Lust and thrust

Feb 14, 2007 at 12:00 am

Elsewhere in this week's big Lust issue, you can read some fine essays by a few people who aren't getting any — a subject News Hits is intimately familiar with. However, since others already have a firm grasp on that theme, we've decided to concentrate on the contemptible instead of the carnal.

Fittingly, the more we try to put a finger on the exact point we want to make, the more agitated we get. That's because we're not talking about the slurp and slap of fleshy desire but rather the destructive force of an appallingly naked lust for notoriety. In our current media world, it doesn't matter if you are right or wrong; simply being a provocateur pays.

We're talking about the purveyors of bombast and bile, the Rush Limbaughs and Bill O'Reillys and Ann Coulters who vigorously ignore fact and studied analysis, relying instead on distortions and mindless jingoism and adolescent mockery as they strive to excite the unreasoned passions of their audience. Forget about spanking any monkeys and take a lash to this crew instead.

At this point, we don't know how any pundit who pimped this catastrophic war in Iraq could have the nerve to continue collecting a paycheck. Get something this big so completely wrong and there should be a price to pay, right?

Apparently not.

What started us thinking along these lines was the appearance of Juan Cole's name on a few of the Web sites we peruse while pretending to work. Cole, a University of Michigan history prof whose area of expertise is the Middle East, also produces a popular blog that pays close attention to the war in Iraq. Because he's been critical of this war from the outset, Cole has frequently incurred the wrath and ridicule of right-wing critics who don't know their ass from an IED crater.

Which brings us to columnist Jonah Goldberg, who two years ago wrote these words:

"I do think my judgment is superior to [Cole's] when it comes to the big picture. So, I have an idea: Since he doesn't want to debate anything except his own brilliance, let's make a bet. I predict that Iraq won't have a civil war, that it will have a viable constitution, and that a majority of Iraqis and Americans will, in two years time, agree that the war was worth it. I'll bet $1,000 (which I can hardly spare right now). This way neither of us can hide behind clever word play or CV reading. If there's another reasonable wager Cole wants to offer which would measure our judgment, I'm all ears. Money where your mouth is, doc."

Cole took the high ground, refusing to make "a wager on the backs of human beings" and noting that in Goldberg's actions he found "a prominent American media star betting on Iraqis as though they were greyhounds."

Last week, both author Jeff Cohen (on the Web site and Tim Grieve (in's excellent "War Room" column) took note of the two-year anniversary of Goldberg's challenge, and the fact that even Goldberg now admits that the bet would have been lost had Cole taken him up on it.

What's mystifying to us is that, in the time since he proposed that astoundingly bad wager, Goldberg has been hired as a columnist for no less a paper than the Los Angeles Times.

Cole, writing when his dust-up with Goldberg was first going on, put things this way: "Goldberg is just a dime-a-dozen pundit. Cranky rich people hire sharp-tongued and relatively uninformed young people all the time and put them on the mass media to badmouth the poor, spread bigotry, exalt mindless militarism, promote anti-intellectualism, and ensure that right-wing views come to predominate."

Maybe in a desperate attempt to feel better, News Hits is just playing with itself here, but we continue clutching to the hope that people are finally coming to see all these faux patriots for what they are: shameless cynics concerned only about their own tireless self-promotion.

The majority of Americans realize this war in Iraq is a disaster and want us to get out. But the last we checked, the sleazy facilitators who helped march us into this catastrophe are as popular as ever. And now, as the groundwork is being laid to justify a war with Iran — check out the article by Craig Unger in the March issue of Vanity Fair for a comprehensive look at the situation — we wonder if people will get it this time around. The flimflam looks to be revving up all over again, and unless people start seeing through it, no one will have to worry about not getting any, because we'll all be screwed for years to come.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]