Undertakers might disagree, but there are many forms of death.
There’s the one so dominant today as I write this – the bodily death of Michael Jackson and the celebrity outpouring for “The King of Pop” as his golden casket sits onstage in a shaft of artificial light in L.A. The cause of Michael’s demise at age 50 is still up for discussion. But the comparisons with another king, Elvis Presley, have been inevitable: massive talent leading to even bigger fame, seclusion, dissolution, bizarreness, and an early end.
Mourners mostly refused to go there, though, preferring to focus on the musical legacy. “Michael will never die,” one woman told NPR. And one could be forgiven the déjà vu of Elvis’s manager Colonel Tom Parker, who said on hearing the news of Elvis’s death: “Good career move.”
So, there is the death that delivers immortality. There are other, more mundane (and we hope) more temporary varieties. Like the death of our 3rd District Congressman John Salazar’s sanity. Democrat Salazar voted against the House energy bill, citing potential hardships on Colorado’s oil and gas industry. Say what?! This bill is a necessary first step toward weaning America off fossil fuels, which Salazar admits are warming the planet and must in the end be supplanted by renewable energy sources.
Besides, the drillers aren’t going anywhere. Drilling is up I just read in Garfield County, despite the economic downturn. Money is being made, big money. Rigs are everywhere, smelling of petro-death. So let’s hope Mr. Salazar’s mind is restored to him soon and without permanent brain damage.
Was it brain death or journalistic cowardice that afflicted NPR’s Neal Conan last week? The “Talk of the Nation” host spent 20 minutes with NPR Ombudsman Sheila Shepard defending their institution’s refusal to call torture “torture.” It may not have been a fatal blow to Conan’s credibility, but it came close.
He and other NPR news readers scrupulously refer to waterboarding, for example, as “interrogation techniques some consider to be torture.” Say what?! The whole world knows what waterboarding is. We know that the previous administration tortured detainees, invented justifications and euphemisms to cover its actions, and that it succeeded in creating a false debate on the issue.
And NPR, along with most of the mainstream media, fell right into the trap. To their credit, Conan and Shepard attempted to address the controversy but succeeded only in deepening their semantic hole. They kept saying that when “there are two sides to a debate” the media’s job is to give voice to both sides, and not take sides. Say what?! What about the facts? What about the media’s responsibility to point out the patently incredible?
Salon’s Glenn Greenwald reprinted a bit of satire on this exact topic from Jon Stewart and Daily Show “reporter” Rob Corddry. This was back in 2004, when John Kerry’s military record was being “Swiftboated.”
Stewart: Here’s what puzzles me most, Rob. John Kerry’s record in Vietnam is pretty much right there in the official records… and hasn’t been disputed for 35 years.
Corddry: That’s right, Jon. And that’s certainly the spin you’ll be hearing coming from the Kerry campaign over the next few days.
Stewart: That’s not a spin thing, that’s a fact. That’s established.
Corddry: Exactly, Jon. And that established, incontrovertible fact is one side of the story.
Stewart: But isn’t that the end of the story? I mean, you’ve seen the records, haven’t you? What’s your opinion?
Corddry: I’m sorry, “my opinion”? I don’t have opinions. I’m a reporter, Jon. And my job is to spend half the time repeating what one side ways, and half the time repeating the other. Little thing called “objectivity”? Might want to look it up some day.
Stewart: Doesn’t objectivity mean objectively weighing the evidence, and calling out what’s credible and what isn’t?
Corddry: Whoa-ho! Sounds like someone wants the media to act as a filter! Listen, buddy: Not my job to stand between the people talking to me and the people listening to me.
So, I’m hoping NPR will do something soon to convince me that their “death of conscience” has been somehow exaggerated.
Here’s hoping the pundits are correct and that Sarah Palin’s political future is dead. Her bizarre resignation as governor of Alaska should finally do the trick. Then again, we had Richard Nixon saying in 1962, “You won’t have Richard Nixon to kick around any more.”