Sunday, May 20, 2007

Forget flood. Interview God.

Falwell spirit at graduation
At Liberty University event, Gingrich attacks `radical secularism'

You mean you guys saw a real live ghost and the best you could do was quote some bizarre fictions from a former House speaker?

Interesting that nowhere in the (rather generous) 15 grafs devoted to this tale does anyone actually mention seeing the said ghost. The closest we get is the lede:

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich told Liberty University's graduating class Saturday to honor the spirit of school founder Jerry Falwell by confronting "the growing culture of radical secularism" with Christian ideals.

Or does the copydesk just ... see things other mortals can't?

Fifteen grafs does suggest that this is a pretty important tale -- obviously not as important as PIRATES GO MAINSTREAM! (17 grafs) or CASTLE FOR SALE IN MASSACHUSETTS! (16 grafs), but a big deal by its own lights, at least. Compare it to poor Jimmy Carter, who rated a mere 12 grafs (three of them devoted to comments on his comments, and one to confirming to the AP that he actually said what he said) for calling the current administration the worst ever in foreign-policy terms.

"I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history," Carter told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in a story that appeared in the newspaper's Saturday editions. "The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me."

Gingrich can call for the forced conversion of the entire United States without challenge. And Carter?

"Apparently, Sunday mornings in Plains for former President Carter includes hurling reckless accusations at your fellow man," said Amber Wilkerson, Republican National Committee spokeswoman. She said it was hard to take Carter seriously because he also "challenged Ronald Reagan's strategy for the Cold War."

Quick, kiddies: Which two informal fallacies are in play in that paragraph? And which parts of the "Reagan" "strategy" did we have in mind -- lavishing state-of-the-art SAMs on the likes of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar? Selling weapons to Tehran by way of keeping those Sandinista armored divisions away from the Texas border?

Gotta love this objectivity stuff. News practice calls for sort of an automatic response to Carter's comments (not, alas, from Robert Jervis or John Mearsheimer or somebody who could assess an IR comment in IR terms), but the response itself doesn't have to make any sense at all. Young Amber might as well have said it's hard to take Carter seriously because the moon is made of green cheese. Wouldn't it be neat if we tried to reclaim some of that news space for reasoned discussion?


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