Secret Pop

Sep 8, 2003

Fact Finding

I read Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right this weekend. I hope everyone will. But I know plenty won't. I don't claim that it isn't partisan, but it's also funny and insightful and really, really informative. And I'm beginning to become disillusioned at how lazy we are, as a society, about how we get our ideas and opinions and information. I am guilty of it, too. I have allowed clips on the news to sum up a story for me. I have trusted broadcasters and believed what I read. But it seems that the onus of honest reporting is no longer part of what is expected of journalists and publishers. I remember recently watching Fox News Channel at my parents' house when we were just letting it fly at Iraq, and the ticker that ran across the bottom of the screen would often present some statement in quotation marks that was a paraphrased reduction of what had only just been broadcast on the video feed. I would see a senator make a statement, then a few minutes later I would see a quote from that statement running across the bottom of the screen, but it would be edited and inexact. And I wondered if Fox News Channel has people working there who were never required to learn the sacred value of the quotation mark. Do they really not know that you can't -- especially as a news agency -- QUOTE people with paraphrasings of their statements? I'm certain that no one who attended my junior high school English class with Mr. Clauson (and I'm panicking with the certainty that I've forgotten how he spelled his name) ended up a bigwig at Fox, but it's really a shame. I learned all of that stuff there. I also learned that I enjoy diagramming sentences, that people with dentures sometimes swivel them around in their mouths out of habit and a quest for periodontal comfort, and that you shouldn't wear a strapless bra to school when you don't have the "wherewithal" to hold it up. When I noticed my fancy new bra had scooted down and was now encircling my waist, I was embarrassed and humiliated. Especially because it was this mean, freckled kid named Michael or Mark or something similarly beginning with an "M" who pointed it out to me. I don't remember his last name, but I think it was an alliteration. As I recall, he had sort of a Dorothy Hamill haircut and was aspiring to grow up to be a mercenary. I don't know if he's toting his gun in the jungles of a Southeast Asian nation at this very moment, but I do know he wouldn't use quotation marks with such recklessness. Mr. Clauson was very stern on this issue.

This standard was further reinforced in high school by Mr. Fritz, who was famous for talking to your bosom (if you were a girl) and for sponsoring girls' athletic teams. I don't remember what class I took with him. I think it was some sort of time-passing nonsense class. Like S.A.T. preparation or something like that. I went to a Department of Defense high school. We were sometimes required to waste time sitting in a classroom for an entire period literally doing nothing. I remember knowing Senator Phil Gramm's name at a very early age on account of the Gramm-Rudman Bill whose budget slashings kept us from being able to use buses for extracurricular activities and forced the Far East Speech and Drama Tournament to be held via videotape. That's right. We performed our speeches and scenes in front of video cameras and then mailed our entries on VHS to Korea, where they were judged. It was the lamest version of an away game I have ever experienced. I don't think the athletic teams were required to compete via videotape, but I can't be sure. Perhaps they awarded wrestling medals on the basis of a long distance volley of rock scissors paper. But I would imagine those boys were still required to wear their singlets and make themselves puke before weigh-in. Some things are still sacred.

Where was I? Oh, yeah.

I wholeheartedly and heavyhandedly encourage you to read Al Franken's new book. It made me laugh repeatedly. But it also made me very angry. I have been unashamedly declaring my liberal leanings for many years now. I vote Democrat, and I like it. So, I realize that anyone who disagrees with me politically will probably snort and harumph and say a lot of lame things like "yeah right" and "surprise surprise." That's partisanship. People who aren't liberal will assume that liberals are getting their pants in a knot at the hands of a propagandist. It's a shame, too, because there is a mountain of factual data in the book that you might not have heard or read, regardless of your party affiliation. And chances are, if you're getting your news from Fox News Channel or the Today Show, you will never be exposed to it. And chances are, if you're getting your news from Fox News Channel, you don't want to be.

Oh, there. I went and got all partisan on you. I didn't intend to. I just wanted to tell you what I was reading this weekend. Okay, so, take it as you will, America. I hope that we get a chance to pretty up before history takes our picture. Posterity can be so very cruel.


I think his name was Michael Marking. I'm going to Google him now. I wonder how many rebel factions he's destroyed or how many unmandated governments he's helped to overthrow. It's been a number of years. I should think he'd have quite a résumé by now.

Epilogue Two

When I was in high school, I studied sophomore English and three years of French with Kara Killingsworth. When I was watching Al Franken's appearance on C-SPAN (which you can view in Real Audio here) this past summer, one of the other panelists, introducing her new book Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America, was Molly Ivins. Her speaking voice and diction and dialect and sense of humor brought back echoes of Ms. Killingsworth, of whom I was immensely fond and who was one of only a very few teachers in my student years to vigilantly push me to be more than I was. I long ago Googled her, but to no avail, much to my chagrin. Being an English teacher herself, I feel confident in asserting that she knows that obscure rule about the use of quotation marks, too. Incidentally, that C-SPAN link allows you to view the entire Book TV panel from the Book Publishers Expo, where Al Franken and Bill O'Reilly had words. It's interesting to watch, because Bill O'Reilly is a case study in jerkdom and an irrational commitment to being wrong. My father watches his program, which is a sticking point for me. But then, my father also never liked boats and didn't like to wear hats, but he joined the Navy as a teenager and served until retirement. Go figure.

No comments: