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Gentlemanly Censors

Posted by Rick · June 21st, 2004 · 6 Comments

I haven’t written an entry for a few days because I’ve actually been working on one of my more “in-depth” pieces. Tonight, while doing some fact-checking on comments about a haircut for Bill Clinton that supposedly shut down Los Angeles International Airport in 1993 (according to a cadre of Republican politicians and conservative talk show hosts; a story, which, by the way, turns out to be false), I ran across an interesting proof of what my article is about.

The particular fact I was checking was whether a story had run in the Dallas Morning News on July 1, 1993 that indicated the haircut had not caused any air traffic delays. So I entered the phrase “report: haircut caused no delays dallas morning” into Google.

The first link that popped up contained no information on the haircut. The word “haircut” didn’t even appear anywhere on the page. In fact, the article that did show up was a diatribe against “leftist elites,” “socialists” (like President Franklin Roosevelt) who supposedly controlled everything and are now pitching a fit because they can no longer write stories supportive of communism. This seemed very odd, since Google is usually not that far off. So I checked the “cached” version on Google. Google “caches” the versions it found when it originally catalogued the page that it returns from your search; it’s a kind of “snapshot” of how the article looked when Google first found it. (This has been used, interestingly, to show how the White House website has changed some of its stories after negative press.)

Lo! and behold! The original article, the one I was looking to find, appeared to be a summary of Chapter Two of a book by authors Rampton & Stauber called Banana Republicans: How the Right Wing is Turning America into a One-Party State.

This situation is ironic on three counts:

  1. Banana Republicans quotes extensively from strategists for the Republican party who advocate doing just what apparently happened to this web page. For example,

    During the 2000 presidential and congressional elections, every Republican member of the U.S. Congress received a free pamphlet, compliments of Congressman Tom DeLay, the party’s majority whip. Written by conservative activist David Horowitz, the pamphlet was called The Art of Political War: How Republicans Can Fight to Win. It came with an endorsement on the cover by Karl Rove, the senior adviser to then-candidate George W. Bush. According to Rove, The Art of Political War was “a perfect pocket guide to winning on the political battlefield from an experienced warrior.” In addition to DeLay’s gift to members of Congress, the Heritage Foundation, one of the leading conservative think tanks in Washington, found Horowitz’s advice so impressive that it sent another 2,300 copies to conservative activists around the country. — Rampton and Stauber, Banana Republicans: How the Right Wing is Turning America into a One-Party State (2004) at p.3.

    Rampton and Stauber point out that,

    The Art of Political War argues that “Politics is war conducted by other means. In political warfare you do not fight just to prevail in an argument, but to destroy the enemy’s fighting ability…. In political wars, the aggressor usually prevails.” Ibid.

  2. Whoever replaced the original page Google had catalogued accuses President Franklin Roosevelt and modern-day “elites” (one wonders why the Democrats are considered “elites” when the majority of America’s rich CEOs are Republicans) of being “socialists.” Yet in erasing the original page, they were following — according to David Horowitz — “Lenin’s injunction: ‘In political conflicts, the goal is not to refute your opponent’s argument, but to wipe him from the face of the earth.'” (Rampton and Stauber, supra, at p. 4.)
  3. The “new” page that was put up in place of the original page includes the statement,

    The Republicans, the majority party from 1860-1932, were far more gentlemanly about their condition during the rule of the Left.

    “Gentlemanly” — this, from someone who was so bothered by a summary of a chapter of a book that exposes how Republicans are feeding disinformation and actual lies (see the haircut story, mentioned above; add to that “weapons of mass destruction” and the recent report — later revised after the Administration was caught in the lie) to the American public that he (or she) had to erase the page.

This is the situation in America today. Not unprecedented on the one hand — there has always been bitter politicking, by both parties — but, on the other, it is unprecedented because modern technology allows for the possibility of many things, including the Gentlemanly Censors of the Republican party, aiming to prevent American citizens from learning the truth, whether by manipulating the “news” now owned by Republicans or by erasing information not owned by Republicans.

Hopefully, I’ll get my other article finished before Friday. Because Friday, unless the Republicans trying to stop theaters from showing Moore’s movie succeed in Fresno, I’m going to the movies.

And I’m sure to have much more to write about then. Stay tuned.

Better yet, exercise a little of the freedom so many Americans have fought hard for over the last 225 or so years: Go see Fahrenheit 9/11 yourself!

