itself, which at least acknowledged some of the shoddy pro-war propaganda it churned out, Goldberg has never acknowledged his journalistic errors, expressed remorse for them, or paid any price at all.  To the contrary, as is true for most Iraq war propagandists, he thrived despite as a result of his sorry record in service of the war.  In 2007, David Bradley — the owner of The Atlantic and (in his own words) formerly “a neocon guy” who was “dead certain about the rightness” of invading Iraq  — lavished Goldberg with money and gifts, including ponies for Goldberg’s children, in order to lure him away from The New Yorker, where he had churned out most of his pre-war trash.

One of his most obscenely false and damaging articles — this 2002 museum of deceitful, hideous journalism, “reporting” on Saddam’s “possible ties to Al Qaeda” — actually won an Oversea’s Press Award for — get this — “best international reporting in a print medium dealing with human rights.”  Goldberg, whose devotion to Israel is so extreme that he served in the IDF as a prison guard over Palestinians and was described last year as “Netanyahu’s faithful stenographer” by The New York Times’ Roger Cohen, wrote an even more falsehood-filled 2002 New Yorker article, warning that Hezbollah was planning a master, Legion-of-Doom alliance with Saddam Hussein for a “larger war,” and that “[b]oth Israel and the United States believe that, at the outset of an American campaign against Saddam, Iraq will fire missiles at Israel — perhaps with chemical or biological payloads — in order to provoke an Israeli conventional, or even nuclear, response,” though — Goldberg sternly warned — “Hezbollah, which is better situated than Iraq to do damage to Israel, might do Saddam’s work itself” and “its state sponsors, Iran and Syria, maintain extensive biological- and chemical-weapons programs.”  That fantastical, war-fueling screed — aimed at scaring Americans into targeting the full panoply of Israel’s enemies — actually won a National Magazine Award in 2003.  Given how completely discredited those articles are, those are awards which any person with an iota of shame would renounce and apologize for, but Goldberg continues to proudly tout them on his bio page at The Atlantic.

Despite all of those war-cheerleading deceits — or, again, because of them — Goldberg continues to be held out by America’s most establishment outlets as a preeminent expert in the region.  As Jonathan Schwarz documents, Goldberg is indeed very well-“trained” in the sense that establishment journalists mean that term:  i.e., as an obedient dog who spouts establishment-serving falsehoods.  That’s why Goldberg is worth examining:  he’s so representative of the American media because the more discredited his journalism becomes, the more blatant propaganda he spews, the more he thrives in our media culture.  That’s why it’s not hyperbole to observe that we are plagued by a Jeffrey Goldberg Media; he’s not an aberration but one of its most typical and illustrative members.

Jeffrey Goldberg responds:

It turns out that the left-wing commentator Glenn Greenwald doesn’t like me (who knew?). In a rather long posting, he accuses me of many different sins, mainly, though not exclusively, having to do with my early support for the Iraq war, and for my reporting from pre-invasion Iraqi Kuridstan. (Greenwald has always been vehemently opposed to the invasion.)

As it happens, I was e-mailing yesterday with the prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan, Barham Salih, and I mentioned Greenwald’s critique. I explained that Greenwald believes the invasion was a criminal act, to which Salih responded by asking if Greenwald had ever visited Iraqi Kurdistan. I said I didn’t know, not having too much contact with him, on account of him hating me. So Salih asked me to extend an invitation to Greenwald to visit Iraqi Kurdistan. So, Glenn, you are hereby invited to visit Iraqi Kurdistan. I’m happy to go with you (I’m actually a  pretty good travel companion — even Matt Yglesias says that I can be both “funny” and “charming,” though, to be fair, he also says I can be “dangerous” and “inaccurate”). But if you didn’t want to go with me, I’m sure I can find someone to go with you.

The prime minister said we could invite Kurds from different political parties and media outlets to  a big, public forum, and Glenn could explain to them his position that the invasion was immoral, and the Kurds could explain why they supported the invasion. (Of course, we would try to find some Kurds who opposed the invasion, and there are, indeed, some out there, to meet with Greenwald as well).  We would also be able to visit Halabja, and the other towns and villages affected by Saddam’s genocide, and I’m sure we could arrange meetings with other Kurdish leaders and dissidents.

Obviously, I think this is a good idea, because I view the subject of Iraq as a complicated one, and I think that Greenwald has an overly simplistic, black-and-white view of the situation.  If he were to meet with representatives of the Kurds — who make up 20 percent of the population of Iraq and who were the most oppressed group in Iraq during the period of Saddam’s rule (experiencing not only a genocide but widespread chemical gassing) — I think it might be possible for him to understand why some people — even some Iraqis — supported the overthrow of Saddam. Also, as a bonus, I’m reasonably sure we could meet with Kurdish intelligence officials who could explain to him why they believe Saddam was secretly supporting an al Qaeda-affiliated Kurdish extremist group, and, if we have time, I could also arrange a visit to Najaf or the equivalent, where Greenwald could meet with representatives of the Shi’a, who also took it on the chin from Saddam.

