It was the giant, hulking guy from the Jewish Defense League who taught me, payess and tefillin, prayer apron and skullcap, how news media works.
Mr. Standard: I say! The peasants seem to be revolting!
Mr. Poor: ‘Seem to be’? Good lord, sir, they ARE revolting!
I was, because I had edited a Los Angeles Arab Newspaper and a business paper for those doing business in the Middle East, friends with several Hollywood Arab-Americans, one of whom, the late Richard Haboush, had been partnered with his brother in the Haboush Company, whose offices near the old Union Ice Company plant on Santa Monica past Highland was a landmark of sorts, if you knew about commercials.
They’d done the first computer animated commercial (7-Up’s “See the Light” back in the early 70s) and for many years, the Schlitz Malt Liquor bull commercials.
The old Union Ice plant in Hollywood
Richard was a friend of mine for many years, and I miss him. One of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet. And Richard called me about a protest downtown and asked if I would come. It was about several Palestinian students who were being held without bail or hearing somewhere in the depths of the Immigration Machine. He asked me if I would come, and I was happy to oblige. My feelings for human rights aren’t confined to people who speak my language or look like me in some superficial manner.
And we marched in a peaceful circle, many with signs asking for “Justice” in polite terms, and there was a small pedestrian crowd of gawkers, it was a fine summer day, not too hot, sunny, light cooling breeze. We were in front of an Instition of some sort, a massive concrete facade with a large area in which we could perfectly legally protest.
No cops, to speak of. All the peacock local News trucks were there, KABC, KNBC, KCBS, KTTV, KCOP, the bunch.
There were some interviews, as a reporter with a microphone and a Quasimodo cameraman bent his hump to capture the only “reality” that the good citizens of Los Angeles would ever know that night.
And the guy from the Jewish Defense League was standing absurdly centerstage, being interviewed by one of the network affiliates, and I asked myself: What dog does he have in the fight?
I kept my conjectures and questions to myself and put it in the strange little “TO FOLLOW UP ON” file in my brain that spurs me to action and has always been the engine of my writing career. The classical term would be “hunches” which neatly finishes off the metaphor of the ep0nymous Victor Hugo novel and is close enough for government work, as the saying goes: I had a hunch, a questioning itch that needed an answer scratch.
That night, I watched the broadcasts and all was revealed.
He didn’t have a dog in the fight. He was working the media.
Later, I ran it by my more media-savvy friends and they all laughed and clapped me on the shoulder, and chuckled some variant of “Of course that’s the way it is, Kid. Didn’t you KNOW that?”
He knows that American news thinking (we don’t know what the people think, since they’re never given a chance to weigh in, save statistically in polls) likes to frame all its issues in stark black and white. Story about Communist Menace overseas? Balance with glowing tale of local entrepreneur using his profits to benefit humanity. (Capitalist/Communist). Story about racial riot? Balance with story about cute elementary school kids who are learning to get along through a class ant farm project. Story about Arabs? Got to have them Jews. And so forth.
The JDL guy knew that, and he knew that he’d get several sound bites for his cause in the obligatory shoot and scoot, wham, ba’am, thank you ma’am nature of modern news coverage. It was as reflexive as when the doctor hits you below the kneecap with his rubber hammer. As predictable as the twitching of the dead frog’s leg when the electrodes are applied.
If you hang around any state capitol or city hall for long enough, you’ll see them, those who have unlocked the keys to Continual Media Presence Through Contrarianism. If you oppose whatever’s newsworthy, you are a “balancing” voice, no matter how imbalanced your right to be present at the event. And you will, therefore, be interviewed. If there’s a thousand of them and one of you, you get “equal time.”
E.G. the JDL guy didn’t have any business at that protest. Had nothing to do with Israel or the Jewish community nationally or locally. But he knew that you can’t fight built in stereotypes, and he exploited that weakness of the media.
As a matter of fact, I kind of even remember how when students were protesting (rightly) the Vietnam War, contrarians protested the protesters, thus guaranteeing their face on the local news, their picture in the local paper.
click to enlarge
Increasingly, everybody does.
Thus, Paul Ryan is the target of less than flattering attention? Give them the JDL guy for equal time:
Biden clarifies, digs in on ‘chains’
By MAGGIE HABERMAN | 8/14/12 7:41 PM EDT
Vice President Joe Biden dug in when it came to apologizing for his earlier remark, made at a Virgina campaign event where the AP described the crowd as having a couple hundred African-American attendees, about Republicans and Wall Street wanting to put “y’all back in chains.”
But he did clarify the comment […]
“And I’m told that when I made that comment earlier today in Danville, Virginia, the Romney campaign put out a tweet. You know, tweets these days? Put out a tweet, went on the airwaves saying, ‘Biden, he’s outrageous in saying that,’ I think I said instead of ‘unshackled,’ ‘unchained.’ ‘Outrageous to say that.’ That’s what we had. I’m using their own words. I got a message for them. If you want to know what’s outrageous, it’s their policies and the effects of their policies on middle class America. That’s what’s outrageous.”
The line kept Democrats on defense for part of the day, and was seized on by Republicans. Mitt Romney’s campaign was outraged, calling it a “new low.” While there was no contrition – and the campaign backed him up – the clean-up reflects that the comment, even if it was a pivot off the “unshackle” line, was fairly loaded.
(Er, great reporting there, Politico. “Proving” the GOP right and Biden wrong through the magic of Freudian analysis. Brava!)
If I attempt to speak to the SUBSTANCE of the allegation*, you will miss the point. It doesn’t matter what happened. Only WHO it happened to: Joe Biden.
Paul Ryan = VP candidate; Joe Biden = VP.
Arabs; Jews. Cowboys; Indians. UNCLE; THRUSH.
And so it goes.
[* From a party that tacitly embraces racism, certainly NEVER calls it out on any GOP operative or potential voter, their sudden “sensitivity” to the flimsiest of pretexts — e.g. “chains” = “black” and there were MANY “black” people in attendance, therefore “Biden” = “white” and RACIALLY INSENSITIVE. Thus: Oh WHY won’t the President DECRY this (implicitly racist) behavior!!?? OH WHY!? WHYYYY!?!? OHHHHHH WWWHHHHYYYYY!!???!? — seems rather suspect, don’t ya think? Seldom have so few crocodiles shed so many tears in so short a span.]
A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, an honorary Texan, Clown (ditto) and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog
A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog, His Vorpal Sword (no spaces) dot com.