Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Afghanistan Lost

Cockburn at the Village Voice (Photo: Sylvia Plachy)

Several younger friends of mine have been searching for Alexander Cockburn's infamous Afghanistan column from 1980. Bits of it appear online, but no one I know has unearthed the entire thing.

Lucky for them I have a thick file of early Cockburn clips. Some are faded and frayed. A few have been nibbled by mice. A handful are in excellent shape. But the Afghanistan piece is too worn to adequately scan, so I went old school and typed it up. By hand. Word for word.

I've also included Cockburn's follow-up a week later. In full. If this doesn't show you my love, then you need extensive therapy.

Press Clips
Village Voice
January 21, 1980

Iowa and Afghanistan
by Alexander Cockburn

We all have to go one day, but pray God let it not be over Afghanistan. An unspeakable country filled with unspeakable people, sheepshaggers and smugglers, who have furnished in their leisure hours some of the worst arts and crafts ever to penetrate the occidental world.

I yield to none in my sympathy to those prostrate beneath the Russian jackboot, but if ever a country deserved rape it's Afghanistan. Nothing but mountains filled with barbarous ethnics with views as medieval as their muskets. and unspeakably cruel too.

As a boy I read English Victorian child's fiction. The British had a hard time in Afghanistan in the florid era of the Great Game. They rushed into Afghanistan and soon realized their dreadful mistake. Adulterers were punished by having thorns inserted in their penises, and piteous were the roars of young dragoons stumbling in agony across the mountain peaks.

Your Afghan's idea of a jolly good time is to cut off the balls of his foe, stuff them in his mouth and leave him as an object of derision in the local square. The British found this out, as they retreated pellmell across the passes, and so too has Ivan.

The worst sort of hippie globetrotter always found his way to Kabul and loitered there, mingling his own form of occidental vileness with matching oriental hospitality.

But why do the Afghans get a good press all the same? Because they are mountain folk, naturally. People who live amid mountains are always conceived of as more attuned to the mode of freedom than those who live in meadows, plains, valleys and other less craggy facilities. Mountain folk are always "fiercely independent," whereas plains or valley people tend to be "docile."

It's odd to think that these Afghans, who do not even have the skill -- despite every conceivable advantage -- to produce rivals in senility to the old men of Azerbaijan, are dictating the course of the US elections. Yet out in Iowa the politicians were talking of Afghanistan at every turn. The Belgium of our days.

But there we are. President Carter needs to win the Iowa caucuses, which means that matching funds have to go to Pakistan. The Iranian crisis would be solved tomorrow and the hostages released if the US merely indicated its interest in the possibility of a UN forum for examining the crimes of the Shah. But in the new age of guns before butter, such tractability is out of the question.

The state of the union address planned by Carter, and only by the agency of O'Neill and Byrd still scheduled for after the Iowa caucuses, will inaugurate the new era of military boondoggle, armadas speeding their way to the Indian Ocean, and the globe armor-plated in steel.

Press Clips
Village Voice
January 28, 1980

Again Afghanistan
by Alexander Cockburn

Some, who have never set foot among the Pushtoons, nor rambled in the Hindu Kush, were offended by my remarks about Afghanistan last week. My observations stemmed from an impatience with the notion of "freedom-loving rebels of Afghanistan," as expressed by US politicians and journalists, combining ignorance, hypocrisy and the renewed cold war fever.

But never go for irony. People take you seriously. For the record, there are good Afghans as well as bad ones, and many of them were behind Taraki in 1978. There was even a good Afghan king, Amanullah, an excellent emblem of progress in the 1920s, who declared back then that "the keystone of the future structure of the new Afghanistan will be the emancipation of women" and whose wife Soraya was the first urban Afghan woman to appear unveiled in public. He was deposed in 1929 and ended his days in exile in Italy in 1960.

Fans of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica should know that Sir Henry Yule was far more intemperate than I. But then he presumably supported the disastrous British expeditions. He wrote, with considerable emotion: "The Afghans, inured to bloodshed from childhood, are familiar with death, and are audacious in attack, but easily discouraged by failure; excessively turbulent and unsubmissive to law or discipline; apparently frank and affable in manner, especially when they hope to gain some object, but capable of the grossest brutality when that hope ceases. They are unscrupulous in perjury, treacherous, vain, and insatiable, passionate in vindictiveness, which they will satisfy at the cost of their own lives and in the most cruel manner. Nowhere is crime committed on such trifling grounds, or with such general impunity, though when it is punished the punishment is atrocious. Among themselves the Afghans are quarrelsome, intriguing, and distrustful; estrangements and affrays are of constant occurrence; the traveler conceals and misrepresents the time and direction of his journey. The Afghan is by breed and nature a bird of prey. If from habit and tradition he respects a stranger within his threshold, he yet considers it legitimate to warn a neighbor of the prey that is afoot, or even to overtaken and plunder his guest after he has quitted his roof. The repression of crime and the demand of taxation he regards alike as tyranny. The Afghans are eternally boasting of their lineage, their independence, and their prowess. They look on the Afghans as the first of nations, and each man looks on himself as the equal of any Afghan."

