Sunday, October 25, 2009


I still say it's not a bad idea in theory for the non-wingnut press to pursue, in a sane, truthful, smear-discrediting way, the stories wingnuts are fixated on -- but a soft-news sidebar in today's New York Times Magazine suggests yet again that the the knee-jerk reaction of the mainstream press to right-wing nonsense is mimicry rather than skepticism.

I'm referring to this week's "Question for..." mini-interview by Deborah Solomon. Solomon is sometimes snarky in a way that hints at liberal leanings, but this week she's responding to the widespread sniockering at Barack Obama's Nobel Prize by interviewing Thorbjorn Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which selected Obama. Not only does she seem contemptuous of him for this choice (and for the literature pick, which is the work of an entirely separate committee), she goes on to ask a series of right-wing-friendly questions:

You and your four colleagues on the peace-prize committee were appointed by the Norwegian Parliament. Are there any political conservatives among you?
Yes, two of the members of the committee are from the right-wing parties, and I myself am in the center, a traditional Social Democrat.

You were a longtime leader of the Norwegian Labor Party and also of the Socialist International, which is what, exactly?
It is the gathering of all the Social Democratic parties in the world, and I was vice president when Willy Brandt was president.

Here in the United States, "socialism" is one of those words bandied about by Obama's critics. When people hear "socialist," they worry you're going to take away their cars and make them ride bicycles.
Look at the welfare state in Norway that the Labor Party Social Democrats built. Everyone has better cars than most of the Americans.

What do you drive?
I'm driving a Volvo.

Oh, give me a break -- I feel as if I'm listening to Poppy Bush in 1992 calling Al; Gore "Ozone Man." And Solomon is implicitly referencing a (so far failed) smear attempt by The Washington Times and other elements of the wingnut media, that Carol Browner, the director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, has "socialist ties" because she briefly worked with the Socialist International. (The Socialist International is made up of "more than 170 political parties and organizations around the world including ruling parties in Australia, Japan, Hungary, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and the United Kingdom.")

Then we get this question, which is just ignorant:

What is it like to represent the country that is best known as the home of Edvard Munch's "Scream"?

Uh, Deborah? What's it like to work for what's supposedly the most prestigious newspaper in America, in America's cultural capital, and to ask an utterly philistine question about both Norway and Munch? Regarding Munch, have you ever even seen any of his other paintings -- many of which are quite remarkable? Really, this is best you can do? Would you say to Sarkozy, "How 'bout that Eiffel Tower"?


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