This is a sincere offer from a very important Kurdish official, and I hope Glenn Greenwald takes it seriously.

Glenn Greenwald responds:

Jeffrey Goldberg responded yesterday to my post detailing his long list of journalistic malfeasance by telling me that he and the Prime Minister of Iraqi Kuridstan would like me to travel there to hear how much the Kurds appreciate the U.S. invasion of Iraq.  Leaving aside the complete non sequitur that is his response — how does that remotely pertain to Goldberg’s granting of anonymity to his friends to smear people they don’t like or the serial fear-mongering fabrications he spread about the Saddam threat prior to the invasion? — I don’t need to travel to Kurdistan to know that many Kurds, probably most, are happy that the U.S. attacked Iraq.  For that minority in Northern Iraq, what’s not to like?

They had foreign countries (the U.S. and its “partners”) expend their citizens’ lives and treasure to rid the Kurds of their hated enemy; they received semi-autonomy, substantial oil revenues, a thriving relationship with Israel, and real political power; the overwhelming majority of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis whose lives were snuffed out and the millions of people displaced by the war were not Kurds, and most of the destruction took place in Central and Southern Iraq away from their towns and homes, while they remain largely free of the emergent police state tactics of the current Iraqi government.  As Ali Gharib put it to Goldberg:  “there are at least 600,000 Iraqis who, I imagine, are not too thrilled about the way it all turned out and with whom Greenwald will never get a meeting.”

Goldberg apparently thinks that if you can find some citizens in an invaded country who are happy about the invasion, then it demonstrates the aggression was justifiable or at least morally supportable (I suppose I should be thankful that he didn’t haul out the think-about-how-great-this-is-for-the-Iraqi-gays platitude long cherished by so many neocons, though — given the hideous reality in Iraq in that realm — that’s now a deceitful bridge too far even for them).  I’m not interested in an overly personalized exchange with Goldberg, but there is one aspect of his response worth highlighting:  the universality of the war propaganda he proffers.  Those who perpetrate wars of aggression invariably invent moral justifications to allow themselves and the citizens of the aggressor state to feel good and noble about themselves.  Hence, even an unprovoked attack which literally destroys a country and ruins the lives of millions of innocent people — as the U.S. invasion of Iraq did — is scripted as a morality play with the invaders cast in the role of magnanimous heroes.

It’s difficult to find an invasion in history that wasn’t supported by at least some faction of the invaded population and where that same self-justifying script wasn’t used.  That’s true even of the most heinous aggressors.  Many Czech and Austrian citizens of Germanic descent, viewing themselves as a repressed minority, welcomed Hitler’s invasion of their countries, while leaders of the independence-seeking Sudeten parties in those countries actively conspired to bring it about.  Did that make those German invasions justifiable?  As Arnold Suppan of the University of Vienna’s Institute for Modern History wrote of the German invasion of Czechoslovakia (click on image to enlarge): And, of course, German citizens were told those invasions were necessary and just in order to liberate the repressed German minorities.  To be a bit less Godwin about it, many Ossetians wanted independence from Georgia and thus despised the government in Tbilisi, and many identified far more with the invading Russians than their own government; did that make the 2008 Russian assault on Georgia moral and noble?  Pravda routinely cast the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan as one of protection of the populace from extremists.  I have no doubt that one could easily find Iraqi Sunnis today who would welcome an invasion from Hamas or Saudi Arabia to liberate them from what they perceive (not unreasonably) as their repressive Shiite overlords; would Goldberg therefore recognize the moral ambiguity of that military action?  If, tomorrow, China invaded Israel and changed the regime, there would certainly be many, many Palestinians who would celebrate; would that, in Goldberg’s view, make it morally supportable?  Saddam himself, in FBI interrogations after he was captured, was insistent that many Kuwaitis were eager for an Iraqi invasion and that this justified his 1990 war; if he were right in his facutal premise, would that render his actions just?

As Jonathan Schwarz wrote in 2007, responding to similar war-justifying claims from Christopher Hitchens that he saw Iraqis giving “sweets and flowers” to American and British soldiers:

The strange-but-true reality is that throughout history, whenever one country has invaded another, there have always been some people within the invaded country who’ve welcomed the invaders.  Sometimes it’s because they’ve been oppressed by their own government, are similar ethnically or religiously to the invader, or just know what side their bread is buttered on.

At the same time, those within the invading country who support the invasion have always seized on tales of the welcome they’ve received and declared it demonstrates the justice of their cause. And this is rarely pure cynicism. Human beings — even (or especially) the worst of them — need to believe they’re moral.