Thus an old imperial Britisher. We progress of course . . . to Emmett Tyrrell in The American Spectator: "On November 4, the Rev. Mr. Ruhollah Khomeini returned to the TV screens of America. Life in old Qom can grow tedious, especially if one is surrounded by idiot mullahs and the abysmal yokels who aspire to mullah-dom, so the Holy Man set his bovine followers upon the U.S. embassy . . ." This passes for Menckenesque wit.

The trouble is that Carter and the Rev will soon be allies, which will call for a dressing of the epithets. Perhaps we should be that the hostages will be freed by the Persian New Year, on March 21. Today's fanatic is tomorrow's friend.

Item of curiosity: Newsweek, this week at least, is more restrained and even moderate than Time, which has reverted to true Fifties form. Read, too, Hugh Sidey and marvel that human hands could type such tripe. Monkeys could not do it.

Such is the state of the union, message and all.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Last Kind Words

Baggage carousel at Detroit International. Dozens of bags spin and crash. The carousel's choked as more bags pour in.

Weather delays caused this crush. Everyone's late, too tired to be testy. Resigned expressions above the stack.

A guy to my left grabs then tosses bags. He's looking for his, but none look alike. Either he travels heavy, or has trouble discerning shapes.

He's mid-50's. Sneakers, plaid shorts, white sports shirt. He grins a lot. An odd grin, more confused than amused. A decided overbite adds a comic touch.

He wears a dark blue Romney for President cap. I almost feel sorry for him. Openly backing Romney? Who does such a thing?

I try not to judge. Still, is this who Romney attracts? Someone who throws other people's bags around, smiling like a goof?

Not that it matters to me. I'm watching this election underwater. Bullshit rises to the surface, floats out to sea.

I'm also distant from the angry debate over Syria among various radicals. Is it a revolution or contra war? Those I'm closest to say the former, and I tend to agree.

But I don't see NATO as a revolutionary force. Not even in a realpolitik way. But then I'm not on the front lines. There you take what you can get. Ask the Kurds.

No matter what I or my friends think, we don't affect those front lines. It's grandiose to believe that we do.

We help pay NATO's bills. Maybe some of that flows into rebel accounts. But that's the extent of it. Still, venomous exchanges continue. Being on the Right Side of history is not a happy task.

I'm not blind to the shifts now occurring. The Arab world is shedding despotic skin, but for what? For whom? When the US claims something is "democratic," look for the sniper in the room. He's there. He always is.

Less touted is Latin America's steady extraction from US influence. While not as dramatic as the Arab Summer -- though no less violent -- Latin America moves in a more independent direction. US power is waning.

This is good. It may also prove dangerous. We are renowned sore losers. Heavily-armed. Favored by God. Simple lethal math.

Resistance from within grows, emerging from the seeds planted by Occupy. That movement has been mocked and mourned, but it had an effect. The state crushed what it could. Yet these weren't fatal blows.

Mainstream liberals fear that Occupy's example might hurt Obama's re-election. Pundits like Harold Meyerson and Sean Wilentz defensively dismiss radical critiques of Their President. I like it that they're scared, but they needn't be. Not yet, anyway.

An American Spring at the start of Obama's second term? As Obama's predecessor and Terror War influence put it, bring it on. The mission is far from accomplished.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Golden Age Is Passing

Alexander Cockburn was never a friend. An influence, an occasional publisher, an uncle to my friend and political colleague Laura Flanders, yes. But we weren't pals.

Still, for the longest time I admired him. Early on, I imitated him. A lot of young lefty writers did.

In his prime, Cockburn was a first-rate press critic and stylist. Perhaps the best writer on the left. Certainly its best polemicist.

