Media Matters

Centigrade Conversions

The Washington Posties’ latest harvest of shame.

By 6.30.04

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"It's a documentary like Deep Throat is a love story."

Uncle Pundit, just back from Michael Moore's Fahrenheit movie, was mincing words again.

"You mean, it doesn't explore its premises fairly and with equanimity?" (I always play the innocent.)

"No, but then, none of them do. A documentary is just a long editorial, designed to reach a destination but with a lot of detours and roadblocks thrown in to confuse the viewer into thinking he wasn't really led to the conclusion."

"But I thought good documentaries simply explore a subject and let the viewer reach his own conclusion, like, say Harvest of Shame. Won a lot of awards, you know."

"And you think Harvest was an unbiased inquiry into the life and times of the migrant worker in America?"

Uncle Pundit has a way of asking a question which is really the closer to the conversation.

"What's wrong with it is this -- the Moore thing we're talking about now. It's clever enough, and silly enough, to disarm an audience. Like that Strawberry guy who writes in the Post."

"You mean Raspberry....the Washington Post columnist."

"Whatever. You see, he's already in Moore's corner before he passes the popcorn stand. But the Moore thing drives him over the edge. Here." He has the piece underlined.

"I've long had my doubts about the president's intellectual gifts. Moore tempts me to doubt his basic competency."

"That's what I mean. The Moore thing tips those who are leaning anyway, who want to go all the way but up until this didn't really have an excuse. The Raspberry guy struggles for balance, but he's falling. He makes a last swipe at reality, says 'I wish Moore had been more scrupulously honest....but I can't say he reached the wrong conclusion.' In other words, he agrees with dishonesty 'cause it's what he wanted to believe all along."

"Yes, but guys writing opinion pieces in newspapers are paid to have opinions."

"Exactly. But they don't get 21 million and change for one weekend's work, do they? Sometimes they don't even raise a hackle, like it took two of 'em to figure out how to get the "f" word spelled out in print last Friday."

"Oh, the Cheney thing."

"Yep. There it was, inside front section. The whole Cheney quote: "F--- yourself," directed at Senator Leahy. Now, I figure it's a misquote. You never say "f--- yourself" without putting 'go' in front of "f--- " as part of the compound verb. When you leave out the "go" you simply say 'f--- you.' They musta got it wrong."

"But whatever possessed the paper to print out the whole word, you suppose?" (Innocent again.)

"So they could print the rest of the sentence, the part after the dirty quote that says, 'said the man who is a heartbeat from the presidency.' That's the part they wanted in, the idea it takes Moore more than an hour to get across, that here's an important guy doing this thing we disapprove. So much so we even offended you by spelling it out. The Cheney thing is a documentary reduced to a newsstory boiled down to an editorial.

"Lemme ask you, think you ever would have read in that same paper, '"I did not have sex with that woman," said the man whose finger is on the nuclear trigger that could destroy civilization'? I don't think so.

"Now to important things. Where we going to get our Fourth of July fireworks in a town where you can't even smoke a cigarette?"

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About the Author

Reid Collins is a former CBS and CNN news correspondent.