To underscore the point, consider these photographs of ethnic Germans in Lithuania handing flowers to invading German soldiers, and citizens of Ukraine and Poland doing the same, all from the BBC documentary, Nazis:  A Warning from History (click on photogaphs to enlarge):

As Schwarz wrote: “I don’t know who took this footage, but I would bet a lot of money it was the Nazis themselves, and that they rushed it back to the home front to demonstrate the extraordinary morality of their cause.” And just to bolster the point a bit more, compare the propagandistic photograph on the right (below) used by Germans in 1941 to show that Lithuanians welcomed their invasion (depicting citizens pulling down a statue of an oppressive Communist ruler, likely Lenin), to the virtually identical, iconic photograph on the left of the staged scene of Iraqis “celebrating” the American invasion by pulling down a statue of Saddam:

It should go without saying, but doesn’t:  the point here is not that the attack on Iraq is comparable to these above-referenced invasions.  It may or may not be, but that’s irrelevant. The point is that every nation which launches even the most brutal, destructive and unprovoked wars of aggression employs moralizing propaganda to claim that their aggression engenders magnanimous and noble ends, and specifically often points to segments of the invaded population which welcome the violence and invaders.  Pointing to the happy and rewarded Kurdish minority no more justifies or legalizes the attack on Iraq than similar claims do for any of those other cases.

Jeffrey Goldberg responds:

Glenn Greenwald Compares the Iraq War to the Nazi Conquest of Europe

Yes he does.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

To be sure, lazy, corrupt journalism happens; always has, always will. But Goldberg’s work is quite the opposite: rigorously reported, beautifully written and fiercely honest. Indeed, Jeff’s willingness to be candid about lessons he learned along the way created a book that Greenwald rarely, if ever, mentions: Prisoners, a memoir of Jeff’s time as a member of the Israel Defense Forces when he served as a prison guard and developed a close, difficult and unresolved friendship with one of his Palestinian prisoners. This is the sort of work that Greenwald, locked in the sterile prison of his ideology, is completely incompetent to understand.

And now, Greenwald–who, so far as I can tell, only regards the United States as a force for evil in the world–has laid out the incredible notion that the liberation of the Kurds, which Jeff celebrates (and so do I, and so do civilized people everywhere) as a happy byproduct of George W. Bush’s dreadful war in Iraq, can be compared to the Nazi seizure of the Sudetenland:

It’s difficult to find an invasion in history that wasn’t supported by at least some faction of the invaded population and where that same self-justifying script wasn’t used.  That’s true even of the most heinous aggressors.  Many Czech and Austrian citizens of Germanic descent, viewing themselves as a repressed minority, welcomed Hitler’s invasion of their countries, whileleaders of the independence-seeking Sudeten parties in those countries actively conspired to bring it about.

This is obscene. Comparing the Kurds, who had been historically orphaned and then slaughtered with poison gas by Saddam Hussein, with Nazi-l0ving Sudeten Germans is outrageous. Comparing the United States to Nazi Germany is not merely disgraceful, but revelatory of a twisted, deluded soul. And, once again, we need to stand back and remember how this started: a dispute over whether the Post should have fired Dave Wiegel. Wow.

Greenwald will probably come after me now, armed with the same three or four quotes he routinely uses as evidence of my moral and professional dishonesty and dissipation. For Greenwald, it seems, any honest political disagreement always winds up with charges of corruption and decadence. I wonder why that is. But fine, Glenn, go for it. I’m going back to my vacation.

Update: A commenter–a Glennbot, clearly–notes that Greenwald finagles this caveat:

It should go without saying, but doesn’t: the point here is not that the attack on Iraq is comparable to these above-referenced invasions. It may or may not be, but that’s irrelevant.

No, it’s not irrelevant. If he’s going to compare the U.S. in Kurdistan with Nazi Germany in Sudetenland, Greenwald can’t just slink away by saying those actions “may or may not be comparable.” He can’t plead ignorance, can’t get away with a litigator’s trick. And if he truly is ignorant–it certainly seems so–perhaps he should take the time to study up on the situation, or perhaps take up Jeff’s invitation to visit Kurdistan, before he goes off comparing Kurds to Sudeten Germans. But then, that would involve…reporting, wouldn’t it?

John Cole:

Actually Joe, you’ve completely missed the point.

Let’s put this in words Joe can understand- If Israel were to be attacked, occupied, and have millions of her citizens murdered or killed in an invasion by Egypt, six years from now, it would not be ok to point to that immoral invasion and say “But look how happy the Palestinians are!” Which is precisely what Goldberg was doing, and exactly what Greenwald was pointing out. Even worse, Klein needed a reader to point out the very fact that Greenwald himself insisted the invasion of Iraq and the Nazi invasions are not the same. Now that’s some close reading of something that really upset you!

