Monday, January 15, 2007

Where Did All the Journalism Go?

Yikes, that was a weird week – and weekend. But I survived and, contrary to the rumors propagated by the True North crowd, I wasn’t abducted by Cheney-like warriors and sent to Gitmo-like prisons to serve a sentence for failing to bow to the lunatics of the right wing. Whew.

And for those keeping score at home, please note that Snarky Boy remains an equal opportunity political basher. If you don’t believe me, just ask the grumbling Darren Allen and his new boyfriend, Peter Welch. I’m only mentioning this because I’m sick and tired of the emails accusing me of being a sock-puppet for the Democrats, Republicans or Progressives. Yep, I’ve been accused of carrying water for all three. Whatever.

Speaking of Allen, he penned yet another love note – er, op/ed piece – to Welch on Sunday in the Times-Argus. In fact, I think he wrote the only article in the entire edition of the paper that wasn’t about Bill McKibben of global warming fame. Don’t believe me? Pick up a copy. It won’t be hard to find, just look for the half-page photo of McKibben on the front page. And then count how many articles or references you can find about McKibben throughout the paper. Here’s a hint: lead article, lead editorial, self-penned op/ed piece, and three – yes three – pages worth of news about him in the front section.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m among the admirers of McKibben and one of the early readers of his book, The End of Nature. But how much McKibben can one person take in one edition of a newspaper? It’s the Vermont way, you know: Make a darling out of someone or something and then just milk it to death until all meaning is lost. Pretty soon, McKibben will be starring with Rusty Dewees in some production that won’t really be very good but EVERYONE will HAVE to see and/or send video copies to our out of state relatives.

But the best part of the McKibben saturation was knowing that it was making Vermont’s state curmudgeon, John McClaughry of the Ethan Allen Institute, even more bat-shit crazy than he normally is. McClaughry, of course, is the lone guy behind what he calls an “institute,” and his steady lurch to the right over the years has only made him more and more lonely. But he’s made a nice little living out of being the media’s very own right wing lunatic when a right wing lunatic who can complete sentences is needed.

And, true to form, the media called on McClaughry to trot out his nonsense and all but declare that Bill McKibben – rather than the combustion engine --- is actually the enemy of the universe. Oh sure, John, now crawl back into your hole and wait for your next opportunity to look absolutely nutty.

My biggest fear with all this McKibben worship going on is that it’ll just end there. In other words, we’ll all just be made to feel so good about talking about the issue of global warming and the warmth we all feel for Saint Bill that we’ll forget that the point of the love-fest was to get something done or, dare I say it, make some sacrifices for the future of the planet.

And what a shame it would be if all the hot air about hot air did little more than give the flailing Dems an opportunity to take the spotlight off the fact that they have no real plans for this issue or any of the other major issues confronting them.

But, I’ll bet you’re wondering, what does any of this have to do with Darren Allen’s column? Nothing, really. I just got a bit off track. Deal with it.

Allen and Welch still seem to be in their civil union honeymoon period, with Welch calling on Allen to write fawning words about his every congressional move and, not surprisingly, Allen obliging. Don’t believe me? Well then, read this little intro from Allen yesterday: “U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, a Democrat in his first weeks as a congressman from Vermont, made a hike in the minimum wage one of his biggest priorities while he was on the campaign trail, and, last week, he and his colleagues delivered.”

Good job, Darren, we now know that you can re-type the words from your boyfriend’s press releases. Next time, though, try reporting. Oh, in case you forgot, that’s where you get opposing viewpoints and – gasp! – challenge the viewpoints that are spoon fed to you. But, beware, you might actually have to put in some more time and – heaven forbid – ruffle some feathers along the way.

Oh yes, there was something good in his column that I wanted to pass along: “Forgetting that lawmakers rarely put in a five-day 40-hour week at the office, their annual $165,200 incomes work out to an hourly take of about $79. For an eight-hour day, that works out to little more than $635 – or a cool two times what a minimum wage worker earns in a week.”

Yeah, but Peter’s got that cute dog to feed. Oh yeah, and all those millions in trial lawyer riches to manage. Perhaps Darren could ask him if he’s really concerned about the poor, how much of his unneeded salary is he donating to them?

Just a suggestion.