The New Yorker wishes us a very happy Fourth of July
In my recent "change" post I mentioned in passing that I still read the New Yorker, despite my disagreement with almost everything political in it.
I wrestle with the fact that I continue to support them by subscribing, but I can't seem to break away (am I an enabler?). Every time I think it's all over between us, they come up with something wonderful like Adam Gopnik's "Bumping Into Mr. Ravioli" (no link on the Web, unfortunately) or this article about Bronson Alcott, by Geraldine Brooks.
I've just begun reading my latest issue, and already I'm angry. The date of the magazine is July 4, and the cover is entitled, "Party of One," featuring a very glum and lonely Uncle Sam, sitting at a party table in front of a "Happy Birthday" cake festooned with candles. Ah, yes, back to the old "unilateralism" meme--although in this case Uncle Sam seems more shunned than shunning. He appears to have invited some guests--after all, there are place-settings on the table--but they are all no-shows. At any rate, for whatever reason, he's all alone, and on his birthday, too.
But inside the issue there are far bigger problems than on the outside, although I've only gotten as far as the very first piece, the initial "The Talk of the Town" article. It's written by editor-in-chief David Remnick, and in it he criticizes Edward Klein's execrable gossip-mongering hatchet job on Hilary Clinton, "The Truth About Hilary," a book which appears to consist mainly of rumors that she knows lesbians and is sexually cold.
My disagreement is not with Remnick's critique of Klein's book. The difficulty comes later. First, there is this passage, which is fine:
In better times, in a better world, the shoddiness of [Klein's book's] reporting and the vulgarity of its writing would place it safely beyond discussion. In our own time and place, though, such books are not only published but sell in the hundreds of thousands, and their toxicity has a habit of further poisoning the political groundwater.
"Such books;" indeed--for example, the recent abomination on the Bush family, written by Kitty Kelley. Remnick, to his credit, and despite his own Bush-hatred, does manage to make very brief mention of Kelley's book, calling it a "trash biography."
There are certainly many others of the genre from which to choose, including--it turns out--that of the New Yorker's very own Seymour Hersh, who wrote the trash biography The Dark Side of Camelot back in 1997. It's a good parallel to the Klein book, because of its concentration on the sex life of its subject, and its heavy use of anonymous sources (something of a trademark for Mr. Hersh).
But no, Remnick doesn't mention it--although I can't say I actually expected Remnick to critique the trash written by one of his own writers.
But what book does Mr. Remnick see fit to mention right after the above quote, as a parallel to "The Truth About Hillary?" Let's see:
...further poisoning the political groundwater. In the last election cycle, the Kerry campaign was slow to recognize the importance of the Swift Boat slander, and, by the time it did, the damage could not be undone.
So, a book containing not a single sexual innuendo or anonymous source is compared with one composed of nothing but. A book that is written by a group of men who served heroically in Vietnam, all of whom go on the record to make their allegations up front and have plenty of documentation to back up their claims, is compared to a shadowy bunch of sexual insinuations. I strongly suspect that Remnick has not even read Unfit for Command, a tightly reasoned book that actually reads a great deal like a legal affidavit.
Maybe the Fourth of July isn't the best time to read the New Yorker.