When I moved to NYC in 1982, a coke-hungry communist I'd met turned me on to Cockburn's Press Clips column in the Village Voice. It was an electric read in a paper that offered James Wolcott, Ellen Willis, Andrew Sarris, J. Hoberman, Stanley Crouch, Gary Giddins, and more.

One hell of a weekly line-up. Yet Cockburn's column, at times co-written with James Ridgeway, was the highlight. At least to my avid mind.

Comedy was my main interest; Cockburn showed another path. I'd never thought of writing political pieces until I read Press Clips.

Thanks to Cockburn, I began reading and researching history books, bound back issues of various ideological magazines, writers like Hazlitt and Chesterton, and his sworn enemies in The New Republic and Commentary.

In 1986, back in NYC from LA, I joined FAIR, and that's where it really took off.

When I was hired to write a weekly press column for Downtown, my main models were Press Clips and Beat the Devil, Cockburn's Nation column. My editor told me it was the most remarked upon part of the paper. Readers were drawn to my intensity and humor.

Feeling confident, I sent clips to Cockburn and Hitchens. Both responded favorably.

Cockburn said that my writing was "excellent." He invited me to visit The Nation's office anytime he was there and we'd chat. Summoning the courage, I eventually did.

He decidedly stood out. Bright Hawaiian shirt. Straight-legged jeans. Red suede shoes. Longish brown hair uncombed. Aviator glasses. Wide smile.

I introduced myself. He was friendly and gracious. We made small talk. He lightly chastised me for reading too many right wing magazines. I replied that that was my corner at FAIR.

Alex said, "Oh yes! You're young! Ambitious! You want to read it all! Well, you have to make smarter choices."

I wasn't sure if Cockburn was mocking me. If he was, I didn't care. Then a radio outside his office played Jumping Jack Flash. Cockburn grabbed a pretty intern and danced with her. The rest of the office looked on as if this was standard behavior.

Through Alex I became friendly with his younger brother Andrew, who was equally intelligent but far less judgmental. We once met for lunch on the Upper West Side. Andrew said that Alex was out of town. He invited me along to pick up Alex's mail. Among letters and bills were Workers Vanguard, the American Guardian, Foreign Affairs, and yes The New Republic.

Entering his apartment mesmerized me. Pure writer's chaos. Stacks of books. Papers and magazines strewn about. And then there was the desk.

A long plank of wood resting atop two sawhorses. A large typewriter. Framed photos. Typed pages with hand-written corrections and edits. I stared on in awe.

This is where the magic happens, I told myself. This is how a real writer lives. It was a jolt of pure inspiration.

Over the years, Cockburn and I crossed paths, most memorably at a party in LA where I met and talked extensively to Noam Chomsky. Alex had two giggling young women hanging all over him. They whispered into each other's ears, then cackled uproariously.

Alex broke free for a moment and whispered something to Noam, who chuckled to himself. I have no idea what he said, but Noam seemed to appreciate it.

Then there were our spats in the letter's pages of New York Press. He had attacked Michael Moore and (pre-9/11) Hitchens, both of whom I defended. I baited Cockburn with sarcasm, suggesting that his time was nearly over. He replied with both barrels, denigrating my intelligence, taking shots at my sexuality.

Alex did this several times when we clashed. It seemed like an odd tactic, doubtless rooted in his private boys' schooldays in England. And yet, if I had something he liked or needed to bolster an argument, he'd use it, giving me full credit.

He posted several pieces of mine at Counterpunch, which boosted my readership. When I offered another piece, Cockburn delivered an ultimatum: if I wanted to keep appearing in Counterpunch, I had to stop writing about Hitchens on my personal site.

I asked why. He thought I had a weird gay crush on Christopher which he didn't want associated with his site.

This stemmed from my story about seeing Hitchens naked in his apartment. Christopher took it in stride. He didn't care that I saw him sans clothes. But for some reason it bothered Alex.

I told Cockburn that I'd write whatever I pleased. If he didn't like it, that was his neurotic problem. So I never wrote for nor spoke to Alex again.

Like many others, I was surprised to learn that he died of cancer. But then, I wasn't part of his inner-circle. Still, Alexander Cockburn helped shape a part of my writing life. For that I thank him and hope that he passed peacefully.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Light Dreams Are Lit With

Two friends have died. Influences. Pals. Confidants.

Tom Davis finally succumbed to the cancer that plagued him for years. Brian McConnachie, who phoned me with the news, said that according to Tom's wife, Mimi Raleigh, Tom slipped away with a smile on his face.

Of course he did. Tom accepted his fate long ago. He still made plans (he recently invited Brian and I to a book party he was assembling), but he was realistic. He never lost his sense of humor. Did not surrender to self-pity. Conveyed a humane outlook.

I've written about Tom many times and have nothing really new to add. My thoughts can be read here, here, and here.

I loved and respected Tom. When I talked comedy with Tom, my inner-teen who grew up on the original SNL couldn't believe it. I was honored that he quoted me in his memoir and put my blurb on the paperback version.

Tom will always make me laugh. Farewell sweet friend.

The other death surprised me, though it really shouldn't have.

I haven't written that much about Nelson Lyon, apart from what I laid down in Mr. Mike. It was that portrayal that forged our friendship.

When in LA, I stayed with Nels and his then-wife Angie Brown. Their hospitality quelled my early anxiety about the book. Nels helped tremendously with my research. He vouched for me, convinced doubters burned by Bob Woodward's Wired to trust me, opened up his past to me.

Nels was large. Passionate. He shaved his head and dressed in black. He spoke quickly, musically, directly. Film and literary references flew about. There was nothing too obscure for Nels.

He had one of the most precise minds I've ever encountered. I could see why Michael O'Donoghue valued him. They shared a certain sensibility, but Nels' energy was physical as well as intellectual. Not in a threatening way, but tangible. You knew he was in the room.

Nels also had a temper. He bristled at any perceived slight or sign of disrespect. He had a lot to be angry about.

Most of his anger stemmed from his infamous final hours with John Belushi in 1982. Though he was hardly the only person to get high with Belushi, including that fatal binge, Nels was blamed by many in SNL circles for Belushi's death.

It was and remains a bullshit charge. Nels was sacrificed. Thrown to the wolves. It was hypocrisy of the rankest order. His career was pretty much destroyed.

Weirdly enough, it was Dick Ebersol who threw him a lifeline. At the time of Belushi's death, Nels was writing for SNL. A lot of his material got on, including gems like Executive Stress Test and The Mild One, where Bruce Dern and Tony Rosato played Zen bikers who disarmed opponents with koans and riddles.

Ebersol invited Nels to return the following season. He would become a featured player, delivering satirical film reviews on what was then called Saturday Night News.

Nels seriously pondered the offer. Being on camera would boost his career. But O'Donoghue scored a film deal with Paramount and wanted Nels to write with him. Out of loyalty to Michael and a desire to work in film, Nels left SNL and returned to LA.

They wrote several screenplays together: The Dreammaster, which anticipated Nightmare on Elm Street and The Matrix; Biker Heaven, a sequel to Easy Rider which anticipated The Road Warrior; and Factory of Fear, a short film for HBO about alien dobermans who turn New York's Beautiful People into dog food.

None were produced. Michael moved on and Nels was left on his own. He developed into a renowned photographer, produced spoken word albums for William S. Burroughs and Terry Southern, became creatively involved with Devo founders Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald V. Casale.

But the larger career, which Nels was on the verge of realizing, eluded him. Belushi's ghost trailed after him. He wasn't blacklisted, but his dark reputation kept him from jobs he would have excelled at. Years later, a number of SNL/Lampoon vets conceded that Nels was scapegoated. But it was too late.

Nels and I spoke on the phone every few months. We had expansive conversations, punctuated by Nels' booming voice. "Den! What's the story behind this Iraq business? What's the dirty secret? Enlighten me, Den!"

At Terry Southern's wake, Nels and I were stared at by Kurt Vonnegut, who was having a smoke. When I asked Nels if we should approach Vonnegut, he said, "One iconic writer at a time, Den. Today we honor the late T. Southern!"

I last saw Nels a year ago. We had dinner at Musso and Frank, the old Hollywood restaurant where Nels held court. I noticed something wrong with his voice. There was a clicking, gagging sound when he spoke. When I asked if he was okay, Nels brushed it aside. "I'm fine," he insisted. But he didn't sound fine.

Since then, we spoke intermittently. I told him about Tom Davis, who Nels hadn't seen in ages. As he expressed his admiration and regard for Tom, the gagging seemed worse. "You're sure there's nothing wrong?" I asked. Again, he dismissed it.

It had been a few months since I heard from Nels. Then yesterday, a writer for the Los Angeles Times emailed, asking for a statement about Nels' death. I was shocked. On reflection it made sense, but I was unprepared for the reality.

I immediately called Nels' cell, heard his recorded voice, hung up. Then I phoned the Times reporter. She confirmed it. I gave her my thoughts about Nels. They appear in his obituary.

