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Media Casualties Mount As War Success Continues

The ranks of print, web and broadcast pundits and journalists continue to be decimated by enemy action as the war progresses. The total number of casualties are becoming almost uncountable, and are overwhelming the limited field emergency facilities. This reporter got a first-hand view of the devastation and tragedy in a visit to a typical field hospital.

At the entrance the doctors, assisted by editors, are performing triage. They quickly sort through the injured, making snap decisions to place them in three categories: those who can be quickly bandaged up with some minor counseling and facts, and sent back to the front; those who continue to pontificate under the burden of so much maleducation and inability to think, and so many wrong ideas, broken syllogisms, and inappropriate conclusions, that they are beyond redemption; and those who are grievously confused, but can be saved with immediate attention.

The first thing that strikes you when you enter the infirmary is the smell. The stench assaults the nose--it's a pungent blend of moldering printer's ink and decaying sanctimony.

Inside, those who are lucid are still bewildered at the stunning reversal of fortune that caused so many casualties. One older reporter is a grizzled veteran of the successful Tet Offensive, in which a US victory on the ground had been successfully converted into an ignominious setback in the papers and television news, with little organized resistance.

"When we arrived at the front, everything was going our way, just as we expected. The US Air Force had been pounding the Taliban for weeks, with no obvious effect. We thought that the battlefield was prepared for a major propaganda advance. But just as we started to move out seriously, with fusillades of stories about Vietnam analogies, and the futility of just chasing down terrorists without addressing why the world hates us, the Taliban and Al Qaeda started to collapse without warning. We came under fire ourselves. Huge shellbursts of cruel reality and vicious satire were exploding all around us, and dangerous facts were whizzing just past our ears, sometimes right in one and out the other..."

The fire from the webloggers, or "bloggers," had been particularly devastating, with pinpoint accuracy and precision.

Dazed, he continued, " wasn't supposed to be like this. In basic journalism training, they told us we were the best and the brightest--we knew it all. How could a bunch of unpaid internet guys without journalism degrees or training tear us to pieces like that?"

"...My partner and I were working on a big story on the clear parallels between the American invasion of Afghanistan, and the failures of the British and Russia in the same place. But I haven't seen him here. Can you tell me what's happened to him?"

The doctor gently tells him that they're still trying to find out.

"Tell me, doc, will I ever be able to write again? Will anyone ever believe me?"

She just smiles, and pats his hand.

She takes me aside after we leave the bedside and tells me softly, "I don't think that he's well enough to take the news right now. But his partner was transferred to the Des Moines Daily Dispatch to do obits."

The carnage might not have been so horrendous had these been fresh reporters, but many of them were already suffering battle fatigue from two previous disastrous campaigns: the eight-year war to convince the American people that Bill Clinton was a great president, and the more recent year-and-a-half futile struggle, lost decisively three months ago, to portray George W. Bush as an ineffective idiot. The final rout at the Battle of the Pardons had taken much out of them, and after Bush achieved his 90% approval rating in September, they weren't really prepared to be thrown into the Afghan breach.

Many lie in a delirium, still unable to comprehend the incomprehensible. A woman named Maureen lies, pathetically, in a fetal position. She rocks back and forth, gently cradling her keyboard in her arms, as she whimpers, barely audible, "quagmire, murky...they're bogged down--they must be bogged down...quagmire..."

For some, a lucky few, catatonia is a blessed escape. One poor wretch named Ted just sits up in his bed all day. His brow is furrowed, and his eyes are unfocused, or focused on some distant unreality, unseeable by the rest of us.

Old newsroom veterans call it the "thousand-word stare." They've all seen it--that look you get as you gaze intently at a blank computer screen, in a futile attempt to conjure up some words that will somehow spin an obvious and just victory into humiliating and immoral failure.

He had been leading a frontal assault on common sense, when he was cut down in a withering fire of logic and irony by a brigade of blogger sharpshooters and fact checkers. The hits were effective, but not always clean. He lived, but his syntax was badly mangled, and his credibility was shattered beyond any hope of salvaging it.

Down the hall come blood-curdling screams from an emergency surgical unit. The doctor explains, "We're low on anaesthetics. We've requisitioned supplies, but it's hard to get anyone to respond. For some reason, there seems to be very little sympathy for these people."

