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Jewish World Review Aug. 27, 1999/ 15 Elul, 5759


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The state of
the (Fourth E)state

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE of Brill’s Content was consistent in its tedium—the lead story was about “Scream TV,” an original topic—but Abigail Pogrebin’s article “Can Hillary Win Them Over” did pique my interest. Pogrebin wrote about who she, and presumably editor-in-chief Steve Brill, perceive to be the powerbrokers in New York’s media market, and offered advice to the candidate who probably won’t even run. Obviously, the Times’ Howell Raines was on the list, and that makes sense, if only for this completely on-the-mark sentence: “The Times’s endorsement is a no-win situation for Clinton: if she gets the nod, it’s a big ho-hum—just what everyone expects. But if Giuliani, the most likely Republican candidate, gets the endorsement, says Fredric Dicker, who covers politics for the New York Post, ‘it signals to me that she’s probably going to lose. It would suggest that she had so abysmally failed in making her case that even the Times couldn’t bring itself to endorse her.’”

Howard Stern was ignored in favor of Don Imus, every media and political fool’s idea of a bad boy who’s a “guilty pleasure,” which was a mistake. Stern reaches far more listeners in the New York market and he won’t be shy about making his views known, as was demonstrated by his constant drumbeat for Christie Whitman in ’93 and George Pataki in ’94. The most curious item in the entire piece was Jack Newfield’s slap at New York’s political columnist Michael Tomasky. Maybe it goes back to them both working for the Voice, but the aging Newfield was harsh: “[Tomasky] doesn’t hurt anybody... He doesn’t punch hard.”

Alan Dershowitz, the celebrity lawyer who’s a namedropping friend of Bill Clinton, is a vile pest who debases any newspaper he’s printed in or tv program on which he’s allowed to express his views. But more power to the First Amendment.

In an outrageous piece in last Sunday’s Daily News, Dershowitz attempts to settle a score with Sean Hannity, the right-wing WABC talk radio host, who also has a nightly Fox-TV program with liberal Alan Colmes. Dershowitz’s vehicle for his tirade against Hannity (and fellow ABC jock Steve Malzberg), was the case of Tom McGowan, a listener who sent insulting faxes to his show and was subsequently charged with harassment. One of McGowan’s faxes read: “You low-down hypocrite, back-stabbing punk...” Nasty and moronic, yes, but certainly not cause for judicial action. Yet Dershowitz doesn’t give a darn about McGowan—where was he when obnoxo Chris Brodeur was persecuted for hectoring Mayor Giuliani?—he simply wants to vent about conservative radio hosts, whether it’s Hannity, Rush Limbaugh or Bob Grant.

The Dersh
He writes: “Once, when I was in a shouting match with Hannity, he said worse things about me—particularly after I was off the air and unable to defend myself—than anything I saw in the faxes.” I was listening to that argument between Dershowitz and Hannity, and as the lawyer is, as I wrote above, extremely repellent, the radioman didn’t mince words about him after the shouting fest was over. But I’d like Dershowitz to produce the tape where Hannity calls him something worse than what he says he did.

Dershowitz concludes his puerile attack by writing: “Right-wing talk radio is the conservative version of pornography. It debases dialogue. It legitimates racism and other forms of bigotry. And it contributes to an atmosphere of violence.” This is nonsense. Dershowitz simply doesn’t agree with the views expressed by Limbaugh, Hannity, Grant, etc. And that’s fine: Don’t listen, Alan, just as I ignore the equally partisan National Public Radio, another broadcast medium that, if you want to get in the gutter with this shill for liberalism, legitimates bigotry of another kind altogether and presents only one point of view. That’s called diversity. Freedom of choice.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine called last week and said, “Your friends at The Weekly Standard have lost their minds. Check out the latest issue.” The cover story is loony, “The Case for Censorship,” by David Lowenthal, professor emeritus of political science at Boston College, but so what? What is wrong with a provocative debate? Unlike 95 percent of the other periodicals on the newsstands, the Standard’s cover grabs you by the throat and, if you have any interest in government, forces you to read the article. I happen to think Lowenthal is a crackpot who espouses views in his piece that are antithetical to my understanding of conservatism, but I did read every word of it.

There are numerous examples of Lowenthal’s dementia, but the following paragraph is my favorite: “The mass media—the movies, television, and recordings—need to be regulated, and not only because of appeals to irresponsible lust. They have immersed us in violence as well, habituated us to the most extreme brutality, held it up as a model and surrounded us by images of hateful human types so memorable as to cause a psychological insecurity that is dangerous. The only answer is governmental regulation, if necessary prior to publication—that is, censorship.”

More government regulation? This isn’t my idea of sound conservative principle. The country is shackled by enough interference with the private sector, usually by the hand of Democrats, and doesn’t need more. As I understand it, recent news stories have reported that crime is down across the country, and drug use has dropped among the youth. I don’t care for a lot of today’s music or films, and garbage like Rosie O’Donnell’s tv show makes me retch, but I don’t have to listen or watch.

But haven’t we had this debate before? It was ridiculous when the Rolling Stones were forced to alter their lyrics to “Let’s Spend the Night Together” in order to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show; it was silly that Elvis was shown on tv from only the waist up; and today it’s almost unimaginable to think that D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover was once banned by the government. Even Tipper Gore, who enraged liberals all over the country back in the 80s with her campaign for ratings attached to records, is now a Deadhead.

So, on the one hand we have a liberal imbecile like Dershowitz, who, if he were honest, would propose censoring a talk radio personality like Rush Limbaugh, thus depriving him of his rightful livelihood; and on the other, a doddering professor who thinks that Pulp Fiction is at the root of what he perceives as 1990s moral depravity.

And these whack jobs are professors?

In Sunday’s News Mike Barnicle wasn’t at all more coherent, despairing about his advancing age and not being familiar with any of today’s pop music. After discovering that he couldn’t identify 81 of Spin’s “90 Greatest Albums of the 90s,” he listened to a few and was, of course, appalled. All the violent lyrics, blah blah blah. But he’s living in an Everly Brothers Dream World when he writes the following: “It used to be that songs were about a single, marvelous topic: Love.” Uh, Mike, no, you’re wrong. As a boomer who probably smoked dope in the 60s, surely you’re familiar with songs like Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War,” Phil Ochs’ “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.” You’re just out of touch. To top it off, you prove it with this idiotic statement:

“Then there are individual performers like Courtney Love. She is the deeply untalented widow of Kurt Cobain, the pop rocker who had the good sense to commit suicide a few years ago.” I thought Cobain, an imaginative and immensely influential man, was a little off the deep end too, but “the good sense to commit suicide”?

Why don’t you go jump off the Brooklyn Bridge and see if anyone, aside from your family, gives a hoot?

Anyway, I’m against censorship of any kind, but Bill Clinton’s comments on almost any subject seem a lot more dangerous than any lousy Hole lyrics. At a Massachusetts $100,000 fundraiser for his wife’s presumptive New York Senate bid, Clinton told the assembled of the pair’s courtship. According to various news reports, he recounted how he met Hillary at Yale Law School and thought she was “the most gifted person” he had ever met, and, “Well, over 25 years later, I still haven’t met anybody I thought was as gifted.” This is my favorite part of the Reuters dispatch: “The two finally got together when Hillary Rodham slammed down her book in the Yale Law School library and walked over to introduce herself to Clinton, who by his own admission had been staring at her and had ‘kind of stalked her around’ the campus for weeks.”

Once a stalker...

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and publisher of New York Press. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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