I'm sorry, Nels. I wish we could have spoken one last time. But you know I love you. You were loving and generous with me. Goodbye vibrant spirit.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Party Mask Party

May we have the election now? Please? To save what's left of our sanity?

I know: more naive optimism from yours truly, Mr. Glass Half Full. Hey, a smile costs nothing. Today is the first day, etc.

The corporate class and its employees are shuffling reality again, attempting to show a massive gulf between governing philosophies. To them it's simply business. Part of the package. To consumers, it's a chance to pretend that they have political clout. A say in our envied system.

To hear liberals tell it, Mitt Romney is Gordon Dracula Gekko set to drain us of precious democratic fluids. Only Barack Obama: Vampire Hunter can slay him. And since Obama is on the side of powerless mortals everywhere, his mission is crucial. Life itself teeters on the edge.

I don't read or listen to much reactionary chatter. It ceased being interesting around 1987. I usually wait for rightist opinions to become liberal talking points before digging in. But I can't imagine much enthusiasm for Romney. Big money likes him, but will that be enough?

To repeat, this is shaping up to be one dull contest. If Romney's handlers are savvy, they'll puncture Obama's populist rhetoric by showing how compromised he is by corporate money. How he's coddled bankers. How he's as invested in corporate rule as is Romney.

This involves risk. By highlighting Obama's similarities with Romney, including giveaways to the insurance industry, the election would boil down to personalities. There Romney loses. But if he paints Obama as a mad socialist, Romney will look ridiculous, save to white reactionaries in the Bizarro World. And maybe some liberals who still wish it were so.

Again, I don't see Romney winning. Not from this distance, anyway. Adding Condi Rice to the ticket might liven things up a bit, but Obama still wins. If big money decides that Romney gives them a better deal, he may have a shot. Yet Obama's proven himself loyal to private power. That's about as close as it gets.

For now, endless blather. False choices. Hubris. Ideological bullying. Loud commercials. The vital ingredients for freedom.

Are you more desperate than you were four years ago?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Space Ghost

(With the Gemini IV capsule, from which Edward White walked in space. This is my re-creation.)

"You're like a fat kid in a candy store."

Henry noted the bounce in my step. I don't bounce much these days, especially in public. Most especially among tourists.

We'd been in the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum for five minutes, and my eyes widened. The better part of my childhood surrounded us. Facts I thought I'd forgotten burst into flame.

Space race artifacts orbited our heads. But it was the Apollo 11 display that got things bouncing.

It's a corny set-up: mannequin Neil Armstrong watches mannequin Buzz Aldrin make a second giant leap for mankind. And the lunar module is a replacement. Yet it struck a primal chord.

I remember the moon landing and walk in real time. I was nine. At my grandparents' house. The only light in the darkened room was the large TV. The lunar surface resembled a vacant lot. Armstrong and Aldrin looked like ghosts.

The adults around me gasped and cried. I was mesmerized. Maybe a foot from the screen, soaking in the moon's rays. Normally my mother would tell me to move back. "You'll burn your eyes out!" But she wasn't speaking. No one was.

I'd followed the space program since I was conscious enough to do so. I remember the end of the Gemini program. The first Apollo crew burned to death during a test. Mention Wally Schirra and I'll give you Alan Bean and Eugene Cernan.

These frequent shots into space helped soften the harder blows of my childhood. I hated models and the smell of airplane glue. But I assembled and displayed models of Apollo 8 and 11. Bought albums of the transmissions between Mission Control and the Mercury and Gemini pilots.

I studied as much as I could about the origins of the space program. Read about the Soviet program. Thought that cosmonaut was a cooler tag than astronaut (Astro was The Jetsons' dog). Neglected my schoolwork in favor of science fact. An autodidact prepares.

It all rushed back on July 4th. Fitting, I suppose. My enthusiasm infected Henry, who was initially indifferent to visiting the museum.

We smiled and laughed. I spilled all my facts on him. He offered his thoughts. Asked interesting questions. Made logical connections.

For the first time in weeks, I felt some peace. Even the endless Old Navy Old Glory t-shirts didn't irritate me.

The night before, I had a long conversation with Jon Schwarz, who urged me to take Henry to the museum, in case my interest flagged. I didn't need added incentive, but Jon's enthusiasm for the possibilities of American creativity was invigorating.

Jon is much more optimistic than me. He's made his case to me many times. I don't fault his reasoning; I simply don't share it. Usually. But this time Jon semi-hooked me.