The cries of agony continue--it is almost unbearable to hear. "Sometimes, the only way to save them is emergency removal of fatally-flawed precepts and paradigms. There's no time to do it gently."

For some, though, perhaps death would be kinder. One man, by the name of Robert, had to have so many false assumptions, invalid premises, and logical fallacies removed that there was little left. They couldn't excise the last vestiges of self loathing--to do so would have left him with nothing at all. Now, he just wanders the halls with a bandage on his head, like a post-post-modernist zombie. As he staggers along, he mutters under his breath, "I'm a Western oppressor. Beat me...stone me. Ooooohhhh, I'm such a naughty little tool of the phallocentric oligarchy. Spank me...spank me until my tender little bum is a rosy red..."

An orderly brushes past him, wearing nose plugs. He is carrying, at arms' length, a slop-bucket full of stale cliches, failed paradigms and illogical conclusions, in search of some place to dump them where they won't contaminate the local educational system.

Even for those who will eventually recover, the road to becoming productive may be long and painful. Many have experienced nothing their entire lives except misreporting war and politics, and are untrained and unfit for anything else. Without some way of transitioning them back into civil society, they will remain a dangerous source of social instability. The necessary rehabilitation can often involve months, even years, of special therapy, to regain, or in some cases, to achieve for the first time, the use of their minds.

Many will require relearning, or even unlearning, many things they've always taken for granted. They will have to start at the very beginning, with Logic 101. After months of painful mental exercises and thought, they will be gradually eased into actual history, rhetoric, and economics courses, as their minds grow stronger.

I stop by one of the therapy centers to observe.

"Now Sunera, let's try this again. All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore...?"

Sunera frowns, and sweat appears on her forehead. Hesitantly, she ventures, "Therefore...Socrates is the basis of male-centered western patriarchal violence that continues to brutalize women and grind them under its bootheels...?"

"No, Sunera," the therapist explains patiently. "We're practicing logic here. Lo-gic. Remember what I told you about logic?"

I close the door quietly. It will indeed be a long and hard road.

As I leave, I see a general at the entrance with a doctor, staring at the row of beds.

"Where do they find people like this?," he asks in amazement.

The doctor answers, quietly, "As long as there are schools of journalism, we will never run out..."

(Copyright 2001, by Rand Simberg)

Posted by Rand Simberg at December 24, 2001 10:33 PM
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A brilliant, devastating attack on our elite fools. Wish I had the ability to write it.

Posted by Michael Brody at December 25, 2001 06:31 AM

Outstanding job. Very impressive.

Posted by Larry J at December 25, 2001 07:00 AM

AbFab. Can anyone post it to Lucianne?

Posted by Jeff Smith at December 25, 2001 07:39 AM

Congratulations to the writer, whoever it is. A truly inspired article. Well done!

Posted by Sean Roper at December 25, 2001 07:47 AM


Posted by Gene DuBois at December 25, 2001 07:54 AM

Brilliant blast against the media class! I happen to own a small weekly. While not a blogger, most of my editorials have the same tone. Most of the critical comments I get (and such critical comments are very few compared to the favorable) run along the lines of ?while I don?t agree with you, you made me think??

By the way, though a third generation publisher ? I never went to journalism school. Hmmm?

Posted by Brian Kuhn at December 25, 2001 08:03 AM

Maybe we should give the coordinates of this hospital to the USAF, so they can surgically strike the leftist munitions dump next door.

Posted by Jeremy Freedman at December 25, 2001 08:16 AM

Brilliant! Hysterically funny and spot-on! I think I soiled my armor!

Posted by Phil Conrad at December 25, 2001 08:25 AM


Posted by Eugene Volokh at December 25, 2001 09:57 AM

Everyone who reads this should immediately send the URL &/or a copy of this to any and all media outlets within reach! If they get enough copies of it clogging up their eMail systems, maybe it might help start the 'effete elite' thinking just a teeny, tiny bit.


Posted by H. G. Bare at December 25, 2001 10:34 AM

Well done. I love your compassionate conservatism.

Those of us who want to help the media casualties would like to know if the Red Cross is accepting donations of common sense and back issues of National Review and The Weekly Standard.

Posted by John W. Matthews at December 25, 2001 10:35 AM

The trauma team is awaiting the victims of the CNN-FOX feud.

Posted by Norma R. at December 25, 2001 11:06 AM

The best takedown of the BigMedia pundit cultural-masochist tendency ever, bar none!