Joe noted that he was interrupting his vacation for this outburst- for his sake, I hope it was written from the hotel bar, because he completely missed the point. And for the record- I really like reading Joe Klein- most of the time.

*** Update ***

We’ve now got the spectacle of two prominent journalists, one for Time, one for the Atlantic, willfully misinterpreting someone’s remarks and screaming that person is a Nazi lover and hates America. Godwin wept.

Hamilton Nolan at Gawker:

Glenn Greenwald wrote a column about Jeff Goldberg, the Iraq War, and the moral issues surrounding invasions of countries, in which he mentioned Germany’s invasion of the Sudetenland, among other examples. Quote: “It should go without saying, but doesn’t: the point here is not that the attack on Iraq is comparable to these above-referenced invasions.” Time’s Joe Klein responded: “And now, Greenwald—who, so far as I can tell, only regards the United States as a force for evil in the world—has laid out the incredible notion that the liberation of the Kurds, which Jeff celebrates (and so do I, and so do civilized people everywhere) as a happy byproduct of George W. Bush’s dreadful war in Iraq, can be compared to the Nazi seizure of the Sudetenland.” Joe Klein is the world’s best reader.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum

More Greenwald

UPDATE #3: Jeffrey Goldberg

1 Comment

Filed under Iraq, New Media

The Last American Ironing Board Factory, Music Not By Debbie Harry

Peter Whoriskey at The Washington Post:

There is one factory left in the United States that manufactures the basic ironing board, and its survival against Chinese competition demands unrelenting, production-line hustle.

The 200 people at the plant in this small town make their boards very, very cheaply and as fast as 720 in an hour. In three low-slung buildings without air conditioning, coils of cold-rolled steel are cut, welded, riveted and boxed, then loaded onto the Wal-Mart and Target trucks backed up to the loading dock. Paid with piece-rate incentives, workers emerge weary at shift’s end.

“The people on the line are making pretty good money; it can work out to about $15 an hour,” said Dave Waskom, 61, a tool and die maker who readied the plant’s machinery for 37 years. “But they work like dogs.”

Yet loyalty and hard work are not enough.

The company survives in part because it convinced U.S. trade officials that Chinese firms were unfairly dumping ironing boards into the United States at less than fair-market value; in response, the United States levied anti-dumping taxes of 70 to more than 150 percent on its Chinese rivals.

Now, it looks as if the company might get more help: China, under pressure from the United States, has agreed to allow its currency to appreciate against the dollar, a move that would make Chinese ironing boards more expensive for U.S. consumers.

Hamilton Nolan at Gawker:

The Way We Live Now: Wrinkled. Our faces wrinkle from stress. Our money is wrinkled from our tight grasps. And our clothes are wrinkled, because the god damn Chinese are taking over the ironing board industry. Smooth-clothed bastards.

How many ironing board factories would you guess are left here, in America? Twelve? Thirteen? Fourteen? Fifteen? Sixteen? Seventeen? Eighteen? Nineteen? Twenty? Twenty-one? Twenty-two? Twenty-three? Twenty-four? Twenty-five? Twenty-six? Twenty-seven?

Eleven?

Try one, my friend. One ironing board factory, in Indiana, to supply the entire US of A with quality American-made ironing boards. Why? Because entire families in China are willing to live in the dumpsters at massive Chinese ironing-board factories, working on rotating shifts, 24/7, starting at age three, for eight cents per hour, just to flood our fair shores with cheaply-made ironing boards in the special “Chinese” style.

Or so I imagine. Econometrics can be a complicated field. What’s clear is that you, the consumer, are a sheep, easily lured by credit card “discounts” into indebting yourself to the Target Corporation, unto penury. No amount of usurious taxation can stop you from sucking down the soothing smoke of nicotine and fiberglass, rolled by hand, by machine. Though you harbor fantasies of being awarded “The Salary You Want,” you will surely end up receiving only The Salary You Deserve—$138,169 per year. Or, if you’re not a Major League Soccer player, probably around $7.45 per hour.

Matthew Yglesias:

Today’s Washington Post has a fascinating piece by Peter Whoriskey about the last factory in America that makes ironing boards. It stays in business in the face of Chinese competition only thanks to the fact that it’s persuaded congress to impose an extremely heavy tax “of 70 to more than 150 percent on its Chinese rivals.” If I proposed a 70-150 percent tax on sugary sodas, there’d be a big political debate about it, but this kind of thing goes unnoticed because it’s filed in people’s “obscure trade dispute” mental box rather than their “taxes” mental box. But make no mistake, it’s a tax and it results in more expensive ironing boards.

A soda tax, of course, would have a public health rationale—less obesity, longer lives. The ironing board tax lacks such a rationale. Instead its purpose is to protect the $15/hour jobs of 200 factory workers along with the profits of Chicago-based Home Products International.

What I would like to say is that this is a bad reason to impose extra costs on those of us who iron things from time to time. That if you repeal the tax, the profits will flow away from Home Products International and toward retailers like Target and Wal-Mart. Consumers will spend less money on ironing boards and will either spend more money on other things, or else will save more money generating extra investment funds. Either way, 200 people will lose their jobs but new jobs will be created from the extra investment and consumption financed by cheaper ironing boards. All-in-all, throughout the economy resources would be better-allocated and the vast majority of people will end up better off.

The problem for me is that with unemployment at nearly 10 percent and projected by the Powers That Be to stay above 8 percent for years it’s really hard for anyone to say with a straight face that if the factory closes down the employees will be able to find new jobs.

Katherine Mangu-Ward at Megan McArdle’s place:

Matt Yglesias blogs about the story here, and his analysis is spot on–tariffs cause deadweight losses, keep prices needlessly high, large-scale unemployment tends to inspire more protective tariffs, etc.–but he can’t quite pull the trigger on condemning the whole charade. Why? As Nancy Pelosi would say: Jobs, jobs, jobs. A lost job looms larger in the imagination than a deadweight loss.

For math on how much those precious jobs cost, check out the envelope math over at the XKCD echo chamber or this calculation from econ textbook authors Luke Froeb and Brian McCann.

Their napkin math, simplified almost to the “assume the horse is a sphere” level, illustrates a very old, very basic idea: A tariff like this one is a rock thrown at America’s front window. Broken windows employ glaziers, but that doesn’t make teenage thugs the drivers of economic growth or defenders of American job security.

Econ 101 aside, though, there’s a more compelling moral reason to condemn this kind of tariff that should help break deadlocks like Matt’s: Jobs lost at home are usually jobs created elsewhere, typically in poorer countries. If anything, jobs are likely to be gained when an industry moves to China, where more aspects of the manufacturing and assembly process are done by hand. They just won’t be created here. If that’s your focus, you have to make the case that American jobs are intrinsically better or more valuable than Chinese jobs.

Talking about American jobs lost to trade is like giving casualty stats for a war and only counting dead U.S. soldiers. It’s inaccurate, and it reveals a skewed, provincial view of the world.

Mark Perry at Daily Markets:

Isn’t this an example of how government trade policy created a coercive, anti-consumer, anti-competitive monopoly? Shouldn’t the Department of Justice investigate?

Leave a comment

Filed under Economics

We Graded The Law Students And The Law Students Won

John Hudson at The Atlantic

Catherine Rampell in NYT:

One day next month every student at Loyola Law School Los Angeles will awake to a higher grade point average.

But it’s not because they are all working harder.

The school is retroactively inflating its grades, tacking on 0.333 to every grade recorded in the last few years. The goal is to make its students look more attractive in a competitive job market.

In the last two years, at least 10 law schools have deliberately changed their grading systems to make them more lenient. These include law schools like New York University and Georgetown, as well as Golden Gate University and Tulane University, which just announced the change this month. Some recruiters at law firms keep track of these changes and consider them when interviewing, and some do not.

Law schools seem to view higher grades as one way to rescue their students from the tough economic climate — and perhaps more to the point, to protect their own reputations and rankings. Once able to practically guarantee gainful employment to thousands of students every year, the schools are now fielding complaints from more and more unemployed graduates, frequently drowning in student debt.

Nathan Koppel at Law Blog at WSJ:

Law schools traditionally have strictly regulated the distribution of As and Bs awarded. The fact that they are now tinkering with their grade curves does not sit well with some.

“If somebody’s paying $150,000 for a law school degree, you don’t want to call them a loser,” said Stuart Rojstaczer, a former Duke professor who now studies grade inflation. “So you artificially call every student a success.”

Law firms, for their part, are wise to the ways of law schools. In assessing a job prospect, firms appear to be relying less on possibly-inflated GPAs and instead are paying more attention to other criteria, such as class rank and law-journal experience, NYT reports.

“Every year we do our homework,” said Helen Long, the legal recruiting director at Ropes & Gray. “And besides, if a school had a remarkable jump in its G.P.A.’s from one year to the next, we receive a big enough group of résumés every year that we’d probably notice.”

John Hinderaker at Powerline:

The relationship between students and schools has always been interesting. Students (their parents, usually) paid the bills, but the schools more or less terrorized the students. How did that happen? It was possible only as long as the demand for graduates was strong. Now that demand has weakened, in law as in other industries, the relationship is changing in ways that are not too subtle.