Our talk was a touch utopian, yet that didn't bother me. In essence, Jon is right: there is enough intelligence and talent to not only rebuild the US infrastructure, but to reform and possibly reshape American reality.

Of course, there are massive corporate forces keeping us from having say, a 21st century rail system. But the know-how is there. Waiting. Dying on the vine.

"When you look at the space program, you see what's possible," Jon said. True. Human ingenuity is constant. It's the political/financial context that dilutes much of it.

Henry told me how lucky I was to have grown up during that time. "We've got nothing like that," he added. Not yet, son. But the possibilities are closer than you know.

Monday, July 2, 2012


Liberals make the most sincere reactionaries. Unlike their rightist cousins who thrash and scream incoherently, liberals really revere American myths. Which is why they insist that they are the True Patriots. I've never doubted them.

I don't know if Aaron Sorkin shares this conceit. Yes, his liberalism is evident. He hits all the requisite targets, at times repeatedly, just so you grasp his point.

But Sorkin's reliance on mythology feels forced. Pandering. Almost a parody. Perhaps when he receives his Serling-type retrospective, we'll learn that Sorkin was joking all along.

His latest, The Newsroom, could use more laughs. It could use a lot of things -- better characters, plausible plots, engrossing action. Maybe that's to come; we're only two episodes in. If so, then Sorkin has a deep narrative hole to dig out of.

Again, this might be intentional. Sorkin may be fucking with us as a challenge to himself. How long can he alienate his audience before he swoops in with an Emmy winning script? He's not going to be more celebrated and famous than now. Why not experiment?

To paraphrase SCTV's Bobby Bittman: As an observer, in all seriousness, I think that Sorkin is running on fumes. At least on TV. He still scores big on the larger screen.

But those are usually someone else's stories. When left to dwell on his own obsessions, Sorkin offers the same plot points, same rhythms, even the same dialogue, pulled from earlier shows.

Through it all, the same message surfaces: Smart people, educated at elite institutions, should run society. Everyone else should listen, marvel, and follow their lead.

There's no need to substantially change American reality. All that's required is slick, competent management.

No wonder so many liberals love Sorkin.

They must also love Sorkin's misty evocation of a superior age. The Newsroom opens with a homage to the ghosts of broadcast journalism's past: Murrow, Cronkite, Chet Huntley. Back when the news meant something! When it served a positive social role!

This is a popular fantasy, especially in an era of Fox News. And while those ghosts were better informed and more articulate than our present-day zombies, they served the same powerful interests. Bowed before similar gods.

Murrow is hailed for destroying Joe McCarthy, if not McCarthyism itself. But by 1954, when Murrow attacked him, McCarthy was nearly finished. His mad rushes into Truman, Eisenhower, George Marshall, and the United States Army left McCarthy few allies. All Murrow did was kick some belated dirt in McCarthy's face.

Murrow never really questioned the Cold War framework that allowed McCarthy to frolic. Harry Truman was a more effective witch hunter than McCarthy could dream to be, yet I don't know of a program where Murrow exposed this.

Indeed, on Murrow's radio show This I Believe, Truman espoused his values, which naturally were of the highest order. Only clowns like McCarthy got deflated.

The same with Walter Cronkite, who Sorkin (via Sam Waterston) claims helped end the Vietnam war. This refers to Cronkite's famous 1968 editorial calling for a US exit from Vietnam.

Up to that point, Cronkite was an enthusiastic supporter of the American assault, accompanying pilots as they carpet bombed Vietnamese cities. His devotion was never in question.

By '68, it was clear that the US wouldn't conquer Vietnam. Even Wall Street began withdrawing support. Cronkite merely stated what other elites were already saying.

Of course, he put it in the nicest possible terms, praising our noble intentions and bottomless morality. Had the US successfully occupied North Vietnam, do you think that Cronkite would protest?

By lauding these and other news legends, Sorkin adds another dream layer to an already unrealistic show. His flawed but essentially decent characters are not interested in show biz -- they're about hard news. Damn the ratings. Fuck the suits. They're taking it to the glass wall. Are you in or are you out?

If Sorkin's characters had the integrity he suggests they have, they'd quit in disgust. Find other ways to inform the public (assuming the public wants to be informed). There's no serious way to do that through a corporate news lens. There it's about ad rates, celebrity, privilege, and manufacturing consent.

The only difference between Fox and MSNBC is the demographic being yanked. Who offers the better tote bag is more open to question.