Posted by Perry de Havilland at December 25, 2001 12:51 PM

I think you've been linked by every blogger who has read this.I hope it doesn't overload your site. You deserve it (the links... not a site overload). Best piece I've read in a month of Sundays!

Posted by Kathy Kinsley at December 25, 2001 06:27 PM

Now this is satire at its finest, and has such an element of truth.

Even I, who survived Nam, was taken by surprise at the sudden collapse of al-Quedia and the Taliban.

Well Done!

Posted by Richard E. at December 25, 2001 08:55 PM

Note that our site is devoted to debunking such things as psychic powers, quack medicine, and false prophets. The post-Vietnam media career-building mantra fits right in and it can be targeted with the same weapons: logic, facts, and intellectual honesty.

Posted by J. Reynolds at December 25, 2001 09:47 PM

Great! A swift boot to the rear for the spin masters.

Posted by Ledgerman at December 25, 2001 11:23 PM

Great i like it :)

Posted by hatten at December 26, 2001 02:23 AM

Next, The Academy! My daughter starts to college in less that 2 years. Regards from us GIGOers... those amatoor posters who were fired by Jonah Goldberg when he shut down NRO's public fora 'cause we blogger wannabes were beating him and Rich to the punchlines.

This piece is sweet.


Posted by Dan Dickinson at December 26, 2001 07:06 AM

HELL. YES. Tony Snow recently said,'The net has become a public square...One can find dozens of sites devoted to supplying points of view absent from ABC, CNN, NPR, etc. Many of these sites are livelier, smarter and more imformative than the old media they [seek] to supplant...'

And this site is one of the best!

Posted by Dawson at December 26, 2001 08:15 AM

Bingo! The web will win over the Big Media spinners.

Posted by Matthew Edgar at December 26, 2001 10:26 AM

That piece was like a tall, cold beer on a muggy, hot afternoon! Nothing to do but enjoy it thoroughly!

Posted by J. Baxter at December 26, 2001 10:29 AM

Heley moley...what a piece. As pretty a picture of peerless, priceless, precision prose as a purveyor of post perambulator perception could possibly parse with such perfection. However totally unfair using only a one man arsenal to fell a battlion of nincompoops of the megamedia...taking them out with draconic 'daisy cutter' scorching every addled main intellectual pipsqueak referenced in one swell foop...with half a keyboard behind his back to keep it even. Sindberg...go straight to the Bloggers Hall of Fame. And besides...WWWOWWW!!

Posted by Panama Bob at December 26, 2001 11:05 AM

This is terrific satire, thanks for the chortle. I quit for news updates a while back. I'm a blog-aholic, following links like a news fiend!

Posted by Pundit Elf at December 26, 2001 11:15 AM

The gold standard of blog posts. It will live on in the inboxes of the smart and powerful for a long, long time. Way to go, guv'nor.

Posted by Patrick Ruffini at December 26, 2001 09:59 PM

To belabor the obvious, before weblogging and webloggers, sublime writing such as this would never have seen the light of day, not even in the Letters to the Editor section of some small town daily much less an OpEd in the NYTimes or WaPo. I'm on my knees before you Simberg.

Now where's that tip jar?

Posted by Larry R. Duncan at December 27, 2001 01:45 AM

Stop! Stop! You're killing me! God, that was outstanding!

Posted by khbaker at December 29, 2001 10:07 PM

Outstanding piece of satire! Keep up the good work, the truth may win out yet.

Posted by David Shultz at December 29, 2001 11:17 PM

Simply stunning...I bow in your general direction. What a pleasure it is to see such a thorough eviscerating of corporate news outlets!

Posted by Lynn Ritger at December 30, 2001 08:59 AM

I wish something was being done about liberal ?journalists? unfortunately they are advocating more daft ideas. The big problem is what Muslims hate about America is its liberal policies, so if Sep 11th is any American?s fault it is the liberals. Thus on one hand they want to demand changes, on the other hand the only effective changes are the ones they oppose.

Unfortunately they have a plan:

1. Demand that the west forces liberal policies on the Afghans.

2. This will cause the Afghans to rise up and fight the west.

3. This will give them the western defeat they want so much.

We must demand a stop to this liberal imperialism and allow the Afghans to continue their culture regardless of how wrong it appears to us.