Glenn Reynolds has written about the “education bubble,” perhaps the next to burst. The “costs” of education have risen exponentially over the years, while the real costs of running a school–lumber, natural gas, telecom services, whatever–have risen more modestly. The bubble, seemingly, has now burst. Glenn wrote a day or two ago that he wouldn’t recommend that a college graduate go in debt to attend any law school other than an elite few–Harvard, Yale and Stanford.

Law schools that are worried about their economic viability have only a small number of options available. Grade inflation, which has been implemented by countless undergraduate institutions that felt the squeeze some years ago, is one of them. Will law firms and other employers be fooled? One wouldn’t think so, but in an environment of grade inflation, students at an institution that failed to go with the flow might indeed be penalized, for a while at least.

The reality is that any society–even ours–has a limited need for lawyers. I’m reminded of a cartoon in the New Yorker from several decades ago. Two people are talking at a cocktail party; one of them says to the other: “How did I know you’re a lawyer? Simple: everyone is a lawyer.” That was how things seemed to be going during the 1970s, but like all trends, this one couldn’t continue forever.

James Joyner:

Doesn’t telling the NYT you’re doing this rather defeat the purpose? Indeed, won’t it have the opposite effect, making prospective employers dubious of high grades from the school? And won’t this mostly harm the people who actually earned the good grades?

Hamilton Nolan at Gawker:

All this competition! Too stressful! Maybe you should just switch to the sunny climes of “Journalism school,” where life is sweet? Yes, you should, because journalism schools are now suspending the need for an “entrance exam,” because applicants thought that was hard. And journalism itself is easy, so hard things aren’t proper training.

Now go out and learn the world!

Ann Althouse:

I saw the NYT article yesterday and decided it wasn’t worth blogging, but I’m blogging it now because it’s getting blogged and only to say that I consider this news a huge bore in light of the fact that law students’ grades are always adjusted on a curve.

It’s not as if the students previously got the grades they deserved and now the grades are phony. When  lawprofs grade law school exams, we may start with raw scores that represent what we really think of them, but the final grades are determined by the school’s predetermined goals for averages and percentages at the various grade levels. If the school thinks those averages and percentages are set in the wrong place and it can reset them.

It never had to do with the actual performance of the students. It was always about where the school, as a matter of policy, decided the grades ought to be. It was always about communicating with law firms and other employers in the hope of advantaging our graduates in comparison to other law schools’ graduates. We’re all lawyers here. This is all advocacy. Are you actually surprised?

Leave a comment

Filed under Education

“Bring Me The Head Of Lynn Hirschberg”

Lynn Hirschberg in NYT:

On the Grammy Awards in 2009, Maya Arulpragasam, also known as M.I.A., performed her biggest hit, “Paper Planes,” a rap song that infuses rebellious, defiant lyrics with the sounds of her native Sri Lanka, a riff lifted from the Clash, the bang-bang of a gun and the ka-ching of a cash register. Maya, as she is called, was nine months pregnant (to the day), and while she was onstage rapping about “some some some I some I murder, some I some I let go” — in a black skintight, body-stocking dress, transparent except for polka-dot patches that strategically covered her belly, breasts and derrière — she began to experience contractions. As the pain hit, Maya was performing with the male titans of rap (Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, T.I.) and she later told me that she thought all the free-floating testosterone caused her to go into labor. While American rappers today tend to celebrate sex, wealth and status, Maya, who grew up listening to the politicized rhymes of Public Enemy, takes international dance beats and meshes them with the very un-American voice of the militant rebel. In contrast to, say, Bono or John Lennon, with their peacenik messages, Maya taps into her rage at the persecution of Tamils in Sri Lanka to espouse violence: while you’re under the sway of the beat, she’s rapping, “You wanna win a war?/Like P.L.O. I don’t surrender.”

Although her publicist had a wheelchair ready and a midwife on call, Maya, who has a deep and instinctive affinity for the provocative, knew that this Grammy moment was not to be missed. It had everything: artistic credibility, high drama, a massive audience. The baby would just have to wait. The combination of being nearly naked, hugely pregnant, singing incendiary lyrics and having the eyes of the world upon her was too much to resist. And she was riveting, upstaging the four much more famous guys and dominating the stage. “That’s gangsta,” said Queen Latifah, one of the show’s presenters.

Three days later, her son, Ikhyd (pronounced I-kid) Edgar Arular Bronf­man, was born. His father is Maya’s fiancé, Ben Bronfman, son of the Warner Music Group chief executive and Seagram’s heir Edgar Bronfman Jr. In one of many contradictions that seem to provide the narrative for Maya’s life and art, Ikhyd was not, as she had repeatedly announced he would be, born at home in a pool of water. As usual, she wanted to transform her personal life into a political statement. “You gotta embrace the pain, embrace the struggle,” she proclaimed weeks before Ikhyd was born. “And my giving birth is nothing when I think about all the people in Sri Lanka that have to give birth in a concentration camp.”

