The Virginian

The Whole Trooth

First thing Babs Streisand should recognize is that even Jerry Falwell knows better than to send out ''truth alerts.''

By 10.18.02

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I have long resisted the strong impulse to become a blogger, and it hasn't been easy. I too can crank out a couple thousand words an hour, at least when inspired. I too have Internet addiction issues. I too like the sound of my own voice, the sight of my own typing (writing it often isn't), and the possibility of bombarding an international audience with whatever comes to mind.

Yet blogging (true blogging) appears to be a real job -- and thus a fright for those of us fond of taking days off, hitting the sauna and gym during working hours, playing the guitar instead of reading the papers, dismissing the major issues of the day as insignificant in the great scheme of things, laughing at people who take themselves too seriously, and strictly adhering to Tom Waits' commandment to sleep until the crack of noon after spending midnight howling at the moon.

Besides that, there apparently isn't any money in it -- unless you happen to be the Instapundit, whose tip jar is said to runneth over, at least from time to time. As it should. If IP were getting just a nickel a word he'd be richer than Nantucket. Many of us, however, will do many things for money but very little for free. The prospect of cranking out copy, posting it, posting other people's stuff, paying a server, getting shelled for writing junk, getting shelled for posting other people's junk -- all for no money -- seems a cheerless and indeed horrifying prospect. So hats off to the bloggers, and may the golden goose one day waddle into their garden and leave them a big, gleaming pile.

Yet there may be a Middle Way, as illustrated by Barbra Streisand. Whenever Barbra wants to vent the old noggin' she sends out something called a "truth alert." The process seems fairly simple. She gets the proverbial hair up her keister, sits down and flames off a few paragraphs, then sends the pronouncement out over the fax machine. If we might employ a scatological metaphor, she has chosen the high colonic over perennial dia… you get the picture.

Ms. Streisand, to be sure, is known for maiming the truth here and there -- not out of a lack of intensity or idealism, but simply because she, like many entertainers, is intelligent but lightly educated. Her grasp of the facts can indeed be somewhat slippery. Just the other day a truth alert alerted us to the previously unknown fact that Saddam Hussein is the dictator of Iran, when of course he does his dictating in Iraq.

Prior to that she was taken in by an Internet hoax that convinced her a clunky passage of anti-war jive was penned by William Shakespeare. Anyone who has read Shakespeare immediately knew this hackwork wasn't written by the Bard, though perhaps by Barbarella. (I should point out the passage was turned into a handbill and posted on telephone poles in Richmond, and one assumes elsewhere, with Shakespeare listed as the author.) She is also known for creative spelling, mangled syntax, and allowing a staffer to catch the incoming javelins that such errors often attract.

At this point it may be worth mentioning that I have always liked her voice, and don't consider BS to be the long-snouted yapping dog many of her critics insist that she is. In addition, her dedication to public affairs is passionate and well-intentioned, and there's nothing wrong with that. Her problem, as I see it, is that she not only maims the truth, but believes she should be taken seriously to begin with.

Some people of course should be taken seriously. That list includes many heads of state and high government officials, retired or otherwise, whose opinions are informed by first-hand experience and often decades of study and reflection. Ditto for some think tankers and even journalists.

Babs, it is clear, believes she should be taken seriously simply because she gives money to the Democratic Party. Interestingly enough, this belief puts her in the same class as many of the "special interest" villains featured in her truth alerts, such as the oil, mining, and timber industry, which she says have inordinate sway in the Bush White House. Recently she blamed those industries, and others, for pushing Dubya toward war with Saddam.

Maybe these industries do have great influence, though one wonders what the timber industry will gain by toppling Saddam, other that perhaps being asked to supply the lumber for his scaffold. It seems much more sensible to believe the president truly believes Saddam to be a real threat; one who will soon be capable of providing terrorists with nuclear weapons.

In any event, these special interests will have gained their prominence the same way Ms. Streisand hopes to gain hers: by paying for it. She pays up and expects her pols to listen up, as if they were members of her personal staff. No doubt, the gals and guys in Dick Gephardt's office roll their eyes whenever one of her truth alerts arrives -- just before forwarding it to an appreciative journalist, with typos and misspellings highlighted.

Since Ms. Streisand is a personal favorite, some free advice is in order. First thing, she should recognize that even Jerry Falwell knows better than to send out "truth alerts," which sound like something you'd get from a mullah or the captain of Tehran's religious police squad. Secondly, she should know that many donors get nothing for their money, save for the empty rhetorical or symbolic nod. An old-timer from the Helms operation once put this arrangement in a memorable way: "Hay for the goats."

Lastly, if she's going to send out alerts, she should hire a writer who has a basic understanding of geography, politics, and spelling. There are many of them around, and almost all can be had for a lot less than Dick Gephardt. Hell, I'll take the job if she'll provide a few free singing lessons.

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About the Author

Dave Shiflett is a writer in Midlothian, Virginia. His real CD "Time Goes Rushing By" -- as immortalized on Instapundit.com -- is now available.