Posted by Bill Phillips at December 30, 2001 09:14 AM

As a reporter who took not one journalism course in his entire educational career (history), all I can say is . . . . . yup, that's pretty much the state of journalism, print or otherwise.

Are you sure this is just fictional satire?


Mike Still

Posted by Mike Still at December 30, 2001 09:29 AM

The Des Moines Daily Dispatch huh?

I understand the reason for not naming the paper. Around here (N. Iowa), we call it The Des Moines Red Star. Great piece, I wish all the pointy headed elietist reporters could read this, it might just knock them down a peg or two............ no, I doubt it.

Posted by Mike Edwards at December 30, 2001 10:32 AM

(no sound as I laugh and laugh and laugh . . . )

Posted by Ann A at December 30, 2001 06:33 PM

Seamless and beautiful, Master Rand. You have snatched the pebble. With grace and wit like this, we shall overcome. Thank you for the lesson. See you at the revolution!

Posted by Eric Boysen at December 31, 2001 05:51 AM

SCARY...not the satire piece...

that's great. It's the long list above of "holier-than-thou, we know it all, if only 'they' weren't in charge, etc, etc cry-babies.

Posted by write2kcb at January 1, 2002 06:50 AM

I predict this little missive will take wing and wend its way to millions of addresses. So starved are we for intelligent comment. Kudos! The game is indeed afoot.

Posted by Ralph H. at January 2, 2002 07:26 PM

fantastic. you are truly the blog of bloggers!

Posted by Azi Raphael at January 3, 2002 01:52 AM

Absolutely the most cutting and thorough assessment of the patients' conditions! The Black Plague has finally reappeared, and the Press are dying by droves!

Posted by EMDII at January 3, 2002 06:16 AM

Excellent analogies. Nothing hurts so much as the truth. Drivel hates to be in the presence of truth just as pretentious fools hate to be in the presence of the truly wise and for the same reason. It exposes them for what they are.

Posted by Kyle Lassiter at January 3, 2002 07:19 AM

A barnstorming thunder-clap of a post. Sensational.

Posted by Adil Farooq at January 3, 2002 05:27 PM

Thanks!! I had about concluded that enlightened wit had died in this country, and am relieved to have you prove otherwise.

Posted by William Schmidt at January 4, 2002 11:36 PM

I just found this piece today, March 21, 2003, as the invasion of Iraq continues. Boy was I suprised to find the date this! It's even more appropriate today!

Posted by Prekast at March 21, 2003 02:58 AM

Rand Simberg has performed a verbal lobotomy on the Columbia School of Journalism's summa cum laude graduates in Frankfurt philosophy, cultural Marxism, and Summerhill didactics. May they wrest in caprice. Kudos to Rand for his brilliant satire.

Posted by Joe Griffin at April 4, 2003 09:16 AM

I just knew it could be funny. The semantic and general intellectual fraud, sophistry and shameless duplicity during their decades of attack on the 2nd Amendment had decimated the humor cells in my immune system. It's like I can breathe again; though, a glimpse of Morley Safer still might send me into helpless wretching.

Posted by Freaky Clown Otter at April 13, 2003 10:28 AM

Oops. Please accept my apologies for the spelling goof. While the act of seeking out such as Morley Safer and Dan Rather might be described as "wretching" in the same sense that one uses "fishing" for a different odorous pursuit, what I meant at the time was the visceral response of retching.

Posted by F.C.O. at April 13, 2003 01:00 PM

My sides are aching. Your attempted spot-on rectal lobotomy of the TSM's cerebral hemorrorids is in a class by itself. Well done!....and a Tip O' the Hat!

(Note: TSM = Terrorist Supporting Media, the new name/acronym of the old MSM. Since their candidate didn't win the presidential election, they're certainly not 'Main Stream', and based upon their coverage of the WoT, the Iraq War, I'd say that TSM is a much more accurate moniker.)

Posted by Vulgorilla at December 31, 2004 05:13 AM

Absolutely fantastic! Great humor but also right on with the facts. A very clever and well thought out post. Picking on the feble minded (Dowd) may be a bit much, dont ya think? BTW the MSM are still in shock - check out ABC- they think Dean's blog was in 04; only mised it by a year.
Rod Stanton

Posted by Rod Stanton at December 31, 2004 11:57 AM

Found this via Lucianne. Great work!

Posted by Janette at December 31, 2004 01:10 PM

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