As it happened, Maya, who is 34, gave birth in a private room in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “Ben’s family insisted,” she told me a year later, when we met in March for drinks at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, in nearby Beverly Hills. Before the Grammys, Maya and Bronfman moved to Los Angeles from New York, buying a house in very white, very wealthy Brentwood, an isolated and bucolic section of the city with a minimal history of trauma and violent uprisings. “L.A. is a lovely place to have a baby,” Maya said. She’s surprisingly petite and ladylike, with beautiful almond-shaped dark brown eyes and full lips that she painted a deep red the day we met. Maya has a unique tomboy-meets-ghetto-fabulous-meets-exotic-princess look that, like her music, manages to combine sexy elements (lingerie peeks out from under her see-through tops) with individual flourishes (she designs elaborate patterns for her nails) and ethnic accents (the bright, rich prints of Africa are her wardrobe staple). Like all style originals, Maya wears her clothes with great confidence — she knows how to edit her presentation for maximum effect. At the Beverly Wilshire, she was wearing high-heeled pumps with leggings under a hip-length, sheer white tunic woven with gold threads and an outsize black jacket that looked as if it might be on loan from her boyfriend. Her only jewelry was a simple diamond engagement ring.

“We went to the Grammys, we had the baby and we bought the house,” Maya said as she studied the menu, deciding on a glass of wine and French fries. “A month later, all this stuff was happening in Sri Lanka” — the Tamil insurgency was being defeated amid reports of thousands of civilian casualties — “and I started speaking up against it. And then, within a month, I found out my house was being bugged, my phones were being tapped and my e-mails were being hacked into. I was getting death threats, like ‘hope your baby dies.’ The biggest Sinhalese community is in Santa Monica, people who are sworn enemies of the Tamils, which is me.” She paused. “I live around the corner from Beverly Hills, and I feel semiprotected by Ben and, if anything happens to me, then Ben’s family will not take it. Jimmy Iovine, who runs Interscope, my record company, said, ‘Pick your battles carefully — don’t put your life at risk,’ but at the end of the day, I don’t see how you can shut up and just enjoy success when other people who don’t have the fame or the luxury to rent security guards are suffering. What the hell do they do? They just die.”

Maya’s tirade, typical in the way it moved from the political to the personal and back again, was interrupted by a waiter, who offered her a variety of rolls. She chose the olive bread. Maya’s political fervor stems from her upbringing. Although she was born in London, her family moved back to Sri Lanka when she was 6 months old, to a country torn by fighting between the Tamil Hindu minority and the Sinhalese Buddhist majority. In the ’70s, her father, Arular, helped found the Tamil militant group EROS (Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students), trained with the P.L.O. in Lebanon and spearheaded a movement to create an independent Tamil state in the north and east of the country. EROS was eventually overwhelmed by a stronger and more vicious militant group, the Tamil Tigers. In their struggle for political control, the Tigers not only went after government troops and Sinhalese civilians but also their own people, including Tamil women and children. “The Tigers ruled the people under them with an iron fist,” Ahilan Kadirgamar at Sri Lanka Democracy Forum told me. “They used mafia­like tactics, and they would forcefully recruit child soldiers. Maya’s father was never with the Tigers. He stayed away.”

[…]

Her rhetoric rankles Sri Lankan experts and human rights organizations, who are engaged in the difficult task of helping to forge a viable model for national unity after decades of bitter fighting. “Maya is a talented artist,” Kadirgamar told me, echoing the sentiments of others, “but she only made the situation worse. What happened in Sri Lanka was not a genocide. To not be honest about that or the Tigers does more damage than good. When Maya does a polarizing interview, it doesn’t help the cause of justice.”

Unity holds no allure for Maya — she thrives on conflict, real or imagined. “I kind of want to be an outsider,” she said, eating a truffle-flavored French fry. “I don’t want to make the same music, sing about the same stuff, talk about the same things. If that makes me a terrorist, then I’m a terrorist.”

[…]

When she was a child, Maya sat under the table while her mother sewed and caught fabric scraps as they fell. “The first thing I made was a bra,” Maya said. “Two circles in pinky red, blue straps.” Her father remained in Sri Lanka (whenever they saw each other, he was introduced to Maya as her uncle, so that the children wouldn’t inadvertently reveal his identity). Maya claims that she has not seen him in years. Diplo told me a different story. “I met her dad in London with her,” he said. “He was very interested in sustainable living and was teaching in London. But he wasn’t a good father.” Whatever the truth is, Maya has gone from trumpeting her father’s revolutionary past in order to claim that lineage to playing down his politics to support a separate narrative. “He was with the Sri Lankan government,” she now maintained, when I saw her in Los Angeles. “He’s been with them for 20 years. They just made up the fact that he is a Tiger so they can talk crap about me.” (Her father could not be reached for comment.)