Categories: Culture Wars


6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 nick meyer // Jun 22, 2004 at 8:24 am

    Hopefully I can get a babysitter so I can go see this movie also. Rick, back in 1993 I was a owner operator of a trucking company specializing in air freight. I cannot and will not say he was getting a haircut, (because I do not honestly know) but I can tell you that the Presidents plane sat on the east side of the airport tarmac for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. I say this because I WAS THERE. I can honestly attest to the fact that the airport was basically shut down during the duration the plane sat. Again I will not lie and say President Clinton was actually getting a haircut because I do not have the cold, hard evidence at my disposal. Not to minimize the content of the rest of your article.

  • 2 Rick // Jun 22, 2004 at 8:44 am

    Nick, as I noted in the article, the information that the airport was not “basically shut down” came from the government’s own files received from the airport. A Freedom of Information Act request was filed to obtain the records that proved this.

    So, either the government is wrong, or lying, or the airport was not “basically shut down.”

    As Rampton & Stauber noted,

    The news reports on Clinton’s haircut followed a pattern that has now become familiar — a trivial event that becomes elevated, through exaggeration and distortion, into a “scandal” in which both conservative and mainstream pundits become drawn into extended discussion of factoids that are imagined to have some symbolic bearing on the character and judgment of the politician under scrutiny. This phenomenon is not limited to Clinton, and it has happened to politicians of both parties. Jimmy Carter had his “killer rabbit,” and the elder George Bush faced similarly tendentious scrutiny when he was caught expressing amazement at the capabilities of a supermarket price scanner, which became a symbol for Bush’s detachment from the commonplace world of regular Americans. — Rampton & Stauber, Banana Republicans: How the Right Wing is Turning America into a One-Party State (2004) at pp. 50-51.

    Rampton & Stauber note, by the way, that “Bush’s ‘amazement’ was probably nothing more than an attempt at polite small talk when the scanner was demonstrated for him during a campaign stop.”

    While this “technique” for making the trivial important, so as to keep from talking about real issues has at times impacted both parties, as an article I’m hoping to post within the next hour or so shows, there’s a reason why these days it’s almost always Republicans using this method to keep from discussing issues as we work our way closer to the 2004 President Election.

  • 3 nick meyer // Jun 22, 2004 at 9:03 am

    LAX at the time had 4 runways. I can say that this particular runway was closed for take offs and landings. The other three were open for business as usual. My mistake for not clarifying. This did put a damper on business. LAX has a plane landing or taking off every minute. So to divert or keep in the air for any length of time, planes, will shut down operations as usual. I will do research today as time allows and get back to you on this subject. The South Bay Daily Breeze ran an article the next day about this as did the LA Times. The daily Breeze archives page is down right now for updating but let me see what I can come up with. I am going to find something because it is time that I step up to the plate with something constructive, because I was there and remember it vividly.

  • 4 Rick // Jun 22, 2004 at 9:12 am

    Once again, the government’s own files show that exactly one plane, which was an unscheduled taxi flight, was delayed — and that for two minutes.

    You will find articles in the newspapers saying otherwise. That was the entire point of this example. The news and Republican politicians made quite a bit out of this haircut, because they could not make an issue out of the issues.

    Repeating false stories is exactly what this example demonstrated. But, again, the government’s own files regarding air flights at LAX — which, as you know, are maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration, and not by Democrats — says there was no delay.

    Once again, either the government is wrong or lying (possibly the airport is wrong or lying), or there was no delay of air traffic and the airport was not “basically shut down.”

    Incidentally, even if you were right (and the United States government says you aren’t) would you not agree that if three out of four runways were open, this would make saying the airport was “basically shut down” seem…what shall we call it? An exaggeration?

    You can go out to any major airport in the United States and find that some runways are periodically closed for a variety of reasons. This doesn’t shut down the airport.

    But, as I said, the United States government, responding to a Freedom of Information Act request, indicated there were no delays and that the airport was not “basically shut down.”

  • 5 nick meyer // Jun 22, 2004 at 9:47 am

    Hey I am listening, and get this!! I hear you.

  • 6 Katherine // Jun 23, 2004 at 12:23 pm

    I think the haircut claim is just another part of the Republican party’s selective method of finger pointing. Let’s face it, anytime a political leader is being shuttled about town normal movement in the area grinds to a halt. On a recent trip to Washington, D.C. my son and I were almost run down by the motorcade for a visiting Israeli dignitary. Local D.C. folks say a prayer of thanks everytime Marine Copter One flies to the White House lawn because it means they won’t get stuck in the brohaha motorcade traffic that happens everytime the President is moved by car. In 1983 I was at the Santa Barbara Airport when President Reagan and Queen Elizabeth arrived together. Talk about the airport shutting down. The sad part about this negative, selective spinning is that people are actually getting paid good money to sit around and think up this junk. Even sadder is that our sheep-minded citizenry don’t hesitate to take it to heart, no questions asked!

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