Chris Matyszczyk at Cnet:

M.I.A., the Carrie Bradshaw of the Planet Subversive, seems to be a little upset.

The rapper acceded to an interview with The New York Times and was not best pleased with the results. So she tweeted: “CALL ME IF YOU WANNA TALK TO ME ABOUT THE N Y T TRUTH ISSUE, ill b taking calls all day bitches ;)”

Personally, I was not aware that The New York Times was printing a special edition that included only the truth. However, I admit I have omitted the first part of her tweet. You see, M.I.A. decided to adorn this tweet with the phone number of Lynn Hirschberg, the journalist.

I know you will be able to judge for yourselves whether Hirschberg’s profile had feather-ruffling qualities. She certainly seemed to suggest that there were some uncomfortable contradictions in M.I.A.’s life. She contrasted, for example, the rapper’s insistence that she would give birth in a pool of water at home “in order to embrace the pain” to the ultimate result: a birth in the relatively pain-free LA cocoon of Cedars-Sinai hospital.

Juli Weiner at Vanity Fair:

Following the publication of an ego-bruising profile in this week’s New York Times Magazine, the attention-seeing singer M.I.A. has published the writer’s phone number on her Twitter. (The journalist, Lynn Hirschberg, is a Vanity Fair alumna famous for inciting the ire of another tempestuous pop star: Courtney Love. Hirschberg reported that Love had used heroin while pregnant with daughter Frances Bean, inspiring a barrage of furious faxes—the Tweets of their day.) Touré, who first tipped us off to M.I.A.’s petulant prank, wrote, “I don’t think vengefully posting a writer’s cell on Twitter is gangsta or even ouch. It’s a childish & weak retort.”

In the case of M.I.A., it’s unclear what specific objections the singer has to the piece. However, a quick Google Image investigation reveals that Hirschberg is a ginger! Has M.I.A. taken her anti-redhead blitzkrieg too far?

Joe Coscarelli at The Village Voice:

Like Courtney Love before her, M.I.A. has responded to a less than kind Lynn Hirschberg profile — Love’s in Vanity Fair and M.I.A.’s in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine — the only way she knows how: angry music. Love’s band Hole had the bootleg “Bring Me the Head of Lynn Hirschberg,” and now, via her blog, Maya comes with “I’m a Singer.” (Sample lyric: “Why the hell would journalists be thick as shit/ Cause lies equals power equals politics” and later, “You’re a racist/ I wouldn’t trust you one bit.”)

But this isn’t just about politics; it’s about honor. And french fries.

Along with the track — which kind of bangs — M.I.A. also supplies two audio clips of an interview between herself and the New York Times reporter, under the headline “here’s the TRUFF,” just to set the record straight:

In her piece, Hirschberg writes that M.I.A. “studied the menu, deciding on a glass of wine and French fries,” and then quotes the singer: “‘I kind of want to be an outsider,’ she said, eating a truffle-flavored French fry.” But if M.I.A.’s own secret audio is to be believed, it was the reporter who insisted on ordering the bourgie fries, which we hear are gross anyway.

Lisa Horowitz at The Wrap:

It’s not the first time she has gone after the Times in a song: She previously expressed her anger over a Times report on Sri Lanka, where she grew up, criticizing the paper for glossing over the political violence there.

She sounds like someone who might hold a grudge.

Erin Polgreen at Spencer Ackerman’s place:

M.I.A. is a political artist and she is rightfully outraged by the inhumanity of the situation in Sri Lanka. Whether she’s effective or not is an interesting question, but I don’t know if Hirschman’s article is particularly revelatory in that regard. I’m not sure the fact that she eats fancy french fries means that she does more harm than good.  What worries me is whether M.I.A. is just lashing out blindly instead of trying to deescalate a vicious situation (See the video for “Born Free” as an example).

In the end, I don’t think the wool has been pulled over anyone’s eyes, as Hirschman would have readers believe. M.I.A is a human being and is contradictory and flawed by nature. As the lyrics M.I.A. samples in the new song go: “I am a sinner. Never said anything else. I didn’t lie to you. Thinking of somebody else.”

Hanna Rosin and Maureen Tkacik at Bloggingheads here and here

Hamilton Nolan at Gawker:

The latest on the M.I.A. vs. NYT slapfight: The paper has appended an editor’s note to Lynn Hirschberg’s profile. But the note only addresses the fact that Hirschberg cobbled together separate quotes into one longer quote without noting that fact. Which is actually a very bad thing to do! Left unaddressed, however: the case of the truffled french fry. So the war shall continue!

UPDATE: Andrew Potter, via Will Wilkinson

1 Comment

Filed under Mainstream, Music